§ (2) For the purpose of the exercise of its jurisdiction under this Section, the Court 1270 may direct that the tenancy of the sitting tenant shall be treated as a subsisting tenancy notwithstanding the determination of the same by any notice to quit or similar notice or otherwise and may set aside and annul any such notice accordingly, and shall have power to determine what increase of rent (if any) is fair and reasonable, regard being had to the character and condition of the dwelling-house and the rents of similar dwelling-houses in the locality.
§ (4) In order to assist the Court in the determination of questions arising under this part of this Act in relation to the rent, character or condition of dwelling-houses, the Minister of Health may establish reference committees to whom such questions may be referred by the Court for consideration and report, as the Court thinks proper.
§ (5) The foregoing provisions of this Section shall not apply to proceedings against a sitting tenant under the Small Tenements Recovery Act, 1838, and any such proceedings shall, on the application of the sitting tenant, be discontinued, subject to any provision that may be made by Rules under this Part of this Act for transfer to the County Court.
§ Sir P. PILDITCH
I beg to move, at the end of Sub-section (2), to insert a new Sub-section—(3) The Court shall not exercise any of the powers given to it under the foregoing provisions of this Section in any case where it is satisfied that greater hardship would be caused to the landlord by the exercise of the power than would be caused to the tenant by the refusal to exercise it.The Noble Lord will remember that this proposal was under discussion in Committee. At that time, the Minister was not quite clear whether it was necessary in order to give effect to what both he and I, and, I think, most, if not all, members of the Committee desired to do. I undesrtand my Noble Friend is going to accept the Amendment, and, therefore, I will simply say that what it provides is this: The early part of this Clause contemplates that, in the event of proceedings against a person who, on the 24th June, 1925, is tenant,should it appear to the Court that the proceedings are harsh or oppressive or that exceptional hardship would be caused to the sitting tenant by the making or giving of an Order or judgment for possession or ejectment, the Court may refuse to make or give such an Order or judgment or may adjourn the application for or stay or suspond execution of any such order or judgment,and so on. The point of my Amendment is to provide that the Clause shall work 1271 fairly between landlord and tenant, that where it is a question of greater hardship to the landlord that he should be deprived of the possession of the dwelling house, than it would be to the tenant to be compelled to leave, the Court may have power to take that into consideration. I think it was generally felt in Committee to be a reasonable thing, and the Minister undertook to consider the matter between then and this stage. I rather gather that the words of my Amendment meet the situation in the view of the noble Lord.
§ Lord E. PERCY
I am very glad to accept this Amendment. I think it is clear that the wording follows on the lines of the wording already existing in other Sections of the Act in regard to relative hardships, and I hope the House will be prepared to accept it.
§ Amendment agreed to.
§ Sir K. WOOD
I beg to move to leave out Sub-section (4).
The Committee will observe that this Sub-section seeks for the first time to set up what, I think, the Minister of Health himself described as a novel proposal, and, in fact, I suppose, for the first time in Parliamentary history, sanction is now being sought to establish statutory committees, and to give to such committees rights and duties as to rent to be paid in connection with house, property in this country. I think, at any rate, it deserves some little time and consideration from the House of Commons. One of the remarkable features of the proposal is that it is not to come into operation until two years have elapsed from the present time. Another feature to which I would call special attention is that it may well be that this will be the only Parliamentary opportunity of discussing the proposal, and the first point I desire to make to the Government is that I think it is an unwise thing to endeavour to anticipate a condition which may arise two years hence. A great deal may happen between now and the time when Part II of this Bill comes into operation.
As I have stated previously in the Debate, I think the suggestion that there should be gradual decontrol is a good one. It certainly gives some hope to the people who invest money in property, and who 1272 erect houses, that at some later stage decontrol may absolutely take place. From that point of view, there is much to be said for the proposals, outlined, it is true, in very vague and indefinite terms, in Part 2 of the Bill. But it is sought under this Sub-section to introduce fresh procedure altogether. As the House knows, hitherto very difficult tasks and duties, which have been imposed under this and other legislation, have been entrusted to County Court Judges. Opinions may differ as to the suitability of that tribunal, but, from my point of view at any rate, as far as experience of this country is concerned, County Court Judges have carried out their duties, I believe, sympathetically, and with a view to doing justice, and certainly in the interests of landlords and tenants. If any criticism is to be directed to their jurisdiction, it is perhaps that they have erred, if anything at all, upon the side of the tenants of this country.
Therefore, the first question I desire to put to the Government is, in what way have County Court Judges failed to carry out their duties, and why is it necessary to add any further machinery in connection with a matter of this sort? My right hon. Friend the Minister of Health, in putting forward this proposal on the Second Reading of the Bill, stated that it was a novel suggestion, and, as far as I am aware, it has not been asked for by any particular body of opinion, by any Committee which has been set up to consider the matter, or by any association of people who are concerned either with the interests of landlords or of tenants, and, as far as the attitude of the parties in the House is concerned, I think it can be fairly said that it has not been accepted, at any rate, in the present form, by any party in the House. I understand the Labour party would like to have rent courts absolutely independent, and able to come to a conclusion, on their own account, without any reference to any judicial tribunal at all. I think that is a fair statement of what it is they require. As far as I am able to ascertain the Liberal party desire that there should be some form of tribunal, probably with an appeal to the County Court, but which either the tenants or the landlords would be able to approach, and that they should be called upon in that particular connection to give a decision. As far as my own party is 1273 concerned, I do not think there has been a single speaker who has spoken from the Conservative benches who has supported this proposal. Rightly or wrongly, it is looked upon as establishing a new and dangerous principle in this country, and one which should, at any rate, be approached with considerable caution. If, for instance, the Onslow Committee had looked into this matter, and made a recommendation of this kind, it would no doubt have had attached to it a curtain amount of weight. If my right hon. Friend the Minister of Health was able, for instance, to say to the Committee to-night that the County Court Judges had met and had stated that they required assistance of that kind, I have not the slightest doubt that the representations of those very hard-worked members of the judicial bench would receive a good deal of consideration from the House of Commons.
But, as far as I am aware, no County Court Judge has at any time expressed the opinion or the desire to have the assistance which my right hon. Friend proposes they should have under the provisions of this particular Sub-section. It is true that one of the County Court Judges has on various occasions advocated the setting up of a rent tribunal, but I have at no time observed that any member of the County Court bench has asked for the assistance of committees of this kind, and I venture to put to my right hon. Friend that the proposals embodied in this Sub-section have a double disadvantage. I can well understand that there could be a good case made out for the establishment of rent tribunals which could come to a final determination, and by that means relieve the County Courts of a good deal of work, with which, unfortunately, they are considerably burdened at the present time. But that is not my right hon. Friend's suggestion. His suggestion is that these reference committees should be set up, if and when he desires, and that the County Court Judge himself should determine whether he desires a report from a particular reference committee. That, at any rate, is not going to relieve the congestion of the County Courts.
I understand that one of the strongest arguments put forward for this proposal is that by some means or other these committees are going to relieve the 1274 County Court Judges of many of their duties, and take over a good many of their responsibilities in the administration of this Bill. I candidly confess I cannot see the justification for that argument, because, in fact, while the County Court Judge may receive a report from a particular reference committee, as many hon. Members who are members of the legal profession are well aware, he is by no means bound by that report, and, what is more, the parties to the dispute in the County Court are certainly not bound by it. The result may well be that when the County Court Judge receives a report from a reference committee, he will no doubt give consideration to it, but he will be bound, under the conditions which always obtain in our Law Courts, to hear the evidence, to have the witnesses examined, to give due weight to their evidence, and in fact, to try the issue together with the report which he will receive from the reference committee. Therefore, so far as relieving the congestion of the County Court is concerned, I venture to think it is more likely to add to its difficulties and responsibilities. No doubt one of the issues which will centre in the particular matter before the County Court will not only be the matter in dispute between the parties, but the facts in the report of the reference committee, and whether they are right and reasonable. It is in that connection that, so far from relieving the congestion of the Court, so far from lessening the time occupied by the cases, it may very well add to it. There is no doubt that if one of these certificates brought to the County Court Judge is in favour of the landlord the tenant will immediately bring every possible evidence, and as many witnesses as he can, to displace the findings of the committee. There is no suggestion in the proposal contained in this Clause that the County Court Judge must accept the report of the reference committee. He has to receive it, but he is still bound to follow out the usual procedure of the Court in this connection. Therefore I put it very strongly that the idea that this will relieve the congestion of the Court is a misconception, and that it may well add to the difficulty of administering a very complicated statute.
Another question which I venture to address to the right hon. Gentleman is this. Why does he want to set up new 1275 machinery at all? If there is anything to be said for having the advice of a particular body of men, why does the right hon. Gentleman not look to the very many existing authorities? It might very well be that a sub-committee of the housing committee of the local authority could deal with the task which is here provided for. It appears to me that at this time, when there are so many different authorities up and down the country, one really ought to be trying to get the advice of the local administration rather than to set up another body. It is a mistake to endeavour to set up still one more body and one more committee to deal with matters of this sort. It will undoubtedly add to the expense of these proceedings. It will mean fresh machinery. In many cases it will mean the appointment of an additional official, and from the tenants' point of view it will be very detrimental, as they already have to face one hearing before the County Court Judge, and this will involve facing another hearing before the reference committee. I submit that this proposal is not only unnecessary, but in many respects it will prove cumbersome, and, I repeat, in many cases it will be detrimental to the tenant.
My last point of objection to this particular Clause is that it will add to the uncertainty of the law which already unfortunately prevails in connection with house building, if you are to have a fresh tribunal to put into operation this Act. People who lend or borrow money on house property will begin to think there is going to be some authority interposed between them and then ordinary rights as borrowers or lenders or as purchasers of property, and I venture to think it will be well for my right hon. Friend on this ground to reconsider his proposal. It is not as if the matter need be left entirely to the County Court Judges. They will no doubt be able to carry out this task, but if they are not able to do so there are certain other means on the Statute Book by which they can get assistance. The work might be handed over to the Registrar, or the County Court Judge might appoint assessors. I think the proposal to set up this new machinery needs much more consideration than it is possible to give it at this stage. I want my right hon. Friend to-night to leave the matter open. He is now in this Clause giving the County Court Judges 1276 an opportunity to go to the reference committee only. I should like to extend the Clause and to put in as an alternative the power to appoint assessors, or to go to a panel, or to obtain the assistance of the Registrar of the Court.
The strongest objection to this proposal at the present time is the fact that, under the Clause, there will be very little opportunity for Parliament to discuss this matter two years hence. The strongest objection that can be taken to this proposal is that we may pass a Clause to-night, and two years hence there will be no real Parliamentary opportunity for further discussing it. If the right hon. Gentleman can amend the Clause so that this matter may come up again for discussion in this House two years hence, when we shall know much more of the facts in regard to housing and shall be able better to judge if there is a sufficient number of houses built to justify us in putting the Clause into operation, I think it would relieve much of the anxiety that is felt in reference to this Clause at the present moment. But to put forward a Clause which has been asked for by no one, which has been objected to by every party in the House for one reason or another, and to provide no further opportunity for Parliamentary discussion of it is very undesirable, and I hope my right hon. Friend will be able to make such a statement and to give such an indication as to his future intentions with regard to the Clause as will enable us to concur more fully with him than we can at the moment. For these reasons I move this Amendment. I hope the right hon. Gentleman will give some indication of much more definite proposals than he has at present outlined, and that he will indicate that an opportunity for full Parliamentary discussion shall be available two years hence from to-day when this matter will again be before the House.
§ Mr. PRETYMAN
I beg to second the Amendment.
After the very full statement of my hon. Friend, but few words are necessary from me. It seems to me it is almost impracticable for this House to be legislating now on a position which we cannot possibly foresee as occurring in two years time. If this reference committee is going to be good in two years' time, why is it not good now? 1277 There is no provision for it in the present machinery, and I do not see why it will be any more advantageous in two years' time than it is now. I can see my right hon. Friend's objective, which is to let decontrol down as gradually as possible. I can understand that, but I agree with my hon. Friend the Member for West Woolwich (Sir K. Wood) that there is considerable anxiety in all quarters as to what may be the outcome of this reference committee. I presume that we may now discuss the whole question that is raised by Sub-section (4) of Clause 10, by which the committee is appointed, and by Clause 12, in which the constitution of the committee, as far as it is stated, is defined. I take it that the whole question is open on this Amendment.
§ Mr. DEPUTY-SPEAKER
I think Clauses 10 and 12 hang together so much that it would be in order to discuss them both, but, of course, no such discussion can be repeated on Clause 12.
§ Sir RYLAND ADKINS
I hope it may not be taken that this Amendment disposes of all the Amendments on Clause 12. If I were so fortunate as to be called on this Amendment, I should have to refer to Clause 12, but I suggest that there are specific Amendments also.
§ Mr. DEPUTY-SPEAKER
I can relieve the anxiety of the hon. and learned Member. All that I ruled was that this could be discussed with Clause 12, but that such a general discussion could not be repeated. Specific Amendments, however, will not be cut out.
§ Mr. PRETYMAN
Thank you, Sir; I quite understand. I hope that when my right hon. Friend deals with this Amendment he will explain exactly what his intentions are, because we are really discussing this matter in the dark. In Clause 12 we are simply told thatThe constitution and procedure of reference committees established under this Part of this Act shall be such as may be prescribed by Regulations made by the Minister of Health.Anything more absolutely vague than that it is impossible to conceive. The matter may have been discussed in Com- 1278 mittee, but very few of us were present in the Committee, and as the matter now stands it is very vague. We have no idea of the kind of constitution that these reference committees are to have. Are they to be composed of tenants and representatives of landlords, or are they to be composed of independent people, rather of the nature of a panel of expert valuers, who would have no particular leaning towards either landlords or tenant; or what class of person is to compose these reference committees? I attach the greatest importance to the last suggestion of my hon. Friend the Member for West Woolwich, that this matter should not be definitely decided now, but should remain in skeleton form if it is to remain at all. I would much rather see it taken out, but my right hon. Friend has very skilfully conducted this Bill, which is one that he did not himself introduce, but has inherited. I do not know whether it would have been exactly in this form had he been responsible for it, but he has inherited it.
I do not think I can allow that to pass. My right hon. Friend is quite correct in saying that some part of the Bill was drafted before I took office, but for the major and most important part I am personally responsible.
§ Mr. PRETYMAN
I am glad to take that correction. I was under the impression that the Bill had been drafted for some time. I hope my right hon. Friend will realise that it will go a long way to satisfy me, certainly, if it can be made perfectly clear that this proposal will be discussed in the light of the then position in 1925, when it is to come into operation. For instance, we do not know, and it is a very important matter, what proportion of houses in June, 1925, will remain under control, or will not have been decontrolled. No one can possibly form any conjecture as to that. No Member of this House will get up to-day and venture to prophesy what percentage of houses will have been decontrolled under the provisions of this Bill before the 24th June, 1925. It may be that the situation then, on account of the number of houses that have been decontrolled, and having regard to the number of houses available, will make it unnecessary to set up this additional cog in the already complicated machinery of this Measure. I am sure 1279 there will be no disagreement on either side of the House that, so far as this Measure is concerned, it is an unpleasant necessity, because when we interfere with the ordinary law of supply and demand, and we meet with difficulties at every turn, which have to be met by some fresh provision, creating enormous complications—complications of such a character that they were bound to induce difficult drafting and careless drafting, the Bill is rather hurried, and endless litigation results which is good for no one. Anything, therefore, which adds complications, or which prolongs this awkward situation, is necessarily objectionable, and we do not want to bind ourselves to go on with these reference committees in two years' time unless it is absolutely necessary.
The mere fact that Orders are to be laid on the Table in the ordinary way, and that those Orders will become operative unless a Resolution is passed in both Houses of Parliament against them, which is the ordinary provision, does not appear to me to be adequate to meet the situation. We are legislating entirely in the dark. We are creating an indefinite body. We do not know exactly what its duties are. Its powers are very limited, but there is always the feeling which was referred to by my hon. Friend, and which may have a very considerable effect on the degree of confidence with which people will undertake building enterprise. They know that some aspirations have been expressed on the other side of the House about rent Courts and interference with the rights of owners of house property, and they naturally are suspicious that, once this machinery is created, it can be very easily expanded by a short Bill, and the power of these bodies can be increased. At present, under Sub-section (2) of Clause 12, they can only deal with rents when a case is submitted to them by both the landlord and the tenant. There cannot be any very great objection to an arbitration, which everyone would agree is preferable to a law case, where both parties are willing to submit the matter to arbitration; but that could quite easily be expanded, and, on every ground, I think that this legislation upon which we are embarking in this Bill is already sufficiently obscure and sufficiently complicated, and is already giving rise to far too great a crop of liti- 1280 gation. Anything that will tend still further to complicate matter is, I think, very much to be deprecated, and I strongly support my hon. Friend's Amendment.
§ Sir R. ADKINS
I want to ask the Minister two or three questions in reference to this matter. I approach this discussion, so far as one knows one's own mind and one's own position, in a mood of entire detachment from the ordinary controversy on this subject, but I must say I am rather startled at the presence in this Bill of a provision like the one to which this Amendment is directed, and the consequent provisions in Clause 12. Here is a proposal to set up what is called a reference committee, in Clause 10, for one purpose, and in Clause 12 for another purpose, by machinery so constructed as to leave to Parliament the least possible control or opportunity of intervention and consideration. I may have an opportunity on Clause 12, but in any case I do not want unnecessarily to repeat what has already been said; but one has to note the fact that these powers in Clause 10 and in Clause 12 are to be exercised by an Advisory Committee appointed by the Minister of Health, working under Regulations as to which there is no real Parliamentary control whatever. That matter of letting these things lie on the Table of the House to become law unless there is a Motion of both Houses, is one of those farces that ought to be brought to an end once for all. In the last Parliament several of us, in regard to certain matters of the Ministry of Transport, with the help of certain Lords in another place, were able to get the converse method into more than one Act of Parliament, and when it is necessary for any Department of State to issue Regulations under any Act of Parliament, those Regulations ought only to have force when there is a Resolution of both Houses of Parliament adopting them, and not wait until what everyone knows—Ministers, the Government, the House, and the country—the impossible happens and the House of Commons or the House of Lords or both pass some Resolution condemning it. That may have been quite appropriate in days when the adjustment between the Royal Prerogative and the rights of the Commons of England were in process of discussion and settlement. It is entirely out of keeping with the con- 1281 ditions to-day, and the Department loses in confidence what it thinks it gains in power if it tries to work this method of Regulations without deliberate Parliamentary sanction to them before they become effective. Therefore, I am sorry my right hon. Friend, whose connections, hereditary and personal, are so close with local self-government and so effective and able in that sphere, should bring forward a proposal which has this curiously unwholesome stamp upon it—this out-of-date method, no longer appropriate to present conditions.
What is that my right hon. Friend is proposing to do in this most unsatisfactory way as regards the regulations? He is proposing to appoint an Advisory Committee to act, two years hence, under conditions which no man can now foresee, but when two years have passed to be in a position to appoint Advisory Committees without there being any effective opportunity for either House of Parliament to apply to the problems of that hour the knowledge which will then be possessed. I want to analyse the two distinct proposals. I have no objection in principle to Rent Courts at all. At some periods in history and in some places Rent Courts have been absolutely indispensable in the public interest. As and when proposals for that are brought four squarely before this House of Commons, I trust we shall consider them carefully and with the only object of trying to get machinery which will help in equity and peace and confidence among the persons concerned. It is quite another story to give some hint of something of that kind under circumstances and arrangements which remove it from direct Parliamentary consideration and direct Parliamentary decision. That, of course, is apparently what is meant in the second Sub-section of Clause 12. Whatever views are taken by different Members as to whether Rent Courts are good things or not, let us fight that battle frankly as and when it is raised squarely before the House. I hope my right hon. Friend is not wedded to taking some vague and yet unrestricted power to create something of that kind without further reference to Parliament and without the matter having been thoroughly thrashed out. So much for the second Subsection of Clause 12.
1282 Now for the Sub-section in Clause 10 in which these Advisory Committees are to advise. This brings me to the point which has made me most anxious, Sir, to catch your eye and submit one or two considerations which, so far as I can judge, are entirely free from any party or controversial reference. We all pride ourselves in this country upon the purity, the integrity and the intelligence of our judicial system, and it is an axiom of political science that a country develops in stability the more you are able to separate the administrative sphere from the judicial. We all know how they can be mixed up in war time. We have all seen, in one form or another, the chaos which comes whenever you blend the two together, as you have to do in the stress of a great war, but here we are dealing, I grant, with a very serious problem which is one of the many consequences of the Great War and its economic dangers and difficulties. But at the same time, up to now, the decision as to whether in any particular case a house shall be occupied by A or by B. when both have claims to it, but the other will have a real grievance if he does not win the case—that sort of thing up to now has been decided solely by County Court Judges who are trained in legal matters and infused with the proper legal spirit and who decide these things, I am confident, without conscious bias, and certainly without the least disposition to shirk a very difficult and delicate decision. A number of whom I know. Several of them are Persons with whom I have had the most intimate friendship for many years, and there is no part of their work which is more difficult or more trying or to which they feel the necessity of bringing the most rigorous trouble and impartiality. What are you proposing to do? If you have a committee merely to advise, you cannot have an Advisory Committee on a particular case. That is merely to darken counsel. You could only have an Advisory Committee properly on administrative matters laying down general rules or general lines of guidance in matters of administration.
I am afraid we have not had a very close exposition of it, but I do not quite see how this is going to work, and I will call my right hon. Friend's attention to Section 103 of the County Court Act, by which it is open to any County Court Judge to appoint assessors, who shall help 1283 him with their special knowledge in any case in which he thinks it would be of value. There is nothing in that Section to limit the number of them. I have known, and many hon. Members have known, case after case where that has worked exceedingly well. In a case in which there has been a conflict of doctors, where an eminent local doctor has been called in as an assessor, with his special knowledge of the technicalities and details of medical controversy, it has been of the greatest help. Similarly, I have known builders called in when the question had to do with technicalities or the quantities of building, and so on. If there be circumstances such, for instance, as a case whether a cottage has to be reserved for a person working on a farm, not in the interest of the man or the other man but in the general interest of agriculture, and, presumably, of the country, there may well be an expert, who need not necessarily be a land agent. He may very well be the representative of great trade unions, like the Agricultural Labourers' Union, who may be in an admirable position to assist the County Court Judge in his decision. My point is, that any help in the form of advice to a Judge in his functions can best be given by one or two assessors appointed for the purpose by the Judge himself rather than by a vague committee appointed, not by the Judge but by a Government Department, who are concerned with administration and are not concerned primarily with the process of justice. I am not in the least unfriendly to the right hon. Gentleman, whose very skilful handling of one of the most difficult problems has been notable; but I do ask him not to muddle up administrative and judicial spheres by talking about an advisory committee, who are to advise the Judges on how they should act. If, on the other hand, his Department wants consultative or advisory committees, let him remember that his predecessors, and possibly himself, have already appointed such committees. There was a very famous one, of which Lord Dawson of Penn was Chairman, and another of which I had the honour to be a member for some years, and of which people connected with local authorities were members. You can have consultative committees without any fresh Act of Parliament. You can have assistance given to 1284 the County Court Judges without any fresh Act of Parliament. You can have a Rent Court whenever you bring it before the House of Commons, and the House of Commons approves of it. Is there any need to have this vague machinery detached from Parliamentary control, with, apparently, no precise and well-defined functions, and with no clearly cut statement as to the circumstances under which it will function. Is it necessary to have all that, for one vague indefinite part of the Measure while the rest of it has been put forward in an eminently clear and businesslike way? Whether we think my right hon. Friend is right or wrong, there is no doubt that in the future he will be proved to be right and wrong sometimes, but for the most part he has been clear and businesslike, and I do ask him whether there is any possible reason for so constructing and arranging this provision that Parliamentary control over it is really no control at all.
§ Mr. G. W. H. JONES
Whatever concession the Minister of Health may make, I hope he will not abandon the principle of having some committee of some sort to settle the problems that will arise. I differ entirely from hon. Members who have spoken on this side, because I think, essentially, that this is a question that ought not to go before a County Court Judge to be decided upon narrow and very difficult technicalities. It is, in the main, an administrative question, which a committee could deal with very well. I do not in the least agree with the form that the proposal takes in the Bill. It is provided that the Judge can send matters to the reference committee for consideration and report. Supposing a man is legally represented. He has to pay one fee to go before the Judge. That fee will be exhausted when the matter is referred to the committee for consideration. When their report comes in, one of the most important things of all will take place, and that is, whether the Judge will follow the report or not. Then there will be a third set of fees incurred. It is lamentable that we should draft a Bill which will involve people, many of them people of small means, in three sets of legal costs, in order to get what may be a comparatively simple question settled. What I suggest to the Minister of Health is that this Clause should be altered so that the Judge has not to send the matter 1285 to the reference committee for consideration and report, but to be determined. That is not a novel thing. Already the High Court Judges have power, which they constantly exercise, of sending awkward and complicated cases, involving a lot of calculations, to a special referee. I suggest to the Minister of Health that permission might be made that these questions might be sent to the reference committees for the purposes of determination.
Nine cases out of ten that come before the Courts to-day are in the main questions of reckoning up the amount of rent due. The standard rent is quite clearly defined, but it is very difficult to know what the standard rent was nine years ago. When you find the standard rent, all the rest is a mere matter of arithmetic, and it is absurd to go before a Court of law for the purpose of entering into calculations which are merely arithmetical. The bulk of the people who will go to the Law Courts under this Bill will be people of comparatively small means. Those people with some means, or with prudence, have good advice, and they can generally manage to keep out of the Law Courts, and to let other people make the law far them. They keep on the safe side. I do suggest that the machinery here provided is extremely unsuitable. Why do you want a County Court Judge or a trained lawyer to reckon up 75 per cent. of 10s.? The hon. Member for West Woolwich (Sir K. Wood) says that nobody has asked for these committees.
§ Mr. JONES
I agree there, because it is a hybrid proposal that nobody ever thought of; but I differ from the hon. Member if he says that nobody has asked for any committees. The idea of having committees instead of having to go to Court has been advocated by many people. People say, "Why do we want to go to a Judge and incur legal expenses?" I know from my own experience that one very large tenants' organisation is in favour of the idea of having committees instead of Judges to decide these questions. The hon. Member for West Woolwich said that there is no request from the County Court Judges. Of course, there is not. Nobody who knows the Judges would expect them to make such a request. They think, as one of them 1286 said before the Onslow Committee, that they are performing a useful duty, and they are willing to continue it if Parliament wants them to do so, and they will not complain; but the County Court Judge who said that, and expressed his willingness to continue the work, has to sit in Court until six or seven o'clock, day after day, trying to get through the work. He may sit until 12 o clock.
A great deal of criticism has been made as to the provisions of Clause 12 in the Regulations. It is said that they are very vague. It is well that they should be vague in the Bill, because if you draft Regulations otherwise, lawyers will bring forward all sorts of points as to mandamus, etc. It is better, so long as you have the root idea, to put it vaguely in the Bill, and to let the Minister draw up his Regulations. We are putting work on tribunals already seriously overcrowded. They have more work than any other Courts that I know of. They are extremely congested. When you are going back three years on the question of rent you nearly always get an amount which represents a very considerable sum in costs. Supposing there is a dispute between a landlord and tenant for 2s. or 4s a week and it goes back over a period of two years to the 1920 Act, you get an amount over £20, and that involves the parties in £25 apiece, party and party, in costs. The people may have a bona fide dispute. There is no dishonesty on either side, but simply a difficulty in arriving at the exact amount. I have known of a case where four people have been held liable to pay, in addition to their own costs, £25 to the other side. Do not let Members of the Labour party run away with the idea that the landlords under this Bill are rich men. Very often landlords under this Bill are people who do not own a brick. The tenant who sublets is liable to pains and penalties. From my own experience, the landlord who is landed in unsuccessful litigation is often as poor as his tenant, and he has not the means of taking advice that some landlords in much bigger circumstances can do. I hope that the Minister will stick to these proposals in the Bill, and that he will re-cast Clause 4 on the lines which I have indicated, or on some other lines, so as to make a really workable measure. I want to see these disputes taken away from the Law Courts, to which they ought never to have gone, so that people who 1287 have a bona fide difference of opinion can get a case settled without being over-weighted with the knowledge that if they lose they will be bowed down with expenses out of all proportion to the sum involved.
On the Second Reading of this Bill I expressed the opinion that on Part II there would be a greater difference of opinion than on Part I. In stating that view I had particularly in mind the provisions which are the subject of the Amendment now under discussion. Of course I was not unconscious of the fact that the mere suggestion that Committees of this kind should be set up might give rise to doubts and fears, particularly on this side of the House, lest I should be doing something which would eventually lead to the setting up of permanent rent courts. Perhaps those doubts and fears have been strengthened by the sort of observations which have come from the opposite side in Committee upon this part of the Bill, in the course of which hon. Members on the Labour benches have made it clear that this is what they desire. But that is not news to us; it is what we would naturally expect; and it is a matter which we have to face, whether we put it in this Bill or not. I think that perhaps my hon. Friend has a greater faith in the willingness of the Labour party to be restrained by precedents than I have. I have always thought that they would make their own precedents.
I would like to try to meet, so far as I can, the objections that have been raised. It is my fear that I cannot please all my hon. Friends. One of them is in favour of the very thing which is anathema to another. One is anxious that I should so recast this Sub-section as to make it what it is not to-day, and provide for the actual inception of rent courts. On the Second Reading of the Bill my right hon. Friend the Member for the City of London (Sir F. Banbury) pointed to the word "jurisdiction," which occurred in what is now Clause 12 of the Bill, and he asked what jurisdiction it was proposed to give to this reference committee. Jurisdiction had really no place in the Bill, and I have now taken it out of the Bill. So far as the functions of the reference committees are concerned, they are confined either to acting as an advisory committee 1288 to the County Court or as arbitrators in a particular case where matters are referred to them by the tenant and the landlord. But as to the matters which it is contemplated that these committees might consider and report on, there seems to be considerable misunderstanding, because two versions have been given by hon. Members. Both were quite wrong. One of them spoke as though they would have to advise as to who should inhabit a house, whether the existing tenant or whether the landlord should get possession of it. That is not so at all. There is no question of advising whether the occupant of a house on a farm is to remain there.
If the hon. and learned Member for Middleton (Sir R. Adkins) would look at the Bill he would see that the only questions on which they may be asked to advise the County Court are instances arising under this part of the Bill in relation to the rents, character or condition of dwelling-houses. In Clause 10 it is stated that an increase of rent which may be decided upon must have reference to the character and condition of the dwelling-house, so that when these words are again used in Sub-section (4) the character and condition of the dwelling-house are to be considered merely as they may affect the amount of rent which it may be fair and reasonable to charge. The hon. Member for Stoke Newington (Mr. G. Jones) spoke as though all they had to do was to make some mathematical calculation. The House will see that the questions which they have to determine go very much further than that. These are not questions which can be decided by reference to a ready reckoner; they are questions of what is fair and reasonable in the particular circumstances of a particular house, having regard to the number of circumstances specified in the earlier portion of the Clause. Therefore that makes it clear that skilled assistants, of which my hon. and learned Friend spoke, are not substitutes for reference committees for this particular kind of work. It is possible that County Courts may desire to make use of assistants in considering questions even under this part of the Bill. I agree that in that case they will have power under the Section quoted to appoint them. But it is clear that if they are to be experts upon these particular questions, they are to be found 1289 among people who have some special connection with property, either as tenants or as landlords, or it may be as surveyors and valuers.
Another criticism has been made. It has been said that all this is so vague and so uncertain that nobody can tell what it means and that that uncertainty must, in the process of time, react upon the situation generally as regards new houses. I cannot deny there is a certain amount of force in that contention, but can we get rid of the uncertainty? Granted we are going to have control of one kind or another for a certain period of time, is it not certain in that case, that so long as that control remains there must be a certain amount of doubt as to what the position of the landlord is going to be under that measure of control? It is not so much the case of the erection of houses, because as has often been pointed out, new houses do not come under control. It is a sort of psychological effect which is produced in the minds of people who used to, and who might now, invest money in property by the fact that property of this kind is still subject to certain restrictions. Although anything which is uncertain about this part of the Bill must to a certain extent have that deterrent effect upon the investment of money in house property, yet I do not think that the particular Sub-section which we are discussing and the reference to these proposed committees, really adds very much to the uncertainty which must inevitably attach to this whole Measure.
There is a reason for this vagueness which has been criticised, and I entirely agree with my right hon. Friend the Member for Chelmsford (Mr. Pretyman) when he said it was highly undesirable we should be tied down too definitely to what exactly we are going to do in two years' time, when conditions are going to be so different from what they are today. I entirely agree. That is the reason why this part is vague. My hon. and learned Friend the Member for Middleton very kindly said that up to now I have been clear except upon this point. If I may put it so, I am clear upon this point. I am clear that it is a point on which it is not desirable to be clear. I say you cannot tell to-day what are going to be the conditions in June, 1925; what is going to be the pressure on the County Courts, and so forth. The 1290 hon. Member for West Woolwich, I think, mentioned that a demand had been made by County Court Judges for further assistance. That is not in connection with what is going on now, but what may go on after the first period of control comes to an end. I think when that time approaches, when we see how many houses have come out of control, how many new houses have been provided by building or the conversion of old houses, then both we and the County Court Judges will have a much better idea as to whether the situation is such that they can easily deal with it themselves or whether they will need some assistance. I should desire myself to consult County Court Judges on this point, which I think is one upon which their advice would be invaluable and, indeed, almost essential. I do not desire, even in the matter of the composition of the reference committees, to be pressed to settle at this stage, more definitely what their composition is to be. I think it is very much better that that matter, too, should be left to be decided later. The House will observe that although Sub-section (4) states that the Minister of Health may appoint these committees, it does not say that he must do so, and, in fact, I contemplate, as one of the possible alternatives, that no reference committees need be appointed at all. But if they are appointed, then, just as I would rather postpone until I have a more reliable acquaintance with what the position is going to be, the actual appointment of the committees, so I would rather postpone until then the question of their composition.
From both sides of the House—and this is the only point on which there was anything like unanimity—there was a request to me to give greater Parliamentary control over the Regulations which, under Clause 12, would govern the constitution and procedure of these reference committees. I am asked to give greater Parliamentary control than is provided by the procedure there set out. I should like to say that from the first it has been my genuine desire that Parliament should have full control of these matters. What I have to consider is whether that control should be given by Regulations under the existing Bill or whether I should take the only alternative course, namely, to introduce another Bill in the early part 1291 of 1925. It seemed to me there was a good many objections to the latter course. Another Rent Restrictions Bill! Surely the country is tired of Rent Restrictions Bills, and would be glad to be spared another one. Surely that would, above all other things, add to the uncertainty of the future. It would be said: We are going to have another Rent Restrictions Bill, and who can tell what sort of Bill that will be? Who can tell what sort of thing it will be by the time it becomes an Act? It seemed to me, therefore, much better to settle the policy now, once and for all, and leave the details to be filled in nearer to the time, and in such a way that Parliament will have full control, and will be able to say whether it likes or dislikes any particular proposals which may be brought forward and will have power to annul them altogether if it is thought they are on wrong lines.
That was what I thought I had done in the Clause as it stands to-day. Since it was my intention and desire that Parliament should have the fullest possible amount of control, I have been considering an Amendment down in the name of my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Middleton, the result of which would be to give a more positive diree tion to the procedure, so that when these Regulations are laid upon the Table they will not become operative unless both Houses of Parliament pass a Resolution in their favour, whereas under the proposal now in Clause 12 they would become operative unless either House passed a Resolution against them. I should be very willing to accept that proposal. I feel it is only carrying out the intention which I have had all along, and I hope the effect will be to satisfy hon. Members who have any doubt or fear as to what may be done under this Clause in the future. I hone it will satisfy them that what we are, in effect, doing is to postpone our decision as to whether there are to be reference committees or not, and, if if there are, what sort of committees they shall be, until a date when we are better able to consider the whole situation with full knowledge and decide on the best thing to do.
§ Mr. FOOT
Whatever may be the ultimate decision arrived at by this House, there will be great gratification at the announcement that has just been 1292 made by the Minister of Health, acceding to what I think is a wish that will be shared by all parties. I was much impressed by what was said by the hon Member for Stoke Newington (Mr. G. W. H. Jones) as to the necessity of making some, provision against considerable expenditure upon legal proceedings. Whether hon. Members belong to the legal profession or not, they will, I am sure, all be willing to join in any scheme that will save at any rate the poorer tenants from having to incur large sums in the way of legal expenses. When he referred to the expenses that were incurred, I think he said, on fighting a case of a few shillings per week going over two or three years, that the expenses might amount to £25 upon each side, I think he must have been referring more to the practice in London than in the provinces, for such figures as he quoted would make the mouth of any of us provincial lawyers water. Such high figures are beyond our imagination altogether. If it were proposed in this scheme, and now suggested by the right hon. Gentleman in the latter part of this Bill, that we should have reference committees that would lift out from the Courts altogether these decisions as between landlord and tenant, I think a great deal more could be said for that proposal than can be said for the Clause in this Bill.
As the Bill stands at present, we are only adding another trouble, we are only adding to the legal processes that are at present necessary, or that will be necessary in 1925, a further process, and that is the fear that I have. I think that he himself gave a clear indication of what might happen when he suggested that there might then be three contests, where, if the landlord and tenant were both represented, considerable expenditure in legal fees would be involved. It may be suggested by the right hon. Gentleman that in the Regulations which will then be proposed legal representation should be excluded. I think that in turn will meet with great opposition, and opposition, I think, from the people themselves. When it was suggested, in connection with the military tribunals, for instance, that legal representation should be done away with, the people themselves whose interests were concerned insisted upon having the advantage of legal representation. Here, I think, where a man's interests might be very closely involved, he is entitled to ask 1293 for legal representation, and if he is excluded from that, there will be discontent upon that ground. If his demand for legal representation is acceded to, there will be, first of all, the contest when the matter first comes before the Court, there will be the legal representation probably before this shadowy committee—for it is shadowy at present—and there will be the further contest when the Judge himself deals with the matter later on, so that we are not dealing now with the comparison of the use of the ordinary Courts of the land—the County Courts—and the use of an outside committee, which would commend itself to many in this House, but we are simply adding one further process to a process which is already expensive enough.
We are committing ourselves, as the right hon. Gentleman said—and that is the difficulty—to a policy which, I think, grafts upon our law as we have it to-day something hitherto unknown. Will the House consider what will be the constitution of these committees? The hon. Member for West Woolwich (Sir K. Wood) suggested that the committees might consist of members of the local authorities. I should object strongly to any such constitution, for this reason: The local authority is very often formed on strictly party lines, and when we come to constitute our committees, the membership of the committees is very often worked out on the same basis as the representation of the parties within the council. The housing committee, to which he referred, would be constituted upon party lines, and if they themselves appointed the reference committee, there would be upon it so many Conservatives, so many Labour men, and so many Liberals, according to the numbers of those parties upon the appointing body. When we deal with a matter involving tenancy to-day, we have this advantage, that the parties know, when the case is fought out, that it is a decision above any corruption or influence. There is not a County Court Judge in then land who would not be just as jealous as the highest Judge in the realm to resent the approach by any person interested in his suit. That would not be so if we were dealing with a local committee. We know what happened with the military tribunals during the War, the disgraceful back-scratching that went on, and the personal influence that was brought to bear. It is 1294 inevitable if you have a committee consisting of a number of local representatives that influence will be brought to bear upon the members—it may be political influence, it may be influence that comes from business acquaintanceship or from personal friends.
Therefore, I think it is difficult for us to arrive at a decision to-day, until we know what the constitution of the committees will be. It is all very well saying we ought to commit ourselves to a principle and leave the constitution until a later date, but the constitution may be everything, and I suggest that where it is now proposed that we should put another ring around the house, and where we are giving to the parties concerned three legal fights, instead of one, the best course we could take—and we appreciate the fairness with which the right hon. Gentleman has laid this matter before the House—is not to commit ourselves to any definite policy to-day, but to wait, and realise what the circumstances of the next two years will enforce upon us, and in any event, if we decide upon the advantage of an outside committee, a reference committee, an expert committee, as against the ordinary courts of law, to decide fairly between two systems, and not to graft the later system upon the earlier and introduce into the administration of our law, affecting closely the interests of large numbers of our people, some idea which is entirely strange to all the laws as we have had them. I am only anxious in this matter that we shall not give an added burden to the people of this country, and particularly to the poorer tenants of this country, and I would ask the House to remember that we are not proposing here to set up a reference committee that will deal with all the difficulties between landlord and tenant; it will deal simply with the houses to which, in 1925, the principal Act will apply, so that there will be only a certain number of houses in this country—how many, I cannot now say—that will be dealt with by the reference committee, whereas all the houses at present over the rental limit, all the business houses of the country, and all the houses that have become decontrolled will be outside the advantage or disadvantage of the reference committee.
If it were suggested that in 1925 all houses in this country could be dealt with in this way, that disputes relating to 1295 these properties could be dealt with by this new system, I think there would be a great deal more to be said for the argument, but I think it is an additional objection against the proposal that is now made that it will apply only to certain houses that will accidentally come within the definition that will then have application. I suggest that, seeing that the position in two years' time is so uncertain and doubtful, it would be far better for us then to decide, with such wisdom as we can acquire in the meantime, as to what is the best system we can apply in dealing with the properties concerned.
§ Sir F. BANBURY
I thoroughly agree with every word the hon. Member for Bodmin (Mr. Foot) has said, except that I did not quite agree with his last sentence, when he said that there might be something in the proposal if it would apply to every class of house, and not only to the houses which will be decontrolled in 1925. I hope I am not going to repeat anything which was said when I was not in the House, but in confirmation of what the hon. Gentleman who has just sat down has said, may I point out that the great principle and the great jewel upon which English law is based has been the fact that Judges have never been appointed by the Ministry, but always by the Crown, that their tenure of office is permanent, and that their salary is not subject to discussion in either House of Parliament. Are we going to change that, and to put forward, under the guise of a Committee, a judicial body appointed by a Minister? I do not know who is going to pay their salary. Probably it will be paid by the Minister who appoints them, and consequently they will be subject to any influence the Minister may bring upon them. Are we going to do that, and to jettison all the principles which have made English justice the first in the world, either in the past or at the present time? I sincerely hope we are not, and I shall be very pleased to accept the suggestion made by the Minister of Health, provided that we can be quite certain what that suggestion is. As I gather, from what he said, it is this, that in 1925, should he be desirous of setting up reference committees, he will come down to this House and lay upon the Table the proposals he intends to make. 1296 This House will then have an opportunity of considering them, and that opportunity will not be after 11 o'clock at night, but on an ordinary day, at the ordinary time of business. Then, unless this House or the other House both agree with the proposals of my right hon. Friend, those proposals will fall to the ground.
I do not know whether I have put that clearly, but what I want to secure is that this House, and the other House, shall have a proper opportunity, when we can all be present, wide awake, and not asleep, at the commencement of business, to consider whether or not these committees should be set up. I want to guard against the possibility of the Minister coming down and saying, "The House has already agreed to the establishment of these committees; all we have got to consider is what powers they are to have." I want it to be clearly understood, if we withdraw the Amendment standing in the name of my hon. Friend the Member for West Woolwich (Sir K. Wood) and myself, that nothing can be done until a new proposal has been submitted under this Bill to this House and to the other House. If that be done, so far as I am concerned, I shall be very glad to accept the proposal of my right hon. Friend, and I thank him for having made it.
I think my right hon. Friend has correctly interpreted the suggestion that I made, except, of course, that I cannot commit the House two years hence as to the particular time of the day at which consideration of the proposals shall take place. That the House must decide for itself.
There are various ways of making those arrangements, which are not unknown to my hon. and gallant Friend. My right hon. Friend is perfectly correct in saying that that is the suggestion which I propose, and if I, or the Minister of the day, desire to set up reference committees, he or I would have to bring down to the House and lay upon the table Regulations showing what the constitution and the procedure of the committees are, and unless this House, and the other House, passes a Resolution confirming those Regulations, they will be null and void.
§ Mr. D. G. SOMERVILLE
Can the right hon. Gentleman give any undertaking that the discussion will be at a time of day when we shall all be here?
§ Sir K. WOOD
Perhaps the House will allow me, as the Mover of this Amendment, to express my thanks to the Minister of Health for the very handsome way in which he has met the objections from this part of the House. I think he has dealt very fully and very fairly with the situation. All we ask is that the House shall have an opportunity, in the light of the events and of the facts which may well occur in the next two years, of again considering this matter, and of again coming to a conclusion as to whether these particular committees shall be set up or not. In that respect, the right hon. Gentleman has very amply met us. Two years hence I hope he will still be here, and will occupy the same position. I hope also that all the other hon. Members of the House will be equally present to take part in the discussion. I beg to ask leave to withdraw the Amendment.
Before the Amendment is withdrawn, I must congratulate the Minister of Health on averting a very dangerous catastrophe. For days there has been a serious revolt among the Government supporters, which has been repressed. It was led by a very distinguished but, as we gather from the Press, a transient figure in this House, the right hon. Member for the City of London (Sir F. Banbury), supported by one of the most vigorous Members of the last Government, who was a right-hand man on the Front Bench. They objected to these Reference Committees, and the Minister has made a speech, has given compliments, and has made promises, and they have come forward and, with overflowing gratitude—with almost inordinate and incommensurate gratitude—they have thanked him for meeting their serious attack and for making concessions in virtue of which the hon. Member for West Woolwich (Sir K. Wood) is proposing to withdraw his Amendment. What exactly has the Minister given to these desperate mutineers? First of all, he has not accepted their Amendment; that Amendment he simply refuses to accept. The ultimatum, so far as that is concerned, is ignored. Then he says to 1298 the hon. and learned Member for Middleton and Prestwich (Sir R. Adkins), "I will accept an Amendment of yours, and these Regulations, when they come before the House, shall not require to be corrected, they shall require to be confirmed." What, precisely, is the difference between those proposals?
The right hon. Member for the City of London, who is a master of the procedure of this House, knows perfectly well that his proposal that those Regulations should come before the House at a reasonable hour will never be met, for the simple reason that those Regulations will be laid before Parliament in pursuance of this Act when it is passed. Any matter laid before Parliament in pursuance of an Act of Parliament, is exempted from the Standing Order relating to the sittings of the House at 11 o'clock. Therefore, those Regulations will be matters so exempt. I have yet to see, whatever Government is in power, a Government Whip who is willing to give daylight hours to a matter which can be considered after 11 o'clock. These bargains do not exist in regard to exempted matters. They will get anything in after 11 o'clock that they cannot get in before that time. The concession does not appear to be very good. What are the concessions? Whereas it is proposed the Regulations should be laid and anyone should be at liberty to come forward and say, "This one should be omitted and this one amended" the Government concession is that they require a motion to be put forward that they be approved. What is the difference between these two proposals? Absolutely no difference at all. The hon. Member will come forward and say: "I wish so-and-so to be omitted." The Government Whips will be put on and he will be defeated. What he has gained is this, that the Government Whips will take the initiative on what is required to be approved. He will say: "I do not want to approve of that." The Government. Whips will be put on again, and again he will be defeated. The summing up of the whole matter is this, that the revolt is over, that peace has been restored in the ranks in return for a concession which is worth nothing whatever.
§ Amendment., by leave, withdrawn.1299
§ Dr. CHAPPLE
On a point of Order. I have an Amendment on the Order Paper: in Sub-section (4) to leave out the words "the Court" ["to assist the Court"].
§ Mr. DEPUTY-SPEAKER
The Amendment to leave out Sub-section (4) has been withdrawn, and, therefore, the words remain and that covers the case of the Amendment of the hon. Member for Dumfries.
§ Sir W. RAEBURN
I beg to move, at the end of Sub-section (5) to insert a new Sub-section—(6) Notwithstanding the provisions of Section one of this Act, Section seven of the principal Act shall continue to apply to a mortgage on a dwelling-house in respect of which the making of an Order for possession or ejectment is opposed by the tenant on any of the grounds referred to in Subsection one hereof until the determination of the proceedings, and in the event of the Court refusing to make or give an Order or judgment, or adjourning the application, or staying or suspending execution, or postponing the date of possession, or directing that a tenancy shall be a subsisting tenancy, the Court shall have power to deal with such mortgage as though Section seven of the principal Act applied thereto.
§ Dr. CHAPPLE
On a further point of Order. I have a further Amendment to Sub-section (4), after the word "Court" ["to assist the Court"], to insert the words "or by a landlord or tenant," and a further Amendment on the next line. Are these also out of order?
§ Mr. DEPUTY-SPEAKER
As I have said, the Amendments are covered by what we have previously done. Apart from that, Mr. Speaker has ruled that certain selected Amendments shall be taken, and I cannot deviate from that rule.
§ Dr. CHAPPLE
On a further point of Order. May I draw your attention to the fact that even in the Committee upstairs this Bill was taken on one day when the Housing Bill was taken and the Minister himself was not present, and on another day when the Scottish Estimates were taken and the Scottish Members were required in this House. I would urge you, respectfully, to exercise more freely your power of selection, and, if in order, to give this House the opportunity of discussing other Amendments.
§ Mr. DEPUTY-SPEAKER
I am afraid I cannot go beyond what I have said and beyond what Mr. Speaker has ruled.
§ Sir W. RAEBURN
I think there is great reasonableness in this Amendment. After June, 1925, there is sure to be a request or a demand from many landlords for an increase in rent, but you cannot proceed at once on the 24th June to put the sitting tenant out of the house. You have to go through some legal process, if a man objects either to the additional rent or to move. Sheriffs and Courts of Law have of recent times been taking a very lenient view in regard to arrears, and have been lenient where a man has admitted he owed the money, but said that he could not at present pay it out of his small income. After 24th June, 1925, hundreds if not thousands of tenants will come under decontrol who so far have been allowed to remain. What is to be done with them, and what is going to happen to the mortgagee or the mortgagor in relation to the property involved.
The object of this proposal is to give some protection to the mortgagors who find themselves unable to get possession of their house, and who may, if the mortgage is foreclosed, be unable to replace it. The Government have considered this matter, and I think my hon. Friend has a case. As the hon. Member seems to anticipate the words which he has chosen, and the particular form of his proposed Amendment, are likely to give rise to certain difficulties. In the first place, he refers to Section 7 of the principal Act, and proposes that the Court shall have power to deal with such mortgage as though that Section applied thereto. That reference will no longer exist, because when the Act comes into operation that part of the Act will already have expired.
I have tried to find some other form of words which I could suggest to the House, but I do feel that there is a great objection to bringing in manuscript Amendments at the last moment when they refer to such a complicated matter as this. It seems to me, therefore, that if anything is to be done to meet this case it would be much better that it 1301 should be done in another place, so that when it comes to this House hon. Members may have it on the Paper instead of attempting to deal with it now. Therefore I suggest to the hon. Member that, if he will withdraw his Amendment now. I will undertake to look into the matter, and endeavour to get inserted in another place an Amendment which will meet the case which he desires to meet by his Amendment and which will not be open to the same technical difficulties.
§ Sir W. RAEBURN
In view of what the Minister of Health has just said, I ask leave to withdraw my Amendment.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.