- (1) The County Court shall have power to amend a notice of intention to increase rent, whether served before or after the passing of this Act, by correcting any errors and supplying any omissions therein, on such terms and conditions as respects arrears of rent or otherwise as appear to the Court to be just and reasonable, and if the Court so directs, the notice as so amended shall have effect and be deemed to have had effect as a valid notice.
- (2) The form of notice in the First Schedule to the principal Act shall be amended by the substitution of the words "date of service of this notice" for the words "date of this notice."
§ Mr. MOSLEY
I beg to move to leave out the Clause.
This is one of the most remarkable and also one of the most objectionable Clauses in this very remarkable measure. It is retrospective legislation, and retrospective legislation of a peculiarly vicious character. In the Second Reading Debate very little reference was made to this Clause, and it was only in Committee that its full purport was apprehended. I do not think that so far the House has had an opportunity very thoroughly to study or comment upon this Clause. I have said that it is retrospective in character, and it is also what I might describe as class legislation. Hon. Members will speedily see why it is retrospective and why, indeed, it gives a peculiar advantage to the landlord, if they read the Clause. It lays down thatThe County Court shall have power to amend a notice of intention to increase rent, whether served before or after the passing of this Act, by correcting any errors and supplying any omissions therein, on such terms and conditions as respects arrears of rent or otherwise as appear to the Court to be just and reasonable, and if the Court so directs, the notice as so amended shall have effect and be deemed to have had effect as a valid notice.As I understand it, the Clause means that if in the rather elaborate calculations which have to be made in the filling up 1204 of a form of notice to increase rent the landlord makes an error, whether as to form or as to amount, he may appear at the County Court at any period after the passing of the Act and ask the Court to amend his notice and to say that amended notice shall have effect from the date of the original notice as if that were a valid notice, and he may then call upon his unfortunate tenant to pay arrears of rent for the whole period covered by his own error. That is a most amazing provision to introduce into this Bill.
We have had some experience of legislation of this character recently in the case of Scotland, and that legislation was very properly strenuously resisted from these benches. But this provision is even more vicious. In the Scottish case the tenants knew what was their position. They knew that they were taking advantage of a technical mistake on the part of the landlord who was not properly cognisant of the law and were thus avoiding paying rent which it was the intention of the landlord to make them pay. The tenant knew his position, and he knew that it was the intention of the landlord to make him pay. He knew that he was taking advantage of the landlord's mistake. Here the position is entirely different. Here both parties may be in complete ignorance of the position. The tenant receives a form in which is filled a wrong amount. He, like the landlord, in nine cases out of ten will be ignorant of the provision of the law, and will be quite unaware that the landlord has wrongfully filled up the form. Then perhaps some years later, when the tenant has founded the whole basis of his life upon a certain rent, the landlord may come down upon him and make him pay a lump sum as arrears of rent. That is a far more serious situation than that which was produced by the retrospective legislation in regard to the Scottish case. These points were urged in the course of the Committee stage, and it was expected that the right hon. Gentleman would be ready with some reasonable reply. All the reply that he made was that there was a saving provision in the Clause which exempted the tenant from any possibility of hardship. He pointed out that the Clause used this phrase:As appear to the Court to be just and reasonable.1205 The right hon. Gentleman then said: "Oh, well, in any case, if hardship exists, the Courts, of course, will have a discretion in the matter." But what will be the actual situation facing a County Court Judge? He reads this Clause and he has to give his verdict in accordance with the law. He says: The landlord is entitled to the full amount of the arrears which have accrued, or he may come to the conclusion that under this Clause he is entitled to nothing at all. There is no case of making a reasonable and equitable compromise between two different conflicting points of view. His duty is actually to carry out the law as laid down in the Act, and he sees there, if the landlord makes a mistake of this character, he still may make a claim for the arrears of rent. I urged that position on the Committee stage. Since then I have consulted legal authorities, and I am informed that the most the Judge is likely to do in the matter of mollifying the position of the tenant is to say that, from the arrears of rent which the landlord is given, the costs of the action will be taken. That is the utmost extent to which the tenant would derive any benefit from this provision which gives the Court a certain measure of discretion; otherwise the Judge must carry out the law.
The landlord, if he is entitled to arrears, will get the arrears in nine cases out of 10. Where he has made such a mistake he will be able to have that mistake rectified in the Court at the expense of the tenant. That is an extraordinary provision. Are we not entitled to say that this is retrospective legislation of a character to which this House has always objected? I only wish the right hon. Baronet the Member for the City of London (Sir F. Banbury) had been in his place. I am sure he would join in this conflict. In addition to what I have said, this is class legislation of a peculiarly vicious kind. It sets the class of landlords above the law. It says to the landlord: "You, and you alone, are entitled to make a mistake, and your error in law will subsequently be rectified by the Court." The Bill puts landlords in a peculiar and favoured position such as no other class enjoys. Why should one class of the community be able to go to the Court and ask to have its errors corrected and its omissions supplied? Why should one class be able to do that any more than the rest of us? 1206 If we break the law or make a mistake we cannot go to the Court and ask the Court to supply our omissions and correct our errors. Think of what an extraordinary precedent the right hon. Gentleman is setting up? He says you must have a provision of this character so that a man can go back and get the matter put right. There are many forms which have to be filled up, large and complicated forms. By a precedent of this sort you would be saying that any man who makes a mistake in filling up any Government form should be able to have that mistake rectified and should not suffer for his errors! What an extraordinary new provision to introduce into the law of the country. It has never been held in English law that ignorance of the law is any excuse. It has always been held that a man who breaks the law, or is ignorant of the law, must suffer for his actions. This is introducing a particularly new and vicious principle on behalf of one class. I venture to say that throughout these discussions this legislation has been the subject of suspicion that it is class legislation, and I say that if this Clause is retained in the Bill it will be branded indelibly with the stigma of class legislation. I do trust, even at this stage of the Bill, the right hon. Gentleman will see fit to omit, or drastically to amend, this very objectionable Clause.
§ Mr. HILL
I beg to second the Amendment.
In a few words I would support the deletion of the Clause. I want to emphasise the point that has been made so clearly, that this is class legislation. This is a proposal to create a privilege, especially for the landlords as against the tenants. In the Committee the hon. Member for Pontypridd (Mr. Mardy Jones) informed the Minister that in his opinion, if the Clause was left in the Bill and really became operative, the County Court Judges would bless, or curse, the Minister in appropriate language. Then the County Court Judge will be called upon to spend a good deal of time in going into details like this that he ought not to be troubled with at all. Briefly, it seems to me that the Clause is unnecessary, it would be very heavily weighted against the tenant, and must of necessity be mischievous.
§ The MINISTER of HEALTH (Mr. Neville Chamberlain)
In order to explain the purpose of the Clause that the hon. Member has moved to leave out of the Bill, it is necessary to recall the words of the provision in the original Act which have operated so harshly as to require some amendment. In Section 3 (Limitation as to permitted increases in rent) of the Act of 1920, it is laid down that the landlord must give a valid notice of increase in rent to the tenant, and that that notice must be in accordance with the Schedule of the Act. The first Schedule of the Act of 1920 gives the form of notice by the landlord. It is attached to the Act. It requires a great number of calculations to be made by the landlord. He has to put down what is still the rent, and the number of such various factors which make up the increase of rent that he is proposing to charge, and he has to give, at any rate in certain cases, what the percentage on the net rent is, and what this increase amounts to. But landlords have not always had the benefit of education; have not all enjoyed the same benefits of education as the hon. Member for Harrow, and they are fallible. They sometimes make mistakes not only in this but in other calculations. The result of a perfectly unintentional and accidental mistake on the part of the landlord, a mistake which may be actually against his own interests, which may mean that he is asking the tenant for a smaller increase of rent than that to which he is justly entitled—the effect of that is to render the notice invalid. And the result of notice being rendered invalid is not that the landlord is then given the rent which is his proper legal due, but that he is denied any redress. The hon. Member for Harrow is always one-sided. I confess that the suggestion that in some cases the landlord has claimed a much smaller increase of rent than that to which he is entitled is the first admission in favour of the landlord that I have heard from the opposite benches since this Bill was introduced. It is perfectly obvious that the thing should be put right if the landlord, having stated that he has charged the tenant so much extra per week by say 15 per cent. on the net rent, it turns out that it should be 2½ or 4 per cent. The punishment does not fit the crime. The purpose of the present Clause 5 is not to allow the County Court Judge 1208 in many cases where documents are found to be incorrect to amend them: it is to give the County Court Judge power to amend the notice so as to make it accurate. It will then have to be considered what is to be done about the new rent that has been paid or not been paid up to the time of the case coming into Court. The hon. Member for Harrow ridicules once more, as he has often done, the suggestion that the Court will take any course that is just and reasonable. I do not really know why we should make such an assumption. The County Court will not make the mistakes supposed between landlord and tenant. You take the case where the tenant has been paying for a long period of time less than he ought to have paid, without notice. The tenant has based his standard of life upon what he thought he should pay, and not upon the rent which he would have had to pay if the landlord had not made the mistake. Surely we ought not to assume that, unless the Court thinks it just and reasonable, the tenant will not be made to pay the arrears. For my own part, knowing what I do of the fairness and sympathy in general of County Court Judges, I am quite prepared to leave the matter to their discretion with the full satisfaction that in saying what shall be done in cases of this sort, they will take the circumstances that are relevant into account and will give a judgment, that will be fair and honourable, not only to landlord but also to tenant.
In connection with what you say, would the tenant be entitled to recover on the other side?
§ Mr. CHAMBERLAIN
I do not know whether I have made myself clear, but I do not quite see why the tenant should want to give notice to amend because, if it is not amended, the tenant is not liable to pay any increase at all. The point of view of the tenant, unless he were a much more philanthropic person than we generally find him to be, would be to sit tight.
§ Mr. FOOT
The right hon. Gentleman a little while ago referred to the hon. Member for Harrow (Mr. Mosley) and said he was one-sided. I think, in this matter, it is on the right side, because the Clause to which he objects has not, I suppose, any parallel in previous legislation. The right hon. Gentleman referred to the complicated forms in the principal Act. I think that is a grievance. I think anyone who has had to fill in these forms has a complaint against them. I think the remedy for that complicated form is not to pass Clauses such as this, or suggest such a Clause as this; the remedy is to give us a simple form instead of a complicated form. Reference has been made to the First Schedule of the 1920 Act. It contains far too many particulars and comprises far too many details. If the right hon. Gentleman proposed in this Amendment a measure that would simplify that form, so that it might be quite understood by landlord and tenant, then I think he would have carried the sympathy of the whole House.
Lawyers lately have been very much astonished by this legislation dealing with the restriction of rents and interest. They look upon this as a temporary evil and as something of mushroom growth, but they hope this legislation will be wiped away very quickly. But amongst all the strange legislation we have had recently nothing is more objectionable than that which is condemned by the Amendment now before the House. Let the right hon. Gentleman consider how wide is this subject. The County Court Judge can correct any error whatever amount is involved, and supply omissions, and there is no limit of time. I do not know how far the County Court Judge might go back. He might have power to go back as far as the principal Act itself which is 1920, and whilst we have every confidence in the decisions of our County Court Judges, we know that occasionally miscarriages of justice do arise, and I think it is a most objectionable thing that a tenant, against whom no complaint can be made, should be liable to have brought against him, without any worming, a substantial claim amounting to a very large sum of money.
As far as I know, there is no other part of the law where we do not act upon the principle that where a mistake occurs the 1210 one who makes the mistake must suffer for it. By this proposal, however, you are reversing that principle. If it is intended to recover from B the consequences of a legal mistake made by A, there ought to be some other provision. You cannot demand a large sum of money in this way without easing the burden to the man upon whom it has been wrongfully placed. This Clause will tend to slackness in the filling up of the forms. In the past in the filling up of forms demanding an increase of rent a great deal of care has been exercised, but it will not matter in the future how the form is filled up, and this Clause will tend to slackness in that direction. It will also penalise many persons, and it is a reversal of the principle of our recognised law. The Bill would be very much more acceptable if this Clause were struck out. I agree with what the Mover of this Amendment has said, and while I recognise that there is a grievance, the attempt made by the Government to remove it has created another grievance very much larger.
§ Mr. EDE
We have been told that the Government never make mistakes, and that those who have drawn up this Bill know what they are doing. I want to point out that Section 2 of the principal Act makes it very difficult to follow the reasoning of the Minister of Health when he says that a landlord who had to ask his tenant for 14½ per cent. was serving an invalid notice. Each time in Section 2 of the principal Act the landlord is authorised to make increases not exceeding certain sums, and therefore whether one puts in 15 per cent. or 14½ per cent. it is quite valid. Paragraph (c) of Section 2 of the principal Act lays down that it must be an amount not exceeding 15 per cent. of the net rent. There is another sub section dealing with improvements of the structure and alterations, and here again the amount of the increase is fixed. When we come to repairs the amount is to be a sum not exceeding 25 per cent., and the tenant is quite entitled if he has a notice for less than that percentage, to think that the landlord has availed himself of the opportunity so given by not increasing the rent to the full extent.
It seems to me wholly unjustifiable to empower the County Court Judge, possibly years after, through some dispute having arisen to increase these 1211 increases to the full extent allowed by the principal Act. I know as a rule that these notices are drawn up with great care. I have had a good many of them submitted to me, and in no case have I ever seen less than the permitted increase, although I have occasionally found some where the landlord had got somewhat confused between 25 per cent. and 50 per cent. As a rule, however, I think these forms are very carefully filled up. I can say that in my experience every assistance is given by the local overseers and the rating authorities to enable them to arrive at what the rents were in 1914. These notices are bargains made between the two parties, and I do not think this power should be given to the County Court Judge because it is sure to lead to a good deal of bad feeling. It will make tenants very dubious as to how far this House is concerned about holding the balance fairly between the two parties to the transaction because they will feel that this gives them, if they have future friction with their landlords, the added terror that he may then seek to get the notice amended, although for some reasons best known to himself he may not have added the full increase.
I know there are many landlords who have not added the full 25 per cent. increase because they do not want the tenant to go to the sanitary inspector. I know landlords who have asked me to make out their notices, and when I have said, "What about the 25 per cent. for repairs," they have replied, "Do not put that in because it will give the tenants the power to go to the sanitary inspector." There is nothing to prevent landlords putting in this claim years after, and it gives them power to get the increase during the whole period they have neglected to carry out the repairs which the sanitary inspector could have compelled them to do. This is retrospective legislation of the worst possible kind, and I hope the Minister of Health will withdraw this Clause, or else allow another place to give us cause to thank heaven that they still remain a part of the British Constitution.
§ Sir KINGSLEY WOOD
I wish to make one or two brief observations upon some criticisms which have been made by hon. Members opposite. The Mover of this Amendment described this Clause as a piece of class legislation, but I can- 1212 not understand why he makes that statement. If he will reflect for a moment or two upon the different categories of people who own house property, I do not think he will be able to maintain his argument that it belongs to one particular class. I suppose there are millions of pounds' worth of house property to-day belonging to the working classes, trade unions, building societies, and other organisations who will, in fact, get the benefit of this Clause, and who are really the people who most constantly make mistakes in connection with the notices they give. It is not so much a question affecting the owners of a large amount or property, such as dukes and earls, because they are well able to employ professional advice, and I suppose in nearly every case their notices are in very good order. The people who have made mistakes in these notices during the last few years have been the men who own one or two or three houses, who have had to struggle with a form which they have probably bought at a newspaper shop, and have endeavoured to fill up the form to the best of their ability, and have tried to work out the extraordinary mathematical calculations required by this unfortunate legislation, and in the end have probably made unfortunate mistakes in the notices they have served on their tenants.
In hundreds of cases, owing to the mistake in the notice, the tenant has been living free of rent altogether for a very long period. All this Clause does is that in such a case, or in any case which comes under this Section, a man can go to the County Court Judge and say, "I have made a mistake; will you please alter it on fair and proper terms?" That is not class legislation, and the Judge can reply, "If I do alter the terms I shall impose conditions, and you will have to suffer for your mistake." The County Court Judge has to come to a conclusion as to what is just and reasonable in the circumstances. I think it is the universal experience of all those who have had any experience of our County Court Judges in this country that they have been most reasonable and sympathetic in regard to all applications made to them from the point of view of the tenant. Like other hon. Members, I object to this sort of legislation, and I agree that it is unfortunate, but if you are going to do justice to people who are 1213 not particularly well educated, and who are not able to get proper legal advice, the only alternative is to allow the County Court Judge, on proper and reasonable terms, to deal with these cases and impose such penalties as he thinks are reasonable, and allow the notice to be so amended as to express what was really the intention of the parties concerned.
§ Captain W. BENN
We are all anxious to be perfectly fair on this thorny question, but I would like to point out that the last argument used by the hon. and gallant Member who has just spoken has been answered by the hon. Member for Bodmin (Mr. Foot). We have been told, in the first place, that we must simplify the farms This procedure is based on a Section of the Act which is needlessly complicated. There is a 25 per cent. permissible increase in regard to repairs.
§ Sir K. WOOD
Nobody has put down any suggestion to simplify this form, and I think it is impossible.
§ Captain BENN
But the answer to the argument has been to simplify the form in the first place; and secondly, that while we are anxious to be fair to the landlord, it is also necessary to be fair to the tenant. The best point in my judgment which has been made in the Debate is that people work on very small incomes. The wife has so much to spend and so much is allotted to rent. The thrifty wife perhaps makes ends meet and may save a little. It is a serious thing suddenly to announce that a mistake has been made, and that large sums are due retrospectively by these people. This Clause is retrospective and that in itself is bad. What kind of retrospective increase has been permitted?The County Court shall have power to amend a notice of intention to increase rent by correcting any errors or supplying any omissions.I hope that I am wrong, but I would ask the Minister this. Suppose that a landlord had decided not to impose the 25 per cent. increase, is that an omission within the meaning of this Clause? That is a very serious question. Does the word "omission" in Clause 5 mean the omission to charge the 25 per cent. which is permitted under one of the Sections of the principal Act? If it does, by this Clause you say to the landlord, who had 1214 previously decided that he would not impose on the tenant the permitted increase, "You may now go to the Court and say, 'I omitted to charge the in crease permitted in one of the paragraphs of the Schedule and I ask permission now to increase my notice so as to charge the permitted increase from the time the tenant entered into possession of the house.'" Is that one of the operations which the Government permit by this Clause? It is most important to have an answer to that.
It is not a question of saying simply, this is a matter of making a slip as regards structural alterations, or some other arithmetical slip arising out of the complications of the form, but whether the word "omission" means that, if he has wilfully omitted to demand the permitted increase, he is now to be allowed to go to the County Court and ask to be permitted to make the increase. That is a serious change which I imagine the Minister does not contemplate; but I would like a definite assurance on this point. If it were simply that this power in the County Court should exist, as and from, the passing of the Act, that might be a reasonable thing, but to say that it shall be retrospective as and from the earliest of these Acts seems to me to be utterly unreasonable. There are two later Amendments, which suggest that this procedure only comes into operation after the passing of the Act, which may not be divided on, but those of us who vote for the total omission of this Clause, in this as in other cases, have to record our opinion in a very rough and ready way, owing to the limitations under which we are working. I ask the Minister to answer the question which I have asked.
§ Mr. ROBERT MURRAY
The chief objection which seems to me to exist against the Clause as it stands is that it is now proposed to put on a Court of law a duty which ought to belong entirely to the individual. Under this Clause it is now open to the landlord to come into Court with the most ill-digested, ill-prepared statement, and to put upon the Court the duty of amending his mistakes. This Clause will make for slackness and carelessness on the part of the landlord, and slackness and carelessness in the preparation of these statements will make of slackness and carelessness on the part of the Court in trying to do justice 1215 between the parties. It has been said by the hon. and gallant Member for Leith (Captain W. Benn)—though I do not agree—that both sides are trying to be fair to both landlord and tenant. I have listened carefully to the discussions, and I have not seen the slightest desire on the part of the Government to be fair to the tenant. If they had entertained any desire, here was an opportunity, by which they might have placed the duty definitely and distinctly on the landlord to make his statement clear as to his claims against the tenant, and, having submitted a clear statement, that he should take his stand definitely on that in making his claim against the tenant. But up to the last moment that statement may be subject to all kinds of alteration.
The Minister has said that by permitting an unintentional error on the part of the landlord we are doing something altogether wrong, but as the hon. Member for Harrow (Mr. Mosley) has said, we are breaking upon what is a clear and definite basis of British law, that intentionally or unintentionally an error before the law shall stand against an individual who makes that error. The Minister of Health says that we are not to penalise the unfortunate landlord for mistakes of that kind. He suggests that the punishment does not fit the crime. But the punishment in this case would fit the crime, because if the landlord made a mistake, which resulted in penalising the tenant, the tenancy would come back on his own shoulders. Reasons have been given, however attenuated, with regard to some of the other Clauses which the Government defend, but not the slightest reason has been given why this Clause should stand.
§ Mr. ALEXANDER SHAW
The Government are fortunate in finding so excellent and plausible an advocate for this Clause as the hon. Member for West Woolwich (Sir K. Wood). He has uttered in this House the only single word of excuse for this Clause, which so far has been used. The chorus of condemnation from all parts of the House has been unanimous. I do not wish to stigmatise this Clause as class legislation, or anything of that kind, but I would ask my Noble Friend, who, I know, is reasonable in all these matters, to consider carefully whether under this 1216 Clause he is not taking a step which is in antagonism to a sound and important principle of constitutional law. My hon. Friend opposite, with considerable dexterity, strove to represent the people, for whom this Bill is intended, as half-imbecile, half-illiterate people, who are unable to fill in a form. I would remind my hon. Friend that the whole of the section of the community which he represents is not of this class, and that even for those who are, there are societies and willing friends to help them in what is, after all, a comparatively simple operation.
Would it not be far better instead of putting a Clause of this kind into the Bill to have inserted a simple schedule which would have superceded the schedule in the Act of 1920 and would have made it simple even for those whom my hon. Friend represents to comply with the requirements of the law? My Noble Friend knows that with regard to the great bulk of transactions between parties in this country, which are carried on in writing, it is of the utmost importance in the general public interest that the intentions of the parties should be judged by what they sign. That is an elementary principle of constitutional law. No doubt in a certain limited class of cases a strictly limited discretion is given to the Courts. That may be wise or not, but at any rate the parties who put their hand to a document, as tenants or purchasers, or to any other class of document, and those who receive those documents, rely on them to know where they stand.
Now we are opening a new era in which the right hon. Gentleman and my Noble Friend say, "Never mind, old boy, if you muddle through somehow we will put up the County Court Judge to help you to muddle along. Never mind what the document says." You are by this Clause displacing a document which is a definite thing, by something quite different, something fraught with great elements of danger. You are displacing a definite document to be interpreted, by a roving commission to the County Court Judge who is to attribute motives and intentions at his own sweet will. No two County Court Judges in any part of the country will agree in their ideas about those cases which are brought before them under this litigation-making Clause.
These considerations which you are asking them to decide are not covered by any 1217 precedents or decided cases. You are leaving to them unlimited discretion to read into a document what, in the light of after events, they consider should be read into it, not to rectify a limited class of errors or omissions, but to rectify—and here I think that my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Leith hit upon a rather important point—any omissions and any errors which, in the light of after events, they think to be reasonable and just. That is not clean cut legislation. It is muddled legislation. Instead of putting a clear schedule into this Act you open up a vista of muddle and ltigation, and you are taking, it may be in a very quiet and comparatively unimportant way, a distinct step away from the sound maxim of the British Constitutions which Members of the Government will some day regret.
§ 5.0 P.M.
§ Mr. LORDEN
The point raised by the hon. and gallant Member for Leith would be a rather serious one if it had not been dealt with already. But it seems to me that it has been dealt with by the Rent Restrictions (Notices of Increase) Act which has recently become law, and which provides that arrears can be recovered by a landlord from a tenant from the 1st day of December, 1922. Therefore that does limit the question of repayment about which the hon. and gallant Member raised the point. It would be a serious matter if it could be reopened on all these Acts ever since a little after the War broke out. Therefore the County Court Judge, however much he might desire to go behind it, is up against the Section of the Rent Restrictions (Notices of Increase) Act, 1923. It seems to me you cannot get behind it. Section 2 says:
- "(a) any validated increase of rent in respect of the period from the first day of December, nineteen hundred and twenty-two, to the date of the passing of this Act, both inclusive; and
- (b) any sum which during the said period has been recovered by the tenant from the landlord by deductions from rent or otherwise and which would not have been so recoverable had this Act been then in force;shall be payable by instalments"—There is a further reservation, which makes it almost impossible for the landlord to recover, because it goes on to say:with and as part of the periodical payments of rent, each instalment being 15 per cent. of the standard rent for the week, 1218 month, or other period for which the rent is payable.Therefore, you have limitation upon limitation, so that the fears of the hon. Gentleman on the point he raised are entirely removed.
§ Mr. PRINGLE
I am surprised at the point which has just been made by the hon. Gentleman opposite. He assumes that the provisions in the Rent Restrictions (Notices of Increase) Act will apply to the Clause we are now discussing, and that the discretion of the County Court Judge, as given by Clause 5, will be limited by the provisions which are laid down in Section 2 of the Rent Restrictions (Notices of Increase) Act, 1923. I would submit to the hon. Gentleman and to the House that he is really under a misapprehension in this respect. The Rent Restrictions (Notices of Increase) Act validated certain notices of increase, and only those notices of increase. Before that Act, it had been determined by a decision of the House of Lords that where a notice of increase had been given, and there had been no notice to quit, such notice of increase was not valid. The object of the Rent Restrictions (Notices of Increase) Act was to validate such notices. It only validated notices which were otherwise valid. It said that, even although there had been no notice to quit, nevertheless the notice of increase would be validated under the Act, and, for the purpose of determining the amount of arrears which would be due to the landlord, a certain date was introduced for the purpose of determining how far arrears would be payable, and, as the hon. Member clearly pointed out, the Act went on to lay down conditions as to the payment of arrears. That applies to a special case which is not within the purview of Clause 5 at all. Clause 5 seeks to make valid notices of increase which are invalid for other reasons, and deals with notices of increase which have been given since the beginning of the original Act, and you are imposing a very serious duty upon County Court Judges to determine how far, under these conditions, the arrears are to be payable.
It is a very difficult matter. In connection with the Notices of Increase Act, the House at that time felt it necessary to define clearly he date as from which the arrears should run, and not only did it define clearly that date, but the House 1219 also defined the period at which instalments should be paid. But here you give a roving commission to the County Court Judge. If, in the other case, it was necessary, first of all, to lay down a date with reference to which the arrears should be payable, and that, even having laid down that date, it was necessary to make special arrangements with regard to instalments, then it is equally necessary in the present case. On that occasion we had an extraordinary position indeed, because the date was introduced in respect to which the legislation was made retrospective. That date was based upon a speech by the late Prime Minister, but here we have not even a speech of the late Prime Minister to guide us. The County Court Judge may, at his discretion, go right back to 1921. Also, of course, it is unfortunate that this poor landlord—and we will stick to the "poor landlord," out of deference to the hon. Member for West Woolwich (Sir K. Wood)—the man who cannot make up a notice, the man who never in his business dealings has had to tabulate any percentages—we hear so often about these poor people, but we do not meet them in ordinary life.
§ Mr. PRINGLE
I do not belong to the profession to which the hon. Member belongs, and, of course, I have not the means of meeting the enormous clientèle which patronises his firm, but if the clients of the hon. Member are of the character he depicts in the House, I can understand the prosperity of his business. Because he is peculiarly fortunate in his clients, I do not think that is any reason why this House should base its legislation upon the experience which he has been fortunate enough to obtain. We have, after all, to deal with the situation that the people who go in for investments in house property are no more ignorant or innocent than other people who invest. They are usually able to calculate percentages which they are going to get on 'their money, and the income they are going to receive from year to year, so that they can easily calculate the percentage in this case, and I believe in the majority of cases where mistakes have been made in notices, the mistakes have been made to the advantage of the land- 1220 lord and not to his disadvantage. I have had cases brought to my own notice where through, shall we say, a singular inadvertence, the landlord, in calculating this percentage, has managed to work it out as something more than that to which he was legally entitled, and, of course, if he is the innocent person depicted by the hon. Member for West Woolwich, he will go to the County Court Judge and will say, "I know nothing about arithmetic, it is so long since I was at school. I have not a ready reckoner; I have not been able to buy one in these hard times, and I cannot find the money to meet the cost of repairs. And so, of all these luxuries—even the advice of the hon. Member for West Woolwich—I have been unable to avail myself."
Therefore, he appeals ad misericordiam to the County Court Judge, to whom he says, "I have made this mistake. My tenant writes to say that all the rent he has paid since 1921 should be refunded. Have mercy upon me! Here is a Clause—Clause 5—introduced by a benevolent Government, which expressly directs your honour to consider my weaknesses and shortcomings, and to say that I should not suffer for my mistake: It is true the mistake is in my favour, but I am an honest, deserving citizen, and I should not have thought of doing that. It is solely due to my inability to calculate." And, of course, with this Clause 5 before him, the County Court Judge will say that obviously the Government—a benevolent Government, a wise Government, a moral Government, a Government whose honesty verges upon simplicity—intended this, and the County Court Judge will give judgment in his favour, and say that the notice, in spite of this slight inaccuracy—in favour of the landlord, of course—is valid, and that the tenant will be bound to pay the arrears from the beginning. I know the right hon. Baronet the Member for the City of London (Sir F. Banbury) is against all retrospective legislation. Here we have the worst kind of retrospective legislation.
§ Mr. PRINGLE
It would be much better if we said how far it was to be retrospective, but we are leaving it entirely to the discretion of the County Court Judges up and down the country. I do not suppose the right hon. Gentle- 1221 man would consent to any such proposition. We used to be told in the old days that equity varied with the length of the Lord Chancellor's foot. We have now, apparently, the rights of landlords and tenants to be determined by the length of the foot of every County Court Judge. It was not altogether unsatisfactory when we had only one Lord Chancellor, but when we have all these County Court Judges, what is the situation? I suggest to the right hon. Baronet the Member for the City of London that the situation is appalling; that it is enough to make his flesh creep, and that he, as a good Constitutionalist, even at this moment, when we are told he is spending his last days in this House, he should protest against such a monstrous innovation, not only against constitutional practice, but against the constitutional traditions of this country. I am quite sure that the appeal I have made to him will not be made in vain; he will not be taken in by the references of the hon. Member for West Woolwich to the poor landlords who do not know how to calculate. Such appeals have never made any impression upon him in the past. He has shown himself a rigid adherent of the real spirit of our legislation, and the real spirit of our constitution, and I hope he will insist that it shall not be departed from in this legislation. I submit that no case has been made out by the Government for any such far-reaching provision as that which is now before the House. If any relaxation is to be made, it is the duty of the House to lay down the principles upon which it is to be made, to lay down clearly the nature of the inaccuracies which are to be condoned by the County Court Judge, and, having laid that down, having made it clear that it is something which does not go to the root of the matter, they should also lay down the equitable consideration which is to be granted in such cases, and only so will it be possible for Parliament rightly to discharge its functions to both sides.
§ Mr. CHAMBERLAIN
I rise for the purpose of making some response to the one serious point which has been put to me from the opposite benches. I am sure the hon. and gallant Member will not protest, because it is his own point.
§ Mr. CHAMBERLAIN
I will not take up the time of the House in dealing with remarks which are merely made with the benevolent intention of entertaining us for as long as possible, but the hon. and gallant Member did make a point which requires some answer. He inquired whether it would be possible to claim that the omission should be corrected by the Court if a man omitted to make a claim under one paragraph set out in the Schedule. I do not think that could conceivably occur, because if the hon. and gallant Member will look at the Schedule he will see it begins with the formal notice, "I intend to increase the rent" by so much per week, and "the increase is made up as follows." There are two things to be filled up, the total amount of the claim and also details of that amount. If the total corresponds with the details clearly it will not be possible for the landlord afterwards to claim he has omitted some details, because all the details will have been in the total. Therefore I think the case which the hon. and gallant Gentleman suggests could not possibly arise.
§ Captain BENN
But if he failed to fill up one of the items? My point is this. The object of the Clause is to validate an omission. Suppose, even in the case the right hon. Gentleman takes, the landlord did not put in the total, although he filled in the other paragraphs, is his claim to be validated by the insertion by the County Court Judge of the total?
§ Mr. CHAMBERLAIN
No, I will say what is in my mind first. If the landlord has omitted to fill up the total or has omitted to fill up one of the details the Court may accept his claim if he comes along afterwards and says that the omission was accidental. If the hon. Member thinks there is any doubt about this matter, I will have it looked into. I do not contemplate the possibility of such a thing, but if there is any doubt I am willing to try and find some other form of words to make it quite clear.
§ Mr. CHARLES EDWARDS
I do not know that any Amendment could put this Clause right. It is wrong in principle. I do not think there is any other body of people in this country which has at its 1223 disposal the County Court Judge and all his officials. I never had them at my disposal. I have had something to do with County Courts in my time, and have had to fill in lots of forms and declarations and so on, and I never found that the County Court Judge or his staff were there to correct any of my omissions. Here you have singled out one body of men at whose disposal the whole of the officials of the County Court are to be placed. They are to supply any omission and to correct any error the landlord may make. Would not this open the door to the sending in of any sort of notice and leaving it to the County Court Judge or officials to put it right? I do not know anyone else in this country who is given such assistance. I do not see why we on these benches should object to it very much, because the more this kind of legislation is introduced the sooner will we on this side get into power. I am amazed at the attitude taken up by the hon. Member for West Woolwich (Sir K. Wood). He seems to have set himself up as an unofficial Minister of Health; he is constantly offering the Ministry his assistance in getting through this Bill. He is always defending them. What is it this Clause is going to restrict? Is it not the case it is intended to put right what happened in Scotland some time ago? It provides, in fact, there shall be no more wrong notices. It does not restrict anything unless it is the County Court officials to help the landlord to restrict the wages of the people by taking more out of them than he would otherwise be able to do. The County Court Judge is a very busy man. He has plenty of work, and I do not suppose that his staff is any too large, but if these duties are going to be imposed upon them the staff will have to be considerably increased. It is not fair to put that staff at the disposal of one class of individuals in this country. Really, Clause 5 has nothing whatever to do either with rent restrictions or with supplying houses. It is simply a provision to assist one body of people in the country, and for that reason I am opposed to it.
§ Sir F. BANBURY
The hon. Member for Penistone (Mr. Pringle) made a very amusing speech, as he always does. Except on very rare occasions, he does not repeat the speeches made by other 1224 Members in front of him, as was done repeatedly yesterday. But his speech had very little whatever to do with the question before the House. It is absurd to say, as he did, that the landlord cannot calculate. It would appear from what the hon. Member said that what the Clause ought to Jo is to put in a ready reckoner for the use of the landlord. He complains that the landlord is to be able to get the County Court Judge to make his calculations for him. But the speech of the hon. Gentleman had very little to do with the Clause. The real necessity for this Clause is to be found in the fact that, unfortunately, the late Government, or rather the first Coalition Government interfered with the law of supply and demand. At that time I had the honour of using my poor abilities to persuade Lord Long, who introduced that Bill, that it was a great mistake to interfere by legislation with the laws of supply and demand.
§ Mr. DEPUTY-SPEAKER (Mr. James Hope)
That has nothing to do with this Clause, the object of which is to give the County Court Judge certain powers.
§ Sir F. BANBURY
I was referring to the fact that legislation of a certain kind had led to a lot of trouble. We were told in 1915 that that Act was only to last during the War, but in 1917 it required to be amended, and if hon. Members have watched matters they will have seen that every time a Bill of this sort is passed it requires amendment as soon as it has been in operation a short time. No Bill is going to Settle—
§ Sir F. BANBURY
The hon. Member for Penistone gave us his reason for opposing this Clause. He said the landlord could not calculate. The difficulty 1225 is, however, that neither the landlord nor the tenant understands the legislation which has been passed.
§ Mr. PRINGLE
May I point out that I was not in the House at the time that legislation was passed? I was out of it and was looking to the right hon. Baronet to watch over my interests.
§ Sir F. BANBURY
And I did. If the hon. Gentleman will again retire from the House and leave me to look after his interests, I think both the House and himself will be far better off. What I want to insist upon is that the real reason for the passing of this Clause is the legislation already in existence. It is because we cannot understand that legislation that it is necessary for the County Court Judge to correct errors in the claims sent in. I do not see anything unreasonable in that at all. As a magistrate I have before now, when a summons has come before the Court of which I have been a member, and when it has been found that that summons has been badly drawn, dismissed it and immediately granted another summons properly drawn. Is it not the object of every Judge and every magistrate, and of everyone in a judicial capacity to see that justice is done? It is not necessary, simply because a document is wrongly drawn, to refuse to hear a case. This Clause only allows the case to be heard in order that justice may be done. Another point which has been raised has to deal with the question of retrospection. I have always been opposed to retrospective legislation, but in view of the extraordinary body of legislation which has been introduced in this country it does sometimes necessitate a divergence from one's views. Therefore, although I am very much opposed to retrospective legislation, I see no particular harm in it in this case so long as justice is done. Hon. Members opposite have suggested that one ought to be fair to the landlords. I would suggest that if their opinion of fairness to landlords is embodied in the methods of discussion which have been pursued on this Bill during the last day or two, it is a very extraordinary idea of fairness.
§ Mr. HARNEY
I regard this Amendment as of very great importance, and I do not think the Minister of Health really appreciates the significance of what he is doing. To increase rent is really to 1226 make a new contract between the landlord and the tenant, and we have heard, in the recent Debates, that the House of Lords found it necessary to invalidate a great number of notices of increase because the necessary steps were not taken to lay the foundation for new tenancies by determining the old. By the Act that was recently passed, this notice of increase is made to effect the purpose of a notice to quit, so that, substantially, the County Court Judge is being given the power to do what never has been done before, namely, to set right what can at all events be treated as a notice to quit. The right hon. Baronet the Member for the City of London (Sir F. Banbury) said that in his experience these Amendments are often made. Of course they are, and there is no need whatever for this Clause in order to give the County Court Judge the power to make the kind of Amendment to which he refers. There is a general jurisdiction to set right small slips that do not touch the root of the matter in question, and it has, on this particular Act, been specifically decided that, while minor matters can be set right, substantial ones cannot.
When, therefore, a County Court Judge takes up this Clause and says, "I have to interpret it according to the intention of Parliament," he starts by presuming that Parliament knew the law, and he, there fore, must say to himself that, since Parliament knew that he already had the power to make minor Amendments, and goes out of its way to say expressly that he is to have the new power of supplying omissions and correcting errors, he is bound to construe these words as empowering him absolutely to make a new notice in all particulars. We have set out in the Schedule, not to this Bill, but to the previous Act, an elaborate form of notice. Why have a form embodied in an Act of Parliament, and given full statutory effect, if the result of a Clause like this is really to make it no more effective than if it simply said that the County Court Judge shall have power to give an increase of rent if a letter is written to him? Why have this elaborate notice if it is to be disregarded? The right hon. Gentleman can take it from me that County Court Judges are bound, according to the ordinary canons of construction, and knowing, as I have said that there is in them at all times the 1227 power to make small alterations, to regard this as an express instruction to them to make the most vital alterations in the notice. If that be so, why is this notice the Schedule at all?
Now I come to another matter, which strikes me as being of more importance than, perhaps, the legal one. For a landlord to increase his rent is a somewhat serious thing, and this Parliament has chosen to say that, if he is going to increase the rent, he must comply with certain conditions. Parliament, presumably, was of opinion that the landlord had to mind his p's and q's when he was going to increase his rent, because, dealing as he was with a large number of more of less ignorant people, there was nothing in the world easier for him than, on the chance of the tenant not detecting it, to make out the notice for a larger amount than was due. I have little doubt myself that, if you were to take any given 100 notices of increase, you would be safe in saying that they would be passed by the tenants although 99 of them erred perhaps to the extent of 10s. or 15s. or more on the wrong side. It was just to prevent landlords who were dealing with persons who could not protect themselves from increasing to an undue extent the amount to which these calculations of 25 per cent. here and 15 per cent. there entitled them—to prevent them from taking advantage of that arithmetic in their own favour—that it was provided that a notice should be served not merely saying, as it might have said, "I desire an increase of 40 per cent.," but saying, figure for figure and date for date, how that increase was brought about, so that the tenant might be perfectly clear as to what was being done. Now we are told that all this is to be treated as moonshine, that a landlord can now serve a notice in which he says, "I claim an increase of 40 per cent.": and, if the case goes to a County Court Judge, he says, "Oh, County Court Judge, I know that notice is all wrong, and does not pay the slightest attention to the Schedule, but here is a Section enabling you to do what I did not do for myself."
It seems to me to be a monstrous innovation. No Act that I have ever read in my experience at the Bar, and that has extended over some time now, has given to a Judge in any circumstances 1228 such power as is given in this clause, and given, not to an ordinary Judge, who is dealing with an ordinary case, but given to a County Court Judge in reference to what amounts to the creation of a new tenancy. If there has been one thing sacred in our law, from feudal days onwards, it has been the necessity for accuracy in notices to quit. This notice of intention to increase the rent is in effect also a notice to quit, or you could not get the increase, and still we are told that it can be filled up haphazard in any way whatsoever. The right hon. Gentleman, in answer to an hon. Member on this side, said that there was only one serious point that it was necessary to consider, and that point was this: Suppose that the landlord omits to put in the increase of 25 per cent., as he may, for repairs. There may be some conscientious landlords who know they have not done Ole repairs, and have no intention of doing them, and, therefore, do not put in the 25 per cent. Suppose he omits to put in the 15 per cent., as he may. The tenant gets the notice, and says, "Good landlord, nice kind man! I have now more money in my pocket than I thought I had." But suppose that, two years afterwards, the landlord has a row with the tenant, who may have annoyed him about something, serves him with a summons to pay the back increases, and then goes to the Couny Court and says, "Oh, I am very sorry, but I find I omitted to put in the 25 per cent., or the 15 per cent., as the case may be: will you supply it for me?" The County Court Judge is bound to do so.
§ Mr. HARNEY
He is not bound to, but he may. I cannot go back at every moment and restate the ground that I hope I have made clear. When I say he is bound to do so, I mean as the result of my previous argument. If my hon. Friend the Member for West Woolwich (Sir K. Wood) were sitting on the County Court bench, clear-headed man as he is, and if he had this Act before him and I were the counsel and said to him, "What right, your Honour, have you to refuse to make this Amendment?" what would his answer be?
§ Mr. HARNEY
But counsel would reply that even the most self-assertive of Judges must exercise a judicial discretion, and the exercise of a judicial discretion is to confine the latitude of his own will to what was the intention of Parliament; and if he has before him an Act which says that this discretion is not to be confined to the ordinary discretion of amendment, but is to go to the extent of supplying errors and omissions. I feel satisfied that whether the hon. Member would do so or not, the great majority of County Court Judges would. The point that I was about to make, when I was interrupted, was this: What is there to prevent a landlord, who when he served the notice had no wish whatever to add these increases, from changing his mind two years afterwards, and going to the County Court Judge and compelling the unfortunate tenant to pay up arrears which the tenant rightly thought were his own money up to that moment? I do think that the effect of this Clause will be to make the tenant pay for the landlord's errors. What right has anyone to suppose that, if a tenant receives a notice only asking him for a certain amount of rent, he has not been forgiven the balance, or that the balance is not going to be insisted upon? Why should he not be entitled to think that he is justified in regulating his domestic budget according to the amount he has to pay, and what a hardship it would be on him if, two years afterwards, the notice upon which he based his financial arrangements is to be altered, and he has to pay that which, if he had been asked at the beginning, he could have paid, but which, when he is asked for it two years afterwards, becomes a wholly impossible hardship? For these reasons, I submit that the Clause in its present form is an entire legislative innovation. Nothing that I know of exists like it in any Act of Parliament, and I am at a loss to understand why landlords, who are, presumably, not grossly ignorant people, should be spoon-fed in this way, and why a special Clause should be put into an Act of Parliament for this reason, and this reason only, that the notice has to be filled up by the landlord class, and that they are by common consent such a stupid and uncultivated class that they would be unable 1230 properly to fill in the spaces that are provided in the Schedule actually printed in advance for them.
Mr. TREVELYAN THOMSON
I understood, from the interjections made when the hon. and learned Member for South Shields (Mr. Harney) was speaking, that the defence of this Clause was really founded on the discretion left to the County Court Judge. I submit, with respect, that, when you are dealing with this dangerous doctrine of retrospective legislation, the House should clearly define on what lines it is to go. The Minister, if I understood him rightly, suggested that it might be possible or desirable to alter the form of the words so as to make impossible some of the contingencies set forth by the hon. Member for Mitcham (Mr. Ede), and I think the Minister's own speech at the beginning was rather suggestive that this Clause was going further than be intended. He mentioned an illustration of an undoubted hardship on a landlord who, in his notice, had charged less than he was entitled to charge. If I understood the Minister correctly, he went on to say that, because of some mis-statement in the original notice, the Court had found that the landlord was not entitled to any increase whatever, not even to the smaller amount which he had demanded, because of this mistake; and he referred to the principal Act. I wish the right hon. Gentleman would tell us on what that is based, because, in Clause 3 of the principal Act, it clearly states that if a notice contains any statement or representation which is false or misleading in any material particular, the landlord shall be liable to a penalty. Surely, if the notice demanded less money than the landlord was legally entitled to, the Court would hardly hold that the notice contained statements which were misleading or false, and, therefore, I put it to the Minister that, if all he desires to do is to protect the landlord who, through some oversight, has made a mistake, and because of that is debarred from receiving a lesser sum than he is legally entitled to demand, this Clause is going very much further than is really necessary. I may have misunderstood the Minister, but I am in the recollection of the House, and I think he made that point, that though a landlord had demanded less than he was legally entitled to under the original Act, because of some mis-statement in 1231 the demand on any point, he was debarred from any increase whatever.
That is one matter, but does it require this Clause to do that? Would it not be possible to introduce amending words into Clause 3 which would provide that because of some unintentional misstatement the landlord should not thereby be debarred from receiving a sum which was less than he was legally entitled to if that was the sum he had demanded. I do not know whether I make the point clear but it seems to me that if that is all that was desired it does not require this Clause which may, if left to the Courts, enable the landlord to recover not merely the smaller sum which he has asked, but a larger sum to which he might be entitled if he had not made some misstatement originally. I put it to the Minister whether his own wording does not go much further than to relieve the case of hardship which he gave the House. I cannot but think that if he could meet the matter in that way it would remove some difficulty, though it would not remove the major difficulty of it being retrospective legislation. Surely if you are to have retrospective legislation for the landlord class why not have it for any other class of the community which, wittingly or unwittingly, has made these mistakes? We are on dangerous ground, and as the Clause has been shown possibly to do mare than the Minister really intends, he will be well advised to withdraw it and seek to put in amending words in another place which would do the more limited service which he outlined in his first speech.
§ Captain BERKELEY
I hope the Minister will see his way to meet the argument which has been put forward and repeated very often from this side of the House—
§ Captain BERKELEY
It has only been repeated because he has not answered it. No one wishes to inflict the repetition of an argument on the House, but if no attention is paid to it and it is substantial, we are entitled to press for an answer. This is an argument of substance, because the effect of the Clause is to make a fundamental change in the law of con- 1232 tracts. If I enter into a continuing contract for a supply month by month, let us say of coal, to another person, and if I make a mistake in the contract and agree to supply at a price which is not going to be profitable, I can be kept to my contract, and if I break it damages can be recovered against me. The effect of this notice of increase is only to supplement a contract entered into between landlord and tenant. The landlord and tenant have agreed on a certain rent. Under the provisions of the Act the landlord is entitled to increase his rent. He decides upon an increase, and puts it in the form. That becomes, as it were, an annex to the original contract, and if you make it possible for the landlord, if he subsequently thinks he has not been quite fair to himself, to go to the County Court and have the contract amended, then it is perfectly just to say you are introducing class legislation, not in the sense that you are setting off dukes and earls on the one hand against working men on the other, but in this sense, that for the benefit of certain classes of persons who have entered into particular contracts you are modifying the existing contract law, which you are not prepared to do, and the House of Commons would hesitate very seriously in doing, for other contracting classes.
§ Captain BERKELEY
That is true, but the reason for which the contract law has been amended is not in the interest of classes, but to meet a vital existing deficiency in the State. It is because of the shortage of houses. If the houses existed it would not be necessary to indulge in this kind of legislation, which I regret as much as the hon. Gentleman. Indeed, I am sure all hon. Members regret the necessity of having to interfere with what the right hon. Baronet referred to as the law of supply and demand. But because it is necessary to do that in the big sense of making provision for the shortage of houses, it is not in the least necessary to introduce legislation in favour of one particular class of person to enter into contracts which you are not prepared to give other people who enter into contracts. The hon. Member for Woolwich referred very movingly to the hard case of the landlord who made a mistake in his percentage. I do not 1233 really think it was a point of great substance. Equity is for those who keep their eyes open for their interests and not for those who go to sleep on their rights. I hope the right hon. Gentleman will make a serious reply to this contention of the modification of the contract law, which we have not put forward in the least for the purpose of prolonging the Debate, but merely to point out what we think is an unfortunate and, I believe, quite unintended effect of the Clause.
§ Mr. GERALD HURST
I rise to deal with two fallacies to which hon. Members opposite have given expression. The hon. Member for South Shields (Mr. Harney) dilated at some length on the difficulty of a County Court Judge in dealing with the question of what Parliament intended by this Section. He knows perfectly well that no Judge would ever
§ deal with an issue of this sort in that way, because the issue is not what Parliament intended but what the actual language of the Section means, so that that point is absolutely irrelevant. The other fallacy to which hon. Members have given expression is the fear that the phrase "errors and omissions" might be used to cover material flaws and omissions. There is no need for that fear, because there is high judicial authority that the expression "errors and omissions" must be intended and considered to cover small immaterial errors and inaccuracies, and not reckless and careless mistakes and omissions of a large type. That fear is entirely misconceived.
§ Question put, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Bill."
§ The House divided: Ayes, 251; Noes, 156.1237
|Division No. 281.]||AYES.||[5.56 p.m.|
|Agg-Gardner, Sir James Tynte||Chamberlain, Rt. Hon. N. (Ladywood)||Gretton, Colonel John|
|Ainsworth, Captain Charles||Churchman, Sir Arthur||Guinness, Lieut.-Col. Hon. W. E.|
|Alexander, E. E. (Leyton, East)||Clayton, G. C.||Gwynne, Rupert S.|
|Alexander, Col. M. (Southwark)||Cobb, Sir Cyril||Hacking, Captain Douglas H.|
|Amery, Rt. Hon. Leopold C. M. S.||Cockerill, Brigadier-General G. K.||Hall, Rr-Adml Sir W. (Liv'p'l, W. D'by)|
|Apsley, Lord||Colfox, Major Wm. Phillips||Halstead, Major D.|
|Archer-Shee, Lieut.-Col. Sir Martin||Colvin, Brig.-General Richard Beale||Hamilton, Sir George C. (Altrincham)|
|Ashley, Lt.-Col. Wilfrid W.||Conway, Sir W. Martin||Hannon, Patrick Joseph Henry|
|Astbury, Lieut.-Com. Frederick W.||Cope, Major William||Harmsworth, Hon. E. C. (Kent)|
|Baird, Rt. Hon. Sir John Lawrence||Cory, Sir J. H. (Cardiff, South)||Harrison, F. C.|
|Baldwin, Rt. Hon. Stanley||Courthope, Lieut.-Col. George L.||Harvey, Major S. E.|
|Balfour, George (Hampstead)||Craig, Captain C. C. (Antrim, South)||Hay, Major T. W. (Norfolk, South)|
|Banbury, Rt. Hon. Sir Frederick G.||Craik, Rt. Hon. Sir Henry||Henn, Sir Sydney H.|
|Barnston, Major Harry||Croft, Lieut.-Colonel Henry Page||Hennessy, Major J. R. G.|
|Becker, Harry||Crook, C. W. (East Ham, North)||Herbert, S. (Scarborough)|
|Bell, Lieut.-Col. W. C. H. (Devizes)||Crooke, J. Smedley (Deritend)||Hiley, Sir Ernest|
|Bellairs, Commander Cariyon W.||Curzon, Captain Viscount||Hoare, Lt.-Col. Rt. Hon. Sir S. J. G.|
|Benn, Sir A. S. (Plymouth, Drake)||Dalziel, Sir D. (Lambeth, Brixton)||Hogg, Rt. Hon. Sir D. (St. Marylebone)|
|Bennett, Sir T. J. (Sevenoaks)||Davidson, J. C. C. (Hemel Hempstead)||Hohler, Gerald Fitzroy|
|Bentinck, Lord Henry Cavendish-||Davidson, Major-General Sir J. H.||Holbrook, Sir Arthur Richard|
|Berry, Sir George||Davies, Thomas (Cirencester)||Hood, Sir Joseph|
|Betterton, Henry B.||Davison, Sir W. H. (Kensington, S.)||Hopkins, John W. W.|
|Bird, Sir William B. M. (Chichester)||Dawson, Sir Philip||Hopkinson, A. (Lancaster, Mossley)|
|Blades, Sir George Rowland||Dixon, Capt. H. (Belfast, E.)||Houfton, John Plowright|
|Blundell, F. N.||Doyle, N. Grattan||Howard, Capt. D. (Cumberland, N.)|
|Bowyer, Capt. G. E. W.||Du Pre, Colonel William Baring||Hughes, Collingwood|
|Boyd-Carpenter, Major A.||Edmondson, Major A. J.||Hurd, Percy A.|
|Brass, Captain W.||Elliot, Capt. Walter E. (Lanark)||Hurst, Gerald B.|
|Bridgeman, Rt. Hon. William Clive||Ellis, R. G.||Hutchison, W. (Kelvingrove)|
|Brown, Major D. C. (Hexham)||England, Lieut.-Colonel A.||James, Lieut.-Colonel Hon. Cuthbert|
|Brown, Brig.-Gen. Clifton (Newbury)||Erskine, James Malcolm Monteith||Jenkins, W. A. (Brecon and Radnor)|
|Brown, J. W. (Middlesbrough, E.)||Erskine, Lord (Weston-super-Mare)||Jephcott, A. R.|
|Bruford, R.||Evans, Capt. H. Arthur (Leicester, E.)||Jodrell, Sir Neville Paul|
|Buckingham, Sir H.||Eyres-Monsell Com. Rt. Hon. Bolton M.||Kelley, Major Sir Frederick A.|
|Buckley, Lieut.-Colonel A.||Falle, Major Sir Bertram Godfray||Kennedy, Captain M. S. Nigel|
|Bull, Rt. Hon. Sir William James||Fermor-Hesketh, Major T.||King, Capt. Henry Douglas|
|Burn, Colonel Sir Charles Rosdew||Ford, Patrick Johnston||Kinloch-Cooke, Sir Clement|
|Burney, Com. (Middx., Uxbridge)||Forestier-Walker, L.||Lamb, J. Q.|
|Butcher, Sir John George||Foxcroft, Captain Charles Talbot||Lane-Fox, Lieut.-Colonel G. R.|
|Butler, H. M. (Leeds, North)||Fraser, Major Sir Keith||Leigh, Sir John (Clapham)|
|Butler, J. R. M. (Cambridge Univ.)||Frece, Sir Walter de||Lever, Sir Arthur L.|
|Butt, Sir Alfred||Fremantle, Lieut.-Colonel Francis E.||Lloyd-Greame, Rt. Hon. Sir Philip|
|Button, H. S.||Furness, G. J.||Locker-Lampson, G. (Wood Green)|
|Cadogan, Major Edward||Galbraith, J. F. W.||Lorden, John William|
|Campion, Lieut.-Colonel W. R.||Gardiner, James||Lort-Williams, J.|
|Cassels, J. D.||Garland, C. S.||Lougher, L.|
|Cautley, Henry Strother||Gates, Percy||Lowe, Sir Francis William|
|Cayzer, Sir C. (Chester, City)||Gaunt, Rear-Admiral Sir Guy R.||Loyd, Arthur Thomas (Abingdon)|
|Cecil, Rt. Hon. Sir Evelyn (Aston)||Greene, Lt.-Col. Sir W. (Hack'y, N.)||Lumley, L. R.|
|Cecil, Rt. Hon. Lord R. (Hitchin)||Grenfell, Edward C. (City of London)||Macnaghten, Hon. Sir Malcolm|
|McNeill, Ronald (Kent, Canterbury)||Pretyman, Rt. Hon. Ernest G.||Spender-Clay, Lieut.-Colonel H. H.|
|Makins, Brigadier-General E.||Privett, F. J.||Stanley, Lord|
|Malone, Major P. B. (Tottenham, S.)||Raeburn, Sir William H.||Stewart, Gershom (Wirral)|
|Manville, Edward||Raine, W.||Stockton, Sir Edwin Forsyth|
|Margesson, H. D. R.||Rawson, Lieut.-Com. A. C.||Stott, Lt.-Col. W. H.|
|Martin, A. E. (Essex, Romford)||Reid, Capt. A. S. C. (Warrington)||Stuart, Lord C. Crichton-|
|Mason, Lieut.-Col. C. K.||Reid, D. D. (County Down)||Sueter, Rear-Admiral Murray Fraser|
|Mercer, Colonel H.||Rentoul, G. S.||Sugden, Sir Wilfrid H.|
|Milne, J. S. Wardlaw||Reynolds, W. G. W.||Sykes, Major-Gen. Sir Frederick H.|
|Mitchell, W. F. (Saffron Walden)||Rhodes, Lieut.-Col. J. P.||Terrell, Captain R. (Oxford, Henley)|
|Mitchell, Sir W. Lane (Streatham)||Richardson, Sir Alex. (Gravesend)||Thompson, Luke (Sunderland)|
|Molloy, Major L. G. S.||Richardson, Lt.-Col. Sir P. (Chertsey)||Thomson, F. C. (Aberdeen, South)|
|Morrison, Hugh (Wilts, Salisbury)||Roberts, Rt. Hon. G. H. (Norwich)||Titchfield, Marquess of|
|Morrison-Bell, Major Sir A. C. (Honiton)||Roberts, Samuel (Hereford, Hereford)||Tryon, Rt. Hon. George Clement|
|Murchison, C. K.||Robertson-Despencer, Major (Islgtn, W)||Tubbs, S. W.|
|Newman, Colonel J. R. P. (Finchley)||Rogerson, Capt. J. E.||Turton, Edmund Russborough|
|Newman, Sir R. H. S. D. L. (Exeter)||Rothschild, Lionel de||Wallace, Captain E.|
|Newton, Sir D. G. C. (Cambridge)||Roundell, Colonel R. F.||Ward, Col. L. (Kingston-upon-Hull)|
|Nicholson, Brig.-Gen. J. (Westminster)||Ruggles-Brise, Major E.||Watson, Capt. J. (Stockton-on-Tees)|
|Nicholson, William G. (Petersfield)||Russell, Alexander West (Tynemouth)||Wells, S. R.|
|Nield, Sir Herbert||Russell, William (Bolton)||Weston, Colonel John Wakefield|
|Norman, Major Rt. Hon. Sir Henry||Samuel, A. M. (Surrey, Farnham)||White, Lt.-Col. G. D. (Southport)|
|Oman, Sir Charles William C.||Samuel, Samuel (W'dsworth, Putney)||Windsor-Clive, Lieut.-Colonel George|
|Ormsby-Gore, Hon. William||Sanders, Rt. Hon. Sir Robert A.||Winterton, Earl|
|Parker, Owen (Kettering)||Sassoon, Sir Philip Albert Gustave D.||Wise, Frederick|
|Pease, William Edwin||Sheffield, Sir Berkeley||Wolmer, Viscount|
|Pennefather, De Fonblanque||Shepperson, E. W.||Wood, Rt. Hn. Edward F. L. (Ripon)|
|Penny, Frederick George||Shipwright, Captain D.||Wood, Sir H. K. (Woolwich, West)|
|Percy, Lord Eustace (Hastings)||Simpson-Hinchliffe, W. A.||Wood, Major Sir S. Hill- (High Peak)|
|Perkins, Colonel E. K.||Singleton, J. E.||Yate, Colonel Sir Charles Edward|
|Peto, Basil E.||Skelton, A. N.||Yerburgh, R. D. T.|
|Pielou, D. P.||Smith, Sir Harold (Wavertree)|
|Pilditch, Sir Philip||Somerville, A. A. (Windsor)||TELLERS FOR THE AYES.—|
|Pollock, Rt. Hon. Sir Ernest Murray||Somerville, Daniel (Barrow-in-Furn'ss)||Colonel Leslie Wilson and Colonel|
|Pownall, Lieut.-Colonel Assheton||Spears, Brig.-Gen. E. L.||the Rt. Hon. G. A. Gibbs.|
|Acland, Rt. Hon. Francis Dyke||Graham, W. (Edinburgh, Central)||Middleton, G.|
|Adamson, W. M. (Staff., Cannock)||Gray, Frank (Oxford)||Millar, J. D.|
|Alexander, A. V. (Sheffield, Hillsbro')||Greenwood, A. (Nelson and Colne)||Morris, Harold|
|Asquith, Rt. Hon. Herbert Henry||Grenfell, D. R. (Glamorgan)||Morrison, R. C. (Tottenham, N.)|
|Attlee, C. R.||Griffiths, T. (Monmouth, Pontypool)||Muir, John W.|
|Barker, G. (Monmouth, Abertillery)||Groves, T.||Murray, John (Leeds, West)|
|Barnes, A.||Grundy, T. W.||Murray, R. (Renfrew, Western)|
|Barrie, Sir Charles Coupar (Banff)||Guest, Hon. C. H. (Bristol, N.)||Newbold, J. T. W.|
|Batey, Joseph||Guthrie, Thomas Maule||O'Grady, Captain James|
|Benn, Captain Wedgwood (Leith)||Hall, F. (York, W. R., Normanton)||Oliver, George Harold|
|Bennett, A. J. (Mansfield)||Hamilton, Sir R. (Orkney & Shetland)||Paling, W.|
|Berkeley, Captain Reginald||Hancock, John George||Parker, H. (Hanley)|
|Bonwick, A.||Hardie, George D.||Phillipps, Vivian|
|Briant, Frank||Harney, E. A.||Ponsonby, Arthur|
|Broad, F. A.||Hay, Captain J. P. (Cathcart)||Potts, John S.|
|Bromfield, William||Hayday, Arthur||Pringle, W. M. R.|
|Brotherton, J.||Herriotts, J.||Rae, Sir Henry N.|
|Buckie, J.||Hill, A.||Richardson, R. (Houghton-le-Spring)|
|Burgess, S.||Hillary, A. E.||Riley, Ben|
|Burnie, Major J. (Bootle)||Hirst, G. H.||Ritson, J.|
|Buxton, Charles (Accrington)||Hodge, Rt. Hon. John||Roberts, C. H. (Derby)|
|Buxton, Noel (Norfolk, North)||Hogge, James Myles||Roberts, Frederick O. (W. Bromwich)|
|Chapple, W. A.||Irving, Dan||Robinson, W. C. (York, Elland)|
|Charleton, H. C.||Jones, Henry Haydn (Merioneth)||Rose, Frank H.|
|Clarke, Sir E. C.||Jones, J. J. (West Ham, Silvertown)||Royce, William Stapleton|
|Clynes, Rt. Hon. John R.||Jones, Morgan (Caerphilly)||Saklatvala, S.|
|Collins, Pat (Walsall)||Jowett, F. W. (Bradford, East)||Scrymgeour, E.|
|Cotts, Sir William Dingwall Mitchell||Kenworthy, Lieut.-Commander J. M.||Sexton, James|
|Cowan, D. M. (Scottish Universities)||Kenyon, Barnet||Shaw, Hon. Alex. (Kilmarnock)|
|Darbishire, C. W.||Lambert, Rt. Hon. George||Shinwell, Emanuel|
|Davies, J. C. (Denbigh, Denbigh)||Lansbury, George||Short, Alfred (Wednesbury)|
|Davies, Rhys John (Westhoughton)||Lawson, John James||Simpson, J. Hope|
|Dudgeon, Major C. R.||Leach, W.||Sinclair, Sir A.|
|Duffy, T. Gavan||Lee, F.||Sitch, Charles H.|
|Duncan, C.||Lees-Smith, H. B. (Keighley)||Smillie, Robert|
|Dunnico, H.||Linfield, F. C.||Smith, T. (Pontefract)|
|Ede, James Chuter||Lowth, T.||Snowden, Philip|
|Edge, Captain Sir William||Lunn, William||Spoor, B. G.|
|Edmonds, G.||Lyle-Samuel, Alexander||Stephenson, Lieut.-Colonel H. K.|
|Edwards, C. (Monmouth, Bedwellty)||MacDonald, J. R. (Aberavon)||Stewart, J. (St. Rollox)|
|Emlyn-Jones, J. E. (Dorset, N.)||M'Entee, V. L.||Strauss, Edward Anthony|
|Evans, Ernest (Cardigan)||McLaren, Andrew||Thomas, Rt. Hon. James H. (Derby)|
|Fairbairn, R. R.||Macnamara, Rt. Hon. Dr. T. J.||Thomson, T. (Middlesbrough, West|
|Falconer, J.||Macpherson, Rt. Hon. James I.||Thorne, W. (West Ham, Plalstow)|
|Foot, Isaac||Marshall, Sir Arthur H.||Thornton, M.|
|Gosling, Harry||Martin, F. (Aberd'n & Kinc'd'ne, E.)||Trevelyan, C. P.|
|Ward, Col. J. (Stoke-upon-Trent)||White, Charles F. (Derby, Western)||Wintringham, Margaret|
|Warne, G. H.||White, H. G. (Birkenhead, E.)||Wood, Major M. M. (Aberdeen, C.)|
|Watson, W. M. (Dunfermline)||Whiteley, W.||Wright, W.|
|Watts-Morgan, Lt.-Col. D. (Rhondda)||Williams, David (Swansea, E.)||Young, Robert (Lancaster, Newton)|
|Wedgwood, Colonel Josiah C.||Williams, Dr. J. H. (Llanelly)|
|Weir, L. M.||Williams, T. (York, Don Valley)||TELLERS FOR THE NOES.—|
|Westwood J.||Wilson, C. H. (Sheffield, Attercliffe)||Mr. Ammon and Mr. Mosley.|