HC Deb 30 July 1923 vol 167 cc1075-161

Order for Consideration of Lords Amendments read.

Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Lords Amendments be now considered."—(Mr. Neville Chamberlain.)


I wish to make some comments upon the Motion before the House, and, in the first instance, to express my very considerable surprise that no statement has been made by the right hon. Gentleman, having regard to the Amendments which the House is now asked to consider. It was only, I think, a fortnight ago, or just over a fortnight ago, that the right hon. Gentleman, in asking the House to give a Third Reading to the Bill, said that he looked forward to the division with equanimity and to the future with much confidence. He has not left the future very long to take care of itself, because the Bill which he commended to the House has been altered in very many important respects in the other House and has been altered, not by the critics of the Measure, but by the right hon. Gentleman's colleague, representing the Ministry of Health. There were at that time very severe criticisms made of the Bill, and those on this side of the House rather deplored the fact that those criticisms were received by the right hon. Gentleman with something less than his ordinary courtesy. They were received apparently with resentment and with a certain amount of petulance.


And derision on the other side.


And when criticism was directed particularly to Clause 3, the right hon. Gentleman was not able to express himself in ordinary prose, but broke into poetry. It will be remembered that he called to our minds the words of the nursery rhyme Do you really wonder, Jane, When to me it seems so plain? I remember that on Clause 3 I had the temerity in Committee to put the question, "Have the Law Officers been consulted?" and the answer given was that the Law Officers had not been consulted, because the whole matter was perfectly plain. Apparently, the right hon. Gentleman did not wish the Law Officers to be called in lest they should mar the symmetry of the perfected work. The prophecies which I then made, when I suggested that whatever might be the approval of this Measure upon that side of the House there would be very strong remarks made particularly in the County Courts of the country before many months passed, have been fulfilled much earlier than I expected, because our comments in this House, made by myself and other critics, were mild compared with the comments that have been used in another place. In another place, someone, making a reference to the Bill, said that the action of the right hon. Gentleman, in putting an incomprehensible Bill before the House and the country, was only comparable to the action of one of the old Roman Emperors who wrote his Acts of Parliament on the top of a high pillar in very small letters so that no one could read them and then punished people for not obeying the law which they could not see to read. I hope hon. Members who were inclined to applaud the right hon. Gentleman only a fortnight ago will during the Recess read some of the. language used in another place, language, beyond the capacity of some of us in this House. They seem to look upon it as a piece of Jabberwork draftsmanship, and, although much was said here in its defence, there was nothing said there. It was perfectly plain in this House, but the child that had been so cherished and so proudly fondled by the right hon. Gentleman in this House, when it got in the other House, was disowned by all and no one would recognise it.

No defence of the Clause was put up at all by his colleague, but as soon as the attack was made the Noble Lord said, "do not shoot; I am coming down." He said the Clause would be redrafted, and Clause 3, that was particularly the offending Clause which gave rise to the comments and criticisms in this House, has been now remarkably altered. If hon. Members will turn to the Lords Amendments, they will see that in order to deal with something. which the right hon. Gentleman said was perfectly plain the Clause has been recast and extended to nearly five pages of Parliamentary Papers. I think it is a very great improvement that we should have had that Clause entirely recast. It is a very great advantage, but, when we come later to consider the particular Amendments, I shall ask the House, unless some other Member takes the opportunity of doing so before me, to consider one or two Amendments that will. I think, put the landlords in a perfectly fair position and give them the advantages that they should have but not the very extended privileges which the Clause now proposes to confer upon them. I assume that it would be in order for me to deal particularly with Clause 3 and this recast Clause when the matter comes up for further consideration.

There are very many other vital matters raised in the Lords Amendments. Hon. Members will see that it is intended to insert a new Clause dealing with the proposal in the Bill that gives to the landlord power to recover anything from his tenant if he has made a mistake in this notice that he has served. I remember that great objection was raised, in the first instance, by the hon. Member for Harrow (Mr. Mosley) and by others, who said that it was retrospective legislation of the worst form, and that the right hon. Gentleman, if he was introducing retrospective legislation, ought to put in some limit of time. We were practically scoffed at for making that suggestion, and the right hon. Gentleman said that we could safely leave it to the discretion of the County Court Judges. What has happened in the other place? His colleague has actually adopted the suggestion which we then made, and he has limited that power of recovery to six months. I think that that is a perfectly fair proposal, but one wonders why it was not made in this House, and why our criticism was set aside as being worthless and then immediately adopted in the other House.

Further, a most important change is set out on the same page. Hon. Members will know that, under the Act of 1920, if a tenant were called upon improperly to pay any sum to the landlord, it was open to him to reclaim that sum, and he was entitled to go back, not merely for six months, but for 12 months, or two years, or three years. After all, that is fair. If the tenant has been called upon improperly to pay a sum that is not legally due from him, he ought to have the power to recover it. But now it is proposed, as stated in the Lords Amendment to which I am referring, to restrict that power to six months. There may be something to be said for that, but my surprise is that it was not argued in this House. I think the hon. Member for West Woolwich (Sir K. Wood), who has been following these Debates with close interest, will know that there was a fundamental difference between the Act of 1920 and the earlier Rent Restrictions Acts. Those Acts limited the tenant's right to claim to six months, but the Act of 1920 gave the tenant an unlimited period, and it was in that form that the new Bill passed this House. When, however, it went up to the other House, upon the initiative of the Ministry of Health a change was made, and we are brought back to the restriction to six months.

There is, further, on the same page, an important Amendment dealing with the Clause which enables an increase of 10 per cent. to be charged where a house is occupied by a sub-tenant. It may be remembered that that was discussed at great length, both in the Committee upstairs and in this House, but this Amendment proposes to strike out Subsection (2) of Section 3 of the principal Act. That seems a very inoffensive Amendment, but it is one of considerable importance. Under the principal Act, the permitted increase of 15 per cent., together with 25 per cent. in respect of repairs, could only be obtained if proper notice was given by the landlord to the tenant, and he had to give the notice in a certain form. Now it is proposed to strike out the provision relating to notice, so that, presumably, when the tenant who has a sub-tenant wishes to recover the 10 per cent. from the sub-tenant, he need not give any notice at all, and the increase which at present, under the principal Act, can only be secured after the lapse of a month, will be payable immediately. At any rate, it is an Amendment which was not made here, but in another place, and which is simply put before us without any explanation.

Having regard to the vital changes which are now made in a Bill affecting the interests of tens of thousands of the people of this country, I think the House is entitled to ask what is the reason for these substantial changes. If they had been effected by the critics of the Measure in the other House, one would be able to understand it, but for the most part they were made immediately by the Government, and I think it would have been in accordance with the wishes of hon. Members, certainly on this side of the House, if, seeing that we have what is in many respects a new Bill brought before us, which we have to discuss within the next few hours—because the' principal Act, I understand, lapses to-morrow, and there would be the most serious consequences if there were an interregnum—I think that some fuller explanation, or, at least, some explanation, might be given to us. As far as Clause 3, in particular, is concerned, we shall have certain Amendments to propose later, but upon the general issue I submit that an explanation should have been given to us, and, perhaps, the right) hon. Gentleman would consent to give us an explanation now.

The MINISTER of HEALTH (Mr.Neville Chamberlain)

I am a little surprised at the tone which has been adopted by the hon. Member for Bodmin (Mr. Foot). He seems to have been wounded in a tender place in the course of the Debate on Report and Third Reading, and, because I quoted some words from a nursery rhyme, he retaliates by comparing me to a Roman Emperor—


It was the Lords who did that.


What was the substance of the hon. Member's complaint? His complaint is that I have considered the objections that were made by him and some of his Friends, and have endeavoured to meet them, and that they have been accepted in another place.


You said you would not on the Third Reading.


No, I did not. I do not want to engage in a passage of contradiction with the hon. Member, but will rest myself upon the OFFICIAL REPORT. I say that I did not refuse to consider the Amendments. I have considered the objections which were made, and have endeavoured to make the Bill plain even to the very meanest, capacity. My reward is that the hon. Member comes along, and complains that these Amendments were not made in this House. May I point out that neither the hon. Member nor his Friends had any Amendments upon the Paper to the effect of the Amendments which are now to be discussed in this House? Had he the foresight to put his Amendments down in that form, it is very likely that I should have been able to accept them. As he did not do so, I have tried to put his views into the form of Amendments which it would be possible to insert in the Bill, and it seems a little ungrateful on his part that he should now complain because I have done so. My only reason for not making a general statement on this Motion is that, of course, as the various Amendments come up, I shall have to explain the reason for and the meaning of each Amendment in turn, and I do not wish to take up the time of the House by making statements twice over. It seems to me that it will be quite sufficient to make my statement on each Amendment. With that explanation, I hope we may now proceed to take the Amendments in turn.


The right hon. Gentleman has given a very good-humoured answer, and certainly there is no reason to be otherwise than grateful to the Government, because they have seen fit to make some changes in this Bill in another place, rather than not make those changes at all. But that really is not the point of the criticism, and the criticism is quite serious, and will, I think, be considered to have some force on the other side of the House. I see the right hon. Baronet the Member for the City of London (Sir F. Banbury) in his place, and also the hon. Member for West Woolwich (Sir K. Wood). This is the situation: Rather less than a fortnight ago this Bill left this House after prolonged discussion in a Standing Committee, after two days' Debate on Report, and after a Third Reading; and, in the course of those discussions, a number of criticisms were made, most of which were, in fact, not only rejected by the right hon. Gentleman, but brushed aside as wholly unnecessary, as keeping up Debate when further Debate was not really necessary, and as being confusing to the plain good sense of the ordinary man. That was less than a fortnight ago. We are now presented—and everyone knows how difficult this is to deal with—we are now presented in the Vote Office with a Paper nine pages long of Lords Amendments to the Kent and Mortgage Interest Restrictions Bill, Amendments which, if they were put from the Chair one at a time, would involve putting the Question a great many times, some of them Amendments covering pages of print; and, when one examines them, one discovers that in several respects they deal in fact with the exact criticisms which were so contemptuously rejected by the Government only a fortnight ago.


I suppose that in the Lords they are able to put their arguments in a better shape. [HON. MEMBERS: "Not yet!"]


Not till you are there!


As long as we have the advantage of the right hon. Baronet's presence in this House, we shall have his help here, where his power of putting arguments will be most appreciated. As a matter of fact, it was not the result of argument in the other House at all, but was due to the fact that, when this Bill reached the other House, the right hon. Gentleman's own representative produced these things wholesale out of a portmanteau, and proceeded within a minimum of time to put them into the Bill. I venture to think, therefore, that the criticism is not an unfair one. It is not that anyone is ungrateful, it is not that anyone claims a monopoly of wisdom in this matter, but it is perfectly clear to anyone who was present during the Debates on Report and Third Reading that, all the time that the right hon. Gentleman was professing to the House that he was satisfied with the shape of his Bill, and was rejecting all criticisms as though they were waste of time and created complications, he or his advisers were, in fact, taking note of these matters, intending to put the thing in a plainer form in another place.

That is particularly clear when one looks at the record of what happened during the Report stage. I notice that the right hon. Gentleman, on one of these very matters which he now corrects, not only resisted the criticism, not only dealt with it as though it was raising complications about a matter that was obvious, but said he looked forward with equanimity to the decision of the House, promptly moved the Closure, and got his majority. My only suggestion is, that when we are presented by the Government, as a result of less than a fortnight's reflection, with nine pages of print, which are extremely difficult to digest at short notice, it is a legitimate subject for discussion and consideration whether it would not have been better to have realised some of these difficulties a little sooner and provided against them.


I share with hon. Gentlemen opposite their admiration of the action of the Second Chamber in relation to this Bill, and I think they are entitled to make their point this afternoon that many of the suggestions which they made have now been adopted. I am afraid, if I may say so, that the trouble of my right hon. Friend the Minister of Health has been that he has quoted poetry, which is always a dangerous thing to do. The particular line he quoted about "Plain Jane," makes one think of another— Oh, Jane, my pretty Jane, Why do you look so shy? One naturally feels shy when one presents a Bill with this large number of Amendments. I think, however, that it is fair to the House to point out that, so far as several of these Amendments are concerned, most of them, with hardly an. exception, are a recapitulation of the 1920 Act, and I think that in that respect the Bill has been greatly improved. Whether my right hon. Friend has made the Bill plain to the meanest intelligence I do not know. We shall hear what the County Court judges and High Court judges say about that matter at a later date. I do not quite think they may share my right hon. Friend's views on that point.

It is also, further, to be said that, with, I think, one exception, all the alterations that have been made have been made to the advantage of the tenant. What my hon. Friend opposite said, as to notice being no longer necessary when the rent was increased on account of the tenancy being sub-let, was hardly accurate. What, in fact, I think that provision means, is simply that notice has not to be given in accordance with the Schedule to the old Act; but it certainly will still be necessary for the landlord to give the requisite notice under the particular provision. No doubt we may have an opportunity of discussing this matter in detail when that Amendment is reached, but, apart from the matter of dispute between the hon. Member opposite and the Minister of Health, I think it may be said that most of these Amendments are improvements, and that, unless many of them were made, very serious legal consequences would ensue.


I do not follow the hon. Member for West Woolwich when he states that the Amendments which have come down from another place are all in favour of the tenants. I agree at once that the Bill has been improved greatly, but only in parts. I think the Minister has done very wisely indeed when he consolidated one of the most difficult Clauses of the Bill by bringing some of the provisions of the 1920 Act into this Measure. We asked him to do that and he has done so, though he stated definitely at the time that he found it very difficult to promise anything of the kind. The hon. Member for West Woolwich (Sir K. Wood) is, I repeat, wrong when he says the Amendments are in favour of the tenant. In the first Clause it is definitely against the tenant. I will quote the speech' of the Noble Lord who moved the Amendment in another place— Supposing a lessor granted a lease on 1st January, 1923, for five years until 1st January, 1928, at a rent of £70 and until 1st January, 1925, when he expected the principal Act to expire, at a rent of £90. Under Clause 1 of the Bill as it now stands the effect would be that the rent of £90 would be cut down to £70 until 24th June, 1925. There seems to be a hardship in such a case. The hardship in the mind of the Noble Lord is a hardship to the landlord and not to the tenant. There is another point. We inserted in this House, in Clause 7, the following words: Where the purchase of any furniture or other article is required as a condition of the renewal or continuance of the tenancy or sub-tenancy of a dwelling-house to which the principal Act applies the price demanded shall be stated in writing. We had a long Debate on the last five words. In the other place they have decided to insert the following words: The price demanded shall, at the request of the person on whom the demand is made, be stated in writing. That is quite another thing, and when we come to that Amendment we shall have something to say about it. In those two instances, at any rate, the hon. Member is entirely wrong when he states that the Amendments which have come down from another place are all in favour of the tenant.


Our complaint is that the right hon. Gentleman offered a stubborn and unreasoning resistance all through Committee and Report to Amendments which we proposed and which he has now accepted, and he now taunts us with having put the Amendments down in such a form that he could not understand them, or, at least, accept them. Amendments that I put down in Committee he stubbornly resisted, and now they are embodied in the Bill in toto without any modification whatever. I want to know whether he will learn a lesson from the experience he has had in Committee and whether, if reasonable Amendments are put down and arguments advanced, notwithstanding those arguments and the clearness of the logic that is placed before him, he will still think it his duty to resist anything that comes from these benches. We pointed out to him that he would be forced to accept this later on from other sources. He has re-cast Clause 3. We did that for him in Committee and we pointed out that if he would accept it he would simplify the whole consideration of the Bill thereafter. A large amount of difficulty has arisen because so much of this Bill is legislation by reference, and we pointed out that the Bill referred to large sections of the community who are the poorest of the community, and we wanted to simplify it, not only for our own consideration, but for the public at large when the Bill was placed in their hands. I think we have just reason to complain that time and again, both in Committee and on Report, we have presented Amendments and Clauses and the right hon. Gentleman has tried to defeat them, sometimes by getting them ruled out of order, and sometimes by setting up stubborn opposition, of which we justly complain


I think it unworthy that the right hon. Gentleman has not availed himself of the opportunity which the Motion is understood to give to a Minister when considerable Amend- ments come from the Lords. It has always been the practice, when substantial Amendments are made to a Bill, for the Minister in charge to explain the general effect of such Amendments and give an opportunity for what is the equivalent of a Second Reading Debate on the general effects of the Amendments. I think that is all the more important in the case of a Bill of this kind, which is so intricate, and which affects so many people all over the country. It deals with something like 9,000,000 houses, and within 48 hours the law of the land is to be altered as affecting all these people. Yet the right hon. Gentleman does not think it worth while to make a general statement on the Amendments so that all the people should know where they are. It is neither fair to the House nor to the people outside who are affected by this legislation. Furthermore, it is all the more important that this should be done in the case of a Bill like this, which is really being rushed through Parliament at a breakneck pace. The most important Clause of the Bill, Clause 3, was considered on Report after midnight, when the House was working under the greatest difficulties and there was no opportunity whatever for the Debate to be reported in the daily Press. [Laughter.] There is nothing amusing about it. The noble Lord does not live in a house that is affected by this Bill. There are large numbers of people all over the country who do not know to-day how they will be at 12 o'clock to-morrow night. If the Noble Lord represented a constituency which was largely affected by this he would not show this ill-timed hilarity. The right hon. Gentleman may find his amusement is not so justified as he thinks at the moment. May I remind him that his predecessor, Dr. Addison, was a great man when he was passing his Housing Bill and his Rent Restriction Bill? He was the hero of the piece while the Bills were going through. I was merely commending that example to the right hon. Gentleman that he should, after all, show more attention and pay more deference to the House of Commons.

I can well understand his reticence. He does not want to give away the extent to which he was wrong when defending the Bill on Report and Third Reading. On some of the most essential provisions the contentions of the Opposition have been justified and the right hon. Gentleman has had to surrender in another place, but he is afraid to admit it. In this matter of Clause 3, paragraph (iv), which laid down that alternative accommodation was not necessary, was dealt with on Report at 2 o'clock in the morning. The right hon. Gentleman has taunted us that we did not put down Amendments at that time to that paragraph as it stood, but the reason was that the paragraph was neither intelligible nor grammatical, and obviously it was not the duty of the Opposition to teach lucidity and grammar to the right hon. Gentleman. But the case was sufficiently put to him and he put down an Amendment, which he subsequently withdrew when it was pointed out that it was totally inadequate, and he gave me a qualified pledge that he would consider it in another place: I should like to think it over, and, if necessary, I will have an Amendment inserted in another place."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 9th July, 1923; col. 1133, vol. 166.] That was the position on the Report stage. Then the right hon. Gentleman turned completely round before the Friday when the Third Reading was taken. No Amendment was necessary on the Report stage. It was then that he quoted the nursery rhyme. I reminded him then that it would have to be made right in the House of Lords and he has had to do it. The Clause as it left this House was unintelligible. No one could interpret it. There was an absolute certainty that litigation would have arisen over it. You would have had different interpretations in different Courts all over the country for months. The matter would have taken its slow progress through all the minor Courts up to the House of Lords, and thousands of pounds which have, been spent before the tenants knew exactly where they were. Now at least they know where they are, and we know what provisions the Government seeks to place upon the tenants, and it is because we know now that we think we have a right to let the people outside know, first of all, that under this Bill as it stands any landlord who was a landlord before June, 1922, can turn the tenant out unconditionally.


He has to apply to the Court.


All he has to do is to show the Court that he requires the house


The Court has to be satisfied.


That the landlord reasonably requires the house. That is all. The Court is not entitled to go into the question of the relative hardship on the tenant and the landlord respectively.


The words are, "and in any such case the Court considers it reasonable to make such an order."


A distinction is drawn between pre-1922 landlords and post-1922 landlords. The pre-1922 landlord has only to convince the Court that he reasonably requires the house. I am entitled to say that is practically an unconditional right to possession, unconditional in the sense that the question of hardship as between tenant and landlord has not to be gone into, and further, that no alternative accommodation has to be provided. So I am entitled to say that under these conditions, so far as every house is concerned on which the landlord became the landlord before June, 1922, the landlord can turn the tenant out after this Act is passed without providing alternative accommodation and without question as to the relative hardship on the two persons. That, I think, is a thing that is not generally known in the country to-day, and it is important that it should be known. If it were known, I think there would be a great deal more interest taken in this Bill.

The second point is that, so far as any landlord is concerned who became the owner after June, 1922, the only question that arises is the comparative hardship as between himself and the tenant. If he satisfies the Court that the hardship to him would be greater than the hardship to the tenant he has the right to benefit. That is putting the landlord who became landlord after June, 1922, in the same position as the favoured landlord under the former Act. Under the former Act the landlord who became landlord before 1917 had not to provide alternative accommodation, but he had to satisfy the Court on the matter of hardship. If he became landlord after 1917 he had to provide alternative accommodation. Now the situation is completely revolutionised. The landlord who became owner before-June, 1922, has practically the unconditional right of possession. There is not a single tenant now where the landlord became owner before that time who has any right to remain in his house for any length of time; he may be turned out at any moment, subject to the discretion of the Court, on the question as to whether the owner reasonably requires possession. That is a great change which will affect thousands of people, who at this moment have no idea that they are so affected. What is the effect of the further provision? You have placed an enormous power in the hands of the landlord. The landlord can go to a tenant and say. "I have just received an offer for this house; someone is willing to buy it. If he buys it, he will not need to provide you with alternative accommodation, but only to prove to the Court that there will be a greater hardship on him than on you if he does not get possession. What are you going to do about it?"


On a point of Order. Is not the Question before the House the Question, "That the Lords Amendments be now considered"? Is the hon. Member in order? He is entitled to give reasons why the Lords Amendments should not be considered, but is he in order in dealing with other Amendments. Ought not those Amendments to be dealt with when they come before the House?


There has generally been allowed some opportunity for a review of the Amendments as a whole, but I think the hon. Member was getting. a little beyond that.


This was the Amendment I intended to deal with, because it seems to me to be the whole heart of the Bill. It has been made clear for the first time since the Committee stage that the effect of Paragraph (iv) is what the Government did not make clear in the Bill. I was taking the opportunity on the Question, "That the Lords Amendments be now considered," to argue as to whether it should be passed in that form. I am willing to deal with the points on the separate Amendments. I think I have made my point clear on this Amendment.


Does the hon. Member suggest that the Lords Amendment alters the substance of the Bill?


I do. My contention is that the words as they left this House did not mean what is now clearly set forth. I agree that it was the intention of the Government that they should do so, but they could only be made to mean that by inserting a parenthesis in the Clause, which was not there, and giving the word "where" in Paragraph (4) an interpretation which it had not in the first place.


We shall have to deal with that when we come to it. It is rather a nice point. We had better not deal with it twice over.


I hope we shall be able to establish that, although the Government declare that their intention in the Clause as it stood was the same as it is now, a change has been made. It was because many hon. Members, both here and in another place, held that the words as they stood did not really mean anything, and that it would be necessary for the Courts to say what they did mean, that this change has been necessary.


I desire to offer my protest against the action of the Minister of Health. We now find that in another place they have made Amendments that make the Bill intelligible precisely on the points which many of us pointed out were obscure. Nobody was treated with greater scorn than myself by the right hon. Gentleman. I do not think he condescended to answer a single one of the points I raised. His first observation was that I had split an infinitive. His next answer was to quote a nursery rhyme, and his last point was that I was a past master in the art of draftsmanship. It was in relation to each one of these points which drew forth these replies that in another place he has found it necessary to translate the language of the Bill into a form which I now admit to be intelligible. While the right hon. Gentleman declined in this House to make the necessary amendments in phraseology, he has taken advantage of the other House to do that and, by way of doing it and improving the language, to make the principles of the Bill infinitely worse.

When we come to deal specifically with some of the Amendments which now make this Bill intelligible, we shall be justified in arguing that had they been put forward in this House, even hon. Members upon the other side would have failed to carry them. Let me take one illustration. If there was one strong principle running through the Bill, and through the whole of the series of Acts dealing with this question, it was that where a landlord required a house for himself or a member of his family he would have to see that the tenant had somewhere else to go. Under the Bill as it was introduced by the right hon. Gentleman, and as it was passed by this House, it was quite clear—I mean, assuming the language was correct, because language was used which was perfectly contrary to what the right hon. Gentleman intended—at any rate it was the intention of the Bill as it left this House that in the case of persons who became landlords prior to June, 1922, if they wished to get their tenant out they were in this privileged position that they would only have to show that it was a greater hardship upon them than upon the tenant if they did not get possession. In regard to landlords who became owners after that date, if they wished to get a tenant out they could only do so by finding him another place into which he could go.

Under guise of making the obscure intelligible, what do we find now? We find that in the case of landlords before June, 1922, if they wish to get their tenants out they have only to show that they reasonably require the house, and if they became landlords after June, 1922, they can get the tenant out by showing that it is harder upon them than upon the tenant if they do not get possession. In neither case have they to show the one thing that was essential in all this legislation: That alternative accommodation should be found. We were never told that when we were discussing the Bill. We are told it now that we have no time to discuss it. The curious thing is that while the Bill says that, as a general proposition, the landlord who wants to get his tenant out in order to take the place himself must show alternate accommodation, that condition is swallowed up by qualifications, and it becomes an absolute contradiction in terms to say that alternative accommodation is required, having regard to the later Sub-sections.

The right hon. Gentleman's political friends in the other place desired to make this more and more a landlords' Bill. This extra landlord character has been given to it at a time when it is impossible for us to alter the Bill, because it must become law to-morrow. However overwhelmingly strong may be the arguments we put forward against such a Clause, and however much we convert hon. Members opposite, they would be bound to support the Lords Amendment, because there is no time to make the alteration. Had this been done, as it should have been done, when the Bill was before this House, we could have given effect to our criticisms. For these reasons, I add my protest against the extraordinary action of the right hon. Gentleman, against the superciliousness and self-complacency, and the seeking at the eleventh hour to do something when there is no chance of our correcting it.


I trust my hon. Friend is wrong in his statement that it is too late to deal with this matter. Does the Minister of Health intend to ask the House to accept these Amendments holus bolus, and not to discriminate and to disagree with some of them, simply because it is the 30th July? It would not be fair for the Minister to come down and say, "It is so late that you must take all these Amendments, otherwise the Bill will not be operative in time." He must be well aware that if we disagree with the Lords in any Amendment, we are entitled to do so, and to make representations in the usual way to the other House with a view to the other place accepting our disagreement. We should be told at the outset whether we are expected to swallow all these Amendments, or whether the right hon. Gentleman does not agree with some of the Amendments.


As far as I am concerned I propose to ask the House to accept all the Amendments, but not holus bolus. If the hon. Member can get a sufficient number of hon. Members to agree with him in disagreeing with any particular Amendment to which he takes exception, it is open to him to do so.


If this House refuses to accept any of these Amendments, will it mean that the Bill cannot come into law to-morrow?


If this House di agree with an Amendment made by the other House, we give reasons why this House disagrees with the Lords Amendment. Then it remains for the Lords I say whether or not they insist upon the Amendment.

5.0 P.M,


Those of us who were on the Standing Committee are we aware that my hon. Friend the Member for Penistone's (Mr. Pringle) interpretation of the new feature of the Lords Amendment is perfectly correct. Now for the first time it is made clear in this Bill that in all practical cases no alternative accommodation need be provided if the. landlord requires the house either for himself or for any of his children. It quite true that in Committee and on the Report stage it was the reiterated intention of the Government to secure this condition, but the curious form in which their intention was expressed made the matter open to considerable doubt, an it seemed to be the duty of those of us who thought that this Measure pressed very harshly on the tenant by not pressing for a clearer definition of the right hon. Gentleman's intention, to make perfectly clear that the tenant would be in the bad condition in which it was his intention to place him.

It is a terrible thing to have to rely for fair play for the tenants upon the muddles made by the right hon. Gentleman, but that was the last hope for the tenant, that the legislation would be so badly drafted and so open to man different interpretations that the tenant would have a good chance of going to the Court of Appeal and upsetting the right hon. Gentleman's intention. It was therefore with that object in view that we did not bring forward those Amendments which the right hon. Gentleman said we should bring forward in order to clarify his legislation. That is another instance of the right hon. Gentleman making mistake in draftsmanship which he did not perceive.

There was another case when he said that any alternative accommodation to be provided would be subject to the control of the principal Act. He accepted an Amendment to that effect and then went to the draftsman and found that there was no such accommodation and could not be such houses available for alternative accommodation. Then he had hurriedly to reverse his decision on the Report stage in the House. That is an extraordinary instance of the right hon. Gentleman flouting the views put forward from this side of the House, then subsequently consulting his Parliamentary draftsman and finding that he agreed with the views which we had expressed. But we shall have an opportunity of proving in detail at a later stage that as the Bill now stands there is no necessity to provide alternative accommodation in the case of tenants who are dispossessed.

I would only at this more general stage of the proceedings call attention to one fact which so far has not been mentioned. In these nine pages, in which the right hon. Gentleman attempts to sweep up the mess of his legislation, he is printing for the first time in extenso a great many of the provisions of the principal Act which he previously refused to do. For instance, pages 2; 3, 4, 5 and 6 are devoted to reproducing in full the provisions of the principal Act. Over and over again in the Committee stage we asked the right hon. Gentleman, in order to save the Committee and the House trouble of these innumerable references to the previous Act, to embody in the Bill the provisions of the principal Act in extenso. The right hon. Gentleman used to make the extraordinary reply that if he did this it would cause delay in getting the Measure through the House, because endless discussion would ensue. So the right hon. Gentleman confused the Committee and confused the House by this referential legislation, and on occasions confused himself, and he continued to do this right up to the House of Lords stage. Then he suddenly acceded to the request which had been made. In order to clarify the position to the public, if not to the House, he printed these provisions in extenso.

I protest against the methods by which the House has been confused and the method by which we have been compelled, when discussing this legislation, to hold at the same time the other Act in our hands in order to understand what this Bill means. These stages have been made so confused throughout, merely because the right hon. Gentleman thought that confusion and muddle would expedite this legislation. I would ask the House to insist in future, when legislation of this sort is introduced, that we shall not have referential provisions of this character, but that we shall have the original provisions printed, in the first place, in order that reasoned and enlightened criticism may have an opportunity of making itself felt with a full appreciation of the subject under discussion.

Lords Amendments considered accordingly.

Lords Amendment:

After Clause 2, insert

  1. NEW CLAUSE A.—(Determination of certain leases and tenancies.) 8,191 words, 1 division
  2. cc1113-5
  3. CLAUSE 3.—(Restriction on right to possession.) 838 words
  4. cc1115-37
  5. NEW CLAUSE.—(Restriction on right to possession.) 9,305 words, 1 division
  6. cc1137-8
  7. CLAUSE 4.—(Suspension of increase of rent on ground of disrepair.) 345 words
  8. cc1138-40
  9. CLAUSE 5.—(Notice of increase of rent.) 490 words
  10. cc1140-8
  11. CLAUSE 6.—(Permitted increases of rent of sub-tenancies.) 3,860 words, 1 division
  12. cc1148-55
  13. NEW CLAUSE C.—(Limitation on recovery of over-payments or arrears.) 2,753 words
  14. cc1155-61
  15. CLAUSE 7.—(Excesive charges for furniture, etc., taken over in connection with tenancies.) 3,065 words, 1 division