HC Deb 10 February 1926 vol 191 cc1040-3

I beg to move, That leave be given:o introduce a Bill to enable leaseholders of houscis whose original leases were granted for a term of not less than 30 years to purchase the freehold estate and such other outstanding interests affecting the property on such equitable terms as, failing agreement, may be determined by the Minister of Health for the time being. The question of leasehold enfranchisement is not a new thing in this House. In 1923, the House granted me leave to bring in a Bill dealing with this question but, unfortunately, the Government took all the time of the House and it was not possible to proceed further with the Measure. I hope that on this occasion I shall be more successful, as we have a more sympathetic Government in power.

The system of leasehold has been condemned all over the country. Hundreds and thousands of people are writing letters condemning the system, and many cases are brought to our notice demonstrating its injustice. I will explain briefly how the present system works. On an acre of ground 30 houses can be erected, I will, however, base my figures on the erection of 27 houses to the acre, which has been done in my own district. The ground rent of each house is £6 per annum, amounting to £162, whereas the ordinary value of that land would be, at the outside, £4 per annum. Ground rents are not subject to any local taxation. When houses are built upon that acre of land the ground rents bring in to the ground landlord £162. The system is not fair and equitable. The ground landlord does not contribute one penny to local taxation. He does not contribute to the making of the roads, lighting, sewerage, or any of the costs of the locality. Although he draws his money from ground rents, he has no interest whatever in the local authority, and in bearing a share of the burden of the upkeep of the district. The leaseholder has to bear his share of all the expenses of the district.

No improvements can be made without the assent of the ground landlord, and usually that assent is not given unless a fine and increased rent are imposed. I will give a concrete case, where the end of the lease was approaching. The rent of the premises was £60. The leaseholder asked for a renewal, but he could only get a renewal on terms which included the increase of the rent to £120 and the payment down of a lump sum of £200. There are many cases which we read of in the newspapers where a man's good will, etc., is sold without the man getting a chance to buy. When the lease is approaching expiration, the leaseholder is faced with a bill for dilapidations, and very often he has practically to rebuild the premises, and then has to hand them over in a tenantable condition to the ground landlord. There are many instances of "sharks" buying up short leases, and then sending in a high bill, which compels the leaseholder to relinquish even 10 or 20 years.

The question of leasehold enfranchisement has been raised all over the country, and is crying out for redress. I have not brought forward this Bill to-day because of the manifesto of the right hon. Member for Carnarvon Boroughs (Mr. Lloyd George). In 1923 I introduced a similar Measure. I hope that on this occasion I shall get more support from the opposite side of the House. I trust that the House will not only grant me leave to bring in the Bill, but that they will press upon the Government the necessity of carrying the Bill into law.


Without desiring in any way to commit myself to opposition to some reasonable scheme of leasehold enfranchisement, I feel bound to oppose strongly this particular Bill for two special reasons, which I can explain very briefly. The first reason is that the Bill proposes the possible compulsory purchase of the freehold in all cases where the original term was not less than 30 years. Under these circumstances, it might be possible to compel the purchase of the freehold in the case of a property the lease of which was expiring within the next 12 months, and which has been bought by a bona-fide purchaser with the express intention of getting almost immediate vacant possession. The second reason that I wish to oppose this particular Bill is one which to my mind is very serious from a constitutional point of view. It is a Bill to put it in the power of a Minister of the Crown to decide a disputed question between two subjects in regard to the value of property. I submit that those two objections which I have raised are quite sufficient to make it, as I should say, essential from the common-sense point of view that this House, however much it may favour leasehold enfranchisement, should decline to give leave to bring in a Bill with such a title as this Measure.

Question put, and agreed to.


Who is prepared to bring in the Bill?


advanced to the Table to present the Bill.


On a point of Order. The House has not yet heard the names of those Members who are going to present this Bill.


(stading at the Table): Mr. G. W. H. Jones, Major Tasker, Mr. Cassels, Lieut.-Colonel Dalrymple White, Mr. Harold Briggs, Mr. R. Morrison, and myself.


On a, point of Order. In view of the fact that those names have been read out from the Treasury Bench, does it mean that the Bill is going to be supported by the Government?


When the hon. and gallant Member for South Tottenham (Major Malone) becomes a Minister.

Bill ordered to be brought in by Major Malone, Mr. G. W. H. Jones, Major Tasker, Mr. Cassels, Lieut.-Colonel Dalrymple White, and Mr. Briggs.