HC Deb 02 November 1930 vol 134 cc221-30

Where, the tenancy of a holding determines in the circumstances mentioned in Section one of the Landlord and Tenant Act, 1851. the tenant shall, instead of continuing in occupation as provided by that section until the expiration of the then current year of his tenancy, continue in occupation until the occupation is determined by a twelve months' notice to quit expiring at the end of a year of the tenancy.—[Sir A. Boscawen.)

Brought up, and read the First time.

4.0 P.M.


I beg to move, "That the Clause be read a Second time." This Clause is intended to deal mainly with vacant tenancies under incumbrances. As the law stands at present, an incumbent, except with certain consents which are rarely obtained, cannot treat for a lease for more than the duration of his incumbency. The effect of the Landlord and Tenant Act, which I propose to amend by this new Clause, is that a tenant of a farm under glebe may continue in occupation until the expiration of the then current year of the tenancy, on which date he has to leave without receiving notice to quit. This puts the tenant of glebe land in a very disadvantageous position compared with the ordinary tenant under the usual landlord. He does not get the ordinary notice to quit, which is a hardship, and, so far as this Bill is concerned, he would not get compensation for disturbance under Clause 7, because that Clause enacts that compensation for disturbance shall be paid only when a tenancy is terminated by notice to quit, and no notice to quit takes place under the present law. Under this new Clause the tenant of a farm under an incumbent will, notwithstanding the termination of the incumbent's interest, continue in occupation until his tenancy is determined by notice to quit in the ordinary fashion. That will give him certain advantages under the present law, and will bring his case within the terms of Clause 7 of this Bill. I have put this Clause down, because in the Committee stage it was pointed out to me that the tenant of an incumbent was in a disadvantageous position, and that there was no reason why this should be the case. I was asked between the Committee stage and the Report stage to consider the matter and see whether I could not introduce some Amendment of the Landlord and Tenant Act which would give the tenant of an incumbent the advantages of the existing law and also of this Bill. Accordingly, I have put down this new Clause, and I may say that the effect of the alteration will be practically to put an incumbent in the same position in this respect as a tenant for life of settled lands. The Clause will remedy an injustice which would press hardly on a small number of tenants, and I hope, therefore, that the House will accept it.


I would like to support the speech of the Minister in charge of the Hill, and I hope that the House will be willing to accept this new Clause. After all, we are changing the balance in these matters and giving more security to tenants. There does not seem any sufficient reason why tenants of glebe land should be in a distinctly less favourable position with regard to notice, to quit than tenants under ordinary landlords. We used to look on these things from the point of view of the convenience of the landlord, and to think rather little about tenants, but the whole object of this Bill is to give greater security, so that the efforts of all cultivators may be encouraged in the interests of food production, and there seems to be a good case made out for applying that principle to tenants of glebe land as well as to ordinary tenants.


I would point out to the right hon. Gentleman who has just sat down that when the tenant of the glebe land took his farm he knew perfectly well that he was taking it under those conditions. He took it with his eyes open. Therefore, it is now proposed to give an advantage to the tenant at the expense of the incumbent.




Certainly, because the incumbent will have to pay the heavy compensation which is enacted under Clause 7 of this Bill. I would like to ask the right hon. Gentleman the Parliamentary Secretary how the incumbent, who in eight cases out of ten is a poor man, is going to pay the very large compensation which is enacted under Clause 7. It seems to me that the insertion of this new Clause is a very strong argument against Clause 7, because it shows that an attempt would be made to bring in all sorts of tenants to receive compensation. In this case, at any rate, the unfortunate person will be utterly unable to pay the compensation. I should like to have some indication how the right hon. Gentleman proposes that the incumbent shall moot these charges. We are told every, day, with a great deal of truth, that the clergyman is in a worse position than the labourer. That may be slightly exaggerated, though I do not think so when you consider the fact that the clergyman has to dress better and incur many expenses which do not fall upon the labourer. In these circumstances, how can he pay this compensation? Supposing the glebe land be let at £250—probably that is the whole of his income—something has to be deducted for repairs, Income Tax, etc., and it may be that the man, who at the very outside is receiving something like £200 a year, will have to pay £l,000 in compensation. I really do not think that the Board of Agriculture can have thoroughly understood the effect of this Clause, and, in view of the fact that the tenant, when he took the farm, knew perfectly well that he took it under circumstances somewhat different from those which would have resulted if he had taken it under an ordinary landlord, I think to impose a further burden of this sort upon the clergyman is wrong. I sincerely trust, therefore, that there is going to be some method of finding this compensation so that it will not fall upon the clergy. I hope the Parliamentary Secretary to the Board of Agriculture will give way when he considers the enormous burden that he is putting on a very unfortunate class.

Lieut.-Colonel ROYDS

I would point out to the last speaker that the compensation he refers to as payable under Clause 7 is payable only in case he gave a tenant notice to quit.


It is a very complicated Bill, but as I read it, suppose that a tenant of glebe land says he wants, to have his land arbitrated upon, and suppose the clergyman says he will not have it arbitrated upon, then the tenant can give notice to quit and it shall be considered as notice given by the landlord. Then follows the four years' compensation.

Lieut.-Colonel ROYDS

The Act of Parliament of 1851 was not passed without good and sufficient reason. We are considering now the case on the death of an incumbent or a change of incumbency and a new person coming there altogether. The late incumbent may have let the-whole of the glebe land, including the land immediately around the house. The new incumbent is incapable of getting rid of that old tenant without paying compensation. There may be some inconvenience and hardship on the tenant, but on the other hand it would be a real hardship on a new incumbent requiring possession of his land or some part of it if he was not able to get possession without payment of a heavy penalty. There may be occasional cases of hardship on a tenant, but in my experience I have not heard of any serious complaint in that regard.


I feel that it would be hard to put the tenant of a glebe in a different position from that of any other tenant. They must both be treated alike, and when the same thing applies to the clergyman he is in that regard the landlord. Therefore the real crux of this seems to turn, not so much on this new Clause as on making Clause 7 of the Bill an absolutely fair Clause, and bearing in mind that it is not only the tenant who has to be considered but in many cases the kind of landlord referred to here, namely, an incumbent whose means may be considerably less than those of the tenant. The effect of this Clause, as pointed out, is to put the tenant of a glebe in exactly the same position as the tenant of any privately owned land and to bring Clause 7 into operation. I will not take the extreme case of four years, but will take the case of one year, which is given in this Bill to a tenant even where the landlord takes over the land for purposes consistent with good estate management. For instance, taking it for allotments, which is the sort of thing that a clergyman might desire to do in his parish. If he takes the land away from the tenant for allotments he has then to be fined a year's rent. What is worse, he has to pay the further and extremely indefinite compensation provided in Clause 7. I do not think it would be proper now to discuss what that may be, but anyone who looks at Clause 7 will see that it is very far-reaching and extremely indefinite. Such things as the difference in market price of stock and implements at the time they were bought and the price at which they may have to be sold when the tenant leaves, have no be taken into consideration. I think the attitude I should take on this is that I should assent to the putting of the tenant of a glebe into exactly the same position as the tenant of any other land, but I should say that when we come to Clause 7 we must bear in mind that this now Clause has been inserted. In so far as that burden is a necessary and fair liability there can be no reason why the tenant should not be entitled to compensation, or why the incumbent should not have to pay it, but the acceptance of this Clause does very considerably increase our responsibility to see that by Clause 7 there is not placed on the incumbents of rural parishes a greater burden than they are able to bear.

Lieut.-Colonel WILLOUGHBY

I think Clause 7 goes a very long way, and I do not know that I shall be ready to support it in all its details. It is an accepted fact now that clergymen in country districts are hard hit, and the fact that clergymen may be in a minority is no reason why the House should pass this Clause. I shall certainly vote against it, although I should be only too glad to give tenant farmers their rights. As has been said, they have taken the glebe land, knowing that there is attached to the tenancy a special condition. I feel that this Clause ought not to be added to the Bill at this moment. Proper notice ought to be given, so that incumbents could know their position in future.


I want to know exactly what the facts are. What is the Amendment going to do? If it be true, as has been stated, that without this Amendment Clause 7 will not be applicable to glebe land under any circumstances, then undoubtedly this is a very large change to make in the Bill. I am, however, not sure on the point. Reading the Amendment as well as I can, I should think that the effect is to get rid of the present position on the change of incumbency, namely, to require notice in exactly the same way on a change of incumbency as during the continuance of an incumbency. If I am right in that, it is a much smaller point than some hon. Members have thought, because it would apply only to cases where there is a change of incumbency.


I think it would have been better if the Parliamentary Secretary had been fortified with the presence of one of the Law Officers, for I wish to raise a legal point as to the position of landlord and tenant. I want to know whether this new Clause will cover only cases of the tenancies of glebe land. The Clause as it is drawn deals with the Landlord and Tenant Act, 1851. It is, in fact, an Amendment of that Act. My recollection of that Act is that it provided that all occupiers of land in which the then owner had a limited interest were protected from the harsh effects of the Common Law. The effect of the Common Law was in such cases that on the cases or determination of the limited interest the tenancy ceased ipso facto, but there was by Common Law a right to some small compensation for being deprived of the tenancy called the right to emblements. The Act of 1851 provided that in lieu of the Common Law taking effect and the tenancy coming to an end on any cesser of that limited interest, the tenancy should continue until the end of the current year of the tenancy. What I want to know is, whether this new Clause deals with all other tenancies where the then owner is only a limited owner or whether it deals only with the cases of glebe land. If it deals only with glebe land, why is it put in this cumbersome, way by an Amendment of the Act of 1851? If the right hon. Gentleman says it applies to the tenancies of all limited, owners, by what Act of Parliament was their position made different? In other words, where the life tenant dies and his life interest comes to an end and the reversioner comes into possession, does the latter in all cases take over the existing tenancies? Take another case. Where a man has only a lease of land and he has granted an under-lease, does the under-1 lease come to an end at the end of the original lease, or does the tenancy continue, and is the reversioner of the lease bound to take over the tenancy? If that is so, if those tenancies do continue, of course the tenants get the benefit of this Act, but if they do not, it seems to me that they would be in a very peculiar position.


I regret that the Solicitor-General is not present. He has been detained, and I hope he will be here very shortly. I will endeavour, as far as I am able, to answer some of the technical questions put to me. With regard to the question put by my right hon. Friend the Member for the City (Sir F. Banbury), and also by the Noble Lord (Lord It. Cecil), I think they do not realise that this compensation for disturbance only arises when there is notice to quit. If an incumbent who has let his glebe to a tenant gives notice to quit during his incumbency, Clause 7 would apply. But if the incumbent resigns or dies, what happens is that the tenancy goes on for six months and then automatically determines without any notice to quit. The sole effect therefore of this Amendment is to make it necessary to give a notice to quit and in that case bringing in the provisions of Clause 7.


Only if you want to get rid of the tenant.


Only if you want to get rid of the tenant. What would happen would be this. An incumbent resigns and his successor is appointed. The successor, for reasons good or bad, desires to get rid of the tenant. Under the law as it stands the tenant would go automatically after six months. Under my new Clause it would be necessary for the new incumbent to give ordinary notice and then, notice to quit having been given, he would have to pay for disturbance under Clause 7. If the notice to quit were given in accordance with good estate management, there would be the smaller form of compensation, and if it were deemed to be capricious there would be the larger form of compensation. That would depend entirely on the circumstances under which the notice to quit was given. The Clause merely deals with that point of view. With regard to the question put by the hon. Member for East Grinstead (Mr. Cautley), I am advised that this merely deals with the question of glebe land and incumbents, and does not raise the other points he has mentioned. The general effect of this new Clause will be to place the incumbent in this respect in precisely the same position as a tenant for life on settled land. I cannot see any new or heavy burdens or injustice which this will put on the incumbent, and I think the House will acquit me of being likely to desire to do that. We have got to look at the matter from the broad point of view of justice to the tenant, and from the broad point of view of food production and national interest. I cannot see myself why there should be this distinction drawn in the case of tenants under incumbents as distinguished from tenants under ordinary landlords. I think that would be an injustice to the tenant. My right hon. Friend the Member for the City said that those tenants Knew the conditions under which they held their tenancy when they took it, hut I would remind him that this Bill is largely altering the conditions, not merely for them, but for all other tenants I cannot think, therefore, that that is really a sound argument having regard to the proposals as a whole. With regard to the attitude taken by the right, hon. Member for Chelmsford (Mr. Pretyman), I am not now going to express any opinion on Clause 7. When we reach that Clause the House will have the opportunity to amend it. At the present moment the proposal is that the tenants of incumbents should have the same rights and the same claim to notice to quit and the same right to compensation as the tenant of an ordinary landlord. We think that that is an eminently reasonable proposal, and I hope that the House, without further discussion, will agree to the Clause.


Suppose a new incumbent comes in and has to give notice to quit to obtain possession of any portion of the glebe, is it the intention that notice to quit given under those conditions must necessarily be regarded as capricious, and render him liable to pay four years' compensation?


Certainly not. The question whether it is capricious or not depends on the decision of the arbitrator, but apart from that if the hon. Gentleman will look at Clause 7 he will see that there are special exceptions in the case where part of a holding is resumed by a landlord.

Question put, and agreed to.

Proposed Clause read a Second time, and added to the Bill.


With regard to the next Clause (Compensation for Disturbance in case of allotment gardens), of which notice has been given by the right hon. Gentleman (Sir A. Boscawen), we cannot take that Clause on Report because it imposes a charge. Under its provisions the local authority would be called on to pay compensation, and in order to do so they would have to levy a rate which would impose an addition to the rating.


I bow, of course, Sir, to your ruling, and I realise that this, Clause cannot be moved at this stage, but I should like to ask whether it would be in order to re-commit the Bill in respect of this Clause, so that it could be moved in Committee?


Yes, provided that the Clause comes within the Money Resolution of the House. I have not looked into that question. The next Clause of which notice has been given (Application of Act) is out of order, as it is incompatible with Clause 27.

Lieut.-Commander KENWQRTHY

On that point of Order. May I point out that the Bill guarantees the price of wheat and oats, and I was going to refer to the fact that under Clause 27 the Bill only applies to Ireland in practice as regards guaranteed prices. I propose to argue that we were ill-advised to commit ourselves to guarantee prices of wheat and oats in Ireland for an indefinite period. May I put it that this would be the most convenient way for the House to deal with the matter?


I do not think so. If this Clause providing that the Bill shall not apply to Ireland were added to the Bill, we would then have another Clause which says that the Bill shall apply to Ireland. These two statements are incompatible, and one or other must stand. Clause 27 provides that the Bill shall apply to Ireland, and when we reach that Clause then is the time for the hon. Member to move an Amendment.