HC Deb 06 April 1933 vol 276 cc2035-57

I beg to move, in page 4, line 18, to leave out from the word "unless" to the end of line 20.

In order to explain the reason for my Amendment, may I read to the Committee the operative part of Sub-section (1) of this Clause. It provides: No order or judgment for the recovery of possession of any dwelling-house to which the principal Acts apply … shall be made or given unless"— and two conditions (a) and (b) follow. Immediately after the word "unless" and before these two conditions are the words: the court considers it reasonable to make such an Order or give such a judgment and either, which I propose to omit. Those words are quite correct in respect of condition (b) but are not correct in respect of condition (a). The condition in paragraph (a) is that the court has power so to do under the provisions in the First Schedule and if hon. Members refer to the First Schedule they will find set out there a number of conditions (a) to (h) inclusive. These are all substantive facts. The First Schedule commences with the words: A court shall, for the purposes of Section three of this Act, have power to make or give an Order or judgment for the recovery of possession of any dwelling-house to which the principal Acts apply … without proof of suitable alternative accommodation where"— Again the words occur which I am moving to omit from Clause 3 of the Bill: the court considers it reasonable so to do. As I say, all these conditions (a) to (h) are questions of fact and I hold that it is not reasonable to put in these words giving this latitude, or rather duty, to the court to consider whether it is reasonable to make an order or give a judgment if they are referred to the First Schedule. One of these paragraphs of the First Schedule, namely para- graph (h) covers the case of the owner of a single house which he requires for his own occupation. It is especially in respect of paragraph (h) that I consider these words unnecessary. They are liable to prevent such an owner having the right to possession of his own house. The court can decide if any of these conditions set out in the First Schedule are or are not present in the case under consideration. The governing consideration, that "the court considers it reasonable to make such an order," does not appear to me to be either applicable or relevant in that case. If my Amendment is accepted, the one following is consequential, to insert the words: consider it reasonable to make such an Order or give such a judgment, and in the place where I think they ought to occur, namely, before paragraph (b) of Sub-section (1). The question of suitable alternative accommodation obviously leaves open the question as to whether or not it is reasonable to make an order. The conditions laid down in the First Schedule are so definite and such easily ascertainable facts that I do not think this discretion should be conferred on the court.

9.47 p.m.

The MINISTER of HEALTH (Sir Hilton Young)

The Committee will apprehend that the effect of the Amendment would be, as my hon. Friend so clearly explained, to exclude the equitable jurisdiction of the court in a certain number of cases in which possession can be obtained by the landlord. I regret that I do not feel able to accept the Amendment, and I trust that my hon. Friend will not think it necessary to press it. I listened with the very greatest care to what I would again call his very clear explanation of the Amendment, to see whether any real distinction could be made between the class of cases in which he proposes to exclude the equitable jurisdiction of the court and the class of cases in which he does not propose to exclude it, and I must say that I do not think any such distinction can be found. The distinction was based upon there being a question of fact in the one case but no question of fact in the other, but if the Committee will look at some of the cases in which it is proposed to exclude the equitable jurisdiction of the court, some of the acts of the tenant which entitle the landlord to possession, such as, for instance, whether he has not paid his rent or has committed a nuisance, they will see that quite clearly those are questions of fact.


My contention was that these were questions of fact.


They are all on the same basis. It is, as a matter of fact, I think, part of the essential scheme of the adjustment of rights between landlord and tenant under the Rent Restriction Acts that we should preserve this jurisdiction of the court, and I do not think there is any sound case for excluding it in the one case more than in the other.


Why does the right hon. Gentleman go to the trouble of setting out all these details in the First Schedule if they are all to be overridden by what is reasonable? Why does he not leave it simply to equitable jurisdiction, to the absolute discretion of the county court judge? For the life of me, I cannot understand why he hampers his Bill by putting in a lot of facts.


The first and sufficient answer to my hon. and learned Friend is that we are merely re-enacting what has always been the law of control and decontrol throughout the period of control, but another answer would be that the equitable jurisdiction of the court is not one which is absolutely at large but one which is guided and controlled by the description of the specific cases in which re-possession can be taken by the landlord. That is a guide to the court as to the manner in which it should exercise its jurisdiction.

9.52 p.m.


I must point out to the Minister that if he leaves the Clause as it is, there is no owner of a house who wants it for his own possession who will be able with any certainty to say that there are any conditions laid down in the Bill under which he can get that possession. Therefore, I cannot regard the decision of the Minister as satisfactory. At the same time, I recognise that we are only on the Committee stage, and I shall take the opportunity of consulting my friends as to whether we shall deal with the question further on Report. At the moment I am willing to withdraw my Amendment, in view of what the Minister has said, although I cannot say that he has completely satisfied me.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

9.53 p.m.


I beg to move, in page 4, line 31, after the word "tenant," to insert the words: at a rent similar to that being paid by the tenant. This Amendment is regarded as of great practical importance in those areas where there are a great many poor people, particularly unemployed people, and where there is a shortage of houses. This Clause, for the first time in legislation of this character, makes the existence of alternative accommodation alone a ground upon which the court can dispossess the sitting tenant. Up to this time the question of alternative accommodation has only been material in two cases as an adjunct to other grounds upon which the court could so act, and even in those cases the question of alternative accommodation has always been linked with the question of the means of the tenant. Under this Clause alternative accommodation is in itself a sufficient ground, provided that the alternative accommodation is a council house. Provided that a local authority will give a certificate that there is a suitable council house available for the tenant, that is a ground upon which the landlord can go to the court and ask that the tenant shall be dispossessed.

In the ordinary case that might be a proper provision, but in the areas where there is great poverty the question of rent which the tenant would have to pay for the council house which is regarded as the alternative accommodation becomes of the greatest importance. Assume a tenant with a wife and five children and a rent in his present house of 7s. 6d. A council house in the district suitable for families of that kind might be as much as 14s. Under this Clause as it stands the fact that there was a council house vacant at a rent of 14s. would entitle the landlord to go to the court and ask for an order dispossessing the tenant. If that tenant is unemployed, he will have only 33s. 3d. out of which he will have to pay his rent and maintain and clothe his family. If he has to pay an additional 5s. or 6s. for rent than he is paying at the time, it is obvious that the additional money can only be paid at the cost of some of the necessaries of life fox himself and his family.

I ask for the sympathetic consideration of the Minister for these cases. The Amendment provides that there shall be inserted in the Clause a limitation that the alternative accommodation should be available at a rent similar to that now being paid by the tenant. It would mean that the court would have a discretion in all cases where the rent of the alternative accommodation was similar, which means reasonably similar, to that actually being paid at the present time. I have indicated that up to the present wherever alternative accommodation has been in question in this kind of legislation it has always been a part of the definition that alternative accommodation should be reasonably suitable to the means of the tenant. That has been a great protection to tenants. The only argument of great force which I can see against the proposition contained in the Amendment is that there is the overriding control of the court in all these cases and that the court will exercise its discretion in each case. There are no rules laid down as to what questions the court should be bound to take into account, for the court is entitled to take into account all the circumstances of the case, but what the court would unquestionably take into account also would be the fact that in all definitions up to the present there has been a reference to the means of the tenant as part of the definition of alternative accommodation and that there are no such words inserted here. Another matter which the court will take into consideration no doubt is that in this Bill, in the last part of the First Schedule, express power is given that the court shall not make an order unless in cases where the court is satisfied that greater hardship would be imposed by making an order for possession than would be the case if the court did not do so. No limitation of that kind is contained in this part of the Bill.

The second point is that there are some judges who take a strict view of these Acts in favour of the landlord. There are other judges who take a liberal view in favour of the tenant. It is not right in the case of these poor people that they should have the risk of being deprived of what is now security of tenure and be placed at the discretion of the court according to the particular view which a particular judge happens to take of their case. The third ground that I want to mention is that poor people of this kind hate the idea of going to the court. A long experience of practical connection with poor people in the matter of their dealings with their landlords convinces me that the greatest injustices are being suffered by hundreds of these people because they do not know what to do or how to do it. To tell any of these people that they have a right to go to the court is really to tell them some matter of abstruse law which they cannot possibly understand and with regard to which it is quite useless to expect them to endeavour to enforce such legal rights as they have. In practice, it simply means that the landlord will go to the court and the tenant will be unable to put his case or to pay a lawyer to go to the court and appear for him. This is no real protection to the tenant in cases such as that.

I submit further to the Minister that there is no need for a provision of this kind, because one finds in all our districts where there is great overcrowding that wherever people can afford to pay for a council house they are only too glad to take it. At Newcastle Town Hall thousands of names are down of people who cannot be satisfied, because there is an insufficient number of council houses for them. It is only the people who are too poor to take the council houses who do not apply for them. I appeal to the Minister to exercise a sympathetic view on this matter. It is one which has caused the northern Members great anxiety. They have considered it most carefully, and the Amendment is the unanimous Resolution of those Members. I therefore appeal to the Minister to accept it if possible.

10.5 p.m.


I would like the Minister to tell the Committee under what circumstances these provisions are intended to operate. Why should the housing authority have to give such h certificate and how can it give such a certificate? How can it know the con- ditions of the house to which the certificate is to apply? This provision is only to apply, as I understand it, in the case of an application by a private owner for an ejectment order. Why should the housing authority give such a certificate in the terms of this Sub-section, and how can they do it if they have no knowledge of the facts of the case?

10.6 p.m.


I am afraid I cannot act on the assumption that this particular Clause cannot apply, and I rise to support the Amendment. I think the position can he put briefly by explaining the position of a litigant in these matters. The more we can do to save people from going to the courts, particularly in questions of this kind, the better, and if it were made clear that the owner had to show there was accommodation available at a similar rental it would result in the tenant and the landlord knowing at least one thing, and that is that that particular proviso had to be complied with. It must be within the knowledge of anyone who has attended the courts and heard these cases that judges do differ on what is suitable accommodation, and if judge; differ it is obvious that local authorities can also differ. A local authority may be of opinion that the house which they are offering is a suitable house, even though the rent may be quite outside the means of the person who has to take it as alternative accommodation. I do think the position is sufficiently important to justify the right hon. Gentleman in accepting the Amendment, because although on the surface this may appear to be a trivial point it may be the means of saving an enormous expenditure on costs by litigants or prospective litigants. For that reason, if for no other, and even if the right hon. Gentleman thinks this point would be in the minds of the local authority, I feel that these words should be inserted, so that there may be a clear decision when the matter of suitable alternative accommodation is at issue.

10.9 p.m.


On behalf of my colleagues I would like to say that we heartily support this Amendment. The other night, when talking on this Bill, I referred to a letter which I had received this week giving particulars of a case in which notice had been given to a tenant to vacate a house within 14 days. That tenant was not aware, even though living in a controlled house, that he had a right of appeal to the county court. That indicates the ignorance of a large number of tenants about these matters, and the only reason why I received the letter was because the tenant was in such a state of anxiety that he did not know what to do for the best. There had been no offer of alternative accommodation, and he is in a district—I am speaking of the Pontypridd area—where there is an enormous shortage of houses. Although a large number of colliery companies have gone into liquidation there are no vacant houses, no houses have been built on any extensive scale for a large number of years, and people will be in a very difficult position if they are expected to vacate a house, even if alternative accommodation is provided for them, if that alternative accommodation is at an excessive rent. In these days, when depression is causing grave hardship among the poorer class, nothing should be done to impair the future prospects of these people. We appeal to the Minister to accept the Amendment.

10.11 p.m.


The answer to the question of the hon. and learned Member for East Grinstead (Sir H. Cautley) as to the giving of a certificate stating whether or not a council house will be provided by the local authority is that of course the local authority is the only authority that can give such a certificate, and since it is the housing authority it is the duty of the local authority to give such a certificate. That is as regards Sub-section (2) of Clause 3. As regards the certificate as to similarity in the matter of rental and extent, the hon. and learned Gentleman will observe that under Sub-section (4) all that the local authority have to do is to give a certificate as to the extent of the accommodation afforded by dwelling houses provided by them and the amount of the rent charged by them. That is a certificate of the housing facts as regards their own council houses in their own area. That is a matter within their direct knowledge and control and they are the proper authority to give such a certificate. On the general issue raised by the Amendment, this Amendment does, as a matter of fact, run counter to some of the basic principles of the law of control and de- control. In the first place, let me point out to the supporters of the Amendment that there is nothing unknown to the law of control in the circumstances to which they refer, because under the existing law possession can be obtained by the owner of a house under a large number of conditions relating to the acts of the tenants and the actual needs of the landlord without the offer of any alternative accommodation at all. It goes much further than the circumstances to which they refer and to which they object.

As regards the actual case dealt with in the Amendment, I think I can best satisfy the Committee that the Amendment is not necessary by pointing out the extremely full and careful provisions of the law, as it will be left by this Bill, for the protection of the rights of the tenant when he is called upon to give up possession under the provisions of the Bill. As to the requirements of the alternative accommodation which is offered, the general principle is that, first of all, it must be appropriate to the needs of the tenant who is called upon to go out, appropriate to his needs in respect of the extent and the character of the alternative accommodation offered, and as regards the proximity of the house offered to his old dwelling house and to his work; secondly, it must give him equal terms in respect of security of tenure; and, thirdly, in the general case it must be suited to his means.

Those are the basic principles and those principles are carried out in other Clauses defining the character of the accommodation which fulfils those needs. In the first place, it will be fulfilled by a controlled house. A controlled house is, of course, practically equivalent to the house which he is called upon to vacate, and there can be no question about that. In the second place, the requirements as regards alternative accommodation may be fulfilled by an uncontrolled house, as long as it satisfies all those requirements to which I have referred, including suitability to the means of the tenant, and therefore it satisfies the requirements which have been dwelt upon by the Amendment. Lastly, the Bill lays it down that those requirements in respect of alternative accommodation can be fulfilled either by a council house, under the certificate of the authority, or, if not by a council house, by an uncontrolled house which is not a council house but is a new house, certified under the certificate of the local authority to be equivalent to a local authority house as regards type, rent and security of tenure, and also as regards proximity to work.

The only case in which any comment can be passed by the movers of the Amendment is the case of the council house. I believe it will commend itself to the common sense of the Committee that every possible obligation to the tenant is fulfilled when he is offered, in exchange for his existing tenancy, a house of the same sort that is being provided by the local authority of the area to members of the working class. To impose any other obligation is to impose an impossibility, and practically to negative the provisions of the Bill. As regards repossession by the landlord, it is not possible, in present conditions, or in conditions which will ever exist in the future, to obtain a free supply of new houses for alternative accommodation which you could certify could be let at the same rents as the old and inferior pre-War house. You would really be demanding a perpetuation of control in this respect unless bad houses were provided having as small a rent as the pre-War house, and that is what we do not desire to do. There can be no possible hardship in providing, for alternative accommodation, a council house or its equivalent, of a type recognised to be suitable to the means and the needs of members of the working class.

Finally, what was very fairly pointed out by the Mover of the Amendment is true, that we have here a case of the desirability of the protection of the equitable jurisdiction of the court, to which I referred in connection with the last Amendment. It is not only useful but it is necessary for such a class of case as this, that we shall ensure, owing to the impossibility of suiting a general law to meet every individual case, the equitable jurisdiction of the court, so that no intolerable hardship is inflicted upon any tenant. In those circumstances, I believe that the Committee will be satisfied that the provisions of the Bill are not only just, but most carefully just, in protecting the rights of the tenant in this regard.

10.19 p.m.


In spite of the explanation which has been given by the Minister, I still hope that the words will be inserted in the Bill. The speech of the Minister, while comprehensible, to us in the Committee, shows the necessity of the Bill containing words which can be readily understood by our constituents in the industrial areas. We are now dealing with one of those examples of legislation by reference which are the delight of the legal profession and the despair of the man in the street. I hope that my right hon. Friend will listen to the plea which has been put forward by many of us who have been returned to the House of Commons from industrial constituencies. This Amendment, which has been moved by the hon. Member for East Newcastle (Sir R. Aske), and supported by the hon. Member for Whitechapel (Mr. Janner) and by the hon. Member for Ogmore (Mr. E. Williams), shows that, not for the first time during the Committee stage of the Bill, we are involved in one of those miniature battles, if I may so put it with great respect, between the depressed area and the departmental dogmatist.

We shall be pleased to see this legislation made as simple as possible to our constituents, who cannot always afford the luxury of consultation with the lights of the legal profession. I believe that the principle of the Amendment is sound, and I hope that the Minister, between now and Report, will give a little further consideration to the views which have been put forward again and again, with very little encouragement, by Members in all quarters of the Committee who desire to see the law clarified for the benefit of their constituents in the industrial areas. Whether the hon. Member for East Newcastle presses his Amendment or not, I assure the Government that, in their own interest, they will be well advised to reconsider this matter between flow and Report.

10.23 p.m.


I was in considerable doubt as to whether this Amendment was worth considering until I heard the Minister explain it. After his explanation, I am satisfied that the Amendment is absolutely necessary. On the question of alternative accommodation, and the means of finding such accommodation for a tenant who has to change from one house to another, I think there is general agreement with what the Minister said, in, if I may say so, a very masterly manner; but he told us about everything except the Amendment. He never mentioned the rent at all. What is the good of alternative accommodation as regards rooms, proximity to work, and so on, if the man's rent is put up to the extent of 50, 75 or 100 per cent.? He cannot indulge in a luxury like that, and, consequently, the essential question for the man in this class of house is what rent he will have to pay. Every man likes a good house if he can afford it. When I was an ordinary working man, I liked to get as good a house as I possibly could, but I also considered what amount of rent I was charged, and, generally speaking, I had to be guided, as regards the house I chose, by my power to pay the rent. It is true that we did not have the difficulty in getting houses that we have to-day.

I want to put to the Minister a case that may happen. It may be that, while a man is living in a house, the medical officer of health or the local authority may condemn the house for sanitary reasons. They may be able to find him a house with slightly better accommodation than the one from which they are asking him to remove, but it will not be a controlled house. It is true that, if it is a house built by the local authority, he will have a certain amount of protection, but it is no good telling the outgoing tenant "We will find you a house with four rooms, back yard, scullery and all the amenities of the neighbourhood will be better than the house you are in," unless you can tell him at the same time the rent that he is expected to pay. That is the whole thing. I do not think this will affect a great number of houses, but that makes it all the more important to have it in the Bill so that you can protect the tenants who will not be able to protect themselves. If all the landlords in the country were of the same mind as the Minister, or if the Minister could be there every time a house was to be let, we need have no fear, but he will not. The landlords may forget that the right hon. Gentleman is Minister of Health. They will only think of what rent they can extort. I beg the Minister, along with Members in all parts of the House, to accept the Amendment and give the class of person who will have to remove security with regard to the alternative accommodation and the rent that he will have to pay.

10.27 p.


The hon. Member is under a misapprehension and I should like to remove it in order to set at ease any fears that may arise. The hon. Member is afraid that the alternative accommodation, consisting of an uncontrolled house which is not a council house, may be offered at a rent having no reference to the kind of rental that the tenant was paying before. That is not so. It is expressly secured that, if the alternative accommodation is an uncontrolled house, it must be one of two things, either suited to the means of the tenant, that is the same kind of rent that he was paying before, or it must be absolutely certified to be equal as regards rental to a council house. The danger that the hon. Member has in mind cannot, therefore, arise.


Will the right hon. Gentleman tell me where that is in the Bill?


I will give the hon. Member the reference.

10.28 p.m.


The Minister did not answer the objections that I made. Sub-section (2) refers to a certificate of a house to be built, and, therefore, it is almost impossible to say whether it can be regarded as equivalent alternative accommodation. Sub-section (4), to which the Minister referred, only applies to the previous Sub-section, which only comes into operation where a certificate under Sub-section (2) is not applicable. I entirely agree as to the value of Subsection (4) because it states what the accommodation actually is. It is conclusive evidence of the fact and the County Court is to decide whether it is equivalent accommodation or not. But that has nothing to do with Sub-section (2). I suggest that it would be advisable to consider before Report whether Subsection (2) is of any advantage at all or could be put into operation and whether it had not better be taken out of the Bill.

10.30 p.m.


I have not any doubt myself that the wording of Sub-section (2) will be adequate for its purpose, to make sure that it shall be the duty of the local authority to give a certificate if it will provide a council house. Perhaps my hon. and learned Friend will be kind enough to consider whether this meets his case, and discuss it with me on another occasion if he is in doubt about the matter, when I will gladly give it consideration.

10.31 p.m.


As we are discussing the question of certificates, I believe that they will be of considerable value in saving expense. I should like to know whether my right hon. Friend is satisfied that there is power in a local authority to incur the expense out of local funds of giving those certificates. As far as I can discover, there is nothing in the Bill which provides that a local authority may, or shall, issue a certificate to anybody who applies. The Clause provides that when the certificate has been issued it shall have certain effects, and I should like the right hon. Gentleman to consider before the Report stage whether the local authority would have power to incur the expense. If there is any doubt upon the matter, local authorities will be extremely shy of utilising the powers.


I would remind my hon. Friend that I am assured that there is no doubt that there is such a power on the part of the local authority to incur expense in regard to any duty placed upon them by Act of Parliament. I will certainly give the matter consideration, seeing that a doubt has been raised.


I doubt whether there is a duty placed upon the local authority. The Clause seems to hale certain effects. I appreciate the answer of the right hon. Gentleman.


There is one point in the explanation of the right hon. Gentleman which is not quite clear. He said that it will be sufficient if the landlord is able to offer accommodation equivalent to that of a council house in the neighbourhood. Does he mean to say that the rent will be suitable? Suppose the rent of a house occupied by a tenant is 8s., and there is a council house rented at 25s. in the neighburhood, will it be sufficient if the house is offered at a rental of 25s. because the rent of a council house in the neighbourhood is 25s.?


In reply to the hon. Lady, the Clause as it is drafted in the Bill is capable of no such extravagant interpretation. Accommodation must be, in the opinion of the court, reasonably suitable to the needs of the tenant and his family…and either—similar as regards rental and extent to the accommodation afforded by dwelling-houses provided in the neighbourhood by any housing authority…or otherwise reasonably suitable to the means of the tenant.

I hesitate to attempt to interpret an Act of Parliament, but I know how a person with common sense will interpret it. It is the accommodation of the normal type of dwellings in the neighbourhood.

Question put, "That those words be there inserted."

The Committee divided; Ayes, 58; Noes, 230.

Division No. 128.] AYES. [10.35 p.m.
Adams, D. M. (Poplar, South) Greenwood, Rt. Hon. Arthur McKeag, William
Allen, William (Stoke-on-Trent) Grenfell, David Rees (Glamorgan) Maclean, Nell (Glasgow, Govan)
Ashe, Sir Robert William Griffith, F. Kingsley (Middlesbro, W.) Mallalieu, Edward Lancelot
Attlee, Clement Richard Grundy, Thomas W. Maxton, James
Banfield, John William Hall, F. (York, W.R., Normanton) Milner, Major James
Batey, Joseph Hall, George H. (Merthyr Tydvil) Parkinson, John Allen
Bevan, Aneurin (Ebbw Vale) Hamilton, Sir R. W.(Orkney & Zetl'nd) Pickering, Ernest H.
Braithwaite, J. G. (Hillsborough) Harris, Sir Percy Price, Gabriel
Briant, Frank Hirst, George Henry Rathbone, Eleanor
Brown, C. W. E. (Notts., Mansfield) Holdsworth, Herbert Rea, Walter Russell
Buchanan, George Janner, Barnett Thorne, William James
Caps, Thomas Jenkins, Sir William Tinker, John Joseph
Cocks, Frederick Seymour Jones, Morgan (Caerphilly) White, Henry Graham
Cripps, Sir Stafford Kirkwood, David Williams, David (Swansea, East)
Daggar, George Lansbury, Rt. Hon. George Williams, Edward John (Ogmore)
Davies, David L. (Pontypridd) Leonard, William Williams, Dr. John H. (Llanelly)
Davies, Rhys John (Westhoughton) Logan, David Gilbert Williams, Thomas (York, Don Valley)
Edwards, Charles Lunn, William Wood, Sir Murdoch McKenzie (Banff)
Evans, David Owen (Cardigan) McEntee, Valentine L.
Foot, Dingle (Dundee) McGovern, John TELLERS FOR THE AYES.
Mr. John and Mr. D. Graham.
Acland-Troyte, Lieut.-Colonel Colville, Lieut.-Colonel J. Hannon, Patrick Joseph Henry
Adams, Samuel Vyvyan T. (Leeds, W.) Conant, R. J. E. Harbord, Arthur
Aitchison, Rt. Hon. Craigie M. Cooke, Douglas Hartington, Marquess of
Apsley, Lord Copeland, Ida Hartland, George A.
Atkinson, Cyril Courtauld, Major John Sewell Haslam, Sir John (Bolton)
Balley, Eric Alfred George Courthope, Colonel Sir George L. Headlam, Lieut.-Col. Cuthbert M.
Baillie, Sir Adrian W. M. Crooke, J. Smedley Hellgers, Captain F. F. A.
Baldwin, Rt. Hon. Stanley Crookshank, Col. C. de Windt (Bootle) Hoare, Lt.-Col. Ht. Hon. Sir S. J. G.
Barclay-Harvey, C. M. Crookshank, Capt. H. C. (Gainsb'ro) Hope, Capt. Hon. A. O. J. (Aston)
Barton, Capt. Basil Kelsey Croom-Johnson, R. P. Hornby, Frank
Bateman, A. L Cross, R. H. Horsbrugh, Florence
Beauchamp, Sir Brograve Campbell Cruddas, Lieut.-Colonel Bernard Howitt, Dr. Alfred B.
Beaumont, M. W. (Bucks., Aylesbury) Davies, Maj. Geo. F.(Somerset, Yeovil) Hudson, Capt. A. U. M. (Hackney, N.)
Beaumont, Hon. R.E.B. (Portsm'th, C.) Dawson, Sir Philip Hume, Sir George Hopwood
Beit, Sir Alfred L. Duckworth, George A. V. Inskip, Rt. Hon. Sir Thomas W. H.
Bevan, Stuart James (Holborn) Duggan, Hubert John Jackson, Sir Henry (Wandsworth, C.)
Birchall, Major Sir John Dearman Dunglass, Lord James, Wing-Com. A. W. H.
Blindell, James Eastwood, John Francis Joel, Dudley J. Barnato
Bossom, A. C. Eden, Robert Anthony Jones, Sir G. W. H. (Stoke New'gton)
Boulton, W. W. Ellis, Sir R. Geoffrey Ker, J. Campbell
Bower, Lieut.-Com. Robert Tatton Elliston, Captain George Sampson Kerr, Hamilton W.
Bowyer, Capt. Sir George E. W. Emrys-Evans, P. V. Kimball, Lawrence
Brass, Captain Sir William Entwistle, Cyril Fullard Knebworth, Viscount
Briscoe, Capt. Richard George Erakine-Bolst, Capt. C. C. (Blackpool) Lamb, Sir Joseph Quinton
Broadbent, Colonel John Fleming, Edward Lascelles Latham, Sir Herbert Paul
Brown, Ernest (Leith) Fox, Sir Gifford Law, Sir Alfred
Brown, Brig.-Gen. H. C. (Berks., Newb'y) Fremantle, Sir Francis Law, Richard K. (Hull, S.W.)
Burghley, Lord Fuller, Captain A. G. Leckie, J. A.
Burgin, Dr. Edward Leslie Ganzoni, Sir John Leighton, Major B. E. P.
Burnett, John George Gillett, Sir George Masterman Liddall, Walter s.
Campbell, Edward Taswell (Bromley) Gilmour, Lt.-Col. Rt. Hon. Sir John Lindsay, Noel Ker
Caporn, Arthur Cecil Glossop, C. W. H. Lister, Rt. Hon. Sir Philip Cunliffe-
Cautley, Sir Henry S. Gluckstein, Louis Halle Lloyd, Geoffrey
Cayzer, Maj. Sir H. R. (Prtsmth., S.) Goff, Sir Park Lovat-Fraser, James Alexander
Cazalet, Thelma (Islington, E.) Goodman, Colonel Albert W. Lyons, Abraham Montagu
Chamberlain. Rt. Hn. Sir J. A. (Birm., W.) Gower, Sir Robert MacAndrew, Capt. J. O. (Ayr)
Chorlton, Alan Ernest Leofric Greene, William P. C. McCorquodale, M. S.
Clarry, Reginald George Grimston, R. V. Macdonald, Capt. p. D. (I. of W.)
Clayton, Dr. George C. Guinness, Thomas L. E. B. McKie, John Hamilton
Cobb, Sir Cyril Guy, J. C. Morrison McLean, Dr. W. H. (Tradeston)
Cochrane, Commander Hon. A. D. Hales, Harold K. Maitland, Adam
Collins, Rt. Hon. Sir Godfrey Hanbury, Cecil Manningham-Buller, Lt.-Col. Sir M.
Colman, N. C. D. Hanley, Dennis A. Margesson, Capt. Rt. Hon. H. D. R.
Marsden, Commander Arthur Ramsden, Sir Eugene Stones, James
Martin, Thomas B. Rankin, Robert Storey, Samuel
Mayhew, Lieut.-Colonel John Ray, Sir William Strauss, Edward A.
Meller, Richard James Reed, Arthur C. (Exeter) Strickland, Captain W. F.
Merriman, Sir F. Boyd Reid, Capt. A. Cunningham- Stuart, Lord C. Crichton-
Mills, Major J. D. (New Forest) Reid, William Allan (Derby) Sugden, Sir Wilfrid Hart
Milne, Charles Remer, John R. Summersby, Charles H,
Mitcheson, G. G. Rhys, Hon, Charles Arthur U. Sutcliffe, Harold
Molson, A. Hugh Elsdale Ropner, Colonel L. Tate, Mavis Constance
Monsell, Ht. Hon. Sir B. Eyres Ross Taylor, Walter (Woodbridge) Templeton, William P.
Moore, Lt.-Col. Thomas C. R. (Ayr) Runge, Norah Cecil Thomas, James P. L. (Hereford)
Moreing, Adrian C. Russell, Albert (Kirkcaldy) Thomson, Sir Frederick Charles
Morris, John Patrick (Salford, N.) Russell, Alexander West (Tynemouth) Thorp, Linton Theodore
Morris, Owen Temple (Cardiff, E.) Russell, Richard John (Eddisbury) Titchfield, Major the Marquess, of
Morrison, William Shepherd Rutherford, John (Edmonton) Touche, Gordon Cosmo
Moss, Captain H. J. Rutherford, Sir John Hugo (Liverp'l) Tryon, Rt. Hon. George Clement
Munro, Patrick Salmon, Sir Isidore Wallace, Captain D. E. (Hornsey)
Nall-Cain, Hon. Ronald Salt, Edward W. Wallace, John (Dunfermline)
Nation, Brigadier-General J. J. H. Samuel, Samuel (W'dsworth, Putney) Ward, Lt-Col. Sir A. L. (Hull)
Nunn, William Sandeman, Sir A. N. Stewart Ward, Irene Mary Bewick (Wallsend)
O'Donovan, Dr. William James Selley, Harry R. Warrender, Sir Victor A. G.
Ormsby-Gore, Rt. Hon. William G. A. Shakespeare, Geoffrey H. Wayland, Sir William A.
Palmer, Francis Noel Shaw, Helen B. (Lanark, Bothwell) Wells, Sydney Richard
Patrick, Colin M. Skelton, Archibald Noel Weymouth, Viscount
Penny, Sir George Smiles, Lieut.-Col. Sir Walter D. Whiteside, Borras Noel H.
Percy, Lord Eustace Smith, Sir Jonah W. (Barrow-In-F.) Whyte, Jardine Bell
Peto, Sir Basil E. (Devon, Barnstaple) Smith, R. W. (Ab'rd'n & Kinc'dine, C.) Williams, Charles (Devon, Torquay)
Pickford, Hon. Mary Ada Smith-Carington, Neville W. Williams, Herbert G. (Croydon, S.)
Powell, Lieut.-Col. Evelyn G. H. Somervell, Donald Bradley Windsor-Clive, Lieut.-Colonel George
Procter, Major Henry Adam Somerville, D. G. (Willesden, East) Wise, Alfred R.
Raikes, Henry V. A. M. Soper, Richard Young, Rt. Hon. Sir Hilton (S'v'noaks)
Ramsay, Alexander (W. Bromwich) Spens, William Patrick
Ramsay, Capt. A. H. M. (Midlothian) Stanley, Lord (Lancaster, Fylde) TELLERS FOR THE NOES.
Ramsay, T. B. W. (Western Isles) Stanley, Hon. O. F. G.(Westmorland) Lord Erskine and Dr. Morris-Jones.
Ramsbotham, Herwald Stevenson, James

Question put, and agreed to.


I beg to move "That the Chairman do report Progress, and ask leave to sit again."

I do so in order to get from the right hon. Gentleman a statement as to how far he proposes to go to-night.


It is within the memory of the Committee that, as a result of conversations which have taken place through the usual channels, it is proposed to complete the Committee stage next Tuesday. It is entirely a matter for the convenience of the Committee as to how it will distribute the time. I think it is clear that it will be for the general convenience of the whole Committee to make as good progress as possible to-night within reasonable time, in order that we may not be overburdened on Tuesday and have to sit later than is convenient on that occasion. There is a lot of matter in the new Clauses, and in Clause 9. On the other hand Clauses 4, 5 and 6 have not very much matter in them. Therefore I propose that we should get to the end of Clause 6 to-night. On Clause 7 I understand there are points which particularly interest the Opposition and that Clause may be reserved to our next occasion.


With the good will which has now been shown in the Committee I think that by midnight at the latest we might get to the end of Clause 6. The undertaking which was given the other night, about finishing the Committee stage on Tuesday, of course stands. I think it would be for the convenience of the Committee if we get to the end of Clause 6 to-night, because there are not many matters of consequence to be discussed there. If hon. Members opposite would curb their oratory I should be very glad to respond on behalf of my hon. Friends here and get to the end of Clause 6, on the assumption that we get through in the next hour or so. I beg to ask leave to withdraw my Motion.

Motion, by leave, withdrawn.

10.48 p.m.


I beg to move in page 5, line 9, to leave out the word "provided," and to insert instead thereof the word "available."

The Sub-section of the Clause refers to an application for possession of a house, and the provision of alternative accommodation "reasonably suitable to the needs of the tenant as regards proximity to place of work" and so forth. Paragraph (i) states: similar as regards rental and extent to the accommodation afforded by dwelling-houses provided in the neighbourhood by any housing authority for persons whose needs as regards extent are, in the opinion of the court, similar to those of the tenant and his family; My Amendment is to leave out the word "provided" and to insert the word "available," and has to be taken in conjunction with the next Amendment, which would leave out the words "by any housing authority." The Bill provides that the alternative accommodation shall be calculated on the standard of dwelling-houses provided in the neighbourhood by any housing authority. My Amendment would read, "provided by houses available in the district," either a house provided by a local authority or some other similar house. In the first place there may be no local authority house at all, and the Clause would therefore be inapplicable, but the Amendment provides that the alternative accommodation ought to be as nearly similar as possible to that of the house which an individual is giving up. The test ought to be the test of a similar house as to rental and accommodation in that particular area, whether provided by a housing authority or anybody else. If there are no council houses in the district then the Clause is unworkable. If there are, why should not they, along with other houses in the district, be taken into account? If there are no council houses, why should we not take the houses available in the district? To my mind, that is common sense.

10.51 p.m.


I think the purpose of the Amendment is quite clear from the hon. Gentleman's lucid explanation. It will also be clear, I think, that this Amendment goes as much too far in the one direction as the last Amendment went in the other. The test of what is reasonable, alternative accommodation is the council house, or the equivalent of a council house in rent and extent. The last Amendment proposed to reduce it, and the present Amendment would increase it. It is clear that the alternative accommodation under the Amendment might be a house whose rent was very much bigger than a council house, and had no relation to the rent of a council house at all. That might impose an intolerable hardship on the tenant of the house, and would deny him receiving alternative accommodation. I think the Committee would be following the path of wisdom in sticking to the middle course defined by the Bill, and taking the council house or the equivalent of a council house in regard to rent and extent.

Amendment negatived.

10.53 p.m.


I beg to move, in page 5, line 23, after the first word "the," to insert the word "lowest."

The object of this Amendment is to remove an ambiguity. The Clause places on the local authority the obligation of informing the tenant of the lowest rent charged by them. Hon. Members are aware that there are council houses of the same dimensions let at different rents. For example, under the Addison Acts when prices were high houses were built and naturally commanded higher rents. Houses were also built under subsequent Acts, and as the Clause stands a local authority may offer a high-rented house to a tenant which is beyond his capacity to pay whereas similar accommodation might be offered where rents were lower which the tenant could afford. I think this Amendment is very desirable. I hope that the Government will accept the Amendment so that the position may be clarified.

10.54 p.m.


I think I can satisfy the hon. Member that the Clause as it now stands achieves much of what he desires. We cannot accept the Amendment as it stands on the Paper. Under Sub-section (3) alternative accommodation is considered suitable if it is similar in regard to rental and extent to a council house. The hon. Member wants to make it similar as regards rental and extent to the lowest rented house. It happens in many cases that this may be a pre-War house and in such cases this Amendment would prescribe that, to be considered suitable accommodation, a house which was up to post-War standards of working class housing would have to be offered at a pre-War rent. I can satisfy the hon. Member that in so far as the rents of various types of council houses vary—I refer to the Addison houses and the Wheatley houses —the certificate mentioned in the Subsection would presumably show the rents of the several types of post-War houses in order that the court in considering whether a particular house was suitable alternative accommodation could decide whether it was similar in rental and extent within the meaning of Clause 3.

Amendment negatived.

10.56 p.m.


I beg to move, in page 5, line 32, at the end, to add the words: (6) If any person, with intent to deceive, knowingly makes any false statement calculated to lead to the belief that suitable alternative accommodation within the meaning of this section is available for a tenant or will be available for him when any order or judgment takes effect, he shall be guilty of an offence and liable on summary conviction thereof to a fine not exceeding ten pounds or to imprisonment for a term not exceeding three months or to both such fine and imprisonment. If I take but little time in moving this Amendment, I trust the right hon. Gentleman will not think that we do not attach the greatest importance to it. It provides a new Sub-section which might be regarded as a penalty Clause. The Bill in the main deals with Class "C" houses, the small houses of the wage-earners, of which it is estimated some 4,000,000 will continue in control for another five years. During that time applications will be made by house owners for possession of the houses. Applicants for possession must satisfy the courts on the several points set out in Clause 3 and in the First Schedule. It is imperative that the information given to the court should be accurate because the question of possession is vital to the tenants. The wage-earners who occupy Class "C" houses will be considerably inconvenienced and owing to the low wages paid to this section of the community it will be impossible for them to employ solicitors to present their cases to the courts. They have to rely largely on their own efforts.

There is no penalty Clause at present in the Bill, and we deem it necessary that no tenant should be dispossessed of his house by what may be regarded as jobbery on the part of the owner of the house. The Amendment provides a penalty which would act as a safeguard and help to ensure that only strictly accurate information will be submitted to the courts in applications for possession by owners. In our opinion, the time has come when some punishment should be provided for the house-owner who makes a false statement in order to get rid of his tenant. Many hon. Members on both sides of the Committee could recite numerous cases which have arisen since 1923 in which owners have secured possession upon information which was not strictly accurate. A provision like this would make it easier for the tenant, and give him a better opportunity of having his case presented to the courts with the necessary accuracy.

11.0 p.m.

The SOLICITOR-GENERAL (Sir Boyd Merriman)

I would assure the hon. Member that we are entirely at one with him as to the desirability of having some penalty for false statements, but I think the Amendment is unnecessary. The issue will arise before a court, and one of two things will happen. Either the landlord himself will come and give false evidence, in which case there is no difficulty in dealing with him under the ordinary law, or the local authority or its officer gives one or other of the certificates described in the Clause. In either case I think the law as it exists is adequate to deal with the point, because let me remind the hon. Member that, under the Perjury Act, not merely false evidence on oath is dealt with, but there is a Section of that Act which says: If any person knowingly and wilfully makes otherwise than on oath a statement false in a material particular and the statement is made in a certificate or other document which he is authorised or required to make by an Act of Parliament. he shall be guilty of a misdemeanour, and certain penalties will follow. So that, one way or the other, I think that in every case in which a false statement about alternative accommodation came before a court there would be a means of dealing with it under the existing law.

11.2 p.m.


Take the case of a landlord who goes into the box and says that in two months' time one of his houses will be available. An order is made on that basis, but on the appropriate date the house is not available. Would not some provision, not quite in these terms, I agree, because it is in the nature rather of a false representation or promise, be necessary to meet that ease?

11.3 p.m.


He either made a statement which he believed to be true or a statement which he knew to be false or a statement which he did not believe to be true. If he believed it to be true when he made it, I am sure the hon. and gallant Member would not wish that he should be penalised, but if he either knew it to be false or did not believe it to be true, if, in other words, he tried to mislead the court, I am quoting the words of the Perjury Act which would enable him to be dealt with.


Are those verbal representations?


On oath.


Who would prosecute in the event of an owner going into the witness box and making a statement that is untrue, or putting it in a document? Would it be the tenant who had been deprived of his house, or who would it be?


On appropriate information, any police officer could prosecute.


In view of the statement of the learned Solicitor-General, I ask leave to withdraw the Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.