§ 6.40 p.m.
§ Mr. BUCHANAN
I beg to move, in page 9, line 8, to leave out the word "thirty-eight," and to insert instead thereof the word "thirty-nine."
I understand that the Secretary of State for Scotland has on the Paper an Amendment to substitute November for September, but our Amendment is to substitute the 28th May, 1939, for the 28th May, 1938. Our reason is that we think that in Scotland at least we ought to receive this extra period before the law begins to operate. We find that this Clause applies a month or so earlier than in England, and we desire that in Scotland the 28th May, 1939, should be the date, as we think it is wrong to bring the date forward. The Secretary of State for Scotland to some extent alters the Bill by his Amendment, but we would prefer our proposed date. I do not claim more for Scotland than for the rest of the country, but the position in parts of Scotland with regard to housing has generally been recognised as more acute than in any other part of the country. I am not one of those who claim either for Scotsmen or for representatives of Scotland any privilege at all. I think that Scotland ought to make out a case for any benefit for which she asks, and I would mention that in all the Housing Acts Scotland has been accepted as being in a different position from the rest of the country to this extent, that a subsidy has been retained in Scotland when it has been abolished elsewhere. We think that while you may be abolishing decontrol in another part of the country, at least in Scotland a longer period ought to be given before decontrol has to operate.
§ 6.44 p.m.
§ The LORD ADVOCATE (Mr. Craigie Aitchison)
I think my hon. Friend has confused, not unnaturally, two matters that are really quite distinct. I say not unnaturally, because it is very difficult to keep these matters clearly compartmented in one's mind. The 1938 which is referred to in the application Clause under paragraph (b) comes in as follows: 2434for any reference to the twenty-fourth day of June, nineteen hundred and thirty-eight, there shall be substituted a reference to the twenty-eighth day of May, nineteen hundred and thirty-eight.That immediately refers back to Clause 1, which states that the Act shall continue in force until 24th June, 1938. The question that is raised in the issue between 1938 and 1939 is the continuance of the Acts. As regards that question, apart from the decontrol of particular classes of houses, the position is that under Clause 1 of the Bill the Acts are to cease to apply on 24th June, 1938. For Scotland we have taken the corresponding term day, which is 28th May, 1938. If we were to substitute in Scotland 1939 for 1938, the result would be that in Scotland the Acts would be continuing for one year longer than in England. I do not think that that would be an advantage for Scotland. In fixing a date in 1938, the Government were taking a period of five years from 1933, regarding that as a fair test period to take.
Within five years we may have a housing activity and development that will enable decontrol to be carried further. On the other hand, we may have within five years a situation which will show that we must continue control even beyond five years, or, as an alternative, that we must tighten up control. Accordingly, the date we take is really the date at which the law regarding the whole question of control will come under review. It is not necessarily a final date. It would be final, of course, if the matter stood without any further legislation. The position will be that towards the termination of the period the whole question will come under consideration, and if 1939 were inserted for Scotland it would mean that as regards Scotland consideration would be deferred a year longer than the consideration with regard to England. I think that that would be a misfortune. The matter as regards Scotland should be reviewed at the same time as the position in England is reviewed.
§ The LORD ADVOCATE
I cannot speak for Wales, but I should think that there is no question, whether the Acts come to an end in 1938 or are carried over, that Wales is in the same position as England and Scotland. In view of what I have said, I will ask the hon. Member not to press his Amendment. I 2435 would rather deal with the other point which he raised on the Amendment which I shall move later.
§ 6.49 p.m.
§ Mr. BUCHANAN
I do not think the Lord Advocate has met my point at all. The point I wish to stress is that this Bill differs from any other that I can recall in that the words are added, "and no longer." All other Acts that I know merely state that they shall run to a certain date. The Government are definitely intending to end this Bill in 1938 for they add, "and no longer." There is no question of reviewing the position. If they wanted to do that they could do it under the Expiring Laws Continuance Bill. With the wards, "and no longer," however, that cannot be done, and the consequence is that review is not meant, in this case. It may well be that some other Government will take the place of this one; that is to be determined by future events; but, being a realist, I take facts as they are, and I take it that this Government might continue. Therefore I want 12 months longer for Scotland. In all our Housing Acts, Scotland has been put in a different position from other parts of the country. The Government and the House have accepted that principle. In Scotland we have an increased subsidy, and it is continuing when the subsidy is abolished in other parts of the country.
The Marley Committee picked out the Scottish problem as being different from that in any other parts of the country. I am not arguing that it is so, but I am arguing that the House of Commons has constantly accepted that principle, and in pursuance of that this Bill ought to run a year longer in Scotland. Glasgow stands out in the whole of Britain for the record number of people who are evicted from their homes because of the housing conditions. It is because of such conditions, and not because we claim a privilege for Scotland, that we ask for this extension. Even in this Bill Scotland is put on the same level as the
§ Metropolitan area in regard to the level of rent; again accepting the principle that it is different in housing matters. That difference has been accepted also in regard to steel houses and in other directions. I am sorry that Scotland is in that position, and we should be glad if we had not to plead that Scotland should be put in a different position. The more I live the less pro-Scottish I am becoming. Scotland is in a shocking position with regard to housing, and therefore I hope that the Committee will support us in desiring this extra year.
§ 6.54 p.m.
§ The LORD ADVOCATE
The hon. Member has pointed out quite clearly that the language of Clause 1 rather points to an intention finally to terminate these Acts. That is a perfectly fair matter of construction, because the words are "and no longer," which may not be very common words in this type of legislation. It would be wrong to suggest that the Government do not contemplate such a development as may render further control unnecessary. Insertion of the words "and no longer" in the Bill does not affect the competence of Parliament to deal with the situation. Accordingly, a period of five years has been taken and is a reasonable period. I cannot see that there is any particular virtue in six years as against five. The hon. Member might say that he wants to safeguard the position as far as he can, but if the situation is that five years hence we shall have five years' experience of the working of this Bill, it does not seem to me unreasonable that the position of the two countries should be considered together, provided that there is a situation which calls for review. If there is no such situation, there will be no review; on the other hand, if there is a situation which calls for review, it is desirable that the position of both countries should be considered together.
§ Question put, "That the word 'thirty-eight' stand part of the Clause."
§ The Committee divided: Ayes, 249; Noes, 58.2439
|Division No. 142.]||AYES.||[6.58 p.m.|
|Acland-Troyte, Lieut.-Colonel||Applin, Lieut.-Col. Reginald V. K.||Baldwin, Rt. Hon. Stanley|
|Agnew, Lieut.-Com. P. G.||Apsley, Lord||Balfour, George (Hampstead)|
|Aitchison, Rt. Hon. Craigie M.||Aske, Sir Robert William||Balniel, Lord|
|Allen, William (Stoke-on-Trent)||Astbury, Lieut.-Com. Frederick Wolfe||Barclay-Harvey, C. M.|
|Amery, Rt. Hon. Leopold C. M. S.||Baillie, Sir Adrian w. M.||Beauchamp, Sir Brograve Campbell|
|Benn, Sir Arthur Shirley||Hannon, Patrick Joseph Henry||Potter, John|
|Betterton, Rt. Hon. Sir Henry B.||Harbord, Arthur||Powell, Lieut.-Col. Evelyn G. H.|
|Bevan, Stuart James (Holborn)||Hartland, George A.||Pybus, Percy John|
|Birchall, Major Sir John Dearman||Haslam, Henry (Horncastle)||Ramsay, T. B. W. (Western Isles)|
|Blindell, James||Headlam, Lieut.-Col. Cuthbert M.||Ramsden, Sir Eugene|
|Borodale, Viscount||Hellgers, Captain P, F. A.||Ray, Sir William|
|Bowyer, Capt. Sir George E. W.||Henderson, Sir Vivian L. (Chelmsford)||Reed, Arthur C. (Exeter)|
|Boyce, H. Leslie||Hills, Major Rt. Hon. John Waller||Reid, William Allan (Derby)|
|Bracken, Brendan||Hope, Capt. Hon. A. O. J. (Alton)||Rhys, Hon. Charles Arthur U.|
|Braithwaite, J. G. (Hillisborough)||Howitt, Dr. Alfred B.||Roberts, Sir Samuel (Ecclesall)|
|Brass, Captain Sir William||Hudson, Capt. A. U. M. (Hackney, N.)||Robinson, John Roland|
|Broadbent, Colonel John||Hume, Sir George Hopwood||Rosbotham, Sir Samuel|
|Brockiebank, C. E. R.||Hunter, Dr. Joseph (Dumfries)||Ross Taylor, Walter (Woodbridge)|
|Brown, Ernest (Leith)||Hurd, Sir Percy||Ruggles-Brise, Colonel E. A.|
|Brown, Brig.-Gen. H. C.(Berks., Newb'y)||Inskip, Rt. Hon. Sir Thomas W. H.||Runge, Norah Cecil|
|Browne, Captain A. C.||Jackson, Sir Henry (Wandsworth, C.)||Russell, Albert (Kirkcaldy)|
|Buchan-Hepburn, P. G. T.||Jones, Henry Haydn (Merioneth)||Russell, Alexander West (Tynemouth)|
|Burnett, John George||Ker, J. Campbell||Russell, Richard John (Eddisbury)|
|Butler, Richard Austen||Kerr, Hamilton W.||Rutherford, John (Edmonton)|
|Campbell, vice-Admiral G. (Burnley)||Knox, Sir Alfred||Rutherford, Sir John Hugo (Liverp'l)|
|Caporn, Arthur Cecil||Lambert, Rt. Hon. George||Salmon, Sir Isidore|
|Carver, Major William H.||Latham, Sir Herbert Paul||Salt, Edward W.|
|Castlereagh, Viscount||Law, Richard K. (Hull, S.W.)||Samuel, Sir Arthur Michael (F'nham)|
|Cayzer, Sir Charles (Chester, City)||Leckie, J. A.||Samuel, Samuel (W'dsworth, Putney)|
|Cayzer, Maj. Sir H. R. (Prtsmth., S.)||Leech, Dr. J. W.||Sanderson, Sir Frank Barnard|
|Clarke, Frank||Lees-Jones, John||Sassoon, Rt. Hon. Sir Philip A. G. D.|
|Clayton, Dr. George C.||Leighton, Major B. E. P.||Selley, Harry R.|
|Cobb, Sir Cyril||Lewis, Oswald||Shakespeare, Geoffrey H.|
|Cochrane, Commander Hon. A. D.||Liddall, Walter S.||Shaw, Helen B. (Lanark, Bothwell)|
|Conant, R. J. E.||Lindsay, Noel Ker||Shute, Colonel J. J.|
|Cooper, A. Duff||Llewellin, Major John J.||Smith, Sir Jonah W. (Barrow-in-F.)|
|Craddock, Sir Reginald Henry||Lloyd, Geoffrey||Smith, Louis W. (Sheffield, Hallam)|
|Cranborne, Viscount||Loder, Captain J. de Vere||Smith-Carington, Neville W.|
|Crooke, J. Smedley||Lymington, Viscount||Somerville, Annesley A. (Windsor)|
|Crookshank, Capt. H. C. (Gainsb'ro)||McCorquodale, M. S.||Somerville, D. G. (Willesden, East)|
|Croom-Johnson, R. P.||MacDonald, Rt. Hon. J. R. (Seaham)||Southby, Commander Archibald R. J.|
|Cruddas, Lieut.-Colonel Bernard||MacDonald, Malcolm (Bassetlaw)||Spears, Brigadier-General Edward L.|
|Culverwell, Cyril Tom||McKie, John Hamilton||Spencer, Captain Richard A.|
|Davidson, Rt. Hon. J. C. C.||McLean, Major Sir Alan||Stanley, Lord (Lancaster, Fylde)|
|Davies, Edward C. (Montgomery)||McLean, Dr. W. H. (Tradeston)||Stanley, Hon. O. F. G. (Westmorland)|
|Davies, Maj. Geo. F. (Somerset, Yeovil)||Mapnay, Thomas||Stevenson, James|
|Despencer-Robertson, Major J. A. F.||Maitland, Adam||Stewart, J. H. (Fife, E.)|
|Doran, Edward||Manningnam-Buller, Lt.-Col. Sir M.||Stourton, Hon. John J.|
|Drewe, Cedric||Margesson, Capt. Rt. Hon. H. D. R.||Strauss, Edward A.|
|Duckworth, George A. V.||Marsden, Commander Arthur||Strickland, Captain W. F.|
|Dunglass, Lord||Martin, Thomas B.||Stuart, Lord C. Crichton.|
|Eales, John Frederick||Mayhew, Lieut.-Colonel John||Stuart, Hon. J. (Moray and Nairn)|
|Eastwood, John Francis||Merriman, Sir F. Boyd||Summersby, Charles H.|
|Edge, Sir William||Mills, Sir Frederick (Leyton, E.)||Sutcliffe, Harold|
|Ellis, Sir R. Geoffrey||Milne, Charles||Tate, Mavis Constance|
|Emrys-Evans, P. V.||Mitchell, Harold P. (Br'tf'd & Chisw'k)||Thomas, James P. L. (Hereford)|
|Entwistle, Cyril Fullard||Molson, A. Hugh Elsdale||Thompson, Luke|
|Essenhigh, Reginald Clare||Monsell, Rt. Hon. Sir B. Eyres||Thomson, Sir Frederick Charles|
|Fox, Sir Gilford||Moreing, Adrian C.||Thorp, Linton Theodore|
|Fraser, Captain Ian||Morgan, Robert H.||Todd, Capt. A. J. K. (B'wickon-T.)|
|Fremantle, Sir Francis||Morris, John Patrick (Salford, N.)||Train, John|
|Fuller, Captain A. G.||Morrison, William Shepherd||Tryon, Rt. Hon. George Clement|
|Ganzoni, Sir John||Moss, Captain H. J.||Wallace, Captain D. E. (Hornsey)|
|Gault, Lieut.-Col. A. Hamilton||Muirhead, Major A. J.||Wallace, John (Dunfermline)|
|Gillett, Sir George Masterman||Munro, Patrick||Ward, Lt.-Col. Sir A. L. (Hull)|
|Gilmour, Lt.-Col. Rt. Hon. Sir John||Nail-Cain, Hon. Ronald||Ward, Irene Mary Bewick (Wallsend)|
|Glossop, C. W. H.||Nation, Brigadier-General J. J. H.||Wardlaw-Milne, Sir John S.|
|Gluckstein, Louis Halle||Newton, Sir Douglas George C.||Warrender, Sir Victor A. G.|
|Goff, Sir Park||Nicholson, Godfrey (Morpeth)||Watt, Captain George Steven H.|
|Goldie, Noel B.||Normand, Wilfrid Guild||Wedderburn, Henry James Scrymgeour.|
|Goodman, Colonel Albert W.||North, Captain Edward T.||Wells, Sydney Richard|
|Gower, Sir Robert||O'Connor, Terence James||Weymouth, Viscount|
|Graham, Sir F. Fergus (C'mb'rl'd, N.)||Ormiston, Thomas||Whyte, Jardine Belt|
|Grattan-Doyle, Sir Nicholas||Ormsby-Gore, Rt. Hon. William G. A.||Williams, Charles (Devon, Torquay)|
|Greene, William P. C.||Owen, Major Goronwy||Williams, Herbert G. (Croydon, S.)|
|Gretton, Colonel Rt. Hon. John||Palmer, Francis Noel||Wills, Wilfrid D.|
|Gritten, W. G. Howard||Patrick, Colin M.||Wilton, Clyde T. (West Toxteth)|
|Guinness, Thomas L. E. B.||Pearson, William G.||Windsor-Clive, Lieut.-Colonel George|
|Gunston, Captain D. W.||Peat, Charles U.||Wolmer, Rt. Hon. Viscount|
|Gay, J. C. Morrison||Percy, Lord Eustace||Worthington, Dr. John V.|
|Hacking, Rt. Hon. Douglas H.||Perkins, Walter H. D.||Young, Rt. Hon. Sir Hilton (S'v'noaks)|
|Hales, Harold K.||Petherick, M.|
|Hanbury, Cecil||Peto, Sir Basil E. (Devon, B'nstaple)||TELLERS FOR THE AYES.—|
|Hanley, Dennis A.||Pike, Cecil F.||Sir George Penny and Mr. Womersley.|
|Adams, D. M. (Poplar, South)||Bernays, Robert||Cowan, D. M.|
|Attlee, Clement Richard||Briant, Frank||Cripps, Sir Stafford|
|Banfield, John William||Cape, Thomas||Curry, A. C.|
|Daggar, George||Holdsworth, Herbert||Milner, Major James|
|Davies, David L. (Pontypridd)||Jenkins, Sir William||Nathan, Major H. L.|
|Davies, Rhys John (Westhoughton)||John, William||Parkinson, John Allen|
|Dobbie, William||Johnstone, Harcourt (S. Shields)||Price, Gabriel|
|Edwards, Charles||Jones, J. J. (Watt Ham, Silvertown)||Rathbone, Eleanor|
|Evans, R. T. (Carmarthen)||Jones, Morgan (Caerphilly)||Rea, Walter Russell|
|Foot, Dingle (Dundee)||Kirkwood, David||Roberts, Aled (Wrexham)|
|Graham, D. M. (Lanark, Hamilton)||Lansbury, Rt. Hon. George||Sinclair, Maj. Rt. Hn. Sir A. (C'thness)|
|Greenwood, Rt. Hon. Arthur||Lawson, John James||Thorne, William James|
|Grenfell, David Rees (Glamorgan)||Llewellyn-Jones, Frederick||Tinker, John Joseph|
|Groves, Thomas E.||Logan, David Gilbert||Wallhead, Richard C.|
|Grundy, Thomas W.||Lunn, William||Williams, David (Swansea, East)|
|Hall, F. (York, W.R., Normanton)||McEntee, Valentine L.||Williams, Edward John (Ogmore)|
|Hall, George H. (Merthyr Tydvil)||Maclean, Neil (Glasgow, Govan)||Williams, Dr. John H. (Llanelly)|
|Hamilton, Sir R. W. (Orkney & Zetl'nd)||Mainwaring, William Henry||Williams, Thomas (York., Don Valley)|
|Harris, Sir Percy||Mander, Geoffrey le M.|
|Hirst, George Henry||Maxton, James||TELLERS FOR THE NOES.—|
|Mr. Buchanan and Mr. McGovern.|
§ 7.7 p.m.
§ The LORD ADVOCATE
I beg to move, in page 9, line 8, at the end, to insert the words:and for references to the twenty-eighth and twenty-ninth days of September there shall be substituted, respectively, references to the twenty-seventh and twenty-eighth days of November.This Amendment has been put on the Paper to give effect to the undertaking given by my hon. and learned Friend the Solicitor-General for Scotland at an earlier stage in the Committee—that we should substitute a date of decontrol for Scotland which would allow longer time than in England. In the provisions of the Bill the date of decontrol in England is 29th September, 1933, and what we propose to do by this Amendment is to make the date of decontrol in Scotland the Martinmas removal term, 1933. In Scotland we get the advantage of an extra two months.
§ 7.8 p.m.
§ Mr. BUCHANAN
It may be a source of pleasure that we are not going to divide against this proposed Amendment, but before it is discussed I should like to put one or two questions to the Lord Advocate which, I hope, with their usual courtesy either he, or the Solicitor-General for Scotland, will endeavour to answer. In all tenancies in Scotland, over a certain figure, we still have the missive system in operation. Hon. Members familiar with Scottish law will know that, up to a certain date, we had for all houses the missive system, which binds a tenant to his house for a period, roughly speaking, of 16 months at a time. By the passing of certain legislation all houses below £19 19s., or £20, per annum were exempt from the missive system. Above that figure the missive system still operated. Then came the legislation 2440 which allowed increases of rent, and the missive system now applies to all houses above £27 per annum, and not to houses below that sum. If a house is above £27 per annum, the tenant or occupier must take the house at some date previous to the beginning of April. If he intends to re-take that house he must signify by 1st April to the owner of the house that he intends re-taking it for a further period. That binds him until 28th May of the following year.
As I read this Bill it applies to all houses which are £35 in England and £45 in Scotland, and, therefore, with regard to these houses of £45 in Scotland the control still continues to exist. The occupiers of such houses have entered into a legal contract to continue their occupancy of their houses at the old rate until 28th May. I want to ask the Lord Advocate whether this Bill will in any way alter a missive which has been signed between the occupier and owner of the property? If it does not, it means, in effect, that the people who have a missive system will carry on under this Act until May, 1939. I take it that the law cannot interfere in a contract which has been made. All these people under a missive system will sign a contract until May, 1939; therefore all the people above £27 under this Bill really come under my proposed Amendment, which has just been defeated, and the only people who do not come under that Amendment are the poorest people who are in the houses that are not so highly rented.
I should like the Lord Advocate to give me his opinion on two points. The first is whether this does or does not interfere with a contract; whether a person who has signed a missive remains under control until May, 1939; and 2441 whether the people who do not pay their rates with their rent remain under control until May, 1939? He might also inform me whether this November date only affects those below that level. They are the poorer people and, therefore, we should have uniformity. The date in my proposed Amendment ought to have been accepted. It is not infrequent in tenancies on contract for people to sub-let their houses. Under this arrangement the landlord still holds the original signer of the missive to his bargain, but agrees to the sub-letting of the house to another tenant who, in turn, takes over the obligations of the person who has signed. I want to ask the Lord Advocate whether this Bill conflicts with the sub-letting of houses. When a person sub-lets his house, will that be taken as the breaking of a contract and allow the rent to be increased at once? Such subletting is not uncommon in Scotland, and I hope the Lord Advocate will clear up this point.
§ 7.15 p.m.
§ The LORD ADVOCATE
The hon. Member has quite properly raised the question of the effect of this Bill upon the missive system in Scotland. He stated accurately that in the case of houses above a certain rent, which may be taken as £26 or £27, the custom is to take the house upon a yearly let, which is constituted by a document called the missive, and be is naturally anxious to ascertain what effect the decontrol contemplated by the Bill will have upon these contracts. In so far as there is a subsisting contract, that cannot be affected in any way by the Bill. I do not want in any way to mislead the hon. Member or the Committee by the phrase "subsisting contract," and I think the best way to make it plain is to take a concrete illustration. Supposing that a few years ago a tenant took a house on a yearly missive at a rent of £50, the tenancy running from Whit Sunday of one year to Whit Sunday of the next year, and that since the date when he entered upon his tenancy he had remained on from year to year, receiving no notice to quit and receiving no notice of an increase of rent, which in law is equivalent to a notice to quit. There is no doubt at all that he would be staying on there under the original contract, or under an implied renewal of the original contract or to use the technical term of 2442 our law under the original contract plus tacit relocation. In that case I can quite definitely give the hon. Member an assurance that the tenant's contractual rights are unaffected. There is no question at all about that. We have considered it in consultation since the hon. Member first raised it in the House.
Let me take a second case where we start with a missive and where the missive has been renewed from year to year, a fresh missive being signed. That, again, is a perfectly clear case, because there the tenant is on the basis of a contract and the contractual right is unaffected. Then comes the case in which the answer is not so favourable from the point of view of the hon. Member. That is the case where the tenant starts with a contract constituted by a missive and then, during the currency of the contract, towards the end of the first year, a notice to quit has been given or notice of an increase of rent, which in law is equivalent to a notice to quit. In that case there is no doubt that the legal contract is terminated, and where a tenant has remained on in such a case he remains on not in virtue of the contractual right but in virtue of the statutory right which he had under the Act. His tenancy in that case is not a contractual tenancy but has become purely and simply a statutory tenancy. I do not know to what percentage of cases that description may apply, but I should mislead the hon. Member if I were to say that such a tenant can remain on, because he cannot remain on. If the landlord chooses to put into operation the machinery of notice which has already been set up by this Bill decontrol would operate as from 28th November, 1933, subject to this: that the landlord would be bound, notwithstanding the date of decontrol, to give the statutory notice which the Committee have already provided for in an earlier Clause.
Therefore, my answer to the hon. Member is that we have to consider in each case whether there is a subsisting contract or not. If there is a contract which has not been varied, but has gone on from year to year, or has been renewed from year to year, the contractual right is unaffected. On the other hand, if it is a contract where there has been a notice to quit or some equivalent there is no longer a subsisting contract, but merely a statutory right. The remaining ques- 2443 tion put to me by the hon. Member related to sub-letting. I am bound to say that it is extraordinarily difficult to answer that kind of question in the abstract, because so much depends upon the circumstances of the sub-letting. If, for example, it was a sub-letting with the full concurrence of the landlord, who knew all the circumstances, I think he would be barred from challenging the sublet in any way, and the sub-let in that case would be binding as against him. On the other hand, if there was a sub-let to which the landlord was neither directly nor indirectly a party, then, I think, the position would be that the sub-tenant's right would be no higher than the right of the tenant. He derives his right from the tenant, and in that case the measure of his rights is dependent upon the measure of the tenant's rights.
§ Amendment agreed to.
§ 7.22 p.m.
§ The LORD ADVOCATE
I beg to move, in page 9, line 27, to leave out the words "section seven of."
This Amendment has to be read in conjunction with the Amendment which stands next on the Paper to leave out the said section and insert "section seven of this Act." The Committee will see that these Amendments are proposed in sub-clause (e), which relates to expenses incurred by a county or a town council. The effect of the Amendment is to make it plain beyond doubt that any expenses incurred under Clause 2, sub-section (3), which relates to the register of applications, or under Clause 7, sub-section (2), which relates to the provision for giving information, can be recovered by the authority by rate.
§ Amendment agreed to.
§ Further Amendment made: In page 9, line 28, leave out the words "the said section," and insert instead thereof the words "section seven of this Act."— [The Lord Advocate.]
§ 7.24 p.m.
§ Mr. BUCHANAN
I beg to move, in page 9, line 30, to leave out the words "and occupiers in equal proportions."
Under the Clause as it now reads this rate can be charged to the owners and occupiersin equal proportions as the council may determine.2444 We seek to place the cost of this on the owners entirely, the occupiers ceasing to be liable. The reason why this Clause differs from the English Clause is that our rating system in Scotland is on an entirely different basis. We have a system under which owners and occupiers pay the rates, and in this case we think the cost ought to be placed entirely on the owner, because in the great bulk of cases he is best able to afford it. We think also that in a great many cases the owners of property are the cause of this Clause having to be operated, and therefore we see no injustice in placing the cost on owners. There is also another point I wish to raise. The Clause says:such rate payable by owners and occupiers in equal proportions as the council may determine.I take that to mean that if this new service costs, say, a rate of 1d. in the £ a halfpenny rate will be levied on the owners and a halfpenny rate on the occupiers; or does it mean, when it speaks ofequal proportions as the council may determine,that the council may divide the cost in proportion to the service rendered to the two sections of the community? We think the Clause should be free from any ambiguity and that the whole service should be paid by the owners entirely, as the necessity for the Clause has arisen through the owners.
§ The SOLICITOR-GENERAL for SCOTLAND (Mr. Normand)
As regards the apportionment of the expenditure incurred under the Act between the owner and the occupier, the course taken by the Government in the Bill is the ordinary course of procedure applied in almost all recent cases in Scotland. It is different in England, because I understand that in England the rates are solely borne by the occupier. In Scotland new rates are put equally on the owner and the occupier, and that is perfectly fair in the present case, because some of the provisions of the Bill are for the benefit of the owner, some for the benefit of the tenant and many for the benefit of both. Therefore, it is only just that the expenditure should be borne in equal proportions. The other point which was put by the hon. Member was as to the meaning of the phrase:in equal proportions as the council may determine.2445 He suggests that it is ambiguous and that it should be reconsidered. It will be reconsidered. The meaning of the words,shall be defrayed out of such rate as the Council may determine,is that the council shall determine what the rate must be. It will vary directly, of course, according to the amount of the expenditure. If the phraseology is not sufficiently clear as it stands, we may perhaps give it further consideration.
§ 7.31 p.m.
§ Mr. MAXTON
I am afraid that we cannot accept the statement of the learned Solicitor-General for Scotland as satisfying us. The need for our Amendment still remains. I am glad that he is going to consider the phraseology of that minor point, and that may be the sub-
§ ject for adjustment later. While it is true that the expense of giving information to tenants will be defrayed by occupiers and owners, the whole purpose of the Bill is to give benefits to owners. Since they will probably get all the advantages of the Bill, we certainly think that they should be liable to pay the whole of whatever rate may be involved in the expense of letting tenants know their position under the Bill. I am afraid that we must insist upon carrying our Amendment to a Division.
§ Question put, "That, the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Clause."
§ The Committee divided: Ayes, 247; Noes, 43.2447
|Division No. 143.]||AYES.||[7.32 p.m.|
|Acland-Troyte, Lieut.-Colonel||Despencer-Robertson, Major J. A. F.||Holdsworth, Herbert|
|Agnew, Lieut.-Com. P. G.||Doran, Edward||Hope, Capt. Hon. A. O. J. (Aston)|
|Aitchison, Rt. Hon. Craigie M.||Drewe, Cedric||Hudson, Capt. A. U. M. (Hackney, N.)|
|Amery, Rt. Hon. Leopoid C. M. S.||Duckworth, George A. V.||Hume, Sir George Hopwood|
|Anstruther-Gray, W. J.||Duggan, Hubert John||Jackson, Sir Henry (Wandsworth, C.)|
|Applin, Lieut.-Col. Reginald V. K.||Dunglass, Lord||Jesson, Major Thomas E.|
|Apsley, Lord||Eales, John Frederick||Joel, Dudley J. Barnato|
|Aske, Sir Robert William||Eastwood, John Francis||Johnstone, Harcourt (S. Shields)|
|Astbury, Lieut.-Com. Frederick Wolfe||Edge, Sir William||Jones, Henry Haydn (Merioneth)|
|Atkinson, Cyril||Ellis, Sir R. Geoffrey||Kerr, Lieut.-Col. Charles (Montrose)|
|Baillie, Sir Adrian W. M.||Emrys-Evans, P. V.||Kerr, Hamilton W.|
|Baldwin, Rt. Hon. Stanley||Erskine, Lord (Weston-super-Mare)||Knebworth, Viscount|
|Balfour, Capt. Harold (I. of Thanet)||Essenhigh, Reginald Clare||Latham, Sir Herbert Paul|
|Balniel, Lord||Evans, David Owen (Cardigan)||Law, Richard K. (Hull, S.W.)|
|Barclay-Harvey, C. M.||Evans, Capt. Ernest (Welsh Univ.)||Leckie, J. A.|
|Beauchamp, Sir Brograve Campbell||Evans, R. T. (Carmarthen)||Leech, Dr. J. W.|
|Beaumont, M. W. (Bucks., Aylesbury)||Foot, Dingle (Dundee)||Lees-Jones, John|
|Benn, Sir Arthur Shirley||Fox, Sir Gifford||Lewis, Oswald|
|Betterton, Rt. Hon. Sir Henry B.||Fremantle, Sir Francis||Liddall, Walter S.|
|Bevan, Stuart James (Holborn)||Fuller, Captain A. G.||Lindsay, Noel Ker|
|Birchall, Major Sir John Dearman||Ganzoni, Sir John||Little, Graham-, Sir Ernest|
|Blindell, James||Gault, Lieut.-Col. A. Hamilton||Llewellin, Major John J.|
|Borodale, Viscount||Gillett, Sir George Masterman||Llewellyn-Jones, Frederick|
|Bowyer, Capt. Sir George E. W.||Gilmour, Lt.-Col. Rt. Hon. Sir John||Lloyd, Geoffrey|
|Boyce, H. Leslie||Glossop, C. W. H.||Lovat-Fraser, James Alexander|
|Bracken, Brendan||Gluckstein, Louis Halle||MacDonald, Rt. Hon. J. R. (Seaham)|
|Braithwaite, J. G. (Hillsborough)||Goff, Sir Park||MacDonald, Malcolm (Bassetlaw)|
|Brass, Captain Sir William||Goldie, Noel B.||McKie, John Hamilton|
|Broadbent, Colonel John||Goodman, Colonel Albert W.||McLean, Major Sir Alan|
|Brown, Ernest (Leith)||Gower, Sir Robert||McLean, Dr. W. H. (Tradeston)|
|Brown, Brig.-Gen. H. C. (Berks., Newb'y)||Graham, Sir F. Fergus (C'mb'rl'd, N.)||Magnay, Thomas|
|Browne, Captain A. C.||Grattan-Doyle, Sir Nicholas||Maitland, Adam|
|Burghley, Lord||Greene, William P. C.||Mander, Geoffrey le M.|
|Burgin, Dr. Edward Leslie||Grenfell, E. C. (City of London)||Manningham-Buller, Lt.-Col. Sir M.|
|Burnett, John George||Gretton, Colonel Rt. Hon. Joan||Margesson, Capt. Rt. Hon. H. D. R.|
|Campbell, Vice-Admiral G. (Burnley)||Griffith, F. Kingsley (Middlesbro', W.)||Martin, Thomas B.|
|Caporn, Arthur Cecil||Grimston, R. V.||Mayhew, Lieut.-Colonel John|
|Carver, Major William H.||Gritten, W. G. Howard||Merriman, Sir F. Boyd|
|Castlereagh, Viscount||Guinness, Thomas L. E. B.||Mills, Major J. D. (New Forest)|
|Cayzer, Sir Charles (Chester, City)||Gunston, Captain D. W.||Milne, Charles|
|Cayzer, Maj. Sir H. R. (Prtsmth., S.)||Guy, J. C. Morrison||Mitchell, Harold P. (Br'tf'd A Chisw'k)|
|Clarke, Frank||Hacking, Rt. Hon. Douglas H.||Molson, A. Hugh Elsdale|
|Clayton, Dr. George C.||Hales, Harold K.||Monsell, Rt. Hon. Sir B. Eyres|
|Cochrane, Commander Hon. A. D.||Hamilton, Sir R. W. (Orkney & Zetl'nd)||Moreing, Adrian C.|
|Conant, R. J. E.||Hanbury, Cecil||Morgan, Robert H.|
|Cooper, A. Duff||Hanley, Dennis A.||Morrison, William Shepherd|
|Craddock, Sir Reginald Henry||Hannon, Patrick Joseph Henry||Moss, Captain H. J.|
|Cranborne, Viscount||Harbord, Arthur||Muirhead, Major A. J,|
|Crooke, J. Smedley||Hartland, George A.||Munro, Patrick|
|Crookshank, Capt. H. C. (Gainsb'ro)||Haslam, Henry (Horncastle)||Nall-Cain, Hon. Ronald|
|Croom-Johnson, R. P,||Headlam, Lieut.-Col. Cuthbert M.||Nation, Brigadier-General J. J. H|
|Cruddas, Lieut.-Colonel Bernard||Henderson, Sir Vivian L. (Chelmsf'd)||Newton, Sir Douglas George C|
|Culverwell, Cyril Tom||Hills, Major Rt. Hon. John Waller||Nicholson, Godfrey (Morpeth)|
|Davies, Maj. Geo. F. (Somerset, Yeovil)||Hoare, Lt.-Col. Rt. Hon. Sir S. J. G.||Normand, Wilfrid Guild|
|North, Captain Edward T.||Ruggies-Brise, Colonel E. A.||Strickland, Captain W. F.|
|O'Connor, Terence James||Runge, Noran Cecil||Summersby, Charles H.|
|Ormiston, Thomas||Russell, Albert (Kirkcaldy)||Sutcliffe, Harold|
|Ormsby-Gore, Rt. Hon. William G. A.||Russell, Richard John (Eddisbury)||Tate, Mavis Constance|
|Palmer, Francis Noel||Rutherford, Sir John Hugo (Liverp'l)||Thompson, Luke|
|Pearson, William G.||Salmon, Sir Isidore||Thomson, Sir Frederick Charles|
|Peat, Charles U.||Salt, Edward W.||Thorp, Linton Theodore|
|Percy, Lord Eustace||Samuel, Samuel (W'dsworth, Putney)||Todd, Capt. A. J. K. (B'wick-on-T.)|
|Perkins, Walter R. D.||Sanderson, Sir Frank Barnard||Train, John|
|Petherick, M.||Sassoon, Rt. Hon. Sir Philip A. G. D.||Tryon, Rt. Hon. George Clement|
|Peto, Sir Basil E, (Devon, Barnstaple.)||Scone, Lord||Wallace, Captain D. E. (Hornsey)|
|Peto, Geoffrey K. (W'verh'pt'n, Bilston)||Selley, Harry R.||Wallace, John (Dunfermline)|
|Potter, John||Shakespeare, Geoffrey H.||Ward, Lt.-Col. Sir A. L. (Hull)|
|Powell, Lieut.-Col. Evelyn G, H.||Shaw, Helen B. (Lanark, Bothwell)||Ward, Irene Mary Bewick (Wallsend)|
|Pybus, Percy John||Shute, Colonel J. J.||Wardlaw-Milne, Sir John S.|
|Ramsay, T. B. W. (Western Isles)||Sinclair, Maj. Rt. Hn. Sir A. (C'thness)||Warrender, Sir victor A. G.|
|Ramsden, Sir Eugene||Skelton, Archibald Noel||Wells, Sydney Richard|
|Rathbone, Eleanor||Smith, Louis W. (Sheffield, Hallam)||Weymouth, Viscount|
|Rawson, Sir Cooper||Smith-Carington, Neville W.||Whiteside, Borras Noel H.|
|Ray, Sir William||Somerville, Annesley A. (Windsor)||Whyte, Jardine Bell|
|Rea, Walter Russell||Somerville, D. G. (Willesden, East)||Williams, Herbert G. (Croydon, S.)|
|Reed, Arthur C. (Exeter)||Southby, Commander Archibald R. J.||Wills, Wilfrid D.|
|Reid, William Allan (Derby)||Spears, Brigadier-General Edward L.||Windsor-Clive, Lieut.-Colonel George|
|Remer, John R.||Spencer, Captain Richard A.||Worthington, Dr. John V.|
|Rhys, Hon. Charles Arthur U.||Stanley, Lord (Lancaster, Fylde)||Young, Rt. Hon. Sir Hilton (S'v'noaks)|
|Roberts, Aled (Wrexham)||Stanley, Hon. O. F. G. (Westmorland)|
|Roberts, Sir Samuel (Ecclesall)||Stevenson, James||TELLERS FOR THE AYES.—|
|Robinson, John Roland||Stewart, J. H. (Fife, E.)||Sir George Penny and Mr. Womersley.|
|Rosbotham, Sir Samuel||Stourton, Hon. John J.|
|Ross Taylor, Walter (Woodbridge)||Strauss, Edward A.|
|Adams, D. M. (Poplar, South)||Grundy, Thomas W.||McGovern, John|
|Attlee, Clement Richard||Hall, F. (York, W.R., Normanton)||Maclean, Nell (Glasgow, Govan)|
|Banfield, John William||Hall, George H. (Merthyr Tydvil)||Mainwaring, William Henry|
|Briant, Frank||Hirst, George Henry||Maxton, James|
|Cape, Thomas||Jenkins, Sir William||Milner, Major James|
|Cripps, Sir Stafford||John, William||Parkinson, John Allen|
|Daggar, George||Jones, J. J. (West Ham, Silvertown)||Price, Gabriel|
|Davies, David L. (Pontypridd)||Jones, Morgan (Caerphilly)||Thorne, William James|
|Davies, Rhys John (Westhoughton)||Kirkwood, David||Tinker, John Joseph|
|Dobbie, William||Lansbury, Rt. Hon. George||Williams, David (Swansea, East)|
|Edwards, Charles||Lawson, John James||Williams, Edward John (Ogmore)|
|Graham, D. M. (Lanark, Hamilton)||Leonard, William||Williams, Dr. John H. (Llanelly)|
|Greenwood, Rt. Hon. Arthur||Logan, David Gilbert||Williams, Thomas (York, Don Valley)|
|Grenfell, David Rees (Glamorgan)||Lunn, William|
|Groves, Thomas E.||McEntee, Valentine L.||TELLERS FOR THE NOES.—|
|Mr. Wallhead and Mr. Buchanan.|
Motion made, and Question, "That the Clause, as amended, stand part of the Rill," put, and agreed to.
§ 7.42 p.m.
§ Commander COCHRANE
I beg to move, in page 9, line 38, at the end, to add the words:(g) in making Regulations under Section eight of this Act, the Secretary of State shall direct that every landlord of a dwelling-house to which the principal Act applies shall at least once in each year give to the tenant of such dwelling-house a notice, in such form and manner as the Secretary of State may provide, showing the total amount of owner's rates, the total amount of occupier's rates, and the total amount of owner's and occupier's rates combined, payable in respect of the said dwelling-house for the current year.The reason for this proposal lies in the complexity of our Scottish rating system. I will briefly explain my point by taking an actual example. Let us consider the case of a house with a rateable value of £26 5s., in a district where the rate payable by the owner is 5s. in the pound and by the occupier 7s. in the pound. The owner would pay £6 5s. in rates, and would receive an actual net 2448 rent of £20. The occupier would pay £9 2s. in rates, the result being that the rent would be £20, and the local authority would receive £15 7s. in rates on the house. Those figures are not to be arrived at by a simple calculation. Information should be within the knowledge of all tenants as to the proportion which goes to the landlord and the proportion which goes to the local authority, out of the amount which they pay. This Amendment proposes that that information should be made available as the result of statutory regulations. I confess that I am not very much in favour of that method of procedure. I hope that the Minister will agree that the balance of advantage lies on the side of making this information definitely available to tenants.
§ 7.44 p.m.
§ The LORD ADVOCATE
Perhaps I should say at once that while we understand the intention which the hon. and 2449 gallant Gentleman has in view in moving this Amendment, we are unable to accept it. The intention is that the tenant shall be informed as to the amount of rates which the landlord has to pay. If a landlord desires to give that information he can do so, and there is nothing in the existing law to prevent him. It seems to us that it is carrying matters too far to make it a statutory requirement that every landlord is to be directed at least once a year, taking the words of the Amendment, to give a notice. There are plenty of notices already in connection with this kind of legislation, and the Government think it would be unreasonable that a further burden in the matter of notice should be placed upon the landlord. I regret, therefore, that we are unable to accept the Amendment, and I hope that my hon. and gallant Friend will not press it to a Division.
§ Amendment negatived.
§ 7.46 p.m.
§ Mr. STEVENSON
I beg to move, in page 9, line 38, at the end, to add the words:(g)—(1) The principal Acts shall have effect in relation to a mortgage secured over property comprising one or more dwelling-houses to which the principal Acts shall have ceased to apply by virtue of the provisions of this Act till the arrival of the first term of Whitsunday or Martinmas succeeding the said period of six months next after the passing of this Act;(2) During the period of five years succeeding the above-mentioned term, the sheriff court may, on the application of the landlord, make an order restraining the mortgagee from calling in his mortgage or taking steps for enforcing his security or for recovering the principal money thereby secured, if it is satisfied that such calling in, enforcement, or recovery would cause greater hardship to the landlord than the mortgagee. The sheriff court may, on the application of the mortgagee or landlord, rescind or vary any order so made if satisfied that by reason of any material change in circumstances the rescission or variation is necessary or proper;(3) The restrictions imposed on a mortgagee by an order under this Section may be imposed subject to such conditions as regards instalments of principal, increase of interest, or otherwise and for such time as appears to the court to be proper, but so nevertheless that the restrictions shall cease to be operative if at any time after the making of the order—
- (a) interest is more than twenty-one days in arrear; or
- (b) any covenant by the mortgagor (other than the covenant for the repayment of the principal money secured) is broken or not performed; or
- (c) the mortgagor fails to keep the property in a proper state of repair or to pay the interest and instalments of principal recoverable under any prior encumbrance; or
- (d) any conditions imposed by the court upon the mortgagor are not carried out.(4) This Section shall not apply to a mortgage where the principal money secured thereby is repayable by means of periodical instalments extending over a term of not less than ten years from the creation of the mortgage.The purpose of my hon. Friends and myself, in putting down this Amendment, is twofold. In the first place, we anticipate that, in the event of a large number of mortgages being called in at one time, there will be a considerable dislocation of the property market, because we theorise that a great number of the landlords are quite unable to meet those mortgages at the present time. Our second purpose is to obviate a hardship which in all probability will fall upon certain of the owners of the properties on which these mortgages exist. Where a landlord has considerable means, or any means at all over and above his property, no difficulty should arise, for such a person can quite easily meet his mortgage without any trouble; but I would ask the Committee to remember that in Scotland a large number of people of very small means invest what means they have in heritable property. It is quite common for, say, a tradesman in a comparatively small way, and for others of comparatively small means, to purchase property, on which they can always get a bond or mortgage to the extent of at least two-thirds of its value, and then gradually to pay off the debt. It is quite common for that means to be adopted in Scotland by a person who is building up a small provision for himself in his old age, or for his widow in the event of his death.
Many tenements in Scotland, and particularly tenements which comprise or contain dwellings of the smaller class, are owned at present by people who have no other means, or who have very little means other than the property. When one considers the position of the property market, and the difficulties of all property owners ever since the Rent Restrictions Acts have been in force, one realises, first, the great difficulty which the owner has had in reducing his mortgage, and, secondly, the fact that there has been undoubtedly considerable depreciation 2451 in all Scottish property in the period during which the Acts have been in force; and we feel that, if the mortgagees or bondholders were to take any steps, and particularly if a great number took steps all at one time, the borrower, that is to say the landlord, would not be in a position to repay his loan. In many instances the value of the property has been reduced below the loan, and in others, although it has not been reduced, perhaps, below the loan, it has been reduced to such an extent that the loan cannot be replaced. We are afraid, therefore, that in that case no other steps will be available to the lender to recover his money than to enter into possession and sell the property. If that happens in a great number of instances, the property market will be flooded, the value of the property will be further depreciated, and great loss will fall upon both the bondholder or mortgagee and the owner of the property.
Let us consider the position of the lender. There is no doubt that certain lenders also are suffering hardship by not being able to recover their money. I am sure that many a person who has money out on security in Scotland desires that money for the purpose of keeping his business going, if not of extending it, and there is a great number of other cases in which the lenders will be forced to enter into possession and recover what they can. Bonds have always been considered in Scotland to be a good security, and a great amount of trust money has from time to time been invested in these properties. Many of these trusts, owing to the terms of the Rent Restrictions Acts, have been unable to ingather their bonds, and they are waiting until the Acts expire before they can distribute their estates. When the provisions affecting the property over which the bond exists expire, they will be more or less bound in law to recover as much as they possibly can from the property owner, and, if need be, enter into possession and sell him up. In these circumstances, we can see that, when the Acts terminate, there will be a certain hardship both on the borrower and on the lender.
In the first paragraph of our Amendment we suggest that bonds shall not be repayable until the first term of 2452 Whitsunday or Martinmas succeeding the period of six months after the passing of the Act. We take the periods of Whitsunday and Martinmas because, in fact, these are the terms when very nearly all heritable transactions are settled in Scotland; but we say that if, during that period, a lender has called up his bond, then the landlord shall be entitled to ask the sheriff to continue the restriction which now exists for a period not exceeding five years. We further provide that the sheriff, in considering whether he will do so or not, is to take the whole of the circumstances, both of the borrower and of the lender, into consideration, and to do what he thinks is best in the circumstances. He may continue the restriction against calling up the bond subject to such conditions as he may think fit, as, for instance, the payment of an annual instalment for a certain number of years; and, of course, it would be a condition of any such Order being pronounced by the sheriff that the borrower shall implement all the various terms of the original contract of mortgage.
We feel that, in the present circumstances of difficulty, where there might be hardships, it is right that these powers should be entrusted to the sheriff, and, if that were done, we are satisfied that it would in all probability prevent flooding of the property market, with depreciation of the value of the property and consequent loss, not only to the landlord, but also to the lender. We put forward this proposal with considerable confidence, and we would ask the Government to remember that we are doing here, in almost identical words, very nearly the same as was done in the provisions of Section 14 of the Act of 1923. When that Act was passed, and it was contemplated that it would expire, special provision was made in very nearly the same terms as those of our Amendment. That was done for the reason that the Government of the day theorised that hardship would be entailed upon the property owner and the lender when these various Acts expired, and I should be interested to know why the Government have changed their view on that matter. There is one other point to which I should like to refer. During the course of many discussions and Amendments, where arguments have been put forward for modification or 2453 alteration of the terms of the Bill, one has constantly heard the Minister and the Solicitor-General say that we must allow some elasticity, that we must allow the sheriff to decide what is right in these or those circumstances. We are just applying that principle, which has been so often the resource of the Government in refusing Amendments, and, for the reasons which I have given, I would ask the Committee to accept this one.
§ 7.55 p.m.
§ The LORD ADVOCATE
We have carefully considered this Amendment as it appears on the Paper, and we have also considered what my hon. and learned Friend has so clearly stated in regard to it. In the result, we are unable to accept it. Let me inform the Committee why. In the first place, if we were to accept it, the effect would be that you would have in Scotland control of all mortgages, or, to use our own term, bonds, continuing, not merely for six months after the 29th November, 1933—which, as my hon. and learned Friend will remember, is the period of six months provided by Clause 6 of the Bill—but you would have control continuing for an additional period of six months, or, at any rate, there might be an additional period of six months. That is the first objection. The second, which I think is really conclusive, is that, if the Amendment were accepted, it would mean that, for a, period of no less than five years after the cessation of control of mortgages, matters would be left entirely in the hands of the court. If the Committee will look at sub-paragraph (2) of the proposed Amendment, they will see the power which it is proposed to confer on the court. Sub-paragraph (2) says:During the period of five years succeeding the above-mentioned term, the sheriff court may, on the application of the landlord, make an order restraining the mortgagee from calling in his mortgage or taking steps for enforcing his security or for recovering the principal money thereby secured, if it is satisfied that such calling in, enforcement, or recovery would cause greater hardship to the landlord than to the mortgagee.How is the court to determine that? It seems to me that, if the Amendment were accepted, it would simply be opening the door to endless litigation. The bondholder would come forward and say, "I am calling in my bond." The property owner would reply, "That is going to be a hardship to me." Then the bondholder would say, "The hardship to you 2454 is not so great as the hardship to me if I do not get my bond called up." There would be no end to it, and the sheriff court Judge would need to sit and hear the contentions of the parties and come to a decision, against which, whichever way it went, there would in all probability be an appeal.
I do not in the least deny that, as my hon. and learned Friend says, there may be cases of hardship, but I am afraid that that is inevitable wherever you have decontrol. When there is decontrol of rents there is hardship, and when there is decontrol of mortgages there is hardship. But I venture to put it to the Committee that, on balance, the hardship is less when a definite date is fixed, so that people may know exactly where they stand. The mortgagee or bondholder will know exactly where he stands, and the property-owner, that is to say, the debtor on the bond, will know exactly where he stands. If this Amendment were accepted, no one would know where he stood. Accordingly, while we appreciate what is in the mind of my hon. and learned Friend in moving his Amendment, we are satisfied, after very careful consideration, that it would not be in the interests of the proper working of the Bill that an anomaly of this kind should be introduced in relation to Scotland. It is true that in 1923 there was a provision not dissimilar in its terms, but, as has been pointed out more than once, in 1923 there was in contemplation an all-round decontrol in 1924. The Government's mind is definitely made up, and I hope the Committee will reject the Amendment. Perhaps my hon. and learned Friend, in the circumstances, may not be inclined to press it.
§ 8.1 p.m.
§ Mr. DINGLE FOOT
I am sure the Lord Advocate's reply will be received with disappointment in many parts of the House and also in many parts of Scotland. He said that there may be cases of hardship. It seems to me obvious, particularly after the speech of my hon. and learned Friend, that there will be many cases of hardship if no such Amendment is inserted. In his concluding remarks, the Lord Advocate made a, distinction between the provisions in the Act of 1923 and the provisions in this Bill, and he said the difference was that in 1923 there was contemplated a general decontrol in the following year. Here we 2455 have a partial decontrol, and I cannot see that there is any difference except a difference of degree. You may get hardships under decontrol next year just as you would have had them, in 1924, and I do not think that the considerations that weighed with the Government and the Legislature at that time have altered in any way in the intervening years. I think it is going to mean a great deal of avoidable hardship to property owners if the Bill goes through in this form.
In order to put the thing clearly as I see it, may I give a hypothetical example? Suppose you have property worth about £3,000 before the War, consisting of houses which are now to be decontrolled. Suppose that before the War you had a mortgage of £2,000. That would be the highest mortgage you would be able to get on the property in Scotland. By this time, with the depreciation that takes place in this form of property, the value will be down, I am told, to somewhere in the neighbourhood of £2,400. When the Bill becomes an Act of Parliament, the mortgagee comes along and demands his money, and the owner has to find some way of raising the £2,000. He cannot get another mortgage for £2,000. The highest that he is able to raise now on the present value of his property is £1,600, and he has to find the difference of £400 in cash. Where is he to find it? As my hon. and learned Friend pointed out, it is all very well where the landlord has other means, but, where he relies for his income on the possession of this property, he is going to be put in an extraordinarily difficult position, and you may get some cases of very great hardship to property owners. The Lord Advocate said that under the first part of the Amendment the control of mortgages will continue not merely for six months, but for an additional period of six months. I am sure that was not in the mind of those who framed the Amendment, and I should think that could be adjusted. On the larger issue, I hope the Government will see their way to reconsider the matter, because we are sure this will mean very great hardship in certain cases in all parts of Scotland.
§ Amendment negatived.2456
§ Clauses 10 (Interpretation), 11 (Consequential and minor Amendments to principal Act) and 12 (Short Title, Citation, extent and repeal) ordered to stand part of the Bill.