HC Deb 11 April 1933 vol 276 cc2521-5

Where a dwelling-house is reasonably required by the landlord for occupation as a residence for some person engaged in his whole-time employment or ih the whole-time employment of some tenant from him or with whom, conditional on housing accom- modation being provided, a contract for such employment has been entered into, the principal Acts shall, as from the date of the passing of this Act, cease to apply to that dwelling-house.—[Colonel Ruggles-Brise.]

Brought up, and read the First time.

12.2 a.m.


I beg to move, "That the Clause be read a Second time."


On a point of Order. May I ask for your Ruling on this matter, Captain Bourne. The new Clause moved by the hon. and gallant Gentleman, is an exact copy of paragraph (g) of the First Schedule. I would like to ask whether it is in order to embody, as a suggested new Clause, words which are already part of the Bill.


The objection raised by the hon. Member for Don Valley (Mr. T. Williams) does not apply. If he will look at the title of the Schedule in which the words appear, he will find that it is: Possession or ejectment without proof of alternative accommodation. That is to say, the words in the Schedule apply only where a landlord has had to go to the county court in order to recover possession. The placing of these words as a new Clause has the effect of putting certain premises completely outside the ambit of the Rent Restrictions Acts. Perhaps I have made that point clear now.


I have no objection to the hon. and gallant Gentleman submitting an argument for the Clause, but I should like to have your Ruling as to whether a mere repetition of words is in order.


I do not think that the effect of the new Clause, if it were incorporated in the Bill, would be quite the same as the words in the Schedule, which, incidentally, is not yet reached. The Schedule merely gives the right to obtain possession. The effect of the new Clause, if carried, would take these houses completely outside the operation of the Bill altogether. Therefore, no question of the right to certain conditions would arise. I do not think that the two are identical.


I base my argument in support of this new Clause upon the Second Reading speech of the Minister of Health, and particularly upon one important sentence, in which he said: It is recognised by all of us that we are working towards the goal of being able to get rid of the system altogether. That is the common goal, I should imagine."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 12th December, 1932; col. 48, Vol. 273.] The new Clause goes a little way towards that goal. The effect of the new Clause is that certain cottages will go out of control altogether. Where a landlord or his tenant desires a dwelling house for some employé of his own, that dwelling house would be decontrolled. I submit that it is a reasonable step, and one in the right direction towards the goal desired by the Minister. As the Committee well knows, many absurd positions obtain under the existing law. I will merely mention the ease of a residence with two cottages attached to it. The tenancy somes to an end, and the tenant leaves the residence. His sub-tenants remain in occupation of the two cottages. The landlord himself may desire to occupy the residence, or he may desire to let it to a tenant, but in either case he finds himself deprived of the use of the two cottages, because they are already in the possession of employés of the tenant whose tenancy has expired and who has left the residence.

As regards the Schedule, I would point out to the hon. Member for Don Valley (Mr. T. Williams) that under the Bill as it stands the incoming tenant would be unable to get possession unless the sub-tenants of the cottages had ceased to be in the late tenants employ, and, supposing that that employment had not ceased, the position would be most anomalous. The late tenant of the residence might rent another house across the road, or might build himself a house just across the road, leaving his two employés in the cottages attached to the residence which he has just vacated, and this might well prevent the reoccupation of the residence, either by its owner or by some prospective tenant. That would be absurd, and would be very detrimental to the public interest, because, whenever a new occupation of a residence takes place, there is almost always a good deal of employment given in connection with repairs, painting, reconditioning, and so forth, and a residence might very well remain unoccupied for the simple reason that it was not possible to give vacant possession of the cottages attached to it.

Again, take the case of a farm. When, there is a change of tendency, it is obvious that the new tenant farmer, on coming into the farmhouse, ought to be able to obtain vacant possession of any cottages attached to the farm; he will want them for his cowman, horsekeeper, and so on; but under the existing law he has first to get a certificate from the county agricultural committee, and then he has to go to the county court with the certificate before he can obtain possession. That is obviously a ridiculous position. The proposed new Clause will clear the whole position up, and I submit that it is a step in the direction of the goal mentioned by the Minister in his Second Reading speech.

12.8 a.m.


I regret that it is quite impossible to accept this Clause. As has been pointed out on the point of Order which was raised, these very words are in the Schedule to enable the landlord, in these circumstances, to get possession without proof of alternative accommodation. My hon. and gallant Friend's Clause would mean that, whatever the rights of the sitting tenant might happen to be, the landlord could simply say that he required the cottage, or whatever it was, for any of these purposes, and could automatically decontrol it at once. It is impossible to accept such a proposal.


May I point out that that is not really the case? The Clause says definitely that it must be in the occupation of some employé who will be in the employ of either the owner-occupier or of a tenant from him.

12.9 a.m.


I desire to support this Clause. I do not think that the Solicitor-General has given a substantial reason for rejecting it. It seems to me to be quite wrong to assume that people to whom this power is granted will use it in a wrong way. Why should we assume that people who take the trouble either to buy or to build houses for their employés desire to use those houses in any way but one that is helpful to them in the transaction of their business? I think that, if such houses are owned by people in connection with their business, it is our duty to see if we can help them in carrying on their business. In one instance that I have in mind, the people in question are suffering under a great disability. I can give a case where a concern has 100 houses, 30 of which are outside their control. They would like them to house their employés. It seems to me that the Solicitor-General's reply has not covered the point of those employers who treat their employés, as most employers do in these days, with generosity and consideration. The question is worthy of more consideration than apparently has been given to it. I support the Clause.

12.11 a.m.


In a matter like this I approve the Government's action. It seems to me that the Clause would give a colliery company, for instance, a full right to evict a collier whom they had sacked and a whole host of men could be pushed out of their houses. It would also mean that the men would have to accept lower wages and worse conditions because of the fear of being evicted from their houses. It is seldom that I agree with the Government, but they are right in resisting this Clause.

Question, "That the Clause be read a Second time," put, and negatived.