HC Deb 15 May 1933 vol 278 cc69-90

Any person who, in consequence of his employment, occupies a dwelling-house to which the principal Acts apply shall be deemed to be the tenant thereof as though the dwelling-house had been let to him notwithstanding any agreement, written or implied, under which no rent for the dwelling-house is recoverable, and no order or judgment for the recovery of possession of such dwelling-house or for the ejectment of the tenant there from shall be made or given except in accordance with the provisions of section three of this Act and the First Schedule thereto.—[Mr. Price.]

Brought up, and read the First time.

5.45 p.m.


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

It is with great pleasure that I move the Second Reading of this proposed new Clause, which, in regard to the tenancy of property, attempts to put right a longstanding disgrace in British politics, and particularly as it affects the agricultural labourer and many other workers. It is well known in the House that for years past agricultural labourers and other workers who have lived in tied houses have, in many instances, had their families ejected without any notification, simply because they have had a dispute with their employer on the question of wages or conditions. The pleasure I have in moving the Clause is that I have recollections of my mother once being evicted, not because she owed any rent, or because she was an undesirable tenant, but because my father was involved in a trade dispute legitimately claiming his rights under the British constitution, and the owner of the property used the vile weapon of eviction. The proposed new Clause seeks to give the same protection to the man who occupies a house as part and parcel of the terms of his employment as is given to any other workman. The Clause, if it is accepted—and I hope that it will be—will compel the owner of property to give proper notice and go to court before he can obtain possession. I remember, shortly after the War, sitting upon a court of referees which dealt with tied houses in the West Riding of Yorkshire affected by an agricultural Act, and in many instances that body saved evictions which otherwise would have taken place had the tenants been left to the mercy of their employers.

We have come to a state in our civilisation when we, at least, ought to break the shackles from the wrists of the slave of the land and give his wife and children the normal protection which the Majority of working-class people now enjoy. We hope that the Minister will accept the Clause and concede to the agricultural worker for the first time in British history that which has been conceded in many other countries, so that no evictions may take place until a man has had the opportunity of facing a British court of justice and stating his case. It is rather paradoxical that the law in the first instance gives to me as a miner the right to withdraw my labour in case of a trade dispute, and, after giving me that right, hands over to my employer, not only the right to punish me by withholding labour from me, but the right to take advantage of the position by evicting my wife and children. This sort of thing has been very common in past years. I once remember it being applied to 280 miners and their families, and for months they were encamped in fields during the dispute, as a result of which the colliery company had put the weapon into operation. The company had the protection of the law; they went to the courts before they executed their rights. It is bad enough in those circumstances, but, in the case of the farm labourer in the tied house, an eviction can be executed without the slightest defence. We ask the Minister to give serious consideration to the Clause and to accept it and give some protection to the slave of the land, so that, however he may be used, at least there shall be humane treatment for his wife and children.

5.52 p.m.


I beg to second the Motion.

As my hon. Friend well said, the conditions which particularly appertain in the rural districts of the country are a standing disgrace. This sort of thing does not hold good to any extent in the big industrial centres where the workers are well organised, but happens in out of the way places. The individuals who are the victims of the law to-day are the great supporters of the Tory Government. The poor agricultural labourer is at the tender mercies of the individuals to whom the Tories are to be very kind—the farmer and the landlord. This is the situation which we are trying to prevent. A man happens to fall foul of his employer, who, in addition to dispensing with his services, has power to throw his wife and family into the street. The Clause aims at doing away with that sort of thing. It is to protect from eviction the agricultural labourer or the miner who, unfortunately, happens to have a dispute with his employer. During labour troubles I have seen miners turned out of their homes, and in some instances I have seen soldiers brought in to put them out, and the miners and their families have had to be placed in encampments.

The Minister of Health, in replying to the last proposed new Clause, which he did not accept, and in which the House supported him, stated that they were here to do justice between two parties. We will tie him to that. Why should the farmer be in the position, not only to dispense with the services of his employe, but also to throw him out of house and home? When the miner is fighting for his legitimate rights under the British constitution, why should the mineowner have the power to throw him out of his home while he himself retains his own home? It is an unequal fight in the eyes of our constitution. The mineowner is not turned out of his house when there is a strike on; it is only the miner. We are trying here to make the law of the land a little more in keeping with modern outlook and life. I admit that the position was not so hard when the law was first instigated, and there was a more harmonious spirit between the farmer, the landlord, and their employés. But conditions over which they have had no control have eliminated to a great extent the personal touch and the kinship which existed between the agricultural worker and the individual who might employ him. I have never seen the kinship in my time, but I have read about it. During my time there has been no such thing as kindness, except on odd occasions. There has been no consideration.

Therefore, it is the duty of the House, on an occasion like this, to liter the law so as to protect those who are not able to protect themselves. Think of the helpless condition of the poor agricultural worker when he falls out with his employer. His employer can throw him out on to the highway. This great Tory Government—if ever there were a Tory Government, this is it whether you call it National or anything else you like—was returned largely as the result of the votes of the agricultural workers, and now we are appealing on behalf of the folk who put the Government into power to place some preventive Measures upon the Statute Book, not to place them in any favoured position, but in the same position as the rest of the workers. It was the organised effort of the organised workers in the big industrial centres that wrung from the Government of the day the concession that the only individual so far as Scotland is concerned who can put a man out of a house is the sheriff. In England they have to go to the courts in order to put a man out of a house. Even if he pays no rent, the property owner cannot put him out; he has to go to the court. That is not the case with the agricultural workers. They are at the tender mercies of the farmer or the landlord. They can be thrown out without any notice. It is not necessary to take them to court. We say that that is a scandalous state of affairs that the peasantry are being treated in this manner, not only thrown out of work but thrown out of their homes: See yonder poor o'erlabour'd wight, So abject, mean, and vile, Who begs a brother of the earth To give him leave to toil; And see his lordly fellow-worm The poor petition spurn, Unmindful the a weepiag wife And helpless offspring mourn. Following those lines Burns said: If I'm design'd yon lordling's slave— By nature's law designed— Why was an independent wish E'er planted in my mind? It is that independent wish and that independent mind that are abroad in the land to-day asking for equal treatment for the people in our rural districts; for that same treatment that we have fought for and won for ourselves in the big industrial centres. The Parliamentary Secretary understands the position as well as I do. He stated the same case in the House when he was on the Liberal benches as a back bencher. I hope that he is not going to stand up to-day and tell us that because he is a member of the Government he has to speak with the voice of the Government. I hope that he will be big enough to-day to tell us that, having heard the case stated by Labour, he is prepared to bring the matter before the Government in order that the new Clause may be included in the Act of Parliament.

6.4 p.m.


I rise in a personal capacity to support the Clause, because I feel that in all these matters it is a question of the balance of argument and, in my view, the balance in this instance is in favour and not against the Clause. The House ought to realise that it is the intention of the previous Acts, in conjunction with this Bill, to protect the tenant in so far as it is considered reasonable that the tenant should be protected. If the Schedule means what it says, it is perfectly clear that it is still intended that the court shall have discretion in regard to such tenancies as exist in consequence of a man's employment. I cannot see an enormous distinction between a tenancy which is created at a small rental in consequence of a man's employment and the occupation of a house which exists for no rental in consequence of a man's employment. In each of these cases a person gets occupation of a house because he has taken on some specific employment, and in those circumstances the Legislature has considered it necessary to provide that the court shall have discretion whether a person shall be turned out of the premises or not when the employment finishes in the case of those who have been given the tenancy of a house in consequence of employment.

That being the case, why should it be held that a different argument prevails with regard to a man who is given occupation of the house in which the rental goes with his employment? Can it be suggested that if a man has been in a particular employment for a number of years and suddenly finds himself deprived of that employment, the hardship upon him of leaving the house is any the less merely because he is not paying rent for the house? Surely, that cannot be contended. If the accommodation was given in part payment of wages, the fact remains that the hardship will ensue and that he and his family, if they have to leave the house, may be placed in such a serious position that the court may consider that they ought not to be turned out. Why anyone should draw a distinction between the two cases, I cannot see. The First Schedule provides that the court may make an order for the ejectment of a tenant, without proof of suitable alternative accommodation, subject to certain considerations which, according to paragraph (g), include the following, that the dwelling-house is reasonably required by the landlord for occupation as a residence for some person engaged in his whole-time employment or in the whole-time employment of some tenant from him or with whom, conditional on housing accommodation being provided, a contract for such employment has been entered into, and either— (i) the tenant was in the employment of the landlord or a former landlord, and the dwelling-house was let to him in consequence of that employment and he has ceased to be in that employment. That presents a sufficient safeguard. I think that the court should have the right to exercise its discretion in the ease referred to in the Amendment. If the court came to the conclusion that the tenant should be allowed to remain, it would, of course, state what the rent should be. Similar powers are given in other parts of the Bill. If the tenant would not pay the rent, he would be in the position of one who could be turned out by virtue of this Bill, which will shortly become an Act. I hope the Government will accept the position from that standpoint, and that they will not consider that where a house has been occupied in consequence of employment the person who has been employed for years and then ceases to be so employed should immediately find other accom- modation. If the court decided that alternative accommodation was available they would make an order that the person should move. Even if one single case of hardship should ensue, without such discretion the court should have the discretion to say whether or not the person should be turned out.


The hon. Member suggests that the court has the power, in a case where no rent has been paid previously, to declare what the rent should be.


I said that there might be similar provision, but if it is not there, that matter might very easily be remedied. I cannot put my hand on the particular section I had in mind, but it is a matter that might easily be remedied by an Amendment.

6.11 p.m.


I hope that the Government will not accept the proposed new Clause. The whole argument this afternoon has gone on the lines that the landlord is always wrong and the tenant is always right. It might well be that the landlord had not given his employé notice, but that the employé had given the employer notice. He might have obtained employment on a neighbouring farm. Anyone who has had anything to do with working an agricultural estate knows how essential it is that the stockman and the horseman should occupy cottages in close proximity to their employment. It might be impossible for the employer to find another cottage for the new stockman or horseman in place of the cottage occupied by the outgoing employé, who may have left entirely of his own free will, and yet under this proposed Clause he would be able to remain in the cottage he then occupied. I do not wish to impose any hardship on any tenant, but I am sure that in practice the new Clause would lead to complete chaos in the working of an agricultural estate.

6.13 p.m.


I should like to give a few reasons why I think the Government ought to accept the Clause. It would not be doing an injustice to give security to the agricultural labourer, seeing that at the present time the landlord has power to turn a tenant into the street if he is not prepared to keep him in his service any longer. Surely, in 1933 there is nothing wrong in asking for a Clause of this description. Let us take the case of a man who enters a new service, where the employer says: "Here is a grand opportunity for you. You take it!" Later some difficulty arises and the employer says: "I do not want you any longer." There has been no question of rental; it has been a question of service. He has not only the power of saying, "I am finished with you in your occupation" but also the power of turning the man into the street. To take occupation of a house under those conditions is to jeopardise your future, and no hon. Member would be willing that anyone should have the power of turning a man instantaneously into the street.

The proposed new Clause simply asks that the case should be referred to the court. If there is any justice at all in our courts—I think there is—the judge or the magistrate will deal equitably with these cases. I am sure the Government will recognise that a tenancy which enables an employer, no matter what the case may be, to turn a man and his wife and children out of a home at once is not Christian or moral in the year 1933. I know that most employers to-day would be reasonable and would give a man an opportunity of getting other accommodation, but there are other cases which are the exception. I want to provide against the inhuman men, those who may have a vendetta against an employé. The man who has a fellow feeling would not turn a man and his wife and children out of their home at once but would give him a fortnight or a month to find other accommodation. The other man might tell him to get out at once, and in those circumstances he has no redress. I hope the Government will accept this Clause and give the man the right of appeal to the court. It is a reasonable appeal. It would make the Bill much better and give someone an opportunity of saying that at last we have a Minister in a National Government who is sane and who will listen to an Amendment moved from another part of the House.

6.19 p.m.


I am afraid that the Gov- ernment cannot accept this proposed new Clause. It seeks to bring within the scope of the Rent Restrictions Acts tied cottages in cases where no rent is payable. The present Bill is a temporary Measure, to continue rent restriction for another five years; and the House will agree that we should not be justified, in what is a temporary Measure, in dealing with the difficult question of the tied cottage. In fact, it was excluded from the review of the Marley Committee and a special committee was set up under an old colleague of mine, Mr. Walter Smith. After a careful review the members of this special committee came to two entirely different conclusions, as, in fact, any committee on this subject always will. The question of the tied cottage is not a question of right against wrong, but of right against right. The most difficult problems are those of right against right. You have the perfectly right case put by the hon. Member for Hemsworth (Mr. Price, who said that it was a great hardship that a man should be turned out of his cottage on account of his political opinions. Most people know of cases where that has, in fact, happened. On the other hand, you have the right of an employer to limit the occupation of a particular cottage to some particular employment, and only so long as that employment remains. That is perfectly understandable and justifiable.

The hon. Member for Guildford (Mr. Rhys) has put the case as regards agriculture. It is absolutely essential that those engaged in certain classes of agricultural employment, like stockmen, should live near to their work and that the cottage should depend solely on the particular employment. Suppose that the hon. Member for Whitechapel (Mr. Janner) bought a country house with a nice little cottage attached for a chauffeur and said to the chauffeur, "As long as you are here, I will give you this cottage." The chauffeur goes out and gets drunk and kills a man; he is hopeless as a chauffeur and my hon. Friend wants to get rid of him. Is he going to say that he is precluded from getting a new chauffeur in the place of a drunken and inefficient chauffeur, because he cannot give the new one the cottage which is the only available accommodation he has? That is not a reasonable proposal—


The Parliamentary Secretary has put a very good case, but on my behalf he might add that in such circumstances he has to satisfy the court it is reasonable that the man should be turned out.


Anyone accepts service occupation of a particular cottage only as long as that occupation is maintained, and if you look at it from the point of view of my hon. Friend in hiring a chauffeur, or a farmer hiring a stockman, or a railway company giving a cottage at a level crossing to a particular man, it is obvious that you must have some system of tied cottages. That being so the Government cannot accept the new Clause. Incidentally, it would introduce an entirely new principle into the rent restriction code. The Rent Restrictions Acts, as the name implies, restrict rent, and security is only incidental to that, but security has never been given when, in fact, no rent has been paid. Therefore, the proposal from many points of view is not acceptable and it is outside the scope of a Measure like the present one, which is only of a temporary character.


Is the Parliamentary Secretary aware that in many eases where a landlord has leased a farm to a tenant farmer the tenant farmer lets many of these tied cottages to persons who do not work on the farm, and that if he has a farm labourer of whom he wants to dispose quickly he does not consider the fact that he has other houses on the farm, but turns the farm hand out to suit his own convenience? While I am not in full agreement with the proposed new Clause, I think there is a case into which the Government might inquire, where great hardship may be inflicted.

6.25 p.m.


One of the arguments of the Parliamentary Secretary was that these were cases in which no rent was payable. May I suggest to the House that although actually no rent passes, the cottage is taken into consideration when the question of wages is negotiated, and that the man does, in fact, pay rent for the cottage because he gets so many shillings per week less in wages. There is no reason why the position of this man should be made worse than that of any other man who actually pays rent in so many shillings per week. Anything which could be done to ease the burden of the tied cottage, or to weaken and ultimately sweep the system away altogether, would be much better for the agricultural labourer, who is chiefly concerned, and for agriculture itself. After all the proposed new Clause does very little. All it does is to take out of the hands of the farmer or the employer the right to turn a man and his wife and children out of the cottage. It still leaves the employer the right to get the man to vacate the cottage, but it gives the man the chance to take his case to court, and I suggest that you are not weakening the position of the employer very much in doing so.

The Parliamentary Secretary must know as well as I do the victimisation which goes on, and the many agricultural labourers who have been turned out of their cottages and their employment through no fault of their own, but because they happen to have different political opinions from their employers. The hon. Member says it is not a question of right and wrong but a question of the right of the employer and the right of the workman. This House should allow no man to tyrannise over another. If there is one particular weapon which is still exercised, and which is terrible in its way, it is the tyranny of an employer who can not only discharge a man but turn him into the streets at his whim, over perhaps some small matter. It is not a question of some chauffeur who is in possession of a cottage and who gets drunk and kills a man. That is not the point at all. In 99 cases out of 100 it is simply the whim and pleasure of the employer. As one who has done something in his lifetime to stop the living-in system, which is comparable with this kind of thing, and has been swept away in our industrial areas, I say that the tendency of the times is to give a man, however humble, the right to his own soul and his own independence. That is a principle which this House should uphold at any time.

I am sorry to think, from the attitude of the Minister, that the numbers behind the Government will vote against this Clause. The House and the Government know that this question of the tied cottage must be dealt with if agriculture is to play in the country's life the part about which we hear so much. What inducement is there for young men to marry and to live in agricultural areas if they have the knowledge all the time of the tremendous power over their lives, and almost over their death, of the employer? The feel that they are in the position of slaves, that they are unable to give vent to their convictions. I have been at meetings in agricultural villages where I felt ashamed of my own countrymen. Men and women have been afraid even of saying "Hear, hear," for fear the farmer might get to know of it and they might lose their cottage and be thrown into the highway.

The proposed Clause attempts to give to this particular class of individual the same rights and liberties under the law as are conceded already to 90 per cent. of the population. I am unable to understand why any hon. Member should imagine that it is imperative to deal with the agricultural labourer in a different way from the vast Majority of the workers of the country. One hon. Member said that if the Clause were added to the Bill it would bring chaos into the agricultural areas. He suggested that it might have the effect even of taking away the prosperity of the countryside. It is the first time I ever heard there was any prosperity in the countryside. No words of mine will make the Minister change his mind, but I wonder how it is that the appeal of this Government still continues to have any attraction at all for the agricultural labourer. This principle of the tied cottage is bad. It is not a question of right on the part of employers, for the whole thing is wrong.

6.35 p.m.


The proposed new Clause does not really raise as large an issue or create such a sweeping change as has been suggested. The hardship which has been spoken of, with regard to the landlord who lets a piece of property in connection with an occupation, and who thinks it necessary to have his employer in possession of the premises—that hardship exists in the case where a very small rent is payable just as much as in the case where no rent is payable. When the dwelling-house is reasonably required by the landlord for occupation as a residence for some person engaged in his whole-time employment. it will be open to the court to say that the land- lord is right, that he does reasonably want the premises; and the court can make the order, so that the landlord can get on with his business. I think the Parliamentary Secretary was quite right when he said that this was a case of right against right, and not of right against wrong. The hon. Member who spoke last sees the wrong of the evicted tenant so strongly that he finds it difficult to see any right on the landlord's side. But there is right on each side. What more suitable case could there be for going to the court, for calling in an impartial person? That is a most reasonable thing to suggest.

6.37 p.m.


It seemed to me that the Parliamentary Secretary gave the case away when he said it was well known that men sometimes lost their houses because of their opinions. We do not say that all landlords are ogres by any means. It is well known, however, that men who are disorganised and separated from each other by long distances are often in a very difficult position. Sometimes they are severely penalised in losing their work and their houses. One of my hon. Friends spoke of ejectments in mining villages. I am glad to say that that horrible state of things has not prevailed in recent years to anything like the extent that it used to prevail. It is almost unknown in cases of differences with the coalowners. Some most tragic experiences have come to people who in the past, when they were not organised but spontaneously stood to defend their conditions and wages and refused to work, found themselves thrown out into the fields. But with the increasing strength of organisation amongst the miners, and the growth of public opinion that kind of ejection has happily come to an end. If it was possible to have similar organisation in the countryside I have not the slightest doubt that the labourers there would be in much the same position as the miners. The fact remains that they are at a disadvantage.

Not many years ago I spoke in a village which is well known as the site of one of the decisive bAttlee in the history of the country. I naturally expected that place to be brimming over with liberty. I found at the meeting a chairman and about two more people. I do not know whether it was my eloquence that kept the audience away. In 10 minutes or a quarter of an hour I was about to throw up the sponge, but the chairman encouraged me and told me it was all right. He seemed to think that we were having a good meeting. We were, for people were listening at the doors and the windows. They dare not come to that meeting publicly. That is a state of things that prevails in some villages. It is time that the Government took steps for the defence of these people. Some Government will have to do it in the near future, I am convInced.

6.41 p.m.


There is nothing with which the average Member has more sympathy than the idea of a man losing both house and job at the same time; but the fact that the house and the work go together in a large number of cases does mean that the double hardship is bound to happen. I have listened to the speeches of the Socialist Members. They are not free from blame themselves. I can remember an occasion when the whole Socialist party combined to turn a man out of his house suddenly and without notice, and allowed him only a few hours to get out. Naturally I refer to Number 10 Downing Street. That was the case of a house going with a job. I saw just now the First Lord of the Admiralty. A Government defeat would mean his being turned out of his house and his job. It is exactly the same with people, whoever they are, who take on a job with the knowledge from the beginning that they take it with a house, that the two things go together, and that the job cannot be carried on without the house.

At the present time, in certain areas of the country, there is going on a development which will require a great many more men to be put to work. Socialist Members are just as keen as we are in trying to get the condition of agriculture better. Suppose the question arises of developing vegetable ground by highly intensive cultivation. The work may require so many more men, and in some cases it is not a matter of being able to get the men from a neighbouring town or village. Men may be required for some definite purpose and an owner may sink several hundreds of pounds in building, perhaps two new cottages for the purpose of accommodating the par- ticular men whom he requires for a particular job. In that he is doing something to help the general level of employment.

This is not a question of good or bad landlords. I know that there are both good and bad landlords as there is good and bad in nearly everything else in this world, but under the proposed new Clause the inevitable tendency must be to discourage people from developments of that kind. I know of instances in small villages where if the Post Office, the railway and the police authorities provided good houses for the people whom they employed—the house, of course, going with the job in each case—they would do much to help in solving the housing difficulty in those villages. If there is one thing more necessary than another at the present time it is not to discourage employers who have Capttal from developing their land and putting their money into it and building houses. We are not here discussing the whole question of the tied house system but that question has been raised incidentally, and an endeavour has been made to give a certain atmosphere to the discussion. I ask those hon. Members who, like myself, have a natural sympathy with people in the condition which has been described, to remember that in the interests of the labourers themselves it is better that that system should continue and that people should be encouraged to develop the countryside and to build houses. In all departments of life we see the same system, under which the job and the house go together, and I cannot see why in one particular branch of industry you should seek to cut out that system unless you are going to make the argument applicable to every other kind of case.

6.48 p.m.


I know the atmosphere to which the hon. Member for Chester-le-Street (Mr. Lawson) has referred, because in a constituency which I contested I found that, as regards several of the villages, I could only hold my meetings in the open air, after dark and on nights when there was no moon. My immediate audience appeared to consist only of a couple of sleeping dogs but the people of the village were round the corner or in the neighbouring shops and luckily I have a very strong voice if I choose to use it. But what connection the agricultural labourer has with this proposed New Clause I fail to see. I think if one thing is certain, it is that the new Clause does not apply to the agricultural worker at all. There is no contract with the agricultural worker under which no rent is recoverable. There is a rent recoverable from the agricultural worker. True, it is a rent limited under the provision of the Agricultural Wages Board's Acts It is not always the same for each county but in every case that I have ever heard of—and I was a member of the first Agricultural Wages Board—a rent; is recoverable and is in fact recovered though it may be limited to 2s. 6d. or 3s.

Therefore when we vote on this proposed new Clause, whether for it or against it, let us not have in mind that we are affecting the agricultural labourer in the slightest degree. As a matter of fact the agricultural labourer has a good deal of protection. It is necessary now to go twice to the court to get an agricultural worker out of his cottage. An owner can give such a worker notice because he is too old, or because, instead of a stockman, a horseman is required, on the farm, or, perhaps the worker himself has given notice and is going to work for somebody else. The farmer has to prove to one court that he needs the cottage for the cultivation of his farm. If it can be shown that some other cottage can be obtained, he has then to show that he needs possession of that particular cottage for the proper cultivation of his farm, in order to put in a man of the necessary skill and experience. He has also to show that the man is engaged and is willing to come to him and so forth. That having been decided, if the worker still stays on in the cottage—as he frequently does being unable to get another house—the farmer has to go to court again in a month and get an ejectment order and in another month he can get vacant possession. The idea that there is no protection of a court for the agricultural worker is an error and the idea that by passing this new Clause we shall be helping the agricultural worker is another error.

6.51 p.m.


The right hon. Gentleman the Member for North Cornwall (Sir F. Acland) has given us a new view of the law, and one, apparently, which was not within the knowledge of the Parliamentary Secretary. I cannot claim to have the same experience as the hon. Baronet, but in my experience Since the War I have known many cases in which farmers have taken the law into their own hands and, without going to court, have turned agricultural labourers out of their cottages. I know of no reason why two applications to the court should be made. Solicitors in country districts acting in cases where a tenancy is not in existence and where a man occupies by reason of his employment frequently take those cases to the court, but it is questionable whether in law they are bound to do so. I believe that, in the case of an agricultural labourer, or a caretaker, or a man who by reason of his employment has to live on the premises, in law when his employment ceases that man is in the position of a trespasser and can be turned out lock, stock and barrel. Whether that is so or not in law, in practice that has been done and is being done in some areas.

The Parliamentary Secretary told us that this was a serious matter to deal with in a temporary measure which would only cover the period of the next five years. I would reinforce what was said by the hon. Member for West Middlesbrough (Mr. Griffith). The proposed new Clause provides that it shall not be possible for an employer to turn out a servant who holds a dwelling house in connection with his employment, without first going to the court. The hon. Member pointed out that under the present law it is possible for an employer to go to the court and satisfy them that he has a contract with a new employé and that it is reasonable to demand possession. In the case of the agricultural labourer, however, there is a special provision which is very frequently acted upon by owners. The farmer communicates with the county council and obtains a certificate from the county agricultural committee to the effect that he requires a new employé for the purpose of working his farm. He goes with that certificate to the court and in that case, on the certificate, or, in the other case, on evidence of his having entered into a contract, the court makes an order for possession. In the case of a petty sessional court the order has to take effect within a period, I think, of three weeks or 30 days. All that the new Clause asks is that in the present state of the law, before a man can be turned out application must be made to the court so that in these cases the ex-employé shall be given a little time. A month is not a great deal of time to ask for in the exceptional cases where such a position arises.

In the Majority of cases the employer makes temporary arrangements for the accommodation of his new employé until the old employé has gone. He either arranges for him to travel to his work from some distance away, or finds him some other accommodation. There is no possibility of the chaos which seemed to suggest itself to the mind of the hon. Member for Guildford (Mr. Rhys). In my view this is not a case of right against right, but of right against wrong. There is no comparison between the mere inconvenience and possible slight expense incurred by an employer in having to make such arrangements as I have indicated for a month or so, and the case of the agricultural labourer who frequently has a large family and who is put out on the street at a time when he has no means to obtain other accommodation. The hon. Member for Torquay (Mr. C. Williams) gave us an instance which appeared to be very valuable when he told us that the Socialist party had conspired in September, 1931, to get rid of the then occupant of No. 10, Downing Street. What in fact was done—whether we did it or not—was that an appeal was made to the court and we lost the case. Therefore the hon. Member ought to be voting with us in this matter. He ought to agree that in this case also it should be possible to go to the court.




I presume the hon. Member is anxious to say that the verdict in that case was obtained on false evidence. He may also be about to point out that in this case, fortunately, we shall have an opportunity of a further appeal to the same court at an early date, when we hope to obtain a verdict.


I merely desired to point out that I was referring to the Socialist party's brutal treatment of my right hon. Friend the Member for Bewdley (Mr. Baldwin) in 1929. As regards the later occasion, in that case there was no eviction, but there was in 1929.


There is no comparison between, the two cases because the right hon. Gentleman, I believe, has alternative accommodation. I hope the Mover of the proposed new Clause will go to a Division and test the feeling of the House on this matter. In my view those who vote against it vote for a continuance of the present conditions under which a man and his wife and children can be turned into the street at a moment's notice. There is no justification for the Parliamentary Secretary's statement that the new Clause would make a wide breach in the Rent Restrictions Acts. These Acts at present restrict the rights of landlords with regard to obtaining possession. The proposed new Clause relates to precisely the same thing. The landlord, who is an employer, can get possession of his property by throwing his employé into the street. We restrict that. We wish the employé to be able to go before an impartial tribunal which will say whether it is reasonable for his employer to have the house. I hope the House will insist upon the Government carrying through this necessary and most needed reform.

7.1 p.m.


The hon. Member continues to harp on the question of the agricultural labourer, although it has

been pointed out by the right hon. Baronet that this Clause has nothing to do with the agricultural labourer. In the case to which the hon. Member referred, of an agricultural labourer being turned out under the Act, that was illegal, and will continue to be illegal. It will not be affected by this Clause, which is only a "lawyer's relief." In cases where occupiers, by service right, lose their employment, and their houses are needed for their successors, the court can give only one possible decision, because these cottages are part of the wages of the employés. No hon. Member opposite has suggested that when an employé has lost his employment his employer should pay him cash wages. Why should an employer give such a man a proportion of his wages in housing accommodation? The ultimate result would not be affected by the Clause. It would only cause considerable inconvenience and actual hardship to an employer who dispensed with the work of an employé, before application could be made to the court. The only people who would benefit would be the lawyers engaged to argue the case.


May I ask the Solicitor-General to help the House in this matter?

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

The House divided: Ayes, 51; Noes, 273.

Division No. 168.] AYES. [7.4 p.m.
Attlee, Clement Richard Grenfell, David Rees (Glamorgan) McEntee, Valentine L.
Banfield, John William Griffith, F. Kingsley (Middlesbro', W.) Maclean, Nell (Glasgow. Govan)
Bevan, Aneurin (Ebbw Vale) Grundy, Thomas W. Mallalieu, Edward Lancelot
Briant, Frank Hall, George H. (Merthyr Tydvil) Maxton, James
Brown, C. W. E. (Notts., Mansfield) Harris, Sir Percy Milner, Major James
Buchanan, George Hicks, Ernest George Owen, Major Goronwy
Cape, Thomas Hirst, George Henry Price, Gabriel
Cocks, Frederick Seymour Janner, Barnett Rathbone, Eleanor
Cove, William G. John, William Roberts, Aled (Wrexham)
Cripps, Sir Stafford Jones, J. J. (West Ham, Silvertown) Smith, Tom (Normanton)
Davies, David L. (Pontypridd) Jones, Morgan (Caerphilly) Tinker, John Joseph
Davies, Rhys John (Westhoughton) Kirkwood, David Wallhead, Richard C.
Edwards, Charles Lansbury, Rt. Hon. George Wedgwood, Rt. Hon. Josiah
Evans, David Owen (Cardigan) Lawson, John James White, Henry Graham
Evans, Capt. Ernest (Welsh Univ.) Leonard, William Williams, David (Swansea, East)
Foot, Dingle (Dundee) Logan, David Gilbert Williams, Thomas (York, Don Valley)
George, Major G. Lloyd (Pembroke) Lunn, William
Greenwood, Rt. Hon. Arthur Macdonald, Gordon (Ince) TELLERS FOR THE AYES.—
Mr. Groves and Mr. D. Graham.
Acland-Troyte, Lieut.-Colonel Applin, Lieut.-Col. Reginald V. K. Balniel, Lord
Agnew, Lieut.-Com. P. G. Asks, Sir Robert William Barclay-Harvey, C. M.
Altchison, Rt. Hon. Cralgie M. Astbury, Lieut.-Com. Frederick Wolfe Beauchamp, Sir Brograve Campbell
Allen. William (Stoke-on-Trent) Baillie, Sir Adrian W. M. Beaumont, M. W. (Bucks., Aylesbury)
Amary, Rt. Hon. Leopold C. M. S. Baldwin, Rt. Hon. Stanley Beaumont, Hon. R.E.B. (Portem'th.C.)
Anstruther-Gray, W. J. Balfour, George (Hampstead) Belt, Sir Alfred L.
Bernays, Robert Guinness, Thomas L. E. B. Psto, Sir Basil E.(Devon, Barnstaple)
Betterton, Rt. Hon. Sir Henry B. Gunston, Captain D. W. Pickford, Hon. Mary Ada
Bird, Ernest Roy (Yorks., Skipton) Hacking, Rt, Hon. Douglas H. Pike, Cecil F.
Borodale, Viscount Hamilton, Sir George (Ilford) Powell, Lieut.-Col. Evelyn G. H.
Boulton, W. W. Hamilton, Sir R.W.(Orkney & Zetl'nd) Power, Sir John Cecil
Bower, Lieut.-Com. Robert Tatton Hammersley, Samuel S. PowNail, Sir Assheton
Bowyer, Capt. Sir George E. W. Hanbury, Cecil Procter, Major Henry Adam
Braithwaite, Maj.A. N. (Yorks, E.R.) Hanley, Dennis A. Ramsay, Capt. A. H. M. (Midlothian)
Braithwaite, J. G. (Hillsborough) Hannon, Patrick Joseph Henry Ramsay, T. B. W. (Western Isles)
Brass, Captain Sir William Hartland, George A. Ramsden, Sir Eugene
Briscoe, Capt. Richard George Harvey, Major S. E. (Devon, Totnes) Reed, Arthur C. (Exeter)
Broadbent, Colonel John Haslam, Henry (Horncastle) Reid, David D. (County Down)
Brocklebank, C. E. R. Haslam, Sir John (Bolton) Heid, William Allan (Derby)
Brown, Col. D.C. (N'th'l'd., Hexham) Headlam, Lieut.-Col. Cuthbert M. Remer, John R.
Brown, Ernest (Leith) Heilgers, Captain F. F. A. Rentoul, Sir Gervals S.
Brown, Brig.-Gen.H.C.(Berks., Newb'y) Henderson, Sir Vivian L. (Chelmsford) Rhys, Hon. Charles Arthur U.
Buchan-Hepburn, P. G. T. Heneage, Lieut.-Colonel Arthur P. Roberts, Sir Samuel (Ecclesall)
Burghley, Lord Herbert, Capt. S. (Abbey Division) Robinson, John Roland
Burnett, John George Hopkinson. Austin Ropner, Colonel L.
Burton, Colonel Henry Walter Hornby, Frank Rosbotham, Sir Samuel
Butler, Richard Austen Horobin, Ian M. Ross Taylor, Walter (Woodbridge)
Campbell, Edward Taswell (Bromley) Horsbrugh, Florence Ruggles-Brise, Colonel E. A.
Campbell, vice-Admiral G. (Burnley) Hudson, Robert Spear (Southport) Runge, Norah Cecil
Caporn, Arthur Cecil Hume, Sir George Hopwood Russell, Alexander West (Tynemouth)
Castlereagh, Viscount Hunter, Dr. Joseph (Dumfries) Rutherford, Sir John Hugo (Liverp'l)
Cautley, Sir Henry S. Hurst, Sir Gerald B. Salmon, Sir Isidore
Cayzer, Sir Charles (Chester, City) Inskip, Rt. Hon. Sir Thomas W. H. Samuel, Sir Arthur Michael (F'nham)
Cayzer, Maj. Sir H. R.(Prtsmth., S.) Iveagh, Countess of Samuel, Samuel (W'dsworth, Putney)
Cazalet, Thelma (Islington, E.) Jackson, Sir Henry (Wandsworth, C.) Sandeman, Sir A. N. Stewart
Chamberlain, Rt. Hon. N. (Edgbaston) Jackson, J. C. (Heywood & Radcliffe) Sassoon, Rt. Hon. Sir Philip A. G. D.
Cobb, Sir Cyril Jesson, Major Thomas E. Scone, Lord
Cochrane, Commander Hon. A. D. Joel, Dudley J. Barnato Selley, Harry R.
Colfox, Major William Philip Jones, Sir G. W. H. (Stoke New'gton) Shakespeare, Geoffrey H.
Collins, Rt. Hon. Sir Godfrey Jones, Henry Haydn (Merioneth) Shaw, Helen B. (Lanark, Bothwell)
Colville, Lieut.-Colonel J. Ker, J. Campbell Shaw, Captain William T. (Foriar)
Conant, R. J. E. Kerr, Lieut.-Col. Charles (Montrose) Shepperson, Sir Ernest W.
Cooke, Douglas Kerr, Hamilton W. Simmonds, Oliver Edwin
Cooper, A. Dull Kimball, Lawrence Smiles, Lieut.-Col. Sir Walter D.
Cowan, D. M. Knox, Sir Alfred Smith, Sir Jonah W. (Barrow-in-F.)
Craddock, Sir Reginald Henry Lamb, Sir Joseph Quinton Smith, R. W.(Ab'rd'n & Kinc'dine, C.)
Croft, Brigadler-General Sir H. Law, Richard K. (Hull, S.W.) Smith-Carington, Neville W.
Crookthank, Col. C. de Windt (Bootle) Leckie, J. A. Somervell, Donald Bradley
Crookshank, Capt. H. C. (Gaineb'ro) Leech, Dr. J. W. Somerville, Annesley A. (Windsor)
Croom-Johnson, R. P. Lennox-Boyd, A. T. Sotheron-Estcourt, Captain T. E.
Crossley, A. C. Little, Graham-, Sir Ernest Southby, Commander Archibald R. J.
Cruddas, Lieut-Colonel Bernard Lloyd, Geoffrey Spens, William Patrick
Culverwell, Cyril Tom Locker-Lampson, Rt.Hn. G.(Wd. Gr'n) Stanley, Lord (Lancaster, Fylde)
Davidson, Rt. Hon. J. C. C. Lockwood, John C. (Hackney, C.) Stanley, Hon. O. F. G. (Westmorland)
Davison, Sir William Henry Loder, Captain J, de Vere Steel-Maitland, Rt. Hon. Sir Arthur
Denville, Alfred Lovat-Fraser, James Alexander Stewart, J. H. (Fife, E.)
Dickie, John P. Lumley, Captain Lawrence R. Storey, Samuel
Donner, P. W. Mabane, William Strauss, Edward A.
Doran, Edward MacAndrew, Lieut.-Col. C. G.(Partick) Strickland, Captain W. F.
Dower, Captain A, V. G. MacAndrew, Capt. J. O. (Ayr) Stuart, Lord C. Crichton-
Duckworth, George A. V. McKie, John Hamilton Sueter, Rear-Admiral Murray F.
Dugdale, Captain Thomas Lionel Maclay, Hon. Joseph Paton Sugden, Sir Wilfrid Hart
Duncan, James A. L. (Kensington, N.) McLean, Major Sir Alan Summersby, Charles H.
Eastwood, John Francis McLean, Dr. W. H. (Tradeston) Tate, Mavis Constance
Elliot, Major Rt. Hon. Walter E. Macquisten, Frederick Alexander Thomas, James P. L. (Hereford)
Elliston, Captain George Sampson Maitland, Adam Thompson, Luke
Elmley, Viscount Manningham-Buller, Lt.-Col. Sir M. Thomson, Sir Frederick Charles
Emrys- Evans, P. V. Margesson, Capt. Rt. Hon. H. D. R. Titchfield, Major the Marquess of
Entwistle, Cyril Fullard Marsden, Commander Arthur Todd, A. L. S. (Kingswinford)
Erskine, Lord (Weston-super-Mare) Mason, Col. Glyn K. (Croydon, N.) Touche, Gordon Cosmo
Evans, Capt. Arthur (Cardiff, S.) Mayhew, Lieut.-Colonel John Tryon, Rt. Hon. George Clement
Everard, W. Lindsay Merriman, Sir F. Boyd Turton, Robert Hugh
Falle, Sir Bertram G. Mills, Major J. D. (New Forest) Wallace, Captain D. E. (Hornsey)
Fielden, Edward Brocklehurst Mitchell, Harold P.(Br'tf'd & Chisw'k) Wallace, John (DunferMilne)
Ford, Sir Patrick J. Molson, A. Hugh Elsdale Ward, Lt.-Col. Sir A. L. (Hull)
Fox, Sir Gifford Monsell, Rt. Hon. Sir B. Eyres Ward, Irene Mary Bewick (Wallsend)
Fraser, Captain Ian Moreing, Adrian C. Warrender, Sir Victor A. G.
Fremantle, Sir Francis Morris, John Patrick (Salford, N.) Wedderburn, Henry James Scrymgeour
Fuller, Captain A. G. Morris-Jones, Dr. J. H. (Denbigh) Whiteside, Borras Noel H.
Ganzoni, Sir John Morrison, William Shepherd Whyte, Jardine Bell
Gillett, Sir George Masterman Muirhead, Major A. J. Williams, Charles (Devon, Torquay)
Gilmour, Lt.-Col. Rt. Hon. Sir John Munro, Patrick Wilson, Clyde T. (West Toxteth)
Glossop, C. W. H. Murray-Phillpson, Hylton Raiph Wilson, G. H. A. (Cambridge U.)
Gluckstein, Louis Halle Nail, Sir Joseph Windsor-Clive, Lieut.-Colonel George
Goff, Sir Park Nation, Brigadier-General J. J. H. Winterton. Rt. Hon. Earl
Goldie, Noel B. Nicholson, Godfrey (Morpeth) Wise, Alfred R.
Goodman, Colonel Albert W. Nunn, William Withers, Sir John James
Graham, Sir F. Fergus (C'mb'rl'd, N.) Patrick, Colin M. Wood, Rt. Hon. Sir H. Kingsley
Granville, Edgar Peake, Captain Osbert Young, Rt. Hon. Sir Hilton (S'v'noaks)
Grenfell, E. C. (City of London) Penny, Sir George
Grimston, R. V. Perkins, Walter R. D. TELLERS FOR THE NOES.—
Guest, Capt. Rt. Han. F. E. Petherick, M. Captain Austin Hudson and Major
George Davies.