HC Deb 17 June 1937 vol 325 cc721-2

12.5 a.m.

Colonel Sandeman Allen

I beg to move, in page 117, line 10, to leave out "as agent or trustee for any other person" and to insert "through an agent or trustee."

Presumably the agent or trustee has been introduced here to prevent the owner from sheltering behind certain persons in order to evade his responsibilities under the law. The Home Office want to make the measure watertight and to fix the responsibility on some person or persons possibly acting for the owner. If a trustee or an agent is to be liable, surely the liability ought to be limited to moneys in his hands on account of the owner. Such a provision is contained in the Public Health Act and the Housing Act, 1936. There is no reason why unnecessary liability should be placed upon a trustee or agent. If this Amendment were accepted, the owner could not escape liability merely because he was receiving his rack rent through an agent. It is a simple matter. The Government are inserting a similar Clause into the Livestock Industry Bill; I trust they will see their way either to accept this Amendment or to give me an assurance that a similar Clause will be inserted in this Bill, possibly in another place.

Mr. Wakefield

I beg to second the Amendment.

The Mover has adequately explained the reasons for it, and I do not desire to detain the House by doing other than second it formally.

12.7 a.m.

The Lord Advocate

I am afraid it would be very dangerous to accept this Amendment, for reasons which are much better than at first sight would appear. The language of the definition on page 117 of the Bill has appeared for 60 or 70 years in interpretation Clauses, from 1875 to the Public Health Act, 1936. Hon. Members will readily understand that once a definition has satisfied the criticisms of the courts, to introduce any variation in it would be to open a very wide door to legal difficulties of all kinds. In addition, the suggestion to cut out the agent or trustee as the Amendment proposes, might produce an opportunity for wholesale evasion of the Act, by the simple expedient of appointing an agent and residing in another jurisdiction.

Amendment negatived.