HC Deb 28 January 1944 vol 396 cc1063-5

Order for Second Reading read.

The Solicitor-General (Major Sir David Maxwell Fyfe)

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

The Bill deals with a situation which arises when premises that are under lease are requisitioned. There are three Clauses which I need, very briefly, to draw to the attention of the House. Clause 1 modifies the rights of the parties to a lease who are under a covenant to repair in respect of damage occurring during requisition by the Crown. It is based on the fact that the party liable under the covenant is not in control of the damage that may be done during the requisition. Therefore, the provision is introduced that no repairing covenant is to be enforceable during the time of requisition. Clause 2 is based on the fact that the Crown pays compensation, and it is intended to be enacted that a person who gets compensation, although he would otherwise be entitled to rights against the other party, will not be entitled to enforce those rights, because he has got the compensation. Those are two necessary Amendments to the original Act, and it is suggested that they should, and properly will be, retrospective, to the period when the original legislation was passed.

The second Clause entitles a tenant who chooses to make good the damage accruing during requisition, that is a tenant who, of his own desire and volition, makes good the damage, to receive from his landlord an appropriate part of any compensation paid to the landlord by the requisitioning authorities. Hon. Members will appreciate that this is a useful provision in cases where a tenant has a substantial portion of his lease still to expire and does not want the property to deteriorate during the time of requisition. If there is any dispute it will go to the county court, in the interests of cheapness. Clause 3 makes some useful changes in machinery. It provides for simplicity of evidence, and takes away the power of the requisitioning authority not to pay compensation to a landlord who has a right against a tenant, and also provides that references to payment of compensation shall include payment by agreement under Section 15 of the original Act which was made in respect of wear and tear. That difficulty has caused a certain amount of anxiety up to this time. The other three Clauses of the Bill are really formal, applying the Bill to the Crown, making certain definitions, and establishing the short Title. I hope that I have, in these few words, made clear the essential principles of the Bill.

Colonel Sir George Courthope (Rye)

I do not want to delay the passing of the Bill and I have no particular quarrel with its provisions, but I would point out that this is a further stage in the process of setting aside covenants and other obligations in existing leases, a tendency which needs to be watched with very great care. The Bill, like other Bills and Orders under the Emergency Powers, sets aside certain obligations, with regard to dilapidations, for instance. There may be good reasons to relieve a sitting tenant from obligations under the contracts and leases by which he holds his land, but any relief that is given to a sitting tenant in respect of dilapidations or anything of that kind tends to pile up the amount that will have to be met by an incoming tenant, and those figures threaten to reach quite alarming proportions in some cases. Many tenants, in fact, all tenants, have been relieved from their obligations with regard to the compulsory breaking up of grassland and things like that, while on the other hand they still retain their rights to compensation for the laying down of seed leys and temporary pastures. If a tenant goes out, he will have a considerable claim, primarily against his landlord, but in effect against an incoming tenant. No greater injury could be done to the future of agriculture in this country than that an incoming tenant should have a burden of valuation to meet so heavy that the working capital which he requires for successful cultivation is diminished. I hope that the Government, in their anxiety to remove possible hardship from a sitting tenant, will be very careful not to make it too difficult for the man who is going to succeed him.

Question, "That the Bill be now read a Second time," put, and agreed to.

Bill accordingly read a Second time.

Bill committed to a Committee of the Whole Souse.—[Mr. W. Adamson.]

Committee upon the next Sitting Day.