HC Deb 15 March 1948 vol 448 cc1692-4
46. Mr. John Evans

asked the Attorney-General whether, in view of the time that must elapse before the Report of the Departmental Committee on Leaseholds can be received, he will consider whether action should be taken to enable leases nearing their expiration, to be extended on the same terms as at present, in all cases where this is desired by the leaseholder.

48. Mr. David Jones

asked the Attorney-General whether he is aware that since the setting up of the Committee on Leasehold, a large number of notices have been served on tenants whose leases have expired to vacate their houses, in an attempt to circumvent the effect of this Committee's report; and what steps it is proposed to take to safeguard the tenure of such tenants pending the Report of the Committee.

The Attorney-General (Sir Hartley Shawcross)

I am not aware that notices to quit have been served in anticipation of any expected report by the Leasehold Committee on tenants whose leases have expired. If my hon. Friend the Member for the Hartlepools (Mr. D. Jones) will let me have details of any cases he has in mind I will arrange for them to be passed to the Committee for consideration. My hon. Friends are no doubt aware that the Committee can, by its terms of reference, submit interim reports on matters which appear to merit immediate attention and can therefore, at any time, recommend action either to prevent circumvention of a course the Committee proposes to adopt, or on the lines suggested by my hon. Friend the Member for Ogmore (Mr. J. Evans).

Mr. Evans

Is the Attorney-General aware that on an estate I know there are 50 leases which are about to expire? Is he aware that these leases are held by ordinary working men and that it will be a great hardship to them if they have to surrender their leases because their savings and their future will be jeopardised? Can some immediate action be taken to give these people protection?

The Attorney-General

I can assure my hon. Friend that we appreciate the importance of this matter, but it is extremely complicated and difficult, and owing to the infinite variety of the circumstances and the details of these lessees, it is impracticable to deal with them all by the apparently simple device suggested in these Questions. Whatever is done will require legislation which will have to be carefully considered, and we must await the advice of the Committee which is investigating the problem now, with, we hope, all possible expedition.

Mr. Janner

Pending the legislation or the consideration by the Committee of these matters, and in view of the very grave situation which exists and is likely to increase in the coming months, will my right hon. and learned Friend consult with the Minister of Health with a view to having requisitioning notices served on the landlords in order to enable the tenants to remain in their houses until the matter has been decided by the Committee?

The Attorney-General

That possibility has not been lost sight of.

Lieut.-Colonel Lipton

Does the original reply mean that the Government will give legislative effect, if necessary, to any interim recommendations by the Committee?

The Attorney-General

We shall have to consider what the interim recommendations are.

Mr. George Thomas

Is my right hon. and learned Friend aware that notices are being given on a large scale in Cardiff to people whose leases are falling due within the next five years and that tenants are being asked to pay a purchase price of 175 years' lease or lose their homes which will be sold to somebody else in the meantime? Will he take action to protect these people?

Mr. Piratin

Perhaps the Attorney-General will give attention to this suggestion? If and when legislation is introduced, would it be possible to say whether such legislation should be retrospective? If the Attorney-General could make an announcement to that effect now, it might help in preventing landlords from taking advantage of the present situation. Will the Attorney-General make such a statement?

The Attorney-General

I cannot commit myself on Government legislation until we haze had the advice of the Committee which is considering all the aspects of this troublesome matter.