HC Deb 10 July 1950 vol 477 cc938-40
27. Mr. Janner

asked the Attorney-General whether he is now in a position to outline His Majesty's Government's policy on the Final Report which has been submitted by the Leasehold Committee.

28. Mr. Donnelly

asked the Attorney-General if he is aware of the many cases where leases have fallen in and the householders have been served with notices as trespassers and threatened with litigation unless they purchase the freeholds of their cottages for large sums; and whether the Government now propose to introduce legislation to deal with problems of this nature.

29. Mr. Llewellyn

asked the Attorney-General whether, pending the introduction of leasehold reform, the Government will immediately introduce legislation to protect leaseholders whose leases are about to fall in.

30. Mr. George Thomas

asked the Attorney-General what steps he proposes to take in connection with the Final Report on Leasehold Reform.

31. Mr. Hayman

asked the Attorney-General if he is aware that large numbers of lessees are alarmed at communications they have received from their ground landlords regarding leases; and if he will, if necessary, introduce interim legislation as a remedy for some of the most pressing problems in regard to leaseholds.

The Attorney-General (Sir Hartley Shawcross)

Hon. Members will realise that this is a subject which raises problems of great complexity, to which the Government are giving urgent consideration in the light of the Interim and Final Reports of the Leasehold Committee.

Mr. Janner

Is my right hon. and learned Friend not aware that there are considerable difficulties arising in relation to people who are being turned out of their premises in consequence of the termination of their tenancies? Will he do something urgently and quickly so that they may be protected pending the introduction of further legislation?

The Attorney-General

My hon. Friend will not expect the Government to be able to settle their policy in less than two weeks on a matter which it has taken the Leasehold Committee over two years to study, but we are giving the matter the most urgent consideration. Since receipt of the Committee's Report we have had a number of meetings about it, and, indeed, at this very moment I should be having consultations with my noble Friend. If my hon. Friend will not press me now, I shall be able to get on with the work more quickly.

Mr. Donnelly

Does the Attorney-General realise that at Marsh Road, Tenby, last March, 75-year leases at 25s. per annum fell in, that the householders have been served with notices as trespassers and threatened with county court action on the 20th by the landlord, Captain Beor-Roberts, who is prepared to withdraw that action if they purchase the freehold of the property for the extortionate sum of £800 per cottage? Does he not realise that this monstrous scandal is not an isolated example?

Mr. Speaker

We cannot debate this matter now.

Mr. Llewellyn

Can the Attorney-General give the leaseholders in South Wales some guidance in the light of the fact that 10 Government Departments gave evidence against leasehold enfranchisement? Does that indicate. what the Government's policy is likely to be?

The Attorney-General

I cannot accept the suggestion that leaseholders in South Wales or anywhere else are to assume that the Government may not have views of their own about this matter.

Mr. George Thomas

Is my right hon. and learned Friend aware that he has the advantage, unlike the Leasehold Committee, that we are all of the same political opinion, and that the decision ought not to take us long? Will he, therefore, hold out some indication that legislation may be expected, as was forecast in the Gracious Speech?

The Attorney-General

I am afraid I cannot do that at present, but I can assure my hon. Friend that we are well aware of the urgency of the matter and of the fact that every day situations of great difficulty, if not of injustice, are occurring. It is our desire to introduce legislation at the earliest possible moment.

Brigadier Medlicott

Is the Attorney-General aware that this position is no worse, even if it is no better, than it has been for a great many years? In view of the amount of ill-digested legislation which has been placed on the Statute Book in recent years, and the great complexity of the landlord and tenant law, is he aware that there will be general support for careful deliberation before the next Bill is brought in?

The Attorney-General

The hon. and gallant Gentleman can rest assured that the matter will have very careful consideration, but I think it is a fact that a very large number of leases granted in the middle of the nineteenth century are now tending to fall in and that the situation is worse at present, and is likely to become increasingly so, compared with years gone by.

Mr. Hayman

Will my right hon. and learned Friend bear in mind that not only properties where the leases are falling in are concerned, but that the ground landlords are circulating a number of lessees, asking them to renew their leases at very increased rentals?

Mr. Assheton

Is it not undesirable for Members to make attacks on private individuals who are not able to defend themselves here?

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