HC Deb 22 February 1951 vol 484 cc1497-9
The Solicitor-General

I beg to move, in page 12, line 5, at the beginning, to insert: (1) Where by virtue of any provision of this Act a tenancy (in this subsection referred to as "the inferior tenancy") is continued or granted for a period such as to extend to or beyond the end of the term of a superior tenancy, the superior tenancy shall, for the purposes of this Act and of any other enactment and of any rule of law, be deemed so long as it subsists to be an interest in reversion expectant upon the termination of the inferior tenancy and, if there is no intermediate tenancy, to be the interest in reversion immediately expectant upon the termination thereof. (2) Where by virtue of section two of this Act a tenancy is deemed to have continued during the period from the date of continuation until the commencement of this Act, the last foregoing subsection shall be deemed to have applied in relation to that tenancy and any superior tenancy. The object of this apparently rather elaborate Amendment is quite simple, and I think I can illustrate it best by giving an example. Suppose we have a case in which—if I may borrow the letters of the alphabet—A lets to B under the terms of a lease which expires, say, in September of this year. B lets to a shopkeeper C under the terms of a lease which expires before then, say, in June of this year. As B's term does not terminate until after C's term, because B's term goes on until September, the result is that he would not be the holder of a reversion within the meaning of the expression "reversion" as has been defined, and therefore he would not be able to levy distress for rent, and so on.

Perhaps I have not made that quite clear. A lets to B under the terms of a lease which expires in September, 1951. B lets to a shopkeeper C and, therefore, brings Part II of the Bill into operation, under the terms of a lease which expires in June of this year. The effect of Part II is that the shopkeeper C gets an extension for a year, and, therefore, his term is one which expires after B's term, as B's term expires in September this year whereas C's term, because of the extension he gets under Part II, expires in June, 1952.

The result is that without this Amendment B would not be a reversioner as his term would have expired before C's extended term had come to an end in June, 1951. Therefore B, while C is a tenant, would not enjoy rights which a reversioner has. He would not, for example, have the right to levy distress in the case of non-payment of rent. To prevent that result from ensuing, as it would under the Bill as drafted, we have provided, in this Amendment, that in a case such as I have described, where there is a prolongation of the lease which extends it to a period which is after the expiry of the tenancy, the tenant shall nevertheless, be considered as a person who is a reversioner and who, therefore, has the rights of a, reversioner.

This is a drafting Amendment in the sense that it removes what is a defect in the wording of Clause 15 as it at present stands. It is to give the landlord in those circumstances the rights he would have as a reversioner that I have moved the Amendment

Mr. John Hay (Henley)

I am grateful to the Solicitor-General for his careful explanation of this rather complicated Amendment. There is just one fear I have on this point. If we are to give B, the original tenant, a kind of notional reversion—I think that is the effect—for an extended period, what is to be the position of the freeholder at that time if the original tenant B is entitled to take the necessary proceedings, for example for enforcement of covenants, and to levy distress for non-payment of rent? Does it mean that so far as the freeholder is concerned B will have to continuing paying his own head rent and matters of that kind? Does this reversion extension, which is purely a notional one, imply any obligations on the tenant?

The Solicitor-General

The fact is that so long as B's tenancy continues, in the assumed case until September, 1951, B is the reversioner and his relations with' freeholder are exactly the same and are not affected. When September. 1951 comes, B's tenancy expires and the effect of Clause 15 as it stands is to bring the sub-tenant into direct relation with the freeholder, who then becomes the reversioner, and because the provisions of Section 139 of the Law of Property Act, 1925, will apply, by reason of Clause 15, to the case where the lease comes to an end otherwise than by surrender or merger, the freeholder becomes the reversioner and is then entitled to exercise his rights.

Mr. Charles Williams (Torquay)

I was worried about the precise meaning of this Amendment, and I wish to thank the Solicitor-General very sincerely for his extremely clear explanation. To anyone who has been in the House for some time it is a real pleasure to see a Law Officer taking considerable trouble in a case like this to make clear to Members of Parliament how to explain these matters. The right hon. and learned Gentleman is a model for the Attorney-General, and I hope that a copy of the Solicitor-General's speech will be given to the Attorney-General so that he may learn how to treat the Committee on such occasions. I am very much indebted to the Solicitor-General.

Question put, and agreed to.

Clause, as amended, ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Clause 16 ordered to stand part of the Bill.