HC Deb 30 January 1951 vol 483 cc732-857

3.45 p.m.

Mr. Selwyn Lloyd (Wirral)

I beg to move, in page 1, line 7, after "granted," to insert "by a ground lease."

I think that anyone who has studied the Amendment Paper, certainly any layman, will react with a certain amount of consternation to some of the Amendments which have been put down, but, so far as this Amendment is concerned, I submit to the Committee that it is a fairly simple issue. Its object is to confine Part I of the Bill to ground leases, and I submit that there is a good case for seeking to do that by reason of what has been said on this subject.

We on these benches agree that there is a certain problem to be dealt with and that the termination of ground leases at a time of housing scarcity involves very considerable hardship for the persons concerned. We have said before that we think that in the majority of cases landlords are acting reasonably so far as the ground lessees are concerned, but it must be admitted, and cannot be disputed, that legally, ground lessees at the present time are very much at the mercy of a landlord should he choose to be rapacious.

A family may have been living for some time as ground lessees of premises, and there undoubtedly will be a covenant to repair. Therefore, the landlord may find it possible, by threatening to enforce that covenant, to exercise very considerable pressure upon the tenant so far as the terms of renewal are concerned, and, ultimately, the tenant may find himself in the street and, in present circumstances, without the opportunity of getting on to a housing list. That being so, we agree that there is a problem and that action should be taken to meet that problem, but there is a difference of opinion as to what is the correct method of dealing with it.

We on this side of the Committee believe—and later I hope that there will be an opportunity of discussing our alternative proposition for dealing with this situation—that we have a simpler and more effective method than that contained in this Government Bill. The point that I am seeking to make is that the problem is the problem of the ground lessee. I think that was conceded in the speech of the right hon. and learned Attorney-General when he moved the Second Reading of the Bill on 6th December last because he then referred to the King's Speech at the opening of this Session of Parliament and quoted a passage from that speech as follows: My Ministers have under consideration the reform of the law relating to leaseholds and meanwhile measures will be introduced to provide for the continuation for a short period of ground leases relating to residential premises.…"—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 6th December, 1950; Vol. 482, c. 369.] In the course of his speech the right hon. and learned Gentleman, in dealing with the work of the Leasehold Committee, said: It was agreed "— he was referring there to the work of the Committee— that in the case of ground leases and the leases of certain business premises falling in now or in the immediate future, something ought to be done."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 6th December. 1951; Vol. 482, c. 375.] I again emphasise the words "ground leases."

When he came to consider the proposals of the Bill, he said: I have been talking all this time about ground leases, building leases. It is very difficult to define them, and the Bill, as a matter of fact, uses the expression 'long leases granted for more than 21 years.' In practice, such leases are almost invariably, if not invariably, building leases. We shall cover by this method of definition everything we intend to protect, and it is most unlikely that we shall cover anything else. Leases of houses already built are generally for three, five, seven, 14 or, occasionally, 21 years. Although I have not heard of such a case, there may be exceptional ones where leases of already existing houses extend for more than 21 years. If we did protect the occasional house of that kind, it would be most exceptional and no great harm would be done."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 6th December, 1950; Vol. 482, c. 382.] If I understand that, he was putting forward two reasons for not confining this Bill to ground leases. He was suggesting, first of all, that there was a difficulty over the definition of a ground lease and, secondly, he was suggesting it was most unlikely that there were any leases of over 21 years, except building leases. As far as the first of those arguments is concerned we, in putting forward this Amendment, are also suggesting that we should incorporate in this Bill a definition of a ground lease similar to that in the Landlord and Tenant (War Damage) Act, 1939, where a ground lease was defined in terms which I think will satisfy even hon. Members opposite. Section 24 of that Act says: Ground lease' means a lease at a rent (or, where the rent varies, at a maximum rent) which does not substantially exceed the rent which a tenant might reasonably have been expected, at the commencement of the term created by the lease, to pay for the land comprised in the lease, excluding any buildings, for a term equal to the term created by the lease. I suggest that that is a perfectly satisfactory definition of a ground lease and that it disposes of the right hon. and learned Gentleman's first argument. With regard to the second point—the fact that there are practically no leases except building leases for a period over 21 years—one must rely to a certain extent on information supplied to one, and I am told that that is not the case. I am told that there are a considerable number of leases at a rack rent for longer than 21 years, and that that is particularly so in London.

I think the right hon. and learned Gentleman agrees that he does not particularly want to include such leases, but he thinks there are so few of them that no real harm would be done. But if there are a considerable number, it would be really an anomaly to cover them by a provision of this sort. Any further control or restriction as applied to premises let at a rack rent should be very carefully considered. If I understand the jungle of the Rent Restriction Acts correctly, such premises are already subject to them, even though let on long leases, and any extension beyond the Rent Restriction Acts should be considered very carefully. This, in fact, is a piecemeal extension of a certain type of long lease and, therefore, undesirable. I commend this Amendment because it is meant to define a ground lease, and because there will be a certain number of long leases which will be brought within Part I of the Act, which I do not believe the Government wished to bring within that part.

The Attorney-General (Sir Hartley Shawcross)

I am afraid I am not in a position to accept this Amendment. As the hon. and learned Member for Wirral (Mr. Selwyn Lloyd) introduced his observations by some general remarks, perhaps I might be permitted one or two general remarks at the same time. I am afraid the expression I have just used, "I am not in a position to accept this Amendment," is one I am likely to have to repeat a good deal during the course of our proceedings. I do not mean by that, for a moment, that we shall not listen very seriously to all arguments raised.

Mr. Leslie Hale (Oldham, West)

On both sides. If my right hon. and learned Friend is going to listen to arguments it might be a courtesy to listen to them before he gets up to deal with any Amendment.

The Attorney-General

I thought that if I indicated the general position at the beginning, it would be helpful, not only on this Amendment but on others. We have a great number of Amendments and we have already given all of them really anxious consideration in as impartial a way as we have been able to do. We have had to see whether certain Amendments would improve the drafting of the Bill or, in the case of Amendments which went further, whether they would improve the scheme of the Bill.

But, as at present advised, we have been forced to the conclusion that many Amendments—I do not say this one which is concerned more with drafting—would involve fundamental alterations in the whole concept of the Bill. They would convert what is intended to be a standstill Measure, preserving the status quo until we are able to introduce permanent legislation, into something quite different, which would substitute for existing tenancies statutory tenancies, subject to different conditions, which would create all sorts of vested rights both in the tenant and the landlord and, for this reason, would hopelessly prejudice a final settlement. It is for that general reason that we have had to take the view—as at present advised, because we shall listen to whatever arguments may be brought forward—that we cannot accept the Amendments.

Mr. Pickthorn (Carlton)

May 1 ask whether the general matters just mentioned by the Attorney-General will be open to debate?

The Chairman

Not the whole question, but I rather understood that the Attorney-General was making preliminary remarks having reference to the particular Amendment before the Committee.

Mr. Turner-Samuels (Gloucester)

I hope we shall be able to deal with general remarks when we come to the Question that the Clause stand part.

Mr. Manningham-Buller (Northants, South)

I suppose it follows that when we come to address the Committee on this Amendment we shall be in order in making preliminary remarks?

The Chairman

Many hon. Members already take advantage in that way, but, of course, such remarks should strictly be related to the Amendment and—if I may reply to the hon. and learned Member for Gloucester (Mr. Turner-Samuels)—to the Question that the Clause stand part.

4.0 p.m.

The Attorney-General

I thought it might be of assistance to the Committee on both sides if I explained sincerely and seriously that we have given the greatest consideration to all Amendments, that we have studied the speeches made on Second Reading and that, as far as we could, we have had a number of real and substantial Amendments put down in the name of the Government to meet many of the points raised. I do not want it thought that we are taking an obstinate attitude in which we are not prepared to consider improvements to the Bill. I admit that when I saw the list of Amendments as a whole brought down to me on Sunday afternoon, I was reminded of the words of Mr. Ogden Nash who, I am credibly informed, once said: An ordeal of which I easily tire Is that of having a lease expire. When leases expire one wish I have got Is to be a landlord and live on a yacht. Having made that preliminary observation—which I hope hon. Members will accept in the spirit in which I intended to make it—that we have thought a lot about all the Amendments which have been put on the Order Paper—I now give my reason for rejecting this Amendment. I dare say there would be room for a certain amount of merely theoretical discussion as to the merits of the Amendment which has been moved by the hon. and learned Member for Wirral. The conclusive reason for rejecting it, as for rejecting a number of others, is that in practice it just cannot be made to work. As the hon. and learned Gentleman said, I dealt with the matter on the Second Reading of the Bill. I took the view then —and I am afraid that further study compels me to adhere to it—that it is not practicable to find a satisfactory definition of a ground lease.

The hon. and learned Member and those in whose names the present Amendment stands have done their best to do it by copying out the definition, as indeed the hon. and learned Gentleman said, which was contained in the Landlord and Tenant Act of 1939. That was an Act which was inevitably prepared somewhat hastily in order to give effect to the recommendations of a Committee presided over by Mr. Andrewes Uthwatt, as he was then. The Committee recommended that, for the purpose of that legislation, a distinction ought to be drawn between ground leases and other leases, and this definition was inserted. I think there is no secret about it—the definition was inserted with considerable misgiving by those who were responsible for both the recommendations and the legislation at the time.

By 1941 experience had shown that the definition in the Act had become completely unworkable, and in that year an amending Bill was passed, the definition was repealed and the distinction between ground leases and other leases was abolished for the purpose of the 1939 Act, on which this Amendment was modelled. The Lord Chancellor, then Lord Simon, said in another place on the Second Reading of the amending Bill that it was an extremely difficult thing to get a satisfactory definition of what a ground lease was, that there were infinite variations and that one could not by legal definition draw a line between what was a ground lease and what was a rack- rented lease. When the then Attorney-General, Lord Justice Somervell as he is now, introduced the amending Bill into this House he said much the same thing.

One can see the difficulties the moment one looks at the Amendment itself. The definition which is proposed is: ground lease,' means a lease at a rent… which does not substantially exceed the rent which a tenant might reasonably have been expected, at the commencement of the term created by the lease,— perhaps 97 years ago— to pay for the land comprised in the lease, excluding any buildings, for a term equal to the term created by the lease. Let me, in a moment, point to the obvious difficulties of deciding what that sum would be, to the enormous opening it gives to litigious controversy involving delay, expense and anxieties.

What does "substantial" mean? The hon. and learned Gentleman did not explain that. If the hypothetical rent would be £2 a year as a ground rent, must the actual rent be £2 10s., £3, £4, £5, or must it be in order substantially to exceed the hypothetical rent? Is no guidance to be given on that? Is the county court judge to be allowed to decide in each particular case what is a substantial excess? If he is, we shall get wide variations in the administration of the Act on that first leg of the definition alone.

Then one gets the litigious difficulties —the practical considerations which would involve endless expense, the employment of lawyers—a thing I do not want to discourage—the employment of valuers—a thing which does not appeal to me so much—the occupation of endless time in the county courts and perhaps the Court of Appeal, in deciding what valuation a present day valuer ought to put on the market rent at a time, in many cases, nearly 100 years ago. How, as a practical matter, can a valuer reach any reasonable valuation of what might have been a hypothetical rent 100 years ago?

The rent which a tenant might have been expected to pay at that date depends on so many circumstances—the state of the property, the surrounding physical conditions, the economic circumstances of the neighbourhood; and one cannot see how, without enormous research, a valuer would be able to express any use- ful opinion on these matters on which a court would be justified in deciding a figure. Today we may have a house which is in the middle of a building estate, with all the roads laid down, with drainage, shops and all the modern amenities and facilities. But 99 years ago that cottage might have been in an isolated part of the country. It is exceedingly difficult to know how one is to arrive at a valuation in those circumstances.

Then there is the point that the definition requires that valuation should be based on the hypothesis that buildings were excluded from it. Does that mean that the tenant is supposed to be taking a rough piece of land, an area of rough land? Or is it a prepared site for a house? All these would be matters of investigation more for the social historian than for a member of the Architects and Surveyors Institution. On these practical difficulties this Amendment is sunk, as it must be sunk, because we cannot lay down rules in regard to this practical problem which would apply properly in every case.

But even if one could solve these practical difficulties, the Amendment still fails to give the right legal definition for what is normally recognised as a ground lease. It excludes what is usually called, I think, the improved land rent, and hon. Members who are solicitors or conveyancers will be much more familiar with these matters than I am. For example, there is the case where A, the freeholder, lets the land to B, the builder, at what is a true ground rent for the land alone. B puts up the house and then does one of a number of things. He may assign the land for a capital sum so that the occupying tenant continues at a true ground rent, or he may be content with a smaller capital sum, a kind of premium, and then have an annual income, in a larger rent, to reward him for his labours. In that case he will be sub-letting at a rent which will fall far short of the rack rent but which will possibly be considerably in excess of the true ground rent.

On the other hand, there may be cases where the owner of the leasehold of a long-standing house—a house which has been in existence for a long time—chooses, instead of sub-letting at a rack rent, to raise capital on his lease by sub-letting at a large premium and a very small annual rental. The rent may be low enough to come within the definition proposed in the Amendment, but no one would regard where a premium had been paid as being a kind of transaction which created a true ground rent. For all these reasons, and many other practical difficulties, we were forced to the conclusion that there was no hope by definition of confining Clause 1 of the Bill to ground leases.

But I said, and subsequent inquiries confirmed me in the view, that we thought the test we had adopted in the Bill would in fact embrace all ground leases and very little else. The hon. and learned Member for Wirral said that he thought there were a considerable number of houses which would be caught by Clause 1 although they were not ground leases at all. The hon. and learned Gentleman has adduced no evidence of that, and in the nature of things it may be difficult to adduce evidence. I am not making any complaint on the point.

The hon. and learned Member for Northants, South (Mr. Manningham-Buller) did produce a printed lease for 21 years or more, but we thought from our inquiries—and the hon. and learned Gentleman will be able to say if this is wrong—that that kind of lease, which, in any event, on our information, is a very rare thing indeed, would only be granted in continuation of a true ground lease and as a matter of history, the number of cases where a true ground lease has come to an end and a long lease granted in continuation of it has also come to an end must be very small indeed. We think the case, in any event, is a very rare one, and that, in practice, the definition that we are using will wily catch a very small number of cases where the house has already been built when the land was let. If it does, there will be no harm in that.

Many hon. Members on both sides of try Committee, I think, think this protection ought to apply to the lease of a house which had already been built. Some, I think, wanted to go much further still. If—and again I believe the cases will be very infrequent indeed—we do catch houses of that kind no great damage will be done to the parties involved. But we think that in practice it will be found that our method of defining those houses to which the Bill would apply is one which will only catch the ground leases, and will achieve in practice what the hon. and learned Member for Wirral and what hon. Members on this side of the Committee desire this purely temporary Bill to achieve.

Mr. Leslie Hale

I am sure my right hon. and learned Friend will feel that there is a little discourtesy in a Minister's intervening at the opening of the discussion on a very important Bill, and that on the first Amendment, while commencing to define at once the ground and ambit of our endeavour, the Committee should have to listen to a Ministerial speech before anyone on the back benches supporting the Government has had a chance to express any views on it at all. You will appreciate, Major Milner, that there is a moderate discourtesy from two points of view, and I venture to submit to you that in calling a Minister to reply to the debate at once—an exceedingly difficult task in that respect—is not in accordance with the usual practice of the Committee.

The Chairman

The hon. Gentleman is quite out of order in making those latter observations. Moreover, my experience of the practice of Committees is that it is of great convenience to both sides of the Committee if the Minister responsible gets up at the early stage of a discussion on an Amendment to indicate the Government's view.

Mr. Hale

You ruled that I was out of order, Major Milner. May I venture to submit to you respectfully that no Member of the Committee is ever out of order in submitting with respect to the Chair that some Ruling of the Chair is not in accordance with the precedents or the practice of the Committee? With respect, I put before you that in my respectful submission I was well within the rights of a back bench Member in doing that; and if I am right, then I am well within my duty.

The Chairman

I am sorry to interrupt the hon. Gentleman, but I really cannot accept that. The Chair has complete discretion in these matters. It naturally pays regard to tradition and precedent, and so forth, but the Chair must always reserve complete discretion, and I do not think it is within the competence of the hon. Gentleman to make any comments on the action of the Chair.

Mr. Hale

I am much obliged—

4.15 p.m.

Mr. R. S. Hudson (Southport)

May I be allowed to say on that point of order that we entirely support your view, Major Milner? I have had much longer experience of the Committee, if the hon. Gentleman will forgive my saying so, than has the hon. Member for Oldham, West (Mr. L. Hale), and certainly it was the normal pre-war practice, and it was the continual practice, found to be to the convenience of hon. Members of the Committee, for a Minister to get up early in the discussion on an Amendment to give a sort of general view of the line to be taken. I am sure that we deprecate this criticism. We appreciate the action that the Attorney-General has taken, and we deprecate any criticism.

The Attorney-General

I hope my hon. Friend will acquit me of any discourtesy in the matter. I did think, this being the first Amendment, that it would be useful to Members on both sides of the Committee if I indicated the Government's views, as at present advised, in regard to it. I did not do it with any desire to curtail debate. I thought it would be helpful if we made the general position clear on this particular Amendment. I certainly did not wish to curtail the debate or to preclude any hon. Member having a chance to speak.

Mr. Hale

I am much obliged. There is really very little between us in this matter. No one would for a moment dissent that, on the proposition put by the hon. and learned Member for Wirral (Mr. Selwyn Lloyd), we should have an early indication of the Minister's intentions. I submit, however, that it is not out of order for a back-bench supporter of the Government to wonder why a Minister should say, "We have reached a certain decision" when he means presumably this side, before anyone on this side has had a chance of partaking in the deliberations and of submitting our points.

The point that I was going to make was that at this stage no back bencher, Liberal, Labour, or, indeed Communist—and, in this matter, perhaps, it does not matter so much which he is—at this stage no back bencher had taken part in the discussion and submitted points for consideration before a final conclusion was reached by the Committee. Therefore, I was submitting that it would have been very convenient from our point of view if we had taken part in the discussion at any earlier stage. I certainly acquit my right hon. and learned Friend of any discourtesy. He would never be capable of it. He is normally the soul of courtesy and consideration.

Having said that, I would add that there is very little between me and my right hon. and learned Friend on the case he put. I agree with it. But I still venture to suggest what I ventured to suggest in an intervention on Second Reading. I was unfortunate enough not to catch the eye of the Chair on Second Reading, although 15 or 16 criticisms were made of me in the course of the debate. I should like now to put it on record, because I have been submitted to some public criticism, as a former Chairman of the Leasehold Committee and for two and a half years a member of the Departmental Leasehold Committee, for not defending my views in the course of the debate, that, as for a day or two before the debate there had been a heavy posting of names and it was impossible for the Chair to indulge in the dexterous catching of foreign bodies—

The Chairman

I do not know whether the hon. Gentleman is referring to the Committee Chair, because, of course, no communication whatsoever has been addressed to the Chair by any Member in regard to this debate—to my knowledge.

Mr. Hale

I was only trying to explain —and I was trying to do so in a pleasant fashion—the reason why I did not reply then to criticisms made of me during the Second Reading. It was that I did not have the opportunity, although I was here. I do not make any complaint about it, because many Members who knew more about it than I did wanted to speak. However, I think it is right that I should make it clear now, in view of the fact that I have been submitted to public criticism, why I am glad to have an early opportunity to clear up the point.

The hon. and learned Member for Wirral is much more lucid and understandable and moderate in his expressions when speaking from the bench to which the heirs of Parliamentary Private Secretaries belong than when he speaks from the bench for heirs-presumptive to Ministers. During his speech today he made quite clear when moving the Amendment one or two points. He said, I thought—and I approach this Clause from this point of view—that in proposing to insert the words "by a ground lease "he was trying to make a serious endeavour to clarify the Clause which, as my right hon. and learned Friend will know, I have expressed doubts about ever since it was drafted. I sincerely am worried about the wording of the Clause. I am told that this concatenation of words does include every ground lease, and is designed for that purpose. I had supposed that the hon. and learned Member was trying to clear something up, but he made it clear that he was, in fact, moving the first of a series of Amendments, and taking the first of a series of steps, to wreck the Bill.

Mr. Selwyn Lloyd


Mr. Hale

The hon. and learned Member says "nonsense." If I should not be out of order I would summarise what the effects of the Amendments would be to Clause 1. I should take an opportunity of doing it in the course of the day. If the hon. and learned Member had said that there are not many houses let on a 21-year lease, I should have agreed with him. In my experience, there are not. My experience is limited to industrial parts of the country, and it may very well be that in Westminster there are. He went on to add, surely very naïvely, that after all, as he understood it, a lot of those were protected by the existing Rent Acts. Does he really suggest that he has ever heard of a lease of 21 years of residential premises of a rateable value of less than £100 in the metropolis and of £75 in the country? Of course he does not, and I certainly never have heard of it.

The next Amendment on the Order Paper, in the name of my hon. Friend the Member for Leicester, North-West (Mr. Janner)—in page I, line 8, leave out "exceeding twenty-one "and insert" not less than fourteen "—is designed to reduce the period of this lease and to increase the ambit—

Mr. Manningham-Buller

On a point of order. Surely, in what we have been told are preliminary observations, it must be out of order to discuss the next Amendment.

The Chairman

The hon. Gentleman, of course, knows that that is so. His remarks must be related in the main to the Amendment under discussion, although I have so far allowed him a great deal of latitude.

Mr. Hale

May I repeat the last two sentences, to which I understand objection has been taken? I said that there is on the Order Paper in the name of my hon. Friend the Member for Leicester, North-West, an Amendment designed to increase the ambit. Surely that is material when we are discussing reducing the ambit. I have not made any comment on that Amendment, nor said whether or not I agree with it. I have only pointed out that the Amendment of the hon. and learned Member for Wirral would make my hon. Friend's Amendment quite impossible, and I should have thought that was eminently material. I am sorry if the ambulatory nature of my oratorical gait has annoyed the hon. and learned Member for Northants, South (Mr. Manningham-Buller). I have tried to deal with what I think is a fundamental attitude to this matter at the outset, and to say some things which I shall have to repeat in the course of our deliberations.

This is the first of a series of Amendments designed to take more and more people out of protection; it is the first of a series of Amendments which the hon. and learned Member dare not put before the people down in South Wales, or other places where this problem is acute; it is the first of a series of Amendments which make it quite clear that if ever a Tory Government came into office there would be no hope whatever of any satisfactory permanent legislation on this subject.

Sir Patrick Spens (Kensington, South)

First let me challenge the last statement of the hon. Member for Oldham, West (Mr. L. Hale). This Amendment is not intended to try to bring a whole lot of people outside the protection of the Bill. This Bill was introduced as a Bill to protect ground leases, whatever that phrase means, and this Amendment is proposed for the purpose of trying to define those who are to be entitled to protection under the Bill.

Mr. Turner-Samuels

Would the hon. and learned Member give way?

Sir P. Spens

No, not at the moment. "Ground lease" is a very well-known legal phrase. Ground leases were a very common occurrence up to 100 years ago. Ground leases almost invariably developed out of a building scheme on an estate. They were the leases of the various plots of land on which houses were to be built. The rents were apportionable to the size of the plot and did not include anything in respect of the building which the builder was going to put up on it.

Of course, the rent of the various plots varied with the size and siting of the plot; the rent for a corner plot would be somewhat higher than the rent of a back plot, but the rents and the proportions of the rents can all be quite easily historically ascertained. There is no question of a court having to go into what is the rent of these building sites. The building scheme is there; the rents will be known, and those houses in the scheme entitled to protection will be known. There cannot be the slightest difficulty whatever in any part of the country in ascertaining which are the premises and what are the ground rents being paid in respect of the original ground leases on which ground rent is paid.

The Attorney-General went on to the next stage where very often there are what are called improved ground rents that is to say, the builder having built, sometimes let the premises for a year, or even a day, less than the whole extent of the ground lease for a somewhat higher rent and pocketed a premium or something. If improved ground rents are intended to be included in this Bill there is not the slightest difficulty in doing so. Historically that also would be quite easily ascertainable, and I cannot believe that it is beyond the wit of man to devise a definition which would include improved ground leases.

In going beyond that we get to the stage of premises which are let at substantially higher rents, either rack rents, or something—[HON. MEMBERS: "Why not? "]—I gather it is the intention of some of the party opposite, if they can, to include in this Bill improved rack rented or highly rented premises. I gather that the hon. Member for Oldham, West, would like to see that too. I do not know what the justification is.

Mr. George Thomas (Cardiff, West)

Put them all in.

Sir P. Spens

The hon. Member says Put them all in." It would be perfectly simple to say that there is to be a complete standstill for all leases coming to an end in the next two years. [HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear."] There we are. That is what hon. Members opposite want, but it is not what the Government introduced into the House. That is not what the Government said they were going to do. They said they were going to do something very different, but their back benchers come along and say they want a great deal more, and judging by the next Amendment on the Order Paper, in which the hon. Member for Leicester, South-West (Mr. Janner), seeks in page 1, line 8, to leave out "exceeding twenty-one" and to insert "not less than fourteen," they intend to attempt to do it.

I suggest that our Amendment is merely an attempt to define, and to define accurately, the category of leases which are to be given protection under this Bill. This is not a Bill for a standstill for all leases coming to an end within the prescribed period, or that have already come to an end. That would work the most gross injustice on all sorts of people, and as between one neighbour and another. In those circumstances, I submit that the Bill must be confined to ground leases, and a proper definition given. I have not the least objection to including what the hon. Member for Oldham, West, referred to as improved ground leases as well as the original ground leases. That might very well be fair, because there are long leases running on for the best part of 100 years. That is quite easily definable, and can be dealt with when we get to the definitions. I submit that it is necessary to include these words in this Clause.

4.30 p.m.

Mr. Janner (Leicester, North-West)

Let me say at once that the hon. and learned Member for Kensington, South (Sir P. Spens) is quite right; there are a number of people who regard long-term leases—which is what this Bill is intended to deal with; not ground leases at all, but long-term leases—as being legitimately ripe to be extended so that the tenants shall not be thrown out, irrespective of whether they be members of the so-called working-class or of the middle-class. I think that hon. Members opposite had better think a little before they start offering suggestions for restrictions of this Measure because they may become answerable for their error to many hundreds of thousands of people in the country who are in peril at the present time of being turned out because their long leases are coming to an end.

I am in a sense sorry, too, that my right hon. and learned Friend did not wait a little before replying. I do not say that he was wrong in speaking when he did, although I think, with respect, that he was a little hasty, because some of us have suggestions to offer with regard to this Amendment which might even have the effect of making the closing statement of the Government a wider one than that made by the learned Attorney-General.

The object of the Amendment, as has already been very rightly stated, is to restrict to the minimum the extension of long leases. The idea of using the words "exceeding 21 years" is something about which I am not at all happy. It means that the Bill does not even cover the 21-year lease, which, in all conscience, is long enough to be called a long lease and which is described by the Committee who investigated this matter as being a long lease.

Mr. Turner-Samuels

What does it matter about the terms of a lease? Is not the whole question limited to the right of the person in possession remaining in possession as a result of the shortage of housing accommodation at the present time?

Mr. Janner

I would gladly accept the eloquence of my hon. and learned Friend, and perhaps, at a later stage, he will carry that point further, if he is in order. The length of term used in the Clause itself is in my view all too limited and does not bear any further restriction. May I point out to the learned Attorney-General that the idea of a 21 years lease not being extended is indeed a heavy burden for those holders of long leases to bear.

I am not using words that have not been used in the course of the inquiry. The actual words used by the Committee When dealing with certain leases were "as long as 21 years" which implied that that was a very long lease. Now the Opposition are trying to curtail this to below 21 years and to houses let at a rent which is not in excess of two-thirds of the rateable value. I have the privilege of being one of the constituents of the hon. and learned Member for Kensington, South, although I rarely agree with him and he will find that what he wants to do now will exclude from the protection of this Bill those who are living in his own area who have long leases, many of them of 30, 40 or 50 years, and some as long as 99 years.

I think that in the circumstances we ought to make it clear in this Committee, that is, those of us who feel the same as I do, that we are strongly opposed to any limitation of the period referred to in the Bill and we are strongly opposed to the suggestion that only ground rents should be covered, which is the sense in which the Opposition have put this Amendment. We hope that not only will the spokesman for the Government offer pacifying explanations, but that he will go very much further and say determinedly to those who want to throw people out of their homes when their leases have expired, that we shall not allow them to do so.

Mr. Donald Wade (Huddersfield, West)

My "preliminary observations" will be very brief and I hope relevant. I think it is clear that Part I of the Bill is intended primarily to deal with ground leases, but the point which we have to keep in mind is that this is a "standstill Measure," to use the expression used by the Attorney-General. It is an attempt to maintain the status quo between the landlord and the tenant until legislation of a more permanent nature is introduced.

What we want, and the sooner the better, is the reform of our leasehold law, an overhaul of the Rent Restriction Acts and important changes in the Landlord and Tenant Act. In the meantime, this is only a stop-gap Measure. I think that it is clear from reading the Report of the Leasehold Committee—the minority report as well as the majority report—and from listening to the Second Reading debate on this Bill that the permanent legislation, which we hope will eventually be introduced, will cover more than ground leases.

All that we are attempting to do now is to maintain the status quo until this legislation of a more permanent nature is introduced. This Measure now before the House may involve some injustice, but I think that it would involve more injustice if we did not maintain a standstill while we were waiting for legislation of a more permanent nature. Therefore, as regards this Amendment, I suggest that —quite apart from the practical difficult ties—it would be a mistake to accept it.

Mr. Ungoed-Thomas (Leicester, North-East)

I am glad that my right hon. and learned Friend the Attorney-General has indicated that he will not accept this Amendment. As he indicated in very polite terms, and as my hon. Friend the Member for Oldham, West (Mr. L. Hale), indicated somewhat more vigorously, this is part of a thought-out series of Amendments which are opposed to the whole fundamental conception of the Bill. This Amendment is part of a series of Amendments which, as my hon. Friend said, are wrecking Amendments. It would in fact have been far more appropriate if the Opposition had voted against the Second Reading of the Bill.

I limit myself to this particular Amendment. I shall make some more general observations when we come to a later Amendment. Clearly, there are difficulties in defining a ground lease. So far as I know, the only Act which contains a definition of a ground lease is the one which the hon. and learned Member for Wirral (Mr. Selwyn Lloyd) mentioned. The practical difficulties in applying that definition have already been referred to by my right hon. and learned Friend.

The hon. and learned Member for Kensington, South (Sir P. Spens), indicated that it would not be too difficult to have the evidence of building schemes. Not every ground lease falls within a building scheme, as he knows perfectly well; and he must know, as I know, the difficulty of establishing the existence of a building scheme, when, for instance, one is trying to establish the application of restrictive covenants dependent upon a lease. He knew from his practice, as I know in my practice, the difficulty of establishing evidence of this kind. The Rent Restriction Acts are the basis of the Amendments the Opposition have put down, but the Rent Restriction Acts do not contain a definition of "ground lease."

If the definition the Opposition are bringing forward is accepted, it will still exclude from protection a number of people already excluded from the Rent Restriction Acts. It would not fill up the gap in the Rent Restriction Acts which it was the purpose of those who signed both the majority and minority reports to fill. The Rent Restriction Acts excludes from protection tenancies under two-thirds of the rateable value. There is a precedent for the Government's action which shows the difficulty of finding a definition of "ground lease." In the Places of Worship (Enfranchisement) Act, 1920, precisely the same course was taken that has been adopted by the Government in this case. In that case power of enfranchisement was given; it was not limited to ground leases, but applied to all leases over 21 years.

The difficulty, as here, was to provide a working definition of "ground lease." Perhaps it may be that they also had in mind that if a lease is granted for more than 21 years, it is not an ordinary transitory occupational tenancy but a lease which gives a much more substantial interest in the property, and that in a substantial interest of that kind protection should be afforded which was not given in the case of ordinary short-term occupational leases. For these reasons. I am glad that my right hon. and learned Friend is not accepting the Amendment.

4.45 p.m.

Mr. John Hay (Henley)

The Committee will have been extremely interested in the four speeches we have heard from Members opposite. The Attorney-General began by telling us point-blank that, while he was prepared to listen to all the arguments we might put up on the various Amendments, he thought it most unlikely that he would be able to accept many of them. That was rather an unpromising beginning. We then had the hon. Member for Oldham, West (Mr. L. Hale), who was able to make a Second Reading speech on the Amendment, something which has been frequently done before, but seldom so badly.

Then the hon. Member for Leicester, North-West (Mr. Janner), told us that we had put down these Amendments with the object of wrecking the Bill, the same view also being expressed by the hon. and learned Member for Leicester, North-East (Mr. Ungoed-Thomas). Our position was made perfectly plain on Second Reading. We consider that this is a very bad Bill. We do not deny that there is a problem—the Leasehold Committee itself has said that there is a problem. We think, however, that this is a very bad way of dealing with it, and the whole purpose of these Amendments is to try and improve the Bill. I should have thought that Members opposite, who are just as concerned as we are for the protection of tenants who will find themselves in difficult conditions if their leases run out, would have been just as interested as we are in trying to improve the Bill.

This Amendment is a very simple one. The Attorney-General, when introducing the Bill, as my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Wirral (Mr. Selwyn Lloyd) has pointed out, referred constantly to the Bill as being intended to deal with ground leases. I will not repeat all the quotations, but if the intention of the Government was to introduce a Bill to protect the tenants of premises held on long leases that were falling in within the next two years, then "ground lease" is a very adequate and usual term to use.

The point has also been made that the definition we are proposing is not a satisfactory one. The Attorney-General picked a number of holes in that definition and said that it was "thoroughly unsatisfactory." I suggest that if the Government were prepared to accept that definition, it could be left to the courts to decide what is a ground lease, which is a procedure that is not unknown in statutes. As we were reminded on Friday last, there is no definition in any of the Rent Acts of a statutory tenancy, except in the notes. Yet everyone knows what it is. Similarly, most lawyers and courts would know what was meant by "ground lease." Our intention in these Amendments, many of which I hope we shall be pressing in the Division Lobby, is to improve the Bill. If the Govern- ment have adopted an intransigent attitude and their minds are completely closed, then I say "Thank Heaven" for another place.

Mr. Turner-Samuels

I was rather interested in the remarks of the hon. Member for Henley (Mr. Hay) about improving what he describes as this "bad" Bill. If I follow him correctly, the method he proposes to apply will merely make matters much worse. I quite agree that this is an inadequate Bill. I have never had any doubt about that. I also agree that Clause 1 is far too limiting. With Clause 1 in the Bill, it does not entitle the Attorney-General to describe this as a "standstill" Measure. That is just what the Bill is not. It is undoubtedly a standstill Bill in respect of what are termed long tenancies.

I should have thought, although it might be justifiable to include such tenancies merely on the grounds that at this time all tenancies ought to be safeguarded, that if it is a question of selection, these are the last of all tenancies that ought to have protection at present. It is a misuse of the English language to say that this is a standstill Measure.

The hon. and learned Member for Kensington, South (Sir P. Spens) appears to have made himself believe—I doubt whether, in fact, he does believe it—that this Measure was intended to cover only ground leases. I suspect he said that to indicate that the Government had gone beyond what was promised or what legitimately ought to have been done. I find it very difficult to accept that proposition seriously. We have only to look at the title of the Bill to see—

The Chairman

I hope that the hon. and learned Member will make some reference to the Amendment.

Mr. Turner-Samuels

I thought I was doing so when referring to ground leases, to which the Amendment, although I am not quite sure, alludes. Having stated how erroneous is the view of the hon. and learned Gentleman, the Member for Kensington. South (Sir P. Spens) I will leave the point.

I hope the debate will not be made obscure, and that the difficulty about this Clause will not be hidden by a technical discussion on ground leases. As I have already stated, the Clause is sufficiently limited without doing what this Amendment seeks to do. Although the Clause as it stands is limited, it does include leases on terms exceeding 21 years. The Opposition Amendment, which indicates how much they want to bring relief to tenants, goes out of its way to get that limited measure cut down to ground leases.

Is the hon. and learned Member for Wirral, who moved the Amendment, and those who support it, asking the Committee to make the Clause even more inefficacious than it is at present? The Clause represents to us the absolute minimum. It does not embrace the most urgent cases which ought to be dealt with —those which come between houses that are protected by the Rent Restriction Acts and the protection that is given here. Tens of thousands need relief in this respect and are not touched at all. Yet hon. Members opposite have put down an Amendment which will virtually destroy the essence of this Clause.

Mr. Charles Williams (Torquay)

It would be very helpful to the Committee if the hon. and learned Gentleman could say what he means when he uses the phrase "ground leases," which he has done several times.

Mr. Turner-Samuels

The hon. Member is doing exactly what I said the Opposition were doing, but I will try to give him an answer to his question. It is very difficult, and it would be very unsatisfactory to try to give a definition of "ground leases." It would be very much better to refer to "a lease and a ground rent" and if the hon. Gentleman wants a definition of "a ground rent" I will give it to him. It is a rent less than a rack rent.

Mr. L. Hale

Not necessarily.

Mr. Turner-Samuels

As my hon. Friend says, not necessarily. That shows the difficulty of giving it a definition. Generally speaking, and substantially, that is what is technically known as a ground rent. I agree about the difficulty. That is why it is absolutely impossible to give a meticulous definition of a ground lease. In my submission, the Clause ought not to be cut down any further.

Mr. Derek Walker-Smith (Hertford)

Hon. Members opposite have called this a wrecking Amendment. It is, of course, well within the knowledge of the Committee that hon. Members who are more concerned with the electoral aspects of a Measure than with the specific merits, generally describe useful and constructive efforts to improve the Bill before the Committee as "wrecking Amendments."

The position seems to be that there is a gulf between the attitude of the right hon. and learned Gentleman the Attorney-General and some of his hon. Friends who have spoken on this Amendment. Their position is quite clear. They say, "We do not like this Amendment because, in our view, a long lease or a medium term lease at a rack rent should, in any event, be within the Clause. "That is not my understanding of the intention of the right hon. and learned Gentleman. He has said that so far as the Bill as drafted is concerned, he is advised that it will include all ground leases and very few others. He has also said that it is impossible to define a ground lease. In that case what definition had he in mind when he satisfied himself that the Clause will include all ground leases, if it is so difficult to define? Would he tell the Committee?

Mr. Janner

Surely the hon. Gentleman knows the answer to that one himself. A lease is a lease whether it be a ground lease or a rent lease.

Mr. Walker-Smith

I always felt that if I listened long enough to the hon. Member opposite, he would enunciate one simple proposition with which I felt I could agree. He now says that a lease is a lease. I do not disagree that a lease is a lease. What we are here concerned with is the definition of a "ground lease" and the Amendment deals with a ground lease. Our view is that the Clause should confine its protection to occupying ground lessees and we seek to ensure that the language of the Clause should adopt that intention.

I am not very impressed by the right hon. and learned Gentleman's suggestion that a definition of a ground lease is impossible. It may well be so in the case of the Landlord and Tenant (War Damage) Act, 1939, but the reason for changing the law there was the difficulty of defining ground leases, because for the business of that Act it seemed right to the legislature that there should be no difference between ground leases and ordinary leases. That Act was concerned with matters far different from those with which the Committee is concerned today.

Finally, might I suggest—and it really reinforces what was said by my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Kensington, South (Sir P. Spens)—that it may be difficult to define" a ground lease. "As is said of the elephant, it is difficult to define but easy to recognise. I do not believe that, in practice, the words "ground lease" if written into the Clause would create much difficulty in distinguishing it and in confining the protection of this Clause to those particular people.

5.0 p.m.

Mr. Manningham-Buller

The wide range that this debate has covered on what is, after all, a very simple and, I should have thought, easily understood Amendment is not surprising. The right hon. and learned Gentleman, in answer to my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Wirral (Mr. Selwyn Lloyd), made a few preliminary observations which, I thought, were not such as to encourage the business of the Committee to be expeditiously conducted. Yesterday, in putting forward a Bill, he said it was better to hear a case argued rather than consider it merely on paper. He has told us that he has considered all the Amendments that have been tabled and has reached a conclusion upon them already. In spite of that we shall persevere in the hope of pursuading to him that our Amendments are well founded.

I think it is important to bear in mind that the line which the right hon. and learned Gentleman took in answering the Amendment was quite different from that of other hon. Members opposite who spoke against it. His argument was solely that it was impossible to define a ground lease accurately. He did not suggest for one moment that the intention of the Measure was to apply it to all leases. He rather indicated that it was an unfortunate accident if a long lease at a rack rent happened to come within the embrace of Clause 1.

The Attorney-General

I did not say it was unfortunate.

Mr. Manningham-Buller

The right hon. and learned Gentleman did not use the word, I know, but the impression he gave to me was that it was bad luck that it had to be swept into the net because he could not define a ground lease.

I was extremely surprised, after hearing that argument advanced by the right hon. and learned Gentleman, by the observations of the hon. Member for Oldham, West (Mr. L. Hale). He first of all protested at the right hon. and learned Gentleman's giving his views. I am glad that the right hon. and learned Gentleman did so, and I hope that in later debates he will give us his views at an early stage, thus assisting the debate and helping us to reach a conclusion at a greater speed.

The hon. Member for Oldham, West, made a speech which was both offensive and inaccurate. It is hard to tell whether it was more offensive or more inaccurate. It was offensive to my hon. and learned Friends and inaccurate in describing the Amendment as a wrecking Amendment. Other hon. Members have described the Amendment as a wrecking Amendment. May I remind them that, in seeking to insert the words "by a ground lease," the Amendment is merely seeking to put into the Bill the very words which were in the King's Speech? The hon. Member for Oldham, West, and his colleagues will find, if they refer to the King's Speech, the very passage quoted on the Second Reading by the right hon. and learned Gentleman. This is the passage: My Ministers have under consideration the reform of the law relating to leaseholds, and meanwhile Measures will he introduced to provide for the continuation for a short period of ground leases relating to residential premises. Nothing there about leases at rack rents, but purely about ground leases.

Mr. L. Hale

Would the hon. and learned Gentleman—

Mr. Manningham-Buller

I would much rather finish what I am saying before I am interrupted. The hon. Gentleman has been here for part of the debate, but he has not been here for the whole of it. I am trying to deal with—

Mr. Janner

He was here when he was speaking.

Mr. Manningham-Buller

The hon. Gentleman was here when he spoke, I agree. The hon. Member for Leicester, North-West (Mr. Janner), has made a record by making two accurate remarks on the same day.

There is that reference in the King's Speech, but nothing there about rack rents. Indeed, one has had to wait until today to see the attack developed by hon. Members opposite not only on ground landlords but on all classes of landlord. That emerged perfectly clearly today. It is absolute nonsense to describe an Amendment as "wrecking" that is really seeking to insert into the clause the words, "by a ground lease," the very words which appeared in the King's Speech in relation to this very Measure. The right hon. and learned Gentleman will not deny that it was the main object of the. Bill that it should apply to ground leases, and to ground leases only. He cannot deny it, in view of his Second Reading speech. It is complete nonsense to describe, this Amendment in that way. We will deal with other Amendments when we come to them.

Mr. Ungoed-Thomas

It is not merely so described because of the words of the Amendment, but because of those words in conjunction with the whole scheme of Amendments introduced by the Opposition.

Mr. Manningham-Buller

I am dealing with this Amendment. It stands by itself. The hon. and learned Gentleman cannot have understood the other Amendments if he thinks that this Amendment should be taken in conjunction with them. It is quite separate and is merely intended to put in words which are contained in the King's Speech, to improve the drafting and to improve the Bill. That is why we put the Amendment forward.

Mr. Ungoed-Thomas


Mr. L. Hale


The Chairman

Mr. Hale.

Mr. Hale

The hon. and learned Member for Northants, South, (Mr. Manningham-Buller) promised to give way to me on a statement he made that I had been inaccurate and offensive, and to do so at the termination or conclusion of the point he was making. I take it that he has now given way, and that is why I have insisted upon the concession which the hon. and learned Member now makes for me to intervene.

He accused me of being offensive, and he went on to comment on the fact that, with a broken arm, I left the Committee for two minutes during a two hours' discussion. That comment was not very kind or considerate. He accused me of saying something which I did not say. I said that the Amendment was the first of a series of Amendments to Clause 1 and that the whole effect was designed to wreck the Clause, and sentence by sentence to remove a whole lot of people, more and more people, out of the protection of the Clause. That statement I categorically repeat.

Mr. Manningham-Buller

Had I known that the hon. Member only wanted me to give way for the purpose of repeating the same inaccurate observations I should not have given way. It does not encourage me to give way again. I shall deal with the Amendments as we come to them. By the end of the debate, if the hon. Gentleman attends, he will no doubt realise that our Amendments are not wrecking Amendments but designed to improve an extremely bad Bill. The hon. Gentleman has sustained an injury. I was not aware he had done so. I know he has his arm in a sling, but that might be attributable to many causes. If the fact appeared in the Press, I did not notice it.

Mr. Harrison (Nottingham, East)

He has not got his head in a sling.

Mr. Manningham-Buller

Not yet. This Amendment stands on its own, and is not interlocked with other Amendments.

The Attorney-General

Not with the definition?

Mr. Manningham-Buller

That comes later. The only question we are considering now is whether the words "by a ground lease" should go into Clause 1.

The Attorney-General

Is the hon. and learned Gentleman seriously asking the Committee to take the view that we could work the Bill with the words "by a ground lease "in Clause 1, but with no definition of what was meant?

Mr. Manningham-Buller

We shall have plenty of opportunity of amending the definition if we do not seek to do so before we reach it. In spite of interrup- tion, I am trying to get to the point at issue. All that we desire here is the insertion of this simple phrase. All the arguments of the right hon. and learned Gentleman against the insertion of this simple phrase were simply based on the point that a ground lease was impossible to define. That is the sole basis on which he put his argument. I am only going to deal with his argument, and shall not seek to deal with the arguments of his supporters that the whole Clause should be vastly extended. I shall deal with his argument in this way: I think it is nonsense to suggest that practitioners such as lawyers and valuers are not able to recognise the vast majority of ground leases immediately they see them. It is nonsense for him to suggest that the insertion of these words would lead to a vast amount of litigation.

Everyone knows what a ground lease is. I am very doubtful—I come back to the interruption just now by the right hon. and learned Gentleman—whether it really is necessary to insert any definition whatsoever of the term, because a ground lease is something which is easily recognisable by all who have to do with leases. After all, there is a document in existence which can be seen, and the lease usually indicates whether it is a ground lease or not. Therefore, I think that any defect in the definition contained in an Amendment which we are not discussing does not rob this Amendment of the force and merit which is behind it. The right hon. and learned Gentleman did all he could to emphasise these imaginary difficulties. It is equally difficult to define a pile of stones, but everyone knows what a pile of stones is and the same is the case with ground leases.

The right hon. and learned Gentleman said that he did not think there would be many leases exceeding 21 years at a rack rent to be embraced by the Clause. I differ entirely from him on that. The Clause, with its harmful effects, will catch a number of long leases at rack rents, and the real beneficiaries of that embrace will be the categories to which my hon. and learned Friend referred in his Second Reading speech. I am sorry that the Government should have adopted this attitude to the first of a series of Amendments intended to improve this very bad Measure, and in view of their attitude we shall have no alternative but to carry this matter to a Division.

Mr. C. Williams

I have been trying for some time to say something about the Amendment. First, I want to say, as shortly as I can, how shocked I was at the Attorney-General's opening speech. I have read the King's Speech with great care. The subject of ground leases is one in which people all over the country have been extremely interested for a very long while. Having read the King's Speech, and realising that someone must have given legal advice on this matter, I thought that the right hon. and learned Gentleman would be able to give us a simple definition of the lease.

Whether one is the Government or a private individual, if a lawyer is giving one advice and is incapable of doing a comparatively simple thing, it is never a bad thing to change the lawyer. That was why I asked the hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for Gloucester (Mr. Turner-Samuels) if he could do any better. I found that the second lawyer on that side who, I hoped, would be able to give a valuable opinion—I have listened to his views on the law of the House for four or five years and I have no reason to suppose that he is any worse than any

other lawyer on that side—was incapable of giving me a clear definition. He used the trick so often used by those who do not know what they are talking about. He ran along a side-track about some form of rent.

It is a very great pity that the right hon. and learned Gentleman barged into the debate before he had really heard more than one excellent speech and before he had any idea whatever what hon. Members on his own side of the Committee were thinking. I hope that in the circumstances he will realise that he is doing a great injury to the Bill by coming here so ill-prepared that he cannot even define what is meant on the first Amendment. It would have been quite easy for him to do it. I am glad to see that he realises that every word I have said about him is thoroughly well deserved. He has not been serious with either the Government or the Committee in the part he has played this afternoon.

Question put, "That those words be there inserted."

The Committee divided: Ayes, 238; Noes, 276.

Division No. 16.] AYES [5.16 p.m.
Alport, C. J. M. Clarke, Col. R. S. (East Grinstead) Glyn, Sir R.
Amery, J. (Preston, N.) Clarke, Brig. T. H. (Portsmouth, W.) Gridley, Sir A.
Amory, D. Heathcoat (Tiverton) Colegate, A. Grimston, R. V. (Westbury)
Arbuthnot, John Cooper, A. E. (Ilford, S.) Harris, F. W. (Croydon, N.)
Ashton, H. (Chelmsford) Cooper-Key, E. M. Harris, R. R. (Heston)
Assheton, Rt. Hon. R. (Blackburn, W.) Corbett, Lieut.-Col. U. (Ludlow) Harvey, Air Codre. A. V. (Macclesfield)
Astor, Hon. M. Craddock, G. B. (Spelthorne) Harvey, Ian (Harrow, E.)
Baker, P. Cranborne, Viscount Hay, John
Baldwin, A. E. Crookshank, Capt. Rt. Hon. H. F. C. Head, Brig. A. H.
Banks, Col. C. Cross, Rt. Hon. Sir R. Headlam, Lieut.-Col. Rt. Hon. S. C.
Baxter, A. B. Crosthwaite-Eyre, Col. O. E. Heald, L. F.
Bell, R. M. Crowder, Capt. John F. E. (Finchley) Heath, E. R.
Bennett, Sir P. (Edgbaston) Crowder, F. P. (Ruislip—Northwood) Henderson, John (Cathcart)
Bennett, R. F. B. (Gosport) Cundiff, F. W. Hicks-Beach, Maj. W. W.
Bevins, J. R. (Liverpool, Toxteth) Cuthbert, W. N. Higgs, J. M. C.
Birch, Nigel Davidson, Viscountess Hill, Mrs. E. (Wythenshawe)
Bishop, F. P. Davies, Nigel (Epping) Hill, Dr. C. (Luton)
Black, C. W. de Chair, S. Hinchingbrooke, Viscount
Boles, Lt.-Col. D. C. (Wells) De la Bère, R. Hollis, M. C.
Boothby, R. Deedes, W. F. Holmes, Sir J. Stanley (Harwich)
Bossom, A. C. Digby, S. Wingfield Hope, Lord J.
Bower, N. Donner, P. W. Hopkinson, H. L. D'A
Boyd-Carpenter, J. A. Drayson, G. B. Hornsby-Smith, Miss P.
Boyle, Sir Edward Drewe, C. Horsbrugh, Rt. Hon. Florence
Braine, B. Dugdale, Maj. Sir T. (Richmond) Howard, G. R. (St. Ives)
Braithwaite, Lt.-Comdr. J. G. Duncan, Capt. J. A. L. Hudson, Sir Austin (Lewisham, N.)
Bromley-Davenport, Lt.-Col. W. Dunglass, Lord Hudson, Rt. Hon. R. S. (Southport)
Brooke, H. (Hampstead) Duthie, W. S. Hudson, W. R. A. (Hull, N.)
Browne, J. N. (Govan) Eccles, D. M. Hurd, A. R.
Buchan-Hepburn, P. G. T. Elliot, Lieut.-Col. Rt. Hon. Walter Hutchinson, Geoffrey (Ilford, N.)
Bullock, Capt. M. Fisher, Nigel Hutchison, Lt.-Com. Clark (E'b'rgh W.)
Bullus, Wing-Commander E. E. Fort, R. Hyde, H. M.
Burden, Squadron-Leader F. A. Foster, J. G. Hylton-Foster, H. B.
Butcher, H. W. Fraser, Hon. H. C. P. (Stone) Jeffreys, General Sir G.
Butler, Rt. Hon. R. A. (S'ffr'n W'ld'n) Galbraith, Cmdr T. D. (Pollok) Jennings, R.
Carr, Robert (Mitcham) Galbraith T. G. D. (Hillhead) Johnson, Howard S (Kemptown)
Carson, Hon. E. Gammans L. D. Jones, A (Hall Green)
Channon. H. Garner-Evans, E. H. (Denbigh) Joynson-Hicks, Hon. L. W.
Churchill. Rt. Hon. W. S. Gates, Maj. E. E. Keeling, E. H.
Kerr, H. W. (Cambridge) Nugent, G. R. H. Stoddart-Scott, Col. M.
Lancaster, Col. C. G. Nutting, Anthony Storey, S.
Langford-Holt, J. Oakshott, H. D. Stuart, Rt. Hon. J. (Moray)
Law, Rt. Hon. R. K. Odey, G. W. Summers, G. S.
Legge-Bourke, Maj. E. A. H. O'Neill, Rt. Hon. Sir H. Sutcliffe, H.
Lennox-Boyd, A. T. Ormsby-Gore, Hon. W. D. Taylor, C. S. (Eastbourne)
Lindsay, Martin Orr-Ewing, Charles Ian (Hendon. N.) Taylor, W. J. (Bradford, N.)
Linstead, H. N. Osborne, C. Thomas, J. P. L. (Hereford)
Lloyd, Rt. Hon. G. (King's Norton) Peake, Rt. Hon. O. Thompson, K. P. (Walton)
Lloyd, Maj. Guy (Renfrew, E.) Peto, Brig. C. H. M. Thompson, R. H. M. (Croydon, W.)
Lloyd, Selwyn (Wirral) Pickthorn, K. Thorneycroft, G. E. P. (Monmouth)
Lockwood, Lt.-Col. J. C. Powell, J. Enoch Thornton-Kemsley, C. N.
Longden, G. J. M. (Herts. S.W.) Price, H. A. (Lewisham, W.) Thorp, Brigadier R. A. F.
Low, A. R. W. Prior-Palmer, Brig. O. Tilney, John
Lucas, P. B. (Brentlord) Raikes, H. V. Touche, G. C.
Lucas-Tooth, Sir H. Rayner, Brigadier R. Turner, H. F. L.
Lyttelton, Rt. Hon. O. Redmayne, M. Turton, R. H.
McAdden, S. J. Remnant, Hon. P. Tweedsmuir, Lady
McCallum, Maj. D. Roberts, P. G. (Heeley) Vane, W. M. F.
Macdonald, Sir P. (I. of Wight) Robertson, Sir D. (Caithness) Vaughan-Morgan, J. K.
McKibbin, A. Robson-Brown, W. (Esher) Vosper, D. F.
McKie, J. H. (Galloway) Rodgers, J. (Sevenoaks) Wakefield, E. B. (Derbyshire, W.)
Maclay, Hon. J. S. Roper, Sir H. Walker-Smith, D. C.
MacLeod, Iain (Enfield, W.) Ropner, Col. L. Ward, Miss I. (Tynemouth)
MacLeod, John (Ross and Cromarty) Ross, Sir R. D (Londonderry) Waterhouse, Capt. C.
Macmillan, Rt. Hon. Harold (Bromley) Russell, R. S. Watkinson, H.
Macpherson, N. (Dumfries) Ryder, Capt. R. E. D. Watt, Sir G. S. Harvie
Maitland, Comdr. J. W. Sandys, Rt. Hon. D. Webbe, Sir H. (London)
Manningham-Buller, R. E. Scott, Donald Wheatley, Major M. J. (Poole)
Marples, A. E. Shepherd, W. S. (Cheadle) White, J. Baker (Canterbury)
Marshall, O. (Bodmin) Smiles, Lt.-Col. Sir W. Williams, C. (Torquay)
Marshall, S. H. (Sutton) Smith, E. Martin (Grantham) Williams, Gerald (Tonbridge)
Maudling, R. Smithers, Peter (Winchester) Williams, Sir H. G. (Croydon, E.)
Mellor, Sir J. Smyth, Brig. J. G. (Norwood) Wills, G.
Molson, A. H. E. Snadden, W. McN. Wilson, Geoffrey (Truro)
Morrison, Maj. J. G. (Salisbury) Soames, Capt. C. Wood, Hon. R.
Mott-Radclyffe, C. E. Spearman, A. C. M. York, C.
Nabarro, G. Spens, Sir P (Kensington, S.)
Nicholls, H. Stanley, Capt. Hon R. (N Fylde)
Nicholson. G. Stevens, G. P. TELLERS FOR THE AYES:
Nield, B. (Chester) Steward, W. A. (Woolwich. W.) Brigadier Mackeson and
Noble, Comdr. A. H. [...] Stewart, J. Henderson (Fife, E.) Mr. Studholme.
Adams, Richard Chetwynd, G. R. Finch, H. J.
Albu, A. H. Clunie, J. Fletcher, E. G. M. (Islington E.)
Allen, A. C. (Bosworth) Coldrick, W. Follick, M.
Anderson, A. (Motherwell) Collick, P. Foot, M. M.
Attlee, Rt. Hon. C. R. Cook, T. F. Fraser, T. (Hamilton)
Awbery, S. S. Cooper, J. (Deptford) Freeman, J. (Watford)
Ayles, W. H. Corbet, Mrs. F. K. (Peckham) Freeman, Peter (Newport)
Bacon, Miss A. Cove, W. G. Gaitskell, Rt. Hon. H. T. N.
Balfour, A. Craddock, George (Bradford S.) Ganley, Mrs. C. S.
Barnes, Rt Hon. A. J. Crawley, A. George, Lady M. Lloyd
Bartley, P. Crosland, C. A. R. Gibson, C. W.
Bellenger, Rt. Hon. F. J. Crossman, R. H. S. Gilzean, A.
Benn, Hon. A. N. Wedgwood Cullen, Mrs. A. Glanville, J. E. (Consett)
Benson, G. Daines, P. Gooch, E. G.
Beswick, F. Dalton, Rt Hon. H. Greenwood, A. W. J. (Rossendale)
Bevan, Rt. Hon A (Ebbw Vale) Darling, G (Hillsboro') Greenwood, Rt. Hon. Arthur (Wakefield)
Bing, G. H. C. Davies, A. Edward (Stoke, N.) Grenfell, D. R.
Blackburn, A. R. Davies, Ernest (Enfield, E.) Grey, C. F.
Blenkinsop, A. Davies, Harold (Leek) Griffiths, D. (Rother Valley)
Blyton, W. R. Davies, S. O. (Merthyr) Griffiths, Rt. Hon. J. (Llanelly)
Boardman, H. de Freitas, Geoffrey Griffiths, W. D. (Exchange)
Booth, A. Deer, G. Grimond, J.
Bottomley, A. G. Delargy, H. J. Haire, John E. (Wycombe)
Bowden, H. W. Diamond, J. Hale, Leslie (Oldham, W.)
Bowen, R. Dodds, N. N. Hall, J. (Gateshead, W.)
Bowles, F. G. (Nuneaton) Donnelly, D. Hall, Rt. Hn. W. Glenvil (Colne Valley)
Braddock, Mrs. E. M. Driberg, T. E. N. Hamilton, W. W.
Brockway, A. Fenner Dye, S. Hannan, W.
Brook, D. (Halifax) Ede, Rt. Hon. J. C. Hardman, D. R.
Brooks, T. J. (Normanton) Edelman, M. Hardy, E. A.
Broughton, Dr. A. D. D. Edwards, John (Brighouse) Hargreaves, A.
Brown, George (Belper) Edwards, Rt. Hon. N. (Caerphilly) Harrison, J.
Brown, T. J. (Ince) Edwards, W. J. (Stepney) Hastings, Dr. Somerville
Burke, W. A. Evans, Albert (Islington, S.W.) Hayman, F. H.
Burton, Miss E. Evans, E. (Lowestoft) Henderson, Rt. Hon. A. (Rowley Regis)
Butler, H. W. (Hackney, S.) Evans, S. N. (Wednesbury) Herbison, Miss M.
Carmichael, James Ewart, R. Hewitson, Capt. M.
Castle, Mrs. B. A. Fernyhough, E. Holman, P.
Champion, A. J. Field, Capt. W. J. Holmes, H. E (Hemsworth)
Houghton, Douglas Moeran, E. W. Sorensen, R. W.
Hoy, J. Monslow, W. Soskice, Rt. Hon Sir F.
Hubbard, T. Moody, A. S. Sparks, J. A.
Hudson, J. H. (Ealing, N.) Morgan, Dr. H. B. Stewart, Michael (Fulham, E.)
Hughes, Emrys (S. Ayr) Morley, R. Strachey, Rt. Hon. J.
Hughes, Hector (Aberdeen, N.) Morris. P. (Swansea, W.) Strauss, Rt. Hon. G. R. (Vauxhall)
Hynd, H. (Accrington) Morrison, Rt. Hon. H. (Lewisham, S.) Stross, Dr. B.
Hynd, J. B. (Attercliffe) Mort, D. L. Summerskill, Rt. Hon. Edith
Irving, W. J. (Wood Green) Moyle, A. Sylvester, G. O.
Isaacs, Rt. Hon. G. A. Mulley, F. W. Taylor, H. B. (Mansfield)
Janner, B. Murray, J. D. Taylor, R. J. (Morpeth)
Jay, D. P. T. Nally, W. Thomas, D. E. (Aberdare)
Jeger, G. (Goole) Neal, H. Thomas, George (Cardiff)
Jeger, Dr. S. W. (St. Pancras, S.) Noel-Baker, Rt. Hon. P. J. Thomas, I. O. (Wrekin)
Jenkins, R. H. Oldfield, W. H. Thomas, I. R. (Rhondda, W.)
Johnson, James (Rugby) Oliver, G. H. Thorneycroft, Harry (Clayton)
Johnston, Douglas (Paisley) Orbach, M. Thurtle, Ernest
Jones, Frederick Elwyn (West Ham, S.) Padley, W. E. Timmons, J.
Jones, Jack (Rotherham) Paling, Rt. Hon. Wilfred (Dearne V'lly) Tomlinson, Rt. Hon. G.
Jones, William Elwyn (Conway) Paling, Will T. (Dewsbury) Tomney, F.
Keenan, W. Pannell, T. C. Turner-Samuels, M.
Kenyon, C. Pargiter, G. A. Ungoed-Thomas, A. L.
Key, Rt. Hon. C. W. Parker, J. Vernon, Maj. W. F.
King, H. M. Paton, J. Viant, S. P.
Kinley, J. Pearson, A. Wade, D. W.
Kirkwood, Rt. Hon. D. Peart, T. F. Wallace, H. W.
Lee, F. (Newton) Poole, Cecil Webb, Rt. Hon. M. (Bradford, C.)
Lever, N. H. (Cheetham) Popplewell, E. Weitzman, D.
Lever, L. M. (Ardwick) Porter, G. Wells, P. L. (Faversham)
Lewis, A. W. J. (West Ham. N.) Price, M. Philips (Gloucestershire, W.) Wells, W. T. (Walsall)
Lindgren, G. S. Proctor, W. T. West, D. G.
Lipton, Lt.-Col. M. Pryde, D. J. Wheatley, Rt. Hon. John (Edinb'gh, E.)
Logan, D. G. Pursey, Commander H White, Mrs. E. (E. Flint)
Longden, F. (Small Heath) Rankin, J. White, H (Derbyshire, N.E.)
McAllister, G. Rees, Mrs. D. Whiteley, Rt. Hon. W.
MacColl, J. E. Reeves, J. Wigg, George
McGhee, H. G. Reid, T. (Swindon) Wilcock, Group Capt. C. A. B.
Mack, J. D. Reid, W. (Camlachie) Wilkes, L.
McKay, J. (Wallsend) Rhodes, H. Wilkins, W. A.
McLeavy, F. Richards, R. Willey, F. T. (Sunderland)
MacMilian, M. K. (Western Isles) Roberts, Goronwy (Caernarvonshire) Willey, O. G. (Cleveland)
McNeil, Rt. Hon. H. Robertson, J. J. (Berwick) Williams, Rev. Llywelyn (Abertillery)
MacPherson, Malcolm (Stirling) Robinson, Kenneth (St. Pancras, N.) Williams, Ronald (Wigan)
Mallalieu, E. L. (Brigg) Rogers, G. H. R. (Kensington, N.) Williams, Rt. Hon. T. (Don Valley)
Mallalieu, J. P. W. (Huddersfield, E.) Ross, William (Kilmarnock) Williams, W. T. (Hammersmith, S.)
Mann, Mrs. J. Shackleton, E. A. A. Wilson, Rt. Hon. J. H. (Huyton)
Manuel, A. C. Shawcross, Rt. Hon. Sir H. Winterbottom, I. (Nottingham, C.)
Marquand, Rt. Hon. H. A. Shurmer, P. L. E. Winterbottom, R. E. (Brightside)
Mathers, Rt. Hon. George Silverman, J. (Erdington) Wyatt, W. L.
Mellish, R. J. Simmons, C. J. Yates, V. F.
Messer, F. Slater, J. Younger, Hon. Kenneth
Middleton, Mrs. L. Smith, Ellis (Stoke, S.)
Mikardo, Ian Smith, H. N. (Nottingham, S.) TELLERS FOR THE NOES:
Mitchison, G. R. Snow, J. W. Mr. Collindridge and Mr. Royle.
The Deputy-Chairman (Colonel Sir Charles MacAndrew)

The next Amendment on the Order Paper, in page 1, line 8, leave out "exceeding twenty-one," and insert" not less than fourteen," in the name of the hon. Member for Leicester, North-West (Mr. Janner) is out of order.

Mr. Janner

On a point of order. I respectfully submit, Sir Charles, not only that this Amendment is not out of order, but that you should accept it because it relates specifically to the subject matter of this Bill. I want to explain, as briefly as I can, why I say that. We have just defeated an Amendment which attempted to restrict the scope of this Measure to ground rents and to ground leases. In fact, the Measure deals with long leases, and I submit that the question of what is a long lease is not within the discretion of the Chair so far as a question of order is concerned, but is within the direct right of debate in Committee.

In strengthening that argument, may I say that the Bill itself refers, in its Title, to making temporary provision for the protection of occupiers of residential property against the coming to an end of long leases … It does not refer to building leases; it does not distinguish between a building lease and an occupation lease. It refers to long leases. I would ask hon. Members to bear with me for a few minutes, because this is extremely important—

The Deputy-Chairman

Perhaps it will assist the hon. Gentleman is I tell him that I ruled the Amendment out of order because it is beyond the scope of the Bill.

Mr. Janner

I am trying to show that it is not beyond the scope of the Bill. May I say why? The Bill does not deal specifically with building leases, although building leases are included. It does not deal with occupation leases solely. It deals with both. That is why I said, a few moments ago, that everyone knew what a lease meant. A lease means a tenancy agreement for any period above three years. Once a tenancy is granted for three years or more it becomes a lease. In my contention a lease of 21 years is a long lease. In fact, the committee that sat on this matter, when referring to 21 years, used the words "as long as 21 years," implying that that is a very long lease. I submit that 14 years is a long period. Three years is the minimum and 21 years for occupational leases is very lengthy. In those circumstances, a lease of 14 years is a long lease, and I ask you to accept the Amendment, Sir Charles, as being within the scope of the Bill.

The Deputy-Chairman

I cannot agree that it is.

Mr. L. Hale

Further to that point of order. I apprehend that the Ruling you have given in this matter may cover later Amendments on the Order Paper, Sir Charles. May I draw your attention to two points? First, I understand that there is no Financial Resolution in connection with the Bill because it does not involve any expenditure, and, therefore, there is no limiting factor as far as a Financial Resolution is concerned. Second, there are Amendments at the end of the Order Paper which are designed to amend the short Title of the Bill and, therefore, designed to extend the scope of the Bill, which, I understand are in order and may be the subject of discussion.

5.30 p.m.

I venture, with respect, Sir Charles, to associate myself with what my hon. Friend said about the meaning of the words "long lease" and to call your attention to the wording of the short title of the Bill, and not to the Explanatory Memorandum, which has no legal or binding effect. The short Title is: To make temporary provision for the protection of occupiers of residential property against the coming to an end of long leases, and for the renewal of tenancies of shops; and for purposes connected with the matters aforesaid. Certain Amendments to the short Title, if they are called, would tend to extend the scope of the short Title considerably by adding offices and business premises, and so on. But, even as the short Title is drawn, I respectfully submit that there is nothing in it to exclude leaseholders for 14 years. Although this matter is controversial, I believe that lawyers on both sides of the Committee would submit that a lease for 14 years is a long lease—almost unusually long in connection with many classes of property—and that in the words "long lease" a leaseholder for 14 years certainly has a right to be considered for inclusion.

The Deputy-Chairman

I am not, of course, a lawyer but I take the best advice available and it is to the effect that this Amendment is outside the scope of the Bill. I must, therefore, rule accordingly.

Mr. Janner

May I make one further statement on that, Sir. Charles? While you may have been so advised, surely it is open for you to take a different point of view if convinced that that point of view is right. May I say, with respect, that it is a very serious matter indeed to many hundreds of thousands of residents who hold long leases—as long as 14 years which are terminating—that their case should not be dealt with in a Measure which deals with long leases—not with building leases solely, which is a very different matter. A 99-year lease may be a building lease. We have just decided that the Bill deals with occupation leases which are over 21 years. One day over 21 years thus becomes a long lease and, according to your Ruling, 14 years is to be considered as a short lease. I am concerned with what other lawyers say, of course, but I think, Sir Charles, that if you asked the lawyers in the Committee at present they would regard an occupational lease of 14 years—which the Bill covers quite definitely—as being a long lease. Even a 21-year lease with a right to determine at 14 years is a long lease. So I ask you, Sir Charles, if you will be good enough to reconsider this matter because, if the Amendment is not proceeded with at this stage it will destroy what many of us in this Committee consider to be the main reason for the introduction of this Bill.

The Deputy-Chairman

I do not want to appear disrespectful, but I stick to the advice I have had already.

Mr. Donnelly (Pembroke)

I beg to move, in page 1, line 10, to leave out "two," and to insert" five."

This is an innocuous Amendment. It is really only a matter of small detail and of no great principle, but it means a great deal to a large number of people. I understood from my right hon. and learned Friend the Attorney-General, when he was moving the Second Reading of this Bill, that the Government were hoping to introduce shortly a comprehensive Measure to deal with the whole leasehold problem, and the two-year standstill proposed in the Bill is intended to prevent hardships to large sections of the community pending the introduction of that piece of legislation.

Presumably the major legislation will have a provision in which it repeals the temporary legislation we are discussing this afternoon. I suggest that, whenever the major legislation comes, it does not matter whether the period of standstill is two years or five years if it comes within that two-year period, because it will then take over the protection of this Bill for the remainder of the two-year period and will protect those people from suffering hardship under the present leasehold law.

So I submit, first, that it does not matter whether the period of standstill is two or five years from the point of view of the Government if they really mean to introduce this major legislation within a short period, and I ask the Government whether my right hon. and learned Friend can give any further assurance as to when the Government intend to introduce comprehensive legislation dealing with this matter. Secondly, so far as the ordinary leaseholder is concerned—the man in the street who is on the receiving end of this Bill—two years is very different from five years. Speaking for myself—and many other hon. Members here will feel the same—if I have five years of security in front of me I feel much more certain about the future than with two years, which is a very short space of time, and gives one little opportunity of planning one's life ahead.

So from the point of view of ordinary human beings facing the sword of Damocles in the way of the ending of this leasehold legislation, it will considerably increase the fears and apprehensions of people if there is only a two-year and not a five-year standstill. One can never tell what the future will hold politically. Some of the party opposite might be in power, and we have seen their attitude on leasehold reform during the Second Reading of this Bill and during the Committee stage this afternoon. To sum up, I submit that in principle it is a very small change and that in practice, although it is a small change from the point of view of the Government, it is a great change so far as ordinary people in their homes are concerned.

Mr. Derek Walker-Smith

I have listened to the speech commending this Amendment, but I feel that to some extent the proposition is artificial. Most hon. Members will agree with me that, whatever is written into this Bill, it is extremely unlikely in practice to put a term to the operation of the Bill. If it is so, it would be against all precedent of post-war legislation. One almost loses account of the number of Measures introduced as temporary Measures by the present Government that have turned out to be permanent or semi-permanent. For example, Section 7 of the Building Materials and Housing Act, which was to operate for four years, is now well on its way towards its extended period of eight years. The Furnished Houses (Rent Control) Act, which was supposed to end at the end of 1947, is still going strong—and is even spawning other Bills, so strong a hold has it taken on its position on the Statute Book.

So I cannot help feeling that this Bill, which is supposed to last for two years, may—at any rate if the present Government is in power—go on for a good deal longer in practice. [HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear."] Hon. Members say "Hear, hear," but it is a slipshod way of legislating to commend Measures to the House as temporary Measures, and then to allow them to go on from day to day as a kind of permanent legislation without bringing them to an end or making any provision for doing so.

I hope that this Bill will not last for five years. If the hon. Member for Pembroke (Mr. Donnelly) wants to know why I do not support it, I have been saying what I think will happen if this Government remains in power and this Bill goes on the Statute Book. For myself, although I do not oppose the principle of having a standstill Measure, I do not think that it ought to be extended beyond the two years. What the hon. Member is doing is inviting the right hon. and learned Gentleman to repeat the errors already committed with regard to the other Bills I have specified. I am sure that the Attorney-General needs no encouragement. He is quite likely to extend the operation in any event without having encouragement on those evil courses from hon. Members opposite. If this is a standstill Measure, let us confine it to two years in order that permanent legislation may be enacted at an appropriate time thereafter. Do not let us start by saying that we are going to extend the operation of piecemeal legislation.

Mr. G. Thomas

I am not a lawyer and therefore, perhaps, I ought to apologise because our Amendment is so clear and straightforward that everyone can follow it. The argument should also be straightforward, for the only people who would really object to the extension of this security for the "small" householders and leaseholders are the ground landlords or those with their own special interests. I trust that my right hon. and learned Friend will feel it possible to give to people an assurance that the short period of two years will not be the limiting factor. The Government may well require longer to produce the comprehensive Measure which shall emancipate the property owner from the grip of the finance corporations and so on. My hon. Friends and I have put down the Amendment from a spirit of sweet reasonableness because we believe that it will help the Government in their purposes.

Mr. Molson (The High Peak)

The hon. Member for Cardiff, West (Mr. G. Thomas), has commended the Amendment to the Committee on the ground that it will be of assistance to the Government because he does not think they will be able to make up their minds in the course of the next two years. The Attorney-General dealt with this matter in the Second Reading debate, and said: … we thought it right to choose a period of two years for this standstill Measure, because we felt that the period of uncertainty and of inconvenience, or perhaps even hardship, ought to be reduced to a minimum, and because we believe that by the end of the two years we should be reasonably sure of having permanent legislation ready to take the place of this interim moratorium Measure."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 6th December, 1950; Vol. 482, c. 374.] Far be it from me to intervene between the Government and their supporters, but it is a serious reflection when one finds that after all the experience which the hon. Member has had of the Government to which, on most issues, he has given his loyal support in the last six years, he does not think that they will be able to carry out their expectation of coming to a final conclusion within the next two years.

It may be that there has come into the mind of the hon. Member the same doubt which was made apparent for almost the first time from the benches opposite, in the speech today of the hon. Member for Pembroke (Mr. Donnelly). For a long time we were given to understand that there was no shadow of doubt and no lack of confidence on the part of hon. Members opposite that they would continue to be responsible for the Government of the country for a long time to come. The speech of the hon. Member for Pembroke indicated that he would like to extend the period of this interim Measure because he was apprehensive lest the permanent legislation should be introduced by a Government of a different complexion which would be succeeding the present Government in the near future.

Mr. Donnelly

I am sure that the hon. Member would not wish to misquote me. I thought I said that it was not that we on this side had any doubt but that some people in their houses had doubts—and that was the only reason—in view of the fire-eating orations of hon. Members opposite.

5.45 p.m.

Mr. Molson

That must be even more serious. Apparently it does not matter to the Government what are the expectations of hon. Gentlemen now occupying the benches opposite; what is far more serious for them is what the voters of the country are thinking, and it is, naturally, satisfactory to us to know in what direction the hon. Member for Pembroke thinks people's minds are apt to go.

We on this side most strongly oppose the Amendment. If all the Amendments which we propose in order to restrict the harmful effects of the Bill are to be described from the benches opposite as wrecking Amendments, then when hon. Members on the other side themselves propose Amendments which are intended to extend the pernicious operation of the Bill beyond what was indicated in the King's Speech and in the speech of the Attorney-General in introducing the Bill, we might describe their's as exclusive Amendments designed to expand the scope of the Bill far beyond what was intended.

It is sufficiently serious that when a lease which has been entered into by the two parties is coming to an end at the agreed time, the legislature should step in and quite arbitrarily give to the tenant protection in the occupation of that house for two years.

Mr. G. Thomas


Mr. Molson

I cannot, while discussing this Amendment, go at length into the objections. I endeavoured to state them in my speech on Second Reading and I hardly think, Sir Charles, that you would wish me to repeat my Second Reading speech in dealing with the present Amendment.

One perfectly obvious reason why that course is open to objection is that the occupation by these tenants is protected for an additional period, while they are at the same time relieved of the obligations which they undertook—for example, for the purpose of maintaining the premises in a proper state of repair—when they entered into the lease. Therefore, whatever may be the justification for a brief standstill period, during which time the Government are expected to collect their thoughts and to prepare the long-promised permanent legislation, it would be unfair and unjust to the landlord, and unfair and unwise treatment of the tenants, to extend this standstill period from two to five years. It would also have the harmful effect of being a perpetual temptation to this Government once more to procrastinate and not to make up their minds.

Mr. Turner-Samuels

I am rather surprised that any Member on this side should have moved an Amendment of this kind. I say that because to my mind the effect of the Clause is so unfortunate that the idea of perpetuating it for even a day beyond the period already named makes it very difficult for me to accept that proposition from any hon. Friend of mine. I should have thought that the period of two years was serious enough without extending it. As it is, the provision leaves quite a large body of cases in a state of hardship and uncertainty. I do not think anybody denies that, or that my right hon. and learned Friend the Attorney-General would seek to impugn that proposition. Therefore the idea that the period of hardship and uncertainty should be extended would not be acceptable to me for a moment.

A further reason why I cannot appreciate the suggestion that has been made is that we are not dealing with some sort of unknown field, some unexplored ground. These matters have been explored over and over again. There have been one committee after another—the Ridley Committee and the last Leasehold Committee—and all the matters that are in issue here have been examined and considered and recommendations have been made and the whole position has been crystallised. That is one of the reasons why I profoundly objected to the limitation and inefficacy of the Clause. Not only did it seem that the ground had been explored, but the urgency of the situation was such that this Clause should have been made considerably wider in scope.

For anyone to say that the period of two years should be extended to five years is merely inviting the Government to do nothing over this standstill for five years instead of for two years. Even the Attorney-General has not indicated that he desires to have any such period. What he has said is that the standstill is intended to buy time. It is hoped during the next two years that provision may be made to enable the Government to bring in a Bill which, in my submission, ought to have been brought in now. There is no economic reason as far as I can see why this ought to be delayed. No dollars are in issue here and there is no question of manpower or of materials involved. The situation is such that there is no impediment whatever to a more adequate Bill being brought in. It must therefore logically follow that there could be no justification whatever for extending this period.

Mr. Weitzman (Stoke Newington and Hackney, North)

In spite of the learned words of my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Gloucester (Mr. Turner-Samuels) I think this a very reasonable Amendment and I suggest that the Committee ought to adopt it. I am very suspicious of the unanimity among those opposing this Amendment and I think there is considerable force in the suggestion that if unfortunately there were a change of Government we might suffer seriously. If the period were extended to five years that would be a safeguard against any alteration being made in that direction.

What are the objections to this Amendment? Apparently the objection is that it may encourage the Government to delay in bringing in legislation. Surely the Government can make up their minds in regard to that. If in fact legislation is brought in the increase of the period from two years to five years will make not the slightest difference. On the other hand, the five-year period would be a safeguard. I suggest that five years is not too lengthy a period.

It is all very well for my hon. and learned Friend to say that the ground has been cleared and that there has been the Ridley Committee Report and other reports, but one should look at the words in those reports. Take, for instance, the Report which is the basis of this Bill. One sees the different reports issued by way of majority and minority reports. It is absurd to say that the ground has been cleared. The field of the law of landlord and tenant is a most complex field. Everyone would agree that there are a great many amendments which require to be made. They must necessarily take a considerable time and any Government would have to spend a great deal of time in preparing a Bill to deal with all the evils which have to be remedied in that field. I suggest this is a reasonable Amendment which the Committee ought to adopt.

Brigadier Medlicott (Norfolk, Central)

If this Amendment is pressed to a Division I should find myself with some reluctance compelled to vote against it, because I have some feeling of sympathy with the motives behind it. It cannot be correct to say that the law of landlord and tenant has been crystallised. There is no subject whatever upon which there is greater confusion than that which exists over the whole field of that law. I think we need to look at this problem purely from the point of view—

Mr. Turner-Samuels

I heard something said about the law of landlord and tenant being crystallised. I never said any such thing. What I said was that the issues on which the Bill is a standstill have been inquired into by numerous committees, that the ground had been well explored, that there was no economic impediment today and therefore there was no reason for any further delay.

Brigadier Medlicott

I am very glad to be supported and, if necessary, corrected on that point. In fact, the issues outstanding in regard to landlord and tenant are far from being crystallised, and I think we need to look at this Bill, and this particular part of it, purely from the standpoint of how much time is required to enable the Government to bring in a good Bill, one which will see justice done to to both sides.

I should have thought three years would have been a better proposal, because during the next two years we shall have a lot of other things to think about in this House, and, as on all sides it must be admitted that this problem has baffled a satisfactory settlement for scores of years, I think it a little inconsistent if we on this side of the Committee now pretend that it could be done in five minutes. We need at least two years and it would be with some reluctance that I would have to vote against this Amendment.

Mr. Leslie Hale

I am much obliged to and much in agreement with what has been said by the hon. and gallant Member for Norfolk, Central (Brigadier Medlicott). I certainly understood my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Gloucester (Mr. Turner-Samuels) to say that the law had been crystallised, but if he did not say that he said every stone had been turned and every avenue had been explored, and all relevant circumstances taken into consideration, and the decks were cleared for action. I understand he says that in respect of the Ridley Report and, presumably, of the Report of the Committee on Town Holdings which reported in 1899 and which went further than this Bill.

There is one small technical difficulty with which I find myself confronted and for which I seek your guidance, Sir. It is that there is a precisely similar Amend- ment to Part II of the Bill and it is quite clear that a decision on one would govern both Amendments. We cannot introduce a temporary Measure whereby provision is made for protection to one kind of interest for five years—

Mr. John Hay (Henley)


Mr. Hale

No, I was told that the Opposition would not give way and therefore I must reciprocate. I could put this point in regard to business premises, but can only put it with less accuracy with regard to the premises we are discussing. People are pressed to take decisions about leasehold property considerably in advance and are offered renewal terms long before a lease expires and provisionally we are consulted about propositions for renewing leases which have three or four years to run.

6.0 p.m.

A landlord comes along to the lessee and says, "Very well you can have 21 years renewal if you pay 50 per cent. or 100 per cent. more rent and if you agree now." That man has to make up his mind and in order to make up his mind on the question he has to take a lot of relevant facts into consideration. He has to make up his mind whether this Government will remain in office in two years time and whether they will produce legislation in that time. That is a serious point, because in "The Times" three days ago I found the report of a case in which I was apparently concerned, although I never heard of it, in which the Court of Appeal were being asked to read this Bill before it was passed, see what its implications might be when it was passed and see if they could give protection to tenants pending its passing. Counsel engaged by the firm of which I am a member was not called upon to answer that, and therefore did not come into the matter.

Difficult practical considerations do arise in these circumstances, and we have put down this Amendment with one point in view. Here I find myself agreeing with my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Gloucester, and, therefore, am a little doubtful whether I am right. If my right hon. and learned Friend is prepared to give a full assurance to the House that he is now in a position to say that a full and comprehensive Bill designed to effect a full measure of reform can definitely be introduced within two years, then there is no reason whatever why we should ask for an extension of five years, and we shall not wish to press the Amendment. My right hon. and learned Friend told the House that it was the Government's intention, but in remarks which he made on the first Amendment he did also say that the Parliamentary draftsmen had had difficulty in drafting this short Measure.

The Attorney-General

If my hon. Friend is asking me to intervene, I would say that I certainly did intend to give that undertaking, and give it now, subject to the unlikely eventuality that this Government might not be in office at that time. But, taking the view which I myself feel, subject to that possibility—that this Government are in office in two year's time—it is our intention and hope to introduce a Bill. The committee is established and I see no reason to think that we shall not be able to introduce the Bill.

Mr. Hale

I am obliged to my right hon. and learned Friend, and on the basis of that assurance I should be willing, as I feel my colleagues will be, to withdraw the Amendment.

The Deputy-Chairman

I cannot see the Amendment to Part II of the Bill to which the hon. Member for Oldham, West (Mr. L. Hale) referred.

Mr. Manningham-Buller

I am glad that we shall not be pursuing this debate much longer because it has all been obstructive. The right hon. Gentleman has said nothing that he did not say on Second Reading.

Mr. Donnelly

In view of the undertaking given by my right hon. and learned Friend, I beg to ask leave to withdraw the Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Mr. Selwyn Lloyd (Wirral)

I beg to move, in page 1, line 11, to leave out "immediately before," and to insert: during the three years immediately preceding. It is obvious that hon. Members opposite are very touchy about this extremely bad Bill. If the hon. Member for Oldham, West (Mr. L. Hale) imposes his ordinance about not giving way I think he will suffer much more than other people; it will be much more a deprivation to him than to those who seek to interrupt him if such a practice should be observed. He described this Clause as a curiously un-understandable concatenation of words. That was his description of Clause 1. When remarks are made about Amendments of ours being designed to wreck the Bill, it makes one suspect that hon. Members opposite are very touchy about the Bill, and that those remarks are made solely to bolster the morale of a disintegrating party.

This Amendment is designed to restrict those who will benefit under the provisions of Clause 1 to those who have been in occupation or living in the premises for a qualifying period of three years. The obvious remark that this is an attempt to restrict the application of the Bill will at once be made. I agree that it is; it is an attempt to prevent people who have bought the fag end of building leases from benefiting by this Bill. I see no reason whatever why a person who has bought the fag end of a building lease, knowing perfectly well at the time when he made the contract that the lease was coming to an end on a particular day, should benefit as against the unfortunate reversioner, who may have done what the hon. Member for Pembroke (Mr. Donnelly) described as planning ahead, and made a bargain with someone else on a perfectly clear basis that at a certain time he was to get possession of his own property. A reversion is just as much property as is anything else.

In order to hold the scales of justice evenly as between the occupier and the reversioner who is expecting to enter into possession, it is perfectly fair and reasonable to require that occupation should have been for a minimum period of three years. It is fair to put into the Clause the provision contained in this Amendment because there are no "just exceptions" prescribed in Part I of the Bill. Hon. Members who have attempted to study this problem will know that as a rule, whenever it is sought to alter the law of landlord and tenant and to give tenants further rights, a number of "just exceptions" are included which enable the landlord to defeat the rights being given to the tenant. Under the Rent Restric- tions Acts there are certain "just exceptions," particularly under the Landlord and Tenant Act, 1927.

In our discussions in the Leasehold Committee and the many reports of all sorts that came forth from that Committee, there was reference to this matter of "just exceptions." In a Supplementary Note about residential premises, signed by five members of the Committee—I refer to paragraph 10 of the Supplementary Report on Security of Tenure for Residential Tenants signed by Mr. Reddaway, Miss Alford and the hon. Members for Cardigan (Mr. Bowen), Leicester, North-East (Mr. Ungoed-Thomas) and Oldham, West (Mr. L. Hale)—they said that they were not advocating a qualifying period because they were recommending that if the landlord could satisfy the tribunal that he wanted the house for his own possession or for the possession of one of his children, he would be able to defeat the application of the tenant for an extension of his tenancy.

In Part I of this Bill there are no "just exceptions" whatever by which this standstill could be defeated, however great the need to defeat the right of the tenant in order to carry on with some scheme of re-development, however much the reversioner may wish to enter into possession himself. Even though on a "greater hardship" test the reversioner could easily satisfy the court that he was more entitled to possession than the man who has bought the fag end of the lease, under Part I as it stands at present that individual has no chance of getting possession at the end of the lease. It is for that reason that I think it fair and right to put into the Clause the qualifying period proposed in the Amendment.

I know the Attorney-General, in his Second Reading speech, said that the reason why the Government, after consideration—one infers from that that he thought there was a good deal to be said for a qualifying period—decided against a qualifying period was because it would have to be an arbitrary period. I agree, that is inevitable. It might be argued that the qualifying period should be five years rather than three years. There would be anomalies, there are bound to be, but I am suggesting that on the whole greater justice would be done by stipulating a qualifying period, and I suggest three years.

It is not a question of attempting to wreck the Bill but of certain bargains having been made on very definite assumptions—bargains the fulfilment of which is interrupted by this Bill. At the outset the whole of the pressure was applied on behalf of those who had for a long time been living in certain premises and who were now to be put under unfair conditions in making a new bargain with their landlords. As I have said before, I have real and genuine sympathy with people who are in that position, and who may have to come out at a time of housing scarcity. But when we come to the person who has gone in for only two years, knowing well that at the end of the period he would have to give up the occupation of those premises, I suggest that the greater hardship may very well be on the reversioner.

Mr. J. Enoch Powell (Wolverhampton, South-West)

I wish to support the Amendment, which has the effect of implementing one of the recommendations of the majority report of the Uthwatt Committee. I notice that the Attorney-General himself regards the argument for an Amendment on these lines as, in his own words "not unattractive," though he felt himself obliged to reject it, on the basis of the arbitrariness of the figure of three years. To that point I shall return in a moment. The Minority Report rejected the proposal on the ground that it introduced a distinction between the protection given to lessees at rack rents and the owners of ground leases. I think that difficulty can also be dealt with.

There are two main reasons which have been held to justify Parliament in modifying the contract between landlord and tenant in the case of long leases. The first of those reasons is to alleviate the effect of improvidence. The second is to alleviate the effects of the sudden fall in the value in money, and the increase in the relative scarcity of housing accommodation which we have experienced during and since the war.

It was particularly upon the first of these two reasons—namely, the situation of a leaseholder who had made no provision for amortisation, and who found himself taken by surprise by the discovery that the house which he supposed his own would in fact revert to the landlord—that the Solicitor-General placed most emphasis in his Second Reading speech. He reiterated again and again in argument with my hon. Friends his assertion that the great majority of leaseholders had come so to regard the houses in which they live as their own property that to be confronted with the falling in of the lease was a catastrophic situation.

That difficulty cannot possibly apply to a person who bought the fag end of a lease which had only three, four or five years to run. He knew exactly what he was doing and he paid the current market value for what he was getting. He knew the house would revert to the landlord at the end of three, four or five years, and he decided that the sum which he was paying for it was worth what he was getting. So it is unreasonable to extend the protection of this Bill to persons who are not in the position of a tenant who, or whose family, have long habited the same house.

Now I pass to the second argument urged in justification: that this protection, like rent restriction generally, should be afforded to mitigate the increased housing scarcity and the fall in the value of money. That might apply to persons who have been resident in the same house since before the war. It cannot apply to a person who has, since the war, in conditions of scarcity and with a devalued currency, bought the fag end of a lease.

Therefore on neither argument can I see grounds for protecting tenants who have only been tenants in post-war conditions. If we include them and give protection to them we are in fact giving them more than they bought. They bought three, four or five years; we are giving them five, six or seven years. We are conferring upon them an uncovenanted benefit for no reason of justice or equity.

6.15 p.m.

It may be urged that the argument I have just put forward is an argumentum nimium probans; that we have here an Amendment which requires a three years qualifying period whereas my argument would require at least a five or six years qualifying period. Consequently, it may be argued that protection should be withdrawn from tenants who bought expiring leases since the end of the war, and therefore the period should be five years. I agree there is a certain force in that argument, but not very much.

Let us consider the position of the person buying in 1945 a lease due to expire in 1951 or 1952. I will not make any hypothesis as to which party he voted for at the General Election in 1945. But he would be aware that the party which got into power in 1945 was one which had pledged itself to deal with the housing scarcity by 1950. He might well feel therefore that the conditions prevailing when he had to re-accommodate himself upon the expiry of the lease would be more or less normal. I would say therefore that it is not arbitrary—

Mr. Harrison


Mr. Powell

If I may conclude my argument, I shall willingly give way. It is not arbitrary to fix this period at a shorter one than five years; because it was only as time went on, and as the effect of this Government's policy became evident, that a person purchasing the fag end of a lease must have realised that the conditions when it expired would be much the same as—if not worse than—those when he bought it. Therefore, I suggest it is logical for us to withhold protection only from tenants who purchased a lease in or after 1947, 1948 or 1949 as the case may be.

Mr. Harrison

The hon. Member mentioned that in 1945 one party only specified or pledged themselves to deal seriously with the housing problem in five years—

Mr. Powell

I did not say that.

Mr. Harrison

I should like to know which party gave that pledge?

Mr. Powell

I think the hon. Member mistook my point.

Mr. Harrison

I am sorry.

Mr. Powell

My argument was that a person purchasing the fag end of a lease in 1945, and having regard to the promises and undertakings of the political party which was then in power—and would probably remain in power for the next four or five years—was faced with quite a different prospect from that confronting a person purchasing a lease two or three years later. Therefore it is reasonable to withhold the protection of this Bill only from persons who were purchasing the fag end of leases with their eyes open, not merely to the fact that the lease would expire in 1951 or 1952, but also to the devaluation of our currency and the continued failure of the Government to deal with the housing shortage.

Mr. Gibson (Clapham)

I hope the Government will reject this Amendment, if only for one of the reasons given by the mover himself. He said that it restricts the beneficiaries under this Act. That means that a large number of people will face eviction and will probably be evicted at the end of a short lease. I think that the House on Second Reading agreed in view of the situation in those days, that we ought to do what we can to prevent families being turned out on to the street without a home. Members of the Opposition, sometimes with a very involved kind of argument, are quite prepared to see a large number of people—one does not know how many, but obviously a very large number—who may be subjected to eviction and their families turned on to the street, with no redress at all.

Mr. Selwyn Lloyd

Would the hon. Member deal with the position of the reversioner who has planned to enter into occupation of the house? Does he suffer any hardship?

Mr. Gibson

The position is that, generally speaking, the reversioner already has a home to live in and can continue there. I thought that it was the poor families who are being evicted that we were so anxious to help when we had the Second Reading debate. As I expected, hon. Members opposite are finding all kinds of peculiar reasons for whittling down the effects of this Bill. The whole idea is that we should protect the interest of people at present in houses and prevent them from being evicted while this House is dealing with comprehensive legislation and trying to bring some order out of the jungle of law which now surrounds landlord and tenant. Somebody said that the field of landlord and tenant law was clear. I am not a lawyer, and the more I read about it, the more of a jungle it seems.

The sooner we make a really comprehensive effort to bring order and understanding into the law on this subject the better it will be for the people. In the meantime, we must prevent people being evicted merely because their lease has run out. This Amendment stands con- demned because in the words of the mover it will seriously restrict the number of beneficiaries, and I hope that the Government will reject it.

Mr. Wade

When discussing an earlier Amendment I suggested that all these Amendments must be considered in the light of the fact that the Bill is a standstill Measure. We are waiting for legislation of a more permanent nature and we do not wish those who are to benefit from that legislation to be put at a disadvantage by the delay. That, I think, we must accept; but there is a limit to which one should apply that principle. I do not think that the man who had bought the tail end of a lease—to change the expression instead of saying, "the fag end"—will be the kind of man who will be evicted with his family or that he will really suffer great hardship. I appeal to the Attorney-General to accept this Amendment. It seems to be reasonable. I should be satisfied with even less than three years, but I accept that period as a compromise. I urge the Government to accept what I think is a reasonable Amendment.

Mr. Harrison

I wish to call attention to the comment made by the hon. and learned Member for Wirral (Mr. Selwyn Lloyd), about the man who had bought the tail end of a lease, and also to the assumption of the hon. Member for Huddersfield, West (Mr. Wade), that there could be no possible hardship in a case of that description.

Mr. Wade

It is a matter of degree of hardship. I said that I did not think that there would be great hardship in the case of a man who buys the tail end of a lease.

Mr. Harrison

That is a purely hypothetical assumption by the hon. Member. There is just as much likelihood that there will be considerable hardship in an instance like that, as in one where a man has held a lease for a long time. Let us consider a man who served in the last war and who wanted a house when he came home. The hon. and learned Member for Wirral suggested that there was no compulsion in this tail end purchase being made. I suggest that the special conditions existing at that time imposed on the purchasers of these leases considerable compulsion.

There was a considerable amount of compulsion behind the purchase of residential property during this period which it is sought to exempt from the provisions of the Bill. In view of that, we should be ill-advised to accept this Amendment which would limit the people who will benefit under this Clause. We should assume that those who bought these tail end leases during this special period were very often compelled to do so, and that they would suffer a greater hardship than people who have held their leases for a longer time.

Mr. Hay

I have listened to this discussion with a certain amount of amazement. Of all the Amendments which we have put down to this Bill, I thought that this was the one probably more than any other that would appeal to hon. Members on the back benches opposite. After all, during the Debate on the Second Reading it was from those very back benchers, some of whom have spoken in the debate on this Amendment, that we heard so much about the hardship caused through long leases coming to an end. We had a speech from the hon. Member for Clapham (Mr. Gibson) explaining how in his constituency various people had come to him with hard cases. As I understand this Amendment, those sort of people are adequately covered.

My hon. and learned Friend the Member for Wirral (Mr. Selwyn Lloyd) made it clear that what we had in mind was the sort of person who, whatever the compulsion that the hon. Member for Nottingham, East (Mr. Harrison), had in mind, whatever compulsion they may have been under, nevertheless purchased the tail end of a lease with their eyes wide open. They knew that at the end of that term their lease would come to an end and they would have to strike a fresh bargain with the landlord. It is that sort of person who is also covered as well as the hard cases, the people whose families have lived in a house for many years. It is that sort of people who will be the beneficiaries under this Clause as it stands.

I should have thought that hon. Members opposite would have been the first to say that this is a good Amendment because it gets rid of the sort of individual who has not really a deserving case. I am waiting to hear what the Attorney-General has to say about this. So far, his comments on previous Amendments have not given me any great reason to hope that he will change his tune on this one. I urge him to have a look at this point. It is a good point which the House, whatever decision we come to now, ought eventually to accept by way of incorporation in Clause I.

Mr. MacColl (Widnes)

I hope that my right hon. and learned Friend the Attorney-General will advise the Committee to reject this Amendment. It is a most plausible and cynical Amendment. I could understand the logic of fixing a term of 10, 15, or 20 years which would exclude everybody except the bona fide long-term resident. To fix a term of three years appears to be completely devoid of any logical consistency. People who bought their leasehold four years ago are no more long-term residents than the person who has been forced to buy the tail end of a lease because he had no other alternative. When one hears hon. Gentlemen opposite talk about people doing this sort of thing with their eyes open, one feels that one is back somewhere in the 19th century listening to a defence of the exploitation of labour because people had entered into a wage contract and need not have done so if they did not want to.

Anybody who has any kind of contact with the situation in a great many of our towns knows that the unfortunate person who is looking for a house has no alternative whatever. If a house is empty he goes along and he may find that, through no fault of his own, it is on a long lease. He may try to get the ground landlord to give some kind of undertaking that the lease will be extended, and he may be told that nothing can be done because no decision has been made about the future of the property. He is then faced with the alternative of leaving the house or taking on the lease with all the repairing obligations involved for what, through no fault of his own, is a short period. I should have thought that was the kind of person who does require protection under what is a purely temporary and interim Measure.

6.30 p.m.

Therefore, it seems to me that to extend this protection beyond the three years has nothing at all to be said for it. The argu- ments advanced in favour of it, plausible as they are, apply to long-standing tenants, but what the Amendment will do will be to affect a body of people who are caught by the housing shortage and who can neither get the protection of the Rent Restriction Acts nor of this Bill. To do that would be most cynical treatment of a very hard-pressed body of tenants.

Mr. John Foster (Northwich)

I ought. I think, in my first speech to the Committee on this Bill, to declare an interest in this matter, since I am a director of a company which has a certain amount of ground rents. One of the classes of people to be protected by the Bill as it now stands is the speculator, who exists in fairly large numbers, who buys the tail end of a lease, occupies part of the house himself and sub-lets the rest of the house at a very big profit rental.

Mr. Janner

May I ask the hon. and learned Gentleman to explain what he means by speculators? If this Bill protects the tenant and occupier, which is what it is intended to do, it protects him and also the sub-tenant.

Mr. Foster

I quite agree. I know from my experience—not in connection with the company with which I am associated, but in another connection—of one street in London where there are a good many people who have bought the tail ends of leases, and, in some cases, have been paid to take over these leases in other words, far from buying at a price, they have received money in order to acquire the lease, and they occupy part of the house and sub-let the rest at what is to them a very satisfactory profit rental. If they are in that position, they will be protected by this Clause, because their ground leases, which were expiring during the two year period permitted by the Bill, will be extended by two years.

I submit to the right hon. and learned Attorney-General that the object of this Bill is to prevent hardship caused by the expiry of long leases. Involved in that, necessarily, must be the arguments raised on the other side of the House on Second Reading—arguments for which I have a great deal of sympathy—and I agree that some addition to this Measure is necessary, but the words immediately preceding this Amendment negative the basis of the Bill.

I see that the hon. and learned Member for Gloucester (Mr. Turner-Samuels) looks puzzled. I may be short-sighted, but he looks puzzled to me. I should like to enable the hon. and learned Gentleman to understand the point. If the Bill provides that hardship caused by the expiry of long leases should be remedied, it obviously means hardship caused to tenants who have been there for a considerable period of time, because, otherwise, there is no difference in principle between the man who buys the tail end of a lease with about three years to run and the man who enters into a new lease of three years. The latter is in exactly the same position from the point of view of the scarcity of houses.

Mr. Turner-Samuels

It does not matter what sort of a lease it is, whether it is one of these long-standing ones or not. Is not the real point that, at the time the lease expires and he is still there, he should not be ejected?

Mr. Foster

All I am saying is that that argument could also apply to the man who comes in and makes a new lease. His lease expires, perhaps immediately, and he is then subject to the disabilities of the housing shortage.

Mr. Turner-Samuels

That is not the typical case which this Bill seeks to protect.

Mr. Foster

An hon. Member opposite has said that most of those people are protected by the Rent Acts. An hon. Member who spoke from a back bench opposite said that there are large numbers of people who bought the fag ends of leases and who are the people whom we want to protect. On the whole, from my experience, the people who buy the fag ends of leases are people who want to speculate in the last few years, because there are certain potential liabilities which are inherent in the lease or are operative against the tenant or owner of a long lease, and, in the present state of the law, it is not always possible for these purchasers to know where the liability is.

I find that this type of speculator is very common, and hon. Members opposite will find that, having passed this Bill in its present form, they will be enriching a class which does not deserve enrichment, and it may well be that somebody who bought the end of a long ground lease with certain liabilities attached to it, but who himself has no means of discharging them, will have received an extra bonus.

I therefore ask the right hon. and learned Attorney-General, even if he does not accept the argument which I have put forward, if he will, between now and the Report stage, have some statistics investigated. It is easy enough to do, and they will help to prove whether I am right or wrong. If he will have an investigation made into the ground leases with three years to run which have been bought by that type of person, I think he will find that many of these people are of the type that I have described. If he did so, would he still be in favour of this Clause? If my argument was correct, would he still be in favour of limiting the Bill to the words immediately preceding? I should have thought not, but, if he agrees with me on that hypothesis, it is a question of investigating and discovering the actual facts, and it may well be that one's own experience tends to deal with the matter in general, rather than in the particular. I do believe that the Committee would be making a mistake in passing a Clause which would protect the speculator owning the end of a long lease, and would also be giving protection to people who are undeserving of it.

The Attorney-General

If the hon. and learned Member for Northwich (Mr. J. Foster) will furnish me with any statistics which would tend to support the point of view which he has put forward, I will certainly consider their effect, but, as at present informed—and we have sought to obtain as reliable information as we can about these matters—we do not think that the speculator really enters into the consideration of this Bill at all.

We have to approach this Bill from the point of view that there is hardship if anyone who is occupying premises is turned out of what has been his home, even if only for three or four years, in the existing circumstances of the market. I shall come back to this point about speculators in a few minutes, but I suggest for the consideration of the hon. and learned Gentleman that it would be a very foolish speculator indeed who bought the fag end, say, three years, of a long lease on which only liabilities were accumulated.

I have not had a great deal of experience in the property market, but I must say that such experience as I have had has never introduced me to a single individual who has thought that buying the fag end of a long lease on which a heavy repairing covenant is imposed would result in any great financial benefit. What usually happens with speculators is that they get rid of their interest as quickly as they can, and, if I may use a vulgarism, pass the baby on to someone else. It is that baby which we are going to protect by this purely temporary Measure.

Mr. Foster

The right hon. and learned Gentleman may be interested to know that in one single street in London—I am speaking now from memory—there is, first of all, a lady living on Poor Law assistance who was given the houses because of this heavy liability. She receives £150 a year in Poor Law relief, and she has no means with which to discharge her liability. The right hon. and learned Attorney-General and the hon. and learned Member for Gloucester are too simple; they do not realise that all that is needed is a man of straw to whom can be given the fag end of a lease.

Mr. Turner-Samuels

To me, that is no news.

The Attorney-General

I do not see that the extension of the tenancy of the occupant, the man of straw, who has been passed the baby is going to assist the speculator in that case at all. The speculator has already removed himself from the picture and has left the premises, on the hon. and learned Gentleman's own hypothesis, in the possession of a man of straw. I do not see how the provisions of this Bill are going to assist that most reprehensible form of speculation, in which, I am quite sure, the hon. and learned Gentleman's company never engages at all.

I have listened very carefully to the arguments, some of them, as I can see, not unattractive, in regard to this Amendment, but I am afraid that the Government cannot accept them. Its effect would clearly be to exclude from the benefit of this Measure, at a time when there is still a great shortage of houses, a number of people who quite fortuitously, so far as the reversion was concerned, happen to have been in occupa- tion for a period of three years or less. If it could have been said that their possession of only a three-years' interest in the lease was something which had been due to action on the part of the reversioner, and that an extension of the period of the lease in those circumstances would alter the position of the reversioner to his detriment, then I could understand that there would have been something to be said for this argument.

But that, of course, is not the case; it is a pure matter of chance, so far as the reversioner is concerned, whether at a given moment the interest in the premises is held by a lessee who has been there for three years or for 30 years, and it really seems to me quite impossible—

Mr. Selwyn Lloyd


The Attorney-General

May I finish—to put forward any argument which has any real merit in favour of the reversioner from that point of view.

Mr. Selwyn Lloyd

Will the right hon. and learned Gentleman deal with the position of the person who has purchased the reversion, say, in the last five or six years?

The Attorney-General

The position, of course, would be the same again. The premises at that time would have been in the possession of somebody who would be entitled to qualify under the hon. and learned Gentleman's Amendment, and it would be perfectly fortuitous, so far as that person is concerned, that the tenant had only been in occupation for three years. That is one of the difficulties that arise. The hon. and learned Gentleman has not, in fact, appreciated the effect of his Amendment in that respect.

I agree that if one takes the case of a reversioner who had only purchased two years before the expiration of the lease, then he might benefit from the hon. and learned Member's Amendment, but those cases are not common, so far as we can judge, and they do not, in our view, afford sufficient reason for departing from the basic principle of this temporary Measure. I say the "basic principle," and I want to put forward my grounds for opposition to this Amendment on matters of basic principle rather than on technical arguments.

6.45 p.m.

There is a technical argument about this Amendment which goes, I should think, much further than the hon. and learned Members opposite intended it to go. For instance, it would cover the case of the tenant at the end of the tenancy who had inherited the property within the last few years, but one need not trouble with that kind of case because it could be put right by an Amendment which hon. and learned Gentlemen could put down, and we could deal with that kind of case in that way.

The Amendment itself is being resisted because, in our view, having given great consideration to it both on Second Reading and now, there is really no logical or consistent case to be made out for it. When I say that, I do not forget, as hon. Members opposite pointed out, that the Leasehold Committee—and I think also those who signed the supplementary report—contemplated that there might be a qualifying period for the legislation which they thought might be right. It is also true that the Leasehold Committee thought it would be proper to introduce a system of just exceptions entitling the reversioner to recover in certain circumstances, but the views expressed by the Leasehold Committee and by those who signed the supplementary report related, of course, to permanent legislation.

I can concede at once that if this were a permanent Bill—and we shall have permanent legislation within a period of two years—we should then have to give, and shall give, grave consideration to the question of a qualifying period. But this Amendment is not consistent with the purpose of this Bill. The purpose of this Bill is to preserve, in order that they may get the benefit of the long-term legislation when it comes along, tenancies which satisfy two qualifications—the first, that they belong to a class of tenancy with which the long-term legislation will certainly have to deal, and the second, that there is a need for immediate action in regard to them in order to prevent people from being turned out into the streets in the meantime.

We cannot convince ourselves that there is any logical argument which would make the three-year test proposed by the hon. and learned Gentleman in whose name this Amendment stands relevant to those two main qualifications for our permanent legislation. I could well have understood any argument put forward on the ground that the protection ought to be given, and ought only to be given, to those tenants who had been in occupation of their homes for a long period of time, and who had gone into occupation of them, in the first instance, when circumstances were quite different from what they are today, when rents were low and when there was not the same difficulty in obtaining alternative accommodation as there is at the present time. That was the kind of argument which on Second Reading I said had a considerable attraction. I must admit that at that time it had a considerable attraction for me, but it appears to have had no attraction for any other hon. Members on either side.

If that were the argument for inserting a qualifying period, we should then have to make that period date back to 3rd September, 1939, and I can see a logical case for saying that there would be no protection under this legislation except in the case where the tenant had gone into occupation before the war expecting, when his interest came to an end, that he would find it equally easy as it was then to find alternative accommodation at the same sort of rent. But this Amendment does not achieve that kind of result at all.

This Amendment introduces the arbitrary period of three years, which is obviously much too short to cover a case where there has been some considerable change in the circumstances between the time the tenant went in and the time of the expiration of his lease. And however logical it might have been to defend the other Amendment, going back to the period before the war, it is quite obvious that if one had the longer period in the existing circumstances it would cause intolerable hardship to a very large number of people.

I hope I am not departing from the Rules of Order here, Sir Charles, and if I am I know you will stop me at once, but I venture to think it is a little difficult to consider the matter apart from the next Amendment, in the name of the hon. and learned Member for Northants, South (Mr. Manningham-Buller), and his hon. Friends, to substitute for Clause 1 a scheme which substantially applies the Rent Restriction Acts legislation to the type of properties with which we are dealing here. If I may say so, I think I am not out of order in saying that that Amendment suggests that the grudging sentences in which hon. Members opposite have so far referred to Part I—

Mr. Manningham-Buller

On a point of order. It seems to me a great pity that in a prolonged discussion, and towards the conclusion of the debate on this particular Amendment, the Attorney-General comes to discuss an Amendment, which as far as I know, has not been selected, called or moved and of which there has been no explanation as yet.

The Deputy-Chairman

I do intend to call it. Perhaps we can discuss it when we come to it.

The Attorney-General

If you please, Sir Charles, I want to pursue—

Mr. Selwyn Lloyd

If the Attorney-General is about to indicate he proposes to accept that Amendment it might affect the course of debate.

The Attorney-General

I regret to say I was not proposing to indicate that. I was about to indicate that I thought that Amendment seemed to form part of a scheme—and I am not going to use any opprobious epithet—which will alter the whole concept of this Bill and would take out of the protection of this Bill, as would this Amendment, a very large number of people we consider are entitled to at least this temporary protection.

I come back to the point made by the hon. and learned Member for Northwich. We heard a good deal on Second Reading about the position of speculators who purchase fag ends. During the discussion in Committee today it has not been so much the case of the speculators we have heard about as the case of the person who purchased with his eyes open a three years' lease, intending to occupy the premises himself for three years but knowing that at the end of that period he would have to vacate it. That is the case which more frequently occurs in practice, but whilst hon. Members opposite may make what they can out of the fact that in these cases these purchasers of fag ends of leases have had their eyes open, it is also fair to say they have had their hands tied very largely.

They have not been purchasing in a market in any sense free. They have been forced to acquire premises very often at premium rents or on conditions in the highest degree uneconomic. We think that in the circumstances of this matter, it is not unjust to allow these persons the additional protection which this Bill provides, so as to enable those tenancies which are long tenancies, long ground leases let at ground rent, to come within the scope of the permanent legislation, whatever that may be, when we introduce it in two years' time.

That is what this Clause is intended to do—to protect the occupying tenant. I do not think that in providing that protection to the occupying tenant it will give the slightest protection to the speculator, but I do not mind very much if, in an occasional or rare case, a speculator is protected if, in fact, in most cases we give proper protection to the occupying tenant. Nor do I mind very much if an occasional case where a reversioner has purchased his reversion within the last two years and 51 weeks—because that is the only case in which any question of hardship can arise—intending to go into possession himself, greater hardship is caused to him than to a sitting tenant.

I am quite satisfied that in the mass of the cases the balance of hardship will be the other way. I was trying to find some form of words to describe it—the global hardship in these cases will undoubtedly be on the part of the sitting tenant rather than on the reversioner. That being so, we find it impossible to insert into this Bill a provision which would disqualify a tenant who had only occupied for two years and 51 weeks, and would qualify a tenant who had occupied for three years and one week.

That seems to us a completely illogical and arbitrary line to take, and as it is manifestly impossible to take the only logical qualifying period—3rd September, 1939—we think the best course is to introduce no qualifying period at all in this Bill, which will maintain the status quo, and to consider the question of a qualifying period in connection with permanent legislation.

Mr. Manningham-Buller

In a few words in reply to the right hon. and learned Gentleman I must say I find his argument singularly unconvincing and unsatisfactory. We have heard a great deal about the possibility of large numbers of tenants being affected, but I think it is common ground between us that none of us wants to see the tenant who has lived with his family in a house for many years thrown out on the streets where that house would come within the limits of the Rent Restriction Acts.

But when we go beyond that and deal with people who have just gone into the house a week or so before, and anyone who has gone in within less than three years, I must say that in comparing their claims for the extension of a lease with the other party I do not think that the balance is at all where the right hon. and learned Gentleman suggested.

Mr. Ungoed-Thomas


Mr. Manningham-Buller

I am sorry, but I think the Committee want to come to a decision.

A very strong case exists for the person who has been there a long time. But take the case of someone who wants to live in the house himself—the reversioner. I am sure there are plenty of cases of a man who has spent many years with his family there on the basis that he will get possession of the house when the lease runs out. Under the Bill that man, who has made those plans, will have the occupation of his own house postponed for two years if, a week before the existing lease runs out, a speculator or someone else has the fag end of the lease. There is no provision in the Bill for dealing with cases of greater hardship under this clause. That is one of the difficulties.

7.0 p.m.

The Leasehold Reform Committee recommended this three-year period, and I must say, in view of the arguments advanced, that it is reasonable to insert it in the Bill. The right hon. and learned Gentleman was not aware of speculators in the fag ends of leases. I think he will find many people who are aware of such speculation and the clause as it stands will benefit those people to a considerable extent. It is all very well to say—and, indeed, I recognise that there is force in the argument which hon. Members opposite have used repeatedly in the debate—that because of the failure of the late Minister of Health's housing policy the pressure on accommodation is so great that people have been forced to buy the fag ends of leases in order to live in the property, even though they would live there for a matter of only two years.

That argument was advanced by the hon. Member for Clapham (Mr. Gibson), and it has been advanced by other hon. Members opposite. It was made quite clear by them that economic pressure, due to the housing shortage, which again, was due to the failure of the Socialist housing policy, caused people to take the short end of leases.

Mr. Gibson

What about the Tories?

Mr. Manningham-Buller

The right hon. and learned Gentleman said we should go back to 3rd September, 1939, and use that period, not the three-year period, as a time when people could go from one house to another and obtain houses without difficulty. That is what the right hon. and learned Gentleman said; he said that a strong argument could be advanced on those lines. We might have adopted it, but we have not. We have adopted the period of three years put forward in the Report, and we have done so for two reasons. One is that we want to eliminate the speculator. Hon. Members opposite want to assist the speculator and the black marketeer.

The other reason is that we believe that by letting people take over a lease within a month of its expiring and giving them an extra two years' protection we shall be doing a great deal of hardship to many people, often of small means, who have made their plans and perhaps given up their former occupation with the intention of going back to live in the house which is their property. Hon. Members opposite have revealed in the debate and throughout the whole of the discussion on the Bill that they have no regard for the sanctity of contracts or for people keeping their word. For those reasons, and in view of the attitude adopted by the Government in this matter, we shall be forced again to divide the Committee.

Question put, "That the words 'immediately before' stand part of the Clause."

The Committee divided: Ayes, 272; Noes, 232.

Division No. 17.] AYES [7.3 p.m.
Adams, Richard Ganley, Mrs. C. S. Mikardo, Ian
Albu, A. H. George, Lady M. Lloyd Mitchison, G. R.
Allen, A. C. (Bosworth) Gibson, C. W. Moeran, E. W.
Anderson, A (Motherwell) Gitzean, A. Monslow, W.
Attlee, Rt. Hon. C. R. Glanville, J. E. (Consett) Moody, A. S.
Awbery, S. S. Gooch, E. G. Morgan, Dr. H. B.
Ayles, W. H. Greenwood, A. W. J. (Rossendale) Morley, R.
Bacon, Miss A Greenwood, Rt. Hon. Arthur (Wakefield) Morris, R. Hopkin (Carmarthen)
Baird, J. Grenfell, D. R. Morris, P. (Swansea W.)
Balfour, A. Grey, C. F. Morrison, Rt. Hon. H (Lewisham, S.)
Barnes, Rt. Hon. A. J. Griffiths, D. (Rother Valley) Mort, D. L.
Bartley, P. Griffiths, Rt. Hon. J. (Llanelly) Moyle, A.
Benn, Hon. A. N. Wedgwood Griffiths, W. D. (Exchange) Mulley, F W.
Benson, G. Haire, John E. (Wycombe) Murray, J. D.
Beswick, F Hale, Leslie (Oldham, W.) Nally, W.
Bing, G. H. C. Hall, J. (Gateshead, W.) Neal H.
Blenkinsop, A Hall, Rt. Hn. W. Glenvil (Colne Valley) Noel-Baker, Rt. Hon. P. J.
Blyton, W. R Hamilton, W. W. O'Brien, T
Boardman, H Hardman, D. R. Oldfield, W. H
Booth, A Hardy, E. A. Oliver, G. H
Bottomley, A. G. Hargreaves, A. Orbach, M.
Bowden, H. W. Harrison, J. Padley, W. E.
Bowen, R Hastings, Dr. Somerville Paling, Rt. Hon. Wilfred (Dearne V'lly)
Bowles, F. G. (Nuneaton) Hayman, F. H. Paling, Will T. (Dewsbury)
Braddock, Mrs. E. M. Henderson, Rt. Hon. A (Rowley Regis) Pannell, T C
Brockway, A. Fenner Herbison, Miss M. Parker, J.
Brook, D (Halifax) Hewitson, Capt. M Paton, J.
Brooks, T. J. (Normanton) Hobson, C. R. Pearson, A.
Broughton, Dr A. D. D. Holman, P Peart, T. F.
Brown, George (Belper) Holmes, H. E. (Hemsworth) Poole Cecil
Brown, T. J (Ince) Houghton, Douglas Popplewell, E.
Burke, W. A. Hoy, J. Porter, G.
Burton, Miss E Hubbard, T Price, M. Philips (Gloucestershir W.)
Butler, H. W. (Hackney, S.) Hudson, J. H. (Ealing, N.) Proctor, W. T
Carmichael, James Hughes, Emrys (S. Ayr) Pryde, D. J
Castle, Mrs. B. A. Hughes, Hector (Aberdeen, N.) Pursey, Commander H
Champion, A. J Hynd, H. (Accrington) Rankin, J
Chetwynd, G. R Hynd, J. B. (Attercliffe) Rees, Mrs. D.
Cocks, F. S Irving, W. J. (Wood Green) Reeves, J.
Coldrick, W Isaacs, Rt. Hon. G. A. Reid, T. (Swindon)
Collick, P Janner, B. Reid, W. (Camlachie)
Collindridge, F Jay, D. P. T. Rhodes, H.
Cook, T. F Jeger, G. (Goole) Richards, R.
Cooper, J (Deptford) Jeger, Dr. S. W. (St. Pancras, S.) Robens, A.
Corbet, Mrs. F. K. (Peckham) Jenkins, R. H Roberts, Emrys (Merioneth)
Cove, W. G. Johnson, James (Rugby) Roberts, Goronwy (Caernarvonshire)
Craddock, George (Bradford, S.) Johnston, Douglas (Paisley) Robertson, J. J. (Berwick)
Crawley, A Jones, Frederick Elwyn (West Ham, S.) Robinson, Kenneth (St. Pancras, N.)
Crosland, C. A. R. Jones, Jack (Rotherham) Rogers, G. H. R. (Kensington, N.)
Cullen, Mrs. A Jones, William Elwyn (Conway) Ross, William (Kilmarnock)
Daines, P. Keenan, W. Shackleton, E. A. A.
Dalton, Rt. Hon. H. Kenyon, C. Shawcross, Rt. Hon. Sir H.
Darling, G (Hillsboro') Key, Rt. Hon. C. W Shurmer, P. L. E.
Davies, A. Edward (Stoke, N.) King, H. M Silverman, J. (Erdington)
Davies, Ernest (Enfield, E.) Kinley, J. Silverman, S. S. (Nelson)
Davies. Harold (Leek) Lee, F. (Newton) Simmons, C. J.
Davies, S. O. (Merthyr) Lever, L. M. (Ardwick) Slater, J
de Freitas, Geoffrey Lever, N. H (Cheetham) Smith, Ellis (Stoke, S.)
Deer, G. Lewis, A. W. J. (West Ham, N.) Smith, H. N. (Nottingham, S.)
Delargy, H. J Lindgren, G. S. Snow, J. W
Diamond, J Lipton, Lt.-Col M. Sorensen, R. W
Dodds, N. N Logan, D. G. Soskice, Rt. Hon Sir F.
Donnely, D Longden, F. (Small Heath) Sparks, J. A.
Driberg, T. E. N. McAllister, G. Stewart, Michael (Fulham, E.)
Dye S. MacColl, J. E. Strachey, Rt. Hon. J
Ede, Rt. Hon J. C McGhee, H. G. Strauss, Rt. Hon G. R. (Vauxhall)
Edelman, M
Edwards, John (Brighouse) McGovern, J. Stross, Dr. B.
Edwards, Rt. Hon. N (Caerphilly) Mack, J. D. Summerskill, Rt. Hon. Edith
Edwards, W. J. (Stepney) McKay, J. (Wallsend) Sylvester, G. O.
Evans, Albert (Islington, S. W.) McLeavy, F Taylor, H. B. (Mansfield)
Evans, E (Lowestoft) MacMillan, M. K. (Western Isles) Taylor, R. J. (Morpeth)
Evans, S. N (Wednesbury) MacPherson, Malcolm (Stirling) Thomas, D. E. (Aberdare)
Ewart, R. Mallalieu, E. L. (Brigg) Thomas, George (Cardiff)
Fernyhough, E Mallalieu, J. P. W. (Huddersfield, E.) Thomas, I. O. (Wrekin)
Field, Capt W. J. Mann, Mrs. J. Thomas, I. R (Rhondda, W.)
Finch, H. J. Manuel, A. C. Thomeycroft, Harry (Clayton)
Fletcher, E. G. M. (Islington, E.) Marquand, Rt. Hon. H. A. Thurtle, Ernest
Follick, M. Mathers, Rt. Hon. George Timmons, J.
Foot, M. M. Medlicolt, Brigadier F. Tomlinson, Rt. Hon. G.
Fraser, T. (Hamilton) Mellish, R. J. Tomney, F.
Freeman, J. (Watford) Messer, F Turner-Samuels, M.
Gaitskell, Rt. Hon. H. T. N. Middleton, Mrs. L Ungoed-Thomas, A. L.
Vernon, Maj. W. F. White, Mrs. E. (E. Flint) Williams, Rev. Llywelyn (Abertillery)
Viant, S. P. White, H. (Derbyshire, N. E.) Williams, Ronald (Wigan)
Wallace, H. W. Whiteley, Rt. Hon. W. Williams, Rt. Hon. T. (Don Valley)
Webb, Rt. Hon. M. (Bradford, C.) Wilcock, Group Capt. C. A. B Williams, W. T. (Hammersmith, S.)
Weitzman, D. Wilkes, L. Winterbottom, I. (Nottingham, C.)
Wells, P. L. (Faversham) Wilkins, W. A. Winterbottom, R. E. (Brightside)
Wells, W. T. (Walsall) Willey, F. T. (Sunderland) Yates, V. F.
West, D. G. Willey, O. G. (Cleveland)
Wheatley, Rt. Hon. John (Edinb'gh, E.) Williams, D. J. (Neath) TELLERS FOR THE AYES:
Mr. Hannan and Mr. Royle.
Alport, C. J. M. Galbraith, T. G. D. (Hillhead) Mellor, Sir J.
Amery, J. (Preston, N.) Gammans, L. D. Molson, A. H. E.
Amory, D. Heathcoat (Tiverton) Garner-Evans, E. H. (Denbigh) Moore, Lt.-Col. Sir T.
Arbuthnot, John Gates, Maj. E. E. Morrison, Maj. J. G. (Salisbury)
Ashton, H. (Chelmsford) Glyn, Sir R. Mott-Radclyffe, C. E.
Assheton, Rt. Hon. R. (Blackburn, W.) Gridley, Sir A. Nabarro, G.
Baker, P. Grimston, Hon. J. (St. Albans) Nicholls, H.
Baldwin, A. E. Grimston, R. V. (Westbury) Nicholson, G.
Banks, Col. C. Harris, F. W. (Croydon, N.) Nield, B. (Chester)
Baxter, A. B. Harvey, Air Codre. A. V. (Macclesfield) Noble, Comdr. A. H. P.
Bell, R. M. Harvey, Ian (Harrow, E.) Nugent, G. R. H.
Bennett, Sir P. (Edgbaston) Hay, John Nutting, Anthony
Bennett, R. F. B. (Gosport) Head, Brig. A. H. Oakshott, H. D.
Bevins, J. R. (Liverpool, Toxteth) Headlam, Lieut.-Col. Rt. Hon. Sir C. Odey, G. W.
Bishop, F. P. Heald, L. F. O'Neill, Rt. Hon. Sir H.
Black, C. W. Heath, E. R. Ormsby-Gore, Hon. W. D.
Boles, Lt.-Col. D. C. (Wells) Henderson, John (Cathcart) Orr-Ewing, Charles Ian (Hendon, N.)
Boothby, R. Hicks-Beach, Maj. W. W. Osborne, C.
Bossom, A. C. Higgs, J. M. C. Peake, Rt. Hon. O.
Bower, N. Hill, Mrs. E. (Wythenshawe) Peto, Brig. C. H. M.
Boyd-Carpenter, J. A. Hill, Dr. C. (Luton) Pickthorn, K.
Boyle, Sir Edward Hinchingbrooke, Viscount Powell, J. Enoch
Bracken, Rt. Hon. Brendan Hollis, M. C. Price, H. A (Lewisham, W.)
Braine, B. Holmes, Sir J. Stanley (Harwich) Prior-Palmer, Brig. O.
Braithwaite, Lt.-Comdr. J. G. Hope, Lord J. Raikes, H. V.
Brooke, H. (Hampstead) Hopkinson, H. L. D'A. Rayner, Brigadier R
Browne, J. N. (Govan) Hornsby-Smith, Miss P. Redmayne, M.
Buchan-Hepburn, P. G. T. Horsbrugh, Rt. Hon. Florence Remnant, Hon. P.
Bullock, Capt. M. Howard, G. R. (St. Ives) Roberts, P. G. (Heeley)
Bullus, Wing-Commander E. E. Hudson, Sir Austin (Lewisham, N.) Robertson, Sir D. (Caithness)
Burden, Squadron-Leader F. A. Hudson, Rt. Hon. R. S. (Southport) Robson-Brown, W. (Esher)
Butcher, H. W Hudson, W. R. A. (Hull, N.) Rodgers, J. (Sevenoaks)
Carr, Robert (Mitcham) Hurd, A. R. Roper, Sir H.
Carson, Hon. E. Hutchinson, Geoffrey (Ilford, N.) Ropner, Col. L.
Channon, H. Hutchison, Lt.-Com. Clark (E'b'rgh W.) Ross, Sir R. D (Londonderry)
Clarke, Col. R. S. (East Grinstead) Hyde, H. M. Russell, R. S.
Clarke, Brig T. H. (Portsmouth, W.) Hylton-Foster, H. B. Ryder, Capt. R. E. D.
Colegate, A. Jeffreys, General Sir G. Scott, Donald
Cooper, A. E. (Ilford, S.) Jennings, R. Shepherd, W. S. (Cheadle)
Cooper-Key, E. M. Johnson, Howard S. (Kemptown) Smiles, Lt.-Col. Sir W
Corbett, Lieut.-Col. U. (Ludlow) Jones, A. (Hall Green) Smith, E. Martin (Grantham)
Craddock, G. B. (Spelthorne) Joynson-Hicks, Hon. L. W. Smithers, Peter (Winchester)
Cranborne, Viscount Kaberry, D. Smyth, Brig. J. G. (Norwood)
Cross, Rt. Hon. Sir R. Kerr, H. W. (Cambridge) Snadden, W. McN
Crosthwaite-Eyre, Col. O. E. Lancaster, Col. C. G. Soames, Capt. C.
Crowder, F. P. (Ruislip—Northwood) Langford-Holt, J. Spearman, A. C. M.
Crowder, Capt. John F. E. (Finchley) Law, Rt. Hon. R. K. Spens, Sir P. (Kensington, S.)
Cundiff, F. W. Legge-Bourke, Maj. E. A. H. Stanley, Capt Hon. R. (N Fylde)
Cuthbert, W. N. Lennox-Boyd, A. T. Stevens, G. P.
Davidson, Viscountess Lindsay, Martin Steward, W. A. (Woolwich, W.)
Davies, Nigel (Epping) Linstead, H. N. Stewart, J. Henderson (Fife, E.)
de Chair, S. Lloyd, Maj. Guy (Renfrew, E.) Stoddart-Scott, Col. M
De la Bère, R. Lloyd, Selwyn (Wirral) Storey, S.
Deedes, W. F. Lockwood, Lt.-Col. J. C. Studholme, H. G.
Digby, S. Wingfield Longden, G. J. M. (Herts, S. W.) Summers, G. S.
Donner, P. W Low, A. R. W. Sutcliffe, H.
Douglas-Hamilton, Lord M. Lucas, P. B. (Brentford) Taylor, C. S. (Eastbourne)
Drayson, G. B. Lucas-Tooth, Sir H. Taylor, W. J. (Bradford, N.)
Drewe, C McAdden, S. J. Teeling, William
Dugdale, Maj. Sir T. (Richmond) McCallum, Maj. D. Thomas, J. P. L. (Hereford)
Duncan, Capt. J. A. L. Macdonald, Sir P. (I. of Wight) Thompson, K. P. (Walton)
Dunglass, Lord Mackeson, Brig. H. R Thompson, R. H. M. (Croydon, W.)
Duthie, W. S. McKibbin, A. Thorneycroft, G. E. P (Monmouth)
Eecles, D. M. McKie, J. H. (Galloway) Thornton-Kemsley, C. N.
Elliot, Lieut.-Col. Rt. Hon. Walter MacLay, Hon. J. S. Thorp, Brigadier R. A. F.
Fisher, Nigel MacLeod, Iain (Enfield, W.) Tilney, John
Fletcher, W. (Bury) MacLeod, John (Ross and Cromarty) Touche, G. C.
Fort, R. Macpherson, N. (Dumfries) Turner, H. F. L.
Foster, J. G. Maitland, Comdr. J. W. Turton, R. H.
Fraser, Hon. H. C. P. (Stone) Manningham-Buller, R. E. Tweedsmuir, Lady
Fraser, Sir I. (Lonsdale) Marples, A. E. Vane, W. M. F
Fyfe, Rt. Hon. Sir D. P. M. Marshall, D. (Bodmin) Vaughan-Morgan, J. K.
Galbraith, Cmdr. T. D. (Pollok) Maudling, R. Wakefield, E. B. (Derbyshire, W.)
Walker-Smith, D. C. Webbe, Sir H. (London) Wilson, Geoffrey (Truro)
Ward, Miss I. (Tynemouth) While, J. Baker (Canterbury) Wood, Hon R.
Waterhouse, Capt. Rt. Hon. C. Williams, C. (Torquay) York, C
Watkinson, H. Williams, Gerald (Tonbridge)
Walt, Sir G. S. Harvie Wills, G. TELLERS FOR THE NOES:
Major Wheatley and Mr. Vosper.
Mr. Manningham-Buller

I beg to move, in page 1, line 11, to leave out from "expiry," to the end of line 18, and to add: a tenant has been residing in a dwelling-house (the rateable value of which immediately before the date of expiry did not exceed

  1. (a) in the metropolitan police district or the City of London, one hundred pounds; and
  2. (b) elsewhere seventy-five pounds;) on the property in right of the tenancy, the Rent and Mortgage Interest (Restrictions) Act, 1939, shall for a period of two years beginning with the commencement of this Act apply to that dwelling-house, provided that in relation thereto—
    1. (i) for any reference in that Act to any specific date or to the commencement or to the day before the date of the commencement or to the date of the passing or to the beginning of the date of the passing of that Act there shall be substituted a reference to 'immediately before the date of expiry';
    2. (ii) the rent payable in respect of any period after the date of expiry shall be the rent payable therefor immediately before the date of expiry or a rent equal to the rateable value thereof immediately before the date of expiry (whichever shall be the greater);
    3. (iii) subsection (7) of section twelve of the Increase of Rent and Mortgage Interest (Restrictions) Act, 1920, section five of the Increase of Rent and Mortgage Interest (Restrictions) Act, 1938, and the Landlord and Tenant (Rent Control) Act, 1949, shall not apply;
    4. (iv) no order or judgment for the recovery of possession or for the ejectment of a tenant shall be made or given by reason of—
      1. (a) the determination in any manner of any tenancy of the dwelling-house other than the tenancy whether contractual or statutory under which the tenant is in occupation thereof, or
      2. (b) any failure by the tenant to comply with any obligation to repair or keep in repair the dwelling-house unless the tenant in breach of any such obligation has not complied with any notice served by the local authority under the Public Health Act, 1936, or the dwelling-house is not in the opinion of the court in a reasonable state of repair owing to the neglect or default of the tenant;
    5. (v) this section shall not apply to any premises to which Part II of this Act applies."
I gather that it would be convenient if, with this Amendment, we discussed the remaining Opposition Amendments to this Clause, Sir Charles.

The Chairman

I think that that would be for the convenience of the Committee.

Mr. Manningham-Buller

Before dealing in detail with the Amendment I should like to make it clear—it is very difficult, because of the noise, to try to put forward a concise argument upon this matter, but I shall, of course, do my best, although, with the conversation that is going on, it is a little disconcerting—that by our series of Amendments we are seeking to put forward two alternative schemes for the revision of this Measure, and that, in our view, both of them lead to improvement, simplification and clarification. There is a feature common to both these schemes. Let me say, in passing, that the right hon. and learned Gentleman was quite wrong in saying, in relation to the last Amendment, that it was bound up with this series, because it was not.

7.15 p.m.

The common feature of both these schemes is this: that instead of looking, as the Bill does, to the existing tenancies, and saying, "Whatever that tenancy is it shall be extended two years automatically," and instead of getting into a great tangle, as the Bill does, in relation to sub-tenancies and sub-sub-tenancies, we have taken the simple course, in both our schemes, of looking, first of all, at the premises which are being occupied, and saying, "If those premises are a dwelling-house"—and I am dealing, as I am sure the right hon. and learned Gentleman will follow, with the feature common to both schemes—then the tenant of that dwelling-house shall have his possession protected."

That is under both alternative schemes we are putting forward. We are, therefore, giving—and to understand these rather complicated Amendments it is necessary to bear this in mind; and I hope I am making it clear—protection to each tenant in occupation, instead of extending tenancies. We think that that really results in a much simpler way of achieving what the Bill seeks to achieve. That is the feature common to both schemes.

The first scheme is that set out in the Amendment which I have moved. That, in itself, is a very complicated Amendment. The first thing I should like to say about it is, that it is a very important Amendment. I know it makes a considerable change, but before I deal in detail with the Amendment I should like to make just a few general observations. Anyone listening to the Second Reading debate, and, in particular, to the speech of the Solicitor-General, would have thought that the case for the Bill was that there are a large number of people who honestly think that the houses they live in are their own in spite of the fact that they are paying and have paid rent for those houses, and that the case for the Bill was that because they believe that—quite wrongly—they then should be relieved of the obligation of keeping their word, and have their tenancies extended. That is complete nonsense—just as much nonsense as the exaggerated statements of the hon. Member for Cardiff, West (Mr. G. Thomas) were shown to be during the Second Reading.

Mr. G. Thomas

Will the hon. and learned Gentleman, with his usual courtesy—

Mr. Manningham-Buller

I will certainly give way to the hon. Gentleman.

Mr. Thomas

If the hon. and learned Gentleman will have some patience he will find that the inaccuracies of his hon. Friends will be disproved before the end of the debate.

Mr. Manningham-Buller

I find it very difficult to accept that statement as being likely to be true. I doubt whether the hon. Gentleman will be able to prove anything in that respect. Legislation based on that sort of misrepresentation and exaggeration is, of course, bad legislation and this Bill is a bad Bill, fraught with harmful consequences.

There is this common ground between both sides of the committee, that we on our side have always recognised, and recognised now, that due to the housing shortage, for which the party opposite are so responsible, it is an anomaly that a tenant living in a house the rateable value of which would bring that house within the Rent Restriction Acts should not have the protection of those Acts merely because, either by succession or by purchase, he has become a ground lessee.

We think that is wrong. We also think it is wrong that sub-tenants of ground lessees who for many years have been considered to be protected by the Rent Acts, and who since the decision in the Knightsbridge case have been held to be without, should be outside and not protected. I am sure the Committee will agree that at least that category of people should be protected. Indeed, all that members of the Leasehold Committee agreed that the protection of the Rent Acts should be extended in that fashion. The Government are disregarding their views today.

Mr. Ungoed-Thomas


Mr. Manningham-Buller

It is no use the hon. and learned Member saying "No," in view of the last speech made by the right hon. and learned Attorney-General, because this is only a standstill; they are not being brought within the Rent Restriction Acts, as the Leasehold Committee recommended. The Government are disregarding the views of the Leasehold Committee in that respect. They could have implemented the recommendations of the Leasehold Committee in that respect a considerable time ago; they were asked to do so in November, 1948. We think it is time that the Rent Acts were revised, and there is much more urgent need for that than there is for the Bill. I suspect that the reason why hon. Members opposite are not tackling that is because they do not think it is a vote winner but a vote loser, and they think wrongly that this Bill is a vote winner. When those Rent Acts are revised tenants and subtenants under ground leases should be dealt with in common with the tenants of other premises the rateable value of which brings them within the Rent Restriction Acts. By this Amendment we seek to give those tenants that protection which we think they should have, and which all the members of the Leasehold Committee in November, 1948, thought that they should have.

It is not uninteresting to observe that the hon. and learned Member for Leicester North-East (Mr. Ungoed-Thomas), speaking on Second Reading, said: I welcome Part I of the Bill, and it should be borne in mind—and I am very glad my right hon. and learned Friend the Attorney-General emphasised it in opening the debate— that this is not so much a temporary Measure as an interim Measure. It is something to hold the position until further legislation is brought in. Then mark these words: I do not conceal from hon. Members for a moment that I should have much preferred to have seen a permanent Measure brought in at this stage. I should have preferred,"— mark this, also— as the hon. and learned Member for Wirral suggested, and as we all recommended, that the Rent Restriction Acts should have been immediately applied to ground leases."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 6th December, 1950; Vol. 482, c. 413–4.] Our Amendment, which I will explain in detail in a moment, seeks to secure the immediate application of the Rent Restriction Acts to ground leases of premises which come within the rateable limits of the Rent Restriction Acts.

Mr. Janner

The hon. and learned Member has been a member of committees which have been considering the Rent Restriction Acts for many years, and the very point he is now making has been introduced as an Amendment to those Acts. Why did not he and his party support them at that time?

Mr. Manningham-Buller

I do not follow that interruption. I do not think I have been a member of any committee—perhaps fortunately—which has had the terrible task of considering the Rent Restriction Acts, so I do not think the premises on which the hon. Gentleman bases his question at all well-founded. As to the relevance of the question to my argument, I do not see it.

What we are doing, at the first opportunity we have had since the war of carrying out the recommendation made by the Committee in 1948, is seeking to implement that recommendation in the Bill. I imagine from what has already been said that the Government will oppose it. I hope that if that position arises we shall at least have the assistance of the hon. and learned Member for Leicester, North-East, who said he would much prefer that the Rent Restriction Acts should be immediately applied to ground leases.

Mr. Ungoed-Thomas

Yes, I said that. I should prefer permanent legislation introduced immediately. What the hon. and learned Gentleman omitted to do was to read the next sentence. If he had done so he would have followed my argument. The words he quoted were: I should have preferred, as the hon. and learned Member for Wirral suggested, and as we all recommended, that the Rent Restriction Acts should have been immediately applied to ground leases. Then, if the hon. and learned Member will read on, he will find these words: I should have preferred, as my hon. Friend the Member for Oldham West, prefers, to have seen the minority Report on leasehold enfranchisement introduced."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 6th December, 1950; Vol. 482, c. 414.]

Mr. Manningham-Buller

I dare say the hon. and learned Gentleman has many preferences, and I do not want to try to give an exhaustive list of them. I do not think that the passage he complains I did not read has any bearing at all upon this point, because in his Second Reading speech he specifically said that he had two preferences. One was that the Rent Restriction Acts should be immediately applied to ground leases, and the second was that the minority Report on leasehold enfranchisement should be introduced. He stated those two preferences, and in that order. He is now getting the opportunity of supporting an effort made to introduce the first of them.

Mr. Ungoed-Thomas

The hon. and learned Gentleman is not really as dense as all that. As he knows, the effect of what he is now saying is to imply that the only choice is between this standstill scheme and a Rent Restriction Bill on the lines to which I have just referred. That, of course, is not the position. The position is that this standstill Bill holds the way open for general leasehold enfranchisement. If this series of Amendments is accepted it shuts down completely on leasehold enfranchisement being introduced for people who hold leases at present.

Mr. Manningham-Buller

If that was the view the hon. and learned Gentleman held, I cannot think why he did not express it in his Second Reading speech instead of expressing the other view, which, I think, is a wrong view.

Mr. Ungoed-Thomas


Mr. Manningham-Buller

For this reason: that whatever is done in this Bill it can be altered if it is desired to bring in such a hare-brain scheme as leasehold enfranchisement.

Mr. Ungoed-Thomas


Mr. Manningham-Buller

That was the word I used. The hon. and learned-Gentleman cannot get away from the fact that he said specifically, when discussing the Bill, that he would have preferred to see two things: first, the Rent Restriction Acts immediately applied to ground leases; second, the introduction of the minority Report which he signed. What I am saying to him is this—and I do not think I am being in the least unfair to him—that if he supports our Amendment we are giving him the opportunity of securing the first of his preferences.

Mr. Ungoed-Thomas

And keeping the standstill on leasehold premises.

Mr. Manningham-Buller

Not in the least; that does not follow. That is one of the worst instances of a Chancery non sequitur I have heard for a long time.

7.30 p.m.

Having disposed, I hope satisfactorily, of the hon. and learned Gentleman, I come back to the terms of the first Amendment. The Committee will see that the first part of it sets out the same provisions with regard to rateable value as are contained in the Rent Acts. The effect of that, of course, will be to bring within the scope of the Bill all dwelling-houses held under ground leases within the limits set out by the Rent Acts. It excludes, of course, ground leases of houses above those limits, but the Attorney-General said, in moving the Second Reading, that the Bill, in the main, deals with small houses; and, in the main, this Amendment covers the same ground.

The proposal contained in the Bill as it now stands will, of course, create a new anomaly, because tenancy of houses outside the Rent Restriction Acts limits held under ground leases will be getting protection when tenancies of smaller houses outside the Rent Restriction Acts on a rack rent will not be getting any protection at all. So, by enlarging it in respect of ground leases, a further anomaly will be developed which will result in some hardship. I hope that I have made the position clear to the Solicitor-General. It is a little involved.

The Solictor-General (Sir Frank Soskice)

I would sooner the hon. and learned Gentleman repeated it.

Mr. Manningham-Buller

I say that by going above the Rent Act rateable limits in the case of ground leases the Government are creating an anomaly in respect of those houses above the limit. They are giving protection in the case where that type of house is held on ground lease, but there is no protection where it is held on a rack rent. That is creating an anomaly which will lead to difficulties and hardship; I am sure of that.

Indeed, no case has yet been made out for extending the protection above, what I will call, the Rent Act level of houses. I am sure that the right hon. and learned Gentleman will agree that we should not interfere with contracts entered into and relieve people of the obligation of keeping their word unless it is clearly established beyond doubt that it is right so to do. That is the first point which I desire to make in relation to the Amendment.

The second point covered by the Amendment is that the protection which is brought within the Rent Restriction Acts exists for two years from the commencement of the Act. I am sure that the right hon. and learned Gentleman is aware that there was an error in the typing, and that it is from the commencement of the Act and not from the commencement of the Bill. It is our view that the tenant of such houses as would be brought within the purview of the Rent Restriction Acts should be dealt with in common with other rent restricted tenants when the Rent Acts are revised. Paragraph 1 of the Amendment is designed so that protection begins on the expiry of the lease. That is purely drafting. Paragraph 2 is the one to which I would draw the Committee's attention. It is set out there that the rent payable in respect of any period after the date of expiry shall he the rent payable immediately before the date of expiry or a rent equal to the rateable value thereof immediately before the date of expiry (whichever shall be the greater). That may give rise to comment from hon. Members opposite. I am sure that the hon. Member for Leicester, North-West (Mr. Janner), is at least aware that that is taken straight from a provision of the Rent Acts. The Rent Acts themselves provide that where the rent is less than the rateable value, the rateable value shall be the standard rent. I hope that I have the attention of the hon. and learned Member for Leicester, North-East (Mr. Ungoed-Thomas), because when he said, in his speech on Second Reading, that these houses should be brought within the Rent Acts, he must have been meaning, as I understand it, for all purposes. The mere statement of bringing them within the Rent Acts would import this particular provision; but rather than mislead the Committee we thought it right to put that down so that people should know what the effect would be.

Part II of the Bill provides for an increase of rent. That the Government have done. The Attorney-General, in his Second Reading speech, said: It may be said that it is bad enough, when the lease falls in, that the landlord should be prevented from getting possession, for a certain number of years, but it is worse still that he has to allow the tenant to remain in occupation at an out-of-date rental. He went on: One need not deny that there is some force in that argument, and that there may be cases of hardship. Later, he said: It seems to us that there were weighty reasons why these hard cases, if they exist, should not lead us into the establishment, for this purely temporary period, of any elaborate machinery for increasing the rent."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 6th December, 1950; Vol. 482, c. 383.] It would appear that, while recognising the hardship existing in a lease made 90 years ago, at the rent fixed then, under modern conditions, the right hon. and learned Gentleman rejected any suggestion for increasing the rent under the Bill not on the ground that an increase would be morally wrong or ethically wrong, but on the ground, which has great force, that in a Bill for a two-year period it would be quite wrong to set up elaborate machinery for increasing the rent. I agree; it would be quite wrong for a two-year period. It would also be quite wrong to make every person affected by Part I of the Bill have to go to a court to have the rent determined. We feel that the standard set by the Rent Acts is a standard which can be accepted as a fair and accurate standard. After all, the rateable value was assessed in 1934, and the rateable value will be below the rack rent, provided that we can overcome one objection.

The right hon. and learned Gentleman, on Second Reading, based his opposition to this matter, if my recollection is right, on the ground that this difficulty could not be overcome—that is the difficulty with regard to the tenant's liability to repair under a ground lease which, of course, is much larger than it is if he is a tenant under a rack rent. I think that the right hon. and learned Gentleman, when he put forward that argument, overlooked the effect of Clause 5, which made those obligations for repair an enforcement.

At any rate, we have sought, in this Amendment, to provide for that point in this way. We say, in paragraph (a), that no order or judgment for the recovery of possession or for the ejectment of a tenant shall be made or given by reason of— (a) the determination in any manner of any tenancy of the dwelling-house other than the tenancy whether contractual or statutory under which the tenant is in occupation thereof. That covers the case where there is an intermediate tenancy. The second part deals with the repair, namely, that no order or judgment for the recovery of possession or for the ejectment of a tenant shall be made or given by reason of— (b) any failure by the tenant to comply with any obligation to repair or keep in repair the dwelling-house unless the tenant in breach of any such obligation has not complied with any notice served by the local authority under the Public Health Act, 1936, or the dwelling-house is not in the opinion of the court in a reasonable state of repair owing to the neglect or default of the tenant. Here, again, we have sought to provide that the tenant will not be completely relieved from all obligation of taking care of the premises he occupies. I do not think anyone would want that. But we do not want him ejected for non-fulfilment of the obligations contained in his ground lease. Possession can only be obtained if he does not comply with a notice served on him by the local authority, or it can be found to the satisfaction of the court that he has really been guilty of waste.

Let us consider for a moment what the position will be, as this is an alternative scheme that is worthy of consideration. The ground lessee will be in much the same position as the ordinary tenant of a rent-restricted house. His possession will be secure, and his liability under his covenant, while he remains in possession on this extended tenancy, will be precisely the same. Therefore, we think that there is a lot of force in the argument we are putting forward. We believe the scheme in this Amendment has the great advantage that it keeps us out of the tangle of tenancies and all the difficulties in regard to Clause 5, by looking solely at the question from the point of view of whether there is a dwelling-house on the property and any part subject to a ground lease. If that dwelling-house is occupied, the tenant has just the same protection as under the Rent Restriction Acts. If the Amendment is accepted, a great deal of Part I becomes surplus and unnecessary, and a great many complexities are avoided.

We have made our position clear and have said that we want to do this. We made it clear at Blackpool, and in the debates on the Gracious Speech and on the Second Reading of the Bill. Here is a constructive policy to apply to this class of tenants that we recognise should have something done for them. The hon. and learned Member for Leicester, North-East, was in favour of this, and, of course, it is an easy matter to treat these tenants in the same fashion should the Rent Restriction Acts be further continued. I hope I have not taken too long in explaining the first scheme.

I now come to the subsequent Amendment, which seeks to leave out the second "the" and to insert "a." That is to provide the very thing I have suggested in relation to the second scheme. I said that it was a common factor. It is "a" tenant when under a sub-tenancy and a sub-sub-tenancy. Then we seek to omit the phrase "a member of his family." I know that the phrase is in the Rent Restriction Acts, but it is a vague phrase, and already it has led to a considerable amount of litigation. It may lead to more litigation, so we suggest, although we are not wedded to our definition, that "tenant" in the definition Clause should be so defined as to include the categories of the members of the family to whom it is wished to give protection. In a two-year Measure of this sort, one of the last things we want is to have litigation forced upon one or the other. That is the reason behind our Amendment.

7.45 p.m.

In regard to the fourth Amendment, I see no reason why we should not use the usual test of residence, rather than the words "is living" which are capable of being misunderstood. Taken together, the Amendments leave out the rent restriction scheme, but provide instead that a tenant residing in a dwelling-house or property the subject of a ground lease shall have protection for the period specified in the Bill.

I hope I have made clear the two schemes we have been working on and are now putting forward. I hope I have been able to satisfy Members opposite who have been only too keen in the debate to use harsh language about our Amendments, describing them as "wrecking Amendments," that here we are putting forward a constructive proposal, which has the advantage of being preferred by the hon. and learned Member for Leicester, North-East, to meet a difficulty, an anomaly, which we recognise to exist, and that we are seeking to meet it in a much better way than under the Bill.

Mr. MacColl

It seems to me to be very difficult to discuss the Amendment and remain within the confines of order. I imagine that whether or not this was to be a permanent solution to the problem of leasehold, or a temporary Measure was settled on Second Reading, and that we now have to discuss the Amendment on the assumption that this is a stop-gap Measure. I cannot see any reason on that basis for a large-scale alteration of the terms of these tenancies, when we know that there is to be reconsideration of the whole issue in two years' time and it may be that a large-scale programme of leasehold enfranchisement will be adopted.

Perhaps I might join in the interesting exegesis by my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Leicester, North-East (Mr. Ungoed-Thomas), of what he said and what the hon. and learned Member for Northants, South (Mr. Manningham-Buller) said he meant, by giving a further quotation. My hon. and learned Friend also said: It is a matter of very considerable difficulty to apply the Rent Restriction Acts to ground leases, because it involves changes in the whole nature of the lease from a ground lease into an ordinary occupational, controlled rent tenancy. That involves changes in the position with regard to covenants; it means recasting the whole of the lease and fitting it into an entirely new setting."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 6th December, 1950; Vol. 482, c. 414.] I cannot see how there can be a case for launching out on an operation of that character on the assumption that the whole thing has to be reviewed again in two years' time. The hon. and learned Gentleman said that the Rent Restriction Acts were out-of-date and that they require revision. I entirely agree with him, but it seems an odd thing, that before the Acts are reviewed, we should proceed to anchor a whole new category of classes to the Acts already in many ways requiring very careful revision.

Take the simple point of fixing the rents on the basis of rateable value. My view is that it would be an excellent thing if controlled rents generally could be attached to the rateable values provided those values were a fair assessment of the value of the property. When the new valuation to be made in 1953 comes into operation we can see if it is possible to assess the practicability of some such procedure. But the idea of starting today in 1951 to anchor rents to rateable values, which vary widely from place to place and not only from town to town but from street to street, does not seem to be the proper solution.

There is the case of London. It does not come under the 1925 Act but still comes under the 1861 Act—or did until the new Act was passed—which means, in effect, that there has been no review of London rateable values since 1935. I should have thought that one of the major defects in the Rent Restriction Acts at the moment is that they lead to such widespread variety of valuation for similar properties. Therefore, to propose to anchor the rents to a yardstick which already is hopelessly out of date in what is a temporary Measure seems to me to be a proposition which should not be seriously considered at all.

Mr. Foster

How would the hon. Member answer this argument of a constituent: "Why did you oppose a Conservative Amendment which gives me greater protection than the Government Bill"?

Mr. MacColl

The hon. and learned Gentleman seems to be assuming that no constituents of mine will ever support me who has a rateable value above the level of the Rent Restriction Acts. The Conservative Amendment, would in fact, exclude some of the lessees above the Rent Restriction Acts level. Thus it becomes a form of class distinction against people who happen to have a house which 15 or 16 years ago was valued over £100 in London or lower in the provinces. I think my constituents would find it difficult to understand the logic, the reasoning or the justice of my argument if I anchored myself to that kind of criterion.

The beauty of this Bill—I am one of those who think it is a wise and sensible Measure—is that it faces the situation that there is a wide variety of values. What to do about them is an ultimate solution to this difficult problem. Different views have been expressed on this side of the Committee. I hold different views, for instance, from my hon. Friend the Member for Leicester, North-West (Mr. Janner), on leasehold disenfranchisement. These questions have got to be settled. The fact that the Committee which sat for a considerable time on the problem produced varying reports is, itself, an indication of the complexity of the problem.

Therefore, if we are to face this situation what is required is a stop-gap Bill making the minimum alterations on what is in existence. It is far more sensible to say to someone, "You have had a ground rent for 99 years. We are going to increase that to 101 years until we reach a final solution of this problem." That is an understandable approach which can be accepted by them. I do not think they will understand such an approach as this: "The Rent Restriction Acts are out of date and have to be revised in some way in the future. Nevertheless, in the next two years we are going to have a completely new shuffle of covenants and rents and we propose to anchor them to these obsolete Acts. We shall then have to consider a final solution to the problem." It seems to me that this Amendment is not a wise attempt to improve a temporary Bill. It is an attempt to produce a permanent solution of the problem which has not been thought out, and were it the subject of a debate, which it is not, it would be open to the most devastating criticism.

Mr. Black (Wimbledon)

It seems to me to be difficult to accept the argument that because the Bill, if passed into law, would operate for only two years the Committee should be satisfied to accept an unfair and unjust solution of the prob- lem with which it deals rather than the superior and much more just solution which, I submit, is outlined in the Amendment. We are really dealing, in this Amendment, with two main questions. The first is what classes of occupiers of property should have the benefit and the protection of this part of the Bill; and, second, what should be the rent payable by the tenant who has the benefit of this protection.

In regard to the first question it seems to me to be very difficult to understand why a tenant holding a ground lease on a property which is outside the scope of the Rent Restriction Acts because of its rateable value, should be protected under the Bill, although the tenant of a similar property holding on a short lease at a rack rent is afforded no security in respect of the tenancy. That seems to me to be an indefensible proposition. We can only justify including within the scope of the Bill properties which by reason of their rateable values are outside the provision of the Rent Restriction Acts if it can be demonstrated that a very strong case exists for their inclusion. In my submission that case has not been made out. Indeed, no serious attempt has been made to make out such a case. It is a fact that the great majority of residential properties both in London and throughout the country come within the rateable limits of the Rent Restriction Acts.

Mr. Janner


Mr. Black

The great majority of residential properties come within the scope of the rateable values laid down in the Rent Restriction Acts and the number of properties outside those limits must, indeed, be a very small percentage of the whole. I say that no case has been made out for the inclusion of these larger properties with rateable values outside the limits of the Rent Restriction Acts and I think this is not disputed. It is not irrelevant to refer, in this connection, to the memorandum prepared about the Bill by the Chartered Auctioneers and Estate Agents Institute, a professional body which, quite obviously, has vast experience in dealing with properties of all kinds. The memorandum of the Institute records this opinion: The Institute is not aware that any need has been shown to protect the occupying lessees of properties which are outside the rate- able limits of the Rent Restriction Acts after the expiration of their leases. That is an opinion with which Members may or may not agree, but it has at any rate the merit of being the opinion of a body with very wide experience of problems of this kind and probably with far more information at its disposal than is at the disposal of any Member of the Committee.

8.0 p.m.

Mr. Janner

Will the hon. Member, as an experienced property owner, tell me whether it is not a fact that exorbitant premiums are being asked right through London and throughout the country for houses which are outside the Rents Acts, and that hundreds of thousands of people are without homes because they cannot pay them?

Mr. Black

I do not for one moment accept that statement as having any correspondence to the facts of the case. While taxation continues at its present level the number of people who can afford to pay a rent in excess of the limits of the Rent Acts suffers a severe diminution year by year.

Mr. Turner-Samuels

Does the hon. Gentleman really tell the Committee that there is no widespread exploitation in rents for houses that are outside the Rent Restriction Acts?

Mr. Black

I contend that there is no general evil here to an extent sufficient to justify the inclusion of this type of property within the scope of the Bill, and that the suggestion that there are hundreds of thousands of cases of exploitation of properties with rateable values above the limits of the Rent Acts has no kind of correspondence whatever to the facts. In my judgment, there is every justification for excluding from the scope of the Bill the comparatively few properties that are outside the limits of the Rent Restriction Acts.

The second point with which the Amendment deals is the rent to be paid by a tenant who has the benefit of the protection afforded by the Bill. Here, I submit, there is every justification for a rent being imposed equivalent to the rateable value, in cases where the rateable value is in excess of the rent reserved under the lease. On this point I would refer briefly to the opinions of two other professional bodies with very great experience of this problem. First, I would refer to the evidence given on behalf of the Council of the Law Society, to the Departmental Committee on Leaseholds. When evidence was given on behalf of the Council of the Law Society to that committee, the possibility of temporary legislation was put to the representatives of the society.

Mr. Leslie Hale

May I ask what document the hon. Gentleman is quoting from, where he got it, how it came into his possession, and who supplied him with it?

Mr. Black

It was supplied to me by a member of the Council of the Law Society. I think, therefore, that I am quite justified in accepting the information as correct. On that understanding, I give it to the Committee and I accept responsibility for it.

The Council recommended that, in the event of such legislation being introduced, the rental should be fixed at a fair market value, eliminating any scarcity value. That was the opinion of the Law Society as to the rent to be paid in the event of there being temporary or stop-gap legislation to extend ground leases for a limited period only.

The Royal Chartered Surveyors' Institution have also submitted a memorandum on this matter. I do not think that the case for the charging of a rent equivalent to the rateable value can be better stated than it is in this memorandum. This is what it says: The consequence is to grant to the lessee, at the expense of the lessor, up to two years' further enjoyment of the property at a low rent even though in many cases the lessee will have bought an unexpired term of short duration at an appropriate price, expecting the lease to run out at a pre-determined date. The lessor will have purchased the reversion on similar expectations. There will be numerous cases where Death Duties will have been paid, mortgages arranged and many other transactions entered into on the understanding that the lease would expire at the agreed date. If the purpose of this provision is to grant the lessee security of tenure, it seems to the Institution that a more equitable result would be achieved by continuing the lease at a fair market value. If, in the absence of a better solution, it is necessary to adopt rule-of-thumb methods, it would not be unreasonable for the rents to be related to the rateable value or the Schedule A Assessment of the premises. So we have here the opinions of the two great professions concerned with the land and the law relating to the land. The opinion of the Council of the Law Society was that a fair rent should be paid, excluding scarcity value, and the opinion of the Royal Chartered Surveyors' Institution was that if a rule of thumb method were required of reaching a fair rent, to take the rateable value for the purpose would be reasonable in the circumstances. It seems to us on this side of the Committee that to limit the scope of this part of the Bill to those properties coming within the Rent Restriction Acts and to require, where the rateable value is in excess of the rent reserved under the expiring lease, that a rent equal to the rateable value should be paid in the future instead of the rent reserved under the lease, is a fair and reasonable proposal which should not be objected to by tenants who have the great benefit of the protection afforded by the Bill.

The point has been made, and it should be emphasised, that in practically every case the rateable values in force at present were fixed in 1934, at a time when conditions in the property market were vastly different from the conditions in force today. They were fixed at a time when rental values were very much lower than rental values today. I think that it will not be seriously disputed that the rateable values fixed in 1934 were, in the majority of cases, a good deal less than the rents prevailing at that time.

In suggesting, therefore, that a rent equal to the rateable value should become the new rent where it exceeds the rent reserved under the expiring lease we are taking a low pre-war estimate of the rental value of the premises concerned. No question of scarcity value enters into it at all, or of adding on anything for the alteration of the value of money, or of giving effect to the obviously altered conditions to the detriment of the tenant which have come over the property market since 1934. I submit that in accepting that method by which the rent should be fixed, we are adopting a standard against which no reasonable tenant should have any valid objection.

Mr. MacColl

Would not the hon. Member agree that it is also true that the discrepancies between rateable value and the market rent have varied from house to house, and, therefore, that would be adopting as a criterion a measure which would be much more unfair in some cases than in others and create in the minds of tenants a feeling of injustice?

Mr. Black

If it be a fact that there are small discrepancies—

Mr. MacColl

Not small; wide.

Mr. Black

—between the rateable value of one comparable house and another, how much greater are the discrepancies between the rents reserved under the expiring leases. If the purpose of the Committee is to reach some kind of uniformity, the worst possible basis to adopt is to carry on the tenancy at the rent reserved under the lease.

Mr. MacColl

The purpose of the Committee at the moment is to preserve the status quo, and it is no argument to introduce new anomalies as a substitute for the old anomalies. The purpose of the Bill is that we accept the existing situation with its anomalies until we can bring it to rational standards. The argument of the hon. Gentleman is not that but in favour of the introduction of another equally anomalous standard which is not the one to which people are used.

Mr. Black

It is not the purpose of this side of the Committee to preserve the status quo, and we are, therefore, proposing a method containing the very minimum of discrepancies which it is possible to secure. The discrepancies involved in the selection of rateable value as the basis of the rent to be paid during the two years would be small and inconsiderable compared with the discrepancies which will exist if the Bill is carried into law in its original form.

The Solicitor-General

I thought that it might be of help to the Committee if I intervened at this stage in order that I might indicate generally what the attitude of the Government is to the Amendment. The Government's attitude is that, the Bill being intended purely as a standstill Measure, it would be incompatible with its purpose to introduce such a radical change as proposed. I would in that connection like to reiterate and adopt as my own argument the arguments which were so forcibly expressed by my hon. Friend the Member for Widnes (Mr. MacColl). I want to supplement in some respects what he said, but before I do so I should like to say something to the hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for Northants, South (Mr. Manningham-Buller).

The hon. and learned Gentleman made certain incidental claims for the two alternative schemes which he put forward. In the first place, he said that it could be claimed for them that they obviated the need for the elaborate mechanism of Clause 5. With great respect, that claim is one which he is not entitled to put forward, for this reason. The first Amendment contains in line 7 the words "in right of the tenancy," and the effect of those words, so far as we have been able to ascertain after study, is that the only protection which is given by the Amendment is to the tenant immediately under the ground lease. That is a defect not merely of the first Amendment but also of the alternative series of Amendments in which the alternative scheme is embodied.

8.15 p.m.

The hon. and learned Gentleman also made the further claim that the proposal was much superior to our own for the reason that it embodied a definition of the word "tenant" which was clear and specific in its terms and was superior to the terminology which we had used when referring to the tenant's family. There again, with respect to him, he has made a claim on behalf of his own proposal which also cannot be borne out. The definition which he has introduced into his Amendment is, I submit, quite defective, and it would have many effects which I am sure he does not intend. I will give an example of one.

The Amendment would result as follows. If the tenant is alive, no other person's being in residence could enable the benefits of Part I of the Bill to be obtained. For example, if the tenant had been out of the country for some time, such as on war service in Korea or because his job took him to a part of the world climatically unsuited to his family, there would be no protection for the tenancy under which he provides a home for his wife and children. I am sure that hon. Members on both sides of the Committee will agree that a definition which has that result is not satisfactory for the purposes of the Bill, and I am quite sure that that was not intended.

We have incorporated by implication into the terms of our Bill the precedents and judicial decisions which have gone a long way to embodying a clear conception into the words "the tenant's family" as they are already used in existing legislation, and we feel, despite what the right hon. and learned Gentleman has said, that our Bill is in that respect far superior to the draft which he proposes in his Amendment. Those are, therefore, respects in which, I submit, his claims cannot be substantiated in his proposals.

I now return to the observations with which I began my remarks when I referred to the speech of my hon. Friend the Member for Widnes. This is, and it was put forward on Second Reading and was accepted during the course of Second Reading as, a purely standstill Measure designed to bring about a moratorium. The hon. Member for Wimbledon (Mr. Black) said it was not his view of the Bill that that was its purpose. All I can say is that his hon. Friends did not divide against it and my right hon. and learned Friend the Attorney-General clearly explained to the House that that was the object of the Bill. He so endeavoured to support it in argument, and it is plain upon the face of the Bill that that is its primary purpose. I can only say that now to suggest that the purpose of the Bill is the wrong one is really to re-open the major issue which was decided by the decision of the House as the result of the Second Reading, against which the Opposition did not divide.

If one starts from that position, that this is purely a standstill Measure, I submit that it is quite unsuitable to make the very drastic changes in the existing situation which would result if either of the alternative proposals contained in the Amendments was accepted. To begin with, they would have the result of substituting a statutory status of irremovability, for want of a better expression, which is the result of the existing rent restriction legislation. What the Bill in its present form does is to continue the existing tenancy. In that sense it does in a very real way prolong the existing situation. If one substitutes for a prolongation of the existing tenancies this conception of a statutory tenancy under the Rent Restriction Acts it will be a great deal more difficult to draft the permanent legislation when that comes to be proposed to the House. Surely much more formidable objections—

Mr. Hay

Will the right hon. and learned Gentleman elaborate that last point? I should be very interested to know why he says that the bringing into force of a statutory tenancy, as we suggest, will make it so much more difficult to draft the permanent legislation. I should have thought that it would have made it far easier.

The Solicitor-General

Because it fundamentally alters the status of the tenant and puts an end to the existing tenancy, substituting an altogether different situation. Therefore, any permanent legislation, if it is to relate to the existing situation, has to undo that change of status. But there are more formidable objections. The effect of the changes would be this. They would only protect the tenant in respect of that part of the tenancy of which he is in occupation. As the Bill stands, it gives protection in respect of the whole subject matter of the whole tenancy. The new changes would reduce that protection to a protection solely in respect of that portion of the premises which the tenant could be said to be occupying as a dwelling-house on the property. That is a very substantial change.

I am not for the purpose of this argument expressing any opinion one way or the other as to the merits or demerits of the proposal that ultimately as a part of the permanent legislation which is enacted the rent restriction system should be incorporated. That may or may not be a good proposal; I refrain from expressing any opinion about it. But supposing that it ultimately transpires to be desirable that the whole subject matter of the tenancy should be the subject of protection in the permanent legislation, if the protection during the interim period has been whittled down to that part which is in the occupation of the tenant, it clearly means that one has got to undo the whole of a new situation which will have been enacted as a result of the Amendments, and restore a situation which it will be very difficult to get back to. That is the second objection in the way of incorporating these schemes in anything which is in the nature of a standstill Bill.

There is a further difficulty, which is this. If one takes premises, the subject of a tenancy, and gives protection only in respect of a portion of those premises, then one has to re-write the covenants of the lease under which those premises are held. At the moment the tenant is bound by a covenant which extends to the whole subject matter of the tenancy. If the protection is now to be relegated and confined to a portion of that subject matter, then it follows as a matter of logic that one has virtually to re-write the terms of the lease as between the protected tenant and the landlord. That again is an object which is wholly beyond the compass in any satisfactory sense of a moratorium Measure. I hope, therefore, that the Committee will agree that there would be great difficulty, so long as we adhere to the purpose of prolonging the situation for an interim period, in bringing into the scope of protection any such radical changes as would result from this process.

I submit that those objections are sufficient in themselves, but to go further than that and change the existing rent to the previous rent or rateable value, whichever is the higher, is a further step along the same path. One does not know what rent the permanent legislation will fix as the appropriate rent to be paid in any continued period of tenancy, but to adopt the proposal which is contained in the Amendments is in effect to pre-judge that issue in favour of the existing rent or rateable value, whichever is the higher. That again is taking a premature decision when one is trying to enact an interim Measure. I hope, therefore, the Committee will agree that the proposals are objectionable from that point of view.

I should like also to say this. The proposals limit the protection solely to premises within the rent restriction scope. As has been said, broadly speaking the Measure is designed to deal with the small type of house, but there is, at any rate, some reason to suppose that the middle class type of dwelling also may stand in need of the operation of this Measure. Some of my hon. Friends in the course of this debate have reminded the Committee of that fact. This proposal would, as a preconceived and prejudged matter, limit the protection to the rent restriction limits, and therefore again in effect would prejudge something which must remain open for decision at a time when the final Measure is conceived and elaborated and put upon the Statute Book.

I hope the Committee will agree, for the reasons which I have given, and which I thought it might be for the convenience of the Committee to give at an early stage in the debate, that these proposals are unsuitable to the purpose for which the Bill is designed. I hope, therefore, it will be agreed that general discussion of the merits or demerits, from the long-term point of view of applying the rent restriction legislation, is irrelevant and immaterial to the object which we are trying to achieve by the present Measure, and I hope the Committee will agree that neither of the Amendments should be accepted.

Mr. Foster

It is a curious spectacle to see hon. Members opposite refusing to give protection to a very large proportion of the people aimed at by the Bill as drafted, and raising the argument "Oh, well, the Conservative Amendment does not protect the middle class home." Let us assume that this argument is right in this respect, that it excludes what an hon. Member opposite called the middle class home. If the hon. Gentleman really wants to give protection to people within the scope of the Rent Restriction Acts, surely the way to meet that is to amend our Amendment. It cannot be an argument against our Amendment, if our Amendment is right in principle, that it excludes somebody else. If it is right in principle for the people within the scope of the Rent Restriction Acts it ought to be adopted for them.

What is important in this Amendment is that it gives better protection to a large number of people than does the standstill part of this Clause. I know hon. Members opposite do not like this, but it is true. I asked the hon. Member for Widnes (Mr. MacColl) what he would say to a constituent who asks, "Why did not you give me the better protection provided by the Conservative Amendment than is provided by the Government Bill?" It is probably within the memory of the Committee that the hon. Member's answer was, "I could not agree to that Amendment because it leaves out some other people." His constituent was supposed to be satisfied with that answer. But, of course, he would not be satisfied.

The object of the Amendment is to do the best possible in this stop-gap Measure. It is not an argument against doing something that is good to say that this is a stop-gap Measure particularly designed to preserve the status quo, whether that has a good or bad result. The Solicitor-General will notice that there are many Clauses here that preserve the status quo. There are Clauses about covenants which do not preserve the status quo. There is a lot of good and bad in those Clauses, but we will come to that later.

8.30 p.m.

My point is that the Government think that it is not right to preserve the status quo. They do not do it in this Bill. The object of the Bill, which, on both sides of the Committee, we agree is a stop-gap Measure, ought to be to provide the best stop-gap Measure possible. The hon. Member will not satisfy his constituents with the argument, "Oh, well, we are just maintaining the status quo." What a principle for the Socialist Party. "Let us keep the status quo at all costs. Do not let us improve the status of people whose status could be improved by a good Measure."

A point which hon. Members opposite do not appreciate, and one which they will not like when they do appreciate it, is the fact that the great majority of people who will be within the scope of this Bill will have a better tenure, will have their position improved—

Mr. Ungoed-Thomas

In what way?

Mr. Foster

—in that instead of being given a two-year standstill protection they will be given the permanent protection of the Rent Restriction Acts.

Mr. Ungoed-Thomas

No. The Bill provides it for two years.

Mr. Foster

The Bill provides it for two years, but after then it will not be possible to leave those people outside the scope of the Rent Restriction Acts.

The Attorney-General

What the hon. and learned Member is seeking to do, as he has now frankly said, is to provide, by what he still describes as a stop-gap or temporary Measure, a complete bar against any permanent solution of this problem involving perhaps leasehold enfranchisement or consideration of the position as it exists today. That is what he is trying to do—to wreck the proposal which is the whole basis of the Bill.

Mr. Foster

I was assuming that leasehold enfranchisement is out of the question. I understand that the Attorney-General comes down on the side of leasehold enfranchisement.

The Attorney-General

No, I did not say that, and the hon. and learned Member knows that I did not say it. What I said was that the hon. and learned Member is seeking to preclude any possibility of leasehold enfranchisement or of any extension of the existing leases being considered with regard to their existing terms. He is seeking to substitute for a stop-gap Measure what he regards, but we do not, as a satisfactory, permanent solution.

Mr. Foster

Let us assume that the Attorney-General desires leasehold enfranchisement. [An HON. MEMBER: "Why?"] I am entitled to assume anything I like, and it would be a bad day for free speech if I were not so entitled. I assume it because the Attorney-General, if his argument is worth anything, thinks that leasehold enfranchisement is worthy of very serious consideration with a view perhaps to adopting it. There is no reason why these premises could not be marked or distinguished in some way so that if, in permanent legislation, it is decided, contrary to what I believe will be the case, to take these houses out of the protection of the Rent Restrictions Acts, and give them to the tenant, if such an extraordinary Measure were passed—[Interruption.]—it is quite possible to distinguish between one sort of rent restricted property and another, there are registers and other kinds of machinery.

The point from which hon. Members opposite will not get away is that the Bill is improving the lot of these tenants by giving them a tenure under the Rent Restriction Acts. I agree that it is unlikely that there will be leasehold enfranchisement or that these tenants will get better protection than they do by the Bill. The hon. Member for Oldham, West (Mr. L. Hale), when discussing a previous Amendment said, "Look at the uncertainty, look at the negotiations which have to be entered into many years in advance." Here, the tenants concerned get the protection of the Rent Restriction Acts, and they know that they will get nothing worse than that, that they cannot get any less than the protection of the Rent Restriction Acts, and they know that they can negotiate from that position.

Hon. Members opposite try to argue that this is merely a standstill Measure to preserve the status quo. It is not, therefore it all comes back to what excuse do they give to their constituents for not giving them proper protection?

Mr. Janner

It does not.

Mr. Foster

The hon. Member says it does not—

Mr. Janner

Indeed it does not; it is nonsense.

Mr. Foster

The Attorney-General says, "Well, you are going to raise their rents." But I do not believe there are any tenants—or only a very small number—who believe, if they are paying £1 a year for a house and their lease comes to an end, that it is not right that they should pay at least the rateable value—the rateable value taking into account the fact that repairs are on the side of the tenant.

The Attorney-General, on Second Reading, put forward, as one of his objections, the statement that if these leases were put under the scope of the Rent Restriction Acts then the tenant would be paying a greater rent than is justified by his repairing covenant. He probably meant that if it is restricted to the rateable value that takes care of that point. Rateable value is calculated with reference to the assumption that the tenant pays all repairs. Therefore, rateable value is the rent which is the minimum fair rent. No rent below that would be a fair rent, because it would be lower than a rent calculated in 1935 on the tenant paying all the repairs. So we get the position that under this Amendment there is an intelligible and a fairly uncomplicated provision—compared with some of the Amendments in this case—which puts all the ground leases and the rateable leases neatly within the scope of the Rent Restriction Acts.

It is true that the Government seemed to intend a great sweeping Measure to reform all the Rent Restriction Acts, and leasehold reform, and to do all these things. But we know very well that it has been one of the besetting sins of the Government that they always refuse to decide a thing now. The Solicitor-General spoke as if it was a thing that had suddenly appeared. He did not want to argue the merits or demerits of a particular proposal; as to whether it was right to keep the bigger homes under rent restriction or not. He did not know what were the merits or demerits. Why has not he thought about it? There have been years to think about it; and it is quite possible after a couple of days of argument back and forth in this House, for the Government to come to a decision about it. We do not believe in the status quo if it is not a good status quo. We believe in progress. Hon. Members of the party opposite, the moment they get into office, seem unable to decide anything. They always seem to be waiting for something more to happen, and it is usually something unpleasant for the country.

The objection to this ought to be on principle, and not, as the Solicitor-General says, "I cannot decide whether it would be right to put a thing under the Rent Restriction Acts or not. Perhaps it would or perhaps it would not. I do not want to decide. I want to act on the assumption that this is preserving the status quo." I would like to hear hon. Gentlemen opposite say, "Is it right, or wrong, in principle?" There are some hon. Members opposite, I know, who take the view that where there is to be a long ground lease, at the end of the ground lease the tenants would get the houses for nothing.

I do not agree with that point of view, but I understand it. They at least have an argument against this because they say, "We believe in that and we do not think putting it under the Rent Restriction Acts is the right solution." But it is not for the Solicitor-General to say, "I cannot decide." When I asked whether he is in favour of leasehold reform he said I must not assume that. Why does he not declare himself? Why does not he say, "Is this the correct solution by and large of the problem of these people?"

If it is the right solution, then the right hon. and learned Gentleman ought to be in favour of it even in a standstill Bill. There is no reason why the Government, when they bring in a standstill Bill, should not bring in one which is as good as possible. For these reasons I ask the Committee to re-examine the arguments of those who say that this is a satisfactory solution, and I ask those who believe that it is to vote in favour of the Amendment.

Mr. Janner

I say at once that the hon. and learned Member for Northwich (Mr. J. Foster) is perfectly right in asking for a categorical reply to some of the points he has made. I see some hon. Gentlemen on the Liberal benches who, no doubt, have read and digested the book of their great leader. There are many of us who feel that there should be a Measure of leasehold enfranchisement. There are some of us, including myself, who believe that after a leaseholder has built premises it would not be fair for him to have to pay what is the rental that can reasonably be expected from a tenant who occupies a house which a landlord has built.

It is a simple proposition. We consider that the time will come when the lessee should be, and will be, entitled to claim as of right that which he has created with the help of his fellow men in a community, and that the landlord who has done nothing for 50 or 100 years to produce that value should not have a benefit to which he is not entitled. There may be people on this side of the Committee who do not agree with what I have said and there may be a considerable opinion on the opposite benches. I submit to the hon. and learned Member for Northants, South (Mr. Manningham-Buller), that if they establish here and now the principle that a rental should be charged which is different from the ground rent which is being paid at present, they are in fact doing what my right hon. and learned Friend the Attorney-General said. They are pre-judging issues and are not giving the House an opportunity of deciding what they want to do with leaseholds.

There are numerous of my hon. Friends who, knowing circumstances in certain districts—South Wales, for example—feel exactly the same as I do on these matters. They do not want to be excluded at a later stage by being told that already the principle of what rent has to be paid has been established. Every time anyone on the opposite benches starts to talk about the question of rent restriction, or of standstill orders of or protecting tenants, the first point they talk about is the sanc- tity of contract. Of course there is a sanctity of contract; but if the contract is in itself unholy, there is no sanctity about it.

Mr. Hay

Who is to decide whether a contract is unholy?

8.45 p.m.

Mr. Janner

That is precisely what I wanted to say. Hon. Members opposite, when considering the various Rent Restriction Acts, have always held that the fundamental principle of those Acts is "any agreement to the contrary notwithstanding," because there was an unholy contract which prevented people from being protected in their homes and from paying rents which were reasonable. It is in almost the first few lines of the Acts of 1915 and 1920. Hon. Members on the opposite benches have never questioned that. Nevertheless, they come here on every occasion when we are dealing with the question of the protection of tenants and the protection of lessees and try to make out that we on these benches are destroying something which is like the laws of the Medes and Persians—indestructible or unalterable. Of course, the whole point of protecting the tenants is to remedy evils which have been created owing to laws which are out of date and which do not meet the necessities of the times.

Now I want to say a word or two with regard to the arguments that these provisions are going to afford a better protection to the lessee than those proposed in the Bill itself during the two years, and I know a little about the Rent Restriction Acts. Apart from the argument that it will go on longer—and, of course, it will go on longer than the two years, as has already been pointed out—the fact of the matter is that there is only one real difference which it is suggested would be covered by this particular provision or either of the two sets of Amendments. It is that, according to the Bill as it stands, any tenant of a long lease is protected, but, according to the Amendment now proposed, only those tenants who are covered by a rateable value of £100 in London and £75 in the provinces.

It is no good saying, as the hon. and learned Gentleman attempted to say a moment ago, that that can be amended in the course of the Committee stage, because this is fundamental to this Bill. If we do anything different by amending the Amendment in the name of the Opposition, obviously we shall be changing the Rent Restriction Acts. [Interruption.] Of course, we shall be, because we shall be introducing into the Rent Restriction Acts a rateable value in excess of the rateable values with which the Acts deal; and, secondly, we shall be making a fundamental change.

I should agree to that. I should be happy if hon. Members would say that tomorrow they would ask the Government to introduce a proposal whereby the rateable values in respect of which protection is given should be increased, and I should be the first to support it. That would be justifiable, and we on these benches would be happy to join in. In consequence of that, it is perfectly obvious that this Amendment places the tenant in a much worse position, because he might have to pay 15, 20 or possibly 50 times the rent he is paying at present as ground lessee. That is the factual position.

Let us now go one step further. I cannot understand any hon. Member who has his eyes and ears open and reads any newspaper at all, and particularly the advertisements in any paper, suggesting to this Committee that tenancies of houses above £100 rateable value are easy to get and that they are so few in number that it does not matter a hang about the people who rent them. I want to know how many hon. Members in this Committee have been placed in a position in which they have been compelled to pay very large premiums in order to move into flats the rateable value of which is above the rateable value that is protected.

May I say—and I speak with some emotion on this—that I found myself in a house, the rateable value of which was, I think, £103. I had been in that house for 14 years when the company which owned the two houses, of which my maisonette formed part, decided to sell with the valuable asset of a portion of the premises being available with vacant possession. I did not feel inclined to agree to that. It was in Paddington, and things are happening there apart from other matters. I did not feel disposed to buy two houses in order to have a maisonette on one floor for myself. Therefore, I got in touch with the landlord and said, "I have been here for 14 years; I hope I am not too bad a tenant. I try to pay my rent regularly on the very meagre salary that one receives as a Member of Parliament, and would you be good enough to let me remain as a weekly tenant until such time as I can find another place?" The landlord refused, and said that I must go out on Christmas Day.

This is a typical example of what happens in London. The result was that I had to look for another place for which I had to pay a much higher rent. What was more, not being able to have the weekly tenancy of my previous maisonette, I had to stay in a hotel with my family for some weeks pending my new accommodation being put into a proper state. In addition to that, the maisonette I left is still empty, and therefore people are being prevented from having that accommodation.

I tell the Committee this because I feel that the step being taken here in, respect of properties of a rateable value in excess of £100 is something of tremendous importance throughout the length and breadth of this country. I hope that hon. Members opposite will take a word of advice from me, and, as I said earlier, I would advise them to be very careful before they place constituents of theirs who are not at present in houses of a rateable value of less than £75 in the provinces and £100 in London in jeopardy, particularly if they happen to be leaseholders who have regarded those leaseholdings as their homes.

I hope that we shall have an end to this type of Amendment when we come to the Rent Acts, and that is the point at which, of course, hon. Members opposite are driving. They want a Rent Act amendment which will enable higher rents to be charged and difficulties placed in the way of the tenants. They are anxious to have that. I am anxious to have a fresh Rent Act in order to keep people in their homes and in order to give them reasonable rents. But this is not the time to deal with that. We are here discussing leaseholds, and this is a stop-gap Measure for leaseholds, and is limited to that.

Mr. Higgs (Bromsgrove)

The hon. Member for Leicester, North-West (Mr. Janner) is anxious at this stage to emphasise that this is a stop-gap Measure for leaseholds. I hope that before we pass from the Committee stage there will come a time when we shall pin down hon. Members opposite, particularly those who sit on the back benches, and really find out what it is they are after. When my hon. Friends on this side, at an earlier stage, moved an Amendment the purpose of which was to try to limit the effect of the Bill to what most of us understand to be leaseholds, the hounds were in full cry in the hope that they might extend this Measure by making it apply to a number of types of tenancy which are very far from what we understand to be leaseholds.

Mr. Ellis Smith (Stoke-on-Trent, South)

Who were the hounds?

Mr. Higgs

The hon. Member has the advantage over me.

I had thought that in this Amendment, or in the alternative which appears later on the Order Paper, we had hit upon a method of standstill which would be the nearest approach to the genuine article. We are told by the Solicitor-General that one objection to our proposal is that it might disclose the hand of the Government. I had hoped it would have been common ground with hon. Members on the back benches on both sides. I cannot understand the objection to doing something now which possibly may be the same as the final remedy when it comes to permanent legislation.

Apparently there is something wrong in doing that, although the Committee may have noticed that the hon. Member for Leicester, North-West, seemed to envisage a permanent remedy suspiciously similar to the remedy provided by the Bill. I see he indicates assent. It has been stated that one objection which applies to this Amendment is that if the Bill were amended in this way only that part of the premises—property which is the subject of a lease—used for residential purposes would be protected.

Here we come to one of the points where I think the Bill may go even further than some people imagine it to go. We have sought to move an Amendment, for instance, to impose a qualifying period. Has it occurred to hon. Members that something like the following may arise? There may be a tenant of a factory, a large warehouse or a place like Wembley Stadium or, indeed, the Albert Hall. He might have a lease on such a place as that for 21 years or more and that lease may be due to expire next Christmas. As I read Clause 1, he can get another two years if he takes a camp bed there on Christmas Eve.

Mr. Turner-Samuels

The hon. Member is now dealing with a factory or warehouse. It does not come within the scope of this discussion at all; it cannot possibly come within Part I. There is a special provision in Part II for shops.

Mr. Higgs

The hon. and learned Member has apparently appreciated my point. I was seeking to argue that, as the Bill is drafted, such premises do come under Part I, that it is wrong and that, therefore, the Bill should be amended. As I read Clause 1—and the Attorney-General and the Solicitor-General are there and perhaps will show whether I am wrong—if I were the tenant of a place like the Albert Hall and my 21 years' lease expired next Christmas, if I were permitted to go there on Christmas Eve and camp for one night I should be living there immediately before the determination of my lease under Part I of the Bill. Without some such Amendment as this I cannot see how I am excluded from the Bill.

9.0 p.m.

Again, under the Bill it seems to me that if I am the holder of a long building lease, and if I do not occupy the premises but let them to a tenant, there will be a great temptation on me to seek, by some means or another, to obtain possession of the premises during the last few days. That is to say, if I pay a ground rent and collect a rack rent—an attractive proposition which is not, perhaps, profiteering, but is very near it—there would be a great incentive for me to seek to obtain possession.

If Clause 1 is not amended in some way such as that which we propose, it is possible that we shall find that the effect of the Bill is the opposite to that which some hon. Members have claimed—namely, that it will result in tenants being put into the streets by unscrupulous middlemen, that much-hated class, who will seek to take advantage of the Bill in the last few days of the currency of their tenancy. Although I am not wedded to the solution based on rateable value I suggest that a solution must be found. Perhaps even better is an Amendment, to which we shall come later, by which the Bill will be made to apply to those people we intend to help but will not harm them in some circumstances instead of helping them, and will not by accident or mistake apply to a whole collection of people occupying property which is right outside the intended scope of Part I of the Bill.

Mr. Weitzman

As I understand it, the Amendment endeavours to provide a long-term remedy. I gather that, first of all, it desires to restrict the provisions of Clause 1 to premises the rateable value of which comes within the Rent Restriction Acts. I should like to reiterate what has been said by some hon. Members, that there is a great grievance on the part of many people with regard to residential premises where the rateable value is outside the Rent Restriction Acts. I challenge hon. Members opposite to try to secure a flat or residential premises in London the rateable value of which is over £100. I am certain they will find that they will be charged an exorbitant rent and a high premium and that it will be exceedingly difficult for them to obtain premises of any kind except on stringent conditions as to rent and premium. That is the first objection to the Amendment—that it is necessary to deal with premises which are outside the rateable limits to which the Rent Restriction Acts apply.

I want to add another word of objection to the Amendment. It has been said that if we apply the wording of this Amendment the tenant will be in a better position than he would be under the Bill. I would point out that, according to the Amendment, the provisions of the Rent Restriction Acts apply for the period of two years and, apart from paragraph (iv), which deals with certain grounds upon which no order for ejectment or for the recovery of possession shall be made, the other provisions of the Rent Restriction Acts especially as to possession apply.

Supposing there were premises held upon a ground rent, a lease of £10 per year, and supposing the Rent Restriction Acts apply in the two years in the way the Amendment seeks, the result would be that during those two years the landlord of the premises could bring an action for possession upon any ground laid down in the Rent Restriction Acts other than those set out in paragraph (iv). That would be demonstrably unfair and it is, therefore, ridiculous for anybody to suggest that a tenant would be in a better position under this Amendment than if he merely had a continuation of the period of the holding, paying simply the ground rent which he paid before. On that ground alone it would be ridiculous to accept the Amendment.

Mr. Hay

I am very grateful to the hon. Member for Stoke Newington and Hackney, North (Mr. Weitzman) because he has introduced to the Committee one of the topics upon which I wish to say a word or two on the Amendment. Before I proceed with the point which he had in mind I should like to say a word about this question of rent. A big part of our Amendment is concerned with that matter. We take the view—and I think it is only fair—that if a ground rent was fixed perhaps as long ago as 99 years it is quite unfair that the landlord, who has been expecting to get the reversion of the premises when the lease expires, should now be compulsorily saddled by Act of Parliament with at least two and possibly—we do not know—more years' occupation by the tenant at a rent which is long out of date.

When most of these ground leases in the middle of the last century were granted we all know that the amounts being charged for rent, and which were fixed, were probably something approaching the fair market price in those days; but, obviously, today a rent of £10 a year—as, I think, the hon. Member for Stoke Newington and Hackney, North, has just suggested—is completely absurd by present-day values. That is why I think that the suggestion is right which is contained in our Amendment, namely, that the yardstick—if I may use the expression, so beloved by the hon. Member for Widnes (Mr. MacColl)—which we are to apply should be the rateable value, for the reason so lucidly given by my hon. Friend the Member for Wimbledon (Mr. Black).

I think, therefore, that what we have to do is to look at the matter from the point of view not only of just the tenant; because, remember, there is another party to the contracts which we are varying by the Bill. There is the right and the position of the lessor also to be considered, and that brings me to the point which the hon. Member who has just sat down was talking about. He came out with what I thought was a startling proposition. He said that if, in fact, a tenant were to be given a rent restricted tenancy—a tenancy within the Rent Acts—that would be most unfair and very hard on the tenant. I forget the exact words he used, but that was the impression, at least, that his words had on me.

Mr. Weitzman

What I said—and I hope I made it clear—was that it is wrong to suggest, as was suggested on the other side of the Committee, that if tenants were allowed to remain in under the terms of the Amendment they would be in a better position. I suggest that they would be in a far worse position.

Mr. Hay

I am obliged to the hon. Gentleman. He has made it quite clear.

Let me go on to explain why I think the tenant would be in many ways in a better position, and why also the landlord would be in a fairer position than he would be if the Bill went through without Amendment. Take the grounds of possession that the hon. Member mentioned. Under the Rent Acts there are a number of grounds upon which a landlord can obtain possession of the premises from the tenant if he goes to court. Provided always that it is reasonable to make an order the court will make an order on some of these grounds.

First, if the landlord has alternative accommodation available for the tenant. Apply that situation to what we are considering in the Bill. The tenant has to have a roof over his head. We all agree about that. If the landlord has alternative accommodation for him, why should it be unfair and unjust to the tenant that the landlord should be able to get an order on the ground of alternative accommodation? Second, if a tenant falls into arrears with the rent, or commits some other breach of contract. That is another ground for possession. I suggest that their is nothing very wrong about that. If, in fact, the tenant of the premises which we are considering in the Bill falls in arrears with the rent I do not think that even the hon. Member for Stoke Newington and Hackney, North, would say that he should be entitled to stay indefinitely.

Mr. Weitzman

The hon. Member seems to miss the point. I was not dealing with the point whether it is fair or unfair. I was merely dealing with the proposition put by someone on the other side of the Committee that the tenant would be in a better position. Obviously, he would be in a much worse position than the hon. Member is saying.

Mr. Hay

I wish the hon. Gentleman would contain himself a little longer. I am dealing with the problem; I am not trying to shirk it. I am approaching the problem from two angles: first, whether it is fair or not to the landlord; second, from that the hon. Member has just put to me. I shall come to it in a moment.

Another ground on which possession would be accorded to the landlord would be the commission of annoyance by the tenant on the premises—if he is guilty of annoyance to the other residents, or also if, by any chance., he commits waste on the premises. These points were mentioned by my hon. and learned Friend when moving the Amendment. I do not think anybody would deny that a tenant who is guilty of acts of nuisance and annoyance to other residents in the building or in adjoining property, or commits waste to the premises, should have an order for possession made against him.

Similarly, the tenant himself may wish to give some kind of assignment of the statutory tenancy which he has. If our Amendment is carried, and if the Bill goes through with the provision of the statutory tenancy superimposed the tenant will not be able to assign. I think that this right, which the Government, by their own Bill, wish to give to a tenant, should be a purely personal right. I do not agree that just because a tenant happens to be the occupying tenant when the lease falls in that lease should automatically be extended. I think he ought to be given a personal right of occupation such as that which is the status of a statutory tenant under the Rent Acts. I do not think that there should be any assignment of any period of extension which we grant by this Bill to any particular tenant. That deals with the problem from the point of view of whether or not our proposal is fair to the landlord.

I now turn to the other point which was raised just now in an intersection by the hon. Member for Stoke Newington and Hackney, North. We say that the tenant who is given a rent restricted tenancy, is in an infinitely better position than the tenant who merely has his lease extended by the Bill, for the simple reason that being given such a tenancy under the Rent Acts is a far greater privilege and a far greater protection to him. He is far better off than under the provisions of this very cumbersome and extremely complicated Bill. I doubt very much whether the Government, although they are very sanguine about it, will be able, within two years, to introduce this comprehensive Measure. The right hon. and learned Gentleman has gone on record this afternoon in very hopeful terms about it, but, frankly, I am beginning to wonder whether or not the Government will bring in a comprehensive Measure. [HON. MEMBERS: "Why?"] It seems to me that they have had a perfect opportunity by now.

It has taken them so many months to make up their minds to bring forward the particular mouse with which we are concerned today. How many years will it take them to make up their minds to bring in a far more comprehensive and larger Measure, as they say they are to do? All sorts of things will intervene, and although we are told piously that this Bill is only a temporary Measure to preserve the status quo, I can see that this Bill will, like the poor, always he with us. I believe that it would be far better to have a go at this problem now in the way we suggest, extend the operation of the Rent Acts to these people who ought to be protected, and solve the whole problem at one fell swoop.

Mr. Walker-Smith

I think the observations of the hon. Member for Stoke Newington and Hackney, North (Mr. Weitzman), have been faithfully dealt with by my hon. Friend the Member for Henley (Mr. Hay), and I propose to comment, very briefly only, on certain propositions which have fallen from hon. Members who preceded the hon. Member opposite. First, let me say how much I appreciate the courtesy of the hon. Member for Leicester, North-West (Mr. Janner), for hurrying back to be present when I make a very short comment on his speech. I only hope that his digestion has not suffered from his zeal and fair-mindedness. I should hate to have his indigestion laid at my door.

I shall not pursue the hon. Gentleman into the unhappy saga, which he related to the Committee, of his own personal difficulties, but shall take him up solely on one point of more general interest, and that is when he referred to what he called "unholy contracts" and attacked the preoccupation, as he seemed to think it, of certain hon. Members on this side of the Committee with the sanctity of contract. I can well believe that the hon. Gentleman thinks that any undue preoccupation with the sanctity of contract is obsolete, reactionary and probably deviationist, but he is wrong when he craves in aid the Rent Restriction Acts themselves as giving support to his contention.

It is quite true, of course, that Section 1 of the 1920 Act does refer to "notwithstanding any agreement to the contrary," but what is provided there is that any agreement to the contrary which takes place after the Act shall be excluded.

9.15 p.m.

Mr. Janner

That is not so. I am surprised at the hon. Gentleman saying that, because I am sure that he knows the Rent Restriction Acts very well. I think that he must be suffering from indigestion. I am sure that he will agree that what this says is that the amount of such rents shall, notwithstanding anything to the contrary, be recoverable, if they have already been made. That is a repetition of the 1915 Act which by this Act was repealed.

Mr. Walker-Smith

The Rent Acts make irrecoverable anything above the standard rent fixed by the Rent Acts. What the hon. Gentleman is seeking to do is to go back to the origins of ground leases and to condemn contracts entered into then, which is a very different thing from the operation on contracts of the Rent Acts. The hon. Gentleman is going far beyond anything which has been done by the Rent Acts when he asks for that principle to be brought into effect with regard to contracts entered into so very long ago.

The next objection about which I wish to say a word is the objection made. I think, by the Solicitor-General and others that the effect that this Amendment would substitute a portion of the tenancy for the whole tenancy. In other words, it would substitute a dwelling-house. The right hon. and learned Gentleman found certain difficulties in that. I should have thought that the Amendment is there in line with what is the real object of the Bill, which is to protect residential property, and residential property only. It is, in fact, so defined in the long Title to the Bill, which says: To make temporary provision for the protection of occupiers of residential property. In my submission to the Committee, the Amendment sticks with scrupulous closeness to the real object of the Bill in seeking to give protection to property which is occupied as residential property only.

Then the right hon. and learned Gentleman said that the effect of the Amendment would make it more difficult to enact permanent legislation. It is conceivable that it might make it more difficult to introduce a Measure for wholesale leasehold enfranchisement. It might make it more difficult to make a permanent Act continuing tenancies on a ground rent, but one is entitled to assume that if the Government intended to do any of these things they could have done them now. We on this side of the Committee take the view—at least, I personally take the view—that the report of the majority of the Uthwatt and the Jenkins Committees has, in fact, disposed of the argument for any comprehensive system of leasehold enfranchisement.

The last point on which I wish to comment is this: It was stated by the right hon. and learned Gentleman and by the hon. Member for Widnes (Mr. MacColl) that it was wrong to introduce a new rent even though the prolongation of the ground rent might give rise to anomaly, because that would depart from the principle that the Bill is merely a standstill arrangement, and if we on this side of the Committee were going to depart from that principle we ought not to have acquiesced in the Second Reading of the Bill. That is the substance of the point that was put by the right hon. and learned Gentleman and the hon. Member for Widnes.

The principle of the Bill, accepted on this side, was that there should be a standstill in regard to the protection of residential occupants in possession. The fixing of the rent was not part of the principle. It seems anomalous that we should prolong or perpetuate a ground rent which has become, in effect, a rack rent tenancy on expiration of the original ground lease.

It was argued by the hon. Member that there were considerable discrepancies in rateable values. The argument comes rather ill from a supporter of the Administration which, only this week, has postponed the coming into effect of the new valuation lists under the Local Government Act, 1948, for a further year, these valuation lists being designed, among other things, to iron out the discrepancies in rateable values.

I think the hon. Member will agree that even if there are discrepancies in individual cases, it is a very fair test to take in this respect. Owing to the circumstances of war, and so on, it was necessary to suspend the quinquennial review and consequently rateable values date back to 1935 outside the Metropolis and to 1936 in London. As a result they are at a rate considerably lower than might be the economic rate at the present time. In that sense they are definitely favourable to tenants, and, therefore, not inappropriate to a Measure of this sort.

Mr. MacColl

The point about suspension bears out my argument. It is not the fault of the Government that it was not until 1948 that any attempt was made to rationalise rateable values. That could have been done before. The fact that it has taken the new machinery so long to get any kind of coherence out of the chaotic rateable values is surely a very good answer.

Mr. Walker-Smith

The short answer is that the Government came into power in 1945 and did not pass the Act until three years later. Two alternative dates, April, 1952, and April, 1953, were provided for the coming into force of that Act, and the Government have chosen the later date rather than the earlier.

Mr. Powell

I want to refer briefly to one of the many important points that have arisen in connection with this Amendment, namely, the rateable value limits to which many Members have referred. My hon. and learned Friend the Member for Northants, South (Mr. Manningham-Buller), pointed out that the Bill creates a new anomaly, in that it affords protection to tenants outside the rateable value limits of the Rent Restriction Acts if they happen to be tenants under a ground lease and not otherwise. I have been astonished to hear Member after Member opposite defending and justifying that anomaly.

Parliament decided in 1939 that the protection of the Rent Restriction Acts was justified only up to certain rateable value limits. There has been unlimited opportunity since 1945, opportunity afforded in particular to the present Government, to increase these limits, if it was considered that an increase was justified and thought that there was hardship on the tenants of houses of rateable value above £100 in the metropolis and £75 in the provinces. The Government had only to come to the House with a two-Clause Bill to produce that effect at any time since 1945. They have not done so. They have not introduced such a Measure, and it is very strange to find in 1951 that the necessity of such protection, albeit in the case of ground leases only, is being advocated with such fervour.

There is an obvious deduction to be drawn. We are now six years from the end of the war and one would have anticipated that those six years would have seen a gradual improvement in the housing situation, and that we should have, at least, come within sight of the time when we could begin to reduce the upper limit of rent restriction as the relationship between supply and demand adjusted itself. The fact that in 1951 hon. Members opposite are starting to put forward the argument that rent restrictions limits should be extended, and that protection is needed for further classes, is an indication that over the last six years scarcity has become worse and not better. It is well worth taking note of that admission.

The Attorney-General

I hope that the Committee will soon feel that it will be able to come to a decision on these not unimportant Amendments. I do not say that at all by way of complaint, because the Amendments are perhaps some of the more fundamental of those which have been put down by hon. Members opposite. Indeed, it has long been apparent on this side of the Committee, and I do not doubt on the other side as well, that hon. Members opposite have been having second thoughts about what they might have said but did not say on the Second Reading of the Bill.

I make no apology at all for not being in a position now to say what I think should be the final and permanent solution of this most difficult and complex problem as to what should happen at the termination of long leaseholds. Many different views have been expressed about it on both sides of the House and in all parties. The practical difficulties of solution are enormous. Indeed, the Committee of experts which was established to study this problem, took over two years before presenting any report, and nobody can say that even after that not inconsiderable period of time they reached any unanimous conclusions.

It is inevitable that in the preparation of proposals for the formulation of policy and in the actual drafting of whatever Measure is eventually to be presented to the House, a considerable time must be taken up. Indeed, as I understood it, some hon. Members opposite—I am not including in this the hon. Member for Henley (Mr. Hay) because he was on a different point—thought two years not enough time to give sufficient study and consideration to the formulation of policy and to draft the Bill to carry that policy out. I do not think that. I think we shall succeed in doing it, but it would have been quite impossible for any Government except one, which was prepared to adopt the wholly unsatisfactory expedient proposed by hon. Members opposite, to present to the House a long-term and permanent solution of a problem, which has in the past baffled so many committees and so many political parties.

When this matter was discussed on Second Reading—and I think it is only 15 Parliamentary days ago—I said this: Firstly, we do not know what rights the occupying ground lessee may enjoy under the new permanent legislation. All sorts of things have been suggested in regard to him. Some think he should go on as before; some that he should have the right to a new lease hut still at a rent for the ground alone, although at a rent which reflects the present value of the ground, which would be higher than the value 90 years ago. Another view is that, failing agreement between the lessee and the landlord, the lessee should be brought within the protection of the Rent Restriction Acts and have a new rent for both the ground and the house rent fixed by some tribunal. That is a suggestion worthy of consideration in the long-term solution, but it is greatly complicated, as the majority Report points out, by the covenants and the problem of repairs, about which I shall say something later on. It really involves re-writing the whole lease."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 6th December, 1950; Vol. 482; c. 379. I pointed out the difficulties then and I point them out again now.

9.30 p.m.

Because of those practical difficulties, the choice before the Government, any Government, and the House of Commons was to wait until permanent legislation was ready for presentation to Parliament, while day by day and week by week tenants were being thrown into the street, deprived of any chance of benefiting from the permanent legislation whatever shape it took; or to introduce a stand-still until permanent legislation had been worked out. We thought, and the House thought —and hon. Members opposite did not divide against it—that the proper course was not to attempt permanent legislation at this stage but to introduce standstill legislation. Now, hon. Members opposite, having second thoughts about this matter and having failed to vote against what was manifestly a stand-still Bill, are seeking by a scheme which is frankly a scheme of wrecking Amendments, to make the Bill achieve a permanent solution which they have now made up their minds they would like to achieve, but which hon. Members on this side of the Committee are not prepared to support.

We cannot agree with the view that the long-term permanent solution is to bring these premises within Rent Acts protection. That is where there is a complete social and political cleavage between both sides of the Committee. We think that there is a fundamental distinction between giving statutory protection under Rent Acts legislation to tenancies of houses which were let as houses at rack rents in the first instance, and the case of premises which were let as ground without houses on them at a rent for the ground alone, and where the tenant or his predecessor in title has built the house which now exists. We do not think that a further complication of Rent Acts legislation—heaven knows it is complicated enough already—by trying to bring premises of this kind within the scope of the Rent Restrictions Acts is the proper way of dealing with a problem which, we feel, is fundamentally different from the problem affecting the houses covered by rent protection legislation.

The Amendments which are being proposed from the other side of the Committee would put out of consideration altogether the possibility of leasehold enfranchisement. In saying that, I am not expressing any final view myself whether leasehold enfranchisement is desirable or practicable. It is a matter on which different views are held, I beliece, in all three political parties. I know that one time—perhaps here I may he doing the Liberal Party an injustice —the Liberal Party did come out solidly in favour of leasehold enfranchisement. They may be of that view now.

There is certainly a case worthy of careful consideration in favour of leasehold enfranchisement, but the solution proposed by these Amendment would put that case entirely out of consideration. They would exclude from the protection of permanent legislation a not inconsiderable number of so-called middle class houses. The great majority of the letters which I have had about this legislation have come from people who occupy that type of house outside the protection of the Rent Acts, and who may well deserve some protection under the permanent legislation which we contemplate introducing. I take note in that connection of the suggestion thrown out by the hon. Member for Wolverhampton, South-West (Mr. Powell), that we ought perhaps to consider raising the Rent Restriction Acts limits in all cases. We shall certainly not lose sight of that possibility.

The Amendments would do not only that but would put finally out of consideration what, after all, remains a fundamental question between us, whether the landlord should be entitled to these ground leases, whether he should be entitled in future to what would substantially be a ground rent or perhaps a ground rent based on the present values of the ground or whether he should be entitled to a rack rent. The proposal would entitle him once and for all to treatment on a rack rent basis. It would expose the tenants of these houses, which have been built by themselves or their predecessors in title, to eviction for various causes which it might not be right to consider in permanent legislation. As at present advised—I am not expressing any final conclusion as to what the permanent legislation should be—in this standstill legislation we do not feel inclined to adopt any of these expedients.

Finally, I must say that I was not very much impressed by the argument advanced so eloquently by the hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for Northwich (Mr. J. Foster), who tried to persuade the Committee—I hope he will try to persuade his constituents when the time comes for him to seek their franchise at the next General Election—that the proposals put forward by the Opposition would be more beneficial to the tenants than our own proposals will be. Under the proposals of the Opposition the tenants would find their rent immediately jumped up, they would find their leases in regard to their repairing and other obligations completely re-written without their consent, they would find themselves at the risk of eviction on a number of grounds which do not exist today, and they would find abolished for ever the hope some of them still retain of eventually becoming, as some of them already think they are, the owners of these houses in which they have lived as their homes and which were built by them or their predecessors. These Amendments would completely wreck the basic purpose of the Bill, and we on this side of the Committee find ourselves bound to vote against them.

Mr. Selwyn Lloyd

I do not think the Committee would want me to go in great detail into the technical matters raised in these rather lengthy Amendments, but there are one or two general issues which have emerged from the debate upon which it is right that I should comment. The right hon. and learned Gentleman has just given voice to two of them. The first is the suggestion that the attitude of the Opposition with regard to the Amendments is different from the view they took during the Second Reading debate. I shall not subject the Committee to a reading of the speech I made on that occasion, but I submit that the action which we have taken is completely consistent with that speech. We gave qualified approval to Part II of the Bill which adopts an entirely different principle for a standstill from Part I, and we said again and again that Part I was full of anomalies and obscurities and would need a great deal of amendment in Committee. I ended by saying: …Part I … is full of anomalies, injustices and obscurity. We believe that some action is necessary. We are ready, as I have indicated, with our proposals. We propose … to give the Bill a Second Reading, and to seek in Committee to make it match more nearly the needs of the people at the present time."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 6th December, 1950; Vol. 482. c. 409.] That is exactly what we have sought to do in the Amendments.

It is suggested that these are wrecking Amendments. It is as though, when there is a proposal to tinker with a roof and put a patch on it, someone comes with a proposal to put on a new permanent roof and that is called a wrecking proposition. The Solicitor-General saw fit to object to our proposals on the ground that they were too radical. That is a remarkable ground of opposition for this Government to put forward, but it may very well be true. The hon. Member for Widnes (Mr. MacColl) made a very interesting contribution in which he said that he was against leasehold enfranchisement. I was delighted to hear him say that because the attitude so far of some of his colleagues seems to have been that if one is against the sacred doctrine of leasehold enfranchisement one is some sort of Fascist beast. I was glad to hear him say that he was against it.

He put forward the point that we were seeking to put into a temporary Bill a permanent solution. That is a very fair comment. If the suggestion was that the proposal to give the protection of the Rent Acts to these people was only temporary and was to run for only two years, I doubt very much whether I should be in favour of doing it, because the purpose of the Opposition is, within the framework of this Bill, to seek to iron out an anomaly which every member of the Leasehold Committee admitted existed.

The hon. and learned Member for Leicester, North-East (Mr. Ungoed-Thomas) incorporated in the minority Report which he presented with the hon. Member for Oldham, West (Mr. L. Hale) a proposal to extend the Rent Acts to these people, and coupled with that a scheme for leasehold enfranchisement. The argument put forward that if this remedy which we propose is adopted, it is completely inconsistent with the idea of doing anything else should that be necessary is shown by the terms of that minority Report to be complete nonsense.

Mr. Ungoed-Thomas

Not at all.

Mr. Lloyd

I am quite right in my recollection that in the same Report in which the hon. and learned Member suggested the extension of the Rent Acts to these people he also put forward a scheme for leasehold enfranchisement. It is true that that scheme would not appeal to many advocates of leasehold enfranchisement. It was, nevertheless, a sort of emasculated leasehold enfranchisement.

I suggest that the Solicitor-General's comment is wholly wrong. We believe it to be necessary to iron out these anomalies and to give to these people the same protection which other people in a similar kind of accommodation have, but that is not at all inconsistent with further and other steps if need be. I should have thought it perfectly easy, should the Government so decide subsequently, to deal with this same category of people in a different way, in other words give them the right to purchase their freeholds. I am not in favour of doing that.

I think that a proper permament solution is to give the protection of the Rent

Acts and at the same time to put in the law some of the more non-controversial measures in regard to delapidations and improvements that were recommended almost unanimously by the Leasehold Committee. This is a perfectly consistent constructive suggestion, completely in accord with what we said on Second Reading. I was right when I said that we would seek in Committee to make the Bill match more nearly the present needs of the people. To put forward seriously the suggestion that there must be a standstill agreement to enable the Government to make up their mind is complete nonsense. The truth is that the party opposite are fundamentally divided about how to tackle this problem. They have no definite programme to put forward, and this Bill is a funk Bill. Therefore, I hope that the Committee will agree to this Amendment.

Question put, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Clause."

The Committee divided: Ayes, 268; Noes, 230.

Division No. 18.] AYES [9.46 p.m.
Adams, Richard Cooper, J. (Deptford) Glanville, J. E. (Consett)
Albu, A. H. Corbet, Mrs. F. K. (Peckham) Gooch, E. G.
Allen, A. C. (Bosworth) Cove, W. G. Greenwood, A. W. J. (Rossendale)
Anderson, A. (Motherwell) Craddock, George (Bradford, S.) Greenwood, Rt. Hon. Arthur (Wakefield)
Attlee, Rt. Hon. C. R. Crawley, A. Grenfell, D. R.
Awbery, S. S. Crosland, C. A. R. Grey, C. F.
Ayles, W. H. Cullen, Mrs A. Griffiths, D. (Rother Valley)
Bacon, Miss A. Daines P. Griffiths, Rt. Hon. J. (Llanelly)
Baird, J. Dalton, Rt Hon. H. Griffiths, W. D. (Exchange)
Balfour, A. Darling, G. (Hilrsboro') Haire, John E. (Wycombe)
Barnes, Rt. Hon. A. J. Davies, A Edward (Stoke, N.) Hale, Leslie (Oldham, W.)
Bartley, P Davies, Ernest (Enfield E.) Hall, J. (Gateshead, W.)
Benn, Hon. A. N. Wedgwood Davies, Harold (Leek) Hall, Rt. Hn. W. Glenvil (Colne Valley)
Benson, G. Davies, S. O. (Merthyr) Hamilton, W. W.
Beswick, F. de Freitas, Geoffrey Hannan, W.
Bing, G. H. C. Deer, G. Hardman, D. R.
Blenkinsop, A. Delargy, H. J. Hardy, E. A.
Blyton, W. R. Diamond, J. Hargreaves, A.
Boardman, H. Dodds, N. N. Harrison, J.
Booth, A. Donnelly, D. Hastings, Dr. Somerville
Bottomley, A. G. Driberg. T. E. N. Hayman, F. H.
Bowden, H. W. Dye, S. Henderson, Rt. Hon. A. (Rowley Regit)
Bowen, R. Ede, Rt Hon. J. C. Herbison, Miss M.
Bower, N. Edelman, M. Hewitson, Capt. M
Bowles, F. G. (Nuneaton) Edwards, John (Brighouse) Hobson, C. R
Braddock, Mrs. E. M. Edwards, Rt Hon. N. (Caerphilly) Holman, P
Brockway, A. Fenner Edwards, W. J. (Stepney) Holmes, H. E (Hemsworth)
Brook, D. (Halifax) Evans, Albert (Islington, S.W.) Houghton, Douglas
Brooks, T. J (Normanton) Evans, E (Lowestoft) Hoy. J
Broughton, Dr A. D. D. Evans, S. N (Wednesbury) Hubbard, T.
Brown, George (Belper) Ewart, R. Hudson, J. H. (Ealing, N.)
Brown, T. J. (Ince) Fernyhough, E. Hughes, Emrys (S. Ayr)
Burke, W. A Field, Capt W. J Hughes, Hector (Aberdeen, N.)
Burton, Miss E. Finch. H. J. Hynd, H. (Accrington)
Butler, H. W. (Hackney, S.) Fletcher, E G. M. (Islington, E.) Hynd, J. B. (Attercliffe)
Carmichael, James Follick, M Irvine, A. J. (Edge Hill)
Castle, Mrs B. A. Foot, M. M. Irving, W. J. (Wood Green)
Champion, A. J. Fraser, T (Hamilton) Isaacs, Rt. Hon. G. A.
Chetwynd, G. R Freeman, J (Watford) Janner, B.
Cocks, F. S. Freeman, Peter (Newport) Jay, D. P. T.
Coldrick, W Gaitskell, Rt Hon H. T. N Jeger, G. (Goole)
Collick, P Ganley, Mrs. C. S Jeger, Dr. S. W. (St. Pancras, S.)
Collindridge, F Gibson, C. W. Jenkins, R. H.
Cook, T. F. Gilzean, A. Johnson, James (Rugby)
Johnston, Douglas (Paisley) Murray, J. D. Soskice, Rt. Hon Sir F.
Jones, Frederick Elwyn (West Ham, S.) Nally, W. Stewart, Michael (Fulham, E.)
Jones, Jack (Rotherham) Neal, H. Strachey, Rt. Hon. J.
Jones, William Elwyn (Conway) Noel-Baker, Rt. Hon. P. J. Strauss. Rt. Hon. G. R. (Vauxhall)
Keenan, W. O'Brien, T. Stross, Dr. B.
Kenyon, C. Oliver, G. H. Summerskill, Rt. Hon. Edith
Key, Rt. Hon. C. W. Orbach, M. Sylvester, G. O.
King, H. M. Padley, W E. Taylor, H. B. (Mansfield)
Kinley, J. Paling, Rt. Hon. Wilfred (Dearne V'lly) Taylor, R. J. (Morpeth)
Lee, F. (Newton) Paling, Will T. (Dewsbury) Thomas, D. E. (Aberdare)
Lever, N. H. (Cheetham) Pannell, T. C. Thomas, George (Cardiff)
Lever, L. M. (Ardwick) Pargiter, G. A. Thomas, I. O. (Wrekin)
Lewis, A. W. J. (West Ham, N.) Parker, J. Thomas, I. R. (Rhondda, W.)
Lindgren, G. S. Paton, J. Thorneycroft, Harry (Clayton)
Lipton, Lt.-Col. M. Peart, T. F. Thurtle, Ernest
Logan, D. G. Poole, Cecil Tomlinson, Rt. Hon. G.
Longden, F. (Small Heath) Popplewell, E. Tomney, F.
McAllister, G. Porter, G. Turner-Samuels, M.
MacColl, J. E. Price, M. Philips (Gloucestershire. W.) Ungoed-Thomas, A. L
McGhee, H. G. Proctor, W. T. Vernon, Maj. W. F.
McGovern, J. Pryde, D. J. Viant, S. P.
Mack, J. D. Pursey, Commander H Wade, D. W.
McKay, J. (Wallsend) Rankin, J Wallace, H. W
McLeavy, F. Rees, Mrs. D. Weitzman, D.
MacMillan, M. K. (Western Isles) Reeves, J. Wells, P. L. (Faversham)
MacPherson, Malcolm (Stirling) Reid, T. (Swindon) Wells, W. T. (Walsall)
Mallalieu, E. L. (Brigg) Reid, W. (Camlachie) West, D. G.
Mallalieu, J. P. W. (Huddersfield, E.) Rhodes, H. Wheatley, Rt. Hon. John (Edinb'gh, E.)
Mann, Mrs. J. Richards, R. White, Mrs. E. (E. Flint)
Manuel, A. C. Roberts, A. White, H. (Derbyshire, N.E.)
Marquand, Rt. Hon. H. A. Roberts, Emrys (Merioneth) Wilcock, Group Capt. C. A B
Mathers, Rt. Hon. George Roberts, Goronwy (Caernarvonshire) Wilkes, L.
Mellish, R. J. Robertson, J. J. (Berwick) Wilkins, W. A.
Messer, F. Robinson, Kenneth (St. Pancras, N.) Willey. F. T. (Sunderland)
Middleton, Mrs. L Rogers, G. H. R. (Kensington, N.) Wiiley, O. G. (Clevelans)
Mikardo, Ian Ross, William (Kilmarnock) Williams, D. J. (Neath)
Mitchison, G. R. Royle, C. Williams, Rev. Llywelyn (Abertillery)
Moeran,. E. W. Shackleton E. A. A. Williams, Ronald (Wigan)
Monslow W. Shawcross, Rt. Hon. Sir H. Williams, Rt. Hon. T. (Don Valley)
Moody, A. S. Shurmer, P. L. E. Williams, W. T. (Hammersmith, S.)
Morgan, Dr. H. B. Silverman, J. (Erdington) Winterbottom, I. (Nottingham, C.)
Morley, R. Silverman. S S (Nelson) Wnterbottom, R. E. (Brightside)
Morris, P. (Swansea, W.) Simmons, C. J. Yates, V. F.
Morrison, Rt. Hon. H. (Lewisham, S.) Slater, J.
Mort, D. L. Smith, Ellis (Stoke, S.) TELLERS FOR THE AYES:
Moyle, A. Smith, H. N. (Nottingham. S.) Mr. Pearson and Mr. Sparks.
Mulley, F. W. Snow, J. W.
Alport, C. J. M. Clarke, Col. R. S. (East Grinstead) Fraser, Sir I. (Lonsdale)
Amery, J. (Preston, N.) Clarke, Brig T. H. (Portsmouth, W.) Fyfe, Rt. Hon. Sir D. P. M.
Amory, D. Heathcoat (Tiverton) Colegate, A. Gage, C. H.
Arbuthnot, John Cooper, A. E. (Ilford, S.) Galbraith, T. G. D. (Hillhead)
Ashton, H. (Chelmsford) Cooper-Key, E. M. Gammans, L. D.
Assheton, Rt. Hon. R. (Blackburn, W.) Corbett, Lieut.-Col U. (Ludlow) Garner-Evans, E. H. (Denbigh)
Baker, P. Craddock, G. B. (Spelthorne) Gates Maj. E. E
Baldwin, A. E. Cranborne, Viscount Glyn, Sir R.
Banks, Col. C. Cross, Rt. Hon. Sir R. Gridley, Sir A.
Baxter, A. B Crosthwaite-Eyre, Col. O. E. Grimston, Hon. J. (St. Albans)
Bell, R. M. Crowder, F P (Ruislip—Northwood) Grimston, R. V. (Westbury)
Bennett, Sir P. (Edgbaston) Crowder, Capt. John F. E. (Finchley) Harris, F. W. (Croydon, N.)
Bennett, R. F. B. (Gosport) Cundiff, F. W. Harvey, Air Codre. A. V. (Macclesfield)
Bevins, J R. (Liverpool, Toxteth) Cuthbert, W. N Harvey, lan (Harrow, E.)
Birch, Nigel Davidson, Viscountess Hay, John
Bishop, F. P. Davies, Nigel (Epping) Head, Brig. A. H.
Black, C. W. de Chair, S. Headlam, Lieut.-Col. Rt. Hon. Sir &.
Boles, Lt.-Col. D. C. (Wells) De la Bère, R. Heald, L. F.
Bossom, A. C. Deedes, W. F. Heath, E. R.
Bower, N. Digby, S. Wingfield Henderson, John (Cathcart)
Boyd-Carpenter, J. A Donner, P. W. Hicks-Beach, Maj W. W
Boyle, Sir Edward Douglas-Hamilton, Lord M Higgs, J M C
Braine, B. Drayson, G B Hill, Mrs. E. (Wythenshawe)
Braithwaite, Lt.-Comdr. J. G. Drewe. C Hill, Dr. C. (Luton)
Brooke, H. (Hampstead) Dugdale, Maj Sir T. (Richmond) Hinchingbrooke, Viscount
Browne, J. N. (Govan) Duncan, Capt J. A L Hollis, M. C.
Buchan-Hepburn, P. G. T Dunglass, Lord Holmes, Sir J. Stanley (Harwich)
Bullock, Capt. M. Duthie, W. S Hope, Lord J.
Bullus, Wing-Commander E. E. Eccles, D. M Hopkinson, H. L. D'A.
Burden, Squadron-Leader F. A. Fisher, Nigel Hornsby-Smith, Miss P.
Butcher, H. W. Fletcher, W (Bury) Horsbrugh, Rt. Hon. Florense
Carr, Robert (Mitcham) Fort, R. Howard, G. R. (St. Ives)
Carson, Hon. E. Foster, J. G. Hudson, Sir Austin (Lewisham, N.)
Channon, H. Fraser, Hon. H. C. P. (Stone) Hudson, Rt. Hon. R. S. (Southport)
Hudson, W. R. A. (Hull, N.) Molson, A. H. E. Spens, Sir P (Kensington, S.)
Hurd, A. R. Moore, Lt.-Col. Sir T. Stanley, Capt. Hon. R. (N Fylde)
Hutchinson, Geoffrey (Ilford, N.) Morrison, Maj. J. G. (Salisbury) Stevens, G. P.
Hutchison, Lt.-Com. Clark (E'b'rgh W.) Mott-Radclyffe, C. E. Steward, W. A. (Woolwich. W.)
Hyde, H. M. Nabarro, G. Stoddart-Scott, Col. M.
Hylton-Foster, H. B. Nicholls, H. Storey, S.
Jeffreys, General Sir G Nicholson, G. Stuart, Rt. Hon J (Moray)
Jennings, R. Nield, B. (Chester) Summers, G. S
Johnson, Howard S. (Kemptown) Noble, Comdr. A. H. P. Sutcliffe, H.
Jones, A. (Hall Green) Nugent, G. R. H. Taylor, C. S. (Eastbourne)
Joynson-Hicks, Hon, L. W. Nutting, Anthony Taylor, W. J. (Bradford, N.)
Kaberry, D. Okshott H. D. Teeling, William
Kerr, H. W. (Cambridge) Odsy. G. W. Thomas, J. P. L. (Hereford)
Kingsm M, Lt.-Col. W. H. O'Neill, Rt. Hon. Sir K. Thompson, K P (walton)
Langford-Holt, J. Ormsby Gore, Hon. W. D. Thompson, R. H. M. (Croydon, W.)
Law, Rt. Hon. R. K. Orr-Ewing, Charles Ian (Hendon, N.) Thorneycroft, G. E. P. (Monmouth)
Legge-Bourke, Maj. E. A. H. Osborne, C. Thornton-Kemsley. C N
Lennox-Boyd, A. T. Peto, Brig. C. H. M Thorp, Brigadier R. A. F.
Lindsay, Martin Pickthorn, K. Tilney, John
Linstead, H. N. Powell, J. Enoch Touche, G. C.
Lloyd, Maj. Guy (Renfrew, E.) Price, H A. (Lewisham, W.) Turner, H. F. L
Lloyd, Selwyn (Wirral) Prior-Palmer, Brig O. Turton, R. H.
Lockwood, Lt.-Col. J. C. Raikes, H. V Tweedsmuir, Lady
Longden, G. J. M. (Herts. S.W.) Rayner, Brigadier R Vane, W. M. F.
Low, A. R. W. Redmayne, M. Vaughan-Morgan, J. K.
Lucas, P. B. (Brentford) Remnant, Hon. P. Wakefield, E B (Derbyshire, W.)
Lucas-Tooth, Sir H. Roberts, P. G. (Heeley) Walker-Smith, D C.
McAdden, S. J. Robertson, Sir D. (Caithness) Ward, Miss I (Tynemouth)
McCallum, Maj. D. Robson-Brown, W. (Esher) Waterhouse, Capt Rt Hon C
Macdonald, Sir P. (I. of Wight) Rodgers, J. (Sevenoaks) Watkinson, H.
Mackeson, Brig. H R Roper, Sir H. Watt, Sir G. S. Harvie
McKibbin, A Ropner, Col. L Webbe, Sir H. (London)
McKie, J. H. (Galloway) Ross, Sir R. D (Londonderry) Wheatley, Major M. J. (Poole)
Maclay. Hon. J S Russell, R. S. White, J. Baker (Canterbury)
MacLeod, Iain (Enfield, W.) Ryder, Capt R. E. D. Williams, C. (Torquay)
MacLeod, John (Ross and Cromarty) Sandys, Rt. Hon. D. Williams, Gerald (Tonbridge)
Macmillan, Rt. Hon. Harold (Bromley) Scott, Donald Wills, G.
Macpherson, N. (Dumfries) Smiles, Lt.-Col Sir W Wilson, Geoffrey (Truro)
Maitland, Comdr. J. W. Smith, E. Martin (Grantham) Wood, Hon. R
Manningham-Buller, R. E. Smithers, Peter (Winchester) York, C.
Marples, A. E. Smyth, Brig J. G. (Norwood)
Marshall, D. (Bodmin) Snadden, W. McN. TELLERS FOR THE NOES:
Maudling, R. Soames. Capt C. Mr. Studholme and Mr Vosper
Mellor, Sir J. Spearman, A. C. M.

Question put, and agreed to.

Sir Patrick Spens

I beg to move, in line 18, at the end, to add: Provided that where the interest of the landlord of a dwelling-house to which this section applies is determined (whether by effluxion of time, act of the parties, or for any other reason) before the expiration of the two years after the commencement of this Act, the tenant who retains possession by virtue of this section shall he deemed for the purposes of, and subject to the provisions of this Part of this Act to become the tenant on the terms of his previous tenancy of the landlord who would thereupon but for the provisions of this Part of this Act have become entitled to possession of the dwelling-house. I rise to move a very uncontroversial Amendment put down for the purpose of getting information under Clause 1 as it now stands, and, if necessary, for safeguarding the position. The simple case is where a long lease has been granted out of the freehold, and where the property is in the occupation of a tenant who is protected. In that case, it is quite clear that, during the extended two-year period, the landlord or reversioner is the freeholder, but, in the far more common and complicated case, where a building lease has been granted out of the freehold, and out of that lease a further lease for an improved ground rent has been granted, and out of that lease an occupational lease for over 21 years, and one or more of the superior leases is going to expire during the two-year period for which occupation is extended, who is or becomes the landlord of the occupying tenant? We believe that, as each of the intermediate leases expires, so the next reversioner becomes the land-lord, and, if all the intermediate leases expire before the two-year period is ended, the tenant will find himself the tenant of the freeholder.

That we believe to be the scheme of the Bill, and it was thought that Clause 5 set out to do that, but Clause 5 has been completely re-worded in a manner which I confess gave me a very severe headache on Sunday in attempting to understand it. It may be that Clause 15 is now the possible answer to it, but, at any rate, we understand that that is the position, and we suggest that this Amendment is the simple way of making it clear to everybody—to the layman as well as to the abstruse conveyancers in Lincoln's Inn. I therefore ask the learned Attorney-General to accept the proviso to Clause 1 in the simple language in which we have drafted it.

The Attorney-General

The answer to the Amendment so pleasantly proposed by the hon. and learned Gentleman is, as he expected, Clause 15.

Mr. Manningham-Buller

That is a rather unsatisfactory answer, for this reason. Clause 15 is much longer than this proviso, and I think myself it would improve the Bill if we had the wording which is now suggested. All I ask the right hon. and learned Gentleman to do is to say that he will look at this point again, because I think our wording is an improvement on Clause 15 and also an improvement on Clause 5 in its original form. I do not understand the revised version as yet.

The Attorney-General

We will look at it.

Sir P. Spens

I beg to ask leave to withdraw the Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Mr. Manningham-Buller

I beg to move, in line 18, at the end, to add: (2) Subsection (1) of this section shall not apply to any premises to which Part II of this Act applies. This simple Amendment has been put down for the sake of clarity. As I understand the Bill, a dwelling, where it is in conjunction with a shop, in the case of a shop with living accommodation above, will always come within Part II of the Bill, but I do not think it is so very clear. I think, where we get property—

It being Ten o'Clock, The CHAIRMAN left the Chair to report Progress and ask leave to sit again.

Committee report Progress: to sit again Tomorrow.