§ Sir P. Spens
I beg to move, in page 3, line 37, to leave out paragraph (a), and to insert:(a) no order or judgment for the recovery of possession of the dwelling-house which is the subject of the tenancy or for the ejectment of the tenant therefrom shall be made or given unless the court considers it reasonable to make such an order or give such a judgment and either—977 I apologise to the Committee, because I shall have to take rather longer on this point than I have done hitherto on any other on which I have addressed the Committee. We regard this as a matter of very great importance. Under the Clause as it stands there is no continuation whatsoever of the standfast during the two-year period so far as the obligations of complying with the terms of the existing leases are concerned. The reversioner is deprived of all effective right to enforce his remedies for breaches of covenant other than the covenant to pay rent and the covenant to insure. That is secured by the proviso to subsection (1).
- (i) the court is satisfied that suitable alternative accommodation is available to the tenant or will be available for him when the order or judgment takes effect, or
- (ii) any obligation of the tenancy other than for payment of rent or to insure or keep insured has been broken or not performed, provided that no order shall be made under this paragraph for any failure to comply with any obligation to repair or keep in repair the dwelling-house, unless the tenant in breach of any obligation to repair or keep in the repair the dwelling-house 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, or
- (iii) the tenant or any person residing or lodging with him has been guilty of conduct which is a nuisance or annoyance to adjoining occupiers, or has been convicted of using the dwelling-house or allowing the dwelling-house to be used for an immoral or illegal purpose, and in the case of any such person the tenant has not before the making or giving of the order or judgment taken such steps as he ought reasonably to have taken for his removal, or
- (iv) the tenant without the consent of the landlord has at any time after the date of expiry or the date of continuation assigned or sublet or parted with possession of the whole or any part of the dwelling-house, or
- (v) the landlord requires possession in order that the dwelling-house or a substantial part thereof may be demolished, reconstructed or remodelled; and."
Since Second Reading the Government have tabled an Amendment, in page 4, line 3, at the end, to insert:or extend to any failure after the commencement of this Act to comply with a term or condition of the tenancy (by whatever words Imposed) prohibiting the use of the property for illegal or immoral purposes.I will refer to it only in passing. They seek to add to the two obligations already in the Bill the obligation that the premises shall not be used for illegal or immoral purposes. We therefore have this as the sum of the Socialist "Duty of a tenant to his landlord": he must pay the rent; he must keep the premises insured, and he must not use the premises for illegal or immoral purposes. Otherwise, he is free to do what he likes with the premises, to have in the premises whom he likes, and to carry on in the premises any business or other occupation that he likes. Of course, that must be to the detriment of the reversioner and, what is perhaps more important, in a great number of cases it must be to the detriment of his neighbours on the same estate. That is a point which I rather want to develop.
The type of tenant we mainly have in mind is the tenant who has lived in a property for a long time with his family, made it his home and regarded it as his home, and who wants this extra two years in order to preserve it as his home in the hopes that some form of permanent legislation will enable him still further to secure it as his home. With such a tenant the landlord's right of re-entry or forfeiture really does not matter two straws. The tenant is a good family man and a Good tenant.
If one asks oneself how many hon. Members in the Committee have ever 978 been threatened by a landlord with forfeiture or a right to re-enter one will find that it does not happen to the good tenant who looks after the premises and makes it his home. I suppose that in 99 cases out of 100, people, including myself, just do not know what are the covenants or all the covenants to keep which they have entered into an obligation with their landlord. I know that is so in my case. But I guess that they include paying the rent, insurance, undertaking not to misuse the premises, and probably certain covenants to repair and generally to keep the premises in a good and decent state. Therefore, so far as the great bulk of the tenants who are to benefit under this Bill is concerned, I agree that our Amendment does not very much matter.
If our earlier Amendments had been accepted—that is to say, if some qualifying period of residence in the premises had been accepted, so that the beneficiaries under the Bill could have been those good and family tenants, then, again this Amendment would not have mattered; but it is just because that has not been done, and because anybody who happens to be living in the premises or part of the premises on the date on which the Bill becomes law will be protected by the provisions of the Bill that it is perfectly certain that we shall have a certain number of wastrels and swindlers as tenants being protected by the Bill. We shall, therefore, have the man, who will seize the opportunity, if he is given it to make money out of breaches of covenant which, under the Bill as now proposed, cannot be enforced against him. He will take advantage of that state of affairs and the landlord will be unable to do anything.
Let me take, as an example, the very ordinary covenant that a tenant shall not allow any nuisance or annoyance to his neighbours to be carried out on the premises. The moment the Bill becomes law and starts to operate on this extended two-year period there is nothing to stop the tenant doing what he likes on his premises, and, so long as it does not amount to something of an illegal or immoral character, he will be able to use the premises, intended to be used solely for residence, for business purposes, and he will be able, if he likes, to instal 979 machinery and to start running machinery which may well cause great annoyance and nuisance to his neighbours.
To give two cases in which, years ago, I was personally concerned, he will be able, if he likes, to use the premises for a dogs', cats' and other animals' home during the summer holidays, or he will be able to start a school for singing, dancing, music, violin playing, and so forth.
§ Sir P. Spens
I am not going to give way until I have finished my argument. As the Bill stands, it would be quite useless for the reversioner, whoever he is, to give him notice to quit and to threaten forfeiture on the grounds that he is breaking the covenants, or to attempt to recover possession on any of those grounds.
What happens in the ordinary course of events and why are these covenants installed in leases? They are not put in solely for the benefit of the landlords. We are dealing with building estates, and covenants in the building leases are put in not only for the benefit of the landlords but still more for the benefit of their tenants and the tenants of neighbouring properties, and the whole object of them is that because the misbehaving tenant is bound by the covenant to the landlord, the landlord has a short, sharp, sweet, simple remedy which he can apply for the benefit of tenants who complain of breaches of covenant by a tenant.
Let us take the case of breach of repairing covenants, and suppose that the tenant does, in fact, convert the ground floor premises of a dwelling-house into a printing establishment and installs printing machinery. The next door neighbour complains to the landlord that these premises are being used in a way that creates a most excessive nuisance and annoyance to him and other neighbours. He may say to the landlord, "Stop it." The answer of the landlord, if the Bill goes through, is twofold. He will say, "My powers to stop it during these two years have been taken away from me, with one exception, namely, my very expensive troublesome remedy of moving in the Chancery Division of the High Court for an injunction. Why in the world should I do that? I have had imposed on me an extended tenancy at a low rent 980 which ought to have come to an end on the expiration of the lease. I am not going out of my way to spend money by taking proceedings." There will be landlords who will do this, and will say that, having been left with this as the only remedy—obtaining an injunction in the High Court—they are not going to do so. I pre-suppose that the tenant is an unworthy rascal and under no circumstances will he be good for any costs of an action taken against him.
The neighbouring tenants are the ones who will suffer, if the Bill goes through, not only the reversioners. They will suffer specially because the tenant, if he likes, can commit what lawyers call "waste," that is to say, misuse property structually in a way absolutely contrary to the lease, and, still more, use the premises or allow other people to use the premises in ways utterly detrimental not only to the reversioners but also to adjacent tenants. Under those conditions, we press the Government to consider our proposals, and, at any rate, very carefully to strengthen this subsection of the Clause. What we propose with regard to the covenant which I have been discussing so far is not that there shall be an absolute right of forfeiture or ejection.
Hon. Members opposite have spoken about the misuse of powers of ejection. We do not attempt to give to the landlord the same right of forfeiture or ejection that the Bill gives to him in respect of non-payment of rent, non-insurance and illegal and immoral usage. All we say is that if there are breaches such as I have described, then the landlord shall have a right during the two years to go to the court and ask for an order. If the court—in most cases the county court —thinks that it is reasonable in the circumstances and that such a breach as I have referred to has occurred, then it may make an order for ejection.
It is quite useless for anyone to get up and say that we are, therefore, putting the tenant at the mercy of the landlord to be shot out on to the streets, or any sentimental stuff of that sort. We are merely giving the landlord the right to start proceedings for ejection on behalf of himself or of the neighbouring tenants. If he can make out a case that the court thinks is reasonable, then the court can make an order for ejection. That is the substance of sub-paragraphs (ii) to (iv). 981 The Amendment includes ordinary common obligations, or those which we consider are of such social importance for the type of building estates with which we are dealing in the Bill. In respect of these there ought to be the right of going to a court.
In addition, if Members have done us the honour of studying the Amendment, it will be seen that we have introduced two other matters, on which the landlord may go to the court for an order, which have nothing to do with breaches of the covenant. The first is that if the landlord has available alternative accommodation he shall be entitled to ask the court to say that it is reasonable, that the tenant of the property, or a particular part of the property, should go to the other property and the landlord be given possession of the vacated premises. Again, there is no absolute right, but merely a right to go to the court and make a case. It gets rid of one very great drawback which is almost certainly the effect of the Bill, namely, that the occupation by one tenant of one small portion of a property will for two years prevent the landlord, whoever he is, whether he is, as the Attorney-General said earlier, a public authority, or whether he is a private landlord, improving and developing it. That is a very serious blot on the Bill.
The second is very much the same thing: that if a landlord requires possession in order that the dwelling-house or a substantial part of it may be demolished, reconstructed or remodelled, there is the right—no absolute right—for him to go to the court and say that in the circumstances he ought to be allowed possession of the particular part of his property so that he may carry out this modern development and not be held up, or his whole scheme held up, until two years or such time as permanent legislation is introduced.
We ask the Government to accept this remodelling of the Clause. I hope that I have made my reasons fairly clear. We say that, as the Bill stands, the Government are opening the door to all sorts of improprieties and giving benefits to people who ought not to get them, as well as holding up modern development. We believe that in this way both objects can be achieved.
§ Mr. Janner
I ask my right hon. and learned Friend not to accept the Amendment, the object of which is perfectly obvious. The hon. and learned Member for Kensington, South (Sir P. Spens), glossed over one or two of the provisions of the Amendment as though they did not really matter, or as though they were a matter of form and everything would be very simple. Let us take the provision he referred to at the end of his speech, namely, the landlord requiring possession in order that the dwelling-house may be demolished, reconstructed or remodelled. That gives an absolute right to the landlord.
§ Sir P. Spens
The hon. Member is misreading the Amendment. The Amendment states that,no order or judgment for the recovery of possession of the dwelling-house … shall he made or given unless the court considers it reasonable to make such an order or give such a judgment. …
§ Mr. Janner
I quite understand the point. This is exactly the same language as is used in the Rent Restriction Acts. I think it is to be found in Section 3 of the 1933 Act. That refers to similar matters in respect of statutory tenancies—weekly or monthly tenancies.
Here, we are dealing with long leases, and not with statutory tenancies. The Government have refused even to concede me the point on 21 years. It means that it is desired at the end of a long lease to deal with what is part and parcel of the rights of the lessee. We take an entirely different point of view on this matter. We say that a lessee should be protected in the case of a long lease if he has by right acquired an interest which is entirely different from the interest of the weekly or monthly tenant, and that in consequence of the obligations he has entered into and performed, which have increased the value of the property, he is entitled to a different protection. There can be no occasion, except in the case of a public body, for a landlord to turn round to a tenant who has been in occupation for many years and to say that he is to go because he—the landlord—requires the premises for business purposes, or whatever it may be.
No judge should be called upon to decide what is reasonable in these circumstances. To put the words in the Bill 983 will open the door to the belief that a judge is compelled to regard some circumstances as being reasonable if a landlord wants to demolish his premises. In other words, the tenant is placed at the mercy of a judge who might think it perfectly reasonable in the case of a man who wanted to extend his business. I do not think it should be left to the discretion of the judge, but we should say affirmatively that it is not reasonable and it -never can be reasonable for a man to say he wants possession to reconstruct a building at present held under a long lease.
The second point I want to draw attention to is that the Amendment lays it down thatthe court is satisfied that suitable alternative accommodation is available …That goes to the very root of the matter. That means that the man will be turned out of these premises before the end of the lease and will have no more rights, provided of course, there is alternative accommodation. In that event his right in a particular lease is for ever finished. The question of enfranchisement may arise here, but that is not intended. It may be wrong or it may be right; I am not arguing the rights. I have my own views about it, and others in the Committee have an entirely different viewpoint. The man would be out if suitable accommodation is available, and he will not get the advantage of enfranchisement which, I hope, will come into effect some day.
Then there is the question of relief of covenant. I expect a layman to argue this point, but a person who has extensive legal knowledge, as has the hon. and learned Member for Kensington, South, knows very well that the enforcement of these covenants in many cases mean that one cannot get any relief at all. The very fact that a breach of the covenant is committed makes it impossible for a court to say that they can grant relief. There are cases of that sort, and to make that a condition in this Amendment is asking a lot. If there is an instance where a nuisance is committed and causes trouble the adjoining neighbours have their own remedy. There is the question of an injunction and not only that but damages. 984 If damages are awarded an injunction is given immediately.
I ask the Committee to consider this in the context of the whole Bill, and I feel sure that it will not be accepted. I do not think that on consideration hon. Members on the other side of the Committee will agree to continue to demand the introduction of the Clause into a Bill into which it does not really fit.
§ Mr. Black (Wimbledon)
I should like to take up the points which have been made by the hon. Member for Leicester, North-West (Mr. Janner), but I want to confine my remarks to the last paragraph of the Amendment, which would confer the right on the reversioner to have possession of the premises where there is an intention to rebuild, reconstruct or remodel, subject always to the overriding decision of the county court judge that it is reasonable in the circumstances for possession to be given to the reversioner.
We shall, at any rate, be on common ground on this point, that in this time of acute shortage of housing, to which so much reference has been made during the Committee stage of the Bill, it is right as far as possible that residential premises should be fully occupied. There should not be large mansions with one or two people living in them and a great many vacant rooms which could be used to the very great benefit of people seeking houses. It is precisely that type of case with which this part of our Amendment seeks to deal.
§ Mr. Janner
The hon. Gentleman knows very well that there are powers of acquisition. What is the answer to his point? Those premises can be requisitioned.
§ Mr. Black
I know perfectly well there is no general power of requisition vested in the local authorities for rehousing purposes, and as the hon. Gentleman knows perfectly well, even when the power of requisition was generally enjoyed by local authorities I do not believe those powers extended to premises which were furnished and which were occupied though not fully occupied except in the most special and exceptional cases. It is no reply to the point I am seeking to make to suggest that the difficulty could be overcome by the exercise of requisitioning powers by the local authority.
985 The kind of house that I have in mind, which might well be the subject for remodelling, is the type of very large house one finds in the West End of London or in such districts as Kensington, Chelsea, Paddington or Marylebone, and that is the precise type of property which we on this side of the Committee wished to exclude from the scope of the Bill, because we were desirous of confining the scope of the Bill to those properties which came within the rateable limits of the Rent Restriction Acts. But that particular Amendment, which would have secured that result, has been rejected by the Committee, and we now find ourselves in the position of having large houses of the type that I have described falling within the scope of the Bill. It is, therefore, a matter of importance to the community as a whole that there should be some provision whereby in these cases the landlord can recover possession if he desires to remodel the property.
There are two particular types of case which I have in mind which I want to mention this evening to the Committee. They are by no means exceptional cases. They are the type of case which occurs in literally hundreds and hundreds of districts, where, if this type of property is included within the scope of the Bill and there is no right to recover possession in the event of the landlord desiring to remodel, a great deal of accommodation will be withheld from homeless families of this country. [HON. MEMBERS: "No."] It is all very well for hon. Members to try to laugh off this particular point, but it is not a point of which people seeking accommodation would take such a light and airy view as apparently do some hon. Members on the other side of the Committee.
The two examples that I want to bring to the notice of the Committee are concerned with the type of large house to which I have referred. Let us take the case of a large mansion held on a ground lease which expires, for the sake of argument, on 25th March of this year. That is a lease which will be caught by the provisions of the Bill if our Amendment is not accepted by the Committee. It may be a large house of between 20 and 25 rooms and one or two people only living in that house. The desire and the intention of the landlord is to recover 986 possession of the property at the expiration of the lease, and on recovery of possession to remodel the house to make it a useful property in the conditions in which we are living today.
We can accept the view that the kind of house which I have in mind is not likely to be required again as a single private residence when the occupation of the present tenants comes to an end. The landlord desires, perhaps, to make the property into 10 self-contained flats. Each flat will be capable of housing a family of three persons.
Here is a scheme which, surely, it is in the interests of the community to encourage and not to retard. If the Amendment is rejected, such a landlord will be unable to recover possession of his own house at the expiration of the long lease, and 10 families will be deprived of the occupation of the 10 flats into which the house would be remodelled, so that one or two people who are living in the house may be enabled to continue their occupation for a further two years. If that is a position which hon. Gentlemen opposite wish to go to the country to defend, it is very much better that the onus of defending it should fall upon them rather than that it should fall upon the Members on this side of the Committee. To extend for two years, without any right on the part of the landlord to go to the county court in those circumstances, and ask for possession, is both unreasonable and contrary to the national interest.
There is, secondly, the case of the house which forms part of a block. There are a great many blocks of houses in London and elsewhere which were built perhaps 100 years ago, which, structurally, are still perfectly sound and which are capable by adaptation of being brought into line with modern requirements. It is no exceptional case to find a block of 10 or even 20 houses which, taken together as a whole and reconstructed, could be made into a very large number of excellent flats, thereby making a contribution to the solution of the acute housing problem of the moment.
Again, I say that it is no exceptional circumstance to find a case where nine houses in a block of 10, or 19 houses in a block of 20, are in the possession of the landlord but there is one tenancy in one house outstanding. The landlord is 987 in the position of having either to submit to the blackmail of that one remaining tenant who holds him to ransom, or of being denied the opportunity of carrying out a conversion scheme of the whole property into flats which it would be greatly in the interests of the community to encourage.
Is that the type of development which hon. Members opposite wish to make impossible in the circumstances which I have mentioned? I cannot think that it is unreasonable in any degree, or that it is treating any lessee unfairly, to give the right to the reversioner to recover possession of his property at the expiration of the lease, where he genuinely intends to remodel the property for multiple occupation, subject always to the discretion of the county court to decide whether, in the particular circumstances of the case, it is reasonable for the lease to be allowed to come to an end and for possession of the property to be given back to the reversioner at the expiration. Hon. Members who are prepared to take the responsibility of resisting and voting against this Amendment are taking upon themselves a very grave responsibility in this time of acute housing shortage.
A great deal has been said in our discussions yesterday and today about profiteering landlords exploiting tenants, but it is by no means infrequent to find a case of a profiteering or exploiting tenant who holds to ransom the landlord who desires to convert his property for multiple occupation to the public benefit. This point has been considered by a great many of the professional bodies whose members are concerned with matters relating to the land and who deal with such matters in their day-to-day professional experience. And it is not irrelevant for me to draw the attention of the Committee to what has been said on this point in the memorandum carefully prepared on the subject of this Bill by the Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors, surely a body which is entitled to have its views taken seriously into account on matters relating to landed property. This is what the memorandum says:The extension of a lease by Part I of the Bill should also be of no effect if the lessor reasonably requires possession in order that the premises or a substantial part thereof may be demolished and/or reconstructed.988 The final point that I would bring to the notice of the Committee, and particularly to the notice of hon. Members opposite, who seem to hold the view that there is nothing in the contentions that I am advancing, is that we are simply seeking to import into Part I of the Bill what is already in Part II of the Bill in relation to business premises. I would refer hon. Members to Clause 10 (3, c), in Part II. It provides that if the landlord reasonably requires possession in order that the premises which are the subject of the expiring tenancy, or a substantial part of those premises, may be demolished or reconstructed, that is a ground on which the landlord, subject to certain safeguards, is expressly entitled to recover possession of the property. Is it so unreasonable as some hon. Members seem to think that the same right to recover possession for the purpose of remodelling the premises should apply to properties which come within the scope of Part I, as is provided in Part II in relation to business premises?
I submit that the case is infinitely stronger for this protection in the case of Part 1, because we are dealing with residential premises. Surely it is of the highest importance that residential premises should be used to the best possible advantage at this time. The right to recover possession of business premises. based on the desire of the landlord to reconstruct the business premises, is a much weaker case on which to say that the landlord should have a right to possession than it is in regard to residential premises covered by Part I. For these reasons I most strongly urge the Committee to give serious consideration to all that is implied in the Amendment, and particularly to that part of it to which I have specifically directed the attention of the Committee.
§ The Solicitor-General
We feel that we could not possibly accept the proposal in the Amendment. At the outset I should like to say that I cordially agree with what was said by my hon. Friend the Member for Leicester, North-West (Mr. Janner). It is undoubtedly the case that the two sides of the Committee approach the problem from very different angles. As has been said over and over again, we approach the problem from the basis that where there are long leases which have been occupied for many 989 years—sometimes for 99 years—at a ground rent or an improved ground rent —at any rate, something less than a rack rent—the occupier has something in the nature of an interest in those premises which, although it may not be recognised in the law as it stands at the moment, nevertheless morally entitles him to some protection in the law which we are now trying to provide. If hon. Members do not take that view—
§ Sir P. Spens
Is the right hon. Gentleman referring also to the person who has bought the premises during the last few years and has no long period of occupation? Our Amendment is directed to deal with the people who come into occupation during the last few years of a lease.
§ The Solicitor-General
I entirely disagree with that observation. The person who comes into the tail end of the lease takes up the status of those who have gone before him as occupiers at ground rents.
§ The Solicitor-General
He takes over from them and stands in their shoes, and in our view—hon. Gentlemen opposite do not agree, and they are entitled not to agree—he becomes invested with the expectancy which attaches to the occupier from time to time under the long lease at the ground rent. So we start off in our approach to the problem from very different points of view. That is the fundamental cleavage which has divided us.
It seems to us that the proposals embodied in the Amendment are directly counter to the point of view that we take. Even if one approaches it from the point of view of the Opposition, the case is not really as it has been presented to the Committee. The hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for Kensington, South (Sir P. Spens) pointed to the various covenants that one might find in a lease. He cited the case where a tenant who is a swindler comes in at the end of the lease and refuses to comply with covenants not to use the premises in a way which is a nuisance or an annoyance to adjoining tenants or uses them for some purpose prohibited by the lease, and said that in those circumstances the landlord is powerless and has no remedy 990 but that he ought to have the remedy of forfeiture. That is only a half statement of the position. The landlord can apply to the courts for an injunction.
§ The Solicitor-General
I know that the hon. and learned Gentleman said so, but he coupled his remarks with the observation that the landlord might resort to the extremely expensive procedure of asking the Chancery Division for an injunction if he wants to forfeit the lease and is prepared to take proceedings. If it is a small property, he can ask for his injunction in the county court. There is really not so very much difference between the two. There may be some difference in the matter of costs, but not a great deal of difference in many cases.
§ Mr. Molson (The High Peak)
Is there not all the difference in the world, because in one case the landlord would obtain the injunction for the benefit of his other tenants, whereas in the other case he would obtain possession of the property?
§ The Solicitor-General
Certainly there is that difference, but if the case is being made upon the basis that the landlord ought not to be left powerless in the case of the refusal of the swindling tenant to comply with the terms of the covenant, the answer is that the landlord is far from powerless. He can go to the court and in an appropriate case the court would by order forbid the tenant to go on disregarding the terms of the covenant. That is a very substantial remedy which is still in the hands of the landlord. It is a mis-statement of the position to represent it as if the unfortunate landlord had to stand by and look on while the tenant flagrantly flouted the provisions of the agreement.
As the hon. and learned Member for Kensington, South, said, in the vast majority of cases the problem does not arise at all. He said that he had not the remotest idea what his own covenants were. That applies to the vast majority of tenants throughout the country. We have, after all, to devise a Measure which deals with the great generality of the cases for which we have to provide. The hon. and learned Gentleman says, "Ah, yes, but in the small minority of cases we get the swindling tenant." What is sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander. In the 991 small majority of cases we get the unscrupulous landlord. We had to take that circumstance into account as well. That is directly relevant to one of the basic defects in the proposal, which is that it would enable the landlord not only to sue for forfeiture but also to obtain damages from the tenant during the tenancy.
As hon. Members know, what we have said under the terms of the Bill as we have drafted it is that the landlord's remedy in damages is to be postponed until the tenancies come to an end. The proposal of the hon. and learned Gentleman is that the landlord should be entitled to enforce his remedy in damages during the currency of the tenancy. I said that there were some unscrupulous landlords. These unscrupulous landlords might well seek to use that remedy to force a tenant out with the threat of taking his chattels in the execution of the judgment for damages. Therefore, one basic defect in the Amendment is that it places in the hands of the unscrupulous landlord—I am certainly not accusing landlords generally —the power of forcing the tenant out of the premises by—to use the phrase of the hon. and learned Gentleman—a blackmailing threat. The landlord can blackmail the tenant by saying that he will have to meet a judgment for damages unless he gets out. Therefore, one basic objection that we have to the proposal, quite apart from any others, is that it embodies that change in the scheme of the Bill.
As I have said, the landlord can take the appropriate procedure, generally in the county court—after all, we are dealing in the main with small properties—to obtain an injunction to stop the tenant. Therefore, the case in so far as it rests on the allegation of the impotence of the landlord, goes entirely by the board. The hon. Member for Wimbledon (Mr. Black) and the hon. and learned Member for Kensington, South, said "Ah, yes, but that may not apply to the case where there really is a need to re-develop or remodel the premises." The hon. Member for Wimbledon cited two cases, those of a large mansion occupied by one or two people and a block of 10 houses, held on long leases which were coming to an end, and said that the landlord might desire to remodel or reconstruct the property but could not do so because we deprived 992 him of the right to exercise his right of forfeiting the lease in the event of a breach of covenant.
As I have said, one has to look at the great majority of the cases with which one is dealing. The great majority of these cases are of small properties occupied by a family which, or with its predecessors, has lived there for many years and probably many decades. The case put by the hon. Gentleman is an extremely rare one. One might get a large property of 20 rooms occupied by one or two persons. It would be a very odd thing, but I agree that it could occur. It would be an odd coincidence that the landlord should be moved by such an active desire to remodel and reconstruct in the very two years during which the tenancy would be prolonged, but I quite agree that it could happen.
§ Mr. Black
If we regard that case as exceptional—it is not nearly so exceptional as the right hon. and learned Gentleman suggests—is not that exceptional case just the case in which the county court would consider it reasonable to give the landlord possession, whereas in the case of the small house which has been occupied for a very long period of years by one family the county court would not consider it reasonable to give possession?
§ 8.0 p.m.
§ The Solicitor-General
I certainly cannot predict the view of any judge in any given circumstances, but no doubt in a case like that he might easily take into account the circumstances mentioned by the hon. Gentleman. What I am saying is that in framing this Measure one has to consider the majority of cases, and cases of large mansions occupied by one or two people at the end of a long lease are extremely rare, I should have thought. It is possible, and probably it often happens, that a large house occupied originally by a large family has for some years past been occupied by one or two people, but in that case one will nearly always find that the individuals still occupying that house will themselves have converted it. In other words, they will already have taken steps to relieve themselves of the considerable financial burden of having to manage a large house which is much bigger than they require for their own possession.
993 The other case mentioned by the hon. Gentleman was the block of 10 houses, but, after all, that is practically always occupied by 10 separate families. It really cannot be so urgent to remodel and reconstruct those houses as to make it necessary, within the two years during the standstill period for which the Bill will prolong the tenancy, to enable the landlord to get the houses back, turn the 10 families out and reconstruct the houses into a block of flats.
After all this is a standstill Measure, and one has to bear that in mind. What the provisions of the permanent legislation will be, I do not know and I am not forecasting, but in this standstill Measure there cannot be a case for making it possible for the landlord to turn out these families whose status is to be preserved, according to the object of this Bill, during the short interim period while permanent legislation is put upon the Statute Book. Tenants, it should be remembered —at any rate in my view and that of my hon. Friends—have something in the nature of a right in relation to those premises, which the law ought to recognise, because of their residence and because of the interest which attaches thereto.
That is what I would say in regard to the arguments used, but supposing one looks at the actual position. The hon. Member for Wimbledon asked, "Is it not unreasonable, in view of the fact that in Clause 10 (3, c), you have given a similar right in the case of shops, to withhold it in the case of these houses?" But the difference is that the houses we are dealing with in Part I of the Bill are houses held on ground rents or improved ground rents, whereas the person who rents the shops rents as a rack renter. He does not himself occupy the position of a person who, or whose ancestors, originally built the house, nor does he become vested with the same status with regard to the property as they have. He is a rack renter who pays a full rent for the shop. Therefore, it is perfectly reasonable and not inconsistent to treat him in a way which is entirely different from the way in which the person who holds on a ground rent under a long lease is treated.
But what does the Bill do? Since listening to the arguments advanced on the Second Reading, we have made substantial changes. In some senses we are 994 a good deal more favourable to the landlords than is this Amendment. This Amendment would require the county court judge to decide that it was reasonable. We have, in a sense, in the case of some covenants, gone beyond that. What we have said in an Amendment which we have put down and which we hope will be agreed to, is that the important covenants—that is to say, the covenants dealing with assignment and sub-letting, using for illegal or immoral purposes, and so on, are all, in the event of breach, to give rise to the right of forfeiture. We think that is going quite far enough in making available to the landlord any remedy which should be open to him.
To do what the hon. Member would seek to do, to add other grounds—namely, to enable the landlord to obtain possession of the building if he can offer suitable alternative accommodation or if he can show that he wants to reconstruct or remodel the house, subject to the judgment of the court—is, we think, even if there is a case for it, making a complete change of principle in the purpose of the Bill, which is to preserve the position for the interim period of two years.
In that connection I would repeat the argument which I used yesterday, that we do not think it consistent and within the scope of this Bill to change the position. We want to keep the position as it is. Therefore, we think that to preserve the landlord's remedy of forfeiture in the case of those covenants which one may describe as the most important covenants—which were, indeed, the ones on which hon. Gentlemen opposite founded their arguments during Second Reading—is quite as far as we ought to go in framing this Bill. Some of my hon. Friends, I feel sure, will think that we have gone too far in that, but certainly we cannot go any further. For those reasons, I hope the Committee will agree that this Amendment ought not to be accepted.
§ Sir P. Spens
Will the right hon. and learned Gentleman say where is the Amendment dealing with the most important covenants?
§ Mr. Lionel Heald (Chertsey)
I felt that perhaps I ought to apologise for intervening in this matter which has already 995 been fairly fully discussed, but I came to the conclusion that I need not do so, having sat here throughout the whole of yesterday and today, and having restrained myself from making any contribution except to listen with interest to the discussion and occasionally to take a small walk through the Lobby and back again. I feel so strongly about this matter that I am impelled to make a few remarks.
I suggest quite seriously that the Committee ought to think where it is going in this matter. Surely there are limits, especially when we get to the stage where the Solicitor-General, who always shows such moderation and fairness, is actually driven to making an almost tub-thumping political speech—
§ Captain Field (Paddington, North)
The hon. Member has never heard my right hon. and learned Friend on the platform.
§ Mr. Heald
We should realise where we are getting—[An HON. MEMBER: "Take another walk."] I notice one significant fact, that the hon. Member for Oldham, West (Mr. L. Hale), who has spoken on several occasions, in a manner that justifies the remark I have just made, in relation to homes of the people, and so on, is not here at the moment. I can quite understand why he is not.
§ Mr. Janner
Would the hon. Member permit me to interrupt? In fairness to my hon. Friend the Member for Oldham, West (Mr. L. Hale), who is at present at a meeting, may I point out that he has been here pretty well the whole time?
§ Mr. Heald
I am not criticising the hon. Member. I am only saying that it is probably more comfortable for him not to be here, because at the present time he would have to justify an argument which is entirely contrary to his thesis. There is not the slightest doubt that if this Amendment were adopted it would provide in certain cases, if only in a few cases, for exactly the way in which more houses can be obtained, and hon. Members opposite are opposing it. That is significant and important. I am just as much entitled as any hon. Member opposite to say that I regard housing as a matter of the utmost importance. I have always done so and I always shall, and I am glad to see that there is no suggestion 996 on the other side of the Committee that that is not so. [Laughter.] Well, there is a laugh from one hon. Member.
§ Mr. Turner-Samuels
How does the hon. and learned Member reconcile his claim to be concerned over the problem of housing when, if the power contained in the Amendment is conferred on the landlord, he would be able to get possession of a large house full of tenants and thereby dispossess them?
§ Mr. Heald
The position with regard to that, as the hon. and learned Member knows very well, is that there are safeguards in the Amendment which I would have hoped the hon. and learned Member would regard as satisfactory: that is, that the learned judge in the county court will take a reasonable view. I hope that the hon. and learned Member would not suggest that the county court is not going to act in any reasonable manner. That argument, therefore, we can deal with. That is my first objection to the attitude of the Government and of hon. Members opposite.
My second is this. The interference that is being made with the ordinary operation of the law in this case is entirely unwarranted, and it is time that someone spoke out about it. It is no good talking on ill-thought-out and sentimental grounds about a matter of this kind. We have to be serious about it.
What is the position in regard to these covenants? The attitude which is adopted by hon. Members opposite—I put this to them, including, of all people, the Solicitor-General—is that if a man is committing a nuisance on premises and is ruining them, as we know happens, and the house is in an appalling condition, it is said, "You can get an injunction." And so one can, but does anybody suggest that that is an adequate remedy?
§ Mr. Heald
I am obliged to my hon. and learned Friend. Everyone would agree that that is a hopelessly inadequate remedy, but that is the limit that is being laid down. Why is that being done? The reason has been given to us simply on political doctrine, so-called, or what I would call ill-digested vote-catching.
§ Mr. Heald
It is no good hon. Members opposite complaining. There are times when people have to speak out over these matters. It is perfectly possible to discuss these questions. Sometimes they are rather dry and uninteresting and legal, but every now and then we come down to something real, and we have come on to something real here. The attitude adopted is either sentimental and completely unthought-out, or is thoroughly unsound from a national and constitutional point of view. There is no justification whatever for this interference with the ordinary rights of the individual, and it is time that we put a halt to it.
Let there be no doubt about it. In the case I have mentioned it is a hopelessly inadequate remedy to tell a man that he can go and get an injunction when his house is being ruined. From the national and housing points of view, what benefit is it to preserve that state of affairs? That is precisely the case that ought to be dealt with in the public interest.
There is also the suggestion that in some of these other cases the premises could be requisitioned. In some cases they are requisitioned, but the cases with which this is intended to deal are those where premises are not requisitioned and where something is required to be done. Therefore, we must be a little more realistic over this matter.
One hon. Member opposite rather gave the show away as to what the real explanation was. He said that if these people were allowed to be turned out for behaving in the sort of way I have indicated—a completely uncivilised way —they would not be able to get the benefit of leasehold enfranchisement if and when that comes. There we find the explanation of the attitude of many hon. Members opposite. They say, "We believe in leasehold enfranchisement: 998 everybody must have it as a matter of principle, and therefore you must not exclude anyone, however undeserving they are." That is being a slave to political doctrine.
§ 8.15 p.m.
§ Mr. Heald
The hon. Member asks me what I am. I will tell him, Sir Charles. I am a Tory Member of Parliament and I am representing here the views of my constituents, which I am entitled to do and which I intend to continue to do.
There is only one more matter to which I want to refer, unless anything else intervenes—and I should welcome it —whilst I am mentioning it. I ask the Committee to look once more at the terms of the Amendment, so that everyone may understand what we propose to do; it is useful and helpful sometimes to try to understand the subject at issue. First, the county court judge has to be satisfied that there is alternative accommodation; second, he has to decide that it is reasonable; and third, he has to be satisfied either that one of the covenants has been broken or that the house is required for the purposes specified.
Hon. Members opposite are saying that even where a man has broken the covenants in the most appalling way that we know is possible and is done in these cases, although the county court judge, exercising his discretion in the proper way in which county court judges do, is abundantly satisfied that it is reasonable and that perfectly satisfactory alternative accommodation exists, nothing is to be done. I want it to be clearly understood that that is the attitude which the Committee are being asked to adopt, so that if we are asked questions about it in other places—and if hon. Members opposite are asked questions about it in other places under circumstances which might arise in the quite near future—the attitude of those on the other side is plainly understood.
§ Mr. J. Hynd
We have listened with interest to the speech of the hon. and learned Member for Chertsey (Mr. Heald) and particularly to his statement, which he made with such pride, that he is representing the views of his constituents. His constituents must be a peculiar body if they consist entirely of landlords, as it seemed to us from the drift of his remarks. He was talking entirely from the landlord's point of view.
§ Mr. Hynd
That does not alter the fact that the whole of the remarks of the hon. and learned Member were addressed to the interests of the landlord, although he addressed himself very little to the terms of the Amendment. Most of his remarks were concerned with protection against interference with the rights of the individual; again, the individual in each case was the landlord, and the hon. and learned Member seemed to overlook entirely that what we are attempting to do in the Bill is to protect leaseholders—sitting tenants.
Nevertheless, it seems that we have made a little progress in regard to the Amendment, because the hon. and learned Member for Kensington, South (Sir P. Spens), in moving it, began by elaborating the whole of its paragraphs and arguing the case on them. The hon. Member for Wimbledon (Mr. Black) followed by confining himself to the last paragraph of the Amendment, from which we may be entitled to assume, probably wrongly, that he had dropped the argument in regard to the other paragraphs. Therefore, we found ourselves concerned mainly with sub-paragraph (v). That may be a tribute to my hon. Friend the Member for Leicester, North-West (Mr. Janner).
Let us look at what was said in support of the Amendment. The main argument was that this was intended to cover the case where the landlord of a large mansion, in the West End of London, for example, was desirous of terminating the lease in order that he might reconstruct the mansion as a series of flats. As my right hon. and learned Friend the Solicitor-General has said, that would hardly be the usual case. I can hardly see the landlords of flats in Park Lane, for example, hammering at the door for 1000 permission to reconstruct those buildings as large flats to accommodate large numbers of families.
§ Mr. Molson
May I interrupt the hon. Member? Let me give a perfectly obvious case, that of Eaton Square. There a large number of houses are being converted into flats, and it is extremely probable that there may be two or three houses which have fallen back into the ownership of the landlord, and for conversion purposes, they might be saved by this Clause.
§ Mr. Hynd
I am not for a moment suggesting that there might be no such cases, and my right hon. and learned Friend pointed out that there might be exceptional cases, but it is well known that, in the majority of cases, the landlords seeking to obtain protected property are doing so for the purpose of cashing in on the present market prices. What the hon. Member failed to draw attention to in arguing that the purpose of the Amendment was precisely that, was that there are four other subsections, and even the subsection on which we are arguing is for the purpose, not primarily of alterations to premises, but also for demolishing premises. How that would result in additional houses it is difficult to say.
The hon. and learned Member for Chertsey enjoined us to study what we were discussing and said that at times that was very useful. But he did not study the matter very carefully, because he was telling us that the Amendment was dependent on the one safeguard in the Clause that the courts must be satisfied that there is suitable alternative accommodation. The Amendment does not say anything of the kind. It states that to give a judgment either the court has to be satisfied that here is suitable alternative accommodation or that one of the other four provisions are met. So the alternative accommodation is not the covering safeguard.
§ Mr. Hynd
I thank the hon. and learned Member, but that is certainly what he said and I am glad that we have now made the point clear.
1001 All the other purposes of the Amendment are no longer argued and we are confined to an Amendment of subparagraph (v) and for that matter to the one word "reconstructed." If that is the position it seems to me that the whole Amendment should be withdrawn and hon. Members opposite should think again and produce an Amendment stating what they do want in this Clause, that is, permission to terminate the lease for the purpose of reconstructing a property into numbers of flats to accommodate larger numbers of families.
The whole of the arguments I have heard from hon. Members opposite on this Amendment have been arguments for the rights of the landlords and in defence of non-interference within the rights of the landlord. What we are concerned with in the Bill is primarily the protection of the holders of long leases of more than 21 years for an additional two years, until such time and the whole question of the relationship between the landlord and the tenant can be considered in a more comprehensive Measure.
§ Mr. Molson
I should like to disillusion the hon. Member for Attercliffe (Mr. J. Hynd) if he thinks that because my hon. Friend the Member for Wimbledon (Mr. Black) chose to concentrate on one particular paragraph of the Amendment that we are not defending the whole Amendment on its merits. The general drift of the argument from the other side of the Committee, from the Solicitor-General downwards, has been that we on this side are speaking only from the point of view of the landlords. It would be just as true for us to say that we have heard nothing from the other side of the Committee on the real economic merits of the argument, but that every time there have been arguments in favour of the so-called rights of tenants or concern for their alleged hardships.
I have never known two accomplished debaters like the Attorney-General and the Solicitor-General dance so nimbly about from one argument to another as they have done during this debate. A very important argument which the Solicitor-General deployed was that the Amendment must be rejected because the Bill is intended to deal with ground leases. It is not so very long ago that we moved an Amendment to confine the 1002 Bill to ground leases and he, or his right hon. and learned Friend, declined to accept the Amendment.
Therefore, it is not reasonable for him now to say, when my hon. Friend the Member for Wimbledon advances concrete and practical cases of how this may operate in a most harmful manner if it includes houses which are not the subject of ground leases but of rack rents, to revert to the argument which was used earlier that this was intended only to deal with ground leases. I would remind the right hon. and learned Gentleman that the Attorney-General said that although he did not think many of the other category would be included he did not in the least regret that they would not be. That has been the real difficulty with which we have been confronted throughout the Bill.
There is the Bill as drafted. It has a certain meaning which is likely to be interpreted by the courts, and there is the entirely different drift of argument of the right hon. and learned Gentleman in charge of the Bill. Whenever it suits their purpose they express their general sympathy with hon. Members who sit behind them and express their regret at not being able further to meet their point of view. Then, when we try to move Amendments to ensure that the Bill shall not have harmful effects because of the loose and wide drafting, they revert to what the purpose of the Bill was originally intended to be. The Solicitor-General, followed up by those behind him, has said that the purpose of the Bill is to maintain the status quo and to prevent hardship to tenants. Let me deal with those two points consecutively.
First, on the point that it is intended to maintain the status quo, the reason we have moved this comprehensive Amendment is because the Bill does not maintain the status quo, and because, although they are unwilling to alter the rent or in any other way to modify the terms of the original leases entered into, the Government are proposing to modify the terms of those leases for these two additional years which are being added.
What is the possible justification in a standstill Bill, when the Government wish to maintain the status quo, for depriving the landlard at the same time of such reasonable provision as that to 1003 require the house to be kept in a reasonable state of repair? It is because we did not vote against the Second Reading of the Bill—although we very severely criticised it—that we have brought in an Amendment of this kind to distinguish between those conditions of the original lease, which should surely continue to be enforceable during those last two years, and those which, perhaps, are not of the same importance.
It appears to us, therefore, that if the tenant who is responsible for maintaining the property in a proper state of repair has refused to comply with a notice served by the local authority under the Public Health Act, 1936, that is the kind of provision which in all fairness and reasonableness should continue to be enforceable even if the tenant is being given possession for another two years. It is really no answer for the right hon. and learned Solicitor-General, first, to say that they intend to preserve the status quo, secondly, that they intend to do away with all those conditions of the lease which he thinks would be unreasonable for the last two years, and then to refuse seriously to consider the case where the tenant is committing such nuisance in the property that even the local authority has taken action under the Public Health Act, but where the landlord is to be prevented from having redress.
All that the Solicitor-General has to say about that is that the landlord can go to the High Court or to the county court and obtain an injunction. But he would not have much inducement to do so and to incur the legal costs without any reward to himself. We have heard a great deal about the uncertainties of the tenant. What about the uncertainties of the landlord? If they read HANSARD and the speeches made by the back benchers opposite they will certainly see that the intention is that the landlord is never to be allowed to obtain possession of the house again.
§ Mr. Molson
I was not arguing that point at the moment. [Interruption.] It would facilitate the debate if I were allowed to resume my remarks instead of having to listen to repartee being thrown across the Floor by hon. Members who are, according to the Rules of the 1004 House, supposed to be listening to what I am saying. That is a disadvantage of importing ideological considerations into a serious Bill of this kind.
The point I am trying to make is that, like my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Chertsey (Mr. Heald), I am concerned about maintaining the stock of houses in this country in a decent state of repair, and making the best possible use of them. The whole trouble about so much of the sentimental legislation promoted by the Government is that it is reducing a large proportion of the housing stock to a state of slum.
I am not in the least concerned as to whether, in theory, it is or is not desirable that the landlord should obtain possession of a house built on ground rent. What I am greatly concerned about is that the effect of the Bill shall not be that, during the last two years, purchasers of fag ends of rents who are not subject to eviction for not carrying out the obligations of the original lease should allow that property to get into a bad state of repair. I am sure that a man saddled by the present Socialist majority with the prospect of never obtaining possession of his house again would not wish to go to considerable expense and obtain an injunction in order to get the tenant to put the house in a proper state of repair.
I wish to advance one more argument, but it must not be supposed that because I do not deal with all five of the provisions of the Amendment we have abandoned them. I want to say something about the Solicitor-General's argument about averting injustice or hardship to the tenant. Our provision in sub-paragraph (i) of our Amendment is that the landlord may obtain possession if, in the opinion of the county court, he is able to provide suitable alternative accommodation. If there is suitable alternative accommodation for the tenant then, clearly, there is no hardship whatsoever in allowing the landlord to obtain possession of his house. This is a provision that was taken from the Rent Restriction Acts, legislation which worked extremely satisfactorily during the last 25 years.
It is only those who consider that in no circumstances should a sitting tenant ever be required to vacate property, and who regard the Bill as a general means of attack upon landlords as a class, who think there is any justification for not inserting the Amendment in the Bill.
§ Mr. Weitzman
This Amendment is completely illogical. The charge has been made on this side that this Amendment is put forward in the interest of landlords. I should like to support that suggestion very strongly, and I propose to give chapter and verse on why I think that charge is fully made out.
The Clause as it now stands extends the right of a holder of a ground lease for a period of two years. In other words, he holds the premises for a further period of two years under the standstill arrangement, paying the same ground rent as was paid before. It has been said by the Opposition that the words of the Amendment have not been looked into very carefully by Members on this side of the House. I suggest to hon. Members opposite that they themselves look at the words of the Amendment carefully and see what the Amendment seeks to do. The first thing it seeks to do, after putting in the words,…unless the court considers it reasonable to make such an order or give such a judgment and either"—is to say,(i) the court is satisfied that suitable alternative accommodation is available to the tenant…What is the nature of that suitable alternative accommodation? Do hon. Members opposite mean that they are going to offer premises at a rack rental? Are they going to give the tenant alternative accommodation, putting him in the same position as before—that is, holding premises at the same ground rent and so that at the end of two years, when the Government have introduced Legislation, he gets the benefit of such legislation? Obviously not. That shows how ridiculous this Amendment is. He cannot be provided with suitable alternative accommodation.
If the matter remained there, the Amendment, on the face of it, would be obviously ridiculous. But it does not stop there. When we come to sub-paragraph (iii) the Amendment saysthe tenant or any person residing"—
§ Mr. J. Foster
There is the sort of situation which can arise—and I know it does arise—where one has a slum property and the ground lease is falling in and one can offer the sitting tenant in one ground lease either the equivalent, or in many cases better, accommodation in 1006 another ground lease and allow the development of the house which is vacated.
§ Mr. Weitzman
Clearly that is not the intention of this Amendment. This Amendment is based on the provisions of the Rent Restriction Acts. It is disingenuous of the hon. and learned Gentleman to make that suggestion. "Suitable alternative accommodation" does not mean what he suggested. It merely remains for me to mention the difficulty to show how ridiculous that suggestion is.
Let me pass to sub-paragraph (iii):the tenant or any person residing or lodging with him has been guilty of conduct which is a nuisance or annoyance…Let me visualise the position where someone residing with the tenant has been guilty of a nuisance. Is it seriously suggested by hon. Members opposite that where someone residing with the tenant has been guilty of a nuisance, that ought to be a ground on which one can go to the court and say that the tenant of a ground lease, who has been given protection for two years and pays the ground rent as before, should be dispossessed? Hon. Members opposite may say that the county court judge may not think it reasonable, but why should anyone be put in jeopardy of an eviction in that way?
The criticism has been made that an injunction is not a sufficient remedy. I do not understand that objection. If a tenant has been guilty of a nuisance, what is there to prevent the landlord from going to the appropriate court and asking for an injunction? If he is right and gets an injunction, the costs will fall on the tenant. I cannot understand why it is suggested that it is wrong to say that the landlord has a remedy in going to the court.
§ Mr. I. Foster
Does the hon. Gentleman think that a landlord can get an injunction for the tenant to repair the house?
§ Mr. Weitzman
That interjection is not called for, because the part of the Amendment to which I am referring does not deal with that sort of thing at all. If hon. Members will look at sub-paragraph (iii) they will see quite clearly that it refers to "a nuisance or annoyance" and not to any question of repairs at all.
§ Mr. Weitzman
I am dealing with subparagraph (iii). I have selected from the Amendment two objections, and my submission is that if I take those two objections alone it is perfectly obvious that this Amendment, as it stands, is complete nonsense. The whole purpose of the Amendment is another attempt, repeating efforts which have been made before, to insert something based upon the provisions of the Rent Restriction Acts. It is an attempt to modify the intention of Clause 1 in respect of the standstill arrangement. I suggest that the standstill arrangement is a proper one.
The tenant who pays the ground rent should enjoy the use of his premises for those two years. Let him be in such a position that at the end of the two years, when further legislation is enacted by the Government, he will get the benefit of it. If this Amendment is accepted the position will be radically altered. The tenant will be put in such a position that he will not be able to obtain that benefit. In those circumstances, the Amendment ought to be rejected.
§ 8.45 p.m.
§ Mr. Derek Walker-Smith (Hertford)
The Amendments proposed by the Government make a considerable improvement on this Clause as originally drafted and presented to the House on the Second Reading. For that I think hon. Members on this side of the Committee can take a reasonable share of credit, in that their speeches on the Second Reading drew attention to the astonishing form in which this Clause was originally presented—a form in which it was impossible to enforce a covenant even against immoral use. That was the form in which the Bill originally came to the House.
Since the Second Reading, and in the light of the suggestions made by my right hon. and hon. Friends, there have been a number of proposed improvements to which the right hon. and learned Gentleman has drawn attention. It is not, of course, true to say, as the right hon. and learned Gentleman suggested, that the Amendment differs from the Government's proposals only in one respect. There are the other respects of alternative accommodation and nuisance as well as the point of redevelopment which is covered by sub-paragraph (v) of the Amendment.
1008 As I understand, the right hon. and learned Gentleman says that the Amendment is undesirable and unnecessary: first, because he says that the cases for which it caters are unusual cases; second, because there is in any event the remedy of injunction; third, because this Bill is, after all, only a stand-still Bill, and of a standstill Bill not too much should be expected. That, in substance, was, the case put by the right hon. and learned Gentleman, although I cannot, of course, pretend to reproduce the rich eloquence with which he always adorns his speeches.
So far as the suggestion that the Amendment covers only unusual cases is concerned, in a sense that is so. The law exists, happily, to deal with unusual cases, I wonder whether that has ever occurred to the right hon. and learned Gentleman.[HON. MEMBERS: "No"] In that case he lives and learns. Of course, the law provides for cases which are the unusual cases. If we pursue the right hon. and learned Gentleman's argument to its logical conclusion there would be no need to provide remedies for breaches of covenant because, in a general way, tenants and landlords abide by their respective covenants.
But it is idle to say that because these cases may not be very usual—and we hope they are nbt—it is not right that the remedy should be prescribed for them in the Bill. Indeed, very similar remedies are provided in various sections in other Acts. There is the Schedule to the 1933 Act, which this more or less reflects, and provisions in some cases similar are to be found in respect of business premises. as the right hon. and learned Gentleman knows, in the Landlord and Tenant Act of 1927 and, indeed, in Clause 10 of the Bill. His argument that these similarities do not count in respect of the Bill because it is concerned only with ground leases has been faithfully dealt with by my hon. Friend the Member for The High Peak (Mr. Molson).
The right hon. and learned Gentleman suggested that because the remedy of injunction exists it is not necessary to allow an enforcement of these covenants by for feiture. The right hon. and learned Gentleman must know that injunction is not a normal remedy in these matters. He is suggesting, as it were, an alien, difficult and costly procedure, and one which can be of very little benefit to the landlord who suffers a breach of covenant on 1009 the part of the tenant. In any event, the injunction will be difficult to enforce and, as has been pointed out, in respect of repairs it is unlikely that an injunction, which in that case would be in the nature of a mandatory injunction, would be granted at all.
Now, as to the third argument, in regard to the standstill nature of the Bill, there is no reason that because a Bill is a standstill Bill it should therefore be slipshod. It should be the best and the most logical Bill that the House is capable of producing; and, as I said yesterday, I have not a great deal of confidence that two years will necessarily see the Bill through. It would be quite contrary to our post-war experience if it were so.
I cannot remember whether the right hon. and learned Gentleman addressed similar observations to the Committee during the passage of the Furnished Houses (Rent Control) Act. I have no doubt that he did, and that he made similar observations during the course of the Building Materials and Housing Act. In both those cases, the temporary term applied by the Measure has already been greatly exceeded, and one is waiting for a similar extension of the temporary application, for example, of Section 52 of the Town and Country Planning Act.
One does not have to be unduly sceptical to think that this Measure will remain on the Statute Book a great deal longer than the two years for which it is designed. Every argument that this is an interim, standstill Measure has to be read in the light of the melancholy experience we have had in this so-called temporary legislation since the war. That being so, it seems right that, if it is reasonable to have provisions for enforcement of these covenants, then the ones contained in the Amendment, which are not contained in the Government's proposals, should be put into the Bill, and that the Government should not burke the issue by relying on the merely temporary and standstill nature of the Bill.
One last observation about the last of these matters covered by the Amendment, that in which the landlord may recover possession if the court thinks it reasonable, and only if the court thinks it reasonable, in order that 1010… dwelling-house or a substantial part thereof may be demolished, reconstructed or remodelled;That phraseology is very similar, as the right hon. and learned Gentleman recalls, to the phraseology of the Landlord and Tenant Act, 1927, where a similar reason is a bar to a business tenant getting a new lease even though he has established all the difficult requirements of that Act in regard to his business premises. I attach great importance to that particular proviso.
The right hon. and learned Gentleman and some of his hon. Friends suggest that it is very rarely that landlords in these days embark upon schemes of redevelopment. If it is so, it is a considerable condemnation of the present Administration. It is because it has not been possible for them to embark on those schemes. Hon. Members opposite have posed for many years as the friends of town planning, as the apostles of comprehensive redevelopment; and yet, on any occasion when the thing is put to the test, they are unwilling to make provision whereby comprehensive redevelopment may be carried out.
The hon. Member for Clapham (Mr. Gibson) drew attention to the difficulties in which local authorities might be placed in regard to this matter. He made a perfectly good and proper point, and the same point applies, of course, in relation to private landlords embarking on large scale redevelopment schemes. It is quite obvious that such redevelopment schemes are in the interests of good town planning; they are in the social interests of the community; and it is not right that no provision should be made for the getting of possession in reasonable cases to facilitate such bona fide redevelopment schemes where they are possible.
In my submission, insufficient attention has been given by the right hon. and learned Gentleman to the practical implications of that particular part of our Amendment. I should like to press that on the Committee, not by any means because it is the only part of this Amendment which merits the respectful attention and sympathy of the Committee, but because it is so intimately bound up with the proper principle of good town planning and with the social progress of the community.
§ Mr. Ungoed-Thomas
This Amendment, like several of the previous Amendments, is completely contrary to the whole purpose and conception of this Bill. The purpose of the Bill, as we have heard so often, is to provide a standstill arrangement so that in due course, as I hope, we may have a leasehold enfranchisement Act put on the Statute Book. It is on the footing that we may have a leasehold enfranchisement Act put on the Statute Book that we have in this standstill Measure to consider the advantages or disadvantages of any proposal put forward.
This particular proposal provides for the recovery of the possession of the property by the landlord. We who believe in leasehold enfranchisement deny the prior right of the landlord to possession of the property. The whole basis of the case for leasehold enfranchisement is that the interest of the tenant in the property is a greater interest than the interest of the landlord. We believe that the interest of the tenant in the property is an occupational interest in the user of the property as his home, whereas the interest of the landlord in the property is merely a financial interest. We deny the whole basis upon which this Amendment is based, namely, the right of property of the landlord having priority over the right of property of the tenant, and we therefore object to the whole of this Amendment; but I will just deal with one or two points in detail. On the footing I have just discussed, the approach which we have to this problem of suitable alternative accommodation—
§ Mr. J. Foster
On his argument, then, the hon. and learned Gentleman must be against the Government Amendment concerning the use of premises for immoral purposes, because according to him the tenant has the right of property, and if a person with a freehold uses the house for immoral purposes he does not forfeit it. On his argument, therefore, the hon. and learned Gentleman is against the Government.
§ Mr. Ungoed-Thomas
The hon. and learned Gentleman, as so often, is being logical but not sensible. Of course, logic is on his side. I completely agree that when property is used for immoral purposes social considerations should prevail 1012 over consideration of private property and the interest in the property, whether of the landlord or of the tenant.
§ Mr. Foster
Does the hon. and learned Gentleman not realise that his argument is an argument for forfeiting to the State, but it cannot be an argument for forfeiting the tenant's right in his property just because he uses it as a brothel. It ought not to go to the landlord, but, on his argument, the tenant has got no right in it at all.
§ Mr. Ungoed-Thomas
On this occasion the hon. and learned Gentleman is not even being logical. What is being given by this Bill is a new advantage to the tenant. We say that if the tenant uses the property for anti-social immoral purposes, the State should not give him that advantage, and therefore the right of property of the landlord should prevail. In other words, where the right of property of the tenant is being abused, there is no reason, either in common sense or in logic on this occasion, for giving the tenant the advantage which this Bill proposes.
§ 9.0 p.m.
§ Mr. Ungoed-Thomas
I am coming to the question of repairs, and I will deal with that in detail.
Therefore, the offer of suitable alternative accommodation is completely contrary to the whole purpose of the Bill.
The other point with which I propose to deal is the provision for recovery of possession in the event of the property being in disrepair owing to the neglect or default of the tenant. That means that, in connection with a large number of properties of the poorer people whom we are particularly concerned to protect, we shall have a carriage and four driven through this Bill, because it is common knowledge that towards the end of long leases there are, of course, dilapidations owing to the default of the 1013 tenant, and owing to the default of the tenant in accordance with the terms of the lease imposed on the tenant.
It is because of the strength of landlord's legal rights under the lease that we are concerned to protect the tenant, and everybody who has considered this question is concerned to provide some ameliorating legislation of one kind or another to deal with the cruel insistence upon the landlord's rights with regard to dilapidations at the end of a lease. Yet, in spite of that acknowledged cruelty to the tenant, the Opposition propose to take advantage of that cruel position by enabling the landlord to recover owing to the legal default of the tenant with regard to dilapidations. That is completely unacceptable, I trust, to every single Member on either side of the House.
On the last point raised by the hon. Member for Hertford (Mr. Walker-Smith), I have a great deal of sympathy with much that he said. The provision is for the recovery of possession if the landlord requires possession in order that the dwelling-house, or a substantial part thereof, shall be reconstructed, demolished or remodelled. There is no test in this requirement that demolition, reconstruction or remodelling shall be in the public interest. The whole of his remarks were based on the assumption that it was in the public interest.
§ Mr. Walker-Smith
That is, of course, the true test. That is the first test expressed in sub-paragraph (v), and the second is the overriding test that the court would consider it reasonable. In assessing the reasonableness, the court will, of course, weigh the position of the tenant against tthe public or social advantage of a scheme of comprehensive redevelopment.
§ Mr. Ungoed-Thomas
The hon. Gentleman is leaving himself wide open to precisely the objection which the Opposition make, and which I share with them, to another part of the Bill. Let us look at the position with regard to the discretion of the court. If the court is to have an overriding power to decide what is reasonable or unreasonable and the court's discretion with regard to what is reasonable or unreasonable is to be the predominant consideration which governs every other factor, there is no guidance to the court on the matter. It leaves it 1014 subject to exactly the same attack as was made by the Opposition on other parts of the Bill.
§ Mr. Walker-Smith
It is precisely this issue which is being argued not only in regard to the Rent Acts, which are a different issue, but which is being argued every day throughout the country in connection with town planning appeals, compulsory purchase orders, inquiries and so on. It is precisely this issue which is being debated by members of our profession every day.
§ Mr. Ungoed-Thomas
Of course, there will be Acts of Parliament which provide in effect, although perhaps not in these precise terms, that the court shall have a wide discretion in one form or another. It is equally true that anyone who is aware of that, including the judges, takes exception to having that very wide discretion, and that the judges, in common with everyone else, want as much precision as possible in provisions of this kind. The Opposition have made that point on Second Reading in regard to another matter, and I share that view; but they now, in the interests of the landlord, propose to give the courts a width of discretion which, in their own judgment, they condemn.
The last part of the Amendment does not provide that the demolition, reconstruction or remodelling may be in the public interest. It might be for a purpose that is entirely to the contrary, and it is completely unjustifiable for the hon. Member to argue on the footing that this is necessarily in the public interest. But that is a criticism of detail. The fundamental objection is that it strikes at the whole purpose for which the Bill has been introduced.
§ Mr. Manningham-Buller
The hon. and learned Member for Leicester, North-East (Mr. Ungoed-Thomas) has sought to come to the assistance of the Solicitor-General. I do not think that he has made the case against the Amendment any stronger by 1015 the force of his utterances. The whole case put forward from the Front Bench has been that this is a standstill Measure. One difficulty in debating it is the fact that the Government and their supporters, as my hon. Friend the Member for The High Peak (Mr. Molson) has said, are constantly changing their ground.
The hon. and learned Member has really destroyed the argument put up by the Solicitor-General. His argument was that this is a standstill Bill, that nothing must be altered and that we have to keep the tenants in possession for another two years; that nothing must be altered in the lease, that it must not be varied, and that rents must not be increased. The hon. and learned Member now puts forward this argument: we recognise that this is altering the lease, but it is paving the way for what we want—leasehold enfranchisement. That is quite inconsistent with what the Solicitor-General said.
§ Mr. Ungoed-Thomas
Not at all. Of course it is not altering it. It is holding the position. I hope it will result in leasehold enfranchisement. As it stands, it simply continues the lease as it is.
§ Mr. Manningham-Buller
It does not. The hon. and learned Member knows perfectly well that the effect of the Clause is not to carry out the lease as it is. The effect is to make several provisions of the lease completely ineffective. The hon. and learned Member knows that, and it is nonsense to seek to assert that the lease is carried on for the next two years in precisely the same form and is as enforceable as today.
Whatever one's views may be about landlords and tenants there are two facts that the Committee should recognise. Members opposite have not paid nearly sufficient attention to these two facts, which cannot be denied. The first proposition is that it is certainly not in the public interest to let houses fall into disrepair in the next two years if that can be avoided.
§ Mr. Manningham-Buller
It may be, but let us look to the future.
I think that I carry the hon. and learned Gentleman with me. Another factor to which I will ask him to have regard is 1016 this: I remember the eloquence of the hon. and learned Member for Northampton (Mr. Paget) in urging that houses which have only one or two inhabitants, and which could hold more families, should be converted for the use of more families. This second factor must be recognised. It is that unless we do something to facilitate that conversion taking place we are stopping the increase of housing accommodation. Unless the Clause is altered—let there be no mistake about this—the party opposite are putting an impediment in the way of the rehousing of our people. [HON. MEMBERS: "Nonsense."] Indeed they are.
Let me come straight away to the terms of the Amendment. The first thing that it seeks to do is to give discretion to the county court judge similar to that which he exercises in many cases today. The hon. Member for Stoke Newington and Hackney, North (Mr. Weitzman) tried to make a great deal of play with the Amendment by disregarding the fact that there is always discretion left with the county court judge. That is to say, that even if only one of the conditions in the Clause is satisfied, before any order for possession is made the court has to be satisfied that it is reasonable. There is always that safeguard.
So far as alternative accommodation is concerned, this is a similar provision to that contained in the Rent Acts, but there is force in the point put by my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Northwich (Mr. J. Foster). Surely where we have a number of ground leases falling in we want to re-develop and reconstruct in order to create more housing accommodation. The landlord may be a local authority or a private person. There is o[...] particular lessee who is enabled by the Bill to carry on in his tenancy while all the rest have gone. Surely if the landlord can show that there is other accommodation not very far away available for that ground lessee it might be reasonable for the county court judge to say, "Let him move from that ground lease to the one a short distance away, so that building can go on and new accommodation be provided for many more people." In a case like that, the county court judge might be right to make the order. No one would suggest that any order would be made where the house was full of a large number of 1017 families, which was the case put by the hon. and learned Member for Gloucester (Mr. Turner-Samuels).
§ Mr. Weitzman
Does the hon. and learned Gentleman mean that the Amendment provides that suitable alternative accommodation is offered by the landlord, so as to put the tenant in possession of premises at the same ground rent and with the same opportunity at the end of two years of being given any advantage which the Government will give in future legislation?
§ Mr. Turner-Samuels
I would point out to the hon. and learned Member for Northants, South (Mr. ManninghamBuller), that it is not only a question of rehousing. The point about the latter part of the Amendment is that there is also a question of demolishing, reconstructing and remodelling.
§ 9.15 p.m.
§ Mr. Manningham-Buller
I will try to deal, briefly, paragraph by paragraph, with all the points. I am now dealing with one instance, a case where it really is desirable that the court should have power. There are other cases in which the court may not think reasonable. One can imagine a good many cases where application might be made, where the landlord would say, "this is for reconstruction," but the court would not think it reasonable. I do not fear discretion being left to the courts.
But let me move on from alternative accommodation. Whether it was suitable or not, would be a question of fact for the county court judge to determine. Many of these covenants, which are now going to be made completely unenforceable, are covenants which are for the benefit of the neighbours. Many of the leases contain covenants which deal with nuisances and annoyances to the neighbours.
§ The Deputy-Chairman (Colonel Sir Charles MacAndrew)
If the hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for Northants, South (Mr. Manningham-Buller), does not wish to give way, the hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for Gloucester (Mr. Turner-Samuels), must remain in his seat.
§ Mr. Manningham-Buller
I am trying to wind up the debate and bring it to a conclusion, for we have debated it long enough. I am going to deal with the question of injunctions later, and there are other matters which I hope to deal with if I am not further interrupted.
Let me return to the question of nuisance and annoyance to the neighbours. I do not know what the hon. and learned Gentleman thinks about them, but as he really suggesting that the landlord will try to get an injunction on that now? Is it not easier to leave it as it is? There is no means of enforcing it apart from an injunction. Let us take the next thing—repairs. Assuming, as I do, that something must be done to ensure that the property is not allowed to get into a state of disrepair in the next two years, surely we must look at the Bill to see how a proper standard of repairs is enforced. Straight away we find there are no means of enforcing it. It is really of no use to go to the court to try to get an injunction to get someone to put a place into repair. There is no power under the Bill as it stands which enables the landlord to demand even reasonable repairs during the next two years.
What we suggest is that the only repairs that can be enforced are those specified in our Amendment, namely, repairs to conform with a notice from the local authority if, in the opinion of the court, a dwelling-house is not in a reasonable state of repair. There, again, the obligation to have that extent of repairs cannot be enforced by recovery or possession unless the court itself is satisfied that it is reasonable to grant possession.
I want to say a word or two about the point to which attention was drawn by my hon. Friend the Member for Wimbledon (Mr. Black), on demolishing or remodelling of premises. There, I agree, it is a matter of degree. Surely it is right, if the premises are to be demolished to provide further accommodation, or remodelled or reconstructed for that purpose, that there should be power vesting somewhere to see that some progress can be made with that during the next two years provided it is reasonable.
§ Mr. Manningham-Buller
I know. But we could list a whole number of purposes. Does the hon. and learned Gentleman really think that in these days a county court judge would consider it reasonable to make an order for possession unless he was satisfied that the requirements of reconstruction or demolition were bona fide and were to the public good? If he—
§ Mr. Manningham-Buller
I know that it does not in the Amendment, but one must leave something to common sense.
§ Mr. Ungoed-Thomas
The hon. and learned Gentleman will no doubt appreciate that the word "reasonable" here was very naturally interpreted as "reasonable in the interests of the landlord."
§ for that, particularly in regard to the form of words given, which in the Rent Restriction Acts is certainly not interpreted as "reasonable for the landlord."
§ Mr. Manningham-Buller
"Reasonable" means what it does; it is not "reasonable for the landlord." Obviously, we are completely divided on this. The party opposite, in the belief that they are benefiting a number of occupants of houses, are quite prepared to let a great deal of dwelling accommodation deteriorate without any possibility of its being kept up to standard and are quite prepared to impede the conversion of large old-fashioned houses into a number of flats to provide accommodation. We entirely disagree with them about that and shall carry it to a Division.
§ Question put, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Clause."
§ The Committee divided: Ayes, 264; Noes, 239.1023
|Division No. 20.]||AYES||[9.23 p.m.|
|Acland, Sir Richard||Chetwynd, G. R.||Evans, S. N. (Wednesbury)|
|Adams, Richard||Clunie, J.||Ewart, R.|
|Albu, A. H.||Cocks, F. S.||Fernyhough, E.|
|Allen, A. C (Bosworth)||Coldrick, W.||Field, Capt. W. J.|
|Anderson, A. (Motherwell)||Collick, P.||Finch, H. J.|
|Attlee, Rt. Hon. C. R.||Collindridge, F.||Follick, M.|
|Awbery, S. S.||Cook, T. F.||Foot, M. M|
|Ayles, W. H.||Cooper, J. (Deptford)||Fraser, T. (Hamilton)|
|Bacon, Miss A.||Corbet, Mrs. F. K. (Peckham)||Freeman, J. (Watford)|
|Baird, J.||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||Gibson, C. W.|
|Bartley, P.||Crosland, C. A. R||Gilzean, A|
|Benn, Hon. A. N Wedgwood||Crossman, R. H. S.||Glanville, J. E (Consett)|
|Benson, G.||Cullen, Mrs. A.||Gooch, E. G.|
|Beswick, F.||Daines, P.||Greenwood, A. W J (Rossendale)|
|Bing, G. H. C.||Dalton, Rt. Hon. H.||Grenfell, D. R.|
|Blenkinsop, A||Darling, G. (Hillsboro')||Grey, C. F.|
|Blyton, W R||Davies, A. Edward (Stoke, N.)||Griffiths, D. (Rother Valley)|
|Boardman, H.||Davies, Ernest (Enfield, E.)||Griffiths, Rt. Hon. J. (Llanelly)|
|Booth, A.||Davies, Harold (Leek)||Griffiths, W. D. (Exchange)|
|Bottomley, A. G.||Davies, S. O. (Merthyr)||Hale, Leslie (Oldham, W.)|
|Bowles, F. G. (Nuneaton)||de Freitas, Geoffrey||Hall, J. (Gateshead, W.)|
|Braddock, Mrs. E. M.||Deer, G||Hall, Rt. Hn W. Glenvil (Colne Valley)|
|Brockway, A. Fenner||Delargy, H. J.||Hamilton, W. W|
|Brook, D. (Halifax)||Dodds, N. N.||Hannan, W.|
|Brooks, T. J. (Normanton)||Donnelly, D.||Hardman, D. R.|
|Broughton, Dr. A, D. D.||Driberg. T. E. N.||Hardy, E. A.|
|Brown, George (Belper)||Dye, S.||Hargreaves, A.|
|Brown, T. J. (Ince)||Ede, Rt. Hon. J. C||Harrison, J.|
|Burke, W. A.||Edelman, M.||Hastings, Dr. Somerville|
|Burton, Miss E.||Edwards, John (Brighouse)||Hayman, F. H|
|Butler, H. W. (Hackney. S)||Edwards, Rt Hon. N. (Caerphilly)||Herbison, Miss M|
|Callaghan, James||Edwards, W. J. (Stepney)||Hewitson, Capt. M|
|Carmichael, James||Evans, Albert (Islington, S.W.)||Hobson, C. R.|
|Champion, A. J.||Evans. E. (Lowestoft)||Holman, P.|
|Holmes, H. E. (Hemsworth)||Monslow, W.||Soskice, Rt. Hon. Sir F.|
|Houghton, Douglas||Moody, A. S.||Steele, T.|
|Hoy, J.||Morgan, Dr. H. B.||Stewart, Michael (Fulham, E.)|
|Hubbard, T.||Morley, R.||Strachey, Rt. Hon. J.|
|Hudson, J. H. (Ealing, N.)||Morris, P. (Swansea, W.)||Strauss, Rt. Hon. G. R. (Vauxhall)|
|Hughes, Hector (Aberdeen, N.)||Mort, D. L.||Stross, Dr. B.|
|Hynd, H. (Accrington)||Moyle, A.||Summerskill, Rt. Hon. Edith|
|Hynd, J. B. (Attercliffe)||Mulley, F. W.||Sylvester, G. O.|
|Irvine, A. J. (Edge Hill)||Murray, J. D.||Taylor, H. B. (Mansfield)|
|Irving, W. J. (Wood Green)||Nally, W.||Taylor, R. J. (Morpeth)|
|Isaacs, Rt. Hon. G. A.||Neal, H.||Thomas, D. E. (Aberdare)|
|Janner, B.||Noel-Baker, Rt. Hon. P. J.||Thomas, George (Cardiff)|
|Jay, D. P. T||Oldfield, W.H.||Thomas, I. O. (Wrekin)|
|Jeger, G. (Goole)||Oliver, G. H.||Thomas, I. R. (Rhondda, W.)|
|Jeger, Dr. S. W. (St. Pancras, S.)||Orbach, M.||Thorneycroft, Harry (Clayton)|
|Jenkins, R. H.||Padley, W. E.||Thurtle, Ernest|
|Johnson, James (Rugby)||Paling, Rt. Hon. Wilfred (Dearne V'lly)||Timmons, J.|
|Johnston, Douglas (Paisley)||Paling, Will T. (Dewsbury)||Tomlinson, Rt. Hon. G.|
|Jones, D. T. (Hartlepool)||Pannell, T. C.||Tomney, F.|
|Jones, Frederick Elwyn (West Ham, S.)||Pargiter, G. A.||Turner-Samuels, M.|
|Jones, William Elwyn (Conway)||Parker, J.||Ungoed-Thomas, A. L|
|Keenan, W.||Paton, J.||Vernon, Maj. W. F.|
|Kenyon, C.||Peart, T F.||Viant, S. P.|
|King, H. M.||Poole, Cecil||Wallace, H. W|
|Lever, N. H. (Cheetham)||Popplewell, E.||Webb, Rt. Hon. M. (Bradford, C.)|
|Lever, L. M. (Ardwick)||Porter, G.||Weitzman, D.|
|Lewis, A. W. J. (West Ham, N.)||Price, M. Philips (Gloucestershire, W.)||Wells, P. L. (Faversham)|
|Lindgren, G. S.||Proctor, W. T||Wells, W. T. (Walsall)|
|Lipton, Lt.-Col. M.||Pryde, D. J||West, D. G.|
|Logan, D. G.||Pursey, Commander H.||Wheatley, Rt. Hon. John (Edinb'gh, E.)|
|Longden, F. (Small Heath)||Rankin, J.||White, Mrs. E. (E. Flint)|
|McAllister, G.||Rees, Mrs. D.||White, H. (Derbyshire, N.E.)|
|MacColl, J. E.||Reid, T. (Swindon)||Wilcock, Group Capt. C. A. B.|
|McGhee, H. G.||Reid, W. (Camlachie)||Wilkes, L.|
|McGovern, J.||Rhodes, H.||Wilkins, W. A.|
|McInnes, J.||Richards, R.||Willey, F. T. (Sunderland)|
|Mack, J. D.||Robens, A.||Willey, O. G. (Cleveland)|
|McKay, J. (Wallsend)||Roberts, Goronwy (Caernarvonshire)||Williams, D. S. (Neath)|
|McLeavy, F.||Robertson, J. J. (Berwick)||Williams, Rev. Llywelyn (Abertillery)|
|MacMillan, M. K. (Western Isles)||Robinson, Kenneth (St. Pancras, N.)||Williams, Ronald (Wigan)|
|MacPherson, Malcolm (Stirling)||Rogers, G. H. R. (Kensington, N.)||Williams, Rt. Hon. T. (Don Valley)|
|Mallalieu, E. L. (Brigg)||Ross, William (Kilmarnock)||Williams, W. T. (Hammersmith, S.)|
|Mallalieu, J. P. W. (Huddersfield, E.)||Royle, C.||Wilson, Rt. Hon. J. H. (Huyton)|
|Mann, Mrs. J.||Shackleton, E. A. A.||Winterbottom, I. (Nottingham, C.)|
|Manuel, A. C.||Shurmer, P. L. E.||Winterbottom, R. E. (Brightside)|
|Marquand, Rt. Hon. H. A.||Silverman, J. (Erdington)||Wise, Major F. J.|
|Mathers, Rt. Hon. George||Silverman, S. S. (Nelson)||Woodburn, Rt. Hon. A.|
|Mellish, R. J.||Simmons, C. J.||Wyatt, W. L.|
|Messer, F.||Slater, J.||Yates, V. F.|
|Middleton, Mrs. L||Smith, Ellis (Stoke, S.)||Younger, Hon. Kenneth|
|Mikardo, Ian||Smith, H. N. (Nottingham, S.)|
|Mitchison, G. R.||Snow, J. W.||TELLERS FOR THE AYES:|
|Moeran, E. W.||Sorensen, R. W||Mr. Pearson and Mr. Sparks.|
|Alport, C. J. M.||Buchan-Hepburn, P. G. T.||Dodds-Parker, A. D.|
|Amery, J. (Preston, N.)||Bullock, Capt. M.||Douglas-Hamilton, Lord M.|
|Amory, D. Heathcoat (Tiverton)||Bullus, Wing Commander E. E.||Drayson, G. B.|
|Arbuthnot, John||Burden, Squadron Leader R. A.||Drewe, C|
|Ashton, H. (Chelmsford)||Butcher, H W.||Dugdale, Maj. Sir T. (Richmond)|
|Baker, P.||Butler, Rt. Hon. R A. (S'ffr n W ld'n)||Duncan, Capt. J. A. L.|
|Baldwin, A. E.||Carr, Robert (Mitcham)||Dunglass, Lord|
|Banks, Col C||Carson, Hon. E.||Duthie, W. S.|
|Baxter, A. B.||Channon, H.||Eccles, D. M.|
|Beamish, Maj. T. V. H.||Clarke, Col. R. S. (East Grinstead)||Erroll, F. J.|
|Bennett, Sir P. (Edgbaston)||Clarke, Brig. T. H. (Portsmouth, W.)||Fisher, Nigel|
|Bennett, R. F. B. (Gosport)||Clyde, J. L.||Fort R.|
|Bevins, J. R (Liverpool Toxteth)||Colegate, A.||Foster, J. G.|
|Birch, Nigel||Conant, Maj. R. J. E.||Fraser, Sir I. (Lonsdale)|
|Bishop, F. P.||Cooper, A E. (Ilford, S.)||Fyfe, Rt. Hon. Sir D. P. M.|
|Black, C. W.||Cooper-Key, E. M.||Gage, C. H.|
|Boles, Lt.-Col. D. C (Wells)||Corbett, Lieut.-Col. U. (Ludlow)||Galbraith, Cmdr. T. D. (Pollok)|
|Boothby, R.||Craddock, G. B. (Spelthorne)||Gammans, L. D.|
|Bossom, A C||Crookshank, Capt. Rt. Hon. H.F.C||Garner-Evans, E. H. (Denbigh)|
|Bowen, R.||Cross, Rt. Hon. Sir R.||Gates, Maj. E E.|
|Bower, N.||Crosthwaite-Eyre, Col. O. E.||Glyn, Sir R.|
|Boyd-Carpenter, J. A.||Crowder, F. P. (Ruislip—Northwood)||Gomme-Duncan, Col. A|
|Boyle, Sir Edward||Crowder, Capt. John F. E. (Finchley)||Granville, E. (Eye)|
|Braine, B.||Cundiff, F. W.||Grimond, J.|
|Braithwaite, Lt.-Comdr. J. G.||Davidson, Viscountess||Grimston, Hon. J. (St. Albans)|
|Bromley-Davenport, Lt.-Col. W||Davies, Nigel (Epping)||Grimston, R. V. (Westbury)|
|Brooke, H. (Hampstead)||de Chair, S.||Hare, Hon. J. H. (Woodbridge)|
|Browne, J. N. (Govan)||Deedes, W F||Harris, F. W. (Croydon, N.)|
|Harvey, Ian (Harrow, E.)||McKibbin, A.||Scott, Donald|
|Hay, John||McKie, J. H. (Galloway)||Shepherd, W. S. (Cheadle)|
|Head, Brig. A. H.||Maclay, Hon. J. S.||Smiles, Lt.-Col. Sir W.|
|Headlam, Lieut.-Col. Rt. Hon. Sir C.||Maclean, F. H. R.||Smith, E. Martin (Grantham)|
|Heald, L. F.||MacLeod, Iain (Enfield, W.)||Smithers, Peter (Winchester)|
|Heath, E. R.||MacLeod, John (Ross and Cromarty)||Smyth, Brig. J. G. (Norwood)|
|Hicks-Beach, Maj. W. W.||Macmillan, Rt. Hon. Harold (Bromley)||Snadden, W. McN|
|Higgs, J. M. C.||Macpherson, N. (Dumfries)||Soames, Capt. C.|
|Hill, Mrs. E. (Wythenshawe)||Maitland, Comdr. J. W.||Spearman, A. C. M.|
|Hill, Dr. C. (Luton)||Manningham-Buller, R. E.||Spence, H. R. (Aberdeenshire, W.)|
|Hinchingbrooke, Viscount||Marlowe, A. A. H.||Spens, Sir P. (Kensington, S.)|
|Hirst, Geoffrey||Marples, A. E.||Stanley, Capt. Hon. R. (N. Fylde)|
|Hollis, M. C.||Marshall, D. (Bodmin)||Stevens, G. P.|
|Holmes, Sir J. Stanley (Harwich)||Marshall, S. H. (Sutton)||Steward, W. A. (Woolwich, W.)|
|Hope, Lord J.||Maudling, R.||Stoddart-Scott, Col. M.|
|Hopkinson, H. L. D'A.||Medlicott, Brigadier F||Storey, S.|
|Hornsby-Smith, Miss P.||Mellor, Sir J.||Studholme, H. G|
|Horsbrugh, Rt. Hon. Florence||Molson, A. H. E.||Summers, G. S.|
|Howard, G. R. (St. Ives)||Morrison, Maj. J. G. (Salisbury)||Sutcliffe, H.|
|Hudson, Sir Austin (Lewisham, N.)||Morrison, Rt. Hon, W. S. (Cirencester)||Taylor, W. J. (Bradford, N.)|
|Hudson, Rt. Hon. R. S. (Southport)||Mott-Radclyffe, C. E.||Teeling, William|
|Hurd, A. R.||Nabarro, G.||Thomas, J. P. L. (Hereford)|
|Hutchinson, Geoffrey (Ilford, N.)||Nicholls, H.||Thompson, K. P. (Walton)|
|Hutchison, Lt.-Com. Clark (E'b'rgh W.)||Nicholson, G.||Thompson, R. H. M. (Croydon, W.)|
|Hylton-Foster, H. B.||Nugent, G R. H||Thorneycroft, G E. P. (Monmouth)|
|Jeffreys, General Sir G.||Nutting, Anthony||Thornton-Kemsley, C. N.|
|Jennings, R.||Oakshott, H. D.||Thorp, Brigadier R. A. F.|
|Johnson, Howard S. (Kemptown)||Odey, G. W.||Turner, H. F. L.|
|Jones, A. (Hall Green)||O'Neill, Rt. Hon. Sir H.||Turton, R. H.|
|Kaberry, D||Ormsby-Gore, Hon. W. D.||Tweedsmuir, Lady|
|Kerr, H. W. (Cambridge)||Orr, Capt. L. P. S.||Vane, W. M. F.|
|Kingsmill, Lt.-Col. W. H.||Orr-Ewing, Charles Ian (Hendon, N.)||Vaughan-Morgan, J. K.|
|Lancaster, Col. C. G.||Orr-Ewing, Ian L. (Weston-super-Mare)||Vosper, D. F.|
|Langford-Holt, J.||Peake, Rt. Hon. O.||Wakefield, E. B. (Derbyshire, W)|
|Law, Rt. Hon. R. K.||Peto, Brig. C. H. M.||Walker-Smith, D. C.|
|Leather, E. H. C.||Pickthorn, K.||Ward, Miss I. (Tynemouth)|
|Legge-Bourke, Maj. E. A. H.||Powell, J. Enoch||Waterhouse, Capt, Rt. Hon. C.|
|Lennox-Boyd, A. T.||Price, H. A. (Lewisham, W.)||Watkinson, H.|
|Lindsay, Martin||Prior-Palmer, Brig. O.||Watt, Sir G. S. Harvie|
|Linstead, H. N.||Profumo, J. D.||Wheatley, Major M. J. (Poole)|
|Lloyd, Maj. Guy (Renfrew, E.)||Raikes, H. V.||White, J. Baker (Canterbury)|
|Lloyd, Selwyn (Wirral)||Rayner, Brigadier R.||Williams, C. (Torquay)|
|Lockwood, Lt.-Cot. J. C.||Remnant, Hon. P.||Williams, Gerald (Tonbridge)|
|Longden, G. J. M. (Herts. S.W.)||Roberts, Emrys (Merioneth)||Williams, Sir H. G. (Croydon, E.)|
|Low, A. R. W.||Robertson, Sir D. (Caithness)||Wills, G.|
|Lucas, Major Sir J. (Portsmouth, S.)||Robinson, J. Roland (Blackpool, S.)||Wilson, Geoffrey (Truro)|
|Lucas, P. B. (Brentford)||Robson-Brown, W. (Esher)||Winterton, Rt. Hon. Earl|
|Lucas-Tooth, Sir H.||Rodgers, J. (Sevenoaks)||Wood, Hon. R.|
|Lyttelton, Rt. Hon. O.||Roper, Sir H.||York, C.|
|McCallum, Maj. D.||Ropner, Col. L.|
|McCorquodale, Rt. Hon. M. S.||Ross, Sir R. D. (Londonderry)||TELLERS FOR THE NOES:|
|Macdonald, Sir P. (I. of Wight)||Russell, R. S.||Mr. Wingfield Digby and|
|Mackeson, Brig. H. R.||Ryder, Capt. R. E. D||Mr. T. G. D. Galbraith.|
Question put, and agreed to.
§ The Solicitor-General
I beg to move, in page 3, line 38, to leave out from "reentry," to "and," in line 41, and to insert:in respect of any failure to comply with a term or condition of the tenancy, or to enforce any right against the tenant to damages in respect of such a failure.This is merely a drafting Amendment, the object of which is to pave the way for the later Amendment which makes breach of a covenant against illegal or immoral use a ground for forfeiture. All that the Amendment does is to re-arrange the wording of the Clause in a slightly more convenient form in order to be able to introduce, after the wording in question, the words relating to the covenant against illegal and immoral use.
§ Mr. Manningham-Buller
In view of what the right hon. and learned Gentleman has said in explanation of the 1024 Amendment, and as it is nothing more than a drafting and paving Amendment, it would be advisable to continue our discussion when we get to the major Amendment.
§ Amendment agreed to.
§ The Solicitor-General
I beg to move, in page 4, line 3, at the end, to insert:or extend to any failure after the commencement of this Act to comply with a term or condition of the tenancy (by whatever words imposed) prohibiting the use of the property for illegal or immoral purposes.This Amendment introduces the words to which I have just referred, relating to covenants against illegal or immoral use.
§ Mr. Selwyn Lloyd
I think that everybody in all quarters of the Committee will welcome the fact that the Government have seen fit to move this Amendment. I want, however, to make this 1025 comment, and I am very sorry that the hon. Member for Oldham, West (Mr. L. Hale), is not in his place. The hon. Member earlier made an extremely offensive observation regarding my Second Reading speech, in which he suggested that I had stated that every home in this country was not an Englishman's castle but was his brothel.
In fact, I pointed out that there were certain bad cases which were protected by the Bill. I mentioned the speculator in fag ends and the man who obstructed development. I also pointed out that under the Bill as originally drafted it was not possible for a landlord to get rid of a person who used the premises for immoral purposes. That, as has been shown by the action of the Government, was a perfectly just observation and the Government have seen the force of it and have seen fit to put down this Amendment.
§ Mr. MacColl
I think it might be helpful if I could make some comments on the Government's Amendment in view of the Amendment which follows in the name of my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Paddington, North (Captain Field) and myself in page 4, line 3, at the end, to insert:and that nothing in this subsection shall affect—
I intervene on this subject with a certain amount of diffidence. My constituency has not many of the characteristics of Paradise, but it appears to have two in so far as it has neither brothels nor leaseholds. From a constituency point of view. I should hesitate to intervene, 1026 but I happen to be a member of a local authority in an area which has too many brothels and too many leaseholds. I should like to put some questions to my right hon. and learned Friend about the Amendment as it does not seem to meet the purposes for which it is intended.
- (i) forfeiture or re-entry for failure after the commencement of this Act to comply with any term or condition of the tenancy (by whatever words imposed) prohibiting the use of the property for illegal or immoral purposes or any proceedings brought before the date of the commencement of this Act where the claim for relief is based on failure to comply with any such term or condition;
- (ii) the right of a landlord under section five of the Criminal Law Amendment Act, 1912 (determination of tenancy of premises on conviction for permitting use as a brothel), to require the assignment of a lease or other contract under which the premises are held upon conviction of the tenant or occupier of knowingly permitting the premises or any part thereof to he used as a brothel or failing such assignment to determine the lease or other contract and recover possession of the premises."
We all agree that we wish to protect the right of the ground landlord to get rid of the brothel keeper who comes into a property and uses it for immoral purposes. The first question I want to put to my right hon. and learned Friend is a general question. The Amendment, as I understand it, deals only with cases where there are specific covenants against illegal or immoral users. There are many old leases in which there is not a specific covenant but in which it is at present possible for the ground landlord to proceed against a brothel keeper on a general allegation of nuisance. I ask whether it is possible to reserve that right for the landlord in a case where it is possible to establish immoral use as a nuisance, but not as a breach of a specific covenant.
The second point is that the Amendment deals only with paragraph (a) of the subsection. That is where there is a privity of estate between the ground landlord and the person against whom an allegation has been made. The Amendment I have put on the Order Paper is to preserve the wider power of the landlord in going against the occupier, whether the occupier holds direct or not from the ground landlord. The most common problem which leads to the most serious criticism of the landlord for laxity in keeping the property in a decent condition is where there is no privity of estate and where he has no direct contractual relationship with the occupier against whom the allegations are made. Therefore, if it is possible for the ground landlord to carry out the functions which everyone is agreed he should try to carry out, wider powers are needed than are given by this Amendment which is confined to paragraph (a).
The third point concerns the case where there has been a conviction for immoral use and under Section 5 of the Criminal Law (Amendment) Act, 1912, it is possible for the landlord to terminate the tenancy of the premises and require an assignment of the lease in all cases where 1027 any occupier has been found guilty of an offence of using the premises as a brothel. I do not know whether the termination of a tenancy is the same as a forfeiture of the lease. That is a point on which the Committee may perhaps be advised by my right hon. and learned Friend. I ask whether he would be prepared to consider preserving that statutory power of securing the termination of the tenancy which arises under the criminal law.
If I could just put the three points again to my right hon. and learned Friend, there is, first of all, the general question of making effective a covenant where there is no specific covenant against immoral user; secondly, the right of the ground landlord to get at the occupier with whom he has no privity of estate, and, thirdly, the special powers in the Criminal Law (Amendment) Act for the termination of the tenancy. If my right hon. and learned Friend can meet these points, he is, I am sure, going to meet the wish of the Committee, because it is going to be exceedingly difficult to make the kind of criticism that I and others have made of some ground landlords who are slack in this respect if, in fact, we have tied their hands in the way in which the Bill in its original form certainly did, and as, I rather fear, it still will do if amended in the way the Government suggest.
§ The Solicitor-General
If I may deal with those three points in order, I should have thought, although I have not given consideration to the precise questions that my hon. Friend asks, that the words in the brackets in the Amendment, "by whatever words imposed," would cover general conduct which amounts to a nuisance, and as such would include immoral conduct. But that is a question I should like to look at again. I see the object of his desire, which is to preserve the position where it cannot be said that the covenant in question in terms prevents immoral or illegal conduct, but particularly immoral conduct. My hon. Friend referred to, and wants there to be a right of, forfeiture where there is a covenant which, although it does not refer to immoral conduct, could be construed to be wide enough to cover it. I would also like to consider that matter further.
1028 With regard to the second question, my hon. Friend is undoubtedly right in his surmise that the only case in which there is a right of forfeiture given is where there is privity of estate between the landlord and the tenant, and there is no right given by this Amendment to the head lessor, the ground landlord. There, again, it might be possible to introduce a change into the existing wording in order to bring that about. My hon. Friend has put down this Amendment at a very late stage, and we really have not as yet been able to give it the full consideration which it deserves, but we are considering it. In particular, I would like to consider the further point, namely, whether Clause 4 should be so altered as to enable the head lessor to dispossess the subtenant if it could be shown that the subtenant was guilty of immoral conduct with the result that the sub-tenant's immediate landlord might dispossess him. Under the Clause as it stands, the landlord cannot do so.
The third point raised by my hon. Friend is whether we should retain the statutory power of the landlord over the assignment of a lease in the event of a conviction. We think there is reason behind the proposal, and although I cannot give any final undertaking with regard to it, it is certainly a proposal we will sympathetically consider and we hope to put down an Amendment on the Report stage to embody it, though I do not want to give a final and definite commitment that we shall do so.
§ Amendment agreed to.
§ 9.45 p.m.
§ Mr. Selwyn Lloyd
I beg to move in page 4, line 18, after "stayed," to insert:until such time as the landlord is entitled to possession of the dwelling-house to which the proceedings relate.Clause 4 (3) deals with the staying of any proceedings which have been broughtafter the 21st day of November, 1950, and before the commencement of this Act but have not been finally disposed of before the commencement of this Act. …The Clause provides that there shall be a stay, except in respect of an order as to costs. I understand one view is that in that connection the word "stay" is equivalent to dismissal.
We seek to incorporate in this Clause the words in the Amendment for the following reason. It seems rather unfair 1029 that where the landlord has commenced proceedings, if under whatever subsequent procedure is introduced, he should be entitled to possession of the premises again, he should have to start proceedings again. It would add to the cost and give a good deal of unnecessary trouble. As I understand, there is some doubt about the Clause as it stands, and we want to make the matter clear beyond peradventure. It is for that reason that I move the Amendment.
§ The Solicitor-General
I want to ask the hon. and learned Member for Wirral (Mr. Selwyn Lloyd) to ask leave to withdrawn this Amendment, on the understanding that we will consider very carefully whether we can meet him in his desire. I think it is certainly arguable that the Clause, as already drafted, has the effect he wishes to achieve. However, we would like to consider this Amendment and again, without giving any commitment. I can say that we will sympathetically consider his proposal.
§ Mr. Manningham-Buller
This is a little odd. The right hon. and learned Gentleman is not really saying he will do anything about it. If the effect of the Clause is as my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Wirral (Mr. Selwyn Lloyd) suggests and the Solicitor-General will do something about it and will table an Amendment to put the matter right, then I am sure my hon. and learned Friend will withdraw his Amendment. But if the Solicitor-General is asking that the matter be left over so that he shall have further time to consider the meaning of this Clause in a Government Bill published as long ago as 15th December, he is really saying he does not understand what the Clause means and wants more time to appreciate its meaning. If that is so, then I think he is asking rather a lot.
§ Mr. C. Williams
I am rather surprised at the position taken by the Government, because yesterday we were assured by the Attorney-General that he had been through all the Amendments and that there were a great many he would have to refuse. Now the Solicitor-General says that he has not been able to go into this thing properly. One of them must be wrong. I think it is most likely that the Solicitor-General is right, 1030 and that the Government have not had proper time to devote to the Bill, which must have been obvious to anyone who has listened to the Attorney-General.
§ Mr. Selwyn Lloyd
I want to be quite certain what the Solicitor-General is suggesting. If he is accepting my proposition that it should be made quite clear that the landlord can reinstate these proceedings when he becomes entitled to possession, then I will certainly withdraw my Amendment so that he can consider whether or not the Bill as drafted provides for that. If he is in doubt as to whether the landlord should be entitled to do that, then that is an entirely different matter.
§ The Solicitor-General
I think that on the present drafting of the Clause there is a final stay. In other words, the Clause does not do what the hon. and learned Gentleman wants it to do. The question arises whether we can do what he wants us to do. It occurs to us that certain procedural difficulties may be involved, and we want to consider those difficulties. I am giving no undertaking beyond this, that we propose to consider those difficulties, and I will go so far as to say that prima facie the hon. and learned Gentleman's proposal does not seem to me to be unreasonable.
§ Mr. Selwyn Lloyd
In view of what the right hon. and learned Gentleman has said, I beg to ask leave to withdraw the Amendment.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ Clause, as amended, ordered to stand part of the Bill.