HC Deb 20 June 1951 vol 489 cc569-91

Lords Amendment: In page 4, line 16, leave out from "the" to "and" in line 21, and insert: Leasehold Property (Repairs) Act, 1938, shall, irrespective of the rateable value of the property comprised in the tenancy, apply to the tenancy as it applies to a lease of which five years or more of the term remain unexpired;".

6.0 p.m.

The Attorney-General

I beg to move, "That this House doth disagree with the Lords in the said Amendment."

This is a matter of somewhat more substance. The effect of this Amendment will be to substitute for the provisions in Clause 5 of the Bill, which prevent a landlord from exercising his right to forfeiture and re-entry in the event of a breach by the tenant during the continued tenancy, a different kind of protection based upon an adapted version of the Leasehold Property (Repairs) Act, 1938.

We have various objections to that. Broadly speaking, the effect of making that change would be that the landlord, if he wished to forfeit the tenancy during this continued period under the Bill could go to a county court and if he could establish various propositions with regard to the premises before the county court judge he could get an order evicting the tenant. He could, amongst other things, have an order made in his favour if he could establish that the immediate remedying of the breach in question is requisite for preventing substantial diminution in the value of his reversion, or that the value thereof has been substantially diminished by the breach;". At first sight it might be said that there is something to commend the view that that change should be made. I would urge upon the House the consideration that there are very serious objections indeed to it, and that the present form of the Clause in the Bill is very much more in the interests of everyone concerned. If one substitutes the provisions of the Leasehold Property (Repairs) Act for the provisions in the Bill one would run a risk of imposing lawsuits upon the people who come within the ambit of the Bill.

In the event of the landlord wishing to obtain the premises it would mean that he would go to the court and there would be litigation which would hang as a burden over the tenant. Often a tenant would vacate the premises simply because he would not dare the risk of expense of litigation to determine whether the conditions prescribed in the Leasehold Property (Repairs) Act had been fulfilled or not. I suppose that we would find tenants leaving through sheer fear of the expense which would be involved in litigation which might result in the event of differences between them and the landlord.

We had provided, in the Bill as it stood, for what seems to us to be a much more satisfactory procedure. It cannot be emphasised too much that this is a standstill Measure. It is designed to do no more than to keep the position in statu quo over the two years which are specified. As the Bill was worded when it left this House and went to another place the landlord's remedies, with certain exceptions, were suspended over the period of the two years during which the tenancy is to continue.

But he is not left in a position in which he cannot protect himself and his interest in the premises. What we wanted to make sure of was that the protection given to the tenant was not illusory. We suspended the remedies that he would otherwise have. It is common knowledge that if a landlord is given the right to go in in the event of establishing a breach of covenant to repair, for example, it is going far, in the case of a great deal of leasehold property, to deprive the tenant of any protention. So the effect of the Bill would be almost entirely frustrated.

In the previous discussion we had, we recognised in the course of the debate that we had not afforded sufficient protection to the landlord. In order to protect him we inserted Clause 6, under which if there really is a case of serious disrepair he can go in and do the repairs himself. He cannot recover the cost during the two years; he has to wait until that period is over, but we are not here dealing with lessees on the one hand and landlords on the other. One has to weigh their interests as fairly as one can, one against the other. It seemed to us that we had struck the right balance in giving the landlord the remedy to see to it that his property did not seriously depreciate, suspending of course his right to recover the cost if he exercised that remedy.

Apart from that, except in the case of immoral user or failure to pay rent or, if a further Amendment is accepted, rates he is not to exercise his right to forfeiture. The change made in another place would throw the whole of that approach overboard. It would mean that a simple and automatic procedure would be totally discarded. It would, with very little advantage to either party, substitute for the procedure in the Bill the prospect of what might be expensive and difficult litigation.

That must always produce a measure of uncertainty. It means that there is something in the nature of a threat hanging over a tenant who is unable to risk the cost of expensive litigation. That is what the effect of the change would be, and when one considers the provisions of the Bill as they stand it is difficult to see that there would by such a change be any substantial advantage to the landlord beyond that which he had in the Bill as it stood when it left this House.

The principles of the Bill have been fully canvassed and discussed previously, and the House is in full possession of the Government's intentions about Clause 4 and Clause 5, as they were previously, and it would probably not be of assistance to the House if I traversed the whole ground which we went over. For the reasons I have given, I confess briefly and I hope adequately, I hope that the House will not accept this change.

Sir Walter Monckton (Bristol, West)

I shall try to cover the ground which I have to cover with the same admirable brevity as the Attorney-General. I am sorry that he takes the view he does of this Amendment. He said earlier today and repeated just now that this was a piece of standstill legislation to preserve the position until a more comprehensive Bill can deal with the substance of the matter.

The first observation I make is that if one is trying to obtain a standstill it may well be that one will say, "In order that the standstill may take effect, I must extend the period during which the rights of the parties will remain." But there is nothing inherent in a standstill arrangement which makes it essential to alter the conditions upon which the lessee holds from the landlord. The first consideration with which one starts is the desire to extend the period but it is not otherwise desirable during the intervening period to make a change in the relationship of the parties.

Therefore, prima facie if we can satisfy the House that the remedy which has been suggested in another place is equally efficacious for the purpose and does not disturb the existing conditions it is to be preferred. There are other reasons which I shall suggest in a few moments for preferring it. But that is the first one. If we are genuinely seeking to secure no more than that the period shall be extended and that there shall be a standstill we should in fairness see so far as we can that the conditions are not otherwise changed.

It may well be said—I wish to deal frankly with what is no doubt the point of the Clause—that if we make no provision it may be that by exercising a right of re-entry and forfeiture for, to take an obvious example, non-repair or by bringing an action for damages during the standstill period the landlord will really defeat the purpose of the Bill by putting an end to the period of the tenancy. I fully recognise that, and would only say about it that there is no reason to think, as anyone who has read the Report and evidence will see, that that is likely to be frequently invoked in the case of occupying lessees.

After all, one finds a tenant still in a dilapidated house in spite of any provisions which might entitle the landlord to enter. What is being said is, "Let those conditions continue but we will do something more in case the unlikely happens and the landlord who has not in the past taken advantage of a breach of covenant for repairs decides to do so." Which of the two remedies ought to be applied? In the one case, the case for which the right hon. and learned Gentleman has spoken, we are altering the terms. We are saying, "You shall not bring an action for damages, for breach of covenant of repair. You shall no longer have your right of re-entry. That is simply taken from you."

The alternative, which is that put forward in the Amendment we have adopted, is the precedent used in 1938, which does not hold out the terrors the right hon. and learned Gentleman would find if this were the sort of case which would go to the High Court and encourage great expense. It would take people to the county court in certain events. But what I am anxious to satisfy the House about is that it would be an effective remedy. It would prevent the landlord, if he were so disposed, from taking advantage of the right of re-entry or claim to damages for breach of covenant, in such a way as to disrupt and destroy the purpose of the Bill.

If this Amendment is accepted, what does he have to do if he wishes to do that? He has first to go to the court; he gets the advantage of the provision of the Act of 1939 adapted, as the right hon. and learned Gentleman said, to this case. It is only first of all in a limited number of cases that he may make such a claim. It is not because there is a breach of covenant, but because there is a breach of covenant which falls within one class of case to which the right hon. and learned Gentleman referred and took no doubt from the first Section of the Act of 1938; when there is some immediate danger of substantial diminution to the value of the reversion. If there is an immediate danger of that sort, of substantial likelihood of diminution of the reversion, we are trying to hold the scales fairly between the landlord and lessee and saying it is only a standstill arrangement. That is a matter which the House may think is proper to be taken into account before the appropriate tribunal.

Secondly, it is said that if non-compliance with the covenant to repair will involve an infringement of the bylaws, that is another example under which it might well be right that the landlord's remedy should not be taken away and that what he wants it for is to comply with the law. There is another case, the case in which the interest involved is not merely the interest of the landlord and the lessee, but the interest of another occupier of part of the house. In those circumstances the case falls within these five classes and can be taken to the court.

The fourth case is where the expense of remedying the covenant which has been broken is small in comparison with what the expense would be if the matter were postponed. The fifth case is where there are special circumstances which make it just and equitable if this Amendment were accepted. If the landlord wishes to exert the remedy which at present he has, he must bring it within one of those five classes. Having done so, he still has to get the leave of the county court to bring the remedy into force.

I suggest that is a wholly adequate and proper way of dealing with the matter. It holds the balance between the interests of the various parties concerned and finally says, "If you are in doubt, you may go to the county court." That is the court which I might call the poor man's court, and which does not involve him in these enormous expenses. That is the remedy adopted in 1938 which we suggest should be adopted now.

It has three advantages. First, it meets a case which ought to be met to prevent the purpose of the Act from being destroyed. Second, it means that in those special classes of case in which repairs ought to be carried out, and in which there is no reason, as I suggest, why the tenant should have relief from the covenant which he has entered into, it is more likely (a) that the repairs will be done, and (b) they will be done in carrying out the covenant which is the covenant of the lessee.

Third, if what the House genuinely desires to do is no more than to ensure that there is a period, I will not say of probation, a period of reflection, before the policy is developed which will result in a major Act, it does mean that it is a genuine standstill which will extend the period but does not alter the conditions. For those reasons I hope that either the right hon. and learned Gentleman will accept that view, or that the House will insist upon it.

6.15 p.m.

Mr. Walker-Smith

The Attorney General referred to the duty of care owed by the House to landlords and tenants and in that, of course, he spoke correctly. The House does owe them a duty of care; but in addition to that duty of care I suggest that a high duty of care, especially at the present time, is owed to the buildings themselves. The House must make sure that this Bill does not result in a still worse state in respect of the repair to houses than already exists in this country at the present time.

The attention of the country has been drawn very emphatically of late to the continuing disrepair of many houses and the very urgent aspect of that in the national economy. Since we appear to be anchored down to a maximum rate of construction of new houses of 200,000 a year, it is obviously imperative that no step be taken which either discourages repair or fails to give active encouragement to repair. I wish for a moment to look at this Amendment and the Clause from the point of view of the degree to which that duty is discharged.

Clause 5 escapes the remedies of the landlord for the duration of the extended leases. Clause 6 gives to the landlord the right to carry out repairs but postpones his right to recovery in respect of that to a future which is necessarily uncertain, having regard to the tenor of speeches made by so many hon. Gentlemen opposite on the wider question of leasehold enfranchisement and so on. The Bill removes the duty to repair and gives the qualified right to repair divorced from the incentive of interest in it.

In my submission the Amendment goes a very fair way to meeting the position. Some regard will be had to the position of repairs if that Amendment is carried and very considerable safeguards are given to the tenant who, as the House is aware, already has a large measure of safeguard under the Landlord and Tenant Act, 1927, and under the Law of Property Act. So far as this particular procedure goes, my hon. and learned Friend has catalogued the various cases in which alone the landlord would have any right.

What it amounts to, in summary, is, I suggest, that those cases set out in the subsection to Section 1 of the 1938 Act are really cases in which the fabric of the building is concerned, and is immediately concerned. If that be so, those are the classes of case in which it would be dangerous for there to be any encouragement to non-repair. As at present drafted, the Bill shirks this problem and, in so doing, does a disservice to the interests of landlord and tenant alike in the long view, because it is in the interests of all citizens, especially at present, that there should be a high standard of repair. This Amendment goes some way towards putting that position right, and for that reason it should commend itself to the House.

Mr. Manningham-Buller

I hope that we shall hear some more from the Government Front Bench about this Amendment. It really is the most important subject that we shall be discussing today in connection with this Bill. It is not a topic which ought to arouse a party division or dispute. If the Attorney-General paid attention to the speech of my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Bristol, West (Sir W. Monckton), he must be convinced that there is some great force in the argument he advanced for favouring the system proposed in another place in preference to the system grafted on to this Bill after its introduction.

I should like to summarise the arguments which the Attorney-General advanced. They were three in number. First, he contended that this alteration would mean a substantial diminution of the protection given to the tenant. Secondly, he said that it would lead to landing lawsuits upon people and perhaps to tenants leaving their premises through fear of lawsuits. Thirdly, he repeated what he has said so often, that this was a standstill measure. As has been pointed out, this is not a standstill measure if we upset the equilibrium which now exists.

In discussing this subject—and we have discussed it more than once in this House—the right hon. and learned Attorney-General will recollect that we have never sought to put forward any proposal whatever which would enable the landlord to find a way round the two-year extension. I am glad to find that the hon. Member for Leicester, North-West (Mr. Janner), is finding that this debate is interesting and that he has put down the literature which he was looking at some time ago. We have never sought to leave a loophole open to enable a bad landlord to defeat the main intention of this Measure. I am sure that the right hon. and learned Gentleman will agree. We have always sought to avoid that.

At the same time, there is the other danger that by this so-called standstill Measure the Government are giving some tenants—and there are some bad tenants just as there are some bad landlords—liberty to let the premises they are occupying depreciate very considerably in repair. The right hon. and learned Gentleman must admit that that can happen.

We know from recent publications of the serious depreciation which has taken place in the repair of houses. Surely, we do not want to do anything which may lead to that being accentuated. Surely, it cannot be in the national interest even to appear to facilitate that happening. So, as my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Bristol, West said, one wants to strike a balance here. One wants to stop any loophole and at the same time one wants to try to avoid the danger that the premises will fall into disrepair in the next two years.

We pressed this upon the Government, and all they have done is to add a Clause making it possible for a landlord to effect repairs at his own expense for which of course, the tenant is primarily liable. I should be glad if the right hon. and learned Gentleman could deal with this point. That may enable a local authority to serve a notice on the landlord to compel him, at his own expense, to execute repairs for which the tenant is liable. I say that it may have that result. I should be interested to know whether the right hon. and learned Gentleman agrees.

Apart from that, it seems somewhat improbable in these days when another Bill—which, according to the hon. Member for Leicester, North-West is likely to be more radical in its character—is hanging over the head of the landlord, that the landlord will incur expenses of this character in the next two years. That factor must be taken into account. I suggest to the right hon. and learned Gentleman that, even at this late stage, he should think again about this matter.

If the Amendment were accepted, I feel sure, in view of the arguments advanced by my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Bristol, West, that we should not in fact diminish the protection which the tenant ought to have. The Government would not be providing a way round for the landlord, because the landlord has, in every case, before he enforces any liability to repair, to obtain the leave of the court. The court would not grant that leave if they came to the conclusion that all the landlord was seeking to do was to evade the Act.

That stipulation would give a greater security. If the system proposed in another place were adopted, it would not only suffice to give the protection that is required but it would also make this much more of a standstill Measure and it would play a part in preventing unnecessary deterioration of property. I hope that the Attorney-General, or someone else from the Government Front Bench, will endeavour to deal with the arguments advanced in support of this Amendment and, in particular, with the powerful and cogent speech of my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Bristol, West.

The right hon. and learned Gentleman, in moving that we disagree with their Lordships' Amendment, really brushed on one side the case for this Amendment. He treated it far too lightly. I hope that the right hon. and learned Gentleman will try to deal with the matter seriously now. But, even more than that, even at this late stage, I can only wish that he would give effect to the Amendment and withdraw his Motion. I am sure that if he did so there would be a great improvement in the Bill and it would not in any way diminish the proper protection which it is intended to give to tenants.

As it is, under this Bill now, a man has only to reside for 24 hours before the lease expires to get an extension for two years at a rent fixed perhaps 99 years ago. Now it is being said by the Government that he has the further advantage that he can let the property go into disrepair, in breach of his covenant, in the knowledge that no action can be taken to enforce that liability. Even though it is desirable to keep the house in repair, no action can be taken to enforce that liability until after the lease has expired. If the right hon. and learned Gentleman cannot meet us on this question, then we can only show our dissatisfaction and disagreement in the Division Lobby.

6.30 p.m.

Mr. Molson (The High Peak)

I am surprised that the Attorney-General has not risen to deal with the speeches of my hon. and learned Friends. We had only a brief and cursory introduction to this debate from the right hon. and learned Gentleman, after which my hon. and learned Friends have dealt with the whole of the merits of this case. I hope we may be told by the Government why they are not prepared to accept this Amendment which was inserted in another place. Both on the Committee stage and on Report, we heard from the Attorney-General that he was disposed to hold the balance evenly between landlords and tenants, to ensure that tenants were given reasonable security, and also that the Clauses of this Bill should not offer any opportunity for abuses of the protection that was given to them.

As a result of the Amendment inserted in the Bill in another place, a very considerable degree of protection is given to the tenants against any of those actions in regard to the obligation to repair in the terms of their leases. Here is a case which provides that it shall be the county court judge who shall decide whether there is a reasonable ground for the claim made by the landlord, and it is only fair that, when the county court judge, having considered the whole merits of the case, decides that it is reasonable that this remedy should be provided to the landlord, action can be taken. It seems, therefore, that the Lords have taken carefully into account the purpose which the Government had in mind, and I cannot understand why the Government continue to resist this provision.

The Attorney-General has said on a number of occasions that he is not actuated by any malice against landlords, but that he is only anxious to ensure that this is a genuine standstill Bill and that the rights of both parties shall be reasonably preserved until the Government have had an opportunity of introducing permanent legislation on this subject. It therefore appears as if, without any departure from any of the principles which the Attorney-General laid down both in Committee and on Report stage, that he could accept this Amendment, and I hope he will do so, or otherwise explain why he persists in refusing it.

Mr. Marlowe (Hove)

I rise only because I am rather disappointed that the right hon. and learned Gentleman has not risen in his place to answer the very cogent arguments put forward in support of the Lords Amendment. The right hon. and learned Gentleman did speak earlier on, but since then there has been the very forceful case made by my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Bristol, West (Sir W. Monckton), and I think that the Attorney-General himself would agree that it was a carefully marshalled argument and one which deserves a reply.

I appreciate that the right hon. and learned Gentleman would require the permission of the House in order to speak again, but I can assure him that, if he is anxious to do so, we on this side of the House would make no protest against his asking for that indulgence. I cannot help feeling that what has happened in this case is that the merits of the argument have not been weighed. What has happened has been that the prejudices of hon. Gentlemen opposite have been allowed to decide the argument.

The Attorney-General indicated dissent.

Mr. Marlowe

The right hon. and learned Gentleman shakes his head, or, to make that clear for the record, indicates a negative. I cannot help feeling that that is subconsciously what is happening, but I am sure that the right hon. and learned Gentleman would not consciously allow himself to be influenced by prejudices in that way. We are faced with the position that the Government were defeated on this matter in another place, and I have an uncomfortable feeling that the real basis of the attitude adopted by the Government today is only the fact that they were defeated in another place and must therefore restore the status quo before the Bill went to another place.

There is also the underlying prejudice which is felt by hon. Members opposite that this proposal is somehow or other favourable to the landlords, who are always regarded as the traditional enemies of hon. Members opposite. As a matter of fact, it is neither a sin nor a crime to be a landlord, and this Bill is intended to arrive at something like equity as between landlord and tenant. I should have thought that the Attorney-General would have been very ready to support that position and to have replied to the arguments put to him. I express my disappointment that the right hon. and learned Gentleman has not replied to the arguments, and I hope that, even at this late hour, he will still do so.

Mr. Henry Strauss (Norwich, South)

I wish to add one more point to the admirable case made by my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Bristol, West (Sir W. Monckton). I feel quite certain that, as many of my hon. and learned Friends have said, if the Attorney-General will seek the leave of the House to make a further statement, that leave will be readily given to him in order that he may reply to the very cogent points which have been put to him.

The sole point to which I wish to draw attention is one made by the Attorney-General in his first speech on this matter. He said that the Government realised that the Clause as originally drafted would have involved an injustice to the landlord, and that that was the reason for putting in Clause 6. The point which I want to put to the right hon. and learned Gentleman is that Clause 6 is

not an adequate remedy in a very common type of case. That is the case where a lack of repair is known to the tenant, but is not known to the landlord. I think the whole House will agree that it is very much in the public interest that houses should be kept in repair, and that unnecessary deterioration should be avoided.

Let me give the simple example of dry-rot to illustrate the point—[Laughter.]—I appeal even to the most frivolous to take note of the example which I am giving. Hon. Members know that rapid deterioration of property results from dry-rot if it is not treated promptly, and in an expert way. It is perfectly true that, under Clause 6, the landlord can inspect the house through surveyors and others, and may detect the incipient trouble, but we all know that these professional men are very much overworked. Nor is it desirable to harry the tenant in the two years' period of protection given him by the Bill, but if he knows of this lack of repair, why should he be relieved of all obligation to deal with it? The resulting deterioration of the property is wholly contrary to the public interest. Even if the landlord had become aware of the trouble, what chance would he have of ever recovering the cost of the repairs which he had done from the tenant after his departure at the end of the two years?

The main point which I wish to put to the Attorney-General is the question why, in a serious case of lack of repair known to the tenant, and, by the nature of the case, unknown to the landlord, the tenant should be relieved of all liability to deal with it.

Question put, "That this House doth disagree with the Lords in the said Amendment."

The House divided: Ayes, 244; Noes, 198.

Division No. 148.] AYES [6.40 p.m.
Adams, Richard Benn, Wedgwood Brown, Rt. Hon. George (Belper)
Albu, A. H. Benton, G. Brown, Thomas (Ince)
Allen, Arthur (Bosworth) Bing, G. H. C. Burke, W. A.
Anderson, Frank (Whitehaven) Blenkinsop, A. Burton, Miss E.
Awbery, S. S. Blyton, W. R. Butler, Herbert (Hackney, S)
Ayles, W. H. Boardman, H. Callaghan, L. J.
Bacon, Mill Alice Bowdon, H. W. Carmichael, J.
Baird, J. Bowles, F. G. (Nuneaton) Champion, A. J
Balfour, A. Brook, Dryden (Halifax) Chetwynd, G. R
Barnes, Rt. Hon. A. J. Brooks, T. J. (Normanton) Clunie, J
Bartley, P. Broughton, Dr. A. D. D. Cocks, F. S
Coldrick, W. Isaacs, Rt. Hon. G. A. Rankin, J
Collick, P. Janner, B. Rees, Mrs. D.
Collindridge, F. Jeger, George (Goole) Reeves, J.
Cook, T. F. Jeger, Dr. Santo (St. Pancras, S.) Reid, William (Camlachie)
Cooper, John (Deptford) Jenkins, R. H. Richards, R.
Corbet, Mrs. Freda (Peckham) Johnson, James (Rugby) Roberts, Goronwy (Caernarvonshire)
Cove, W. G. Johnston, Douglas (Paisley) Robertson, J. J. (Berwick)
Craddock, George (Bradford, S.) Jones, David (Hartlepool) Robinson, Kenneth (St. Pancras, N.)
Crosland, C. A. R. Jones, Frederick Elwyn (W. Ham, S.) Rogers, George (Kensington, N.)
Crossman, R. H. S. Jones, William Elwyn (Conway) Ross, William (Kilmarnock)
Daines, P. Keenan, W. Royle, C.
Dalton, Rt. Hon. H. Kenyon, C. Shackleton, E. A. A
Darling, George (Hillsborough) King, Dr. H. M. Shinwell, Rt. Hon. E
Davies, A. Edward (Stoke, N.) Kinghorn, Sqn. Ldr. E. Shurmer, P. L. E.
Davies, Harold (Leek) Kinley, J. Silverman, Julius (Erdington)
Davies, Stephen (Merthyr) Kirkwood, Rt. Hon. D. Silverman, Sydney (Nelson)
de Freitas, Geoffrey Lee, Frederick (Newton) Simmons, C. J
Deer, G. Lee, Miss Jennie (Cannock) Slater, J.
Delargy, H. J. Lever, Leslie (Ardwick) Snow, J. W
Diamond, J. Lewis, Arthur (West Ham, N) Sorensen, R W
Donnelly, D. Lindgren, G. S. Soskice, Rt. Hon Sir Frank
Dugdale, Rt. Hon John (W. Bromwich) Logan, D. G Sparks, J. A.
Dye, S. Longden, Fred (Small Heath) Steele, T.
Ede, Rt. Hon. J. C. McAllister, G. Stewart, Michael (Fulham, E.)
Edwards, Rt. Hon. Ness (Caerphilly) MacColl, J E. Stross, Dr. Barnett
Evans, Albert (Islington, S.W.) McGhee, H. G. Summerskill, Rt. Hon. Edith
Evans, Stanley (Wednesbury) McGovern, J. Sylvester, G. O.
Ewart, R. McInnes, J. Taylor, Robert (Morpeth)
Fernyhough, E. Mack, J. D. Thomas, David (Aberdare)
Field, Capt. W. J. McKay, John (Wallsend) Thomas, George (Cardiff)
Finch, H. J. McLeavy, F. Thomas, Iorwerth (Rhondda, W.)
Fletcher, Eric (Islington, E.) MacPherson, Malcolm (Stirling) Thomas, Ivor Owen (Wrekin)
Follick, M Mainwaring, W. H. Thorneycroft, Harry (Clayton)
Foot, M. M. Mallalieu, E. L. (Brigg) Thurtle, Ernest
Forman, J. C. Mallalieu, J. P. W. (Huddersfield, E.) Timmons, J
Fraser, Thomas (Hamilton) Mann, Mrs. Jean Tomney, F.
Freeman, John (Watford) Manuel, A. C. Turner-Samuels, M
Ganley, Mrs. C. S. Marquand, Rt. Hon. H. A.
Gibson, C. W. Mathers, Rt. Hon. G. Ungoed-Thomas, Sir Lynn
Gilzean, A. Mellish, R. J Vernon, W. F.
Gooch, E. G. Messer, F. Viant, S. P.
Gordon-Walker, Rt. Hon. P. C. Middleton, Mrs. L. Wallace, H. W
Greenwood, Rt. Hn. Arthur (Wakefield) Mikardo, Ian. Watkins, T. E.
Grenfell, Rt. Hon D. R. Milchison G. R. Webb, Rt. Hon M. (Bradford, C.)
Grey, C. F. Moeran, E. W. Weitzman, D.
Griffiths, David (Rother Valley) Monslow, W. Wells, Percy (Faversham)
Griffiths, William (Exchange) Moody, A. S. West, D. G.
Gunter, R. J. Morgan, Dr. H. B. Wheatley, Rt. Hon. John (Edinb'gh, E.)
Haire, John E. (Wycombe) Morley, R. White, Mrs. Eirene (E. Flint)
Hale, Joseph (Rochdale) Morrison, Rt. Hon. H. (Lewisham, S.) White, Henry (Derbyshire, N.E.)
Hale, Leslie (Oldham, W.) Mort, D. L. Whiteley, Rt. Hon. W.
Hall, Rt. Hon. Glenvil (Colne Valley) Moyle, A. Wigg, G.
Hall, John (Gateshead, W.) Mulley, F. W. Wilcock, Group Capt. C A B
Hamilton, W. W. Murray, J. D. Willey, Octavius (Cleveland)
Hardy, E. A. Neal, Harold (Bolsover) Williams, David (Neath)
Hargreaves, A. Noel-Baker, Rt. Hon. P. J. Williams, Rev. Llywelyn (Abertillery)
Hastings S. Oldfield, W. H. Williams, Ronald (Wigan)
Hayman, F. H. Orbach, M. Williams, Rt. Hon Thomas (Don V'lly)
Henderson, Rt. Hon Arthur (Tipton) Oliver, G. H. Williams, W. T. (Hammersmith, S.)
Herbison, Miss M. Padley, W. E. Wilson, Rt. Hon. Harold (Huyton)
Hewitson, Capt. M Paling, Rt. Hon W. (Dearne Valley) Winterbottom, Ian (Nottingham, C.)
Hobson, C. R. Paling, Will T (Dewsbury) Winterbottom, Richard (Brightside)
Holman, P. Panned, T. C Wise, F. J.
Holmes, Horace (Hemsworth) Pargiter, G. A. Woodburn, Rt. Hon A
Houghton, D. Paton, J. Woods, Rev. G S
Hoy, J. Pearson, A. Wyatt, W. L.
Hudson, James (Ealing, N.) Popplewell, E. Yates, V F.
Hughes, Emrys (S. Ayrshire) Porter, G. Younger, Rt Hon K
Hughes, Hector (Aberdeen, N.) Price, Philips (Gloucestershire, W.)
Hynd, H. (Accrington) Proctor, W. T. TELLERS FOR THE AYES:
Hynd, J. B. (Attercliffe) Pryde, D. J. Mr. Hannan and Mr. Wilkins
Irvine, A J. (Edge Hill) Pursey, Cmdr. H.
Aitken, W. T. Baldock, Lt.-Cmdr J M Black, C. W.
Alport, C. J. M Baldwin, A. E Boles, Lt.-Col. D. C. (Wells)
Amery, Julian (Preston, N) Banks, Col. C. Bossom, A. C.
Amory, Heathcoat (Tiverton) Bell, R. M. Boyd-Carpenter, J. A
Arbuthnot, John Bennett, Sir Peter (Edgbaston) Boyle, Sir Edward
Ashton, H. (Chelmsford) Bennett, William (Woodside) Braine, B. R.
Assheton, Rt. Hon. R (Blackburn, W.) Bevins, J. R. (Liverpool, Toxteth) Braithwaite, Lt.-Cdr. G. (Bristol, N.W.)
Astor, Hon. M. L Birth, Nigel Brooke, Henry (Hampstead)
Baker, P. A. D Bishop, F. P Browne. Jack (Govan)
Buchan-Hepburn, P. G T Hutchison, Col. James (Glasgow) Remnant, Hon. P.
Burden, F. A. Jeffreys, General Sir George Renton, D. L. M.
Butler, Rt. Hn. R. A. (Saffron Walden) Jennings, R. Roberts, Major Peter (Heeley)
Carr, Robert (Mitcham) Jones, A. (Hall Green) Robertson, Sir David (Caithness)
Carson, Hon. E. Joynson-Hicks, Hon. L W Robinson, Roland (Blackpool, S.)
Channon, H. Kaberry, D. Roper, Sir Harold
Churchill, Rt. Hon. W. S. Kerr, H. W. (Cambridge) Ropner, Col. L.
Clarke, Col. Ralph (East Grinstead) Lambert, Hon. G. Russell, R. S.
Clarke, Brig. Terence (Portsmouth, W.) Lancaster, Col. C. G. Ryder, Capt. R. E. D.
Colegate, A. Law, Rt. Hon. R. K. Salter, Rt. Hon. Sir Arthur
Craddock, Beresford (Spelthorne) Leather, E. H. C. Savory, Prof D. L.
Cranborne, Viscount Legge-Bourke, Maj E. A. H. Scott, Donald
Crookshank, Capt. Rt. Hon. H. F. C. Lennox-Boyd, A. T Smithers, Peter (Winchester)
Crosthwaite-Eyre, Col. O. E. Linstead, H. N. Smyth, Brig. J. G. (Norwood)
Crowder, Capt John (Finchley) Lloyd, Maj. Guy (Renfrew, E.) Soames, Capt. C.
Cuthbert, W. N. Lloyd, Selwyn (Wirral) Spearman, A. C. M.
Darling, Sir William (Edinburgh, S.) Longden, Gilbert (Herts, S.W.) Spens, Sir Patrick (Kensington, S.)
Deedes, W. F. Lucas, P. B. (Brentford) Stanley, Capt. Hn. Richard (N. Fylde)
Digby, S. Wingfield Lucas-Tooth, Sir Hugh Stevens, G. P.
Drayson, G. B. Lyttelton, Rt Hon. O. Steward, W. A. (Woolwich, W.)
Drewe, C. McAdden, S. J. Stewart, Henderson (Fife, E.)
Dugdale, Maj. Sir Thomas (Richmond) McCorquodale, Rt Hon M. S. Stoddart-Scott, Col. M.
Duncan, Capt J. A. L Mackeson, Brig. H. R Storey, S.
Duthie, W. S. McKibbin, A. Strauss, Henry (Norwich, S.)
Eccles, D. M. Maclay, Hon. John Stuart, Rt. Hon. James (Moray)
Eden, Rt. Hon. A Maclean, Fitzroy Summers, G. S.
Fisher, Nigel MacLeod, Iain (Enfield, W.) Sutcliffe, H.
Fletcher, Walter (Bury) Macmillan, Rt. Hon. Harold (Bromley) Taylor, William (Bradford, N.)
Fraser, Sir Ian (Morecambe & Lonsdale) Macpherson, Major Niall (Dumfries) Teevan, T. L.
Gage, C. H. Manningham-Buller, R. E. Thomas, J. P. L. (Hereford)
Galbraith, Cmdr. T. D. (Pollok) Marlowe, A. A. H. Thompson, Kenneth Pugh (Walton)
Gammans, L. D. Marshall, Douglas (Bodmin)
Glyn, Sir Ralph Maude, Angus (Ealing S) Thompson, Lt.-Cmdr. R. (Croydon, W.)
Gomme-Duncan, Col. A Maude, John (Exeter) Thorneycroft Peter (Monmouth)
Gridley, Sir Arnold Maudling, R. Thornton-Kemsley, Col. C N.
Grimston, Hon. John (St. Albans) Mellor, Sir John Thorp, Brig. R. A F
Grimston, Robert (Westbury) Molson, A. H. E. Touche, G. C.
Hare, Hon. J. H. (Woodbridge) Morrison, John (Salisbury) Turner, H. F. L.
Harvie-Watt, Sir George Morrison, Rt. Hon. W. S. (Cirencester) Turton, R. H.
Hay, John Mott-Radclyffe, C. E. Tweedsmuir, Lady
Head, Brig. A H. Nabarro, G. Vane, W. M. F.
Headlam, Lt.-Col. Rt Hon. Sir Cuthbert Noble, Cmdr. A. H P. Vaughan-Morgan, J. K.
Heald, Lionel Nugent, G. R. H. Vosper, D. F.
Heath, Edward Oakshott, H. D. Wakefield, Edward (Derbyshire, W.)
Hicks-Beach, Maj W W Ormsby-Gore, Hon W. D Walker-Smith, D. C.
Higgs, J. M. C. Orr, Capt. L. P. S. Ward, Miss I. (Tynemouth)
Hill, Dr. Charles (Luton) Orr-Ewing, Charles Ian (Hendon, N.) Waterhouse, Capt. Rt. Hon. C.
Hill, Mrs. E. (Wythenshawe) Orr-Ewing, Ian L. (Weston-super-Mare) Wheatley, Major M. J. (Poole)
Hinchingbrooke, Viscount Peake, Rt. Hon. O. White, Balter (Canterbury)
Hirst, Geoffrey Perkins, W. R. D. Williams, Charles (Torquay)
Hollis, M. C. Peto, Brig. C. H. M. Williams, Gerald (Tonbridge)
Hornsby-Smith, Miss P. Pickthorn, K. Williams, Sir Herbert (Croydon, E.)
Howard, Greville (St. Ives) Pitman, I. J. Wills, G.
Hudson, Sir Austin (Lewisham, N.) Powell, J. Enoch Wilson, Geoffrey (Truro)
Hudson, Rt. Hon. Robert (Southport) Price, Henry (Lewisham, W.) Wood, Hon. R
Hudson, W. R. A. (Hull, N.) Prior-Palmer, Brig O. York, C
Hurd, A. R. Raikes, H. V.
Hutchison, Lt.-Com Clark (E'b'rgh W.) Redmayne, M. TELLERS FOR THE NOES:
Mr. Studholme and Major Conant.

Question put, and agreed to.

The Attorney-General

I beg to move, as an Amendment to the Bill in lieu of the Lords Amendment last disagreed to, in page 4, line 20, to leave out from "to," to "damages," in line 21, and to insert: bring any action against the tenant for. When the Bill left the House of Commons on its way to another place it was in the form in which it is today,—Bill 45—but in another place the words which I now seek to insert into the Bill were introduced by an Amendment which was there moved. The consequence of rejecting the last Amendment made by the noble Lords in another place is that this change, which was there introduced, is no longer in the Bill, and unless I move this Amendment now the Bill would resume the form which it had when it previously left the House of Commons.

I therefore move that the change made in another place should again be made. The object is to remove a certain ambiguity in the words to enforce any right against the tenant which appeared in the Bill when it left the House of Commons.

Mr. Manningham-Buller

I am grateful to the right hon. and learned Gentleman for explaining why he has moved the Amendment, but I think he could have stated it a little more clearly. After all, that is all we are concerned with. On reading it for the first time I thought it was a purely drafting Amendment, but I could not see its object. Perhaps the right hon. and learned Gentleman could explain what is the ambiguity which this change of words is intended to eliminate. It is just as well that hon. Members should be able to follow what the right hon. and learned Gentleman is asking them to do.

The Attorney-General

If I may have the permission of the House to reply, the object of the Bill is as follows. The wording of the Bill as it left the House of Commons: to enforce any right against the tenant, in line 20, was ambiguous. The words might be construed as preventing the landlord from enforcing by execution a judgment for damages which he had obtained in an action begun before the commencement of the Act and before the period referred to in Clause 5 (3). It is to remove that ambiguity that I seek to make the change.

Lords Amendment: In page 4, line 26, after "rent" insert "or rates."

The Attorney-General

I beg to move, "That this House doth agree with the Lords in the said Amendment."

The object of the Amendment is as follows. Where the tenant, under a covenant, is liable to pay rates, then the rates should be treated as being on exactly the same footing as rent. Therefore, the exclusion of the suspension of the tenant's rights in respect of failure to pay rent should apply equally to failure to pay rates.

Lords Amendment: In page 4, line 29, leave out from "ground" to end of line 31 and insert: of the use of the property or part thereof for illegal or immoral purposes, unless (in the case of a past such use) there has since been a change in the ownership of the tenancy.

The Attorney-General

I beg to move, "That this House doth agree with the Lords in the said Amendment."

The object of this Amendment is to bring it about that in the case of illegal or immoral user taking place before the commencement of the operation of the Act the landlord's rights to re-enter should not be suspended unless the illegal or immoral user was committed at a date when some previous tenant was in occupation. The existing tenant cannot be held responsible for the conduct of the previous tenant, but if the same tenant is still in occupation it is thought that the landlord's rights in the case of illegal or immoral user should not be suspended.

Mr. Higgs (Bromsgrove)

We are glad to see that this little addition has been made to the Clause, but before we pass from the Clause there is something which should be put on the record. When the Bill was first introduced into the House the tenant had only two obligations during this interim period. One was to pay his rent and the other was to keep the premises insured. There was not even an obligation to refrain from using the house for illegal or immoral purposes.

We put down a comprehensive Amendment on the Committee stage which the Government resisted, but they undertook to move an Amendment of their own, and this they did. The effect of it was that the tenant was penalised in respect of such user only after this Bill came into operation. The Amendment to which we are now about to agree makes it perfectly clear that it is not this Bill which prevents such user, but that it has always been so.

Lords Amendment: In page 4, line 38, at end insert: (3) Where the landlord is prevented by paragraph (a) of subsection (1) of this section from bringing an action for damages in respect of anything done by the tenant in breach of a term or condition of the tenancy, a county court as well as the High Court shall have jurisdiction to grant an injunction to restrain the doing of that thing.

The Attorney-General

I beg to move, "That this House doth agree with the Lords in the said Amendment."

This House is indebted to the hon. and learned Member for Kensington, South (Sir P. Spens) for this Amendment. He drew the attention of the House and my Department in particular to a matter which had been overlooked—that unless there was a claim for damages the remedy by way of injunction could not be sought in a county court. This Amendment enables a landlord not merely to go into the High Court and resort to the more expensive procedure, but makes it possible for him to ask for his injunction in the county court, even if he does not make a claim for damages. That will save expense on both sides and be in the interests of both parties.

Sir P. Spens

I am glad to see this subsection inserted into the Bill. It will help everybody. I have always thought that it was a most unfortunate thing that poor people should not get an injunction in the county court unless there was some other substantial claim. Now we have a precedent in what will be an Act of this House by which poor people can get an injunction without having to ask for anything else. I can only hope that we shall see it become general law in every other case very soon.

Lords Amendment: In page 5, line 16, at end insert: (5) The reference in paragraph (a) of subsection (1) of this section to the bringing of an action against the tenant for damages in respect of a failure to comply with a term or condition of the tenancy shall be construed as including a reference to the bringing of an action for the recovery from the tenant of expenditure incurred by or recovered from the landlord in consequence of such a failure on the part of the tenant, and the reference in paragraph (b) of subsection (3) of this section to a judgment or order for the payment of damages shall be construed accordingly. (6) References in this section to the bringing of an action include references to the setting up in any proceedings of a claim by way of counterclaim.

The Attorney-General

I beg to move, "That this House doth agree with the Lords in the said Amendment."

This Amendment, which is more lengthy than previous Amendments, does not amount to very much, because it is very largely drafting. It transposes what was previously Clause 6 (4) into Clause 5 and it also makes a slight change in the language in order to remove ambiguity. As Clause 6 (4) was previously worded there was some doubt as to whether the provisions of Clause 5 (3) were made applicable in relation to proceedings brought by a landlord between the date of introduction and the date of the commencement of the Bill. This Amendment removes the ambiguity. It is a question of little more than re-arrangement and of coupling with it a change in the language to remove that slight ambiguity.

Mr. Manningham-Buller

I have followed what the right hon. and learned Gentleman said about this but, as it originally stood, I do not think there was in any other part of the Bill any prohibition on setting up a claim against a tenant by way of a counter-claim. I do not think I am wrong about that, but I should like to ask the right hon. and learned Gentleman whether he thinks it is right that there should be such a prohibition against the landlord.

May I put this point to him? Supposing a tenant sues a landlord for a substantial sum. It seems very hard, if a tenant embarks on an action like that against a landlord, that the landlord shall not be able to counter-claim, perhaps for a like amount or for a less amount; so that judgment could be given against the landlord on the tenant's claim for a substantial sum but the landlord would have to wait until the expiry of two years before having any opportunity of recovering on a counter-claim which, ex hypothesi, is one he is bound to establish. It seems to me at first sight to be somewhat inequitable, and I am wondering whether it would not be better to leave out subsection (6). I should be grateful if the right hon. and learned Gentleman would deal with that.

7.0 p.m.

The Attorney-General

With the permission of the House I would add a few words. The hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for Northants, South (Mr. Manningham-Buller), mentioned the case in which the landlord is being sued for a sum of money. On the other hand, one has also to consider the kind of case in which, for example, the tenant is suing the landlord for breach of covenant of quiet enjoyment. I do not want to suggest that there is any ill faith on the part of anybody, but, unfortunately, one has to deal with the possibility of bad faith on both sides, on the part of the landlord and of the tenant.

It would be possible for a landlord to break the covenant to give quiet enjoyment and force the tenant to take an action against him, and he could prevent his so doing if he could then, by way of counter-claim, bring a claim for forfeiture in response to the tenant's action against him. He could not be prevented from doing that, and the two years' suspension of right would not be operative. He really could get a tenant out.

There is a certain amount to be said on both sides, but that kind of case has to be borne in mind, for the object, as has been said, I am afraid, ad nauseam in this case, is to keep the status quo for two years; and, on balance, it ought not to be possible for the landlord, even by way of counter-claim, to exercise his right of re-entry during the currency of the two-year period.