HC Deb 18 June 1954 vol 528 cc2502-4
Sir H. Lucas-Tooth

I beg to move, in page 38, line 18, to leave out "three," and to insert "six."

Clause 53 requires the county court, if it sees fit, to terminate the tenancy on the application of the landlord, provided certain requirements are satisfied. One requirement is that during the period of three months ending with the date of the application neither the tenant nor any person claiming under him has been in occupation of the premises. In Committee, the right hon. and learned Member for Neepsend (Sir F. Soskice) moved an Amendment to extend this period from three to 12 months and my right hon. and learned Friend the Solicitor-General promised to look into the point.

We think that a period of 12 months is unnecessarily long, but to meet the point made an extension from three to six months is proposed by the Amendment. The court, of course, has complete discretion to grant or refuse the application. The landlord has also to show that he has taken all reasonable steps to trace the tenant and has failed to do so and either that the rent is not payable or that no rent is paid. Probably a period of six months will meet the points raised by the right hon. and leaned Member for Neepsend.

Sir F. Soskice

I am very grateful to the Joint Under-Secretary for what has been done in making this change, but I still feel a little anxiety. I would not think of seeking to divide the House but, at the same time, I ask the Government to give further thought to this matter and consider whether they cannot come a little nearer to the figure which I proposed.

Clause 53 enables the court to say that a tenancy has come to an end. The conditions are that the landlord must have tried to communicate with the tenant and, as the Bill stands, during the period of three months he must have found that the property was, in effect, not in the occupation of the tenant.

When this matter was before the Committee we said that the period of three months was too short. The Home Secretary and the Government have acceded to that view and have doubled the period, but I still put it to the Government that possibly there is some risk even with six months. I do not put it any higher than that. I ask them to think about it again. It would be most unfortunate if, as the result of an accident, or something of that kind, a tenant lost his tenancy. I can quite see that the Clause is so drafted as to contain safeguards, but I doubt whether those safeguards are adequate to prevent a possible, unfortunate accident.

I earnestly ask the Government to think again and consider whether a period of six months is sufficient to make the position safe. One can conceive. without any great difficulty, cases where tenants who mean to retain their tenancy, very largely through inadvertence or stark carelessness, leave the premises apparently not occupied for six months. That is the more likely the less careful and less educated the tenants may be. I am sure that the Home Secretary and the Joint Under-Secretary will be ready to think about the matter again.

Sir D. Maxwell Fyfe

indicated assent.

1.15 p.m.

Sir F. Soskice

I see that the right hon. and learned Gentleman has kindly nodded so to indicate. With that word of caution I suggest that we offer no opposition to the change. On the contrary, I thank the Government for going as far as they have gone.

Amendment agreed to.