HC Deb 29 July 1958 vol 592 cc1252-4

Lords Amendment: In page 17, line 29, at end insert: 14A. In section fifty in subsection (3), the following paragraph shall be inserted at the end— 'In this subsection "the prescribed period" means the period prescribed by the Lord Chancellor by order made by statutory instrument (which shall be subject to annulment in pursuance of a resolution of either House of Parliament); and the power to make orders under this subsection shall include a power, exercisable in the like manner, to revoke or vary any order made thereunder.'

7.30 p.m.

The Joint Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food (Mr. J. B. Godber)

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

This Amendment is envisaged to enable the Lord Chancellor to prescribe the period under Section 50 (3) of the 1948 Act by order and not by regulation. There are several Amendments of this type which we are bringing forward. They are designed to tidy the matter up, so that when the Lord Chancellor seeks to bring in an order he can introduce a comprehensive one, and not have to bring in a number of individual regulations. There is no issue of principle; it is a matter of convenience.

Question put and agreed to.

Subsequent Lords Amendment agreed to: In page 18, line 1, leave out from beginning to end of line 4.

Lords Amendment: In line 7, at end insert: 20A.—(1) The provisions of paragraph 24 of the Sixth Schedule (under which a special case may be stated for the opinion of the county court where any question of law arises in the course of an arbitration under the Act of 1948) shall apply in relation to a question as to the jurisdiction of an arbitrator as they apply in relation to a question of law arising in the course of an arbitration. (2) The provisions of the Sixth Schedule relating to the fixing and recovery of the remuneration of an arbitrator and the making and enforcement of an award as to costs, together with any other provision thereof applicable for the purposes of or in connection with those provisions, shall apply where the arbitrator has no jurisdiction to decide the question referred to him as they apply where the arbitrator has jurisdiction to decide that question.

The Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food (Mr. John Hare)

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

This is, I am afraid, a rather technical Amendment to deal with a rather complicated point, but I will try to explain it as clearly as I can. At present the Sixth Schedule to the Agricultural Holdings Act, 1948, which provides for the conduct of arbitrations on agricultural tenancies, enables the arbitrator to obtain a ruling from the county court on a question of law arising out of the case. But this is not wide enough to enable the arbitrator to get a ruling on the question whether he has any jurisdiction in the case—that is, whether it is a case in which he can properly give a decision.

This can be important. It might be argued, for example, by one side or the other that the holding was not an agricultural holding at all, or that a notice had been served on someone said to be the tenant in a case where it was claimed that a joint tenancy existed. In such cases it is convenient for the arbitrator to get a decision from the county court immediately on this point before he deals with other issues. I suppose it could be asked why in such cases the Minister appointed the arbitrator. The answer is that if application is made to the Minister to appoint an arbitrator in a case which seems, on the facts presented to the Minister, to be one on which he can properly act, the Minister must appoint the arbitrator.

The second matter dealt with by this Amendment is to provide that where an arbitrator is appointed and it is then held by the court that he has no jurisdiction, he can still award costs and have his own remuneration fixed. This is obviously necessary. Otherwise an arbitrator might put in a great deal of work on the case and then find that he could not have any fee paid to him for his work and costs could not be awarded.

We have discussed this rather complicated point with the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors and they support us. I understand that there was support on both sides in another place when this subject was mentioned. I hope the House will agree that this is a desirable Amendment.

Mr. Frederick Willey (Sunderland, North)

I assure the right hon. Gentleman that there is equal accord in this House. I am not only impressed by the agreement of the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors, but I have looked into the point and I think it is necessary to take this step to safeguard the position of the arbitrator.

Question put and agreed to.

Subsequent Lords Amendment agreed to: In line 25 after "Lord Chancellor" insert: and for the reference to regulations there shall be substituted a reference to orders,