HC Deb 16 June 1958 vol 589 cc770-2
Sir I. Horobin

I beg to move, in page 37, line 29, to leave out from "Act" to the end of line 30, and to insert:

We have chosen the date on which the contract of sale is made as something definite. That is a matter which may be argued if the Amendment to the proposed Amendment is called.

We have attempted to fulfil the undertaking which I gave to protect the occupier who suffers a loss on a forced sale by making the date on which it accrues due the date when it was incurred. It obviously is the proper date at which it can be determined.

Question, That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Bill, put and negatived.

Question proposed, That those words be there inserted in the Bill.

Mr. MacDermot

I beg to move, as an Amendment to the proposed Amendment, in line 3, to leave out from the second "the" to "or" in line 4 and to insert "property in question is sold".

First, I thank the Minister again for having taken one of the points we raised in Committee and for putting forward this Amendment. The point involved is a small one. It concerns what is to be the date from which interest on compensation for loss by a forced sale should be payable. I think that is the only point of substance which is involved. As originally drawn in the Bill, it was to be payable as from the operative date. We pointed out that cases might occur where a forced sale might take place many months after the operative date. It did not seem right that the Board should pay interest before the loss was incurred. The Minister promised to submit an Amendment which would be equally effective, more obscure, but at least satisfactory to all concerned. Speaking for myself, I am convinced only that he has succeeded in fulfilling one-third of that three-fold promise, because it seems more obscure.

7.45 p.m.

The point is whether the interest should date from when the contract was made or when the property passes under the sale. The intention of our Amendment is that the interest should run from the date when the property passes. I will seek to illustrate by an example. Imagine a farmer owning a combine harvester and, as we are told is likely to be the case, the Board enters into possession at the end of, or immediately after, the harvest season. In those circumstances, the farmer would probably arrange to dispose of his combine harvester at or about the date of entry, at the end of the harvest.

He may have made a contract to dispose of it before the harvest began. In the meantime, he will not only have used the combine harvester to bring in his own harvest, but in all probability he will have hired it out, as farmers often do, to other farmers at high rates in order to help gather their harvest. If the interest is to date from the date of the contract he would be getting double compensation, or compensation for a loss he had not suffered. We feel, therefore, that as a matter of justice the right time from which the compensation should date is when the loss is actually incurred, when the property passes under the contract.

I gather from the Minister's words a few moments ago that there may be certain drafting difficulties about this. In framing our Amendment it was our intention to follow the ordinary principle of the Sale of Goods Act which, I think I am right in saying, is that a contract of sale becomes a sale at the time when the property passes. The words which we use are the date on which the property in question is sold and "the date of the sale". We intend that to mean the time of the passing of the property.

If the point which we have made is taken, I shall be quite happy to withdraw the Amendment for the Government to rephrase it in words which they think more satisfactory.

Mr. Robens

I beg to second the Amendment to the proposed Amendment.

Sir I. Horobin

I think that the most useful thing which I can say is that I understand that there is little, if anything, of substance between us. I was advised that there was a doubt in certain cases when the date of the sale would be. We wanted something specific. The contract must be dated, which disposes of that point. Without giving any undertaking, perhaps we could look at this point again and, if it is thought desirable to make a change, it can be made in another place.

Mr. MacDermot

We shall be quite content to leave the matter in that way, for the Government to look at it again. I beg to ask leave to withdraw the Amendment to the proposed Amendment.

Amendment to the proposed Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Proposed words there inserted in the Bill.