HC Deb 31 July 1962 vol 664 cc419-21

3.51 p.m.

Mr. Donald Box (Cardiff, North)

I beg to move, That leave be given to bring in a Bill—

Mr. Speaker

Order. I am so sorry. There is another statement to be made by the Leader of the House.

Mr. Macleod

Mr. Speaker, this statement which relates to the gift of a Chair to the Nigerian House of Representatives is being made tomorrow and not today.

Mr. Speaker

I am not sure how one unapologises, but I unapologise.

Mr. Box

I beg to move, That leave be given to bring in a Bill to amend section forty-one of the Settled Land Act, 1925, by extending the term by which a tenant for life may lease settled land under paragraph (iv) of that section. My proposed Bill proposes a simple but, I think, none the less important amendment to the Settled Land Act, 1925, dealing with the powers of trustees for settlement holding ground leases in trust for a life tenant.

I am conscious that the debate which is to follow is an important one, and I will, therefore, keep my remarks brief and will not detain the House for more than two or three minutes. At present, the Settled Land Act, 1925, limits the powers of trustees when they are renewing or extending the lease in trust to a maximum of fifty years. The Bill simply proposes that this term of fifty years should be extended to ninety-nine years. I appreciate that to extend the powers of trustees in this way could be described as a very mild measure of leasehold reform in that it would allow longer leases to be granted in the future.

The Bill may be considered appropriate at this time as it is believed that the whole question of the leasehold system is under review by the Government at present. My right hon. Friend the former Minister of Housing and Local Government said recently, in reply to a question, that the Government are re-examining the problems in relation to renewal of ground leases on the basis of current market value. The amending legislation covered by the Bill would, I think, bring the Settled Land Act more in line with contemporary trustee law and, at the same time, would seem to blend with any proposed legislation that the Government may have in mind.

Hon. Members who are familiar with the leasehold system will be aware that the normally accepted period is ninety-nine years. This custom was established many years ago and it has been maintained ever since. I suggest, therefore, that if a time limit at all is necessary it should be ninety-nine and not fifty years. This seems to me entirely consistent with the wider powers granted to trustees in the Act of last year, but at the same time, it would, of course, not interfere with the rights of trustees to renew leases for a lesser period if they thought that was desirable.

I maintain that the Settled Land Act, in its present form, is a deterrent to the improvement of leasehold property and seems to bear heavily on leaseholders. I also suggest that it bears heavily on those trustees and life tenants who may be willing to grant a new lease for a longer period. Bearing in mind that the Trustees Act, 1961, gave trustees the right to invest half their funds in a wide range of ordinary shares, and bearing in mind that the Settled Land Act in its present form permits the sale of ground leases in trust, I submit that to extend the maximum period from fifty years to ninety-nine years, as the Bill would propose, is fair and reasonable.

3.58 p.m.

Mr. Dudley Williams (Exeter)

I protest at this Motion being introduced to the House at this late stage in the Session. I suggest that to my hon. Friend the Member for Cardiff, North (Mr. Box) that there is no hope whatever of the Bill becoming law this Session and that he should not seek to bring it in under the Ten Minute Rules procedure when its only hope of passing through the House is if it is completely unopposed.

For all I know, the Bill may involve very serious alterations in the law. It is an affront to the House of Commons that legislation should be brought forward in this way, when it has no chance of being properly examined. I hope, therefore, that the House will not give permission for the Bill to be introduced.

Question put, pursuant to Standing Order No. 12 {Motions for leave to bring in Bills and nomination of Select Committees at commencement of Public Business):—

The House proceeded to a Division—

Mr. DONALD BOX and Mr. FERGUS MONTGOMERY were appointed tellers for the Ayes, but no Member being willing to act as Teller for the Noes, Mr. SPEAKER declared that the Ayes had it.

Bill ordered to be brought in by Mr. Box, Mr. Graham Page, Mr. Gowar, Mr. W. G. Morgan, Mr. G. Thomas, Mr. Bullard, Mr. W. Clark, Mr. Coulson, Mr. Hocking, and Mr. Percival.


Bill to amend section forty-one of the Settled Land Act, 1925, by extending the term by which a tenant for life may lease settled land under paragraph (iv) of that section, presented accordingly and read the First time; to be read a Second time Tomorrow and to be printed. [Bill 140.]