HC Deb 09 April 1964 vol 692 cc1221-390

As amended (in the Standing Committee) considered.

(1) The provisions of this section shall apply where—
5 (a) a local authority have made an order under Part I of Schedule 1 to the Acquisition of Land (Authorisation Procedure) Act 1946, as applied to the acquisition of land under the Act of 1957, authorising the compulsory acquisition of a house which, or a part of which is let in lodgings, or which is occupied by members of more than one family, and
(b) any premises forming part of that house are at a time in the relevant period occupied by a person (in this section referred to as "the former lessee") who was the lessee of those premises when the order was made or became the lessee thereof after the order was made, but who is no longer the lessee thereof.
10 In this section "the relevant period" means the period of nine months beginning with the making of the said order or, if at a time before the expiration of the said period of nine months the Minister notifies the local authority that he declines to confirm the order, or the order is quashed by a court, the period beginning with the making of the order and ending with that time.
15 (2) It shall not be lawful at any time in the relevant period for the person who, as against the former lessee, is entitled to possession of the premises to enforce against the former lessee, otherwise than by proceedings in the county court, the right to recover possession of the premises:
20 Provided that this subsection shall not apply—
(a) where the person so entitled is the local authority, or
(b) where the net annual value for rating of the premises exceeds the limit imposed by section 48 of the County Courts Act 1959 (jurisdiction in actions for recovery of land).
25 (3) If any person contravenes the provisions of the last foregoing subsection he shall, without prejudice to any liability or remedy to which he may be subject in civil proceedings, be liable on summary conviction to a fine not exceeding one hundred pounds or to imprisonment for a term not exceeding six months, or both.
30 (4) Subsections (4) and (5) of section 23 of the Act of 1961 (criminal liability of directors and others officers of body corporate) shall apply in relation to an offence punishable under this section.
35 (5) In the application of this section to Scotland—
(a) in subsection (1), for the reference to the Acquisition of Land (Authorisation Procedure) Act 1946, to the Act of 1957 and to the Minister there shall be substituted respectively references to the Acquisition of Land (Authorisation Procedure) (Scotland) Act 1947, to the Act of 1950 and to the Secretary of State;
40 (b) for subsections (2) and (3) there shall be substituted the following subsection:—
45 "(2) If at any time in the relevant period the person who, as against the former lessee, is entitled to possession of the premises enforces against the former lessee, otherwise than by proceedings in a court of competent jurisdiction, the right to recover possession of the premises, he shall, without prejudice to any liability or remedy to which he may be subject in civil proceedings, be guilty of an offence and liable on summary conviction to a fine not exceeding one hundred pounds or to imprisonment for a term not exceeding six months, or both:
50 Provided that this subsection shall not apply where the person entitled to possession of the premises is the local authority."—[Sir K. Joseph.]

Brought up, and read the First time.

3.55 p.m.

The Minister of Housing and Local Government and Minister for Welsh Affairs (Sir Keith Joseph)

I beg to move, That the Clause be read a Second time.

I do not know what would suit your wishes, Mr. Speaker, and those of the House and of the hon. Gentleman the Member for Fulham (Mr. M. Stewart), but there is an Amendment to this new Clause, in line 12.

May I take it that we may debate that simultaneously?

Mr. Speaker

Yes. When we get to that in due course it will be selected. I should have given some guidance before. When we get to the later Amendment another Question will then arise, but if the right hon. Gentleman wishes, after this new Clause has been read a Second time, on that Amendment, think that that will suit everybody.

Sir K. Joseph

This new Clause seeks to meet a point of substance made in Committee by the hon. Lady the Member for Wood Green (Mrs. Butler) and supported by a number of hon. Members of the Committee, that some landlords, faced with works orders under the 1961 Act for improving conditions in multi-occupied property might, in vindictiveness, give notices of eviction to the tenants concerned. After considerable debate in Committee, during which I had maintained that the proper remedy for such courses was the use of the compulsory purchase order powers by the local authority, I took note of the strong views of some hon. Members, particularly hon. Members opposite, that compulsory purchase orders would not be effective for such a purpose and that this danger was likely to arise frequently, and undertook to consult a number of local authorities who had had particular experience with this special problem.

I have now to report to the House that I have consulted 15 authorities, and I have had some advice from one or two other authorities in the ordinary way of administrative business. The result of those inquiries shows that there is evidence of a handful of cases—I think four cases—which have been shown to me where, following a compulsory purchase order, a landlord has sought, in some cases successfully and in some cases not, to evict the tenant.

I cannot, therefore, continue to assert to the House that there is no risk whatever of this happening, but I should like to stress that the number of cases indicated to me by those authorities, 15 in number, is at most four. I say "at most," because it is always difficult to enter into the mind of the landlord concerned. All that is known is that in these four cases the notice followed the compulsory purchase order, but, of course, there is no way of absolutely proving that an evic- tion notice was not in the mind of the landlord, apart from the compulsory purchase order.

Mr. A. Fenner Brockway (Eton and Slough)

When the right hon. Gentleman says "at most four" he means in relation to the 15 local authorities with whom he has had consultation? There are many more local authorities.

Sir K. Joseph

Yes. The hon. Gentleman is technically right, but they were local authorities with what I believe to be among the largest problems of multi-occupied property and pressure upon accommodation, and I went particularly to the local authorities mentioned in the debate.

Mr. Marcus Lipton (Brixton)

Any London ones?

Sir K. Joseph

Yes, certainly. These local authorities included Islington, Willesden, Deptford, Paddington, Kensington, Lambeth, and, outside London, Newcastle, Nottingham, Salford, Leicester, Sheffield, Birmingham, Liverpool, Manchester and Leeds. Those were specifically consulted. A few others volunteered information in addition.

The result of this is to show that, if we are to ensure that the 1961 Act procedure for improving conditions of multi-occupied property can be carried out at the lowest possible risk to the tenants concerned, there is need to do something. But the Government still maintain that the proper way to increase the protection given to tenants is to make the compulsory purchase order procedure practicable for local authorities to use with special protection for tenants in multi-occupied property who might be at risk because of this danger.

4.0 p.m.

We still maintain that the control order procedure, which was perfectly understandable as suggested by hon. Members opposite, is not the right way to go about the problem. This new Clause therefore provides that, in the case of multi-occupied property, the power of the landlord to obtain possession of property on which a compulsory purchase order has been made by a local authority is limited for a period not to exceed nine months.

The limitation imposed on the landlord is that he cannot, for a period of nine months, or such lesser period as I shall describe, obtain vacant possession of any property on which a compulsory purchase order has been made. The period of nine months is not in itself a definition of protection for the tenants. It is an outside limit. Some outside limit must be proposed otherwise a local authority, if it wished, could put on a compulsory purchase order without ever intending to carry it through. The landlord can, however, within that nine months recover possession, even despite the protection given by the Clause, if he can show, to the satisfaction of the county court, that, despite the making of the compulsory purchase order and despite the risk of eviction, vacant possession should be given to him.

I now deal with the administrative background. If the House accepts the Clause, I propose that advice at a suitable stage should be given to local authorities that, where faced with the need to use the 1961 Act powers on any multi-occupied house, and where they envisage from the character or the previous behaviour of the landlord that there might be some such danger of eviction, they should prepare administratively. Very little preparation is needed to have to hand a compulsory purchase order procedure if it proves to be necessary.

I also propose to advise them that they should, whenever making a compulsory purchase order in such a situation connected with multi-occupied property, advise all the tenants of the buildings concerned of their rights: first, their existing statutory rights, which include four weeks' notice before eviction can take effect, and, secondly, the increased rights given under this Clause.

I would expect, therefore, that tenants, in co-operation with the local authorities, should be able to be absolutely secure from eviction for a number of months. I am not saying for the whole nine months, because during that time the landlord could go to the county court and justify vacant possession.

Mr. Julius Silverman (Birmingham, Aston)

Does the landlord have to justify vacant possession? Has the county curt any discretion in that matter if proper notice has been served?

Sir K. Joseph

This is a point of some difficulty for me to answer since, obviously, it affects the judiciary. But subsectior (2) of this new Clause reads: (2) It shall not be lawful at any time in the relevant period for the person who, as against the former lessee, is entitled to possession of the premises to enforce against the former lessee, otherwise than by proceedings in the county court, the right to recover possession of the premises: I imagine—without being impertinent in relation to the judiciary—that the county court might consider that the landlord was entitled to possession, but that Parliament, by passing this new Clause, had ensured that during the submission of a compulsory purchase order, the power of eviction should not bite as quickly as it could. I imagine that, even if the court were sympathetic at least to giving the power of eviction, then it would do so rather slowly.

I want to come to the substance of the protection here. I am not saying that in every case the tenants in such a house will be completely safeguarded. There are still obvious risks. The first is that the compulsory purchase order will be refused by the Minister in due course on its merits; but that is a risk we must all accept.

Secondly, there is the risk that, during the process of considering the order, which normally takes months because of the statutory requirements for hearings, the landlord may take the trouble and shoulder the expense of going to county court. Thirdly, the risk following upon that is that the court may give him what are his bare legal rights. However, consider that this Clause would operate to deter most landlords from that trouble.

We are aiming here at the vindictive landlords, of whom there are relatively few. There are inefficient landlords and landlords and landlords indifferent to their property and tenants. But there are relatively few vindictive ones who will cut off their noses to spite their faces—which is what they would be doing if they left property vacant on which compulsory purchase orders had been made, for then they would lose the income.

If there is a combination of a vindictive landlord who takes the trouble to go to court and a series of events which leads the court to give him vacant possession, then eviction might bite but I would expect the local authorities, in order to deal with these very rare cases, to be able to bridge the short period of months that may well have to pass before the order is confirmed—assuming that it is confirmed—by housing the tenants temporarily.

We cannot assume, however, that an order will be confirmed, because some are not. The Clause is put down, first, because of the substantial protection it gives and, secondly, and even more important, because of the deterrence it will bring to bear on almost every landlord faced with a compulsory purchase order after works orders have been made under the 1961 Act.

Mr. Walter Edwards (Stepney)

Does the right hon. Gentleman really believe that London local authorities have a pool of housing accommodation that they could give to people who might suffer, as a result of the action under the 1961 Act, by being evicted? Does he think that these authorities have housing available to put these people in temporarily? There are no such pools in the London boroughs although there may be in some other parts of the country.

Sir K. Joseph

I have no such fantastic notion, but I do not think that the hon. Gentleman appreciates the scale of the problem. During our long debates in Committee it was not maintained that there were large numbers of people here at risk from landlords in these circumstances. It was common ground between us that the compulsory purchase order power in the hands of the local authorities would deter most landlords who might be tempted to evict when 1961 Act orders were made on the property, for the very good reason that such landlords would simply be cutting off the income they could draw from the property for the remaining months before the order was confirmed.

I now accept the point made from the Opposition benches that there is evidence—I have had four cases—to show that despite all that I said, landlords, despite all the damage to their own interests, give eviction notices. Four cases out of many hundreds in which local authorities have made compulsory purchase orders show the scale of the problem with which we are dealing. I hope that the House will feel that this is a sensible and practical way of going about improving the security of tenants in this situation.

Mr. Lipton

For what reason has the right hon. Gentleman decided on the period of nine months as a suitable period during which the full rigours of possession or eviction will not bite on the unfortunate tenant in the premises concerned? The only clue that I can find to this period is that in reply to a question that I put to the right hon. Gentleman some time ago he said that, on average, it took him eight months to decide whether or not to confirm a compulsory purchase order. It seems, therefore, that I am right in assuming that because the average time for confirmation is eight months, he has selected nine months.

I have had difficulty in getting details from the right hon. Gentleman's Department—because the number of compulsory orders is very large—but from my experience of the municipal authorities in London I do not think that it is true to say, as the right hon. Gentleman does, that, on average, it takes only eight months to confirm a compulsory purchase order. I think that, given the time, I could produce numerous cases—and quite simple cases, too, involving no complications—in which it has taken the Minister far longer than eight months to make up his mind. As eight months is only an average figure, and has to include the simplest possible cases as well as the most complicated ones, I think that there is a strong argument for extending the period of nine months.

My other point concerns the discretion of county court judges. My hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham, Aston (Mr. J. Silverman) asked the Minister what discretion a county court judge would have when considering a case of this kind. The Minister replied that he could not interfere with the judiciary. That is a very worthy sentiment on the part of the Executive. The Minister may not be able to answer my question offhand, but I should like to know what discretion a county court judge will have when a landlord seeks possession of a property even if it is affected by the new Clause.

I have known many heartrending cases in which the judge, much against his will, has had to give judgment for the landlord and order a husband, his wife, and his large family to be dispossessed, simply because the court was bound by the law as it stood. In the present state of the law the county court judge has no discretion whatever. He has to grant possession to a landlord. He can defer the actual date of leaving the premises for two or three weeks, but that is about all that he can do. The unfortunate tenant is lucky if he gets a month's extension. If he is still in difficulty after that, he might, on further application to the court, get an extension of another two or three weeks, but after that he has to go. I can see nothing in the new Clause which will make it possible for a judge to refuse to grant a possession order to a landlord, whether he is vindictive or not. The landlord knows his legal rights, and he will insist on them.

4.15 p.m.

Sir K. Joseph

If I might deal with the hon. Gentleman's last point first, the county court judge can grant a stay in the date, and in the particular circumstances that we are adumbrating, where a compulsory purchasing order has been made on a property, I should have thought that in many cases the judge would use his power to grant a stay of execution.

But the more important thing to bring home to the House is the number of weeks which will normally be involved. The hon. Gentleman is right. The average time taken by me to make a decision on a compulsory purchase order is eight months. But that is an average, covering the most prolonged, widespread and comprehensive compulsory purchase orders for large-scale slum clearance or redevelopment schemes, on the one hand, and, on the other, the least complex compulsory purchase orders which are made by local authorities in respect of single houses where exorbitant rents are being charged, threatening homelessness to the tenant. It is the second sort of compulsory purchase order which is analogous to this sort of case, and if I were able to isolate these cases I would tell the House that the average time taken to come to a decision is very much less than eight months.

Occasionally, there are cases in which sheer legal problems defeat speed. There is also bound to be a lapse of time to give notice to all the interests concerned, and that sort of thing, but I would still expect to be able to decide in almost all these cases well within the nine month period. But nine months is not sacred. Subject to your Ruling, Mr. Speaker, the Government would be willing to accept a manuscript Amendment to increase that period by a matter of a few weeks, or months, to make sure. But the nine months, or even 12 months, would not be a guarantee to the tenant. It would merely set a limit to the period during which the protection given by the new Clause would be provided.

I do not know how the Amendment in the name of the hon. Member for Fulham (Mr. M. Stewart) to the new Clause will be argued by him, but, if it would help him, may I say that the Government would be willing, either by means of a manuscript Amendment now, or by doing it at a later stage in another place, to lengthen the nine-month period to some extent. But there must be some limit, otherwise we shall put into the hands of 1,500 local authorities the power to slap on a compulsory purchase order, without ever meaning to proceed, to provide security for the tenant.

I hope that I have answered the hon. Gentleman's questions, and that the House will accept the new Clause.

Question put and agreed to.

Clause read a Second time.

Mr. Michael Stewart (Fulham)

I beg, to move, as an Amendment to the proposed Clause, in line 12, to leave out from second "period" to the end of line 16 and to insert: beginning with the making of the said order and eroding when either—

  1. (a) the Minister notifies the local authority that he declines to confirm the order, or
  2. (b) the order is quashed by a court, or
  3. (c) the local authority becomes the owner of the house".
I should have liked to have seen the protection afforded by the new Clause occurring in the case of any compulsory purchase order. It does not seem satisfactory that when an application has been made for compulsory purchase order and they there are the inevitable delays, either long or short, both because of the Minister's power to confirm or refuse, and because of the actual legal process of purchase even when the Minister's consent is given, that during that period of delay the landlord should have the power to do something to the tenant which we all know he will not have the power to do if the order is confirmed and the house comes into the possession of the local authority. It seems an affront to common sense that that should happen.

I therefore welcome the general principle of the new Clause, as far as it goes, but I would have thought that my Amendment to it was a matter of common sense. Is it necessary to specify any period, in terms of weeks or months? Cannot we rather look at the nature of the problem, which is to prevent a tenant's being turned out until either the compulsory order has achieved its purpose and the local authority has possession of the house or the Minister has turned the order down, or it has been quashed by a court? That is what my Amendment proposes.

I agree that in the great majority of cases the Minister will have reached his decision before nine months have elapsed, but there will be the occasional case where, for exceptional reasons, he has not done so. Is the tenant to be put at risk for that reason? Furthermore, even when the Minister has given his consent the local authority must still go through the process of purchase, and the period of nine months may run out before that is complete. It would be deplorable if the tenant were turned out during that period.

Is there any objection to what I propose, namely, that the period of protection of a tenant should be simply the period during which the compulsory purchase order is in balance, that period being ended either by the quashing of the order by the Minister or a court, or by the order completely fulfilling its purpose and the house passing into the possession of the local authority.

I am not sure that I follow the right hon. Gentleman's argument about local authorities putting compulsory purchase orders on all over the place, with no intention of continuing with them. Am I not right in thinking that if they do so the owners of the properties con- cerned can make objection to the orders, and that if the local authorities fail to meet those objections within a certain time the Minister can decline to give consent to those orders? If a local authority tried to behave in that manner, by simply putting on a compulsory purchase order without intending to continue it, the Minister could—and would have to—deal with the matter by turning down the order.

I can see no danger, under my Amendment, of a lavish or unnecessary use of compulsory purchase orders by local authorities. My Amendment has the advantage of not obliging us to try to estimate exactly how long it takes from the local authority's first action to the completion of the process. It simply provides that the tenant's protection shall last as long as that process continues.

I welcome what the Minister said about his willingness—if he cannot accept my Amendment—to accept a manuscript Amendment prolonging the period, or to accept an Amendment in another place to that effect. But I do not see why he should not be able to accept my Amendment, which would achieve all that a manuscript Amendment would achieve and would tie the matter up permanently, so that everybody—landlord. tenant and local authority—would know exactly where he stood. I hope that the Government will accept the Amendment.

Mr. Albert Evans (Islington, South-West)

It is evident from what the Minister has said, and from the contents of his new Clause, that he has gone quite a long way towards meeting our fears about the operation of the compulsory purchase order procedure. The Minister knows that in recent years the compulsory purchase order has become almost an instrument of Government policy. There was a time when it was used less frequently. Having found from our experience in London that an increasing number of families were being faced with eviction and homelessness, the Minister and his predecessor have urged local authorities to use the instrument of the compulsory purchase order. That has been done to an increasing extent, certainly in London.

The Minister has admitted that there are weaknesses in this procedure, and that in a limited number of cases the use of the compulsory purchase order brings into activity the ruthless landlord, who moves ahead of the Minister and the compulsory purchase order, so defeating Parliament's intention. The Minister has, therefore, introduced the new Clause.

Nevertheless, I am sure that he will agree that in trying to close the gap so as to prevent this sort of action by the landlord who is quick off the mark it is necessary to try to ensure that there is no possibility, under the new Clause, of a landlord getting round Government policy. The only way in which the gap can be closed effectively is by accepting the Amendment to the new Clause which has been moved by my hon. Friend the Member for Fulham (Mr. M. Stewart) and to lengthen the time of protection.

If the Minister accepts my hon. Friend's Amendment his Clause will be complete and Parliament will be able to have its way against the exceptionally bad landlord who seeks to foil its purpose.

Sir K. Joseph

The hon. Member for Fulham (Mr. M. Stewart) raised two points. One of them—his desire to see this protection given to the tenants of all houses covered by compulsory purchase orders, and not only those which are in multi-occupation—is not part of his Amendment, and I shall, therefore, limit myself to dealing with the point of that Amendment, to which his hon. Friend the Member for Islington, South-West (Mr. A. Evans) has referred, namely, the extension of the time limit.

I must apologise for not spelling out my fears before. What the hon. Member for Fulham said is right. If a local authority does not pursue its order effectively before the Minister it lapses. But it would be possible for a local authority to make an order and then, although the order was confirmed in due course, never to go ahead and buy the property. In that case, under the hon. Gentleman's Amendment security of tenure would be given for all that period, subject to the right of the landlord to go to the county court. That is why it makes sense to impose a tune limit.

I do not suggest that we should take time in dealing with the point this afternoon. I am willing, at a later stage, to advise the acceptance of an Amendment extending the period of nine months to 12 months. But there will have to be a limit. In the light of my reply, I hope that the hon. Member will not press his Amendment.

Mr. J. Silverman

The Amendment does not ask for very much, and the new Clause does not give very much. It does not give security of tenure. All it says is that if the landlord wants to get rid of his tenant he must go to the county court; he cannot throw him out without doing that. In substance, it extends to a particular sort of tenant or lessee the rights which are already enjoyed by people whose property is rent-controlled.

Even if the time were extended beyond what the Minister would consider reasonable, nothing much would be lost. It would simply mean that in a greater number of cases landlords would have to go to county courts, instead of being able to throw out tenants at will. Personally, I think that this procedure should extend to every tenant and not merely to tenants of rent-controlled property, or tenants covered by the new Clause. It is a shocking thing if it is possible for landlords to evict without going to a county court. Therefore, I think that nothing will be lost by extending this time, because all it means is that the matter will be done by process of law in the few cases where it extends beyond the period of nine months. I cannot see why the Minister should resist any part of the Amendment.

4.30 p.m.

Mrs. Joyce Butler (Wood Green)

I hope that the Minister will very carefully reconsider what he has said about the Amendment. What my hon. Friend the Member for Fulham (Mr. M. Stewart) has been saying is very true. We are in a most complex field.

In introducing the new Clause, which we have now accepted, the Minister has tried to deal with one part of the complex field which has been brought to his attention. But it is perfectly true, as my hon. Friend has said, that what we really need is to extend this protection to all tenants. I know that the Minister will not do that, but if he could extend it a little further, as suggested in the Amendment, he would bring within the net some cases which have not yet been brought to his attention but which may very well arise.

I say that particularly because I have in my hand a whole list of cases which have arisen in the Borough of Tottenham and which will not be caught by the new Clause, for the reason that it would appear—it is not very clear what happened—that landlords have got wind of the fact that the local authority might be making compulsory purchase orders.

The Minister will know that a local authority committee may take a decision which then has to be confirmed by the full council, and in the intervening period the landlord may get to hear of it and give notice to quit to tenants before the compulsory purchase order has actually been made. This has happened on quite a big scale. The Minister will find that there are many more than four such cases, and we are not covering that possibility at all in the new Clause or this Amendment.

There are so many variations of this kind of behaviour by landlords that if we can bring a few more such variations into the net by accepting the Amendment we should do so. Even then, we shall not have covered all the cases where the landlord gives notice to quit to his tenant in circumstances which we would all like to cover.

Mr. James MacColl (Widnes)

I cannot advise my hon. Friend the Member for Fulham (Mr. M. Stewart) to accept the suggestion of the right hon. Gentleman, although we appreciate that the new Clause is a substantial step forward and that his attitude towards the proposal to extend the time shows that he is anxious to do what he can to give the Bill a few more teeth.

The critical question is that it is not until a local authority becomes the owner of the house—that is in paragraph (c) of my hon. Friend's Amendment—that it can really begin to do anything, and the question when it becomes the owner of the house is not altogether in its hands. There may well be delay in the Minister's confirmation of the order, as well as delay in pushing the procedure by the local authorities themselves. We talk a lot about local authorities being lazy, but it is occasionally possible for the Minister to nod.

The right hon. Gentleman said that eight months is the average, but with an average there are always as many on the wrong side as there are on the right side. It may well be that there are a number of cases in which there are delays before the Minister gives approval to his order. That is what causes the delay, and during that time the local authority has to watch the sands of time running out and eviction threatened without being able to do anything about it.

Although the Minister has given the impression of being reasonable about this, I feel that he is missing a point of great value, and I hope that my hon. Friends will press this to a Division.

Sir K. Joseph

There are one or two points that I should like to answer. The hon. Member for Birmingham, Aston (Mr. J. Silverman) spoke of this as if it were an operation to help the tenant on its own. It is not. It is to reinforce the compulsory purchase order. We are dealing here not just with the protection of the county court for the tenant. We are dealing with this under the umbrella of a compulsory purchase order made for the property in which the tenant lives.

I accept the point of the hon. Lady the Member for Wood Green (Mrs. Butler), who was responsible for the upturning of this evidence, that we are not here dealing with the whole range of problems of this sort. We are dealing with problems that immediately concern the House—that is, the result of the 1961 Act—and whether the control order procedures in the Bill should not be used to help. As for the wider range, we must await the Milner Holland Report to see what scale there is on this problem and how best it can be tackled. It may well be that the compulsory purchase order procedure will not be the way to tackle any problem that the Milner Holland Committee comes out with.

Finally, I would say to the hon. Member for Widnes (Mr. MacColl) that this is not a question of the local authorities or the Minister being lazy. There are a series of steps that have to be followed and they take time, and in some cases there are legal complexities. I would gladly move to 12 months at a later stage. I cannot believe that if a local authority were, at the end of 12 months, to apply to purchase a property on which a compulsory purchase order had been made a county court judge would be in a hurry to give vacant possession. I am sure that a stay notice would be given in such a case.

As to the suggestion of the hon. Lady the Member for Wood Green that a landlord may have wind of a threatened compulsory purchase order and give a notice before it is made, I have two things to say. First, the council may delegate its powers to a committee to make a compulsory purchase order. There is no need for it to be remitted back to the full council. Secondly, tenants should be aware that they have the right to four weeks' notice and that if, during the four weeks, a compulsory purchase order should be made under the new Clause, the protection will be retrospective. I hope particularly that in the light of the Milnor Holland Committee's report, which we must expect this year, the House will accept the new Clause without the Amendment.

Mr. Archie Manuel (Central Ayrshire)

This Clause applies to Scotland and all the talk we have had from the Minister about county court procedure would not affect the position in Scotland. I appreciate that the Minister has tried to meet fears which were expressed in Committee, chiefly by my hon. Friend the Member for Wood Green (Mrs. Butler). But when thinking of the Scottish position and subsection (5) of the new Clause—

Mr. Deputy-Speaker

Order. The hon. Member is going rather wide of the Amendment to the first new Clause.

Mr. Manuel

I am dealing with the applications of compulsory purchase order procedure and the recovery by the landlord in respect of Scotland—

The Chairman

Order. I am sorry to interrupt the hon. Member, but the position is that we are now discussing the Amendment to the new Clause.

Mr. Manuel

I was trying to convey to the Minister that he had attempted to meet the position and I was alluding to the Amendment in the name of my hon. Friend, which represents an endeavour to strengthen the position of the lessee.

The effect of the Amendment will apply equally in Scotland and in England. As this is a United Kingdom Bill we are concerned that the necessary protection shall be extended to tenants in Scotland. We must recognise that there is increasing evidence that development companies are taking over town centres, which may comprise hundreds of tenancies. There will be compulsory acquisition by the local authorities obviously on behalf of development companies. Would not the Under-Secretary of State agree that complete protection should be afforded to the tenant in such a situation? Obviously, local authorities have not sufficient accommodation to rehouse all these people, and the authority possesses no power until it becomes the owner of the property. The tenant should be protected against eviction during the period of negotiation.

I know from my experience in local authority work that the Minister is being sanguine about the period of time involved. The kind of redevelopment to which I am referring could take two years of negotiation before everything was agreed. The proposal of the Minister about a 12-month period is a move towards our point of view, but he will realise that in some cases that period may not prove sufficient.

I wish to know, therefore, what proposals the Secretary of State for Scotland may have in mind to protect tenants in Scotland.

4.45 p.m.

Mr. James Dempsey (Coatbridge and Airdrie)

I am interested in the fact that the Minister is willing to extend the period of protection from nine months to 12. But, obviously, he is not au fait with the Scottish situation if he thinks that in certain cases compulsory purchase orders may be obtained within nine months. I wish to disabuse the right hon. Gentleman of any idea that all the Scottish local authorities will start making compulsory purchase orders because he has become a little generous. The authorities are reluctant to entertain the idea. I have tried to persuade the local authorities in two towns in my constituency to apply compulsory purchase orders in respect of two lots of property, but the authorities would not act.

In Scotland, there is a vast amount of abandoned house property, and if local authorities were foolish enough to propose taking compulsory purchase orders, they would find themselves the owners of the largest slum empire in the country. That is why to talk of extending the period to 12 months raises difficulties regarding the position in Scotland. It is not an unusual situation to encounter difficulty when trying to trace the owner of property. I recall one occasion when the attempt to find the owner of property resulted in inquiries being made in Melbourne, Australia. Long and protracted legal processes, passing through the Register of Sassines, in Edinburgh, were taken to protect the acquired property in the event of the return of a former owner, and that took years. It is not an isolated example.

These are matters to which the Minister should pay some attention, because the Clause and the Amendment contain provisions which will relate to the United Kingdom as a whole. He should keep in mind the difficulties of Scotland before he insists on a period of 12 months. The Scottish Minister has been promoted to that office only recently, and he has our good wishes. He has the duty of dealing with the shocking housing situation in Scotland. But in view of his limited period in office I should not expect him to be as familiar with the problem as are some hon. Members who represent Scottish constituencies.

I think that the Amendment of my hon. Friend meets the situation. He wishes that protection should last until the local authority becomes the owner of the property involved. That would cover the situation in which it was possible to take out a compulsory purchase order within a period of six months, or where, because of local difficulties and the nature of the social problem in Scotland, the procedure might take two years. In each case the tenants would be protected. I hope, therefore, that the Minister will not be emphatic in wishing to draw the line at 12 months. I hope that he will introduce a certain elasticity so that when Scottish local authorities, who are faced with a peculiar type of ownership problem from time to time, have to apply for compulsory orders, protection will be afforded to the tenants.

The Under-Secretary of State for Scotland (Mr. Gordon Campbell)

The hon. Member for Central Ayrshire (Mr. Manuel) and the hon. Member for Coat-bridge and Airdrie (Mr. Dempsey) have both raised the question of the application of the proposed Amendment to the situation in Scotland. The effect of the new Clause we have just accepted would be similar in Scotland to that in England and Wales. I hope that without going out of order I may mention that the difference in subsection (5) is to take account of the different legal position in Scotland.

My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State takes the same view as the Minister of Housing and Local Government that there ought to be a limitation of time. The two hon. Members gave rather gloomy pictures of a long wait of two years, but the cases to which they referred were complicated ones concerning redevelopment. I am advised that we have never yet had in Scotland a compulsory purchase order on multiple-occupied houses. When it arises we should see this as a straight forward question which would not take the same time as the difficult and complicated cases described by the hon. Members.

Mr. Manuel

The Under-Secretary mentioned redevelopment. Does he not know that in many towns this is now being arranged and there will be very comprehensive redevelopment? The future of many towns will be in jeopardy and compulsory purchase orders will have to be introduced.

Mr. Campbell

The new Clause relates to multiple-occupied houses and these are particular cases which will crop up rarely. When these compulsory purchase orders come forward they should be of a kind which can be dealt with more quickly than the average kind, particularly the complicated ones to which the hon. Members have referred. For these reasons the Secretary of State also considers that a period of nine months, or 12 months if necessary—that order of time—is appropriate to the Clause we have just passed.

Mr. E. G. Willis (Edinburgh, East)

I am amazed at the excuse that the Under-Secretary has given. If the time to be taken in getting a compulsory purchase order through is to be short as he suggested, what has he to worry about in accepting this Amendment? The Amendment would not prevent the time being short. All it would do would be to provide a longer time in the case of what he called rather more difficult and complicated cases which might take longer than 12 months. The Minister said that this Amendment cannot be accepted because of the cases which will take only a short time. That does not make sense. It is a sort of non sequitur.

In this case the Minister should be willing to accept the Amendment and be prepares to give the additional flexibility my hon. Friends are anxious to get to protect the local authority and the tenant.

Question put, That the words proposed to be left of out stand part of the proposed Clause:—

The House divided: Ayes 178, Noes 128.

Division No. 64.] AYES [4.54 p.m.
Agnew, Sir Peter Grosvenor, Lord Robert Nicholson, Sir Godfrey
Allason, James Hamilton, Michael (Wellingborough) Nugent, Rt. Hon. Sir Richard
Arbuthnot, Sir John Harrison, Col. Sir Harwood (Eye) Osborn, John (Hallam)
Atkins, Humphrey Harvey, John (Walthamstow, E.) Page, Graham (Crosby)
Awdry, Daniel (Chippenham) Hastings, Stephen Pannell, Norman (Kirkdale)
Balniel, Lord Hay, John Pearson, Frank (Clitheroe)
Barber, Rt. Hon. Anthony Heald, Rt. Hon. Sir Lionel Peel, John
Baisford, Brian Henderson, John (Cathcart) Pickthorn, Sir Kenneth
Bennett, F. M. (Torquay) Hendry, Forbes Pitt, Dame Edith
Bennett, Dr. Reginald (Gos & Fhm) Hill, Mrs. Eveline (Wythenshawe) Powell, Rt. Hon. J. Enoch
Bevins, Rt. Hon. Reginald Hirst, Geoffrey Prior-Palmer, Brig. Sir Otho
Biffen, John Hobson, Rt. Hon. Sir John Proudfoot, Wilfred
Biggs-Davison, John Hocking, Philip N. Pym, Francis
Bishop, Sir Patrick Holland, Philip Quennell, Miss J. M.
Black, Sir Cyril Holt, Arthur Rawlinson, Rt. Hon. Sir Peter
Box, Donald Hughes-Young, Michael Redmayne, Rt. Hon. Martin
Boyd-Carpenter, Rt. Hon. John Hulbert, Sir Norman Renton, Rt. Hon. David
Braine, Bernard Hutchison, Michael Clark Ridley, Hon. Nicholas
Buck, Antony Irvine, Bryant Godman (Rye) Ridsdale, Julian
Bullard, Denys James, David Robinson, Rt. Hn. Sir R. (B'pool, S.)
Bullus, Wing Commander Eric Jenkins, Robert (Dulwich) Ropner, Col. Sir Leonard
Burden, F. A. Jennings, J. C. Russell, Sir Ronald
Butcher, Sir Herbert Johnson, Eric (Blackley) Scott-Hopkins, James
Campbell, Gordon Johnson Smith, Geoffrey Sharples, Richard
Carr, Compton (Barons Court) Joseph, Rt. Hon. Sir Keith Shaw, M.
Carr, Rt. Hon. Robert (Mitcham) Kaberry, Sir Donald Skeet, T. H. H.
Channon, H. P. G. Kerans, Cdr. J. S. Smith, Dudley (Br'ntf'd & Chiswick)
Chichester-Clark, R. Kerr, Sir Hamilton Smyth, Rt. Hon. Brig. Sir John
Clark, William (Nottingham, S.) Kirk, Peter Speir, Rupert
Clarke, Brig. Terence (Portsmth, W.) Lancaster, Col. C. G. Stainton, Keith
Cleaver, Leonard Leavey, J. A. Stevens, Geoffrey
Cole, Norman Lindsay, Sir Martin Studholme, Sir Henry
Cooke, Robert Litchfield, Sir Hugh Summers, Sir Spencer
Condle, John Litchfield, Capt. John Taylor, Sir Charles (Eastbourne)
Corfield, F. V. Lloyd, Rt. Hn. Geoffrey (Sut'n C'd field) Taylor, Frank (M'ch'st'r, Moss Side)
Costain, A. P. Lloyd, Rt. Hon. Selwyn (Wirral) Teeling, Sir William
Coulson, Michael Longbottom, Charles Thatcher, Mrs. Margaret
Craddock, Sir Beresford (Speltherne) Lucas-Tooth, Sir Hugh Thomas, Sir Leslie (Canterbury)
Critchley, Julian McAdden, Sir Stephen Thomas, Peter (Conway)
Curran, Charles MacArthur, Ian Thompson, Sir Richard (Croydon, S.)
Dalkeith, Earl of McLaren, Martin Thornton-Kemsley, Sir Colin
Dance, James Mackay, Rt. Hon. John Touche, Rt. Hon. Sir Gordon
d'Avigdor-Goldsmid, Sir Henry Maclean, Sir Fitzroy (Bute & N. Ayrs) Vane, W. M. F.
Digby, Simon Wingfield McMaster, Stanley R. Wade, Donald
Donaldson, Cmdr. C. E. M. Macmillan, Maurice (Halifax) Walker, Peter
Drayson, G. B. Maddan, Marlin Walker-Smith, Rt. Hon. Sir Derek
Duncan, Sir James Maitland, Sir John Ward, Dame Irene
Elliot, Capt, Walter (Carshalton) Marshall, Sir Douglas Webster, David
Farr, John Marten, Neil Wells, John (Maidstone)
Fell, Anthony Mathew, Robert (Honiton) Whitelaw, William
Finlay, Graeme Matthews, Gordon (Meriden) Williams, Dudley (Exeter)
Fisher, Nigel Maude, Angus (Stratford-on-Avon) Williams, Paul (Sunderland, S.)
Fraser, Ian (Plymouth, Sutton) Mawby, Ray Wilson, Geoffrey (Truro)
Freeth, Denril[...] Maxwell-Hyslop, R. J. Wolrige-Gordon, Patrick
Gammans, Lady Maydon, Lt.-Cmdr. S. L. C. Woodhouse, G. M.
Gilmour, Ian (Norfolk, Central) Mills, Stratton Worsley, Marcus
Glover, Sir Douglas Miscampbell, Norman
Goodhew, Victor Montgomery, Fergus TELLERS FOR THE AYES:
Grant-Ferris, R. More, Jasper (Ludlow) Mr. J. E. B. Hill and
Green, Alan Morrison, John Mr. R. W. Elliott.
Grimond, Rt. Hon. J. Mott-Radclyffe, Sir Charles
Allaun, Frank (Salford, E.) Hale, Leslie (Oldham, W.) Mulley, Frederick
Bacon, Miss Alice Hamilton, William (West Fife) O'Malley, B. K.
Benn, Anthony Wedgwood Hannan, William Oram, A. E.
Bennett, J. (Glasgow, Bridgeton) Harper, Joseph Owen, Will
Benson, Sir George Hayman, F. H. Parker, John
Blackburn, F. Healey, Denis Parkin, B. T.
Bottomley, Rt. Hon. A. G. Herbison, Miss Margaret Peart, Frederick
Bowden, Rt. Hn. H. W. (Leics, S. W.) Hilton, A. V. Popplewell, Ernest
Bowles, Frank Holman, Percy Pursey, Cmdr. Harry
Boyden, James Houghton, Douglas Randall, Harry
Braddock, Mrs. E. M. Howie, W. Redhead, E. C.
Brockway, A. Fenner Hoy, James H. Reid, William
Brown, Rt. Hon. George (Belper) Hughes, Gledwyn (Anglesey) Rhodes, H.
Butler, Herbert (Hackney, C.) Hughes, Emrys (S. Ayrshire) Robertson, John (Paisley)
Butler, Mrs. Joyce (Wood Green) Hughes, Hector (Aberdeen, N.) Robinson, Kenneth (St. Pancras, N.)
Callaghan, James Hunter, A. E. Ross, William
Carmichael, Neil Hynd, H. (Accrington) Royle, Charles (Salford, West)
Chapman, Donald Hynd, John (Attercliffe) Silkin, John
Craddock, George (Bradford, S.) Irvine, A. J. (Edge Hill) Silverman, Julius (Aston)
Cullen, Mrs. Alice Johnson, Carol (Lewisham, S.) Silverman, Sydney (Nelson)
Daiyell,[...] Tam Jones, Dan (Burnley) Skeffington, Arthur
Darling, George Kelley, Richard Small, William
Davies, Ifor (Gower) Kenyon, Clifford Smith, Ellis (Stoke, S.)
Davies, S. O. (Merthyr) Key, Rt. Hon. C. W. Sorensen, R. W.
Dempsey, James Lee, Frederick (Newton) Steele, Thomas
Driberg, Tom Lee, Miss Jennie (Cannock) Stewart, Michael (Fulham)
Duffy, A. E. P. (Colne Valley) Lever, L. M. (Ardwick) Stross, Sir Barnett (Stoke-on-Trent, C.)
Ede, Rt. Hon. C. Lewis, Arthur (West Ham, N.) Thomas, George (Cardiff, W.)
Edwards, Robert (Briston) Lipton, Marcus Thornton, Ernest
Edwards, Walter (Stepney) Loughlin, Charles Wainwright, Edwin
Evans, Albert McBride, N. Warbey, William
Fernyhough, E. McCann, J. White, Mrs. Eirene
Finch, Harold MacColl, James Whitlock, William
Fitch, Alan MacDermot, Niall Wilkins, W. A.
Fletcher, Eric Mackie, John (Enfield, East) Willey, Frederick
Foot, Dingle (Ipswich) McLeavy, Frank Willis, E. G. (Edinburgh, E.)
Fraser, Thomas (Hamilton) MacPherson, Malcolm Wilson, Rt. Hon. Harold (Huyton)
George, Lady Megan Lloyd (Crmrthn) Manuel, Archie Woof, Robert
Ginsburg, David Mendelson, J. J. Yates, Victor (Ladywood)
Gordon Walker, Rt. Hon. P. C. Millan, Bruce Zilliacus, K.
Gourlay, Harry Mitchison, G. R.
Grey, Charles Moody, A. S. TELLERS FOR THE NOES:
Griffiths, David (Rother Valley) Morris, Charles (Openshaw) Mr. G. H. R. Rogers and
Griffiths, W. (Exchange) Moyle, Arthur Mr. Lawson.

Clause added to the Bill.

Mr. Deputy-Speaker

New Clause 4. Mr. MacColl.

Mr. Lipton

On a point of order. Mr. Deputy-Speaker, you may have noticed an excellent new Clause in my name—Register of rented houses. Does the fact that you have now called new Clause 4 mean that my new Clause is not selected? It provides for owners of property compulsorily to register their names with local authorities.

Mr. Deputy-Speaker

The fact is, as the hon. Gentleman says, that his new Clause is not being called. He will be aware that it was posted in the Lobby that it was not being called.

  2. cc1246-73
  4. cc1273-6
  5. Clause 1.—(THE HOUSING CORPORATION.) 735 words
  6. cc1276-7
  8. cc1277-8
  10. cc1278-99
  12. cc1299-302
  14. cc1302-4
  15. Clause 12.—(INTERPRETATION OF PART I.) 669 words
  16. cc1304-19
  17. Clause 13.—(DECLARATION OF IMPROVEMENT AREA.) 6,033 words, 1 division
  18. cc1319-20
  20. cc1320-1
  21. Clause 15.—(IMPROVEMENT NOTICES.) 372 words
  22. cc1321-2
  23. Clause 16.—(IMMEDIATE IMPROVEMENT NOTICES.) 264 words
  24. c1322
  25. Clause 17.—(SUSPENDED IMPROVEMENT NOTICES.) 58 words
  26. cc1322-9
  28. cc1329-32
  29. Clause 19.—(DWELLINGS OUTSIDE IMPROVEMENT AREAS.) 1,017 words
  30. c1332
  31. Clause 20.—(TENEMENT BLOCKS IN ENGLAND AND WALES.) 35 words
  32. c1332
  34. cc1332-57
  36. cc1357-61
  38. cc1361-4
  39. Clause 24.—(ACCEPTANCE OF UNDER-lb/> TAKINGS TO CARRY OUT WORKS.) 1,344 words, 1 division
  40. cc1364-72
  42. cc1373-4
  43. Clause 27.—(APPEAL AGAINST IMPROVEMENT NOTICE.) 724 words
  44. cc1374-6
  46. cc1376-8
  48. cc1378-9
  49. Clause 42.—(AMOUNT OF STANDARD GRANT.) 363 words
  50. cc1379-80
  52. c1380
  53. Clause 47.—(AMOUNT OF MINISTER'S CONTRIBUTIONS UNDER S. 13 OF ACT OF 1959.) 104 words
  54. cc1380-4
  56. cc1384-8
  58. cc1388-9
  60. c1390
  61. LEGAL AID BILL 6 words