HC Deb 26 February 1964 vol 690 cc440-1

3.48 p.m.

Mr. Harold Lever (Manchester, Cheetham)

I beg to move, That leave be given to bring in a Bill to amend the law so as to establish statutory conditions as to the quality of materials and work in new or converted houses and flats intended for sale. In seeking leave to bring in the Bill, I am respectfully inviting the House to take a modest and non-controversial step in bringing the law relating to the sale of new houses and flats and conversions more into line with modern conditions and modern legal concepts.

When a man buys a new house or flat, no warranty is implied that the house has been properly constructed or even that the materials used in its construction were of reasonable or suitable quality. This leads to many unhappy consequences. If, for example after a couple of months of occupation it turns out that the woodwork has seriously warped, that the plumbing or heating has been negligently installed or that badly laid slates fall from the roof of the house, the unfortunate buyer has no remedy. It is in the nature of things that many of these matters cannot be discovered until the buyer is in possession of the house and the material and workmanship are subject to some reasonable testing.

It would be my intention, in the Bill, to bring in words which would apply to all such contracts of sale warranties that the house or flat has been erected or converted in a workmanlike manner and that proper materials of suitable quality have been used. I would try to draft into the Bill the assumptions that normal people make when they buy a new house or flat, and so word the Bill that, in the event of reasonable assumptions fairly made proving to be unjustified within a period of time, the buyer would have a remedy against the vendor. That, in brief, is the reason for the request that I make for leave to bring in the Bill.

I conclude with two points. First, I would not wish this attempt to bring in the Bill to be taken as reflecting on either side of the building industry. On the contrary, I am aware that efforts have been made to encourage higher standards in building work and finish in respect of houses and flats. If the House accepts the Motion, my intention would be to give encouragement to the laggard sections of the industry by clarifying their legal position and their moral and legal responsibilities when people buy houses or flats. This is particularly important, because this would affect the conversion of older houses into new flats.

We have from time to time amended and adapted the law relating to contracts. This is a particularly neglected area where the law is out of date. I respectfully submit to the House that leave might be granted so that some attention may be given to this aspect of our law, which attention is now manifestly overdue.

Question put and agreed to.

Bill ordered to be brought in by Mr. H. Lever, Mr. L. Lever, Mr. Diamond, Mr. Albu, and Mr. D. Jones.