HC Deb 30 June 1965 vol 715 cc652-60
Mr. Boyd-Carpenter

I beg to move Amendment No. 19, in page 9, line 38, after "made", to insert: after hearing such other person or persons as may in the opinion of the court be concerned". This Amendment arose, as the Parliamentary Secretary will recall, from a short discussion we had in Committee. As the House will be aware, the Clause to which it is proposed to apply this Amendment relates to the case of tenancies ending before the commencement of the Act, and subsection (1,b) deals with the case where an order for possession had been made before the commencement of the Act, but had not been executed. It deals with the procedure to be followed by which the matter can be brought back to the court and if the order is of a kind which if asked for after the Act had begun to operate would not have been made, the court can rescind it.

5.0 p.m.

The point which arose in Committee and which the Parliamentary Secretary said that he would be good enough to consider is the position of the third party. We are concerned, in particular, with the position of the prospective tenant. The landlord has obtained an order for possession, but has not executed it and he has made in good faith an agreement with the third party to give him the tenancy. It seems to us to be common justice that when the court is considering rescinding that order the other person interested, the person who could have expected to be the tenant and who has been given an agreement by the landlord in good faith, should have at least the chance of being there to argue his case.

We were advised that under the Bill as it stands he would not have that right. We had some discussion in Committee and the Parliamentary Secretary gave an assurance that in those circumstances the landlord would not be liable in damages to the third party. With respect, I agree with that advice, but that still leaves the third party out on a limb. He may have good reasons for wanting to take up the tenancy, for not only may he have incurred expense in reasonable anticipation but he may have lost the chance of some other tenancy. He might be seriously prejudiced by the rescinding of the order and all we ask is that he, together with the landlord and the earlier tenant against whom the order has been made should all have the chance of coming forward and presenting their case.

The Parliamentary Secretary was courteous enough to write to me on 24th June to give me the result of his consideration. I am sure that he will not object if I read the relevant passage from his letter. He said: As you pointed out a prospective tenant has no right to be heard in an action which a former tenant brings before the court for the revocation of an order for possession which has previously been granted against him. A good deal of publicity has been given to the Rent Bill"— that is undoubtedly true— and we think it unlikely that landlords or prospective tenants would be caught unawares by the provisions of Clause 14. As we made clear our intention to restore security of tenure we would be surprised if prospective tenants had entered into firm commitments without being certain that they would be able to occupy the premises. This is a rather strong assertion, especially when applied to the case with which we are here concerned where an order for possession has been actually obtained by the landlord prior to the passing of the Bill.

I should have thought that where an order for possession has been obtained it would be reasonable for the landlord to enter into agreement with a prospective tenant. Whether or not the general effect of the Bill is to spread alarm and despondency has been argued on other points, but on this point we ought to take care of the interests of the prospective tenant. The Amendment does not seek to give him any priority over the sitting tenant or the landlord. It seeks to give him only the right to be heard by the court which is to decide whether or not to rescind the original order. This seems to us to be a modest but necessary proposal in view of the fact that as the Bill now stands he does not have that right. We seek for him only the right to be heard.

The Attorney-General

We have looked at this point, but we have come to the conclusion that it is unlikely that the circumstances which have been envisaged by the right hon. Member for Kingston-upon-Thames (Mr. Boyd-Carpenter) will arise in practice. I make the point which was made in the letter, which, in my respectful submission, really deals with this matter, that ever since the introduction of the Protection from Eviction Bill it has been public knowledge that restrictions were being imposed on the right of the landlord to obtain possession of premises let as a dwelling. A landlord with a sitting tenant would be most foolhardy if he entered into a contract to give possession of his premises to another tenant on a certain date unless he was satisfied that the sitting tenant would not be protected by or would not take advantage of the protection he enjoyed from the Protection from Eviction Act, or this Bill.

Mr. Boyd-Carpenter

The Attorney-General's proposition may have a good deal to be said for it, but would the right hon. and learned Gentleman apply it to the case where the landlord has already obtained an order for possession?

The Attorney-General

I think that I would, because the Protection from Eviction Act has been in operation for many months and it has been made abundantly clear that the Bill continues the provisions against eviction in that Act. In any event, the Amendment would not produce a workable state of affairs. Under earlier Clauses a tenant whose tenancy has not expired will be able to hold over as a statutory tenant. No new tenant therefore will be able to move in until the former tenant gives up possession. The effect of Clause 14 has produced the same state of affairs as the right hon. Gentleman has described in the case where the tenancy has expired when the Bill comes into operation but the former tenant is still in possession.

In our view, to allow a prospective tenant to compete with a sitting tenant would frustrate the operation of the Clause. Where application is made under the Clause, the judge has solely to look at the situation as it was when the possession order was made and to decide whether had the Bill been then in operation that order would have been made. It is not a ground for possession against a regulated tenant that the landlord wishes to let the premises to another tenant. Accordingly, in my submission, it follows that no useful purpose would be served, and indeed there would be a waste of money, if the prospective tenant in those circumstances were given the right to be heard in such proceedings.

The right hon. Gentleman may feel reassured when I tell him that a provision similar to that in this Clause was included in previous Acts which brought in a further measure of rent control, for example, in Section 5(3) of the 1920 Rent Act and in Section 4 of the 1939 Act. In neither of those cases was it considered necessary to have a provision on the lines of the Amendment, and there is no evidence that any hardship was caused as a result. Although I assure the right hon. Gentleman that we looked at this matter anxiously to ensure that no injustice was done we felt that the circumstances which he envisages would not arise in practice and that what he proposes would be quite unworkable.

Mr. Graham Page

I must say, with great respect to the Attorney-General, that his speech was rather like the comment of the person who saw a giraffe for the first time and said that he just did not believe it. The Attorney-General said that these circumstances are very unlikely to occur, but far from it. They are very likely to occur. Would the right hon. and learned Gentleman observe that this Amendment is to Clause 14(1,b) and that paragraph (b) applies when a court order has been made? All the parties have relied upon an order of the court. This is not something prospective, in the future. The order of the court has been made, and will have been made in face of the Protection from Eviction Act.

The right hon. and learned Gentleman said that everyone ought to have known about the Protection from Eviction Act. But they did. The order will have been made under that Act. The parties know of the order and, on the faith of it, have entered into certain other transactions. It is not only a matter of the prospective tenant. The owner of the property who obtained the court order may have entered into a contract with a prospective purchaser to sell the property. A mortgagee, in reliance upon the order in the hands of his mortgagor, may have taken steps, perhaps, to recover possession of the property or some irrevocable steps in relation to the property.

The Attorney-General said that it would be most foolhardy for any owner, in face of what we are doing in the House, to disregard Clause 14. Who outside the House knows about Clause 14 of the Bill? [Interruption.] The Minister of Public Building and Works interrupting from a recumbent position in the corner of the Front Bench, has not been in the Chamber or in Standing Committee for any part of our proceedings on the Bill. If he wishes to interrupt me in the course of the debate and tell me what is contained in Clause 14, I shall give way.

Clause 14(1,b) covers the case in which an order has been made. Apparently, it is suggested that all parties who know of the order would be most foolhardy to rely on it or to think that it will still remain after we have finished with this Bill. Earlier today, the Parliamentary Secretary made a most significant remark. Speaking of what would happen when the Bill became law, he added, "We do not know when the Bill will become law". Neither does the public outside. It is mere guesswork to wonder whether an order of this sort will be executed before the Bill becomes law. A man may be lucky and may be able to have his warrant for possession before it does become law, and he may not.

To suggest that these circumstances may not arise, that no one ought to rely on a court order, and that the Amendment is impracticable is not to look the problem in the eye. The Amendment is brief and it can achieve its purpose. It can be made workable under Section 17 of the 1920 Act which empowers the Lord Chancellor to make the necessary rules of court. The Attorney-General has not given the Amendment proper attention.

Question put, That those words be there inserted in the Bill:—

The House divided: Ayes 183, Noes 204.

Division No. 223.] AYES [5.13 p.m.
Alison, Michael (Barkston Ash) Eden, Sir John Maginnis, John E.
Allan, Robert (Paddington, S.) Elliot, Capt. Walter (Carshalton) Marples, Rt. Hn. Ernest
Allason, James (Hemel Hempstead) Elliott, R. W. (N'c'tle-upon-Tyne, N.) Marten, Neil
Anstruther-Gray, Rt. Hn. Sir W. Emery, Peter Mathew, Robert
Astor, John Errington, Sir Eric Maude, Angus
Atkins, Humphrey Eyre, Reginald Maydon, Lt.-Cmdr. S. L. C.
Awdry, Daniel Farr, John Meyer, Sir Anthony
Balniel, Lord Fisher, Nigel Mills, Peter (Torrington)
Barber, Rt. Hn. Anthony Fletcher-Cooke, Sir John (S'pton) Mills, Stratton (Belfast, N.)
Barlow, Sir John Foster, Sir John Miscampbell, Norman
Batsford, Brian Fraser, Ian (Plymouth, Sutton) Mitchell, David
Beamish, Col. Sir Tufton Gammans, Lady More, Jasper
Bell, Ronald Gibson-Watt, David Morrison, Charles (Devizes)
Bennett, Sir Frederic (Torquay) Goodhart, Philip Munro-Lucas-Tooth, Sir Hugh
Bennett, Dr. Reginald (Gos & Fhm) Gower, Raymond Murton, Oscar
Birch, Rt. Hn. Nigel Grant, Anthony Neave, Airey
Black, Sir Cyril Gresham Cooke, R. Nicholls, Sir Harmar
Blaker, Peter Grieve, Percy Nicholson, Sir Godfrey
Box, Donald Griffiths, Eldon (Bury St. Edmunds) Nugent, Rt. Hn. Sir Richard
Boyd-Carpenter, Rt. Hn. J. Griffiths, Peter (Smethwick) Onslow, Cranley
Braine, Bernard Hall, John (Wycombe) Orr-Ewing, Sir Ian
Brewis, John Harris, Frederic (Croydon, N. W.) Osborn, John (Hallam)
Brinton, Sir Tatton Harris, Reader (Heston) Page, John (Harrow, W.)
Bromley-Davenport, Lt.-Col. Sir Walter Harrison, Brian (Maldon) Page, R. Graham (Crosby)
Brooke, Rt. Hn. Henry Harrison, Col. Sir Harwood (Eye) Pearson, Sir Frank (Clitheroe)
Bruce-Gardyne, J. Harvey, Sir Arthur Vere (Macclesf'd) Peel, John
Buchanan-Smith, Alick Harvey, John (Walthamstow, E.) Percival, Ian
Bullus, Sir Eric Harvie Anderson, Miss Peyton, John
Burden, F. A. Hastings, Stephen Pickthorn, Rt. Hn. Sir Kenneth
Butcher, Sir Herbert Heald, Rt. Hn. Sir Lionel Powell, Rt. Hn. J. Enoch
Buxton, Ronald Hendry, Forbes Price, David (Eastleigh)
Campbell, Gordon Higgins, Terence L. Prior, J. M. L.
Carlisle, Mark Hill, J. E. B. (S. Norfolk) Rawlinson, Rt. Hn. Sir Peter
Cary, Sir Robert Hobson, Rt. Hn. Sir John Redmayne, Rt. Hn. Sir Martin
Chataway, Christopher Hornsby-Smith, Rt. Hn. Dame P. Renton, Rt. Hn. Sir David
Clark, William (Nottingham, S.) Iremonger, T. L. Ridley, Hn. Nicholas
Cole, Norman Irvine, Bryant Godman (Rye) Ridsdale, Julian
Cooke, Robert Jennings, J. C. Roberts, Sir Peter (Heeley)
Cordle, John Johnson Smith, G. (East Grinstead) Robson Brown, Sir William
Corfield, F. V. Jones, Arthur (Northants, S.) Roots, William
Costain, A. P. Joseph, Rt. Hn. Sir Keith Royle, Anthony
Craddock, Sir Beresford (Spelthorne) Kerr, Sir Hamilton (Cambridge) Scott-Hopkins, James
Crosthwaite-Eyre, Col. Sir Oliver Kershaw, Anthony Sharples, Richard
Cunningham, Sir Knox King, Evelyn (Dorset, S.) Shepherd, William
Curran, Charles Kitson, Timothy Sinclair, Sir George
Currie, G. B. H. Lagden, Godfrey Smith, Dudley (Br'ntf'd & Chiswick)
Dalkeith, Earl of Lambton, Viscount Spearman, Sir Alexander
Dance, James Lancaster, Col. C. G. Stanley, Hn. Richard
Davies, Dr. Wyndham (Perry Barr) Legge-Bourke, Sir Harry Stodart, Anthony
d'Avigdor-Goldsmid, Sir Henry Litchfield, Capt. John Stoddart-Scott, Col. Sir Malcolm
Dean, Paul Lloyd, Rt. Hn. Selwyn (Wirral) Studholme, Sir Henry
Deedes, Rt. Hn. W. F. Longden, Gilbert Taylor, Sir Charles (Eastbourne)
Digby, Simon Wingfield Loveys, Walter H. Taylor, Frank (Moss Side)
Dodds-Parker, Douglas McAdden, Sir Stephen Thatcher, Mrs. Margaret
Douglas-Home, Rt. Hn. Sir Alec Maclean, Sir Fitzroy Thompson, Sir Richard (Croydon, S.)
Drayson, G. B. McMaster, Stanley Vaughan-Morgan, Rt. Hn. Sir John
Vickers, Dame Joan Wells, John (Maidstone) Woodhouse, Hn. Christopher
Walker, Peter (Worcester) Whitelaw, William Woodnutt, Mark
Walker-Smith, Rt. Hn. Sir Derek Wills, Sir Gerald (Bridgwater) Younger, Hn. George
Wall, Patrick Wilson, Geoffrey (Truro)
Ward, Dame Irene Wise, A. R. TELLERS FOR THE AYES:
Weatherill, Bernard Wolrige-Gordon, Patrick Mr. Ian MacArthur and
Mr. Francis Pym.
Abse, Leo Hannan, William O'Malley, Brian
Albu, Austen Harper, Joseph Oram, Albert E. (E. Ham, S.)
Allaun, Frank (Salford, E.) Harrison, Walter (Wakefield) Orme, Stanley
Armstrong, Ernest Hart, Mrs. Judith Owen, Will
Bacon, Miss Alice Healey, Rt. Hn. Denis Padley, Walter
Bagier, Gordon A. T. Heffer, Eric S. Paget, R. T.
Barnett, Joel Henderson, Rt. Hn. Arthur Pannell, Rt. Hn. Charles
Baxter, William Herbison, Rt. Hn. Margaret Park, Trevor (Derbyshire, S. E.)
Beaney, Alan Hill, J. (Midlothian) Parker, John
Bellenger, Rt. Hn. F. J. Holman, Percy Parkin, B. T.
Bence, Cyril Hooson, H. E. Pearson, Arthur (Pontypridd)
Benn, Rt. Hn. Anthony Wedgwood Horner, John Peart, Rt. Hn. Fred
Bishop, E. S. Houghton, Rt. Hn. Douglas Pentland, Norman
Blackburn, F. Howarth, Robert L. (Bolton, E.) Perry, Ernest G.
Blenkinsop, Arthur Howie, W. Popplewell, Ernest
Boardman, H. Hoy, James Price, J. T. (Westhoughton)
Boston, T. G. Hughes, Emrys (S. Ayrshire) Pursey, Cmdr. Harry
Bowden, Rt. Hn. H. W. (Leics, S. W.) Hughes, Hector (Aberdeen, N.) Randall, Harry
Boyden, James Hunter, Adam (Dunfermline) Rankin, John
Braddock, Mrs. E. M. Hunter, A. E. (Feltham) Redhead, Edward
Bradley, Tom Hynd, H. (Accrington) Rees, Merlyn
Brown, Rt. Hn. George (Belper) Irving, Sydney (Dartford) Rhodes, Geoffrey
Buchan, Norman (Renfrewshire, W.) Janner, Sir Barnett Roberts, Albert (Normanton)
Buchanan, Richard Jeger, George (Goole) Roberts, Goronwy (Caernarvon)
Butler, Herbert (Hackney, C.) Jenkins, Hugh (Putney) Robertson, John (Paisley)
Butler, Mrs. Joyce (Wood Green) Jenkins, Rt. Hn. Roy (Stechford) Robinson, Rt. Hn. K. (St. Pancras, N.)
Carmichael, Neil Johnson, Carol (Lewisham, S.) Rodgers, William (Stockton)
Carter-Jones, Lewis Jones, Dan (Burnley) Rogers, George (Kensington, N.)
Chapman, Donald Jones, Rt. Hn. Sir Elwyn (W. Ham, S.) Sheldon, Robert
Coleman, Donald Jones, J. Idwal (Wrexham) Shinwell, Rt. Hn. E.
Craddock, George (Bradford, S.) Jones, T. W. (Merioneth) Shore, Peter (Stepney)
Crosland, Rt. Hn. Anthony Kelley, Richard Short, Rt. Hn. E. (N'c'tle-on-Tyne, C.)
Crossman, Rt. Hn. R. H. S. Kenyon, Clifford Silkin, John (Deptford)
Cullen, Mrs. Alice Leadbitter, Ted Silkin, S. C. (Camberwell, Dulwich)
Dalyell, Tam Lee, Miss Jennie (Cannock) Silverman, Julius (Aston)
Davies, G. Elfed (Rhondda, E.) Lever, L. M. (Ardwick) Silverman, Sydney (Nelson)
Davies, Ifor (Gower) Lewis, Arthur (West Ham, N.) Slater, Mrs. Harriet (Stoke, N.)
Delargy, Hugh Lomas, Kenneth Slater, Joseph (Sedgefield)
Dell, Edmund Loughlin, Charles Small, William
Diamond, Rt. Hn. John Lubbock, Eric Steel, David (Roxburgh)
Dodds, Norman Mabon, Dr. J. Dickson Steele, Thomas (Dunbartonshire, W.)
Doig, Peter McBride, Neil Stonehouse, John
Driberg, Tom McCann, J. Stones, William
Duffy, Dr. A. E. P. Maccoll, James Summerskill, Hn. Dr. Shirley
Dunnett, Jack MacDermot, Niall Taylor, Bernard (Mansfield)
Edelman, Maurice Mclnnes, James Thomas, Iorwerth (Rhondda, W.)
Edwards, Rt. Hn. Ness (Caerphilly) McKay, Mrs. Margaret Thornton, Ernest
English, Michael Mackenzie, Gregor (Rutherglen) Tomney, Frank
Ennals, David Mackie, George Y. (C'ness & S'land) Urwin, T. W.
Evans, Albert (Islington, S. W.) Mackie, John (Enfield, E.) Varley, Eric G.
Fernyhough, E. McLeavy, Frank Wainwright, Edwin
Finch, Harold (Bedwellty) Mahon, Peter (Preston, S.) Walker, Harold (Doncaster)
Fitch, Alan (Wigan) Mahon, Simon (Bootle) Wallace, George
Fletcher, Ted (Darlington) Mallalieu, J. P. W. (Huddersfield, E.) Warbey, William
Fletcher, Raymond (Ilkeston) Manuel, Archie Watkins, Tudor
Foley, Maurice Weitzman, David
Ford, Ben Mapp, Charles White, Mrs. Eirene
Freeson, Reginald Mason, Roy Whitlock, William
Galpern, Sir Myer Mellish, Robert Williams, Alan (Swansea, W.)
George, Lady Megan Lloyd Mikardo, Ian Williams, Clifford (Abertillery)
Gregory, Arnold Millan, Bruce Williams, W. T. (Warrington)
Grey, Charles Miller, Dr. M. S. Wilson, Rt. Hn. Harold (Huyton)
Griffiths, David (Rother Valley) Milne, Edward (Blyth) Winterbottom, R. E.
Griffiths, Rt. Hn. James (Llanelly) Morris, Alfred (Wythenshawe) Yates, Victor (Ladywood)
Griffiths, Will (M'Chester, Exchange) Morris, Charles (Openshaw) Zilliacus, K.
Grimond, Rt. Hn. J. Morris, John (Aberavon)
Hale, Leslie Neal, Harold TELLERS FOR THE NOES:
Hamilton, James (Bothwell) Newens, Stan Mr. George Lawson and
Hamilton, William (West Fife) Oakes, Gordon Mr. Harry Gourlay.
Hamling, William (Woolwich, W.) Ogden, Eric