HC Deb 24 May 1968 vol 765 cc1154-7


2.32 p.m.

Mr. Oscar Murton (Poole)

I beg to move Amendment No. 2, in page 1, line 12, after first 'his', to insert 'permanent'.

Mr. Speaker

With this Amendment we can consider No. 3, in line 12, after second 'his', insert 'permanent'.

Mr. Morton

The object is to exclude any possibility of weekend or holiday use of caravans being included in this provision. We wish to make it clear that what is involved is permanent residence.

Mr. Eric Lubbock (Orpington)

I am able to give the assurance which the hon. Member for Poole (Mr. Murton) wants. The Bill applies only to permanent residences and follows the phraseology used in the Rent Acts, so that it has respectable precedence. Section 3(l)(a) of the 1968 Act states: — the protected tenant of the dwelling-house shall, if and so long as he occupies the dwelling-house as his residence, be the statutory tenant of it; I think the hon. Gentleman would agree that it would be undesirable to suggest that we mean anything different in this Bill from what the Rent Acts have meant in the past. The courts know how to interpret this phrase and the best thing would be to leave out the word "permanent".

Mr. Martin Maddan (Hove)

The hon. Member for Orpington (Mr. Lubbock) really cannot expect the courts to equate caravans with houses, since they are eminently different. What is sauce for the goose may not be sauce for the gander. The whole point about caravans is that, in so many cases, they are used for holiday purposes. They may be used for what one might call prolonged holiday or perhaps even for semi-retirement or for periods of half a year. Where is the line to be drawn? The fact that there is a precedent in one Statute does not imply that the courts will extend it to another area of legislation.

Acceptance of the Amendment would mean that there would be no doubt about what we mean. We know that the courts, when they consider an Act of Parliament, look at it in toto and decide what it means as a whole and what particular bits of it mean. Surely this Bill should make the task of the courts easier. Indeed, it should make the position of caravan dwellers and people running caravan sites easier if it is in language that both laymen and the courts understand. I hope that my hon. Friend the Member for Poole will proceed with the Amendment.

Sir Knox Cunningham (Antrim, South)

I support the Amendment. If, as the hon. Member for Orpington (Mr. Lubbock) says, it is his intention that only permanent residence should be concerned, it would modify any chance of misunderstanding if the Amendment were accepted. It would help the courts and make clear the intentions of the Bill.

Mr. Lubbock

By leave of the House—

Mr. Charles Doughty (Surrey, East)

I, too, support the Amendment and, without going into details, the hon. Member for Orpington (Mr. Lubbock) will know why. There are many sites which are of a temporary nature, with the licence granted only for a limited period. I use the word, "temporary" in the widest sense in this context. If "permanent" is inserted in the Bill, it will not be weakend but strengthened. Statutes must be clear and definite and I am afraid that this Bill is not clear and definite and could lead to a great deal of legal arguments in the courts about its meaning. The Amendment would strengthen the Bill. The purpose would not be changed and the Bill would certainly be improved.

Mr. Lubbock

By leave of the House, perhaps I can reply.

Mr. Speaker

Order. The hon. Gentleman does not need the leave of the House to reply.

Mr. Lubbock

I am not a lawyer and it is hard for me to dispute with the hon. and learned Members for Surrey, East (Mr. Doughty) and Antrim, South (Sir Knox Cunningham). But I am advised that to put the word "permanent" in here would imply that we meant something different in the Bill from what was meant by the use of the word "residence" in the Rent Act and would make the task of the courts much more difficult in deciding what Parliament meant.

The question of holiday sites is already covered in the Bill. There is no question of their being brought in, because they are not protected sites. In the context of the Rent Acts, it has been held that a house occupied by a tenant only for the summer holidays is not protected as security. Therefore, if we use the same phraseology in this Bill as in the Rent Acts, we are much more likely to be on the right track and we should be giving the courts the phraseology which they have known how to interpret ever since Rent Acts first came on the Statute Book. I believe that the wording in the Bill is adequate and covers our intentions.

Mr. Maddan

We are on a legal matter. Will the hon. Gentleman invite the Parliamentary Secretary to give the advice of his Department?

Mr. Lubbock

I should be glad to have confirmation of what I have said.

Mr. Doughty

By permission of the House, perhaps I can say something more.

Mr. Speaker

Order. We are not in Committee but on Report stage and I deprecate second speeches on Report.

Mr. Doughty

I merely wished to make a further observation, Mr. Speaker.

Mr. Speaker

That is what I deprecate.

Mr. Doughty

In the case of houses and flats the site is itself permanent. The analogy given by the hon. Member for Orpington (Mr. Lubbock) is wrong.

Mr. Mutton

I am put in a quandary. Hon. Members are aware of the difficulties which might arise should we include now an Amendment which could jeopardise this part of the Bill. No doubt the hon. Member for Orpington (Mr. Lubbock) had guidance and assistance with the drafting. For that reason, and in view of the assurance which the hon. Member for Orpington has given, I beg to ask leave to withdraw the Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

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