HC Deb 26 June 1969 vol 785 cc1743-50
Mr. Skeffington

I beg to move Amendment No. 39 in, page 17, line 14, after first 'of', insert 'glebe land or'.

This Amendment allows an application for an improvement grant or a standard grant to be made in respect of a glebe house by a sequestrator when a benefice is vacant. It is being made at the request of the Church Commissioners.

Amendment agreed to.

Mr. Graham Page

I beg to move Amendment No. 166, in page 17, line 26, at end insert: (d) an application for such a grant made by a beneficiary who has a life interest in the dwelling-house to which the application relates or to the proceeds of sale thereof, the free simple absolute or the terms of years absolute being vested in trustees. To put the argument for the Amendment, I must, first, turn back to Clause 2(6), which provides that a local authority shall not entertain an application for an improvement grant unless they are satisfied that the applicant has, in every parcel of land on which the works specified in the application are to be or have been carried out, an interest which is either an estate in fee simple". in possession— or a tenancy … for a term of years absolute.

We have said before that the provisions of the Bill which relate to who shall be entitled to apply for a grant are far too rigid. By an earlier Amendment, we have abolished the conditions which would apply to the owner of property who receives a grant, so there is no longer any need to be rigid about the person who applies for the grant. While it was still to be a condition that the person receiving the grant, if he sold the property, should repay the grant, and, if he retained the grant, must keep the property for letting, and so on, there was some point in saying that the person to whom the grant was paid must be a freeholder or a substantial leaseholder. But that is no longer necessary and we should go a little further in looking for the person who is to benefit from the improvement.

Clause 29 lists some exceptions to Clause 2(6) because of unusual forms of tenure. It excepts some church property, almshouses, the manse and custodian trustees of charities. But these are rather rare birds—the sequestrator of the profits of an ecclesiastical benefice, the trustee managing a trust estate of the residence of a minister, the custodian trustee of a charity and even the prospective purchaser from a local authority. They are all rather rare birds, but there is a type of owner who is not rare and who ought to be entitled to make an application for an improvement grant, and that is the beneficiary under a trust.

To take a simple example, a dwelling-house is left to the widow on trust for sale, the widow having the right to live in the house during her lifetime, with, perhaps, the provision that it shall not be sold without her consent. Why must she be put to the trouble of going to her trustees and persuading them to make an application for the grant? She will be the person benefiting.

I use the example of the widow as an easy one, but there are other types of trust where the beneficiary is in residence and will be the person who will benefit from the grant. In the example which I have given, the widow would be increasing the value of the property, so that there can be no damage to the remainder-man. She is improving the property for the benefit of those ultimately entitled to the trust.

5.0 p.m.

Mr. Skeffington

It is true that the Amendment would allow the beneficiary to apply, but it would not allow the beneficiary of the trust to do the work.

Mr. Graham Page

Perhaps that could be put right in another place. I have not examined that, as I was dealing with the simple point of who can apply for the grant. Surely the beneficiary should have a right to carry out improvements to the property.

The Law of Property Bill is going through the House at the moment, and, if the law needs a little alteration this could perhaps be done in that Bill. We should not be so rigid in laying down who should be the applicant, but should give the person who will benefit from the improvements a right to go to the local authority and ask for a grant to improve his house.

Mr. Skeffington

Whether or not the Bill is too rigid is not relevant to the Amendment. We have looked at this carefully and, having taken advice, our view is that the Amendment is unnecessary. It would allow the beneficiary to apply for the grant but not to carry out the works.

One difficulty of dealing with the 1925 and 1926 Acts in connection with trusts is that what the trustees, the beneficiaries, and tenants for life can do is rigidly bound up in Section after Section, and a greater modification of the law would be needed than is suggested in the Amendment.

However, the hon. Gentleman has stated the principle, and I will deal with that. Where the trustees are perfectly willing to carry out improvements needed by the beneficiary for life, how this is to be done is carefully prescribed, but the requisite authority is in Section 28 of the Law of Property Act. The Section provides that the trustees are under an obligation to consult the beneficiary before they can so act, and there is no difficulty provided that there is nothing in the trust deed which specifically limits the trustees.

Where the beneficiary wants something done and the trustees will not do it, the beneficiary can make an application to the trustees, who are obliged to consider his request. If the trustees refuse, the ordinary law is that the beneficiary can apply to the court under Section 30, and the court will decide whether the refusal of the trustees is reasonable.

As the hon. Gentleman hinted, in the simple case of a widow who is a life beneficiary, this may be a complicated way of going about an improvement grant, and I am inclined to agree with him. In that case, it would be necessary to consider the wider alteration of the whole of the settled trust legislation, and it could not be done by a side-wind in this Bill.

To sum up, a beneficiary may make application to the trustees, who are entitled to carry out the work, and there is no difficulty where the trustees are prepared to act. If they are not prepared to act, the beneficiary may apply to the court. The grant can then be applied for and the work done. Under the terms of the Amendment, the beneficiary would have to approach the trustee, since only the trustees can carry out work in connection with the trust.

Although I understand the concern of the hon. Gentleman, this type of occupier would not be denied a grant and to that extent the Amendment is unnecessary. If the hon. Gentleman is concerned about greater freedom for tenants with life interests, this find an echo in my heart, but it cannot be done in the Bill.

Mr. Peter Walker

It may find an echo in the Minister's heart, but it does not find action from him. This matter was mentioned in Committee and the Minister promised to look at it. Had he looked at it with enthusiasm and diligence he would have found that, by good fortune, the Law of Property Bill was waiting for the carefully prepared Clause which he could have inserted. He could have accepted the Amendment and have faced all the beneficiaries under trusts in the knowledge that he had brought about an important, good, sensible reform.

Instead, the Minister has pointed out the difficulty of changing the Acts, in spite of the fact that the law of Property Bill is now before Parliament, and tells us, with some shame, the process which must be gone through if there is difficulty with the trustees. He says that he is in complete sympathy with the spirit of the Amendment. Therefore, to give him the opportunity of showing in the Lobby that he is with us in spirit, we intend to divide the House.

Question put, That the Amendment be made:—

The House divided: Ayes 128, Noes 169.

Division No. 293.] AYES [5.9 p.m.
Alison, Michael (Barkston Ash) Cooke, Robert Harrison, Brian (Maldon)
Amery, Rt. Hn. Julian Cooper-Key, Sir Neill Hawkins, Paul
Astor, John Corfield, F. V. Heald, Rt. Hn. Sir Lionel
Atkins, Humphrey (M't'n & M'd'n) Crouch, David Heath, Rt. Hn. Edward
Awdry, Daniel Dance, James Heseltine, Michael
Beamish, Col. Sir Tufton Davidson, James (Aberdeenshire, W.) Higgins, Terence L.
Bell, Ronald Doughty, Charles Hill, J. E. B.
Bennett, Sir Frederic (Torquay) Elliot, Capt. Walter (Carshalton) Hirst, Geoffrey
Berry, Hn. Anthony Errington, Sir Eric Holland, Philip
Black, Sir Cyril Eyre, Reginald Hunt, John
Body, Richard Fortescue, Tim Irvine, Bryant Godman (Rye)
Jennings, J. C. (Burton)
Boyd-Carpenter, Rt. Hn. John Foster, Sir John Johnson Smith, G. (E. Grinstead)
Boyle, Rt. Hn. Sir Edward Gibson-Watt, David Jones, Arthur (Northants, S.)
Brewis, John Gilmour, Ian (Norfolk, C.) Jopling, Michael
Brinton, Sir Tatton Goodhart, Philip Kaberry, Sir Donald
Brown, Sir Edward (Bath) Goodhew, Victor Kershaw, Anthony
Bryan, Paul Grant, Anthony Kimball, Marcus
Bullus, Sir Eric Gresham Cooke, R. King, Evelyn (Dorset, S.)
Campbell, B. (Oldham, W.) Griffiths, Eldon (Bury St. Edmunds) Knight, Mrs. Jill
Channon, H. P. G. Grimond, Rt. Hn. J. Lancaster, Col. C. G.
Clark, Henry Hall-Davis, A. G. F. Lane, David
Clegg, Walter Harris, Frederic (Croydon, N. W.) Langford-Holt, Sir John
Legge-Bourke, Sir Harry Quennell, Miss J. M. Thatcher, Mrs. Margaret
Longden, Gilbert Renton, Rt. Hn. Sir David Thorpe, Rt. Hn. Jeremy
Lubbock, Eric Rhys Williams, Sir Brandon Turton, Rt. Hn. R. H.
McAdden, Sir Stephen Ridsdale, Julian van Straubenzee, W. R.
Maclean, Sir Fitzroy Rossi, Hugh (Hornsey) Vaughan-Morgan, Rt. Hn. Sir John
McNair-Wilson, Michael Royle, Anthony Vickers, Dame Joan
McNair-Wilson, Patrick (New Forest) Russell, Sir Ronald Waddington, David
Maddan, Martin St. John-Stevas, Norman Walker, Peter (Worcester)
Monro, Hector Scott, Nicholas Walker-Smith, Rt. Hn. Sir Derek
Montgomery, Fergus Sharples, Richard Walters, Dennis
More, Jasper Shaw, Michael (Sc'b'gh & Whitby) Weatherill, Bernard
Morgan, Geraint (Denbigh) Silvester, Frederick Whitelaw, Rt. Hn. William
Morrison, Charles (Devizes) Sinclair, Sir George Wiggin, A. W.
Murton, Oscar Smith, Dudley (W'wick & L'mington) Williams, Donald (Dudley)
Nabarro, Sir Gerald Smith, John (London & W'minster) Wilson, Geoffrey (Truro)
Page, Graham (Crosby) Speed, Keith Winstanley, Dr. M. P.
Page, John (Harrow, W.) Stainton, Keith Worsley, Marcus
Peel, John Steel, David (Roxburgh)
Pounder, Rafton Tapsell, Peter TELLERS FOR THE AYES:
Powell, Rt. Hn. J. Enoch Taylor, Sir Charles (Eastbourne) Mr. R. W. Elliott and
Prior, J. M. L. Taylor, Edward M. (G'gow, Cathcart) Mr. Timothy Kitson.
Pym, Francis Taylor, Frank (Moss Side)
Allaun, Frank (Salford, E.) Griffiths, David (Rother Valley) Ogden, Eric
Anderson, Donald Griffiths, Eddie (Brightside) Orbach, Maurice
Archer, Peter Hamilton, William (Fife, W.) Orme, Stanley
Armstrong, Ernest Harper, Joseph Oswald, Thomas
Atkins, Ronald (Preston, N.) Harrison, Walter (Wakefield) Page, Derek (King's Lynn)
Atkinson, Norman (Tottenham) Hattersley, Roy Paget, R. T.
Bacon, Rt. Hn. Alice Herbison, Rt. Hn. Margaret Palmer, Arthur
Bagier, Gordon A. T. Hilton, W. S. Pannell, Rt. Hn. Charles
Beaney, Alan Hooley, Frank Park, Trevor
Bidwell, Sydney Hoy, Rt. Hn. James Parker, John (Dagenham)
Bishop, E. S. Hughes, Hector (Aberdeen, N.) Parkyn, Brian (Bedford)
Boston, Terence Hughes, Roy (Newport) Pavitt, Laurence
Bottomley, Rt. Hn. Arthur Hunter, Adam Pearson, Arthur (Pontypridd)
Brooks, Edwin Hynd, John Peart, Rt. Hn. Fred
Brown, Bob (N'c'tle-upon-Tyne, W.) Irvine, Sir Arthur (Edge Hill) Pentland, Norman
Brown, R. W. (Shoreditch & F'bury) Jackson, Peter M. (High Peak) Perry, George H. (Nottingham, S.)
Buchan, Norman Jenkins, Hugh (Putney) Price, Thomas (Westhoughton)
Butler, Herbert (Hackney, C.) Johnson, Carol (Lewisham, S.) Price, William (Rugby)
Cant, R. B. Johnson, James (K'ston-on-Hull, W.) Rees, Merlyn
Castle, Rt. Hn. Barbara Jones, Rt. Hn. Sir Elwyn (W. Ham, S.) Richard, Ivor
Chapman, Donald Jones, T. Alec (Rhondda, West) Roberts, Rt. Hn. Goronwy
Coleman, Donald Judd, Frank Robertson, John (Paisley)
Corbet, Mrs. Freda Kelley, Richard Rodgers, William (Stockton)
Craddock, George (Bradford, S.) Kenyon, Clifford Roebuck, Roy
Crawshaw, Richard Kerr, Mrs. Anne (R'ter & Chatham) Rogers, George (Kensington, N.)
Crossman, Rt. Hn. Richard Kerr, Russell (Feltham) Rowlands, E.
Dalyell, Tam Lawson, George Shaw, Arnold (Ilford, S.)
Darling, Rt. Hn. George Leadbitter, Ted Sheldon, Robert
Davidson, Arthur (Accrington) Lee, John (Reading) Shore, Rt. Hn. Peter (Stepney)
Davies, Ednyfed Hudson (Conway) Lipton, Marcus Short, Mrs. Renée (W'hampton, N. E.)
Davies, G. Elfed (Rhondda, E.) Mabon, Dr. J. Dickson Skeffington, Arthur
Davies, Dr. Ernest (Stretford) McCann, John Slater, Joseph
MacColl, James Small, William
Davies, Ifor (Gower) Macdonald, A. H. Snow, Julian
Dobson, Ray McGuire, Michael Strauss, Rt. Hn. G. R.
Doig, Peter McKay, Mrs. Margaret Symonds, J. B.
Driberg, Tom Mackenzie, Gregor (Rutherglen) Taverne, Dick
Dunn, James A. Mackintosh, John P. Thomson, Rt. Hn. George
Dunnett, Jack Maclennan, Robert Tinn, James
Eadie, Alex McMillan, Tom (Glasgow, C.) Urwin, T. W.
Edwards, Robert (Bilston) McNamara, J. Kevin Wainwright, Edwin (Dearne Valley)
Edwards, William (Merioneth) MacPherson, Malcolm Walker, Harold (Doncaster)
Ellis, John Mahon, Peter (Preston, S.) Wallace, George
English, Michael Mahon, Simon (Bootle) Watkins, David (Consett)
Evans, Gwynfor (C'marthen) Mallalieu, J. P. W. (Huddersfield, E.) Weitman, David
Evans, Ioan L. (Birm'h'm, Yardley) Marks, Kenneth Wellbeloved, James
Faulds, Andrew Mellish, Rt. Hn. Robert Whitlock, William
Fernyhough, E. Mendelson, John Wilkins, W. A.
Fitch, Alan (Wigan) Mitchell, R. C. (S'th'pton, Test) Willey, Rt. Hn. Frederick
Fletcher, Raymond (Ilkeston) Moonman, Eric Williams, Alan (Swansea, W.)
Foot, Michael (Ebbw Vale) Morgan, Elystan (Cardiganshire) Williams, Alan Lee (Hornchurch)
Forrester, John Morris, Alfred (Wythenshawe) Williams, Clifford (Abertillery)
Fraser, John (Norwood) Morris, Charles R. (Openshaw) Williams, W. T. (Warrington)
Gardner, Tony Morris, John (Aberavon) Wilson, Rt. Hn. Harold (Huyton)
Ginsburg, David Moyle, Roland
Greenwood, Rt. Hn. Anthony Murray, Albert TELLERS FOR THE NOES:
Gregory, Arnold Newens, Stan Mr. Ernest G. Perry and
Grey, Charles (Durham) Noel-Baker, Rt. Hn. Philip Mr. Neil McBride.
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