HC Deb 26 June 1969 vol 785 cc1815-6

8.45 p.m.

Mr. Skeffington

I beg to move Amendment No. 71, in page 28, line 17, leave out 'him' and insert 'the applicant'.

Mr. Deputy Speaker

It would be convenient to discuss Government Amendments No. 72 and No. 73 at the same time.

Mr. Skeffington

Amendment No. 71 illustrates the caution with which one needs to examine every Amendment moved by the hon. Member for Crosby (Mr. Graham Page). In Committee, he said, "Be a devil. All my Amendment does is to leave out ten words". Forgetting my native caution for once, I could not resist his appeal, although I am glad to say that, in accepting it, I said that it might be necessary to introduce some other form of words on Report to make the position clear. That is what happened. By accepting the hon. Gentleman's Amendment in Committee, we were left with the pronoun "him", unrelated to anything. Amendment No. 71 therefore makes sense of the provision.

Amendments No. 72 and No. 73 also go, I hope, some way to dealing with a more substantial point mentioned in Committee. Some hon. Members suggested that the period during which the landlord or tenant could appeal against the decision of the local authority should be extended from 28 to 42 days. My hon. Friend the Joint Parliamentary Secretary was sympathetic but said that he thought that it would be better to have a flexible rather than a rigid approach. These two Amendments allow such longer periods as the county court may decide. Indeed, it may be longer than what was proposed by the Opposition Amendment in Committee and is likely to be longer than what was proposed in the Bill as originally drafted.

I know that the Opposition were very much concerned that the landlord might suffer as a result of a local authority acting incorrectly in the first place, and that was the main purpose of their Amendment. Now there is this more sensible approach but there is the difficulty that we may run up against the principle, which was considered very important by my colleague—that we do not want to impinge on or telescope the phasing scheme.

In any case, the landlord cannot apply for registration of a fair rent until 1971 or 1972 under Clause 52, so if the local authority does not agree to give a certificate and the landlord appeals, the matter can be resolved before 1971 or 1972 as the case may be.

These are desirable Amendments.

Mr. Graham Page

It appears that both the Joint Parliamentary Secretaries are not their usual gracious selves tonight. One accuses us of not understanding a Clause which was badly drafted in the first place and about which they have accepted our drafting advice. The other accuses me of proposing Amendments which leave him in difficulty over grammar. But it is the Government's job to accept an Amendment in principle and tidy up the grammar afterwards.

Mr. Skeffington

I remind the hon. Gentleman that, in Committee, I was prepared to accept his Amendment in principle but then he said, "Be a devil and accept it as it is." I fell from grace and accepted it as it stood.

Mr. Page

If the hon. Gentleman had not accepted it in that way we would be debating the matter tonight, but now we are only discussing "him", a small word in the Clause which does not need to take up our time.

The hon. Gentleman was ungracious in not acknowledging that it was our proposal that Clause 51 be amended in the form in which he has brought forward these Amendments. The extension of the time in this way, or giving the courts power to extend the time, will, I am sure, make the procedure much more acceptable. I will be gracious and say that we are grateful to him for bringing forward Amendments that we proposed in Committee.

Amendment agreed to.

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