HC Deb 06 June 1972 vol 838 cc273-4

(1) Section 1(1) of the Act of 1971 (protected tenancies) shall have effect as if for paragraph (a) there were substituted the following paragraph—

  1. '(a) the rateable value of the dwelling-house on the appropriate day exceeded or, as the case may be, exceeds £200; or'.

(2) Section 86(1) (dwelling-houses to which Part VII of that Act applies) shall have effect as if for the words from 'which has' to the end there were substituted the words 'the rateable value of which on the appropriate day did not or, as the case may be, does not exceed £200'.—[Mr. Gordon Campbell.]

Brought up, and read the First time.

Mr. Gordon Campbell

I beg to move, That the Clause be read a Second time.

The purpose of the new Clause is to put beyond doubt a possible ambiguity in the provisions of the consolidating Rent (Scotland) Act, 1971, which specify the rateable value limits which apply, either before a tenancy of a dwelling-house can be regarded as being a protected tenancy, or before a dwelling-house can be regarded as one to which Part VII of that Act on furnished lettings applies.

What has happened is that an authority on the Rent Acts has expressed the view that the 1968 consolidation of the Rent Acts of England and Wales has had the effect that if the rateable value of a house subject to a protected tenancy is increased above the relevant rateable limit specified in Section 1 of the 1968 Act the tenancy loses protection.

The wording of the relevant provisions of the Rent Act, 1968, is similar to that of Sections 1(1)(a) and 86 of the Rent (Scotland) Act, 1971. Our view is that if the tenancy comprised lands and heritages, for which a rateable value was shown on the valuation roll on 23rd March, 1965, and that rateable value did not exceed £200, the tenancy would remain one to which Part VII of the 1971 Act applies; alternatively, as the case may be, the tenancy of the dwelling- house would remain a protected tenancy, even if the rateable value of the dwelling-house is subsequently increased above that limit.

If the contrary opinion, the opposite to our interpretation, were to be held by the courts to be correct, this would mean that the consolidation of the Rent Acts had altered the previous law. That was certainly not intended. I therefore consider that the matter should be put beyond all doubt, and that is the purpose and effect of the new Clause. I am sure that the House would wish to make certain that the correct interpretation was one which the Government hold on this, and I therefore commend the Clause to the House.

5.0 p.m.

Mr. Ross

I have no objection to the new Clause but I am surprised that it has come at this time. After we finished with the Committee stage and had decided how to allocate our time, giving two valuable days of timetabled business, the Government slapped down over 100 Amendments and seven new Clauses. One wonders exactly what a Committee stage is for under the present régime of the Scottish Office. I should like to know when the authoritative expert on the Rent Bill discovered the possible dubiety of legal interpretation. Can we be given the time of this so that we can judge whether or not the Government deliberately held this over for a later stage whenthey knew that time was scarce?

Mr. Gordon Campbell

Our intention in putting down the new Clause was that it should not take any time because it was a matter of interpretation which we thought that both sides would wish to make clear. But it was only recently that the Government decided that this should be put beyond doubt. That was since the Committee stage. It may not have been necessary, but we thought that since it would not take much time it would be better if it were done.

Question put and agreed to.

Clause read a Second time, and added to the Bill.

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