HL Deb 17 December 1919 vol 38 cc360-1

Order of the Day for the Second Reading read.


My Lords, in asking your Lordships to give a Second Reading to this Bill at this period of the session I am taking a cause which can only be justified by the extreme urgency of the situation to which the Bill relates. I have explained the circumstances and the scope of the Bill to several of your Lordships who take an interest in these matters, and I think they are unanimously convinced that the Bill is one which ought to be passed through its stages in this House with the utmost possible expedition.

I think I can explain in five minutes what is the emergency and what is the remedy proposed. Under the existing law a tenant who pays his rent and observes the conditions of his lease cannot be evicted from a house to which the Acts apply, except on the specific grounds which are set out in the Increase of Rent and Mortgage Interest (War Restrictions) Act, 1915, and the Acts amending it. Those grounds are—1, that the tenant has committed waste or been guilty of a nuisance; 2, the premises are reasonably required by the landlord for the occupation of himself or some other person in his employ or in the employ of some tenant; 3, some other ground which may be deemed satisfactory by the Court making such order.

The existing Acts are so framed that the Court has practically no discretion to refuse an order for possession if one or other of the special grounds set out is established. The continued shortage of housing accommodation in London has led to an immense multiplication of cases in which application is made to which there is no legal answer, and yet in respect of which every County Court Judge before whom the cases come says that cruel injustice is being done by the application of the existing law. This Bill was suggested by a most powerful representation of all the County Court Judges of London who have to administer the law, which they tell me—and I accept their statement—is leading to the gravest risk of widespread disturbance in the poorer parts of London.

I examined the representation made to me by the County Court judges and I assented to it. I have put it before several members of your Lordship's House as a grave matter of national urgency which I believe the House of Commons will accept even at this late period of the Session.

Moved, That the Bill be now read 2a.—(The Lord Chancellor.)


My Lords, the House is very empty now, but I believe every one desires to meet the emergency alluded to by the Lord Chancellor. There is, however, a great deal to be said upon the policy of this Bill, and even now there is nothing to prevent a tenant who remains in a house against the wishes of the landlord, sub-letting the house at a great increase on the rent. That is a point which I hope the Lord Chancellor will consider before we reach the Committee stage.


That point has been considered, and I shall be glad to discuss it with the noble Viscount at an early stage. I shall have to ask your Lordships to take the Committee stage quite soon. I ask the noble Viscount to approach the Committee stage with this knowledge, that it is the unanimous recommendation of the County Court Judges, who are closely in touch with the question, that some such proposal should be passed in order to deal with the subject.

On Question, Bill read 2a, and committed to a Committee of the whole House tomorrow.