§ After Clause 5.
§ Insert the following new clause:
§ "Amendment of definition of standard rent.
"6. At the end of paragraph (a) of subsection (1) of section two of the principal Act, the following words shall be inserted:
Provided that in the case of any dwelling-house let at a progressive rent payable under a tenancy agreement or lease the maximum rent payable under such tenancy agreement or lease shall be the standard rent.
§ The Commons disagree to this Amendment:
§ Because it is inexpedient to extend the Bill to cover cases not contemplated by the principal Act.1061
§ Moved, That the Commons Amendment and Reasons be now considered.—(The Lord Chancellor.)
§ THE MARQUESS OF SALISBURY
My Lords, I waited for a moment in the expectation that the noble and learned Lord, or some other member of the Government, would give your Lordships some guidance in the consideration of these Amendments. As the noble and learned Lord no doubt has only deferred for a few moments any observations he has to make perhaps your Lordships will allow me to trouble you very shortly in respect to these Amendments. May I state, in the first place, that I have it in charge to say to your Lordships, on behalf of my noble friend Lord Balfour of Burleigh, how very sorry he is that he has been called away and is not able to be in his place to-night. He had made arrangements in ignorance of when this stage would be taken, and he was unable to alter them.
Your Lordships' House is placed in a rather special position in respect of this Bill. It has been my good fortune or my ill-fortune to have been engaged in many of the occasions when there has been a difference of opinion upon Amendments between the two Houses of Parliament, but in all my experience, which is not so great as that of some of your Lordships, I never remember a case precisely like the present, because in this case the House of Commons has rejected, not some, but all of the Amendments made by your Lordships' House except a few of a drafting character or Amendments which are very little more than drafting. All the Amendments which your Lordships inserted in the Bill have been rejected in the House of Commons, including one which was moved by His Majesty's Government. That is a significant occurrence.
§ THE MARQUESS OF SALISBURY
And this was done on the Motion of the Ministers of the Crown. It is only one more example of the novel system of Cabinet government under which we have the fortune to be administered at this moment, and of the total want of solidarity between the various Ministers who compose the Government, which allows one Minister to move an Amendment in this House and another Minister to move its rejection in the other House within about twenty-four hours.
1062 I have been trying during the period which has elapsed since I had the opportunity of seeing the Commons treatment of the Lords Amendments, to find what could possibly have been the reason for these proceedings. It is not, I am well assured, that your Lordships' House treated the House of Commons with any want of due respect. On the contrary, there was nothing said, so far as I am aware, in the whole course of the proceedings, which was not of a very proper character. We spoke of another House with the regard and respect which are always due from one House of Parliament to the other. So far as we are concerned, no charge can be made on that ground; and, indeed, not merely in manner but in substance, we were very careful to treat with great respect that about which the House of Commons cared.
Your Lordships are aware that there was a series of Amendments by which the House of Commons laid a good deal of store, which they inserted during the passage of the Bill through that House. Such things as the extension of the time over which the Bill should run, the enlarging of its scope so that it applies to a larger class of houses than it did when it was originally introduced, the stipulation that adequate repairs should accompany any rise in the rent, the increased retrospective action of the Bill, the refusal of the clause in the original Bill under which, in certain circumstances, the County Court Judge could permit an increase of rent—all these Amendments which were put in the Bill in another place your Lordships' House respected. In no case, although I must confess I had some hesitation in respect to one of them, did your Lordships attempt to alter the decision of the House of Commons. But, notwithstanding that attitude on the part of your Lordships' House, every single one of the Amendments inserted here was rejected in another place.
I have made it my business to make myself acquainted with the reasons put forward in another place for the attitude which was adopted. There are very few reasons. They are lamentably absent from the discussion. There are the reasons, the technical reasons, which are upon your Lordships' Table, but which I think you will not find to be very enlightening. But, broadly speaking, there are very few reasons. Indeed in respect to one of them, 1063 a privileged Amendment, which was held to be a violation of the privileges of the House of Commons, we have not had the advantage of knowing anything of the reasons of the House of Commons, because it appears to be the rule in another place in regard to this class of privileged Amendments, which are "waivable," that if it is the intention of the Minister not to "waive" he need not give any reasons at all for disagreeing with the Amendment. He need only say, "I move to disagree." That appears to be the rule in the other House of Parliament. I cannot say that I admire the intelligence of that rule, and I could not help congratulating myself that the Assembly to which I have the honour to belong is not bound too closely by rules, if rules lead to so very unintelligent a result. The upshot is that the Amendment which was passed by your Lordships to help the particular class of occupier which the Bill is intended to help, and without which the Bill is probably technically unworkable, however well it can be made to work by a little pushing and shoving on the part of local authorities, has been rejected by the House of Commons upon the ground of privilege (which they might have waived) without any reason whatever being given, either on the Blue Paper which is before your Lordships or in the debate in another place, why this very singular course of action should be adopted.
I pass to the other Amendments. I am not going to trouble your Lordships with details upon them. It would not be correct. We shall have an opportunity of dealing with them in detail in a moment. I should just like to say, broadly, that the House of Commons have rejected not only the Amendments in favour of the landlords which we inserted. And when I say "landlords" I mean, of course, that very poor and humble class of landlord whose only offence is that they are called landlords, and nothing else, and being called landlords they come under the same condemnation as your Lordships do, but in no other respects—perhaps we may express it with regret—do they resemble our position. All the Amendments in their favour have been rejected, and not only have all the Amendments in respect of those who receive rents been rejected, but all the Amendments which we inserted in the case of those who pay rents have been rejected also. The whole of the Amendments which your Lordships inserted in order to protect those who held by a sub-letting agreement a 1064 furnished or an unfurnished house have been rejected, practically without any reason; and of course the privilege Amendment, which I have already mentioned, by which the rating authority would not have been allowed to raise the rates in respect of an increase of rents permitted under the Bill (thereby by raising the rates increasing the rent) has also been rejected.
Your Lordships are therefore placed in a very singular position. I cannot understand what principle has governed the House of Commons in their action. They seem to have selected one class of persons in the country, neither the highest nor the lowest, and given them special privileges, and rejected any Amendment by which those privileges could be in any way diminished. They will not allow a fair rent in respect of repairs, and in order to make good the loss on the mortgage interest they will not allow a fair rent to be given to those wretched small landlords; on the other hand they will give no relief whatever to the still smaller persons who pay rent to those very privileged individuals who are the immediate occupiers. That is a proceeding so astonishing that without very strong argument I am sure it would be impossible for your Lordships to accept.
Therefore it becomes us to consider what we ought to do. This is a matter, of course, entirely in your Lordships' hands. I do not know that anything I have said will have much weight with your Lordships. I only offer an opinion, a very humble opinion, for your consideration. Let me say that it is not the practice of your Lordships' House, at least it never has been since I have had the honour of sitting here, to insist upon all your Amendments. That would be most unreasonable. The other House are the representatives of the people. They have recently been before their constituents, and I am quite sure none of us would desire to treat their decisions with anything except the most profound regard. I should not suggest that we ought to insist upon all the Amendments which we made. There are, in the first place, the Amendments which we inserted the object of which is to permit, as I have said, the raising of the rent in order to compensate for the increased charge on mortgage interest, and for the stipulation as to repairs. That is not, as the House of Commons have left the Bill, sufficient 1065 or anything like sufficient. These unfortunate people will be out of pocket altogether with the depreciated currency which we use. Many of them are very poor. I know this of my own experience. Many of these so-called landlords are widows and persons with small means who have invested their small savings in house property, and who really have lived upon the rents which they received from the property. The House, of Commons are determined that, so far as they are concerned, these unfortunate persons should be ruined.
I do not think that your Lordships would be wise to insist upon that Amendment, and I will explain why. In the first place the Amendment was passed in this House with a very small majority; in the second place, its bearing on the Bill is very complicated. The Bill itself is a very complicated one. It is one of those Bills which are drafted by reference, and are extremely difficult to understand—so difficult to understand that I am sorry to say the House of Commons has not understood it. If your Lordships will look at the Blue Paper you will find that they think that we provided in our Amendment that the rent should be raisable from the passing of the Act. Unless you read the Bill very carefully and the Amendments, the mistake is not unnatural; but, as a matter of fact, the first, increase of 10 per cent, cannot begin until what is called the extended period, which is six months after the declaration of peace. That complication is one reason why I think it would be unwise to insist upon the Amendment, because these things having to be justified in the country it is always difficult to justify what is difficult to explain.
Undoubtedly, upon this subject, of the raising of the rent from 10 per cent, to 25 per cent., very much uncertainty is felt in different parts of the country. One of the few Amendments brought forward in the House of Commons was an Amendment by an hon. gentleman who said that there were over a million persons out of employment, and that their feelings on the subject were very strong. He certainly was in a much better position to judge of that than I am, or any of your Lordships are, for he himself represents many of them. Those seem to me to be good reasons why your Lordships should not insist upon that particular Amendment. After all, the unemployment to which the 1066 hon. gentleman referred is part of the sequel of the war, and therefore to that extent no doubt this measure may be looked upon as a war measure, and one which ought to be treated in a special way. For that reason I venture to suggest that that Amendment, and the Amendment shortening the period by which the operation of the Bill would commence, should not be insisted upon.
But when I turn from those Amendments to the Amendments which provided that in the case of sub-letting the same principle should be applied in the rent which is paid by the sub-tenant to the tenant as is applied in the case of the rent paid by the tenant to the landlord, I confess that I do not see how it is possible for your Lordships to abandon the Amendments which you passed. They are obviously just. There can be no possible reason, as far as I can see, why a different treatment should be meted out to the subtenants from that given to the tenants. If it is difficult for the tenant to pay rent, then it is equally difficult for the subtenant, to do so; and if the tenants come to Parliament and ask for relief they have no right to use that relief in order to make money out of somebody else. That is precisely what they are doing; and it seems to me so outrageous a principle, and one so utterly contrary to the most elementary dictates of justice and equity that if your Lordships were to abandon these Amendments it would be really little use our sitting here at all.
I observe, in reading what passed in another place, a great desire on the part of hon. gentlemen sitting in different parts of the House to vindicate their democratic principles. I am a believer in Tory democracy. I have ventured to say in your Lordships' House—and your Lordships were, good enough to listen to me—how deeply I felt the obligation upon us to show the sympathy which we feel, and. which is a perfectly sincere sentiment on our part, with all the hopes and fears and interests of the wage-earning class. It is an old policy of the Party to which I belong. It is a policy in which I have been brought up, and one in which I believe. It is a policy founded upon justice—justice to all classes. I had the opportunity only last night of discussing with some friends why it was that the Army in the field had shown itself so much more disinterested than those who are 1067 engaged in industry at home, and we all agreed that the reason was that they found their motive in an ideal. Those who think that they can really earn the gratitude of the democracy by reducing everything to a cash basis, and who believe that they can hope to gain votes by letting off a man his rent and allowing him on the other hand to charge a high rent, to his neighbour, are misjudging the British working man, and are living in a fool's paradise if they think he honours or respects a policy of that kind. We have deep respect for the objects and susceptibilities of the wage-earning class, but we ought not, so long as we sit here, to lend ourselves to what is plainly unjust. In preventing injustice we fully believe that in the future we shall have the reward which we have earned from the people themselves.
§ THE LORD PRESIDENT OF THE COUNCIL (EARL CURZON OF KEDLESTON)
My Lords, the Lord Chancellor, who was in charge of this Bill when it was last before your Lordships' House, will reply to any specific Motions that may be made in the course of the discussion which the noble Marquess has just opened. But, inasmuch as he commenced his observations with an appeal for some guidance to the House, I should perhaps hardly be fulfilling my duty did I not respond to such a request coming from him.
The noble Marquess, in the speech to which we have just listened, has defended the action which, largely upon his advice, the majority of your Lordships took upon a recent occasion. He has spoken with fairness and propriety, as it seemed to me, of the reserve which your Lordships exercised in not touching particular clauses or parts of the Bill with which you might not have been altogether in sympathy, and ho has further defended your action with regard to the particular Amendments which were introduced here into the Bill. He has justified them in each case, although I am interested to observe that he is prepared, for reasons which I will presently mention, to advise your Lordships to modify your attitude, in some particulars, and he concluded his remarks by a rather impassioned vindication of the traditional attitude of your Lordships' House towards the interests of the wage-earning class, an attitude of which, I may say with absolute sincerity, I am convinced that there is no more whole-hearted 1068 exponent in this House than the noble Marquess himself.
On the last occasion the noble Marquess defended with some vigour the right of your Lordships' House, as a Second Chamber, to revise. That is uncontested, and you are the judges of the limits within which you exercise that power. I would not presume to lay down any rules, dogmatic or otherwise, in that respect. We are not discussing to-day the wisdom of the action that you took last week; we are discussing to-day the proposition whether it is wise, in view of what has passed in another place, generally speaking, to persist in that attitude.
I do not think it is necessary for me to enter into the merits of the particular Amendments which are, in the main, the topics of difference between the two Houses. Good reasons, I think, were advanced in each case for the adoption of those Amendments in this House; it is certain that, if there had not been such reasons, they would not have been introduced. There was the Amendment substituting a fixed date for an uncertain date for the raising of rents under this Bill. There was the Amendment for dealing with the increase in rent after the passing of the Bill; and as regards that, the noble Marquess just now explained once again, with a great deal of perfectly legitimate warmth, that it is a monstrous thing to say that this particular Amendment was introduced out of regard for the interests of the landowners—assuming the landowners to be the class to whom so many of your Lordships belong. That would be a gross injustice. This was a provision introduced by you to protect an entirely different class of landowners—the small landowners; indeed, to call them landowners is in itself to provoke the very sort of confusion of which you have been the victims.
Then there is the Amendment directed against what, I think, has clearly been shown to be an abuse—I mean the Amendment, or Amendments, intended to prevent the tenant from practising extortion or evading the law by sub-letting houses or rooms at excessive rents. Upon that I understand the noble Marquess reserves his opinion, and we shall discuss the matter when we come to it in the course of this afternoon's procedure. There was one-other Amendment rejected in another place which was moved by the Lord Chancellor 1069 here. The noble Marquess, I think, alluded to that as a somewhat uncommon proceeding. I believe my noble friend on the Woolsack acted at the moment on good advice, as he believed, that the Amendment would lie acceptable to the Government in another place; and if any mistake was made upon that point, it certainly was not made by him.
With regard to the general attitude of the House with respect to these Amendments and the attitude of another place in rejecting them, I have been trying to make clear in my own mind what are the circumstances in which your Lordships' House as a Second Chamber is justified in holding out against such treatment as has been meted our to us in this case. Is this a case where we are entitled to resist the attitude of the House of Commons? The first case in which, I think, this House is not only justified, but perhaps more, than justified, in holding out is one in which the proposals which it has made are carried by very large majorities of your Lordships' House. The noble Marquess has just admitted himself that, in the case of the two principal Amendments, that did not occur. The figures were, in the one case, thirty-seven against thirty-four; in the other case, thirty-six against thirty. And the figures of the minority would, I think, have been somewhat swollen—the decision might, indeed, have been the other way—if some noble Lords on the Front Bench opposite (my noble friend the Leader of the Opposition, for instance, who, I think, doubted the wisdom of the course which you were pursuing) had seen their way to support the Bill in the Division Lobby. But my inspection of the Division Lists shows me that only one, or, at most, two noble Lords on that Bench—Lord Buck-master, and, I think, Lord Denman—supported by their votes the attitude which, on this side, we Mere taking up.
The second case which would justify resistance would, I think, be this—that in the action which we were taking we should not be open to any suspicion either of infringing the privileges of the House of Commons or of acting in the interests of a particular class. To only one of these Amendments does my first observation apply. One Amendment, and one only, I think was rejected in the House of Commons without discussion because it was regarded as a breach of privilege. I need not farther refer to that. Then as 1070 regards the interests of a class, it does appear undoubtedly to be the case, if I may judge, from what I read in the Press, that, unfair as I think the charge is in this particular case, your Lordships are looked upon as having intervened in the interests of the class to which you belong. It is an unjust suspicion, I think, in this case; it is an unfounded suspicion; but it is one which exists, and one of which abundant use is being made in the Press of the country, as every one of your Lordships knows.
The third condition which would justify us in holding out would be that we should be backed by a large force of public opinion. Since the action of your Lordships' House last week—there has not been much time to read what has passed since the action of the House of Commons two days ago—I am bound to say I have observed very few signs of sympathy for the position which you took up with regard to this Bill.
My last condition justifying resistance would be that our protest should find considerable support in another place, and should be justified by success. Like the noble Marquess, I read the discussion which took place in the House of Commons on Tuesday. And although there were one or two valiant defenders of the line that you had adopted here, I am bound to say that there were also members of the Party to which the majority of us in this House belong win sharply criticised the action taken by noble Lords opposite. And, indeed, so strong and all but unanimous was the opinion of another place upon the matter that supporters of your Lordships' action did not venture in a single case to press the matter to a Division. I think I am right in saying that the rejection of your Lordships' Amendment was in every case carried nem. con. in the House of Commons. That may have been ill judged, it may have been uncalled for, but at the same time it is a fact that you cannot ignore. And these decisions of the House of Commons were arrived at in a House, be it remembered, the large majority of which belong at the present time to the political Party with which the majority of your Lordships are associated.
In these circumstances I do not think that this case falls within the category where the Leader of the House would be justified in asking your Lordships to persist. 1071 There are, there will be in the future, many cases in which you can exert your great authority with influence and with effect. Is this one of them? I doubt very much whether any one of your Lordships is convinced that that is the case. I was reading only just before I came down here a passage in the Daily News, in which, with reference to the debate that took place yesterday afternoon, very high praise was given to your Lordships. This was the remark that I read, greatly to my surprise, in that organ of public opinion—The country is finding in the House of Lords the only court to which it can look for protection of its interests or the decencies of public life.This was very high praise from a most unexpected quarter; but I am not quite sure in my own mind whether it was not more inspired by dislike of His Majesty's present advisers than it was by enthusiasm for your Lordships' House. However that may be, I do not want to impair this unsolicited, but, as I think, well-deserved reputation, by advising your Lordships to take any step on this occasion which in the general interest would be unwise.
THE MARQUESS OF CREWE
My Lords, I desire to say only a very few words following what has fallen from the Leader of the House, especially as he was good enough to mention me as having advised a certain course in respect to some of the Amendments at an earlier stage. On that occasion, in relation to the two first Amendments moved by my noble friend behind me (Lord Salisbury) and by Lord Balfour of Burleigh, I expressed the opinion that those did not afford a favourable field for a collision with another place. It was almost certain to be said, as I thought, that if we pressed those Amendments on the attention of the House of Commons we did so to a considerable extent as interested persons. I stated my belief that such a charge against us would be in the main unfounded, because the class of property owner mainly affected by the Amendments is a far smaller owner than those represented in your Lordships' House. But still it would not be quite true to state—as I think the noble Earl opposite seemed disposed to state—that there would be no foundation for the charge; because, as a matter of fact, practically all those of us in your Lordships' House who are owners of property do own a certain amount of property of the kind 1072 in question, and if there were any idea of profiting by an Amendment of that kind we should as individuals possibly gain accordingly. I therefore thought that it would be unwise to press those particular Amendments, and consequently, as the noble Earl truly said, I did not support my noble friend behind me in putting them before your Lordships' House. I entirely also agree with him that on those Amendments now it would not be wise to insist.
Until we come to the consideration of the later Amendments I do not desire to discuss their substance, or to express any opinion as to whether it would be wise for your Lordships to insist upon them—those, I mean, on which the noble Marquess indicated his opinion that we ought to insist. But I can fairly say that, subject to anything that may be stated on their merits from the Benches opposite, they seemed to me to fall into an entirely different category; that they are quite clearly and on the face of them designed for the protection of a humble class of tenant; and there can be no question that any of your Lordships who favour them are actuated by the faintest tinge of self interest. I will not say any more on that subject at this moment.
The noble Earl the Leader of the House laid down a very careful series of rules which, as he conceived, might guide the conduct of your Lordships' House in such a case as this. For one thing he stated that a certain measure of support in the House of Commons ought to be forthcoming before we could think it right to insist on a particular Amendment. My impression, from having looked at the Report of another place, was that, as regards one or two of the Amendments, there was a distinct expression of opinion in that House that they ought to be accepted there. And it did also strike me—as I confess it has struck me on some former occasions when I have been sitting on the other side of the House—that the treatment by His Majesty's Government of the arguments advanced here was somewhat curt; that the opposing arguments were not developed to the extent which we might have been fairly entitled to claim, and that the whole matter was brushed aside somewhat roughly instead of receiving the degree of consideration which I think they might have had reason to expect. Nor do I think that the fact that the Amendments were not carried in this House by 1073 an overwhelming majority is one to which we need pay very great regard. It was not a very full House. The attendance here on the days on which we ordinarily sit is very largely composed of those who are accustomed, and indeed (if one likes to put it so) obliged, to support His Majesty's Government in such a case. Therefore the degree of independent opinion which was manifested by your Lordships on that occasion was, I think, far larger than the mere figures would give one reason to suppose.
§ VISCOUNT MIDLETON
My Lords, after what has fallen from the noble Marquess who has just sat down, I really hope we may appeal to the noble Earl the Leader of the House to reconsider his attitude with regard to some of the later Amendments to which allusion has been made. Taking the noble Earl's own definition of the conditions under which this House has a right to insist on Amendments—in the first place I think he was not able to be present; we know of his very engrossing duties elsewhere during the. greater part of those discussions—if he had been present I am sure he would have been deeply impressed not merely with the absence of any argument, on the part of the Government opposed to the views we put forward on behalf of the smaller tenants, but by the acceptance by the noble and learned Lord of the principle and the fact that he merely suggested to us that the Government draftsman would be prepared to put into a form more acceptable to the Government the views which he, felt were acceptable to the whole House. Therefore the first question on which the noble Earl puts stress—namely, that the Amendments should have been supported by a large majority here, is even more enforced in the case of Amendments which were unanimously accepted by the House as a whole.
That is not the only point. The noble Earl talked of a large force of public opinion outside. I can only judge from the post-bag of which I am now the victim since moving certain Amendments. I have not received one line of opposition; but I have received scores of cases of the most telling hardship. Only this morning I received, from a man living in my own neighbourhood, a request to me as a landlord, "Will you not set right this anomaly? Here I am with employment assured me in the neighbourhood in which I have 1074 lived all my life, but I am unable to find a house. I have a large family, and you have a house which you have let to someone at £13 a year, who has sub-let it to a sergeant in the Canadian Infantry for £65 a year, because it has a little furniture in it." What is there of democratic principle in allowing a man, whose rent it had never occurred to me to raise, to make 500 per cent, out of the house at the expense of some of those whom we are specially bound to consider, because of the circumstances in which they are serving this country. I only suggest that if such cases, which cannot be answered, could have been put before the House of Commons, or put forward by the Government, we should have been in a different position. What chance had we of influencing public opinion in another place? The Bill was taken here one night and discussed, and early the following afternoon the House of Commons were forced to deal with it. In the ordinary condition of things there would have been some communication with members who desired to be seized of our Amendments, but we left ourselves in the hands of the Government, and the Government took no steps.
I really feel that if attempts are made to prejudice this House by the imputation that we have some ulterior motives in such action, then it is our duty to show that it is not so. I also feel that if on subjects on which we have special knowledge and information, and upon which no member of the Government is able to show there is any flaw in the arguments we advance, and if on those subjects we put Amendments in the Bill and are then asked to withdraw them, when the question is not argued or discussed in the House of Commons, we may just, as well abrogate all right to consider and make Amendments in Bills which come before us. I urge the noble Earl to think twice before he asks us to reject our Amendments en bloc, as the Government have done in the House of Commons. If I wished to say anything contentious I should say that it is a challenge to this House to prove that it has still got some influence on legislation.
§ THE LORD CHANCELLOR
My Lords, it is undoubtedly true, as the noble Lord who has just sat down has observed, that very powerful arguments were used by your Lordships in the course of the debate in Committee and on the later stages of the Bill, and it is certainly true, and 1075 the noble Lord is quite entitled to point it out, that in reply to many of the hard case cited I was not able to give a satisfactory reply. In fact, the noble Marquess somewhat mercilessly, and more than once, commented on that circumstance, and the only defence possible to make in relation to some of those hard cases was that the apprehensions entertained were well-founded; that the Bill was admittedly a necessary Bill; and that it was extremely hard to suggest a way in which the objects of the Bill could be attained while, at the same time avoiding the mischiefs indicated. It is quite true that on more than one occasion I placed the draftsman of the Government at the disposal of noble Lords opposite—an unusual course, which I adopted for the reason that very meritorious cases were on more than one occasion made out. On only one of those occasions did I definitely indicate that I was prepared to accept an Amendment. In the other cases, to one of which the noble Lord has just called attention, I made it quite plain that the difficulty was a very great one to so amend the Bill as to meet the case, and I could not give any satisfaction that the only method by which it could be attempted, an exceedingly cumbrous one, would be acceptable in another place.
I cannot help thinking that some of the later Amendments might have had a more favourable reception elsewhere had it not been for the persistence in the first two. The reasons for the rejection by the House of Commons of the first and second Amendments, and particularly of the. first Amendment, can be defended very much more easily than the reasons given for disagreement with some of the later Amendments.
§ THE LORD CHANCELLOR
The first Amendment the Commons disagree to "because it is inexpedient to derogate from the rights already conferred on tenants by the Act of 1915." It is true, and I ventured to point it out in the debate, that to accept this Amendment did in fact derogate from the Parliamentary bargain to which your Lordships were parties, and which was contained in the principal Act, that these tenants should have immunity from an increase of rent till peace was signed and for six months afterwards. Therefore I ventured to think at the time that it was not an Amendment which it would be right to press.
1076 The second Amendment is one which, as I can understand, excited at any rate in some quarters of the House of Commons resentment. I agree with all that was said as to much ignorance and malice being shown in discussing the part which your Lordships played. As was pointed out, it should have been understood that the class of landlords affected by this Bill has very little representation in your Lordships' House. I ventured to point out, however, that your Lordships were dealing with a subject which was extremely difficult, and that it was very hard to balance the disadvantages which different persons must suffer. I pointed out that there had been an acrimonious debate in the House of Commons as to whether 10 per cent, increase should be allowed, and that there was a considerable party in the House of Commons who thought that the increase should only be 5 per cent., and that an important and by no means brief discussion took part upon whether it should be 10 or 5 per cent. Certainly it is, I think, a striking circumstance that only one or possibly two members in the whole of the House of Commons, when this Amendment was impeached there, rose to defend the course which your Lordships had adopted in this House.
The next Amendment is of a different class. It is one in respect of which a great deal can be said for your Lordships' view, and I am bound to say quite candidly that when I apply my mind to the explanation of the Commons disagreement to this Amendment I am unable to follow it. The Commons disagree "because it is inexpedient to make substantial retrospective amendments to the principal Act." It is right that upon such matters I should be candid with your Lordships, and I think there has been some misunderstanding on the part of those who drafted the reason for disagreement in this case. I say nothing about the next case because it is concluded by the objection taken, but I ought to add a word about subjection (4), which is struck out, and 6(1).
On that point I start by saying that of all the difficulties of this Bill in my judgment the most serious is that of sub-letting. I think your Lordships called attention to omissions from the Act which have not received the attention to which they were entitled. The difficulty of the task is immense. I attempted several methods 1077 myself of dealing with it, and thought of various ways in which the Bill might be amended in order to give effect to our Lordships' wishes. I failed to do so, and then the noble Viscount, Lord Midleton, with great ingenuity, put down an Amendment which I thought was more promising than any solution which had occurred to me to that time. Thereupon, I told your Lordships that I had come to this conclusion, and we invited discussion between the noble Viscount and the Government draftsman in order to see whether their united ingenuity and technical skill could frame a suitable Amendment. That was the history of Clause 6 (1). I thought it was hopeful, but I always had my doubts about it, because, for one reason, it was necessary to fix an abstract standard of "normal profit." The Commons disagreed with the Amendment on the ground that it is inexpedient to extend the principal Act to furnished houses. It is arguable in my humble judgment if it could be done. If it cannot be done it is obviously inexpedient.
The second part of the reason is "because of the practical difficulty of ascertaining the 'normal profit' in the County Court." I think there is great, difficulty in determining the "normal profit," find I am bound to say it is undoubtedly true that it might throw very considerable additional work on the County Courts. If it were left to me I would have taken the risk of this course. If I may respectfully say so, I think it would be most unwise to choose a quarrel on a draft with which none of us pretended to be content. The last Amendment is that of the noble and learned Lord, Lord Buckmaster, with which I confess I lave great sympathy, and I so said in the course of the debate. That was an Amendment to deal with a case of dwelling-houses let at a progressive rent, payable under a tenancy agreement with a maximum rent, providing that the maximum rent in such a case should be the standard rent. The Commons disagreed to that Amendment on the ground that it is inexpedient to extend the Bill to cover cases not contemplated by the principal Act.
Here again I am bound to tell your Lordships, quite candidly, that in. my humble judgment this is a case contemplated by the principal Act, and therefore the objection taken, the ground on which disagreement is founded, is not, I think, one that 1078 can be defended. But another objection was taken, as I understand, though it has not been inserted in the Tabled list of objections. It was suggested that a case might frequently occur in which a house was let at a rent rising possibly £5 or £10 a year for a period of ten years, and it, was pointed out that, if one took such a case, one easily might have a period that was the relevant one in the middle of such a lease. It very often happens, when a lease is granted at a progressive rent, that there is reason to anticipate that; the character of the neighbourhood will improve, and, in view of that improvement, the tenant is willing to pay a rent which rises perhaps by £20 or £30 a year.
Supposing a relevant period to occur in which one had to determine the standard rent before the full improvement in the character of the neighbourhood had taken place, you might find that the landlord, would be able to add 10 per cent, to the rent of the ultimate year. Such was the view taken by those, who had technical knowledge of the subject, as I am informed. I have gone into these matters with a little more detail than I should have done because other noble Lords who preceded me have spoken of individual Amendments. I would venture to reinforce, if I may, what has been said by the noble Earl who leads the House. Is it really worth while, when once the Amendment which deals with the amount of rent has gone in the House of Commons—from which up to the present we have met with no support at all—is it worth while to carry this ground of controversy further? I would most respectfully submit to your Lordships that we should be well advised in this case, having made our protest and exhibited many admirable, unanswerable and, in some cases, unanswered arguments, to take the view that we should act more wisely by not persisting.
§ On Question, Motion agreed to.
My Lords, I suppose we are going to give up these Amendments and acquiesce in the action of the Commons because, we do not dare to stand by our own convictions. I must say that the reasons given seem to me, without, disrespect to the House of Commons, absolutely childish. We read in regard to the first Amendment that it is inexpedient to derogate from the rights already conferred on tenants by the Act of 1915. 1079 There is a contract between two parties, and the House of Commons passes a Bill that is binding on behalf of the tenant and worthless as regards the landlord. We are also told that it is inexpedient to make substantial retrospective amendments to the principal Act.
§ THE MARQUESS OF SALISBURY
We are now on the Amendments themselves. I beg to move that your Lordships do not insist on the first Amendment.
§ Moved, That this House doth not insist upon the Amendment in Clause 1, page 1, lines 10 and 11.—(The Marquess of Salisbury.)
§ On Question, Motion agreed to.
§ Moved, That this House doth not insist upon the Amendment in Clause 1, page 1, lines 18 and 19.—(The Lord Chancellor.)
§ On Question, Motion agreed to.
§ THE LORD CHANCELLOR
My Lords, I move, for the purposes of discussion, that your Lordships do not insist on the Amendment in Clause 4, page 4, line 2. I wish merely to accept the guidance of the judgment of the House upon this point. I have made it clear to those responsible in another place that it is really not accurate to say that this Amendment makes a substantial, or, indeed, any retrospective, amendment to the Act, and I think I succeeded in convincing them that my view on the paint is well founded. If your Lordships think it worth while, I have reason to suppose that this Amendment would be assented to. I know that Lord Balfour of Burleigh has a special knowledge of this subject and has paid great attention to it, and that it is an Amendment to which he attaches considerable value. Perhaps one of your Lordships would move appropriately.
§ THE MARQUESS OF SALISBURY
I beg to move that the Lords insist upon the said Amendment. I understand from the noble and learned Lord that he has some reason to believe, that it will not be unacceptable to the Government.
§ Moved, That this House doth insist upon the Amendment in Clause 4, page 4, line 2.—(The Marquess of Salisbury.)
§ On Question, Motion agreed to.1080
§ THE MARQUESS OF SALISBURY
I should like to ask a question of the Government on the next Amendment—the new clause after Clause 4; and to put myself in order I will move, pro forma, that this House doth insist upon the said Amendment. I do not intend to persist in that Motion. The difficulty in which your Lordships are in is this, that we have not the remotest idea why the House of Commons dislikes this Amendment. What happened in the House of Commons was this. An attempt was made to waive the question of privilege, which Mr. Speaker ruled it was perfectly possible to do, but he explained (and I do not make the least reflection on his ruling which was no doubt perfectly right) that it was impossible to waive the question of privilege unless the Minister who moved it was prepared to move also that the House of Commons agree with the said Amendment. As the Minister was not prepared to move that Mr. Speaker would not allow any discussion upon it at all. We are therefore absolutely in the dark as to why the Commons disagreed with this Amendment. It is all the more puzzling because it is entirely in conformity with the whole policy of the Bill, and is designed to help the special privileged class, which all the efforts of the House of Commons were directed to help. As I have explained to your Lordships, if an assessment is raised and the rates are raised then, by a section in the principal Act, the amount of the increase can be transferred to the rent, and therefore it involves the raising of the rent to the occupier. Yet the House of Commons objected to it. It is due to nothing except this old rusty question of privilege. Of all, I must not say exactly what I think, but of all unintelligent reasons for rejecting a good piece of legislation designed to help the Government, and to help this Bill, this old rusty and creaking privilege is the most absurd, and I cannot understand how any intelligent, body of men, let alone the great assembly for which I have the most profound respect, can consent to be bound by anything so futile as a regulation of that description. I have no right, of course, to make any observation except perhaps to express a pious opinion (it may be the noble Lord will hardly think it is pious) as to the rules of the House of Commons, and I ask if the Government can enlighten us why the Government reject this Amendment.
§ Moved, That the House doth insist on the said Amendment.—(The Marquess of Salisbury.)
THE MARQUESS OF CREWE
Before the noble and learned Lord replies, perhaps I might add something to what has fallen from the noble Marquess regarding this particular question, I have always understood that the House of Commons took an entirely different view of possible interference of your Lordships' House on matters of rating as compared with any interference with questions of taxation, and yet when Mr. Speaker declared this to be a question of privilege he spoke on it with a final judgment, which seemed to imply that it was a kind of matter which we had no right whatever to touch, I should be glad if the Lord Chancellor would tell me whether he agrees with the view that a line, if not a clear and distinct line, can be drawn in the matter of the privileges of another place between questions of taxation and questions of rating.
§ THE EARL OF SELBORNE
I should like to point out to the noble and learned Lord, and also to remind your Lordships, that the case is even worse than as put by my noble friend the. Leader of the Opposition. There is an Act on the Statute Book which is called the Parliament Act, and Section 1, subsection (2), of that Act is devoted to defining a Money Bill, which this House is precluded by Statute as well as by custom from dealing with. But at the end of that subsection I find these words—In this subsection the expressions taxation, public money, and loan, respectively, do not include any taxation, money, or loan raised by local authorities or bodies for local purposes.Therefore rating was deliberately excluded in the Parliament Act. from this definition of a Money Bill which this House may not touch. It is perfectly true that a later section of the Parliament Act says—Nothing in this Act shall diminish or qualify the existing rights and privileges of the House of Commons.What could be the use of putting in that very special subsection (2) of Section 1 if it did not mean that the House of Commons was not usually going to insist on its privilege in the matter of rating. If my noble friend would answer and enlighten us on this subject we should be glad.
§ THE LORD CHANCELLOR
Several noble Lords have asked me a series of-conundrums at somewhat short notice on an extremely complex and difficult question. I confess that so much has happened since the Parliament Act was passed that; I have even forgotten that there was a statutory definition of such a point, and while I should like time to prepare a complete and considered view on the question. I know enough to be sure of this, as indeed all your Lordships do, that long before the statutory disqualification of this House contained in the Parliament Act was passed the claim of the House of Commons to impose considerable disqualification upon this House in the matter of Money Bills was acquiesced in. What is important to notice is, if my recollection is not at fault, that the. House of Commons has been in the habit of insisting that their rights in relation to rating matters were of the same class as their rights in relation to ordinary Money Bills. I do not think the right was ever given up by the House of Commons of the claim that such Amendments were privileged, and that they were entitled to resist them.
In dealing with the particular point mentioned by the noble Marquess I can tell your Lordships exactly how this matter arose. I sent over to those who were responsible for the Bill in another place an intimation that it seemed to me that the arguments which were urged in favour of this clause were rather strong, and I stated that they should be considered on their merits. I know that they had been so considered, but I did not hear the result of the consideration, because the time was so short, and I could not possibly have seen those who were acting in another place. The Minister in charge, Mr. Fisher, had intended to state to the House of Commons, I understand, the reasons why the Government were unable to accept it, but when he got up Mr. Speaker said, "You cannot do so unless you are prepared to accept the Amendments." The Government were not prepared to accept them, and that is why the reasons remain unknown to this day, so far as the House is concerned.
§ LORD PARMOOR
My Lords, I should like to add one word on the question of privilege. It was decided long ago in the case of private Bills, which often confer rating rights, that such Bills might be commenced in this House, and they often 1083 are commenced in this House, and there is no breach of the privileges of the House of Commons in that respect. I believe that generally the privilege of the House of Commons has been limited to matters of Imperial taxation, and has not been pressed as regards rating questions. It is a matter which one does not go into without looking into the historical associations connected with it, but it has been specifically decided—I can say that with certainty—that all private Bills stand on the same footing, though rating proposals can in the first place be inserted in this House without in any way affecting the privileges of the House of Commons.
§ Motion, by leave, withdrawn.
§ THE MARQUESS OF SALISBURY
According to precedent, I now have the honour to move that in not insisting upon this Amendment the Lords make no admission in respect of any deduction which might be drawn from the Reason offered by the Commons, and do not consent that this Reason should bereafter be drawn into a precedent.
§ Moved to resolve, That in not insisting on this Amendment the Lords make no admission in respect of any deduction which might be drawn from the Reason offered by the Commons, and do not consent that this Reason should hereafter be drawn into a precedent.—(The Marquess of Salisbury.)
§ On Question, Motion agreed to.
§ VISCOUNT MIDLETON
I move that your Lordships insist on the next Amendment—Clause 5, page 4, line 22. No argument of any sort or kind has been adduced in either House of Parliament why a tenant, who, because he has had the great advantage for four years of the concession of a certain fixed rent—fixed at a time when the present abnormal circumstances did not exist—should continue to take advantage of this abnormal situation and derive an enormous rent and profit for himself out of sub-tenants. As the matter is left, it has to a large extent vitiated the whole intention of the Act of Parliament. The Commons give us no reason whatever for their objection, and so far as I can see no reason was advanced. The sole suggestion has been that because 1084 in the original Act the question of subletting was not dealt with we should not now deal with it, although it is recognised as an evil. That certainly seems to be the negation of all that the Houses of Parliament have been accustomed to act upon. I think that not only are we on very strong grounds in insisting on this Amendment, but I have the strongest reason for hoping that if we send it down again our Amendment will be made part of the Act.
§ Moved, That this House doth insist on the said Amendment.—(Viscount Midlelon.)
§ THE LORD CHANCELLOR
My Lords, with regard to the statements of the noble Viscount that he has strong reasons for thinking that if this Amendment is sent back it will be adopted, I can only say that I discussed the matter with those who are concerned, and I urged all the considerations which have been urged by the noble Marquess, and endeavoured as far as I could to persuade those with whom I was discussing the matter and who are directly concerned in the responsibility for the Bill to adopt the Amendment. But I confess that I have not the same strong reasons as the noble Viscount for thinking that if it is sent back the Amendment will be accepted. Nobody could be more ready than I myself am to assist the object which the noble Lord has in view, but it is well to consider—and we have an illustration of this in the language of subsection (4)—the difficulties of drafting Amendments which would effect the purpose desired. Those difficulties are further shown by the fact that there is this loophole even in the sub-clause which was drafted by so many experienced draftsmen. If I thought that this Amendment would be accepted in another place I should most strongly urge your Lordships to accept the view of the noble Lord. But I do not think it will be so accepted, and I am bound to point that out. The noble Lord says that this evil of sub-letting has gone on for four and a half years, yet in the House of Commons where we would think that Members would be hearing constantly from their constituents that they were suffering from this cause not a single member got up to protest when this Amendment was advocated. If your Lordships have deliberately reached the conclusion that it is worth while challenging an issue upon this point, it is useless my saying anything further, for those that hold that view will naturally 1085 illustrate it in the Division Lobby. While I sympathise with them, I do not think that this is a favourable occasion or a favourable issue for such a challenge.
THE MARQUESS OF CREWE
My Lords, the last words of the noble and learned Lord impel me to say one word on this question. The issue appears to me to be a perfectly fair one to return to the House of Commons, even though it may not be a favourable one in the sense that in the long run we shall be able to make it part of the Bill. Bat it appears to me that this is just one of the occasions in which your Lordships may properly press your view on another place, because there is nothing to make us believe or suppose that this particular point has been seriously considered by those in another place, all the more for the reason which the noble and learned Lord advanced that no member in another place rose to explain that he had received protests from his constituents on this particular case. That may well be so, because the people who suffer from this kind of grievance are not in a position to protest in a great number of cases, whilst those who profit by it probably are, and therefore they naturally remain silent. I think therefore it will be worth your Lordships' while to remit this matter once more to the House of Commons in order that they may have an opportunity of seriously considering whether it does not represent common fairness and justice.
§ LORD BUCKMASTER
If it be that your Lordships think that this is a clause upon which it is important and desirable to insist let us, at least, make the issue plain. Do not let there be any possibility of a misunderstanding as to what it is this House is desiring to do. As I understand this Amendment, what the House desires is to protect against the extortion in the way of excessive rent which is only [...] frequently exacted against people who take small portions of houses. It is to protect one of the most unprotected and inarticulate classes in the Kingdom, and it is not to put one single farthing of money into the pockets of landlords. I think it is desirable that that should be stated, because one of the unfortunate things that happens when Amendments of this kind go down to another place is that there is nobody to state in the other place what were the views which induced this House to take the course they did. And, although 1086 I do not suppose for a moment that anything one says will be reported, at least it should be clear from the OFFICIAL REPORT that, in supporting this Amendment against the House of Commons, we are supporting the people who need protection, and they are doing all in their power to oppress them.
§ THE LORD CHANCELLOR
By your Lordships' leave, may I say this? Our discussions to-night have been of the most amicable character, and I rise now in the hope that I may be able to suggest one of those arrangements to which in another place I was very well accustomed. The case made by the noble Lord really, of course, deals not only or indeed principally with the class of case referred to in the sub-paragraph now under discussion. Far the most important case is that which he depicted so vividly in which a householder puts a bed and a few chairs into a, room and lets it for the rent of the w/hole house. The noble Lord will do me this justice, that I did all I could to help this Bill in its passage through your Lordships' House. I have heard that there is at least a very great prospect that I shall obtain for him the very important concession he desires, but those who are prepared to assent to that feel great difficulty about this subsection, and I hope that, on the understanding that he will be fully met on Clause 6 (1), the noble Lord will agree to his part of the compromise and consent to the omission of this subsection.
§ THE MARQUESS OF SALISBURY
I do not think there has been any case made out against this proposal made by my noble friend. The noble and learned Lord, Lord Buckmaster, has just stated exactly what the issue is. It is an issue about which there cannot be the remotest doubt. The noble and learned Lord on the Woolsack moved this Amendment which we are now proposing to insist upon, and it was moved for one reason, if for no other, that when the principal Act was passed it was supposed to have been covered, and the then Lord Chancellor (I think I am stating accurately), who now sits on this bench, was understood to say in Parliament that it was covered. Now that doubts have arisen as to whether it was covered or not, and the present Lord Chancellor moves to put it absolutely right and make this protection assured, then we are asked to abandon this Amendment. I cannot think that your Lord- 1087 ships would be wise to abandon it. I think it is just, and it would almost be a breach of faith with the Parliament which passed the principal Act three years ago if your Lordships did not insist upon this Amendment.
§ LORD STUART OF WORTLEY
It has been said that this Amendment found no support in the House of Commons. I find that it was only spoken to by four Members in the House of Commons. One of them was the Minister in charge of the Bill, who deprecated agreement with the Amendment. Of the other three, two of the hon. Members who spoke strongly supported the Amendment, one of them going into particulars, and giving examples—most conspicuously the example of a householder at a rent of 8s. who converted himself into a landlord at a rent of 30s. a week.
The noble and learned Lord on the Woolsack, I think, puts members of the House into some difficulty. He charms us so sweetly by the appeal he makes for reasonableness, as he puts it or as it would appear to me in this matter, in asking us to give up this Amendment in order that some other Amendment may be obtained. But is not that a very difficult
§ alternative to put before us? We are asked in effect not to insist upon a clause against extortioners in the hope that we may be successful under some other clause against extortioners. It is an extraordinarily difficult question of conscience which the noble and learned Lord has put to members of this House, and I should be very glad if we could really have some further guidance as to what good reason there is why, if this clause is explained and understood in another place, it cannot be given effect to.
I understood that the only question open to discussion when Amendments were going backwards and forwards between the two Houses was the Amendment still subsisting. It seems to me that, if in another place some one has something up his sleeve to make this clause better, we had better insist upon our Amendment, and let them submit their Amendment to our Amendment.
§ On Question, whether this House should agree with the Commons in the said Amendment?—
§ Their Lordships divided:—Contents, 35; Not-Contents, 54.1087
|Birkenhead, L. (L. Chancellor.)||Stafford, E.||Gisborough, L.|
|Curzon of Kedleston, E. (L. President.)||Grimthorpe, L.|
|Farquhar, V. (L. Steward.)||Hyrton, L.|
|Sandhurst, V. (L. Chamberlain.)||Killanin, L.|
|Bradford, E.||Cave, V.||Knaresborough, L.|
|Chesterfield, E.||Milner, V.||Newton, L.|
|Chichester, E.||Peel, V.||Ranksborough, L.|
|Eldon, E.||Wimborne, V.||Rathcreedan, L.|
|Howe, E.||Saltoun, L.|
|Jersey, E.||Armaghdale, L.||Shandon, L.|
|Lucan, E.||Blythswood, L.||Somerleyton, L. [Teller.]|
|Lytton, E.||Dinevor, L.||Stanmore, L. [Teller.]|
|Mount Edgcumbe, E.||Ernle, L.||Wigan, L. (E. Crawford.)|
|Argyll, D.||Bangor, L. Bp.||Harris, L.|
|Northumberland, D.||Hindlip, L.|
|Rutland, D.||Aberdare, L.||Lambourne, L.|
|Somerset, D.||Atkinson, L.||Lawrence, L.|
|Avebury, L.||Monteagle, L. (M. Sligo.)|
|Bath, M.||Brodrick, L. (V. Midleton.)||Oranmore and Browne, L.|
|Crewe, M.||Buckmaster, L.||Parmoor, L.|
|Linlithgow, M.||Burgh, L.||Phillimore, L.|
|Salisbury, M.||Burnham, L.||Redesdale, L.|
|Chaworth, L. (E. Meath.)||Ritchie of Dundee, L.|
|Brassey, E.||Clinton, L.||Roundway, L.|
|Fortescue, E.||Coleridge, L.||Rowallan, L.|
|Leicester, E.||D'Abernon, L.||Sandys, L.|
|Russell, E.||Denman, L.||Stanley of Alderley, L. (L. Sheffield.)|
|Sandwich, E.||Ebury, L.|
|Selborne, E.||Erskine, L.||Stuart of Wortley, L.|
|Stanhope, E. [Teller.]||Finlay, L.||Sudeley, L.|
|Forteviot, L.||Sydenham, L.|
|Churchill, V.||Gainford, L.||Weardale, L.|
|Granard, L. (E. Granard.)||Willoughby de Broke, L. [Teller.]|
§ Resolved in the negative, and Amendment insisted upon accordingly.
§ THE LORD CHANCELLOR
Your Lordships have just refused to accept the very humble advice which I ventured to give. Notwithstanding that, I will heap fire on your Lordships' heads by moving that your Lordships do insist on this next Amendment (After Clause 5, insert the following new clause: 6 (1)).
§ Moved, That this House doth insist upon' the said Amendment.—(The Lord Chancellor.)
§ On Question, Motion agreed to.
§ THE LORD CHANCELLOR
I beg to move that your Lordships do rot insist on the next Amendment—the last on the Paper.
§ Moved, That this House doth not insist on the said Amendment.—(The Lord Chancellor.)
§ LORD BUCKMASTER
My Lords, I cannot help thinking that the observations made by the noble and learned Lord on the Woolsack at an earlier stage of the debate this afternoon show that the House of Commons have completely failed to understand what was the real purpose of this Amendment and how it would operate. It may be that I did not make myself very plain on the former occasion, but the reason was that the noble and learned Lord on the Woolsack most courteously accepted my Amendment while I was in the middle of explaining its terms and provisions. The result was that what was only half said was quite enough for representatives of the Government in this House, but there was apparently nothing to be said in another place. Let me repeat what the position is upon this Amendment in order that the whole matter may be made plain.
There are a number of bodies—it is not unfair to call them semi-philanthropic bodies—which lay out sites near towns. The Hampstead Garden Suburb is one. Their object is as far as possible to beautify the neighbourhood of great cities, to prevent over-crowding, to secure pleasant and decent houses at a reasonable rent. They are not out to make all they can out of the and that they hold; they are not out to exact the highest rent they can secure from the tenants to whom they let. What they are out for is to perform an extremely 1090 valuable public service—namely, to extend buildings as far as possible and to secure at the same time that this extension shall not be associated with the hideous, soul-destroying, dreary rows of houses that have too often disfigured the extensions of our great cities. Now, as part of their policy they have been in the habit of letting these houses on terms which provide that the rent shall increase for the first two or three years, or it may be increased after the lapse of two or three years; and the amount by which it increases is, say, £5 or £10 on a £50 or £60 rent. If this Bill passes as it is drawn, the result will be that if for any reason one of these tenancy agreements came to an end before the real rent had been reached, they would be unable to let it at the rent which had actually been agreed between them and the tenant as the real rent of the place. I would beg your Lordships to understand that the earlier rents are reductions from the rack rent made in consideration of the uncompleted condition of the suburb into which the tenant is introduced. It may be that his garden is unmade, or that the house requires something doing to it. There are concessions made to the tenant off the agreed fixed rent in order that he may have some compensation for the disadvantages attendant upon entering a new house and a new neighbourhood.
It is suggested by the noble and learned Lord on the Woolsack that in another place they were frightened at the prospect of a rent that increased £5 at a time for a period of many years. I cannot understand how it can possibly affect the matter. One has to remember that this Act applies only where the property is in hand, and therefore the tenancy must have been broken by some means before you can bring this Act into operation; otherwise the normal course of the lease and tenancy will go on. The case that I am suggesting to your Lordships is one where the low rent was existing in 1914, the house being then, let. The higher rent was reached say in 1915, and the lease came to an end in 1917. At that time you would have reached the full rent under the agreement, and this Bill says you must not increase the rent beyond the standard rent, which means the rent at which the house was let on August 3, 1914. In other words, you must not increase the rent more than 10 per cent, above, not the rent which the man is paying when the tenancy ends, but the rent at the notional antecedent date, 1091 which may be so much lower than the actual rent he was paying when the tenancy ended that the 10 per cent, you are allowed to add will not bring it up to that figure. That is the position, and it does appear to me that it is most unfair, and although I am not anxious to challenge controversy with another place needlessly, I should like to know what possible relevance to such arguments as I have been placing before your Lordships, the explanation given by the noble and learned Lord on the Woolsack, as to why another place disagreed with this Amendment, can possibly have.
§ THE LORD CHANCELLOR
My noble and learned friend is quite right when he reminds your Lordships that he and I in another capacity are accustomed to doing with other people that which I did when I stopped him when arguing his case at an earlier stage. I was interested by the case he made with reference to garden cities. I thought the case was fairly made and ought to be dealt with. I am not at all sure whether he appreciated or answered the objection taken, not I think to that part of his argument which depends upon the class of case he put forward, but to a wholly different class of case. Take the class of case where a house is let upon a progressive rent, the reason for fixing a progressive rent being that both parties are in agreement that property and Tents in the neighbourhood will go up. Supposing, for instance, tramways are constructed and property in the neighbourhood does not appreciate. For the moment the standard period is, of course, August, 1914, and in relation to the standard rent at that date an increase of 10 per cent, is permitted. Supposing that the rent of the last year is to be taken in such a case. Then an increase which has by no means taken place in fact will be taken as the standard rent. I am not prepared, however, to put your Lordships to the trouble of a Division on this matter, and if my noble and learned friend will move to insist upon the Amendment. I will accept it.
§ Motion, by leave, withdrawn.
§ Moved, That this House doth insist upon the said Amendment.—(Lord Buckmaster.)
§ On Question, Motion agreed to.1092
§ A Committee appointed to prepare Reasons for the Lords insisting on certain of their Amendments and for disagreeing to the Commons Amendment to one of the Lords Amendments: Report from the Committee of the Reasons to be offered to the Commons, and a Message ordered to be sent to the Commons to return the Bill with the Reasons.