§ Order of the Day for the House to be put into Committee read.
§ Moved, That the House do now resolve itself into Committee.—(The Lord Chancellor.)
§ On Question, Motion agreed to.
§ House in Committee accordingly:
§ [THE EARL OF DONOUGHMORE in the Chair.]
§ Clause 1:
§ Amendment of 13 & 14 Geo. 5. c. 32.s. 4. ss. (1).
1. Paragraphs (iv) and (v) of subsection (1) of the section which by Section four of the Rent and Mortgage Interest Restrictions Act, 1923. is substituted for Section five of the Increase of Rent and Mortgage Interest (Restrictions) Act, 1920, are hereby repealed as respects pending as well as future proceedings, and the following paragraph shall be substituted therefor:
(iv) Where the dwelling-house is reasonably required by the landlord (not being a landlord who has become owner by purchase of the dwelling-house after the fifth day of May, nineteen hundred and twenty-four) for occupation as a residence for himself and the court is satisfied, having regard to all the circumstances of the case, including any alternative accommodation available for the landlord or the tenant, that greater hardship would be caused by refusing to grant an order or judgment for possession than by granting it.
§ LORD BANBURY OF SOUTHAM moved to omit from the substituted paragraph 738 (iv): "(not being a landlord who has become owner by purchase of the dwelling-house after the fifth day of May, nineteen hundred and twenty-four)." The noble Lord said: I do not know whether I shall have the support of the Government in moving this Amendment. When the Bill was in Committee in another place the words which I now propose to leave out were moved. They were objected to by the Government and the Government secured their omission. But when the Bill came up again on Report stage in another place the Government turned round and voted for the inclusion of the words. I am therefore not quite certain as to which of these two positions the Government are going to abandon in your Lordships' House. There is no reason, so far as one can see, why a landlord who has acquired a house after May 5, 1924, should be in any worse position than a landlord who acquired a house before that date.
§ I believe the desire of the Government, and also of your Lordships, is to promote the building of new houses, whether by private enterprise or not; on this side of the House private enterprise is probably preferred. If you put in a clause which says that a landlord who acquires a house after May 5, 1924, shall be in a worse position than other landlords you will at once prevent any person buying houses for investment. No person in his senses would buy a house for investment if he finds that he will be in the awkward position he would be in if these words remain in the Bill. I cannot see why it was necessary to insert them. The, only argument advanced was that, possibly, if they were not put in, certain people would be turned out of houses, but I cannot see how you will prevent anything of that sort by the inclusion of the words. What they will do is to prevent any person who succeeds to any property and who desires to sell that property in order to provide money for Death Duties, receiving anything like a fair price for the property. Naturally no one will buy a large or small block of houses for investment if these words remain in the Bill. I beg to move.
THE LORD CHAIRMAN
In order to save the right of later amendments I will put the question to leave out the words "not being a landlord who has become."
Page 1, lines 14 and 15, leave out ("not being a landlord who has become").—(Lord Banbury of Southam.)
§ EARL BUXTON
I have no desire to defend the Government from the attacks of the noble Lord in reference to this Bill, because I think (heir action in this, as in other social questions, has been most deplorable. They said they were going to deal with the question of housing in a large way. Yet, when they introduced their Bill, the first clause of it was clearly so unjust that the House of Commons did not see its way to accept it, and although there were other provisions in the measure, they dropped the whole Bill and it became necessary to find some other way of dealing with this important question. Then a private member's Bill was accepted in the House of Commons, and, in Committee, the Government proposed to omit these words from the Bill. They carried the proposal with the assistance of the Conservative Party. When the Bill came down to be considered on Report stage, the obvious opinion of the House of Commons as a whole, Labour and Liberal and a largo section of the Conservative Party, was that it had diminished the value of the Bill. There was a general feeling in favour of reinserting the words, and the Government reinserted them. There was no Division, and the Third Heading was carried unanimously. Therefore, so far as the House of Commons is concerned, this Bill comes up to your Lordships more or less with general assent. The Lord Chancellor, in this House, moved it as a Government measure, but I agree with the noble Lord that it is a little difficult to know whether it is a Government measure or not. They strike out an Amendment in Committee and put it in on Report. It is a small point and does not materially affect the merits of the measure.
I wish the noble Lord had given us more reasons for the Amendment. He did not deal with the matter from the point of view of the tenant. He dealt with it solely and entirely from the point of view of the landlord, and I agree that it is difficult to deal with these various points because the Bill—I am not blaming the Government or the author of it—proceeds by way of reference. You cannot really understand from the Bill itself what its 740 meaning is, or what is its effect in this particular matter. The point of the words at present in the Bill to which my noble friend objects is simply this. This is not a very large matter, but I think it is one of importance when we are dealing with this question. The Bill says that during the next twelve months—and the Bill covers only twelve months—no one shall buy house property with the sole intention of evicting the tenant in order to occupy the house, without giving alternative accommodation elsewhere. The noble Lord objects to this because he thinks it deprives the landlord of certain rights which he possesses at present. But there already exist two precedents in relation to this point. In the first place, the Act of 1917 distinguished in certain particulars the position of those who purchased after February, 1917, and those who were in possession already of existing rights. Again, in the Act of my noble friend Lord Onslow in June, 1922, a similar provision occurred; those who had purchased prior to a given date were in a preferential position compared with those who purchased later.
The noble Lord says that this Bill is a serious encroachment, but I think there are sufficient precedents for supporting its proposals. The noble Lord says that we are infringing the rights of the landlord. May I point out to him that this is certainly not so in this case because none of the people affected by these words are landlords? They are going to become landlords because their intention upon becoming landlords is to evict the tenant who is at present in possession.
§ THE MARQUESS OF SALISBURY
I apologise to the noble Earl for interrupting. He said that the landlord came in with the distinct intention of evicting the tenant. What right has he to say that?
§ EARL BUXTON
I was going on to develop that point. My noble friend thinks that this Bill will prejudice people who buy property. But the only point which comes into question is that of eviction; that is to say, it concerns only the right 741 of evicting tenants without providing alternative accommodation. That is the only right of a landlord that comes into question here. My noble friend Lord Salisbury will see, I think, that any one who is going to act under this Bill will and must have in his mind the idea of buying that property in order to evict the tenant. If he does not use that power of eviction it does not matter to him whether these words are in the Bill or not.
§ LORD BANBURY OF SOUTHAM
May I explain? The effect of this clause is that where a person desires to buy a house for his own occupation certain things ensue and he can, under certain conditions, take possession of the house for his own occupation. Then my noble friend asks how that is consistent with the argument which I used. Supposing that he or I was desirous of buying a block of houses. We cut out the prospective power of the man who wants one house for his own occupation, and we say he cannot have it.
§ EARL BUXTON
I cannot call that an interruption. It was more in the nature of another speech, and I wish the noble Lord had developed that point earlier.
§ EARL BUXTON
I do not see how this affects my point. My point is that these words, if they remain in the Bill, will prevent the purchaser from evicting a tenant in order to obtain possession of a house without providing alternative accommodation. It is only such people who will be affected by these words, and it is clear that, so far as the intention of the purchaser is concerned, whether he proposes to act on these words or not, he is not otherwise affected in any way. If he has that intention, I do not think that I am going beyond a proper statement in saying that he is buying in order to evict the tenant so that he may occupy the house himself.
Surely there is a great distinction between the case of the existing landlord and that of the man who is buying in order to obtain possession of the property for his own purpose. The landlord who is already in possession of his property may wish to acquire a house for his own occupation, and it is not a very unreason- 742 able thing that in those circumstances he should be able to evict the tenant under certain conditions. But a new purchaser is in a very different position. He has not owned the house or houses; he has had no interest in them and no particular claim upon them, and I think there is a considerable distinction between the rights of these two classes of landlords. As I have said, my noble friend did not mention the tenants, but I am bound to say that their interests in connection with this matter deserve a little more consideration. I agree that probably ninety-nine landlords out of a hundred have no desire in any sense to evict their tenants and, indeed, under this Act they can only do so in order to obtain possession of a house for their own purposes.
Considering the millions of tenants, the small number of evictions shows that there is no desire on the part of landlords as a whole to evict their tenants. That means that the tenants are sitting under existing landlords in perfect security, that they will maintain possession of their houses and that there is no intention of turning them out. This clause will continue to give them that security. Without the words to which the noble Lord objects this question of purchase will come in. In these blocks of houses, for instance, to which my noble friend has referred, as soon as a sale is about to take place or is advertised, all the tenants will be in a state of great anxiety, because they will know that the houses have been bought with the object of obtaining possession of one of them. They will not know which particular house is desired by the landlord. Many thousands of tenants might in this way be put to great anxiety.
In the debate on the Second Reading of this Bill the noble and learned Viscount, Lord Cave, stated, I think, that Judges, in considering the question of whether hardship was greater in the case of the landlord or in the case of the tenant, would undoubtedly take into account the length of time during which the landlord had owned the house, and the probability would be that, unless he could show a considerable period of ownership, they would not agree that he was justified in turning the tenant out, because the hardship would fall more heavily upon the tenant. Is not that really an argument in favour 743 of retaining these words; It shows that, if the words were omitted, it would be in an almost infinitesimal number of eases that the risk would arise of the purchase authorising the landlord to evict his tenant, whereas the anxiety of hundreds of thousands of tenants would continue, although perhaps only one or two landlords would be really benefited.
I think the weight of argument in this matter is on the side of the tenant and against the landlord. In my opinion this Bill does not affect the right of the landlord in any serious way, or to a greater extent than any other Bills dealing with this matter. I trust that your Lordships will agree with the House of Commons, which, as I say, passed this Bill unanimously on the Third Beading, and will give this protection to the tenant during the period of the next twelve months.
§ THE LORD CHANCELLOR (VISCOUNT HALDANE)
My noble friend who has just sat down began by claiming one or two things of which I make him a present. In the first place, it is true that it is very difficult for your Lordships to understand a piece of legislation by reference of which this Bill consists. No doubt the distinguished member of the Liberal party who drew the Bill knew that just as we do, but he was forced to take the course he did for this reason. The Bill amends only one point in a long code contained mainly in the Acts of 1920 and 1923. He could not repeat the whole of the legislation with which he was dealing and he therefore properly confined himself to the point with which he had to deal. It is a difficulty with which we are familiar in other legislation. Then the noble Earl said that this is a Liberal Bill. I agree. But it is not quite true that it is wholly a new Bill, because if Mr. Wheatley's Bill had got beyond the first clause we should then have reached this question in the second and subsequent clauses. Mr. Simon has taken these valuable second and subsequent clauses from Mr. Wheatley's Bill and the Government have taken up this Bill in order to facilitate its passage.
In the course of the discussions this provision was put in. I entirely agree with my noble friend that the introduction of a date was essential. The noble Lord opposite, Lord Banbury of Southam, 744 spoke on the Second Reading on the footing that no one will build or buy a house if he knows that he is liable to have legislation passed which says that if he buys a house after a certain date he will not be able to obtain possession for himself. The noble Lord went too far, if he will permit me to say so. The principal Act, the Act of 1920, has no application at all to dwelling-houses erected after April 2, 1919, or in course of erection at that date. He will find that that is so if he will look at subsection (9) of Section 12 of the Act of 1920. Secondly, the principal Act does not apply to any dwelling-house which comes into actual possession after June, 1923, unless it be for non-payment of rent. Now, if that is so, the matter is brought down to the very small compass of which Lord Buxton spoke. The present Bill does not, in any way, repeal that state of things in which a landlord has the right I have described. For breach of covenant, non-payment of rent, or a variety of other things, he can get repossession of his property. That he is left free to do. The Bill only deals with a special class of cases so far as this Amendment is concerned. They are cases in which somebody, after these provisions had been introduced in the House of Commons, at a very late date indeed, goes and buys a house which is not vacant, but which is in the occupation of a tenant, and buys it for the purpose of turning out the tenant.
§ THE LORD CHANCELLOR
I know, but that means turning out the tenant. That has given rise to a great deal of anxiety and uncertainty in the. minds of tenants, and it was thought right in the other House, the clearest notice having been given that this legislation was passing, to put in a time limit after which it should not be possible for anybody to buy a house in disregard of the provisions which Parliament was passing through. These words were inserted with a view of safeguarding the position of tenants who would otherwise be at the mercy of persons buying houses over the heads of tenants, in the hope of getting possession. Therefore, it is provided that anybody buying a house after the 5th of May, 1924, where a tenant is in occupation, must be taken to do so with notice of the legislation 745 which Parliament was passing through, and will not be able to obtain possession without showing that alternative accommodation is available for the tenant.
One has to decide between people's rights in this matter, and what the clause says is that the landlord will have to prove that alternative accommodation is available, or that greater hardship will be caused to him if his order is refused. The Court has to take these matters into consideration, and it is very much more difficult for a landlord who has bought after May 5 in this year, with warning of this clause, to show that it is greater hardship that he should not get an order for possession, particularly when there is no alternative accommodation. These are the grounds upon which the Amendment was made in the other House, and upon which it was unanimously passed. I venture to submit to your Lordships that they are very good reasons for adopting it at this stage of the Bill.
§ VISCOUNT CAVE
I will not go into the controversy between the two noble Lords as to the origin of this Bill, or to whom the credit belongs, but I do want to make quite sure that we understand the purpose and effect of these words which my noble Wend proposes to omit. Let me say, to begin with, that I think it is a fallacy on the part of the noble Earl and others to insist so strongly upon the point that this Bill would only have effect for one year. Technically, that is true, because it only amends an Act which will expire in about a year's time; but we all know that proposals will be made, and strongly pressed, for extending that Act for a further period. Therefore, if we accept these words to-day it will be difficult, if not impossible, to prevent the Bill being extended with these words still in it. I think we ought to remember that we are probably legislating, not for a year, but for some years to come. The same observation, I think, disposes of, or qualifies, what was said by Lord Buxton, that anybody who buys within the next year must be buying for the purpose of evicting the tenant. If you look at it as a Bill for a year that might reasonably be said, but if you look at it as a Bill for several years to come, that cannot be reasonably said.
§ EARL BUXTON
I did not mean to say that anybody buying property was buying 746 for that object. I said that if he had that object in view this would prevent him.
§ VISCOUNT CAVE
I think the noble Earl went rather further than he thinks he did, and if he will refer to-morrow to the OFFICIAL REPORT of what he said he will find that I by no means misrepresent him. At any rate, the point is one of substance. It may well happen that a man may buy a house next week for investment only, but will find within a year or two that, owing to some change in his circumstances, he wants his own house to live in. The point is whether, in such circumstances, he shall be entitled to have what, after all, is his own. If the Judge thinks he bought simply in order to evict the tenant he will, as I said on another occasion, take that into account. But the only point is whether he shall be able to take into account all the facts of the case. Because, do not let us forget that the point that we are discussing only arises when the landlord reasonably requires possession, and. secondly, when the Judge is satisfied that greater hardship would be caused by refusing possession to the landlord than would be caused to the tenant by granting it. So that it is only if the greater hardship is on the landlord's side that the point arises at all, and what my noble friend says is that, even in that ease where ex hypothesi greater hardship is involved by refusing possession, the order shall not be made if the man bought after a particular date. I do not think that can be seriously maintained—at least, I have considerable doubt.
I do not think any of us forget the position of the tenant. We are all most anxious to safeguard the tenant in any reasonable way, but surely we ought not to forget the owner either. There are things to be considered on both sides. There may be hardships on one side or the other, and all that the Amendment says is that in every case, even in the case of a future purchase as in the case of a past purchase, the balance shall turn in favour of the man who would suffer the greater hardship by an adverse decision, and really it is not unreasonable to suggest that in every case the matter should be left to the Judge to decide on grounds of greater or less hardship. That is all that this Amendment does. It is not an unfair compromise on behalf of 747 the owners, many of whom are quite small owners, that in all cases for a good many years to come the matter should be left to the Court to decide. This point has not, I think, been very fully considered in another place. Conflicting decisions were arrived at, as to which I desire to say nothing more. But it would probably be for the public benefit that the other House should have an opportunity of fully
§ Resolved in the negative, and Amendment agreed to accordingly.
THE LORD CHAIRMAN
In consequence of the acceptance of that Amendment by your Lordships the remaining words in line 15 down to "twenty-four" in line 17 should go out.
Page 1, line 15, leave out ("owner by purchase of the dwelling-house after the fifth clay of May, nineteen hundred and twenty-four").—(Lord Banbury of Southam.)
§ EARL STANHOPE moved, in the substituted paragraph (iv), after "himself,"748
§ reconsidering the matter and deciding upon it, and for that reason, if my noble friend goes to a Division, I shall feel compelled to support him.
§ On Question, Whether the words proposed to be left out shall stand part of the clause?
§ Their Lordships divided:—Contents, 23; Not-Contents, 61.747
|Haldane, V, (L. Chancellor.)||Chelmsford, V.||Hemphill, L.|
|Muir Mackenzie, L. [Teller.]|
|Aberdare, L.||Olivier, E.|
|Parmoor, L. (L. President.)||Arnold, L.||Pentland, L.|
|Clwyd, L.||Southwark, L.|
|Denman, L.||Stanmore, L.|
|Beauchamp, E||Elgin, L. (E. Elgin and Kincardine.)||Strachie, L.|
|Buxton, E.||Thomson, L.|
|De La Warr, E. [Teller.]||Emmott, E.||Treowen, E.|
|Russell, E.||Gainford, L.|
|Devonshire, D.||Bertie of Thame, V.||Elphinstone, L.|
|Northumberland, D.||Cave, V.||Ernle, L.|
|Wellington, D.||Falmouth, V.||Forester, L.|
|FitzAlan of Derwent, V.||Glenarthur, L.|
|Curzon of Kedleston, M.||Hutchinson, V. (E. Donoughmore.)||Hylton, L.|
|Lansdowne, M.||Kenry, L. (E. Dunraven and Mount-Earl)|
|Salisbury. M.||Inchcape, V.|
|Long, V.||Knaresborough, L.|
|Aneaster, E.||Peel, V.||Kylsant, L.|
|Balfour, E.||Younger of Leckie, V.||Lamington, E.|
|Clarendon, E.||Lawrence, L.|
|Doncaster, E. (D. Buccleuch and Queensberry.)||Aldenham, L.||Leigh, L.|
|Atkinson, L.||Oranmore and Browne, L.|
|Eldon, E.||Balfour of Burleigh, L.||Ormonde, E. (M. Ormonde.)|
|Lindsay, E.||Banbury of Southam, L. [Teller.]||Phillimore, L.|
|Lovelace, E.||Raglan, L.|
|Lucan, E.||Biddulph, L.||Rayleigh, L.|
|Midleton, E.||Carson, L.||Sandys, L.|
|Northbrook, E.||Cawley, L,||Sempill, L.|
|Onslow, E.||Cullen of Ashbourne, L.||Stuart of Wortley, L.|
|Standhope, E.||Danesfort, L. [Teller.]||Sumner, L.|
|Vane, E. (M. Londonderry.)||Darling, L.||Wester Wemyss, L.|
|Daryngton, L.||Ystwyth, L.|
On Question, Amendment agreed to.
§ to insert "or for any son or daughter of his over eighteen years of age". The noble Earl said: The Bill as it stands only enables the landlord to take possession of a house where he shows that greater hardship is involved to himself than to the tenant by a refusal of the order, and that he requires the house for his own occupation. In the Act of last year he was also allowed to take possession of a house where he required it for the use of his, son or daughter. That provision has been omitted from the Bill which is now before your Lordships. On Second Reading the noble and learned Viscount the Lord Chancellor made no remarks as to why the right of the landlord 749 to take possession of the house for his son or daughter had been left out of the Bill. To the best of my knowledge, the noble and learned Viscount, like myself, has not the responsibility of providing for a son or daughter. Whether it was that he persuaded his colleagues that the responsibility should be abolished, whether it was left out by inadvertence, or whether it is the policy of the Socialist Party that the State, and not the parents, should make provision for children, I do not know. At any rate I think the House would be glad to hear from the noble and learned Viscount why that provision was left out of the Bill. I cannot see why a parent should not be allowed to obtain possession of a house for his son or daughter where, as has already been pointed out to your Lordships, he is able to prove before the Court that greater hardship is involved in refusing the Order to him than in evicting his tenant. I beg to move.
Page 1, line 18, after ("himself") insert ("or for any son or daughter of his over eighteen years of age"),—(Earl Stanhope.)
THE EARL OF ONSLOW
This provision was introduced into the Bill of last year on the recommendation of the Departmental Committee who went very fully into the matter. I may, perhaps, quote one case that came to my knowledge though I cannot remember whether it was actually in evidence or in a letter that I had. A man bought a house as a wedding present for his daughter two years before the expiration of the Act of 1920, so that the tenant knew the circumstances perfectly well and had plenty of time in which to find alternative accommodation for himself. One feels that nobody would have bought a house in those circumstances unless he had the assurance that he would be able to get possession of it. There were, no doubt, several cases of this kind which were put right by the insertion of the clause in the Act of last year, and most people have taken advantage of it and have entered into their houses. So that if it was not included in this Act and the possibility of obtaining a house for a son or daughter was not to be still maintained, it would not have been so much of a hardship as last year. But if it was logical to give it to people last year if they could prove greater hardship, it still remains so. I 750 shall, therefore, feel obliged to support my noble friend if he proceeds to a Division.
§ EARL BEAUCHAMP
I hope the noble and learned Viscount and His Majesty's Government will resist this Amendment. It is a very large extension of the principle which is laid down in the Bill. The noble Earl who moved the Amendment said that so far as he was concerned it would not make any difference. There are, however, other people to whom it might make a good deal of difference, if they were anxious to find accommodation for all their sons and daughters. Certainly we ought to remember that in any case under this Bill, if alternative accommodation is found for the tenant, there is no question about it and the man who has bought property is allowed to come in and live in the house or to give it to his son or daughter. I think we have to consider the hardship upon a tenant who is a perfectly good tenant, who has lived in the house for a long time and has paid his rent regularly, who may have improved the house and made it a better house than it was, and is suddenly to be turned out while no alternative accommodation is given.
Although it is hard on the son or daughter of the landlord, I think we may fairly say that there would be a very great many cases quite as hard as those referred to by the noble Earl, Lord Stanhope, in the case of people who, having been tenants for a long time, would be suddenly turned out and have nowhere else to go. I think it is also fair to point out that such Amendments as the last which was introduced by your Lordships must tend to increase, to some considerable extent and to an artificial extent, the value of the property, for this reason: Supposing, when a house is for sale, the tenant has reason to suppose that it is going to be bought by somebody who wishes to live in it, he will be inclined to pay more for it than it is really worth in order not to be disturbed in possession of the house in which he has been living for five or ten years. In those circumstances, I think it is obvious that he would be tempted to pay more than it is really fair to ask him to pay. I hope, therefore, that His Majesty's Government will resist the Amendment.
§ THE LORD CHANCELLOR
My noble friend Lord Beauchamp has nut his finger 751 upon the point. If you weigh the question of hardship between being restricted in the right to put in a son or a daughter or the right to turn out a tenant without alternative accommodation, there is really nothing to be said. It is quite true, as the noble Earl, Lord Stanhope, said, that words were put into the Act of 1923 which enabled the landlord to turn out the tenant for the sake of a son or daughter without proving alternative accommodation or greater hardship. That is one of the kind of legislative provisions that help to create the Labour Party. The effect of doing what is proposed now may not, of course, be anything enormous, but it lays down a principle which is enormous, and which will be looked upon by people as an indication of the spirit in which the Legislature treats these matters. As between the two cases of the son or daughter whom the landlord wants to house, and a tenant whom he proposes to turn out without providing alternative accommodation, I suggest to your Lordships that there is no comparison, and that in no circumstances ought the landlord, to turn out a tenant for the purpose of putting in a son or daughter, unless it is perfectly clear that the tenant is not thereby subjected to greater hardship. The question is, as I have said, so far as the practical effect is concerned, a narrow one, but, so far as the principle in it is concerned, a very large one. and I suggest to your Lordships it is not desirable in this House that we should alter the Bill as it came from the Commons by putting in words which were never dreamt of there.
§ THE MARQUESS OF SALISBURY
The noble and learned Viscount, the Lord Chancellor, has suggested that if you balance the case of the tenant against the case of the son or daughter there is no question as to which is subjected to the greater hardship. The noble and learned Viscount seems to forget that by the drafting of his own Bill the whole question of greater hardship is reserved for the decision of the County Court Judge. There is no question here of inflicting a greater hardship upon the tenant. That could not possibly arise even if my noble friend's words are put in, because the County Court Judge is expressly directed to adjudge the case upon the issue of greater hardship. Therefore, the whole of the noble 752 Viscount's argument falls to the ground, for there is nothing in it at all. The question of greater hardship is reserved to the County Court Judge.
I am particularly interested in this topic, because I had a great deal to Jo with the original introduction of the County Court Judge into this legislation. As your Lordships know I was privileged to have something to do with the second Rent Restriction Bill, which was the first mitigation of the hardship of the preceding Rent Restriction Act, and the provision upon which we relied almost more than anything else, in order to lubricate the difficulties which this kind of legislation necessarily involves, was the discretion which we gave to the County Court Judge, and that discretion was given legislative effect to in a very complete manner. Our view is to give the greatest liberty to the County Court Judge. The view of the Government in this Bill is to restrict the discretion of the County Court Judge. We say: Leave the issue of greater hardship to him; do not interfere with him.
I ask your Lordships to consider for a moment: the case of a son or daughter. After all, we must: assume, and the Government themselves assume in their Bill, that there is a certain presumption in favour of a man who owns property that he may occupy it. That, of course, is fundamental in the clause which we are discussing. The Government say, in regard to this particular privilege, that a landlord should only have his own property if he wants to occupy it himself, and that that right should not belong to him if he wishes to have possession for a son or daughter. The noble and learned Viscount did not address himself at all to the point which was put by my two noble friends. If he lived in the country, as I do, he would know that one of the greatest evils of the present restriction of house accommodation is that people who are desirous of getting married do not get married because they cannot get a house in which to live. That is the case, I think, everywhere, but the noble and learned Viscount seems never to have heard of that special difficulty. The chief difficulty in the house famine is that of providing a newly married couple with a house.
A father owns a house and wishes to put his son into it, so that he may get married. That, I say, is an action on his 753 part which shows not only a sense of his parental duties, but also a high civic sense of what he ought to do; and you are going to restrict him in the doing of it. I think the case of the son or daughter is even stronger than that of the man himself, for this reason: The man himself, in a very large number of cases, has already some place in which to live. Therefore, unless his house has been burnt down, he is not altogether without a place with which to cover his head. But in the case of the son or daughter who are about to get married, it really is a fact that they have no place at all in which to live, so that, I submit, the case of a son or daughter is rather stronger than that of the man himself. I suggest that these words which, after great consideration, were put into the Act of last year, should be retained. Your Lordships will remember that the full protection of the County Court Judge is always there. He must have regard to the issue of greater hardship, and when he is considering the question of greater hardship he has to consider also the element of alternative accommodation. All these protections are retained, and I suggest to your Lordships that the case for the son and daughter is abundantly made out.
§ THE LORD PRESIDENT, OF THE COUNCIL (LORD PARMOOR)
I should like to say one word in answer to two points raised by the noble Marquess. There is no question here of interfering with the discretion of the County Court Judge. The question is quite a different one. You give the County Court Judge jurisdiction with a power to interfere or not. There is not a word in this which would interfere with the absolute discretion of the County Court Judge in a case which can properly be brought before him. I entirely agree with the noble Marquess
§ that that discretion ought to be preserved. I recollect very well that it was owing chiefly to his action that the County Court Judge was introduced. I should myself very much object to any interference with his discretion, but there is no interference here with his discretion. The question is quite a different one. What we are dealing with here is only allowing the eviction of the tenant under the discretion of the County Court Judge in certain cases.
§ The noble Marquess has said that you ought to extend that discretion so as to include the case of the son or daughter as well as the owner himself. Put quite, shortly that is what the point is. Is that a right principle under this Bill, if you really want to protect a tenant? A tenant himself might have a son or daughter. If you really want to protect the tenant, to which there is no objection, you protect him as against the owner, and even in the case of the owner the County Court Judge's discretion comes in. It is quite true that these young people want to marry. I am cognisant of the conditions in the country as well as the noble Marquess, and I have had these questions before me very often, but this is not the place where a remedy is to be found. If you are really going to protect the tenant, if you are really going to give him the full protection which this Bill provides for him, the only person who ought to be entitled to take his place, as long as he pays his rent, is the owner, and even then a discretion is given to the County Court Judge as to whether he will grant possession to the owner. I think it is to be deprecated that the Bill should be extended beyond those limits.
§ On Question, Whether the words proposed be here inserted?
§ Their Lordships divided:—Contents, 63: Not-Contents, 21.755
|Devonshire, D.||Birkenhead, E.||Malmesbury, E.|
|Northumberland, D.||Clarendon, E.||Midleton, E.|
|Wellington, D.||Doncaster, E. (D. Buccleuch and Queensberry.)||Mount Edgeumbe, E.|
|Curzon of Kedleston, M.||Eldon, E.||Onslow, E.|
|Salisbury, M.||Lindsay, E.||Stanhope, E. [Teller.]|
|Lovelace, E.||Vane, E. (M. Londonderry.)|
|Ancaster, E.||Lucan, E.|
|Bertie of Thame, V.||Cottesloe, L.||Monteagle, L. (M. Sligo.)|
|Falmouth, V.||Cullen of Ashbourne, L.||Newton, L.|
|Finlay, V.||Darling, L.||Oranmore and Browne, L.|
|FitzAlan of Derwent, V.||Daryngton, L.||Ormonde, L. (M. Ormonde.)|
|Hutchinson, V. (E. Donoughmore.)||Elphinstone, L.||Ponsonby, L. (E. Bessborough.)|
|Long, V.||Forester, L.||Raglan, L.|
|Younger of Leckie, V.||Gage, L. (V. Gage.)||Rayleigh, L.|
|Glenarthur, L.||Sandys, L.|
|Atkinson, L.||Kenry, L. (E. Dunraven and Mount-Earl.)||Somerloyton, L.|
|Balfour of Burleigh, L.||Stuart of Wortley, L.|
|Banbury of Southam, L. [Teller.]||Knaresborough, L.||Sudeley, L.|
|Kylsant, L.||Sumner, L.|
|Biddulph, L.||Lamington, L.||Teynham, L.|
|Carson, L.||Lawrence, L.||Wester Wemyss, L.|
|Chaworth, L. (E. Meath.)||Meldrum, L. (M. Huntly.)||Ystwyth, L.|
|Haldane, V. (L. Chancellor.)||Chelmsford, V.||Hemphill, L.|
|Muir Mackenzie, L. [Teller.]|
|Parmoor, L. (L. President.)||Arnold, L.||Olivier, L.|
|Clwyd, L.||Pentland, L.|
|Beauchamp, E.||Denman, L.||Southwark, L.|
|Buxton, E||Elgin, L. (E. Elgin and Kincardine.)||Stanmore, L.|
|De La Warr, E. [Teller.]||Strachie, L.|
|Russell, E.||Gainford, L.||Terrington, L.|
On Question, Amendment agreed to.
§ Resolved in the affirmative and Amendment agreed to accordingly.
THE EARL OF MIDLETON moved to add to the clause the following proviso:—
Provided that in the case of a dwelling-House of which either the tenant or the landlord in an alien who did not serve the British Empire or its Allies in the Great War. if the Court, is of opinion that equal hardship would be caused to the tenant by granting as to the landlord by refusing to grant an order, the landlord or the tenant, as the case may be, who is a British subject, or, who being an alien, served the British Empire or its Allies in the Great War, shall be preferred by the Court.
§ The noble Earl said: With regard to the two Amendments on which your Lordships have already voted this evening it is said by the Government that they will cause an undue extension of the Bill. We decided the principle of this measure on the Second Reading, and I have no desire to go back on that decision, but as the Bill came to this House grave injustice would have been done by its provisions. I have not the slightest desire to increase evictions. I have had sufficient schooling in another country on the subject of evictions to have a holy horror of them, and I have never evicted tenant in this country. At the same time there are certain considerations which I think your Lordships must take into account, and which were not sufficiently considered in another place. The Amendment which I have put 756 down is intended to deal with the case where you have a conflict between a landlord or a tenant who is British born, or who has been allied with Great Britain, and an enemy alien. I would remind noble Lords opposite that the question between us is not whether the alien or any other person should be penalised, hut whether, when the Court has difficulty in deciding between landlord and tenant, the hardship being equal, we should give them the means of deciding.
§ This is not by any means a small matter. I will not trouble your Lordships with a great many figures, but I will mention one or two which were given in another place, to show the enormous extent to which this question affects certain localities, particularly in London. The influx of aliens under the very loose legislation of this country for several years before the war assumed proportions of which I think very few people are aware. Within a very few years before the war no fewer than 38,000 aliens came in and were established in one borough of London alone, and at this moment, as was stated in another place on the authority of a high official, in the district between Oxford-street, Regent-street, Coventry-street and Charing Crossroad, ninety per cent. of the population are aliens. If you go a little further north between Oxford-street, Great Portland-street. Euston-road and Tottenham Court-road, eighty per cent. are aliens. There is a similar percentage in South 757 St. Pancras, and there are very large colonies in South Kensington and South Newington. The question must constantly arise, therefore, when all other things are equal, how you are to decide for one party or the other, for the British born or for the alien.
§ I was struck with a remark which fell from the noble Earl, Lord Beauchamp, a few moments ago. He spoke as if the offer of alternative accommodation were one which gives a real loophole to the landlord. I venture to say that there is no greater fallacy than to suppose that a tenant who means to stay in a house can be induced to go by the offer of alternative accommodation. A case came before me the other day. The landlord has a house quite close to Portland-place, where I live. Solely out of good nature and generosity, he had allowed three people to come into his chauffeur's rooms when he was not in London, on the clear understanding that, when the time came, they were to go. When he asked for the rooms, in order that his chauffeur, a married man, might have somewhere to live, he was told that these people would not go. He went through every process of law. He offered them four rooms for the same rent as they were paying, having himself undertaken to pay the difference between that rent and the rent demanded by the new landlord. They went before the Court and said that they were not satisfied with these rooms, and were not prepared to move unless they got rooms which satisfied them as well as the rooms which they had. They were sustained by the Court, and, to cut a long story short, the landlord finally got back his own rooms, which he had let out of pure generosity at about half the price which he might have obtained for them, by paying to the tenant a fine of £50 in order to obtain possession. I assure your Lordships there has been as great an abuse in this matter of alternative accommodation as in anything which has arisen as a result of this legislation.
§ I do not wish to labour that point, but I feel that, in regard to questions where the Court have to come to a decision whether the landlord or the tenant suffers greater hardship, the point of nationality should be considered. We have no right to penalise our own people in order to provide for the enormous influx of persons who have come here and have very often 758 undersold them in various ways, and have in many cases left their countries since the war and availed themselves of what is called our hospitality. Those of us who have been recently in America know how stringent are the laws there. Those who go to any port in almost any part of that Continent know with what stringency they are met. I feel that great injustice is done in many districts in this country, where a man really desires to inhabit the house which he has bought for his own use, where he has, through generosity and kindness, allowed a family to find their way in, where he is able to point to accommodation which is adequate for them, but where they, following the letter of the law, assure the Judge and persuade the Court that their difficulty is as great as his. I submit that the British-born person should have precedence over the alien.
Page I line 24, at and insert the said proviso.—(The Earl of Middleton.)
§ THE LORD CHANCELLOR
A number of really large questions have been raised in the course of this debate, but the noble Earl who moves this Amendment has raised yet a new one, and perhaps a larger one than any with which we have yet been confronted. I can only imagine that, moved by the rumours that a Dissolution is imminent, he wishes to provide fresh issues for discussion in the great cities of the country. If so, it is possible that a few weeks later we may feel grateful to him. Not only has the noble Earl raised this large question, but he has raised it in the most puzzling Amendment with which, I think, I have ever had to deal. A County Court Judge can generally, with his broad sense, say whether hardship is greater upon one side or the other, but how he is to say that the hardship is equal I dc not know. If he finds that it is an arithmetically equal quantity, then the consideration of alien-ship is to determine his judgment, but what is the process of arithmetic through which he is to go in determining that the hardship is not greater or less but equal, I, for my part, do not know. Possibly the noble Earl has had assistance from the new psychologists or some of the eminent men of science to enable him to put the Amendment in the shape that it takes.
But the real question is the question of substance. It has been the broad principle 759 in this country that when people were allowed to come and live here they should have the rights which are accorded to the British citizens of whom they are made part. When these rights are taken away they have been taken away by Statute, and in definite eases, but this Amendment proposes to take away rights in a wholly novel fashion, which will give rise to some very awkward questions. The Amendment depriving aliens of the same rights as British citizens is in direct conflict, for example, with the provisions of the Japanese Treaty of Commerce, Article of which provides that Japaneseshall be permitted to own or hire and occupy houses, manufactories, warehouses, shops and promises which may ho necessary for them, and to loose land for residential, commercial, industrial, and other lawful purpose in the same manner as a native subject.There are other Treaties of the sort to which the same consideration would apply, hut apart from that, it is extraordinary to discriminate in this general fashion against aliens, and to deny to them the protection which the law affords to British subjects.
For instance, as drafted, the Amendment would preclude a French dressmaker and benefit a Bolshevik. The former, being a woman, would not, in all probability, have served in the war, but the latter may have fought for Russia against Germany. It might prejudice an American who was over military age in favour of a Portuguese who had served in the war. Not only does it complicate the position of the Judges, but it is the most un-English proposal that I have ever seen put into a Bill of this kind. The proposal was made to the House of Commons, and was rejected by a large majority, and I hope, although almost against hope, that your Lordships are not going to entertain it here.
§ LORD DANESFORT
But for the fact that the noble and learned Viscount opposite opposed this Amendment, I should have thought it impossible for any Government to oppose it. The noble and learned Viscount, in a somewhat strange passage, said that the noble Earl who moved the Amendment had his eye on a Dissolution. I should have thought that the noble Viscount and his Party would be the last persons in the world to make any such suggestion, having regard to the 760 sort of provisions which are to be found in their Budget and elsewhere, which prove that they have had that idea simply and solely in their minds.
As I understand it, the object of this Amendment can be put into two or three words. When there is a doubt as to whom you shall put in as tenant of premises, you shall give the preference to British subjects rather than aliens. That is a very simple proposition, and I cannot imagine any one objecting to carrying into effect a provision of that sort. The second point is that if there is any doubt you shall favour those who have fought in the war for us or for our Allies, rather than those who have not fought or helped. Those are the two simple questions, as I understand it, raised by this Amendment, and I only hope that my noble friend will go to a Division, in which case I shall certainly support, him. The noble and learned Viscount referred to some provision in the Japanese Treaty of Commerce, with which I am unfamiliar. I rather gather that the effect was to give Japanese subjects the right to hold property in this country. That has nothing to do with the question involved in this Amendment. The question is not one of holding property but of whether the favours conferred by this Rill are to be given to men of British birth, rather than to men of alien birth, and to those who have fought for or with us in the war, rather than to those who have not so fought.
§ VISCOUNT LONG OF WRAXALL
I earnestly hope that Lord Midleton will divide your Lordships in support of this Amendment. I confess that I have been amazed, of late weeks, to find how widespread in certain quarters is the complete forget fulness of those years during which we were fighting the late terrible war. When the war was on everybody was full of promises of what would be done for those offering their lives and undergoing tremendous hardships, but now that it is all over, and the war has come to an end, there comes a complete change, and an Amendment such as this is not only resisted by the Government but resented by them, and the Lord Chancellor thinks fit to make all sorts of suggestions about the motives which have moved my noble friend below me.
The motives are simple and apparent enough. They are a natural and proper 761 desire to put before strangers our own people, of whom I am sorry to say we have got many more than we can find proper employment for, or houses. Furthermore, he wishes to give priority to those who fought for or with us in the war. I should have thought that principle would have been entirely accepted. I thought we had laid it down, without respect to parties, that all men who had fought in the war, and who wanted certain things, should have priority over those who had not so fought. I must say that I could not fully follow the reply of the noble and learned Viscount, but it seemed to me, in so far as I could follow it, that it had very little real bearing upon the question that we have to consider.
I have been rather surprised at the opinions expressed on the Front Government Bench, and also by some of my noble friends here, upon one or two of these Amendments. What we want is to encourage people to build houses, and to invest their money in house property, and it is not a question of giving priority to the landlord or the tenant, or of benefiting one at the expense of the other. The question is one of making it worth while for people who have got money to invest it in this class of property, and if you surround that with every sort of difficulty, and make it practically impossible for men to enjoy the full rights of property, and in addition you refuse to accept this simple principle, that a Britisher shall come before an alien, and that a man who has fought in the war shall come before one who has not, I think that instead of making this owning and building of houses popular you will do a great deal to put the matter back. I submit that those opposite who advocate the building of houses are only doing lip-service to this great national cause, when they advocate it with one breath and then in their speeches, and by their legislation, pour cold water upon every proposal which is calculated to induce people to do what we all want them to do—to provide houses for men and women to live in.
§ LORD PHILLIMORE
If I rightly apprehended what the noble Viscount has just said he has, I think, misunderstood the drafting of this proviso. There is no question, as I see it, in this proviso of giving preference to people who fought in the war. It is a penalising clause, 762 penalising those who did not tight in the war, people who are aliens, people who possibly were neutrals, and whose duty to their own country would be that they should not fight, or possibly Allies—because, if you look at the proviso, you will see that, if the man is an alien, unless he was actually fighting for the Allies, he would be disqualified—a Frenchman, for instance, if he was over 50 and did not serve, or an Italian or Portuguese in the same position. I do not think this proviso would have much application, but it would remain on the Statute Book as one of those unfortunate discriminations, one of those unfortunate records of enmity, which we want so much to have done with. For Heaven's sake do not let us keep these ideas about aliens and enemies. Let us carry out the peace in its entirety. Let us accept the principles of the League of Nations to which we all give lip service and to which almost every candidate on every side gave lip service at the last Election, and let us not put such provisions as this on the Statute Book.
§ EARL STANHOPE
The noble and learned Lord forgets that there was one other thing to which every candidate paid lip service at the last Election, and that was preference for ex-Service men. For my part, although I am a supporter of the League of Nations, I think that my fellow-countrymen come before any others, and when the noble and learned Lord talks about penalising foreigners I would point out that there is no question of penalising. What the Amendment says is that, other things being equal, British subjects come before foreigners. I think that, not only in this House but in the country, that is a policy which has had almost universal support. I hope very much that your Lordships will insist on this Amendment, in order that those who gave pledges at the last Election shall be given an opportunity in another place of carrying them out.
§ LORD PARMOOR
I do not desire to go into the wider matters which have been referred to, but I wish to deal with a question that was asked by the noble Lord, Lord Danesfort—namely, what would be the effect of the Japanese Treaty upon this proviso. The effect is very direct, because the Japanese Treaty says that, as regards proprietary rights in this country, a Japanese settled here 763 shall have the same rights as a native-born Englishman. If in this particular case you discriminate between the alien and the Englishman on one of the very matters which are dealt with in the Japanese Treaty, you are obviously committing yourselves to legislation which is inconsistent with the terms of that Treaty. I see that the noble Lord shakes his head, but it is so. And that is a very serious matter and will have to be very carefully considered. You have made a Treaty in which you undertake that you will not do this and then the Legislature comes in and does it. I think this was the point upon which the matter was very largely decided in the House of Commons.
Another point with which I wish to deal is the question of aliens. The principle, and the right principle, which you often boast about when speaking of our legal system, is that if an alien is here resident in the ordinary sense—whether you admit him or not is an entirely different question—he is entitled to have the same law applied to him as an Englishman. That has been one of the great principles of English law, and it is of enormous importance—both the principle itself and its application. Here you introduce a special exception, as against a real liberal principle in legal matters. Your alien is here—as our guest, it is sometimes said, but one need not use phrases of that sort—and you suddenly introduce legislation which is to his detriment. Is that right-in a great legal system like ours? We know that the English system and the Roman system are the two great systems of the world, and ours has been framed on the footing that you shall not pass legislation or operate your laws to the special detriment of the alien.
Going a little more into detail, the special provision here is a very curious one. It has been pointed out that every friendly country in the world is affected by this provision, and every country could pass the same sort: of legislation to the detriment of our fellow-subjects. Take the case of an Englishman living abroad in Sweden, or Norway, or Switzerland. Should we do anything that would lead to his being put into a worse position than the ordinary native resident in such a matter as this? I say, most distinctly not. To return to the proviso itself, what will happen? You will have a trial coming on before a County Court Judge, someone 764 whispers in the County Court Judge's car, "An alien," and you poison the whole atmosphere. We know that justice holds the scales with blindfolded eyes. This is not administering justice with blindfolded eyes, it is allowing the poisoned knowledge to be introduced into the mind of the Judge. I hope, for the credit of our whole system of justice, that this Amendment will not be accepted.
§ LORD DARLING
I take, perhaps, a somewhat different view from any which has yet been expressed from these Benches. I would consider not only the alien, but also the members of the British Judiciary. When one finds that these words are to be construed by a County Court Judge who does not get the assistance of advocates very well versed in International Law—for the solicitors who practice in those Courts are not so well acquainted as Lord Phillimore or Lord Parmoor with the jurists who have written on that subject—1 confess I feel very deeply for those upon whom this burden is proposed to be cast by this Amendment. It is obvious that it would be difficult to construe, and it may be so easily misunderstood.
But the noble and learned Lord opposite. Lord Phillimore, has assumed that the noble Viscount near me (Lord Long) has misunderstood this Amendment. Perhaps he did, but I think that Lord Phillimore misunderstood it himself. He and I have differed in the construing of Acts of Parliament before now. and we may differ again. But the words of the Amendment are—"who being an alien, served the British Empire or its Allies in the Great War." The noble and learned Lord and, I think, Lord Parmoor also, assumed that this meant, "who fought in the Great War," but the word is not "fought," it is "served," and we know that "They also serve who only stand and wait," as many, many people did in this country during the war who were not aliens at all. And if I were a County Court Judge I should find it very difficult to decide as between the respective merits as patriots of the French dressmaker whose painful case was alluded to by the Lord Chancellor, and some more conspicuous persons known to a great many of us.
I feel a difficulty in understanding this Bill at all. When the last two Amendments were moved it was suggested 765 that this was not a Government Bill, and an answer was given which really did not satisfy me as to whether it was a Government Bill or not. Again, with regard to this Amendment, the way in which it has been resisted does not quite satisfy me whether it is the Government who object or whether it is the gentleman who introduced it—Mr. Simon, I think—who is mostly concerned. The Government did not bring in the Bill, it is said. Ostensibly they did not; someone brought it in and they adopted it. In that connection, a verse occurs to me which I cannot help quoting to the noble and learned Viscount opposite:—The merchant, to secure his treasure,Conveys it in a borrow'd name.Lord Haldane server to grace the measure,But Trotsky is the real flame.I find this Amendment so difficult to understand and the whole tendency of the Bill so obscure that I do not feel that I should vote for the Amendment. As I dc not understand it I ought, perhaps, to vote against it, but then I should not quite like the company in which I should find myself.
§ THE EARL OF MIDLETON
It seems to me that two questions are involved. The one is the principle and the other is the wording. In regard to the wording, if the principle is accepted it will be open to the Government to take care that none of the disadvantages which they fear attach to the Amendment remains in it, and I should be only too glad to accept, on Report, any words which they think are necessary. As regards the principle, I confess that both of the speeches made from the Front Bench opposite seem to have the same ring in them. As with unemployment, so with housing, if there is an advantage it is to be given to the foreigner as against the Britisher. For that reason I ask your Lordships to accept my Amendment.
§ THE LORD CHANCELLOR
My Lords, the other House is ready for the Royal Commission which was announced for six o'clock. I, therefore, move that the House do now resume.
§ Moved, That the House do now resume.—(The Lord Chancellor.)
§ On Question, Motion agreed to: House resumed accordingly.