HL Deb 22 December 1927 vol 69 cc1270-5

Page 13, line 22, at end insert as a new clause:—

"Provisions as to premises subject to Rent Restrictions Acts.

"(1) The tribunal shall not entertain an application under Section three of this Act if at the time of the application the applicant is a person in possession of the premises by virtue of the Rent and Mortgage Interest (Restrictions) Acts, 1920 to 1925.

(2) No compensation shall be payable for goodwill attaching to any premises if and so far as such goodwill is attributable to the trade or business carried on thereat during any period during which possession of the premises has been retained by virtue of the Rent and Mortgage Interest (Restrictions) Acts, 1920 to 1925, and such period as aforesaid shall be excluded in computing for the purposes of this Part of this Act the length of time during which the trade or business has been carried on at the promises."

The Commons disagree to this Amendment for the following Reason: Because the Amendment is contrary to the principle of the Bill that the landlord should compensate the tenant for any value created by the tenant which enures to the benefit of the landlord, and would deprive of the benefits of the Bill the poorest class of tenants who are least able to protect themselves.


My Lords, the next Amendment concerns a new clause inserted in this House with regard to premises subject to the Rent and Mortgage Interest (Restrictions) Acts. Your Lordships will have in mind the discussions in this House upon that matter. When the clause was discussed in Committee, I took objection to the Amendment then moved on the ground that as framed it would exclude from the provisions of the Statute all the smaller tenancies, and I thought that very undesirable and really not just. But at a further stage I suggested to the House a modification of the Bill which would confine it to cases where the tenant had received notice to quit, and so had become what is called a statutory tenant under the Rent Restrictions Acts. I was impressed by the arguments that were used by some of your Lordships that in that case it was rather hard on the landlord that, having what has been called an unwanted tenant, he should see that tenant improving his property against his will. The House took that view and passed an Amendment in that modified form.

The matter was debated at length in the other House. Objection was taken to the clause as passed by this House by members sitting in every quarter of that House and, I think, quite as much—or more—by members sitting on the Government benches as by members sitting in other quarters of the House. In the end my right hon. friend who was in charge of the Bill left this matter to a free vote of the House, with the rather striking result that the House disagreed with this clause without a Division. No one was found to challenge a Division or to vote for the clause. I think that the reason which mainly weighed with the other House was that given in the written Reason, which I will read:— Because the Amendment is contrary to the principle of the Bill that the landlord should compensate the tenant for any value created by the tenant which enures to the benefit of the landlord, and would deprive of the benefits of the Bill the poorest class of tenants who are least able to protect themselves. I think, looking at the debate, that this consideration also weighed with members of the other House: that, where Parliament had put tenants in a special position of security, the tenants should not for that reason be deprived of benefits which were being given to others. I admit that the arguments are nicely balanced, and I do not withdraw my view that the case is rather a hard one for the landlord. But, upon the whole, I do not think that your Lordships would like to be put in the position of insisting that what are called the poorest class of tenants should be deprived of the benefits given by the Bill to tenants who are better off, and so I would suggest to your Lordships that you do not insist upon this Amendment.

Let me just add that it is not a very important matter in itself. The Amendment will apply only to the small tenements which are used for the combined purposes of a residence and the carrying on of trade. In practice it applies only to the small shop where a man lives above his shop. The Bill applies only to improvements hereafter made which have lasted for three years before the end of the tenancy, so it cannot come into operation until three years after the commencement of the Act. What will be the form of the Rent Restrictions Acts three years hence, I suppose no living man could tell. Accordingly the cases in which your Lordships' Amendment would operate cannot be many, though that is, of course, a minor consideration. The great point that I put to the House is that it is undesirable that there should be a conflict between the two Houses on a matter in which the interests of these small tenants are concerned. For these reasons I beg to move that this House doth not insist upon the said Amendment.

Moved, That this House doth not insist upon the said Amendment.—(The Lord Chancellor.)


My Lords, the noble and learned Viscount brought forward this Amendment to meet my request, and I am most grateful to him for doing so. I could not see then, nor can I see now, how the Rent Restrictions Acts can work alongside this Bill, but no doubt we shall have litigation on the subject and we may know the position some day. I am not going to oppose the wishes of the House of Commons on this point, though I do protest, and I say most strongly that I deeply regret that we have not had more time for dealing with this important matter. We are here now, on the last day of the Session, discussing a most important question. I know quite well that, even if your Lordships insisted on your Amendment, it would be no use. I cannot press it, but I make my protest.


My Lords, I should like to support what has just fallen from my noble friend. We are placed in a very great difficulty, not in any way through the fault of the Lord Chancellor, whose conciliatory conduct and attitude we all desire to recognise, but by the fact pointed out on the Second Heading of the Bill, when we moved that the Bill be referred to a Select Committee, that it was quite impossible to bring this Bill into shape in the time left to us, more especially as there was no opportunity of examining the enormous incidence of some of these cases before the Prorogation. Your Lordships may remember that the noble Marquess the Leader of the House, when asked on this particular ease, was unable to furnish us with any figures as to the numbers which would be affected. Now we are in two difficulties, firstly, that it has been impossible since the unexpected rejection of this clause last night in another place, to summon members of this House to discuss the matter here, and secondly, we know that we shall put the Government in great difficulty if we resist, because we recognise that the Lord Chancellor has done all he can to obtain the sanction of the House of Commons to the changes which we deliberately made here.

We have no desire whatever to place the Government in greater difficulty than that in which they now stand, but I cannot leave this question without reminding your Lordships of the very important discussion which took place on Tuesday last, in which various members on this Bench took part, with regard to the failure of the Government to deal with the admitted anomalies which have arisen under the Rent Restrictions Acts. The Government have taken a course, after the constant admission by members of the Government, and indeed on Tuesday last by the Leader of this House, that the Rent Restrictions Acts urgently require amending—in the face of that they have placed those Acts in the Expiring Laws Continuance Bill, so that they could not be discussed. What is even worse, despite repeated demands, thay have been unable to promise that next year the same course may not be pursued. On that lapse on the part of the Government is founded the fact that a very large number of tenants—I cannot estimate the numbers—who have kept in occupation against the wish of their landlords, have also crept in for all the benefits of this Bill, and this will cause an immense amount of legal difficulty.

I cannot believe that when one Act contemplates a landlord having power to give notice, and the other Act contemplates that he shall not have that power, and one Act does not involve anything with regard to improvements, and the other Act allows improvements, it is a state of things which cannot fail to give rise to a great deal of legal conflict. We are, however, placed in this difficulty: we have not been able to summon our friends to discuss the matter, the Amendments are not printed and have come up within a few hours. But we have no desire to embarrass the Government, and are therefore forced to acquiesce in the decision that we shall not press this Amendment. I hope, however, your Lordships will remember that in taking this course we cannot contemplate that in succeeding Sessions the same course is to be pursued with impunity. I think it is an absolute parody of the proceedings of Parliament that we should be asked from time to time, following as best we can Amendments which have not been printed, without proper consultation and debate, in this House, to legislate in this way. With that protest I accept the advice given by the Lord Chancellor.


My Lords, I do not want to enter into any discussion upon this specific Amendment, which has been thoroughly dealt with by the Lord Chancellor, but I do want to say one word with regard to the closing observation of my noble friend. Your Lordships are quite aware that I share with him a very strong feeling as to the way in which your Lordships' House is treated at this period of the Session, but I would like to remind my noble friend that with regard to this particular stage of business there must necessarily be some confusion. I have been a member of this House for a very long time, though not quite so long as my noble friend—


Longer by four years.


I do not like to be reminded of my age to that extent. In all my experience the discussion of Amendments between the two Houses must necessarily be close to the end of the Session, even if adequate time be allowed for the discussion of the actual Bill. Those discussions of Amendments between the two Houses are always conducted under considerable difficulty because the Messages pass to and fro very rapidly and sometimes are not set up in print. I cannot say how sorry I am that my noble friend should have cause to complain, and I earnestly hope that in future Sessions your Lordships' House will be better treated; but on this particular stage of business I cannot hold out very much hope that there will be more time for discussion of Messages which pass between the two Houses at the end of the Session.

On Question, Motion agreed to.