§ 2.49 p.m.
§ LORD MESTON had given Notice that he would ask His Majesty's Government in what cases, and to what extent, is compensation rent paid to owners of properties after the properties have been derequisitioned. The noble Lord said: My Lords, I rise to ask the question which stands in my name. I understand that in some cases after properties have been derequisitioned the Government continue to pay owners compensation rent for some months in order to enable the owners to tide over 337 the period of time which must elapse before repairs are carried out and the properties are once again made habitable or fit for business, as the case may be. I ask the Government generally in what cases and to what extent such compensation rent is payable after the premises have been derequisitioned. I understand that in the case of some hotels compensation rent has been paid for a period of three months after derequisitioning in order to enable the proprietors to put the premises into repair and start business again. However, I am very much in the dark about the whole matter, and I would be very grateful for any information on the subject. I believe that it is the general practice of the Government in these cases, when they do pay compensation rent after the premises have been derequisitioned, to pay such rent for an arbitrary period of time, such as three months or six months. I suggest that the payment of compensation rent for an arbitrary period of time may not do adequate justice in every case. There may be a number of cases, for example, where, owing to such things as lack of labour and materials, the owner is unable to get the repairs done for a year. In all these cases I hope that the Government will be able to take a broader view of the matter than they have done in the past.
§ 2.52 p.m.
My Lords, I begin by disclosing an interest in this subject, and asking your permission to proceed. I feel that it will at any rate convince the noble Lord who has raised the point that I am not liable to be unsympathetic to the point he has in mind. The noble Lord is no doubt aware that under the Compensation (Defence) Act, 1939, compensation rent ceases to be payable as soon as the premises are derequisitioned. It was, nevertheless, felt that where derequisitioned premises were unfit for occupation as a result of damage done during requisition, it was right that some allowance should be paid in respect of the time taken to make good the damage. The noble Lord no doubt would rather I set out the matter as it stands than reply to the particular points he raised, and in that way give him a general picture.
It was agreed with the Hotel and Restaurant Keepers' Association that hotels and boarding-houses which have suffered damage during requisition shall, 338 when they are due for derequisition, be retained on nominal requisition for a period called a rehabilitation period. This applies to hotels and restaurants. The period is intended to cover the time it would take, in normal circumstances, to renovate the premises, and its length is determined by a formula which depends on the size of the premises. During this period the compensation rent remains payable and the owner is given a licence to enter the premises and carry out such work as he desires. In return, he agrees to indemnify the Department concerned in respect of any damage occurring to the premises during the rehabilitation period and to bear any rates that might be payable during that period.
A similar arrangement whereby premises are nominally retained in requisition for a period was subsequently arrived at with the Association of Permanent Holiday Camps. This is the second class of case. In these cases, however, there is no formula for determining the length of the period. Each case is dealt with on its merits. The number of weeks that would be required in normal circumstances to render the premises suitable for use as a camp is determined and the requisition is nominally extended for that period. Finally, other types of premises are not nominally retained on requisition for a rehabilitation period but are derequisitioned as soon as they are no longer required. In these cases, on derequisition a lump sum is paid ex gratia as a rehabilitation allowance which is equal to the net amount that would be payable as compensation rent during the period it would take, in normal circumstances, to make good the damage to the premises, not exceeding three months in ordinary cases and six months in exceptional cases. I hope that gives the noble Lord the information he requires.
§ 2.55 p.m.
§ VISCOUNT SIMON
My Lords, that which the noble Lord has explained sounds quite reasonable, but is it authorized by the Statute? I do not myself understand the phrase "nominal requisition," and I do not think it appears in the Statute at all. He says this arrangement is made, if I followed him, with two important bodies, the Hotel and Restaurant Keepers' Association and the Association of Permanent Holiday Camps. One is very glad they 339 are given that amount of relief, but what happens to the ordinary person whose house has been requisitioned and, when it becomes derequisitioned, will take a long time to put in a habitable position? Is he left to take the rigour of the law while these people get some special provision in their favour?
My Lords, I feel that if I did not make it plain to the noble and learned Viscount, I did not make it plain to anybody. First of all, we have the case of the hotels and restaurants, the first class of case, then the case of the holiday camps and finally the other cases. As I have explained, these are not nominally retained on a requisition. In the other cases he had in mind they are derequisitioned as soon as they are no longer required. In these cases of derequisitioning a lump sum is paid ex gratia as a rehabilitation allowance; they get the lump sum and not the compensation rent.
I do not know whether their position is preferable to the others, but it has been intended that they should, broadly speaking, obtain the same kind of compensation. As I have explained, the ex gratia lump sum is supposed to be equal to the net amount which would be payable as compensation rent during the period.
Every person who has had his premises requisitioned has to go in and repair the damage which has been done to his premises and that may-take some time. We all start level, whether we are private owners, hotelkeepers or owners of holiday camps. The idea is that each person who has had his premises requisitioned shall receive a compensation rent for a calculated period until he can get his house decently in order and fit to live in. Everybody would at least get that. Then a special deal—I am not saying anything offensive—has been done "on the side" with two classes of people, the hotel-keepers and the holiday camp people, who get a lump sum instead of the rent.
I am sorry, I have not understood it. The first proposition was right, that everybody is entitled to a rent.
§ LORD TEVIOT
My Lords, it is not quite right, I am afraid. May I put my own case? I have just had my own place derequisitioned, and it is completely uninhabitable. At the moment an argument is going on between two valuers, and quite naturally they will take time, although they will eventually arrive at an agreement. Then comes the question of how long it will be before I shall be able to make the place habitable. Could the noble Lord tell me?
Let me just remove from the field of discussion the question of compensation for dilapidation, as we are all clear that is quite a separate item. We are simply talking of compensation for not being able to get into your premises as soon as they are derequisitioned. The noble Lord has put a case which happens to be my own, though on a far smaller scale. Like him, I do not know exactly when I shall get into my small property. In the case of the hotel and restaurant owners the payment is a rent. That is, a rent for a period that depends upon the size of the premises, but it is intended to cover the period which it would normally take to put the premises in a suitable condition. I want to say frankly that of course this notional idea of a normal period may not in all cases be exactly the same as the actual period, and that is why I was anxious not to mislead the noble Viscount. I felt he had an idea the Government were being a little more generous than they are able to be in this case, and that is why I had to correct him.
The period it would normally take is fixed and in the case of hotels and restaurants a certain compensation rent is allowed for that period. The owner goes into the hotel or restaurant, and although it is nominally still requisitioned by the Government he is allowed to proceed to put it in order. In the case of the holiday camps there is no formula referring to the size of the premises. Each case is dealt with on its merits. Compensation rent operates there in much the same way. In the other case, the result is supposed to be equally 341 generous, but a lump sum is paid instead of the compensation rent. So, in the first two cases, there is compensation rent, and in the last case, which is the case that all speakers who have intervened had in mind I think, a lump sum is paid which is supposed to place an owner in the same position as if he owned an hotel or a restaurant or a camp.
§ 3.2 p.m.
§ VISCOUNT MAUGHAM
My Lords, may I be allowed to add a word, because I am in precisely the same position as the last speakers, including the noble Lord who has replied on behalf of the Government. What I do not like is the phrase "the period it would normally take to put the premises into proper condition." As no doubt my noble friends on the same side as myself are well aware, as a rule a licence is granted to spend the sum of £100, but if dilapidations amount to considerably more than that modest sum, an owner may be kept for years before he can put his premises into decent repair. If the intention is to give what is called a normal rent which would be paid during the normal period and no more, then the amount of an owner's satisfaction from the Government will be exceedingly exiguous.
If I may, I will reply to the noble and learned Viscount who has just spoken. I think he takes rather too gloomy a view. I should be very much depressed if I thought that I could not get into my humble little shack for years. I do not think that there is any question of being held up for years. I quite agree that some cases of hardship may arise, but I have no doubt that, if and when they do, they will be carefully looked into.
§ VISCOUNT MAUGHAM
If the noble Lord can do so, he would help us in an obvious way by saying that the £100 limit will not apply in the case of derequisitioned premises.
I am assured by an expert sitting behind me that it does not apply in these cases. I am not, of course, able to get confirmation from the Department at this moment, but I have that from a source of great authority.
§ VISCOUNT SWINTON
In view of the very interesting information which we had yesterday in another place, may I ask 342 whether the lump sum payment which is supposed to give us fair treatment, is based on the appraisal by the Minister of Works of the shortage of material and the time it will take to get all this done?
I should like to be able to assure the noble Viscount that that is correct, but I am not in a position at the moment to do so. I shall be happy, on a later occasion, if it proves to be so, to inform him at once.
My Lords, I am very grateful to the noble Lord who has replied on behalf of the Government. I may say that it has been brought to my notice upon the highest and most unimpeachable legal authority that, strictly speaking, these ex gratia payments are outside the Act. I do not want the Government to take that as an indication that they should not make these ex gratia payments, but, strictly speaking, they are outside the ambit of the Statute. Perhaps, therefore, the Government may consider forthwith bringing in a new or amending Act which will put everybody on the same footing and enable the Government properly to make payments of compensation rent after the period of requisition has been terminated. Again, I would express my thanks to the noble Lord for his reply.