HL Deb 21 June 1951 vol 172 cc255-60

[The references are to Bill No. 45]

Clause 1, page 1, line 11, leave out ("immediately before") and insert ("at all times during the period beginning with the twentieth day of November, nineteen hundred and fifty, and ending with").

The Commons disagreed to the above Amendment and two others for the following Reason:

Because the Amendments would deny certain tenants the protection of Clauses 1 and 2 of the Bill.


My Lords, the Amendments which your Lordships are now called upon to consider really fall under two heads. The first three deal with the question of the qualifying period. Your Lordships will remember that the House decided, against my advice, to insert into the Bill a qualifying period. Let me make it quite plain that I have never said that to insert a qualifying period, as your Lordships did, was unreasonable or anything of the sort. I can well understand the case for a qualifying period, though, be it observed, in the Rent Restrictions Act, which was suggested as an alternative method of dealing with this problem, there was no qualifying period. The Rent Restrictions Act dealt, as it were, with premises rather than with persons. As I ventured to say to your Lordships before, I concede that the qualifying period would cut out of the Bill certain people who do not need protection. I concede that it will deal with this case—I do not think it is very likely to arise, but it may. Imagine a case where a man is an investing tenant in a block of flats; he is not living there himself, but he is a lessee; he is not the occupying lessee, he is the investing lessee; and by a mere ruse or manœuvre, he manages to get possession of one of these flats just at the end of the term. In those circumstances, he brings himself within the advantages of this Bill. I concede that, and it was to meet that sort of case that your Lordships put in the qualifying period.

We have to look at both sides of the matter. I felt then, and I feel now, quite convinced that this system of a qualifying period would cut out a lot of deserving people, whom noble Lords on both sides of the House would desire to help. For instance, it would cut out the man who, following his work and wanting to go to work in some other part of England, which would mean being away from his house for a month, sub-let the house for that month in order that he might go and work away. There is no reason whatever why such a man should not be helped. In the case of a holding owner, with which the third of the Amendments deals, imagine a tenancy which expires on March 25. Under the Bill as drawn, if that man holds on until June 24, he gets the benefit of the Bill. But why should he be affected if, for a perfectly good reason (it may be concerned with health or to follow his work), he has sub-let his premises for the month of January? Why should he be without and the man who did not sub-let his premises be within the Bill? That is purely arbitrary. There is no logical ground for it. Therefore, I venture to say that the insertion of the qualifying period, useful though it may be in some cases, in many other cases would work a real injustice. For that reason I very much hope that your Lordships will not insist upon this Amendment.

I should be remiss if I did not point out, as a mere matter of fact, though it is not in the least by way of a threat that if this Bill does not receive the Royal Assent before Sunday next, June 24, very considerable difficulties will arise, of which your Lordships are no doubt aware; because Part II of the Bill, dealing with shops, applies only to those shop tenancies which were in force immediately before the passing of the Act. We have provided that this Act shall come into force on June 24, and those shop tenancies which come to an end at midnight on June 23 will get the protection of the Act. If the Bill is not passed until some time after June 24, then there will be obvious difficulties. Whether we could surmount those difficulties is a matter we should have to consider; but I hope that that will not be necessary. I think the first three Amendments really hang together, but taking the first one, I beg to move that this House do not insist upon the Amendment to which the Commons have disagreed.

Moved, That this House do not insist upon the Amendment to which the Commons have disagreed.—(The Lord Chancellor.)


My Lords, as usual, we have heard the case very fairly put by the noble and learned Viscount on the Woolsack. He has not suggested, as was suggested in another place, that by this Amendment we were in any way trying to wreck the Bill. And of course we were doing nothing of the sort. We were anxious only that the Bill should deal with the class of persons with whom it was originally intended to deal: that is to say, people who for long periods have been in Possession of one of the houses to which the Bill when it becomes an Act will apply. We thought that it was unfair to put a landlord in a position to turn them out at the end of their long lease, if more permanent legislation was to be brought in which might eventually protect their interests. I do not think, however, if I may say so, that the Lord Chancellor's reference to the Rent Restrictions Act was quite in point. Our reason for inserting this Amendment was to ensure that people should not be able, after they had got to know the contents of this Bill, to slip into a position which they were not in before the Bill was introduced. Normally—as I think I said on a previous occasion—if there is going to be an alteration in, say, taxation, the Budget Resolution comes in and clamps down on it from within ten minutes or a quarter-of-an-hour of the Chancellor of the Exchequer sitting down after his Budget Speech. Noble Lords who have been in another place realise that that happens whoever is Chancellor of the Exchequer, and whatever Government may be in power.

What another place is here insisting on doing is to say that although this occupier was not in the house when notice of the Bill was first given and its provisions were introduced, if he gets in after that by any kind of manoeuvre—and he can get in by the simple manœuvre of getting one of the sub-tenants to allow him to go and live there over the material date, while never intending to live there permanently—he shall get the benefit, of this measure. Our Amendment was designed to exclude that kind of transaction which, of course, would be carried through only by unscrupulous people after the general intention of Parliament had been published in Bill form.

On the other hand, I concede that by the Amendment protection might be denied if a person who had entered into a house quite genuinely after the date of the introduction of the Bill had not been there continuously—perhaps he had let it to friends when he went away. I think that on the last occasion the noble and learned Viscount the Lord Chancellor quoted the case of a man going to Korea, though I believe that people in that category have special protection. If, for example, the man had been deputed to attend one of the numerous conferences which we now find taking place, with little effect, all over the world, and had gone there, it might be that he would not qualify within the Amendment to which your Lordships agreed. But we came to the conclusion that on balance, it was right to try to prevent a situation in which a man did not really intend to live in a house but desired only to get the benefits of this measure, and perhaps make extra money out of it for the next two years. These were the reasons that prompted us.

The question with which we are faced to-day is what line we are to take when another place says that, because this Amendment "would deny certain tenants the protection of Clauses 1 and 2 of the Bill" they disagree with it. I believe that, in the main, the tenants who would be denied that protection would be the sort of people who do not in the least deserve it—the kind of people to whom I have been referring. The noble and learned Viscount has said that we may get into difficulties if this measure does not receive the Royal Assent before June 24. If your Lordships remember, we inserted June 24 as the date of its coming into force, and that Amendment another place has seen fit to accept. As I read the position, whatever date this Bill eventually receives the Royal Assent, the date in question will be June 24.


Will the noble Lord forgive me for interrupting him? The difficulty arises because of the words "immediately before", which, as the result of our Amendment, come in Clause 10, which applies only to shop leases. It deals with shop leases which expire immediately before June 24. So if the Royal Assent were not given until, say, June 26, a lease which expired at midnight June 23, would not expire "immediately before" this Bill became law.


I understood that our Amendment said "this Act." I think the words in Clause 10 are: "immediately before the date of the commencement of this Act." Later on in the Bill we have inserted an Amendment to say that the date of the commencement of this Act shall be June 24. So I do not think there is a great deal of validity, if I may say so, in that argument. On the other hand, it is true that, supposing the Royal Assent were not given until, say, June 30, there would be a period when this measure was not an Act of Parliament. During that period a landlord, if he were fool enough to do so, might let the property to someone else. Then immediately this measure received the Royal Assent the original tenant would be protected under it; but some complications might arise. However, I do not think that need disturb your Lordships very much to-day, because I am going to suggest that we do not insist on this Amendment. We in this House have done our best to see that scoundrels do not get any advantage out of this measure, and if, by our assenting to an Amendment of another place, some scoundrels get advantage of it, then it will not be our fault. We do not want to place your Lordships in the position of being misrepresented in the country, as we might well be, by its being said that we held up this measure from becoming law because of our tenderness towards landlords. I think that those of your Lordships who are landlords are among the best landlords in the country. Those whom I know run their estates extremely well, and take no improper advantage of any of their tenants. But it is easy enough to misrepresent any action of your Lordships' House in regard to landlords. There was no Division on the general principle underlying the Bill, either here or in another place, and I suggest this afternoon that we do not insist on this Amendment.

On Question, Motion agreed to.