HL Deb 15 June 1954 vol 187 cc1157-63

4.18 p.m.

Debate resumed.

Clause 28 [Passing on of repairs increase to sub-tenant]:


My Lords, the first Amendment in my name on the Order Paper is a purely drafting Amendment. I beg to move.

Amendment moved— Page 25, line 37, leave out ("tenant") and insert ("sub-tenant").—(The Lord Chancellor.)

On Question, Amendment agreed to.

Clause 44 [Date for permitted increases for increases in rates]:


My Lords, this is an Amendment to Clause 44 which was introduced to meet suggestions made by the noble Viscount, Lord Buckmaster, and its effect is little more than drafting. There is no reason why the existing law should be altered, and the purpose of the Amendment is to restore the position of the landlord in respect of a contractual tenancy: it gives him the right to make certain additions to the rent in respect of rates, in like manner as if it were a statutory tenancy. I do not think the matter needs any further explanation. I beg to move.

Amendment moved—

Page 38, line 12, at end insert— ("(3) Where under any tenancy the amount of any such permitted increase for rates as is mentioned in subsection (1) of this section is recoverable without a notice to terminate the tenancy being necessary in order to make the increase effective, the foregoing provisions of this section shall apply as they apply where at the time when the notice of increase is served the tenant is a statutory tenant, but with the substitution of references to the tenancy for references to the statutory tenancy.").—(The Lord Chancellor.)


My Lords, I confess that I do not understand this Amendment and I should be extremely grateful to the noble and learned Lord if he could explain it a little more. It appears to relate to a tenancy in which lawfully, under the terms of contract, the landlord is enabled to pass on an increase in local rates to the tenant. If that is, in fact, the position, why is it necessary to have any legislation at all dealing with the matter? The Rent and Mortgage Interest (Restrictions) Acts are based upon the fundamental principle that the increase of rent which they permit can be brought into effect only if the tenancy is determined and instead of being a contractual tenancy it becomes what is called a statutory tenancy. If that is so, it is very difficult for me, at any rate, to understand what is the effect of this new subsection. It says that the references in the two preceding subsections to a statutory tenancy are to be regarded simply as references to a tenancy. I do not know whether that is intended to mean, also, that the references to a "statutory tenant" are to be read as if they were references to a "tenant"—the Amendment does not say so. It appears to draw a distinction between the two forms of reference. If that is so, I find it difficult to construe Clause 44 (1) and (2), making that alteration. For example, I do not understand how subsection (2) can be read at all in this connection. Paragraph (a) of that subsection says: where at the time of service of the notice of increase the tenant is a statutory tenant.… Those words, apparently, remain, and the only alteration is at the end of the paragraph where, instead of "statutory tenancy," you read "tenancy." If that is the interpretation of this Amendment, then it seems to involve a contradiction in terms. I feel that there will be a great deal of difficulty in understanding what the effect of this subsection is.


My Lords, perhaps the House will allow me to try again. I am bound to say that if the noble Lord did not entirely follow me, I had some difficulty in entirely following him. The point is that Clause 44, which was introduced to meet the suggestion of the noble Viscount, Lord Buckmaster, in its terms requires the landlord of a contractual tenant, if he wishes to increase the rent on account of increased rates, to serve a notice which will have the effect of bringing the contractual tenancy to an end at the earliest date on which it could be determined by notice to quit. That is something that is quite unnecessary, for there are many contractual tenancies which themselves include provision for enabling the landlord to increase the rent on account of increased rates at any time. Where there is such a provision in a contractual tenancy, the landlord is entitled to his increased rent by giving a week's notice under Section 2 (3) of the Act of 1920, with which the noble Lord is no doubt familiar. But that does not determine the contractual tenancy

In drafting Clause 44 of the Bill, the landlord in that position was inadvertently overlooked, and accordingly it is necessary to put in a subsection to take him out again. There is no reason why the existing law in regard to him should be altered, and the purpose of this Amendment is to restore the existing law as respects him, for otherwise he would be excluded by the earlier subsections. It is true—I do not know whether the noble Lord has this in mind—that the Amendment does a little more than restore the existing law, inasmuch as it puts the contractual tenancy and the type of tenancy in question into the same position as that of the statutory tenant; that means that not only can the rent be increased on account of increased rates on the very next rent day, but a maximum of six weeks' arrears can also be claimed. As the noble Lord has probably observed, I have been reading that out, which is something I do not often do. I have read it because it states in the clearest way, by those who are familiar with and expert in these branches of the law, what is the intention and effect of this subsection. I can only hope that the noble Lord now understands it, because if he does not I know of no other words which can bring it more clearly to his mind.


I am obliged to the noble and learned Lord.

On Question, Amendment agreed to.

Second Schedule:

Proof of Past Repairs by Landlord

8. For the purposes of this Schedule work shall be disregarded— (b) if or in so far as the cost thereof has been or will be reimbursed under Part I of the War Damage Act, 1943.

4.25 p.m.

LORD BROUGHSHANE moved, in Paragraph 8, to omit sub-paragraph (b). The noble Lord said: My Lords, I beg to move the Amendment standing in my name, and in doing so I would ask your Lordships' indulgence for putting forward this Amendment at so late a stage. My explanation is that in the concluding moments of the Report stage of the Bill a certain discussion took place which prompted me to put forward this Amendment. The object of the Amendment is simply to entitle the landlord, who is at present disentitled, to include in proving past repairs work the cost of which has been met by payments made under the War Damage Act, 1943. A landlord is already permitted to include in proof of past repairs work the cost of which has been defrayed or met by an insurance company with whom he may have insured. I find it difficult to understand how these two circumstances can be differentiated. The only essential difference that I can see between war damage contributions and ordinary insurance premiums is the fact that whereas the first were compulsory, the latter are not. In explaining, on the Report stage, why it had been thought necessary to include paragraph 8 (b) of the Second Schedule, the noble and learned Lord on the Woolsack used these words.—(OFFICIAL REPORT, Vol. 187 (No. 78), col. 1099): Although the landlord may have paid some premium, the cost was substantially paid by the Exchequer. I do not know if I have misunderstood the words "some premium," but they seem to me to indicate a degree of diminution, and to suggest that the premium was not a very large one. It is difficult, if not impossible, to make an accurate comparison between war damage contributions and ordinary fire insurance premiums, inasmuch as the former were calculated on the rateable value of property, and the latter are, of course, calculated on the capital or replacement value.

If I may take as an example certain properties with which I am familiar, which are, I think, typical, at any rate of urban properties, I would say this. I have ascertained that, whereas the annual fire insurance premiums during the war years were of the order of £1,700, war damage contributions were about £11,000, which is nearly six times as much, an amount which I venture to say is "some premium" more in the Transatlantic sense of the word "some" than that in which I understood the noble and learned Lord to use it. As to the noble and learned Lord's further words, it is true that the cost of war damage claims exceeded war damage contributions to a considerable extent, and that the difference between these two amounts was made good by the Exchequer; but I find it difficult to understand why this fact should have any special significance in this context. Indeed, in the sentence immediately preceding that to which I have referred in the remarks of the noble and learned Lord, he said this: It is wholly irrelevant to that main aspect of the Bill whether the landlord or somebody else has paid for the repairs. Earlier, speaking of the Amendment with which he was then dealing, he had said: It loses sight of the fundamental point that it is the condition of good repair which is the prerequisite of the claim for increased rent. That is the thing that really matters. … The noble and learned Lord also said that it was perhaps illogical that war damage payments should be excluded

I ask him now to go a little further. I say that the exclusion of war damage payments is not only illogical, but inconsistent and inexpedient. I use the word "inexpedient" deliberately, because what we are here concerned with, as the noble Lord, Lord Mancroft, pointed out, is not so much landlords and tenants as houses. The increase of rent which is permitted to the landlord is not put forward as some bonus or prize for having passed certain tests it is put forward by the scheme of the Bill, as I understand it, rather to give him a certain increased income which will enable him to serve the Government's purpose by keeping his property thereafter in good repair. I beg to move.

Amendment moved— Page 45, line 46, leave out paragraph (b).—(Lord Broughshane.)


My Lords, I should have left this Amendment to the tender mercies of the noble and learned Lard who sits on the Woolsack, but it would be an odd result of the Amendments which I and my noble and learned Leader moved on this matter on Committee and Report stages if, as a result of our being turned down on those Amendments, the noble Lord had his Amendment accepted. There must be a great difference between repairs which have been carried out substantially at the public expense, such as war damage repairs, even though the landlord has paid some contribution, and repairs carried out under ordinary insurance. I did not accept the argument that where a landlord had his work done by an insurance company arising out of a fire, that was equivalent to expenditure by him. Nevertheless, I could see that there was something to be said for that point of view. In this case, however, the noble Lord must know that a large part of the expenditure on war damage was met out of public funds, and even though the premium was a large one, so was the risk of war damage in London—I presume this was London—and quite incomparable with the risk of fire in normal circumstances.

Substantially the greater part of the work done on war damage was done out of public moneys, and it would remove any pretence that the landlord has done something in respect of keeping his place in repair if he could pray in aid money spent by the War Damage Commission. I imagine it is for that reason that this provision has been inserted in the Second Schedule. This case is differentiated from every other kind of case to which, in the Amendments on Committee and Report stages, we tried to extend it. This does stand out as a separate, special case, and for that reason I hope that the noble and learned Lord will not accept the Amendment.


My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Silkin, for coming to my support on this penultimate Amendment to the Bill. I see great force in what the noble Lord, Lord Broughshane, has said. If one wanted to be strictly logical, and to exclude from the expenditure which the landlord claims to have been spent upon the premises everything except that which he himself has spent, then this and other expenditure is rightly excluded. If you take the other course, which is equally logical, and say that you are going to include in the expenditure everything except that which the tenant has spent, then, as I say, that would be strictly logical, too. But it is impossible in a matter of this complexity to be strictly logical, and I do not think it would have been acceptable to the great majority, either in this House or in another place, if we had allowed the landlord, in effect, to obtain credit for money obtained by him at the public expense. Although it is quite true that he has paid a premium, and a considerable premium—more justly called a contribution or a tax—towards the War Damage Fund, yet the sum which he has received and which other persons who have suffered war damage have received, in aggregate, makes the amount of premiums paid appear quite negligible. Therefore, the position is this: he has received large sums at the public expense. I do not think it would have been possible to reconcile that fact with allowing him to get credit for the expenditure in making a demand upon his tenant. Accordingly, with some little regret but not a great deal of regret, I am unable to advise your Lordships to accept this Amendment.


My Lords, I have no more to say.

On Question, Amendment negatived.

Fifth Schedule [Repeals]:


My Lords, the final Amendment is substantially drafting. As your Lordships remember, Clause 9 provides a new standard of fitness for human habitation which may result in a house being considered fit for human habitation, which is not an absolute standard fit in all respects. There is no intention that the house in respect of which an improvement is made under the Act of 1949 shall be maintained to a higher standard than that which could be required under Clause 9. Therefore, the omission of the words "in all respects" which appeared in the earlier Act is consequential on Clause 9. It was a mere error in drafting that those words were omitted from this Schedule. I beg to move.

Amendment moved— Page 49, line 59, column 3, at end insert ("In section twenty-three, in paragraph (d) of subsection (1), the words 'in all respects'.").— (The Lord Chancellor.)

On Question, Amendment agreed to.


My Lords, I beg to move that this Bill do now pass.

Moved, That the Bill be now passed.—(The Lord Chancellor.)

Bill passed, and returned to the Commons.