HL Deb 23 November 1961 vol 235 cc1018-21

6.42 p.m.

Order of the Day for the Second Reading read.


My Lords, I rise to move the Second Reading of this Bill, and I think it would be helpful if I indicated quite shortly to your Lordships its contents. The first is Section 1 of the Aliens Restriction (Amendment) Act, 1919, which provides for the control of aliens in time of peace, and is the enabling provision on which depends the continued operation of the Aliens Order, 1953, as amended by the Aliens Orders, 1957 and 1960. The next is the Education (Exemptions) (Scotland) Act, 1947, which authorises the employment of children over 13 years of age for the ingathering of the potato crop and secures their exemption from attendance at school for that purpose where the Secretary of State is satisfied that other labour is insufficient. This is another old friend, and I am told that the Government have announced that they will not again seek Parliamentary approval of the renewal of this measure. Therefore it may be the last time that we shall see our old friend on such an occasion.

The third is the Tenancy of Shops (Scotland) Act, 1959, which empowers the sheriff in certain circumstances to grant renewals of expiring tenancies of shops. In January, 1958, a Committee under the Chairmanship of my learned friend, Mr. Ian Shearer, Q.C., was appointed by the Secretary of State to consider whether there was need to continue the provisions of the Act after December 31, 1958. The Committee found that there had been no significant decrease in the number of applications made under the Act since 1952, and that the Act continued to serve a useful purpose. They did not favour making the Act permanent, but recommended that it should be continued after December 31, 1958, for a period not exceeding five years. The returns for 1960 show that the protection of the Act is still quite extensively sought throughout Scotland, and it is therefore proposed to continue it for another year.

Next is the Accommodation Agencies Act, 1953. Some of your Lordships will remember that that Act makes the charging of a fee for supplying information about houses and flats to let an offence. It was aimed against fraudulent house agencies which charged a fee for registering peoples' requirements and then supplied lists of vacant accommodation. Such lists were often inaccurate, out of date or unauthorised. The Bill was introduced by an old friend of many of us, Sir Geoffrey Hutchinson, and has served a useful purpose. The next is the Scottish Furnished Houses Control Act. That, I am told, still forms part of the machinery of rent control in Scotland, and it is desirable that the Act should be kept in force until a comprehensive review of that machinery can be undertaken.

Then comes the English Act, which provides for the setting up, in England and Wales, of rent tribunals with the main object of fixing reasonable rents for furnished lettings. The number of cases dealt with by the rent tribunals in England and Wales in the year ended June 31, 1961, rose by about 14 per cent. Accommodation is still in short supply in some areas, and demand continues to be high, particularly in the London area. In the circumstances, it seems desirable to continue the tribunals' existence for a further year.

The last of the measures, Part II of the Licensing Act, 1953, makes provision for co-ordinating the functions of licensing justices and local authorities. Perhaps your Lordships will allow me one personal note here. In 1945 I moved the Second Reading, on behalf of the noble Lord, Lord Morrison of Lambeth, who had influenza, of the Licensing Planning (Temporary Provisions) Act. The position was—and I think the noble Lord, Lord Silkin, will remember it—that it was accepted by all parts of the House to be a good idea to get together the licensing justices and the local authorities in bombed areas to sort out the licensing. A lot of work has been done, especially by the London committees. A certain amount of progress has been made both in London and elsewhere, but the time required to complete the work will be longer than was expected. Therefore, we should like it to go on for another year. I ought to tell your Lordships, because your Lordships never like leaving things simmering on without any report, that on August 18, 1961, the Secretary of State made an Order ending licensing planning in six areas with effect from September 1, 1961, so that the matter is working itself out. But it took rather longer than we thought it would. I beg to move.

Moved, That the Bill be now read 2a. —(The Lord Chancellor.)

6.50 p.m.


My Lords, there is certainly no disposition to ask the House to reject the Second Reading of this Bill. Indeed, it is reasonably satisfactory, because I remember in years gone by the list of Bills that were renewed and continued was very much longer—and we are given some reasonable prospect that the list will be reduced still further. The noble and learned Viscount justified the extension, I think, in every case except one. He did not attempt to justify the first one; he just explained that it was being continued, and I am not surprised, because that is a somewhat controversial one. Perhaps it might be for the convenience of the House if I did not attempt to deal with the Aliens Restriction Act at this time of the night. The noble and learned Viscount himself has had a very trying afternoon and I have too, to a lesser extent; and it might be convenient if we left the discussion until a later stage of the Bill. If that meets with the approval of the noble and learned Viscount, I hone that we may have an opportunity of discussing it at a time and in circumstances when we might have, not a long discussion but a short discussion on the desirability of continuing this particular Act.


My Lords, I had intended saying a few words on the question of the continuation of the Aliens Restriction Act, but in view of the appeal made by the noble Lord, Lord Silkin, I hope to reserve my remarks for a future date.

On Question, Bill read 2a, and committed to a Committee of the Whole House.