HL Deb 26 July 1965 vol 268 cc1072-120

6.37 p.m.

Order of the Day for the House to be again in Committee read.

Moved, That the House do now resolve itself into Committee.—(Lord Champion.)

On Question, Motion agreed to.

House in Committee accordingly.

[The LORD AILWYN in the Chair.]

Clause 12 [Release from rent regulation]:

On Question, Whether Clause 12 shall stand part of the Bill?


In Clause 12 we are dealing with release from rent regulation, which is a very important matter. I am much intrigued by the words in subsection (1)(b), where the Minister has power to take out of regulation houses "of any class or description", in one case of a specified rateable value and in another case of no specified rateable value. I wonder whether the noble Lord, Lord Mitchison, could tell us just what the Minister has in mind under the words, "any class or description". I should like an example of what might be done under subsection (1)(b).


So far as I know, I have had no information of any particular class. Clearly, the words are wide, and I think they have to be. There has to be a special class or kind (if I may use that word, instead of "description"); and if in fact the Minister is satisfied that there are enough of them, I see no particular reason why they should be kept under rent regulation—and that, of course, is the purpose of the paragraph.


It seems that some houses of a certain rateable value might remain under regulation and other houses of the same rateable value might not.


Yes, provided that the excepted houses fell into a definite class or description. I can think of various instances where something of that sort might happen, as I am sure the noble Lord can. I should have thought it was wise to leave a loophole of this kind in the case of houses of that type, if I may use such an ambiguous word, where the Minister was satisfied that there were enough of them.


I think this is a very important clause and, so far as noble Lords on this side are concerned, one of the most valuable in the Bill. It enables the Minister to take almost any category of house out of the Bill and, indeed, to reduce the rateable value to a level at which no houses will be included. Therefore, although the purpose of the redrafting was to meet the agitation by the noble Lord's honourable friends in another place, it is, I am glad to say, such as would enable a Conservative Minister to take housing out of regulation in complete areas. Mr. Crossman was quite frank about this when speaking on the Report stage on June 29 in another place when he said: Legally, an area could not be taken out, although de facto one could virtually remove an area by taking the houses out; that is, by reducing the rateable value limit to a low level. It is, therefore, a factual power and not a legal one."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, Commons, Vol. 715 (No. 143), col. 462, June 29, 1965.] When Mr. Boyd-Carpenter asked for more detail about this, and said that it appeared to him that what the Minister was saying was exactly what he, Mr. Boyd-Carpenter, had been saying before, Mr. Crossman replied: Legally one must put it in terms of housing. Factually, this means that one could reduce the rateable value to a certain level where de facto one wound up the administration in this connecton."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, Commons, Vol. 715 (No. 143), col. 463, June 29, 1965.] That I regard as being extremely frank. It means that the Government are looking ahead to the time when not only will they have brought control to an end but will also take (or may take, when they are satisfied that it is possible to do so) all the housing in an area out of the scope of regulation. This, I think, is a most important clause. I am glad that the Minister confirms that that is what the effect will be.


May I take the opportunity of saying that I am glad to hear that the noble Lord, Lord Molson, approves of this clause which is, and so far as I know has always been, an integral part of the whole machinery. It is men tioned in the Explanatory Memorandum at the beginning, which says that the Minister: also has a similar power stage by stage to release regulated tenancies from regulation. That is a fair statement of the position. Of course, it illustrates the necessary confidence that one must place, not necessarily in a particular Minister, but in any Minister of Housing and Local Government, in a matter of this sort.

Clause 12 agreed to.

Clause 13 [Second transmission on death]:


Clause 13 was added to the Bill at a fairly late stage in another place, and the purpose of this Amendment is to repair an omission in another place. In order to comply with Scottish procedure it is necessary to add the words, "or, in Scotland, the sheriff" because in Scotland there is no such thing as a county court. So this is merely a drafting Amendment. I beg to move.

Amendment moved— Page 9, line 20, after ("court") insert ("or, in Scotland, the sheriff").—(Lord Hughes.)

On Question, Amendment agreed to.

On Question, Whether Clause 13, as amended, shall stand part of the Bill?


As the noble Lord said, this provision was put in at a fairly late stage. It introduces into the Rent Acts a very important new principle, the second transmission on death. That is to say, not only the widow of a tenant who dies has the right to take a tenancy; but, in the future, the widow's family, perhaps a daughter or a son or a grandchild living with her, would be able to carry on the tenancy. I see that subsection (1) says that this provision shall apply on the death of the tenant under a statutory tenancy … by virtue of the Rent Acts …". I want to be quite clear whether this refers only to an "existing controlled tenancy" (which are the words used in Clause 11) or whether we are here dealing also with regulated tenancies. Again, it is a confusion that arises out of the word "statutory" and out of the interpretation of "by virtue of the Rent Acts". Is that a reference to the old Rent Acts, or does it include this Act, in which case "statutory" will, in this sense, presumably refer to the tenant of a regulated tenancy. If it is referring to the old Rent Acts only, it will be referring to what is, in Clause 11, called "existing controlled tenancy" under the old rateable values of £40 or £30. I want to know whether this clause covers the whole field or only that more limited field.


I understand this clause to refer to statutory tenancies as defined for the whole Act at the end of Clause 44(1). That is the definition stating that it has the same meaning as in the 1954 Act or as in a corresponding Scottish Act. Since that Act was enacted before this Bill, it is difficult to see how a statutory tenancy (if one thinks about it under this Bill) could be the kind of statutory tenancy here referred to. It must be something that was in existence at the time the 1954 Act was passed. I am not clear where one finds "statutory tenancy" within the framework of regulations. Regulations, broadly speaking, do not deal with succession. They are rather a matter of the adjustment of rents.


I am interested in that explanation. I have, in fact, looked up this definition in the 1954 Act and it confirms what I believe to be the meaning of this clause: that this power of second succession rests only with tenants of the existing statutory tenancies under the old Acts and not of the new regulated tenancies. But I am not sure about that; because if you look back to Clause 1(4) you will see that paragraph (b) of that subsection refers to a statutory tenancy arising on the termination of such a tenancy under this Bill. Therefore, I was not sure in this case whether "statutory" refers to this Bill or to the previous Acts only. As the noble Lord seems to think it refers to the previous Acts, I hope that is the case. I think it should be so.


I will willingly check my own opinion. I find the language quite clear; but I will gladly check it and let the noble Lord know if there is any difficulty, in time for him to deal with the matter.

Clause 13, as amended, agreed to.

Clause 14:

Recovery of possession of owner-occupied houses

14.—(1) Where a person who has occupied a dwelling-house as his residence (in this section referred to as the owner-occupier) has let the dwelling-house on a regulated tenancy and the conditions mentioned in subsection (2) of this section are satisfied, then if— (b) the court is satisfied that the dwelling-house is required as a residence for the owner-occupier or any member of his family who resided with the owner-occupier when he last occupied the dwelling-house as a residence; the court shall make an order for the possession of the dwelling-house, whether or not it would have power to do so under section 3 of the Act of 1933, and section 5(2) of the Act of 1920 shall not apply in relation to the order.

6.50 p.m.

LORD NEWTON moved, in subsection (1)(b), to omit all words after "family" down to the end of the paragraph. The noble Lord said: This is an Amendment to which we attach considerable importance, but I hope that I can move it briefly. Clause 14 deals with the recovery of possession of owner-occupied houses, and this clause was inserted in another place on Report stage because during earlier proceedings there, particularly during the Committee stage, there had been a great deal of discussion and concern about the position of a man who owned and occupied a house but had to go abroad to take up some appointment or other and leave his house for a period, but who had every intention eventually of coming back to reoccupy it.

Undoubtedly, this clause goes a considerable way to meet that situation and is therefore to be welcomed. It will help an owner-occupier who has to leave home for any reason for a short period, and lets his house but plans to return, and has warned the tenant accordingly—a very important provision. It seems to us, however, that, as drafted, the clause does not give sufficient protection to the interests of the man's family. I suggest that subsection (1)(b) is too restrictive. As drafted, the clause does not cover the man's widow unless she had been resident with him in the house before he left it. The man may not have been married at all when he last occupied the house. Alternatively, his wife may have resided with him then but she may have died; or they may have been divorced, and the man may have married again, and died, and the second wife, his widow, would not be covered under the clause.

As drafted, the clause does not cover the case of a son or daughter who might not have been born at the time of, or during, the original occupation. We must envisage that this clause will cover cases where people may have let a house for twenty years or more. It does not cover the case of a son or daughter of the owner-occupier who, for some reason, did not happen to be resident in the house during the qualifying period, and it does not cover the position of a widowed daughter-in-law who may well have several small children. Take the case of a son of the owner-occupier who went abroad to work and married while abroad and then died. His widow and the children may have nowhere to go. They come back to this country, but she would not be covered by this clause, and her father-in-law would not be able to claim possession of the house for her.

One does not wish to open the door too wide by amending the clause, or to make abuse possible, but it seems to me that there are in the clause two strong safeguards against abuse. The first is that in subsection (2)(a) there is a provision that advance warning must have been given by the owner-occupier to the tenant of his intention eventually to recover possession and, secondly, a court has to be satisfied that the house is required as a residence for a member of the family of the original owner-occupier. I am not particularly wedded to the words of the Amendment, and it may not be the best way to achieve the purpose which I have in mind, which is to safeguard the interests of the immediate family of an owner-occupier. It seems to us that this safeguard is essential on humanitarian grounds, and if the Government cannot accept the Amendment, I hope that they will accept the principle.

Amendment moved— Page 10, line 11, leave out from ("family") to the end of line 13.—(Lord Newton.)


It depends on what you want to do in the clause. The side-note calls it Recovery of possession of owner-occupied houses". I think that is a fair summary of its general purpose. It is so drafted that when an owner-occupier goes abroad, if he gives the notice required by subsection (2)(a) and the condition in subsection (2)(b) is fulfilled, he can get his house back. That, I think, is a matter on which we can all agree. That has been extended to cover the case of other people who have occupied the house or, if you like to put it more accurately, lived with the owner-occupier when he last occupied it. Those people must be members of his family.

The object of this Amendment is to extend it to members of the family who did not reside with the owner-occupier when he last occupied the house. That seems to me an entirely different and much wider object. In the form in which the Amendment appears on the Order Paper, it would allow, in my case, other conditions being fulfilled, of my nineteen grandchildren putting in claims—and I cannot be the only person with nineteen grandchildren. In fact, it would cover a very much wider field than even that. I think that the noble Lord, Lord Newton, recognised this. He suggested that one should treat this as if it were a narrower range—that is to say, the children, or widows, or something of that sort. I am quite prepared to treat it in that way, but it would still be open to the same objection. This is essentially a clause giving a special right, as of right, to recover possession of an owner-occupied house. How can anybody be said to recover possession when he has never lived in the house? It baffles me.


If the real object of the clause is as narrow as the noble Lord, Lord Mitchison. has said, why are the family included in it at all? The Government have included the family, provided that they have resided with the owner-occupier. My argument is that that could cause injustice to widows.


The short answer to the question, "Why are they included?" is, "Because they lived there, because it was their home". That is the whole point. This is a clause about owner-occupied houses, and what is recovered is the possession of such a house. I imagine that in most cases possession would be recovered by the owner-occupier himself, he having given notice and fulfilled the conditions. That is extended to other members of his family who have lived with him, and the moral case for that seems fairly clear: it was probably their home. Now it is sought to bring in other people whose home it never was. It is not the recovery of a home: it may be the recovery of a piece of property; that is all. I can see that an argument could be brought forward, though I would not agree with it. for stretching it wider. But that goes far beyond the purpose of the Bill, which is to allow people who have this house as a home, and have gone away, to come back to it, after they have given previous notice.


I wonder whether the noble Lord has set out correctly the argument for extension to members of the family. What the clause seems to me to mean is that the owner-occupier himself should be entitled to come back, having given due notice, but any extension to the family is an extension through the owner-occupier, whose house it was before he went away and rented it for a certain period. The extension to the family covers cases where the owner-occupier does not come hack and one member of the family, who lived with him or possibly did not live with him but nevertheless regarded it as something to which he was entitled through the owner-occupier, claims possession.

The wording is derived, I think, from Section 12(1)(h) of the 1953 Act, whereby on the death of a statutory tenant the widow or other member of the family living with him at the time can continue as tenant. It is entirely different here. The only justification for allowing a widow or member of the family to live in the house is that at the time of the man's death they were living there. In this case, there is no justification whatever in logic for excluding a member of the family, while a man is abroad, from going back to the house, provided it is tied down to a narrow range and does not include the uncles and aunts and the great grandchildren. There must be something for the new wife, who married the owner-occupier while he was abroad. She is entitled to say that she has some claim through her husband, who may always have told her that when they retire they would go and live at his home. Now she is prevented from doing so by the terms of the Bill. I hope the noble Lord will look at this again.


This does not happen to come from the particular place the noble Lord thought it came from, but I do not think that that matters. There are few aspects of rent control about which the same thing could not be said—most of them, nevertheless, erroneous. Your Lordships will remember that it was Anatole France who said that error always had one advantage over truth: there were many errors and only one truth. Whether he was right or not is an arguable question.

Then it is said that this is not logical. It all depends on what you mean by logic, as Professor Joad used to say. All I can do is to point out what mischief is sought to be met by this clause. It is the case of someone who has a home, leaves it temporarily intending to return, and when he goes back gives notice that he will return. Then he is allowed to return. It may be said that logically this should not be extended to anyone else, but that would exclude the people who lived with him in the house and had their home there. I do not think that that is good sense. The whole thing depends on the conception of not depriving people of the home they own or one member of the family owns by reason of their temporary absence. It is founded on occupation as well as ownership by an individual. And we drop the principle of occupation if we let in members of the family who never lived there. That is the object of this Amendment, whether it is in the form in which it appears in the Marshalled List or in the form the noble Lord, Lord Newton, suggested at the end of his speech.


The whole point is that it would exclude members of the family who may have lived there for 15 years and happened to move out a very short time before the owner-occupier went abroad.


This Amendment does not deal with that case, and if the noble Viscount wants to put down an Amendment to say that a person must have occupied the house within three months of the departure of the owner-occupier or something like that, I will consider it on its merits, but I cannot go into any more hypothetical Amendments. The substantial point here is the recovery of possession of a house which was owner-occupied and there is not only the question of ownership but occupation. If I may venture to discourage the noble Viscount, I would point out that if he started drawing a line so many months before the owner went abroad he would cause a great many anomalies and a great deal of unfairness. The only way to deal with this matter is to deal with the state of affairs at the time the owner-occupier left the house for some reason or other. What is the real moral case for giving a special right of recovery of possession to someone whose only connection with the house (as this Amendment is drafted) is that, though he never lived there, he is related to the chap who did? It is not good sense.


I think that that is one of the most staggering replies I have ever heard from any member of any Government in the years I have spent in your Lordships' House. The noble Lord is attaching more importance to the house than to the people. The family is important only because it has lived in the house and not because it is the family of the man who lives there. Is it possible that the Government believe that the family is insignificant if it happens to grow up outside the confines of the house, and that no importance is attached to the right of ownership of the house by the husband and father of that family? I think that that argument is completely fallible. It surprises me very much. I cannot see that the argument put forward by the noble Lord has any logic or humanity about it at all.


Let me try to help the noble Lord. I am sorry he should have been so staggered, though he looks all right. The point is that here people are being given a special right to recover their home in certain circumstances.


A special right which arises only as a result of this Bill. It was a natural right before this.


I see nothing in the least extraordinary in distinguishing a man's home from a house in which he has some completely bogus proprietory interest. I say "complete bogus" because a member of the family is said to have a proprietary right of some sort through the original owner-occupier. I wish the noble Lord would tell me which of my nineteen grandchildren has a proprietary right in my house, and why. This extension of the rights of property in order to get tenants out of houses is, I think, a remarkable development, even in the Conservative Party. I cannot say that it staggers me: nothing surprises me about them; I am long past being surprised. But let us see what we are getting to.


May I make it quite clear to the noble Lord that we are not now talking about grandchildren, but we are talking about the immediate family, and we are limited in that respect. If the immediate family has no right to a house occupied by the father and husband, I do not know what we are coming to in this country.


I must apologise to the noble Lord. I thought he was speaking to the Amendment on the Marshalled List.


I cannot stand for this. The noble Lord is trying to make debating points. My noble friend Lord Newton made it plain, and so did my noble friend Lord Colville of Culross, that we wish to limit it to the immediate family. The noble Lord cannot wriggle out of this on a debating point of that nature.


I am not trying to wriggle out of anything. What is the immediate family? Supposing there are nineteen children—and I have known of such cases. Which of them is supposed to have the proprietary right in a house in which none of them may have lived? I cannot understand what the noble Lord is talking about. He has given up trying to found his argument on the right of a man to come back to his home, which is really the right, with its limitations and in certain circumstances, in this clause. He now founds entirely on a proprietary right, and a proprietary right which is said to exist in, let us say, all the members of the family. I hesitate to say it, but that is really nonsense, and nothing on which to found at all.


Supposing there were a dispute between several of the children. none of whom had lived in the house, but all of whom wished to have possession of it under this clause, how would this dispute be resolved as between those children? It would seem to me to be a hopeless task.


In one of his earlier interventions, the noble Lord, Lord Mitchison, said that he could not understand what moral justification there was for extending the provisions of the clause in the way in which this Amendment does. I think the moral justification is this. If you have a house which has belonged to the owner-occupier, say, for most of his life, and to his father before him, the owner-occupier's widow, even though she may never have lived in that house with her husband, would, I think, regard it as her home. I cannot imagine any woman in those circumstances not so regarding it. It is for that reason that it seems to us, simply on humanitarian grounds, right that, provided, as the clause provides, proper notice has been given to the tenant by the occupier at the beginning of the letting, it is not unreasonable, but, on the contrary, is most desirable, that the nearest members of the family (not the nineteen grandchildren) should be able to occupy the house.

I am sorry that the noble Lord, Lord Mitchison, does not seem to be prepared to meet us at all in this. I thought that he would. I did not expect him to say that this particular form of amending the clause was appropriate; I expect that it does open the door too wide. But I had hoped he would say that he would wish, if he could, to give some sort of protection to safeguard the interests of the immediate members of the occupier's family. However. I do not think we shall get further with this by continuing to debate it. I will not withdraw the Amendment, because the noble Lord, Lord Mitchison, has not convinced me that I should. I hope that the Committee will support me (we shall have to see whether they do or not), and if they do, then it will be open to the noble Lord, Lord Mitchison, to put down an Amendment on the Report stage for the specific purpose of seeing that his nineteen grandchildren will not be covered by it.


I am sorry that the question asked by the noble Lord,

Lord Airedale, remained unanswered. It would be interesting to know what the answer is.


The question asked by the noble Lord, Lord Airedale, is going to arise under the Bill. The noble Lord, Lord Mitchison, has quoted the case of the man who lives in a house with nineteen children, and all the nineteeen children were living in the house at the time when he went abroad, and at the time when he created this tenancy, having given due notice that he wanted it back. Very well. But he dies when he is abroad, and all the nineteen children come back to this country and they each say that they would like the house. There is the question asked by the noble Lord, Lord Airedale. It has got to be sorted out under this Bill, as it would have to be under the Amendment.


I do not see the provision for sorting it out in this clause as it would be amended by the noble Lord, Lord Newton. We are now getting another class. We are getting the case of somebody who has lived in the house for a very long time and has had a forbear living in the house, and who founds on that a proprietary right that I hoped your Lordships agreed a little time ago could not well be found in the majority of cases. Conservative Peers are fully entitled to divide the House on this, but let me tell them clearly what they are doing. They are extending a right which was intended to apply only to houses as pieces of property. They have invented a most remarkable doctrine, that all the immediate members of a family have a proprietary right of some sort—if they have no occupation right under this clause—in the house occupied by the owner-occupier. If they choose to found on what I might perhaps say I regard as absurdities of that kind, they must not expect me to try to help them at any later stage of the Bill.

7.20 p.m.

On Question, Whether the said Amendment (No. 18) shall be agreed to?

Their Lordships divided: Contents, 54; Not-Contents, 49.

Aberdeen and Temair, M. Bessborough, E. Brocket, L.
Albemarle, E. Brecon, L. Brooke of Ystradfellte, Bs.
Atholl, D. Bridgeman, V. Carrington, L.
Clinton, L. Grimston of Westbury, L. Monson, L.
Colville of Culross, V. Hailes, L. Newall, L.
Conesford, L. Hastings, L. Newton, L.
Coutanche, L. Hawke, L. Oakshott, L.
Derwent, L. Horsbrugh, Bs. Redesdale, L.
Digby, L. Ilford, L. St. Aldwyn, E. [Teller.]
Dilhorne, V. Kinnoull, E. St. Helens, L.
Drumalbyn, L. Long, V. Sandford, L.
Effingham, E. Lothian, M. Strange of Knokin, Bs.
Elliot of Harwood, Bs. MacCorquodale of Newton, L. Stuart of Findhorn, V.
Falkland, V. Mancroft, L. Thurlow, L.
Ferrers, E. Margadale, L. Tweedsmuir, L.
Forbes, L. Massereene and Ferrard, V. Ullswater, V.
Goschen, V. [Teller.] Mills, V. Wolverton, L.
Greenway, L. Molson, L. Woolton, E.
Addison, V. Haire of Whiteabbey, L. St. Davids, V.
Airedale, L. Henderson, L. Samuel, V.
Arwyn, L. Hughes, L. Shackleton, L.
Attlee, E. Latham, L. Shannon, E.
Beswick, L. [Teller.] Leatherland, L. Shepherd, L.
Blyton, L. Lindgren, L. Simey, L.
Bowden, L. Lloyd of Hampstead L. Snow, L.
Bowles, L. [Teller.] Longford, E. (L. Privy Seal) Sorensen, L.
Brown, L. Mitchison, L. Strabolgi, L.
Burden, L Morrison of Kenwood, L. Strang, L.
Burton of Coventry, Bs. Peddie, L. Summerskill, Bs.
Champion, L. Plummer, B. Taylor, L.
Chorley, L. Rhodes, L. Terrington, L.
Collison, L. Royle, L. Wade, L.
Gaitskell, B. Rusholme, L. Wells-Pestell, L.
Gardiner, L. (L. Chancellor.) Sainsbury, L. Williamson, L.
Greenhill, L.

On Question, Amendment agreed to.

Resolved in the affirmative, and Amendment agreed to accordingly.

7.27 p.m.

LORD HASTINGS moved to add to the clause: () Not more than three months before the date upon which recovery of possession of a dwelling-house from a tenant or an occupier thereof is obtainable in accordance with subsection (1)(b) of this section proceedings in the court may commence against the tenant or the occupier as the case may be in order to establish the future right to recover possession of the dwelling-house and the court may make an order for possession suspended until the due termination of the tenancy or of the right of occupation. () The costs of proceedings under this section shall be borne by the applicant if the proceedings are undefended; if the proceedings are defended the order as to the payment of the costs thereof shall be in the discretion of the court.

The noble Lord said: I should like to assure the noble Lord, Lord Mitchison, that in spite of his last remarks I shall do my best to help the Government through the other stages of the Bill. This Amendment is designed to be uncontroversial, although in view of his latest remarks I hardly expect the noble Lord to accept it. This, as the noble Lord has said, is a special case where we are dealing with the owner-occupier who has had to go abroad, probably on the service of his country, and wants to come back. With him he will bring his family. The tenant of his house will, of course, have to leave when the owner-occupier applies to the court for an order, if by any chance the tenant refuses to leave on the return of the owner-occupier. If the owner-occupier had written from abroad giving notice to the tenant of his intention to return on, say, May 1, and he turns up on that day, which is probably two or three months later, and the tenant is still there, an unhappy situation might arise: the owner-occupier might be left in the street with his family. He has to go to stay with somebody. He is lucky if he can do that, because, if not, he may have to go to live at a hotel or boarding house for the period during which he is applying to the court for a court order, which I gather, may take a month and perhaps longer.


The noble Lord will forgive me. The average period between the issue of the plaint note and the actual hearing of the case in all courts has been seventeen days for those who apply for expedition.


I am glad to hear that it is not quite as bad as I thought it might have been. But, even so, seventeen days is a hardship and an expense. It seemed to us only reasonable, from the point of view of the owner-occupier and the tenant, that this sort of action could be taken in advance of the day on which it is apparently agreed that the owner-occupier should return. If that notice is given in advance, then the tenant himself is in a position to know how he stands and the owner-occupier can be quite sure of getting his house on the day he returns from abroad. At the time we said "not more than three months before", and it is really an insurance policy, or an assurance that the owner-occupier can walk into his house if he likes to take advantage of this procedure. The tenant still will not leave until the day agreed for the owner-occupier to come back, and if he wishes to take his form of assurance in advance he will naturally have to pay the costs of going to the court. It would be a great help to owner-occupiers to be able to take advantage of this clause. Therefore we hope the Government will agree to something of this nature. I beg to move.

Amendment moved— Page 10, line 29, at end insert the said subsections.—(Lord Hastings.)


I am afraid I cannot accept this Amendment, but I recognise that to some extent at least it is a question of the balance of convenience. One must bear in mind that this kind of point has arisen under rent control cases before, and I do not think there is any special provision to enable an early determination to be made. No doubt the reason for that is that there are general considerations to be taken into account in any claim for possession under the Rent Acts, and those general considerations might well be different at the end of the three months from what they were at the beginning.

Off-hand I cannot recollect any case in this rent legislation in which this rather peculiar right has been given, and there are some obvious objections to it. The first is that I cannot think that in general it is right to try to determine legal rights three months, or whatever it may be, before they actually fall to be exercised. I think in principle that that is thoroughly bad. If there were a case of undue delay which was going to be a matter of hardship, one would see the point and try to do something to meet it; in fact something has been done. The noble Lord, Lord Hastings, seemed a trifle surprised at the statement made by the noble and learned Lord, the Lord Chancellor. It had been made to me beforehand so perhaps I was not so surprised, and to the best of my recollection I think something of the sort was said in an earlier debate in this House, although I would not be certain. Undoubtedly it has been singularly successful. After all, seventeen days in the circumstances here set out does not seem to me to constitute great hardship, whereas, of course, tenants who are turned out may also meet great hardship.

I should look at this proposal with far more sympathy if there was any indication that hardship existed or was likely to arise. It is not only a question of the seventeen days to which the average delay has now been reduced; it is also a question of the number of people who really find expedition necessary. If they want special expedition in the county court in this type of case they have to ask for it, and I understand that out of 6,000 applicants only 35 asked for expedition. People are not slow to ask for it if they think they are really going to be inconvenienced, and many of those who did ask may well have asked as a precaution. But a proportion of that sort is very small and I do not think we should be justified in allowing rights which have not yet accrued to be determined in advance in this particular case when there is really no suggestion that to act otherwise would cause great mischief.

I am putting it as moderately as I can because I think this is a more reasonable proposition than some others, but I think the noble Lord ought to be satisfied with what has been done already to expedite the proceedings as a matter of practice, combined with the fact that o expedition has so rarely been asked for, and with the general principle that if it can possibly be avoided one ought not to determine rights beforehand which may change in some respect by the time they come to be exercised.


From the tone of the Parliamentary Secretary's reply, I do not despair that he will give this matter a little further thought before the Report stage. I want briefly to put the kind of case that is likely to arise. It would be the case of a regiment that has gone overseas for a period of time; a number of the officers and men of that regiment might have bought houses during the time they were in this country waiting to go overseas. They have taken advantage of this clause in order to make sure that when they come back they will be able to move straight back into their houses. No doubt in a number of cases the tenant will act honourably and decently, but what is one to say of the case of a family which comes back from overseas in the confident expectation that the rights given to them under this clause will be honoured and that they will be able to move into their house again, but this is not so?

I am very much interested that the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor has said that the average time taken is only seventeen days. That is extremely satisfactory and, if I may, I would congratulate him upon having speeded things up to that extent, but of course if the average is seventeen days then obviously a great many cases will take longer, just as some will take less time. Again, the cost and inconvenience to a man coming back from overseas with his family and finding that a tenant is deliberately disregarding the provisions of this clause can cause suffering and expense quite out of proportion. I fully accept the points which the noble Lord has raised against this clause, but I think there is a point of substance in this Amendment and I would ask the Government to look at it again between now and the Report stage in order to see whether there is not some other procedure which could be laid down. The noble Lord spoke about the inconvenience and suffering caused by lack of security to tenants. Is not the lack of security equally great in the case of somebody coming back from overseas, expecting to reoccupy his house but finding that the tenant has refused to move out?


As the noble Lord referred to me, I wonder whether he could tell us whether he has ever heard of such a case of hardship having happened? What is proposed here has always been the law in Scotland; the returning soldier has always had to go to the courts. I have inquired from the Service Departments in England and I have been unable to find any single case which has ever happened in reality. Would the noble Lord tell us if he has ever heard of such a case?


I know of no case exactly parallel to this, but under the whole of the Rent Restriction Acts there are many cases of hardship where a landlord has tried to obtain possession of his house, and in a great many cases, after the matter has been weighed in the light of the comparative hardship caused, the landlord has been given possession, but he has been kept out for a considerable time. If he has a house which he is at present occupying, then the hardship is not as great as it would be in the case of a serviceman returning from over-Seas. There is no doubt at all that the whole rent restriction legislation causes hardship to landlords who seek to regain their houses, and in cases where the courts grant them possession again ex hypothesi there is a hardship, and I think in future we ought to try to avoid it, even if that kind of hardship has existed previously.


I seem to have induced the noble Lord the Parliamentary Secretary to embark upon a discussion which I thought might be coming on a later clause, Clause 33, and I was hoping that my noble and learned friend Lord Dilhorne would perhaps intervene on that occasion. The noble Lord talked about the average of seventeen days, and the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor and the noble Lord, Lord Mitchison, spoke about the small number of cases which had applied for an urgent procedure. I am aware there was a long discussion on this subject in another place and there were points put from the other side; for instance, that the Protection from Eviction Act had not been running very long and probably a great many people did not know about the possibilities of this extra special procedure. But I do not want to embark on that now. Nevertheless. I do not regard this as a matter of principle but as a matter of convenience, whereas the previous Amendment to us was a matter of principle, whatever the noble Lord opposite may think about it. However, he has been invited by my noble friend Lord Molson to think again. I am glad that the situation does not seem to arise, or has not hitherto arisen very often, if at all, and that the time of the procedure already in being seems to be greatly shorter than it used to be. I beg leave to withdraw the Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 14, as amended, agreed to.

7.42 p.m.

LORD ST. HELENS moved, after Clause 14, to insert the following new clause

Recovery of possession of dwelling-house for residence by owner or members of his family

".—(1) Where a person has purchased or become the owner of a dwelling-house with vacant possession and has let the dwelling-house on a regulated tenancy and the conditions mentioned in subsection (2) of this section are satisfied, then if—

  1. (a) apart from the Rent Acts the landlord would be entitled to recover possession of the dwelling-house; and
  2. (b) the court is satisfied that the dwelling-house is required as a residence for that person or any member of his family;
the court shall make an order for the possession of the dwelling-house, whether or not it would have power to do so under section 3 of the Act of 1933, and section 5(2) of the Act of 1920 shall not apply in relation to the order.

(2) The said conditions are—

  1. (a) that not later than the commencement of the tenancy (or if the tenancy was created before the commencement of this Act, not later than six months after the commencement of this Act) the landlord has given notice in writing to the tenant that possession may be recovered under this section; and
  2. (b) that the dwelling-house has not since the commencement of this Act been let by that person on a regulated tenancy with respect to which the condition mentioned in paragraph (a) of this subsection was not satisfied."

The noble Lord said: The substance of this clause was debated at considerable length in another place on the Report stage, and for that reason I shall be more brief than I otherwise should have been. The whole purpose of this new clause is to enable the owner of a dwelling place or his family to regain possession upon retirement. In another place the Minister, Mr. Crossman, expressed a great deal of sympathy with the clause. He said: I have a great deal of sympathy with the aims of this Clause, and if I could find a formula for dealing with this problem I would be almost as tempted to deal with it as I would be to deal with the problem of the agricultural cottage."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, Commons, Vol. 715 (No. 142), col. 334, June 29, 1965.] Then he went on to say: one of his noble friends in another place may be able to draft a clause which makes sense. I do not know whether this clause can claim to make sense or not, but at any rate I think it expresses very much what we want to do.

There was a long legal argument in another place on the meaning of the word "retirement". That word was later taken out from the original clause debated in another place. Your Lordships will notice at the beginning of this new clause it says—and this is one of the most emphatic conditions for repossession: Where a person has purchased or become the owner of a dwelling-house with vacant possession … I set great store on those words "with vacant possession", because there is no question of turning out a long-standing tenant. As the Bill now stands there is no provision whatever for a person to regain possession of his dwelling-house when he retires. That, I think, is a bad thing. It will have one of two effects. Either a person, when he comes near to retirement, will buy or become possessed of a dwelling-house and deliberately leave it vacant, because he wants to be certain of getting in when he retires; or, alternatively, somebody who has such a dwelling-place will suffer very great hardships, and potential buyers will be deterred on the whole from becoming owner-occupiers, which is very much against the public interest.

This clause will operate in two separate circumstances. The first is where both parties know the approximate date of retirement. I should have mentioned that a condition mentioned at the end of the clause is that notice must have been given in writing, so there can be no possible doubt as to the intention of the owner. In many professions nowadays, in the Civil Service and in many businesses, people retire on a regular scheme; they have a regular date of retirement. Provided the owner is in good health and stays his full term, both parties know when he is going to retire, and so they have ample time to make arrangements for the dispossession of the tenant. In that case I see no difficulty whatsoever. The other case in which the clause will operate is when the owner retires prematurely. It may be from redundancy, or it may be from sickness—these cases do occur. The owner retires and he wants to come home and get possession of his house. A person in that position, if he cannot gain repossession, is going to suffer immense and, as I think, quite unreasonable hardship. It may be that that person will stay on wherever he may be, in the house he is in; it may be a house belonging to his firm and urgently needed by the firm. Alternatively, he may not have the money to pay the rent, since he is not earning a full wage, and so he may become a quite unnecessary burden on the State—he may even have to apply for National Assistance to pay his rent.

In view of the controversy that took place earlier, I would mention that my interpretation of the word "family" for this clause is the family that the owner could reasonably be expected to look after, whether he dies or does not die. The noble Lord, Lord Mitchison, mentioned nineteen children. If seventeen of those children were earning good money, were 21 and above, I should not expect them to become part of the family. But I would accept a widow with two small children, or children under 21; I would include them as family, and I consider them in this particular clause in exactly the same way as constituting family. I believe this to be an eminently sensible addition to the Bill, and I have great hopes of this clause, because, as I say, in another place the Minister expressed great sympathy. I hope that the Minister here will be able to accept it. I realise that the wording may not be satisfactory, but I very much hope the Minister will be able to say that if the clause is withdrawn now he will introduce a similar clause, with similar intent, at Report stage. I beg to move.

Amendment moved— After Clause 14 insert the said new clause.—(Lord St. Helens.)


I should like to support my noble friend. I think that this is a very important matter. In local government many men before their retirement, particularly police officers, while continuing to live in county council houses, buy their own house for their retirement, in the knowledge that they will need it in a few years' time, and then let it. If they could not get it back it would be a great inconvenience to them. Schoolmasters still living in houses provided by the county council also have to make provision for their retirement. I think this is a very necessary clause, and I hope that the Government will be able to accept it.


I should like to support this Amendment, on similar grounds. There is one type of tied tenant in this country who is rather powerless, namely the clergyman. He retires and has to clear out immediately from his rectory. Knowing that, and if they can scratch up the necessary deposit and they see a small house come on to the market in the place to which they want to retire, many of them will buy a house a few months or a year before they intend to retire, in order to have somewhere to go at the moment they are turned out of their rectory. If this clause is passed, those people will let the houses on short term which is greatly to the benefit of the community. On the other hand, if they cannot get possession without going to the court, I think they will make some arrangement, either keeping the house empty or else installing some relation or friend, because no clergyman would like to go to a court in order to get possession of a house, even if it was to live in himself.


Noble Lords opposite have recommended this Bill always on the ground of fairness, and I am sure that is the criteria by which they would wish it to be judged. Surely this is a fair clause. There is no question of someone who thinks he is going to live forever in this house being turned out. It has to be written into the agreement that, in the circumstances envisaged, the owner will want it back. I ask the Government to consider this as a matter of fairness and, for that reason, to agree to this Amendment.

7.52 p.m.


It is perfectly true that my right honourable friend viewed with sincere sympathy a clause which was introduced in another place to give effect to the intention of this clause. He rejected it on the ground that it really did not do what it was intended to do, and he expressed the hope that somebody might be able to find a better clause here. I am being perfectly frank about this. We tried very hard indeed, and we tried on two lines. This clause has been put forward as a clause to deal with cases of retirement. We first of all considered the words "retirement" and "retired". There are serious difficulties about this, as I think we may infer from the fact that a clause intended to deal with cases of retirement—that is to say this clause—never uses the word.

May I explain to your Lordships shortly the kind of difficulty? One does not want, if one can avoid it, to have several kinds of retirement. Are we going to have retirement as defined for National Insurance? What about the cases which I am told exist among the members of the Bar, who, for tax reasons, retire quite frequently and resume again afterwards? There are other similar difficulties. When we tried to found a right on retirement we could not find a formula that would meet it; nor, I think, can those who put this clause forward, or they would have used the word, too. We then tried by a simple reference to age. The difficulty about this is that people retire at quite surprisingly different ages. Policemen retire young: judges, I think, stay on longer. One can think of any number of instances. There, again, there will arise questions of people doing similar things, where the age limit may differ even within the same employing firm, if it is a case of the employer coming into it, as he often does.

Having tried, and tried in all sincerity, we found we could not devise a clause that would meet the case of retirement. This clause is far wider than anything to do with retirement. It is so wide that I am afraid I cannot accept it, and I cannot offer to produce anything in its place, for the simple reason that I have tried and failed. I had hoped that noble Lords opposite might he able to think of something better. As it stands, this clause has remarkably little connection with retirement at all. Not only does it not mention it, but it does not say anything about age. It does not allow one to infer in any way, except from the speeches of those who are supporting it, that it is intended to deal with retirement.

I must invite your Lordships to see exactly what it does. You have, first of ail, to take the case of someone who has become an owner, by purchase or otherwise, of a dwelling-house with vacant possession, and who lets it on a regulated tenancy, having given notice before the tenancy that he will need repossession later. There is one slightly consoling thought about this type of case, namely, that one would expect—and here I go largely on the factual findings in the Milner Holland Report—that in the vast majority of cases an arrangement of that sort would be kept to. But if the notice is given and the tenant does not comply, then the court is bound to make an order for possession whether or not it had power to do so under the Rent Acts; and one has to bear in mind that, although there is not so sweeping a power under the Rent Act itself, there is a considerable right for a landlord who purchased before a certain date to get back possession for his own occupation. Therefore, this is not the case of a landlord who has no right whatever on the one hand being given powers under this clause. It is really a question of whether the protection already given by the Rent Acts should be extended in this case.

A substantial point, when one is considering extensions of this kind, is that underlying all orders for possession in Rent Act cases there must be the question of the balance of hardship and whether it is reasonable to make an order. One may criticise that. One may say that it is not perfect and things of that sort. It is, none the less, an important provision, and there is no provision of that kind in this clause. It confers on the landlord in this type of case an absolute right to get the house back.

To give your Lordships a case of what I think everyone would admit was abuse: suppose that the landlord buys a block of houses and requires, or says he requires, one of them for his residence, and various others for members of his family, no doubt living with him (I accept that it is not in the clause, but it could be put there), if that happens he is going to recover quite a number of houses. Let us think, again, of a large number of landlords who do this as a practice. It is said, "You are causing them insecurity if you do not allow them to do this". But you are also causing insecurity, and in some cases quite serious insecurity, to the tenants.

Therefore, I would say to the Committee, with respect, that the provision in the 1933 Act—it is paragraph (h) of the First Schedule—has been used for many years in connection with rent control, and I think it meets at any rate the vast majority of cases of hardship. Nobody would ever say that any provision about houses may not entail some hardship somewhere. It has been used for a long time, and it gives the landlord sufficient protection. It was rather significant that not one of the four speakers who urged the adoption of the new clause said anything about the existing provisions in the 1933 Act. I do not think they made out any case for regarding those provisions as insufficient. I have not heard any complaints about them. There has been a certain amount of litigation, but, on the whole, they work reasonably well. I should like to know why those who favour this new clause regard those provisions as insufficient and want this clause instead.

I would repeat that this new clause mentions neither retirement nor any question of age and is therefore bound to cover numbers of cases which have nothing whatever to do with retirement or age. I am afraid that it is too wide a clause, and although I view its object with sincere sympathy I really do not see any way of doing it. The new clause does it only by dealing with a whole number of other cases, and I would submit that that is not the right way of tackling the matter. I suggest to the House that we should be content to leave the landlord with his rights under paragraph (h) in the First Schedule of the 1933 Act.


Would the noble Lord just remind me on this point? He said that there were two remedies, the ordinary provision about hardship in the First Schedule to the 1933 Act and some special provision about someone who bought a house before a certain date. Am I right in thinking that that was a date fixed in time in about 1956 or 1955, or is it a mobile date which moves along as we progress through the years? If it is a date fixed in time it becomes of less and less use as the years go by, and if that is the case this may be something which we ought to look at. Perhaps it is something which should be changed by regulations from time to time, if it provides the sort of remedy the noble Lord thinks is necessary.


It is paragraph (h) in that First Schedule. Perhaps the noble Lord would like to look at it. It refers to purchase before a certain date. I think that the date is in 1956, as I said when referring to it.


I think there is a mixture here. The First Schedule is in the 1933 Act. The date which was fixed in 1956 must, I think, come in the Rent Act, 1957. I think there are two different provisions.


May we leave it for the moment? We are not really concerned with amending that at the moment; we are concerned with this Amendment. I think we can agree that the landlord already has a considerable measure of protection; I do not say any more than that. I agree that it is not so in all cases, but he has a considerable measure of protection under existing legislation. That is sufficient for what I have to say. I am afraid that this clause would give him too much; it would be open to abuse, and, if it met the case which it was intended to meet, it would meet a number of others, too, which are very much less deserving.

I think that is sufficient. I hope your Lordships will take it from me that I have faithfully carried out what I was expected to do by my right honourable friend: that is to say, to see whether we could devise something which could cover retirement and which was reasonably practicable—one has to add that kind of qualification. One could hardly legislate separately for whole groups of people as to what was or what was not their retirement. I am sure that those who drafted this Amendment met the same difficulties, or they would have put in the word "retirement". It was in reference to retirement that my right honourable friend expressed his sympathy, and where I used my best efforts in seeking for a clause. I cannot hold out any hope that I can do better. In this connection it is not merely a personal matter: one gets the assistance of the Department, which knows a great deal about these things. We all had the same end in view. We failed. This clause fails. It goes too far. I suggest that it ought not to be accepted, and the landlord should be left to his remedy under the 1933 Rent Act.


The principal objections which the noble Lord, Lord Mitchison, has to this new clause is that it goes too wide and is open to abuse. I listened carefully to what he said, and it appeared to me that the abuse he had in mind was that a landlord could buy a block of houses and then in due course go to the court and say that he wanted to recover possession in order to put a large family in. If the noble Lord says that that is possible, then I have no doubt it is. Would he have any objection to a clause on the lines of this clause which limited the right of the person to become the owner of a dwelling house, and to exercising that right in respect of one house, not a block?


I gave that as an instance. One can think of others. If I may put my root objection to the new clause, as I put it before, it is this. The Rent Acts provide certain cases in which a landlord can get possession. All those cases are subject to the general question of which will cause the greater hardship, to give him possession or refuse him possession. That is an essential feature in this kind of case. But that is ruled out by this clause because there can be any amount of hardship and he is still entitled to it as of right. I do not think a good way of doing it is by a clause drawn as widely as this. Therefore I am sorry to say that confining it to one landlord, one house, would lead me to considerations of how many landlords might exercise it and matters of that sort.

One has to balance against the possibility—I hope the rare possibility—of hardship to a landlord in a case of this sort and the equal possibility of hardship to a tenant. I do not want to go into the rights of it, and it may be said, "The tenant ought to get out, because he said he would". That is what the clause implies, but there still may be questions of hardship. In these rent and housing cases the business of the Legislature is constantly to interfere with bargains that have been made and to keep people where, by the strict law of contract (apart from this legislation) they ought not to be, for the reason that it might be a great hardship if, in the particular circumstances, they were kept to their bargaining. The sanctity of contract everybody will admit, but it is not an infallible guide, and in the nature of the case it is certainly no guide to the Rent Acts.


I am afraid that I find it very hard to envisage real hardships arising to the tenant, who knows exactly what he is taking on under these conditions. The noble Lord says that there may be hardship, but I find that difficult to envisage in the circumstances. This is something we could go on debating all night. I do not know what my noble friend proposes to do about this. It may be a case where between now and the next stage of the Bill we can deal with it by putting down another Amendment. We attach great importance to trying to take care of the case of purchasing for retirement. If my noble friend is content to withdraw the Amendment tonight, we will have another shot later.


I tried very hard and I could not find another answer. I do not yet believe that I can find the answer. However, if I can help noble Lords opposite on the point by telling them the sort of difficulties we had in mind, perhaps more fully than one can in debate, I will do so. I will do my best to help. It does not follow that I shall accept the clause that they think right, or that they will accept my refusal to put down a clause. But I am perfectly willing to do anything I can to help, because I think this is a matter that we all approach sympathetically.


I am naturally disappointed that the new clause has not been accepted, but I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Mitchison, for his kindly approach to us in this particular instance. I had very great hopes that the clause would be accepted, because I read in The Times this morning that this is the birthday of the noble Lord, Lord Champion, and I did not think he would want any uncharitable act to mar the day. But I quite understand that as it stands at the moment this clause is too widely drafted. I accept that my noble friend Lord Newton has said, and we will have another try on this point at Report stage. Meanwhile, I beg leave to withdraw the Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 15 [Recovery of possession of dwelling-house held for occupation by minister of religion]:

On Question, Whether Clause 15 shall stand part of the Bill?


I should not like to let this clause, which I think is a new clause inserted in the Bill in another place, pass without some comment. It refers to ministers of religion and gives them certain rights which I believe they did not have before. I wonder whether the noble Lord could very briefly outline what this clause does. Apparently it refers to all ministers of religion. I think that they will not be entirely protected, because if the vicarage or the house in which the lay minister or missionary lives is wanted for his successor, then by application to the court he can be turned out. I suppose it is the same for all ministers of all religions in this country. I wonder whether the noble Lord could say how long this procedure is likely to take.


On the last point, I have no more information than the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor gave a short time ago. This clause is intended to apply to all ministers of religion, but it does not directly concern a number of ministers of the Church of England because, unless the Opposition succeeds in removing it, they are protected by a section in the Pluralities Act. However, I think it will affect Anglican curates if they have a residence which they occupy to perform the duties of their office. It certainly affects Nonconformist ministers, and presumably, also, the Roman Catholic Church. I think there has been general agreement—I would not say that it is quite universal, because am not sure—among the religious persuasions affected that this is what they require, and I have not received or heard any specific complaints. I am not quite sure that every persuasion or religion is actually covered. I hope that I have said enough to satisfy the noble Lord, Lord Hastings. I noticed that the noble Lord, Lord Silsoe, was here a short time ago and, if he had not been driven away by the call of hunger or other business I think he would have spoken in support of this clause. It has certainly had wide general support.

Clause 15 agreed to.

8.15 p.m.

LORD CHAMPION moved, after Clause 15, to insert the following new clause:

Recovery of possession of dwelling-house held for occupation by a person employed in agriculture.

".—(1) The following provisions of this section shall apply where a dwelling-house which was at any time occupied by a person under the terms of his employment as a person employed in agriculture has been let on a regulated tenancy to a person other than—

  1. (a) a person who is or at any time was so employed by the landlord; or
  2. (b) the widow of any such person as is mentioned in paragraph (a) of this subsection.

(2) If—

  1. (a) not later than the commencement of the tenancy (or, if tenancy was created before the commencement of this Act, not later than six months after the commencement of this Act) the tenant has been given notice in writing that possession may be recovered under this section; and
  2. (b) apart from the Rent Acts the landlord would be entitled to recover possession of the dwelling-house; and
  3. (c) the court is satisfied that the dwelling-house is required for occupation by a person employed or to be employed by the landlord in agriculture;
the court shall make an order for the possession of the dwelling-house, whether or not it would have power to do so under section 3 of the Act of 1933, and section 5(2) of the Act of 1920 shall not apply in relation to the order.

(3) In this section 'employed', 'employment' and 'agriculture' have the same meanings as in the Agricultural Wages Act 1948 or, in Scotland, the Agricultural Wages (Scotland) Act 1949."

The noble Lord said: This new clause gives effect to an undertaking which was given in another place, and by me on the Second Reading of this Bill here. On this matter the National Farmers' Union made representations to the Minister, and these were followed by discussion on Report in the other place, on the position that obtains when a farmer owns a cottage which has come into his possession as a result of one of his workers leaving his employment. He is not able immediately to replace that agricultural worker by another employee, but hopes eventually to be able to do so, and in the meantime the house remains idle. An empty house deteriorates fairly rapidly, there is the fact that the farmer loses revenue from his property, and, in addition, there is a waste of accommodation. The new clause is therefore designed to overcome this difficulty.

It applies where the cottage was previously occupied by an agricultural worker under the terms of his employment with the landlord, and it enables the landlord, where he lets the cottage temporarily on a regulated tenancy as defined in Clause 1(4) of the Bill to some other person, to regain possession if he subsequently needs it for occupation by an agricultural worker employed, or subsequently to be employed, by him. As regulated tenancies, the provisions relating to fixing of rents will apply to tenancies covered by this clause. Under subsection (1), the clause applies where occupation is by a person employed in agriculture under the terms of his employment, and where it has been let on a regulated tenancy to a person other than an agricultural worker employed, or previously employed, by the landlord, or the widow of any such worker. By this subsection we have met the reservations expressed by my noble friend Lord Hilton of Upton on Second Reading. The clause does not apply where, at the date when the landlord seeks possession, the cottage is let to a person who is or was at any time in the employment of the landlord.

Subsection (2) sets out the circumstances in which the county court is obliged to grant an order for possession. These are clear, I think, from a reading of the subsection and I need not elaborate. But perhaps I ought to mention that Section 3 of the Rent and Mortgage Interest Restrictions (Amendment) Act, 1933, sets out the limited grounds on which a county court may grant possession to the landlord of a dwelling-house subject to a tenancy to which the Rent Acts apply. The other county court power mentioned in this subsection, under Section 5(2) of the Increase of Rent and Mortgage Interest (Restrictions) Act, 1920, to adjourn an application for possession or postpone the date of possession in respect of dwellings controlled under the Rent Acts, is removed in the case of orders for possession granted under this new clause. Perhaps I should add that the court will retain their inherent jurisdiction to give the tenant a period of grace (not normally exceeding four to six weeks), and it would be for the court to decide in a particular case how soon the former tenant should be required to leave.

The definitions in subsection (3) are, I think, reasonably clear. They are in the Acts which are referred to. I shall read them to the Committee if any Member feels that he would like to hear them, but that would take quite a long time and I imagine it would not be particularly desired by the Committee. I beg to move.

Amendment moved— After Clause 15, insert the said new clause.—(Lord Champion.)


I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Champion, for bringing forward this new clause. As he said, I asked him about it on Second Reading, and he gave an undertaking that this would be done. We had, however, drafted an Amendment of our own, but it had not gone to Press by the time the Government Amendment appeared. Our Amendment was almost exactly the same. It did, in fact, protect the agricultural employee of the landlord, who is covered by subsection (1)(a), but we had not included the widow. I can see the reason for including her. So, in general, I welcome this clause, although there are one or two points of some interest which I should like to clear up.

As things stand, of course, if a landlord (whether he is the superior landlord or the farmer) who has the right of occupation of an agricultural cottage has employed a man for a considerable period of time, and that man retires, he will generally try to help him. If he has a spare cottage, he will let him have it; or if that man dies, he will try to help the widow by letting her have a spare cottage at a low rent—possibly even free of rent; who knows?—on a verbal understanding that, if he needs it in due course for another agricultural employee, the man. or his widow, will move; and, on the whole, I think that works pretty well. Of course, this clause is designed to protect that situation, but I am not altogether sure it will have that effect, because there is now a legal protection for the employee and/or his widow.

I am afraid that a landlord or a farmer may be a bit more reluctant to allow such people to occupy a vacant agricultural cottage if it is in fact almost certain that he would not be able to remove them and if he had it at the back of his mind that he would need to expand and would require that cottage in two, three or five years' time. In that case, he might be tempted not to allow his own, good employee, especially a short-term one (one who had not been with him for very long), to move into that empty cottage, but would let it in the future only to a non-agricultural employee, against whom he would have the right of eviction, through the courts, under this clause. I think that it is perhaps worth the noble Lord considering the effect that this may have on these people mentioned in paragraphs (a) and (b).

This is perhaps talking theoretically as regards the intentions of the clause, but one wonders what is going to happen in practice. In respect to the particular case which I have mentioned, if such people—an ex-employee or a widow of an ex-employee—were in such a cottage, under what procedure would the landlord have to act in order to evict them? Would they then come under Clause 31, which is the clause dealing with the agricultural employee? Would they have to go through that procedure, with the court having to consider the question of the efficient management of the holding; or would they come under the previous clause, Clause 30, which refers to other tied cottages? That is a point for consideration.

But, coming again to subsection (2), it says: If … apart from the Rent Acts the landlord would be entitled to recover possession of the dwelling house … ". Here again, I am not altogether sure that that insertion will not vitiate the whole intention behind this clause; because, if I am not wrong, the Rent Acts do apply to the great majority of agricultural cottages, which are normally under the rateable value of £30. I may be completely wrong and it may be that they do not apply, but I think they do. If an agricultural cottage is under the old rateable value of £30, it will come under the Rent Acts, in which case none of this clause would operate.

I can see the necessity of including that subsection, or part of the subsection, in the previous clauses, referring to the recovery of possession of an owner-occupied house or a house held for occupation by a minister of religion, because such cases are not likely to come under the Rent Acts anyway; it would be an exception if they did. But I think that nearly all agricultural cottages are subject to the Rent Acts if they are the matter of a tenancy and not a licence—and in this case it would presumably be a tenancy. Therefore, I do not see that we are helping the position very much by way of enabling a landlord, farmer or otherwise, to let his vacant agricultural cottage if it is going to be subject to the Rent Acts—because that is what subsection (2) says. But it may be that I am wrong about this.

My final point is that I want to ask the noble Lord whether he does not think that there is a case for applying this provision to vacant farmhouses also, because there are an increasing number of such farmhouses in the countryside now, as amalgamations of smallholdings go ahead—a policy of which, I believe, the present Government approve. Farms are now often farmed in co-operation, in partnership or in multiple units, with the result that there are quite a number of farmhouses becoming vacant which are very nice properties, which it would be tempting for a landlord to sell. It would be a great pity if such houses were normally sold. They should be kept available for agriculture in case, as a result of re-organisation in the future, they are once again required as farmhouses.

I should have thought that there was a pretty good case for including farmhouses in these provisions. When you are thinking of multiple units of farming and farming companies, there are obviously going to be such people to consider as farm managers—the new technocrats of the agricultural industry, one might call them—and farmhouses would be very suitable for them. I am not sure whether farm managers are included at all under this clause. I should like the noble Lord to turn his mind to that and let me know whether he thinks that something could be added at the Report stage in order to make this provision apply to farmhouses under such limited conditions as the Government might think fit. I do not think they ought to be excluded altogether; and I think that anybody engaged in agriculture should be enabled to be covered by these provisions, whether in an agricultural cottage or a farmhouse. With those remarks in general, however, I welcome the clause, and I hope the noble Lord can answer these three points that I have made.


May I ask just one other question? Under the existing system you cannot let an agricultural house to anybody and charge a rent for it, and then get him out when you want to. Does this clause mean that, if you do let a house, and it is a house which is now covered by the Rent Acts, you will then be able to get that house back—provided due notice is given and so on—if you want it for agricultural purposes? At the present moment, under subsection (2)(b) it would seem as if there were no change. I should like to know if the noble Lord could say whether this alters the existing law.


Might I just say a few words on subsection (2)(b) to which the noble Lords opposite seem to be attaching too much importance. As I understand it, this is purely a technical provision and it simply says that in order to be able to get possession under this clause you must be able to say that, apart from the Rent Act, you are entitled to possession at Common Law. This means that the proper notice has been served and that the notice complies with the Common Law rules, and so on. This is all that the clause means. It has no sort of restrictive effect, nor has it the effect of limiting cases within or outside the Rent Act. The whole purpose of the clause is to enable you to get possession where otherwise you would be able to get possession only by virtue of provisions of the Rent Act; but, under this clause, you can now get possession, apart from the Rent Act, providing you comply with the Common Law provisions. It does not alter the substance of the matter at all.


I should like to endorse the last part, particularly, of what my noble friend Lord Hastings said about farmhouses. He might have well gone on to remind us that there is now a policy of amalgamating some holdings which want to be combined with other larger farms. That will mean that there will be two farmhouses, neither of which has been a tied cottage, but one of them will obviously have to be used for the benefit of an agricultural worker. I agree with my noble friend that houses in that category ought to come within the scope of this clause. Whether they do, I do not know. Perhaps the noble Lord, Lord Champion, will look at that. The reason I am referring to my next point is my inability to interpret the interpretation clause. The word "landlord" is used in various places in this new clause; and I should like to know whether that word covers not only the owner-occupier but also the tenant farmer who has his farm let with a farm cottage. I do not myself know enough about the interpretation of the word "landlord" to know. But it is important that someone should know it.


I will try to answer some of these points. I agree, with great respect, with what was said by my noble friend in his remarks about the phrase in the Bill: apart from the Rent Acts the landlord would be entitled to recover possession …". The Committee will notice that the phrase is not peculiar to this clause. It has occurred in Clause 14; it is going to occur in Clause 15 and I am not sure that it does not occur also in one or two other places. This does not provide a method of interfering with someone's tenancy or of getting someone out where, for instance, the tenancy could not be terminated apart from the Rent Acts. That is really what is behind it. I think it is a proper thing to put in. I hope the noble Lord, Lord Hastings, will now believe that there is nothing sinister about it.

This clause is, in fact, the result of considerable discussions both with the National Farmers' Union and with the agricultural workers; and, as I think my noble friend Lord Champion made clear on Second Reading, we recognised that we were unable to carry out the promise we had given to the agricultural workers that they would not be turned out unless alternative accommodation were available. The reason was the objection of the rural housing authorities particularly to the "queue-jumping" that anything of that sort was bound to produce. Let us say we ought never to have said it; but there was a case both ways. We finally accepted the provision in this form. It was following on that that the discussions with the agricultural workers and with the National Farmers' Union took place. I understand that the National Farmers' Union were finally satisfied with this clause; but I am in no position to be certain. I may be wrong; if I am told that that is not so I accept it.

I was then asked about the position of farmhouses. With respect, this is rather a limited clause. It has nothing to do with farmhouses as such, and I do not know how you would apply it to farmhouses. Let us see clearly what it requires in order to come into operation. In the first place, you have to have an occupation, not necessarily a tenancy, by a person employed in agriculture and who has to occupy the dwelling under the terms of his employment. The most obvious instance I should have thought was a stockman, although I can think of other cases, too. Secondly, when he goes you have to have a let on a regulated tenancy; and there are exceptions to the kind of let which will operate to bring the Clause into effect. A let to a person who is, or was, at any time employed by the landlord—and that refers back to a previous reference—or his widow does not bring the clause into operation. But leaving exceptions out, if there is a let on a regulated tenancy you then come to the point where the clause bites. If the requisite notice has been given and the court is satisfied that the dwelling is required for occupation by another, a second, agricultural labourer employed by the farmer, then the court makes an order.

There are, again, in this case instances of rights to get back accommodation for your employees under the existing Rent Acts, which I will not go into. This deals simply with the case where between two tenancies, if I may use a general word, there is a temporary lease to someone. That is the only thing it deals with. It is therefore a clause of quite small effect; but it prevents the position arising of the stockman's house having been vacated and the farmer being unable to let it again because he is not sure that he can get out the man who is coming temporarily. It is therefore a considerable protection not only to the farmer but to the second agricultural labourer, the second man, who may equally require to occupy the house by nature of his job. It is not that he necessarily should, as the clause stands, but it is going to be very likely I think.

The provision in paragraph (c) is rather wider, and for this reason. The stockman may go away; the place may be temporarily let; the farmer may then change from, say, keeping stock (or from keeping stock on that scale) to some other form of farming. It seems reasonable that the farmer should be able to get a house back for an employee generally and not be tied, under paragraph (c), to the case of the man who is required to occupy it for the purposes of his job. I hope I have made this point clear. I stress it on purpose because it has been a little misunderstood. I do not know if I have covered the point that the noble Baroness raised.


Thank you; you have.


Have I still left something unanswered?

8.40 p.m.


I do not expect the noble Lord, Lord Mitchison, to comment on my general observations on the situation of the retired agricultural employee or his widow, but I did ask a question. If one of the people mentioned in subsection (1) (a) or (b) were to be rented a vacant cottage on the farm of his previous employer, and the employer then wanted to put in another man to work his holding, under what clause would the employer have to apply to the court to get rid of the people occupying the cottage? Would it be under Clause 31, which refers to agricultural cottages, or would he apply under Clause 30, which is the normal court procedure, giving a suspension of up to six weeks?


I hope that the noble Lord, Lord Hastings, will not think me discourteous if I suggest that these later clauses might be considered when we come to them. I would just repeat the very narrow ambit of this clause. There has to be an occupation under the terms of employment by an agricultural worker. The second stage is a regulated tenancy to someone other than an employee of the landlord, or the widow. If those two things have happened, and the landlord wants the house for an agricultural employee (not necessarily a man who is to occupy the premises for the purpose of his employment, but an agricultural employee), the landlord can, subject to the other conditions in the clause, get it back. This is rather a narrow clause. It meets the real difficulty of the farmer who has lost, say, a stockman and is unable to let his cottage pending the arrival of another agricultural employee who may or may not be another stockman. I hope I have made myself clear.


I am afraid that it is I who failed to make myself clear. I am concerned to know whether, under subsection (1), if the landlord lets this vacant farm cottage to a person who is, or at any time was, employed by him, or to the widow of any such person, it means that the landlord can never get them out. Or, if he wants to get the cottage back—suppose he was trying to help the occupant temporarily out of the kindness of his heart—would he apply to the court under Clause 30 or under Clause 31? We cannot discuss it in relation to those clauses, because it does not arise; or am I right in thinking that he could never get rid of the occupant?


I do not think that that conclusion should be drawn. I am keeping strictly to this clause which in those circumstances does not bite. There is no doubt about that. That is to say, if there is first an occupation by a stockman—I take that simple case—and secondly a let to a person who is, or at any time was so employed, that is to say the previous type of employment, by the landlord; if that happens, this clause does not bite; that is to say, the remedy is not available in that case. Perhaps we had better take other remedies when we come to them.


I asked the noble Lord, Lord Mitchison, a question about the definition of "landlord" to which I do not think that he has replied.


I am sorry, I am not sure whether I got the question right. Would it help if I put it this way—an owner-occupier is not a landlord, because he has not a tenant? "Landlord" implies the existence of a tenant.


I am sorry, I did not make myself clear to the noble Lord. My point is this. Some farmers farm as owner-occupiers and some as tenant farmers on farms rented by a landlord. Each may have a tied cottage. Does the word "landlord" in this clause apply equally to the owner-occupier's tied cottage and to the tenant farmer's tied cottage?


Yes, I think clearly it does, provided that he has a tenant, and it is assumed that he has a tenant. The term "landlord" is perhaps more loosely used where there is not a tenancy but a licence. I do not think it matters whether the landlord has fair hair or dark hair, whether he has a bank balance or not, or whether he holds his farm property under this or that tenure. As I understand it, "landlord" means simply, for these purposes, someone who is in the relation of landlord to a tenant. I repeat that it is often loosely used to cover a licensee. It is not really the right word. I am sorry if I have not made the point clear, but I have tried.


That covers the point I wanted to raise and I thank the noble Lord.

Clause 16 [Provisions as to improvements]:


I think that it might be convenient if we discussed Amendments Nos. 22 and 23 together. They are very simple Amendments and closely related to the Amendment moved by my noble friend Lord Mitchison. The purpose of these Amendments is to provide that where a dwelling-house near an aerodrome managed by the British Airports Authority is improved by works of sound insulation which are financed by a scheme made under Section 15 of the Airports Authority Act, 1965, the increased rent which the landlord may obtain, prior to the registration of a fair rent, shall be 12½ per cent. of the amount he has spent on the works but exclusive of any financial assistance he has received by way of a grant made by the Authority. This means that these rents will be treated in the same way as improvement grants under the Housing Acts and repayments from public funds under Section 12 of the Clean Air Act, 1956 in respect of the installation of smokeless fuel burning appliances. I beg to move

Amendment moved— Page 11, line 14, leave out first ("or").—(Lord Champion.)


I beg to move.

Amendment moved— Page 11, line 15, after ("1959") insert ("or section 15 of the Airports Authority Act 1965").—(Lord Champion.)

Clause 16, as amended, agreed to.

Clause 17 agreed to.

Clause 18 [Duty of landlord to supply statement of rent under previous tenancy]:


This is a comparatively small Amendment by way of compromise. The clause provides that a landlord has fourteen days after receiving a request to supply a statement of rents under a previous tenancy. In another place it was suggested that this period was too short, and an Amendment was moved to extend it to 28 days. The right honourable and learned gentleman the Attorney General undertook, as a compromise, to alter the period to twenty-one days, and that an Amendment to that effect would be moved here. This is that Amendment.

Amendment moved— Page 13, line 3, leave out ("fourteen") and insert ("twenty-one").—(Lord Mitchison.)


I am much obliged to the noble Lord and the Government for this Amendment. Obviously 14 days was too short a period. This seems to be a reasonable compromise.


Perhaps 28 days was too long?


I should not necessarily be thought to agree with that.

Clause 18, as amended, agreed to.

Clause 19 [Tenancies ending before commencement of Act]:

8.50 p.m.

THE EARL OF KINNOULL moved, in subsection (1)(b), after the second "made", to insert: and after hearing such other person or persons as may in the opinion of the court be directly concerned". The noble Earl said: I beg to move this Amendment. It is designed to prevent an unjust and, I believe, wholly iniquitous situation arising where an innocent party enters into a contractual tenancy and at a later date finds that it becomes null and void due to a court order being made without any reference to him. Under Clause 19, a tenant who would be entitled to claim a regulated tenancy but who has received a notice to quit, following a court order for possession, may, if he is still in possession of his premises when the Bill passes into law, appeal to the courts to rescind the order for possession on the ground that such an order would not have been granted under the provisions of this Bill.

The Amendment is designed to deal with the sort of situation where a landlord, with a court order for possession in his pocket, enters into a new tenancy agreement with a third party and this third party, completely innocent, goes through the usual costly business of moving into the premises, only to find at the last moment that, without reference to him, a court order has cancelled his tenancy. Two questions would immediately arise out of this situation. What compensation would a third party be entitled to; and from whom? Secondly, why is no reference made to the hardship which the third party must suffer? These questions were put to the Government on the Committee stage in another place, and the answers then given were that, first, an innocent third party under this Bill is given no compensation from either court or landlord, and, further, that the landlord would be protected against any subsequent action for breach of contract under the Law Reform (Frustrated Contracts) Act, 1943; and secondly, that under this clause a third party would have no right of hearing in court proceedings.

When pressed on the iniquitous situation that might arise, Mr. MacColl admitted that this had arisen under the Protection from Eviction Act, which he said was a temporary measure, and in the light of this more permanent measure he went on to say: There is a good case for looking at this matter very carefully in order to see whether anything more could be done to deal with the rights of third parties and I undertake to do that before Report."—[OFFICIAL REPORT (Commons), Vol. 715 (No. 142), col. 392, June 29, 1965.] I am sorry to say that on looking at the proceedings on Report stage, I find that no mention was made of this matter at all, and Mr. MacColl's undertaking was therefore not fulfilled. I would ask the Government to accept this Amendment. I feel that there is a real issue of principle here. A perfectly genuine and innocent third party is unjustly treated. This Amendment seeks no more than to allow such a person a hearing at the court proceedings. Even if the court decision goes against him, at least he will feel that his case has been heard. I am sure that the courts and any fair-minded person would welcome this Amendment.

Amendment moved— Page 13, line 22, after "made" insert the said words.—(The Earl of Kinnoull.)


I support what my noble friend Lord Kinnoull has said. I think that the heading of Clause 19 is itself of some importance in showing that the clause is clearly only transitional, and obviously these situations will not continue for long after the Bill becomes an Act. Nevertheless, the case that my noble friend has made out seems to me to be worthy of further consideration, and I hope that the noble Lord will be sympathetic to it.

When I first looked at the Amendment, I wondered whether there might be some difficulty in the court deciding who would be directly concerned as third party in this matter, but I expect that the person who has taken the tenancy, or thinks he has taken the tenancy, of a house, the possession of which the court has given to the landlord, although the order has not been executed, will be very much aware of what is going on, and I do not think that the court would have the slightest difficulty in finding out who was interested in it. As this is a transitional matter and puts right the possibility of any hardship arising out of this Bill, I hope that the Government will be able to accept this Amendment.


I am afraid I cannot accept the Amendment. A provision like Clause 19 was included in the Rent Act 1920 (Section 5(3)) and in the Rent Act 1939 (Section 4), but it was not thought necessary to put in either Act a provision on the lines suggested in the Amendment. We have no evidence at all of any hardship having ensued. I should have thought that the fact that restrictions were being imposed on the right of a landlord to obtain possession of premises is tolerably well known, even if people do not know exactly what they are, and it is unlikely that there will he any trouble. But I have a broader objection than that. This Amendment does not give compensation to anybody. It does not add to anybody's rights in any way. The issue before the court remains exactly what it would be, whether or not this Amendment were inserted.


I cannot see how that is so, because the court has power to rescind the possession order or vary it. If it chooses not to rescind it, that presumably means that it decides upon the basis that the house has been let to somebody else; but how can it come to that conclusion if it has not that other person before it to tell the court about that fact?


I do not think that the noble Viscount could have been listening to what I was saying. This Amendment does not give anybody compensation or alter anybody's rights. How can it? It simply enjoins the court in certain circumstances to hear such other person or persons as may in the opinion of the court be directly concerned. The Amendment does not alter by a jot or tittle, except possibly by giving the right to be heard in certain cases—I will deal with that in a moment—the rights of anybody, and it does not give anybody any compensation for anything. Arguments founded on that are, with great respect, misconceived.

All it does is this: it enjoins on the court to hear such other person or persons as may in the opinion of the court be directly concerned—and that, I imagine, must mean directly concerned with the issue before the court. Either party can call those persons. If they are not called, what will happen? Is the court to call them? It is a remarkable piece of procedure, if so. I should have thought that in this particular case there was no doubt that if they were relevant witnesses—that is to say, relevant to the issue before the court—somebody would call them and they would be heard.

I am not clear what the purpose of all this is. It appears to me to be an indirect attempt to alter the issue before the court, or to direct the court or the parties as to what evidence should be heard. I see no room for that. I regard it, with respect—not, of course, as an Amendment of first-rate importance; nobody would claim that for it—as an Amendment which is mistaken, in that it is trying to tell the court what evidence the court should or should not hear.

If anybody is going to defend it, I should like to know the answer to two questions. Is the court bound to call these witnesses if neither party does so; and is there any precedent for anything of the sort in this kind of litigation? Secondly, if the court is to know whether the witnesses are directly concerned, how is it going to find out? Thirdly, if, in fact, the witnesses are to be called in some way or another, is it intended that they shall be empowered to give any evidence that they would not otherwise be able to give?


The noble Lord wanted the answer to two questions and asked three. I appreciate that there may be a certain novelty in this; but the mere fact that similar provisions have appeared in other Acts of Parliament in the past without the type of Amendment that we are here suggesting cannot possibly be a reason for our not considering it now. The fact remains that there must be situations under this Bill, as it is now drafted (and I am talking about the clause at the moment), where the court is going to be asked by the person against whom the possession order was made to rescind or vary that order. The court will be asked to do this. I assume, on some sort of grounds of hardship. If that is so, there will have to be an adjudication between hardship on the tenant, who has not yet had the order executed against him, and hardship on the landlord. In those circumstances, I doubt whether there was necessarily any hardship to be put forward on the landlord's personal behalf, that he had let the house to somebody else. The other person to whom he had let the house, however, might have a distinct case of hardship. I do not see what good it will be for the landlord to call that third party as a witness as to the landlord's hardship, because it will have nothing whatever to do with the landlord's hardship.

What we are suggesting is that the third party himself may have a case of hardship which the court might like to consider when making up its mind whether to rescind or vary the order. The procedure, I agree, probably wants more thinking about, but there is a basic point here, if you are trying to deal in these transitional circumstances with a matter involving hardship between two people—we say three—and something to be said for allowing the third person to appear before the court. I appreciate that there will be some difficulties, and we shall probably have to return to these if the noble Lord is willing to think about it again. I think there is something to be said for allowing the third party to come to the court and tell the court what his position is.


This is a well-meaning Amendment, but I should have thought that it was unworkable. It appears to impose on the court an impossible burden of in some way broadcasting the existence of these proceedings, and then informing itself of who may or may not be concerned. What this conception of being concerned involves is obscure. For example, is the child of a landlord, or the child of a tenant to whom the premises are re-let, entitled to be heard? Is the court under a duty to advertise the proceedings; and during what period of time? I should have thought that, in relation to a short transitional period of this kind, it would be quite unworkable to try to impose a burden of this kind on the court. Moreover, I should have thought that as these are proceedings between the landlord and the tenant, any matter which arises in relation to some act of the landlord by re-letting the premises, or something of that kind, is something which the landlord could bring before the court, and it is a matter then for the court to take into account in deciding whether or not to suspend the order. But to open it to a kind of free-for-all, to anybody who might be considered in some remote way to be affected, involves, it seems to me, a quite unworkable conception, and something which certainly ought to be resisted.


Before the noble Lord replies, I have had one thought on this matter while the noble Lord, Lord Lloyd of Hampstead, was speaking. Is there any reason why the third party, at the risk of having to pay the costs if he turns out to be so unconcerned in the matter as the noble Lord feels, should not join himself with the respondent to the application under paragraph (b)? I cannot see why he should not become a party. It is entirely up to him. If he joins himself with the landlord in resisting the application which is being made by the tenant, what harm is there in that? And what difficulty does it place the court in?


I hope that we shall keep somewhat remotely near the Amendment we are discussing. The cat has now come out of the bag! This is a determined effort to turn a witness into a party. You can go too far on those lines. I should like to remind your Lordships, and particularly the noble Viscount, Lord Colville of Culross, of Lindley on Partnership, where an attempt to wind up a partnership of highwaymen resulted in severe punishment, not only to the counsel, but to the solicitor engaged. Once you get this confusion between third parties and witnesses, lawyers and their clients, and things of that kind, there is no knowing where you may end. I suggest that if the noble Viscount wants to add additional parties to a county court action, he should put down an Amendment designed to do that. He knows perfectly well the difference between an Amendment for that purpose and an Amendment which is intended to oblige the courts, somehow or another, to hear certain witnesses.


I think we have strayed a little from the Amendment. The main purpose of my Amendment, as I saw it, was to give an opportunity for the third party to have the right of a hearing in a court. This is all I am asking. What I would perhaps ask the noble Lord, Lord Mitchison, for is his advice on this matter, because when this matter was raised the Government spokesman in another place clearly said: I confirm that the prospective tenant would not have the right of audience. The noble Lord, Lord Mitchison, appeared to say in his reply that this would not be so, and that he would be entitled.




Anyway, am sorry that there has been some doubt about this, and in this instance I beg leave to withdraw the Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 19 agreed to.

Clause 20:

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