§ 3.29 p.m.
§ Report received.
§ Clause 1 [Interpretation and commencement.]:
Earl FERRERS moved Amendment No. 1:
Page 1, line 16, leave out ("and")
§ The noble Earl said: My Lords, I beg to move Amendment No. 1, which leaves out the word "and". I do not propose to make a lengthy and detailed speech explaining the wide-ranging effect of this Amendment because it is, in fact, consequential upon an Amendment which your Lordships passed at the Committee stage to leave out forestry from the provisions of the Bill. This Amendment 660 is consequential upon that, as are Amendments Nos. 2, 4, 10, 11, 51, 53, 55, 56, 57 and 76. I hope that this set of Amendments produce a happy precedent for the Government in expediting the procedure at Report stage.
§ While I should like to claim the responsibility all my own in having delved with such care into the intricacies of the Parliamentary draftsmanship, I am bound to acknowledgee a deep debt of gratitude to the noble Baroness, Lady Birk, and her Department for having drawn my attention to the fact that the Bill, as drafted, would be better improved if these Amendments were included. I like to think that such a cordial, happy relationship at the start of these proceedings will continue and indicate the Government's approval of the Amendments which we have made so far. I am grateful to the noble Baroness for having drawn these to our attention.
§ Baroness BIRK
My Lords, of course I accept these Amendments as consequential, but the noble Earl is tempting me somewhat when he says how they add to the Bill since they are consequential of noble Lords opposite having hacked great parts out of the Bill.
§ On Question, Amendment agreed to.
Earl FERRERS moved Amendment No. 2:
Page 2, leave out lines 7 to 11.
§ The noble Earl said: My Lords, this is also consequential. I beg to move.
§ On Question, Amendment agreed to.
§ 3.32 p.m.
§ Baroness BIRK moved Amendment No. 3:
Page 2, line 14, at end insert—
("(3A) In this Act "relevant licence" and "relevant tenancy" have the meanings given by Schedule 1A to this Act.")
§ The noble Baroness said: My Lords, with the leave of the House I should like to move Amendment No. 3 and to speak at the same time to Amendments Nos. 12, 38A, 38B, 38C, 63, 64, 65, 69, 78, 80 and 81. This package is less formidable than its length might suggest. What we are proposing to do with Amendment No. 3 is to transfer the contents of 661 Clause 2 into a Schedule, enabling the new Schedule to be introduced by Clause 1. Amendments Nos.63, 64, 69, 78, 80 and 81 are consequential to this operation, and I will return to Amendments Nos.38A, 38B and 38C shortly. I am grateful to the noble Earl for agreeing that we should group the Amendments together like this.
§ The new Schedule contains two points of substance which I am sure will prove welcome to noble Lords opposite. The first concerns board. Noble Lords will remember there was a certain amount of discussion on this subject and questions were raised, particularly by the noble Earl, in Committee. Our policy intention is that no worker receiving board should be protected, just as under the Rent Acts no tenant who receives board qualities for protection. Under the Bill in its current form, where a farmer provides a qualifying worker with board but charges him no rent such a worker will be protected. The worker who paid some rent in similar circumstances would not be protected. This is not the effect that we want to achieve. Paragraph 3 of the new Schedule achieves our policy aim which will be shared by all noble Lords. It also deals in similar fashion with attendance; that is, services which are personal to the occupier and which the landlord provides as a term of the tenancy. For example, if a farmer arranges, as a term of the tenancy, that his wife will take in the farmworkers' washing, this could be regarded as attendance. That does not sound to me very likely, but I imagine that in the agricultural world attendance is not likely to loom large, though the question of board could conceivably do so.
§ The second point of substance is that in the new Schedule paragraph 4 has been inserted so as to exclude occupants of hostels from protection. The Amendment is complex in detail and noble Lords will remember that this matter was raised by several noble Lords in Committee. I warned that it is a much more difficult subject to deal with than may seem at first glance. We have tried to solve the problem by providing that protection will not extend to a worker sharing a dwelling of four or more persons, where each person has one room, and one room only, to himself.
§ Amendments Nos. 38A, 38B, and 38C are consequential and provide for the 662 same exclusion in the case of Clause 24 which refers to sharing arrangements. We are grateful to the National Farmers' Union for their help in identifying the residual problems on hostels under the Bill as drafted. Noble Lords will remember that in Committee I said that we were anxious to get any ideas and suggestions on this subject from the National Farmers' Union, noble Lords opposite or anybody else who might be helpful. We have now had this information although it did not come in until the last minute, and that is why this Amendment has been put down rather late.
§ These Amendments have been framed, therefore, in the light of these recent conversations. I feel that they meet both the concern of the NFU and the points raised in Committee on their behalf by the noble Lord, Lord Sandys, and by the Opposition in another place. We shall be happy to have further discussions with a view to tidying them up if this proves necessary. Naturally, it will be better if it is not necessary; but if it is, we accept that. I beg to move.
My Lords, we are grateful to the noble Baroness for explaining the provisions in these Amendments and that they refer largely to board. It is interesting to know that if washing is taken in this is considered as attendance. I have no doubt that that will have some far-reaching effects. One also wonders whether attendance involves taking in washing; doubtless it does not. We are particularly grateful to the Government for having made the Amendment regarding hostel accommodation, which was something which the NFU were worried about. I was glad my first Amendment at least had a happy precedent in so far as it produced a lot of consequential Amendments. The noble Baroness has also produced a lot of consequential Amendments. If we continue like this we shall get through this stage very quickly. Looking at the list of Amendments at Report stage, we find there are 82 Amendments, and no fewer than 59 are Government Amendments. Two points of substance are being met; for this we are grateful. I cannot help thinking that if there are those who criticise your Lordships' House and what is being done—and there are some who have done so—I hope they will reflect and, indeed, 663 reaffirm the need for your Lordships' House as a revising Chamber.
The Government have at this stage decided that the Bill is insufficiently drafted and that it could be improved by no fewer than these 59 Amendments. As a result of what happened at the Committee stage, the other place are being asked to consider 58 Amendments, of which 40 are Government ones and only 18 come from other parts of your Lordships' House. When we get the Report stage and the Committee stage taken together, we shall in fact be asking another place to consider something in the region of 99 Government Amendments to this Bill. This is highly commendable. I am glad that the Government have taken the opportunity during the passage of the Bill in this House to improve it. I hope your Lordships will be able to continue with the remainder of this Committee stage with that in mind: we are trying to improve the Bill and make it work better when it comes into operation.
One cannot refrain from observing that the operation of the guillotine in another place will not only prevent our Amendments which will go into the Bill from being discussed before being voted upon, but most will—if events follow expectations —be voted out of the Bill. It will also prevent discussion, presumably, of most of the Government Amendments, which, if events follow expectations, will be voted into the Bill. We have the curious situation that the Government will be in the position of writing into legislation a host of material which will never have been discussed by another place but which will have had the advantage of being discussed in your Lordships' House. This is democratically acceptable. The other material which your Lordships have considered and thought prudent for discussion will be excluded from discussion in another place. That may prove to be a disadvantage. I am glad that the Government have used this opportunity in the Report stage to make these considerable Amendments, and I hope that as we shall give their 58 Amendments a fresh wind, helping to get them through, they will give our modest 23 Amendments a fair wind, too.
§ Baroness BIRK
My Lords, there is not very much for me to say in reply to that, 664 except to thank the noble Earl. I do not wish at this stage to go into the difference between revising Amendments and those which hack out the Bill, so that we can go on. I would only point out that a number of these Amendments arose out of discussions in another place. Also, in going through the Bill we found ways in which it could be improved and larified. Many of the Amendments, as I am sure the noble Earl can appreciate, are very minor, but we think they are worth while because they will prevent a lot of doubt and discussion later. I was not sure whether the noble Lord was welcoming them or slapping them all down; but I shall assume he was welcoming them.
§ On Question, Amendment agreed to.
Earl FERRERS moved Amendment No. 4:
Page 2, line 26, leave out ("subject to subsection (6) below").
§ The noble Earl said: My Lords, this is consequential on Amendment No. 1, and I beg to move. Perhaps I might just mention, in reply to the last remarks of the noble Baroness, that of course I was welcoming the Amendment.
§ On Question, Amendment agreed to.
§ Schedule 2 [Protected occupiers in their own right]:
§ 3.41 p.m.
Lord SWAYTHLTNG moved Amendment No. 5:
Page 32, leave out line 44 and insert ("182 out of the last 208 weeks, the last 50 of which have been for the current employer.")
§ The noble Lord said: My Lords, this Amendment is an amalgamation of two Amendments which were fully debated in Committee and so I do not propose to speak at length about it. I would remind your Lordships that the qualifying period at present in the Bill is two years. That is felt by many in the agricultural industry to be far too short. The National Farmers' Union, the Milk Marketing Board and the Royal Association of British Dairy Farmers all advocated a period of five years, with the last year spent in the employ of the farmer whose house was occupied. That, in fact, was the gist of the Amendment I moved in Committee. There was also an Amendment in the name of the 665 noble Earl, Lord Ferrers, to make the qualifying period four years.
§ The general opinion of those who spoke from this side of the House was that five years was too long and four years should be the correct period. This Amendment is therefore asking for a four-year period, with the stipulation—which I regard as most important—that the last year should be in the employ of the farmer who owns the house of which the worker seeks security of tenure. I hope that your Lordships will accept this Amendment and I beg to move.
§ The LORD PRIVY SEAL (Lord Peart)
My Lords, I am glad the noble Earl, Lord Ferrers, said earlier that he was seeking to revise, and that he is adopting a constructive approach to this Bill. I welcome that. May I say to the noble Lord that, as he knows, we had this discussion during Committee stage. I am afraid I cannot accept his Amendment. Everyone agrees there should be a qualifying period of agricultural work before security is obtained. The great argument is: how long? The National Union of Agricultural Workers say one year. The farmers, as the noble Lord, Lord Swaythling, has quite rightly said, think in terms of five years.
District councils—and they are the people who are really involved in this because of rehousing—say two years. I think they should know, because after all these are experienced people in the countryside. To enforce a one-year stay on one farm before giving security would, I think, discourage mobility. A young farm worker, having served one year on a farm, would be reluctant to move to gain experience or promotion because he would then lose his housing security. Moreover a one-year qualifying period would allow scope for abuse. A farmer could sack a bona fide worker after 11 months. Finally, a farm worker who has been in agriculture 10 years would lose security if he moved on. I think this would be against the spirit of the Bill, which, after all, is intended to give housing security to farm workers; so for those reasons, which I have put concisely, I believe we cannot accept the Amendment.
§ Lord GISBOROUGH
My Lords, I should like to support this Amendment, for various reasons which were given on 666 Committee stage. I support it particularly because it protects the farm worker who has been working for a long time in agriculture, who changes his job and then might be liable to lose his protection. Of course, that would not be desirable. Later, during this stage I want to move an Amendment and I hope that either the Amendment itself or the principle behind it will be accepted. It concerns retired workers who have been working on a farm for a long period and they will have the right to stay in their village, at the expense of the proverbial lorry driver who had an agricultural job and went to work as a lorry driver. This Amendment would stop the abuse in a case where you could have a farmer with a relation or friend working on another farm. He could employ such a relation or friend for a short time and then allow him to retire. The retiring man could then take advantage of whatever precedence there might be for a retiring agricultural worker. That would be quite unjust to the ex-farm worker who has become a lorry driver and who would be pushed out by really a trick, in order to get a house for a farm worker.
My Lords, as the noble Lord, Lord Swaythling, said, this Amendment is a compromise resulting from the two Amendments one of which was put down by the noble Lord and his friends and one which was put down from these Benches at Committee stage. What we are really trying to do is to get the correct balance between, on the one hand, the farm worker's right of security of tenure of his house and, on the other hand, the obligation of the farmer to lose the right of using that house to house a person working on the farm. That is what the Bill is all about and, indeed, the Government recognise that this is a balance which has to be drawn. The place where they have drawn the balance is two years: they think that is the correct place at which to put the fulcrum.
One can argue for a long time exactly where the line should be drawn. We do not believe that this Amendment is necessarily any better than any other Amendment that might be put down, but we think it has considerable merit. The noble Lord, Lord Peart, said it would stop the mobility of labour. I find that terribly hard to believe; that is, that if a 667 person has worked on a farm for 12 months this Amendment will stop him from getting other work simply because he loses the right of security to a house. There has not been any restriction on the mobility of labour before this Bill was brought in. Indeed, I believe that one of the effects of the Bill is that it will actually restrict the mobility of labour. At the moment, the Bill gives a person who has worked in agriculture for just two years—anywhere, on any farm—the right thereafter to claim a statutory right to the security of tenure of any agricultural tied cottage in which he happens to be living, irrespective of the length of time for which he has worked on the farm of which the house forms a part.
I am bound to say I think that is unreasonable and that there should be a minimum qualifying period of time on a farm before a person can claim a right of possession to a house on that farm and before the person can remove the right of possession on that house from the farmer for whose farm the house was arranged. As at present drafted, the Bill means that a man can go to work on a farm and he can give in his notice after a week and go to work in a local factory. But he would still have the right to occupy that house in perpetuity, unless the provisions of this Bill operate.
A farm worker could—I do not say would—move every six months; in two years he could make four moves and at each of those moves he could claim the right of occupation and security of tenure of each house into which he moved. I believe that is going too far. I said at the Committee stage that it was rather like a person working for Sainsbury's for two years and then at. Tesco's, and because he has worked at Sainsbury's it gives him a legal right of possession to something that belongs to Tesco's. I cannot believe that to be right. If the Bill is kept as it is it could be used by some—I do not say many—as a quick route to a local authority house or to a protected tenancy.
It is a matter of argument and individual choice exactly where the hurdle should be placed over which a person has to go in order to claim the right to occupy a house and before the farmer has to lose the right of that house to house a worker in agriculture for his farm. I believe that the 668 period of two years in the Bill as drafted is too short. It should be longer and that is the reason why we have suggested four years. More than that, it is essential that the person should have to work on a farm and 12 months is not a long time, before he can claim the right to that house in which he can remain in perpetuity. I hope that the noble Lord, Lord Kirkhill, will see this as a constructive Amendment. We want the Bill to work. I think they have got the fulcrum in the wrong place.
§ Lord COLLISON
My Lords, my noble friend the Leader of the House has said all that needs to be said in opposing this Amendment, but I want to point out that the period was decided upon as a result of the publication of a Consultative Document in which people suggested different lengths of time. As has been said, the NUAAW suggested one year, others suggested different numbers of years. This is a decision based upon the consultation which then took place. I must point out that if the Amendment were carried, an agricultural worker could work on the land almost all his life and in the last year of his employment fail to gain security because he was not employed by the farmer concerned for a period of 12 months. Clearly that is quite wrong. It is the principle involved here which I want to support. We want to give security of tenure to agricultural workers. We have decided that a period of two years indicates a man's bona fides; he is an agricultural worker and dedicated to agriculture. The principle is that security should be applied to an agricultural worker who undoubtedly will move about from farm to farm. I am quite sure that the Amendment should be resisted because it is against the principle itself.
§ Lord SWAYTHLING
My Lords, I feel that the argument used by the noble Earl, Lord Ferrers, that it is absolutely necessary that the worker should be for one year in the cottage for which he proposes to have security of tenure carried tremendous weight. Therefore I feel that we should press this Amendment.
§ Lord PEART
My Lords, by leave of the House, may I say that I agree that the noble Earl, Lord Ferrers, has looked at this matter constructively. There is no political argument about it; it is purely a question of what is the right period. My 669 noble friend Lord Collison, who is a distinguished leader of the Agricultural Workers' Union, and a moderate leader in the best sense, comes out on my side. We had this argument in Committee. There was a difference of opinion between the Liberals and Conservatives—I do not want to rub that in. All I can say from my own experience as an agricultural Minister and from my connection with the industry is that I think that what I have suggested is reasonable. After all, the people who will inevitably be involved in this matter are the rural authorities and these people will be reasonable. As I have said before, I was once a member of a rural authority, though I admit it was a
§ mining area, but we had also great agricultural interests in the county of Durham. I think two years is a sensible period, so I hope that the noble Earl, Lord Ferrers, will not make this an issue of Division. In the present circumstances, even though he has put his point of view constructively, as also did the noble Lord, Lord Swaythling, I believe that two years is the right period.
§ 3.56 p.m.
§ On Question, Whether the said Amendment (No. 5) shall be agreed to?
§ Their Lordships divided: Contents, 152; Not-Contents, 60.671
|Adeane, L.||Elton, L.||Monson, L.|
|Airedale, L.||Emmet of Amberley, B.||Montagu of Beaulieu, L.|
|Alport, L.||Erskine of Rerrick, L.||Mowbray and Stourton, L.|
|Amherst, E.||Exeter, M.||Munster, E.|
|Amherst of Hackney, L.||Falmouth, V.||Netherthorpe, L.|
|Ampthill, L.||Ferrers, E.||Newall, L.|
|Amulree, L.||Gisborough, L.||Northchurch, B.|
|Arran, E.||Gladwyn, L.||Northesk, E.|
|Ashbourne, L.||Glenkinglas, L.||O'Hagan, L.|
|Ashdown, L.||Gray, L.||O'Neill of the Maine, L.|
|Auckland, L.||Greenway, L.||Onslow, E.|
|Balerno, L.||Grey, E.||Orr-Ewing, L.|
|Banks, L.||Gridley, L.||Rankeillour, L.|
|Barnby, L.||Grimston of Westbury, L.||Rathcavan, L.|
|Barrington, V.||Hailsham of Saint Marylebone, L.||Rathcreedan, L.|
|Belhaven and Stenton, L.||Reay, L.|
|Belstead, L.||Hampton, L.||Redesdale, L.|
|Berkeley, B.||Hankey, L.||Renwick, L.|
|Bessborough, E.||Hanworth, V.||Robbins, L.|
|Blakenham, V||Harmar-Nicholls, L.||Roberthall, L.|
|Brabazon of Tara, L.||Harvington, L.||Rochester, L.|
|Brock, L.||Hatherton, L.||Romney, E.|
|Brooke of Cumnor, L.||Hawke, L.||Ruthven of Freeland, Ly.|
|Brooke of Ystradfellte, B.||Hayter, L.||Sackville, L.|
|Burnham, L.||Henley, L.||St. Davids, V.|
|Byers, L.||Hereford, V.||St. Helens, L.|
|Caccia, L.||Hives, L.||Sandford, L.|
|Caithness, E.||Howe, E.||Sandys, L.|
|Campbell of Croy, L.||Hylton-Foster, B.||Savile, L.|
|Carr of Hadley, L.||Ilchester, E.||Seear, B.|
|Carrington, L.||Jessel, L.||Selkirk, E.|
|Chelwood, L.||Kilmany, L.||Sempill, Ly.|
|Clancarty, E.||Kinnaird, L.||Sharpies, B.|
|Clitheroe, L.||Kinnoull, E.||Shuttleworth, L.|
|Clwyd, L.||Kinross, L.||Simon, V.|
|Coleraine, L.||Lauderdale, E.||Spens, L.|
|Congleton, L.||Long, V.||Stamp, L.|
|Cork and Orrery, E.||Loudoun, C.||Stanley of Alderley, L.|
|Cornwallis, L.||Luke, L.||Strathcarron, L.|
|Cottesloe, L.||Lyell, L.||Strathclyde, L.|
|Craigavon, V.||Macpherson of Drumochter, L.||Strathcona and Mount Royal, L.|
|Crawshaw, L.||Malmesbury, E.||Strathmore and Kinghorne, E.|
|Cullen of Ashbourne, L.||Mancroft, L.||Strathspey, L.|
|Daventry, V.||Mansfield, E.||Swaythling, L. [Teller.]|
|De Freyne, L.||Marley, L.||Tenby, V.|
|Denham, L. [Teller.]||Massereene and Ferrard, V.||Terrington, L.|
|Derwent, L.||Middleton, L.||Trefgarne, L.|
|Eccles, V.||Molson, L.||Vivian, L.|
|Effingham, E.||Monck, V.||Wade, L.|
|Elles, B.||Monckton of Brenchley, V.||Ward of North Tyneside, B.|
|Elliot of Harwood, B.||Monk Bretton, L.||Westbury, L.|
|Allen of Abbeydale, L.||Gordon-Walker, L.||Oram, L.|
|Arwyn, L.||Goronwy-Roberts, L.||Paget of Northampton, L.|
|Aylestone, L.||Granville of Eye, L.||Pannell, L.|
|Birk, B.||Greenwood of Rossendale, L.||Pargiter, L.|
|Bowden, L.||Harris of Greenwich, L.||Peart, L. (L. Privy Seal.)|
|Brimelow, L.||Henderson, L.||Peddie, L.|
|Brockway, L.||Hunt, L.||Ponsonby of Shulbrede, L.|
|Bruce of Donington, L.||Jacques, L. [Teller.]||Rhodes, L.|
|Burntwood, L.||Janner, L.||Ritchie-Calder, L.|
|Castle, L.||Kilbracken, L.||Segal, L.|
|Champion, L.||Kirkhill, L.||Shinwell, L.|
|Chorley, L.||Leatherland, L.||Stedman, B.|
|Cole, L.||Lee of Newton, L.||Stewart of Alvechurch, B.|
|Collison, L.||Lloyd of Hampstead, L.||Stone, L.|
|Davies of Leek, L.||Lovell-Davis, L.||Strabolgi, L. [Teller.]|
|Donaldson of Kingsbridge, L.||McCarthy, L.||Vaizey, L.|
|Douglas of Barloch, L.||Maybray-King, L.||Wells-Pestell, L.|
|Elwyn-Jones, L. (L. Chancellor.)||Milford, L.||Winterbottom, L.|
|Fisher of Rednal, B.||Morris of Borth-y-Gest, L.||Wise, L.|
|Gardiner, L.||Noel-Buxton, L.||Wootton of Abinger, B.|
On Question, Amendment agreed to.
§ Resolved in the affirmative, and Amendment agreed to accordingly.
§ 4.5 p.m.
§ Lord PEART moved Amendments Nos. 6 and 8:
§ Page 33, line 33, leave out from ("dwelling-house") to ("a") in line 34 and insert ("in relation to which a person ("the occupier") has").
§ Page 33, line 45, leave out ("to work").
§ The noble Lord said: My Lords, these two Amendments are concerned with minor drafting points. Amendment No. 6 removes an unnecessary reference to "exclusive occupation," and is similar to Amendments made to Clauses 3 and 4 in Committee, as reported in Hansard at columns 1627–28 for Friday, 22nd October. Amendment No. 8 simply removes unnecessary words. My Lords, I beg to move.
§ Lord PEART moved Amendment No. 9:
§ Page 35, line 44, leave out ("under this paragraph") and insert ("made under this paragraph—
- (a) may contain transitional and other supplemental and incidental provisions, and
§ The noble Lord said: My Lords, it is common form for an order-making power to cover the possibility of transitional, supplemental and incidental provisions. This is a prudent policy which is worth following in relation to this power. My Lords, I beg to move.672
§ Earl FERRERS moved Amendments Nos. 10 and 11:
§ Page 36, line 1, leave out ("or in forestry").
§ Page 36, line 2, leave out ("or in forestry").
§ The noble Earl said: My Lords, these Amendments are consequential on Amendment No. 1. I beg to move.
§ Clause 2 [Meaning of"relevant licence" and"relevant tenancy"]:
Baroness BIRK moved Amendment No. 12:
Leave out Clause 2.
§ The noble Baroness said: My Lords, I beg to move this Amendment formally, as I have already spoken to it in dealing with a large bunch of Amendments starting with Amendment No. 3. My Lords, I beg to move.
§ Clause 4 [Protected occupiers by succession]:
Baroness BIRK moved Amendment No. 15:
Page 5, line 4, leave out ("in such occupation") and insert ("having such a licence or tenancy").
§ The noble Baroness said: My Lords, this is simply a drafting Amendment which ought to have been included among 11 similar Amendments which were agreed together in Committee, as recorded in Hansard at columns 1627–28 for Friday, 22nd October. It is consequential on the 673 long series of drafting Amendments moved then. My Lords, I beg to move.
§ Clause 6 [No statutory tenancy where landlord's interest belongs to Crown or to local authority, etc:]:
Lord PEART moved Amendment No. 18:
Page 6, line 41, at end insert ("or, in the application of this Act to the Isles of Scilly, the Council of those Isles").
§ The noble Lord said: My Lords, I should like to link this Amendment with Amendment No. 66, which stands in my name and in that of my noble friend Lady Birk. This Amendment is simply consequential on those which we agreed in Committee to apply to the Isles of Scilly. Amendment No. 66 describes the Isles of Scilly more correctly than does the Bill at present. My Lords, I beg to move.
§ 4.9 p.m.
§ The Earl of KINNOULL moved Amendment No. 19:
§ Leave out Clause 6.
§ The noble Earl said: My Lords, in moving this Amendment I am possibly daring the wrath of the noble Baroness, Lady Birk, because it is an Amendment which was moved very convincingly in Committee by my noble friend Lord Ferrers. But it is such an important feature of this Bill that I thought it worth while again addressing the attention of the House to this point. Clause 6 removes certain sections from security of tenure; and, of course, we are dealing only with security of tenure for agricultural dwellings. In Committee, my noble friend Lord Ferrers recalled that in 1975 there were approximately 1,200 evictions from tied cottages. When one looked at the cases of eviction of those bodies that come within Clause 6—these are local authority landlords, the Greater London Council, the Housing Corporation, the Commission for the New Towns, a development corporation, a housing trust and so on—the number of evictions was 29,000. This alone leads one to feel that there is a very serious case for thinking about security of tenure for those tenants who come within the ambit of Clause 6.674
§ When she replied to the Committee's debate the noble Baroness, Lady Birk, made two points. She said, first, that Clause 6 is in direct line with the Rent Act 1968, an Act which, we recall, is now eight years in the past—I will not say out of date. Secondly, the noble Baroness said that many of these bodies under Clause 6 do not own agricultural cottages. With this I must agree. In fact I agree to such an extent that one wonders why on earth many of these bodies are in the Bill at all. What does the Housing Corporation have to do with land? What does a housing trust have to do with land?
§ I have looked at all the bodies which possibly do or do not own agricultural land that come within the ambit of this clause and I would suggest to the House that although the Crown Estates, which is a body on its own and has nothing to do with the Monarchy, is one of the largest agricultural land owners in Britain it is to be excluded. If one takes the county councils, many of them have small holdings of up to 50 acres. Again a great number of cottages are involved and there is no security of tenure for these people. If one recalls the kind of security of tenure that these people have, it amounts to four weeks. After that they can be evicted for committing some offence which offends the owner of the property. If one looks at the development corporations one recalls, as I am sure the noble Lord, Lord Peart, will recall, the case of Milton Keynes. Before Milton Keynes was developed that body bought a farm of 350 acres, together with a number of cottages. In my view, there are bodies that come within the ambit of Clause 6 which would be exempt from security of tenure.
§ The noble Baroness, Lady Birk, finally argued in defence of keeping the clause in the Bill that it was a commitment of her Party that they would bring about security of tenure for county council housing tenants, and I am sure that this is a very sincere commitment. However, I would suggest to the House that there is no reason on earth why the Party opposite should not make a start now on this fairly small sector of agricultural dwellings, thus giving their tenants security of tenure. I beg to move.675
My Lords, I am very grateful to my noble friend Lord Kinnoull for coming back to this point which we dealt with at the Committee stage. It seems to me to be quite extraordinary that a Bill should be produced which gives security of tenure to one specific body of people. Only 10 per cent. of all the people who occupy tied cottages—that is, just agricultural people—are to be given security of tenure. Great arguments have been put forward as to why this is desirable and necessary. Then, to use the expression of the noble Baroness, one "hacks out" of the security of tenure all those people who are in agricultural tied cottages which belong to the Greater London Council, the Commission for New Towns, the Housing Corporation, the development corporations, the housing trusts and all the properties owned by the Crown. I know that there is a precedent for this but it seems to me to be a thoroughly bad precedent.
I think that it defeats quite enormously the argument of the Government when they say, "Security of tenure is being given to all people in a certain industry except to those who happen to be living in cottages owned by public authorities". If security of tenure is right—and I accept that noble Lords opposite think that it is right—I cannot for the life of me see why it should not be universal. I do not think that the Government put up much of a show of an answer at the Committee stage and I rather fancy that they will not be able to put up a much better show of an answer at this stage. I state once again that I think it is wrong to exclude these bodies. If the Government intend in the future to make arrangements to cover all types of people, f think that they should cover everybody, not merely selected types of people.
§ 4.17 p.m.
§ Baroness BIRK
My Lords, the noble Earl, Lord Kinnoull, said that he was daring my wrath. He dared my wrath constantly on community land, housing and many other matters but I think that both of us have always come out of it smiling. What puzzles me about this is the alacrity with which noble Lords opposite want to bring under protection and security of tenure many other dwellings and classes of occupation. I am very interested to hear it. I find it extremely 676 hopeful and optimistic for the future that we shall be able to look at the other industries and areas in which there are tied cottages. However, as I pointed out at Committee, and I am sorry to have to repeat myself again, this is a Rent (Agriculture) Bill. It is concerned with agriculture and therefore with tied cottages. As I think both noble Earls have pointed out, the exceptions are those which have been carried through from the 1968 Rent Act.
So far as the question of this being out of date is concerned, one of the reasons for wanting to table a whole series of Amendments—at least, they were tabled and then withdrawn because noble Lords opposite did not feel that they fitted in with the Bill—was to attempt to prepare the ground for the consolidation of what I agree is extremely complicated legislation. I do not want to labour the point that I made in Committee about extra-statutory arrangements, but I must say again that our intention is that in practice agricultural workers who are housed and employed by exempted bodies shall be given the same security of housing, even though the Statute does not apply to them. I think that within the context of a Rent (Agriculture) Bill this is so far as anybody can go without getting into an area which would be ultra vires.
So that there is no misunderstanding, I must return to the main issue which arises from the noble Earl's desire to remove the clause. In the Bill we are affording security of tenure along Rent Act lines. Where there are compelling reasons to depart from the 1968 Rent Act, obviously we need to make special provision, but in this case it is eminently reasonable to follow the pattern which is already set. Nothing new has been done; we have not hacked out anything new. We have carried on and taken into this Bill the provisions of the 1968 Act, which seems to me, in the context of the Bill, to be a right and proper thing to do. I hope, having given it another extremely good airing, that the noble Earl will withdraw his Amendment.
§ The Earl of ONSLOW
My Lords, there is just one comment I should like to make on this Amendment. It seems to me that there is a rising dissatisfaction in this country at the all-pervadingness of the State. If we have a situation, however 677 good or bad the precedent may be, of the State and other various organisations being given privileges which are not allowed to other people, and if the State is capable in some cases of being just as arbitrary as private individuals, that is one point. The next point is the provision of undertakings that people will not behave arbitrarily to the people who are not protected but who are in similar jobs in private industry who are protected—an undertaking like that is not as good as the power of the law. My third point is that the noble Baroness, Lady Birk, said she found it ironic that we should be advocating controls. We are not advocating controls; all we are advocating is that the law should apply to everybody and not just to private individuals. It should apply to all it should apply to the Crown, to local authorities and to everyone.
§ Lord MONK BRETTON
My Lords, I should like to say a word in support of this Amendment moved by my noble friend Lord Kinnoull. I question whether the pattern established in 1968 is really right. There is a principle involved, and it is this. Is the public body necessarily more likely to be interested in the welfare of its employee than is the private employer? I do not believe that that is the case. It could possibly be that the public body, by diversion of resources in an uneconomic way, might do more for the employee than the private employer might be in a position to do. But whether that is right I question very much, because I believe this is one of the ways in which our economy becomes warped and does not work as it should. So I am very glad that my noble friend has stuck to his point.
§ Lord ROBBINS
My Lords, I am utterly bewildered on this point. I do not in the least understand the ideological principles which are being applied by the Government in this respect. Is it thought that the behaviour of Government Departments which hold certain properties in trust for Her Majesty are so immune from all possible error that it would be desirable for them to be exempted from prescriptions which it is desirable should be applied to the reprehensible private owners of similar properties? Alternatively, is it thought that in the end security of tenure should be given to all tenants in whatever occupation 678 they are engaged, in which case I do not understand—
§ Lord ROBBINS
My Lords, if I may just finish my sentence. I really do not understand why the opportunity is not taken on this occasion of edging the principle a little further.
§ Lord PEART
My Lords, I am interested in this argument. Why is it that the noble Lord and many others who are now pressing this case excluded from this Bill forestry and those people employed by the Forestry Commission?
§ Lord PARGITER
My Lords, may I draw attention to one thing that is rather interesting. I think this is the first occasion on which the immunity of the Crown has been challenged.
§ The Earl of KINNOULL
My Lords, I think I can answer the noble Lord on that point. I am speaking about the Crown Estates, which is a corporate body, a very large landowner and is nothing to do with the Crown itself. It is a corporate semi-quasi public Government body.
§ The Earl of KINNOULL
No, my Lords; it does not belong to Her Majesty. Perhaps the noble Lord, Lord Peart, will confirm that.
The Earl of CAITHNESS
My Lords, I should like to answer on behalf of the foresters, having put my name to the Amendment. I think the reason why we have excluded forestry is that there has not been a report satisfactorily conducted at the moment. There is a report in progress and I think we deleted forestry until that report had been put before the public.
§ The Earl of PERTH
My Lords, perhaps I may just intervene about the position of the Crown estates, because I happen to be the first Crown Estate Commissioner. The noble Earl, Lord Kinnoull, is wrong in saying that the property does not belong to the Crown: it does. What happens is that the Crown of its own volition may cede its rights for the period of the 679 reign but when the time comes a new Sovereign has the opportunity of resuming the property. I hope that this will help the House and clear up the point.
The Earl of SELKIRK
My Lords, I should like to ask the noble Baroness, Lady Birk, whether there is any special significance in excluding housing associations which are—perhaps not entirely but very largely—urban in character. Is it the intention that these should be more widely used in connection with agricultural land? I ask that question because one of the things which worries me about the Bill is the long-term future of housing. Today there are only two types of house really being built: one is for owner-occupation and the other is the council house. Those are the main types of house that are being built on a large scale. Housing Associations provide some but not a very large number. When the houses on agricultural property, particularly the ones referred to in the Bill, have to be replaced, who is going to do it? It is very unlikely—in fact today it is most unusual for any house to be built to rent. Rented houses have become practically non-existent. What are we going to do in these cases? If you want a man for a temporary period for a specialised job in a specialised place, it is very unlikely that a house will be built for that special purpose. It is possible that he could use a housing association, and I wonder whether the noble Baroness thinks that is a possibility, because the future provision of agricultural houses is of great importance, and I dare say there are many of them that are in bad condition and need to be replaced. How is it intended by the Government that these houses should be replaced?
§ Baroness BIRK
My Lords, perhaps I may reply to one or two points. The noble Lord, Lord Robbins, spoke about ideology. I would point out to him that while everybody is getting very hot under the collar about the tied cottages and tied houses in other industries apart from agriculture, after the 1968 Act the Conservative Government had four years from 1970 to 1974 to deal with this problem, if they had wanted to do so. So I think this new-found horror about this subject is slightly misplaced.
680 Speaking on the housing association point raised by the noble Earl, Lord Selkirk, I agree that housing associations are unlikely to be affected by this. This is a straight grouping from the 1968 Act. Whether when the Rent Acts are reviewed it will remain in this form I agree is something which should he looked at. With regard to the other points raised by the noble Earl, Lord Selkirk, I think he will understand if I do not deal with the replacement of housing because it really is not part of this Amendment.
The Earl of SELKIRK
My Lords, with the very greatest respect, it is really vital to the whole question.
§ Baroness BIRK
My Lords, I am very sorry, but the Amendment of the noble Earl is to leave out Clause 6, which deals with the Crown and other bodies which are in a different position from the tied cottages in the Bill. I think the House will agree that it would be wrong if I or anyone else were to wander too much from the Amendment, because that would be time-consuming and would not be relevant to the point we are discussing.
§ The Earl of ONSLOW
My Lords, before the noble Baroness, Lady Birk, sits down, could she answer the point raised by the noble Earl, Lord Selkirk, as to how she thinks the housing associations will become involved, if they are, with the replacement of agricultural cottages?
§ Baroness BIRK
My Lords, I have just said that it was very unlikely they would be involved, but as they were part of the whole grouping set out in the 1968 Act, that was how they would come in. I went on to say that when we were looking at consolidation, this is something which probably will be looked at, but I gave a simple reason for it.
§ The Earl of KINNOULL
My Lords, I am grateful for all those who supported this discussion. I should like straight away to apologise to the noble Earl, Lord Perth, for inadvertently misleading the House. The noble Earl will realise that any comment I made was no criticism in itself of the Crown Estates.
My Lords, the noble Baroness, Lady Birk, is adept in moving a very short 681 brief with great skill. I am not sure that we have got much further than the previous stage of the Bill. Of course, my Amendment was a probing Amendment. I was particularly wishing to question the noble Baroness on the commitment of the Government as to when they would bring in a Bill to give security of tenure to all tenants. This is the fundamental point of my Amendment. The noble Baroness has not committed herself as to when the Government would bring in a Bill of this nature, but I hope that our debate today will have encouraged the Government to do so in the very near future. I beg leave to withdraw the Amendment.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ Schedule 3 [Grounds for possession of dwelling-house subject to protected occupancy or statutory tenancy.]:
§ 4.32 p.m.
Earl FERRERS moved Amendment No. 20:
Page 38, line 3, at end insert ("and in considering the suitability of the accommodation the Court has power to decide that temporary accommodation whether in a dwelling-house or otherwise, fulfils the condition in this paragraph, where such temporary accommodation is offered by the local authority on the understanding that they will provide as soon as practicable alternative accommodation under this sub-paragraph and sub-paragraph (2) above.").
§ The noble Earl said: My Lords, your Lordships will be aware that some of us have laboured under a certain difficulty throughout the whole of the Bill by being landlords, farmers, or even tenants. Not many of those on this side of the House are in fact farm workers. I think that the same might also apply to noble Lords opposite, in that there are more landowners and landlords, farmers and tenants, than actual farm workers. We have tried to accept this difficulty, and I hope your Lordships will realise that the Amendments we have put down have been to try to improve the Bill, even though it may run quite counter to anything noble Lords opposite have felt prudent. They have not been put down for any selfish or individual purpose.
§ My Lords, we come now to the nub of the Bill over which there is no kind of Party feeling at all, as I like to think. This is simply a part of the Bill which will either make the Bill work, or will not 682 make it work. As the Bill was originally drafted, a duty was placed upon the local authority to use their best endeavours to rehouse farm workers who left the employment on the farm on which their home was, but who elected to stay on in the house. We have all had our disagreements over the principles of the Bill and the way in which it might operate. But the Bill has produced a head-on dilemma; namely, that if farm workers are to be given the right to stay on in their houses after their employment on the farm has ceased, how can farmers provide accommodation for their incoming farm workers? That is the problem. It is as simple as that, and as difficult as that. We have always felt that the use of the phrase "best endeavours" was not strong enough. That is why on Committee stage we put forward three Amendments to get over the problem of "best endeavours" which we considered to be ineffective when the real crunch came, and when the local authority said, "We have used our best endeavours but we cannot house".
§ It is at that point and thereafter that all the provisions of the Bill become ineffective. We have tried to find ways of improving this. In Committee stage your Lordships decided to accept an Amendment which imposed upon the local authority the duty to rehouse, but the Amendment was careful to impose a time limit. Although it would be perfectly clear from the Bill as amended that the local authority would have a duty to rehouse a worker who came within the provisions of Clause 29, the local authority may not find itself physically able to do so, even possibly for two years or more.
§ My Lords, we then went on to another Amendment, accepted by your Lordships, which said that when the agricultural dwelling house advisory committees said that suitable alternative accommodation should be provided as a matter of urgency, then the local authority should provide it within three months. On Committee stage, concern was expressed by a number of noble Lords, and quite rightly—indeed, I expressed the same concern myself—as to how a local authority would manage to fulfil this obligation if physically there were no houses to offer. This could well be a perfectly feasible situation.683
It was stressed on a number of occasions during Committee that temporary accommodation should be allowed. This is what this Amendment seeks to do. I readily recognise that there are drawbacks to temporary accommodation, but we have sought to draft our Amendment to take into account the views expressed on all sides of the House. The noble Lord, Lord Robbins, at column 772 of the Committee stage on 29th October, said:
Would not the difficulty"—
of rehousing where there were no houses available—
conceivably be solved if the obligation on the local authority were to provide alternative accommodation, either temporary or permanent? I suggest that the matter in dispute might be eased if there were an obligation on the local authority to provide temporary accommodation even if permanent accommodation were not available.
So we have sought to produce this Amendment which says that the court has power to decide that temporary accommodation, whether in a dwelling-house or otherwise, is suitable accommodation. In other words, the accommodation could be a house or a mobile home, but the outgoing farmworker would be protected because the accommodation has to be suitable. He cannot just be put into any kind of broken-down building which may be damp, because then it would not come under the ambit of being suitable alternative accommodation. On Committee stage, the noble Lord, Lord Collison, quite rightly stressed this. The noble Lord said:
I merely think it necessary to say that the workers set great store by the word 'suitable'."—[Official Report, 29/10/76; col. 773.]
I agree; the noble Lord is entirely right, and he was entirely right to stress it. The noble Lord went on to say:
Temporary accommodation would have to be suitable. To put a person into a tumbledown house even temporarily or into long-time occupation of a caravan, I do not think would be satisfactory. I realise there is a problem. Always bearing in mind the fact that the local authority cannot be charged with an absolute duty which they cannot fulfil, I hope that some solution can be found.
§ This Amendment is our effort to try to find that solution.
My Lords, the noble Lord, Lord Gordon-Walker, quite rightly pointed to another problem. He said:
Is not one trouble of the proposed Amendment that all experience shows that temporary
accommodation becomes permanent, and that there will be very great danger if this Bill provides for temporary accommodation? "—[Official Report; col. 781.]
§ So to meet the very real objection that temporary accommodation should not become permanent accommodation, we have suggested that temporary accommodation can be used only where the local authority have given an undertaking that it is their intention to provide permanent housing as soon as practicable. In other words, the local authority must say: "We accept the obligation to rehouse. We have not got a permanent house at the moment. We intend to provide a permanent house as soon as possible. Until we can, here is a house you can go into immediately and it is suitable to your requirements."
§ Even if that offer is made to the outgoing farm worker, he has still the right to go to the court and say, "I do not agree. This is not suitable alternative accommodation", and it is only then that the court has to decide whether in fact this temporary accommodation is suitable alternative accommodation. The Amendment deliberately refers to the case where the temporary accommodation is offered by the local authority. This is designed to cover the case where the local authority has got temporary accommodation of its own which it can make available, and it is also designed to cover the case where the local authority can arrange for accommodation, other than that which the local authority itself possesses, to be made available, such as happens in the North Wiltshire scheme, whereby local landowners may make available to the local authority houses which they do not at present require, on the understanding that it is on a short-term basis and the owner will be able to get back possession of those houses. If this Amendment were accepted it would enable local authorities to go to the local landowners and say, "May we use that empty house for the purposes of this Bill?"
§ The only drawback I can see to this Amendment—doubtless, the Government will produce many more, but I hope not, because I have tried to think of all the drawbacks—is that the Government will say, "Yes, but the outgoing farm worker will be losing his security of tenure by moving into temporary accommodation, 685 and the whole of the Bill is designed around giving security of tenure". I recognise that that is an objection to the Amendment. But, of course, the farm worker has lost the security of tenure of the house he is in anyway, because the ADHAC will have said that, in the interests of efficient agriculture, he should move out of that house. They will have said, in effect, that in the interests of efficiency of agriculture he should lose the security of tenure in that house. Therefore, the only real drawback is that the outgoing farm worker will be making two moves instead of one, one into temporary accommodation, and one later into permanent accommodation. I accept that this is a drawback; but nothing in the world is perfect, and I venture to suggest that this would be a small price to pay to enable agriculture to function better.
§ I hope that the Government will accept this Amendment. I do not claim it is the perfect answer, but I suggest that it would be a major step towards reconciling, on the one hand, a situation where the ADHAC says that a house is required for efficient agriculture and that house should be made available, with, on the other hand, the fact that the farm worker has a right to suitable alternative accommodation. That is the purpose of our Amendment. It is to try to get over a real problem which this Bill, as originally designed, contains. I hope that the noble Baroness will accept that this is a constructive effort on our part, and that she will think it so constructive that she will accept the Amendment. I look forward with heady anticipation. I beg to move.
§ Lord MIDDLETON
My Lords, whatever the final form of this Bill when it is enacted, it is, as my noble friend, Lord Ferrers, says, vitally necessary to the agricultural industry that the Act should work. I am sure that the noble Lord, Lord Peart, accepts that the Amendments we are trying to make today are put forward for that purpose and none other. I am convinced, and I got the feeling on the last day that we spent in Committee, that the Committee was beginning to reach the same conclusion: that unless some provision is made for temporary accommodation to become available this legislation will not work. The outstanding weakness that still remains in this Bill is that it does not provide a solution to the 686 acute industrial problem that will arise when a house that is urgently needed for a key agricultural worker is occupied by a statutory tenant for whom the housing authority simply has not got a house available. The need can be identified by the ADHAC; the duty to rehouse can be accepted by the housing authority, but if there is no suitable alternative accommodation the man is stuck and no one can move in to perform the work to keep food production going.
The only solution to the problem is that either the statutory tenant or an incoming worker is, at some time, somewhere, going to have to be provided with temporary accommodation. I moved an Amendment in Committee to provide that a farmer should be allowed, free of planning restraints, to place a caravan on his farm, if the housing authority had not acted after receiving a recommendation to rehouse from the ADHAC. That would have housed temporarily the incoming worker. There were several good objections to the way that Amendment was drafted, and it was withdrawn. This Amendment is much nearer to that moved by my noble friend Lord Burnham in Committee, in that it provides for temporary accommodation to be made available to the statutory tenant—that is, the outgoing worker—provided that the court decides that such accommodation is suitable.
The Government's objection to this kind of proposal is that there would be no security of tenure in the temporary accommodation. The whole of the Government's case that this Bill will work hinges upon their confidence that the local authority will provide a house, so that nine times out of ten the alternative accommodation for the man who is stuck in a key worker's house will be a council house. But what kind of security of tenure would the statutory tenant have if he were provided with a council house? Council house tenants do not live under the protection of the Rent Acts. A district council can give a council house tenant 28 days' notice for any reason, even if for no better reason than that the council wants the house for some other person. They then apply for a court order for possession, and the judge makes an order almost as routine, unless there are special circumstances. If that is the kind of security the Bill is offering to the displaced 687 farm worker, how can the Government quibble about lack of security in temporary accommodation? My Lords, I support my noble friend Lord Ferrers.
§ Lord BURNHAM
My Lords, when I moved a somewhat similar Amendment in Committee I got a very sympathetic reply from the noble Baroness, Lady Birk. She said:…this is a very attractive proposition where it is workable. I accept that. I also have great admiration for the work in the North Wiltshire scheme."—[0fficial Repor, 21/10/76; col. 1643.]I believe I might have had an even more sympathetic reply if it had not been two minutes to midnight. But my Amendment had the defect, from the Government's point of view, that it was made to Case I, where alternative accommodation was being provided by someone other than the housing authority. As a result of a great deal of thought, this Amendment seems to meet that point, in that, from the Government's point of view, from the worker's point of view, his immediate landlord will be a local housing authority, and therefore all fears about the actions of irresponsible and wicked landlords have been removed.
In supporting the Amendment, I would only say that if there were an adequate supply of council houses in the country the whole of this Bill would have been unnecessary and we should all have been wasting our time. But we know this is not the case, and unless some form of temporary arrangement can be made the Bill will be totally unworkable. I cannot believe that the Government want this. This Bill is absolutely crucial to farming, and should be acceptable to the Government and the worker. I very much hope that the Amendment will be accepted, or something very like it.
§ 4.50 p.m.
§ Lord STANLEY of ALDERLEY
My Lords, I hope you will forgive me if I ask the noble Baroness to cast her mind back to Friday, 29th October, when the problem of temporary accommodation was discussed. Indeed the noble Lord, Lord Peart, and the noble Baroness were kind enough to concede that we were trying to be helpful and constructive, particularly to the hard-pressed local authority who are going to shoulder so much responsibility in this Bill. Indeed, 688 the noble Lord, Lord Peart, was kind enough to say at column 770 that he would follow up this very point. Rather sadly a few moments after that, in a debate that I thought was perhaps one of our most constructive, it was necessary to have a Division because the Government felt that they could not saddle the local authority with the responsibility to rehouse within the three months the farm worker who had been judged by ADHAC to be vital.
I believe, as I have since my noble friend Lord Burnham originally raised this question of temporary accommodation first on Second Reading and then on 21st October (when, as he said so rightly, certain noble Lords were getting rather tired because it was so late), that this Amendment would really help local authorities. It may be that the noble Baroness would prefer to see this use of temporary accommodation only when the ADHACs have ruled the rehousing case to be urgent. I should like her to give me an answer as to whether she might accept a slightly differently drafted Amendment to cover just those cases rather than all the cases.
I agree that I do not like the word "temporary" accommodation, but, so far as this Amendment is concerned, the accommodation will not really be temporary. Again it must be suitable. It will be a condition, as the noble Baroness will have noticed, that the local authority must have offered permanent accommodation as soon as is practicable. So I do not really see that this is temporary. Perhaps the noble Baroness will tell me if she would perfer a time limit for the local authority to rehouse in a permanent accommodation.
This power by the local authority to seek out, maybe from the private sector, I hope—and indeed I know that the noble Baroness hopes—will not be used much, but we all hope that most local authorities will be able to fulfil their duties and rehouse farm workers in suitable permanent accommodation. But we live, so I am told, in times of financial stringency, and there may be times when a house is not available at that moment. This Amendment offers a way out for the hard-pressed local authority, and I hope that the noble Baroness will confirm, when she replies, that she is prepared to 689 give local authorities this help. If she is not going to give this help, what other help is she going to give them? I hope that the noble Baroness—I am afraid I am hoping for a lot from her today, but I continue to do so—realises the logic of this Amendment. I hope she realises how sincere we are being in offering it as a possible way out. It may not be the whole or perfect answer for the problem. But, as in farming, I have yet to find a perfect answer to any problem.
I hope one day that the noble Baroness will become more familiar with farmers. She said she was not at the beginning of this debate, but perhaps she is now becoming that now that she has sat for so long next door to the noble Lord, Lord Peart. I hope when she does become more familiar that she will not find we are such a reactionary set of backwoodsmen as she thought we were to start with. This Amendment is a farmer's answer to a farmer's problem. I beg the noble Baroness to accept it as such.
§ 4.55 p.m.
§ Baroness BIRK
My Lords, if it is an indication of my good intent to say how happy I am to become more familiar with farmers, I can only say that the name Robin seems to be coming from my lips day after day on my return home, as the noble Earl, Lord Ferrers, and myself have been in discussion constantly over the matters in this Bill. I not only accept but I know very well from the number of discussions we have had not just in the Chamber but outside it that he is absolutely genuinely, and other noble Lords who have spoken, trying to find a solution to this difficult problem. I am not pretending that there is not a problem and that we are not also very concerned in trying to find a way to deal with it. Unfortunately, I do not think that this Amendment, and indeed any Amendment that is concerned with temporary accommodation, can deal with a situation where the whole point and basis of the Bill is the question of security of tenure for the tenant. The noble Lord, Lord Stanley of Alderley, expressed his concern and he said that he did not like the word "temporary". Fie would like to find a different way round it, and asked how "temporary" was "temporary". This is one of the cruxes of the problem.
690 The Amendment would mean that, provided a housing authority undertakes to provide, as it says, fully suitable alternative accommodation as soon as practicable, they may offer the statutory tenant accommodation which is temporary "in a dwelling-house or otherwise". There are several things about this. If he does not accept it, then the landlord would most certainly have a ground for possession against him, and if the court then grants an order he would be liable to eviction. I must stress again that I see both the good will and the amount of thought and effort that has gone into trying to find the right drafting for it; but when one comes down to it and has to interpret the words of the Amendment, which is what would have to happen, it differs significantly but not from the present system which the Bill is seeking to replace. Under the present system if a farmer obtains a court order against the ex-worker then normally, but not always, before the eviction can take place the local authority will treat the person and his family as homeless people and offer them temporary accommodation of some kind.
§ Baroness BIRK
My Lords, I was explaining, as I am sure the noble Earl is well aware, that under the present system if a farmer obtains a court order against an ex-worker then normally, but it is not always the case, before a physical eviction occurs the local authority will treat the person and his family as homeless and offer them temporary accommodation of some kind.
In many cases later on—and this is going on all the time even now—the family, or the person, will be offered permanent council housing. As the noble Lord, Lord Middleton, and other noble Lords pointed out we are quite aware that there is a severe shortage of housing generally. As the noble Lord, Lord Burnham, said, if there was enough housing there would not be any problem at all. This we know, and it is also the distribution that is the problem in this case. Although in many cases he may be offered permanent council housing, although it is not always assured, his 691 length of stay in temporary accommodation may be prolonged and the temporary accommodation could be bed and breakfast. It may be a hostel of the old Part III variety, it may be short life property, or it may even be in a hotel.
It still seems to me that it does not get round and deal with the problem that we are trying to deal with both to house people and to make it as easy as we possibly can for the farmer, in the interests of agriculture, to house the workers who are essential to the farmer and need to live there, and also to give security of tenure.
If a definition of temporary accommodation was inserted, as the Amendment seeks to do—and one has to be frank about this and accept it—there would be a great temptation on housing authorities to let the matter rest, once they had discharged their obligation in the interests of efficient agriculture to accept responsibility for the ex-worker's accommodation. This is not a criticism of local authorities. It is simply saying that in a difficult situation, if there are people in temporary accommodation, the term as soon as practicable "can be stretched. It is almost like a piece of string. It really does not answer the problems involved in the whole question of temporary accommodation. As I think I said to the noble Lord, Lord Burnham, when he raised this matter previously, in relation to the North Wiltshire scheme, I have great sympathy for this question. I have said in other debates on housing that the Government want to encourage the kind of initiative involved here, which I personally have always regarded as an extraordinarily good one. This is an entirely voluntary scheme. It also depends on the housing in the area and the type of area, and it is not the type of scheme that one could build into an Act of Parliament for application everywhere.
I only wish that I could find some way out of the problem that would meet the point of noble Lords opposite and which would cover the point which I am keeping in mind all the time; namely, the security of tenure for the statutory tenant. If a way could be found to weld these matters together, I should be the first person to do it. I have spent much time trying to see whether we can do this, but 692 unfortunately there is no way down that road at all. I will not again go over all the arguments which I have put and which my noble friend put during the Committee stage. What is being suggested is contrary to what we are trying to achieve in the Bill. While I appreciate not only the good will behind the Amendment, but also the extraordinary amount of meticulous work which has gone into trying to find various versions of an Amendment which would meet the problem, I must say, very regretfully, that I am afraid that this Amendment does not meet the problem, and I must ask for it to be withdrawn.
The Earl of CAITHNESS
My Lords, I am disappointed by the reply of the noble Baroness. She said that the temporary accommodation could be bed and breakfast, but as the temporary accommodation has to be suitable I do not think that that would be classed as suitable. I take on board the point about this made by the noble Lord, Lord Collison, and the fear that farm employees have. The noble Baroness did not reply to the point made by my noble friend Lord Stanley of Alderley concerning a time limit on the local authorities to rehouse.
§ Baroness BIRK
My Lords, I should like to clear up that point. I do not think that one can do what is suggested. It would not work; it is not practical. We accept that local authorities must be given the opportunity and must be given their own autonomy, and while certain provision has been made in the Bill this has been altered. It is a question of semantics. The noble Earl feels that it will strengthen the position, but I do not think that there is much difference in the wording. It would be an impossible situation to say to a local authority that these people must be rehoused within a period of "x" months. That just cannot be done. Local authorities would be in default.
§ Baroness ELLIOT of HARWOOD
My Lords, the Government are trying to do the impossible. Like everyone else here, I am speaking as a farmer and we all want to give the best possible housing to the people whom we employ. Everyone would like to give them the best houses, in the best positions and in the best conditions. But that can be done only if the house which one owns can be used for the people whom one wants to employ. 693 If one suddenly finds that a worker who has given notice and does not want to continue working for one refuses to move from a house, an impossible position arises. One does not want to turn the chap out on to nothingness, but in order to be efficient and practical one simply has to have the house in which the man is living.
I agree that what is proposed is not ideal, but at least it is a halfway house. At least it enables the farmer to avoid turning the man out on to nothingness, but gives him something of a temporary nature before he gets a better house, or moves to another area, or gets another job with which a house is available. I am afraid that the Government have saddled themselves with a really impossible situation. I have listened to all the debate and I have had considerable experience in these matters, and if we are to have this Bill then we must have something which is a halfway house. What is proposed is only temporary, and it would give one a lever to get the local authority moving on rehousing a person. Nothing better has been suggested, and it would be much better to have this Amendment than nothing at all. Otherwise the situation will he disastrous for the farmer and for the farm worker, and we will get into a terrible muddle.
Of course one wants to give people security of tenure and to do all one can for them, with all the good will in the world, but under this Bill one cannot do that, and it cannot be done under the conditions of the industry. This is a halfway house, and one could then put every possible pressure on the local authorities—who in my opinion are probably the people who should deal with this—to provide, out of the houses they have, a house for someone who has been working for one. I should like to support the Amendment.
§ The Earl of KINNOULL
My Lords, before my noble friend moves in with his demolishing tactics on the arguments of the noble Baroness, I should like to say something. Let us assume that she is correct when she says that what is suggested is impossible; that is her case. I assume that we are not dealing with an enormous number of cases. I understand that the difficulty is that the Government are loth to put on to the local authorities 694 a burden which the Government feel the authorities cannot stand. Would it not be possible for the Ministry of Agriculture to set up a fund so that where a local authority genuinely has not an alternative house to meet this type of case, a new house could be purchased by means of the fund. That is all one is seeking.
My Lords, at the outset I should like to say that I have greatly appreciated the help which the noble Baroness has been kind enough to give me between the two stages of the Bill. She has tried to understand the points we are making and has tried to see whether she could help. I found her last remarks most endearing, when she said that she would like to help but did not quite know how. Well, I could say to her that she could help quite easily simply by using the words, "I accept." But despite her great efforts, she found that she could not help. I must say that I found the arguments wholly and totally unconvincing. The trouble here is that this is a Department of the Environment Bill, not a Ministry of Agriculture Bill. Were it a Ministry of Agriculture Bill, the views of that Ministry would have been much more forcibly noticed in it. Of course, the roller coaster has gone out from the Department of the Environment and has simply flattened every single agricultural argument that has been put forward.
The noble Baroness, Lady Birk, said, "But, normally, if a court order for possession is given, before an eviction actually takes place the local authority will rehouse in temporary accommodation". If that is so, and if it happens now, why is it that we cannot incorporate this procedure in the Bill? It is nothing new, apparently; according to the noble Baroness, it happens. But then she says, "We cannot incorporate it in the Bill".
§ Baroness BIRK
My Lords, I wonder whether I might interrupt on that point. The point is that it happens at the moment when one gets to the end of that particular line, but it is not a very pleasant happening in housing, social or human terms at all, as I know the noble Earl will agree. What I am anxious to do is not to perpetuate or extend it. What we are hoping will happen in the case of this Bill is that, 695 because in so many cases there will be the opportunity to plan ahead, if a farmer knows that a worker is retiring he can go to the local authority in advance. This he cannot do at the moment because, unless the local authority has housing to spare (and how many of them have?), they are going to have to say, "We cannot do anything until there is a possession order granted or these people are actually homeless". So, as I see it, this Amendment will extend this area, which we want to decrease and not extend.
My Lords, it may be that the noble Baroness would like to decrease it. I absolutely accept that it is not the perfect answer. Temporary accommodation is not the perfect answer. But I believe—and I say this with the greatest of respect—that the noble Baroness and her advisers are living in a certain degree of cloud-cuckoo land. The idea that one can look forward and that local authorities, if they know there is a requirement, will be able to house people, simply is not the case in my experience. I heard only a short while ago of some people who have had their names down for five years on a local authority housing list, and they have not been able to be offered any accommodation. Then the noble Baroness said that temporary accommodation is not perfect because it might be hostel, hotel or even bed and breakfast. I did not find that argument at all convincing. My noble friend Lord Caithness said quite rightly that that would not be suitable accommodation, and of course it would be completely unsuitable.
My Lords, this Amendment was devised as a result of all the views that
§ were put forward at the last stage of this Bill by people like the noble Lord, Lord Robbins, my noble friend Lord Burnham, the noble Lord, Lord Collison, and so forth. We know that it is not perfect; we know that it is not suitable as a permanency; but we have tried to build into the Amendment every possible restriction. The noble Baroness said, "What is temporary'? It is as long as a piece of string". It is not as long, as a piece of string; it is only temporary, until the local authority re-house in permanent accommodation. That is the obligation which the Government, of their own volition, wish to place upon the local authority; we have merely spelt it out a bit more in the Bill.
§ The Government have always said that they want agriculture to be successful and efficient. What we have maintained throughout this Bill is that there is a point here where you will not move, where you will get the problem of the security of tenure jamming with the right, the duty, of agriculture to provide housing. I do not see why there should not be some provision for temporary accommodation; and, my Lords, I really believe that if this Bill is to work this Amendment should be made to it. I hope that your Lordships will agree that, imperfect though it may be, it is at least a step forward to enable agriculture still to operate.
§ 5.15 p.m.
§ On Question, Whether the said Amendment (No. 20) shall be agreed to?
§ Their Lordships divided: Contents, 136; Not-Contents, 58.697
|Adeane, L.||Birdwood, L.||Chelwood, L.|
|Airedale, L.||Blakenham, V.||Clancarty, E.|
|Amherst, E.||Boothby, L.||Clitheroe, L.|
|Amherst of Hackney, L.||Brabazon of Tara, L.||Cobham, V.|
|Amory, V.||Bradford, E.||Coleraine, L.|
|Ampthill, L.||Broadbridge, L.||Congleton, L.|
|Amulree, L.||Brooke of Cumnor, L.||Cork and Orrery, E.|
|Arran, E.||Brooke of Ystradfellte, B.||Cornwallis, L.|
|Auckland, L.||Burnham, L.||Cottesloe, L.|
|Banks, L.||Byers, L.||Crawford and Balcarres, E.|
|Barnby, L.||Caccia, L.||Crawshaw, L.|
|Barrington, V.||Caithness, E.||Cullen of Ashbourne L.|
|Beaumont of Whitley, L.||Campbell of Croy, L.||Daventry, V.|
|Belhaven and Stenton, L.||Carr of Hadley, L.||de Clifford, L.|
|Berkeley, B.||Carrington, L.||Denham, L. [Teller.]|
|Derwent, L.||Lloyd, L.||Romney, E.|
|Drumalbyn, L.||Long, V.||Ruthven of Freeland, Ly.|
|Ellenborough, L.||Lucas of Chilworth, L.||St. Aldwyn, E.|
|Elliot of Harwood, B.||Luke, L.||St. Davids, V.|
|Elton, L.||Lyell, L.||Sandys, L.|
|Emmet of Amberley, B.||Macleod of Borve, B.||Savile, L.|
|Energlyn, L.||Malmesbury, F.||Seear, B.|
|Falmouth, V.||Mancroft, L.||Selkirk, E.|
|Ferrers, E.||Mansfield, E.||Sempill, Ly.|
|Fraser of Kilmorack, L.||Marley, L.||Somers, L.|
|Gainford, L.||Massereene and Ferrard, V.||Spens, L.|
|Gisborough, L.||Meston, L.||Stanley of Alderley, L.|
|Grafton, D.||Middleton, L.||Strathclyde, L.|
|Gray, L.||Molson, L.||Strathcona and Mount Royal, L.|
|Grey, F.||Monck, V.||Strathmore and Kinghorne, E.|
|Gridley, L.||Monckton of Brenchley, V.||Strathspey, L.|
|Hankey, L.||Monk Bretton, L.||Swansea. L.|
|Hanworth, V.||Monson, L.||Swaythling, L|
|Harmar-Nicholls, L.||Mowbray and Stourton, L. [Teller.]||Tenby, V.|
|Harvington, L.||Terrington, L.|
|Hawke, L.||Moyne, L.||Teviot, L.|
|Henley, L.||Netherthorpe, L.||Tranmire, L.|
|Hereford, V.||Newall, L.||Trefgarne, L.|
|Hives, L.||Northchurch, B.||Vickers, B.|
|Howe, E.||Northesk, E.||Vivian, L.|
|Hylton-Foster, B.||Onslow, E.||Wade, L.|
|Ilchester, E.||Platt, L.||Wakefield of Kendal, L.|
|Kilmany, L.||Rankeillour, L.||Ward of North Tyneside, B.|
|Kinnaird, L.||Rathcreedan, L.||Westbury, L.|
|Kinross, L.||Reay, L.||Wise, L.|
|Lauderdale, E.||Robbins, L.|
|Aylestone, L.||Greenwood of Rossendale, L.||Pargiter, L.|
|Bacon, B.||Harris of Greenwich, L.||Peart, L. (L. Privy Seal.)|
|Birk, B.||Henderson, L.||Peddie, L.|
|Brockway, L.||Houghton of Sowerby, L.||Ponsonby of Shulbrede, L.|
|Castle, L.||Jacobson, L.||Rhodes, L.|
|Champion, L.||Jacques, L. [Teller.]||Ritchie-Calder, L.|
|Chorley, L.||Kaldor, L.||Segal, L.|
|Collison, L.||Kennet, L.||Shinwe, L.|
|Crowther-Hunt, L.||Kirkhill, L.||Snow, L.|
|Cudlipp, L.||Leatherland, L.||Stedman, B.|
|Davies of Leek, L.||Llewelyn-Davies of Hastoe, B.||Stewart of Alvechurch, B.|
|Delacourt-Smith of Alteryn, B.||Lloyd of Hampstead, L.||Stone, L.|
|Donaldson of Kingsbridge, L.||Lovell-Davis, L.||Stow Hill, L.|
|Douglas of Barloch, L.||McCarthy, L.||Strabolgi, L. [Teller.]|
|Douglass of Cleveland, L.||Maybray-King, L.||Wells-Pestell, L.|
|Elwyn-Jones, L. (L. Chancellor.)||Milford, L.||Willis, L.|
|Fisher of Rednal, B.||Murray of Gravesend, L.||Winterbottom, L.|
|Fletcher, L.||Oram, L.||Wootton of Abinger, B.|
|Gordon-Walker, L.||Paget of Northampton, L.|
|Goronwy-Roberts, L.||Pannell, L.|
On Question, Amendment agreed to
§ Resolved in the affirmative, and Amendment agreed to accordingly.
§ 5.24 p.m.
Baroness BIRK moved Amendment No. 21:
Page 38, line 7, leave out ("tenant") and insert ("tenancy").
§ The noble Baroness said: My Lords, this is really quite a straightforward uncontroversial Amendment. Case III of Schedule 3 is modelled on the corresponding Case I of Schedule 3 to the Rent Act 1968. There is, however, at present a minor difference in wording. The 698 ground for possession in the Bill is that, leaving aside rent, any other lawful obligation of the tenant has been broken. The same ground for possession under the 1968 Act relates to a lawful obligation, not of the tenant but of the tenancy. The purpose, therefore, of the Amendment is to bring the Bill into line with the 1968 Act. I beg to move.
The Earl of KINNOULI, moved Amendment No. 21A:
Page 39, leave out lines 16 and 17.
§ The noble Earl said: My Lords, this is another Amendment which was moved at Committee stage, but it is one of some importance and for that reason I raise it again. There was another reason. I think that the noble Baroness, Lady Birk, whose clarity on these issues is something I always much admire, on this particular occasion may have misconstrued one of the points in her brief. I shall probably do the same when I try to explain the purpose of the Amendment.
§ We are dealing with Case IX under Schedule 3 which is one of the cases where a landlord may possibly recover vacant possession of a dwelling house in certain circumstances. He may, for instance, recover it if it can be proved that it is required for either himself or his immediate family, and I think I am right in saying that under this Bill Case IX goes further than the identical case in the Rent Act 1968 because it includes grandparents. I should explain that under Case IX it is up to the court to decide finally whether or not the case has been proved; and the court's judgment is that no greater hardship will be caused by granting the order than by refusing to grant it.
The purpose of my Amendment is to delete the words:
and the landlord did not become landlord by purchasing the dwelling house, or any interest in it, after 12th April 1976.
§ That was the date, I believe, when the Bill was published. This, in fairness to the noble Baroness, Lady Birk, is a situation identical with that in the Rent Act 1965, where again words of this sort come in. I believe the difference between this and the Rent Act 1965, which was incorporated in the 1968 Rent Act, is that here we are dealing with a food producing industry as against just general housing in the Rent Act.
§ To try to illustrate what these magical words mean, I would suggest to the House —and the noble Baroness may correct me if I am wrong—that if a farmer wishes to pass his farm on to his son, these words do not apply because the son has not purchased the farm, and therefore Case IX applies. However, if a farmer buys a farm today and if one of the cottages on the farm is occupied, then it comes either under the 1968 Act or under this Act. In fact, these magical words would apply 700 and Case IX would not apply. If a farmer bought a farm and there was vacant possession of a cottage and he employed someone, Case IX does apply. So what we are talking about is a very limited case; but I would submit that there is a substantial case for the good of agriculture that these words, which add very little to the substance of the Bill, should be deleted. I beg to move.
§ Baroness BIRK
My Lords, it is perfectly true that we had a discussion on this point in Committee and I explained why the Government found it unacceptable. I will look at it again, but I did not think there was anything on which I was unclear on this Amendment. However, if it was not clear then perhaps I may briefly spell it out as clearly as I can now. The principle underlying the Bill is simply that it is not right that a landlord should, after the Bill was published—and this is the point, and the noble Earl realises that that is the date that was set—buy a house occupied by a person protected by the Bill and then be able to seek an order against that person in order to occupy the house himself or use it for one of his relatives. The identical principle is to be found in the 1968 Rent Act. When the noble Earl said that of course it does not apply to some, he is wrong if he is reading paragraphs (a), (b), (c) and (d) with the word "or" after each of them. If the son inherits, then this is a different situation again. He does not buy it and therefore he can get possession of it.
I am speaking for myself, and my understanding is that if he were buying it for his son then these two lines would operate and apply to all the categories above:and the landlord did not become landlord by purchasing the dwelling-house, or any interest in it, after 12th April 1976.I am sure the noble Earl, who is very knowledgeable about property, will agree that if there was not such a provision houses with sitting tenants could be bought at low value and after a period of occupation by the landlord and a relative sold profitably with vacant possession. This is not what Case IX is intended for, and the words the Amendment seeks to delete are there to prevent this particular speculative activity.
§ The Earl of KINNOULL
My Lords that is the bull point of my argument 701 which I thought the noble Baroness misunderstood last time. From reading what she said, I thought she implied that if a farmer bought a cottage already occupied and added it to his farm, it would come under the ambit of the farm and the Bill. I do not think that that is correct. If he buys a cottage almost as an investment, the tenant of that cottage will be protected under the Rent Act of 1968. That was the point I was trying to make.
§ Baroness BIRK
My Lords, subject to anything else to the contrary, I do not think that that would work in this case. As the noble Earl is aware, we start from different premises. Usually in the agricultural rent situation you start with either no rent or a nominal rent, and from a protected occupancy you have to become a statutory tenant. This is rather different from the usual case under the Rent Act. To give another example, if the landlord did not become landlord by purchasing (for example, the son was given it by the father) he could use Case IX, but the court would have discretion not to grant that order under paragraph 2. There they could quickly detect that there was a "fiddle". Where it does not involve giving and the family, it is necessary to have this safeguard.
In the Commons the Government extended the list of close relatives in Case IX by adding grandmothers and grandfathers to meet a request made by the Opposition in the other place. I mention this as an indication of our willingness to afford landlords reasonable grounds for repossession where there are family needs to be met. All one is saying is that after the publication of this Bill, the landlord—apart from the cases mentioned—is not in the situation that he would have been in if he had bought the house before publication of the Bill. That is clear and it is a safeguard which it is necessary to have in a Bill of this sort. I hope the noble Earl is now convinced and will withdraw his Amendment.
§ The Earl of KINNOULL
My Lords, I am grateful for that reply. I appreciate that it is a very technical point. I am not entirely happy that the point has been covered but I do not intend to press this Amendment. I do not favour a "fiddle", but I believe a farmer has a greater claim 702 to apply Case IX procedure than an ordinary landlord. His is the case of an industry, a food producing business, and in the previous stage of this Bill that was emphasised. Perhaps this point could be looked at again.
§ Baroness BIRK
My Lords, if I may go into the specific points the noble Earl raised, which are technical, I will write to him about them. I will look in Hansard in case there are some points I have not entirely covered.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ Baroness BIRK moved Amendments Nos. 22, 23, 24 and 25:
§ Page 39, line 33, leave out ("relevant licence or") and insert ("tenancy or, as the case may be, the original").
§ Page 40, line 4, after ("below") insert (""original tenancy", in relation to a statutory tenancy, means the tenancy on the termination of which the statutory tenancy arose").
§ Page 40, line 5, leave out ("relevant licence or") and insert ("tenancy or, as the case may be, the original").
§ Page 40, line 9, leave out ("relevant licence or") and insert ("tenancy or, as the case may be, the original").
§ The noble Baroness said: My Lords, these Amendments are drafting Amendments. They will bring the provisions of Cases XI and XII of Schedule 3 to the Bill in line with the other provisions of the Bill and the generalised definitions which at present appear in broadly similar terms in both Part II and Part III of the Bill. It makes it much more comprehensible and does away with one or two irregularities in drafting.
§ Clause 10 [Effect of determination of superior tenancy etc.]
Baroness BIRK moved Amendment No. 26:
Page 10, line 23, at end insert ("and in determining for the purposes of those subsections whether a long tenancy is a tenancy at a low rent, there shall be disregarded such part (if any) of the sums payable by the tenant as is expressed (in whatever terms) to be payable in respect of rates, services, repairs, maintenance or insurance, unless it would not have been regarded by the parties as a part so payable").
§ The noble Baroness said: My Lords, Clause 10 is about sub-tenants, and the Amendment deals with a case where the sub-tenant is protected by the Bill against his immediate landlord who in turn holds a long tenancy at a low rent from the head landlord. To achieve complete parity with the 1968 Rent Act, however, the Bill needs to make its definition of long tenancy at a low rent more precise than it does at the moment. The Amendment therefore makes the necessary additions by indicating what sums payable by the tenant are to be disregarded. I beg to move.
Baroness BIRK moved Amendment No. 27:
Page 10, leave out lines 24 to 27.
§ The noble Baroness said: My Lords, I beg to move this Amendment, which is consequential on Amendment No. 22.
§ Schedule 4 [Terms of the statutory tenancy.]
§ 5.40 p.m.
§ Lord MIDDLETON moved Amendment No. 28:
Page 42, line 5, at end insert—
("(4) It shall be a condition of the statutory tenancy that the tenant shall keep the interior of the dwelling-house in good decorative repair, and to deliver up the same at the end of the tenancy.").
§ The noble Lord said: My Lords, unlike the Amendments which have been designed to try to deal with the terrible problems we foresee when a man is stuck in a house which is needed for agriculture and the local authority will not house him, this Amendment will not cause any agonising problems because it is very simple. It is designed to deal with what appears to be a simple omission from Schedule 4. The Schedule sets out the terms of the statutory tenancy that will arise when a man who loses his job lives in a farm cottage and becomes a statutory tenant. This Schedule sets out the terms of that statutory tenancy. A similar Amendment was moved in Committee because it was felt that Schedule 4 did not make clear the statutory obligations on the tenant to keep the interior of his house in good 704 condition. Paragraph 6 of the Schedule sets out quite clearly the landlord's obligations as regards repair. Then in paragraph 7 are set out the tenant's obligations, but they contain no reference whatever to repairs.
At Committee stage, the noble Baroness pointed out that an implied obligation under a previous licence to use the premises in a tenant-like manner would be carried forward into the terms of the statutory tenancy, and that such an obligation was written into Schedule 4 in paragraph 4(2); and, indeed, that is so. But the terms of any normal tenancy agreement require a tenant to do a little more than use the premises in a tenant-like manner. That phrase has been held to mean that the tenant should refrain from damaging the property and if he damages the property, wilfully or negligently, then he should make good the damage: otherwise, he should do no more than merely, in the words of the noble and learned Lord, Lord Denning;
… take proper care of the place; turn off the water when he goes away; clean the chimneys: mend the electric fuses, unblock the sink, and so on.
§ However, that is not really sufficient. There is clearly a gap between this minimum obligation and the landlord's repair obligations, which are set out in paragraph 6 of the Schedule.
§ Those obligations are set out also in Section 32 of the Housing Act 1961, and that section lays upon the landlord the major share of repair liability. But that share does not include the liability of the landlord to keep the house in reasonable decorative repair. Neither does a covenant to keep the house in a tenant-like manner lay an obligation upon the tenant to carry out decorative repairs. So there is a gap. Decorative repairs are normally a tenant's obligation in any contract of tenancy, and I feel that Schedule 4 should be altered so as to set out clearly therein the normal tenant's obligation to carry out decorative repairs. That is what this Amendment seeks to do. It imposes no greater liability upon a statutory tenant than he would have under a statutory tenancy with for instance, a local authority over a council house. The extent of his repair obligation is clearly limited in the Bill by reference to the Housing Act 1961, but he would—and I think it is perfectly clear and reasonable—have to do 705 a bit more than merely to use the house in a tenant-like manner. I beg to move.
§ Baroness BIRK
My Lords, since we discussed the Amendment on this subject which was moved in Committee by the noble Earl, Lord Onslow, I have written to the noble Earl, Lord Ferrers, and his colleagues, and I gather that it has been seen by the noble Lord, Lord Middleton. The letter explained more fully the meaning to be attached to the obligation in paragraph 4 of Schedule 4 to use the premises in a tenant-like manner. As the noble Lord has been over the ground and obviously understands this very well indeed, I do not want to read out in full the relevant extract from the judgment of the noble and learned Lord, Lord Denning, since that has already been put on record in Committee proceedings in another place.
The noble Lord, Lord Middleton, however, did not seem to think it went far enough; but the noble and learned Lord, Lord Denning, indicated that in addition to doing the little jobs a reasonable tenant would do, he should repair any damage done by himself or his family. The noble and learned Lord, Lord Denning, went on to say:… apart from such things, if the house falls into disrepair through fair wear and tear or lapse of time or for any reason not caused by him, then the tenant is not liable to repair it.What I have just quoted represents the Government's view on this matter, and I would say to the noble Lord that his Amendment goes further than the judgment of the noble and learned Lord, Lord Denning, and certainly further than we would want to go. It pinpoints the difference between our views and those of the movers of this Amendment.
The Amendment requires the statutory tenant to keep the interior of the house in good decorative repair. That is unacceptable for two reasons. First, it puts an obligation on the tenant, irrespective of the decorative condition in which he finds the property. If the decorations were defective when he moved in, he would have to renew them even if the landlord had covenanted to do so, because that is what is contained in the Amendment. Secondly, the Amendment makes the tenant liable to make good fair wear and tear. That certainly goes beyond the judgment of the noble and learned Lord, 706 Lord Denning. It also goes beyond the normal, reasonable obligations of a tenant unless there is a specific agreement—and I think this is the important point—between the landlord and the tenant to that effect. That is then an entirely different case. Whatever the agreement under a protected occupancy, paragraph12, as I am sure the noble Lord is well aware, allows for such an agreement to be made under a statutory tenancy arising from the Bill.
I am rather surprised that noble Lords opposite should have come back to this point and that they are also going rather further than their colleagues in another place. I had hoped that the letter I sent to the noble Earl, Lord Ferrers, and his colleagues would have satisfied them on this point. I do not intend to read the letter, in order to save time, but I would hope they would reconsider the arguments and decide not press this Amendment.
§ Lord MIDDLETON
My Lords, with the leave of the House, may I ask who, under the statutory tenancy, is going to do the decorations?
§ Baroness BIRK
My Lords, if there is an agreement between landlord and tenant, the agreement will be valid; but what we are objecting to is that this places a blanket-type obligation on the statutory tenant to keep the interior of the dwelling house in good decorative repair. It does not indicate the state of repair it should be in when the tenant takes over. It also does not take note—which I think the noble Lord, Lord Denning, quite rightly made a point in his judgment—of what is normal wear and tear. It leaves far too great an obligation on the tenant and goes beyond any normal obligation unless—and I repeat—there is a special arrangement or agreement made for which provision is allowed in Schedule 4, paragraph 12, between the landlord and the tenant.
§ 5.51 p.m.
My Lords, we seem to have come up against a little more robust resistance. There is nothing sinister in this Amendment. All we are trying to do is to spell out that if a person has a statutory right to remain in a house he should keep the place in proper 707 decorative repair and not make it like a slum. Most people would not do so. The argument of the noble Baroness is, "That is fine: tenant-like repair is defined by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Denning". Of course, when you put something in a Statute you go by what the statute says, and not every person, I venture to suggest, not every solicitor, certainly not every farm worker, will know what the judgment of the noble and learned Lord, Lord Denning, was. Certainly I did not until I got the letter from the noble Baroness. To suggest that it would be wrong to say that it shall be a condition of the tenancy that the tenant shall keep the interior of the dwelling house in good decorative repair seems to me to be unduly touchy. I should not have thought there was anything wrong in putting this in. I thought this might have been a nice Amendment which the noble Baroness could willingly have accepted. I am sorry that she has not done so.
The Earl of CAITHNESS
My Lords, I am sorry that the noble Baroness has not accepted it. There is a difference between a repairing liability on a tenant farmer and the repairing liability on a statutory tenant. The normal tenancy agreement makes it a duty on the tenant farmer "to put, keep and maintain in good tenantable repair the premises"; that is, the house and the cottages. If lie has to put it into good tenantable repair and deliver up the same at the end of the tenancy, I can see no harm in this Amendment. It is only putting the obligation on to the statutory tenant in very much the same way as the obligation is on the tenant farmer at the moment. It is common practice that anything not included in paragraph 32 of the 1961 Housing Act is automatically classified as the tenant's responsibility, making due allowance for fair wear and tear, as my noble friend Lord Ferrers said. I therefore cannot see anything sinister about this Amendment. I think from everybody's point of view it would be considerably easier to implement in practice.
§ Lord BURNHAM
My Lords, if one goes outside agriculture, one finds that every fair rent certificate for a reputable tenancy—all those I have seen—states: 708landlord responsible for the main walls and roof, tenant responsible for interior decoration".In the case of an agricultural licensee, as he is at present, there probably are no written conditions under which he has the house. Such is the relationship between the farmer and his worker that it has never been thought necessary. It is therefore a question of what is an implied condition of the tenancy, which I think my noble friend's Amendment is designed to clear up.
§ Lord MIDDLETON
My Lords, may I answer two points made by the noble Baroness? On the question of putting an obligation on the tenant irrespective of the decorative state although I am not a lawyer I think there is plenty of case law that has established that no undue onerous duties to repair decorations should be put on a tenant if the place is in a very bad order or the roof leaks because of the landlord's fault. I think tenants are protected in that event. As to making good fair wear and tear, why should the tenant not do this? Every other tenant has to make good for his own comfort as well as for the state of the property.
I think Schedule 4 as it stands is clearly deficient, because although it covers most sorts of repairs it does not cover the kind of repairs, particularly decorative repairs, which are almost invariably incorporated in any tenancy agreement. I do not see why a statutory tenant who under this Bill becomes entitled to the protected tenancy of a farm cottage should be in a privileged position with regard to repairs compared with any other tenant. I am firmly convinced that this Schedule is deficient in that respect. However, although we think it is wrong, it is not a key point which we wish to make in this Bill. I am not going to press the Amendment. Clearly, if it remains in the Bill the sooner anyone comes to a classic agreement with his tenant rather than relying on the Bill he will be very well advised. I beg leave to withdraw the Amendment.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ 5.57 p.m.
Baroness BIRK moved Amendment No. 29:
Page 43, line 31, leave out from ("means") to ("in") in line 32.
§ The noble Baroness said: My Lords, with this Amendment I should like to speak to Amendments Nos. 30 and 38. This last Amendment inserts in Clause 20 a definition of rental period to cover the two cases in Clause 12 and Schedule 4 where this term arises. If it is for the convenience of the House I will move Amendment No. 29 and formally move Amendments Nos. 30 and 38 when we come to them. I beg to move.
Baroness BIRK moved Amendment No. 30:
Page 43, line 34, leave out ("(as so defined)")
§ Baroness BIRK moved Amendments Nos. 31 and 32:
§ Page 43, line 41, leave out ("at any time")
Page 43, line 42, at end insert—
("() An agreement under this paragraph may be made at any time, including a time before the beginning of the statutory tenancy.")
§ The noble Baroness said: My Lords, with the leave of the House, I will move Amendments Nos. 31 and 32 together. These are minor Amendments and make it clear that a landlord and tenant agreement to vary in writing the terms of the statutory tenancy can be reached at any time, including a time before the statutory tenancy begins. This makes it clearer and more precise. I beg to move.
§ Clause 13 [Provisional rents]
Baroness BIRK moved Amendment No. 33:
Page 12, line 32, after ("and") insert ("set out the landlord's calculation of that amount.
() The notice shall also specify")
§ The noble Baroness said: My Lords, with the leave of the House I move Amendment No. 33 and will speak to Amendments Nos. 35 and 37 at the same time. Amendment No. 33 provides that a landlord seeking to recover a provisional rent should in serving a notice of increase, set out how he has calculated the amount of rent due. This will help the tenant to check that the notice quotes the correct figures. Amendments Nos. 35 and 37 are drafting corrections. I beg to move.710
§ 6 p.m.
Lord MONSON moved Amendment No. 34:
Page 13, line 19, leave out ("1/") and insert ("1.75")
The noble Lord said: My Lords, the purpose of this Amendment is to provide a modicum of justice for the farmer who finds himself having to house someone who is now working for somebody else, while in no way producing an unfair result for the tenant during the interim period between the employee leaving his employ and the time when the fair rent is finally agreed—which may of course, be some time after the fair rent is first proposed, if it goes to appeal. It would appear that my objectives are exactly the same as those of the Government, because the noble Baroness, Lady Birk, said in Committee on 27th October at column 503:
… we have been concerned to achieve two aims. First, so far as possible the farmer should not be appreciably out of pocket during the interim period between the date when the statutory tenancy arises and the date from which he is able to charge a fair rent".—[Official Report.]
The second aim, if I may paraphrase it, is that a tenant should not find himself paying any more during the provisional period than he will ultimately pay after the fair rent is agreed.
§ Unfortunately, the noble Baroness went on to reject an Amendment moved by the noble Earl, Lord Onslow, which would have gone a long way to achieving these aims, the Amendment in Question being to apply a figure of twice the rateable value as a provisional rent, rather than 1.5 times the rateable value: on the basis, I would suggest, of outdated statistics, as I hope to demonstrate to your Lordships in a moment. I still feel that the noble Earl's Amendment was the right one and indeed if anything, a multiple of two was a little on the low side. However, in a spirit of compromise—perhaps appropriate to someone speaking, geographically, between the two Front Benches—I have split the difference so as to arrive at a multiple of 1.75 times the rateable value.
§ Now to the arithmetic. It has always been generally acknowledged that the gross value is equivalent to the minimum rentable value of any given property. The gross value which is the eqivalent of a house with a rateable value of £80 (that being the average for agricultural cottages, as the noble Baroness pointed out in 711 Committee) was £127 in 1973. Adding back the 10 per cent. which is automatically deducted for agricultural use, gives a minimum 1973 gross value—in other words, equivalent to the rentable value—for a house no longer in agricultural use of £141. This is already in excess of the £140 per annum which would result from my multiple of 1.75.
§ But this is not the end of the story, because we are all aware that the cost of living has risen by between 65 and 66 per cent. since 1973. Few of us are lucky enough to keep pace with inflation, and landlords of fair-rented accommodation are no exception. However, the noble Baroness may not be aware that fair rents outside Greater London have risen by 43 per cent. since 1973, so that if one uplifts the 1973 gross value of £141 by 43 per cent. it produces a current gross value—were it possible to revalue at this moment—of £202.
§ How does this figure of £202 compare with the fair rents that are being agreed at the moment? My fairly exhaustive inquiries have established that it is almost unheard of for a farm cottage, with all facilities, to be assigned a fair rent of less than £200; and that figure would apply to a fairly small farm cottage with perhaps two bedrooms, located quite a long way from the nearest town. From my personal experience with three former farm cottages where a fair rent has been agreed, I can testify that the fair rents in question were £210, £218 and £240 respectively. That is for attractive stone-built cottages, but with rooms smaller than those normally found in council houses, and with the bathrooms downstairs for reasons of space.
§ We must not forget the maintenance cost in which the farmer will be involved. On a house of this size, the annual insurance is likely to be about £19; the annual cost of external painting, averaged over seven years, provided he is lucky enough to live in a pollution-free part of the country, £21, and other maintenance and repair expenditure about £40, giving a total of £80. This is bad enough when deducted from a gross income of £200, but when deducted from £120 which is what the Government's figures would produce, it results in a net income of no more than £40. We must surely not forget that if a farmer has to build a new house for 712 the employee who is coming in to replace the man who has left, he is likely to have to spend between £14,000 and £15,000, excluding the cost of the land.
§ If he is lucky enough to be able to borrow from the bank at 15 per cent., which is highly unlikely, he will be faced with annual outgoings of interest on the loan of between £2,100 and £2,250. The only thing to balance against this is a net income of £40 from the house which is let at the interim rent. It is quite true that my Amendment would increase the net income to only £60, but every little counts. The Government's figures would produce a provisional rent of between 50 and 60 per cent. of the fair rent finally arrived at. If my Amendment is accepted, as I hope it will be, this would raise it, modestly, to between 57 and 70 per cent. My Lords, I beg to move.
§ 6.7 p.m.
§ The Earl of ONSLOW
My Lords, very briefly, I should like to support the Amendment of the noble Lord, Lord Monson. When we dealt with this point in Committee, the Government produced some figures which showed that there would be a considerable number of reductions when the fair rent came to be fixed; and, for the sake of charity, let us assume that the Government's figures are right, and that they have not been upstaged by the noble Lord, Lord Monson. But if the figure is 1.75, as opposed to 1.5, the dangers which they foresaw when they opposed my original Amendment in Committee would probably not arise, and there would not be what we all want to avoid, which is a harsh jump between the provisional rent and the fair rent.
§ Lord CLITHEROE
My Lords, I hope that the Government will pay attention to this Amendment, and will read carefully the report of what the noble Lord, Lord Monson, has said. I believe that a fairly strong case has been made out.
§ Viscount MASSEREENE and FERRARD
My Lords, I, too, should like to support this Amendment. This state of affairs has come about because agricultural cottages have always been very underrated in value, and that for the very good reason, as all noble Lords know, that when one has an agricultural worker one does not charge him any rent. Even 713 if one did, the figure is laid down in regulations and depends upon the accommodation, whether or not there is a bathroom and so on. Even if one charged rent—and, so far as I know, nobody does—it would be only about £1 a week at the most. I do not know whether the figure of 1.75 is correct, because I have not studied the matter sufficiently, but I believe that the noble Lord has a good point here.
My Lords, I do not expect I am alone in finding some difficulty in making comparisons between the various, sometimes conjectural, calculations which were mentioned at a previous stage. On that occasion, however, there seemed to be room for manoeuvre on the part of the Government towards the position suggested by the noble Lord, Lord Monson. I apologise to the House for the fact that I was not in my place when the noble Lord, Lord Monson, rose to move the Amendment. I was on the telephone at the time, but I came here as fast as I could because I wish to support the noble Lord's Amendment.
§ 6.10 p.m.
§ Baroness BIRK
My Lords, I have listened carefully to everything that all noble Lords who have spoken in support of the Amendment moved by the noble Lord, Lord Monson, have said and I had the opportunity to discuss it with him yesterday. This is a difficult, grey area—it is not a black and white one—to work out. I described the analysis upon which the figure of 1.5 is based in some detail in Committee and also in a letter to the noble Earl, Lord Ferrers, which I sent on 8th November and which the noble Lord, Lord Monson, has now seen.
I am not claiming that the analysis that we have made provides anything more than a rough and ready guide to the likely relationship between provisional and registered rents. I agree that because of the rating relief given to agricultural dwelling-houses the statistics we have analysed are not directly comparable with figures we can expect for Bill registrations, but the effect of taking rating relief into account is not likely to be particularly significant. The Opposition spokesman on housing in another place quoted in Committee a figure of 10 per cent. as being a standard deduction which 714 many valuation officers apply in valuing agricultural dwelling-houses, and this concurs with my understanding of the matter.
I quite appreciate that the noble Lord, Lord Monson, reaches a different conclusion. Without further examination I will refrain from offering a definitive view of the figures quoted by the noble Lord both in his letter to me yesterday and now in debate this afternoon. However, my initial reaction is that I could have no quarrel with them because of the grey area of "fuzz" surrounding all this. Nor do the figures seem to be incompatible with the analysis that we have made. However, the difference which exists between the noble Lord and myself stems from the fact that we do not start from the same premise.
Perhaps I may outline why, despite both reading and listening to the arguments put forward in Committee, in the letters I have received from noble Lords and now by the noble Lord, Lord Monson, and the noble Lords who support him, we prefer to retain the figure of 1.5. First, the concept of a provisional rent is quite a deliberate departure from the analogy of the Rent Act. If we followed the Rent Act model during the initial period of a statutory tenancy, the rent payable would be the same as under the preceding contract. In other words, and as most noble Lords have pointed out, there would be nothing at all in it. Instead, however, we introduced the concept of a provisional rent in order to help the farmer.
Secondly, in providing this help we deliberately aimed at bridging the transition for tenants between a nil or low rent to a full, fair rent. Our policy has been to keep to a minimum the number of tenants who will find themselves paying a higher provisional rent than a registered rent. I remember that in Committee the noble Earl, Lord Ferrers, showed his appreciation of that point, but it does not entirely mean that we are all agreed upon where we start from. The noble Lord starts from the basis that provisional rent levels in general should be closer to those of the eventual fair rents. It amounts to this. We have preferred to take fuller account than does the noble Lord of the need to bridge the increase in rent for the tenant, especially since we are 715 departing, so far as the tenant is concerned, from the Rent Act precedent.
I concede that in practice the difference between us may not be all that great. With a prescribed multiple of 1.5, some 5 per cent. of statutory tenants under the Bill could find that the provisional rent they had to pay turned out to be higher than the registered rent. Setting the prescribed multiple at 1.75, which is the purpose of the Amendment, may mean that this proportion could rise to around 15 per cent. This is a larger proportion than we should like to see put at risk in this way. I am not satisfied that any of us have been able to find enough precise figures, nor am I satisfied that we have enough precise experience to go on.
Having said that, I would not pretend for one moment that 1.5 is necessarily a definitive answer. As I have said, the analysis that we have made is, given the lack of data, rough and ready. Once the Bill comes into force we shall see to it that the relationship between registered rents and rateable value is monitored—this is absolutely essential—so that we have evidence on which to proceed. If necessary, the Secretary of State can adjust the prescribed multiple which is set out in the Bill. For the future, we are quite open-minded on the issue, although for the present, for the reasons I have given—which is a difference of emphasis and starting point rather than one of statistics—we prefer to retain the 1.5 figure. I hope therefore that the noble Lord will withdraw his Amendment.
§ 6.16 p.m.
§ Lord MONSON
My Lords, I am very grateful to the noble Baroness for her full explanation, but I am afraid that I am not at all happy with it. The noble Baroness mentioned the precedent of the Rent Act and implied that the Government are being very generous to farmers. But farmers are the only group of employers who are having their tied cottages taken away from them and let at what is still going to be a derisory rent under the fair rent system. Nobody who knows anything about property or rental values can deny that. That alone seems to be a case which should indicate a certain amount of generosity.
716 I cannot accept that except in freak cases my formula will produce any provisional rents that are higher than the ultimate fair rents. In fact, I do not believe that the noble Earl's multiple of two would have done so. I am absolutely certain about my figures. As the noble Baroness rightly said both today and in Committee, the Secretary of State has the power to vary the multiple. Politically it is much easier for a Secretary of State to reduce the multiple if it is too high—this goes for both a Conservative Secretary of State and a Labour one—than to raise it if it is too low. I am sure that when noble Lords and, indeed—
§ Baroness BIRK
My Lords, may I interrupt the noble Lord on that point, because it is a political one. I agree with the noble Lord that if a Labour Government put in a high multiple it would be easier for a Conservative Government to lower it. One cannot take away the political point; it depends upon which way you are looking at it and which Government have to make the first move. We are saying that we should prefer to start on what I agree may be the low side and, if necessary, go up rather than do what the noble Lord is putting forward—and it is a perfectly reasonable proposition —which is to start on the high side and come down. This is where we part company. It is not just a statistical point. It depends upon one's approach to the whole matter.
§ Lord MONSON
My Lords, I take the point, but I maintain that it is politically more acceptable for any Secretary of State to reduce rather than to raise a figure. Then it appears that he is taking the side of the popular tenant against the unpopular landlord. We all know the reality of this, unfair though it may be. If the noble Baroness and her Department and, indeed, honourable Members in another place study Hansard tomorrow and the figures I have given—because I have produced new ones which have not yet been discussed —I hope they will see that my case is rather better founded than the noble Baroness suggests. I think that the other place ought to be given an opportunity to look at the new multiple. If they reject it, well and good. I feel that I must test the opinion—
§ The Earl of ONSLOW
My Lords, with the leave of the House and before the noble Lord sits down, I would press him not to divide the House again because for one thing I cannot stand the sound of those Division Bells any more after being up all night, and in any case I do not think he will carry the House with him. The noble Baroness has given a very satisfactory answer so far as I am concerned, as somebody who moved the Amendment at the Committee stage.
My Lords, I rather wonder whether we cannot do something about this. There ought to be a bit of "give" somewhere. Certainly the noble Baroness said that 1.75 is not definitive. She said that twice the rateable value is too much because that meant that 30 per cent. of the people would be over that limit. I really would have thought that it is not a major point. The noble Baroness has said that 2 is unacceptable and she wants to stick to 1.5, and there has been substantial argument for 1.75. I would not have thought it was something we wanted to go to Division over, although if the noble Lord, Lord Monson, wants to do so, that is up to him. I should have thought this was a point on which the Government could have given just a little. I think I am right in saying that the noble Baroness said that if this Amendment were accepted 15 per cent. of the people in the survey might be paying more than the registered rent. Of course that equally means that 85 per cent. would be
§ paying less—and what is the figure that has been talked about? I think it is 20p a week, or something like that.
§ Baroness BIRK
My Lords, it does not necessarily mean that. It could mean that part of the 85 per cent. will be paying less but a greater number of them may be paying exactly the right amount.
§ Lord MONSON
My Lords, with the leave of the House, I am very sorry about this because the noble Baroness, Lady Birk, is always very reasonable. All I am seeking to do is to give another place a chance to study the figures when they read them in Hansard and to check them, perhaps, if they do not trust my word. Some of the figures have not been previously available. Of course I accept what the noble Earl, Lord Onslow, said but I, too, was up most of last night. The Conservative Benches have had a good run and I think just now and again the Cross-Benches must be allowed to "have a go". All I am trying to do is to see that the dice are loaded a little less against the farmer, in order to redress the balance slightly, and I should like to test the opinion of the House.
§ 6.25 p.m.
§ On Question, Whether the said Amendment (No. 34) shall be agreed to?
§ Their Lordships divided: Contents, 39; Not-Contents, 46.719
|Boothby, L.||Gray, L.||Northchurch, B.|
|Bradford, E.||Greenway, L.||Northesk, E.|
|Burnham, L.||Harmar-Nicholls, L.||Orr-Ewing, L.|
|Clitheroe, L.||Harvington, L.||Saint Oswald, L.|
|Cobham, V.||Hives, L.||Slim, V.|
|Coleraine, L.||Ilchester, E.||Somers, L. [Teller.]|
|Congleton, L.||Kilmany, L.||Strathclyde, L.|
|Cullen of Ashbourne, L.||Lloyd, L.||Strathspey, L.|
|de Clifford, L.||Mancroft, L.||Teviot, L.|
|Ebbisham, L.||Massereene and Ferrard, V.||Tranmire, L.|
|Ellenborough, L.||Monk Bretton, L.||Wakefield of Kendal, L.|
|Ely, Bp.||Monson, L. [Teller.]||Wise, L.|
|Falmouth, V.||Mottistone, L.|
|Ardwick, L.||Goronwy-Roberts, L.||Pannell, L.|
|Aylestone, L.||Greenwood of Rossendale, L.||Peart, L. (L. Privy Seal.)|
|Bacon, B.||Harris of Greenwich, L.||Peddie, L.|
|Beswick, L.||Henderson, L.||Pitt of Hampstead, L.|
|Birk, B.||Houghton of Sowerby, L.||Rhodes, L.|
|Brimelow, L.||Jacobson, L.||Shinwell, L.|
|Brockway, L.||Jacques, L.||Snow, L.|
|Castle, L.||Kaldor, L.||Stedman, B.|
|Champion, L.||Kirkhill, L.||Stewart of Alvechurch, B.|
|Collison, L.||Llewelyn-Davies of Hastoe, B.||Stone, L.|
|Cudlipp, L.||Lloyd of Hampstead, L||Strabolgi, L. [Teller.]|
|Davies of Leek, L.||Lovell-Davis, L.||Wells-Pestell, L.|
|Delacourt-Smith of Alteryn, B.||Mais, L.||Willis, L.|
|Donaldson of Kingsbridge, L.||Milner of Leeds, L.||Winterbottom, L.|
|Fisher of Rednal, B.||Murray of Newhaven, L.|
|Gordon-Walker, L.||Oram, L. [Teller.]|
On Question, Amendment agreed to.
§ 6.31 p.m.
Baroness BIRK moved Amendment No. 35:
Page 13, line 41, leave out ("landlord's estimate of that amount") and insert ("amount of the rent based on the landlord's estimate of that value")
§ The noble Baroness said: My Lords, I beg to move Amendment No. 35, which is consequential on Amendment No. 33.
§ Clause 14—[Application for registration of rent.]
Baroness BIRK moved Amendment No. 36:
Page 14, line 14, after ("45") insert ("47(3)")
§ Clause 17—[Notices of increase.]
Baroness BIRK moved Amendment No. 37:
Page 16, line 26, leave out from third ("the") to ("rateable") in line 27 and insert ("amount of the rent based on the landlord's estimate of the")
§ The noble Baroness said: My Lords, I beg to move Amendment No. 37, which is consequential on Amendment No. 33.720
§ Clause 20—[Interpretation of Part II.]
Baroness BIRK moved Amendment No. 38:
Page 17, line 19, at end insert ("'rental period means a period in respect of which a payment of rent, or in the case of a licence the equivalent of rent, falls to be made")
§ The noble Baroness said: My Lords, I beg to move Amendment No. 38. I have already spoken to this Amendment when speaking to earlier Amendments.
§ Clause 24—[Tenant sharing accommodation with persons other than landlord.]
§ Baroness BIRK moved Amendments Nos. 38A, 38B and 38C:
§ Page 19, line 8, at end insert ("then, subject to subsection (1A) below")
§ Page 19, line 11, leave out ("the following provisions of this section") and insert ("subsections (2) to (7) below")
Page 19, line 12, at end insert—
("(1A) Subsection (1) above shall not apply in relation to accommodation which would, apart from this subsection, be deemed to be a dwelling-house subject to a protected occupancy if—
§ The noble Baroness said: My Lords, I beg to move Amendments Nos. 38A, 38B and 38C, which have already been spoken to with the first batch of Amendments.721
§ Clause 27—[Jurisdiction and procedure.]
Baroness BIRK moved Amendment No. 39:
Page 21, line 17, leave out ("or II of this Act") and insert ("of this Act, or Part II of this Act except Part II of Schedule 3").
§ The noble Baroness said: My Lords, in moving this Amendment, I wish to speak to Amendment No. 40 as well. Under the Rent Act 1968, generally a landlord may seek to recover possession under one of the mandatory grounds in either the county court or the High Court, and may in either case claim costs. Under the Bill as it stands, he cannot make such a claim where he has undertaken proceedings in the High Court. This was never intended, and the Amendment ensures that he can make such a claim. I beg to move.
Baroness BIRK moved Amendment No. 40:
Page 21, line 20, leave out ("or II of this Act") and insert ("of this Act, or Part II of this Act except Part II of Schedule 3").
§ The noble Baroness said: My Lords, I beg to move Amendment No. 40.
§ Clause 28—[interpretation of Part III.]
Baroness BIRK moved Amendment No. 41:
Leave out Clause 28.
§ The noble Baroness said:My Lords, I beg to move Amendment No. 41.
§ Clause 29—[Applications to housing authority concerned.]
Lord GISBOROUGH moved Amendment No. 42:
Page 22, line 11, at end insert ("or a person who is retiring after not less than three years' service with the applicant").
§ The noble Lord said: My Lords, the object of this Amendment is to ensure that landowners and farmers are enabled to look after their retired workers, as in many cases they have done in the past. Perhaps the easiest way to think of this is to visualise two groups of houses, one of 722 which is a house in which it is vital to have a worker such as, for example, the person looking after the fish farm, or whatever it may be, on the site; and another house or group of houses, set away and therefore not of vital importance as to who lives there. Both these houses will belong to the same farmer. The farmer may have one resident worker in the important house, a worker who perhaps decides to become a lorry driver. But that house is needed, and so the farmer goes to the ADHAC and applies to have the lorry driver removed. A new worker will then move into house A, and almost certainly the farmer will have to house the lorry driver in house B. Sooner or later, the worker looking after the equipment and living in house A will retire. In turn, his house will be needed by a new worker. But instead of having the category B house in which to put the retired worker, the house will be occupied by the lorry driver, and so the retired worker will have to go to the council.
§ In many a country area such workers will be vitally associated with the village. They will be members of the village darts team. They will be associated with the countryside, and it seems most unreasonable, after possibly a lifetime's service with a farm in a particular part of the countryside, that these workers should have to leave that area in which the farmer would like to put them for their retirement because of the fact that a lorry driver is occupying the house intended for retirement. I do not think it is possible for the lorry driver to be removed. As the noble Lord, Lord Peart, said on Committee, it is a question of whether there is an agricultural need. Of course there is no agricultural need for the retired man to be housed in one of the tied houses. Therefore it will be very difficult, and probably impossible, to make room for him.
§ I think it is essential that farmers and landowners should be enabled to look after their retired workers who often have given long and faithful service. On occasions, it is possible to hold a house empty perhaps for a year, and no doubt the ADHAC will take this into account if someone were about to retire. But often the retirement may take place 10 years' hence, and it is unlikely that the ADHAC would agree that a house should remain empty for that length of time in 723 anticipation of retirement. At the moment, there are hundreds of retired workers in tied cottages. This is proved by the figures which have been put forward in this House. In the future, many of these houses will be filled with what one might describe as the lorry drivers.
§ The councils will therefore be responsible for housing the retired people, and the question is: where will they do so? In my own district there was a case only recently where a farm worker retired and the only place that the council could find for him was down in the very unattractive area where there were council houses free, miles away from the country where he wanted to live. Councils vary in sympathy. There are some agriculturally minded councils and there are many that are not agriculturally minded and who have less sympathy. I think this is going to end up with a great deal of hardship for the farm worker who has served well and finds himself shot out into the back of beyond.
§ I hope that the noble Lord who is to reply will be able to accept this Amendment, or at least accept the principle so that an Amendment can be put down at another stage; or, failing that, make it quite clear that the DOE circular to the local authorities will take in this question of precedence and make it quite clear that the retired worker has precedence over the lorry driver. I beg to move.
§ Lord SANDYS
My Lords, as I moved this Amendment at Committee stage, perhaps I may have the pleasure of supporting my noble friend Lord Gisborough, who has moved a parallel but slightly altered Amendment at this stage with almost exactly the same intention. At Committee stage the noble Lord, Lord Peart, in his reply, cast grave doubts on whether this was going to be possible. I do not say that he was unsympathetic, but he did cast very considerable doubts on the possibility. As my noble friend said, he mentioned the principal objection; that is, the total absence, so far as the noble Lord was concerned, of agricultural need.
I think my noble friend has a real problem here and a real point in his Amendment. I think I ought to start with the survey, both from the Consulta- 724 tive Document and also as shown up by the Arthur Rank Study. Of course, doubt has since been cast on some of the figures, but all the figures showed one principal finding, that the agricultural industry had a very fine record of retirement for their agricultural workers. It was somewhere between 18 and 20 per cent. That was very a high figure. My noble friend Lord Gisborough has drawn attention to the fact that there are quite a substantial number of empty cottages, or there could be a substantial number of empty cottages in the future. There does seem to be very little elbow room, however.
One possibility is the use of the North Wiltshire scheme, but it has been stressed in this House before now that not all local authorities are willing to undertake the North Wiltshire scheme, although this scheme is favoured by the Department of the Environment and the noble Baroness has given currency to the validity of this scheme in particular cases. However, there are considerable problems here. My noble friend Lord Gisborough identified one straight away. The date of retirement may be perhaps 10 or more years away, and it may be difficult for a local authority to say it is a short term let if they are obliged to let in fact for a very much longer period than on a year to year basis. I hope that the noble Lord, Lord Peart, may have some new advice to give, because I am sure that he will recognise that there is a problem for the industry and that it goes very wide. In a large number of cases farmers will wish to make provision for their retired workers.
My noble friend Lord Monk Bretton referred to this, I thought, in particularly felicitous phrases in his remarks at col. 560 on Committee on 27th October. I hope the Government can address themselves to this situation, which in a way is somewhat parallel to Amendment No. 20. I think my noble friend Lady Elliot laid stress on the need for a half-way house. The interface between two irreconcilable positions is something we find all too easily in legislation, but there may be a half-way house that we can find here. I hope that perhaps my noble friends in advancing their arguments may be able to find it.
§ Lord PEART
My Lords, if I may say so, the noble Lord, Lord Gisborough, 725 and the noble Lord, Lord Sandys, have put their case in a sensible way, but I think they both realise that there are difficulties here. This is not an easy matter. Indeed the noble Lord, Lord Sandys, said that there were considerable problems facing us, and he talked later about a half-way house. I say that to the noble Lord, Lord Gisborough, as well. I understand and I recognise the arguments they have put forward and the spirit in which they have put them forward. I understand the thought which lies behind this Amendment, which after all, will affect, I agree, the fabric of a rural community revolving around a village where agricultural workers live and work and may want to continue to live in retirement.
I understand the lorry driver argument which has been mentioned. But there is a real problem here. I appreciate the motivation. The agricultural community is justly proud of the effort which it makes on behalf of its retired workers. Mention has been made of a report. Some 20,000 retired workers or their widows are at present housed in farm cottages. This figure alone is a testimony to the concern which is not only felt but translated into practice in the farming world. So I do understand the arguments. I hope noble Lords opposite will not think that I am being negative when I say this. I understand why the noble Lord, Lord Gisborough, and the noble Lord, Lord Sandys, have suggested changes to the Bill.
I of course take the point that a farmer, or any other employer for that matter, would prefer, if the choice were put to him in such terms, to accommodate a retired worker in a house occupied by an ex-employee with whom relations might perhaps be strained. I understand this argument. But the Amendment tabled by the noble Lord does not, I am afraid, allow for the choice to be put in quite this way, since there are other factors to be taken account of. One of these factors, and a fundamental one, if the Bill is to work as we intend, is that the applicant has to show that re-housing is required on grounds of agricultural need. This is my worry. I will be quite frank with the noble Lords.
I perfectly well understand that, as a matter of policy as well as of good will, a farmer might choose to provide for his 726 former employees as best he can, and the Bill actually encourages him to do this by ensuring that he looks to his own accommodation before asking the local authority to re-house a former worker. This, as noble Lords know, is provided for in Clause 29(1)(b). What the noble Lord, Lord Gisborough, has in mind cannot be achieved without breaching a fundamental principle of the Bill. I have looked very carefully at this matter; indeed he approached me about it, quite rightly. In the end I am afraid I have come to that conclusion. I am sympathetic and I understand this problem, but we would be breaching a fundamental principle, that there has to be agricultural need before the re-housing obligation can arise.
I should like also to make one other point to the noble Lords. The Amendment as drafted covers workers who are to retire and who are not housed on the farm. If they are not housed on the farm they must be housed somewhere else; possibly in houses they own themselves or in council houses, or indeed in privately rented houses. So it really would not be reasonable to lay down in Statute that a local authority must provide housing for someone at public expense so that someone else, already adequately housed, should be able to live in accommodation owned by his ex-employer.
§ Lord GISBOROUGH
My Lords, that may be the result of the Amendment, but it is certainly not the intention.
§ Lord PEART
My Lords, I know the intentions of the noble Lord. All I am saying is that I think the Amendment, if it was passed, would have the effect that I am trying to explain. This is one of the difficulties. I was hoping to say—and should have loved to say to the noble Lord, Lord Gisborough, who made his case clearly and eloquently—that he had convinced me. But I feel that I would be breaching what is a main principle behind the Bill itself.
I sympathise with the thinking that lies behind this Amendment, which I agree reflects admirably a notably attractive facet of agricultural life, and rural life. Although I cannot go along with what the Amendment would actually achieve, I hope that my comments will be sufficient to persuade noble Lords not to press their Amendment. I could not 727 promise looking at it again. I know that sometimes it is an easy get-out for a Minister to say that he will look at it, and then probably come to another decision. But there are arguments about this, and there will inevitably be circulars emanating not from my old agricultural Ministry but from the Department of the Environment, and I could not give a specific assurance. I understand the motivation behind the Amendment, but I ask noble Lords not to press it.
§ Lord SOMERS
My Lords, may I ask the noble Lord the Leader of the House whether it is not proved that there are a greatly increased number of empty cottages on most farms now owing to farmers having to cut down the numbers of their workers owing to costs?
§ Lord PEART
My Lords, I do not get that impression. Indeed, the argument we have had on this Bill is that one of the great problems is to get extra accommodation. The noble Lord cannot have it both ways. There is no question of empty farmhouses all over the countryside. I do not see that. I certainly do not see it in Cumbria. If other noble Lords have another experience, I should he rather surprised.
My Lords, I understand the noble Lord's reply and the difficulty in which he has found himself. The trouble is that the Government are always bound to fall back on the rigidity of having to stick to the principle of the Bill. When one sticks permanently to the principle of the Bill, it throws up anomalies such as this and throws up to a certain degree some form of almost inhumanity, and I think that that is a pity. We understand that the noble Lord realises the problem, but one only wished that it was possible to be slightly more flexible in order to accommodate some other people such as those my noble friend Lord Gisborough has mentioned, who really ought to be looked after and accommodated and not prejudiced because of sticking to the principle of the Bill.
§ Lord PEART
My Lords, the principle is important. After all, there must be principles behind the Bill. One is not being dogmatic. What is it—"Man's 728 inhumanity to man?" I do not know whether the noble Earl has ever read that radical book, but I agree that we should not be inhuman. Of course not. But it is a difficult problem here because we have to stress the importance of agricultural need. After all, that is what the Bill is about. I hope it will work sensibly. Let us see. I am a pragmatist.
§ Lord GISBOROUGH
My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Peart, for the care which he has taken to answer this question, and I am naturally sorry that he cannot be more helpful still and accept it. It does not affect the farmer at all or the landowner directly, where his retired man goes. It is entirely a matter affecting the retired worker, and it is he who will suffer—and I think suffer hardship, particularly in many rural areas—and I am sorry about this. I suggest also that it will not be very long before the agricultural union will themselves be pressed to do something about it. I hope that the noble Lord will be able to do something in the way of a D of E circular to try to take care of it in that direction. I beg leave to withdraw the Amendment.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ 6.56 p.m.
§ Lord MONK BRETTON moved Amendment No.43:
Page 22, line 17, at end insert—
("(1A) An application may be made by the owner of land used for agriculture to the housing authority concerned ("the authority") on the ground that—
§ The noble Lord said: My Lords, I have studied with considerable care everything that was said about Clause 29 at the Committee stage. Clause 29 of course refers to the grounds upon which an application can be made to the local authority to provide a house. We had a 729 previous Amendment which was the one to delete paragraph (b) from subsection(l). That Amendment was withdrawn. I still remain unhappy about this matter long term, and I put down an Amendment of a different sort in order to try to get a bit further with this problem.
The paragraph it was sought to remove says:
The applicant is unable to provide, by any reasonable means
a house. I think it was recognised during the Committee discussions that this was pretty tough. It hinged very much upon the word "reasonable". We gathered that it was to be softened somewhat by the kind of instruction the ADHACs would eventually receive. These instructions are not going to be known by everyone. They do not have the force of law. The Bill at the moment states that the ADHACs' function is merely advisory.
§ I gather from what was said about this problem that there was considerable likelihood that more houses than were at present being used by agricultural workers and retired agricultural workers might well be drawn into the vortex, as it were, by this Bill. Whether more houses or not more houses, it still also remains apparent that there is no great possibility of the burden of the number of houses that agriculture, as an industry, provides being lessened at all as time goes on. It is this factor which worries me, because the results are going to be as follows. There is first this heavy burden on the industry. I am not sure that it is right to place too heavy a burden, and certainly not to increase that burden.
§ We know that other industries do not carry a burden of this kind. Agriculture has always had to do so for a number of very good reasons, and probably always will. But there is some question as to the extent to which that should go. It has a bearing upon the cost of food and similar matters. I am not sure that it is quite fitting and proper that the matter of the extent of that burden upon agriculture should be decided by the local authorities alone with advice from the ADHACs. So that is the matter of the housing burden.
§ The other point which worries me particularly is that I fear a collapse in the motivation to maintain or improve the housing on holdings which is not occupied 730 any more by workers on the holdings. Furthermore, I fear greatly that there may be virtually no motivation whatever left to build a house.
§ The next point I want to mention is that owner-occupiers, particularly the smaller ones, periodically have need to try to raise more capital. It is becoming increasingly difficult for them to do this, and in many cases probably the only course left is to sell with vacant possession an unwanted—that is, unwanted by agriculture—cottage. I suppose that there may be arguments as to whether or not they should have a right to do this. It is their property, and equity capital for agriculture must come from somewhere. This is a matter that must be emphasised greatly. There are appalling difficulties in getting it at all. I cannot emphasise that too much.
§ Inability to obtain equity capital in this way will probably lead to attempts to borrow too much and there are strict limits to the distance that one can go down that road, particularly at the moment. I think that what will happen is that a considerable number of owner-occupiers will feel that the Bill is not as just as it should be to them in that the local authorities are being enabled to acquire a greater housing reserve at the expense of the industry. This is all fairly unhappy, and I am also reminded that in previous Rent Acts there has been a failure to leave owners with a motivation to maintain, and it would be a great help to avoid a repetition of that mistake. I am sure that in the end it caused considerable waste. It placed an extra burden on local authorities. It was an unhappy situation.
§ I wonder how we can attempt to put this right. I have put down the Amendment, which is a very tentative affair. The noble Lord may feel that it looks rather fierce, but I do not want him to become antagonistic at once before I have explained it. First, it was rather difficult to get the Amendment drafted and that is why it has taken rather a long time. It has been put down in rather a hurry. I should point out the pressure that there has been at this time on those people who have both legal knowledge and agricultural knowledge. They have had to work extremely hard, and this must be remembered while we are having these long sittings.731
Broadly speaking, the Amendment limits the liability of the industry to provide only two-thirds of the agricultural housing need. I am not sure whether that is right, but I hope that the noble Lord and the House will realise that this proportion could readily be varied; and the operative part of the Amendment is paragraph (b). There is the possibility of an alternative wording altogether for paragraph (b). One might say and this is in the vernacular, without all the legal necessities—that the number of dwelling-houses on land used by the applicant for agriculture exceeds the number of wholetime employed adult workers reasonably needed for agricultural purposes. That might be used in paragraph (b) as opposed to the words in my Amendment. One could add to this the words:
…or exceeds by over X per cent. or under X per cent.
§ I am not quite sure what the right formula might be, but I am most anxious that there should be discussion about this, because I believe that there should be a limit, even if it is a high one, to the amount of housing which agriculture is committed to providing indefinitely. If there is the possibility occasionally of being able to recover a house on the grounds as suggested, that would restore hope immediately and it might produce a willingness to build; it is much more likely to produce a willingness to maintain. I think that that should explain roughly what I am seeking. I very much hope that the Government will consider this proposal with very great care, because if the Bill is to be at all a success it is very important that we should watch the long term aspects as well. No doubt Amendment No. 20 was a crunch that had to be decided, but this is a long term matter which I feel sure will eventually be of very great importance. I beg to move.
§ Lord MONSON
My Lords, I rise very briefly to support the Amendment of the noble Lord, Lord Monk Bretton. I found his doubts about the medium and long-term effects of Clause 29—specifically subsection (1)(b)—very persuasive, and although I cannot pretend to understand his somewhat complex Amendment in its entirety, I hope that the Government will give it very serious attention before the next stage.
§ Lord PEART
May I say to the noble Lord, Lord Monson, and to the noble Lord, Lord Monk Bretton, that I take all Amendments seriously. One must, I can assure them. After all, one has to look at the Bill again and read the implications, naturally. But I think the noble Lord gave his case away, because he admitted that his Amendment was a tentative affair. I thought that was a strange way in which to introduce an Amendment and to try to persuade a Government to accept it. There are long-term implications, of course, but he said it was a tentative affair. Then he went on to talk about other matters, which I am not going to deal with, about there being no motivation left to build houses. I do not accept that. That is a personal and subjective judgment which he has, and he will not expect me to reply to it.
I believe that the Amendment is unacceptable. I must say that the basic principle of the Amendment confirms that. The Amendment would mean that in certain circumstances a local authority would be obliged to rehouse a person covered by the Bill even though the applicant could reasonably be expected to provide suitable alternative accommodation himself. During debates in Committee I accepted that there could be cases where it would be unreasonable for a farmer to provide suitable alternative accommodation, even though he had an empty house available. I can remember the point raised by the noble Baroness, Lady Sharpies, which I dealt with in Committee, as noble Lords will remember. It is reported in Hansard, columns 565 and 567, of the 27th October. In fact, I wrote to the noble Baroness. She raised the very same point that has been raised tonight; that is, where a farmer wanted to keep an empty cottage available for a worker who was to retire in the foreseeable future. I can only say that I could not accept the proposition that a local authority should be obliged to provide suitable alternative accommodation even though the applicant could reasonably provide it himself. Hence—I am sorry to say this—I must advise that the Amendment be rejected
§ Lord MONK BRETTON
I do not know whether everyone would agree with the noble Lord, Lord Peart, about this 733 question of motivation over repair. Personally, it continues to worry me, and it would take a great deal to persuade me differently. So far as concerns my moving the Amendment in a tentative fashion, as I said, what I meant was that I did not wish to press it at this stage as it was, but hoped that it would induce discussion. I should, I think, like to return to it, and I would have infinitely preferred to return to it with as much co-operation from the Government Front Bench as might be available—and the more the better.
There is one point that I should have referred to in moving this Amendment, and that is that my Amendment does not mention one other point that I think might well come into the picture and should be discussed. That is, if, on the ground I propose, a farmer applied for a house to be provided by the local authority, this should be done under thoroughly extended notice, by which I mean three years or so, possibly more. That, at least, would get us out of the present period, where it is obvious that if the Bill is to work satisfactorily there has to be as many houses as possible. We are very short of houses, too, and we are not in a very good position to provide more. One would hope that if the matter were put off in that way for a little longer, then perhaps, by then, there would be oil flowing from the North Sea and the Government might have solved their problems. A Government, I hope, will have done so by then. I will not speculate what Government, but I believe we shall eventually get ourselves straight as a country and in a better way. So I would mention this matter of extended notice. That would enable everyone, the local authorities particularly, to plan, and for needs to be assessed and the matter got straight by degrees.
There is one other thing I should like to mention. The noble Lord, Lord Peart, referred to the words "reasonably able to provide". One of the worries I have about the word "reasonable" is that I do not believe that, supposing this were to get into the courts, the phrase, where it is in the Bill at the moment, would be construed as meaning financially. I think it would be construed as meaning physically. I think "reasonably" would mean whether there was in fact a house available. If there was a house available but the 734 problem was the farmer's financial ability, I do not believe that word would cover it. I have received some legal advice to the effect that there is doubt about that, and that is one of my reasons for concern. Having said that, I think I have made the matter clear and, with leave, I should like to withdraw this Amendment.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ Clause 30 [Duty of housing authority concerned]:
§ 7.17 p.m.
§ Lord MIDDLETON moved Amendment No. 44:
Page 23, line 7, at end insert—
("(3A) The advice of the committee on the question of agricultural need for the provision of suitable alternative accommodation shall be conclusive.").
§ The noble Lord said: My Lords, when I moved a similar Amendment in Committee the noble Lord, Lord Peart, was kind enough to say that he sympathised with the spirit of the Amendment, but in resisting it he argued, first—and this was on the suggestion that local authoritie s might question the advice provided by the ADHAC—that local authorities could be expected to behave like reasonable men. He also said that local authorities can be expected to welcome independent advice on agricultural aspects without question. I only wish I shared the noble Lord's optimism on both those points. I am afraid I can think of plenty of examples, both within and outside the range of my own local government experience, where local authorities do not behave like reasonable men and where they ignore independent advice—and agricultural advice, at that.
§ Secondly, the noble Lord argued that a circular would be sent to local authorities, and the circular would say, in effect, that in practice ADHAC advice can be expected to be authoritative on agricultural matters, and they should not as a general rule want to call it in question. The noble Lord told us that the circular would indicate that if a local authority had any reason to call it in question, then the agricultural wages committee chairman who appointed the ADHAC should be consulted, so that the matter could be further considered. I feel that that procedure is too loose altogether. Local authorities will get a 735 circular. They can, presumably, ignore that perfectly well, if they are so minded. If the circular is worded in the way envisaged by the noble Lord, Lord Peart, then it may well be in rather vague terms, and where there is disagreement on ADHAC advice the whole thing is going to be referred to the agricultural wages board chairman. He will presumably consult the ADHAC which considered the question; the regional officers of the Ministry of Agriculture will no doubt be called in; perhaps another ADHAC will be set up for another hearing on the same case; and a matter which may be vitally related to agricultural efficiency and the maintenance of food production may well get bogged down for a considerable time.
§ Thirdly, the noble Lord argued that a local authority must retain the final responsibility for deciding on the allocation of council housing. That, of course, I accept entirely. It was in no way the intention of that Amendment to provide that ADHACs should take upon themselves, and away from local authorities, any responsibility in housing matters.
§ Lest there should have been any doubt about this, I withdrew that Amendment in order to try to produce a more acceptable one. The intention of this Amendment is not to take away or diminish the housing responsibility of the local authority. The final responsibility for deciding from the allocation of housing remains with the local authority. What it does provide is that the advice of ADHAC as to what is in the interests of agriculture should be conclusive. That advice may well be turned down by a local authority; but it cannot be the intention of the Government that a recommendation as to the degree and urgency of the need to rehouse made by a committee specifically set up under this Bill can be tossed around and thrown back for endless reconsideration. The noble Lord, Lord Peart, has told us that circulars would be sent telling local authorities that ADHAC advice should be authoritative. How much better to have it spelled out in the Bill. I beg to move.
§ Baroness BIRK
My Lords, I am afraid it falls to me to resist the noble Lord's Amendment; but it shows the great unanimity between the Ministry of Agricul- 736 ture, Fisheries and Food, and my own Department. There is no split about this. I appreciate the noble Lord has come back with a different proposition. Leaving subsection (5) intact makes a considerable difference. The intention in the Bill, carefully spelled out in subsection (5), is that the local authority shall take full account of any advice tendered by the Committee. In any legal proceedings relating to the duties imposed on the authority, evidence shall be admissable of the advice so given. That seems to be a very good built-in pointer—although I think that it is firmer than that—to the local authority. I think that we are absolutely at one that the people to give advice on agriculture and need must be the ADHAC.
The only point at issue is whether it should be put into the Bill in what is a fairly rigid way. Do not let us forget, that this is going to be a new set-up, that I ADHAC will give their advice which will be taken by the local authorities. There can be the odd occasion where there may be two ADHACs called together in a region where there are fairly similar cases are put to them and where different answers come out. The local authority may have to make a decision on those on housing grounds where it will be difficult in fact and in law to be able to distinguish entirely the ingredients of agriculture from the housing ingredients.
One must also accept that particularly when setting up something new, the odd mistake can be made and new evidence or facts can come along. I do not think that anyone would want to shut the door firmly when at the beginning of what is a new experience.
I think that the noble Lord with his knowledge of local authorities will agree that there is something substantial to the argument which I am going to put now. What we want to see is a relation between ADHAC and local authority so that as far as possible the available housing resources are best used and that agriculture gets its share as quickly as possible. To do that one wants an atmosphere of cooperation rather than saying at the beginning that something should be conclusive—which is what is meant by the words of the noble Lord's Amendment—in any circumstance and on every occasion. That, as I see it, is the difference between us.
737 There can he a case where the Committee may advise that an incoming worker is needed for a farm and in their judgment the farmer will not be able to obtain the worker's services unless accommodation is provided. This is an agricultural need. At the same time, there may be a demand on perhaps one unit of accommodation—a need for the dairy herd which will come trampling through the Bill shortly—for housing a stock man. It may be that the agricultural needs in those cases may be equal. Then the local authority may be left in the situation of an arbiter. It could be argued then that what they are asked to do is not entirely on housing—although obviously this must be taken into consideration, as must their own homeless et cetera—that they are involved in these particular cases in having to make what is almost a quasi-agricultural decision, having had all the evidence put to them by ADHAC who then say, "This is over to you. So far as we are concerned in these cases there is an equal agricultural need".
The local authority will have to take into account other factors. I think it is difficult to make in practice in this situation such a very stern segregation. For this reason and in order to allow flexibility, I am afraid I am going to resist the noble Lord's Amendment.
If one finds as the scheme gets under way very real problems arising between the giving of ADHAC advice and its reception by the local authority, and that there is a need for tighter wording I think that should be considered. To do so at this point would be a mistake. Certainly the Government feel this, from the point of view of the two Departments concerned in this Bill. I hope the noble Lord, although he has put it twice, will see fit to withdraw the Amendment.
The Earl of CAITHNESS
My Lords, one of the things I dislike is advisory committees. I find in this present time when the farmers are busy and the farm-workers are busy they must go on this committee; yet the local authority can say that they do not take this advice or that they query it. I am concerned about the composition of these committees. Therefore I support my noble friend's Amendment. I think it will encourage the proper people to serve on those committees.
§ Lord MIDDLETON
I am grateful for the reply by the noble Baroness, but I am not really happy about it. She says it is absolutely essential—and I agree—to get an atmosphere of co-operation between the ADHACs and the housing authorities: but I do not think you will get much encouragement of co-operation with the local authorities if they disagree with the agricultural advice—and I think it is going to be agricultural advice mainly—and they toss it back. This will not encourage co-operation.
§ Baroness BIRK
My Lords, there is another side to this. To the local authority that is besieged by housing demands and is anxious because of the Bill and the needs of agriculture to give priority in certain areas, it will be an advantage for it to be able to say: "This is the advice given by ADHAC which was set up for this purpose". As the noble Lord knows, when a family in an area where there is a long housing list gets a house, others feel badly about it and that it should have been their turn. A local authority will want to lean on the agricultural need in these cases. The ADHAC will be willing to take advice. The cases I gave will be pretty rare, but I was saying that we had to leave the door open because of that.
§ Lord MIDDLETON
My Lords, I still think that it will be pointless to create advisory committees for a specific job, and every time they do that job the housing authority is going to be able to say that they have not done it properly. This can happen. An assessment of agricultural problems has been made—not housing problems but specifically agricultural problems—arising out of an occupier staying fast in a key worker's house. This is after the case has already been examined in minute detail by the advisory committee. What the noble Baroness is saying is that the argument seems to turn upon whether advice in a circular is as effective as a section in an Act. I do not believe it is. I do not intend to press the Amendment, because it is sufficient to draw the attention of the Government to the necessity that proper emphasis should be laid on the role of the ADHAC and the authoritativeness of their findings. This should be incorporated in all Government instructions. I beg leave to withdraw my Amendment.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.739
§ 7.32 p.m.
Baroness BIRK moved Amendment No. 45:
Page 23, line 19, leave out from ("dwelling-house") to ("are") in line 21 and insert ("within three months of their receiving the application or, if an application is made for the services of a committee under section 31 of this Act, within two months of their receiving the committee's advice.
(6A) The notification shall state—
(a) if the authority").
§ The noble Baroness said: My Lords, I move Amendment No. 45. It may be helpful and save time if I mention Amendments Nos. 46 and 47 which stand in the name of the noble Earl, Lord Kinnoull, as they are part and parcel of the same matter. The effect of the Government Amendment (No. 45) would be to provide that local authorities must notify their decisions on applications within three months or, if ADHAC advice has been sought, within two months of that advice being provided. Since ADHACs should normally be able to provide advice within one month, these two limits are effectively the same. The Association of District Councils have agreed to this Amendment. They are happy with it and would be rather concerned if one made the time any shorter.
§ Regarding the point about putting a time factor in, which arose when I listened very carefully to all the arguments on Committee, I think that a complete case has been made out for it. We are now discussing whether it should be two months or three months. We are proposing three months. We are also intending to advise ADHAC in the guidelines we give them to submit their reports to local authorities in normal circumstances within 28 days.
§ Thus whether or not there is advice from a committee, the overall time limit for a decision will in practice be three months. Of course we all hope that the decision will be reached more quickly. Three months will be the maximum rather than the norm. I should not want three months to become the normal time. If we write in a statutory time limit we have to be careful that we allow for the cycles of committee meetings and for any delays in the case of the ADHACs where they want more information, so one is not always tripping over excesses in the time factor which bring the whole 740 thing into disrepute. That is why I do not think it would be reasonable to have a shorter time limit. I think the fact that the Association of District Councils feels that this is about right is something of which we should take notice. I hope the noble Earl will withdraw his Amendments on the basis of the one I am moving on behalf of the Government.
§ 7.35 p.m.
§ The Earl of KINNOULL
My Lords, it is a rare event to be joined by the noble Baroness on a group of Amendments. I hope that our honeymoon will not be too short. I am not only concerned with this time scale. I should like quickly to run through the whole time scale of the procedure. Under this clause, probably the matter is triggered off by the owner notifying the authority that he wishes to gain possession. Then the authority has seven days in which to notify the occupier. The first point I suggest to the noble Baroness is that it will make it much simpler if the owner, at the time of notifying the authority had to notify the occupier. That happens under the planning applications. That is my first point.
Then the authority, the occupier, the owner or all of them together, can seek advice from that unattractively named committee, ADHAC. There is no time limit set within which they must seek advice. This is something that must be looked into. There should be a time limit as there is under planning. Then ADHAC considers the case and reports to the authority. ADHAC sends copies of its recommendation to the owner and occupier. There is no time limit by which time ADHAC has to report. Even though the Amendment of the noble Baroness seeks to insert a time limit on the authority, there will not be a time limit on ADHAC. This point should be looked into. I referred to two months in my Amendment because I believe there is a case for that time limit. There is nothing between us; we all want speed in these decisions. If one looks at other cases in which authorities are under a duty to decide on something, if one looks, for instance, at planning, the period is two months. I submit that a planning application is a great deal more complicated than what we have to consider now.
741 If one looks at social service legislation, I am advised again that the authorities have to decide in a much shorter period, probably a month. There is no case that I can find where three months applies. I am sure the noble Baroness will agree that the whole issue in testing this period of time is to look exactly at what ADHAC has to do and what the authorities have to do. How complicated is it? How difficult will it be to reach a decision? I believe that the matter will be very simple, even for an Englishman or Welshman; of course it does not apply to Scots. It is a comparatively simple issue in the interests of efficient agriculture. It is for that reason that I ask the noble Baroness to look again at the time limit. I should like to thank her for listening to us during the Committee stage and for putting forward this helpful Government Amendment. Perhaps she would look again at the time-scale of her Amendment and other periods I have mentioned. I do not intend to press my Amendment. I hope to get some undertaking from her that she will look at this matter again.
My Lords, may I thank the noble Baroness for having taken note of the points made during Committee stage and for having brought forward this Amendment which meets the points we raised. We are appreciative of that, and although the words in the Amendment are "three months", some local authorities may be able to provide the answer in less than three months.
§ 7.41 p.m.
The Earl of KINNOULL had given Notice of his intention to move as an Amendment to the Amendment, Amendment No. 46:
Line 2, leave out ("three") and insert ("two").
§ The noble Earl said: My Lords, before this Amendment is taken, may I get an undertaking from the noble Baroness that she will agree to look again at the time scales?
§ Baroness BIRK
My Lords, I am willing to look at them, but I would ask the noble Earl not to be too optimistic about the result. I have been into the arguments before and I would just say finally that it is in the interests of the farmer and the farm worker to go to the ADHAC right 742 away. As regards the other points raised by the noble Earl, I hope he will be guided by the wise words of his noble friend Earl Ferrers, who, I thought, put the matter extremely well as regards the question of time.
§ The Earl of KINNOULL
My Lords, my noble friend always speaks wise words; and as I understood it, he was thanking the noble Baroness. I do not move the Amendment.
§ 7.42 p.m.
§ Earl FERRERS moved Amendment No. 48:
Page 23, line 34, at end insert—
("() Where an agriculture dwelling-house advisory committee advises that in the interests of efficient agriculture there is urgent need for the provision of suitable alternative accommodation, and the authority has been unable to provide such accommodation within three months from the date of the advice, the applicant shall have the right to use land in his occupation as a site for a caravan for an agricultural worker without any requirement for a site licence under the Caravan Sites and Control of Development Act 1960, and without planning permission, until such time as suitable alternative accommodation is provided by the local authority.").
§ The noble Earl said: My Lords, we come back to another Amendment which tries to get over this problem of rehousing people. So far, we have not found very much give in the Government this afternoon. Most of the briefs must have had "Resist" on them. I should like to ask the noble Baroness whether she will forget that word "Resist" and listen, as I am sure she will, to the argument. I hope she will find that it is slightly persuasive. I apologise to noble Lords for the fact that I may be a little difficult to hear: my voice, for some extraordinary reason—despite this Bill, or perhaps because of it—seems to have lost its security of tenure, at least momentarily.
§ This Amendment tries to resolve the problem of providing accommodation on the farm for an incoming farm worker where a cottage is filled by an ex-employee whom the local authority has not been able to rehouse. There may well be instances where, despite the local authority's duty to rehouse, they have not got a house, and where, despite their option to provide temporary accommodation, they have been unable to do so, or where, despite all the provisions in this Bill, an ex-employee stays on in the house. Our Amendment 743 here seeks to say that when that happens and the farm cottage continues to be tilled by a person who once worked on the farm, and where the ADHAC has said that there is a need for suitable alternative accommodation—and, more, that there is an urgent need—and where the local authority has been unable to provide that accommodation within three months of the ADHAC recommendation, then the farmer may put up a caravan on his farm without going through all the rigmarole of site licences, planning permission, and so on. In short, this Amendment is an escape route when everything else has failed.
§ One can think, for example, of farms with only one cottage which may well be paralysed if the cottage continues to be occupied by the outgoing worker for whom there is no alternative accommodation available. Equally, the noble Baroness said she hoped the stockman would be put back into the Bill. If that is done, that is a cast-iron example of a stockman's house becoming unavailable, which could render completely impossible the task of looking after the animals. Again, if fruit growers have cold stores containing thousands of pounds worth of fruit, it could all go west if the electricity or the refrigeration breaks down. In all these cases there may well be a need for some form of accommodation available.
§ The Amendment does not have many attractive features in it as far as the farmer is concerned. Not many farmers would have a caravan already, so they would have either to buy a caravan or to hire it. He has to persuade his new employee to bring himself and his family into a caravan; and not many may care to do that. But at least, if the employee decides to do that, it is as a matter of conscious choice on the part of the incoming employee to go into a caravan, as opposed to the ex-employee being forced against his will to go into a caravan. Under this Amendment, the ex-employee is still enjoying the security of tenure of the farm cottage which this Bill gives to him. This Amendment is merely designed to enable the farmer to continue with the work of the farm.
§ At Committee stage, we put down an Amendment on similar lines but suggested that the local authority should reimburse 744 the farmer for the cost of providing accommodation, since that was the responsibility of the local authority but one which they were unable to fulfil. The noble Lord, Lord Peart, said that the idea was unthinkable: there could be no question of compensation to the farmer who provides temporary accommodation. There was nothing very unambiguous about that statement. We have tried to meet the noble Lord, Lord Peart, over this problem, as indeed we have tried over other matters, in that forthright expression of views. In this Amendment we do not propose that there should be any compensation; we are merely saying that when all else has failed and when the ADHAC says there is a case of urgency, the farmer should be enabled to put up a caravan and house his worker, but only until such time as alternative accommodation is found. In other words, once the local authority have provided alternative accommodation, the caravan goes. Therefore, these caravans will be on the site only for a limited duration. It is an encouragement for the local authority to rehouse the worker, which is in the interests of everyone concerned. The countryside will not be littered by unsightly caravans for longer than necessary.
§ I should be the first to admit that this Amendment is not perfect, and I should never have thought I should see the day when I suggested it was desirable for caravans to be provided for farm workers. When one thinks of the progress in housing over the last 20 years, with modernisation of farm cottages and with the efforts to provide running water, electricity, sanitation and so on, it seems reactionary in the extreme and almost anachronistic that we should recommend that farm workers in certain cases be denied these amenities in good modernised houses and be relegated to caravans. This is one of the results of this Bill, and I venture to suggest that if it were put into the Bill it would at least have the benefit of making agriculture continue to work properly where accommodation is required as a matter of urgency. I beg to move.
§ Lord SWAYTHLING
My Lords, we all know how long it takes to get planning permission, and I think it is essential that this Amendment should be agreed to. I will not repeat the figures I gave during earlier stages of the Bill, but would just 745 say that I wholeheartedly support this Amendment.
§ Viscount MASSEREENE and FERRARD
My Lords, I hope the Government will accept this Amendment; indeed, I cannot understand why they would not do so earlier. The number of caravans concerned would be very small because presumably they would be sited near to the farmhouse and buildings and so would not be a blot on the countryside. After all, one can put up a Dutch barn without planning permission, and that is a much larger building and a far greater blot on the countryside. I really can see no objection to this Amendment at all. If it is not accepted, food production will be affected, and, after all, agriculture is our greatest industry. Especially with the balance of payments position as it is, I think it would be madness to do anything which would adversely affect agriculture at this moment, because it is not only food, of course, but involves, leather, wool and so on. Therefore, I beg the Government to accept the Amendment. Most farmers, in any case, will have to hire these caravans, and the percentage would be very small compared with the hundreds and thousands of caravans from which I suffer in Scotland. I do not want them, but here you are niggling over the question of perhaps 2,000 or 3,000, so I hope that the Government will accept the Amendment.
§ Lord COLLISON
My Lords, I find it rather quaint, if that is the right word, that it should be argued that because we are introducing this Bill we are condemning farm workers to live in caravans. I want to make the point that no one can possibly accept that to put farm workers and their families into caravans is a suitable type of accommodation. I am not using the word "suitable" in the way in which I have been using it previously. There are all kinds of objections. A man may have a family of four or five children and to coop them up in a small or even a large caravan costing some thousands of pounds would be quite unsatisfactory and indeed unacceptable to anyone.
The other point is where these caravans are to be sited. How are we going to be satisfied that the land on which they are placed is suitable? There are strong objections in terms of health and hygiene. 746 Unless they are very large caravans have no baths although they may have showers; many simply have washing facilities. How is it possible to keep children clean in those circumstances? Then there is the question of toilets. Caravans have to have some kind of portable toilet such as an Elsan. When all these points are considered, it must be clear that it is not a suitable suggestion to make. As I said, I am not using "suitable" in the sense that we use it in "suitable alternative accommodation". This is unsuitable on much wider grounds and I hope it will be seen that it is an unsatisfactory suggestion to make.
§ Lord ROBBINS
My Lords, before the noble Lord spoke I was asking myself on what conceivable grounds this Amendment could be rejected. It seems to me that the only ground which could carry the fain test scintilla of conviction would be what I doubt could be provided—a conclusive demonstration that the situation contemplated would never arise. But I doubt whether that would carry conviction to many of us. Here is a real possibility; namely, that an impersonal advisory committee has come to the conclusion that in the interests of efficient agriculture there is urgent need for the provision of suitable alternative accommodation. The local authority declares that it has no suitable accommodation of a long-term kind.
As was argued earlier this evening, temporary accommodation is not regarded as suitable. In such circumstances, what is to be done? Clearly the provision of a caravan, even with all the amenities which modern caravans can provide is just a pis allez. But to leave the position in which the impersonal advisory committee has said, that there is urgent agricultural need for this accommodation, and then to do nothing, surely is the utmost bankruptcy of administrative imagination. I ask the Government Front Bench what would they do if they were confronted with this situation? It is a situation which may quite easily arise.
§ Baroness BIRK
My Lords, as the noble Lord, Lord Robbins, expressed some horror in Committee at the idea of having caravans, I hoped when he got up that he was going to ask on what conceivable grounds could the Amendment be accepted, and that I was going to be able to lean on him for the answer. However, he 747 let me down and went on to the reject it side. In reply to the noble Viscount, Lord Massereene and Ferrard, I do not think our food industry depends on caravans. I think we are boosting this particular problem and getting it rather out of context. I find myself rather puzzled, because on some previous Amendments—certainly two to which my noble friend the Leader of the House replied—several noble Lords referred to numbers of cottages which were unoccupied. It seems rather odd on the one hand to grumble about this and to try to find ways of dealing with these cottages, and at the same time to get "het-up" about the lack of automatic planning permission for caravans. Nobody is saying that caravans cannot be put on people's land. Noble Lords have said that they have seen caravans all over the place.
We are saying that the effect of the clause would be to provide farmers with automatic planning permission, in cases which an ADHAC had advised were urgent and where the local authority had been unable to provide alternative accommodation within three months of that advice. One of the things which we feel we do not know—and there have been so many contrary statements made—is the projection of housing for farm workers. I suggest that we wait and see how the Bill works and how many cases there are where the ADHAC has said that there is an urgent agricultural need and the local authority has been unable to do anything within the three months. This is what we are talking about.
We are also talking about the local authority giving planning permission. The noble Lord, Lord Robbins, and other noble Lords, behave as though planning permission for caravans is never given. Of course it is, because many noble Lords have said that they see them all over the place; they do not like the look of them, but are prepared to put up with them in the circumstances. I think it would be quite wrong to try to find justification for putting farmers or any other group in a privileged position where the change of land use is involved without first obtaining planning permission. I will not say that in every case that there are no planning delays, but fortunately planning delays have been cut down in the last year or so. On the other hand, because we have a 748 planning system in this country we do not have the sort of chaos in the countryside which one sees in many other countries, even in America, who have not the planning laws that we have. Nobody has put a figure on it—it may amount to only a handful of caravans. To cut across the planning system seems to me to be using a sledgehammer to hit a very small nut.
What I propose to do if noble Lords will withdraw their new clause, is to point out to local authorities by circular that in such cases they should look favourably upon requests for planning permission for a caravan, and deal with such applications as quickly as possible, so that we do not break through our planning system. We can also try to speed this up. I should not like for one moment, and neither would noble Lords—this is the same argument that I used on the temporary accommodation Amendments—to see caravans taking the place of permanent accommodation, which could happen if there was no planning control; and that is what this Amendment really means, despite noble Lords' good intentions. I know exactly what the noble Earl is after, and his personal dislike for what he said he is doing in the best cause.
So, as I said, I ask noble Lords to withdraw their new clause, and I will undertake that local authorities are asked by circular to look at these cases in a way that is different from that in which they look at other cases, over which they may be more leisurely.
§ Viscount MASSEREENE and FERRARD
My Lords, the caravans all over the place, which I was talking about, are tourist caravans which have no planning permission. They come and park on one's land, sometimes in hundreds. I should also like to say to the noble Lord, Lord Collison, that one can get extremely nice caravans—far nicer than the average cottage.
§ Lord ROBBINS
My Lords, before the noble Baroness sits down, if I may take advantage of that procedural device, I think she has misrepresented me. I never expressed an abhorrence of caravans as such. I have been trying to think what I can have said which gave her that impression, and all that I can conjecture, without reference to Hansard, is that I thought that the alternative suggestion 749 of temporary accommodation would be preferable to a caravan. But I am not sure whether or not that was said.
I am bound to say that I feel very disappointed. I would first say to the noble Lord, Lord Collison, who said that caravans are not suitable accommodation, that there is absolutely nothing to make an incoming farm worker move into a caravan. It would be of his own choice. Therefore, if he elected to go on to a farm with that proviso, I do not see there is anything for the noble Lord to worry about, unless he feels that all forms of caravans and mobile homes are inadequate forms of accommodation.
The noble Baroness said that one of the troubles is that this would turn into permanent accommodation, but of course it will not. The Amendment says at the very end that caravans can be put up only,…until such time as suitable alternative accommodation is provided by the local authority.That would turn into permanent accommodation only if the local authority could not provide an alternative. Throughout all this business of trying to get over what I have described as the crunch, where by virtue of this Bill people are staying on in houses which renders efficient agriculture impossible, the noble Baroness, Lady Birk, and the noble Lord, Lord Peart, have not
§ come up with any suitable alternative at all. The noble Lord, Lord Robbins, was quite right when he asked: When the ADHACs say that there is real urgency, what do you do? The noble Baroness says: "Nothing. Leave it." If I may say so with the greatest respect, the Government's arguments on this Amendment have shown a form of intellectual bankruptcy. When we ask what we are to do about this problem, we are told, "Do not worry; let us see how it will work out". That is not good enough.
§ All we are saying is that if everything else has failed and there is a degree of urgency—I gave as examples fruit farms and farms with only one house on them—and people cannot be rehoused, then let the farmer put up a caravan until people are rehoused. I cannot see anything disagreeable in that. The noble Baroness said, "Go through the planning permission procedure". But what is the point of planning permission if it is only to allow the planners to say No? Then what? We are still in the same position. So I ask your Lordships to agree to insert this Amendment into the Bill as a last resort and, as I said in moving it, as an escape route when all other alternatives have failed.
§ 8.6 p.m.
§ Their Lordships divided: Contents, 63; Not-Contents, 41.751
|Amory, V.||Gray, L.||Mottistone, L.|
|Banks, L.||Grey, E.||Newall, L|
|Barrington, V.||Hailsham of Saint Marylebone, L.||Northchurch, B.|
|Boyd of Merton, V.||Northesk, E.|
|Brabazon of Tara, L.||Henley, L.||Onslow, E.|
|Brougham and Vaux, L.||Hereford, V.||Rankeillour, L.|
|Burnham, L.||Hives, L.||Rathcreedan, L.|
|Caithness, E.||Hornsby-Smith, B.||Robbins, L.|
|Campbell of Croy, L.||Lauderdale, E.||St. Aldwyn, E.|
|Carlisle, Bp.||Lloyd, L.||Sandys, L.|
|Clitheroe, L.||Long, V. [Teller.]||Savile, L.|
|Colville of Culross, V.||Lucas of Chilworth, L.||Seear, B.|
|Congleton, L.||Lyell, L.||Stanley of Alderley, L.|
|Cork and Orrery, E.||Macleod of Borve, B.||Strathclyde, L.|
|de Clifford, L.||Malmesbury, E.||Strathcona and Mount Royal, L.|
|Denham, L. [Teller.]||Massereene and Ferrard, V.|
|Ellenborough, L.||Middleton, L.||Swaythling, L.|
|Elles, B.||Monck, V.||Tranmire, L.|
|Elliot of Harwood, B.||Monckton of Brenchley, V.||Vickers, B.|
|Ferrers, E.||Monk Bretton, L.||Ward of North Tyneside, B.|
|Gisborough, L.||Monson, L.||Westbury, L.|
|Gowrie, E.||Morris, L.|
|Ardwick, L.||Gardiner, L.||Oram, L.|
|Bacon, B.||Goronwy-Roberts, L.||Peart, L. (L. Privy Seal.)|
|Beswick, L.||Greenwood of Rossendale, L.||Peddie, L.|
|Birk, B.||Gregson, L.||Phillips, B.|
|Brimelow, L.||Harris of Greenwich, L.||Segal, L.|
|Brockway, L.||Houghton of Sowerby, L.||Shepherd, L.|
|Bruce of Donington, L.||Jacobson, L.||Snow, L.|
|Castle, L.||Jacques, L.||Stedman, B.|
|Champion, L.||Janner, L.||Stewart of Alvechurch, B.|
|Collison, L.||Kaldor, L.||Stone, L.|
|Davies of Leek, L.||Kirkhill, L.||Strabolgi, L. [Teller.]|
|Donaldson of Kingsbridge, L.||Llewelyn-Davies of Hastoe, B.||Wells-Pestell, L. [Teller.]|
|Elwyn-Jones, L. (L. Chancellor.)||Lovell-Davis, L.||Willis, L.|
|Fisher of Camden, L.||Murray of Gravesend, L.|
On Question, Motion agreed to.
§ Resolved in the affirmative, and Amendment agreed to accordingly.
§ 8 14 p.m
Baroness BIRK moved Amendment No. 49:
Page 23, line 42, after ("applicant") insert ("in the same capacity as that in which he was employed by the applicant at the time when the application was made").
§ The noble Baroness said: My Lords, I think that at last I am bringing forward an Amendment which will be welcomed by noble Lords opposite. In the Bill as it is at present drafted, a local authority is obliged to provide suitable alternative accommodation only for the occupier of a farm cottage who is no longer, or will be no longer, employed by the farmer who makes the application. I believe that as a general principle this is right, and indeed there has not been any disagreement to date over it. However, as a general rule, it could bear harshly on the farmer and, for that matter, on the farm worker. I am thinking here of a farm worker who is close to retirement age, gives up his job on the farm, which means that he must live close to the farm, and takes on a less demanding job. We do not want to discourage farmers and farm workers from this kind of arrangement. I beg to move.
§ Clause 31 [Agricultural dwelling-house advisory committees]:
Lord PEART moved Amendment No. 50:
Page 25, line 29, leave out from ("in") to ("advice") in line 30 and insert ("or in connection with their giving, at the request of the committee, any").
§ The noble Lord Said: My Lords, I beg to move formally this drafting Amendment.
Earl FERRERS moved Amendment No. 51:
Page 25, line 41, leave out ("or forestry").
§ The noble Earl said: My Lords, this is a consequential Amendment. I beg to move.
§ Schedule 6 [Notification of disposals]:
Baroness BIRK moved Amendment No. 52:
Leave out Schedule 6.
§ The noble Baroness said: My Lords, this Amendment is consequential upon the deletion of Clause 32 which was agreed to in Committee. I beg to move.
§ Clause 32 [Information about housing accommodation]:
Earl FERRERS moved Amendment No. 53:
Page 26, line 31, leave out ("or forestry").
§ The noble Earl said: My Lords, this is a consequential Amendment. I beg to move.
§ 8.17 p.m.
§ Baroness BIRK moved Amendment No. 54:753
Page 49, leave out lines 10 and 11 and insert—
("(a) if a rent is registered for the dwelling under Part IV of the Rent Act 1968, any rent paid in excess of that rent or in excess of the rent limit under Schedule 5 to the Rent (Agriculture) Act 1976").
§ The noble Baroness said: My Lords, this is a minor Amendment which will ensure that in calculating rent allowances payable to statutory tenants, the local authority will disregard rent paid in excess of the rent limit under Schedule 5 if the rent qualifies for phasing under that Schedule. I beg to move.
§ Clause 35 [Suspension of condition attached to planning permission]:
§ Earl FERRERS moved Amendments Nos. 55 to 57 en bloc:
§ Page 29, line 4, leave out ("or forestry").
§ Page 29, line 23, leave out ("or forestry").
§ Page 29, line 25, leave out ("or forestry").
§ The noble Earl said: My Lords, Amendments Nos. 55, 56 and 57 are all drafting Amendments. If it is to the convenience of the House, I beg to move these Amendments en bloc.
§ Clause 36 [Interpretation]:
Baroness BIRK moved Amendment No. 58:
Page 29, leave out lines 28 and 29.
§ The noble Baroness said: My Lords, I beg to move Amendment No. 58. With the leave of the House perhaps I may speak at the same time to Amendments Nos. 58A and 58B. They are minor drafting Amendments of the definition of "licence". I beg to move.
§ Baroness BIRK moved Amendments Nos. 58A and 58B:
§ Page 29, line 35, leave out ("includes") and insert ("means").
§ Page 29, line 38, at end insert ("and references to the granting of a licence shall be construed accordingly").
§ Baroness BIRK moved Amendments Nos. 59 and 60:
§ Page 30, line 3, after ("includes") insert ("statutory tenant and also includes").754
Page 30, line 4, at end insert—
("(1A) In this Act references to tenancies include, unless the context otherwise requires, references to licences, and cognate expressions, including those in subsection (1) above, shall be construed accordingly.").
§ The noble Baroness said: My Lords, I beg formally to move Amendments Nos. 59 and 60. I have already spoken to these Amendments.
§ 8.20 p.m.
§ Baroness BIRK moved Amendment No. 61:
Page 30, line 4, at end insert—
("(1B) For the purposes of this Act a dwelling-house may be a house or part of a house.")
§ Schedule 1 [Index of general definitions.]:
Baroness BIRK moved Amendment No. 62:
Page 32, line 8, column 2, leave out ("36(1)") and insert ("36(1B)")
§ Baroness BIRK moved Amendments Nos. 63, 64 and 65 en bloc.
§ Page 32, line 25, column 2, leave out ("Section 2") and insert ("Schedule 1A")
§ Page 32, line 26, column 2, leave out ("Section 2") and insert ("Schedule 1A")
§ Insert the following new Schedule—
§ ("SCHEDULE 1A