§ Sir D. Maxwell Fyfe
I beg to move, in page 27, line 42, to leave out from "tenancy" to the end of line 46, and to insert:premises being or comprised in the holding have been occupied for the purposes of a business carried on by the occupier or for those and other purposes.It may be for the convenience of the Committee to take this Amendment with the Amendment following on the paper, in page 28, line 2, to leave out "holding" and to insert "premises."
These Amendments slightly relax the conditions to be complied with by the tenant in order to qualify for the double rate, that is, twice the rateable value, and they are largely consequential on the Amendment to Clause 23 which we have just been discussing; not the Amendment on which there was some difference of opinion, but that which was 2293 generally approved about bringing in the mixed premises.
The Amendments I now propose secure that the tenant receives compensation at the double rate, provided that the business has been carried on in the premises for 14 years. It is not necessary in the case of mixed premises that the residential accommodation as well as the business accommodation shall have been occupied by the tenant or his predecessor in title during the 14 years. Everyone will agree that that helps the position of the tenant, in case he comes into occupation of the residential portion of the premises afterwards.
The other change is that it will no longer be necessary for the business to have been carried on by the tenant during the 14 years. It will be enough if the business has been carried on by the occupier of the premises for the time being, whether he was the tenant or whether the business was carried on by the freeholder and passed from the freeholder to the tenant.
I do not think there is anything controversial in these Amendments, which consequentially improve the position of the tenant.
§ Sir F. Soskice
Again, speaking for myself, inasmuch as the proposed Amendment very slightly enlarges the scope of the provisions providing for the double rate of compensation, I welcome it, but I must confess that it only goes an infinitesimal part of the way that we would like to see it go.
We have had very considerable discussion on this Clause, and we hoped, when there appeared on the Order Paper an Amendment dealing with compensation, even on the very niggardly scale which has been described by one hon. Member after another, the Home Secretary's hard heart would have melted with pity and induced him to bring the compensation provisions slightly more into line with reality. He has not done so.
He has now proposed this entirely artificial compensation structure giving far too little to a person who may be forced to remove from his premises and to incur the very large expenses that almost any removal inevitably occasions. I cannot embark on any large-scale discussion of the scope of compensation and I should not like to incur the displeasure 2294 of the Chair by seeking so to do; but it would be wrong to say nothing, when we are dealing with a change in these provisions, about the utterly niggardly scope of the new proposals.
What the Home Secretary has done is to say, "Suppose we have the case of the resident tenant over shop premises. The residence shall be brought within the words "and other premises," and equal occupation by the tenant or by anybody else for the requisite period shall bring about a double scale of compensation." So far so good, but it is a very little "far." I hope that my hon. Friends will be grateful for the minimal relief that they get out of the Amendment. When we get to the discussion on compensation, I hope that the Home Secretary will be thoroughly ashamed that he has not been able to go further.
§ Mr. Turner-Samuels
I hope I am not any slower than other hon. Members in appreciating the effort that the Home Secretary has made, both in Committee and here, to rescue himself from the shame he must feel about certain harsh provisions that are contained in the Bill. The Committee are now presented with an alleged concession on this point of compensation. It is so meagre, so slender, as almost to be an affront to the tenant who will be faced with the situation for which this Amendment is intended to provide. Basically, this situation cannot be justified at all. In fact, it cannot be too strongly condemned. I do not hesitate to say that this part of this Bill is nothing more or less than sheer confiscation.
Machinery is created under the Bill by which, in a whole series of circumstances, the court may refuse the application of a tenant for a new tenancy, and the most absurd, the most outrageous grounds—I think from (a) to (h)—are put forward in the Bill upon which, assuming that the landlord can establish his objection, the court is bound, willy-nilly, to reject the tenant's application. Thereupon this unheard-of and monstrous situation arises. The tenant, who may have involved in these premises a life's work and a very substantial fortune in terms of goodwill or custom or business or association, is incontinently dismissed from it by a mere meagre, slender, flimsy, monstrous payment of twice the rateable value. 2295 The Committee really needs to bring its mind to bear upon this. I repeat that this is sheer confiscation. The amount is not within any measurable distance of the sum which could honestly and morally be calculated as proper payment to the tenant in compensation if he has to get out. The extraordinary callousness of the matter is demonstrated by the fact that there is no nuance or shade of distinction between one extreme case and another.
It does not matter here what the circumstances are, what the merits are or what the equities are. What does matter here is that an outrage is being put on the tenant, in that he is having to abandon his goodwill, his livelihood, everything he may have worked for in a quarter century, everything he and his work may have produced. He is to be paid the same miserable scale of compensation whether it is a case of a fortune being involved or merely an ordinary case involving very little value indeed.
This is something which no one can defend. It is amoral. The Home Secretary could not defend it either by argument or by screening it by the angelic look he usually brings to his face when he deals with these matters. He just cannot be excused in this matter, and this certainly cannot be defended. It should go out from this Committee, as I hope it will in no unmistaken way, with a strong voice, that we absolutely denounce and condemn this attempt on the part of the Government to dispossess these tenants, not only of their property so far as premises are concerned but also of their property so far as the business and the goodwill and the work of a lifetime are concerned.
I join hands, of course, with my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Neepsend (Sir F. Soskice) in wonderment at the amazing concession that this Amendment is supposed to make. It is so slender that it can hardly be seen at all and, whatever its worth, it is quite inadequate to meet the grave consequences that will ensue from the operation of the Clause.
§ Amendment agreed to.
§ Further Amendment made: In page 28, line 2, leave out "holding," and insert "premises."—[Sir D. Maxwell Fyfe.]2296
§ Clause, as amended, ordered to stand part of the Bill.
§ Bill reported, with Amendments; as amended (in the Standing Committee and on recommittal), considered.