§ Mr. Graham Page
I beg to move Amendment No. 11, in page 3, line 20, after second "premises", to insert:or of other suitable accommodation".This is a very simple Amendment, and an obvious one. In Clause 2(4) the court is directed to have regard… to all the circumstances and, in particular …to those which are set out in the following paragraphs (a), (b), (c) and (d). In paragraph (b) the court is directed to take into consideration whether the occupier… has unreasonably refused an offer of a tenancy of the premises or part of the premises for a reasonable term and at a reasonable rent;It may be that the owner is able to offer the occupier other accommodation which is perfectly suitable and it would be right to direct the court therefore to give all consideration to that and not only to an offer of a tenancy in the premises of which he has been tenant.
§ Mr. Julian Snow (Lichfield and Tamworth)
Who is to judge what is suitable? I had a case recently in my constituency where alternative accommodation was offered.
§ Mr. Snow
If the judge had to decide, I suppose that means that he would be asked to inspect the alternative accommodation. I do not believe that this would be either a good thing or a practical proposition. If it were to be left to the owner, however, to submit evidence on the alternative accommodation's suitability, then that would be a one-sided proposition. If the Amendment means anything at all, it means that some form of independent arbitration should be provided to decide whether the accommodation offered as an alternative is suitable or not.
§ Mr. Weitzman
I hope the House will reject the Amendment. The grounds set out in subsection (4) are simple and concise and cover all sorts of circumstances which should weigh with the court in regard to this matter. The hon. Member for Crosby (Mr. Graham Page) is surely forgetting that, first of all, in subsection (4) there are the words… shall have regard to all the circumstances.…so that the judge must have regard to a matter of this kind. Again, in subsection (4,b) there are the wordswhether he has unreasonably refused an offer of a tenancy of the premises or part of the premises …and then, in addition, subsection (4,c) says:whether he has failed to make reasonable efforts to obtain other suitable accommodation.The Amendment is, therefore, quite unnecessary. One can imagine a judge having in front of him evidence that the tenant has refused a proper offer of suitable accommodation and coming to the conclusion that the tenant has failed to make reasonable efforts to obtain other suitable accommodation. If the Amendment were accepted, all it would do would be to encumber subsection (4). It is quite unnecessary.
§ Mr. John M. Temple (City of Chester)
I support my hon. Friend the Member for Crosby (Mr. Graham Page) on what I 1367 regard as a very reasonable and practical Amendment. I rebut the argument of the hon. Member for Lichfield and Tam-worth (Mr. Snow) on the question of the judge having to inspect the alternative accommodation. It is implicit in the Bill already that the judge will have to do just this with regard to the part of the premises which he might consider as suitable for the occupier. If the judge does not see the premises, how can he judge whether part of them would be suitable as alternative accommodation? I believe that this Amendment is perfectly sensible. It will permit mobility of labour, for one thing that the Bill may do is freeze labour in one set of accommodation. I hope that the Government will think again about the Amendment.
§ Mr. Mellish
I begin with an apology to the hon. Member for Crosby (Mr. Graham Page). We and the House in Committee owe him an apology for the way his Amendment was treated last Thursday. He was under the impression, I think, that it had been accepted and was then bewildered to find out that this was not so. He did not even make a speech then but merely moved the Amendment formally and left it at that. No doubt that was why it has been called again today.
The Government have had time to look again at the proposal, as has my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Stoke Newington and Hackney, North (Mr. Weitzman), who has put the point much more effectively than I can. The words which the hon. Gentleman is asking us to add are not necessary. The judge will have to take account of all the circumstances. We believe that he will have regard to any case argued by the owner that in the house there were other premises available to him. He will listen to the counter argument by the tenant and then having heard all the evidence, he will come to a decision.
My right hon. Friend's intention was to bring in a simple Bill, one which laymen can understand. With great respect to the lawyers on both sides of the House, they have been trying to make the Bill more complicated. As I think the hon. Member for Crosby will agree, the examples that we gave were general examples of the kind of 1368 things which a judge would take into account, and it was always understood that there would be many other factors that he would consider, too.
It is not possible to write in everything which every lawyer thinks a judge ought to take into account. We rest our case on the simple approach to this matter. We believe that all judges will carefully consider and weigh the evidence placed before them and decide whether suitable accommodation had been offered to the tenant, and then come to a decision. For that reason—and here I agree with my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Stoke Newington and Hackney, North—we regard the Amendment, in spite of what happened in Committee, as unnecessary.
§ Sir J. Hobson
The Joint Parliamentry Secretary pretends to be such an innocent character that I cannot allow him to get away with that. He knows that these matters are difficult, and he knows that when these matters come to be litigated between parties in court it is essential that the court should be given a clear indication of the intentions of Parliament.
I concede that not only lawyers but many others could think of enormous numbers of additions to the reasons stated in paragraphs (a), (b), (c) and (d). The oddity of the drafting of this subsection is that if it had said that the court would consider all the circumstances and do whatever was reasonable there would have been a good deal of force for saying that there was no need to put anything else at all.
§ Mr. Mellish
The right hon. and learned Gentleman may be interested to know that there were lawyers on both sides of the House who thought that we were wrong to put in paragraphs (a) to (d).
§ Sir J. Hobson
That is the point that I am making. I am saying that one way in which this could have been dealt with satisfactorily was to leave out paragraphs (a) to (d) and say that the judge should do whatever was reasonable. But, having put them in, any judge will read them and he will think that they mean something. Paragraphs (a) to (d) will become first-class reasons to which the judge will initially devote his mind. He will say to himself, "Parliament has regarded 1369 these questions as of overriding importance, and all other questions which Parliament has not put in I may consider, but they are of secondary importance, and they are secondary reasons". We are therefore in the difficulty that it is no good saying, "The judge can consider everything. We do not need to add this at all. It does not matter whether we put it in or not". We have put words in, and the judge will read what is there, and say, "These are important and anything else is less important".
It is on that basis that I suggest that it is just as important to see whether the ex-tenant has unreasonably refused not only the offer of the tenancy of the premises he occupies or part of those premises but also of any other suitable accommodation.
§ Mr. Weitzman
The Amendment seeks to put in the wordsor of other suitable accommodationIf the right hon. and learned Gentleman looks at paragraph (c) he will appreciate that no judge is going to say that a tenant has not failed to make a reasonable effort to obtain other suitable accommodation if he refuses such an offer.
§ Sir J. Hobson
With respect, there is a complete difference. Paragraph (c) deals with a completely different situation, namely, whether the ex-tenant has made efforts to obtain other suitable accommodation. This is looking to his position whether he has made any attempt to approach an estate agent or take any other steps. The refusal of an offer, which is dealt with in paragraph (b), is different from making reasonable efforts. On the argument of the hon. and learned Gentleman, the whole of paragraph (b) is unnecessary because the tenant would not have made any reasonable efforts if he had refused the offer of the tenancy of the premises or part of them. The argument is the same if we are to have paragraph (b), and I have always thought that there were strong arguments for saying that we should not have anything except that the judge does what is reasonable, and therefore hand everything over to the county court judges and let them do what they like. But if we are to stand on paragraphs (a) to (d), and if we have in paragraph (b) "unreasonable refusal", and in paragraph (c) "reasonable efforts", we should not distinguish, as 1370 judges will when they consider the present words, between the offer of the actual premises and the offer of other premises.
For those reasons I ask the Government to reconsider whether they should not put in what is sensible, namely, that if a tenant ought to have held against him that he has refused to accept tenancy of the particular premises, he ought equally and in parity to have held against him a refusal to accept equally suitable accommodation which may be next door.
§ Mr. A. P. Costain (Folkestone and Hythe)
I agree with the Joint Parliamentary Secretary that we do not want to make more work for lawyers, but perhaps I might put one practical point to him. I have taken little part in these debates on the legal side.
Whatever the learned judge may think or read into the Bill, what is important is how the tenant will see it. The more clarity that we can put into a Clause of this sort from a tenant's point of view, the less he will trouble the courts. I therefore suggest that if a tenant can be shown this, if he can be offered alternative accommodation and told what his position is, and that he will be considered unreasonable if he does not accept it, he will not have his hopes raised falsely and go through the whole procedure of the courts. That is the practical ground on which I ask the Joint Parliamentary Secretary to reconsider the matter.
§ Mr. Manuel
We are dealing with an order for possession. I, too, do not support the case put forward by the hon. Member for Crosby (Mr. Graham Page). It appears to me that in so far as paragraphs (a) to (d) apply, they provide all the protection that is needed for the owner. We must not forget that this Clause applies to Scotland, too. I am glad that the Under-Secretary of State for Scotland, who is in charge of housing, is present. Subsection (5) reads:In the application of this section to Scotland—(a) for any reference to an order for possession there shall be substituted a reference to a degree of removing or warrant of ejection …We know that these are sheriff court matters, but I think we ought to have 1371 some explanation of how this will apply in Scotland, and especially paragraph (b) which reads:for the reference to mesne profits there shall be substituted a reference to damages arising from unlawful possession.I think that we ought to have a little more clarity about the period between two dates when there has been unlawful possession.
§ Mr. Manuel
Mr. Deputy-Speaker, may I respectfully draw your attention to the fact that subsection (5) brings sheriff courts into the same category as courts in England under subsection (4)?
§ Mr. Deputy-Speaker
The hon. Member is talking about parts of the Clause which are not covered by the Amendment. We are discussing an Amendment which seeks to add the wordsor of other suitable accommodation".
§ Mr. Manuel
With great respect, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, I would draw to your attention the fact that previous speakers, notably the right hon, and learned Member for Warwick and Leamington (Sir J. Hobson), mentioned various categories listed in paragraphs (a), (b), (c) and (d). Since paragraphs (a) and (b) may have application in Scotland I respectfully request your reconsideration of the advice that you have received in this matter. You are ruling Scotland altogether out of consideration in connection with an order for possession.
§ Mr. Deputy-Speaker
I am sorry, but the hon. Member must accept the Chair's Ruling that the points that he is making do not come within the Amendment which is under discussion.
§ Mr. Daniel Awdry (Chippenham)
I appeal to the Parliamentary Secretary to think again about this matter. A number of lawyers from both sides of the House 1372 have taken part in the debate, not in order to create more work for themselves. We are trying to avoid making more work for lawyers in the future. The Government keep saying that these words are unnecessary. That may be strictly true, but if they go some small way towards making the classification clearer—and the words in themselves are not objectionable —the Parliamentary Secretary, in the name of common sense, should allow them to go in. There are only three words.
I have taken part in arguments before county court judges, and I can tell the House that they do not always have to inspect premises. They cannot always be expected to do so. But if a judge is in any doubt he will always do so. These simple words will go a little way towards helping to clarify the position.
§ Sir E. Errington
I add my appeal to the Parliamentary Secretary's, on the same grounds as those raised by my hon. Friend the Member for Folkestone and Hythe (Mr. Costain), namely, that it is well for those people who read a document to be clear about the conditions that apply, particularly—and I emphasise the word because "particular" is contained in line 15—in case of an offer of a tenancy of premises or part of premises for a reasonable term and at a reasonable rent.
These are very limiting words. They limit the refusal of an offer purely and simply to the premises or part of the premises. It should be made clear to everybody, in order to ensure that fairness is done both to landlord and tenant, that there is another alternative besides the premises, namely, "other suitable accommodation." As they stand, those words might in certain cases cause a tenant to think that he would not have to go to other suitable premises. If the Parliamentary Secretary thinks about the matter again I am sure that he will come to the conclusion that it is better to make this clear rather than to disappoint those people who do not correctly understand the exact meaning of paragraph (b).
§ Mr. Mellish
If I may speak again, by leave of the House—it is interesting that the right hon. and learned Member for Warwick and Leamington (Sir J. Hobson) now holds the view that paragraphs (a), (b), (c) and (d) should be struck out—
§ Sir J. Hobson
No—I said that I thought that there was a strong argument that that would be one way to proceed, but that we had, in fact, proceeded by way of a different method. I did not say whether I supported one method or the other.
§ Mr. Mellish
These paragraphs, which have been constantly referred to, are all designed to help landlords. They all tilt against tenants. My right hon. Friend will shortly be moving yet a further addition to safeguard other interests. As far as possible we have resisted attempts to expand this subsection further. The hon. Member for Chippenham (Mr. Awdry) was very courteous in his approach to the matter. I can assure him that we did not throw the proposal out because we did not happen to like it. We took advice on it, and we were told that these words are quite unnecessary, and that it is hardly likely that any judge considering a case on its merits would not take into account the question whether the owner of the property has made an offer of suitable accommodation in the premises. If the owner can show that he has it is almost certain that the judge will come down in favour of the owner.
We feel that in the circumstances these words are unnecessary. We have decided not to include them, and thereby clutter up the Bill even further. I cannot understand why so much is made of this issue. I am quite bewildered. I am shocked to find that so many hon. Members opposite do not believe that judges will take all these circumstances into account and give a fair decision.
§ Sir E. Errington
When suitable alternative accommodation—other than the tenancy of the premises or part of the premises—is available, how will it be made clear to the tenant that he can benefit by it?
§ Mr. Mellish
If a tenant is taken to a county court and the owner is able to show that he made the tenant an offer of other suitable premises in that house, and that the tenant has refused the offer, I ask the hon. Member to
§ believe that the judge will give an order in favour of the owner. Where such an offer has been made it will be argued in court whether the tenant has accepted it, or, if not, for what reason he has not done so. It is a matter for the judge to decide.
§ Sir E. Errington
I do not understand the view of the Parliamentary Secretary. This is a different question. I am referring not to accommodation in the same house but to alternative accommodation outside the house.
§ Mr. Boyd-Carpenter
We can well understand the Parliamentary Secretary's statement made a few moments ago that he is bewildered. But this is a simple point. I am a little surprised, especially after the legal argument of my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Warwick and Leamington (Sir J. Hobson), and the explanation of the practical aspects given by my hon. Friend the Member for Chippenham (Mr. Awdry) and my hon. Friend the Member for Folkestone and Hythe (Mr. Costain), that the Government cannot accept the Amendment.
They agree that this is an important matter for the court to consider. Indeed, the contrary is unarguable. Nevertheless, they are unwilling to consider it as a first-class reason, together with the four reasons enumerated in paragraphs (a) to (d). This seems to be a wholly unreasonable attitude to adopt. I am sorry that we have had to spend so much time on the matter. The Government would have done better to accept the Amendment. In the circumstances I can only advise my hon. and right hon. Friends to register in the Lobby not only our view of the merits of the case but our disapproval of the Government's attitude.
§ Question put, That those words be there inserted in the Bill:—
§ The House divided: Ayes 230, Noes 268.1377
|Division No. 33.]||AYES||[5.58 p.m.|
|Agnew, Commander Sir Peter||Astor, John||Batsford, Brian|
|Alison, Michael (Barkston Ash)||Atkins, Humphrey||Beamish, Col. Sir Tufton|
|Allan, Robert (Paddington, S.)||Awdry, Daniel||Bell, Ronald|
|Allason, James (Hemel Hempstead)||Baker, W. H. K.||Bennett, Dr. Reginald (Gos & Fhm)|
|Amery, Rt. Hn. Julian||Balniel, Lord||Berkeley, Humphry|
|Anstruther-Gray, Rt. Hn. Sir W.||Barlow, Sir John||Berry, Hn. Anthony|
|Biffen, John||Gurden, Harold||Nicholls, Sir Harmar|
|Biggs-Davison, John||Hall-Davis, A. G. F.||Nicholson, Sir Godfrey|
|Bingham, R. M.||Hamilton, Marques of (Fermanagh)||Noble, Rt. Hon. Michael|
|Birch, Rt. Hn. Nigel||Harris, Frederic (Croydon, N.W.)||Nugent, Rt. Hn. Sir Richard|
|Black, Sir Cyril||Harris, Reader (Heston)||Onslow, Cranley|
|Blaker, Peter||Harrison, Col. Sir Harwood (Eye)||Orr, Capt. L. P. S.|
|Box, Donald||Harvey, Sir Arthur Vere (Maccles'd)||Orr-Ewing, Sir Ian|
|Boyd-Carpenter, Rt. Hn. J.||Harvey, John (Walthamstow, E.)||Osborn, John (Hallam)|
|Boyle, Rt. Hn. Sir Edward||Harvie Anderson, Miss||Osborne, Sir Cyril (Louth)|
|Braine, Bernard||Hastings, Stephen||Page, R. Graham (Crosby)|
|Brewis, John||Hawkins, Paul||Peel, John|
|Brinton, Sir Tatton||Hay, John||Percival, Ian|
|Bromley-Davenport, Lt.-Col. Sir Walter||Heald, Rt. Hn. Sir Lionel||Peyton, John|
|Brooke, Rt. Hn. Henry||Heath, Rt. Hn. Edward||Pike, Miss Mervyn|
|Brown, Sir Edward (Bath)||Hendry, Forbes||Pitt, Dame Edith|
|Bruce-Gardyne, J.||Higgins, Terence L.||Pounder, Rafton|
|Buchanan-Smith, Alick||Hiley, Joseph||Powell, Rt. Hn. J. Enoch|
|Buck, Antony||Hill, J. E. B. (S. Norfolk)||Price, David (Eastleigh)|
|Bullus, Sir Eric||Hirst, Geoffrey||Prior, J. M. L.|
|Burden, F. A.||Hobson, Rt. Hn. Sir John||Pym, Francis|
|Butler, Rt. Hn. R. A. (Saffron Walden)||Hogg, Rt. Hn. Quintin||Quennell, Miss J. M.|
|Campbell, Gordon||Hordern, Peter||Rawlinson, Rt. Hn. Sir Peter|
|Channon, H. P. G.||Hornby, Richard||Renton, Rt. Hn. Sir David|
|Chichester-Clark, R.||Hornsby-Smith, Rt. Hn. Dame P.||Ridley, Hn. Nicholas|
|Clark, William (Nottingham, S.)||Howard, Hn. G. R. (St. Ives)||Roberts, Sir Peter (Heeley)|
|Clarke, Brig. Terence (Portsmth, W.)||Howe, Geoffrey (Bebington)||Robson Brown, Sir William|
|Cooke, Robert||Hunt, John (Bromley)||Roots, William|
|Cooper, A. E.||Irvine, Bryant Godman (Rye)||Russell, Sir Ronald|
|Cooper-Key, Sir Neill||Jenkin, Patrick (Woodford)||St. John-Stevas, Norman|
|Costain, A. P.||Jennings, J. C.||Scott-Hopkins, James|
|Courtney, Cdr. Anthony||Jones, Arthur (Northants, S.)||Sharples, Richard|
|Craddock, Sir Beresford (Spelthorne)||Jopling, Michael||Smith, Dudley (Br'ntf'd & Chiswick)|
|Crosthwaite-Eyre, Col. Sir Oliver||Joseph, Rt. Hn. Sir Keith||Smyth, Rt. Hn. Brig. Sir John|
|Crowder, F. P.||Kerby, Capt. Henry||Soames, Rt. Hn. Christopher|
|Cunningham, Sir Knox||Kerr, Sir Hamilton (Cambridge)||Spearman, Sir Alexander|
|Curran, Charles||Kilfedder, James A.||Speir, Sir Rupert|
|Currie, G. B. H.||Kimball, Marcus||Stainton, Keith|
|Dalkeith, Earl of||King, Evelyn (Dorset, S.)||Summers, Sir Spencer|
|Dance, James||Kitson, Timothy||Talbot John E.|
|Davies, Dr. Wyndham (Perry Barr)||Lambton, Viscount||Taylor, Edward M. (G'gow,Cathcart)|
|Dean, Paul||Litchfield, Capt. John||Taylor Frank (Moss Side)|
|Deedes, Rt. Hn. W. F.||Lloyd, Rt. Hn. Geoffrey (Sut'nC'dfield)||Temple John M.|
|Digby, Simon Wingfield||Lloyd, Rt. Hn. Selwyn (Wirral)||Thatcher Mrs. Margaret|
|Dodds-Parker, Douglas||Longden, Gilbert||Thomas, Rt. Hn. Peter (Conway)|
|Doughty, Charles||Loveys, Walter H.||Tiley, Arthur (Bradford, W.)|
|Drayson, G. B.||Lucas-Tooth, Sir Hugh||Tilney, John (Wavertree)|
|du Cann, Rt. Hn. Edward||McAdden, Sir Stephen||Turton, Rt. Hn. R.H.|
|Eden, Sir John||Macleod, Rt. Hn. Iain||Tweedsmuir, Lady|
|Errington, Sir Eric||McMaster, Stanley||van Straubenzee, W. R.|
|Farr, John||McNair-Wilson, Patrick||Vickers, Dame Joan|
|Fell, Anthony||Maginnis, John E.||Walder, David (High Peak)|
|Fisher, Nigel||Maitland, Sir John||Walker, Peter (Worcester)|
|Fletcher-Cooke, Charles (Darwen)||Marlowe, Anthony||Walker-Smith, Rt. Hn. Sir Derek|
|Forrest, George||Marples, Rt. Hn. Ernest|
|Foster, Sir John||Marten, Neil||Wall, Patrick|
|Fraser, Ian (Plymouth, Sutton)||Mathew, Robert||Walters, Dennis|
|Galbraith, Hn. T. G. D.||Maude, Angus||Ward, Dame Irene|
|Gammans, Lady||Maudling, Rt. Hn. Reginald||Weatherill, Bernard|
|Gardner, Edward||Mawby, Ray||Webster, David|
|Gibson-Watt, David||Maxwell-Hyslop, R. J.||Whitelaw, William|
|Giles, Rear-Admiral Morgan||Maydon, Lt.-Cmdr. S. L. C.||Williams, Sir Rolf Dudley (Exeter)|
|Gilmour, Sir John (East Fife)||Meyer, Sir Anthony||Wills, Sir Gerald (Bridgwater)|
|Glover, Sir Douglas||Mills, Peter (Torrington)||Wilson, Geoffrey (Truro)|
|Glyn, Sir Richard||Mills, Stratton (Belfast, N.)||Wise, A. R.|
|Goodhew, Victor||Miscampbell, Norman||Wolrige-Gordon, Patrick|
|Gower, Raymond||Mitchell, David||Woodhouse, Hn. Christopher|
|Grant, Anthony||Monro, Hector||Woodnutt, Mark|
|Grant-Ferris, R.||More, Jasper||Wylie, N. R.|
|Gresham-Cooke, R.||Morgan, W. G.||Younger, Hn. George|
|Grieve, Percy||Morrison, Charles (Devizes)|
|Griffiths, Eldon (Bury St. Edmunds)||Mott-Radclyffe, Sir Charles||TELLERS FOR THE AYES:|
|Griffiths, Peter (Smethwick)||Murton, Oscar||Mr. MacArthur and|
|Mr. R. W. Elliott.|
|Abse, Leo||Barnett, Joel||Blackburn, F.|
|Albu, Austen||Baxter, William||Blenkinsop, Arthur|
|Allaun, Frank (Salford, E.)||Beaney, Alan||Boardman, H.|
|Alldritt, W. H.||Bellenger, Rt. Hn. F. J.||Boston, T. G.|
|Allen, Scholefield (Crewe)||Bence, Cyril||Bowden. Rt. Hn. H. W. (Leics S.W.)|
|Armstrong, Ernest||Bennett, J. (Glasgow, Bridgeton)||Boyden, James|
|Atkinson, Norman||Bessell, Peter||Braddock, Mrs. E. M.|
|Bacon, Miss Alice||Binns, John||Bray, Dr. Jeremy|
|Bagier, Gordon A. T.||Bishop, E. S.||Brown, Rt. Hn. George (Belper)|
|Brown, Hugh D. (Glasgow, Provan)||Hughes, Cledwyn (Anglesey)||Parkin, B. T.|
|Brown, R. W. (Shoreditch & Fbury)||Hughes, Emrys (S. Ayrshire)||Pavitt, Laurence|
|Buchan, Norman (Renfrewshire, W.)||Hughes, Hector (Aberdeen, N.)||Pearson, Arthur (Pontypridd)|
|Buchanan, Richard||Hunter, Adam (Dunfermline)||Peart, Rt. Hn. Fred|
|Butler, Herbert (Hackney, C.)||Hunter, A. E. (Feltham)||Pentland, Norman|
|Butler, Mrs. Joyce (Wood Green)||Irvine, A. J. (Edge Hill)||Perry, Ernest G.|
|Callaghan, Rt. Hn. James||Irving, Sydney (Dartford)||Popplewell, Ernest|
|Carmichael, Neil||Jay, Rt. Hn. Douglas||Prentice, R. E.|
|Carter-Jones, Lewis||Jeger, George (Goole)||Probert, Arthur|
|Castle, Rt. Hn. Barbara||Jeger, Mrs. Lena (H'b'n&St.P'cras, S.)||Rankin, John|
|Chapman, Donald||Jenkins, Hugh (Putney)||Redhead, Edward|
|Coleman, Donald||Johnson, Carol (Lewisham S.)||Rees, Merlyn|
|Conlan, Bernard||Jones, Rt. Hn. Sir Elwyn (W. Ham, S.)||Reynolds, G. W.|
|Corbet, Mrs. Freda||Jones, J. Idwal (Wrexham)||Rhodes, Geoffrey|
|Crawshaw, Richard||Jones, T. W. (Merioneth)||Richard, Ivor|
|Crosland, Anthony||Kelley, Richard||Roberts, Albert (Normanton)|
|Crossman, Rt. Hn. R. H. S.||Kenyon, Clifford||Roberts, Goronwy (Caernarvon)|
|Cullen, Mrs. Alice||Kerr, Mrs. Anne (R'ter & Chatham)||Robertson, John (Paisley)|
|Dalyell, Tam||Kerr, Dr. David (W'worth, Central)||Robinson, Rt. Hn. K. (St. Pancras, N.)|
|Darling, George||Lawson, George||Rogers, George (Kensington, N.)|
|Davies, G. Elfed (Rhondda, E.)||Leadbitter, Ted||Ross, Rt. Hn. William|
|Davies, Harold (Leek)||Ledger, Ron||Rowland, Christopher|
|Davies, I for(Gower)||Lee, Rt. Hn. Frederick (Newton)||Sheldon, Robert|
|Davies, S. O. (Merthyr)||Lewis, Arthur (West Ham, N.)||Shinwell, Rt. Hn. E.|
|Delargy, Hugh||Lewis, Ron (Carlisle)||Short, Rt. Hn. E.(N'c'tle-on-Tyne, C.)|
|Dell, Edmund||Lomas, Kenneth||Short, Mrs. Renée (W'hampton. N. E.)|
|Dempsey, James||Longbottom, Charles||Silkin, John (Deptford)|
|Diamond, John||Lubbock, Eric||Silkin, S. C. (Camberwell, Dulwich)|
|Dodds, Norman||Mabon, Dr. J. Dickson||Silverman, Julius (Aston)|
|Doig, Peter||McBride, Neil||Silverman, Sydney (Nelson)|
|Driberg, Tom||McCann, J.||Slater, Mrs. Harriet (Stoke, N.)|
|Duffy, Dr. A. E. P.||MacColl, James||Slater, Joseph (Sedgefield)|
|Dunn, James A.||MacDermot, Niall||Small, William|
|Dunnett, Jack||McGuire, Michael||Smith, Ellis (Stoke, S.)|
|Edelman, Maurice||McInnes, James||Snow, Julian|
|Edwards, Rt. Hn. Ness (Caerphilly)||McKay, Mrs. Margaret||Solomons, Henry|
|Edwards, Robert (Bilston)||Mackenzie, Alasdair(Ross & Crom'ty)||Spriggs, Leslie|
|English, Michael||MacKenzie, Gregor (Rutherglen)||Steele, Thomas|
|Ennals, David||Mackie, George Y. (C'ness & S' land)||Stewart, Rt. Hn. Michael|
|Ensor, David||McLeavy, Frank||Stonehouse, John|
|Evans, Albert (Islington, S.W.)||MacMillan, Malcolm||Stones, William|
|Evans, Ioan (Birmingham, Yardley)||MacPherson, Malcolm||Strauss, Rt. Hn. G. R. (Vauxhall)|
|Fernyhough, E.||Mahon, Peter (Preston, S.)||Summerskill, Dr. Shirley|
|Finch, Harold (Bedwellty)||Mahon, Simon (Bootle)||Swain, Thomas|
|Fitch, Alan (Wigan)||Mallalieu, E. L. (Brigg)||Swingler, Stephen|
|Fletcher, Sir Eric (Islington, E.)||Manuel, Archie||Symonds, J. B.|
|Fletcher, Ted (Darlington)||Mapp, Charles||Taverne, Dick|
|Fletcher, Raymond (Ilkeston)||Marsh, Richard||Taylor, Bernard (Mansfield)|
|Floud, Bernard||Mason, Roy||Thomas, Iorwerth (Rhondda, W.)|
|Foot, Sir Dingle (Ipswich)||Maxwell, Robert||Thomson, George (Dundee, E.)|
|Foot, Michael (Ebbw Vale)||Mellish, Robert||Thornton, Ernest|
|Ford, Ben||Mendelson, J. J.||Thorpe, Jeremy|
|Freeson, Reginald||Mikardo, Ian||Tinn, James|
|Galpern, Sir Myer||Millan, Bruce||Tomney, Frank|
|Garrett, W. E.||Miller, Dr. M. S.||Tuck, Raphael|
|Garrow, A.||Milne, Edward (Blyth)||Urwin, T. W.|
|George, Lady Megan Lloyd||Molloy, William||Varley, Eric G.|
|Ginsburg, David||Monslow, Walter||Wainwright, Edwin|
|Gourlay, Harry||Morris, Charles (Openshaw)||Walden, Brian (All Saints)|
|Griffiths, David (Rother Valley)||Morris, John (Aberavon)||Walker, Harold (Doncaster)|
|Griffiths, Rt. Hn. James (Llanelly)||Mulley, Rt. Hn. Frederick (SheffieldPk)||Wallace, George|
|Grimond, Rt. Hn. J.||Murray, Albert||Warbey, William|
|Hale, Leslie||Neal, Harold||Watkins, Tudor|
|Hamilton, James (Bothwell)||Newens, Stan||Weitzman, David|
|Hannan, William||Noel-Baker, Francis (Swindon)||Wells, William (Walsall, N.)|
|Harper, Joseph||Noel-Baker, Rt. Hn. Philip (Derby, S.)||White, Mrs. Eirene|
|Harrison, Walter (Wakefield)||Norwood, Christopher||Whitlock, William|
|Hart, Mrs. Judith||Oakes, Gordon||Wilkins, W. A.|
|Hattersley, Ray||Ogden, Eric||Willey, Rt. Hn. Frederick|
|Hayman, F. H.||O'Malley, Brian||Williams, Alan (Swansea, W.)|
|Hazell, Bert||Oram, Albert E. (E. Ham, S.)||Williams, Mrs. Shirley (Hitchin)|
|Heffer, Eric S.||Orbach, Maurice||Williams, W. T. (Warrington)|
|Henderson, Rt. Hn. Arthur||Orme, Stanley||Willis, George (Edinburgh, E.)|
|Herbison, Rt. Hn. Margaret||Oswald, Thomas||Wilson, William (Coventry, S.)|
|Hill, J. (Midlothin)||Owen, Will||Winterbottom, R. E.|
|Hobden, Dennis (Brighton, K'town)||Padley, Walter||Woodburn, Rt. Hn. A.|
|Holman, Percy||Page, Derek (King's Lynn)||Wyatt, Woodrow|
|Horner, John||Paget, R. T||Yates, Victor (Ladywood)|
|Houghton, Rt. Hn. Douglas||Pannell, Rt. Hn. Charles||Zilliacus, K.|
|Howarth, Robert L. (Bolton, E.)||Pargiter, G. A.|
|Howell, Denis (Small Heath)||Park, Trevor (Derbyshire, S.E.)||TELLERS FOR THE NOES:|
|Mr. Howie and Mr. Grey.|
§ The Amendment has been tabled to redeem a pledge which I gave in Committee. I stated then that I would write in a special assurance to farmers about the position of their industry. Hon. Members will recall that I outlined the aims of the Bill—to protect two classes of people who might potentially be threatened with eviction during the process of extending adequate rent control permanently. Those two classes are tenants of decontrolled property and agricultural labourers in tied cottages, both of whom were specifically promised by the Labour Party during the General Election that they would have an extension of security of tenure.
§ The National Farmers' Union recently pointed out that if in Clause I agriculture was singled out for special mention it was only fair, in this series of guidance, that we should add a fifth guidance specifically relating to agriculture. I accepted that point of view and we decided to take that step.
§ I should make it clear that the Amendment does not have the full agreement of the N.F.U., nor, for that matter, of the National Union of Agricultural Workers. It does not because it limits, to some extent, the security which they wanted. The N.F.U. made it clear in a circular which some hon. members received today that while it would rather have nothing about agriculture in the Bill, it would reconcile itself to something, and interest was shown in the Opposition's proposed Amendment in line 2 of my Amendment.
§ I need not say more about this, except to comment that I believe that the words in the Amendment adequately do what we promised, and that they make it clear to the county courts that in the case of a tied cottage consideration must be given to the special conditions applying to employment in the agricultural industry. The only question flowing from what I have said is whether one should accept that Amendment to my Amendment. It would be a mistake to do that, 1380 because it would mean extending the principal much further. If that Amendment were accepted the Clause would extend to all kinds of people outside the agricultural industry. To do that would be a mistake, although when we come to the long-term Measure we will bear this matter seriously in mind.
§ I advise hon. Members that the question of whether we should consider taking all service tenancies together, and not single out agriculture, is being considered in the formulation of our long-term Measure. I therefore ask the House to accept the Amendment and to reject the Amendment to it in view of the possibility of dealing with these things in long-term legislation.
§ The second Amendment to my Amendment, in line 4, to leave out "seriously", cannot, I suggest, be accepted, because this is a Bill to protect people from eviction, and it should be made clear that it is only when things are seriously prejudiced that one should consider the extreme course. It is not true to say that wherever it might be said that there was any effect on agriculture one ought to have the right to evict a worker from a tied cottage. Thus, to keep the balance right, the word "seriously" should remain in the Bill, and I advise my hon. Friends to oppose any attempt to remove it.
§ Question, That "and" stand part of the Bill, put and negatived.
§ Question proposed, That the proposed words be there inserted in the Bill.
§ 6.15 p.m.
§ Mr. William Roots (Kensington, South)
I beg to move, as an Amendment to the proposed Amendment, in line 2, to leave out from "tenancy" to "for" in line 5 and to insert:in consequence of his employment and he has ceased to be in that employment, the premises are reasonably required".I thank the Minister for initially attempting to redeem the pledge which he gave in Committee and, as he put it, to write in a special assurance for 1381 farmers. I hope that when he has considered the matter further he will realise that his words, far from amounting to a special or at any rate unbiassed and reasonable assurance to farmers, have gone far too far the other way, for when one considers the wording of subsection (4) one realises the difficulties involved.
The Minister described the various subsections of the Clause as giving forms of guidance to county court judges. He so described the Amendment standing in his name. He clearly envisages that county court judges will pay particular attention to the wording of the subsection, which is directed specifically to farm service tenants. As he said, when one considers this matter one must recognise that these are the only service tenants included in the Bill.
We have argued about that and have passed the Clause which brings them within the Bill. I do not propose to reopen that argument. Nevertheless, having brought them within the Bill and having allegedly written in a special assurance to farmers, one finds on considering the words of this special assurance that they are far from being an assurance such as is given to other landlords in subsection (4). Indeed, to use the metaphor the Minister used, the pendulum has been swung a great deal against the farmer because subsection (4,b) states:whether he has unreasonably refused an offer of a tenancy of the premises or part of the premises for a reasonable term and at a reasonable rent.Subsection (c) states:whether he has failed to make reasonable efforts to obtain other suitable accommodation …It is striking that this test of reasonableness has been the one chosen by the Government to be the test which the county court judge should employ. In those terms I cannot seek more forceful advocacy than the words used by both Parliamentary Secretaries. The hon. Member for Bermondsey (Mr. Mellish), was at great pains a few moments ago to stress that the judge's view should and could be relied upon—a proposition from which I should not wish to depart—and, even more striking, the hon. Member for Widnes (Mr. MacColl), said somewhat earlier that the court could be trusted to interpret the word "reasonable".
1382 Surely, when one looks at the whole tenor of these subsections, the Amendment to the Amendment clearly fulfils that test. It accords precisely with the nature of the other categories, (a) to (d), and it would read:… whether, in a case where the premises were occupied by the tenant under the former tenancy"—that is, the agricultural tenancy—in consequence of his employment and he has ceased to be in that employment, the premises are reasonably required. …So the farmer has to prove that he reasonably requires the accommodation. We do not introduce a fresh test of "seriously prejudiced" but adopt the same test of whether the premises are reasonably required. We include the further test contained in the Minister's Amendment that the farmer has to show that the premises are required for occupation by… a person employed or to be employed by the owner …I accept the terms in which the right hon. Gentleman moved his Amendment. If one is seeking to write in an assurance for the farmers, to produce a test that is quite different from the other test to which the county court judge has to direct his attention, in quite different terms, and involving an inquiry into the running of the farm, which may be quite undefinable, cannot really be regarded as giving any assurance to the farmers, or placing them where I suggest they have the right to be placed, which is on an equal footing as to what they have to show and prove in order to get possession.
The fact is that even if the Amendment that I am moving is accepted, the farmers have to prove the further condition that the premises are required for occupation by a person employed or to be employed by the owner, so they have a stiffer case to meet. I cannot help feeling that when the Minister and the Parliamentary Secretaries consider the matter further, they will decide that the terms of our Amendment satisfy subsection (4), and satisfy justice to the farmer and to the service tenant whom, as they have said, they seek to protect. In those circumstances, it would be quite wrong to introduce some other and more complicated test when a simple test is to hand. I hope that the right hon. Gentleman 1383 will bear in mind the fact that the Amendment I move will produce a fairer result than that standing in his name.
§ Mr. Marcus Kimball (Gainsborough)
In moving his Amendment, the Minister showed us all a green brief that has come today from the headquarters of the National Farmers' Union, but I want to make it perfectly clear that the Lincolnshire branch of the N.F.U., representing the principal farming county, believes quite firmly that that headquarters memorandum is entirely unsatisfactory, and that the compromise is not good enough. I would remind the Minister that in Lincolnshire we have the steel town of Scunthorpe, and there is a special problem as a result, because there are regular cases every year of farm workers occupying tied cottages and then going to work in the steel industry.
The Lincolnshire branch's real objection to the Minister's Amendment springs from the fact that it makes a complete nonsense of the Contracts of Employment Act. I am sure that every hon. Member welcomes the way in which contracts are becoming widely used and accepted throughout the agricultural industry. If an agreement has been properly executed, with one month's notice to quit on either side, and the person signing it must have understood quite clearly what it was about, and understood the condition of his occupancy, surely no judge could deem that contract to be invalid and give the person concerned a period of six months to stay on in the cottage. That would be to impose a delay of great disadvantage to the whole agricultural industry.
I do not see why, as my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Kensington, South (Mr. Roots) has said already, it should be on the agricultural industry to have to prove that the house is needed for the efficient management of agricultural land, and go through all the business of taking the matter to court, and having an inquiry into methods and ways of running a farm. As has been said, it would not be difficult in that case for the other side to produce a system whereby someone could come from the village, using transport, while the person in the cottage could be given security of tenure. We realise that the 1384 Minister has tried to meet some of our objections, but his attempt is still not good enough.
§ Mr. Bert Hazell (Norfolk, North)
This provision is something that agricultural workers would have wished to see left out, because the National Union of Agricultural Workers recognises that it will make the position even more difficult for the farm worker occupying a cottage than for a normal tenant. We were always led to believe that it was the Government's intention that there should be parity of freedom between the ordinary tenant and the tenant of the agricultural cottage. We think that the balance now will be weighted against farm workers, although we recognise the reason that has prompted the Minister to include this wording. My hon. Friend the Parliamentary Secretary earlier said that Government leaders had bent over backwards to favour the landlords, but we think that here they have more than bent over backwards in trying to meet the wishes of the farmers.
I mentioned during the Second Reading debate the hardship suffered by farm workers. Some hon. Members opposite then rather decried my views but the hon. Member for Gainsborough (Mr. Kimball) has emphasised the very reason for greater protection being given to the farm worker than has hitherto been the case. He said that when a man in a farm cottage gets a month's notice to leave—for whatever cause—he should be out of the cottage at the end of that time whether or not there is anywhere else for him to go. I presume that the hon. Member would maintain that there should be a summary eviction in that event.
The farm worker's occupancy of his tied cottage is different from that of other workers in other spheres of industry, who often have tied cottages. There are far more evictions of farm workers than is general elsewhere. This provision means that the farm worker will still be in a rather different category from any other tenant. We appreciate the reason for this, and are not opposing it, but I hope that in the more permanent legislation that is to be introduced, the very legitimate claims of the farm workers will be given greater consideration than has been possible in 1385 getting this Bill, with all its wide implications, through the House as soon as possible.
§ 6.30 p.m.
§ Mr. James Scott-Hopkins (Cornwall, North)
I must confess, following the hon. Member for Norfolk, North (Mr. Hazell), that I hope the Minister will not believe what he said about the need to incorporate further protection in a later Bill. The Minister by his Amendment has fulfilled the promise he gave in Committee and has redressed the balance to a certain extent compared with what before the Amendment was an extremely badly and unfairly weighted Clause.
I have remarked before that I regret that there are no Ministers from the Department of Agriculture on the Government Front Bench. I do no more than draw attention to the fact that there has been no representative of the Ministry present during discussion of these Clauses.
§ Mr. Mellish
In order to get the record straight, I should say that when the Amendments concerning agricultural workers were put forward the Minister of Agriculture sat with us on this Bench.
§ Mr. Scott-Hopkins
Yes, indeed, but he went away again after about five minutes and there is no one from the Ministry here now.
We agree that this is an acceptable subsection that goes a certain way to redress the balance for the farmer. I am sorry that the Minister has not been able to accept the Amendment in the name of my hon. Friend the Member for Norfolk, South (Mr. J. E. B. Hill) to leave out the word "seriously". I noticed that when he was talking about that Amendment the Minister said that it would spring the balance too far and that the real purpose was to give adequate rent control permanently in future for farm tenants. I understand that the right hon. Gentleman is thinking of doing away completely with the tied cottage system.
§ Mr. Scott-Hopkins
I am glad to see him shaking his head. We must realise that in this matter the farmer will be in an extremely difficult position. He may need the tied cottage as a matter of urgency when things go wrong on the farm. He may be unable to get a worker to come on the farm without such accommodation, and he may need the cottage for him quickly. Therefore, the word "seriously" could well be left out. As the right hon. Gentleman is so fond of relying on the discretion of judges, I should have thought that if the word were left out he could be certain that the judge would use his discretion and the weighting would be exactly fair between the farmer and the tenant agricultural worker in this case.
I am glad that the right hon. Gentleman has redeemed his promise and to a certain extent has redressed the balance, yet I hope he will go further and accept the Amendment to delete the word "seriously".
§ Mr. J. E. B. Hill (Norfolk, South)
I am grateful to you, Mr. Speaker, for allowing us to discuss with the Amendment which has been moved the Amendment in my name and the name of my hon. Friend the Member for City of Chester (Mr. Temple), to leave out the word "seriously". I am sorry that the Minister has said that he will not accept it. I hope he will reconsider that decision and have second thoughts about it for the omission of this word would improve the purpose he has in mind.
The Government Amendment is designed to direct the attention of the county court judge to the peculiar circumstances operating in agriculture. Tied cottages are quite different from any other let property within the ambit of the Bill in that in all other types the landlord is presumed to desire and derive some investment income from his property, whereas the agricultural tied cottage is part of the equipment of agriculture. The cottage is wholly uneconomic but it is necessary.
I think there is a difference of interpretation between us. This Amendment does not require a separate treatment of the agricultural position by the judge. The Government Amendment does not exclude consideration of all other circumstances including the special factors in 1387 paragraphs (a) to (d). We could omit "seriously" for three reasons. First, it makes the agricultural factor relatively hard to bring in. Since the "tied cottage" is unlike any other property covered by the Bill, it is desirable for the judge to consider the special circumstances of an agricultural nature. There are quite a number which do not obtain in other properties.
As my hon. Friend the Member for Gainsborough (Mr. Kimball) mentioned, there is the strong probability that it will be a term of a man's employment, included in the written contract of service—though I am advised that it might not, in law, be part of the contract of service but may be included as a separate contract in the document—that he will have possession of the cottage linked to and coterminous with his employment. Therefore, it ought to be in the judge's mind that the man undertook that obligation when taking his job and entering the cottage.
There is also the very real fear which farmers have of a man living in a tied cottage taking a job outside agriculture. That is something which the judge is not required to consider in other parts of the Measure, although it is very relevant to the particular circumstances of the agricultural tied cottage. Then there is the interest, not only of the employer or owner, but of the prospective occupier, the man who is trying to come to a job but who might be frustrated simply because he cannot get the house or any house near the job.
Another consideration which the judge should have in mind in the case of service occupancies if he is allowing any period of delay is the need—as the N.F.U. recommended in its note received this morning—to give some indication of mesne profits which should be available to the employer in respect of the time when he loses the use of the cottage after the worker has left his employment.
All these are matters which ought to be taken into consideration. The implication of the Government Amendment is that the agricultural factor need not be considered unless the efficient management of land would be seriously prejudiced.
§ Mr. Crossman
It is, of course, in the discretion of the county court judge to raise the rent or lower it or fix it at its present level. Clearly there is discretion, and this was left for the specific reason that if a man was living in a house where there was no rent paid and now there is to be a rent there would be room in the discretion to put that in. The judge is given full discretion to do that under the Bill.
§ Mr. Hill
I see that, but the big distinction is that agricultural cottages are not meant to be economic, and the farmer is hoping that a cottage may be some inducement to a man to work for him.
How could the word "seriously" be interpreted? If it is left in the Amendment county court judges will assume that Parliament intended something by that word. I think there would be difficulty in interpretation. The only other well-known context in which this word comes is, I think, in workmen's compensation where the phrase, "serious and wilful misconduct" is used. That, I believe, has given the courts much trouble in interpretation. The courts decide rightly that in such cases the word "seriously" would have to be interpreted in the light of the facts of each case. That cannot be so here because most of the important facts have not happened as in compensation cases but lie in the future.
It is impossible to know in advance whether the loss of the use of a cottage and the consequent shortage of a man will result in serious prejudice or injury to efficient management. In cases where there is only one employee and one cottage, it is virtually certain that the prejudice will be serious. In many cases the degree of prejudice must depend on unpredictable factors lying in the future—for example, the relative shortage of labour, because farms do not carry spare labour nowadays. Labour is always short. Therefore, the absence of one man may cause serious prejudice if there are arrears of work. Again, whether the prejudice is serious may depend on weather conditions alone. It may be governed by the subsequent sickness of other workers. The farmer may, because he has not possession of the cottage, miss the ideal replacement.
1389 All that can be shown in most cases are the factors which may prejudice efficient management, although to what degree only time and chance will show. Therefore it would be more satisfactory if the county court judge were specifically directed to take into account any prejudice to efficient management and so consider all the agricultural circumstances along with all the other circumstances.
A Labour Government should take their stand on that. After all, the Government as a whole, not merely the Minister of Agriculture, have emphasised their support for the 1947 Act, Section 1 of which speaks about the necessity for maintaining a stable and efficient agriculture. Section 1 also mentions providing proper remuneration and living conditions for agricultural workers. There is the balance. I should have thought that all Ministers would want to take account, and have judges take account, of any prejudice to efficient management in industry, and particularly in our greatest industry. Otherwise the impression will be given, as has happened before, that a Labour Government, despite general statements of support for agriculture, usually fall down in practice and on matters of detail through haste, lack of understanding or lack of consultation.
I am sure that the Minister of Agriculture would not want to give that impression. I do not think that the Minister of Housing and Local Government would. Therefore, I hope that at a later stage the right hon. Gentleman will, after reconsidering the matter, accept my Amendment to his Amendment, because it would in no way prejudice the fullest and fairest consideration of the occupier's case. It would avoid implied restriction on the judge's discretion, which should be as free as possible. It would assist the Minister in his declared intention to ensure that the needs of agriculture are always taken into account.
§ Mr. George Y. Mackie (Caithness and Sutherland)
The Liberal Party welcomes the Minister's Amendment, which has been tabled in response to an Amendment tabled by myself and by my hon. Friends which the Minister accepted in principle in Committee. We think that the Government Amendment covers the points we raised in Committee. To delete 1390 the word "seriously" would raise grave issues, because I personally could easily prove that some prejudice to efficient management would arise whenever a man left his employer but still occupied a cottage. The word "seriously" can be easily defined. It is obvious from speeches made by members of the Conservative Opposition that a serious situation would arise if a farmer had to milk his cows himself. Not only the hardship which would arise to the man but also the cruelty to the cows arising from such an action would undoubtedly be taken into account by the judge. It would constitute a reason.
Seriously, we think that the sensible Amendment tabled by the Minister covers the points we raised. We support the Government's Amendment and not the Amendments to it.
§ 6.45 p.m.
§ Mr. Temple
Unlike the hon. Member for Caithness and Sutherland (Mr. George Y. Mackie), I must declare an interest. I am a farmer. I am capable in an emergency of milking my own cows. I support the case advanced by my hon. Friend the Member for Norfolk, South (Mr. J. E. B. Hill), because he made a serious point. I believe that the word "seriously" is unnecessary. I will give an additional reason to those advanced by my hon. Friend. Today agriculture is an extremely efficient and scientific industry. I hope that the Minister of Housing and Local Government has had the opportunity of going to the Smithfield Show this week. If he has not, I hope that he will go and convince himself of the science which is necessary to run an agricultural holding today.
In view of the scientific approach which farmers must now make to their vocation, I believe that it is necessary to have a well-trained labour force and if a member of the staff leaves it is necessary to be able to replace him reasonably quickly. If the word "seriously" is deleted, it will have the effect of enabling farmers to replace an agricultural worker rather more speedily and satisfactorily, because today I believe that the only circumstances in which district councils will rehouse an agricultural worker are when a court order has been obtained saying that the worker must leave his premises.
If the system is to work as it has hitherto, the court order will have to be 1391 obtained fairly quickly. I believe that it will be difficult to prove that the management of a holding has been seriously affected in a very short while, because "seriously affected" means that it has been seriously affected over a period. I therefore hope very much that the Minister, with his personal knowledge of agriculture—I do not quite know whether he is capable of milking his own cows, but I know that he has a great personal interest in agriculture—will think again about the Amendment to his Amendment.
§ Sir J. Hobson
I support the points made by my hon. Friends the Members for the City of Chester (Mr. Temple) and Norfolk, South (Mr. J. E. B. Hill) and suggest to the House that it is too restricting to leave in the word "seriously".
I turn to the main Amendment to the Amendment in the names of my hon. Friends and myself. It is all very well to have a discussion about agriculture, but that is not the only industry. We are glad to have had the Minister of Agriculture with us for the last five minutes. He has missed all the debate on agriculture. Perhaps he will now listen to the points which affect the direction which is now being given to county court judges.
§ The Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food (Mr. Fred Peart)
I hope that hon. Members opposite will not continue with this discourtesy. I have made arrangements. I have had some important meetings. The Opposition spokesman on agriculture well appreciates the position. I advise the hon. and learned Gentleman to consult him.
§ Sir J. Hobson
I quite understand that the right hon. Gentleman has been at important meetings, but he is not the only Minister at the Ministry of Agriculture. He has deputies. He is well supported. If he cannot be here, one or other of his deputies could be here.
Why should this principle apply to agriculture only? In our last debate there was a good deal of discussion about railway employees and railway occupants. If the principle is to be that the efficiency of farms is important and should be taken into account by county court judges, equally the necessity of providing accommodation for those who are to take over the jobs of railway employees should be considered.
§ Mr. Crossman
This is something which the right hon. Gentleman has said twice before. I made a specific statement that I would write in something about agriculture. I said this to the N.F.U., which has welcomed this qualification about agriculture. The issue is whether service tenancies in general should be in the Bill or whether there should be a specific assurance on agriculture. I said I would do that and I have kept my promise.
§ Sir J. Hobson
This is nothing to do with service tenancies. It covers all in agriculture, whether service occupancies or tenancies. The Amendment is intended to emphasise that while we accept and are grateful for the fact that that principle has been applied to agriculture, it ought equally to be applied to all forms of industry where somebody is let premises in consequence of his employment and where he has gone into those premises because they were necessary as part of his employment. That principle ought to apply not only to agriculture but to the other circumstances.
May I give a few instances? School caretakers and stokers, for instance, frequently have to live on the premises. It is important that they should do so, and it is important, when the county court judge considers whether or not he should make an order for possession, that he should take into account that somebody else has to get that job, that the premises were originally let to the person in consequence of his employment, that that person has ceased to be in that employment and that somebody else now has to live in those premises for that work. I have already mentioned railway employees; we debated them at length on the last occasion and several questions, from the Government benches, from the Liberal representatives and from this side of the House, were asked about why railway employees were being treated differently.
Factory workers and night watchmen, in many cases, have to live on premises, and some factories have processes just as important as agriculture. It is just as important that some people in other industries than agriculture should live on the premises. Hospital staffs, managers of public houses and caretakers of flats are all people to whom the premises were originally let to enable them to do a job. When they have 1393 ceased to be in that employment, it is surely right that the county court judge should Lake into consideration the fact that a new employee must live in those premises.
I cannot understand why the Minister should be upset, because when he has done it for agriculture, the same principle should apply to large numbers of other industries, where it is of immense importance that the fact that the premises are needed for the purposes of the job and that another person has to go into those premises for the same job should be taken into account by the county court judge.
§ Mr. Bryant Godman Irvine (Rye)
It would appear that the Minister of Housing is under the impression that one can find alternative accommodation for a farm worker just by looking to some local council. In fact, if a farm worker is looking for alternative accommodation and if he is to remain a farm worker, it would not be within the area, he would have to move a considerable distance. If such a farm worker has been taking care of a milking herd, the effect on the milk production if that man remains with the herd when he is no longer living on the same farm must be very serious. If the Minister of Agriculture is interested in seeing that milk production maintained, perhaps he would like to explain to the Minister of Housing what the position is.
§ Mr. Godman Irvine
I should like to make one point in relation to the remarks made by the hon. Gentleman the Member for Norfolk, North (Mr. Hazell), because he says that this is something which is wanted by the National Union of Agricultural Workers. I would like to ask him if he has looked at the advertisements in any agricultural paper, either those by the people looking for jobs in agriculture, or by farmers looking for workers. I do not think he would be able to find one single advertisement which said: "No house required".
If there is a house required, how does he imagine this difficulty is to be surmounted by the people looking for work? He is only looking at one side of the picture when he says that there are many people being evicted and that he has a lot of evidence about it. I am a farmer and have lived in the country for most of my life and I have never seen any of these incidents taking place and I have never had any of them brought to my attention. If this is what goes on in Norfolk I can only say that things are different in East Sussex. I would certainly ask him to have a look at the advertisements in agricultural papers before he says that workers do not want cottages with their work.
§ Question put, That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the proposed Amendment:—
§ The House divided: Ayes 254, Noes 200.1397
|Division No. 34.]||AYES||[6.57 p.m.]|
|Abse, Leo||Brown, Hugh D. (Glasgow, Provan)||Diamond, John|
|Albu, Austen||Brown, R. W. (Shoreditch & Fbury)||Dodds, Norman|
|Allaun, Frank (Salford, E.)||Buchan, Norman (Renfrewshire, W.)||Doig, Peter|
|Alldritt, W. H.||Buchanan, Richard||Driberg, Tom|
|Allen, Scholefield (Crewe)||Butler, Herbert (Hackney, C.)||Duffy, Dr. A. E. P.|
|Armstrong, Ernest||Butler, Mrs. Joyce (Wood Green)||Dunn, James A.|
|Atkinson, Norman||Callaghan, Rt. Hn. James||Dunnett, Jack|
|Bacon, Miss Alice||Carmichael, Neil||Edelman, Maurice|
|Bagier, Gordon A. T.||Carter-Jones, Lewis||Edwards, Rt. Hn. Ness (Caerphilly)|
|Barnett, Joel||Chapman, Donald||Edwards, Robert (Bilston)|
|Baxter, William||Coleman, Donald||English, Michael|
|Beaney, Alan||Conlan, Bernard||Ennals, David|
|Bellenger, Rt. Hn. F. J.||Corbet, Mrs. Freda||Ensor, David|
|Bence, Cyril||Crawshaw, Richard||Evans, Albert (Islington, S. W.)|
|Bennett, J. (Glasgow, Bridgeton)||Crosland, Anthony||Evans, Ioan (Birmingham, Yardley)|
|Binns, John||Crossman, Rt. Hn. R. H. S.||Fernyhough, E.|
|Bishop, E. S.||Cullen, Mrs. Alice||Finch, Harold (Bedwellty)|
|Blackburn, F.||Dalyell, Tam||Fitch, Alan (Wigan)|
|Blenkinsop, Arthur||Darling, George||Fletcher, Sir Eric (Islington, E.)|
|Boardman, H.||Davies, G. Elfed (Rhondda, E.)||Fletcher, Ted (Darlington)|
|Boston, T. G.||Davies, Harold (Leek)||Fletcher, Raymond (Ilkeston)|
|Bowden. Rt. Hn. H. W. (Leics S.W.)||Davies, Ifor (Gower)||Floud, Bernard|
|Boyden, James||Davies, S. O. (Merthyr)||Foot, Sir Dingle (Ipswich)|
|Braddock, Mrs. E. M.||Delargy, Hugh||Foot, Michael (Ebbw Vale)|
|Bray, Dr. Jeremy||Dempsey, James||Ford, Ben|
|Freeson, Reginald||McGuire, Michael||Rose, Paul B.|
|Galpern, Sir Myer||McInnes, James||Ross, Rt. Hn. William|
|Garrett, W. E.||McKay, Mrs. Margaret||Rowland, Christopher|
|Garrow, A.||Mackenzie, Alasdair (Ross & Crom'ty)||Sheldon, Robert|
|George, Lady Megan Lloyd||McLeavy, Frank||Shinwell, Rt. Hn. E.|
|Ginsburg, David||MacMillan, Malcolm||Short, Rt. Hn. E.(N'c'tle-on Tyne, C.)|
|Gourlay, Harry||MacPherson, Malcolm||Short, Mrs. Renée (W'hampton, N. E.)|
|Grey, Charles||Mahon, Peter (Preston, S.)||Silkin, John (Deptford)|
|Griffiths, David (Rother Valley)||Mahon, Simon (Bootle)||Silkin, S. C. (Camberwell, Dulwich)|
|Griffiths, Rt. Hn. James (Llanelly)||Mallalieu, E. L. (Brigg)||Silverman, Julius (Aston)|
|Grimond, Rt. Hn. J.||Manuel, Archie||Silverman, Sydney (Nelson)|
|Hale, Leslie||Mapp, Charles||Skeffington, Arthur|
|Hamilton, James (Bothwell)||Mason, Roy||Slater, Joseph (Sedgefield)|
|Hannan, William||Mellish, Robert||Small, William|
|Harper, Joseph||Mikardo, Ian||Smith, Ellis (Stoke, S.)|
|Harrison, Walter (Wakefield)||Millan, Bruce||Snow, Julian|
|Hattersley, Ray||Miller, Dr. M. S.||Solomons, Henry|
|Hayman, F. H.||Milne, Edward (Blyth)||Spriggs, Leslie|
|Hazell, Bert||Molloy, William||Steele, Thomas|
|Heffer, Eric S.||Monslow, Walter||Stewart, Rt. Hn. Michael|
|Henderson, Rt. Hn. Arthur||Morris, Charles (Openshaw)||Stonehouse, John|
|Herbison, Rt. Hn. Margaret||Morris, John (Aberavon)||Stones, William|
|Hill, J. (Midlothin)||Mulley, Rt Hn. Frederick (SheffieldPk)||Summerskill, Dr. Shirley|
|Holman, Percy||Neal, Harold||Swain, Thomas|
|Horner, John||Newens, Stan||Swingler, Stephen|
|Houghton, Rt. Hn. Douglas||Noel-Baker, Francis (Swindon)||Symonds, J. B.|
|Howarth, Robert L. (Bolton, E.)||Norwood, Christopher||Taverne, Dick|
|Howie, W.||Oakes, Gordon||Taylor, Bernard (Mansfield)|
|Hughes, Cledwyn (Anglesey)||Ogden, Eric||Thomas, Iorwerth (Rhondda, W.)|
|Hughes, Emrys (S. Ayrshire)||O'Malley, Brian||Thomson, George (Dundee, E.)|
|Hughes, Hector (Aberdeen, N.)||Oram, Albert E. (E. Ham, S.)||Thornton, Ernest|
|Hunter, Adam (Dunfermline)||Orbach, Maurice||Thorpe, Jeremy|
|Hunter, A. E. (Feltham)||Orme, Stanley||Tinn, James|
|Irvine, A. J. (Edge Hill)||Oswald, Thomas||Tomney, Frank|
|Irving, Sydney (Dartford)||Owen, Will||Tuck, Raphael|
|Jeger, George (Goole)||Padley, Walter||Urwin, T. W.|
|Jeger, Mrs. Lena (H'b'n&St.P'cras,S.)||Page, Derek (King's Lynn)||Varley Eric G.|
|Jenkins, Hugh (Putney)||Paget, R. T.||Wainwright, Edwin|
|Johnson, Carol (Lewisham S.)||Pannell, Rt. Hn. Charles||Walker, Harold (Doncaster)|
|Johnston, Russell (Inverness)||Park, Trevor (Derbyshire, S. E.)||Wallace George|
|Jones, Rt. Hn. SirElwyn (W Ham, S.)||Parkin, B. T.||Warbey William|
|Jones, J. Idwal (Wrexham)||Pavitt, Laurence||Watkins, Tudor|
|Jones, T. W. (Merioneth)||Pearson, Arthur (Pontypridd)||Weitzman, David|
|Kelley, Richard||Pen'land, Norman||Wells, William (Walsall, N.)|
|Kenyon, Clifford||Perry, Ernest G.||White, Mrs. Eirene|
|Kerr, Mrs. Anne (R'ter & Chatham)||Popplewell, Ernest||Whitlock, William|
|Kerr, Dr. David (W'worth, Central)||Prentice, R. E.||Wilkins, W. A.|
|Lawson, George||Probert, Arthur||Willey, Rt. Hn. Frederick|
|Leadbitter, Ted||Pursey, Cmdr. Harry||Williams, Alan (Swansea, W.)|
|Ledger, Ron||Rankin, John||Williams, Mrs. Shirley (Hitchin)|
|Lee, Rt. Hn. Frederick (Newton)||Redhead, Edward||Williams, W. T. (Warrington)|
|Lever, L. M. (Ardwick)||Rees, Merlyn||Willis, George (Edinburgh, E.)|
|Lewis, Arthur (West Ham, N.)||Reynolds, G. W.||Wilson, William (Coventry, S.)|
|Lewis, Ron (Carlisle)||Rhodes, Geoffrey||Winterbottom, R. E.|
|Lipton, Marcus||Richard, Ivor||Woodburn, Rt. Hn. A.|
|Lomas, Kenneth||Roberts, Albert (Normanton)||Wyatt, Woodrow|
|Loughlin, Charles||Roberts, Goronwy (Caernarvon)||Yates, Victor (Ladywood)|
|Lubbock, Eric||Robertson, John (Pais'ey)|
|Mabon, Dr. J. Dickson||Robinson, Rt. Hn. K.(St.Pancras, N.)||TELLERS FOR THE AYES:|
|McBride, Neil||Rodgers, William (Stockton)||Mr. McCann and|
|MacColl, James||Rogers, George (Kensington, N.)||Mrs. Harriet Slater|
|Agnew, Commander Sir Peter||Black, Sir Cyril||Clark, William (Nottingham, S.)|
|Alison, Michael (Barkston Ash)||Blaker, Peter||Clarke, Brig. Terence (Portsmth, W.)|
|Allan, Robert (Paddington, S.)||Box, Donald||Cooke, Robert|
|Allason, James (Hemel Hempstead)||Boyd-Carpenter, Rt. Hn. J.||Cooper, A. E.|
|Amery, Rt. Hn. Julian||Boyle, Rt. Hn. Sir Edward||Costain, A. P.|
|Astor, John||Braine, Bernard||Courtney, Cdr. Anthony|
|Atkins, Humphrey||Brewis, John||Craddock, Sir Beresford (Spelthorne)|
|Awdry, Daniel||Brinton, Sir Tatton||Crosthwaite-Eyre, Col. Sir Oliver|
|Baker, W. H. K.||Bromley-Davenport, Lt.-Col. Sir Walter||Crowder, F. P.|
|Balniel, Lord||Brooke, Rt. Hn. Henry||Cunningham, Sir Knox|
|Barlow, Sir John||Brown, Sir Edward (Bath)||Curran, Charles|
|Batsford, Brain||Bruce-Gardyne, J.||Currie, G. B. H.|
|Bennett, Dr. Reginald (Gos & Fhm)||Buchanan-Smith, Alick||Dalkeith, Earl of|
|Berkeley, Humphry||Buck, Antony||Dance, James|
|Berry, Hn. Anthony||Bullus, Sir Eric||Davies, Dr. Wyndham (Perry Barr)|
|Biffen, John||Burden, F. A.||Dean, Paul|
|Biggs-Davison, John||Butler, Rt. Hn. R. A.(Saffron Walden)||Deedes, Rt. Hn. W. F.|
|Bingham, R. M.||Campbell, Gordon||Digby, Simon Wingfield|
|Birch, Rt. Hn. Nigel||Channon, H. P. G.||Dodds-Parker, Douglas|
|Doughty, Charles||Kerr, Sir Hamilton (Cambridge)||Pym, Francis|
|du Cann, Rt. Hn. Edward||Kilfedder, James A.||Quennell, Miss J. M.|
|Eden, Sir John||King, Evelyn (Dorset, S.)||Rawlinson, Rt. Hn. Sir Peter|
|Elliott,R. W.(N'c'tle-upon-Tyne, N.)||Kitson, Timothy||Renton, Rt. Hn. Sir David|
|Errington, Sir Eric||Lambton, Viscount||Ridley, Hn. Nicholas|
|Farr, John||Litchfield, Capt. John||Roberts, Sir Peter (Heeley)|
|Fletcher-Cooke, Charles (Darwen)||Lloyd, Rt. Hn. Geoffrey (Sut'nC'dfield)||Rodgers, Sir John (Sevenoaks)|
|Forrest, George||Lloyd, Rt. Hn. Selwyn(Wirral)||Roots, William|
|Gardner, Edward||Loveys, Walter H.||Russell, Sir Ronald|
|Gibson-Watt, David||Lucas, Sir Jocelyn||St. John-Stevas, Norman|
|Giles, Rear-Admiral Morgan||McAdden, Sir Stephen||Scott-Hopkins, James|
|Gilmour, Sir John (East Fife)||Macleod, Rt. Hn. Iain||Sharples, Richard|
|Glover, Sir Douglas||McMaster, Stanley||Sinclair, Sir George|
|Glyn, Sir Richard||Maginnis, John E.||Smith, Dudley (Br'ntf'd & Chiswick)|
|Goodhew, Victor||Maitland, Sir John||Smyth, Rt. Hn. Brig. Sir John|
|Gower, Raymond||Marlowe, Anthony||Spearman, Sir Alexander|
|Grant, Anthony||Marten, Neil||Stainton, Keith|
|Gresham-Cooke, R.||Mathew, Robert||Summers, Sir Spencer|
|Griffiths, Eldon (Bury St. Edmunds)||Maude, Angus||Talbot, John E.|
|Griffiths, Peter (Smethwick)||Maudling, Rt. Hn. Reginald||Taylor, Edward M. (G'gow,Cathcart)|
|Hall, John (Wycombe)||Mawby, Ray||Taylor, Frank (Moss Side)|
|Hall-Davis, A. G. F.||Maxwell-Hyslop, R. J.||Temple, John M.|
|Harris, Frederic (Croydon, N. W.)||Maydon, Lt.-Cmdr. S. L. C.||Thatcher, Mrs. Margaret|
|Harris, Reader (Heston)||Meyer, Sir Anthony||Tilney, John (Wavertree)|
|Harvey, Sir Arthur Vere (Maccles'd)||Mills, Peter (Torrington)||Tweedsmuir, Lady|
|Harvey, John (Walthamstow, E.)||Mills, Stratton (Belfast, N.)||Vaughan-Morgan, Rt. Hn. Sir John|
|Harvie Anderson, Miss||Miscampbell, Norman||Vickers, Dame Joan|
|Hawkins, Paul||Mitchell, David||Walder, David (High Peak)|
|Hay, John||Monro, Hector||Walker, Peter (Worcester)|
|Heald, Rt. Hn. Sir Lionel||Morgan, W. G.||Walker-Smith, Rt. Hn. Sir Derek|
|Heath, Rt. Hn. Edward||Mott-Radclyffe, Sir Charles||Wall, Patrick|
|Hendry, Forbes||Murton, Oscar||Walters, Dennis|
|Higgins, Terence L.||Neave, Airey||Ward, Dame Irene|
|Hiley, Joseph||Nicholls, Sir Harmar||Weatherill, Bernard|
|Hill, J. E. B. (S. Norfolk)||Noble, Rt. Hon. Michael||Webster, David|
|Hirst, Geoffrey||Nugent, Rt. Hn. Sir Richard||Whitelaw, William|
|Hobson, Rt. Hn. Sir John||Orr, Capt. L. P. S.||Williams, Sir Rolf Dudley (Exeter)|
|Hogg, Rt. Hn. Quintin||Orr-Ewing, Sir Ian||Wills, Sir Gerald (Bridgwater)|
|Hordern, Peter||Osborn, John (Hallam)||Wilson, Geoffrey (Truro)|
|Hornby, Richard||Osborne, Sir Cyril (Louth)||Wise, A. R.|
|Howard, Hn. G. R. (St. Ives)||Page, R. Graham (Crosby)||Wolrige-Gordon, Patrick|
|Howe, Geoffrey (Bebington)||Peel, John||Woodhouse, Hn. Christopher|
|Hunt, John (Bromley)||Percival, Ian||Woodnutt, Mark|
|Irvine, Bryant Godman (Rye)||Peyton, John||Wylie, N. R.|
|Jenkin, Patrick (Woodford)||Pike, Miss Mervyn||Younger, Hn. George|
|Jennings, J. C.||Pitt, Dame Edith|
|Jones, Arthur (Northants, S.)||Pounder, Rafton||TELLERS FOR THE NOES:|
|Jopling, Michael||Price, David (Eastleigh)||Mr. Ian Fraser and Mr. More.|
|Kerby, Capt. Henry||Prior, J. M. L.|
§ Proposed words there inserted in the Bill.
§ Mrs. Joyce Butler (Wood Green)
I beg to move Amendment No. 14, in page 3, line 27, at the end to insert:(5) Where in proceedings for the recovery of possession of any premises the court makes an order for possession but suspends the execution of the order by virtue of subsection (1) of this section it shall make no order for costs, unless it appears to the court, having regard to the conduct of the owner or of the occupier, that there are special reasons for making such an order.The purpose of the Bill is to protect tenants from eviction and to give guidance to the courts, particularly in regard to the suspension of orders for eviction, and there are two matters which the courts have to consider. The first is the question of the order for possession, and this is a point on which we have spent a considerable time. There is also the order for costs which the courts 1398 have to consider when these orders for possession come before them. This is a very important matter on which we have so far not touched. An earlier Amendment on costs was moved formally but was not accepted.
It seems unreasonable, when a tenant is brought before the courts and gains security of his tenancy for a limited period, that he should then find himself in considerable financial difficulty because costs are awarded against him. While the court has a discretion, the costs are normally awarded to the successful party, and in practice only in exceptional cases does the court exercise its decision the other way. This may bear very heavily upon occupiers, even though the court may suspend the order for possession. We had hoped that the courts would exercise their discretion generously in favour of occupiers who are suffering considerable hardship by the threat of 1399 eviction. The object of my Amendment is to cover this aspect of the Bill and to tighten it up a little in the matter of costs.
My attention was first drawn to the hardship that may be involved in this question of costs when we were discussing the Landlord and Tenant (Temporary Provisions) Bill, 1958, which was introduced to try to relieve some of the acute hardship caused by the Rent Act.
A similar Amendment to this one was introduced in the discussion on that Bill, and at that time I had had representations made to me by a constituent who complained bitterly that he had been before the courts. The landlord's order for possession had been suspended for three months, but the tenant had found himself faced with a bill of £20 costs which he had to pay. This seemed to me to be quite wrong. The Minister at that time proposed an Amendment on lines similar to the one which I now move, but subsequently he had second thoughts and that Amendment was omitted in that Act.
It seems to me, therefore, that if there are hon. Members who think that this Amendment is not necessary and that the court's discretion need not be tampered with in any way, the experience which we had with that earlier legislation points to the fact that there is need for something of this kind to ensure that justice is done to tenants.
One of the difficulties of a debate on a Bill of this kind is that we get bogged down in technical details and we are apt to forget the human purpose behind the Bill. We are apt to forget that the majority of tenants who become involved in cases of the kind covered by the Bill are people of very limited means. Indeed, they would not be in this position if they had money to obtain some other kind of accommodation. We are also apt to forget that a great many of the landlords who take them to court in this way are real rogues and villains. It is quite wrong that when these landlords employ solicitors, and, possibly, counsel, and run up a considerable bill of costs the tenant should be expected to pay it.
I hope, therefore, that the Amendment will be accepted. It is not only necessary in order to give additional protection to 1400 the tenants but it is eminently reasonable and it is a matter of equity that something on these lines should be written into the Bill. This may not be perfect wording, but I hope that the Joint Parliamentary Secretary will consider that it will fulfil a need, and that it is part of the object of introducing the Bill that something like the Amendment should be incorporated.
The two following Amendments, Nos. 15 and 16, in lines 31 and 34, were thought necessary to bring the Bill into line for Scotland. I hope, therefore, that all three Amendments will be accepted in order to cover an important point which, so far, has not been touched.
§ Mr. Speaker
The hon. Lady the Member for Wood Green (Mrs. Butler) reminds me that I should have said that clearly it would be for the convenience of the House to discuss the Amendments in line 31, leave out "and", and in line 34, at end insert:and(c) for the reference to costs, there shall be substituted a reference to expenses".
§ Mr. Graham Page
I suppose that any hon. Member practising in the courts ought to declare an interest in connection with an Amendment which deals with costs and, therefore, I declare an interest at once. As the hon. Lady the Member for Wood Green (Mrs. Butler) said, the Amendment is very much in the wording of a Section in the Landlord and Tenant (Temporary Provisions) Act, 1958. As so many times in Committee and in today's debate, the Government have rejected Amendments from this side of the House endeavouring to produce logical points from the 1958 Act, I hope that the Government will be consistent and decline to accept this one as well.
It is not correct, as the hon. Lady said, that in possession cases costs follow the event. They do not in the county court. The county court judge has complete discretion under Order 47 of the county court rules, and he certainly does not exercise that discretion to order costs in favour of a successful litigant in a possession case. The principle adopted in possession cases is that the landlord who is claiming possession is trying to persuade the court to exercise discretion in his favour rather than to establish 1401 legal rights. Therefore, it does not follow that if he is successful the tenant is at fault or, if the tenant is successful in his defence, the landlord is at fault. The decision may be based on the judge's discretion in connection with hardship or reasonableness and it is frequently the practice that the county court judge declines to make an order one way or the other.
I do not feel strongly about the Amendment or whether or not it should be accepted. I feel that the county court judge should be left with his existing discretion. The way in which he exercises it is well known in the practice of the courts. I should have thought it sufficient to leave this matter to his discretion, exercising powers already given to him under Order 47 of the county court rules.
§ Mr. MacColl
Like the hon. Member for Crosby (Mr. Graham Page), I have no very strong views about this. If it were the will of the House to do it, it would not seriously alter the present position. My hon. Friend the Member for Wood Green (Mrs. Butler) has argued her case with great force and effectiveness. 'The drafting seems to me to be all right, and all that the Amendment is saying is that in a normal case the judge will not make any order as to costs, which is a fairly common practice now in this type of case. But the Amendment goes on to say that if either of the parties by their conduct during or before the proceedings have been open to question the judge might intervene and show his view of the matter by making an award of costs.
This seems to me a reasonable thing to do and it is a matter of judgment. I do not know what the right hon. Member for Kingston-upon-Thames (Mr. Boyd-Carpenter) thinks about this. If he feels strongly that this is something which should not go into the Bill, I would feel that I would not want to press it at this time because I do not think that it will make a great deal of difference.
§ Mr. Arthur Lewis (West Ham, North)
Do I understand my hon. Friend to say that if the right hon. Member for Kingston-upon-Thames (Mr. Boyd-Carpenter) wanted this or did not want it he was prepared to accept the 1402 position? I should have thought that, rather, he would meet the wishes of my hon. Friend the Member for Wood Green (Mrs. Joyce Butler).
§ Mr. MacColl
I said that I did not think that this would make a great deal of difference in practice and, therefore, I do not think that there is a great point of merit about it. On the other hand, as it is in the 1958 Act there is something to be said for declaring that the attitude should be the same in this matter as it was in those cases. Therefore, from that point of view there is probably a case for accepting the Amendment.
§ Mr. N. R. Wylie (Edinburgh, Pentlands)
I also have no strong views on the Amendment, but I should have thought that it was easier to leave the existing practice as it stands. Surely county court judges can use their discretion, but if the hon. Gentleman accepts the Amendment will he see that it is translated into Scottish terms? We do not know what is meant by "costs".
§ Sir J. Hobson
The hon. Lady the Member for Wood Green (Mrs. Butler) moved the Amendment with moderation. It is true that the wording was in the 1958 Act, but it can work two ways. A case where the landlord was entitled to possession took two minutes to decide because it was not disputed, but a long time was spent on whether the order should have been defended or not and whether on the way the case was conducted the tenant should have had costs.
If the Amendment were accepted, the tenant would not be able to recover the cost from the landlord. It works both ways, and on this question of costs one has to look at both sides. On the whole, I should have thought that in a temporary Measure it would have been better to leave the matter as it was to the discretion of the judges who exercise it very properly and understand the problems as they arise rather than that the judges should be shackled in the way in which they might exercise their discretion in favour of the tenant having costs if the tenant was so entitled. Therefore, I would suggest to the House, I hope with moderation, that it might be better not in temporary legislation to put in a restriction of this nature.
§ Amendment agreed to.1403
§ Further Amendments made: In Page 3, line 31 leave out "and".
In line 34 at end insert:
(c) for the reference to costs, there shall be substituted a reference to expenses".—[Mr. Manuel.]