§ 4.3 p.m.
§ Mr. Graham Page (Crosby)
I beg to move, in page 1, line 9, after "them", to insert "and in residence therein".
I think that it would be convenient for the Committee if we discussed, at the same time, Amendment No. 6, in page 1, line 23, after "occupation" to insert "and in residence".
§ Mr. Page
I am grateful to you, Sir Samuel.
May I, first, read these Amendments into the relevant Clause? In the fourth line of the Clause there are the wordspersons remain in occupation of the premises or part of them …".After those words the Amendment would introduce the words "and in residence therein". The effect would be that any person holding over after a tenancy and remaining in occupation of premises would, to obtain the protection of the Bill, have to show not only that he 1486 was in occupation, but also that he was in residence.
The Clause does not say that the restrictions of the Rent Acts shall apply to the dwellings mentioned in it. It sets out by a description those who are to be protected by the Bill, and in using those words defining the persons to be protected by the Bill it does not necessarily follow the Rent Restriction Acts. It does not necessarily protect exactly the same people as are protected by the Rent Acts. It goes rather further and widens the category of protected persons by describing them as those who are "in occupation". Nevertheless, I imagine that it is the Government's intention in the Bill to apply the principles of the Rent Restriction Acts, although applying them over a wider field of properties.
If the words used in the Bill, "persons in occupation", were left without any further modification, they might well include the absentee tenant, who perhaps leaves a few sticks of furniture in the house when he goes without any intention of returning. In the words of the Bill, he may still be "in occupation". If the Bill is to include furnished premises, then the position becomes even more difficult. If we use the phrase "in occupation", it may be extremely difficult to know when the tenant intends to continue to use the premises as his home or when he has left. The phrase "in occupation" might also include premises which are wholly sublet; the tenant may have given up his residence there altogether.
It is quite true that in the earlier part of the Clause the words are used "let as a dwelling", but this is not referred to again in the fourth and fifth lines, and, as the Clause is worded, it is possible for the premises to be let as a dwelling and then to be turned into business premises and still be "in the occupation" of the man who is holding over after a tenancy. He may be in occupation though he has sub-let the whole of the house and will not be using it as his home, or he may have let the house in part. This is the sort of case which I want to remove from the protection of the Bill. I apprehend that it must be the Government's intention to protect those in residence and not merely those who are making money out of their tenancy of property.
1487 Certainly, that was the intention of the Rent Acts, and it was said by Lord Justice Tucker as long ago as 1948:There is nothing in the actual language of the Rent Restriction Acts, read literally, to deprive a tenant in legal possession of the protection of these Acts by reason of non-residence.He went on:.. there is a long line of decisions of this court to that effect.He meant that the Rent Acts protected the person in residence and gave no protection to the person who had moved out of residence.
In 1931, Lord Justice Scrutton said:It is a fundamental principle of the Acts to protect a resident in a dwelling-house, not to protect a person who is not a resident in a dwelling-house but is making money by sub-letting it.He said:… the right of the statutory tenant is a purely personal right to occupy the house as his home.I will give two more quotations, because these are particularly apt to the whole principle of the Bill. Lord Justice Goddard, in 1933, dealing with statutory tenancies, said:Protection of the home seems to be the whole policy and intention of the Acts.Lord Justice Cooper, in 1947, said:The keynote of the Acts is domesticity and the protection of the home.I am sure that it is the intention of the Government to use the Bill to protect the homes of tenants and to prevent them from being evicted, but not to protect them in any other sphere. If on this first Amendment we can establish that as the principle underlying the Bill, then I can assure the Government that my hon. Friends will give the Bill a much smoother passage.
We are prepared to join with the Government to protect the homes of tenants, but if the Bill is to be a sort of spite against owners we will endeavour to amend it. When I say that it should protect the homes of people, I mean, of course, only one home for one person. I mention this because, as the Clause stands, it could protect the two-home man. It was said in one case that a sailor could not have a statutory tenancy in every port, but he could under the Bill. He could be 1488 in occupation of several dwellings and still claim the benefit of the Measure.
The second home, which is just an amenity, should not be protected by the Bill, nor should any homes which are used for summer holidays or occasional visits. They would unless the words "in residence" are included with the words "in occupation." Even if the words "in residence" are added there will be no question of depriving a wife who has been left by her husband, for the courts have time and again held that if she remains in the matrimonial home the husband is still an in-law in residence. Thus, by the Amendment, we would not be depriving her of the protection of the Bill.
There is also a practical point involved. If the Clause is left unamended, protecting those who are in occupation from any termination of their tenancy from any recovery of possession except by proceedings, one must remember that to start proceedings one must serve somebody with those proceedings. If the previous tenant has left the premises and has disappeared, then the owner is put to considerable inconvenience, to say the least, in trying to discover where he is so that he may serve him with proceedings, with a summons in the county court. The landlord should not be required to wait indefinitely when a tenant of this sort has left the premises and who may yet, in law, still be in occupation.
It is comparatively easy for the landlord to know when a man is or is not in residence and, from the practical point of view, if the words "in residence" are added after the words "in occupation" as an additional condition for the protection of the Bill, it would reduce the hardship to the landlord in cases where the tenant disappears.
The Bill should protect the homes of tenants who are threatened with eviction. To that extent, I agree entirely that the right course is for any owner to apply to the court before he endeavours to recover possession, but only so far as he is disturbing a family from its home. I hope that the Government will accept the principle of the Amendment, whether or not its wording is right. I have endeavoured to express the principle involved in it and I hope that it will be acceptable to the Government.
§ 4.15 p.m.
§ The Joint Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Housing and Local Government (Mr. James MacColl)
I crave the indulgence of the Committee in making my first appearance as Joint Parliamentary Secretary. Over the years I have seen a lot of Parliamentary Secretaries. They have come and gone and I can only say that if I irritate hon. Members opposite as much as most of the Parliamentary Secretaries in the past have irritated me, I apologise in advance.
The hon. Member for Crosby (Mr. Graham Page) stated what he thought was the spirit of the Bill and, in general, I accept what he said. I would put it in a different way and say that our object is to make the net as wide as we can, as all-embracing as possible, to get people within it, but, at the same time, to give a good deal of discretion about what happens to them when they get to court.
Once one starts being too exclusive in stopping people coming to court one is bound to create difficulties, difficulties which the Bill is designed to avoid; extra legal action, and so on. I have a lot of sympathy for the Amendment. Often I have been horrified at the fact that the hon. Member for Crosby nearly always gets his way when moving Amendments in Committee. I do not know whether I should follow that tradition and I certainly do not want to spend a lot of time being fussy about this matter.
Frankly, I do not think that the Amendment makes a great deal of difference. It may help in limiting the cases of, say, the holiday visitor and the person who leaves a dwelling and is not there at all. As I say, I do not intend to delay the Committee by fussing over the detail involved, so I will advise my hon. Friends to accept the Amendment. Having done that, I realise that I may get into trouble later from the draftsmen, possibly for having led them into something, but, subject to returning to this matter on Report, perhaps with different drafting, I advise my hon. Friends to accept the wording of the Amendment.
We want to get at the people who are living in the home. They are the people we want to protect, and to show that we are serious when we say that this is an urgent Bill which we want to get on to the Statute Book quickly I will, without 1490 further ado, merely again urge my hon. Friends to accept the Amendment.
§ Sir John Hobson (Warwick and Leamington)
May I be the first to congratulate the Joint Parliamentary Secretary from this side of the Committee on his appointment and say how much we welcome his appearance at the Dispatch Box in his new office? I have known him for some time, but generally as being concerned with home affairs rather than housing matters. I am sure, from my knowledge of him, that he will not irritate us. We are not in a mood to be irritated and in view of the agreeable and kindly manner in which he accepted my hon. Friend's Amendment, I am sure that he will not irritate us.
If the hon. Gentleman does break any tradition in relation to Parliamentary Secretaries I hope that he will continue as he began and go on accepting Amendments tabled by my hon. Friend the Member for Crosby (Mr. Graham Page), who knows a great deal about these subjects and who is so expert and knowledgeable on them. We are grateful to the hon. Gentleman for the way in which he has dealt with this Amendment, which was intended to improve the Bill.
§ Mr. Leslie Hale (Oldham, West)
I am sure that all hon. Members will wish to extend to my hon. Friend the Joint Parliamentary Secretary the indulgence of the Committee on his maiden speech at the Dispatch Box. I suppose, however, that his rising in the debate at the time when he intervened perhaps rules out the possibility of my asking the indulgence of hon. Members on this my maiden speech in the new Parliament.
My hon. Friend rose to comment on the Amendment at a time when no back benchers on this side had had an opportunity of putting their point of view. He rose and accepted the Amendment without having heard any observations from my hon. Friends. He did not hear the observations of those of us who see very real difficulties in the Amendment and who do not think that the hon. Member for Crosby (Mr. Graham Page) put the matter clearly, because at no time did the hon. Member for Crosby refer to line 23, which states:… means the person remaining in occupation".1491 It will be unfortunate, and I would be wasting the time of the Committee, if I continued with this debate if the view of my right hon. and hon. Friends on the Government Front Bench is that any intervention from the back benches on this side is a waste of time and should be cut out at the start.
If that is to be the attitude, there really does not seem to be any point at all in having back-bench Members sitting in Committee. I am not trying to be funny. I just do not see any purpose in sitting here if my function is merely to be to walk through the Division Lobby after the Parliamentary Secretary has accepted, without discussion, an Amendment moved from the other side of the Committee on the ground that any discussion would be a waste of time because we want to get on to more important Amendments.
I see a real difficulty in this Amendment, and I have no doubt that the hon. Member for Crosby sees it, too. He knows perfectly well that the judgment of the courts on the meaning of a phrase depends on its precise wording, and if there are alternatives they will be held to be restrictive. If, having defined and laid down occupation, we add the words "in residence", I do not think that any lawyer would challenge that the judicial interpretation must be restrictive. That has been said time and time again in cases of interpretation.
I had hoped to declare a personal interest in this matter. The hon. Member for Crosby said that a sailor could not have a home in every port, but I do not think that anybody has ever suggested that he had a home in every port—it was something else he had in every port—
§ Mr. Graham Page
I think that the hon. Gentleman will agree that I spoke of a statutory tenancy in every port.
§ Mr. Hale
The taxpayer can have a home in every port. At this moment the Irish Free State is pursuing a substantial Income Tax claim on me on the ground that I stopped for six weeks in the Free State three years ago. That is still a matter of controversy—and, perhaps, of litigation. Again, as a Member of Parliament, I am authorised—indeed, expected 1492 —to have a place of residence in London, in addition to my home, so that I may perform my Parliamentary duties. I can hardly contend that I reside there if, for other purposes, I say that my home is in Hampshire. Others must be in the same position.
The hon. Member for Crosby has said—and I am surprised that my hon. Friend's advisers have accepted the view—that the courts would necessarily say that a tenant who was working abroad and had left his wife and children in the occupation of a residence would, by this wording, be entitled to protection. I appreciate that I am probably wasting the time of the Committee, because my hon. Friend has accepted the Amendment and, there being a narrow majority, I am in a position where I can hardly force a Division against my hon. Friend. I cannot put a view, because my hon. Friend has accepted the Amendment before the view is put. I hope that this sort of thing will not happen again.
§ Mr. Harold Lever (Manchester, Cheetham)
I do not have even the exclusive presence of maidenhood to justify my intervention. My only reason for intervening is an emollient one. I think that my hon. Friend the Member for Oldham, West (Mr. Hale) is worrying himself excessively in this matter. The circumstances he mentioned will still be protected, quite beyond doubt, by the Bill, even though the Amendment is accepted.
In fact, the only thing against the Amendment is that it has practically no worth whatever. As far as I can see, its effect on the Bill is nil, and it guards against none of the anxieties the hon. Member for Crosby (Mr. Graham Page) thinks that it does. Therefore, although there is nothing much to be said for accepting it, there is equally nothing much to be said for rejecting it, and I shall be happy to accept it, because it does no injury to the Bill.
The hon. Member for Crosby said that he had moved the Amendment because he wanted to test at the very beginning whether the Bill was being introduced to protect tenants or out of some sort of spite against landlords. A more ridiculous and nonsensical statement it would be hard to conceive of in relation to a Bill as moderate as this one is. Its plain 1493 and simple purpose, and the plain and simple purpose of the Clause, is to provide protection from eviction. It does not take away any landlord's rights beyond protecting the tenant from eviction without court intervention and, after court intervention, the only change in the landlord's rights is to give the court power to postpone possession—and even that power is carefully safeguarded so as to leave with the judge who tries the case a complete discretion to give immediate possession if he thinks it right and fair to do so.
How the hon. Gentleman thinks, in those circumstances, that he has to test the Bill to see whether it seeks in good faith to protect tenants or is based on venom against landlords, I know not.
§ Mr. Charles Doughty (Surrey, East)
I do not want to discuss the whole merits of the Bill, and whether it is in favour of tenants or landlords. I merely speak for the protection of the Government Front Bench. This most reasonable Amendment, put forward by my hon. Friend the Member for Crosby (Mr. Graham Page), having been accepted by the Government, one would have thought it reasonable to get on with the next business. Unfortunately, hon. Members opposite, many of whom sat for so long on this side of the Chamber, have not learned, as we have done very quickly, the difference between sitting on this side and on that. I sat on the Government side for 13 years, and was frequently told, "Please do not speak on this important subject"— on which I am sure I must have had so much that was useful to add—"because we want to get on with our business."
Order. We are not dealing with the question of the Government's business, but with this Amendment. Perhaps the hon. and learned Gentleman will keep to the Amendment.
§ Mr. Doughty
I agree, Sir Samuel. I want to keep entirely to the Amendment. I would only add that whilst we on this side can now deal with the Bill at our leisure, hon. Members opposite who deal with it in detail are delaying the Government's business, and must realise that it is for them to support their own Front Bench in getting the Government's business through.
This is an important and correct Amendment. The difficulty that arises in referring to occupation only is that a person may be in occupation, though living abroad for a short time. If the landlord reoccupies those premises when the person is away, he incurs the penalties laid down in the Measure because he thinks, wrongly, that the person is not in occupation. I therefore think it only right that the words "and in residence therein" should be added. I am glad to be able to support my hon. Friend and, as a result of sitting on this side, to be able to do so in my own good time.
§ Amendment agreed to.
§ Mr. James Allason (Hemel Hempstead)
I beg to move Amendment No. 2, in page 1, line 13, after "widow", to insert "or widower".
§ Mr. Allason
This Amendment, on which Amendments Nos. 4 and 5 are consequential, relates to the position of the widower as compared of that of the widow. The Committee will note that by this Clause the widow of a statutory tenant gets first priority for the transmitted tenancy. If there is no widow, the tenancy passes to some other member of the family in residence. This is rather unfair on father. In these days of equal rights the widower of a woman statutory tenant should have the first call on the transmitted tenancy. It is for that reason that we have tabled Amendments Nos. 2, 4 and 5.
Amendment No. 3 is slightly different. Here, the wording of the Bill has been taken from the 1920 Rent Act, which first introduced the idea of a transmitted tenancy; that is to say, that when a tenant died the widow should be entitled to take on the tenancy or, failing a widow, some other member of the family.
1495 4.30 p.m.
That method was bound to have demerits, because a member of the family might move in simply to nurse the tenant who was dying and, notwithstanding the fact of having a perfectly good home of his or her own, would be entitled by virtue of having three days in residence to the transmitted tenancy. In consequence, this loophole in the law was recognised in 1933 and in that year's Act it was corrected. I therefore think it better to follow the example of the 1933 Act and use the six months' test of genuineness of occupation by a member of the family.
§ Mr. Eric Lubbock (Orpington)
I do not want to prolong the discussion, but I should like to ask the Minister a question. What is the position of a woman who is living with the tenant as his wife, but is not married to him? Would such a person be covered under the Amendment or under the Clause?
§ The Joint Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Housing and Local Government (Mr. Robert Mellish)
I waited a moment or so before rising to make sure that nobody else wanted to speak, so that I might retain good will. We accept the point of Amendments Nos. 2, 4 and 5 which have been introduced by the hon. Member for Hemel Hempstead (Mr. Allason) and we are grateful to him for putting them down. They are useful drafting Amendments, and on behalf of the Government I am glad to accept them.
Amendment No. 3, however, raises a quite different argument. It would require that any such relative if not a widow or a widower should have resided for six months in the dwelling before the former tenant dies in order to qualify for protection under the Bill. I understand that this condition was introduced in the Rent and Mortgage Interest Rrestrictions (Amendment) Act, 1933, because cases had arisen when a member of the tenant's family had come to stay with him for only a short time when he was ill and, liking the house, elected to claim the protection of the law and stay on as a controlled tenant. That was considered to be an abuse of the spirit of the Act and to involve hardship to owners. An Amendment was made limiting the right to stay on as a protected tenant to members of 1496 the family who had resided with the tenant for six months before his death.
Cases decided subsequent to the passing of the 1933 Act indicated that the courts considered that in the context of the Rent Acts, the word "reside" implied reasonably permanent residence and not, for example, occasional visits or even a period spent nursing a tenant unless the relative concerned gave up his or her former home and made the tenant's house her sole residence. We believe that the courts would be likely to follow Rent Act cases in construing the Bill.
We believe that to deny the facility to tenants who may have come to live with a sick relative and given up their old homes but who have not completed six months' residence would be plainly unfair. In a case of this kind, we believe it to be much better to leave to the county court discretion to decide the question of security in the wide variety of cases that will certainly have to be considered by the courts. I refer the hon. Member for Hemel Hempstead and those who support him on the Amendment to Clause 2(4), which provides that in exercising their power the courts shall consider "all the circumstances".
That, I believe, is the very difficulty that the hon. Member for Orpington (Mr. Lubbock) has in mind. He has posed the problem of a person who does not come within what I might call the classification of the legitimate widow or widower, but who has been in residence for a period of time although not a relative in law. All these are matters which, when a case for possession is argued before the judge, he will decide on their merits. The county court judge will consider all the circumstances before deciding what action to take. In the Bill, we are giving discretion to the courts.
In the light of what I have said, I hope that the Committee will appreciate that whilst we accept the other three drafting Amendments, for the reasons which I have given we do not accept that Amendment No. 3 is reasonable or right. We consider that the Clause is better left as it is so that all the circumstances of each individual case can be decided on merit by the judge. We regard this as much the better way of dealing with this important but temporary Measure.
§ Mr. Graham Page
The one point which the Parliamentary Secretary has not dealt with in his speech from his brief was the question of who is to decide who shall follow on if there is default in agreement about who is the member of the family. The hon. Gentleman has referred us to Clause 2 and the powers of the county court judge there-under, but surely the powers of the county court judge under the Clause are merely to decide whether to grant the 12 months' extension. It does not extend to the power of deciding who is the occupier.
The occupier is defined in Clause 1. According to the Bill, it is not for the judge to decide who is the occupier. Surely, it is necessary to put into Clause 1 power for the court to choose between members of the family. The hon. Member for Orpington (Mr. Lubbock) has raised the point about a mistress living in the house, a person who is not a legal wife but who comes in as a member of the family. There might also be a daughter in the house. As the Bill stands, who is to decide whether the daughter or the mistress is the occupier under Clause 1(2)?
§ Mr. Mellish
I appreciate the number of difficulties which inevitably must arise, but I put the alternative case. Take the legitimate case of the relative who has come into the home because the mother was ill, who has been there only, say, two months and who has given up her own home in an honest endeavour to look after her parent, as is her duty.
Suppose that because of the speed of the illness, the tenant dies quickly. Does the hon. Member for Crosby (Mr. Graham Page) say that in these circumstances the law should be so written that the claim of a person such as I have described would not be considered? It is because we believe that there will be a wide variety of such cases that we consider it right and proper, on the legal advice which we have taken, that the matter must be within the discretion of the court. That is why we resist the Amendment.
§ Mr. William Roots (Kensington, South)
The Parliamentary Secretary has, I think, overlooked the point which has been put to him. He has dealt with the first point concerning the period of residence on which there is a difference of opinion, but he has not dealt with the 1498 major point that Amendment No. 3 would give to the court, in the event of default in agreement, power to decide between, say, two or, possibly, three members of a deceased's family who were residing with him immediately before his death. In other words, the court would be given power to make a decision.
I hope that the hon. Gentleman will give this matter further consideration, because the Amendment represents a sincere attempt to fill what is clearly a gap in the Clause. The proposal of my hon. Friends would afford wide protection and is not restrictive.
§ Mr. Lubbock
I hope that I am not being dense, but did the Parliamentary Secretary say that under the landlord and tenant legislation the person living with a tenant as his natural wife, but not legally married to him, was deemed to be a member of the family? If not, could he say how the courts would interpret the phrase "any member of his family" as including a person living with the tenant but not legally married to him?
§ Mr. Mellish
I did not say that. I was trying to make the simple point that we believe that we should give the courts discretion to decide the question whether notice to quit should be given. The Bill gives the judge discretion. Obviously, where action has been taken to evict, the person concerned would put his case and argue it and the judge would have to decide on the merits. This is the sort of instance in which the judge will have to decide on the case as presented. That is all I was trying to say.
§ Mr. Charles Fletcher-Cooke (Darwen)
This is not a question of merits. Either the mistress is a member of the family, in which case the judge has the power, or she is not, in which case the judge has no power. It is a question of definition whether the mistress is a member of the family or not.
§ Mr. MacColl
I understand that a mistress is not a member of the family. That is the position under the Rent Act. On the question whether we should do something about that, we have tried, as far as possible, in the holding Act not to extend the provisions which are in the Rent Act. I am not saying that we hold strictly to that in every case, but generally that has been our attitude. When we come to look at the general problem of 1499 rent regulations, that will give us an opportunity to consider this point.
§ Mr. John M. Temple (City of Chester)
I know that the Parliamentary Secretary did not wish to mislead the Committee, but he certainly misled me. He said that the court would be guided as to which member of the family would be entitled to have the tenancy by the provisions of subsection (4) of Clause 2. But subsection (4) says thatthe court shall have regard to all the circumstancesin the Clause. It says nothing about Clause 1. There is no interaction between Clause 2 and Clause 1.
§ Mr. Harold Lever
Are not we talking about two different things? First, there is a splendid reason for treating mistresses properly—I say that in all seriousness—and it is ludicrous in this day and age that the mistress of a man should be without protection. However, that is a separate question. The Amendment does nothing for mistresses or wives.
To attempt to inject into the Clause something which is unnecessary, namely, provision that the court should decide between two competing claims for ownership or possession, is also irrelevant, because all that the Clause seeks to do is to say that the landlord shall not evict whoever is in occupation. It is, therefore, no concern of the gentleman who wants to strong-arm somebody out of the house which of the two people claiming to be the resident and occupier is the one entitled to be so called.
The Clause simply says against the landlord, "If you want possession, you must go to a judge to get it", and the judge is given power to delay the landlord getting possession for 12 months if he thinks it right to do so. If he does not think it right, he can give immediate possession.
§ 4.45 p.m.
§ Mr. Lever
If one wants to serve proceedings, one serves them on whom one alleges to be the occupier. He can sue for possession whoever is there asking for the protection of the Act. If the judge makes an order for possession against that person, he gets possession. But one does not have to decide competing 1500 claims in order to decide whether he should get possession or not.
§ Mr. John Boyd-Carpenter (Kingston-upon-Thames)
The Parliamentary Secretary generously sought to meet the point by indicating willingness to accept three of the four Amendments. For that reason, and in response to that, I think that the Committee will agree that we should not if possible unduly prolong the discussion on the remaining Amendments. It would perhaps be argued that that showed a lack of generosity in view of the Parliamentary Secretary's response.
None the less, the Amendment which the Parliamentary Secretary recommended the Committee to reject, namely, No. 3, contains two points of substance—one what I might call the six months' provision, and the other the one to which the hon. Member for Manchester, Cheetham (Mr. Harold Lever) referred to concerning who in doubtful cases should be considered to be the occupier and on what basis the court should proceed in identifying that person. The Government are in a little difficulty in not having a Law Officer present to advise them. I do not think that we should seek to take advantage of that, although the Government might well think that at later stages of our discussion it would be useful if a Law Officer were present.
In these circumstances, I wonder whether the Committee would be prepared to allow the three Amendments which the Government have accepted to be put in the Bill and whether my hon. Friend the Member for Hemel Hempstead (Mr. Allason) would be prepared not to press Amendment No. 3, in page 1, line 15, to leave out from "person" to end of line 17 and to insert:leaves no such widow or widower, then to such member of his family residing with him for not less than six months immediately before that person's death as may be decided, in default of agreement, by the court".1501 The point which particularly troubles me concerns the selection of successor occupants. I do not ask the Parliamentary Secretary to commit himself to bringing something forward. I merely ask him to look at HANSARD to see what has been said and on Report to let us know the Government's conclusion. I thought—and I am trying to be fair—that the Parliamentary Secretary made something of a case on the six months' point. I should have been happier to have it in the Bill, but his reference to the discretion of the court carried a certain amount of weight.
I have not had a chance to consult my hon. Friend the Member for Hemel Hempstead to find out what he thinks, but I should like to put this suggestion to him. If the Parliamentary Secretary is prepared to say that he will have a look, with the aid of the Government's advisers, at Amendment No. 3, particularly the point about the selection of the successor occupier, and let us know, on Report, what the conclusion is, perhaps my hon. Friend will be prepared to be satisfied with three Amendments out of four and to accept what I am sure would be a sincere undertaking, if it were given, by the Government. I do not know whether the Parliamentary Secretary is prepared to respond to that.
§ Mr. Mellish
I willingly accept what the right hon. Member for Kingston-upon-Thames (Mr. Boyd-Carpenter) says and give him the undertaking for which he asks, but on the clear understanding that there is no commitment. On the assurance that we will look at this matter, without commitment, between now and the Report stage, I wonder whether the hon. Member for Hemel Hempstead (Mr. Allason) would be good enough not to press his Amendment No. 3.
§ Amendment agreed to.
§ Further Amendments made: In page 1, line 15, leave out "is a woman or".
§ In page 1, line 16, after "widow", insert "or widower".—[Mr. Allason.]
§ In page 1, line 23, after "occupation", insert "and in residence".—[Mr. Graham Page.]
§ Mr. Arthur Jones (Northants, South)
I beg to move, Amendment No. 8, in page 2, line 9, to leave out from "furniture" to "except" in line 10 and to insert: 1502to which the occupier was entitled under the former tenancy or under any contract collateral thereto".I think it is the view of both sides of the Committee that the furniture and services enjoyed by a tenant should be preserved in accordance with the terms of the tenancy agreement and any collateral contract which may exist, and indeed that services and furnishings should not be prejudiced in any way or, to use the terms of the Bill, withheld or withdrawn.
My purpose is to try to clarify two of the phrases which it is suggested should be deleted under the terms of the Amendment. The subsection uses the phrase, "for the time being". I suggest that it is difficult to know quite what that phrase implies and to what period of time it relates. Does it relate to the period of time after which a tenant has been given notice and during the course of likely subsequent proceedings? I suggest that it would be better described by being referred to in the terms of the Amendment. In other words, that there should be a specific reference to the former tenancy which is enjoyed, or any contract collateral thereto.
Furthermore, there is the word "provided". Here again, under the terms of a tenancy surely reference will have to be made to the furnishings enjoyed, and certainly reference by term, or by custom, to the services which are provided? My purpose is to protect the tenant from changed conditions brought about perhaps by, first, the deliberate action of the landlord, or, secondly, by neglect or oversight. I think that the whole question would be far better dealt with if the Amendment were accepted.
§ Mr. MacColl
I do not think that we are at odds on the object, but we are on the effect. My advice is that the subsection as drafted provides what we all want, which is that whatever is happening at the time shall be regarded as the services which are included in the tenancy. In other words, if, by custom, somebody is using the garden, or putting a perambulator in the corridor, or whatever it may be, it is not necessary to prove any legal contract for that right. It is part of the services which are being provided, and the subsection does what 1503 the hon. Gentleman wants. I hope that with that he will feel able to withdraw the Amendment.
§ Mr. Arthur Jones
The purpose of my question was to discover the time to which the enjoyment referred. Is it during the tenancy, or after the notice of termination of the tenancy? This, surely, is the pertinent question here?
§ Sir J. Hobson
It is not only the time which is important. As to time, are we looking at the date of the termination of the tenancy? Is it the date of the application to the county court? Or is it the date of the hearing at the county court? While it is right that we want to preserve for tenants what they ought to have and are entitled to, yet there may be occasions when something happens to have been provided out of the goodness or the kindness of the landlord's heart because he has lent the article, say, during sickness. If at the material date that furniture is provided on loan temporarily, the Bill may make it a criminal offence to withdraw such furniture because it happens to have been provided.
This goes very wide, and if all that one is looking to is the fact of provision at a date unspecified, one will include everything, every service, and every piece of furniture, which is so provided, even though, quite plainly, originally it was provided on a purely temporary basis and was never intended to be part of the contract of tenancy or any collateral arrangement thereto.
I accept that it is possible to get an implied term into the tenancy by the way in which the parties have acted, and that a service or a piece of furniture must be provided under, and in accordance with, the tenancy. There may, however, be cases—though perhaps not many—when the actuality is that it is provided, but it would be wrong for it to remain with the tenant when it was never intended to be provided as a permanent arrangement.
§ Mr. B. T. Parkin (Paddington, North)
It seems to be rather important to call the attention of hon. Gentlemen opposite to the fact that in the twilight world where most of the difficulties with which the Bill seeks to deal arise words have very different meanings from 1504 those they would normally have in a lease of decently furnished premises, and very different meanings from those they have in the terms of a Statute.
In real life what happens in what are called furnished tenancies is that a wretched tenant has to take it as it is. There is no inventory. There is no list of the state of the efficiency of the article concerned. Therefore, if a landlord wishes to prosecute a tenant and induce him to leave, he can take away part of a gas stove and forbid the installation of a new one, or he can allow things to fall into disrepair. He can do that with things which normally would have been precisely defined as either within the tenant's responsibility, or within the landlord's responsibility, but the fact is that they are never defined in such a way. It is a case of, "Take it or leave it. That is the dwelling, that is the rent."
I appreciate the anxiety of those who think that this might bear hardly on genuine furnished tenancies where a tenant was awkward. What this is really intended to prevent is the slow erosion of all the pitiful little services which still exist by such things as pulling out electric wires, and fittings, and dismantling still further such furniture as that, none of which is ever defined in an inventory or in an agreement.
§ Mr. Graham Page
The hon. Member for Paddington, North (Mr. Parkin) referred to the Bill as dealing with properties in the twilight areas, but that is not so. As we know, later on the Bill deals with properties with rateable values up to £400 a year.
In the Landlord and Tenant (Temporary Provisions) Act, 1958, a different wording was used from that used in the Clause, which refers to services or furniture provided for the tenant. The 1958 Act referred to services and furniture to which the tenant was entitled.
There are many occasions when services, in particular, are provided on a voluntary basis. Let me give one example of a large block of flats in which central heating and a lift are provided. It is always carefully provided in the leases of those flats, and accepted by both tenants and landlords, that those services are provided, but there are occasions when the landlord is unable to provide 1505 them, when there is a breakdown one way or another. They are not a legal entitlement of the tenant. Under the Bill a tenant would be able to claim continuance of those services because they were being provided for him at the time, although legally he would have no right to claim them.
§ 5.0 p.m.
§ Mr. Harold Lever
What meaning, if any, does the hon. Gentleman give to the expression, "or for reasonable cause"? Surely he is simply fighting for the right unreasonably to withdraw services, since if he withdraws them reasonably he is wholly exempt from any proceedings?
§ Mr. Sydney Silverman
Would the hon. Gentleman say what the position would be if his Amendment were carried or accepted by the Government? Would it then follow that a landlord, who could not take possession of the premises, could withdraw all the services which he had previously provided and which might include a great many of the amenities on which the occupation of the premises depends?
§ Mr. Hale
The hon. Member made his own point. He specifically mentioned the sort of services and he defined them and made reference to a lift and to central heating. Is it really to be open to a landlord, as indeed one knows happens in ever case brought by the Oldham local authority against a landlord, to offer every sort of excuse for delay? I know that there are good landlords in Oldham, and I do not want to make a point generally against them, but, in every case where a landlord is seeking to evade his duties, time after time every argument is put forward—the contract has been sent to the builders; they are going on with repairs and so on. What is the position now in relation to an old tenant occupying a 1506 tenth-floor flat? The landlord is entitled to say, "For reasonable cause I am stopping the lift; for reasonable cause in the winter I am not able to repair the services." My hon. Friend the Member for Holborn and St. Pancras, South (Mrs. Jeger) has an Amendment to delete the words "or for reasonable cause"—whether it will be called or not I do not know—which I would be inclined to support. But at the moment we are discussing the Clause as it is put and, to that extent, my hon. Friend is perfectly right and this would be a wrecking Amendment. It would enable punitive action to be taken by a landlord, false reasons put forward and delays in services deliberately created until the premises became more or less practically unoccupiable.
§ Mr. W. R. Rees-Davies (Isle of Thanet)
I thoroughly agree with what the right hon. and learned Member for Warwick and Leamington (Sir J. Hobson) said on the contract point which does not need saying again. I do not dissent from the background of what the hon. Member for Paddington, North (Mr. Parkin) was saying, but I dissent from his conclusion.
Assume a set of premises. Assume a bad landlord, that the furniture provided is not very satisfactory, and that there is no inventory. The tenant is then entitled to the premises let to him as they stand. He is entitled to them in that way. Therefore, the landlord could not in those circumstances remove those items. If a boarding house landlord lets a room as it stands, the tenant is entitled to what is in it at the time, if there is no inventory, and therefore the landlord cannot take it away.
That is why I think it is better to have the words which are in the tried and trusted language of the previous Act. I am not aware that they have ever caused any difficulty or trouble. Better to have it under the terms of the agreement or contract rather than on what is being provided at the time, which is not an agreement or contract, and if it is a very loose contract then it will clearly be what is provided. On the other hand, if someone expressly licenses the use of a particular article—lends a piano, for instance, then obviously the landlord ought to be entitled to take it away, because the tenant has 1507 not paid for it. I do not feel very strongly one way or the other, but I think that is the best course.
§ Mr. Ivor Richard (Barons Court)
Hon. Members opposite keep referring to the 1958 Act. It is true to say that the terms of this Bill do not follow the 1958 Act. The great difference between the two is that the 1958 Act applied only to unfurnished accommodation and this Bill is designed to refer to furnished accommodation as well.
Following on what my hon. Friend the Member for Paddington, North (Mr. Parkin) said, the position surely in reality would be this: one would get a landlord letting on the basis of furnished accommodation and providing certain services. If the hon. Gentleman's Amendment were accepted, when the matter got into court the tenant would have to prove what the terms of the tenancy originally were and whether or not the landlord had committed a criminal offence by withdrawing some of the services and furniture which had hitherto been provided. This is the way in which things work in the sort of area represented by my hon. Friend the Member for Paddington, North and the area which I have the honour to represent. What, in fact, would happen is this.
Once we allow a landlord to withdraw certain furniture and certain services and not be deemed to be committing a criminal offence, we would then have landlords withdrawing part of the furniture and services and when a prosecution was launched against them we would then have them saying, "I am not committing a criminal offence. All I am doing is withdrawing that part of the services and furniture which I provided over and above the terms of my original contract with the tenant." Far for inserting these words as a protection to the tenant, the effect would be, certainly in the areas to which I have been referring, precisely the opposite. I am quite convinced in my own mind that in those circumstances, we would be giving an unscrupulous landlord who wants to evict a tenant from furnished rooms an additional defence to criminal proceedings which might be brought against him.
§ Mr. Arthur Jones
Quite the wrong interpretation is being given to this Amendment by hon. Members opposite. 1508 It is not intended to be any help to the landlord.
I want to deal with this with sympathy. I am repeating what I said when I introduced the Amendment. I am trying to get an exact interpretation of the terms of a tenancy agreement and to what extent it is included, and, furthermore, at what time the alleged withdrawal of services may take place. I wish to establish that within the terms of the tenancy agreement furnishings and services should be established and it is from the date of the notice to terminate that tenancy agreement that any question of the withdrawal of services would result in criminal proceedings. These are two simple matters which have not been dealt with by hon. Members opposite who have spoken. They have been led away because they have felt that there is some obtuse or uncertain motive in the Amendment, which is quite unjustified.
§ Mr. Julius Silverman (Birmingham, Aston)
If the hon. Member says that a landlord should have the right to withdraw services or to remove furniture—
§ Mr. Silverman
That is the effect of the Amendment. That being the case, I ask why the landlord should not have to go to court in order to do that. That is all that the Clause provides. It says that the landlord shall not take arbitrary action, but shall go to court for permission. Surely, upon the question of general policy and the desire to prevent breaches of the peace, apart from the question of preventing landlords from taking a chance and doing things that they should not do, this is a desirable provision. If a landlord wants to take control of any furniture or to stop any services it is right that he should do so through the courts.
Furthermore, on the question of obtaining the suspension of an order eventually, I would refer the hon. Member to Clause 2(2), which says specifically:Where the court by virtue of this section suspends the execution of an order for the possession of any premises it may authorise the withdrawal from the occupier of any specified services or furniture …So eventually, when it comes to long-term policy and the granting of a 1509 suspension, the court has complete discretion. Why is it necessary to go beyond that?
§ Mr. Roots
It seems to me that the hon. Member for Paddington, North (Mr. Parkin) put his finger on the nub of the dispute when he directed our attention to certain tenancies of which he had had experience. It is probable that difficulties will not arise in the case of tenancies of more expensive properties. Surely the nub of the whole matter is that if the Clause is left as it stands it provides every possible incentive to a landlord to provide the absolute minimum. He is obviously not going to provide even an extra chest of drawers if he is in danger of being taken to court for a criminal offence.
It must be wrong that a landlord should be liable to criminal proceedings if he provides, gratuitously or otherwise, more than the absolute minimum. I hope that the Parliamentary Secretary will consider the matter in the context not of the actual words of the Amendment but from the point of view that to penalise a landlord for providing anything on an ex gratia basis will not be of benefit to anyone.
§ 5.15 p.m.
§ Mr. MacColl
It is a little unfair of the hon. Member for Northants, South (Mr. Arthur Jones) to complain that his good intentions have been misinterpreted, because is was the right hon. and learned Member for Warwick and Leamington (Sir J. Hobson) and the hon. Member for Crosby (Mr. Graham Page) who misinterpreted him. When I rose to speak I thought that all was sweetness and light, and that we were agreeing that we were trying to obtain the best protection we could for the tenant. But it is clear from what the hon. Member and his hon. Friends have said, that they object to the extension of the supply of services under the Clause beyond what is fixed by contract. That is a fundamental point on which we cannot give way.
The hon. Member for the Isle of Thanet (Mr. Rees-Davies) quoted the 1958 Act. He quoted correctly from Section 1, but Section 2, which deals with the terms to be included in a tenancy, says that in the case of any 1510 service which was ordinarily provided it is the fact and not the legal situation which decides the matter.
I have been asked at what time the services are regarded as having been provided. It is at the time when they are withdrawn. It is not possible to withdraw a service if it is not so provided. The point is quite simple and plain. We say that during this interim period—and we are not dealing with long-term future arrangements—landlords withdraw services without a court order at their peril, and the services in question are those which are at the time of withdrawal being enjoyed by the tenant. The landlord cannot start getting into an argument about whether or not services are provided under some form of agreement, or about what kind of arrangements there were. When the matter goes to court the court can sort out the facts and decide what arrangements to make. The point is that the taking away of services without the approval of the court is to be prevented.
§ Amendment negatived.
§ Mrs. Lena Jeger (Holborn and St. Pancras, South)
I beg to move, in page 2, line 11, to leave out "or for reasonable cause".
I put down this Amendment because it seemed to me that it would remove another possible point of time-wasting argument from the proceedings in the courts. The people who are most in need of the protection of the Bill are those with the minimum of any formal agreement. In fact, nowadays some of these people are lucky even to have a rent book. I am sure that hon. Members on both sides of the Committee are aware of the pressures which are brought upon people living in the poorer kind of furnished accommodation to leave that accommodation when the landlord so wishes it.
It is an established routine for a gradual, or even, sometimes, a rapid, dismantling to take place of furniture and services provided by the landlord. By leaving out the words "or for reasonable cause", we will eliminate the possibility of an argument which must tend to help the landlord rather than the tenant—an argument which will waste the time of the court because it will invite all sorts of inventions and excuses in the name of the phrase "for reasonable cause".
§ Mrs. Jeger
I am grateful for the professional advice of my hon. Friend, but the relevance of the circumstances seems to me to be that a landlord could say, for instance, that for reasonable cause he had taken away a bed—because he wanted to borrow it for his grandmother, who was coming to see him, or, as I have known to occur, to say that he had disconnected the electricity supply because it was not safe. In such a case for some unknown reason the electrician never seems to come to repair the fault.
There are all sorts of circumstances which are very difficult for the tenant but which could be regarded as reasonable from the landlord's point of view. I do not know whether this is the best way of bringing about that assistance to tenants which my hon. Friend the Member for Paddington, North (Mr. Parkin) and I have very much in mind; that is a matter for the Committee. But the Amendment at least gives the Committee an opportunity to discuss the point.
§ Mr. Lubbock
The hon. Lady has mentioned that one trick of landlords is to disconnect the electricity supply and to say that it was done on the ground that it was unsafe. If her Amendment were accepted, would it not stop a landlord from disconnecting the supply even where it really was unsafe?
§ Mrs. Jeger
With respect to the hon. Member, I think it is reasonable to put the onus on the landlord to prove that he had done something reasonable and for a good cause. I am merely seeking to find some way of ensuring that tenants are not frustrated by plausible and unfair arguments to which it may be difficult for them to find answers.
§ Mr. Allason
I should be grateful if I could have a little explanation as to what happens on these occasions, because I distinctly heard hon. Members opposite explaining that this was a saving Clause when it came to the question of, for instance, stopping a lift in a block of flats, and that, for that reason, the words were in. We have not had an explanation 1512 of what happens when the lift stops, whether the landlord is immediately fined £100. This matter, however, has not only to do with blocks of flats but also with whether the tenant is failing to pay his rent and bills. The electricity and gas bills may well be paid by the landlord who has to recover the money from the tenant.
If the tenant refuses to pay his gas and electricity bills, then these words, in my view, would create a criminal offence on the part of the landlord. Otherwise, he must continue supplying gas and electricity for which he knows that he will not be paid. This seems totally unreasonable, and, consequently, I think that the words "reasonable cause" must continue to remain in the Clause.
§ Mr. MacColl
This subsection, as has been hinted by the hon. Member for Hemel Hempstead (Mr. Allason), is a pretty tightly worded one. The obligation which it places on the landlord is a very firm one and there is not much get-out in it. I quite understand how my hon. Friend the Member for Holborn and St. Pancras, South (Mrs. Lena Jeger) feels about this, but I doubt whether it would be wise to eliminate "for reasonable cause" altogether, because there is the question of what is so tactfully called an act of God when, for instance, there is a freeze-up of the water supply and when the suply may not be continued.
It is difficult, where there is an absolute obligation of this sort, for the landlord not to have some let-out of reasonable cause. I think it would be dangerous, and, therefore, in trying to keep the balance between what we said on the last Amendment and this Amendment, I would hope that my hon. Friend would feel, having made the point, that she could leave the wording as it stands.
§ Mr. Fletcher-Cooke
Of course, this is one of the difficulties that arise when we introduce criminal proceedings into this sort of area. I have a certain sympathy with the hon. Lady the Member for Holborn, and St. Pancras, South (Mrs. Lena Jeger) because, if these were civil proceedings, I think that the onus of proof should certainly be on the defendant. However, when we come to criminal proceedings, it is too strong a thing to put the onus of proof upon the landlord because he is there in the criminal dock and, according to our 1513 provisions, if one is charged with a criminal offence one is entitled to have the case made against one and not have to prove one's innocence. The matter would look very different if we were engaged in civil proceedings, but as the Government have chosen this very savage course, then I think that we must leave in these words because otherwise we shall be going too far against the accused person.
§ Sir J. Hobson
I am bound to say that I agree with the Joint Parliamentary Secretary that one really needs an escape Clause against, as my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Darwen (Mr. Fletcher-Cooke) had said, the operation of the criminal law. May I give some examples? Just suppose that we want to cut off the supply of hot water, cold water, gas or electricity in order to repair the system. If a person has to go to the court in order to obtain permission to cut off the supply and if he has to do the work on, say, a Saturday evening or a Sunday morning, how does he manage to deal with the situation? He would be withdrawing the supply and could not have done so unless he had actually committed a criminal offence, because he had not obtained the permission of the court.
It is said that the court would give such a person an absolute discharge because, in order to do the sensible thing, he had been put in the position of having to commit a criminal offence. Suppose, again, that a lift man has died and that a replacement cannot be supplied. Surely, in these circumstances a person should not have to go to the court, and incur costs in going to the court, in order to do the sensible thing by getting a replacement.
I quite appreciate what the hon. Lady the Member for Holborn and St. Pancras, South (Mrs. Lena Jeger) said, that there will be people who withdraw services when they ought not to and who will try to put forward the plea that they are reasonable in so doing. The courts, as we know, are fairly sensible and would see through devices of this sort. While courts are not infallible, they are capable of seeing through things of that nature.
There is one additional reason which applies, whether the Amendment is allowed or not, which I would ask the 1514 Joint Parliamentary Secretary to consider and which I think is a great difficulty. Suppose the landlord is a local authority, a charity or a respectable private landlord who thinks, but is not certain, that he has reasonable cause for withdrawing a service or that the tenant is not likely to pay and who feels that before taking the risk of failing to justify his actions by going to the court it would be safer and more sensible, as Parliament directed, to go to the civil court and get the county court judge to say that what he proposes is satisfactory and that he can withdraw the service.
I understand that as the Bill is drawn a person can only take such a sensible proceeding if he couples it with a proceeding for possession, even if he does not want to get possession, because proceedings of this sort for allowing the withdrawal of services are only possible where someone is testing his right to possession. We cannot, of course, deal with that matter now, but it can be dealt with on Report. I think that it wants looking at and is another example of the speed and, in some directions, the sloppiness of the way in which the Bill is drafted in that we are putting people in a position where they have either to risk committing a criminal offence or seeking possession when they do not want it at all.
§ Mr. Sydney Silverman
In my opinion, these words ought to remain in the Clause, but only if it is quite clear that the onus of proving that the cause is reasonable rests upon the defendant and is not fixed upon the prosecution. I reach that conclusion for these reasons. In the first place, it is suggested that there is something wrong in bringing in a criminal sanction at all. I would suggest to the Committee that if we do not bring in a criminal sanction then there is no sanction at all. What then would happen?
Supposing that we did not bring in a criminal sanction at this time, then anyone could withdraw services leaving, presumably, the tenant in the absence of the services to bring some sort of proceedings, by way of injunction or something of that kind, to restore them. This may take a long time and in the meantime the tenant would be without the service. The only way in which we can exercise such a sanction at all and prevent services 1515 from being withdrawn without reasonable cause is by providing a quick sanction, and I cannot see how we can do that except in the method provided by the Bill.
The next question is, why should the onus rest upon the defendant? It should rest upon the defendant because it is he who creates the situation which requires the intervention of the court. If he wishes to do it lawfully, he can go to the court and obtain an order for it. If he decides to take the law into his own hands and to do it without an order from the court, then this Clause allows him to do so in certain defined circumstances and, additionally, if he can satisfy the court that what he did was done for reasonable cause.
I cannot see why the onus for proving the absence of reasonable cause should depend on the prosecution, and when my hon. Friend replies to the debate I hope that he will explain who the prosecutor will be, who institutes the proceedings and who seeks to enforce the sanction. If the tenant has to do it on his or her own initiative and at his or her expense this would be an intolerable burden to a great many tenants. I should like it made absolutely clear that the prosecution would rest with the local authority or some authority of that kind.
§ 5.30 p.m.
§ Sir John Hobson (Warwick and Leamington)
I hope that this may be a helpful intervention. Is not the drafting of the Clause such that what is provided is an exception which would be in the knowledge of the defendant? Under the ordinary principles of law, the defendant would have to prove that he either had a warrant authorising him "made in" proceedings or that he had reasonable cause to withdraw the service. As the matter stands, the burden in summary proceedings would be on the landlord to show that he had one or the other to justify his act.
§ Mr. Sydney Silverman
If it is clear that the onus of proving good cause lies on the landlord, I am content. That is where it should be.
§ Mrs. Joyce Butler (Wood Green)
In reading the Clause, I had assumed that the responsibility would be on the tenant to take proceedings and to prove that the 1516 landlord had acted wrongly. In many cases in my constituency landlords have disconnected the electric supply or the water supply. They have carried out acts of this kind to intimidate tenants. For that reason, I was very much concerned about the wording of the Clause and I was inclined to support my hon. Friend the Member for Holborn and St. Pancras, South (Mrs. Lena Jeger) in her Amendment. I should be glad if the Parliamentary Secretary could make the point absolutely clear because, if it is to be the responsibility of the tenant, a great deal of time and expense will be involved in getting proof and it will operate unfairly against tenants.
§ Mr. R. T. Paget (Northampton)
I do not think my hon. Friend the Member for Wood Green (Mrs. Joyce Butler) need worry about that. It is always the job of the police to prosecute when there is a breach of the law.
§ The Temporary Chairman
Order. It would be better if hon. Members addressed their remarks to the Chair and not to each other.
§ The Temporary Chairman
The hon. Member for Oldham, West (Mr. Hale) knows that it is perfectly in order for hon. Members to give way to other hon. Members, but if another hon. Member does not give way the hon. Member who wishes to intervene must remain in his seat. Otherwise we shall have a state of affairs in which we cannot conduct our business in an orderly manner.
§ Mr. Julius Silverman
On a point of order. The specific point about who shall prosecute is dealt with in the next Amendment which I believe is being selected, the Amendment in the name of my hon. Friend the Member for Islington, South-West (Mr. Albert Evans) and myself.
§ The Temporary Chairman
If that is so, perhaps the Committee will be prepared to let the point rest until we come to that Amendment.
§ Mr. Emlyn Hooson (Montgomery)
I am sure the Committee is full of sympathy for the point which the hon. Lady the Member for Holborn and St. Pancras, South (Mrs. Lena Jeger) wishes to establish. It seems quite clear that the onus of proof is on the landlord to show that he had reasonable cause. It has to be remembered that the standard of proof required in those circumstances under our law is on a balance of probabilities and not on a standard of proof accepted from the prosecution. Perhaps that might help the hon. Lady in clearing her mind on the point. It seems quite clear from the wording that the onus is firmly placed on the landlord.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ Mr. Albert Evans (Islington, South-West)
I beg to move, in page 2, line 16, at the end to insert:For this purpose the local authority shall also have the power to institute such summary proceedings".We take the view that the power that this Amendment would give to the local authority is essential if the main purpose of the Bill is to be implemented. Without some power to prosecute other than that which resides in the tenant the main purpose of the Bill would not be achieved. We must remember that we are thinking here mainly of a type of tenant who is not well qualified to pursue his purpose in the county court. The Bill covers a wide range of different types of tenant. Some tenants are in houses of up to £400 rateable value. They 1518 would be well advised to go to the county court to initiate proceedings themselves, but most of those who suffer under what we are trying to deal with are illegally and forcibly turned out of their homes and it is difficult for them, as they are not qualified or in a position to claim their rights under the law.
It is, therefore, not sufficient to leave the question of initiation of proceedings in the county court with the tenant. It has been mentioned that as this is a criminal offence the police could prosecute. I take the view that the police, at least in the Metropolitan area, have more than enough to do with serious criminal matters and traffic matters to be able to cope adequately with the kind of case we have in mind. I doubt if one-tenth of the cases which should be matters for criminal proceedings under the Bill would be handled effectively by the Metropolitan police. Generally, if such cases are brought to their notice they do not wish to know about them.
I have found time after time that the police will say, "We are sorry, but our jurisdiction does not run inside a habitation", and they refuse to entertain responsibility inside a dwelling. Other London Members, and those who represent great urban centres, know that the police have more than enough to do without dealing with the kind of rough treatment which tenants get in their homes. It is not sufficient to rely on the police to institute proceedings in these cases. If the Bill is to be effective we must give this power to initiate proceedings to the local authority.
Some of my legal friends, and possibly the Parliamentary Secretary, may tell me that already local authorities have this power under a previous Act. If so, that will be a reassurance to me, but I think it would be better for the purposes we have in mind, to prevent atrocious evictions taking place, to state specifically that the local authority has power to initiate proceedings. Local authorities have a responsibility. They are very much a party to these proceedings. The accommodation of homeless families is a direct, trying and anxious duty of local authorities, so they are involved. I therefore hope that the Parliamentary Secretary sees the sense of incorporating in the Bill the words on the Notice Paper.
§ Mr. David Weitzman (Stoke Newington and Hackney, North)
This is a very good Amendment if it would carry out the object it is intended to carry out. It says:For this purpose the local authority shall also have the power to institute such summary proceedings.Local authorities already have the power. Everybody has the power. I could understand the Amendment if it said, "It shall be the duty of the local authority to institute such summary proceedings". Perhaps my hon. Friend the Member for Islington, South-West (Mr. Albert Evans) would agree to word the Amendment in such a way as to place a duty on local authorities.
§ Mr. Julius Silverman
My hon. Friend the Member for Islington, South-West (Mr. Albert Evans) has moved an extremely important Amendment. I hope that my hon. Friend the Joint Parliamentary Secretary will forgive me if I take up a little time. I know that he is anxious to make progress. This is extremely important, because we want to know who has the power to prosecute. [HON. MEMBERS: "Everybody has."] It is all very well saying, "Everybody has", but who will prosecute? Either it should be clearly drawn to the attention of local authorities that they have this power as local authorities, not merely in the same way as everybody has the right to prosecute, or I am prepared to accept the suggestion that the power should be given to local authorities not merely as a power but as an obligation, provided that it does not take away the right of the person involved to launch the prosecution.
If the local authority does not prosecute, who will? In most cases the person aggrieved probably hates the sight of a court and will not take action. It is very doubtful whether the police will be moved to take action. Therefore, in the vast majority of cases the duty will rest upon the local authority. Unless the duty is specifically given to local authorities, either by words in the Statute or by some separate instructions, the Measure may be almost ineffective, because, although the power to take prosecutions is given, there will not be any prosecutions. I therefore hope that we shall have an assurance from the Parliamentary Secretary that he is prepared to consider this matter.
§ Mr. Julian Snow (Lichfield and Tamworth)
As a layman representing a rural constituency, I want to say that I very much support the words spoken by my hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham, Aston (Mr. Julius Silverman). The constitution of many rural district councils is such that the interests of occupiers of agricultural cottages are frequently dominated by a certain political domination on the councils, namely, the farmers. I do not wish to introduce any contentious note. I merely state as a fact that it would be as well if the local authority were placed under a duty to institute proceedings.
§ 5.45 p.m.
§ Mr. Mellish
My hon. Friend the Member for Islington, South-West (Mr. Albert Evans) will understand that I as a London Member have every sympathy and support for what he has in mind. The question is whether we can ensure that local authorities carry out the duty which I think is already imposed upon them. My hon. Friend wants something written into the Bill to bring home to local authorities the fact that the care and protection of tenants, and if necessary the institution of proceedings in that regard, is one of their functions. My hon. Friend asks us to add certain words giving local authorities power to institute summary proceedings. It is not necessary to add words, because local authorities already have the power under Section 276 of the Local Government Act, 1933. Local authorities have power now to do just the sort of thing my hon. Friend asks them to do.
It can be said that there are several precedents in rent legislation for giving explicit powers to local authorities to undertake prosecutions. These precedents can usually be distinguished on the ground of doubt whether the powers under Section 276 were sufficient to cover prosecutions where there was no obvious and plain element of public as opposed to private good. In the present case, I am advised that the consequences of an eviction are of such sufficient public concern to a housing authority, for example, which is liable to provide the evicted with alternative accommodation, for the powers of Section 276 to be available.
The key is this. Even with these powers and even if such words as these were written in, it would be largely 1521 dependent upon the sort of local authority we are dealing with. There are some local authorities today—I will not mention any by name which have certain powers under existing legislation but which have not used them and do not intend to use them to build houses for people to live in. By writing in some words it does not necessarily follow that overnight the bad local authority will be made into a good one. To a large extent it is the responsibility of individual Members of Parliament to make certain that local authorities do what they have been elected to do. I know that most of my hon. Friends do their best to ensure that local authorities do the sort of things for which they have been elected.
I give my hon. Friend this assurance. My right hon. Friend the Minister is very anxious to ensure that all local authorities understand the purpose and the meaning of the Bill and what it is all about. We undertake to bring it to their attention and do all we can to remind them of their existing powers. My hon. Friends cannot ask us to write something into a Bill when, as we understand it, there are existing powers. With that assurance I hope that my hon. Friend will recognise that I am with him. If local authorities think it is necessary to protect a tenant who is bewildered, worried and frightened by courts, I understand that. I represent many thousands of such people to whom the very word "court" is so frightening that they will take almost any action to avoid going there. I recognise that local authorities can and should stand up for people, but they already have the power under the Section I have named. We undertake to bring home to local authorities that it is the obvious right and duty of every local authority to protect the people for whom they have an interest.
§ Mr. Albert Evans
My hon. Friend the Joint Parliamentary Secretary told the Committee that we cannot ask him to write these words in. That is just what we are doing. My hon. Friend spoke sympathetically. He said that the main point was that local authorities should be aware of their duties and enforce these proceedings under the power given to them in the Local Government Act, 1933. I accept that. I suspected that it was so. My hon. Friend 1522 will agree that the circular which he will send out—in very strong terms, I am sure, and in plain cockney language—may be helpful. The Amendment does not deal with the idea of making it mandatory upon the local authority to institute proceedings. That is not in the Amendment. If anybody seeks to get such words into the Bill, they must proceed in their own way.
§ Mr. Mellish
Even when a local authority has that power, how can one force the local authority to take the legal action that my hon. Friend wishes if the authority decides it does not want to do so? In what way does writing words into a Bill make an authority take action?
§ Mr. Evans
When my hon. Friend interrupted I was dealing with the wish of some of my hon. Friends to make it mandatory upon local authorities. I repeat that that is not in the Amendment. If any hon. Member seeks to make this provision mandatory, he must act in his own way. I am not now dealing with that. My hon. Friend asked me how by inserting these words we make the local authority carry out its duty. It might be some help.
§ Mr. Evans
I will tell my hon. Friend why. Why do so many hon. Members forget that when we are dealing with a local authority we are dealing with 30, 40, 50 and sometimes 60 councillors in each borough? When they take up these cases of evictions we want them to be aware of the fact that the responsibility rests upon the local authority concerned and that the local authority has the power to intervene and protect the tenant. These proposed words may not be legally essential, but they would help people in responsible positions on local authorities to realise that they have a part to play in making the main provisions of the Bill effective.
§ Mrs. Joyce Butler
There is an additional point to be borne in mind, which is that the purpose of the Bill is to protect tenants. I have been surprised at the number of tenants who have come to me carrying copies of the Bill which they have studied. If these words are written into the Bill they will enable tenants to appreciate that local authorities 1523 can initiate proceedings on their behalf. It is not only the members and officers of local authorities who have to be reminded of this fact. It is surely useful for tenants, who may be in difficulty and may not know which way to turn, to be able to see in the Measure that they can get their local authority to act on their behalf.
Although this may not be the best way of doing it, there should be some means of enabling tenants to find this protection in the Bill without having to refer to previous legislation.
§ Mr. Hale
My hon. Friend the Joint Parliamentary Secretary has made a reasonable reply and I had not intended to make any further observations. This observation will be brief. Thinking matters over since my hon. Friend's reply I have one worry. It is this. Part of the failure of the Rent Acts was due to this referential legislation which made it almost impossible for any competent solicitor to spend sufficient time to ascertain what the law was in relation to any tenant at any particular time.
My hon. Friends who support this Amendment say, "Shove it in the Bill". The argument used against me on the first Amendment was, "The words do not make any difference." In that case, why not add them? Some local authorities may have doubts and they should have a reminder to advise them of what the Minister thinks the Bill means. But that will not be binding on any court before which they seek to bring proceedings. What possible objection can there be to the words? The word "also" is used. There is no omission of any other prosecutor. The words merely make it plain that a progressive local authority shall be able to perform its duties.
When an unhappy tenant on a Sunday night is faced with the necessity to find out what his rights are, it will not be easy for him to get this 4d. or 6d. Bill, whatever the price is. It will still be difficult for him to find Section 275(3) of the relevant Act and get advisers to ascertain if that Section applies to an Act which has been passed subsequently. There is a strong case for accepting this important Amendment which my hon. Friend the Joint Parliamentary Secretary accepts in principle but which he is advised, on the whole, may be supererogatory.
§ Mr. Herbert Butler (Hackney, Central)
I am not concerned with the legal arguments. They always annoy me. I want to deal with the facts. A person may complain that his landlord has cut off the electricity or has shut the lavatory which happens to be the only one in a house in multi-occupation. The tenants cannot get into the lavatory and have to use a public convenience. It is true that they can go to the local authority and complain, but I know from my 40 years' experience of local authority work that although one can go to the medical officer of health, very often there is no prosecution.
All that my hon. Friends say is that they want this safeguard written into the Bill. My hon. Friend the Joint Parliamentary Secretary says that local authorities already have the necessary power. All I am asking is that the local authorities shall be told to exercise their power and that we shall be able to go to a local authority and say, "You have this power. Will you please exercise it?"
In his Second Reading speech the Minister referred to certain local authorities. We know that some are good and some are bad, and I want all local authorities to be told specifically what they should do in given circumstances. So long as they do what they ought to do, I shall be happy.
§ Mr. Harold Lever
I only intervene because I am provoked by this habit of lawyers intervening to make comments upon legal problems. I know it is tedious and unhelpful, but let me offer to my hon. Friends a lawyer's comment. In general, I am opposed to adding words to a Bill which are clearly unnecessary. My hon. Friend the Member for Oldham, West (Mr. Hale) did not realise that I was supporting him on the first Amendment, which I thought was pointless and should not have been accepted. To repeat a power which local authorities and, indeed, all citizens have to prosecute for these offences adds nothing to the protection of a tenant.
My hon. Friend the Member for Hackney, Central (Mr. Herbert Butler) said something with which I sympathise. He wants to ensure that local authorities are compelled to take action. It would be necessary to consult some of these tedious lawyers and draw words that would place a legal obligation upon a local authority 1525 to prosecute. The question is, who would compel the local authority to do so? It would be necessary to start mandamus proceedings against the local authority to compel it to observe its duty under the obligation. Rather than bring mandamus proceedings it would surely be better to bring prosecution proceedings in the local court.
I suggest that if the Minister gives us an assurance that he will ensure by administrative means that what my hon. Friend reasonably urges should come about, we would be satisfied to have the Amendment withdrawn. Rather than redraft the Amendment or put in otiose words, it would be better to have an explicit assurance from the Minister that he will ensure that local authorities do their duty under the powers contained in the Bill.
§ Mr. Mellish
I repeat that no hon. Member is more keen than I or my right hon. Friend the Minister to see that local authorities carry out the duties imposed upon them by various Acts of Parliament, with particular reference to housing. I am engaged in visiting every one of the Greater London boroughs, and everywhere I go I tell people that they must get on more quickly with their housing programmes and look after their tenants. If I thought that by writing these words into the Bill some of these local authorities would be more efficient than they have been before I would, of course, agree to the addition of these words. But, as we understand the law, local authorities already have the power.
My hon. Friend the Member for Wood Green (Mrs. Joyce Butler) said that a constituent had brought to her a copy of the Bill and that if she could only have read in the Bill that local authorities have this power, she would have been happier. I have a suspicion that her constituent must have been a lawyer. What is much more important for her constituents and for the constituents of my hon. Friend the Member for Islington, South-West (Mr. Albert Evans) is that circulars should be issued from the town hall telling them in simple, ordinary language what their rights are, informing them how they can have those rights put into practice, and by setting up citizens' advice bureaux able to give them all the necessary facilities.
1526 6.0 p.m.
I cannot say any more clearly than that we undertake to make known to local authorities the intentions of this Measure. We will make known to local authorities the powers that they already have. And everybody knows that we cannot tell local authorities that they must prosecute people—we can only remind them that they have the powers so to do. The debate has been worthwhile from that point of view. It will bring home their duties to those local authorities which do not do what they ought to do. By writing words into the Bill at this moment I do not think that we can change the hearts of local authorities. I mention no political party. It does not necessarily follow that all is bad on the opposite benches. We on this side know of bad local authorities too. The time has more than arrived when we should remind local authorities of their duties in this matter. We intend to do that, and I therefore ask my hon. Friend to withdraw the Amendment.
§ Mr. Albert Evans
I am somewhat disappointed with my hon. Friend. I thought that he would be the last person to seek refuge behind the legal position. I thought that he would have seen the common sense purpose behind the Amendment, but as our reasoning has not penetrated to him, I beg to ask leave to withdraw the Amendment.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ Sir J. Hobson
I beg to move Amendment No. 11, in page 2, line 16, at the end to insert:(4) An owner shall be deemed to have enforced his right to recover possession for the purposes of this section if he or his servant or agent enters forcibly upon the premises without due warrant of law and takes possession thereof or enters and takes possession thereof without the consent of the occupier or enters and takes possession thereof with such consent which has been obtained by force, fear or fraud but not otherwise; and in particular a person shall be deemed for the purposes of this section not to have enforced his right to recover possession if he has entered and taken possession in the reasonable belief that the occupier has previously given up possession.We have listened with fascination from this side of the Committee to the disputations of the Government and their supporters on the last Amendment.
§ Sir J. Hobson
Yes, the last two. We thought that we ought not to trespass in those disputations, and least of all raise any legal point. We do not overlook that these matters vitally affect many tenants and ordinary people, and yet they have to be litigated in the end through the courts of law. Therefore it is very important that we should get the drafting of an Act of Parliament right so that it is sensible and operates in the way which is intended.
Lord Justice Scrutton once said that he wished that he could order draftsmen of Rent Acts and all legislators who have passed them to pay all the costs of all the proceedings in the courts where they had been litigated. It is with the object of obviating argument in court in summary proceedings under Clause 1 that I have put down the Amendment which I hope will help to define "enforcing" the right. The principal operation of Clause 1 is to create a criminal offence against anybody who enforces against the occupier the right to recover possession without an order of the court.
I suggest that the expression… shall be deemed to have enforced his rightrequires clarification. First of all, I assume that it means something more than forcible entry, because if that is all it means it would be insufficient protection for tenants whose landlords were trying to evict them without going to the court.
If one peaceably enters premises and takes possession of them that is not forcible entry. If one finds a door or a window open and enters, that is not forcible entry. If one induces a person occupying the premises to come out of the premises and then one goes into the premises and excludes the former occupier, that also is not a forcible entry. I assume that the Government intend something wider than forcible entry to be covered by the Clause.
If this is so it will open the whole field of peaceable resumption of possession and it seems wide indeed that there should be no definition of circumstances in which an individual by peaceable reentry into possession has or has not committed a criminal offence. Many people and local authorities, good or bad, will have to make up their minds whether 1528 it is necessary to go to all the expense of going to court. Landlords, good or bad, charitable or indifferent, will be in the position of having to take a trip to the county court to avoid having to go to the court of summary jurisdiction.
I have tried to the best of my ability to define what is an offence. I have included in drafting the Amendment, firstly, forcible entry without due warrant of law, and secondly a peaceable entry without the consent of the occupier. It would be a criminal offence under the Bill if anybody without consent of the occupier repossessed himself of the premises. Thirdly, I have included peaceable entry with the consent of an occupier where that consent has been obtained by force, fear, or fraud. If anybody intimidates an occupier to give consent he should not be entitled to rely on that consent. Equally, if by forcible intimidation or fraud he induces the occupier to go out of occupation or to give consent to the landlord or owner to resume possession, the owner should not be entitled upon that basis to say that consent has been given and that he has not committed a criminal offence.
I respectfully suggest to the Committee, however, that there are certain circumstances which ought to be excluded from the provisions of the Bill. There is a series of circumstances where the occupier may have flitted. He may have gone away and the landlord may not be clear whether or not he has gone permanently. If he is uncertain, he ought to take proceedings in the county court to get an order for possession although he may be in considerable difficulties if he cannot trace the defendant or serve him. This is a difficulty which is not dealt with in the Bill at all.
Be that as it may, let us assume that an owner has every reason for thinking that a tenant has abandoned occupation and residence and has gone away. Is it to be said in those circumstances that he must embark upon all the trouble of taking out proceedings in the county court, going before a judge, and occupying the time of the court before he can safely take possession of the premises?
I should have thought it only sensible to provide that if an owner has reasonable grounds for believing that an occupier has given up possession, left the premises and gone away, then that 1529 should be a defence to a criminal charge that he has enforced his right to possession against the occupier. As the Bill stands, if, despite that basis of reasonable knowledge and the fact that he had every ground for thinking that the tenant had gone away, it should turn out that the tenant intended to return and had kept the key and thereby had technically maintained his occupation, the owner who had resumed his possession in those circumstances would have committed a criminal offence.
We have put down the Amendment for those reasons, in order that magistrates and their clerks, who may not be very experienced in the niceties of re-entering into possession, the niceties of forcible entry and the various other matters with which landlords and those who advise landlords and tenants may well be familiar, may have a clear understanding of what the Clause means. Neither the ordinary magistrate's court nor the ordinary citizen understands these nice points, and it is essential to clarify exactly the extent and nature of the criminal offence which many people may be put in peril of committing unless we make the meaning plain.
§ Mr. Harold Lever
The right hon. and learned Member for Warwick and Leamington (Sir J. Hobson) has urged that, on grounds of simplicity, we should replace perfectly simple and clear language dealing with a perfectly simple and clear situation by language which in its complexity and obscurity is many times as complex and obscure as the simple expression it is designed to replace.
Virtually the only sensible argument in favour of what he has proposed is that a landlord might in some circumstances find that a tenant had "flitted" and might have difficulty in serving proceedings on him. This is a quite separate matter. If the right hon. and learned Gentleman means that the Bill does not cope adequately with the situation where a person whom it is sought to serve with proceedings cannot readily be found, let him put down an Amendment entitling the landlord to nail a notice on the door, post a notice through the letter box by recorded delivery, or something like that. That will be quite simple, and no one will object. On the other hand, to argue that, because of that difficulty, we ought to cloud what is essentially clear by the 1530 insertion of this Amendment is absolutely wrong.
The right hon. and learned Gentleman seems to attach no weight at all to the words "against the occupier". Merely to go into abandoned premises, honestly believing them to be abandoned, premises where there is no one in occupation, is not an offence under the Clause. It is an offence to enforce the right against the occupier, a separate matter. If the right hon. and learned Gentleman complains that, sometimes, one cannot serve proceedings because the occupier has gone, then he will have an opportunity on the Report stage to propose a simple provision to cover the service of someone who has gone. I do not think that we need it now. The same difficulty arises when one wishes to proceed for debt or to enforce any right if the person one wants to enforce it against has vanished. There are certain difficulties, and the courts already have a procedure apt for dealing with them.
The words as they stand could not be simpler. Unfortunately, in this half of the century, a landlord can by physical means, by violence if necessary, and without going to a court, put out a tenant when the tenancy has been brought to an end in circumstances which, in many cases, are abhorrent to the good sense and morals of everyone on both sides of the Committee. All the subsection says is that one may not enforce that right, and the reason is that there will shortly be legislation brought before the House of Commons—without much doubt, it will pass the House of Commons, with the support of both sides—which will abolish a right which is an anachronism in the latter half of the twentieth century.
§ 6.15 p.m.
§ Mr. Weitzman
The right hon. and learned Member for Warwick and Leamington (Sir J. Hobson) will remember that this is a penal Clause and, being a penal Clause, if it can be construed in favour of the defendant it will be so construed according to the rules of our courts. The words are clear,to enforce against the occupier".I have looked carefully at the words so skilfully drafted by the right hon. and learned Gentleman in his Amendment, and I cannot conceive of any circumstances other than those included therein which could come within the words "to 1531 enforce against". If he can give us examples of what the court might say would otherwise be included, I think that I should agree, but I cannot possibly conceive of such a situation.
Moreover, with particular reference to the concluding words of the Amendmentshall be deemed for the purposes of this section not to have enforced his right to recover possessionand so on, one must remember the words "or for reasonable cause" in paragraph (b) of the subsection. It is clear that, if there were a question of recovering possession under a mistake or for innocent cause, that would give a good defence.
§ Sir J. Hobson
This is one of the points I make. The words "or for reasonable cause" apply under paragraph (b) only with regard to the withholding or withdrawing of services or furniture. They do not apply to paragraph (a).
§ Mr. Weitzman
Be that so, what I have said about the penal nature of the Clause applies and, clearly, nothing can come within these words "enforce against the occupier" except what the right hon. and learned Gentleman has covered by his Amendment. For that reason and for that reason alone the Amendment is quite unnecessary.
§ Mr. Richard
I understood the right hon. and learned Gentleman to make two points. The first one was that the Amendment, somehow or other, specified circumstances which might not be covered by the original words, and the right hon. and learned Gentleman gave certain examples. He said, for instance, that there might be circumstances in which a tenant was induced to go, by an agreement obtained by force, fear or fraud. The point I would make about that is that it is very doubtful that any such case could normally be regarded as other than an enforcement within the terms of paragraph (a) as it stands.
If it is any satisfaction to the right hon. and learned Gentleman, I accept what he said about the difficulty created when a tenant has gone, but I do not see that it lends any support to his present argument. The problem of the 1532 flitting tenant leaving premises is one which landlords have to face now. In some cases, landlords cannot find the tenant upon whom they wish to serve a notice to quit, and there is then the difficulty that, if notice to quit cannot be served on the tenant, technically one is not entitled to bring proceedings in the county court under the rent Acts. However, I am sure that the right hon. and learned Gentleman will not have forgotten the provisions of Section 54 of the Landlord and Tenant Act, 1954, which are specifically designed to deal with the problem of the tenant who has flitted. It is a summary form of proceeding under which a landlord is entitled to go to the court ex parte, without need to serve anyone at all, and, provided that he can show the court that he has taken reasonable steps to communicate with the tenant and he has not heard from him, that during six months no rent has been either payable or, if payable, has not been paid, the court will have power to determine the tenancy in fact. Therefore, under the present law, the problem of the flitting tenant is already dealt with.
With respect, the expression, "enforce against the occupier" seems perfectly clear, and the effect of the Amendment would be merely to confuse what, on the face of them, are quite simple words.
§ Mr. MacColl
The words in the Clause as it stands appear in the Landlord and Tenant (Temporary Provisions) Act, 1958, which, like this Bill, was a Measure of short duration. As far as I know, they caused no trouble. We have not heard any evidence that they caused a dispute in the courts or difficulty of interpretation. As this is a Bill designed to deal with an emergency, a Bill which will disappear very shortly, we think it better to stick to the precedent which, in the 1958 Act, has apparently worked quite well. Therefore, we think that it would be wiser to stick to the present words rather than adopt those proposed in the Amendment.
§ Mr. Roots
I am sorry that the Parliamentary Secretary did not deal with two points which have become very obvious from the speeches by his hon. Friend. The hon. and learned Member for Stoke Newington and Hackney, North (Mr. Weitzman) clearly regarded it as important that, as he thought, the words 1533 "reasonable cause" would furnish a defendant who had been prosecuted—we are dealing with a criminal offence—with a defence. It is clear from the subsection that the hon. and learned Gentleman was in error. The words "reasonable cause" do not appear in paragraph (a), and what he thought was a defence would not be so.
Secondly, when one considers the word "enforce", can it be said with certainty that one enforces a right to possession if someone has left premises with consent? One is not "enforcing"; the tenant has left by consent. Surely the qualification which occurs in the Amendment is of considerable advantage to the tenant. It assists in the very purpose which the Government seek to achieve. It makes it clear that the consent, if obtained by force, fear or fraud, is not to be regarded as a real consent. But with that provision one cannot say that a landlord is enforcing against an occupier if the occupier has ceased to be an occupier by consent.
I hope that the Parliamentary Secretary will realise that the speeches by his hon. Friends have made even clearer the need for the Amendment or something on its lines.
§ Mr. Hooson
It seems to me that the one matter that the Parliamentary Secretary has not adequately dealt with is the case of the flitting tenant. Under the provisions of the 1954 Act, it has to he proved that six months have elapsed. That is a very long time for a landlord to wait. I agree with the Parliamentary Secretary's view that the words "enforce against the occupier" cover the contingencies envisaged in the Amendment, but there is no adequate provision in the Bill with regard to the flitting tenant. I should like an undertaking from the Parliamentary Secretary that he will look at this again before Report.
§ Mr. MacColl
I did not want to be discourteous to the Committee by not dealing with all the points. However, I am impressed by the feeling of urgency about the Bill. It is an important Bill for which the whole country is waiting with some anxiety. Therefore, I did not want to treat it as though it were a legal moot. Some of the points raised by hon. and learned Gentlemen have been cancelled out by the remarks of other hon. and learned Gentlemen. I was adopting a sort of "knock for knock" attitude 1534 towards it. The hon. and learned Member for Montgomery (Mr. Hooson) came to my rescue in that way and agreed with what I had said.
With regard to the flitting tenant, the fact that we have now changed the definition of "occupier" alters the position and makes it less likely, on the whole, that there would be difficulties over the person who was occupying in the sense that he had left chattels in the building but had moved out completely and would no longer be resident. Therefore, my view was that that point would be covered, but we will certainly look at it again before Report.
§ Mr. Boyd-Carpenter
I sympathise with the Parliamentary Secretary. I suggested to the Government a little earlier that our proceedings might be helped and accelerated if we had the assistance of one of the Law Officers of the Crown. There are now three of them, and I think that one of them might see fit to assist us in our deliberations.
The Parliamentary Secretary based his sole argument in reply to the very powerful legal argument of my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Warwick and Leamington (Sir J. Hobson) on the inclusion of similar words in our Act of 1954. However, it appears from the intervention by the hon. and learned Member for Montgomery (Mr. Hooson) that the circumstances in which those words were applied in the 1954 Act were different. The Parliamentary Secretary has not so far attempted to explain why he alleges that words which we must assume were suitable in the different circumstances of the 1954 Act are appropriate here. He did not address himself to the very powerful points made by my right hon. and learned Friend about the creation of a criminal offence and the difficulty, in the circumstances outlined by my right hon. and learned Friend, in which someone sincerely trying to resolve a question of tenancy might be placed.
§ Mr. Boyd-Carpenter
I am well aware of that, but the provision in respect of the passage of six months plainly produced very different circumstances from those contemplated in this Measure. I 1535 do not think the Committee is being treated fairly—I blame not the Parliamentary Secretary but the Government—when a series of legal points of this kind is made and is answered in so unsubstantial a manner.
I would certainly have been disposed to advise my hon. Friends that in these circumstances we should register our disapproval in the Lobby if the Parliamentary Secretary had not given some indication at the last minute that he was prepared to look into this further. I want to know from him, so that we can decide our action, just what he proposes to do. Is it his undertaking that in the course of the Report stage he or the Minister, or, better still, a Law Officer, will clear up the point raised by my right hon. and learned Friend, or is it simply that he will look into this and if he comes to the conclusion in his wisdom that he does not propose to do anything, then he will leave matters as they are? I should like to know which of those two undertakings he has given so that there can be no misunderstanding in the matter. Such misunderstandings, as he knows, only lead to ill-feeling later.
I put it explicitly. If the hon. Gentleman is prepared to say that at the next stage we shall be given an explanation of the legal position and an indication why the 1954 words are apposite in these different circumstances, I do not think we need take up any more time. If that is my understanding of the undertaking, so be it. If, on the other hand, the hon. Gentleman's undertaking is courteously—he is always courteous—to look at this in the recesses of his Department, we shall have to press the matter further.
§ Mr. MacColl
What I said was quite precise and clear, that in order to meet the misgivings of the Opposition we altered the definition of "occupier" to include the fact that he was resident, and this very much, as we understand it—and certainly that is my advice—tends to remove some of the danger from the
§ flitter. I promised to look into the implications of the changes in the definition in respect of the point put by the hon. and learned Member for Montgomery (Mr. Hooson). I did not in any way indicate that we did not think it was wise to stick to the precedent of the 1954 Act, and that is what we think should be done.
§ Mr. Boyd-Carpenter
I quite understand that the hon. Gentleman did not resile from what he said about his desire to follow the 1954 Act. I want to be clear what his undertaking is. Is it that some statement of the Government's view will be made on Report?
§ Mr. MacColl
No. Subject to whoever will be the occupant of the Chair, I think that it would be a little difficult to rise on Report and deliver a lecture about the law of forcible entry. What I said was that when we came to look at the new definition of "occupier" which has been put in the Bill to try to be conciliatory to the Opposition, if we find that there is a loophole still left dealing with the flitting tenant, which we must close, we will table an Amendment. Otherwise, we shall not table an Amendment.
§ Mr. Boyd-Carpenter
If the hon. Member wished to make a statement on Report, an experienced Parliamentarian such as himself, with the co-operation of the Opposition, could easily have found an occasion by tabling an appropriate Amendment. I do not want to misunderstand the hon. Gentleman, but I think that I have now understood him to give no undertaking whatever. In those circumstances, my right hon. and hon. Friends will have no option but in the Division Lobby to indicate our disapproval of the Government's failure even to make an attempt to answer my right hon. and learned Friend's speech.
§ Question put, That those words be there inserted:—
§ The Committee divided: Ayes 172, Noes 221.1539
|Division No. 9.]||AYES||[6.30 p.m.|
|Agnew, Commander Sir Peter||Barlow, Sir John||Birch, Rt. Hn. Nigel|
|Alison, Michael (Barkston Ash)||Batsford, Brian||Black, Sir Cyril|
|Allason, James (Hemel Hempstead)||Bell, Ronald||Box, Donald|
|Anstruther-Gray, Rt. Hn. Sir W.||Bennett, F. M. (Torquay)||Boyd-Carpenter, Rt. Hn. J.|
|Astor, John||Bennett, Dr. Reginald (Gos & Fhm)||Boyle, Rt. Hn. Sir Edward|
|Atkins, Humphrey||Berry, Hn. Anthony||Braine, Bernard|
|Awdry, Daniel||Biffen, John||Brewis, John|
|Balniel, Lord||Bingham, R. M.||Bromley-Davenport,Lt.-Col.Sir Walter|
|Brooke, Rt. Hn. Henry||Hawkins, Paul||Page, John (Harrow, W.)|
|Bruce-Gardyne, J.||Heald, Rt. Hn. Sir Lionel||Page, R. Graham (Crosby)|
|Buchanan-Smith, Alick||Hendry, Forbes||Peel, John|
|Buck, Antony||Higgins, Terence L.||Peyton, John|
|Bullus, Wing Commander Eric||Hiley, Joseph||Pickthorn, Sir Kenneth|
|Campbell, Gordon||Hill, J. E. B. (S. Norfolk)||Pitt, Dame Edith|
|Channon, H. P. G.||Hobson, Rt. Hn. Sir John||Powell, Rt. Hn. J. Enoch|
|Chataway, Christopher||Hogg, Rt. Hn. Quintin||Price, David (Eastleigh)|
|Chichester-Clark, R.||Hopkins, Alan||Rawlinson, Rt. Hn. Sir Peter|
|Clark, Henry (Antrim, N.)||Hordern, Peter||Redmayne, Rt. Hn. Martin|
|Clark, William (Nottingham, S.)||Hornsby-Smith, Ht. Hn. Dame P.||Ridley, Hn. Nicholas|
|Clarke, Brig. Terence (Portsmth, W.)||Hutchison, Michael Clark||Robson Brown, Sir William|
|Cole, Norman||Irvine, Bryant Godman (Rye)||Roots, William|
|Cooke Robert||Jenkin, Patrick (Woodford)||Russell, Sir Ronald|
|Cooper, A. E.||Jennings, J. C.||St. John-Stevas, Norman|
|Corfield, F. V.||Jones, Arthur (Northants, S.)||Scott-Hopkins, James|
|Costain, A. P.||Jopling, Michael||Sharples, Richard|
|Craddock, Sir Beresford (Spelthorne)||Kerby, Capt. Henry||Smith, Dudley (Br'ntf'd & Chiswick)|
|Crosthwaite-Eyre, Col. Sir Oliver||Kerr, Sir Hamilton (Cambridge)||Smyth, Rt. Hn. Brig. Sir John|
|Curran, Charles||Kershaw, Anthony||Soames, Rt. Hn. Christopher|
|Dance, James||King, Evelyn (Dorset, S.)||Spearman, Sir Alexander|
|Dean, Paul||Kitson, Timothy||Stainton, Keith|
|Dodds-Parker, Douglas||Lagden, Godfrey||Stanley, Hn. Richard|
|Doughty, Charles||Lewis, Kenneth (Rutland)||Stodart, J. A.|
|Drayson, G. B.||Longden, Gilbert||Studholme, Sir Henry|
|Eden, Sir John||Lucas, Sir Jocelyn||Summers, Sir Spencer|
|Elliot, Capt. Walter (Carshalton)||Lucas-Tooth, Sir Hugh||Taylor, Edward M. (G'gow,Cathcart)|
|Emery, Peter||McAdden, Sir Stephen||Temple, John M.|
|Fletcher-Cooke, Charles (Darwen)||MacArthur, Ian||Thatcher, Mrs. Margaret|
|Foster, Sir John||McLaren, Martin||Thompson, Sir Richard (Croydon,S.)|
|Fraser, Ian (Plymouth, Sutton)||Maclean, Sir Fitzroy||Thorneycroft, Rt. Hn. Peter|
|Gammans, Lady||McNair-Wilson, Patrick||Turton, Rt. Hn. R. H.|
|Gardner, Edward||Mathew, Robert||Tweedsmuir, Lady|
|Giles, Rear-Admiral Morgan||Maude, Angus E. U.||van Straubenzee, W. R.|
|Gilmour, Sir John (East Fife)||Mawby, Ray||Vickers, Miss Joan|
|Glover, Sir Douglas||Maxwell-Hyslop, R. J.||Walker, Peter (Worcester)|
|Glyn, Sir Richard||Maydon, Lt.-Cmdr. S. L. C.||Wall, Patrick|
|Goodhew, Victor||Meyer, Sir Anthony||Walters, Denis|
|Grant, Anthony||Mills, Peter (Torrington)||Weatherill, Bernard|
|Griffiths, Eldon (Bury St. Edmunds)||Mills, Stratton (Belfast, N.)||Whitelaw, William|
|Griffiths, Peter (Smethwick)||Miscampbell, Norman||Wills, Sir Gerald (Bridgwater)|
|Gurden, Harold||Mitchell, David||Wilson, Geoffrey (Truro)|
|Hall, John (Wycombe)||Monro, Hector||Wise, A. R.|
|Hall-Davis, A. G. F.||Morrison, Charles (Devizes)||Wolrige-Gordon, Patrick|
|Harris, Reader (Heston)||Morrison, John (Salisbury)||Wylie, N. R.|
|Harrison, Col. Sir Harwood (Eye)||Mott-Radclyffe, Sir Charles||Yates, William (The Wrekin)|
|Harvey, Sir Arthur Vere (Maccles'd)||Murton, Oscar||Younger, Hn. George|
|Harvey, John (Walthamstow, E.)||Neave, Airey|
|Harvie Anderson, Miss||Nicholson, Sir Godfrey||TELLERS FOR THE AYES:|
|Hastings, Stephen||Onslow, Cranley||Mr. Pym and Mr. More.|
|Orr-Ewing, Sir Ian|
|Albu, Austen||Corbet, Mrs. Freda||Floud, Bernard|
|Alldritt, W. H.||Craddock, George (Bradford, S.)||Foley, Maurice|
|Allen, Scholefield (Crewe)||Crawshaw, Richard||Ford, Ben|
|Armstrong, Ernest||Crosland, Anthony||Freeson, Reginald|
|Bacon, Miss Alice||Crossman, Rt. Hn. R. H. S.||Galpern, Sir Myer|
|Bagier, Gordon A. T.||Cullen, Mrs. Alice||George, Lady Megan Lloyd|
|Beaney, Alan||Dalyell, Tam||Gregory, Arnold|
|Bellenger, Rt. Hn. F. J.||Darling, George||Grey, Charles|
|Bence, Cyril||Davies, G. Elfed (Rhondda, E.)||Griffiths, David (Rother Valley)|
|Benn, Rt. Hn. Anthony Wedgwood||Davies, Harold (Leek)||Griffiths, Rt. Hn. James (Llanelly)|
|Bennett, J. (Glasgow, Bridgeton)||Davies, Ifor (Gower)||Griffiths, Will (Manchester Exchange)|
|Bessell, Peter||de Freitas, Sir Geoffrey||Grimond, Rt. Hn. J.|
|Bishop, E. S.||Dell, Edmund||Gunter, Rt. Hn. R. J.|
|Blackburn, F.||Dempsey, James||Hale, Leslie|
|Boardman, H.||Dodds, Norman||Hamilton, James (Bothwell)|
|Boston, T. G.||Doig, Peter||Hannan, William|
|Bowden, Rt. Hn. H. W. (Leics S.W.)||Donnelly, Desmond||Harper, Joseph|
|Bowles, Frank||Driberg, Tom||Harrison, Walter (Wakefield)|
|Boyden, James||Dunn, James A. (L'pool, Kirkdale)||Hart, Mrs. Judith|
|Braddock, Mrs. E. M.||Dunnett, Jack (Nottingh'm, Central)||Hattersley, Ray|
|Bradley, Tom||Edelman, Maurice||Hayman, F. H.|
|Brown, Rt. Hn. George (Belper)||Edwards, Robert (Bilston)||Hazell, Bert|
|Brown, R. W. (Shoreditch & Fbury)||English, Michael||Henderson, Rt. Hn. Arthur|
|Buchan, Norman (Renfrewshire, W.)||Ensor, David||Herbison, Rt. Hn. Margaret|
|Butler, Herbert (Hackney, C.)||Evans, Albert (Islington, S.W.)||Holman, Percy|
|Butler, Mrs. Joyce (Wood Green)||Fernyhough, E.||Hooson, H. E.|
|Carmichael, Neil||Fitch, Alan||Horner, John|
|Carter-Jones, Lewis||Fletcher, Sir Eric (Islington, E.)||Houghton, Rt. Hn. Douglas|
|Coleman, Donald||Fletcher, Ted (Darlington)||Howarth, Harry (Wellingborough)|
|Conlan, Bernard||Fletcher, Raymond (Ilkeston)||Howarth, Robert L. (Bolton, E.)|
|Howell, Denis (Small Heath)||Maxwell, Robert||Rowland, Christopher|
|Howie, W.||Mellish, Robert||Shinwell, Rt. Hn. E.|
|Hughes, Cledwyn (Anglesey)||Mendelson, J. J.||Short, Rt. Hn. E. (N'c'tle-on-Tyne,C.)|
|Hughes, Emrys (S. Ayrshire)||Miller, Dr. M. S.||Silkin, John (Deptford)|
|Hughes, Hector (Aberdeen, N.)||Milne, Edward (Blythe)||Silkin, S. C. (Camberwell, Dulwich)|
|Hunter, Adam (Dunfermline)||Molloy, William||Silverman, Julius (Aston)|
|Hunter, A. E. (Feltham)||Monslow, Walter||Silverman, Sydney (Nelson)|
|Hynd, John (Attercliffe)||Morris, Alfred (Wythenshawe)||Skeffington, Arthur|
|Irvine, A. J. (Edge Hill)||Morris, Charles (Openshaw)||Slater, Mrs. Harriet (Stoke, N.)|
|Irving, Sydney (Dartford)||Murray, Albert||Slater, Joseph (Sedgefield)|
|Jackson, Colin||Newens, Stan||Small, William|
|Jeger, George (Goole)||Noel-Baker, Francis (Swindon)||Snow, Julian|
|Jeger, Mrs. Lena (H'b'n & St.P'cras, S.>||Noel-Baker, Rt. Hn. Philip (Derby, S.)||Solomons, Henry|
|Jenkins, Rt. Hn. Roy (Stechford)||Norwood, Christopher||Spriggs, Leslie|
|Johnson, Carol (Lewisham, S.)||Oakes, Gordon||Steele, Thomas|
|Johnson, James (K'ston-on-Hull, W.)||Ogden, Eric||Stewart, Rt. Hn. Michael|
|Johnston, Russell (Inverness)||Oram, Albert E. (E. Ham S.)||Stones, William|
|Kelley, Richard||Orbach, Maurice||Swain, Thomas|
|Kenyon. Clifford||Orme, Stanley||Taverne, Dick|
|Kerr, Mrs. Anne (R'ter & Chatham)||Oswald, Thomas||Taylor, Bernard (Mansfield)|
|Kerr, Dr. David (W'worth, Central)||Owen, Will||Thomas, George (Cardiff, W.)|
|Lawson, George||Padley, Walter||Thomson, George (Dundee, E.)|
|Leadbitter, Ted||Page, Derek (King's Lynn)||Thorpe, Jeremy|
|Lever, Harold (Cheetham)||Paget, R. T.||Tinn, James|
|Lever, L. M. (Ardwick)||Palmer, Arthur||Tomney, Frank|
|Lewis, Ron (Carlisle)||Pannell, Rt. Hn. Charles||Tuck, Raphael|
|Lipton, Marcus||Parkin, B. T.||Urwin, T. W.|
|Lomas, Kenneth||Pavitt, Laurence||Varley, Eric G.|
|Loughlin, Charles||Pearson, Arthur (Pontypridd)||Wainwright, Edwin|
|Lubbock, Eric||Pentland, Norman||Wallace, George|
|Mabon, Dr. J. Dickson||Perry, E. G.||Warbey, William|
|McBride, Neil||Prentice, R. E.||Watkins, Tudor|
|MacColl, James||Probert, Arthur||Weitzman, David|
|MacDermot, Niall||Pursey, Cmdr. Harry||Whitlock, William|
|McKay, Mrs. Margaret||Randall, Harry||Wilkins, W. A.|
|MacKenzie, Gregor (Rutherglen)||Rankin, John||Willey, Rt. Hn. Frederick|
|Mackie, George Y. (C'ness & S'land)||Rees, Merlyn||Williams, Mrs. Shirley (Hitchin)|
|MacPherson, Malcolm||Reynolds, Gerald||Williams, W. T. (Warrington)|
|Mahon, Peter (Preston, S.)||Richard, Ivor||Willis, George (Edinburgh, E.)|
|Mallalieu, E. L. (Brigg)||Roberts, Goronwy (Caernarvon)||Woof, Robert|
|Mallalieu, J.P.W. (Huddersfield, E.)||Robertson, John (Paisley)||Yates, Victor (Ladywood)|
|Manuel, Archie||Robinson, Rt. Hn. K. (St.Pancras, N.)|
|Mapp, Charles||Rogers, George (Kensington, N.)||TELLERS FOR THE NOES:|
|Marsh, Richard||Rose, Paul B.||Mr. Gourlay and Mr. McCann.|
|Mason, Roy||Ross, Rt. Hn. William|
§ Mr. Boyd-Carpenter
I beg to move Amendment No. 12, in page 2, line 25, to leave out subsection (5).
§ The Deputy-Chairman (Sir Harry Legge-Bourke)
It might be for the convenience of the Committee if, with this Amendment, we took Amendments Nos. 13 and 33, which read as follows: In page 2, line 28, leave out "premises" and insert "dwelling".
In Clause 2, page 3, line 28, at end insert:and in particular in the case of an occupier of premises or any part thereof to which section 1(5) applies, the degree of hardship which would be caused to the occupier, his employer and to a person whom the employed employs or intends to employ and for whose occupancy he requires the premises or any part thereof".
§ Mr. Boyd-Carpenter
Thank you, Sir Harry. For the avoidance of doubt, does it follow from that that you reserve the right, if necessary, for the Committee to divide on the second of the other Amendments?
§ Mr. Boyd-Carpenter
I am obliged.
This Amendment raises the major question of the inclusion in this Bill of agricultural cottages, whether occupied under a tenancy or by licence. The Minister will recall that we had a certain amount of discussion on this subject on Second Reading, and it could have been no surprise to him or to his advisers when the Amendment appeared on the Notice Paper.
There seem to me to be two major points that are largely in favour of the Amendment. First, it seems to us, at any rate, strange to single out these tied cottages occupied in connection with agriculture and to deal with them in this Bill differently from all other tied cottages, such as railway cottages, Coal Board cottages, or any other premises occupied in connection with a man's employment. It certainly calls for an explanation, which the Parliamentary 1541 Secretary did not give on Second Reading, why there should be this particular picking out of the agricultural cottage. The second main isue is that, whatever the merits of dealing generally with occupation in accordance with a man's employment, there is no reason why the occupation of the agricultural cottage in connection with a man's employment should be dealt with in this Bill.
The present general position, which the subsection seeks to alter relating to cottages occupied in connection with agriculture but not otherwise, is that when one occupies premises in connection with one's job one occupies them either under a tenancy or under licence. If one occupies them under a tenancy, one has the protection of the Rent Acts, up to the maximum figure for control, and on them this Bill would bite. If, on the other hand, one occupies premises under licence, they are not affected by the Rent Acts, nor, apart from this subsection, would the Bill bite on them. That is my understanding of the position. If the Minister cares to correct me later, I shall be happy to listen to him, but he appears to accept that proposition.
Therefore, what this very peculiar Clause seems to do is to say that in connection with agriculture, but in no other connection, premises at present occupied under licence shall be treated as being held on a tenancy and that, as a result, this Bill shall affect them, whereas all other cottages occupied in connection with employments other than agriculture remain wholly unaffected. I know that the question of tied cottages is an old and emotional one, but whatever one's views on the broad general issue may be, considerable explanation is needed as to why agricultural cottages, and agricultural cottages alone, should be singled out for this treatment.
I suggested on Second Reading that it could hardly be possible that the Government thought that a farmer's need of recovery of premises for his workers, when he had a change in his workers, was so obviously smaller than that of any other employer that it is possible to discriminate in this way against him. Anyone with the most elementary knowledge of the facts of agriculture 1542 knows that to be very far from being the case, and knows also the very real problems of obtaining agricultural labour and accommodation for them in isolated farms. Therefore, the first thing the Committee is owed is an explanation for the singling out of agricultural cottages for this particular purpose.
The Parliamentary Secretary attempted on Second Reading to deal with this matter. His reasons were remarkable. They were, first of all, that if this had not been done the Government would have had "scorn poured on us". I do not know why, and I do not know by whom, but, in any event, it is a very odd argument for altering the law of the land.
Secondly, the hon. Gentleman said that as things stand at present farm workers can be evicted at the whim of the employer. If that is true, it is equally true of other premises occupied under licence in other trades, in regard to which the Government propose in this Bill no changes whatever in the law. Is it suggested that farmers are more prone to give way to their whims in this respect? Anyone who knows of the shortage of agricultural labour and the demand for good agricultural workers will know that it is ridiculous to suggest that farmers would let their whims influence them to get people out of their cottages. I t seems to me somewhat insulting to the agricultural community that this is suggested only in respect of farmers and not of other employers.
Then the Parliamentary Secretary said—and here we are getting, perhaps, a little warmer, as we used to say as children—… nowhere else is the sense of grievance felt as strongly as it is in agriculture."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 18th November, 1964; Vol. 702, c. 561.]That means, I take it, that the National Union of Agricultural Workers got in quicker than the N.U.R. or the N.U.T. The National Union of Agricultural Workers has been good enough to send round a memorandum giving its reasons for supporting this proposal, and it comes over the signature, let me say at once, of its General Secretary, Mr. Collison, who is, I think, one of the ablest and fairest-minded trade union leaders, and one to whom I personally owe a great debt of gratitude for his help and for the courtesy he showed when he was 1543 Chairman of the Social Services Committee of the Trades Union Congress and I was Minister of Pensions and National Insurance. Therefore, what I have to say about this memorandum far from conveys any reflection on the admirable man whose name appears at the bottom of it. I hope that he did not compose it. It says this—[Interruption.] When the Minister has studied it he will realise why no one would wish to acknowledge its authorship. It says:If the Bill does nothing else, it seeks to restore to farmworkers some measure of protection of which like so many other tenants they were deprived by the effects of the Rent Act, 1957".This provision does absolutely nothing of the sort, because farmworkers occupying under licence, who are the only people affected by the Clause, did not have the protection of the Rent Act, 1957. We cannot restore to people what they did not have.
The memorandum goes on:The Labour Party made it perfectly clear in its pre-election policy statement that so far as agriculture was concerned there should be security of tenure for all. They undertook to ensure that no occupant of a tied cottage is evicted until alternative accommodation has been provided.The Bill does not do that, or anything like it. Whether or not it is a good proposition, it is not a proposition in support of the Bill. The memorandum continues:We have always maintained that in practice in no other class of tied house does the system operate so harshly against the worker as it does in agriculture and therefore it is surprising to find the assertion being made that the Government is now taking advantage of this emergency relief Measure to deal in a discriminatory fashion with an entirely different issue.As I say, it is a matter of opinion—and I am not sure that people in other industries would share it—whether this is a more acute problem in agriculture than elsewhere. But it is no answer to the charge to which this passage makes reference that the Government are using what the Minister calls an emergency Measure to put forward a quite separate bit of party policy. It is perhaps a little naïve of this document to parade it in this way.
The memorandum further states—and this I commend to the Committee's attention: 1544The complaint that this Bill has been introduced without prior warning to or consultation with the N.F.U. calls for little comment since farmers as a whole are well known to have a quite intractable attitude on this issue.In other words, if we know that people will disagree, do not warn them and do not consult them. I hope that the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food will not carry on his dealings with the agricultural industry on that basis. Those are the arguments, and I have given them to the Committee because, with respect, the Parliamentary Secretary did not do so and because they are the arguments adduced by the body which is pressing the Government to go ahead with this proposal.
No one underrates the human problems involved in the question of tied tenancies, but it is a mistake to think that they all cut the same way. In this case, if a farmer requires possession of an agricultural cottage, he almost always requires it for the urgent purpose of putting another agricultural worker in it. Therefore, the effect—and the Committee must face this—of giving help to the worker who is in the premises by delaying his departure by the county court giving, if it so wishes, an extension of time, while no doubt very helpful to the outgoing tenant, can and will most certainly impose real hardship on the incoming worker and his family, who will either be unable, if the farm is isolated, to take up the job at all, or will have to take it up in conditions of discomfort or separation from his family.
On the merits of the matter, I ask the Committee not to rate even the human factors, which we all understand, as necessarily all pointing the same way. Anyone who has studied these matters knows very well that the human factors are very powerful on both sides. They balance in many ways. But there is this point—and I hope that the Committee will forgive me for repeating it, but I want the Minister to have it in mind—whatever the factors, whether they weigh in favour of doing this at any time, what is the argument for doing it only in respect of agricultural cottages, and what is the argument for doing it in this Bill?
On Second Reading the Minister told us the purpose of the Bill. After a passage in which he almost went to the point of attributing its paternity to me, he referred to it as being solely and 1545 exclusively concerned—they are words which those of us who have studied taxation matters know have a certain sombre tinge—to deal with the immediate short-term problem—to scotch the danger that landlords, realising how their wings will be clipped by our permanent legislation, will take advantage of the weeks and months ahead to evict tenants before our new legislation comes into force.—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 18th November, 1964; Vol. 702, c. 439–40.]That was the Minister's reason for the Bill. It is fairly and squarely related to the pledge which the Government gave, but which, in terms, they know they cannot keep, to repeal the Rent Act, 1957.
But, as I said a moment ago, the Rent Act has nothing to do with this subject. There is therefore no reason to believe that apprehension that the Government will restore the Rent Act will cause landlords to get rid of tenants has any connection with the occupation of agricultural cottages by farm employees, because these were never within the Rent Act and so far, at any rate, the Government have given no indication that they intend not to repeal the Act but to extend its scope into a field which it has never covered before. Therefore, this proposal has nothing to do with the main purpose of the Bill. This, as the Minister appreciates, is very important to the progress which he wants to see it make.
I said on Second Reading, and I do not go back on it, that it was not our wish to obstruct the main purpose of the Bill. The Minister welcomed that, but I made it clear that it must be inherent in any such approach that the Bill was not, in the words of the National Union of Agricultural Workers in the passage I have quoted, used as a vehicle to enact other and totally unrelated changes in the law of landlord and tenant which hon. Members opposite may favour as long-term policy but which have nothing whatever to do with the Minister's emergency.
I should be very grateful, therefore, if the right hon. Gentleman when he replies would explain how the emergency which he said gave rise to the Bill has any connection with this treatment of farm cottages. It is not suggested, I suppose, that farmers are sacking workers in fear of the Rent Act. Is that suggested? Is it really suggested 1546 that, with the shortage of agricultural labour to which I have referred, farmers, fearing the application of the Rent Act to a matter which it has never touched before, are denuding their farms of labour in order to obtain control of their cottages? If that is the suggestion, let us be told and given the facts on which it is based. It is patently not. It is equally patently the fact that this has nothing whatever to do with the emergency Bill.
I therefore say this to the Minister. If he wants to tackle this question—and I think he is unwise, but unwisdom is not in short supply in this Administration—and if he wants to oblige those who are pressing him to do it, why does he not wait for his main Bill? The Minister told us on Second Reading that that main Bill would arrive fairly early next year. As this is not an emergency situation—it has nothing to do with the indication that the Government will repeal the Rent Act—why does not the Minister wait until then and accept that this is the wrong Bill in which to do this thing even if it were in itself a right thing to do? Otherwise, the right hon. Gentleman is not playing fair with the Committee. If the Minister says that he wants a speedy passage for the Bill to prevent evictions by what he calls unscrupulous landlords in the interim before the main Bill is law, he should not ask the Committee and the Opposition to acquiesce in a highly controversial proposal of this sort, which he plainly has not had time to think out and which is, at best, a partial dealing with a deep and complicated subject.
Certainly, the right hon. Gentleman would give an indication of his sincerity in the view that this is an emergency Bill in which he is entitled to ask for the co-operation of the House of Commons if he were to delete from the Bill the two proposals, of which this is one, which seem to many of us to go far beyond the legitimate scope of a short-term emergency Bill. If the Minister accepts this Amendment he will have given an indication of his sincerity and will have done a great deal to evoke the co-operation of all quarters of the Committee. If he does not feel able to do so he will cast doubts on the sincerity of his own observations in introducing the Bill.
§ Mr. Bert Hazell (Norfolk, North)
I have listened with a good deal of interest to the comments of the right hon. Member for Kingston-upon-Thames (Mr. Boyd-Carpenter) about the inclusion of this provision within the new temporary Bill. I hope that the Government will not agree to the Amendment by the Opposition to withdraw this provision from the Bill. For the first time in the history at least of the National Union of Agricultural Workers, of which I happen to be a member, and for farmworkers generally throughout England and Wales, there is hope that something of a really tangible nature will be done to give the farm workers a measure of protection in the cottages they occupy.
We have heard sentimental expressions about the farmworkers. This has been typical throughout the years. The farm-workers have made their comments on this issue known to every Minister of Housing, every Ministry of Agriculture and, I believe, every Prime Minister for many years. Until now, they have received no encouragement on a matter which is a social blot on the countryside. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh."] Yes, it is. As one who has been an officer of my union for 27 years and who has spent night after night worrying about where I shall get my members housed when threatened with eviction, I say without doubt that this is a blot on the countryside. I am delighted that my right hon. Friend the Minister has included this provision in the Bill.
It is true that many hundreds of men leave their employment during the course of 12 months. I and my colleagues throughout the country have endeavoured, before matters ever reached the courts, to try to find accommodation and we have been eminently successful. There remain, however, the large numbers who still have to face the court and who eventually find themselves issued with an eviction order.
One has to be on the receiving end to appreciate what an eviction order means to a farmworker and his family. I do not have to go back over the years to recall situations, because they are with us every day, every week. Literally every day, applications are made to the courts for eviction orders. Even if only a few workers per annum find themselves ejected on to the roadside, as eleven 1548 cases known to us last year found themselves so placed, this takes no account of the many hundreds who have been worrying during the year about a situation that might well have occurred to them.
There may be, and it is argued that there will be, hardship to the farmer if he cannot secure possession of a cottage for another worker. Indeed, the right hon. Member for Kingston-upon-Thames stressed the fact of the incoming worker to the farm who is looking for accommodation. There is not a great measure of hardship today for the farmer—[HON. MEMBERS: "Oh."] No, there is not. I am entitled to my opinion. There is not a great measure of hardship amongst the employers today to secure a worker even if a cottage is not available. I know many cases of farmers who do not have a tied cottage on their farms and yet they manage to carry on their husbandry in a satisfactory manner.
§ Mr. F. V. Corfield (Gloucestershire, South)
I am sure that the hon. Member is speaking sincerely of the Eastern Counties, but has he any experience of farming in the more remote farming districts on the Welsh border or Shropshire, for example, where, if a farmer loses his cowman, the chances of getting another without a house are absolutely nil? If the farmer is ill at the time, there is also the animal factor to be taken into account.
§ Mr. Hazell
Indeed, I have knowledge of places other than East Anglia, because my duties for the past 27 years have covered Yorkshire, and more isolated places will not be found than the moorlands of North Yorkshire, the Wold farms of the East Riding or the remote Pennine farms of the West Riding.
§ Miss Harvie Anderson (Renfrew, East)
Does the hon. Member agree that the average acreage of farms in the areas which he has mentioned is 35 acres and that they do not employ a man at all?
§ Mr. Hazell
Averages can be extremely misleading. I talk of my experience in having to look after employees who have been threatened with eviction. It is employees about whom I am concerned, not the owner-occupier, the small farmer who does all 1549 his own husbandry with the aid of his family. I am concerned about the paid workers, because it is they who are affected and they are the people who are to receive some measure of protection by the Clause.
The question of farmers' hardship is played upon very considerably. Do we really give full weight to hardship on the worker? If a farmer finds that he has to wait a little longer for his House, as he may well do when the Bill becomes an Act, he has transport available. He can convey a man to and from his farm to the village. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh."] I am not speaking without knowledge. This is done in many instances, and it can be done in future.
I stress most emphatically that the the union and the main body of workers in the industry welcome the Bill. This is something for which my union has pressed—and we make no bones about this—ever since we have been an organisation. The first farmworker to enter this Chamber in 1920, the founder of my union, stressed in his early speeches that the problem of the tied cottage was a social blot which had to be removed. My predecessor, Edwin Gooch, also stressed it during his Membership of the House. I was a farm-worker until I was 27, and I am glad to be another farmworker who has come into the House, and I hope to see this social blot removed.
I know farmers who live within ten miles of York who do not let their cottages to their farmworkers. They expect the rural district council to house them. The farmers modernise their cottages and let them to city dwellers at high rents. I am not speaking of matters of which I have no knowledge. I stress most emphatically that if the Amendment were accepted there would be great hardship to farm workers who are looking for relief by the inclusion of this Clause in the Bill.
There are hundreds of empty cottages on the farms of this country. In many cases farmers go to court and secure an eviction order, even though they have empty cottages on their farms. They go to court to get a man out on one pretext or another. Sometimes it is said that the worker is unsatisfactory, sometimes that he is ill, and unable to work, sometimes 1550 that he has met with an injury. I know of many instances in which farmers have applied to the courts for eviction orders even though they have other accommodation empty on their farms.
Throughout the years I have known many instances of farmers securing an eviction order and then not being able to find someone to occupy the cottage. In many instances they had no intention of finding someone to occupy the empty cottage. All that happens is that the farmer reduces his staff by the number who have been forced to leave.
We hear quite a lot about the difficulty of securing labour on isolated farms if the farmer cannot get possession of his tied cottage, but farming Members on the other side know that young people are not particularly anxious to live in isolated areas where they are unable to enjoy the social amenities which are available within the villages and small townships. If the farmers obtained temporary relief by the acceptance of the Amendment, it would be only temporary, because more and more young people are determined not to live in isolation where they cannot secure the amenities to which they have been accustomed in the villages or small towns.
In every constituency—North, South, East and West—there are hundreds of empty tied cottages. [HON. MEMBERS: "Where?"] Name the Division and I shall give you the numbers in due course.
§ The Deputy-Chairman
Order. The hon. Member must be a little careful in his use of the second person singular.
§ 7.15 p.m.
§ Mr. Hazell
Thank you, Sir Harry.
I repeat that there are hundreds of empty tied cottages, which proves that young people are not anxious to live in them. The provisions in the Bill to provide greater security for farm workers will help the industry rather than hinder it. They may encourage workers to go into tied cottages if there is some measure of security. At the moment many farm workers say that they are not going to work for Mr. So-and-so, because they do not want to live in a tied cottage. They will not work for him if it means living in a tied cottage, putting it into good condition, and then finding themselves put out because of an eviction order in a fortnight, or three weeks, or a month, as the case may be.
1551 On behalf of my union and farm workers I welcome this Clause in the Bill, and I hope that the Government will resist to the full the Opposition Amendment.
§ Mr. George Y. Mackie (Caithness and Sutherland)
Amendment No. 33, which is being discussed with the Amendment now before the Committee, was tabled as what we thought was a commonsense Amendment which would greatly help to clarify matters to be considered by the courts. In it we try to put before the court the fact that greater hardship should be taken into account when considering this Clause.
It is true that great hardships occur to farm workers. I am a farmer and I have great sympathy with the views expressed by the hon. Member for Norfolk, North (Mr. Hazell). Much of what he said is true, and this Bill may help to restore confidence among many farm workers who are in tied cottages.
We know that there are many cases in which great hardship can be caused to a number of people. Perhaps I might give the Committee a simple example. A farmworker may have left his employment on a remote farm, or perhaps even on one near a town. He may have found himself a better job and given in his notice to the farmer. Subsequently the job may not be available, or his new house may have burnt down, or something similarly disastrous may have occurred. He is thus dependent on the tied cottage. I am talking about stockmen because they are the really important occupants of tied cottages. In the meantime the farmer may have engaged another man to move into the cottage, with the result that he is faced with an appalling situation.
We suggest that the Amendment would meet many of the objections which the N.F.U. has raised. As hon. Members know, in Scotland there has always been protection by the courts against eviction. I do not think that the N.F.U. or farmers generally object to the Bill, but I think that the Amendment would make it quite clear that if the county court judge or the sheriff-substitute was fixing the date, he could take into account all the other factors and all the other hardships. This is a very simple and, may I say again, we think, a commonsense Amendment, 1552 and I hope that the Minister will take this into account in his reply. We think that it leaves the main purpose of the Clause untouched. It will allay a lot of fears in the minds of farmers in Scotland, England and Wales, and it does not alter the protection which the Bill is meant to give.
§ Sir Charles Mott-Radclyffe (Windsor)
It is certainly a pleasure to me to speak after the hon. Member for Norfolk, North (Mr. Hazell) because I happen to live and farm in his constituency, and I think I can claim to know something about the conditions of North Norfolk and, perhaps, other areas as well. I have had many friendly arguments across the Floor of the House on the subject of tied cottages with his predecessor, for whom all of us in this House had the greatest affection. May I say to the hon. Member that the real trouble with the line that he took today is that he painted a picture of conditions in the agricultural industry which is an absolute travesty of the facts.
I have never understood why hon. Members opposite should continue to try to prove that relations between employer and employee in agriculture are thoroughly bad, when in fact they are very good indeed. They are so good, I believe, that the relationship between employer and employee in other industries might benefit by following the relationship between employer and employee in agriculture. Nor do I think that the hon. Member has read the Bill, because the Bill, even if it went through in its present form, would still give the farmer the right to apply to the county court. All the Bill does is to cut out the High Court procedure.
My right hon. Friend the Member for Kingston - upon - Thames (Mr. Boyd-Carpenter) put the point very clearly when he asked the Minister to explain to the Committee why the service cottage in relation to agriculture should be treated on a completely different basis, by inclusion in this Bill, from any other service cottage in any other industry or business. That is the crux of this debate. We all know, on whichever side of the Committee we sit, of a number of occupations where the employee by the very nature of his employment has to live on or near the 1553 job. Agriculture is certainly one of them.
The stationmaster has to live in the station master's house so long as he is stationmaster at that station. The police constable occupies a house built and owned by the county constabulary so long as he is a police constable in that district. If he goes to another district or leaves the police force for any reason the house has to become almost immediately available for a policeman to replace him in that district. The same, in a slightly different context, can be said of the village schoolmaster in the school house. A house is often attached to a hospital or institution for resident doctors. In all these occupations and professions it is well known that certain types of jobs require men to live on the spot. Agriculture is a particular example because of the need for the employee to look after animals. Therefore, why the tied cottage in agriculture is singled out I do not understand. Nothing that hon. or right hon. Members opposite said on Second Reading has convinced me at all.
The second point on which I want to reinforce my right hon. Friends argument is that as this is a temporary measure, designed to deal with what is alleged to be an emergency, why include the agricultural tied cottage in the Bill? I have never heard of any great emergency or crisis arising in respect of tied cottages in agriculture. I cannot see why this has to be put into a temporary Measure which expires at the end of next year. It is often said—it is really what the hon. Member for Norfolk, North said in a slightly different way—that the good tenant needs protection against the bad landlord. That is true, but so also is the corollary. The good landlord occasionally needs protection against the bad tenant. In this particular case in relation to the Amendment we are dealing with the occupier of a tied cottage where there is no tenancy and no rent paid.
I invite the Committee to consider what the facts of life are in relation to agriculture. We have had examples from the party opposite. Let me give one or two others. Is it really fair that a herdsman looking after a pedigree dairy herd can give notice to his employer, go off to a nearby town, get a 1554 job in that town, at considerably higher wages, when there is no house available for him in the town and continue to occupy the cottage on the farm for a period of four, five, six or seven months, thereby making it quite impossible for the farmer to get a replacement.
Does the right hon. Gentleman really think that if one puts an advertisement in the local paper for a cowman to look after a dairy herd with, in brackets, "no cottage available", one is likely to get many answers? Does he think that a cowman or anybody else will bicycle, motorcycle or go in a car four times a day, seven days a week, a distance of four, five, six or seven miles to do the morning and the evening milking, let alone in the middle of the night if a cow happens to be calving? That is one of the urgent problems which anyone in agriculture has to cope with. I wonder very much whether the Minister realises that that is a problem that exists. Of course in extremis the farmer has to get possession of the cottage fairly quickly.
§ Mr. James Dance (Bromsgrove)
I know of a case in my own constituency where a man went into a tied cottage on a farm and a fortnight later went to work with the B.M.C.
§ Sir C. Mott-Radclyffe
I am grateful to my hon. Friend.
The point is that in 99 cases out of 100 there is no difficulty about changing the occupation and changing the cottage that goes with it. We occasionally get the exceptional case, where there is either a little friction or someone has behaved badly, and the farmer goes to the High Court for a writ or to the county court for a possession order. But I must point out also, since the hon. Member for Norfolk, North and others seem to think that it is a great crime that a farmer should apply to the county court for possession in respect of a tied cottage, that very often when such application is made, it is with the full concurrence and sometimes at the request of the outgoing employee, for the simple reason that a great many local authorities, particularly rural district councils, will not entertain an application for a council house although they admit the obligation of rehousing somebody who has no alternative accommodation, unless a 1555 possession order has been obtained. This is often done by agreement between the employer and the employee without any dispute.
The circular which has been referred to, issued to all Members of Parliament by the National Union of Agricultural Workers, does not make a very good case, because the alleged examples of hardship which it quotes amount to very few in relation to the total. The figures and details quoted are absolutely meaningless unless one knows the interval of time which elapsed between the farmworker ceasing to be employed by the farmer and the date on which the farmer applied to the court for possession. In many cases that is a very long time indeed.
In areas where there is considerable competition between agriculture and industry it is not easy to retain a labour force on the farm unless housing is available. This fact must be faced. If it became widely known that a farm-worker could get a temporary job on a farm and get into the cottage which went with the job, and then go to a nearby town and get another job at a much higher wage while still being able to stay on in the cottage for months on end because there was no alternative accommodation in the town—although he gave the farmer notice and it was not a case of the farmer giving him notice—so far from helping the housing problem in rural areas we would aggravate it. I beg the right hon. Gentleman to consider very carefully whether, by the inclusion of this Clause, he is not creating far more problems and difficulties than he is likely to solve.
I want the right hon. Gentleman to clear up one point in connection with my Amendment. It is a legal drafting point. My Amendment seeks to leave out the word "premises" and to insert the word "dwelling". The Amendment has been put down deliberately, because the Bill refers only to dwelling-houses. If the word premises is to be left in I presume that it could refer to a dwelling-house with various outbuildings and sheds around it in which the occupier might well be able to keep a few pigs and poultry, which would bring the premises within the terms of the Agricultural Holdings Act or the 1556 Small Holdings Act, which are not within the scope of the Bill.
We must have an answer to this question. I cannot see why the word "premises" should be included when the whole of the rest of the Bill deals simply with dwellings, and I shall be glad if the Minister will deal with that point.
§ Mr. Ian MacArthur (Perth and East Perthshire)
I want to say a word about the Amendment to leave out subsection (5) from the point of view of Scottish farmers and farmworkers, particularly those in the remoter areas. I have in mind the Highlands and the great broad stretch of land lying around the Highland area.
As I understand it, the present legal position in Scotland differs somewhat from that in England. I believe that once his employment right to a house ceases the Scottish farmworker loses his legal right to that house, because the title of occupancy comes to an end. It is possible to go to the sheriff court, but there is some misunderstanding about this. I believe that a sheriff court has no discretion in the matter, because the legal title to be in the house has by that time ended. If I am wrong I am sure that my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Edinburgh, Pentlands (Mr. Wylie) will be able to advise the Committee on the point.
§ Mr. Hooson
Is it not correct that in Scotland a person cannot obtain possession of a house—even a tied cottage—without a court order, whereas in England and Wales there can be forcible eviction once an employment has come to an end? Is not that the distinction between the two systems?
§ Mr. MacArthur
I understand that there is no discretion in the court in the case of a Scottish farmworker who refuses to leave his tied cottage on the termination of his employment.
§ The Secretary of State for Scotland (Mr. William Ross)
In order to regain possession the farmer must go to the sheriff court to obtain an eviction order.
§ Mr. MacArthur
That is so. I do not want to make much weight of this, but it is helpful to establish the legal position at the beginning.
§ Mr. N. R. Wylie (Edinburgh, Pentlands)
The Scottish position is quite clear. In Scotland it has never been 1557 possible to eject a person from a tied cottage. The Bill bears little relationship to the existing law in Scotland. The position is that in Scotland the farmer must go to the court to have a person evicted. It has been said that that has been the law in Scotland for some years. It all depends on what one means by "some years". It has been the law in Scotland since 1555.
§ Mr. MacArthur
My hon. Friend has been able to put much more clearly what I was trying to say. The court has no discretion. This demonstrates to the Committee how helpful it is to have a Scottish lawyer in the House—the lack of which right hon. and hon. Members opposite will soon come to appreciate, especially the Minister of State, who made so much play of this fact when we had a Conservative Government.
It is very curious to try to apply to the Scottish position the remedy of this Bill, which surely is designed to provide a form of protection in relation to difficulties that arise in crowded cities. I cannot see the relationship between the problems that arise in crowded cities and the difficulties that might exist in remote areas of Scotland. The question of the tied cottage seems quite irrelevant to the main purpose of the Bill, and I am sorry that it has been introduced without any consultation with the National Farmers' Union or the National Farmers' Union of Scotland.
The remote areas are in a very special position. With respect to the hon. Member for Norfolk, North (Mr. Hazell), I suggest that the position there is not the same as the generality that he has described. These areas are primarily livestock rearing areas, where the presence of a stockman near to his stock is absolutely essential to the survival of the enterprise. This has long been recognised. A farmer requires his cottage for occupation by the 1558 man doing the work. The work cannot be done without that cottage. The hon. Member for Norfolk, North seemed to suggest that there could be cases in which a farmer could drive a farmworker backwards or forwards to the nearest town or village. This situation cannot apply in respect of a large part of the constituency which I represent, simply because many farms are not near towns or villages. To suggest that a farmer can get out his Land Rover, drive perhaps, some miles to the main road, and then drive his farmworkers to the town—a journey which would take him away from his work on the farm and which with the increasing petrol tax would cost him more than it used to—is a demonstration of a complete lack of understanding of stock farming.
Where is he to lodge his farmworkers in the town? There is a scheme for providing special Exchequer assistance for building houses for occupation by agricultural workers. I note that my hon. Friend the Member for Edinburgh, West (Mr. Stodart) put a Question this week asking the number of houses so provided, county by county, in Scotland. If one relates the number of houses to the number of agricultural workers one finds a great disparity. In Angus there is one house for every 60. In Argyll there is one for every 45, in Inverness one for every 50, in Perthshire one for every 22, in Ross and Cromarty one for every 60 and in Wigtown one for every 36. This is not a realistic way of attempting to solve the difficulty.
§ Mr. Archie Manuel (Central Ayrshire)
In trying to draw a picture dealing with Scotland as a whole and citing as an example the portion of Perthshire which the hon. Member for Perth and East Perthshire (Mr. MacArthur) represents, he should recognise that the county council has been very backward in attending to agricultural interests. In my constituency Ayr County Council has built farmworkers' cottages in the villages and places geographically suited to the farms, sometimes in blocks of four and sometimes in blocks of six. The county council has very nearly solved the problem there without trouble.
§ Mr. MacArthur
I am grateful to the hon. Member. In Perthshire 182 houses have been provided in this way. These areas are sparsely populated and I 1559 suggest that the houses on the farms should be occupied by people actually working on the farms—[An HON. MEMBER: "They are for furnished lettings."] If the hon. Member comes to the constituency he will see that there is little of this kind of letting going on. The houses are put in good order to provide homes for the agricultural population, which lives in great harmony with the farmers of Scotland. I was glad that my hon. Friend the Member for Windsor (Sir C. Mott-Radclyffe) made that point.
I do not understand why some hon. Members suggest that there is friction and continual trouble on the land. That is a myth and a fiction which misrepresents the cordial relationship which happily exists on the land. Disputes do not arise to any marked degree in this matter. I fear that the passage of the Bill, with the inclusion of this provision, could lead to disputes which do not now arise. My hon. Friend the Member for Bromsgrove (Mr. Dance) has referred to the case of a man who went to live in the farm cottage and then left his job to work for the B.M.C. One could quote similar but less dramatic examples from Scotland of men who might work for the hydro-electric board or the Forestry Commission or other work which had nothing to do with the houses that had been provided.
This kind of process will damage the whole interest of the farming industry in Scotland. To include the subsection as it stands will attempt to solve a problem which does not exist. All it will succeed in doing is to create a problem which will unnecessarily further complicate the farmer's already complicated life and introduce disputes and divisions in an industry which is known for the harmony in which it works.
§ 7.45 p.m.
§ Mr. Dance
The hon. Member for Norfolk, North (Mr. Hazell) appears to have met some strange farmers. I do not think that the kind he spoke about would ever be able to get farm workers to come into their employ. There is great difficulty in getting people to work on the land, particularly in areas such as my constituency near Birmingham where, in a sense, there is over-employment. One of the main inducements for someone to work on the land is the provision of a house in connection with his job.
§ Mr. Dance
That has nothing to do with the question.
No farmer would get rid of a good farm worker unnecessarily for there is such great difficulty in attracting them. A farmer would have to get rid of a bad, dishonest man, but he would not get rid of a conscientious, good worker. Why do hon. Members opposite pick on the farmer? I think it extremely insulting to the farming industry when they do so. I repeat what was said by my hon. Friend the Member for Windsor (Sir C. Mott-Radclyffe). There is great harmony on both sides of the farming industry.
Why not pick on railwaymen? There is the case of the house provided for the man who looks after the level crossing or the signalman. Hon. Members do not criticise those cases because, if they did, work on the railways would soon be brought to a grinding halt. Do hon. Members opposite want work in agriculture to be brought to a grinding halt? That would happen if they pursue their present attitude. Has the Minister of Agriculture given approval to these proposals? If so, has he had consultation with the N.F.U.?
Another aspect of this problem is the question of cruelty to animals. A cow with a full bag can be in appalling agony if she is not milked. A cow having an awkward pregnancy can be in appalling agony. There must be a man on the spot to deal with such cases. What about the situation on hill farms when there is a great deal of snow and sheep are stranded? There has to be a shepherd on the job. That is why it is essential for the farmer to be able to retain possession of the cottage built for the purpose of housing his workers. Are we to go back to the conditions of the days after the war? Then a farmer friend of mine was having a certain amount of labour trouble. An official came to see him and it was pointed out that there was difficulty about weekend milking. The official said, "Buy a refrigerator and don't milk at weekends".
Hon. Members opposite have done enough damage to the country in the last 40 days. Do not let them make the already difficult task for the farmer impossible. I hope they will realise that 1561 the agricultural industry is saving hundreds of millions of pounds which otherwise would be expended on imports. If they realise that they should realise that the farmer must be helped and must be allowed to retain cottages to house his workers. I sincerely hope that the Amendment will be agreed to.
§ Mr. Temple
I start by paying a very real tribute to the farmworkers of the country. They have done a magnificent job and, so far as I know, extraordinarily little hardship has been caused to them by the system of service cottages which we have used in agriculture for so many years.
Very cogent arguments have been deployed from this side of the Committee in support of the Amendment. I should like to deal with an entirely fresh aspect. I believe that farmworkers have gained very considerably financially through the system of licensed cottages. I understand that half the service cottages are let under the system of licence. Under that system the farmworker pays no rent for the house. I have great personal experience of this matter, having several of my own men in licensed cottages. Some of them have been with me for 15, 20 or even more years in their own houses. What a shock it would be to those men if they had to pay a full rent for the houses.
I believe that the party opposite is concerned with a financial crisis, a balance of payments crisis, at present. British agriculture is making a wonderful contribution to solving the balance of payments problem. I believe that this is the thin end of the wedge for raising costs throughout agriculture. If the Labour Party follows the policy it is pursuing at present with regard to tied cottages, all agricultural workers will be in cottages for which they will be paying a full rental.
I give the Government a very severe warning. If they pursue this policy, they will put up costs throughout the whole of British agriculture to the extent of £2 or £3 per week per farmworker. If this policy is pursued by the Government—I believe that it will be—that will be the result of their actions. I therefore hope that the Government will reconsider their attitude. This is a case of the Government having acted before they have thought. The Times leader brought that 1562 out very clearly today. I very much hope that when the Government have fully considered what the results will be and have followed this course through to its logical conclusion, they will recognise that the cost to British agriculture will be very great and will have second thoughts about carrying the Bill through in its present form.
§ The Minister of Housing and Local Government (Mr. Richard Crossman)
It is not with any intention of trying to end the debate that I intervene at this point. I do so merely because I think that it would be for the convenience of the Committee if I say what I have to say now.
I start by saying in brief what I advise my hon. Friends to do. There is no doubt that the Government will ask the Committee to reject the Amendment in page 2, line 25, to leave out subsection (5). We wish to retain Clause 1 in its present form. I should have liked very much to make a small concession as to "dwellings" and "premises", but on the best legal advice I am assured that. since the whole Bill is framed in terms of "premises" and not "dwellings", it would be unwise to make the minor concessions for which the hon. Member for Windsor (Sir C. Mott-Radclyffe) asked. Therefore, reluctantly, we cannot accept the Amendment in page 2, line 28, to leave out "premises" and to insert "dwelling". We would accept the Amendment in page 3, line 28, in principle, but I want to speak on this at some length, because I should like to put forward on Report a different version of it which I shall explain later in my speech.
I have very properly been asked to explain—it is perfectly right and reasonable to ask me to explain—why we have introduced into the Bill one group of licensed occupants who are not tenants. It was perfectly fair of the right hon. Member for Kingston-upon-Thames (Mr. Boyd-Carpenter) to say that we must defend this and show that it is logical and consistent, otherwise we are dragging extraneous matter into a short-term emergency Bill.
There are three reasons why we have to make this exception. The first substantial reason, in the nature of the case, has been revealed by the whole debate. We had the remarkable speech of my 1563 hon. Friend the Member for Norfolk, North (Mr. Hazell). Then we had the answers of the farmers. We saw the extraordinarily sharp balance or conflict of interests and of humanity between the farmer—I noticed this in the speech of farmer after farmer—who feels desperately for the suffering of his animals and the trade union organiser whose main concern is the suffering of his members, of their wives and of their children.
Let us be clear on the subject of evictions. This provision is in the Bill because this is a Bill about evictions. Evictions are almost always—I can generalise in one sense—concerned overwhelmingly with conurbations and the effect of controls. We know about rent control and things of that kind. In the countryside, the kind of eviction which stands out in everybody's mind, though thank heavens it is not now nearly as numerous as it is famous, is the eviction from the tied cottage. It is a simple fact that the problem of the farmworker and his relation to the farmer is a grave human problem. It has got enormously better in the last 10 years.
It is proper that I should declare my personal interest. For 10 years I have been a partner of a farmer. We have a number of tied cottages on our farm. Therefore, I speak from some personal experience of the problem of somebody who actually has to operate a farm under these conditions.
A real and shocking conflict can arise. Anybody who faces this and does not admit it to himself is not doing justice to the problem. Of course it is true that the farmer may be gypped by the bad man who, as somebody said, comes in on false pretences, gets into a tied cottage, and then has to be winkled out of it. There are also the workers who can suffer under a bad farmer. What we are concerned about in a landlord-tenant relationship or in a farmer-agricultural worker relationship is not the good. We are concerned to protect the minority who are potentially sufferers from the bad—the farmer who will suffer from the bad agricultural labourer and the agricultural labourer who will suffer from the bad farmer.
This is a special case. I do not think it is an accident—I did not do this research; it comes in my brief—that 1564 there are quite a number of instances where tied cottages are treated as tenancies in the laws of the country. I quote only two instances which have been given me. In Section 7 of the Housing Act, 1957, instructions are given to the effect that the owners of premises which are tied cottages shall do certain things and have certain responsibilities to the occupants of the cottages. This is only for agricultural tied cottages and for no other licensees.
The same is true again in Section 44 of the Housing Act, 1964. In exactly the same way, that is an Act which finds itself compelled to treat the agricultural tied cottage quite exceptionally, not like other licensees; not like those who are caretakers; nor even Prime Ministers or bishops. We all hear the stories about the Prime Ministers and the bishops who are tied, but those are not quite the ones we are talking about. We are talking about a special group—the agricultural workers.
§ Mr. Christopher Soames (Bedford)
Will the right hon. Gentleman elaborate a little what those provisions are and what they set out to do?
§ Mr. Crossman
I could do so, if the Committee really desires me to. Does the right hon. Gentleman desire me to read them out? I am perfectly prepared to give the reference to the right hon. Gentleman. Section 7 of the Housing Act, 1957, reads:Notwithstanding any stipulation to the contrary, where under a contract of employment of a workman employed in agriculture the provision of a house or part of a house for his occupation forms part of his remuneration, and the provisions of the last foregoing section are inapplicable by reason only of the house or part of the house not being let to him, there shall be implied as part of the contract of employment the like condition and undertaking as would be implied under those provisions if the house or part of the house were so let, and those provisions shall apply accordingly, with the substitution of 'employer' for 'landlord', and such other modifications as may be necessary.That is, he shall be treated as the tenant of a landlord and not as the licensee of a farmer. That is a very interesting case which I thought the Committee would be interested to observe. I quote it merely to show that the case of the agricultural worker and his tied cottage has to be treated very often as a tenancy, because it is in fact like that and the 1565 conditions are the same and there are the same problems as we have with rent control in the case of tenants. There should be special controls so as to preserve the position of the agricultural labourer.
Having said that, let me assume for a moment that the Committee still does not agree with me and says, "But you are wrong." I come to my second and main argument.
The right hon. Member for Kingston-upon-Thames was the man who, as I said before, told us what the Bill was about. This Bill is about a Labour Government which came to power pledged to do certain things, to repeal the Rent Act. It has been said quite legitimately, "In that case any person who might be in danger of being threatened by the repeal of the Rent Act must be protected by the enforcement of new controls." We have made two pledges—one to repeal the Rent Act and the other to give absolute security to agricultural labourers in tied cottages. Our party's manifesto says:No occupant of a tied cottage will be evicted until suitable accommodation shall be found.We as a Government came to power to do two things. We had committed ourselves to restore rent control and security of tenure to tenants who had been denied it by the 1957 Act and we had committed ourselves firmly, for the first time in history, to give full security of tenure to all agricultural workers, whether tenants or licensees, in their tied cottages. That commitment was one whereby the landlord or the farmer would know that if he wanted to get possession, he had been warned, and warned again, by us of our intentions.
We are going to repeal the Rent Act. We are going to give tenants security of tenure. We are going to give security to the agricultural worker in our permanent legislation. Part of our legislation will refer to the agricultural worker and we shall work out a permanent system of security for him as we were pledged to do. We have two groups to look after in this interval between what might be called our threat, or our prediction, and the completion of the operation. These two threatened groups are all those who could be thrown 1566 out of their tenancies and all agricultural workers who potentially could be thrown out of their tied cottages.
If anybody says to me, "There are not many farmers who would do this", I agree; of course, there are not. There are not many landlords either who would try to jump the gun and get an eviction. But we have treated the agricultural labourer along with the tenant because from the point of view of the Labour Government's promises they are in exactly the same position. They are both promised a security that they do not enjoy today and, therefore, they could possibly be the victims of somebody who would seek to exploit the interval and get rid of them.
§ Mr. Boyd-Carpenter
The right hon. Gentleman's case is that ordinary landlords were seeking to get rid of their tenants before the premises became decontrolled. Is he alleging that there is any evidence whatever that farmers are getting rid of their labour in order to secure possession of their cottages?
§ Mr. Crossman
I made it quite clear in my original speech that there is very little evidence. I told the House how limited the evidence was in either case. But I thought there was widespread agreement that since we are going to spend some weeks, or possibily some months, discussing our system of rent control, we did not want by mischance to be held guilty if there were an unscrupulous farmer or landlord. The right hon. Gentleman knows this.
On this question whether there is anxiety and whether a worker does need protection, I will take the word of my hon. Friend the Member for Norfolk, North, who knows more about the kind of protection that agricultural workers need than does the right hon. Member for Kingston-upon-Thames. No doubt, the right hon. Gentleman knows more than I do about many things, but he does not know what the agricultural worker fears and needs. The evidence here is perfectly clear. The agricultural workers' union has welcomed this Bill—not merely because it presages, as it does, the permanent security of tenure that its members want but because we give them security in the transitional period, just as we do to other tenants before we make permanent legislation.
1567 The Committee ought to be generous in this respect. Those hon Members who feel they know so much about this should give the farm worker the benefit of the doubt in saying, "I should like to be protected". If the right hon. Gentleman says, "You need not worry, nobody is going to do it", I say "Give him the protection then. No harm will be done. Nobody will be injured if nobody is going to take the action against which we seek to guard."
§ Mr. Boyd-Carpenter
It is clear from what the right hon. Gentleman has said that he has no evidence that farmers are acting in this way. He therefore finds it necessary, or justifiable, to impose this control which he says does no harm. If he has listened to the speeches of my hon. Friends he will be aware that it does a good deal of harm to farmers.
§ Mr. Crossman
Of course, we can all make speeches, but I did not say there was no evidence. I said that the best evidence was that the trade union representing the farm workers desperately wants this Bill. The members of the trade union are not insane lunatics. They are solid, sensible citizens who represent solid, sensible people. If they want this Bill, it is very good evidence that the Bill is needed in this interval.
§ Mr. Corfield
Is there not equally good evidence that the farmers, who are equally solid, sensible people, do not want it and that it will do them some harm?
§ Mr. Crossman
The hon. Gentleman is being impatient. I am coming to the second half of the case. It is true that the N.F.U. was as dismayed by the Bill as we presented it to them, as the farm-workers were pleased with it. The farmworkers were pleased to know that we were giving a blanket security in this way. I have seen the N.F.U. since. We had long consultations with them. I have consulted the N.F.U. and I have studied its objections. Some were reasonable and some were unreasonable. There was one reasonable objection from the N.F.U. to which I should like to refer. The N.F.U. said, "We have no objection to one part of your Bill. We do not object at all to the Bill outlawing the right of eviction without a court order". I was delighted to hear that from the N.F.U. It is in favour of the 1568 Bill in so far as it says that nobody can be evicted without a court order. That is a tribute to the advance of the N.F.U. It is half the Bill, and the N.F.U. agreed to that.
What does the N.F.U. disagree with? It is very alarmed by the length of time during which a court can suspend execution of an order, and this seemed to me to be a reasonable objection. I have been thinking about it a great deal to see what we can do to reassure the N.F.U. which has a genuine case in this respect. I have emphasised how special is the position of the farmworker. The more I hear about lonely farms and lonely cottages, the more I feel for the unfortunate cowman who has a bad farmer, when they are lonely in isolation and hating each other. This is a terrible disaster—[Laughter.] It is no good hon. Members opposite "haw-hawing" like that. We do not say that every farmer is an angel, any more than every farm-worker is. There is the farmer who wants the power to evict without a court order and to be inhumane in an un-civilised way whether or not the N.F.U. agrees with him. The N.F.U. said, "We want our farmers to have to get a court order but we are worried about the powers which are given for the postponement of execution".
I looked at the Clause, which the Liberals looked at as well, and I studied the Bill, and I should like to call attention to Amendment 33 which relates to Clause 2(4). This is the Clause in which the county courts are given guidance. We particularly rely, as I emphasised on Second Reading, on the wisdom of the county courts and their ability to judge a case. We say that they must take a decision, taking into account all the circumstances, and then we list paragraphs (a), (b), (c) and (d). Those are matters which they have especially to consider.
We are being scrupulously fair here in preventing the unscrupulous tenant from "gypping" his landlord. The N.F.U. suggested that we should have a fifth subsection dealing not merely with service tenancies but which would mention specifically agriculture and the peculiar problems of the agricultural industry. The N.F.U. said, "Since you single us out in Clause 1 and you have mentioned subsection (5) as a special 1569 example, could not there be special guidance so that county court judges know that when there is a conflict of interests between the farmer and the farm worker they must bear in mind the special conditions of the farming industry, and they should know that there is more to be lost from the farmers' point of view by the suspension of the order?"
Therefore they will be instructed that whereas in other cases they might easily postpone for twelve months they should be careful and should realise that there is a particular aspect of hardship here to consider. They will be required to assess the hardship. I know that it is a terribly difficult thing to do. They should not forget that women and children might be thrown on the streets, but also that a pedigree herd might be ruined. How one measures the balance between the two, I do not know. They will be told, "Make up your minds, but please specially remember that there is in the case of the agricultural industry, and tied cottages are an example, special considerations which you must bear in mind."
I have been busy talking to the N.F.U. and the Agricultural Workers' Union. I do not say that they have reached agreement yet, but we have an idea of the form of words which would make sense for them. The N.F.U. says, "We recognise that farmworkers are not quite the same as ordinary tenants and that there are special considerations to be borne in mind." I propose on Report stage to write something into the Bill and to ask the Liberals whether they think that this is an improvement from their point of view. I shall do this, as I was asked to do by the farmers. I do not say that the N.F.U. approves of the Bill, but the farmers think that it would be a better Bill if certain words were included. Equally the farmworkers do not want any change in the Bill. They prefer it as it is.
I have been asked today to try to be strictly impartial and to treat this Bill as an emergency measure and not to score party points. I have tried to take account of what both unions feel. The N.F.U. is concerned essentially about the health of the farming industry and I am going to try to write in a condition of special guidance to the courts 1570 which I think pretty fairly strikes a balance between the two points of view.
§ Mr. R. H. Turton (Thirsk and Malton)
The right hon. Gentleman talked about delay. This is a most important part of the Bill, because in remote parts of the country under the county court circuit system it takes so long to bring a case to court. What does the right hon. Gentleman propose to do about that? Why does he object to the High Court procedure which is the quickest way of dealing with the problem?
§ Mr. Crossman
I am going a little far beyond the Amendment now, but this was a fair point made to us on procedure. I hope when we come to a later Clause in the Bill to be able to say something positive about getting this process speeded up. If we did only this we should do some good with the Bill. The process needs speeding up in country districts. Unless we speed it up there is some of the danger to which the right hon. Gentleman has referred.
I was looking the other day at some figures which we obtained from the union side. There is no doubt that the High Court is being used by farmers now to evict quickly and speedily. I say as one who has something to do with the farming industry that I do not think we should have a right to evict as speedily as all that. There should be some waiting and postponing. Every decent farmer I know manages in 99 cases out of 100 to have the waiting period necessary to enable the man whom he wants to move to get a job and then move on. This postponing of getting rid of a man is the difference between brutal landlordism and civilised landlordism. Even if it is inconvenient for him as a landlord, it should be a duty imposed upon him by law to wait a little longer.
This is the kind of right which, in future, landlords will have to give to people, if they have not given it before. As I have said, 99 out of 100 already do this. We are legislating only for the tiny minority. We are trying only to level them up to decent standards. I am staggered that we should have this criticism from people who say. "We would not dream of doing this ourselves but we want to reserve the right of barbarism to people whom we do not know and do not wish to know because 1571 they are such cads." We hope to improve relations by eliminating the temptation to the tiny majority to use a right which they should never have had.
We have given a twelve-month period of delay as a maximum, but we are also relying on the county court judges, who in my experience are not overwhelmingly biased in favour of agricultural workers against farmers. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh."] On the whole I would say that they are very careful. They are good, sound sensible people who will judge fairly; who will judge a case on its merits; who will spot a farmworker who has got into a house and then got out of the industry and is sitting on in the house and will give him small mercy. The Bill depends on the discretion of the court. Some people say that it depends too much, but I do not think that the good farmer has anything to fear from the Bill, because discretion will be given to the court to give him a period of one month, three months or six months as the case may be.
I have no hesitation in saying that, for the reasons I have given, we have specifically singled out the agricultural worker along with people in rented property. These are the people for whom we are legislating in the long run and, therefore, they must all have the interim guarantee. That guarantee will not harm the farmers and this interim Measure will be a good step along the road to the permanent security of tenure which we intend to give to farmworkers.
§ Mr. Evelyn King (Dorset, South)
I also should declare my interest, as the Minister has done, in that I am a farmer and I have tied cottages. My task in speaking is not made easier by having to follow immediately after the right hon. Gentleman has destroyed almost everything I intended to say. I should like first to congratulate the right hon. Gentleman on consulting the National Farmers' Union, but he would have saved himself a great deal of trouble and the farming community a great deal of indignation and he would have acted more justly and sensibly if he and his colleagues had done that a long time ago.
I am sure that everyone is surprised that so far we have heard practically 1572 nothing from the Minister of Agriculture. A former Labour Minister of Agriculture, the then Mr. Tom Williams, made a strong point that he would not take the action which the right hon. Gentleman has now taken. The present Minister of Agriculture would do well to keep closer in touch with the agricultural community on this matter and not leave it wholly to the Minister of Housing and Local Government.
Although the Minister spoke at great length—and I do not complain of that—he did not speak at great length about the Amendment. There is a whole string of questions which inevitably one would wish to ask him in order that he might define more exactly what is intended and what he has accepted. If I read the Amendment correctly, the first thing that must strike everyone is the timidity of hon. and right hon. Gentlemen opposite. I understand the dilemma. There are those behind the Minister who said that he must consider the plight of the rare person evicted, and the National Farmers' Union, no doubt, told him that he must consider also the plight of the dairy herd. The right hon. Gentleman's solution is to accept neither one position nor the other but to put upon the courts what should be the decision of Parliament. Whatever view one may hold upon these two positions, that was a wrong thing to do.
Throughout the debate so far, we have been discussing the rights and wrongs of tenants. Under this Clause, there is something to be considered other than the rights of tenant and landlord or how justice can be done to either. We must link these questions with the future of agriculture itself, and this is why I say again that I consider that the Minister of Agriculture ought to have been present.
I am frightened by the tendency, slight though it may be, which the Bill may accelerate among dairy farmers. As the right hon. Gentleman knows, the price of milk is going up, and dairy farmers are tending to drop out of business already. We do not want this to become another Bill for rising prices, and it could easily become so through its effect upon milk production. I have particularly in mind, and to some extent I speak for, the dairy farmers of Dorset. Each of us, no doubt, has in his mind's 1573 eye an idea of the sort of person the dairy farmer is. I am thinking of the man with between 40 and 60 cows who has a herdsman living in a tied cottage. As everyone knows, it is impossible to have a non-resident cowman for a herd of that sort. It is not merely a matter of milking seven days a week. What happens when there is a calving in the middle of the night? The hon. Member for Norfolk, North (Mr. Hazell) suggested that the farmer gets into his Land Rover and goes off to bring the herdsman back. These ideas are so silly that they do not bear listening to. I should he very nervous if dairy farming were in that sense to diminish.
Farmers generally—I think that the right hon. Gentleman will agree here—have taken great pride in the housing which they have provided for their workers. Even farmers in a relatively small way of business have spent many tens of thousands of £s upon it. This was, of course, for the benefit of their workpeople, but it was also for the benefit of their farms, and it would not be right if an undesirable incentive were given to them to take less pride in their housing than they previously did, or if there were a growing tendency—it has already started—to use caravans instead.
Finally, there is the most important point of principle. Right hon. and hon. Members opposite have said on many occasions that housing must be a public service. [An HON. MEMBER: "Hear, hear."] I hear approval of that principle again now. What does it mean when applied to agriculture and the tied cottage? It means that, if a man were evicted from a tied cottage, it would be—and for one would be prepared to accept it—a public responsibility to rehouse him. It cannot be a private responsibility, yet that is the effect of the Measure which the right hon. Gentleman is asking the Committee to pass. He is saying to the farmer that he is required to house an employee who no longer works for him—it may be no fault of his; the man himself may wish to leave—and that he personally, chosen at random, must devote, perhaps, a £3,000 house to solve a problem which, in effect, is a public problem.
§ Mr. Crossman
I am delighted to hear what the hon. Gentleman says and I remind him of our party's policy, which, 1574 I hope, we shall carry out. We intend to provide that no occupier of a tied cottage will be evicted until suitable alternative accommodation has been found by the local authority. The hon. Gentleman is putting forward the Labour Government's policy for the solution of the tied cottage problem in the long run. All we are doing here is an emergency job until he has got his way and had that written into legislation.
§ Mr. King
The Minister says four months. I hope that he is right. But there will inevitably be an interval.
I have no doubt that much of the problem could have been avoided and much of the enmity, if it is right to call it that, now existing between the party opposite and farmers could have been averted, if the right hon. Gentleman and his colleagues had had the good sense to be slower. Doing everything in the first 100 days is bringing us all near to disaster. Had the Minister consulted sensibly, as his predecessors of all parties have done, with the National Farmers' Union and the National Union of Agricultural Workers, with farmers and farmworkers alike, and had he taken a sensible amount of time and been conciliatory, many of his problems would have been averted and this debate might well have been unnecessary.
§ Mr. J. E. B. Hill (Norfolk, South)
We are less reassured after the Minister's speech than before. Although he explained at length that he had at last consulted the National Farmers' Union, I still do not know whether he has sought to consult the other body which is much concerned with agricultural property, the Country Landowners' Association. The actual cottages are part of ownership as well as occupation, and, strictly speaking, it is in his capacity as owner that the owner-occupier farmer is concerned. I regret very much that the C.L.A., which is usually consulted, has not been spoken to yet.
I speak subject to correction, but I do not remember the pledge about agricultural tied cottages in the Labour Party manifesto at the election.
§ Mr. Crossman
I should like the opportunity to make a correction. I should have said that it came from a speech by the Leader of the Labour Party made in Norwich on Wednesday, 30th September. It was a declaration made on that occasion, not in the manifesto, and I am glad to put that right. The hon. Gentleman read the manifesto but not the speech.
§ Mr. Hill
I read the manifesto, but I did not hear the speech. As I remember it, the old statement appearing in earlier Labour publications on policy tied the wish to provide security of tenure with the proposal to put an obligation upon the local authority to provide alternative accommodation. My hon. Friend the Member for Dorset, South (Mr. Evelyn King) referred to that. We seem to have heard very little about it today. Perhaps it will come in the future Bill, but at this moment we do not know what the Minister's thoughts are about it.
What the Minister said in reply to the debate was that he aimed to give, and was pledged to give, permanent—and he added the word "absolute"—security for agricultural tied cottages. If that is his intention, it seems to strike at the whole system of service occupancy. I believe that it is his intention. All I can say about it is that, if he does strike at that system and he wants to abandon it, he will make it exceedingly difficult to man our agriculture satisfactorily.
Does the right hon. Gentleman mean that a worker going into what at the moment is a tied cottage will no longer be expected necessarily to work on that farm or in agriculture? We must face this. One finds at busy times of the year that employers who are desperately short of labour go round asking people to work for them for limited periods. Farmworkers living in service cottages would not at the moment think of acceding to that request, or, if one likes so to put it, yielding to that temptation, though high money for a short time may be offered to them. This is what worries me about the Minister's attitude. Is he really saying that the farmworker in future should withdraw from his common belief that if he is living in a service occupancy he should, other things being reasonably equal, work only on that farm?
§ Mr. Crossman
The answer is that the man should not. I made it perfectly clear that what we are doing is trying to legislate so that there shall be no eviction without a court order. I recognise the need in the last resort for eviction, and I recognise that in the case of a service cottage one might have to have an eviction for special reasons which are not applicable to ordinary tenancies. What I wanted to do was to safeguard, by requiring a court order, the tenant against unfair eviction.
§ Mr. Hill
I thought the right hon. Gentleman went further than that. He talked about absolute security. The time factor is all important in this case. The right hon. Gentleman has not, except in respect of this one Amendment, suggested any very speedy procedure for getting court orders, though I would agree with him that a court order is highly desirable, and I think that very few farmers would think of proceeding without one, except possibly against a pure trespasser, which is a different position.
It seems that the Minister would be encouraging farmworkers to take a totally different attitude towards their service occupation, because he has lumped together, and so he did in his Second Reading speech, agricultural tenants and service tenants, saying that he could not see very much difference between them. He said that it was ridiculous that the Bill should cover one group of agricultural workers who had formal tenancies but not others who did not. He seemed to misunderstand the difference between those two types of occupation. But it is important. In the case of the service occupation, it is understood that it is co-terminous with employment, and very often what makes it different from an agricultural tenancy is that no rent or rates are paid; the house is given to the worker as a perquisite, and he gets the job and free housing, which is balanced by his knowledge that his residence in that house, subject to reasonable procedure admittedly, is limited by his employment.
It seems to me that if this conception is destroyed some developments may follow which will not necessarily be welcome to farmworkers. What has not so far been said is that not all farmworkers are against the tied cottage, just as by no means all farmworkers happen to be 1577 members of the National Union of Agricultural Workers. I fully appreciate the case made by the hon. Member for Norfolk, North (Mr. Hazell) in wishing to avoid the evils of the very few harsh evictions that there have been, but that is one side of the picture that has been mentioned. On the other side of the picture are workers who definitely prefer living in tied cottages. I have known people already established in council houses seek a job and say that they would like to leave their council houses and have a cottage with their job. That is not only for the money reason in that they save the rent of a council house and probably get the tied cottage free. Sometimes they like living in the comparative privacy of a farm cottage rather than in a closely knit community. The fact is that they often get these cottages free of rent and rates, and we should remember that the rates of an agricultural cottage may now amount to over £20 a year, and so it is not an inconsiderable benefit.
If this system is destroyed, certain unwelcome results may follow. My hon. Friend the Member for the City of Chester (Mr. Temple) suggested that there will not be very much incentive for these cottages to be given free if their main reasons, which are to attract the best labour and to have flexibility to continue attracting satisfactory labour, are removed. Therefore, it may well be that in future the value of these cottages, which is considerable, will be taken into account, and to that extent the worker will lose.
The second reason, which has not been sufficiently stressed, is that the tied cottage provides a remarkable degree of mobility of labour, often in the worker's interest. Without the ready provision of a cottage to move into, as my hon. Friend the Member for Windsor (Sir C. MottRadclyffe) said earlier, it would be impossible for many workers to answer an advertisement and secure a better job in their particular skill, as a herdsman with a certain breed, for instance, and to move from one county to another. We ought to recognise that it is the provision of a good home which enables farm workers, not only stockmen, but other skilled specialists, farm tractor mechanics and so on and people of managerial status, to move around the country getting better and better jobs. Without service cottages, they will find 1578 themselves largely confined to their immediate neighbourhoods, and while that may be satisfactory for the more general labour, it would be a severe restriction on the chances of the skilled man working his way up the profession.
Another unwelcome feature may follow from what the right hon. Gentleman said, for the implication of what he has said is that he intends to make farm cottages far less useful to agriculture and farmers than they have been. That will be the effect of his remark when he spoke in terms of absolute security of tenure and engendered the attitude—
§ Mr. Crossman
I have never spoken in terms of absolute security of tenure. What I said was a "permanent system of tenure", by which I meant not this temporary Bill but the Bill which is to follow. Of course there is no absoluteness of security. We are giving tenants reasonable security and we are giving landlords reasonable security, too. We are striking a balance between the two. That is what we are aiming for, and that must be clear.
§ Mr. Corfield
I think that I can help. I took these words down. The words which the right hon. Gentleman used were "absolute security of the tied cottage until alternative accommodation could be found".
§ Mr. Hill
The dialectics do not alter the purport of my argument, which is simply that the Minister's attitude has made it clear that the good service cottage will be less useful to the skilled and proper manning of agriculture in future than now. It therefore follows that owners and farmers will be correspondingly less likely to spend capital, which is short in agriculture as elsewhere, especially with higher Bank Rate and so on, on improving these cottages. That in turn will militate against the steadily improving standard of living conditions in the countryside.
Broadly speaking, I believe that this proposal will make it rather harder for farmers and farmworkers to provide for an efficient agriculture. I am very anxious that we should have all possible safeguards in the procedure for operating 1579 the eviction process and that there should be full notice to appear before the courts and so on, but I would very much regret a move which reduced the efficiency of agriculture.
§ Mr. Nicholas Ridley (Cirencester and Tewkesbury)
I must confess that I have considerable sympathy with the general point of the Clause, but I am surprised at the way in which the right hon. Gentleman has behaved. He admitted that his commitment about the tied cottage was intended to be separate from the main commitment about urban houses, and he traced that to a speech of the Prime Minister and not in any sense to the Rent Act, which is the reason why the Bill as a whole was introduced. However, having said that, it seemed extraordinary that a separate election pledge should be redeemed by means of a subsection in a Bill leading to something else.
The right hon. Gentleman claims that interim protection exists only for agricultural tenants, although more or less admitting that there is no evidence of the extent to which farmers are ready to turn people out. It is an impossibly farfetched thought that anything in the Rent Act or its replacement can make protection of this sort necessary.
§ Mr. George Jeger (Goole)
Surely every hon. Member from an agricultural constituency knows of cases in which there has been disagreement between the farmer and his farmworker which has resulted in a burst of temper by the farmer who has given notice to quit. We have sometimes had to intervene to patch up the peace between them. I have known certain cases in my constituency. Is the hon. Gentleman suggesting that the time-lag which would be necessary for these cases to go to court would not be helpful in allowing for a cooling off of the parties and a possible resumption of good relations?
§ Mr. Ridley
The hon. Gentleman is making the point of what I was saying, but if he will allow me to make my speech, I will come to that. I think that this pledge has been brought into this Measure without any attempt to consult the N.F.U. before the Bill was written—or, we are now told, the N.U.A.W.—and, so far, there has been no attempt at all to consult the Country 1580 Landowners' Association which, however much the right hon. Gentleman may not like it, is surely interested in the provisions of this legislation.
It is strange that in his consultation the Minister should find, firstly, to his surprise, that the N.F.U. accepted the court order procedure. He discovered, again rather to his surprise, that to pass the legislation as it now is, might cause hardship to some farmers. Surely he should have found out all that before, and should have taken the trouble to have consultations, and discover that there would be hardship, rather than tell us, when the Bill is in Committee, that he thinks that farmers in some cases may be right and the agricultural workers may be wrong. His method seems to be the most extraordinarily slipshod way of bringing forward legislation.
Further, the right hon. Gentleman has admitted that he accepts as a valid point that delay may be bad; that it may take too long to secure the occupation of a house, and might be deleterious to farming. Why could he not have discovered this before? Instead, he first writes in the present provision, and now says, "I have had a bright idea. I have discovered that this is an important point". How much delay does the Minister think is reasonable? From the farmer's point of view, there is little difference between one month, 12 months and 24 months, because if the delay is of more than a few days' or weeks' duration it is quite essential for the farmer to make alternative arrangements. He has either to set up a permanent transport arrangement or find an alternative house—
§ Mr. Mellish
The hon. Gentleman argues that if the farmer cannot get the accommodation in a couple of days or so he suffers grave injustice, because the Bill may mean a good deal more delay than that. Will he explain why, though what we are proposing is to some extent similar to what applies in Scotland, we do not seem to have had all these complaints from Scotland?
§ Mr. Ridley
I would not set up to be an authority on the law of Scotland. All I say is that, if we are to accept a delay, it does not really matter whether it is a very long delay or only a moderate one. What is much more important than the 1581 length of the delay is having to make alternative accommodation for the farm worker until the other accommodation can be used for the purpose for which it was meant.
Therefore, for the Minister, having got the Bill into Committee and discovered all these snags to his own proposals—the need to ameliorate delay, the need to consider hardship to the farmer, the need to consult all these bodies—to say that he will change the whole thing makes me ask why he does not accept the Amendment. I am sure that he can work out a scheme which we on this side will be prepared to consider very sympathetically and then put it in a separate Bill and redeem his election pledge.
I have little doubt that an acceptable solution could be found. This debate has been very constructive. There have been plenty of good suggestions about how a solution might be found. But in the end I am sure that it will, as my hon. Friend the Member for Dorset, South (Mr. Evelyn King) said, involve public responsibility for housing the displaced worker. What the Minister is doing is putting a disability on the farmer without looking to see how the public responsibility can be fulfilled in providing an alternative house.
For these reasons, it seems to me that this is a bad proposal, and I think that the Minister would be very well advised to take it out of this emergency Bill and to deal with the threat of eviction in the forthcoming Bill on the Rent Act so that we can consider it on its merits.
§ Mr. Ronald Bell (Buckinghamshire, South)
I feel that the Minister has not considered the impact which the Bill will have on agriculture. Those of us who represent constituencies in the Green Belt round the Metropolis with a considerable agricultural element know what this will mean. In my constituency, which is merely one example, there are any number of farms, usually fairly small and usually mixed farms, with livestock on them, of course, where the presence of a farmworker on the premises is vital to the successful conduct of the farm. Immediately adjacent to, or perhaps I should say in the close neighbourhood of many of the farms, there are factories and industrial employment of a very attractive kind.
1582 What the Minister—when he gives his attention to the matter—is proposing is that the occupants of the farm cottages on these farms can take jobs in the adjacent towns. Would the right hon. Gentleman listen to me until I finish? The right hon. Gentleman is suggesting that the occupants can take jobs in, let us say in my case, Slough, which has a great hunger for labour and which offers very well paid jobs. Suppose that the cowman, or whoever it might be, takes a job there. The farmer is then in need of a replacement. How is he to get one?
The Minister says, "Of course, all we are making the farmer do is to go to the county court and get an order as distinct from the summary procedure at present in use".
§ Mr. Bell
It is kind of the hon. Member to think of my welfare, but I was not doing that at the moment.
For the Minister to say that the farmer can go to the county court and get an order sounds very fair and reasonable. [Interruption.] I do not know whether I can have the right hon. Gentleman's attention. I believe that it is his Bill. He says that it is fair and reasonable for the farmer to go to the county court. But everybody knows that in England it takes a certain amount of time to get there—longer than it takes to get to the sheriff court in Scotland.
I am not saying that there could not be some amendment made in the administration of the county court jurisdiction—I have always thought that there might well be—but it does not exist at the moment. The system is one of going on circuit. It takes a long time to get a case on and it may be adjourned The Minister probably does not know, and if he does not listen he will never learn, how easy it is—[Interruption.] Thank you for thinking of my welfare, but I was not.
§ The Temporary Chairman (Sir Barnett Janner)
Order. The hon. Member should address the Chair and not another hon. Member.
§ Mr. Bell
I was, Sir Barnett, referring to the Minister, who is trying to listen, 1583 at least as far as his hon. Friend the Joint Parliamentary Secretary allows him.
The Minister does not know how easy it is for a defendant to obtain an adjournment of a case against him in the county court. It is extremely easy. When a defendant gets an adjournment, it is an adjournment for about a month. Those are important delays and they have to be added to the provisions of Clause 2 of the Bill concerning stay of execution. That gives a maximum period of 12 months. The Minister may say that it is a maximum period and that the county court judge is a man of sense and will know that the dwelling is an agricultural cottage and he will know the needs of the farmer. The fact is, however, that these people must take account of the indication given to them by Parliament of the scale on which they should exercise their discretion.
At present, everybody knows that the discretion in non-Rent Act cases is limited to six weeks. The Bill states that it shall be 12 months. That is a straight indication from the legislature to the county court judge that he should enlarge the general scale of stay of execution in non-Rent Act cases from something which is based on a maximum of six weeks to something which is based on a maximum of 12 months. That is my first point.
We, at least on this side, have to regard the Bill as what the Government have told us it is: a paving Bill for their permanent Measure designed, as the Minister has said, to hold the position and to prevent people now in occupation of dwellings from being turned out of those dwellings before the principal Bill takes effect. The Minister has told us this afternoon what his principal Bill will contain about agricultural tied cottages. He will give security of tenure to the tenants until alternative accommodation is available. That is what the Minister said and he reaffirmed it a few momentts ago in answer to an interruption.
What that means when one remembers the delays, to which I have referred, of getting the case on and the stay of execution which can be granted is that a person who, occupying an agricultural cottage in one of the areas which I have 1584 described, decides in a month or two's time to take a job in a factory in a town can stay in his agricultural cottage—until the main Bill comes into force he will be able to do so—and then he will be entitled to stay until the farmer can find him alternative accommodation.
§ Mr. Bell
Yes, that is the provision. When the right hon. Gentleman's main provision takes over from the holding operation, which we are attacking, the position will be that anybody who likes to take a job in a tied agricultural cottage in my constituency will, having once moved in, be at liberty to go to a factory in Slough, take a job and remain in his cottage until somebody finds him alternative accommodation.
§ Mr. Bell
That is what the right hon. Gentleman said. This Bill is to hold the present position until the other Bill comes into force. If the intention of this provision that we are trying to amend is to keep people where they are until that comes into force, I cannot but draw the attention of the Committee to what the position will be when this holding operation is terminated. That seems to be pretty logical, and I have to point out to him that he has this evening told the Committee—he thought it in order to say so; he thought it relevant to say so—that when his main Bill comes in a person who, as I have said, gets an agricultural job as a cowman with a tied cottage, can the next day take an industrial job and wait until somebody else offers him suitable alternative accommodation.
§ Mr. Crossman
That is not what I meant. I made it clear that we have this balance to achieve. We are talking about people who are in the industry. I said that we were going to give security to people in agriculture until they obtained alternative accommodation. I was not talking about them going to factories and so on. It is a pity that things are said which bear no relation to our intention. It is a pity, because it misleads people outside. Some people will take the hon. Gentleman seriously.
§ Mr. Bell
I think that the real difficulty is that the right hon. Gentleman has possibly been misleading us. I would 1585 not suggest that he is doing it intentionally, but he said, "absolute security of tenure until alternative accommodation is found." I heard him intervene in the speech of my right hon. Friend who referred to this, and by way of explanation of what he said earlier, the right hon. Gentleman said that he meant absolute security of tenure until alternative accommodation was found.
§ Mr. Crossman
If the hon. Gentleman insists on this, let us get it quite clear. We are talking about security of tenure for people who work in agriculture. I did not suggest that if a person was living in a cottage, which is a service tenancy, and he then obtained work in another industry he would be allowed to stay there. I made it clear at the beginning of my speech—I do not think that the hon. Gentleman was present then—that we had this difficult balance to achieve between the rights of the landlord and the rights of the agricultural worker, who in this case is certainly his tenant, and we had to strike that balance in any landlord and tenant legislation. I then described what was said by my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister as a summary of what we were trying to achieve. I then said that this was what we would try to achieve in our long-term legislation. It is a gross pretence to say that we are going to give security to people who then walk out of the industry. That is sheer nonsense, and it is not something that we ever intended, or dreamt of intending.
§ Mr. Bell
The right hon. Gentleman says that now, but I am not really interested in all this generalised stuff about the balance of interests. We know that when the law is being formulated one has to preserve a balance of interests between the interested parties, in this case the landlord and tenant, and one has to come down to the positive provisions of a Bill, or a proposed Bill. If the right hon. Gentleman is saying that what he is proposing is security of tenure for people in agricultural cottages as long as they remain in agriculiure, I can only say that that is something which he has not said hitherto, and I should have thought it was something which, as a matter of legislative drafting and of administrative application, was quite impossible to operate. However, I do not wish to go into detail about the provisions of a Bill 1586 which we have not seen. I hope that at some stage we shall get clear what the right hon. Gentleman is going to do in his main measure, of which this is a holding operation.
Let us make it clear that in this Bill, to which the Amendment is directed, the distinction which the right hon. Gentleman has just been suggesting is not made. There is no question here of distinction between a tenant of an agricultural cottage who have moved out of agriculture and one who has stayed in it but has taken a job on another farm. There is no such distinction made.
§ Mr. Crossman
I do not think that the right hon. Gentleman was here when I spoke. The second half of my speech was devoted to announcing that we were to move an Amendment on Report to deal with this problem, and to write into Clause 2(4) a new provision specifically dealing with this. The hon. Gentleman is wasting the time of the Committee. He did not bother to hear my speech, and now he is complaining that something was not in it when, in fact, it was the main point of what I said.
§ Mr. Bell
I heard the right hon. Gentleman's interpretation of what he had said, which was directed to my hon. Friend who spoke before me, and which was in very clear and unequivocal terms. The right hon. Gentleman, I think, gradually evolves his thoughts as he goes along—I do not suppose that he has changed all that much from being on that side of the Committee—and we shall be well content if his thoughts evolve in the direction that we want them to. But let him make no mistake about it that the proposal which at present stands in this Bill, without the Amendment which we propose, will have the consequences which my hon. Friends and I have indicated for the farmers in our constituency. Let him make no mistake about that. Whether he introduces this distinction or not, it will quite inevitably follow that the small mixed farm with livestock on it will be dealt a most serious and damaging blow.
I hope that hon. Members opposite will not treat this as one of those doctrinaire occasions when they just have to support their right hon. Friends on the Front Bench but that they will bring their independent judgments to bear on this proposal and that when we divide 1587 on it, as I hope we shall, we shall have the support of some of the more enlighntened of them in the Division Lobby with us.
§ 9.0 p.m.
§ Miss Harvie Anderson
I do not intend to detain the Committee for very long, but I should like to raise a point which, so far as I am aware, has not been referred to. My hon. Friend the Member for Windsor (Sir C. MottRadclyffe) said that we were dealing in this case with employment in which it was necessary for the employee to live on or near the job. The point I wish to make is the effect that this part of the Bill will have in certain cases where over a stretch of months only—I accept what the right hon. Gentleman has said, but, nevertheless, an important period of time—men will have to travel a considerable distance to and from the farm at very frequent times and very difficult hours, as has already been explained.
It will be within the recollection of at least some hon. Members that in 1947 or 1948 legislation was introduced to alleviate the position with which we are dealing today. That legislation was designed to create farm workers' communities in villages or adjacent to towns. At that time I was a member of a county council and I think it right to say that it held the political views of the Government today and was naturally enthusiastic in interpreting this legislation and built agricultural workers' houses in villages and towns. I was a member of the committee concerned and I was eager, in the widest farming interests at the time, to see the scheme succeed.
I should like to put on record what actually happened due to the fact that through this scheme men had to travel to their work, as I have described. Once these communities, small though they were, were established, two things happened. The first was that men chose almost at any cost—and I accept what an hon. Member said earlier—to go back to even indifferent conditions on the farms. It was extremely difficult to modernise farm accommodation in those days. In the one case, the men chose to go back to be nearer their work. In the other, precisely what my hon. Friend the Member for Buckinghamshire, South (Mr. Ronald Bell) described took place.
1588 What is important to this debate now is the result. In my immediate area, for which I was a member of the county council, I think I am right in saying that at the end of a very short time only five farm workers remained in 28 houses originally built for farmworkers. In other words, the scheme broke down—and it did so because this in an occupation where the man must live on the job. It is true, as the right hon. Gentleman said, that it is possible to get these houses vacated after a long process, and I then felt passionately that the men who went into industry in the towns should remain in occupation, because it was hopeless to expect them to find houses through their local authorities at that time. My point is, however, that unless a house is available on the spot we shall not be able to maintain in this industry the labour force which it requires.
If we lengthen the period of delay before possession of a house can be obtained, beyond the moderate and definite time for which the good Scottish law has paved the way, we shall arrive at a situation, by the process of the provisions of this Bill, in which the time for which the owner has to wait in order to gain possession will be too long for the efficient continuance of the industry.
§ Mr. Corfield
I accept that every decent farmer—and I use the word "decent" in this particular context—will always prefer to go to court if he has this sort of problem on his hands. He will rather go to court than take more direct action. I doubt whether any hon. Member believes that anybody likes taking any form of direct action. But occasions do arise in which, after a farmer believes that he has reached a perfectly amicable arrangement and postpones going to court, he is let down and finds he is stuck for labour.
I ask the right hon. Gentleman and his right hon. Friend the Minister of Agriculture what they would have done in a case that happened to me. On one occasion I went to my farm after a long day's work and found the cows unmilked, the reason being that the cowman, who was employed jointly with his wife—who looked after the calves—was busy chasing his wife round the kitchen table with a carving knife. The first thing I had to do was to get rid of the wife. I had to get her out of the way. [Laughter.] It is 1589 amusing now, but I can assure hon. Members that it was not very funny then.
I ask the right hon. Gentleman and his hon. Friends to consider how they would deal with the problem if they were faced with this situation. After that I was stuck with doing three men's jobs, and if the hon. Member for Norfolk, North (Mr. Hazell) thinks that that is not hardship, both to the person concerned and the cows, he must have a great deal more spare time on his hands than I have ever had. There are cases where there is a great deal more at stake than mere inconvenience.
The right hon. Gentleman was asked to justify putting this provision in the Bill—a Bill which we understood was to deal with a question of urgency because landlords were evicting tenants in anticipation of a tougher Bill. The answers that the right hon. Gentleman gave were, first, that we must preserve a balance between the tenant and the landlord. He said that we must protect the tenant from the bad landlord and the landlord from the bad tenant.
The right hon. Gentleman cannot deny, however, that we have a situation in which a tenant, however bad, can stay on for a limited period while the landlord has to put up with his tenant's staying on however bad he may be and however much damage he may be doing to the farm. It is not good enough to say that the balance has to be preserved.
The second leg of the right hon. Gentleman's argument was that this provision was suitable for the Bill because, although it had nothing to do with the Rent Act—
§ Mr. Corfield
In the Second Reading debate he said that the reason for the Bill was that there must be a holding operation until he brought in Rent Act legislation. That is the only context in which I am referring to the Rent Act. As the Minister of Agriculture was not present, perhaps he will do me the courtesy of not now intervening.
When the Minister of Housing and Local Government went on referring to the main Rent Act, he said that so far as concerned the tied cottage this was a holding operation, and he quoted from 1590 the speech his right hon. Friend the Prime Minister made in Norwich. He said that the object was to introduce absolute security of tenure for agricultural workers—I am not taking him up on the question of whether they stayed in the industry or not—until they could be rehoused. This is a major physical performance quite apart from the legislative performance of providing that there will be houses available, and of providing means to prevent this being a means of jumping the housing queue.
Until we know more about this, to use this one statement in a speech by the Prime Minister as an excuse for bringing this provision into this Bill is simply not good enough.
§ The Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food (Mr. Fred Peart)
We have been committed to this for many years, and we are very proud of it. Why should we not do something about it?
§ Mr. Corfield
The Minister of Agriculture is not addressing himself to my argument. We are asking the Minister of Housing and Local Government to justify putting this provision into this Bill, which he says is an emergency Bill to pave the way for legislation about the Rent Act.
§ Mr. Crossman
I did not say that. I said that this is an emergency Bill to deal with a problem on which the Labour Government have been pledged by preventing evictions by a long-term Measure, but that we would have a danger of evictions in the interim between the election of the Government and the long-term Measure. I said that there were two sorts of eviction, those under the Rent Act and those in connection with tied cottages, and these were the two groups we would deal with in the big Measure.
§ Mr. Corfield
I have the text of the speech with me. It said that this Measureis solely and exclusively concerned to deal with the immediate short-term problem—to scotch the danger that landlords, realising how their wings will be clipped, by our permanent legislation, will take advantage of the weeks and months ahead to evict before our new legislation comes into force."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 18th November, 1964; Vol. 702, c. 439–40.]This we fully accept in relation to the Rent Act, but the right hon. Gentleman has completely failed to produce any evidence at all that this can apply to farmworkers.
1591 No one in his senses believes that any farmer will get rid of a good workman in a tied cottage—they only have good workmen in tied cottages—in order to free the cottages in case further legislation was introduced. On the contrary I have today heard of no fewer than three cases in which farmers are holding back the building of decent cottages for workers because of this legislation.
§ In view of the utter failure of the right hon. Gentleman to justify putting this provision into this Bill, I shall advise my hon. and right hon. Friends to vote against the Government on this Amendment.
§ Question put, That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Clause:—
§ The Committee divided: Ayes 216, Noes 168.1593
|Division No. 10.]||AYES||[9.15 p.m.|
|Albu, Austen||George, Lady Megan Lloyd||Mahon, Peter (Preston, S.)|
|Alldritt, W. H.||Gourlay, Harry||Mallalieu, E. L. (Brigg)|
|Armstrong, Ernest||Gregory, Arnold||Manuel, Archie|
|Bacon, Miss Alice||Grey, Charles||Mapp, Charles|
|Bagier, Gordon A. T.||Griffiths, David (Rother Valley)||Marsh, Richard|
|Beaney, Alan||Griffiths, Rt. Hn. James (Llanelly)||Mason, Roy|
|Bellenger, Rt. Hn. F. J.||Griffiths, Will (Manchester Exchange)||Maxwell, Robert|
|Benn, Rt. Hn. Anthony Wedgwood||Grimond, Rt. Hn. J.||Mayhew, Christopher|
|Bennett, J. (Glasgow, Bridgeton)||Gunter, Rt. Hn. R. J.||Mellish, Robert|
|Bessell, Peter||Hale, Leslie||Mendelson, J. J.|
|Blackburn, F.||Hamilton, James (Bothwell)||Millan, Bruce|
|Blenkinsop, Arthur||Hamilton, William (West Fife)||Miller, Dr. M. S.|
|Boardman, H.||Hannan, William||Milne, Edward (Blythe)|
|Boston, T. G.||Harper, Joseph||Molloy, William|
|Bowden, Rt. Hn. H. W. (Leics S. W.)||Harrison, Walter (Wakefield)||Monslow, Walter|
|Boyden, James||Hart, Mrs. Judith||Morris, Alfred (Wythenshawe)|
|Braddock, Mrs. E. M.||Hattersley, Ray||Morris, Charles (Openshaw)|
|Bradley, Tom||Hayman, F. H.||Murray, Albert|
|Bray, Dr. Jeremy||Hazell, Bert||Newens, Stan|
|Brown, R. W. (Shoreditch & Fbury)||Henderson, Rt. Hn. Arthur||Noel-Baker, Francis (Swindon)|
|Buchan, Norman (Renfrewshire, W.)||Herbison, Rt. Hn. Margaret||Noel-Baker,Rt.Hn.Philip(Derby,S.)|
|Buchanan,Richard(Gl'sg'w,Spr'burn)||Holman, Percy||Oakes, Gordon|
|Butler, Herbert (Hackney, C.)||Hooson, H. E.||Ogden, Eric|
|Butler, Mrs. Joyce (Wood Green)||Horner, John||Oram, Albert E. (E. Ham S.)|
|Carmichael, Neil||Houghton, Rt. Hn. Douglas||Orbach, Maurice|
|Carter-Jones, Lewis||Howarth, Harry (Wellingborough)||Orme, Stanley|
|Coleman, Donald||Howarth, Robert L. (Bolton, E.)||Oswald, Thomas|
|Conlan, Bernard||Howell, Denis (Small Heath)||Owen, Will|
|Craddock, George (Bradford, S.)||Hughes, Cledwyn (Anglesey)||Page, Derek (King's Lynn)|
|Crawshaw, Richard||Hughes, Emrys (S. Ayrshire)||Paget, R. T.|
|Crosland, Anthony||Hughes, Hector (Aberdeen, N.)||Palmer, Arthur|
|Crossman, Rt. Hn. R. H. S.||Hunter, Adam (Dunfermline)||Pannell, Rt. Hn. Charles|
|Cullen, Mrs. Alice||Hunter, A. E. (Feltham)||Parkin, B. T.|
|Dalyell, Tam||Hynd, John (Attercliffe)||Pavitt, Laurence|
|Darling, George||Irvine, A. J. (Edge Hill)||Pearson, Arthur (Pontypridd)|
|Davies, G. Elfed (Rhondda, E.)||Irving, Sydney (Dartford)||Peart, Rt. Hn. Fred|
|Davies, Harold (Leek)||Jackson, Colin||Pentland, Norman|
|Davies, Ifor (Gower)||Jeger, George (Goole)||Perry, E. G.|
|Dell, Edmund||Jeger,Mrs.Lena(H'b'n&St.P'cras,S.)||Probert, Arthur|
|Dempsey, James||Johnson, Carol (Lewisham, S.)||Pursey, Cmdr. Harry|
|Dodds, Norman||Johnson, James (K'ston-on-Hull, W.)||Randall, Harry|
|Doig, Peter||Johnston, Russell (Inverness)||Rankin, John|
|Donnelly, Desmond||Kenyon, Clifford||Rees, Merlyn (Leeds, S.)|
|Driberg, Tom||Kerr, Mrs. Anne (R'ter & Chatham)||Reynolds, Gerald|
|Dunn, James A. (L'pool, Kirkdale)||Kerr, Dr. David (W'worth, Central)||Richard, Ivor|
|Dunnett, Jack (Nottingh'm, Central)||Lawson, George||Robertson, John (Paisley)|
|Edelman, Maurice||Leadbitter, Ted||Robinson, Rt Hn. K. (St. Pancras,N.)|
|Edwards, Robert (Bilston)||Ledger, Ron||Rogers, George (Kensington, N.)|
|English, Michael||Lever, Harold (Cheetham)||Rose, Paul B.|
|Ensor, David||Lever, L. M. (Ardwick)||Ross, Rt. Hon. William|
|Evans, Albert (Islington, S. W.)||Lewis, Ron (Carlisle)||Shinwell, Rt. Hn. E.|
|Fernyhough, E.||Lomas, Kenneth||Short,Rt. Hn.E.(N'c'tle-on-Tyne,C.)|
|Fitch, Alan||Loughlin, Charles||Silkin, John (Deptford)|
|Fletcher, Sir Eric (Islington, E.)||Lubbock, Eric||Silkin, S. C. (Camberwell, Dulwich)|
|Fletcher, Ted (Darlington)||Mabon, Dr. J. Dickson||Silverman, Julius (Aston)|
|Fletcher, Raymond (Ilkeston)||McBride, Neil||Slater, Mrs. Harriet (Stoke, N.)|
|Floud, Bernard||MacColl, James||Slater, Joseph (Sedgefield)|
|Foley, Maurice||MacDermot, Niall||Small, William|
|Ford, Ben||McKay, Mrs. Margaret||Snow, Julian|
|Fraser, Rt. Hn. Tom (Hamilton)||Mackenzie, Gregor (Rutherglen)||Solomons, Henry|
|Freeson, Reginald||Mackie, George Y. (C'ness & S'land)||Spriggs, Leslie|
|Galpern, Sir Myer||Mackie, John (Enfield, E.)||Steele, Thomas|
|Garrow, A.||MacPherson, Malcolm||Stewart, Rt. Hn. Michael|
|Stones, William||Tinn, James||Whitlock, Charles|
|Summerskill, Dr. Shirley||Tomney, Frank||Wilkins, W. A.|
|Swain, Thomas||Tuck, Raphael||Willey, Rt. Hn. Frederick|
|Swingler, Stephen||Urwin, T. W.||Williams, W. T. (Warrington)|
|Taverne, Dick||Varley, Eric G.||Willis, George (Edinburgh, E.)|
|Taylor, Bernard (Mansfield)||Wainwright, Edwin||Woof, Robert|
|Thomas, George (Cardiff, W.)||Wallace, George||Yates, Victor (Ladywood)|
|Thomson, George (Dundee, E.)||Warbey, William|
|Thornton, Ernest||Watkins, Tudor||TELLERS FOR THE AYES:|
|Thorpe, Jeremy||Weitzman, David||Mr. McCann and Mr. Howie.|
|Agnew, Commander Sir Peter||Glover, Sir Douglas||Morrison, Charles (Devizes)|
|Alison, Michael (Barkston Ash)||Glyn, Sir Richard||Mott-Radclyffe, Sir Charles|
|Allason, James (Hemel Hempstead)||Goodhew, Victor||Murton, Oscar|
|Anstruther-Gray, Rt. Hn. Sir W.||Grant, Anthony||Nicholson, Sir Godfrey|
|Astor, John||Grieve, Percy||Onslow, Cranley|
|Atkins, Humphrey||Griffiths, Eldon (Bury St. Edmunds)||Page, John (Harrow, W.)|
|Awdry, Daniel||Griffiths, Peter (Smethwick)||Page, R. Graham (Crosby)|
|Balniel, Lord||Gurden, Harold||Peel, John|
|Barlow, Sir John||Hall, John (Wycombe)||Peyton, John|
|Batsford, Brian||Hall-Davis, A. G. F. (Morecambe)||Pickthorn, Sir Kenneth|
|Bell, Ronald||Harris, Reader (Heston)||Pitt, Dame Edith|
|Bennett, F. M. (Torquay)||Harrison, Col. Sir Harwood (Eye)||Powell, Rt. Hn. J. Enoch|
|Bennett, Dr. Reginald (Gos & Fhm)||Harvey, Sir Arthur Vere (Maccles'd)||Price, David (Eastleigh)|
|Berry, Hn. Anthony||Harvie Anderson, Miss||Pym, Francis|
|Biffen, John||Hastings, Stephen||Rawlinson, Rt. Hn. Sir Peter|
|Biggs-Davison, John||Hawkins, Paul||Redmayne, Rt. Hn. Martin|
|Bingham, R. M.||Heald, Rt. Hn. Sir Lionel||Rees-Davies, W. R. (Isle of Thanet)|
|Birch, Rt. Hn. Nigel||Hendry, Forbes||Ridley, Hn. Nicholas|
|Black, Sir Cyril||Higgins, Terence L.||Ridsdale, Julian|
|Blaker, Peter||Hiley, Joseph||Robson Brown, Sir William|
|Box, Donald||Hill, J. E. B. (S. Norfolk)||Roots, William|
|Boyd-Carpenter, Rt. Hn. J.||Hobson, Rt. Hn. Sir John||Russell, Sir Ronald|
|Braine, Bernard||Hogg, Rt. Hn. Quintin||St. John-Stevas, Norman|
|Brewis, John||Hopkins, Alan||Scott-Hopkins, James|
|Bromley-Davenport, Lt.-Col.Sir Walter||Hordern, Peter||Sharples, Richard|
|Brooke, Rt. Hn. Henry||Hornby, Richard||Shepherd, William|
|Buchanan-Smith, Alick||Hornsby-Smith, Rt. Hn. Dame P.||Sinclair, Sir George|
|Buck, Antony||Hutchison, Michael Clark||Smyth, Rt. Hn. Brig. Sir John|
|Bullus, Wing Commander Eric||Irvan, Bryan Godman (Rye)||Soames, Rt. Hn. Christopher|
|Campbell, Gordon||Jenkin, Patrick (Woodford)||Spearman, Sir Alexander|
|Chichester-Clark, R.||Jennings, J. C.||Stainton, Keith|
|Clark, William (Nottingham, S.)||Jones, Arthur (Northants, S.)||Stanley, Hn. Richard|
|Clarke, Brig. Terence (Portsmth, W.)||Jopling, Michael||Stoddart-Scott, Col. Sir Malcolm|
|Cole, Norman||Kerr, Sir Hamilton (Cambridge)||Studholme, Sir Henry|
|Cooke, Robert||Kershaw, Anthony||Summers, Sir Spencer|
|Cooper, A. E.||King, Evelyn (Dorset, S.)||Taylor, Edward M. (G'gow, Cathcart)|
|Corfield, F. V.||Kitson, Timothy||Temple, John M.|
|Costain, A. P.||Lagden, Godfrey||Thatcher, Mrs. Margaret|
|Craddock, Sir Beresford (Spelthorne)||Lambton, Viscount||Thomas, Sir Leslie (Canterbury)|
|Crawley, Aidan||Langford-Holt, Sir John||Thomas, Rt. Hn. Peter (Conway)|
|Crosthwaite-Eyre, Col. Sir Oliver||Lewis, Kenneth (Rutland)||Thompson, Sir Richard (Croydon, S.)|
|Curran, Charles||Litchfield, Capt. John||Tilney, John (Wavertree)|
|Dance, James||Lucas-Tooth, Sir Hugh (Hendon, S.)||Turton, Rt. Hn. R. H.|
|Dean, Paul||McAdden, Sir Stephen||Vaughan-Morgan, Rt. Hon. Sir John|
|Deedes, Rt. Hn. W. F.||McLaren, Martin||Vickers, Miss Joan|
|Dodds-Parker, Douglas||Maclean, Sir Fitzroy||Walker, Peter (Worcester)|
|Doughty, Charles||McNair-Wilson, Patrick||Walters, Dennis|
|Drayson, G. B.||Mathew, Robert||Weatherill, Bernard|
|Eden, Sir John||Maude, Angus E. U.||Whitelaw, William|
|Elliot, Capt. Walter (Carshalton)||Mawby, Ray||Wilson, Geoffrey (Truro)|
|Emery, Peter||Maxwell-Hyslop, R. J. (Tiverton)||Wolrige-Gordon, Patrick|
|Foster, Sir John||Maydon, Lt.-Cmdr. S. L. C.||Wylie, N. R.|
|Fraser, Ian (Plymouth, Sutton)||Meyer, Sir Anthony||Yates, William (The Wrekin)|
|Gammans, Lady||Mills, Peter (Torrington)||Younger, Hn. George|
|Gardner, Edward||Miscampbell, Norman|
|Giles, Rear-Admiral Morgan||Mitchell, David||TELLERS FOR THE NOES:|
|Gilmour, Sir John (East Fife)||Monro, Hector||Mr. MacArthur and Mr. More.|
§ Mr. Lubbock
I do not propose to move Amendment No. 33 for the purposes of a Division in view of the assurances given by the Minister.
I beg to move Amendment No. 14, in page 2, line 31, at the end to insert:(6) For the purposes of this section a person who occupies a caravan shall be deemed to 1594 have been a tenant and the expressions "premises", "let" and "tenancy" shall be construed accordingly.
§ The Temporary Chairman
It would be for the convenience of the Committee to discuss also Amendment No. 15, in page 2, line 31, at end insert:(6) For the purposes of this section a person who, whilst employed by the British Railways 1595 Board, occupied any premises or part thereof under the terms of his employment shall be deemed to have been a tenant and the expressions "let" and "tenancy" shall be construed accordingly.
§ Mr. Lubbock
I am very gratified by the co-operative approach which the Minister displayed towards the Liberal Amendment during the last debate. I hope that we shall have the same attitude towards the Amendment which we are about to discuss now.
§ Mr. Boyd-Carpenter
I am not sure that I wholly apprehended, Sir Barnett, your suggestion that these Amendments should be taken together. The one which the hon. Member for Orpington (Mr. Lubbock) is now moving relates to caravans and I understand that the other Amendment, though in the same names, refers to a different subject—to a person employed by the British Railways Board. I do not know what considerations you had in mind in suggesting that we put them together. They are of somewhat diverse character.
§ The Temporary Chairman
As the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Kingston-upon-Thames (Mr. Boyd Carpenter) will appreciate, this does not come from me directly. It comes from the Chairman of Ways and Means, but if the Committee would prefer to discuss the Amendments separately I should be pleased to permit it. In the meanwhile, it appears to me that the two Amendments are in some way related and that it possibly would be to the convenience of the Committee if we took them together.
§ Mr. Boyd-Carpenter
If that is your wish, Sir Barnett, and that of the Committee I would not dissent, but we may have a somewhat ragged debate. My own dialectical powers would not go very far in linking these two, as it seems to me, rather different matters, but others may be more fortunate.
§ The Temporary Chairman
I should make a correction and explain that Amendment No. 15 has not been selected and consequently if a discussion of that Amendment is desired it would be difficult to have it without taking the two Amendments together. I think, therefore, that it would be convenient for those who want to speak 1596 on Amendment No. 15 to take the Amendments together.
§ Mr. Boyd-Carpenter
I do not wish to prevent any discussion desired by any hon. Member. If it is your Ruling that points on Amendment No. 15 can be raised only on Amendment No. 14 I certainly would not raise any objection.
§ The Temporary Chairman
A decision does not depend on my Ruling but on the Ruling of the Chairman of Ways and Means.
§ Mr. Lubbock
I was going to say that it is extremely awkward to discuss the two Amendments together because they relate to different points and for that reason I was going to concentrate my remarks on the Amendment which I have moved. The other Amendment concerning premises occupied by the staff of British Railways is related, if anything, to the last Amendment that we discussed, but I will not pursue that because I intend to refer mostly to the Amendment which deals with caravans.
I have confidence that the Government will look favourably on the Amendment because I think it represents fairly closely the views expressed by hon. and right hon. Gentlemen opposite when they were in Opposition when we were debating caravan sites at the time of passing of the Caravan Sites and Control of Development Act, 1960. The Minister of Housing and Local Government has said that the Bill is designed to give security in the transition period between now and the date when his more permanent legislation will be introduced. As I see it, that must apply to everyone, in whatever type of dwelling they may have to live, and should not be confined to houses alone.
Nowadays the caravan is widely used as a permanent dwelling. Even at the date of the Second Reading of the Caravan Sites and Control of Development Bill, the statistics were most interesting. On that occasion, the hon. Member for Anglesey (Mr. Cledwyn Hughes), speaking for the Opposition, told the House that there were 150,000 people living in caravans as their permanent dwelling, that they lived on 13,000 sites, 3,000 multiple sites containing about 48,000 caravans and 10,000 individual 1597 sites containing 12,000 caravans. He rightly remarked that that represented a large section of the community. At that date, the proportion was about one in 300 of the population.
Since then, the number of people living in caravans as their permanent dwelling has grown. I am told that it is now about 200,000 people, and that 44,000 caravans are sold by the industry each year, about 30,000 of which remain in this country. Not all of them are used for permanent occupation, but a substantial number are. In my own constituency, I have hundreds of people who live in caravans as their permanent dwelling, hence my interest in the subject.
It may be argued that it would be right to distinguish between caravans used for permanent occupation and those let for holiday use. I should not dissent from that. On the Second Reading of this Bill, we tried to distinguish between furnished houses let for holiday purposes and those occupied permanently, and we have found how difficult that is. Probably the same would apply to caravans, but somehow or other we must grapple with the problem if we are to give to people living in caravans the same security of tenure as the Bill gives to those in houses.
On the Second Reading of the Caravan Sites and Control of Development Bill, the hon. Member for Anglesey commented on the absence from the Bill of protection against exploitation for people who live in caravans. He said:In considering the security of the site operator, we should not forget the caravan dweller's security of tenure. It seems to me at present that this is the more important of the two. As the law stands, a caravanner can be turned off a site at a week's notice. That is the extent of his security."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 24th March, 1960; Vol. 620, c. 700.]The hon. Gentleman went on to argue the evils which stem from that situation, and I entirely agree with all he said on that occasion.
Unfortunately, no protection for the occupiers of caravans was incorporated in that Act. The Opposition did not put down an Amendment to deal with the point in Committee, for some reason which I have not been able to discover. Perhaps they thought that the point was adequately covered by Section 5 of the Act, which provides that, in awarding a site licence, a local authority may attach such conditions as it may think necessary 1598 or desirable to impose on the occupier of the land. It might have been contended at that stage that a local authority could impose conditions on a site operator with regard to security of tenure for the caravan dwellers or the maximum rent which might be imposed having regard to the facilities provided. But that was not our view, and my noble Friend Lord Meston put down an Amendment in another place designed to deal with this point. He wanted to add to the list of specific conditions which a local authority could attach to the award of a site licence additional words for ensuring that rents charged to tenants are properly related to the facilities provided, and for protecting tenants against orders to quit a site without reasonable notice and without just cause. The insertion of those words would have given a very considerable degree of protection to caravan dwellers.
I said a moment ago that it might have been intended that the words at the beginning of the provision already gave caravan dwellers such protection as I have indicated. But this has been the subject of a decision in the courts in the case of Mixnam's Properties Limited v. the Chertsey Urban District Council, in which it was ruled that a local authority had no power to attach conditions of the kind that I have described.
Therefore, I think that this large number of people is entitled to the consideration of the Committee while it is looking at the protection from eviction provisions which are applied to the other 299 people out of every 300. The increasing use of the caravan as a permanent dwelling makes it imperative that we deal with this omission from the Caravan Sites and Control of Development Act, and if we cannot do it now, we must do it as part of the Government's more permanent legislation which is to follow the Bill.
I appreciate that it may be difficult to deal satisfactorily with the matter in this Bill, because the legal relationship between a site operator and the occupier of a caravan is not the same as that between a landlord and a tenant, and neither is that between a farmer and an occupant of a tied cottage, but we have managed to find words to bring them within the scope of the Bill. It might be said that the relationship is even more remote in the case which sometimes occurs where an occupier merely has a licence to use the land 1599 and the caravan is the subject of separate agreement either with the site operator or some other vendor of caravans who has nothing to do with the operator at all. But, while I appreciate that the Amendment in its present form does not quite get over this difficulty, I am tempted to hope that, in view of the co-operation of the Minister on the last Amendment, he will find words to cope with the difficulty that I have mentioned and bring them to the House on Report.
§ Mr. A. P. Costain (Folkestone and Hythe)
Is the hon. Gentleman tying it to the caravan itself or to the site?
§ Mr. Lubbock
I am concerned in this Amendment with the caravan itself, but, as I indicated just now, I should like some words found which would cater for the man who only rents from the site operator the land on which the caravan stands and buys the caravan from someone who is independent of and outside that relationship.
§ Mr. Costain
If the caravan is moved to another site, does the hon. Gentleman still want to tie the caravan or tie the caravan site?
§ Mr. Lubbock
As the hon. Gentleman knows, normally a site operator obtains a licence from the local authority under the Caravan Sites and Control of Development Act, 1960, to put so many caravans on his land. He is, I believe, entitled to move caravans from one part of the land to another, but he can have only a limited number of caravans on the site. Therefore, I do not see the distinction that the hon. Gentleman is trying to draw between one plot on a site and another. I should have hoped that it would make no difference which plot the caravan happened to stand on.
§ Mr. Temple
We have heard on many occasions that the Bill is of a temporary nature to cover a temporary emergency. I believe that, unfortunately, caravans and mobile dwellings have been brought within the scope of the Bill possibly comparatively inadvertently. I regret that I could not support the hon. Member for Orpington (Mr. Lubbock) in his attempt to bring all caravans within the scope of the Measure.
I should like to ask the Government, however, exactly the extent to which caravans and mobile homes are brought 1600 within the Measure. As I see it, the only residential caravans as such which are brought within the Measure are a very small proportion of caravans which are actually owned by the site operator, leased to a tenant and on a permanent caravan site.
What is very much more important—and this again is brought in by a side wind to the Bill—is the control over the tenancies of holiday caravans, which form a very large proportion of the caravans owned by site operators and which are leased to people for holidays. Much of the caravan holiday business may be upset if the Bill goes through in its present form.
I have been in close touch with the National Caravan Council, which is in touch with the Minister of Housing and Local Government about giving security of tenure to those persons who are resident on permanent caravan sites. The Council is very keen to see that security of tenure is given, but not by this legislation. It is very concerned to keep mobile homes outside the scope of the Housing Acts. That is why I have said that we have to watch the Bill extremely carefully, because it will create precedents for the permanent legislation which is to follow.
I understand that the Council is discussing with the right hon. Gentleman the terms of a licence for the occupation of a caravan pitch. I believe that it will be ready to come forward with a model licence within 10 days, and that will cover the difficulties of control of residential caravans on residential sites. If I am right in saying that as it stands the Bill affects only a small proportion, it would not go to the root of the difficulty of permanent caravan sites. Perhaps the Parliamentary Secretary can clear up the problem and say to what extent the Bill covers permanent caravans on permanent sites which are tenanted and does not cover permanent caravans on permanent sites in owner occupation.
§ Mr. Lubbock
I am advised that a caravan is not premises and therefore not covered by the Bill without the Amendment.
§ Mr. Temple
The hon. Gentleman's advice and my advice on this score differ, 1601 and I should therefore like to have the Government's opinion.
There is another side-wind to this matter. I took part in the Committee stage of the Caravan Sites and Control of Development Bill when we discussed houseboats and cabin cruisers. I believe that because cabin cruisers and houseboats are premises, and because they are often let as premises, they come within the scope of the Bill. At a later stage, I shall seek to move an Amendment to take all mobile dwellings—by which I include houseboats which are capable of moving about—outside the scope of the Bill. It may be that we shall need permanent legislation about houseboats and so on, but this is not the right place to introduce any control over these vessels. I should like the Parliamentary Secretary to advise us about the scope of the Bill so that we can treat this subject on its merits at a later stage.
§ 9.45 p.m.
§ Mr. Hooson
Amendment No. 15—which, I understand, can be adopted with this one—seeks to give the railway employee the same kind of protection as is given by the Bill to the farm employee. I cannot see any distinction between the two types of employee. I have known of cases of hardship caused to the occupier of a tied cottage, and we have heard a very moving description by the hon. Member for Norfolk, North (Mr. Hazell) of cases he has known of personal hardship suffered by an evicted farm employee. I have always thought it absolutely barbarous—and I am a member of a farming family and have always lived in a farming community—that possession of a cottage can be obtained without a court order. In that respect, the law of Scotland is far more civilised than that of England and Wales.
On the other hand, I cannot agree that when a railway worker is evicted from his tied cottage he suffers any less than the farm worker. Because branch lines have been closed, railway employees who occupy premises owned by the Railways Board are having to leave those premises. They have no security of tenure. On what grounds do the Government exclude those employees from the protection of this Bill?
§ Mr. Hooson
I know that in my own constituency houses that were occupied by railway employees are now empty. Such employees have no security of tenure at all. The hon. Member is really saying that the Railways Board is entitled to take, as it were, a lenient and considerate view, but so, also, are farmers. From both sides of the Committee we have heard how very considerate farmers never exercise their legal rights. I accept that, but railway employees are entitled to legal protection to a certain extent, and I should like to know what difference in principle the Government see between the railway employee and the farm employee.
On the basis that the Minister said that he accepted in principle the Liberal Amendment No. 33, which would greatly alleviate the position of farmer in regard to tied cottages, we voted for the Government on the Opposition Amendment to leave out subsection (5). I believe that to do so was entirely right, but I cannot see why the same sort of Amendment in respect of railway employees should not be accepted. This provision could be extended considerably—to employees of docks and harbour boards, the National Coal Board and other institutions—but I should like to know how, in principle, the Government distinguish between these two types of employee.
§ Mr. Gordon Oakes (Bolton, West)
Has the hon. and learned Member for Montgomery (Mr. Hooson) any examples of the Railways Board taking possession of railway cottages without going through the county court procedure; whether there are any forcible evictions taking place—and where?
§ Mr. Hooson
In my constituency I know of no single example of a farmer evicting a man. Nevertheless, I accept that he should not have the legal right to do so. Also, I know of no case in my constituency of the Railways Board evicting a man without going to court. But why should there be any distinction between the two?
§ Mr. Rees-Davies
I want for a moment to develop a little further the interesting and very experienced argument advanced by my hon. Friend the Member for the City of Chester (Mr. Temple) on the subject of caravans. I do not think that it is wholly appreciated that the caravan situation has now developed into two quite clear elements. We have the summer caravan, which is the one most generally known to the public. I adopt every word, and say no more, of what was said by my hon. Friend; that it is quite clear that that caravan should not come within the terms of the Housing Acts. Indeed, the maximum flexibility is required for the tourist industry, and I would not wish those caravans to come under any control at all. I treat them more as being an entirely movable type of home. They are frequently drawn by a motor car, they are established on temporary sites for the summer only and in certain areas where there is not the same degree of planning control and where they do not need as effective planning controls for amenity purposes as are otherwise required. I propose to ask the Parliamentary Secretaries to give this matter their careful consideration. I believe that they will do that, because this matter is becoming one of some importance in the country.
I turn now to the serious question, the people who make their permanent residential home in a caravan. I instance a site in my constituency at Birchington called Court Mount which is developed entirely like a housing estate. It provides all the facilities and amenities of baths, clubs, restaurants and a club house. The standard of the caravans is first-class and the people who go to live there stay the whole year round, not intending to let their caravans. In some cases they are under the difficulty that they are the owners of the caravans, but in other cases they are the lessees.
These people live in an irremovable home. In the main, they are living on small fixed incomes. They live in structures of an absolutely permanent nature and they prefer a way of life of this kind rather than to live in a bungalow or in a small flat. If they are brought within the Housing Acts, they will, in some way, have to be dealt with on the same basis as ordinary tenants. I am inclined to think that this is not right. I should like to know whether it is intended 1604 that the terms of the Bill should include any class of permanent irremovable-movable dwelling—that is, a dwelling of this nature, a permanent caravan. If that is not the intention, are the Government giving careful consideration to the very important question of whether they should be included in some form of security of tenure provisions, with probably some form of control over reasonable rentals?
I will not go into the question of reasonable rentals in detail, because to do so would be out of the bounds of order in this debate. Suffice it to say this. Those who live in these semi-permanent dwellings, caravans, have neither security of tenure nor any control over sharply rising rentals. Their rentals are rising and their lack of control can be seen more clearly today than before because of the limited number of sites which local planning authorities are willing to make available for caravans.
What is to be done? The Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Housing may feel that the proper approach is to deal with the matter through town planning control and to say that planning permission for permanent caravan sites will be given if there is a willingness to make it a condition that there shall be reasonable security of tenure and that the rentals and conditions of tenancy shall not be unreasonable. That is one way in which the matter could be approached.
Another way is to deal with the matter under the terms of the Bill. If we do this, we must consider where we should draw the dividing line between the permanent, all-the-year-round site and the ordinary summer caravanning. Later this evening, or on another occasion, we shall be discussing the vital necessity of flexibility in dealing with very short tenancies, either in the case of caravans or furnished lettings in summer or in exactly the reverse case of the permanent caravan.
While I sympathise to quite a degree with the sentiments of the Amendment of the hon. Member for Orpington (Mr. Lubbock), I cannot share the view that it is the right way to approach the matter. It is thoroughly well worth ventilation, and if the debate does nothing else, it may draw attention to the fact 1605 that there is a real problem for the permanent caravanners. They have a great way of life, and, while many people in many parts of the country tend to regard them as a nuisance and an interference with their amenities, the standards laid down by the Caravan Council and applied in many camps are first-class. Many people prefer to lead this way of life than to live in a bungalow or other accommodation.
We must try, certainly those of us who have no particular ideology in this matter and approach it on purely practical lines, to see that those people get some security of tenure and fair treatment because we limit them by our planning controls so severely in being able to get that class of living today. I hope, therefore, that not only the Minister tonight in his reply, but the Government in future, will give careful thought to the position of the permanent caravanner and pay regard to what is said by the Caravan Council when it shortly issues its proposals and that at the same time, when the Government consider the long-term view and whether they do this by town planning control or by housing—I think that the former is right—they will be extremely careful not to interfere with the freedom of what I call the purely summer resort type of business, which is purely short-term.
§ Mr. Charles Loughlin (Gloucestershire, West)
I should like to have two or three minutes—that is all—on Amendment No. 15. I understand that whilst we may discuss it, we cannot vote on it.
§ The Deputy-Chairman (Sir Samuel Storey)
Yes, Amendment No. 15 has been selected only for discussion.
§ Mr. Loughlin
I understood that to be the Ruling given by your predecessor in the Chair, Sir Samuel.
I appeal to my hon. and right hon. Friends on the Front Bench to reconsider their attitude to the principle involved in the Amendment. I accept in toto 1606 what was said by the hon. and learned Member for Montgomery (Mr. Hooson) that there is no criticism of the Railways Board implied or implicit in the Amendment. There is no evidence to be advanced that the Railways Board has evicted any person at any time.
The point made by the hon. and learned Member concerning the application of this principle to farming was valid: that if it is said that in principle we cannot allow farming to pursue a course of evictions, even though the evidence does exist that evictions have taken place, if we accept that the farmer should not have the right to evict, logically we should say precisely the same concerning the Railways Board or any other employer.
I am a little disturbed about this because the principle applies to a number of categories of employers. I have a vested interest as an official of the Union of Shop, Distributive and Allied Workers. We have a number of shop assistants who are evicted or who are faced periodically with the question of occupying premises let in connection with their employment. This applies to the Railways Board, the Forestry Commission, shop assistants and a number of other categories of workpeople.
If we are considering the position even on a temporary basis prior to the introduction of permanent legislation governing tenancies, surely it is equally incumbent upon us to look at the matter in relation to all tenancies of this kind where evictions are at all possible. I appeal to my right hon. Friends to look at the Bill and to apply the stay of execution, if I may so put it, to all premises.
§ It being Ten o'clock, The CHAIRMAN left the Chair to report Progress and ask leave to sit again.
§ Committee report Progress.