§ Order of the Day read for the consideration of Commons Amendment in lieu of one of the Lords Amendments and Commons Reasons for disagreeing to the remaining Lords Amendments.
§ THE LORD CHANCELLOR
My Lords, I beg to move that the Commons Amendment and Reasons be now considered.
§ Moved, That the Commons Amendment and Reasons be now considered.—(The Lord Chancellor.)
§ VISCOUNT CAVE
My Lords, I think it would be convenient if, upon this Motion, I were to indicate the position which my noble friends and I propose to take up. That course will make it unnecessary to make a number of speeches, for we can indicate our views from the beginning. The Amendments of this House upon this Bill were not, I think, treated with excessive courtesy in another place, for upon some of them there was, I gather, no discussion at all, and the rejection of others was accompanied by expressions which took a form to which your Lordships are perhaps accustomed, but to which we attach very little importance indeed. So long as this House is here as the Second Chamber, so long, I think, will it be our duty to exercise our power to revise measures which we think to be either unjust or to be ill-prepared and ill-framed, and, 202 whatever is said, we shall not abandon our right or our duty in this respect.
These Amendments may be divided, I think, practically into four categories, or perhaps into five. There are four Amendments which have each a separate effect, and the remaining Amendments can all be grouped together as depending upon the others. I will take them in turn. The effect of the first Amendment which your Lordships proposed and with which the other House has disagreed was to strike out from the first clause of the Bill the words:—not being a landlord who has become the owner by purchase of the dwelling-house after the fifth day of May nineteen hundred and twenty-four.The effect of that Amendment is that the question whether those who bought their houses after the date there named shall recover possession or not shall be entirely in the discretion of the Court, which would have to consider whether greater hardship would be caused by granting the decree of eviction or by refusing it. I think, and your Lordships thought, that this was a position in which the matter could fairly be left. The effect of what I said on behalf of myself and my friends was that we thought, at all events, that the question ought to be again considered by the other House in order that they might have an opportunity of expressing their considered opinion upon it. That Amendment has been very completely discussed, as I understand, in another place and the other House, on a Division, declined to accept it. I have not changed my opinion that the proposal of this House was, upon the whole, the best solution, but I recognise now, as I have 203 always recognised, that there was an arguable point as regards this Amendment, and, having regard to the strong feeling elsewhere, I hope that your Lordships will think it right not to insist upon this Amendment, but to accept the alternative Amendment which has been carried in another place.
As regards the second Amendment, by which we proposed to insert the words "or for any son or daughter of his over eighteen years of age," the effect of it is that, where a man became the owner of a house before the critical date named in the Act—namely, May 5, 1924—and desired to have possession for the purpose of giving the house to his son or daughter, he should be entitled to do so, provided—and this proviso is very important—that the Court considers that greater hardship would be caused by refusing possession than would be caused to the tenant by granting it. Various reasons were given for rejecting that Amendment. For myself, I cannot conceive of anything more clear. A man claims a house for occupation, either by himself or by his son or daughter, and the House of Commons seems to object to his obtaining possession for his son or daughter. I cannot conceive why. He may have bought the house—perhaps a small house—with the firm intention of giving it to his son or his daughter when they came to the proper age. Why that intention should be frustrated in a case where the Court thinks it reasonable I cannot myself understand. I think it very probable, therefore, that your Lordships will desire to stand by that Amendment.
The third Amendment causes some difficulty. It inserted the following proviso at the end of Clause 1:—Provided that in the case of a dwelling-house of which either the tenant or the landlord is an alien who did not serve the British Empire or its Allies in the Great War, if the court is of opinion that equal hardship would be caused to the tenant by granting as to the landlord by refusing to grant an order, the landlord or the tenant, as the case may be, who is a British subject, or, who being an alien, served the British Empire or its Allies in the Great War, shall be preferred by the court.That is a principle with which I think few of us quarrel. In itself it is a reasonable one, but it was said in another place that, however that might be, the effect of tb.3 adoption of that provision would be that we should be infringing upon Treaties with our Allies. That is, of course, a very 204 serious statement, which I am sure would not have been made by the representative of the Government without good cause. I think that, upon the whole, it would be reasonable for your Lordships not to press that Amendment. The position which it contemplates will arise very rarely, because the claims of the British landlord and the foreign tenant must be exactly equal if the Amendment is to apply, and that will seldom happen. Or the whole, I hope that your Lordships will not feel compelled to insist upon that Amendment.
The fourth Amendment—the first made in Clause (2)—is one of a series of which the effect was made quite clear. The Bill as it was introduced into this House would have had a retrospective effect, and to this wide extent, that even where a man had brought his claim for possession before the Court, and had got an order for possession, and had gone further and actually been put in possession by the officer of the Court, yet under (his Bill he might be turned out in the cases to which this Bill applies. We did not think it fair that a later law, for good or bad reasons, should so alter the law as to undo orders already made by the Court, and turn a man out of his own property which he had recovered by process of law. I feel as strongly as ever I did about that Amendment, and I trust your Lordships will assert what is a right and just principle, and adhere to that Amendment.
The next Amendment was less important, but still I think it was important. It was the substitution of the word "may" for "shall." The Bill provided that where judgment had been recovered which could not have been recovered if this Bill had been law, the County Court Judge "shall" set it aside. There may be cases where grave injustice might be done by leaving the Judge no discretion, and we thought it right that the Judge should have some discretion, and, knowing all the facts, should be able to do what he thought right in the circumstances. I trust your Lordships will adhere to that Amendment also. The effect of what I advise is that noble Lords should give up the two Amendments to which I have referred, the first and the third—and I think in doing so we are showing reasonable conciliation—and that we should adhere to the remainder of the Amendments.
§ LORD BANBURY OF SOUTHAM
May I say, in reply to the noble Viscount that, as one of the Amendments to be given up is my Amendment, although I still hold that it is a good Amendment as I understand that other Amendments are to be adhered to. I shall not press adherence to my own Amendment.
§ THE LORD CHANCELLOR
I understand that the last two Amendments are treated as consequential. This Bill was a Bill introduced to deal with a very pressing situation—a situation which is still pressing. The purpose was to put restrictions upon evictions and reduce them to the narrowest compass, consistent with justice. That compel" the Government to say that so far as the Lords Amendments are concerned they cannot agree with the view that your Lordships take, and therefore I shall move that your Lordships' House does not insist upon the Amendments. I shall move that, but if we do not think it necessary to go to a Division your Lordships must not think that we are not insisting upon the Commons views. As regards the first Amendment about the date, that is consequential and the same applies to the last. That leaves us with five Amendments, on which your Lordships insist, and upon which the Government is bound equally to insist the other way. Therefore I propose to move pro forma with regard to all these Amendments that this House does not insist. I do that with a view of getting a decision from your Lordships. My only object is to specify the Amendments and save time.
§ THE MARQUESS OF SALISBURY
I think the convenient course will be for the noble and learned Viscount to put the Question which we are now discussing—namely, that the Amendments and Reasons be now considered. Then, when that is resolved in the affirmative, the noble and learned Viscount must take the Amendments in order because the House is not going to insist upon some of its Amendments.
§ [NOTE.—The references are to Bill(No. 80) as first printed for the House of Lords.]