I beg to move,
That leave he given to bring in a Bill to amend the Law governing the relations between landlords and tenants.
It will be impossible for me to describe fully, in the time at my disposal, this Bill, but I can state the general principle and the grievances which it is desired to meet. It is intended to meet grievances arising out of the present system of leaseholds particularly with regard to leases for lives, building leases, and leases for the occupation of business premises. With regard to leases for fives, it is hardly necessary for me to say, particularly in the hearing of hon. Members representing the West of England, that, although the area of this grievance is now somewhat restricted, the absurdity of the system depending upon the accident of human life for the termination of a lease on which money has been spent on the property of another by the leaseholder is apparent. The Bill proposes with regard to these leases that the period, instead of depending upon the accident of death, shall be fixed in accordance with the ordinary actuarial expectations of the life in the lease instead of on the accident of death.
With regard to building leases I think anyone familiar with the condition of affairs in many parts of London where leases are approaching their termination, who has seen the plight which whole districts of this and other cities are in owing to the anticipation of the falling in of these leases during the period of at least 20 years before that falling in, when the landlord or the leaseholder is not in a position to do anything to improve the property by reason of the termination of the lease; and anyone who considers the absurdity of the rule by which property erected at the expense of one man automatically reverts to another man without payment of any kind or description after a fixed period, will agree that they require a remedy.
The third grievance is the confiscation of the goodwill of business and improvements, whether business or residential, which takes place, and this has been greatly accentuated by the conditions since the War. This is a grievance to which attention is being drawn at the present time. Those are the grievances which I desire to remedy. The central principle is that there should be a permanent tribunal of an expert character to whom all these questions should be referred, and which should deal with them in the light of equity as between the parties and the public interest under the restrictions imposed by the lease in question. This principle has already been recognised to a certain extent in the Law of Property Act, 1922, and the tribunal I propose is the one proposed in that Act, namely, the tribunal already in existence under the Acquisition of Land (Assessment of Compensation) Act, 1919, a permanent tribunal of experts who now are employed dealing with land taken over for public purposes by Government Departments or local authorities. They are considered to be the most suitable body in existence to deal with this matter. The Bill proposes that this tribunal shall have the power, on the application of either party, to provide for the enfranchisement of the lease at a fair price or for the renewal of the lease upon fair terms and conditions for a reasonable period. It provides further that from the date of the passing of the Bill all improvements erected thereafter shall be the property of the person who carries out the improvements, which is generally the tenant, and in the event of the lease being terminated and not renewed they shall be the subject of compensation by the landlord. I have stated the grounds on which I think this Bill should be allowed to be introduced, and the nature of the proposal, and the Measure is explained in much greater detail in the Bill itself.