asked the hon. Member for Finchley as representing the Church Commissioners, how many leaseholders they have in Shirland Road, Paddington; whether the lease of number 39 is held jointly with other properties; what powers of control the Commission has over the granting of sub-leases; and whether the sale of sub-leases for cash is permitted within the terms of the original lease.
The Commissioners have 64 leaseholders in Shirland Road, Paddington. The lease of No. 39 in- cludes two other properties, and was granted in 1868 for 971 years at £2 per year. There is no covenant in any of these leases requiring the consent of the Commissioners to the grant or sale of sub-leases.
Will it surprise the hon. Member to know that the lease of No. 39 has changed hands twice since the war? A speculator bought it with nine years to run for £300. He sold it a few months later to two Jamaicans for £840. It is now owned by one West Indian who lives in Brixton. The payment of such amounts makes it impossible to recover the money except by gross overcrowding. Trading in the fag-ends of leases is a threat to the home life of thousands of people in Paddington. Will the Church Commissioners take their heads out of the sand, sack their agents and do something about it before they get a scandalous reputation for their handling of this social problem as they previously had as brothel owners?
The Church Commissioners cannot be held responsible for leases granted in 1868. [HON. MEMBERS: "Why not?"] Because they were not there then. It was altogether another body—the Ecclesiastical Commissioners. which is not the Church Commissioners. But a few of these properties in Shirland Road are being offered for auction next month, so perhaps the hon. Gentleman would like to bid for some of them. As regards sub-letting by the head leaseholder, as I informed the hon. Gentleman, we have no power to stop him because there was nothing in the 1868 lease to stop the owner of the head lease from subletting. I will make further inquiries to see if anything can be done, and I will let the hon. Gentleman know.
I understand that all new leases will contain a covenant requiring the Commissioners' consent to assignments and sub-letting covering a period of more than three years, so that all possible steps are being taken.