Protection from Eviction Bill

– in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 26th November 1964.

Alert me about debates like this

Again considered in Committee.

Question again proposed, That those words be there inserted.

Photo of Mr Emlyn Hooson Mr Emlyn Hooson , Montgomeryshire

The hon. Gentleman has forgotten the point that he was making.

Photo of Mr Charles Loughlin Mr Charles Loughlin , Gloucestershire West

I assure the hon. and learned Gentleman that I have not.

I appeal to my hon. Friends to look at this matter again, and on Report to bring in an Amendment to deal with all tenancies let in connection with people's employment. I suggest that, with the assistance of the parliamentary draftsmen, they could bring in an Amendment to cover these words where premises are let in connection with employment.

Photo of Mr Eldon Griffiths Mr Eldon Griffiths , Bury St Edmunds

By logically extending the principle of the Bill, as the hon. Gentleman has done, from farming to policemen, or nurses, or even Prime Ministers, has not the hon. Gentleman demonstrated the invidious character of the Clause in that it picks out agriculture, and only agriculture, and permits all these other categories to which he referred?

The Deputy-Chairman:

Order. We cannot go back to agriculture.

Photo of Mr Charles Loughlin Mr Charles Loughlin , Gloucestershire West

I was asked a question. I do not want it to appear on the record that I refused to answer it, but I bow to your Ruling, Sir Samuel, that I am not allowed to do so.

Photo of Sir Albert Costain Sir Albert Costain , Folkestone and Hythe

When I intervened at the end of the speech of the hon. Member for Orpington (Mr. Lubbock), I was seeking information. Perhaps the point which worries me was not made clear in my intervention.

When we are talking about restrictions on caravans, are we talking about the actual vehicle, or the site on which it stands? There are a number of caravan sites in my constituency. Some of them are most satisfactory, and I am worried because I know that from time to time these caravans move from place to place, and from district to district. If there is this restriction on a caravan, and if for personal reasons an owner moves his caravan, not from one plot to another on the same site, but from one area to another, I cannot see how, in a Bill of this sort, one can tie the owner in a movement of that sort, particularly where such a transfer could become a criminal offence.

In the same way my hon. Friend the Member for the City of Chester (Mr. Temple) made special reference to motor cruisers and houseboats. The same comment applies there. Surely this is the type of dwelling which at the moment is filling a temporary need in a most satisfactory way. We should be careful before we try to legislate for this type of accommodation on the same basis as permanent accommodation. I hope that the hon. Gentleman will give us some guidance on this point.

Photo of Mr Norman Cole Mr Norman Cole , Bedfordshire South

I want to refer to two points, one of which has just been partly dealt with by my hon. Friend the Member for Folkestone and Hythe (Mr. Costain). I am in general sympathy with the objects of the Bill but—I hope that I am wrong—I prophesy that the Government are laying up a lot of trouble for themselves because of their ubiquitous use of the word "premises". It occurs so often in Clause 1 as to be impossible to overlook. My hon. Friend the Member for the City of Chester (Mr. Temple) and other hon. Members, including the hon. Member for Orpington (Mr. Lubbock), have asked the Government what is the meaning of "premises".

With great respect, I must point out that Governments do not decide the meaning of legal terms. We shall have to wait for the first judge to decide what the word "premises" means. If it is one kind of judge he will decide that it is what we all understand by the word, namely, a place where one can be, whether it floats, flies, stands on the land or is suspended.

Photo of Mr Eric Lubbock Mr Eric Lubbock , Orpington

The word "premises" is defined in the Interpretation Act.

Photo of Mr Norman Cole Mr Norman Cole , Bedfordshire South

I do not think that that will affect the position very much, because much more is brought into the ambit of the matter by this Bill than has been the case in the past.

I also have some sympathy with the Amendment, but I suggest that it entirely misses the object that it is designed to achieve. My right hon. Friend the Member for Folkestone and Hythe put his finger on the nub of the matter. I agree with him that, generally speaking, caravans are rented to an ever-decreasing extent. It is the land which is rented. If the Amendment is to be of any help to the Government it should be designed—as, at the foundation, everything about houses is designed—to deal with land.

There is no question of security of tenure for a man who owns his caravan, simply because he owns it. What matters is where he puts it. It is like the old song—"Where my caravan has rested." Before we worry about caravans we should pay a good deal more attention to the place where they will stand, whether it is hard standing or anywhere else. I am glad that the Government will have to decide this question, and not me.

We should have tackled this question of caravans before. If we tackle it now, let us do so remembering that what matters to a caravan dweller is not the building, which is often his—either on hire purchase or bought outright—but the land. That is what he is concerned with and that is what he has to find in order to put his caravan on it.

Photo of Mr Graham Page Mr Graham Page , Crosby

I am sorry that I did not catch the eye of the Chair earlier when the Minister without Portfolio was sitting on the Government Front Bench. If I had, at least we should have had the benefit of the third Law Officer's advice on what is and what is not a caravan, and whether it comes within the provisions of the Bill or any other related Rent Act legislation. I do not blame him for scuttling out of the Chamber at the beginning of the debate.

Is it not quite clear that the Rent Acts do not apply to caravans? Was not that decided in the case of Morgan and Taylor, in 1948? The well-known article which appeared in Punch in the following year is not to be taken as authority for the fact that caravans come within the provisions of the Rent Acts. They are out of it. They are not controlled. But they come within the terms of the Furnished Houses (Rent Control) Act. They can be dealt with under that Act as furnished dwellings.

I do not know whether it helps us with the Bill, but the words in the Bill are not the same as those in the Rent Acts and in the Furnished Houses (Rent Control) Act. They refer to premises which have been let as a dwelling". When I endeavoured to find some help from the word "dwelling" and looked at the 1957 Rent Act, I found that that means the aggregate of the premises comprised in the tenancy which works round in a circle from dwelling to premises and back again. When one tries to apply this phrase, "premises which have been let as a dwelling" to caravans, one wonders whether it applies also to a stationary houseboat, a cruiser, a railway coach and so on. I think that the railway coach would be covered by Amendment No. 15, but the Government ought to produce some explanation and let us know whether they intend to protect caravans or not. I do not mind much whether this is so or not, but if they leave it so ambiguous I could make quite a fortune out of it. The Government should make this clear and not allow us of the legal profession to make money out of these Bills.

Photo of Mr Teddy Taylor Mr Teddy Taylor , Glasgow Cathcart

I want to say a few words about a point which is not one of principle, but which seems very important.

Photo of Mr Reginald Paget Mr Reginald Paget , Northampton

On a point of order. I have been trying to look at this matter under Standing Order No. 33, which gives the Chair power to select Amendments or not to select Amendments. I understand that Amendment No. 15 has not been selected. I can discover no power to the Chair to select an Amendment for discussion but not for voting. Of course it sometimes happens that the Chair may say of an Amendment that is not selected and that an hon. Member will be able to make his point on another Amendment because it is included in the other Amendment, but railwaymen's cottages are not included in the Amendment dealing with caravans. My submission is that only what is in order to discuss on Amendment No. 14 can be discussed on that Amendment.

Photo of Sir Samuel Storey Sir Samuel Storey , Stretford

The hon. and learned Member for Northampton (Mr. Paget) is quite correct in saying that Amendment No. 14 has been selected, Amendment No. 15 has been selected for discussion. That is a practice which goes back to before the war and it is quite in order.

Photo of Mr Reginald Paget Mr Reginald Paget , Northampton

Further to my point of order. That only arises where the Amendment which is not selected would have been in order, being within the subject matter of the Amendment which is selected. The Amendment selected for discussion but not for voting is not in order to discuss on the Amendment which is selected for voting in my submission.

Photo of Sir Samuel Storey Sir Samuel Storey , Stretford

Discretion lies with the Chair for selection of Amendments. Amendment No. 14 has been selected and Amendment No. 15 has been selected for discussion only.

Photo of Mr Teddy Taylor Mr Teddy Taylor , Glasgow Cathcart

The interjection of the hon. and learned Member for Northampton (Mr. Paget) has made me more keen to put across the point I was making because hon. Members opposite seem to be unwilling to discuss it and this might make their position clear. As we see from the Amendment, the matter of principle is entirely the same. The importance of a tied cottage to a farmer is similar in many ways to the importance of a railway cottage and there are other cases.

The reason why I feel that the sincerity of the Government is in question is that I received a copy of a Statutory Instrument presented by the Secretary of State for Scotland on 13th November. The Bill was presented on 11th November. A paragraph in the Statutory Instrument is interesting. Its matter relates to the question of young offenders' institutions provided in Scotland. Paragraph 132 has a clear statement which says: (1) If quarters are assigned to an officer he shall occupy them and shall at any time vacate them if required to do so.(2) On the termination of an officer's service he shall give up the quarters he has occupied as soon as he is required to do so and on the death of an officer his family shall give up the quarters when required to do so.

Photo of Sir Samuel Storey Sir Samuel Storey , Stretford

Order. I do not think this arises on this Amendment. I ask the hon. Member to confine himself to the matter before the Committee.

10.15 p.m.

Photo of Mr Teddy Taylor Mr Teddy Taylor , Glasgow Cathcart

I was trying to point out in the final mention of this that this is relevant to the question whether this is in fact a consistent policy being adopted by the Government. I might be persuaded to support the Government on the Amendment if I thought that they were putting the policy forward in sincerity. In the last sentence there is a vital question which is terribly important in relation to this matter. Can I just finish this one sentence?

Photo of Sir Samuel Storey Sir Samuel Storey , Stretford

The hon. Gentleman must come to the Amendment strictly.

Photo of Mr Teddy Taylor Mr Teddy Taylor , Glasgow Cathcart

Strictly on the Amendment, I should like to refer to the fact that several things have been mentioned by the Government which lead me to doubt whether they have a clear policy on the question of railwaymen's premises. I feel that the Government must give a clear indication of precisely what their view is on this. If they consistently are in favour of giving protection to the people and giving them legal protection irrespective of what those controlling the properties may do, they must give a clear statement of their views. As we know from your Ruling, Sir Samuel, we shall not divide on this Amendment. Nevertheless, the Government have an opportunity to state clearly whether in principle they agree with the Amendment and are prepared to make an adjustment to the Bill on Report. Hon. Members who want to assess not just the effectiveness of the Bill but also whether the Government are sincere in the point of view they are advancing are entitled to expect the Government to state clearly what their view is on Amendment No. 15.

Photo of Mr James MacColl Mr James MacColl , Widnes

My right hon. Friend the Minister developed, I thought with great force and skill, the argument for putting into the Bill agricultural tied cottages. I do not want to develop his arguments again. They were, to my mind, pretty decisive. That is the argument for putting something in.

As to railways, I would adopt what my hon. Friend the Member for Bolton, West (Mr. Oakes) said, which was that railways are in the hands of one Board. That Board is subject to public criticism and public control. There is no evidence that the Board has used its powers mischievously. Therefore, it is reasonable to think that railway tenants can survive for another six months, because we are not talking now about permanent legislation, I repeat. We are talking about temporary legislation.

Photo of Mr Emlyn Hooson Mr Emlyn Hooson , Montgomeryshire

May I take it from that that the Government intend to deal with this problem in their permanent legislation?

Photo of Mr James MacColl Mr James MacColl , Widnes

The Government, I think it is reasonable to say, intend to consider it—[HON. MEMBERS: "Oh."] I am not being frightfully clever. I am only being honest. I do not know what will be in the permanent legislation, because that is, surprisingly enough, still under consideration. That is why we are having this holding Measure while we consider it. Therefore, I am not trying to evade the issue. I am merely saying that we will certainly look at it. The weight of evidence is that there is no particular reason for regarding the railway situation as an emergency one in which we should act.

Photo of Sir Charles Mott-Radclyffe Sir Charles Mott-Radclyffe , Windsor

I do not think that the hon. Gentleman is quite seized of the point. The point at issue is not how the Railways Board is using its powers, whether wisely or unwisely, but what powers it has. Could the hon. Gentleman tell the Committee what proportion of cottages owned by the Railway Board is tied in the sense that agricultural cottages are tied and what proportion is occupied by tenants?

Photo of Mr James MacColl Mr James MacColl , Widnes

The hon. Gentleman is not right. The point is this. We are dealing with emergency legislation. There may be some argument about the extent of the mischief in the case of the tied agricultural cottage. There may be differences of opinion about the extent of it, but it is pretty clear from what has been said in the debate by my hon. Friends and what has been said outside that there is a mischief here, however much some hon. Members may feel that it is small and confined to a small area. I do not know of any evidence in the case of the railways. Indeed, the only Members who have spoken on the subject in Committee have gone out of their way to say that they had no evidence. Therefore, it seems reasonable to say that this is not really a matter which needs to be considered in the terms of this emergency Bill.

Turning to the subject of caravans, this is a matter with which I have myself been very much concerned. I have not seen any representations from the Caravan Council, but whether they have come or whether they will come, this certainly is a matter with which I have been concerned and which I have wanted to have included in our examination.

The position is confused. There is some evidence of trouble having been caused. I would say to the hon. Member for Crosby (Mr. Graham Page) that I was surprised—because we treat everything he says with great weight—when he said that caravans come within the Furnished Houses (Rent Control) Act. I did not think that was so and I do not know of any authority for saying that it is so.

Photo of Mr Graham Page Mr Graham Page , Crosby

I can assure the hon. Gentleman that there is an authority, reported in 1947, in which a caravan was included under that Act.

Photo of Mr James MacColl Mr James MacColl , Widnes

I do not know of those circumstances but I will have them looked at.

Photo of Mr John Temple Mr John Temple , City of Chester

The hon. Gentleman has just said that the position is confused. It was for that reason that I asked him to explain the exact scope of the Bill with regard to mobile dwellings. I hope he will do just that this evening.

Photo of Mr James MacColl Mr James MacColl , Widnes

I was about to explain what I meant when I said that it was confused. I did not mean the Bill was confused. I meant that the situation with regard to caravans was confused. Most of the confusion has already been deployed in the course of our debate. If, for example, we take the case of a caravan which has had its wheels removed and it is drawing services from the ground, it may very well be a house within the ordinary landlord and tenant legislation and it may be covered by the ordinary rent restriction and other Acts.

Photo of Mr Kenneth Lewis Mr Kenneth Lewis , Rutland and Stamford

Would this not be an extraordinary situation? It would be possible for the wheels to be put back on to the caravan and for the people concerned to opt out of the Act.

Photo of Mr James MacColl Mr James MacColl , Widnes

It may be an extraordinary situation. I did not make the law. I am only trying to explain that in some circumstances it is possible that caravans and such things which look as though they were meant to be removable could become irremovable and would come within the meaning of the landlord and tenant legislation. They may be covered. I am not saying that no case of a caravan would be covered. In many cases the ownership of the caravan rests with the person occupying it. Therefore, what we have got is ground rent for the ground, and in that case the ordinary landlord and tenant relationship would not exist and it would not be very easy to treat it as a landlord and tenant relationship.

There may be other cases in which, as was mentioned by the hon. Member for Orpington (Mr. Lubbock), the caravan is under a hire-purchase agreement with somebody who is not the site owner. That is a further complication because the ordinary hire-purchase and mortgage rules may arise. This needs to be considered very carefully. It may be necessary to do something by planning, as was suggested by the hon. Member for the Isle of Thanet (Mr. Rees-Davies), but I would approach that with some caution because I think one might get into difficulties if one appeared to be using planning control for purposes which were not really directed to land use but were directed to the social problems of land control. I do not know. I am speaking off-the-cuff.

I would approach that with some caution but it might be something that could be done. It may be that it could be done through our proposed rent legislation. It may require amendment of the the Caravan Sites and Development Act. It may be that if the noble Lord, Lord Meston, had been more fortunate in another place this difficulty might have been avoided. I give that point for use in the next Liberal manifesto if that is desired.

I am sure that the Government would be grateful for any advice in considering the best way of tackling the matter. We will certainly continue to look at it, but I can give no undertaking that we can do anything in this Bill. It is certainly a matter for consideration in the longer term.

Photo of Mr John Boyd-Carpenter Mr John Boyd-Carpenter , Kingston upon Thames

I am inclined to agree with the hon. Gentleman that this Bill is not an appropriate place in which to deal with the problem, but this short debate has certainly revealed that there is great confusion and uncertainty in the matter. I hope that at the next stage the Government will take such steps as are necessary at least to clarify the present position.

It is not satisfactory that a number of our fellow citizens who live in caravans should be left in such real uncertainty as the debate has shown about their position. Although this Bill may not be the right Measure to deal with them, it is incumbent upon the Government to try to produce some clarity on the matter. On Amendment No. 15 I was disturbed by something which the hon. Gentleman said. In seeking to justify giving no protection to occupiers of railwaymen's cottages he said that, after all, the Railways Board is subject to public control and, therefore, it is not necessary to give the protection which his right hon. Friend thought necessary in other directions.

Even on the narrow point that was a rather misleading argument. The question of the eviction of a railway tenant is plainly a matter of the day-to-day management of the Railways Board and for that reason is outside the control of any Minister of Transport. Anybody who has been at the Ministry of Transport will agree with me on that. Secondly, the hon. Gentleman seemed to suggest that it was not necessary in the case of a nationalised industry in order to provide for the protection of its workers and tenants to do what it was thought necessary to do where the people concerned were the workers and tenants of private industry. If that is the line the Government are taking, I can only say that it is a most unhappy one.

Photo of Mr James MacColl Mr James MacColl , Widnes

The limits of my argument were to say that the Railways Board was a public authority. It was accountable and there was no evidence that this power of eviction was being used. Therefore, within the limits of this Bill there was no case for making emergency use of these provisions. I did not commit myself either way on the question whether it was necessary in further legislation. Where there is prima facie evidence that eviction will not happen and where we have a sensible and responsible employer, I think that there is a case for not doing this.

Photo of Mr John Boyd-Carpenter Mr John Boyd-Carpenter , Kingston upon Thames

The Railways Board is not accountable in this matter, as anybody who has tried to put Questions on the day-to-day administration of the Board knows extremely well. It was said, rightly, that there was no evidence of maltreatment by the Railways Board. There has been no evidence in the Committee of any such maltreatment by any other section of employers whom we have been discussing today. I should be out of order if I pursued that but I think that the Committee will have noted the contrast in the Government's attitude.

Photo of Sir Lionel Heald Sir Lionel Heald , Chertsey

Whilst I agree that there is considerable difficulty in dealing with the caravan question raised by the hon. Member for Orpington (Mr. Lubbock), I think that we should be grateful to him for raising it because it has given us the opportunity of hearing from the Joint Parliamentary Secretary on this matter in which he is taking an interest, as we know he has taken an interest in the past. As one who has been involved in this problem for some years in my own constituency, I feel that it is a matter which really must be dealt with now.

10.30 p.m.

It is not really in any possible sense a party question, and I would like to say for my part that if the Joint Parliamentary Secretary is, as I am sure he is after what he has said, to take an interest in the matter and try to get something done, I shall be very glad to co-operate in any way I can.

Photo of Mr John Temple Mr John Temple , City of Chester

On many occasions the Joint Parliamentary Secretary and I have debated from opposite sides of the Chamber, and I have always had the very highest regard for his knowledge of all the legislation he has spoken upon, but I regret to say that this evening he has not been in his usual informative form. He has not enlightened the Committee as to the scope of his own Bill. I stress this. This is a Government Bill.

I maintain that this Bill will have an effect on mobile homes. The Joint Parliamentary Secretary, when he replied, brought out all kinds of red herrings—about caravans which have had the wheels removed, for instance. I am concerned with genuine caravans, as I am sure he is, and I hope he will give the Committee an explanation how he thinks this Bill will affect mobile homes. The National Caravan Council has not had time to study this Bill in detail. I spoke to the general secretary about this matter only last evening on the telephone, and he was speaking from the north of England. He is going to study the Bill in detail next week, and he will study this debate. I do not think he will get any enlightenment whatever from the discussion we have had so far upon the Government's intentions concerning mobile homes.

I hope the Joint Parliamentary Secretary will take the opportunity of telling the Committee in very clear terms the Government's intentions with regard to this Bill. I am not concerned with future legislation. I am concerned with this Bill which is before the Committee this evening. Everybody may have wonderful ideas of what will be done in future. I do not believe that those ideas of my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Chertsey (Sir L. Heald) could be brought within the scope of this Bill. I hope very much, therefore, that we shall have this explanation this evening, so that we shall not find the position so confused—as the Joint Parliamentary Secretary said: they were his own words—when we arrive at the Report stage. I hope he will rise again to give this very simple clarification of what the Government's draftsmen mean by this Clause and how it affects mobile homes.

Photo of Mr Eric Lubbock Mr Eric Lubbock , Orpington

I would just add a word about what the hon. Gentleman has just said. I assure him that I have studied this matter and have looked at the Interpretation Act, and a "caravan" is not "premises" within the meaning assigned to it by the Interpretation Act. So I think he will find, when he has gone into the matter with the general secretary to the National Caravan Council—

Photo of Mr John Temple Mr John Temple , City of Chester

I left the Chamber a few moments ago to refer again to the Interpretation Act, 1888, and I have perused it while the debate has been going on, and there is no interpretation of premises whatsoever.

Photo of Mr Eric Lubbock Mr Eric Lubbock , Orpington

Perhaps there is another Act. I have taken advice on this, and I am advised that a "caravan" is not "premises." Indeed, I would not have drafted the Amendment in the form in which it is had I not been so advised. It says: For the purposes of this section a person who occupies a caravan shall be deemed to have been a tenant and the expressions 'premises' .. shall be construed accordingly. Perhaps the hon. Gentleman will take the advice of the National Caravan Council on this and he will find that what I have said is absolutely true.

I would quite agree with the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Kingston-upon-Thames (Mr. Boyd-Carpenter) that this Bill is not the best means of dealing with this problem. I realised that perfectly well when putting the Amendment down. I put this to him: if people who occupy permanent dwellings are entitled to the protection which this Bill gives during the interim period while permanent legislation is being prepared, then surely, in a similar way, people who live in caravans are entitled to the same degree of protection till the Bill to which the Joint Parliamentary Secretary has referred is brought forward.

Photo of Sir Douglas Glover Sir Douglas Glover , Ormskirk

On a point of order. I find it difficult to make up my mind on the Amendment. We are in some difficulty over the legal interpretation. Should not the Law Officers be here to explain the position?

Photo of Sir Samuel Storey Sir Samuel Storey , Stretford

That is not a point of order.

Photo of Mr Eric Lubbock Mr Eric Lubbock , Orpington

The people who live in caravans are entitled to the same degree of protection during the interim period as those who live in permanent dwellings. I was disturbed to find the hon. Member's mind so completely open on the question. He said, "Perhaps we might deal with it as part of the Bill which we shall introduce, or as an amendment to the Caravan Sites and Control of Development Act, 1960, or by some other method which I have not yet devised." This is a matter of greater urgency than he seems to appreciate. I am encouraged to some extent by the assurances given by the hon. Member that this matter is in the Government's mind, and if he adds a further assurance, as has been requested, that the new Bill will be brought forward as quickly as possible and that the drafting will be undertaken forthwith so that it is possible for the same degree of protection to be given to these people as is given to those who live in permanent dwellings, I shall feel more satisfied.

Photo of Sir Douglas Glover Sir Douglas Glover , Ormskirk

I apologise for having raised a point of order about the absence of the Law Officers. I see that the Solicitor-General was in fact present but he was sound asleep and did not know what was going on.

Photo of Mr James Allason Mr James Allason , Hemel Hempstead

I hope that we are not leaving the Amendment without knowing where we stand. I should like to be able to tell my constituents who are living in caravans that they are covered by the Bill. Surely we can have a clear statement from the Government on the issue.

Photo of Mr John Temple Mr John Temple , City of Chester

Both a Law Officer and the Minister of Housing and Local Government are present. Perhaps the Minister could rescue his Parliamentary Secretary who is in such a confused state and give a clear exposition of what his own Bill means.

Amendment negatived.

Question proposed, That the Clause, as amended, stand part of the Bill.

Photo of Mr John Boyd-Carpenter Mr John Boyd-Carpenter , Kingston upon Thames

I do not imagine that the Committee will want a prolonged discussion on this Motion as certain aspects of the Clause have had fairly careful examination in the last few hours, but I rise for the purpose of asking one question as well as to put one substantial consideration about the Clause. My question arises from the fact that it is my understanding that the Clause affects local authorities. I should be grateful if the Government would confirm that that is the intention and the effect. If it is their intention, and the effect of the Bill, that this should apply to local authorities—

Photo of Mr John Boyd-Carpenter Mr John Boyd-Carpenter , Kingston upon Thames

The limitations on the power to acquire possession. Local authorities own a good deal of property. If it is the effect, I should be interested to know how subsection (4) of the Clause applies to a local authority. Does one prosecute the mayor, the town clerk, or someone else?

The main effect of the Clause, as was said on Second Reading, is to apply the principle of having to go to the county court if one wishes to resume possession of premises, abandoning the present alternatives of going to the High Court or of evicting without a court order. As I said on Second Reading, that is not itself necessarily a bad principle, and my hon. Friends and I have not criticised the general application of it in the Clause. But I must remind the Committee how very wide it goes. The combined effect of this Clause and of Clause 3 is that the requirement about going to the county court applies to a very high proportion of property in this country.

I am indebted to the admirable service which the Library gives to hon. Members for certain figures which show the surprising result that, if the Clause applied only to property up to an annual value of £200, it would cover 98·3 per cent. of the properties in the country. As the limiting figure for this purpose applied by Clause 3 to Clause 1 is £400, it is clear that the overwhelming majority of properties, including many one would put in the luxury class, are covered. This will, of course, be strikingly true in the countryside where values are lower. This is not necessarily objectionable, although there is a certain element of the absurd in loading the county courts with work in connection with properties of high value, the occupants of which probably do not require protection of this kind.

I should not for that reason suggest that my hon. Friends should divide against the Motion, though it is my view that it goes unnecessarily high up the scale of values. But we are discussing the Clause against the background of the Bill which the right hon. Gentleman threatens us with almost every time he intervenes, which, I understand, is to come before us early in the new year. It must be clear to the Minister, to the Committee and to people outside that our acquiescence in a Clause of this kind, going very high up the scale of values, cannot be interpreted as willingness to accept anything of the sort in connection with the reimposition of rent control when the main Bill comes along. I should be unjust to the Minister if I were to leave him under even the possibility of illusion about that.

I should be grateful, therefore, if the Government would explain why it was thought necessary to go so far up the scale as to cover about 99 per cent. of the properties in the country with the requirement about going to the county court, and I should be grateful also for an explanation of the effect of the Clause, if any, on the position of local authorities in their ownership of property.

Photo of Mr Richard Crossman Mr Richard Crossman , Coventry East

First, as regards local authorities, the right hon. Gentleman will find, if he turns to Clause 3(2), that, although local authorities are not actually mentioned, the subsection refers to the Act under which they normally take possession through the magistrate's court and, therefore, it excludes them from the Act in that sense.

The answer to the right hon. Gentleman's question about the range of properties is that we decided to make it a simple Bill. We give as the top rateable value the level up to which the county court has jurisdiction. We simply excluded from the Bill properties of rateable value higher than that which the county court serves. We have done that as a simple solution. We do not make any suggestion that in permanent legislation a similar top level would apply. So I can give the right hon. Gentleman the assurance that if he accepts the Clause this does not mean a permanent implication that this is the right level for security of tenure for a final, permanent solution.

10.45 p.m.

Photo of Mr John Boyd-Carpenter Mr John Boyd-Carpenter , Kingston upon Thames

I am obliged for that explanation, but I hope before further stages of the Bill—because this will arise on other Clauses—the right hon. Gentleman will make further inquiries about the effect of Clause 3(2). It appears simply to preserve the effect of the Small Tenements Recovery Act. There is nothing explicit to say that, as property owners, local authorities are excluded wholly from the provisions of the Measure. It may be that the right hon. Gentleman would like to make a full explanation now or that he would prefer to do so at a later stage, perhaps on Clause 3, but it does not on the face of it, and such is the advice that I have received, seem to have the comprehensive effect of exclusion which the right hon. Gentleman has suggested.

I note the right hon. Gentleman's assurance that acceptance of this very high figure of annual value has not given rise to any misunderstanding in his mind. It is clear that the figure is based not on any social concept but on the wholly fortuitous—fortuitous in this respect—figure of the highest one that the county courts can deal with.

Photo of Mr Richard Crossman Mr Richard Crossman , Coventry East

The right hon. Gentleman is pushing me too far. It is not fortuitous that the figure we chose in respect of county courts happens also to be the figure at roughly about which one can argue that a free market has really started. I do not press it. I simply say that it seemed to us that it was not outrageous—we should not have chosen it had it seemed outrageous; it is related to the county courts—but there is no implication that the Opposition or ourselves would feel committed to this figure for permanent legislation.

On the other point, maybe I used the word "exclusion" not quite correctly. What I should have said was that under Clause 3(2) the local authority's powers are reserved to it for taking action under the original Act. Of course it is correct that if it chose to take action under the other it would not be excluded, but I do not think it would normally choose to do that.

Photo of Mr Emlyn Hooson Mr Emlyn Hooson , Montgomeryshire

With regard to whether local authorities come within the ambit of Clause 1, I do not wish to enter into a discussion on the interpretation of Clause 3(2), but, on the other hand, we heard from the Parliamentary Secretary with special London responsibilities that local authorities vary a great deal in quality. This is undoubtedly so whatever the test of that quality is. But can the Minister tell us why in principle local authorities should be excluded from the Clause?

Photo of Mr Richard Crossman Mr Richard Crossman , Coventry East

There is no principle here at all. We are merely seeking to preserve the law as it is as far as possible pending major legislation. Whether or not security of tenure should be extended to municipal tenants is something which we think is suitable to be discussed in permanent legislation but not in emergency legislation. We thought it was simpler to keep things as they were in this emergency Measure. It was convenient. I was following the principle that the right hon. Gentleman asked me to follow, of making the minimum changes in the law in order to effect the de facto security of tenure which was our object in this Bill.

Photo of Mr Norman Cole Mr Norman Cole , Bedfordshire South

First, with regard to the upper limit of the properties which are brought into the Bill, the right hon. Gentleman said that he was seeking to preserve the existing state of the law. But he is not doing so. Why has he to accept the ceiling of the county court procedure? There is nothing magic or sacred about it, and it was not adopted in the past for the purposes of a temporary Bill of this kind.

Secondly, I wonder whether the right hon. Gentleman appreciates exactly what he is doing to the feelings of people living in houses and flats affected by the Bill by the mentality which he is introducing. He has as good as said that so far as one can ever anticipate a Bill, what is proposed in this Bill will not be the position in the major Bill which we are to get next year. We are thus confronted with the position that when the Bill comes into force in a few weeks' time, it will include a large number of properties which everyone knows will be excluded from the scope of the major Bill.

Photo of Mr Norman Cole Mr Norman Cole , Bedfordshire South

I can assure the right hon. Gentleman that, as an ordinary sensible Member of the Committee, that is what I understood him to say and that that is what the average person in the country will understand him to have said. It is the very negation of proper legislation to put something into a Bill now and give notice that a later Bill will alter the position.

Photo of Mr Richard Crossman Mr Richard Crossman , Coventry East

It would have been very shocking if I had done it. I merely said that the fact that properties were included now did not mean that they were bound to be included or excluded in future. We are simply leaving open the level at which security of control should operate. That is not decided one way or the other by this Bill.

If the hon. Gentleman had been listening, he would have heard me tell his right hon. Friend that we would not have taken the convenient level of the county court figure had it not been roughly and readily assessed as a proper level for this emergency legislation. We calculated that with the new rateable values, which might go to £300, we should leave a little extra margin to make quite sure that we had given de facto security not only to those decontrolled in 1957, but to a rather wider class so as to ensure that we had everybody covered. That is all that we have done in this Bill and I thank the hon. Gentleman for giving me the opportunity to explain it for the third time.

Photo of Mr John Temple Mr John Temple , City of Chester

On a point of order. May I seek your guidance, Sir Samuel? The matter being discussed is mentioned specifically in Clause 3. Can we have your assurance that we shall be able to debate this subject when we reach Clause 3 where it properly belongs?

Photo of Sir Samuel Storey Sir Samuel Storey , Stretford

Yes. Hon. Members will be able to debate it when we get to Clause 3.

Photo of Mr James Scott-Hopkins Mr James Scott-Hopkins , North Cornwall

I find the Clause remarkably unsatisfactory in many aspects. [Interruption.] Does the Parliamentary Secretary wish to intervene?

Photo of Mr Robert Mellish Mr Robert Mellish , Bermondsey

If the hon. Gentleman finds it so unsatisfactory, I invite him to vote against it and let the people see where the Conservative Party stands.

Photo of Mr James Scott-Hopkins Mr James Scott-Hopkins , North Cornwall

The hon. Gentleman has been making interruptions from a sedentary position almost all evening. I wish that he would listen to the argument, which I have only just started. I was saying that the Clause was unsatisfactory in several respects and, if the hon. Member has the courtesy and patience to listen to me, I will enumerate them.

The first is that the right hon. Gentleman rejected the Amendment to subsection (3) which refers to members of the family residing with him at the time of the tenant's death. The Amendment sought to include a qualifying period of six months' residence, for without that qualification any member of the family, no matter what member—and I am not thinking only of mistresses—could come at the last moment and reside in the house or tied cottage and then claim the protection of the Clause. That is very unsatisfactory.

Another reason is connected with subsection (5). Hon. Members will understand my reservations on this subject of the tied cottage. The right hon. Gentleman has heard of them from many quarters of the Committeee, and has singularly failed to answer the arguments of my hon. and right hon. Friends on why tied cottages should not be included. He has put forward spurious and irrelevant arguments as to why they should be included.

First of all, the right hon. Gentleman says that this is an emergency Bill, and the whole Committee has accepted that—I do wish the right hon. Gentleman would either make his interventions properly or not at all—

Photo of Mr David Weitzman Mr David Weitzman , Stoke Newington and Hackney North

On a point of order, Sir Samuel. Is there not a rule about tedious repetition?

Photo of Sir Samuel Storey Sir Samuel Storey , Stretford

I have not heard any tedious repetition yet.

Photo of Mr James Scott-Hopkins Mr James Scott-Hopkins , North Cornwall

The hon. and learned Gentleman has not been present throughout the debate, so he will not know that until now I have not contributed to it. If he does not agree with me that is just too bad, but I have a right to my opinion in opposing this particular part of the Clause.

The Minister earlier put forward as a reason for this subsection the fact that this was an emergency Bill. He then said that he had made a pledge. That, I gather, was the understanding in the Labour Party manifesto that tied cottages would be included in any legislation of this kind. He said that there was therefore some urgency to include it in this Measure. Yet the right hon. Gentleman has not put forward a single argument why this provision should be included. There is no urgency, and he could not put forward a single case of hardship.

If I may digress to a certain extent, I understand that the right hon. Gentleman has taken the advice of his friends who represent the National Union of Agricultural Workers but, as one of my hon. Friends has said, he does not seem to have taken the advice of, or consulted, the National Farmers' Union—

Photo of Mr James Scott-Hopkins Mr James Scott-Hopkins , North Cornwall

No, I have not finished yet. Neither has he consulted the Country Landowners' Association. He seems to have taken the specialised advice of those concerned in the National Union of Agricultural Workers as the raison d'être for bringing in this subsection.

Photo of Mr Richard Crossman Mr Richard Crossman , Coventry East

I pointed out at some length that I had taken advice from the National Farmers' Union and the National Union of Agricultural Workers; and that it was in view of the advice of the National Farmers' Union that an Amendment to Clause 2(4) would be proposed on Report. I am surprised that, so late in the evening, the hon. Gentleman should not have been aware of what was said many hours ago about these consultations.

Photo of Mr James Scott-Hopkins Mr James Scott-Hopkins , North Cornwall

That really will not do, and the right hon. Gentleman knows it. He did not consult the National Farmers' Union before the Bill was brought in, or before Second Reading, and I challenge him to say that he did. He knows darned well that he did nothing of the sort. But he did consult the agricultural workers before—

Photo of Mr Richard Crossman Mr Richard Crossman , Coventry East

What I said was that in the course of thinking of an Amendment which we shall formulate we had consultations with both the National Union of Agricultural Workers and with the National Farmers' Union. I made it perfectly clear that before the Second Reading we had consulted neither side.

Photo of Mr James Scott-Hopkins Mr James Scott-Hopkins , North Cornwall

I am sure that members of the Committee will draw their own conclusions. The right hon. Gentleman has admitted that he did not consult the National Farmers' Union before the Second Reading. We also know full well, knowing his own feelings on the subject, that he did take the advice of the National Union of Agricultural Workers before then. It is no use the Minister shaking his head. He quoted the speech of his right hon. Friend the Prime Minister in east England as the raison d'être for it, and he has had no consultations with his friends who represent the National Union of Agricultural Workers, or with the others. I am not quarrelling in the one case, but it was exceptionally wrong of him not to have had consultations with either the National Farmers' Union or the Country Land-owners' Association. I know that the right hon. Gentleman has done neither of those two things. That is a pity. It is no good his trying to shrug it off. One of the things that the Government do not seem to do is to have consultation with those who are deeply involved in the actions they take.

11.0 p.m.

In preparing some of his later Amendments to provide amelioration in various ways, I am glad that the Minister has at last had consultation with the interests concerned. I can only repeat what a pity it is that he did not do this before. He has said at the Box that he will take action to ensure that the county court procedure is speeded up. He knows that, at present, very few, if any, licensees in tied cottages are evicted without court procedure of some kind.

Photo of Mr James Scott-Hopkins Mr James Scott-Hopkins , North Cornwall

I am glad to have the Minister's agreement. As one of my hon. Friends has pointed out, in this way the Minister will encourage farmworkers to take a different view of the law and of their position when they take occupation of a tied cottage. The Minister said that he will give them absolute security until they can be provided with alternative accommodation. They will know that if they leave their jobs tomorrow, they will be able to get work in another occupation. The Minister came to the Dispatch Box several times to contradict my hon. Friend the Member for Buckinghamshire, South (Mr. Ronald Bell), but he was not convincing.

The Minister said that he would give absolute security to the licensee until alternative accommodation was found for him. He knows as well as I do that it is not easy always to find alternative accommodation. An awkward licensee or agricultural worker could make it very difficult for a farmer to carry out his proper farming practices, to the great detriment of the animals, probably with cruelty to the animals, and certainly to the detriment of the national interest in agriculture. The Minister has completely failed to satisfy myself or, I hope, the Committee on this point.

It seems to me that the Minister is trying to break the tied cottage system. That is the object of what he is doing. I know that he describes the Bill as only a temporary Measure, the forerunner of the main legislation which he will introduce in four, five or six months' time, but this Clause is the forerunner of the breaking of the tied cottage system.

Can the Minister give any reasonable assurance that he will be able to amend or change the county court procedure? This is one of the factors that the farmers and their union are particularly anxious about. How long will be the delay before a farmer is able to go to the county court to have his summons heard for eviction of a tenant if the situation so warrants? The right hon. Gentleman has made vague promises of doing what he can to speed this procedure, but I do not understand how he will be able to do it. Perhaps he can elucidate this to the Committee. We should know before we part with the Clause.

As I have said, I do not want to weary the Committee—[HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear."]—I am more than willing to go on explaining why I find several parts of the Clause so unsatisfactory and the Ministers's explanation so extremely unsatisfactory and incomplete. The right hon. Gentleman has been trying to pull the wool over our eyes. By using a lot of words, and by making vague promises, he has been trying to make us accept this Clause. This is a completely radical innovation, not only in subsection (5), but elsewhere, too. I do not believe, as my right hon. Friend said during the Second Reading debate, that this Clause, which is the guts of the Bill, has been very carefully thought out. Indeed, the mass of amendments which the right hon. Gentleman has been forced to accept shows that this Clause was badly drafted, and badly thought out. Let him now deny that if he wishes to. I hope that he will take the Clause back and re-examine it, because there are still grave defects in it.

Photo of Mr James Allason Mr James Allason , Hemel Hempstead

Perhaps I might revert to the position of the local authorities. Do the Government intend them to be bound by the terms of this Clause? Or is there to be a different code of conduct for local authorities? I understood the right hon. Gentleman to say that they would have a different procedure for going to court. A private landlord is bound by a succession where the tenant dies. If a widower tenant dies, and one of the children of the marriage has moved into the house to look after him, that child becomes the tenant, or the occupier, and continues to pay the rent.

Is that to be the case with local authorities? They are interested in this, because there will be accusations of queue jumping. Is it the case that if a tenant dies and his child has moved into the house he has the right of possession? I should like some explanation of this

Question put and agreed to.

Clause ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Photo of Mr John Boyd-Carpenter Mr John Boyd-Carpenter , Kingston upon Thames

I beg to move,

That the Chairman report Progress and ask leave to sit again.

This is the conventional method in this Committee of eliciting, or should I say seeking to elicit—

Photo of Sir Samuel Storey Sir Samuel Storey , Stretford

Order. I am not prepared to accept that Motion at the moment.