I beg to move, That the Clause be read a Second time.
The point of the Clause is very simple. In previous rent Acts it has always been said that, if a mortgagor cannot get possession of his house from controlled tenants, then the mortgagee should not be permitted to get possession from the mortgagor. This is a perfectly reasonable and sensible proposition which found its way into the rent Acts, and I seek to introduce it here.
Obviously, we should control mortgages so that a mortgagee cannot enforce possession without applying to the court under the Bill if his mortgagor is unable to get possession from either controlled tenants or tenants who have the benefit of the Bill.
I cannot advise the Committee to accept this new Clause. This is a difficult problem. I understand—I have taken advice because I have not much experience of it myself—that the present mortgage restriction arrangements under the existing Acts are satisfactory. They are necessary because rents are paid. But under the Bill the court can take into account a burden of this kind in fixing rent or mesne profits.
We think that the smooth way of doing what is required is not to introduce further regulation of this kind but, rather, to leave it as one of the circumstances which a sensible judge would take into account when deciding what terms to arrange.
It seems to me that, both in this matter and in others, the Bill has no kind of relation to any previous rent Act. Every time we try to bring forward, as my hon. Friend the Member for Crosby (Mr. Graham Page) has done on this occasion, something which has been sacrosanct in previous legislation, we are told that it is not applicable under the Bill. Although I am on the side of the Government in wanting the Bill to work, I am beginning to wonder exactly what they are doing in the property world. This slim but rather stiletto-like Bill will cut right across the legislation of past years.
My hon. Friend has raised a point regarding the rights of a mortgagee vis-à-vis a mortgagor of a property of which possession cannot be obtained. The position is being changed. We are told that we should let matters take their course and let the judge make up his mind. That is all very fine, but let us spare a thought for the judges in these cases. We shall confront them with legislation which they will have to put into force in about the middle of January without giving them any guidance whatever. They cannot refer to previous principles of rent legislation.
I beg the Government to make sure, before we pass the Report stage and part with the Bill on Third Reading, that, without damaging the effect of the Bill and what they want to do, its terms are such that ordinary people and the judges and lawyers who will have to administer it can properly understand it. In some cases, apparently, one is supposed to look back to previous legislation; in others one should not. In some cases, the Bill will stand by itself, and in others goodness knows where it will stand. If it is important as emergency legislation, it is important enough to be drafted properly.
What is the position if a mortgagee gives notice of repayment of his mortgage and the house happens to be occupied by someone protected by the Bill? The time runs out and the mortgagor is unable to pay because he is unable to get possession of the property and sell it. What happens? The mortgagee is entitled to take possession of the property. Is he the owner of the property under the Bill and, therefore, prevented by Clause 1(3) from getting possession by means other than going to the court? I do not know from the wording of the Bill, and I am sure that the hon. Gentleman does not know either. I want this cleared up. My Clause would have cleared up the point in a perfectly simple manner.
The Bill does not alter the terms of the mortgage. It says that when the owner goes to court to deal with the tenant, the judge can take into account that there is the burden of the mortgage to be met. It deals with the rights of the tenant. It does not deal with the mortgagee.