I suppose that any hon. Member practising in the courts ought to declare an interest in connection with an Amendment which deals with costs and, therefore, I declare an interest at once. As the hon. Lady the Member for Wood Green (Mrs. Butler) said, the Amendment is very much in the wording of a Section in the Landlord and Tenant (Temporary Provisions) Act, 1958. As so many times in Committee and in today's debate, the Government have rejected Amendments from this side of the House endeavouring to produce logical points from the 1958 Act, I hope that the Government will be consistent and decline to accept this one as well.
It is not correct, as the hon. Lady said, that in possession cases costs follow the event. They do not in the county court. The county court judge has complete discretion under Order 47 of the county court rules, and he certainly does not exercise that discretion to order costs in favour of a successful litigant in a possession case. The principle adopted in possession cases is that the landlord who is claiming possession is trying to persuade the court to exercise discretion in his favour rather than to establish legal rights. Therefore, it does not follow that if he is successful the tenant is at fault or, if the tenant is successful in his defence, the landlord is at fault. The decision may be based on the judge's discretion in connection with hardship or reasonableness and it is frequently the practice that the county court judge declines to make an order one way or the other.
I do not feel strongly about the Amendment or whether or not it should be accepted. I feel that the county court judge should be left with his existing discretion. The way in which he exercises it is well known in the practice of the courts. I should have thought it sufficient to leave this matter to his discretion, exercising powers already given to him under Order 47 of the county court rules.