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New Clause—(Cost Of Structural Alterations)

Volume 65: debated on Tuesday 28 July 1914

The text on this page has been created from Hansard archive content, it may contain typographical errors.

(1) Where any premises, which with the consent, or knowledge of the landlord are used by the tenant as a dairy, by reason of any Milk and Dairies Order cannot continue to be so used unless the premises are altered or improved, the tenant may make such alterations or improvements as are reasonably necessary to enable the premises to continue to be so used, and recover from the landlord such proportion of the expenses incurred in executing such of the alterations or improvements being of a structural nature as may be just and equitable under the circumstances of the case, regard being had to the terms of any contract between the parties.

Provided that the tenant, before beginning to execute any such structural alteration or improvement, shall serve on the landlord notice in writing of his intention to execute the alteration or improvement together with particulars thereof; and

  • (a) If the landlord within twenty-eight days after the service of the notice, undertakes to execute the alteration or improvement within reasonable time the tenant shall not proceed with the execution thereof;
  • (b) If the landlord, within such time as aforesaid, serves notice on the tenant requiring that the reasonable necessity of the alteration or improvement be determined in manner provided by this Section, the tenant shall not proceed with the alteration or improvement unless and until it is so determined to be reasonably necessary or except in accordance with and subject to the terms and conditions, if any, attached to such determination.
  • (2) An alteration or improvement shall not be deemed to be reasonably necessary if, having regard to the cost thereof, the nature of the premises, the conditions of the contract of tenancy, and the other circumstances of the case, the discontinuance of the use as a dairy of the premises, or the part proposed to be altered or improved, may reasonably be required by the landlord.

    (3) Any question as to the reasonable necessity of any alteration or improvement or as to the proportion of the expenses to be paid by the landlord shall in default of agreement be determined—

  • (a) where the premises form part of a holding to which the Agricultural Holdings Act, 1908, applies by a single arbitrator in accordance with the provisions set out in the Second Schedule to that Act as modified by this Section; and
  • (b) in any other case, by a court of summary jurisdiction.
  • (4) An arbitrator shall so far as practicable act on his own knowledge and experience and shall not, except in such cases as the Board of Agriculture and Fisheries otherwise direct, hear counsel or expert witnesses.

    (5) Section fifteen of the Agricultural Holdings Act, 1908, which enables a landlord to obtain an order charging a holding with repayment of the amount paid or expended by him in respect of an improvement to which that Section refers, shall apply to any payment or expenditure made or incurred by a landlord in respect of any alteration or improvement to which this Section refers executed by the landlord or a tenant on a holding to which the Agricultural Holdings Act, 1908, applies.

    Clause brought up, and read the first time.

    I beg to move, "That the Clause be read a second time."

    I venture to express the hope that this New Clause will meet with the approval of the House. A very similar Clause appears in the Milk and Dairies (Scotland) Bill, as amended by the Standing Committee, and a similar Clause also appeared in the Milk and Dairies Bill of the last and preceding Sessions. At the present time the Dairies, Cowsheds and Milkshops Order, 1885, puts upon the occupier of a dairy or cowshed the obligation of carrying out any requirements of the local authority there-under whether those requirements relate to the sanitary condition or the structural condition of the dairy. In many cases cow-keepers occupy their premises on short tenancies and it is most unfair to ask such an occupier to carry out alterations to the structure of the dairy which will materially enhance the value of the dairy and at the expiration of the tenancy continue for the benefit of the landlord. In such cases it is believed that the local authorities often hesitate to enforce, and sometimes abstain from enforcing, the provisions of the Order on account of the inequity of putting such a serious charge on the occupier.

    The Clause is carefully framed so as to safeguard the position of the landlord. Before the tenant can recover from the landlord any portion of the expense of carrying out structural alterations he must serve twenty-eight days' notice on the landlord, and on receipt of that notice the landlord may either undertake to carry out the alterations himself or he may serve a counter notice on the tenant requiring that the reasonable necessity of the alterations shall be determined by arbitration or by a court of summary jurisdiction. It is thought that the machinery of the Clause will work well and that it will enable local authorities to secure the carrying out of necessary alterations in cases where hitherto they have been reluctant to do so on account of their inability to require the landlord to bear any part of the expense incurred in improving his freehold. This Clause is one which will be in harmony with the other Clauses of the Bill, and I trust that the House will, in their wisdom, decide to support it.

    I beg to second the Motion.

    It is obvious that this Bill is one to safeguard the health of the public, and it proposes to place new responsibilities upon the producers of milk and the salesman. It is going to make the production and sale of milk more expensive, and if extra burdens are thrown upon the small men it may have the effect of driving them out of the trade altogether. That would throw the trade into the hands of the bigger men and would probably lead to the sale of milk being a municipal undertaking. That may be a good or a bad thing, but it is not the object of this Bill. In fairness and justice to the smaller men, I think this Clause might reasonably be added to the Bill. The Clause has been drafted well, and it holds the balance between landlord and tenant The interests of both are safeguarded, and I confess that I cannot see why the House should not now accept this Clause unanimously. Since my name has applied to this Clause I have received many letters from people interested, telling me how pleased they are that a Clause of this kind is going to be proposed.

    I sincerely hope that the House will not accept this new Clause, because if they do I fear that it will wreck the Bill. The right hon. Gentleman, in introducing this measure, gave us to understand that the Clauses in the former Milk and Dairies Bill relating to premises were not intended to be placed in this Bill in order to smooth its passage through the House, and he promised to deal with premises if at all through the medium of the Order provided for in Clause 2. If this Clause is incorporated in the Bill it will cause many difficulties and the first of them will be consequent upon the fact that a large number of premises are at present used as cowsheds which were never intended for the purpose, and which are now used by a concession on the part of the landlord owing to the recent development of the milk-selling trade.

    Many of these buildings are barns and other like premises never intended for that purpose and if the tenant seeks to throw a charge upon the landlord to meet the expense he has incurred in transforming them into buildings suitable for the housing of cattle the first effect will be that the tenant will get notice to quit the premises as not having-been intended for the purpose and likely to cause the landlord an amount of expense which he never anticipated. The result would be that milk production would be seriously hampered, and not only that but milk itself would become a much more costly product owing to its increased scarcity. My other objection to" the Clause is that it is irrelevant to a Bill of this character. It is relevant, if at all, to an Agricultural Holdings Bill. In my humble opinion, a large amount of what is desired in this Clause can already be effected under the Agricultural Holdings Act of 1908, and what cannot be so effected can only be properly secured by an Amendment of that Act and not by any extension of the Milk and Dairies Bill. I certainly hope that the right hon. Gentleman will not accept this Clause, because I am quite sure that it will imperil the passage of the Bill.

    I would also respectfully appeal to my hon. Friend not to press this Clause upon the House on this occasion. I have not the slightest objection to the proposal in this new Clause in so far as it brings the liabilities of the landlord more rapidly into force, but I feel that you cannot deal satisfactorily with the whole problem of premises that applies not only to rural dairies, but also to every milk shop in the east end of London and all large towns. You cannot deal with the problem of the premises thoroughly, exhaustively, or really effectively by means of a Clause brought into the Bill at this stage, or by this particular Clause. Part' of the Clause is already, in my opinion, law, part of it can be best done by an Agricultural Holdings Act Amendment Bill, and that part which refers to small premises in large towns would require, I think the He use will agree, to be dealt with separately, because in every case you v ant to make the premises better, and to do it in such a way as not to interfere with the trade and not to give improper privileges to the landlord or to make it too easy for him to hamper the trade. These are difficult questions, to which I hope the House will address itself when it has a better opportunity, but I would appeal to the House whether it is not worth while allowing this Bill to become law. It has behind it an immense con-census of opinion, both in town and country, and we ought not to lose a Bill which is good so far far as it goes, by putting into it a Clause, admirable in intention, good in many of its particulars, but yet inadequate to deal with the very subtle and difficult problem of the premises.

    I would like to add a word to the arguments used against this proposed Clause. If hon. Members realised how wide the interpretation of the word "dairy" will be, they would see at once the danger of inserting such a Clause. The word "dairy," in addition to the ordinary meaning which we probably associate with it in our minds, includes:—

    "Any farm, cowshed, milk store, milk shop, or other place from which milk is supplied on or for sale or in which milk is kept or used for purposes of sale or manufacture into butter, cheese, dried milk or condensed milk for sale."
    And so on. I am not at all sure that it does not include the A.B.C. shops, but at all events it includes a very wide type of premises. Practically all buildings on farms would come under this definition. It is certainly not right, if a tenant turns a farm into a dairy farm that he should be allowed to impose an obligation of this kind on his landlord merely by giving him notice that he is keeping cows and using the farm as a dairy farm. It takes a long time for a landlord to get rid of a tenant or stop a thing of that kind. Suppose a landlord receives information, either by way of formal notice or otherwise—that a farm which may be intended for other purposes is being turned into a dairy farm at the commencement of a yearly tenancy, it will take him nearly two years under the existing law to insist on any change and during that time he may have been compelled to entirely alter the nature of the buildings in order to bring them within the requirements of the Act.

    I can give the House a case of quite recent occurrence in my own district and within my own knowledge. A man took a large cottage standing in about a quarter of an acre of garden ground together with a range of buildings which had Been previously used as a wheelwright's shop and a wood store, backing on the main road, without ventilation, drainage or anything of the kind. The man had some grass land on a different estate on the other side of the road and the first notice the landlord had that the cottage and shed had been turned into a dairy came in the form of an intimation from the sanitary authority that a nuisance was being committed and that the buildings were unfit for the purposes for which they were being used. In fact fifteen or sixteen cows were being kept in the wood shed. If this Clause were put into the Bill before the landlord could alter that state of things he would be compelled, whether he liked it or not—and whether the farm was suitable or not—to put these buildings into the necessary sanitary condition for keeping cows. I would urge on the House that even if at any future time it desires to have a Clause of this sort in a Bill it should insist on consent and not mere knowledge on the part of the landlord.

    To the principle of this Clause little objection can be taken. Viewed in isolation and by itself one could accept it. If structural alterations are necessitated then I think it is right the landlord should be called upon to do his share. But this Bill says nothing whatever about structural alterations: they are not mentioned in the measure from the first page to the last. It was different with the Bills of my right hon. predecessor—the present President of the Board of Trade. His Bill did contemplate making certain structural alterations in dairies and cowsheds. The Scottish Bill contains a Clause to that effect, but in view of the fact that this Bill does not touch this question, and we prefer to rely on the powers, such as they are, in the existing law, I submit to the House it is not necessary to introduce the topic by importing into the Bill the Clause proposed by my hon Friend. Remember that this Bill, if it is to pass, must pass as a generally agreed measure, and as it is quite clear that this Clause meets with considerable opposition from both sides of the House I trust my hon. Friend will be good enough not to press it.

    I wish to emphasise one fact whether my hon. Friend presses his Clause to a vote or not, and it is that this is a compromise measure, I am surprised that because it is proposed to put in something which does not please the farmer or dairyman, we should be told that the Bill will be lost. Those of us who have been sitting for a long period upstairs on this Bill have no desire that it should be lost, but we are not prepared to allow this occasion to go by without emphasising the price which will be paid for getting it through if this Clause is not to be put to a Division. The Clause is absolutely required. So required was it considered that it was put in previous Bills by the Government themselves, and it is in the Scottish Bill which has passed through the Scottish Grand Committee and will have behind it, when it comes before the House, the whole force of that Committee. It is a thoroughly just Clause. Under this Bill dairymen throughout the country will have to put their places in different repair from that in which they are at the present time. It is said that the Bill does not deal with structural matters, but the moment the inspector goes round to enforce the provisions of the Bill he will have to deal with structures that are used by the dairymen. All this will fall on the farmer or the person who owns the dairy. Because we have asked for what is just and fair, namely, that the person should be compensated for some of the unexhausted improvements he puts into the buildings, we are told that if we go on with the Clause the Bill will be lost.

    If the hon. Member who has just sat down feels so strongly on this question it is surprising that he did not bring the matter forward in Committee. This matter was not raised in Committee. I understand that when the Bill was before the Standing Committee, the limitations which the right hon. Gentleman sketched out on the Second Reading of the Bill were duly observed, the Bill was treated as one dealing with the regulation of the milk supply, and all questions of buildings were strictly left out of account. I agree with what the right hon. Gentleman has said, and I hope this Clause will not be read a second time.

    In view of the very strong remarks made as to the Bill being endangered, may I ask the permission of my Seconder to the proposal being withdrawn?

    Motion and Clause, by leave, withdrawn