(1) The words, "To a covenant or condition against assigning, underletting, parting with the possession, or disposing of the land leased; or" in Sub-clause (i) of Subsection (6) of Section fourteen of the Conveyancing Act, 1881, are hereby repealed. This Sub-section only applies where the breach occurs after the commencement of this Act.
I beg to move, at the end of Sub-section (1), to insert the words
This is a provision which it is necessary to add as a safeguard. Under the Conveyancing Act of 1881, before re-entering or forfeiting a lease for breach of covenant, the lessor has to serve a notice, and so on, but the Section of the Act of 1881 does not extend to a covenant or condition against assignment. The Clause was put in this Bill to get over that difficulty, but, as drafted, I think it has gone a little too far. A lessee may assign to a company, and the company may at once go smash, and in that case I think the lessor would be in danger of losing his effective rights. Hence my Amendment. I am told in practice that it is a necessary qualification to put in the Bill as drafted."and the foregoing repeal shall not apply where the land leased has been assigned, underlet, parted with, or disposed of, to a limited company."
I think this is a most extraordinary Amendment. Clause 78 purports to repeal amongst other things, Section 14 of the Conveyancing Act of 1881, and then we are to have added at the end of the repeal Clause that the repeal is not to operate in certain conditions. I think, if it had been intrended—and it probably is intended—that where there has been a transfer of a leasehold to a limited company the original Sections of the Act should still apply, that ought to have been clearly and properly stated, but to repeal a Section, and then to say that for certain purposes it is not repealed, is to create a confusion in the law of the most difficult and objectionable character. I was given to understand that, this Bill was one to clear up the law and to reduce it, on a great many of these points, to a code that could be easily looked at, so that the law could be ascertained with reasonable facility, but the method adopted here is most confusing. As this is the Report stage, and it would appear to be almost impossible to suggest that the intention should be inserted in intelligible language at a later stage, I venture to think this Amendment ought not to be adopted, because of the confusion that would inevitably arise in forming a conclusion as to whether these particular Sections were still law or not.
I hope my hon. Friend will not press his opposition to this Amendment. If it is really put in short words, it is one of the simplest possible things to understand. This Clause does not repeal Section 14 of the Conveyancing Act, 1881; it repeals only a very few words in that very long Section. The effect of the Clause in the amended form now proposed may be stated in a few of the simplest words possible. As my hon. Friend knows very well, Section 14 of the Conveyancing Act, 1881, provides that relief against the forfeiture provisions in a lease may be given by the Court. There are certain cases where that relief may not be given, and one of those cases is the breach of a covenant against assigning, underletting, or parting with possession of the premises without licence. It has been held in the past that it would be reasonable—and I think my hon. Friend will agree—that the Court should be able to give relief against a forfeiture on that ground, and that was therefore the intention, to bring the Conveyancing Act up to date in the Bill; but attention has been drawn since to the fact that, if I may put it in simple, plain language, it is not an unusual form of swindle for people holding very valuable premises on lease occasionally to transfer them to a one-man company, or a rotten company of some kind, with no assets, for the express purpose of being able to get out of their liabilities for rent, and so on, under the lease. I therefore hope my hon. Friend will not press his opposition, for when the Clause gets into the text books it will be the simplest matter possible.
I was not arguing against the meaning and effect of what was clearly intended to be done, but against the very confusing way in which this Amendment was expressed.
This Bill, when it is an Act, will subsequently, as I said on Second Reading, be consolidated with other Acts, and we shall get all questions of drafting of this kind quite clear in the consolidating Act long before this Act comes into operation.
Amendment agreed to.