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New Clause—(Appeal)

Volume 462: debated on Monday 7 March 1949

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Any person, including a local authority by whom a reference is made under the Act of 1946, aggrieved by a determination of the tribunal under this Act or the Act of 1946 may within twenty-one days from the date of the determination apply to have the question referred to the tribunal determined by a person selected from the panel of official arbitrators appointed under the Acquisition of Land (Assessment of Compensation) Act, 1919.— [Lieut.-Colonel Elliot.]

Brought up, and read the First time.

Lieut.-Colonel Elliot; Commander Galbraith; Mr. Walker-Smith.

The hon. Member is out of Order. As none of the hon. or right hon. Members on whom I called rose, we must pass to the next new Clause.

As it is a technicality that the proposed new Clause should be moved by somebody in whose name it stands on the Order Paper, I beg to move, "That the Clause be read a Second time."

If I wish to speak again I should ask the leave of the House, which I trust would not be withheld. I do not wish to dilate upon this proposed new Clause at present because my hon. Friend the Member for The High Peak (Mr. Molson) is, if I may say so, better acquainted with it than any of us, he having taken up this point particularly with the object of bringing it before the House.

I rather deprecate the practice of moving a new Clause and then making another speech later in the Debate.

We attach great importance to this new Clause, and we are still not without hope that the Minister will give consideration to the matter even at this late stage. Under the Furnished Houses (Rent Control) Act, 1946, no central appeal body was set up to coordinate the decisions that were given. Manifestly, the effect of this Bill will be to introduce this system of a notional reasonable rent in the case of an immensely larger number of properties than has been the case in the past. Surely it is of the utmost importance that there shall be the same criteria of reasonableness applied in all parts of the country.

I hope to speak on a later Amendment asking once more that general principles of guidance may be laid down, but if that Amendment is not accepted and all these tribunals are to be left to act in the light of their own judgment as to what is reasonable, almost inevitably there will be an immense variety of decisions arrived at in different parts of the country. Even if the Government are prepared to accept the later Amendment for some guidance to be given as to what principles the tribunals shall take into account, the experience of courts of law is that different courts arrive at different conclusions and it is necessary therefore to have a single court of appeal where conflicting decisions given in different parts of the country can be brought into harmony with each other.

I can think of nothing that would be more likely to bring this procedure into discredit than that we should see one tribunal in one part of London, acting in perfectly good faith and taking certain considerations into account, coming to a different conclusion to another tribunal in a neighbouring part of London also acting in perfectly good faith. We might find that what was considered to be a reasonable rent in one case was held not to be reasonable in another. It seems to us vital, whether these tribunals are good or bad, that some central appeal tribunal should be set up to bring decisions into harmony.

Good as many of these tribunals are, some have arrived at the most extraordinary decisions. I do not apologise for quoting this case again, because when I first raised it during the Committee stage the Minister was away having a very hurried dinner and I received no answer to it. The case concerns a decision taken by the Acton, Ealing, Hayes and Harlington tribunal, presided over by Miss Venetia Stevenson. My correspondent is an old client of 25 years ago whom I have not met since this Bill came before the House. He bought a house for himself during the war for £1,900 and purchased a similar house for £4,100 in 1947. He wanted to convert the second house into flats and to furnish them. He calculated to obtain a net profit of 3 percent. on the transaction. Three out of four of his tenants went to the tribunal and obtained a substantial reduction in rent, with the result that he is now making a net profit of £4 a year at a risk of about £8,000. If the fourth tenant goes to the tribunal and obtains a reduction he will be working at a loss. This case indicates the desirability of having some means whereby aggrieved persons may go to a single appeal tribunal which harmonises the decisions given by the tribunals throughout the country.

We are not wedded to the particular tribunal suggested in the new Clause. During the Committee stage we suggested an appeal to the county court, but the Minister took exception to that on the grounds that he thought it inappropriate when matters had been dealt with informally for an appeal to be made to a court of law. The exact tribunal is not the important point we want to urge. We say it is undesirable that a large number of tribunals should be set up without any guidance being given to them, being left with complete and free discretion without any means being provided whereby their decisions can be harmonised.

4.15 p.m.

The right hon. and gallant Member for the Scottish Universities (Lieut.-Colonel Elliot) suggested earlier that the Opposition had new Clauses later on the Order Paper which were of great substance, and this is one of them. This is of great substance, being short, simple, understandable and completely destructive of the Bill. It was intended in the 1946 Act to provide a simple tribunal to which ordinary people could apply to get a just decision on what they should pay for lettings. This Bill extends the powers of the tribunal in several respects, especially in regard to the fixation of rents for new lettings since 1939. That is the only extent to which the tribunals' powers are substantially extended.

It was always understood—because we followed the precedent of our colleagues in Scotland—that the best kind of tribunal would be one which was local. That is to say, it would have knowledge of the actual locality, it would be able to arbitrate on the facts of the case, it would be easily accessible to the people wishing to go before it, both principal tenants and sub-tenants, it would be informal so as not to frighten people, and it would be inexpensive so that people would not be deterred from seeking justice. I have resisted throughout any attempt to appeal against a tribunal because all those considerations would be absent from the appeal.

Where a tribunal is held to have exceeded its powers under the statute action can be taken in the courts to restrain it. It is for the courts to see that the tribunal confines itself to its statutory powers and obligations. But where there is an appeal from the determination of the tribunal the virtues of the tribunal are lost. Its simplicity, localism, inexpensiveness, informality and immediate relation to particular facts are lost. The effect of this new Clause would be to destroy not only the merits of the Bill but all the merits which the tribunals have had ever since they have been set up. I am astonished at the Opposition, at this late hour, should have sought to convince the House that we should carry this Clause, which is of an entirely destructive character.

The hon. Member for The High Peak (Mr. Molson) gave an illustration of what he considered to be an injustice against a landlord who bought a house at what seemed to be at an excessive cost. It is no part of our duty to protect a person against having made a bad bargain. All we can do is to see that he does not pass along to the lessee of the furnished letting the consequences of his own impropriety.

This is of the utmost importance, because throughout the whole proceedings on this Bill we have been trying in vain to obtain an understanding of the principles on which the Minister wishes the tribunals to act. If the house was bought at the end of the war at a high price, when the prices of all houses were high, are we to understand that the reasonable rent at which the landlord is expected to let the flats into which that house was converted may be such as would result in a loss to him?

We must take into account the conveniences and amenities that the tenants of the furnished lettings are having. Normally, tribunals do take into account the cost to the landlord of providing furnished lettings, but where an excess payment has been made by the landlord it would be against the spirit of the Bill if the pure cash element should increase payment for furnished lettings. What is paid should have some relationship to the conveniences which are being enjoyed. I do not intend to lay down directions, because once I do, then I have deprived the tribunals of the elasticity that they have possessed. But assuming that the case which the hon. Member made is a proper case. Suppose, in such a case, the tribunal misdirected itself. Does he intend to abolish the validity of the tribunal because of that? Because the Supreme Court, the House of Lords, sometimes reaches a decision which may be regarded by some as being foolish would he abolish it?

That is the whole point. In the case of the courts there is a single court of appeal which, rightly or wrongly, co-ordinates decisions over the whole country. Under this legislation there is nothing to prevent each tribunal from having a different series of cases decided on different principles.

That is beside the point, because I just mentioned the Supreme Court. Even if it could be shown that a tribunal such as the Supreme Court itself had reached what was considered to be an unreasonable conclusion, that is no reason at all for doubting its general validity. If it could be shown that according to the opinions of people who did not look at the facts, the tribunal had made a wrong decision, that is no reason why we should destroy the value of that tribunal entirely, as this Clause would do. It is not desirable, in these cases, that the decision should be in doubt; it is not desirable that we should import into this legislation machinery so complicated as to deter people from seeking from the tribunals what they want. I must resist the proposed Clause.

The Minister's argument is directed against having a court of appeal. That may be his view, but it is not the view which is taken by any system of justice—

The right hon. and gallant Gentleman did not ask leave of the House to speak a second time.

I thought it was tacitly given, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, but if I may I will, with the leave of the House, proceed with my argument. I am sure the Minister would be the last to desire that the argument should not be fully presented to the House. I fear that we shall have to divide the House on this Clause, because it is necessary to indicate——

The right hon. Gentleman said that the whole thing was coming to an end in 1947.

Yes, I have his quotation here. I am sure he is acquainted with his own statute. He not merely put it into the statute, but drew attention to it in his speech. The right hon. Gentleman said the whole thing would stop in 1947. Here he is extending the provisions to a very wide set of cases, and he is making this, so far as we can see, a permanent part of the machinery of justice. That deals with the right hon. Gentleman's point that the Bill extends to new lettings from 1939. It does not: it makes permanent a piece of machinery which was previously temporary.

The right hon. Gentleman argued that it was desirable for tribunals to be friendly and informal, that they should be capable of reasonable approach. I shall give the analogy of the pensions tribunals. If there is any class of man for whom it is desirable to provide a court to which he can go in an informal manner, and which will be a friendly and inexpensive way of giving a decision, surely it is a man who was wounded in defence of his country. This point was actually brought to the attention of the House by one who has a better right than anyone to do so, my hon. Friend the Member for Lonsdale (Sir I. Fraser) when he said:
"The whole feeling on all sides of the House when these tribunals were set up was that they should be homely affairs, not particularly formal, and not necessarily legalistic or following procedure in any well defined form, but friendly tribunals to which men could come with confidence and get fair judgment."

4.30 p.m.

I too know a great deal about this procedure and it is only fair to compare like with like. In the case of the assessment tribunal under the Pensions Appeal Tribunals Act, 1943, there is no appeal to a higher authority, only an entitlement, which is rather different.

The hon. Gentleman says it is rather different, but that is only a quibble. I am saying that these tribunals, to which both the Parliamentary Secretary and my hon. Friend the Member for Lonsdale was referring, were similar to this, and the phrase used by my hon. Friend the Member for Lonsdale was repeating words which the Minister previously used about the rent tribunals. I do not think he will deny that. The words "homely," "not formally," "not legalistic" as my hon. Friend the Member for Lonsdale said, are applicable, and this was not controverted at the time, but the Parliamentary Secretary says that appeals have been granted in a certain class of cases. He will not deny that there is entitlement, and everyone of us knows—

That is straining the matter too far. Entitlement is exactly the sort of thing that Parliament had in mind to be discussed and decided by these informal, friendly courts. The man should go before this body because he is entitled to do so. Naturally none of these cases are 100 per cent. identical with each other. I am merely giving an analogy when I say that the fact was brought out by my hon. Friend that a case can go to appeal. It has not been denied by the Parliamentary Secretary, who has a great experience of these matters. As my hon. Friend the Member for Lonsdale said:

"Here is a situation where between 30,000 and 50,000 cases go to the tribunals and only a few score of cases go to appeal on points of law. Moreover, there is value in allowing cases to go to appeal on points of law because one can get a directive from the superior court which comes to the tribunals and can assist in bringing about uniformity of judgment throughout the country."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 16th February, 1949; Vol 461, c. 1306.]
The Minister seems to be pleading a principle which goes very much further than the cases to which he would now seek to direct our attention. I could not make out from the Minister's argument anything that would limit the extension of that to other cases of appeal. It is a great advantage to have swift decisions. So swift was the decision taken at Jed-burgh that the man was hanged first and the trial took place afterwards. It was known as "Jedburgh justice," but it was never held up for imitation by superior tribunals and it has been generally frowned upon ever since. The Minister may desire an immediate decision, but a wrong decision is no better because it is a swift decision and because there is no appeal against it.

My hon. Friend the Member for The High Peak (Mr. Molson) instanced two cases cheek by jowl in two slices of London in which there might be a different decision with no means of bringing them into co-ordination. I put it to the House that this is an undesirable position if it is to be a permanent feature of our legislation and of our justice. That is where the fundamental difference arises between the Minister's original Bill and this Bill, and between a temporary and a permanent Bill. Naturally, we do not wish to labour the point, because it seems to us absolutely crystal clear. As the Minister says, our new Clause is simple, clear and important. He disagrees with us. We believe most strongly in this principle. and we shall take every opportunity of pressing it upon those who are responsible for carrying on the Government of this country.

Question put: "That the Clause be read a Second time."

The House divided: Ayes, 93 Noes, 154.

Division No. 74.]


[4.37 p.m.

Amory, D. HeathcoatHeadlam, Lieut.-Col. Rt, Hon. Sir C.Orr-Ewing, I. L.
Astor, Hon. M.Hinchingbrooke, ViscountPeake, Rt. Hon. O.
Baldwin, A. EHollis, M. C.Pato, Brig. C. H. M
Birch, NigelHolmes, Sir J. Stanley (Harwich)Raikes, H. V.
Boles, Lt.-Col. D. C. (Wells)Howard, Hon. A.Ramsay, Maj. S.
Bower, N.Hudson, Rt. 'Hon. R. S. (Southport)Reed, Sir S. (Aylesbury)
Boyd-Carpenter, J. A.Hurd, A.Robertson, Sir D. (Streatham)
Bromley-Davenport, Lt.-Col. WHutchison, Col. J, R. (Glasgow, C.)Robinson, Roland
Buchan-Hepburn, P. G. T.Jeffreys, General Sir G.Ropner, Col. L.
Butcher, H. W.Keeling, E. H.Ross, Sir R. D. (Londonderry)
Carson, E.Lancaster, Col. C. GSanderson, Sir F.
Challen, CLangford-Holt, J.Savory, Prof. D. L
Channon, H.Law, Rt. Hon. R, K.Snepherd, W. S. (Bucklow)
Conant, Maj. R. J. E.Legge-Bourke, Maj. E. A. HSmithers, Sir W.
Crookshank, Capt. Rt. Hon. H. F. C.Lennox-Boyd, A. T.Spearman, A. C. M.
Crosthwaitc-Eyrc, Col. O. EMaoAndrew, Col, Sir CStanley, Rt. Hon. O.
Crowder, Capt. John E.McCorquodale, Rt. Hon M. S.Strauss, Henry (English Universities)
Cuthbert, W. N.Macdonald, Sir P, (I. of Wight)Stuart, Rt. Hon. J (Moray)
Darling, Sir W. YMcFarlane, C. S.Studholme, H. G.
De la Bere, RMaclean, F. H. R. (Lancaster)Taylor, Vice-Adm. E. A. (P'dd"t"n, S.)
Digby, S. W.Macpherson, N. (Dumfries)Teeling, William
Dodds-Parker, A. DMaitland, Comdr. J. W.Thorneycroft, G, E. P. (Monmouth)
Drewe, C.Marlowe, A. A. HThornton-Kemsley, C. N
Elliot, Lieut.-Col. Rt. Hon. WalterMarshall, D. (Bodmin)Touche, G. C,
Erroll, F. J.Mellor, Sir J.Turton, R. H.
Fraser, H. C. P. (Stone)Molson, A. H. E.Tweedsmuir, Lady
Galbraith, T. G. D. (Hillhead)Morris, Hopkin (Carmarthen)Willoughby de Eresby, Lord
Gammans, L. D.Morrison, Maj. J. G. (Salisbury)York, C.
Gomme-Duncan, Col. ANeven-Spence, Sir BYoung, Sir A. S. L. (Partick)
Grimston, R. V.Nicholson, G.
Harvey, Air-Comdre, A. V.Nield, B. (Chester)


Head, Brig A. H.Odey, G. W.Brigadier Mackeson and
Colonel Wheatley.


Albu, A, H.Ganley, Mrs. C. SMitchison, G. R
Alexander, Rt. Hon. A. VGibbins, J.Monslow, W
Allen, A. C. (Bosworth)Glanville, J. E (Consett)Mort, D. L.
Allen, Scholefteld (Crewe)Greenwood, Rt. Hon. A. (Wakefield)Moyle, A.
Attewell, H. C.Greenwood, A. W. J. (Heywood)Murray, J. D.
Austin, H. LewisGrey, C. F.Neal, H. (Claycross)
Ayles, W. H,Guest, Dr. L. HadenPalmer, A. M. F
Bacon, Miss AGuy. W. H.Parker, J
Balfour, A.Haire, John E. (Wycombe)Parkin, B. T.
Barnes, Rt. Hon. A. J.Hall, Rt. Hon. GlenvilPaton, J. (Norwich)
Barstow, P. GHamilton, Lieut.-Col. RPiratin, P.
Barton, C.Hannan, W. (Maryhill)Popplewell, E.
Battley, J. R.Harrison, J.Porter, E. (Warrington)
Bechervaise, A E.Haworth, J.Porter, G. (Leeds)
Benson, G.Herbison, Miss MProetor, W. T.
Bevan, Rt. Hon. A. (Ebbw Vale)Hobson, C. R.Ranaall, H. E.
Bing, G. H. C.Holman, PReeves, J.
Blackburn, A. R.Hoy, j.Reid, T. (Swindon)
Blenkinsop, A.Hughes, H. D. (W'lverh'pton, W.)Ridealgh, Mrs. M.
Bowden, Flg. Offr. H. W.Hynd, j. B. (Attercliffe)Roberts, Goronwy (Caernarvonshire>
Bramall, E. A.Irvine, A. J. (Liverpool)Rogers, G. H, R.
Brook, D. (Halifax)Janner, B.Ross, William (Kilmarnock)
Brooks, T. J. (Rothwell)Jeger, G. (Winchester)Segal, Dr. S.
Brown, T. J. (Ince)Jenkins, R. H.Shackleton, E. A. A.
Bruce, Maj. D. W. T.Jones, D. T. (Hartlepool)Sharp, Granville
Burden, T. W.Jones, Elwyn (Plaistow)Silverman, S. S. (Nelson)
Castle, Mrs. B. AKendall, W. D.Simmons, C. J.
Champion, A. JKinley, J.Skeffington, A. M
Chater, D.Lee, F. (Hulme)Skinnard, F. W.
Chetwynd, G. RLeslie, J. R.Smith, S. H. (Hull, S.W.)
Cocks, F. S.Lipton, Lt.-Col. MSnow, J. W.
CoHick, P.Lyne, A. w.Solley, L. J.
Colman, Miss G. M.McAdam, W.Sorensen, R. W.
Cova, W. G.MsEntee, V La TSoskice, Rt. Hon. Sir Frank
Davies, Edward (Burslem)Mack, J. D.Sparks, J. A.
Davies, Ernest (Enfield)McKay, J. (Wallsend)Summerskill, Rt. Hon. Edith
Davies, Harold (Leek)McLeavy, F.Sylvester, G. O.
Deer, G.McNeil, Rt. Hon. H.Symcmds, A. L.
Driberg, T. E. N.Macpherson, T (Romford)Taylor, R. J. (Morpeth)
Dumpleton, C. W.Mainwaring, W. H.Taylor, Dr. S. (Barnet)
Edelman, M.Mallalieu, E. L. (Brigg)Thurtle, Ernest
Evans, Albert (Islington, W)Manning, C. (Camberwell, N.)Tiffany, S.
Evans, E. (Lowestoft)Manning, Mrs. L. (Epping)Titterirtgton, M. F
Farthing, W. JMathers, Rt. Hon. GeorgeTolley, L.
Foot, M. MMellish, R. J.Vernon, Maj. W. F
Fraser, T. (Hamilton)Middleton, Mrs. L.Viant, S. P.
Freeman, Peter (Newport)Millington, Wing-Comdr E. RWalkden, E

Wallace, G. D, (Chislehurst)Willey, F. T. (Sunderland)Youns, Sir R. (Newton)
Wallace, H. W. (Walthamslow, E.Williams, J. L. (Kelvingrove)
Warbey, W. N.Williams, W. R. (Heston)


Wheatley, Rt. Hn. John (Edinb'gh, E.)Willis, E.Mr. Pearson and
White, H. (Derbyshire, N.E.)Woodburn, Rt. Hon AMr. Richard Adams.
Whiteley, Rt. Hon. WYates, V. F

4.45 p.m.

On a point of Order. May I ask why the proposed new Clause standing in my name and dealing with the subject of premiums is not being called? It appears to me to fall within the provisions of the Bill, which is designed to

"provide in certain cases for the determination by a tribunal of standard rents for the purposes of the Rent and Mortgage Interest Restrictions Acts, 1920 to 1939."
The Bill also purports to deal, and I believe does deal with
"the adjustment of rents by a tribunal where premiums have been paid."
The Clause which is in my name on the Order Paper comes, in my respectful contention, within both those purposes.

The Financial Resolution dealt with the determination by tribunals of standard rents, for the purposes of the Rent and Mortgage Interest Restrictions Acts. The houses to which the proposed new Clause refers are those which are within the rateable values in those Acts. Every new Clause, with one exception moved today has sought to extend the duties of tribunals, particularly the new Clause which was moved by the Minister himself, in which he introduced for the first time provisions relating to the prohibition of premiums on grant or assignment of furnished lettings. There was no question of that sort of provision in the original Bill. It is true that I moved an Amendment to that effect during the Committee stage, and subsequently withdrew it. The new Clause which the Minister has moved places upon the tribunals duties and obligations which were not within the provisions of the Bill as originally drawn.

Nevertheless, I agree that the Minister's new Clause comes within the purview of the Bill. I think my proposed new Clause does so also. There could not have been any question when the Bill was introduced that the Bill was not intended to prevent the payment of premiums. Therefore, a Clause which is introduced with

the object of preventing frustration of the intentions of the Bill by a subterfuge surely must come within the Measure as originally proposed. It is my belief that the whole object of the Bill can be sidestepped by a person——

The hon. Member must not discuss the merits of the proposed new Clause which has been ruled out of Order. I am listening to a submission by him why he thinks that the proposed new Clause is in Order.

I think that the proposed new Clause is relevant for the reason that the Bill was introduced partly to prevent the payment of premiums, but is framed in such a way that anybody intending to avoid the intention for which the Bill——

The hon. Gentleman ought to know that the proposed new Clause is out of Order not because it is outside the Money Resolution or outside the scope of the Bill, but because it places new duties on the tribunals and thereby increases the charge. It is therefore out of Order because, without a recommittal of the Bill, the hon. Gentleman cannot move this Clause on the Report stage.

If that is so, my contention is that new Clauses which have already been accepted and which are entirely new proposals, come precisely within that category. I ask your Ruling, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, on the point I am making, having in view the fact that precisely the same arguments might be used in respect of the new Clause which was moved by the Minister dealing with the prohibition of premiums on the grant of assignment of furnished lettings. There cannot be the slightest doubt that that Clause will cause a tremendous increase of work to the tribunals, quite rightly of course. The new Clause which I am proposing would not impose anything like the same amount of additional duties upon them.

I cannot change my mind in spite of what the hon. Gentleman has said.