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Leasehold Property (Temporary Provisions) Bill

Volume 486: debated on Monday 9 April 1951

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Order for Third Reading read.—[ King's Consent, on behalf of the Crown, signified.]

8.59 p.m.

I beg to move, "That the Bill be now read the Third Time."

I do not think it would serve the interests of the House were I to add very much on this occasion to what has already been said in the earlier examination of this Bill. The whole House is fully aware of its purpose, which is to maintain over a period of two years the existing situation in order to pave the way for permanent legislation dealing with this very complex problem of leasehold reform. The present Bill was essentially one for close and careful analysis in Committee and on Report. It has certainly been subjected to that analysis. I would express my obligation to hon. Members on both sides of the House for the contributions they have made which have served to render that analysis effective.

I do not think I can add anything to what has been said, but I would offer my word of tribute to the work of the Parliamentary counsel who have enabled the wishes of the House to be expressed in terms of legislative enactment. This is a short and highly technical, but nevertheless complicated Bill. It has been embodied in language which, though possibly not as pellucidly clear as some would wish it to be, is nevertheless, I think by common consent, as clear as it can be; and the Bill which results is certainly, I am sure everybody will agree, a thoroughly workable instrument.

9.2 p.m.

I join with the right hon. and learned Gentleman in the compliment he paid to the Parliamentary draftsmen for their ingenuity in dealing with this complicated Measure. This Bill has had a very protracted passage and has been the subject of close examination. Therefore it should not be necessary to engage in a long discussion on Third Reading. In the course of the discussions it has emerged that the criticisms we raised on Second Reading were well founded. As a result of the efforts we made the right hon. and learned Gentleman has accepted a number of suggestions. He has put forward provisions, I think inadequate, for preventing the depreciation of house property within the next two years and provisions for the recovery of possession if premises are used for immoral purposes.

The Bill still contains a good many defects but it has been improved. It has been called a standstill Measure although it tilts the scale considerably on one side. There is agreement from both sides of the House that something should be done to protect tenants who in these days of acute housing shortage find themselves having to live for some years in inadequate accommodation. I regret that the right hon. and learned Gentleman was not able to accept provisions in that regard. Part II of the Bill, relating to shops, we hope will work well. Part I has been improved and gives more protection to the tenant whom we should like to have protection, although it also gives protection to those not so deserving.

We do not intend to oppose the Third Reading of this Bill. We hope that some of the anomalies will be dealt with in further proceedings upon it, and that it will eventually operate to the advantage of the people of this country.

9.4 p.m.

I wish to ask my right hon. and learned Friend one question before this Bill is read the Third time. I am not what the Marx brothers would call a "legal eagle"—there have been many lawyers interested in this Bill and ordinary people are a little bit at sea about it—but it seems to me that a fundamental principle is raised in a letter I received today from one of my constituents representing a substantial body of opinion.

This is one particular example, but it might apply to many cases, and concerns a Congregational chapel at Carew Newton in Pembrokeshire. The landlord, Sir Thomas Meyrick, is asking for £100 freehold of this chapel and the trustees are having great difficulty in raising money to meet even half of that sum which they have tentatively offered to the owner of the freehold and which he has refused.

I understand that these properties may be affected by the Places of Worship (Enfranchisement) Act of 1920. Does this Bill in any way modify the protection which that Act gave to these places of worship, enabling trustees to purchase the freehold of their properties at a price which excludes the value of any dwelling and takes account of the value of the land only?

Question put, and agreed to.

Bill accordingly read the Third time, and passed.