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Clause 39—(Interpretation Of Part Ii)

Volume 530: debated on Wednesday 21 July 1954

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Lords Amendment: In page 32, line 16, leave out "Increase of Rent and Mortgage Increase" and insert, "Rent and Mortgage Interest."

I beg to move, "That this House doth agree with the Lords in the said Amendment."

This also is a drafting Amendment to correct an error in the meaning assigned to "Act of 1939," which should be: "Rent and Mortgage Interest Restrictions Act, 1939."

Question put, and agreed to.

Lords Amendment: In page 32, line 44, at end, insert:

"and 'prescribe' shall be construed accordingly;"

I beg to move, "That this House doth agree with the Lords in the said Amendment."

This also is a drafting Amendment and was agreed to in another place without a Division. The interpretation Clause as drafted read:
" 'prescribed' means prescribed by regulations made by the Secretary of State."
In paragraph 7 (3, c), of the First Schedule the phrase used in giving the Secretary of State power to make regulations laying down the method of ascertaining the method of floor space is:
"in such manner as the Secretary of State shall prescribe."
It is necessary, therefore, to give some direction as to the construction of the word "prescribe."

This Amendment puzzles me. I assume that it is designed, or rather that it is necessary, to give a direction as to the construction of the word "prescribe." I should like to know how that is achieved by adding that

" 'prescribed' means prescribed by regulations made by the Secretary of State and prescribe' shall be construed accordingly."
I should have thought that neither gave direction nor construction. Perhaps it would be better if the phraseology of the Amendment had been expressed in this way:
" 'prescribe' means the course to be followed by the Secretary of State by regulations …"
In other words, why do not we, for example, in Clause 39, in the interpret tation of Part II of the Act, say, in regard to a local authority:
"local authority' in relation to dwellings means the council or the county council wherein the dwelling house is situated which local authority shall be construed accordingly."
Why not say that it shall be construed accordingly in all the interpretations on page 32? Perhaps the Lord Advocate would devote a little of his attention to this point to clarify it for the ordinary layman.

I am puzzled by this Amendment, which states:

" 'prescribed' means prescribed by regulations made by the Secretary of State."
It then goes on to say that
" 'prescribe ' shall be construed accordingly."
I agree with my hon. Friend that it does not make sense to a layman, and that it would be interesting to hear the legal explanation of these words.

By leave of the House, I will endeavour to clarify the matter. In the interpretation Clause as drafted, "prescribed", the past participle, meant prescribed by regulations made by the Secretary of State. But in paragraph 7 (3, c) of the First Schedule the phrase used in giving the Secretary of State power to make regulations laying down the method of ascertaining the floor area is:

" … in such manner as the Secretary of State shall prescribe …"
That is the present and not the past tense.

It is the word "prescribe" and not "prescribed." It is necessary, therefore, to give a direction as to how to construe the word. The Amendment has been put down to achieve that purpose.

I submit that the explanation given by the Lord Advocate makes that which was obscure still more obscure. It seems to me that the words which it is sought to add are redundant and that line 44 was clear enough as it stood. The words sought to be added make it far from clear. As the provision stands it reads:

" 'prescribed' means prescribed by regulations made by the Secretary of State."
If the word "prescribe" means that, surely that word will be construed accordingly. It is quite unnecessary and redundant to add the words
"and 'prescribe' shall be construed accordingly."
That makes nonsense of the provision. The Lord Advocate, calling in aid the other provision, tends to make the matter far more obscure. It is a simple provision as it reads now, and it will be made quite unintelligible by the addition of these words.

Question put, and agreed to.

Lords Amendment: In page 33, line 15, after second "tenant" insert

"(as defined in paragraph (g) of subsection (1) of section twelve of the Act of 1920)."

I beg to move, "That this House doth agree with the Lords in the said Amendment."

Perhaps it would be convenient to discuss at the same time the next Amendment, to line 16. The two Amendments were on the Order Paper for consideration on Report, but were withdrawn by me after it had been painted out, I think by the hon. Member for Hamilton (Mr. T. Fraser), that there had been a misprint on the Order Paper and that the paragraph to which reference was intended to be made was not properly indicated. The Amendments seek to cure that defect.

The object is to make it clear that the term "statutory tenant" covers all the types of statutory tenant according to the decisions, including a fairly recent decision in the House of Lords, to give the benefits which arise from that recent decision, and to include within the definition the widow of a contractual tenant where the contractual tenancy had passed to the contractual tenant's heir. Without the Amendment such a widow would not have the right under the Clause which it is intended she should be given. I think that the House will agree that it is only right that she should have that benefit.

We accept the Amendment most readily. We are happy to see that on this occasion the Government decided to define a tenant as a tenant and not as a standard rate of interest.

Question put, and agreed to.

Further Lords Amendment agreed to: In line 16, leave out from "Acts" to end of line 19 and insert:

"and not as being entitled to a tenancy."