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Landlord And Tenant Act, 1958

Volume 640: debated on Tuesday 9 May 1961

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asked the Minister of Housing and Local Government and Minister for Welsh Affairs whether he is aware that many of the county court judges in London, the Home Counties and some provincial areas are gravely concerned at the impending expiry of the Landlord and Tenant Act, 1958, on 31st July next when they will no longer have any powers to give protection to tenants of decontrolled premises on hardship grounds; and whether, in view of their especial knowledge of the day to day working of this Act, he will consult with such county court judges as to the desirability of extending the Act for a further period.

Neither my right hon. Friend, the Lord Chancellor nor I have received any representations from county court judges. I do not think that any special action is called for.

Does my right hon. Friend realise that the county court judges do not think it part of their business to initiate legislation? They do not approach the Lord Chancellor or my right hon. Friend—they approach us, so that we can put it to my right hon. Friend. Will he hastily initiate some discussion on these lines because, although the cases of hardship may be limited, those that are hard are very hard, and something must be done to protect these people? We do not propose to stand by while an old gentleman of 86 in my constituency—with a crippled daughter in her sixties—who has been 61 years in the same house, is about to be thrown out. That will not be done without protest.

The number of cases coming to the courts under this Act is, in fact, falling all the time. If there is any question of the owner of the house seeking an extortionate rent the local authority can make a compulsory purchase order. If it is a case of some very old person, such as my hon. and learned Friend has mentioned, who cannot otherwise get accommodation, that is unquestionably the sort of case in which the local authority ought to take special action.

Does the right hon. Gentleman remember that the necessity for this Act arose because he under-estimated the hardships that would be caused by the Rent Act? It would be a great pity to cause further hardship by making a similar under-estimate on this occasion.