Skip to main content

Clause 12—(Special Provisions Regarding Subletting Of Crofts Not Adequately Used)

Volume 643: debated on Wednesday 5 July 1961

The text on this page has been created from Hansard archive content, it may contain typographical errors.

I beg to move, in page 14, line 6, to leave out from "a" to the end of the subsection and to insert:

"preliminary notice setting out their opinion as aforesaid and stating that, unless he satisfies them within one year from the date of the service of such preliminary notice that he is making adequate use of his croft, the Commission may, in accordance with the provisions of the next following subsection, serve on him a notice of requirement to sublet.
The Commission may at any time withdraw a preliminary notice served by them on a crofter under this subsection.
(2) Where a crofter on whom a preliminary notice has been served under the foregoing subsection fails to satisfy the Commission within the period mentioned in that subsection that he is making adequate use of his croft, the Commission may, within one month from the expiry of that period, serve on such crofter a notice stating that, subject to the provisions of the next following subsection, the croft will, on the expiry of one month from the date of the service of the notice or such longer period as may be specified in the notice, become subject to a requirement that it be sublet".
Perhaps it would be of convenience to the House if we discussed with this Amendment the Amendments in lines 10, 11 and 18.

There was very considerable discussion in Standing Committee on the provisions of this Clause which deals with the Commission's power, in the last resort, to arrange for the sublet of a croft which has not been adequately used. As my hon. Friend the Joint Under-Secretary explained, it has been one of our main considerations in framing this Clause that there should be full consultation and negotiation with the crofter in the first place. We have been in no doubt that in approaching these cases the Commission would inevitably consult with the crofter to advise, persuade and help him to bring his croft into adequate use; and only if these informal efforts failed would the Commission set in motion the formal procedure with a notice that the croft would become subject to requirement to sublet.

In these circumstances it seemed on balance preferable not to circumscribe the Commission in the time devoted to such preliminary consultations and advice. In some cases it might spend a great deal of time, feeling that the crofter would in fact improve his use of the croft; in others where there was flagrant neglect and the crofter was clearly unable or unwilling to bring his croft into adequate use the Commission would come to the issue of a notice more quickly. On the other hand, it can be argued that it would help both the Commission and the crofter if there were provision in the Statute requiring preliminary notice of inadequate use to be given by the Commission and allowing the crofter a reasonable period in which to satisfy the Commission that he was now making adequate use of his croft.

In the light of the discussion in Standing Committee, my hon. Friend the Joint Under-Secretary concluded and it was agreed that it would meet the general wishes of the Committee to provide for a year's preliminary notice. The first of these Amendments in page 14, line 6, makes that provision. The Amendment also implements a further undertaking made by my hon. Friend when the matter was being discussed in Standing Committee. It enables the Commission to withdraw a preliminary notice at any time. This is only reasonable, since the crofter may well satisfy the Commission as to his use of the croft long before the expiry of the year's preliminary notice.

The Amendment finally deals with a point, which was raised in Standing Committee, concerning the notice issued by the Commission to a crofter who after the year's preliminary notice still fails to satisfy the Commission that he making adequate use of his croft. It was felt that the period of one month, within which the crofter may refer the question to the Secretary of State, did not take account of the circumstances of particular crofters whose work, as has been pointed out, might take them away from the croft and in whose case delivery of the notice might take some time. My hon. Friend explained that he recognised the difficulty that might arise in particular cases, and to meet this difficulty he undertook to include in the subsection a provision enabling the Commission to specify in the notice a longer period than one month where necessary. This the Amendment does.

The other three Amendments, in lines 10, 11 and 18, are consequential on the first Amendment. Two of them, those in lines 10 and 18, are necessary due to a renumbering of the subsection. The third allows the crofter the same length of time to refer to the Secretary of State the question of whether he is making adequate use of his croft as is provided in the notice telling him when the croft will become subject to a requirement that it be sublet. This would be a month in the normal case, or such longer period as the notice may specify to meet any particular difficulty in the individual case. I hope that with that explanation the Committee will feel that these Amendments provide what is desired by hon. Members.

There is no doubt at all that these Amendments make a considerable improvement to the Bill and particularly to this Clause. But also there can be no doubt that the Clause will remain most objectionable even after being amended. The Amendments provide in crofter agriculture the kind of powers which existed for the whole of agriculture for a great many years until they were discontinued by the 1958 Act. No requirement is put on the occupier of any other agricultural land in this country to make adequate use of his land. We require the taxpayer to find about £270 million of subsidy for agriculture generally. Yet about three years ago, at the invitation of the Government and against the wishes of the Opposition, Parliament discontinued the power requiring the adequate use to be made of agricultural land.

Here, we are dealing with the least attractive land in the whole of the United Kingdom, this bogland cultivated by crofters in the seven crofting counties. No one will deny that it is the poorest agricultural land in the United Kingdom, and that they are the poorest husband-men in material terms that one could find anywhere in the United Kingdom. Yet they are the people selected by the Secretary of State on whom to place a requirement that they shall continue to make adequate use of the land of which they have the tenancy occupation.

It is true that, as originally drawn, the Clause did not provide for any warning or for what is now called a preliminary notice. It just gave dictatorial powers to the Commission to decide that a crofter was not making adequate use of his land and then, almost willy-nilly, the Commission could sublet the land. We pleaded that the Clause should be withdrawn. We voted against it in Committee, notwithstanding the improvement which had been made and the undertaking that it would be amended in the way in which it will be by the acceptance of these Amendments.

The Amendment which has been moved does not worsen the Clause but greatly improves it. However, the Clause will be objectionable even after it has been improved, because it puts a requirement on the crofter adequately to cultivate his land. No such requirement is put on the wealthiest farmers in the country who receive more public money than the crofters. Indeed, some of them receive more money than is paid to all the crofters put together.

This Amendment improves the Clause. As I have said several times, in future crofters will need to be lawyers. After reading this they will also need to be expert mathematicians. I am not sure that I have got the mathematics right, but there is a preliminary notice—a warning—

It being Ten o'clock, the debate stood adjourned.

Proceedings on Government Business exempted, at this day's Sitting, from the Provisions of Standing Order No. 1 (Sittings of the House).—[ Mr. Maclay.]

Question again proposed, That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Bill.

After the year is up at any time within one month the Commission may serve a notice, that is, the definite notice that it is requiring the croft to be sublet. Then, as I understand, the crofter has a month during which he may appeal to the Secretary of State. However, the Secretary of State appears to be at large; there is no time limit, so far as I can see, within which he has to consider any appeal. If there is no appeal then there is another month, and after that there is a notice that within one month the crofter has to sublet the croft.

I am not quite sure whether this comes, in all, to one year and three months, or one year and four months, or one year and five months. I hope that whoever will reply to the debate will make that crystal clear. I should also like it to be confirmed that there is no time limit on the time which the Secretary of State may have for consideration on appeal.

I shall try to help the hon. Gentleman the Member for Orkney and Shetland (Mr. Grimond). I am rather surprised that he does not know the answers already, because we went over and over this in Standing Committee. Perhaps it was on a day—probably it was the only day of the whole 23 sittings of the Committee—that he was not with us.

We have a preliminary notice of one year, and after that, if the notice is not withdrawn, or the Commission is not satisfied that the crofter is making adequate use of his land, then it can serve a notice on him that he may be required to sublet, and then he is given one month in which he has to make up his mind whether or not he is going to appeal to the Secretary of State, and that month is the same month—

I am sorry, but it is exactly the same month:

"Where a notice is served under subsection (2) of this section on a crofter by the Commission and either no reference is made … by the crofter or on such a reference the Secretary of State confirms the notice, the Commission may, within one month from the last date on which a reference might have been made … or from the date on which the notice was confirmed …as the case may be, serve on the crofter a further notice …"

May I assist the Under-Secretary of State? I begin to think that neither of us was there on that day of the Committee. Surely, when the year is up, according to the Amendment, the Commission has a month. It may allow, presumably, 30 days to go by before it serves notice on the crofter, a month during which he has a right to appeal, and the right begins to run from the date the Commission serves the notice. It surely cannot be the same month.

That one month is the same month, and if the crofter has not taken his opportunity of appealing to the Secretary of State, then he is required to find a sub-tenant. In the new Amendment we are giving the crofter three months during which he may find his sub-tenant. It is only at the end of that time that the Commission can take a decision to sublet compulsorily.

I am certainly new to this problem, not having had the benefit of being on the Standing Committee, but I must confess that, after hearing this discussion tonight, I am more confused than ever. As I understand, one year elapses. I do not say twelve months, so as not to bring the House into even more confusion. One year elapses. At the end of that year what time has the Commission before it serves a notice? Can it wait for a month, two months, or three months? Or does it serve a notice within a month?

As I understand, the Joint Under-Secretary is saying, in effect, that on the date the notice is received, a month runs from that date, which is the month in which the crofter has to make his appeal. It is the same month in that regard. The hon. Member for Orkney and Shetland (Mr. Grimond) wants to know what time then elapses for the Secretary of State for Scotland to make up his mind after he receives the appeal, and whether the time is unlimited at that point. The Secretary of State might be very busy and the other crofter sent to see the Secretary of State might be busy and, therefore, six months might elapse before the decision is taken.

If the Secretary of State refuses the appeal, is it then that the crofter has three months to enable him to get a sublet before the Commission takes action?

With the permission of the House, I shall try to get this right. I agree that it is very confusing and that the more one goes over it the more confused one is inclined to get. We have a preliminary notice of a year. That, I think, is not in dispute. At the end of that time, the Commission may, within one month from the expiry of that period, serve on the crofter a notice stating that subject to the provision the croft will, on the expiry of one month from the date of the service of that notice, become subject to a requirement. The first month there is so that the threat, so to speak, is not hanging over the crofter's head for an indefinite period and, therefore, the Commission must decide whether the axe is to come down, and whether it should take action, and the Commission has only a month in which to do that.

From the period of the service of that notice, the crofter has a month in which to make up his mind whether or not he will appeal to the Secretary of State. Assuming that he appeals to the Secretary of State, then, as the hon. Gentleman surmises, the Secretary of State can take as long as he wishes to make up his mind. But once the Secretary of State has done so and has come down not in favour of the crofter, but against the crofter, so to speak, and the crofter comes under an obligation to sublet his croft, he then has three months in which to find his sub-tenant, I am grateful to the hon. Member for Dunbartonshire, West (Mr. Steele) for doing a bit of arithmetic while all this has been going on, because I cannot quite make up my mind how far we have got in months and days.

The answer to the hon. Gentleman is that it all depends on how long the Secretary of State takes to make his decision. If he attends to this matter with his customary speed and diligence, I have no doubt it will be about two and a half years that the right hon. Gentleman will have to consider this matter. I agree with the hon. Member for Orkney and Shetland (Mr. Grimond) that this should be put in clear form. Would it not be possible to put a Schedule at the end of the Bill with a small table showing the twelve months' preliminary notice and the other in a month, and so on, so that the crofter can see what time he has? That may not be possible, but it might be a good thing if something like that could be done, because it is very difficult to understand what this Clause means.

I do not want unduly to restrict the debate, but the difficulty is that if we draft other Amendments we shall be out of order. We have to discuss the Amendment on the Notice Paper and not another one.

I am grateful for your guidance, Mr. Speaker, but we are discussing this Clause and all I suggest is that it is exceedingly difficult to understand. This has been proved by the fact that different hon. Members have already asked how long a period this is and what the provisions are. The same thing happened in Standing Committee and the Joint Under-Secretary himself was not quite sure of the answer. I have simply made a suggestion for the hon. Gentleman's consideration when the Bill goes to another place. It might be no good, but on the other hand it might be good.

Amendment agreed to.

Further Amendments made: In line 10, after "the" insert "last".

In line 11, leave out from "may" to "refer" in line 12 and insert:

"at any time before his croft becomes subject, in terms of such notice, to a requirement that it he sublet".—[Mr. Leburn.]

I beg to move, in page 14, line 15, to leave out from "and" to "may" in line 16 and to insert:

"if the crofter does not object to such consultation, after consulting with any grazings committee appointed under section twenty-four of the Act of 1955 in respect of common grazings in the township in which the croft is situated".
The subsection which it is proposed should be amended by this Amendment deals with the situation arising When the crofter has been served by the Commission with a notice that his croft may be subject to the requirement that it be sublet and has referred the matter to the Secretary of State. As drafted, subsection (2) provides that before deciding whether to annul or confirm such a notice the Secretary of State must offer the crofter an opportunity of making representations to him.

When the matter was considered in Standing Committee, the hon. Member for the Western Isles (Mr. Malcolm MacMillan) put down an Amendment proposing that before reaching his decision on the matter the Secretary of State should invariably consult the township's grazings committee. I indicated then that, while I accepted the idea that such consultation might be useful at this stage, I thought that there might be occasions when the crofter concerned might not wish the grazings committee to be consulted. The crofter might not be persona grata with the committee or might have some other reason for not wanting to be consulted. I think that the hon. Member for the Western Isles generally agreed with this point of view.

Accordingly, in bringing forward the Amendment we have provided that the Secretary of State shall at this stage consult the grazings committee if the crofter does not object to such consultation.

Amendment agreed to.

Further Amendment made: In line 18, leave out "(1)" and insert "(2)".—[ Mr. Leburn.]

I beg to move, in line 26, to leave out "one month" and to insert "three months".

The Amendment fulfils an undertaking which I gave in Committee. Its effect is to extend the time limit involved in procedure under the Clause where the Commission may require the crofter to sublet his croft. The period in question is the length of time allowed to the crofter to enable him to find a subtenant of his own. In the Bill as drafted a period of one month is allowed to enable him to find a sub-tenant, but I am sure that all hon. Members would agree that it is preferable to allow him three months. When I was doing my arithmetical timetable I anticipated this when I spoke about three months.

I suggest that the hon. Gentleman should also consider adding another month to enable the crofters to understand this Clause.

Amendment agreed to.

10.15 p.m.

I beg to move, in page 14, line 41, at end to insert:

"and any reference in this or the next following section to proposals submitted to the Commission under subsection (3) of this section and approved by them shall include a reference to conditions imposed by the Commission under this subsection in giving their approval to such proposals".
This Amendment is very nearly a drafting one, proposed for clarification. Clause 12 (5) enables the Commission, when giving approval to proposals submitted by a crofter for subletting a croft, to impose conditions other than any conditions relating to rent. Later in this Clause, and in Clause 13, reference is made to a sublease of a croft granted by the crofter in accordance with proposals submitted to and approved by the Commission.

When the Bill was in Standing Committee, the hon. Member for Hamilton (Mr. T. Fraser) raised the question of whether the proposals submitted by the crofter and approved by the Commission included any conditions imposed by the Commission. The purpose of the Amendment is to make it clear that the crofter's proposals, when approved by the Commission, shall include any such conditions.

Amendment agreed to.

I beg to move, in page 15, in line 5, to leave out from "shall" to "the" in line 7 and to insert:

"consult with any grazings committee appointed under section twenty-four of the Act of 1955 in respect of common grazings in the township in which the croft is situated, and thereafter the Commission shall, if they propose to grant such sublease, serve on the landlord of the croft and on the crofter a notice to that effect which shall also specify".
Clause 12 (7) outlines the procedure to be followed by the Commission when it has reached the stage where it requires the grant of a croft sublease, the crofter himself having failed to respond to the opportunity to arrange a sublease. The purpose is to ensure that, before granting any sublease, whether it includes a right of common grazings or not, the Commission shall consult the grazings committee for the township.

In Standing Committee, hon. Members on both sides stressed the desirability of drawing on the local knowledge possessed by grazings committees, and also the need to strengthen these committees by enabling them to play a full part in the life of the community. The Amendment provides that the township grazings committee will be consulted by the Commission before the Commission notifies a crofter and his landlord of its proposals for subletting a croft.

Amendment agreed to.

I beg to move, in page 15, line 19, at end to insert:

"and the Commission shall also make a record of the condition as at the date of entry under the sublease of any fixed equipment let thereunder.
(9) A sublease of a croft granted by the crofter in accordance with proposals submitted to the Commission under subsection (3) of this section and approved by them, or by the Commission under subsection (6) of this section, shall not, unless the crofter so wishes, include—
  • (a) any dwelling-house or garden ground forming part of the croft;
  • (b) any buildings or other structures erected, or any works executed, on the croft which, by virtue of subsection (2) or (3) of section five of this Act, are permanent improvements on the croft;
  • (c) such part of the croft as the Commission shall determine, being a part which (taken together with the site of any dwelling-house, garden ground, buildings, structures or works which, by virtue of the foregoing provisions of this subsection, are not included in the sublease) extends to one acre;
  • (d) any right pertaining to the tenancy of the croft to cut or take peat".
  • I believe that it would be convenient for the House to discuss the remaining Government Amendments to page 15 at the same time.

    That is so, Mr. Speaker. The first purpose of the Amendment is to provide that, when the Commission grants a sublease on a croft, it shall make a record of the condition at the date of entry of any fixed equipment included in the sublease. Such a record will be useful when the sublease comes to an end. It will facilitate the determination by the Land Court of any question arising under Clause 12 (12, b) as to whether any sum is payable by the subtenant to the crofter in respect of any deterioration of improvements included in the sublease.

    The other purpose of the Amendment is to meet the view, expressed in Standing Committee, that certain subjects should be excluded from any sublease granted under the Clause, unless the crofter were willing that those items, or any of them, should be included. The excluded items are, first, any dwelling-house or garden ground forming part of the croft; secondly, any non-agricultural buildings, structures, or works erected or executed under Clause 5, whether they were erected before or after the commencement of the Bill—those are buildings and structures erected for the purpose of a non-agricultural occupation, a particular interest to the hon. Member for Orkney and Shetland (Mr. Grimond)— thirdly, an area of an acre including the site of the croft dwelling-house, garden ground, non-agricultural buildings, or structures, or works, in so far as those are not sublet.

    The Amendment also provides, again to meet a suggestion of the hon. Member for Orkney and Shetland, that a sublease granted by the Commission shall not, unless the crofter wishes, include any right to cut peats which goes with the tenancy of the croft.

    The other Amendments are consequential and I hope that the House will accept them.

    I have had personal experience of making records and I notice that the Government suggest that the Commission should have a record made of the fixed equipment of the croft. That may not be as expensive a business as it is in the case of an ordinary farm, but it is quite a business and it has to be gone into fairly carefully. In this case, it is only the fixed equipment, but I wonder what that covers.

    For instance, with a farm one has to consider the state of the drains, and if possible, have plans of them, and report what the state of the fencing is, and so on. This can be very detailed. It is rather boring for the man who has to do it, but it is quite expensive for the landlord who has to pay for it. If the Commission is to do this work thoroughly, it might have to pay a considerable sum. I am not suggesting any alteration and nor do I oppose the suggestion, but when the Bill goes to another place I hope that the Secretary of State will consider whether the matter can be cleared up in the interests of the taxpayer who will have to pay for the work which the Commission does in the interests of the crofter at the end of the sublease, if he has to pay compensation for improvements, or of the sub-tenant if he has to pay compensation for not looking after the drains, for instance, during his sub-tenancy.

    I sympathise with what the hon. Member for South Angus (Sir J. Duncan) has said. It is one of the difficulties of the Bill that we make it more and more complicated until we begin to wonder whether there will be any time left for crofting when the crofter has dealt with all these provisions. We cannot go over the ground again, and the purpose which the Government have in mind is reasonable if it can be carried out as simply as possible.

    I thank the Government for having incorporated my Amendments as well as those of other hon. Members. Are they satisfied that access to the house and buildings and peat rights will be covered? I think that it is, but I should like the Under-Secretary to make sure.

    I commend the Amendments. The Government ought to be grateful to the Opposition for the changes now being made. Under the original Clause, when a croft was sublet the whole of it, other than any garden ground, would have been taken over. Those of us who know the Highlands and the crofting areas know how small those gardens can be. They are often merely a yard strip round the house. Under the original proposals, a garage, or some other building used for some ancillary employment, would automatically have been transferred to the sub-tenant.

    Now we are to have an acre not just surrounding the house, but in whatever direction may be most suitable to encompass the buildings which the crofter wishes to retain. Although we first suggested two acres, I am grateful that one acre is being allowed. This will be very much appreciated if these conditions of sub-tenancy are to apply.

    I think that we are here dealing also with a croft which is compulsorily sublet by the Commission. That is the croft about which we were mostly concerned in Committee upstairs.

    The hon. Gentleman has met most of the points put forward by hon. Members on this side of the House, including the hon. Member for Orkney and Shetland (Mr. Grimond), about the safeguards which were required for the person who was to be left in the dwelling-house, with the one exception that no provision is made for him having access to the house.

    There is no provision that after the land has been compulsorily sublet to some other person, the crofter who is left with the house and the garden round it and the buildings he has put up for the purpose of his ancillary occupation, will have access from the public road to the land and buildings which he occupies.

    I am not unduly concerned about that. I think that we will be wasting time to put these provisions into the Statute, because it is my hope, which, I think, is shared by the hon. Gentleman, that Clause 12 will never be operative.

    Amendment agreed to.

    Further Amendments made: In page 15, line 25, leave out subsection (10).

    In line 31, leave out from "croft" to "be" in line 33 and insert:

    "or of a whole croft other than any subjects which, by virtue of subsection (9) of this section, are not included in the sublease".

    In line 35, leave out from "in" to "be" in line 36 and insert "any other case".—[ Mr. Leburn.]

    I beg to move, in page 16, line 3, after "subsection", to insert:

    "and of subsection (3) of the next following section".

    I think that it would be convenient to discuss with that Amendment the Amendment to Clause 13, in page 17, line 38.

    Yes, Mr. Speaker. That would be convenient.

    This is a paving Amendment for the Amendment in page 17, line 38. The question was raised during the Committee stage of the Bill of the effect of the termination of a crofter's tenancy on a sublease into which he had entered. The law is not entirely clear on that, and there is no provision dealing with it either in the 1955 Act or in this Bill. Accordingly, we propose to put this in now to get a little clarification.

    The Amendment provides that all subleases shall terminate when the principal lease finishes, subject, however, to an important proviso which gives the subtenant the right to apply to the Commission for a period of grace of up to one year. It further provides that the landlord must not take any action to remove him during the first month after the principal tenancy expires, or if he has made an application to the Commission before the date when the Commission decides upon that application.

    Amendment agreed to.

    10.30 p.m.

    I beg to move, in page 16, line 4, to leave out "seven" and to insert "five".

    The purpose of the Amendment is to reduce from seven years to five years the maximum duration of any croft sublease granted by the Commission under Clause 12. The Amendment fulfils a promise made in Committee. Perhaps I should stress that the period of five years proposed is a maximum period and that the duration of a sublease may be for a lesser number of years, depending on the circumstances of the case. When considering how long such a period should be, one has to bear in mind the interests of both the crofter and the sub-tenant. I think hon. Members will agree that it is necessary that the subtenant should have a reasonable period to enable him to plan ahead. However, on reconsideration, bearing in mind that the Commission in its 1959 Report mentioned a period of five years, it was felt that a maximum of five years instead of seven years would be sufficient for this purpose.

    Amendment agreed to.

    I beg to move, in page 16, line 9, to leave out:

    "in a proper state of repair".

    It is convenient to discuss with this Amendment the Amendment in page 16, line 11.

    Yes, Mr. Speaker. The two Amendments go together. They arise out of an Amendment which was made in Committee and an undertaking given by my hon. Friend the Joint Under-Secretary. The phrase "fair wear and tear excepted" was deleted from the Bill in Committee, but my hon. Friend the Joint Under-Secretary pointed out that in the Bill as it stood after that Amendment had been made the obligation on the sub-tenant could be read as meaning that he would have to put the permanent improvements in a better state of repair than when he took them over. The two Amendments are designed to remedy that, by deleting

    "in a proper state of repair"
    and inserting
    "in as good a state of repair as they were in"
    when he took over.

    What sense is there in the Amendment in page 16, line 11? Why are we putting words in? The subtenant is now under the obligation to keep the permament improvements in as good a state of repair as they were in at the date on which he took over the tenancy. I can understand what is meant by "a proper state of repair", but who is to say five years afterwards whether the state of repair of the fencing is as good as it was five years earlier?

    Will the record say how many staples were missing? The Commission will have a busy time going round counting every staple and noticing how many tiles are broken.

    Perhaps the hon. Gentleman does not appreciate what he did in the 1948 Act. It is a very detailed and meticulouss system of recording whether any wire in any part of a fence is loose or whether any stakes are missing, etc.

    The hon. Gentleman does not appreciate what is being done in the Bill. We are dealing with crofts which are as small as two acres or as large as seventy acres. It is dealing with crofts in the most sparsely populated parts of the country. The Bill gives power to the Commission compulsorily to take croft land from the crofter for a period not exceeding five years. A record will be made of everything on this croft and then, when the sub-tenant hands back the croft at the end of five years, or whatever shorter period it may be—and it may be a longer period, because there may be two periods of subletting—he must be able to satisfy the crofter and the Commission that the fixed equipment is in as good a state of repair as it was at the time when he took the sub-tenancy.

    We can determine without great difficulty whether the fixed equipment is in a proper state of repair, but it will cause difficulties—and it is likely to lead to considerable litigation—if we put in these words. As a matter of fact, I think that the hon. Member for South Angus (Sir J. Duncan) will look in vain through the 1948 Act, for the words to which I am now taking objection. If the Lord Advocate can tell me that these words are in the 1948 Act, I shall look at it with interest, and then inquire whether it has proved possible to make sense of them in the administration of the Act.

    There is a little difficulty here. We are presupposing that the sub-tenant coming in will get equipment either in a proper state of repair or, as the provision will be amended, in as good a state of repair as it was in when he took over. Some of the fixed equipment, such as the drains, could be in a bad state of repair at that date. That possibility should be guarded against. We cannot cover the possibility of the existence of a state of disrepair by saying that premises are in a good state of repair. Perhaps the Lord Advocate will tell me that this is possible, but I think we ought to safeguard both the crofter and the subtenant from this sort of contingency which may arise at the end of a sub-tenancy.

    If I may speak again, with the leave of the House, I would agree with hon. Members opposite that after five years have elapsed it is not always easy to say in precise and detailed terms whether any post or staple is in as good a state of repair as it was in five years earlier. But we are in a slight dilemma here, because unless we have something on these lines we are putting an obligation on the sub-tenant not merely to keep the fixed equipment up but to improve it. Indeed, if we left in the words

    "in a proper state of repair"
    it could be read as meaning that if he got it in a bad state of repair he would have to bring it up to a good state of repair. It is to safeguard him against that, that the second Amendment has been put down.

    Surely the existence of the words "due to his failure" cancels out the remarks of the Lord Advocate. Let us suppose that the fixed equipment is new when the man enters. How can he possibly be held responsible for any deterioration, when that deterioration is due purely and simply to the passage of time? This matter requiries a little more close examination, and I ask the Lord Advocate to think about it again. It is a difficult job to arrive at a proper balance between the tenant and the sub-tenant, but the Lord Advocate is not proceeding in the proper way by using these words. I apologise for butting in at this stage, after I have been silent during all these proceedings.

    If I may speak again by leave of the House, I am obliged to the hon. Gentleman for his unusual behaviour. I would point out that during the Committee stage hon. Members opposite wanted to take out the words

    "fair wear and tear excepted",
    and that was the decision of the Committee at that time.

    The hon. Gentleman should seek the permission of the House to speak again.

    —we thought that the words then in the Bill were very difficult. Would it not have been desirable to put in words requiring something to be done to keep the equipment in a reasonable state of repair or—

    Amendment agreed to.

    Further Amendment made: In page 16, line 11, after "sublease", insert "in as good a state of repair as they were in at the said date".—[ The Lord Advocate.]

    I beg to move, in page 16, line 38, to leave out "earlier" and to insert "later".

    Clause 12 (13) provides for the termination of subleases on crofts granted by the Commission under the Clause. There are two circumstances for which the subsection caters: first, where the sub-tenant has broken one or more of the conditions of the sublease, and, second, where the circumstances of either of the parties change so materially that the Commission considers that the sublease should be terminated.

    As the Bill is drafted, in both cases the sub-tenant would be permitted to occupy a croft for a period of not less than one year from the date of service by the Commission of the notice terminating his tenancy. When the subsection was discussed in Standing Committee hon. Members suggested that a period of a year was too long, particularly when the sublease was being brought to an end due to a breach by the sub-tenant of the conditions of let. On the other hand, in the case where the reason for the termination of the sublease is a change in the circumstances of one of the parties, I think it was generally agreed that a period of up to one year might not be unreasonable.

    Accordingly, the Amendment has been tabled to change the period of one year from being the minimum period to being the maximum period. This will enable the Commission to specify a period up to a year to suit the particular circumstances. If it is a case of a breach of conditions, one or two months might suffice, while where the circumstances of parties change, a period of up to ten months or a year might be more appropriate.

    Amendment agreed to.