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Leasehold System, Wales

Volume 645: debated on Tuesday 25 July 1961

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30 and 31.

asked the Minister of Housing and Local Government and Minister for Welsh Affairs (1) what reply he has sent to the protests concerning hardship caused by the operation of the leasehold system in South Wales; and whether he will make a statement;

(2) what steps he has taken to collect evidence regarding hardship caused by the operation of the present leasehold laws in Wales; and whether he will make a statement.

All protests or evidence sent in have been acknowledged, and my right hon. and learned friend the Lord Chancellor and I are having them examined to see whether they do demonstrate hardship. He has been making inquiries through the solicitors' profession also. As I said in the House on 12th July, if hon. Members have any evidence of a specific character which seems to them to prove hardship, I am very ready to consider it.

is the Minister aware that there has been a storm of indignation following his statement that there was no evidence of hardship caused by the leasehold system in Wales? Can he indicate how long it will be before he and the Attorney-General are able to reach a conclusion on the evidence, which I know that they have received, of grievous hardship being caused in Wales by the operation of the leasehold system?

Since the debate, I have received only twenty-one communications. What I am trying to discover is cases of actual hardship. In the debate, the hon. Member quoted the case of a man who, he alleged, was suffering hardship because his rent had been increased from 1s. to 11 s. 7d. a week, which did not seem to me to be evidence of hardship.

I can provide the right hon. Gentleman with many more than twenty-one cases of extreme hardship, and I will gladly do so today if he is willing to see me. Is he aware that all his hon. Friends who represent constituencies in South Wales say in public that they also support leasehold enfranchisement and that he stands alone, disowned by the Welsh Conservative Party, on this matter?

I have stood alone before. My concern here is to get at facts. To use phrases like "a storm of indignation" does not help unless people produce actual cases of hardship following from the action of ground landlords.

Is the Minister saying that, even though there is no hardship —of course, it can be demonstrated that there is—the system is fair as between landlord and tenant? If so, he will be disowned by everyone in Wales.

I am saying that up to the present the Government see no cause for amending the Landlord and Tenant Act, 1954, which considerably improved the position of the occupying lessee. However, if hon. Members have further evidence to submit to me, I, together with my right hon. and learned Friend, will be glad to examine it.

On a point of order. In view of the unsatisfactory nature of the Minister's reply, I beg to give notice that I shall raise the matter on the Adjournment at the earliest possible moment.