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Column 7191954. Under the 1954 Act, business tenants have security of tenure and a right to apply for a new tenancy. Unless the tenant has failed to pay the rent, or broken some other condition of tenancy, the landlord can bring the tenancy to an end at or after the end of the current tenancy only ifhe is entitled to possession of the property. The Act specifies a limited number of grounds for entitlement to possession ; these include demolition, reconstruction and redevelopment.
In addition, under the Act, special forms and strict time limits apply if the landlord wishes to seek to end the tenancy. The tenant has the right to request a new tenancy from the landlord and, thereafter, to apply to the court, using special forms and following the time limits laid down by the Act. If the landlord can satisfy the court that he is entitled to possession on one or more of the specified grounds under that Act, the court must grant him possession. If he cannot do so, the court must order a new tenancy for the tenant.
Having listened to my hon. Friend's comments, I have the impression that it is around enforcement and implementation of the provisions of the Landlord and Tenant Act that much of this dispute arises. The landlord wishes to obtain possession so that he can undertake redevelopment. From what my hon. Friend says, it appears that some, or all, of the tenants either are holding out for new tenancies, because they do not believe that there will be development, or wish to remain where they are for other reasons. In the meantime, with some of the tenancies terminated, there are a number of boarded-up properties and general deterioration in the environment.
But I have to say to my hon. Friend that that happens when a large number of tenancies are reaching the end of their period, and the landlord seeks repossession for purposes of redevelopment. It happens in particular when tenancies do not all expire on the same day so that the landlord takes possession over a period.
My hon. Friend may be familiar with what is happening in Horseferry road at present. I refer to Great Westminster house, where a number of shops have been closing down
Column 720over a period of several months. That is an example of the effect of the Landlord and Tenant Act in practice. If my hon. Friend is asking us to change that Act to provide a different balance between tenants' interests and landlords' interests, I have to disappoint him. As recently as 1985 we carried out a review of the working of the Act, with particular reference to small business men--both landlords and tenants --and we concluded, after wide consultation, that the Act continues to work well, protecting both tenant interests and landlord interests, and maintaining the balance between landlord rights and tenant rights enshrined in the Act.
If, as it appears from what my hon. Friend is saying, this is largely a dispute over the terms and conditions of tenancies, that must be a matter between the landlord and his tenants. If the tenancy agreement does not contain sufficient provision to protect the quality of the environment until the expiry of the tenancy, that is unsatisfactory. It is not something that the Government can become involved in. It is for the individual landlord and the tenant to negotiate.
I hear what my hon. Friend says about the state of affairs that pertain in this particular part of Bolton. I sympathise with him and his constituents, but I cannot offer any Government solution. I know that my hon. Friend believes that, if there is a problem, the Government should be able to solve it, but I must disappoint him. This is a private contractual problem, not one which the Government can solve.
I am sure that my hon. Friend's speech will have brought this issue to the attention of a larger audience in Bolton. If Mr. Horrocks is not listening to the debate today, he will certainly hear of it. It may well result in pressure being put on him, as my hon. Friend wishes. I congratulate my hon. Friend on raising this issue, but I have to disappoint him in saying that the Government cannot solve this problem.
Question put and agreed to.
Adjourned accordingly at twenty-six minutes past One o'clock.
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