Town Tenants Bill, 1930.—Second Stage.

I move: "That this Bill be read a Second Time." At the outset of the remarks which I propose to make I would like to draw a distinction between the Increase of Rent Restrictions Act and the existing Town Tenants Act. The former are a series of Acts which had their origin during the Great War, when it was found that there was a very considerable shortage of houses and when profiteering in houses began. It was also found that the prices of commodities of all sorts were soaring to a height which up to then had been entirely undreamed of, and, in consequence, it was found necessary to regulate the prices of all sorts of commodities. Of the general scheme of regulating prices, the regulation of rents and, at the time, of interest upon mortagages became a part. At the close of the war it was easy to take control off the ordinary commodities which heretofore had been controlled, because in every instance supply equalled demand. In consequence of that fact, the restrictions were removed, but it was found that while it was easy to bring the amount of food, clothing and fuel required up to the level of the necessities of the community, it was not possible to build houses at the same rate, and we have had to keep on the regulation of the rents of houses. That is only a temporary necessity, and will exist only so long as the supply of houses falls short of the demand. There is, on the other hand, a permanent problem, and that problem is the regulation of the relationship between landlord and tenant in town areas, which regulation is necessary whether the supply of houses is or is not equal to the existing demand. I would like the House, in considering this Bill, to keep those two problems completely and entirely separate. I would like the House to consider that there is a passing problem arising owing to the temporary shortage of houses, and, at the same time, that there is a permanent problem which is affected very little indeed by the supply of houses. It is with the latter problem that we are dealing to-day. We are dealing with the regulation in ordinary times for permanent purposes of the relationship between landlords and tenants in towns, and not with the temporary need arising from the temporary shortage of houses.

That is dealt with by the Rent Restrictions Acts which are still existing law. The Town Tenants Act was originally introduced in 1906 before any Rent Restrictions Act was passed, because there were problems then existing as there are problems now existing, and it is to cope with the problems which were then existing that the present Bill is introduced. As the House knows, in the year 1906 an Act was brought in for the purpose of regulating the relationship between owners and tenants of property situated in urban areas and by urban areas I mean areas defined as urban areas in the Bill now before the House—houses situated in county boroughs or other boroughs, in towns or villages. That 1906 Act introduced certain new principles. It gave, on quitting his holding, a right to a tenant to compensation for the improvements which he had made during his tenancy and in the case of business premises when the tenant was disturbed, without good and sufficient cause, in his tenancy, he was entitled to compensation for the goodwill which he had in the premises and for the expenses of removal of his property from the premises from which he had been ejected. Those were two valuable rights conferred upon tenants, and as is pointed out in the Report of the Town Tenants Commission that Bill of 1906 appeared upon the face of it to be a splendid enactment for Town Tenants, but unfortunately in the words of the same report it was stultified by definitions and unobtrusive provisions the significance of which only became apparent when the Act had to be interpreted by the Court. The failure then of the Town Tenants Act to achieve the purpose for which it was passed led to the setting up of a Town Tenants Commission. The Town Tenants Commission examined into the whole question very fully and they brought in, after hearing a great deal of evidence and after full consideration, a report which I think all parties in this House will agree was an extremely able and valuable report. It is upon that report that the present Bill, of which I am now moving the Second Reading, is founded and I trust that this Bill will be found to set upon a permanent, just, fair and equitable basis for the future the relationship between landlord and tenant in towns and will bring them both into fair relationship one with the other.

The Town Tenants Act of 1906 had one very serious defect, I think. The authors of it were too much imbued with the spirit of respect for the doctrine of freedom of contract. The doctrine of freedom of contract, of course, was a cardinal doctrine in the minds of all liberal thinkers. During the eighteenth century you find it embodied for instance in the American Constitution. It was one of the declaration of the Rights of Man which were made before the outbreak of the French revolution. No doubt the doctrine of freedom of contract, properly understood, is a sound doctrine and a doctrine upon which society must, to a very large extent, be based. But a doctrine can be enunciated in too general terms, and can be pressed too far, and the doctrine of the freedom of contract should be considered rather in this light, that the parties to the contract should be entirely free to contract. They should entirely understand the nature of the contract in which they are entering and the supreme consideration of the welfare of the State cannot be left out. Owing to the fact, as I have said, that the authors of the Town Tenants Act of 1906 paid rather too much reverence to that doctrine they excluded entirely from the safeguards of the Act any improvements which had been made or any houses which had been built in pursuance of a convenant contained in a building lease. They left the existing law unaltered, the law that exists down to the present day that if the owner of land lets land for building purposes and there was a covenant in the lease that the tenant shall build a house, at the expiration of the lease the house becomes the entire and absolute property of the owner of the soil. He has not put in anything to improve the soil. The capital which has been invested in the house is not his capital and in many instances the very trifling ground rent might, at the expiration of the lease, be increased to an enormous extent, possibly on occasions, forty or fiftyfold or more. We do not think that that is right or just, and accordingly the first new provision which this Act contains is a provision dealing with building leases. Where a tenant has built a house on land and his lease expires, whether he built that house in pursuance of a contract or not, we consider that he has got rights in that house. As a general proposition we consider, and we ask the House to agree with us in considering, that he should have a right to a new tenancy and that new tenancy which we suggest he should be given is what is called a reversionary lease under this Act.

In a case where the successor in title of the building tenant is himself in occupation of the land, a very serious question would arise. Under this statute, he would be entitled to go into Court and to have a reversionary lease made to him. The lease will be a long-term lease. We suggest a lease for a 99 years' term, and it will be at a rent to be fixed by the Court upon the following principles, which are embodied in Section 43 of the Act. They are these:—In the first place the Court will assess the gross rent. As you see in sub-section (b):—

"The gross rent shall be the rent which, in the opinion of the Court, a willing lessee not already in occupation would give and a willing lessor would take for the land comprised in such reversionary lease in each case on the basis of vacant possession being given, and in circumstances of normal competition, and having regard to the other terms of such reversionary lease, and to the letting value in circumstances of normal competition of land of a similar character to and situate in the vicinity of the said land comprised in the said reversionary lease, but without having regard to any good-will which may exist in respect of the said land comprised in the said reversionary lease."

That is practically the definition of fair rent which is contained in the Meredith Report. It is expanded by the words which direct the Court to consider the value of property in the vicinity which, of course, must be one of the real tests in estimating the value of any property.

Sub-section (e) of the section states: "The allowance"—that is the allowance which is deducted from the gross rent when you are arriving at the rent which the tenant has to pay—"shall be such proportion of the gross rent as is, in the opinion of the Court, fairly attributable to buildings erected or improvements made on or amenities provided for such land other than buildings, improvements and amenities erected, made or provided by or at the expense (whether by way of reduction of rent, payment of compensation, or otherwise) of the person granting such reversionary lease or any of his predecessors in title."

In other words, you subtract from the gross rent the value of the house which the tenant has built and by that means you arrive at the proper rent which the ground landlord is to receive, in fact the value of his ground. That, as I say, is a comparatively simple case. That is the case where you have merely got a ground or head landlord and you have the building lessee in occupation. By building lessee I mean the person who for the time being holds the interests of the lessee in a building lease. But the question becomes a very much more complicated one than that where, as very often happens, the building lessee is merely a middleman and he has sublet his interest to some other person. There, if the building lessee in subletting his interest has charged a very large fine for his interest and has reserved merely a nominal rent it is perfectly obvious that that sub-lease is really more in the nature of a sale than in the nature of a lease, and that the real equities in the building lease have passed to the sub-tenant in that instance. But there may be other still more difficult cases in which the sub-lease has been made partly in consideration of a substantial fine and partly in consideration of a substantial rent. The more difficult case to decide is whether it was in fact a letting or a sale. What is suggested in this Bill is that there shall be what is called a proprietary lease when a subtenant holds for a substantial period—our Bill says a period of 31 years, which is a very ordinary middle term for a lease, neither a long term nor a short term, but a substantial term. That lease is made partly in consideration of payment of a sum of money by the lessee to the lessor. "The said sum of money was not less than twenty-five times the yearly amount of the rent." Then not the person who is nominally the tenant under the building lease, but the holder of the proprietary lease as defined by sub-section (2) of section 1 to which I have just referred the House, shall be entitled to obtain a renewal of the lease. In other words, we are endeavouring always to see who really has got the property in the bricks and mortar which constitute the house. There may be more than one sub-letting. A proprietary lease may have been made, for instance, but the rights of the proprietary lessee start with the person who is actually living in the house at the time.

There are certain restrictions on the right to a reversionary lease. That is where the landlord, for general purposes of good estate management, should have the reversion of the house. For instance, there may be in a populous area in which there are very good class houses one small, unsightly building which is destroying the general amenities of the district. It may be necessary, for instance, to make a new road for the general development of the district, and that a house the lease of which has expired should be pulled down for that purpose. In cases like that the right to a reversionary lease would not exist in either the building lessee or the holder of the proprietary lease. In fixing the proper rent which should be paid by the person who is obtaining the reversionary lease, the aid of the Commissioner of Valuation will be called in, either if the judge so requires or if either party so requires. We are introducing another new provision into this Bill. In this part of the Bill which relates to building leases and the other parts of the Bill which relate to compensation for disturbance or improvements, whenever there is a question of value in dispute between the landlord and tenant, the views of the experts of the Valuation Department will be available for both the landlord and the tenant.

If I might digress for a moment, I am quite certain that this Bill will be stigmatised in this House, as I am aware it has been stigmatised outside, as a Bill which will lead to endless litigation. I am, as I said, more likely to hear that than to hear any methods by which litigation arising out of legislation dealing with a very large and important class of property in this country could be avoided, but I do venture to think that there is no way better of preventing litigation than by placing at the disposal both of landlord and of tenant, the views of perfectly impartial experts. While I am willing to admit that I do think that for a time after the passing of this Act there will be a considerable amount of litigation, I am confident that after a comparatively short time the amount of litigation will fall off to a very large extent, and that having before them the views of trained and impartial experts, landlords and tenants will be able to arrive at arrangements between themselves without having recourse to the intervention of the courts, and that the cases which will be settled by the silent and unobtrusive working of this Act, will largely exceed in number the cases which will be finally determined in the courts. I have now dealt with the two new provisions which this Bill introduces, provisions not contained in the 1906 Act.

I now come to another class of provision which is also new. As I stated a few moments ago, under the Town Tenants Act of 1906 if the tenant of a business premises was disturbed in possession without good and sufficient cause he was entitled to monetary compensation for the loss of goodwill which he sustained. We introduce a new principle here. In the ordinary case the tenant of a business premises will be entitled, not to monetary compensation, but to a new tenancy. He will be able to carry on his business in the premises in which he had heretofore been carrying on his business. The cases in which new tenancies can be granted, apart from the new tenancies granted under the building lease from which I have passed away and to which I will not again refer, are shown in Section 17. The House will notice that the first sub-section is confined to business premises. The word "tenement" there means the subject-matter of a lease or a tenancy of any nature. Section 17 sets out:—

On the termination within the meaning of this section of a tenancy in a tenement, this Part of the Act shall apply to such tenement if such tenement complies with any one of the following conditions... (a) such tenement was, during the whole of the three years next preceding the termination of such tenancy used by the tenant for the time being thereof wholly or partly for the purpose of carrying on therein a business and immediately before such termination either was held by the tenant thereof under a tenancy from year to year or under a lease or other contract of tenancy .....

Let me say here that if there were any lesser period than three years it would be impossible for a tenant to build up anything in the nature of goodwill. Goodwill consists of gradually giving good value to customers and so bringing customers to the establishment. You cannot establish a goodwill unless you have been in the premises for some little time, and three years appear to be the very shortest time in which it would be possible to create goodwill. If the tenancy under which this tenement was held was a tenancy from year to year or was held under a lease or tenancy for a term of not less than five years or a lease for a life or lives or had been for not less than seven years continuously in the occupation of the person who was the tenant thereof immediately before such termination or of his predecessors in title, then he would be entitled to a new lease.

Mr. Byrne

What is the effect of the section if the tenant has to pay on a monthly basis?

If he has been carrying on business for three years, and if he has been not less than seven years continuously in occupation, he will be entitled to a new lease.

Mr. Byrne

Whether a weekly or a monthly tenant?

Yes. The seven years is not confined to tenure of any nature. I have dealt with business premises. In addition to that we have followed out the recommendations of the Commission. The members of the Commission were of the opinion that if a tenant had been for a considerable number of years in possession of premises, he had a certain equity to remain on there. We also provide that if such tenement was, during the whole of the period of forty years next preceding the termination of the tenancy, continuously in the occupation of the person who was the tenant thereof immediately before such termination, or of his predecessors in title, he would be entitled to a new tenancy. It is also provided that if, at the termination of such tenancy, the reversion of the landlord in the tenement does not exceed three years, and such tenement was, during the whole of the period of fifteen years next preceding such termination continuously in the occupation of the person who was the tenant thereof immediately before such termination, or of his predecessors in title, and if the value of the tenement has been doubled by improvements, he will be entitled to a new tenancy.

The terms of the new tenancy will be settled by the court, and the rent will be determined exactly on the same principle as that upon which the renewal of a building lease is ascertained. The landlord is not in all cases forced to give a new tenancy. If the person applying for a new tenancy is in the position that his old tenancy is terminated by ejectment for non-payment of rent, by notice to quit, or otherwise on account of a breach by the tenant of a condition of the tenancy; if the tenancy is terminated by notice of surrender or otherwise, or by notice to quit given by the landlord for good and sufficient reason, then the tenant will not be entitled to a renewal. Under the old Act a tenant was entitled to compensation for disturbance if he had been disturbed without good and sufficient reason. That was a matter that gave a considerable amount of trouble to the courts, and indeed it is not quite clear at the present moment, because good and sufficient reason, from the landlord's point of view or from the tenant's point of view, was left somewhat vague. It might be a good and sufficient reason if the landlord wanted the premises for his own purpose. That would not be a good and sufficient reason if you looked at it from the tenant's point of view. Some judges held one way and others held the other way. We are endeavouring to set all the existing doubts at rest. Sub-section (2) of Section 19 sets out:—

In this section the expression "good and sufficient reason" means a reason which emanates from or is the result of or is traceable to some action or conduct of the tenant, and which, having regard to all the circumstances of the case, is, in the opinion of the Court, a good and sufficient reason for terminating or refusing to renew (as the case may be) the tenancy.

The needs or necessities of the landlord are not looked into. Good and sufficient reason must be some fault or some defect in the tenancy. There are other cases in which, as far as building business premises are concerned, a new lease will not be granted. Those are cases where it is necessary to pull down the house for the purpose of reconstruction or where vacant possession is required for the purpose of developing the property of the landlord, or where it would be inconsistent with good management to grant a new tenancy. In these cases the tenant is not entitled to a new tenancy. On the other hand, he gets compensation for disturbance.

A great number of complaints were made under the 1906 Act as to its working. Complaints were made that the tenants did not receive adequate compensation for their good-will when they were disturbed in possession. The persons making that complaint satisfied the Commission that that was so, and the Commission reported, and we have adopted their suggestion in Section 21, which reads:—"Where the Court awards to a tenant compensation for disturbance the measure of such compensation shall be the pecuniary loss, damage, or expense which such tenant sustains or incurs, or will sustain or incur by reason of his quitting the tenement in respect of which such compensation is awarded and which is the direct consequence of his quitting such tenement." The general principle is that a new tenancy shall be created between the landlord and tenant. But where it is for practical purposes impossible or undesirable that a new tenancy shall be created, then compensation will be given as under the old Act, but the primary right of the tenant will be the right to a renewal of his lease on terms to be fixed by the Court at a rent to be defined.

The Town Tenants Act of 1906 gave compensation for improvements. There again complaint was made that compensation for improvements is not adequate and we are carrying out the recommendations as to improvements embodied in the Report of the Commission. Section 9 reads:—"Subject to the provision of this Act, a tenant of a tenement shall be entitled, on quitting such tenement on the expiration (otherwise than by surrender or ejectment for non-payment of rent) of his tenancy therein, to be paid by the landlord of such tenement compensation (in this Act referred to as compensation for improvements) in accordance with this Act for every improvement made on such tenement by such tenant or any of his predecessors in title (whether before or after the passing of this Act) which, at the termination of such tenancy, adds to the letting value and is suitable to the character of such tenement."

The measure of the compensation would be the capitalised value of the addition to the letting value of the tenement at the termination of the tenancy which is due to the improvements which have been carried out by the tenant. Under the Act of 1906 that was made the maximum scale of compensation which the tenant could receive. In this Bill, it is proposed that that is to be the normal scale under which the tenant shall be recompensed for his improvements. The capitalised value shall be fixed by the Court having regard to the probable duration of the addition and the probable life of the improvements and all other relevant circumstances, but shall not in any case exceed fifteen times the annual amount of such addition. That is to say the maximum sum which can be awarded to a tenant for improvements which he has made in the premises shall not exceed fifteen years' purchase of the yearly value of the amount which he has expended. It will be necessary under this Act as it was under the Town Tenants Act of 1906 for a tenant who is about to make improvements to serve notice on his landlord that he is about to make those improvements. The landlord if he likes can enter in and make the improvements himself. If matters are in dispute between them they receive always the help of the Commissioners of Valuation. If the dispute between them cannot be adjusted by themselves then they can make application to the Court to have matters adjusted.

In the case of head landlords, middlemen and so on, each middleman is entitled, when his own lease expires, to obtain from the head landlord, whoever may be his head landlord, the value of the improvements that he and his tenants have made. The right passes on from the tenant to his immediate lessor. When the rights of a tenant expires his rights accure to the person who is his landlord and so on.

These are, shortly, the general provisions of this Bill. There are some other provisions with which I will only deal very shortly. They refer to covenants in leases. Very often there are restrictive covenants in leases which render the property of very little value to the lessee when circumstances alter. I might give a concrete example. I happened to come across recently instances of places which had been residential quarters entirely and had a valuation as residential quarters but in which the houses had become boarding-houses and lodging-houses. There is a covenant in one lease that no boarding-house or lodging-house could be opened up. The owner could not get anyone to take up his tenancy because of this restrictive covenant. Other cases of restrictive covenants frequently occur and work out real hardships. Under this Bill we propose that in every case of restrictive covenant, where the tenant "shall not do so and so without the consent of the landlord," to have a further section that that consent shall not be unreasonably withheld. If there is a covenant and the landlord has any reason for enforcing the covenant then he can enforce it but he should not be allowed to enforce a covenant unless he has got some real reason for doing so. There are other sections dealing with covenants as to repairs or rebuilding where the building is really gone beyond repair. In another part of the Bill there are facilities given for granting new building leases. Part 7 of the Bill deals with that. The tenant for life can now grant a lease for a reasonable time; if the property happens to be in the possession of a lessee it is impossible for anybody to grant a building lease. If the lessee is in possession for a period of ten years unexpired he can get a building lease for any term up to 150 years from the Court. If there is a person with ten years unexpired of his lease and he consents then another individual can go to the Court to obtain a building lease.

These are the main principles embodied in the Bill. Some of them are very far-reaching. They are entirely new principles which have not been embodied or outlined in any statute which has been passed affecting this country up to this. But I suggest to the House that they are sound, and that if the principles of the Bill are accepted by the House and embodied in legislation by the Oireachtas the relations between landlords and tenants in the towns will be put upon a fair and equitable basis.

Since the establishment of the Dáil the grievances of town tenants have come from time to time before it, and have been discussed here. On two occasions the discussion arose on Private Members' Bills introduced by Deputy Redmond. The Minister has informed us that the Town Tenants' Commission was established because the Government discovered that the Town Tenants (Ireland) Act, 1906, had failed to achieve the purpose for which it was passed. The Government were aware of that failure from 1922 until 1927, but took no action to rectify it. I think that it would be historically more accurate to say that the Town Tenants' Commission was established not because of any desire on the part of the Government to rectify the grievances of town tenants, but to meet the exigencies of the political situation in which the Cumann na nGaedheal Party found themselves when Deputy Redmond's second Bill was introduced. Whatever the historical antecedents of the Town Tenants' Commission, it was, in any case, set up, and it reported in 1927. Since 1927 until this year that report has been under consideration by the Department of Justice. We thought, and we were reasonably entitled to think, that because of the great length of time given to the consideration of that report, all the brains of the Department of Justice, if any, were being concentrated on the task of producing a great measure of reform which would settle the relationship between landlord and tenant upon an equitable basis for all time. We have heard of the mountain which laboured and produced the mouse. The labours of the Department of Justice for the past four years have produced a Bill so limited——

May I point out to the Deputy that if he subtracts eight from eleven it leaves three, not four?

I will correct my statement. The labours of the Department of Justice for the past three years have produced a Bill so limited in its scope, so defective in its machinery, so ambigious in its phrasing, that not one word of praise has been uttered on its behalf by any section or class in the community. It is difficult to know where one should start criticising this Bill. There is probably not a line of it, there certainly is not a section in it, which is not open to criticism in some part or another. So perverted is the Minister's outlook in regard to this whole question that in giving his explanation of the Bill he started at the end of it and worked back to the beginning. I propose to start at the beginning and work down to the end. The Bill is described as a Town Tenants Bill and is limited in its operation to tenements which are situated in urban areas as defined in the Bill—that is, county or other boroughs, urban districts, towns or villages. Is there any reason why isolated business houses in rural areas or residential houses in rural areas which come otherwise within the definition of "tenement" should not be included in the Bill? It does not seem to me that there is any consideration which would make separate legislation necessary in such cases. Surely it is not denied that the tenants of such dwellings have as much right as the tenants of dwellings in urban areas to secure compensation for the improvements they effected during the term of their tenancy and which increased the letting value of the tenements? Surely it is not denied that they also have as good a claim to a new tenancy as a statutory right under the conditions set forth in the Bill as the occupants of tenements in urban areas? The Minister did not give us any reason for the exclusion of such tenements from the Bill. Perhaps he will do so when concluding the debate. It seems to us that there is neither a practical difficulty nor a difficulty in principle which would justify the exclusion of such holdings from the operations of the Bill.

The provisions dealing with compensation for improvements are, as the Minister has told us, in accord with the recommendations of the Commission and constitute an improvement on the existing law. I have not much to say in connection with them, except that it seems to me that the machinery established in relation to the making of improvements in a tenement is fairly elaborate and may prove unworkable. I think I am correct in saying that similar machinery established by the 1906 Act did largely prove unworkable.

One of the minor recommendations of the Meredith Commission, for example, has been ignored in Section 11, which deals with notices in relation to the making of improvements and which requires a tenant to furnish with an improvement notice, plans and a specification of such improvement, and an estimate, verified by an architect or surveyor, of the cost of making such improvement. The Meredith Commission recommended that in such cases the tenant should be merely required to furnish a contractor's detailed estimate, verified by an architect or surveyor, of the cost of making the improvement. That however is a minor point with which we may deal in greater detail in Committee. It arises however in this connection, that it is proposed in Section 15 to debar the tenant who made improvements outside the scope of the 1906 Act from getting compensation in respect to such improvements. If I am correct in assuming that the requirements, in that connection, of the 1906 Act were not generally adhered to it is possible that the passing of that section would involve considerable injustice. I grant that there may exist a perfectly legal right to deprive such tenants of the compensation that they would be entitled to if they had followed the procedure of the 1906 Act.

Is it fair that a tenant who effected an improvement at his own expense, which in fact increased the letting value of the holding, which was suitable to the nature of the holding, and had not diminished the letting value of the other holdings of the same landlord, should be debarred from getting compensation under this Bill on quitting that holding? It does not seem to me that that is fair. I trust the Minister will be agreeable to an amendment of this section when we come to deal with the Bill in Committee.

I am coming now to one of the major objections to the Bill as drafted. It is proposed under Section 17 to give a statutory right to a new tenancy to the occupier of a business premises under certain conditions. The Minister in his opening remarks justified these conditions. He pointed out that at least three years' occupation of a business premises would be necessary to enable anything like a valuable goodwill to be built up. But when he came to paragraph (b) of that section which deals with residential holdings he was silent. He did not attempt to justify at all the provision contained there that the occupier of such tenement cannot secure a statutory right to a new tenancy unless he or his predecessor in title has been in occupation for forty years. Surely the Minister will admit that the period of forty years suggested there is altogether in excess of what either justice or common-sense would demand.

In view of the other provisions of this part of the Bill, particularly those relating to the circumstances under which the landlord may escape entirely from the obligation of giving a new tenancy, and those relating to the terms on which the rent of the new tenancy will be fixed, a much shorter period than forty years would seem to suggest itself. I am not sure that my interpretation of the term "predecessor in title" is that which is generally recognised amongst members of the legal profession. The terms are defined in Section 2 of the Bill as "including all previous tenants of the tenement of such tenant under the same tenancy as such tenant." I take it that that means that the occupier of the tenement must have secured his interest in the tenancy from the previous tenant. If I am correct in that, then this proposal to make forty years the period of occupation is entirely unreasonable. If the term means merely that the tenement had been let to tenants for a period of forty years without, necessarily, any relationship having existed between one tenant and another, then a different situation would exist, even though in that situation I would still consider the term forty years altogether too long. I understand that the Town Tenants' Organisation has suggested a period of five years. Whatever period might seem fair and just to this House, I would like to know what reason prompted the Minister to decide upon seven years in the case of business premises and forty years in the case of residential holdings.

The Deputy will find that the Commission report is in favour of the forty years.

I do not think so. I think the Commission contented itself with the phrase "a long period." I am not defending the Commission's report.

You asked me where the forty years came from and I told you.

I do not think the Commission's report is the last word on the question of the relationship between landlord and tenant.

The Deputy asked me where the term came from and I told him that it came from the Commission's report.

It is a long time since Deputies opposite have read the report.

In any case it seems to me a period altogether too long no matter what the Commission said about it. We do not want to be unfair to either landlord or tenant. If the landlord is secured by law, as this Bill proposes to secure for him, the full competitive rent of the tenement then he will not suffer a hardship if the occupier of the tenement is given security of tenure after five or seven years occupation. A period of seven years has been decided on in respect to business premises and a similar period, in my opinion, would seem quite reasonable and just in respect to residential holdings. Certainly the proposal contained in the Bill is absolutely valueless. I doubt very much if there are in the city of Dublin very many tenants who can show that they or their predecessors in title were continuously in occupation for a period of forty years. That section will have to be amended or else the value of the Bill to town tenants will be very seriously diminished.

In this part of the Bill also it seems to me that the conditions under which a landlord can escape altogether from the obligation of giving a new tenancy are far too wide. For example, in paragraph (a), Section 20, it is provided that the landlord escapes his obligation where he can prove to the Court that he bona-fide intends, desires, or has agreed to pull down or rebuild or reconstruct the buildings or any part of the buildings included in such tenement. Undoubtedly that paragraph, on the face of it, appears very fair because the Court will certainly require substantial evidence that the landlord's intention is genuine. But suppose some landlord did succeed in hoodwinking the court and in securing possession of a tenement on the ground that he genuinely intended to pull down, reconstruct or rebuild, there is no penalty whatever provided in the event of his not doing so, and that in our opinion is a very serious defect in the Bill. There should be a time limit or a penalty of some kind attached to that paragraph which otherwise will become nearly valueless. Similarly if a landlord gets possession of the tenement on the ground that he intends to reconstruct it, and does in fact reconstruct it, should not the outgoing tenant be entitled as a right to the first option on the tenancy of the reconstructed building?

I grant you that there may be quite a number of cases in which that would not be possible. A shop may be reconstructed into two shops or two shops may be reconstructed into one, but in cases where it is merely intended to reconstruct a dwelling, without making any drastic alteration of that kind, the outgoing tenant who otherwise would be held under this Bill to have a statutory right to a new tenancy should be given the privilege of deciding whether or not he would take a tenancy in the reconstructed building before that tenancy was offered or given to anybody else. Then there is paragraph (c), which entitles the landlord to escape the obligation if he can show to the Court that the creation of a new tenancy would not be consistent with good estate management. The Minister gave us an example. Similar examples will suggest themselves to Deputies, but there is in that phrase an obvious loophole by which it would be possible for landlords to escape the legal obligation which this Bill intends to impose on them, and which might inflict, in consequence, considerable hardship upon tenants. We understand, of course, that if the tenant does not get the new tenancy, he gets compensation for disturbance, but in the case of people engaged in business it might well happen that no compensation for disturbance which the Court would be prepared to award could adequately off-set the loss consequent on termination of the tenant's business in the place where it had always been carried on.

There is one point, a minor point perhaps, in Section 21, that I would like to have cleared up. The Minister told us that the 1906 Act became abortive, or failed in its object, at any rate, because of the manner in which it was interpreted in the Courts. It should be the concern of the Dáil to go through this Bill with a magnifying glass to ensure that no loose phrasing will be passed which might have the effect of destroying whatever utility it has as the 1906 Act was destroyed. I desire to call the attention of the House to the word "direct" in the last line of Section 21. The section reads:—

Where the court awards to a tenant compensation for disturbance the measure of such compensation shall be the pecuniary loss, damage, or expense which such tenant sustains or incurs or will sustain or incur by reason of his quitting the tenement in respect of which such compensation is awarded and which is the direct consequence of his quitting such tenement.

The word "direct" there would seem to narrow down that section very considerably, and it is quite possible that it may be so interpreted that the compensation decided on in cases that may come before the court will be much less than the Minister appears to intend at the present time. I do not wish, in going through the Bill, to deal with points that should more properly arise on the Committee Stage. My concern now is merely to pick out those sections which may be said to embody the principle of the Bill and to show the objections to them. I come now to Section 27 which deals with the fixing of the term of the new tenancy by the court. I think it will be agreed that this section embodies the kernel of the problem. In fact, the Meredith Commission in its report stated that if some satisfactory definition of a "fair rent" could not be secured it was useless going ahead with their inquiry. That Commission produced a definition which, as the Minister has told us has, with some modification, been embodied in this section. The Bill proposes to give the landlord as the rent of the new tenancy the high water mark of his demand. It proposes to give him the highest rent which, in fact, he could get on the basis of free competition and vacant possession. Is that an equitable basis on which the rent of the new tenancy should be calculated? Personally I do not think so. Other suggestions have been made. It has been suggested, for instance, that the 1914 rent might be taken as the basis, as was done in the Rent Restriction Act.

I do not think that the Deputy has quite read the definition. It is not what a willing lessor will take. It is what a willing lessor will take and what a willing lessee will give.

It proposes to give the landlord the highest rent that he can get in free competition amongst tenants and on the basis of vacant possession. It has been suggested, as I have said, that the 1914 rent could be taken as a basis as was done in the Rent Restriction Act. It has also been suggested that our sole concern should be to ensure that the landlord would get a reasonable return on the money which he invested. Neither of these suggestions has appealed to us as practicable. We are opposed to the suggestion of the Meredith Commission which has been adopted by the Minister and embodied in the Bill. We think that that provision will work out in a manner grossly unfair to tenants. If we take a case, which will be a normal case in present circumstances, in which the rent as calculated by this section will exceed the rent reserved under the old tenancy, we have to ask ourselves from what did that increase in the letting value of the tenement arise? It may have arisen from the expenditure of the local authority. It may have arisen because of developments in the neighbourhood undertaken by other owners of property. It may have arisen from a variety of causes over which neither the landlord nor the tenant had any direct control. Therefore, it seems unfair that the entire benefit of that increased letting value should go to the landlord. I grant you that it might be argued that it would be also unfair to give the entire benefit of it to the tenant. The suggestion that has appealed to us is that the difference should be split between them: In other words, that where the rent, as calculated under this section, exceeds the rent reserved in the old tenancy that the new rent should not exceed the old rent by more than 50 per cent. of that difference. If that is done I do not know that you are inflicting any hardship on the landlord. Neither are you inflicting a hardship on the tenant. The only alternative which might be argued is that the difference should accrue to the community in some way.

We now come to the section which deals with building leases. As the Minister told us, under the existing law when a building lease expires the landlord becomes entitled to the land and everything on it. It has been argued that the existing law is unfair, and the Bill proposes to compel the landlord on the expiration of a building lease to grant a new lease. The question arises, and it was no doubt considered by the Minister, to whom should that new lease be given? The Minister has decided, and has embodied proposals in the Bill to give effect to his decision, that the new lease should be given to the original builder or his successor. In nearly all cases it will be to the successor, as the original builder will not be there when the lease expires. Who is the successor? In the great majority of cases he is a person who purchased a profit rent for a number of years and has got exactly what he paid for. It cannot be argued that he has an equitable claim to a continuation of his profit rent for another 99 years. It seems to us that whatever person is entitled to the benefit of the new lease, and to the profit rent, it is not the middle landlord to whom the Minister proposes to give it. I am prepared to agree with him that it is unfair that the head landlord should, on the expiration of the lease, be in a position to secure the land and everything on it. I do not want to say anything on behalf of the head landlords. No doubt a number of Deputies are going to defend their interests. One point which was brought to my notice that I think would be worthy of consideration is this, that in many cases the people concerned had to pay very substantial death duties on the value of the reversion, and that they will have a legitimate grievance if, in fact, they are now deprived of the value upon which death duties were paid. I do not know if that aspect of the situation was considered by the Department of Justice.

The question we must ask ourselves is: to whom is the new lease to be given? I maintain that the middleman has no right to it. The middleman has, in all cases, got exactly what he paid for. He is not entitled to anything more. Neither is the head landlord. The head landlord is a person for whom I have no sympathy. If you investigated his title you would probably find, in this country, that he had none and that we would be morally justified in taking the property from him.

The suggestion which we will submit to the House is that the new lease or profit rent be given to the community. Remember that in the majority of cases whatever increase in the letting value of the land has been created between the period when the original lease was granted and the date of its expiration has been the result of action of the community, the expenditure of the local body or of a Government Department like the Department of Posts and Telegraphs, the Shannon Board, or some body of that kind. It seems to us that the equitable thing to do would be to give the head landlord what he was getting before, to leave the sub-tenant paying what he was paying, to eliminate the middleman, and give the difference to the local authority for the area. I know that proposal is likely to cause derision in certain quarters, amongst those whose one concern it is to secure the loot for the people who cannot show any equitable title to the loot, and who will be most annoyed if any such suggestion is considered by the Dáil. Look at Section 43. The Minister in describing the manner in which the rent on the reversionary lease was to be fixed, did not do so at very great length. Sub-section (b) says:

The rent reserved by such reversionary lease shall not in any case be less than the rent reserved by the said building lease....

Why not? The Minister did not attempt to tell us why not. That provision, I notice, is not contained in the similar section in Part IV. It is contained only in the section which relates to building leases and which is designed to protect the interests of the wealthy mesne-landlord in Dublin. Section (d) sets out to secure for the landlord the entire benefit of any increase in the letting value which may have been created during the period of the building lease. The Meredith Commission recommended that there should be taken into account the expenditure of the local authority which was financed out of the rates and paid by the leaseholder in the past, but the benefit of such expenditure under this section is going to be given to the head landlord. It seems to me that in drafting this part of the Bill the Minister was concerned only to protect certain special interests and not to do equity. In Section 45 certain restrictions are placed on the right to a reversionary lease. It is proposed where the head landlord has given a voluntary reversionary lease before the 31st March, 1931, that it shall operate to deprive the person entitled under the Bill to a free reversionary lease, even though the original lease did not expire until after the Act had come into operation. Surely it is very difficult to show justification for that. If such a voluntary reversionary lease was made on the 31st March it holds good, but if it was made on 1st April it becomes invalid. Obviously it is not a matter of practical difficulty, because the practical difficulty will have to be faced in respect of any such lease made after 31st March. It is difficult to understand what purpose the Minister had in mind in framing the section, and it seems to us that such reversionary lease made in respect of a building lease which has not expired on the date on which the Act comes into operation should not hold good.

Why make it even before the Act comes into operation?

I am talking of a building lease. If the reversionary lease was made before 31st March in respect of a building lease which is not due to expire for——

I do not think the Deputy understands the section. At present a landlord who has got a reversion can make a lease of that reversion. In order that the reversionary lease created by this Bill shall not be defeated by any action of the landlord any lease which he endeavours to make after 31st March shall be void as against the rights conferred in this Bill on a person.

Part VII deals with the granting of building leases by the Court. Undoubtedly the provisions of the Bill will result in some improvement in the matter of the acquisition of land for building but I am surprised that in this section no attempt is made to give effect to a number of recommendations of the Meredith Commission dealing with this particular matter. Those recommendations do not deal with anything of vital importance but they do seem to be worth consideration in so far as failure to give effect to them will result in the continuance of a situation which has restricted building operations to some extent. That is all I intend to say about the Bill. I should like now to say a few words about what is not in the Bill.

I asked the Minister to-day if it was the intention of the Executive Council to introduce legislative proposals to give effect to the recommendations of the Town Tenants' Commission regarding excessive rents of occupying tenants. The Minister said the matter was under consideration. He told us, in introducing this Bill, that we should keep separate in our minds the temporary problem created by the shortage of houses and the excessive rents charged, or liable to be charged, on occupying tenants in consequence of that shortage, and the permanent problem which affects the relation of landlord and tenant. It is, of course, desirable that we should keep these things separate but not to the extent of ignoring one of them altogether. I take it that that is what the policy of the Government is. We are told that the Rent Restrictions Act, in so far as it still remains in operation, is to go out of operation this year.

The Deputy voted in favour of its going out of operation last year.

I do not think so.

The Deputy voted against the Second Reading of the Expiring Laws (Continuance) Act, and if he had been successful in defeating that Bill the Rent Restrictions Act would have ceased to operate.

That is a different matter. I merely tried to force the Minister to do his job. The Minister's majority was there to protect him. He has not done his job yet.

The Deputy failed to bring the Act to an end.

The Minister has not even considered the recommendations of the Commission in relation to this problem. For three years that Report has been lying on his desk. For three years he knew that many families in Dublin were suffering hardship in consequence of the excessive rents charged them. For three years he knew that the problem was going to be greatly aggravated as soon as the Rent Restrictions Act went out of operation. He has not considered it, according to himself. He does not know whether or not the Government is going to introduce any alternative legislative proposals to the Rent Restrictions Act. The Meredith Commission has pointed out that the vast majority of town tenants are much more concerned with that part of the problem than with the part dealt with in this Bill. In fact, a great part of this Bill would be only of minor concern if there was some machinery in existence by which people who believe they are being charged exorbitant rents could get fair rents fixed. The Meredith Commission recommended that that should be done. That is a grave problem. The Minister for Justice has spent three years producing this section of a Bill and has not yet considered the most important part of the problem. If there is one thing for which the present Government stands condemned, it is that it has allowed the whole period from 1922 to pass without devising some permanent method by which the tenants of small dwellings, and parts of dwellings, in towns could be protected against rack-renting landlords. No doubt, the Rent Restrictions Act had some effect—but only some effect. Despite the fact that the Rent Restrictions Act is in operation, there are people paying 15/-, 18/- and £1 for single rooms in Dublin tenements. The Minister knows that, but he does not know yet whether the Government are going to do anything to deal with that problem or not. Surely there never was, on the part of a responsible Minister, such an admission of incompetence as the Minister for Justice gave us here this evening when he gave me that answer.

That is not the only part of the problem which the Minister has ignored. The Town Tenants Commission published an Interim Report dealing with the Small Dwellings (Acquisition) Act, and recommending considerable amendment of that Act, which, because of the manner in which it was drafted, had proved unworkable. Has anything been done about that? Will anything be done about it? Is the Minister going to let that slide? Has he even considered it? Will legislative proposals to give effect to these recommendations be introduced during the next three years? Is it the intention of the Government to do anything about the matter? Apparently not. This Report was made on 13th May, 1927, and it has apparently been forgotten. I believe that the relation of landlord and tenant cannot be put upon a permanently satisfactory basis until some provision is made by which tenants will be assisted in becoming the owners of their dwellings. That is the permanent solution of the whole problem. That is what the Small Dwellings (Acquisition) Act set out to do. It failed to do that because it was limited in its scope and tied up with red tape. The Town Tenants Commission recommended that all that red tape should be cut away and that the Act should be extended to cover houses valued up to £1,200. It expressed the belief that if that were done the Act would become of value and local authorities would be enabled to give tenants the necessary assistance to become either owners of the dwellings which they occupy or to purchase new dwellings which are being constructed. Not merely would the enactment of these recommendations have the effect of removing the greater part of the town tenants grievances; it would have the effect of assisting the solution of the problem of the shortage of houses on which the question of excessive rents rests. The Minister was chiefly concerned with the interests of those capitalists who invest their money in profit rents rather than in industrial securities. He is setting out to give them something for which they never paid. The unfortunate people who cannot afford to buy houses and who, because of their condition, are compelled to pay exorbitant rents are of no concern to him. He has not, as he told us, even considered the problem in relation to those.

There are other matters to which no doubt I could refer, but I do not intend to do so now. Deputies who were here six or seven years ago will remember the Bills introduced by Deputy Redmond. They were defective in many ways. It is not my purpose to defend them, but they set out to make it possible to have certain things done which cannot be done under this Bill, and which will not be done at all if the inactivity of the Department of Justice is going to continue. No doubt the best course for Deputies to take in relation to this Bill is to allow it to get a Second Reading. As I have said, it does effect improvements of a kind upon the existing law. The great advantage, however, is that it does not erect any permanent barriers in the way of future improvements. We will endeavour to amend it in Committee in so far as Standing Orders will allow, in accordance with our ideas; but if certain very objectionable parts are not deleted, or, at all events, improved, we may find it necessary at a later stage to vote against the Bill as a whole.

In many respects this Bill is highly technical, and the ordinary layman who has no knowledge of the law of property, leases and so forth will find considerable difficulty in discussing it. So far as general principles are concerned, there are only a few main points which could be discussed on Second Reading. In the main it is a Bill for discussion in Committee, and I do not propose to go to any length in dealing with it. Like Deputy Lemass, I feel that the Bill is more open to criticism for what it does not contain than for what it does contain. In his opening statement the Minister claimed entirely too much for the Bill when he said that it was going to settle permanently the relations between landlord and tenant. A Bill which, as the Minister says, and on the face of which it is clear, does not take into account the fixing of fair rents cannot hope to settle permanently the relations between landlord and tenant. In referring to the Increase of Rent (Restrictions) Act, in his opening statement, the Minister said that that Act was a temporary measure to meet a temporary necessity. In one way there was an element of hope in the statement—I do not know whether he made it deliberately or inadvertently— that that Act would continue so long as the supply of houses fell short of the demand. If that is to be the measure of its duration none of us here will see the end of that Act.

The number of houses affected by that Act is limited. As the Minister knows, there is quite a number of houses not affected at all by the Rent Restrictions Act. It does not apply to any houses built since 1919, and the number of houses therefore which will not come under that Act is gradually growing. It does not apply to houses over a certain valuation. The number of houses which are not affected by the Rent Restrictions Act is presently large, and as time goes on it will become larger. There is no provision to deal with these houses in this Bill. In my opinion it is in regard to these houses that the greatest grievance exists at present. Therefore the suggestion that this Bill is going to fix permanently the relations between landlord and tenant cannot, in my view, be maintained at all. The factor that enters most largely into the relations of landlord and tenant is the factor of rent. Those who are fortunate enough to be the owners of property are allowed, with the exception of what is done under the provisions of the Increase of Rent (Restrictions) Act, to benefit by the shortage of houses. They are allowed to make a profit on the scarcity that exists at present.

So far as the Bill is concerned, I agree with Deputy Lemass in practically all his criticism. It is stated in the Bill that its provisions shall apply to towns or villages. Whoever is responsible for putting this measure into operation will have difficulty in defining a "village." I do not know whether there is any legal definition, but I know, and the Minister also knows, that in the West of Ireland villages have a different meaning to that which they have in other parts of the country. I do not know whether, in fact, it would be possible under the Bill to rule out certain houses at cross roads, for instance. If we were to take the definition of a village which exists in the West of Ireland such houses could not be ruled out.

Are there any cross-road houses in the West which are held at a rent?

Mr. O'Connell

I think so.

Except they are in a village, I do not know that there are any.

Mr. O'Connell

Exactly. We have nothing but villages in the West. In regard to the provisions of the Bill which give the right of a new tenancy, I think that too many loopholes are given to the landlord. I am afraid that the question of good estate management will give rise to endless difficulty though, of course, much will depend on what view the tribunal will take. I think that the excuse of good estate management will be pleaded in many cases in order to prevent the tenant getting the advantages of the Act. There is one matter to which Deputy Lemass referred very briefly and which I would like to emphasise and have explained by the Minister, namely, why the recommendations of the Town Tenants Commission with regard to derelict sites were not included in this Bill. The Commission recommended that certain derelict sites which were returned as waste or which were in the possession of landlords should after a certain time, if they were not used for building purposes, be put up for auction and be open for purchase by local authorities for the purpose of building.

That would be more suitable to a Town Planning Bill. It would hardly be germane to this Bill.

Mr. O'Connell

I do not know whether it will be suitable or not. I believe it could be included in this section. I do not know how soon we will have a Town Planning Bill which will include it. It is certainly a matter I should like to see included in this measure because in many places and towns it is holding up building and development. I should like to have a further explanation of this definition of fair rent because if it means what I am afraid it does mean then the scarcity of houses is going to have a very great effect on the fixing of this rent. If it means what a willing landlord, say, is prepared to take and a willing tenant is prepared to give——

"Under circumstances of normal competition."

Mr. O'Connell

"Of normal competition," but it points out very definitely that these circumstances of normal competition do not mean under normal conditions. It makes that clear in the Meredith Report. It says: "We desire to call attention to the fact that in the definition of ‘Fair rent' which we have suggested the words ‘under circumstances of normal competition among tenants and among landlords' are by no means equivalent to ‘under normal conditions,'" and then it goes on to point out the fact that the scarcity of houses would affect that.

Perhaps the Minister would enlarge on "under circumstances of normal condition" when replying later on and tell exactly what it means, because what I assume it to mean is that scarcity of houses would be a determining factor, and to that extent the house owner would benefit very considerably. I doubt if it could be called in those circumstances a fair rent at all. There is no general principle in this measure; nothing is being done in it in furtherance of the principle which I, for one, would like to see established, and that is the enabling of the occupants of the house to become the owners of the house. That does not seem to be touched on at all in this measure, and that ought to be, from many points of view, from the national and social point of view, the aim of any Government. That, as I say, is not touched on at all, and I do not know whether it would be possible to do so. I believe it would be possible to have a provision. Certainly the extension of the Acquisition of Small Dwellings Act could have been brought into this measure, and there seems to be no explanation why it was not brought into it. During the Committee Stage there will be many amendments moved to this measure. I think that it is only on the Committee Stage that each of these sections can be adequately debated and explained. Like Deputy Lemass, we are proposing in this measure to vote for the Second Reading, and to subject it during the Committee Stage to criticism in its various details. We will move such amendments as we think shall improve it. From the point of view of the tenant it is extremely limited in its scope. As a matter of fact, the only people who will, in the main, benefit are business people in towns. The great mass of occupying tenants are scarcely touched at all by the provisions of this Bill in so far as it goes and, as I say, it goes in that a very short distance.

The Bill before the House is a measure of outstanding importance as far as business men in cities and towns are concerned. Since 1906 business men in cities and towns, especially in the City of Dublin, have been subjected to the most scandalous treatment on behalf of and at the hands of the landlord. Rents have been trebled and even quadrupled. Rents that formerly stood at £100 were increased to £200, £300, and even to £360 and under the old law when a tenant refused to pay the rent, the landlord simply ejected him from his holding, and he had no legal remedy. The present Bill is certainly a great advance on that particular position of affairs. Under the present Bill there has been a Fair Rents Tribunal set up. The landlord and the tenant will enjoy equal rights when they cannot agree amongst themselves, either as to the renewal of the lease or as to the fixing of the rent. The landlord and the tenant will have equal rights to go before that Tribunal and have the Tribunal adjudicate upon the difference. The Minister, in the introduction of the Bill referred to the Town Tenants Act of 1906. I was one of the people who presented the case for the business men of the City of Dublin before that Tribunal, and I think it is only right to draw the attention of the House to the words that the Commission have set down in black and white as to the effect of the Act of 1906. Section 18 of the report states that "under the Act the tenant has first to quit his holding and then run the risk of the landlord escaping liability altogether under these conditions, notwithstanding that the large increase of rent is demanded. With ruin staring him in the face he prefers to pay anything he can pay."

The position of affairs under the old law was that the business men of the City of Dublin with ruin staring them in the face, were asked to pay certain rents and, if they refused to pay, they had to go on the streets and give up their holdings. It is evident that the Town Tenants Act was a dead letter. Under the new Bill a tenant has to be compensated for improvements, but speaking as a business man of this city, I must say that if there is a cast iron system by which the tenant will get one penny extra for the improvements he has created that position exists under the present Act. I would like to point out that under the Act of 1906 business men who effected improvements suffer very great hardships, and I regret to notice that the same provisions are incorporated in the present Bill.

Under the 1906 Act the tenant had to obtain the consent of the landlord. He had then to submit an estimate of the cost of repairs, and he had to submit, in addition to that estimate, verification by an architect or surveyor as to the cost of making such improvements. What I want to ask the Minister is, what, in the name of common sense, is the necessity for bringing in an architect to certify to the improvements that a tenant will cause to be done to the premises that the landlord owns? Surely it is reasonable enough if a contractor of standing submits an estimate for the carrying out of those improvements. If that estimate is submitted to the landlord, surely it is quite as far as any tenant should be asked to go. I submit that this is putting needless expense upon the tenant. I know in a great many cases that landlords never sought for the carrying out of this certification by an architect. I think it is certainly one section of the Bill that ought to be eliminated on the Committee Stage.

I would also draw attention to the persons who were entitled to a lease under Section 17, sub-section (4), of the Act. When the Minister was introducing that Bill I asked him to state definitely the meaning of the section. I asked him if weekly, monthly, and quarterly tenancies came within the ambit of the Bill. The Minister stated that in his opinion every tenant in occupation came within the scope of the present Act. I do not want to follow a policy of pin-pricks, but I do want to point out to the Minister that there are differences of legal opinion on the interpretation of this particular section. One section of legal opinion holds that under the Act, as it now stands, no tenant of not less than five years' occupation is entitled to a lease, but there is another definite legal opinion in existence which holds that under the Act as it is now set forth only a yearly tenant is entitled to benefit by this section of the Act. The Minister knows as well as I do that under contract of tenancy monthly or quarterly payments do not constitute a yearly tenancy, and in the case of monthly, quarterly or even half-yearly payments, unless it is expressly set forth in the contract of tenancy a yearly tenancy does not exist. I ask the Minister, in replying, to assure the House that he is prepared to incorporate such words in this Bill as will remove any doubt.

Would the Deputy make the difficulty clearer?

Mr. Byrne

I have made it as clear as common sense will make it. I have stated that there are two legal opinions on the interpretation of the section, one opinion that the Minister himself has stated to the House, namely, that the tenant in occupation, whether monthly, weekly or quarterly, will be entitled to a lease under the Act. The other section of opinion is that nobody but a yearly tenant will be entitled to a lease as the Bill now stands.

Where did they get that from?

Mr. Byrne

It is not for me to say where they got it from. I am informing the Minister that these two different legal opinions exist at the present time. This is a very important measure, and there must be no mistake. I quite agree with Deputy Lemass when he said that it should be submitted to the microscope to avoid a repetition of what happened under the Act of 1906.

I want to come to the kernel of the whole Bill, and the kernel of the whole Bill is contained in Section 27. Section 27 defines the fixing of the terms of a new tenancy by the courts. I want to say here and now that if the tenancy is granted in the case of a business premises and that the annual rent fixed under this section of the Bill is the full competitive letting value of the premises this Bill is of no use to the business men of the City of Dublin. The Minister has not endeavoured to explain the meaning of sub-section (f) of Section 27. Sub-section (f) of Section 27 reads:

The gross rent shall be the rent which in the opinion of the court a willing lessee not already in occupation would give and a willing lessor would take for such tenement, in each case on the basis of vacant possession being given, and in circumstances of normal competition, and having regard to the other terms of such tenancy and to the letting values in circumstances of normal competition of tenements of a similar character to and situate in the vicinity——"

What does that section mean? Is there any lawyer in this kingdom who can define "normal competition"? Can the Minister define "normal competition"? Can any Deputy in this House define "normal competition"? Can the most brilliant man at the Bar define "normal competition"; and if he cannot define "normal competition," why put these terms in the section of the Bill? Section 27 defines a fair rent as the rent which a willing lessee not in occupation would give and a willing lessor would take. I wonder what does the Minister take the business men of Dublin to be? Does he take them to be a pack of nincompoops who are willing to accept a section of this kind? Let us ask for a moment what rent will a willing lessor take for a business premises in the City of Dublin if they are vacant to-day. Supposing a business premises becomes vacant in one of the principal streets of Dublin, in Henry Street, Westmoreland Street, George's Street, Earl Street, or any of other principal streets. If a tenant in occupation is paying a rent of £300 a year, what rent, if these premises become vacant, will the landlord accept? Will he accept £300? Will he accept £500? Will he accept £700? And this is the great charter of liberty that you are going to confer on the business men under this section of the Bill! Let us imagine for a moment that a goodwill has been set up in a business premises by a tenant and his predecessors in occupation during a period of from 20 to 50 years. What is the offer on the basis of vacant possession being given to a new tenant coming in? What does he get for the annual rental he offers for the premises? Does he not get the goodwill of the outgoing tenant? Does he not get, without having to pay a single shilling, that goodwill? Surely the premises, on the basis of vacant competition, are three times more valuable to a man who seeks to obtain the premises with the goodwill attached than to the tenant in occupation? That is the plain meaning of the section. No sane man could justify that section, having regard to the other terms of the tenancy and to the letting value in circumstances of normal competition. Any man knows that a man to-day who is looking for possession of a business premises situated in one of the principal streets of the city would be willing to pay three or four times the rent that the tenant in occupation has got to pay. This section gives certain powers to the court. A fair interpretation of this sub-section (f) of Section 27 means that the terms and the annual rent to be paid are the full competitive letting value of the premises.

Is there any business man in Dublin to-day in occupation of premises who would consider that the obtaining of a lease at the full competitive letting value of his premises would be worth the paper on which it was written? We all know what has happened in the past ten years. We know that when a business premises became vacant that if the rent previously paid had been £100 a year, the landlord demanded £300 or perhaps £500. This is the annual rental that the unfortunate tenant in occupation will have to pay if this section of the Bill stands. We are told that circumstances of normal competition must exist. Is there such a thing in existence as normal competition in the case of business premises in the City of Dublin to-day? If a tenant in occupation of premises in Henry Street or North Earl Street loses these premises, is it humanly possible for him to obtain suitable premises in the same street? Talk about normal competition is pure moonshine.

What will happen under this section of the Bill is this—that where a tenant has been in occupation of a business premises for twenty-five years, the goodwill he has built up is to be used as a whip by the landlord to extract the fullest rack rent that can possibly be extracted. Premises have become vacant within the last five or six years, and in each case the tenant was forced to come to an agreement because he had no remedy in law against the landlord. Rents have been increased by from anything above 200 per cent. to 300 per cent. I come to the two words in the Bill, "normal competition." I wish the Minister would define the meaning of normal competition. I wish any Deputy here would tell us the meaning of normal competition. I ask the most brilliant lawyer at the Bar to define normal competition. I say it is a definition that is beyond him. If this Bill is to be accepted by the business men of the City of Dublin, then this section about the fair rent must go. I say that the two words "normal competition" are indefinable. Deputy O'Connell has referred to the difference between normal competition as stated in the Report of the Commission and normal competition in this Bill. No Deputy will state that as far as business premises in Dublin are concerned normal competition exists. If this section of the Bill is passed as it now stands what does it mean? That you are offering a business man in the City of Dublin a lease at the full letting value of his premises. The landlord has an extra inducement to offer for the goodwill which the tenant has built up in these premises. That is the meaning of the Bill and the meaning of this section. That is the meaning of normal competition as set forth in this Bill.

One must also realise that there is a very important factor in existence as far as business premises in Dublin are concerned. For many years the landlords kept premises in Dublin empty, and there was an annual loss of £15,000 per annum in rates and taxes. That figure has been considerably diminished, but what has been the cause of the diminution? There has been a flood of English retailers who have come to the City of Dublin, and people have come from other parts of the country, and these people are forcing up the value of the premises far beyond the value of what the ordinary business man can earn by these premises. Under this Bill the landlord has been given the full advantage of every existing condition, and the tenants gets no advantage at all. How can one say that normal competition exists as far as the tenant of a business premises is concerned? The tenant of a business premises is in one particular business. In that he has established his trade and goodwill. If he leaves that particular business his goodwill and his established business are at once wiped out.

If you pass the suggestion in paragraph (f) of Section 27, what are you going to give the tenant? A lease at the full competitive letting value of the premises—a lease at the annual rental which will be fixed by the competition of every tenant in the City of Dublin and by this influx of English retailers who are at present operating in this country. How can the Minister possibly stand for such a definition of a fair rent? I ask the Minister if any tenant in occupation of business premises in one of the principal streets of the City of Dublin to-day loses the occupation of these premises, is it humanly possible for him to obtain suitable premises in the same street? These abnormal situations call for a drastic and equitable treatment of the case. The Minister has set forth that this Bill gives equitable treatment to the landlord and tenant. I notice one significant fact—there has not been a single adverse criticism of this Bill by the property owners of the country. No, because it is the best possible bargain they could get. There is also another important aspect of the question. If the definition of fair rent as now set forth in the Bill stands, there is not the slightest doubt that there are going to be bogus offers of rent made in the courts by the owners of property. Under the section any landlord can come into the court and say: "I am now in a position to obtain a rental for these premises on the basis of vacant possession. I have here an offer of £500 from a prospective tenant for these premises but the tenant in occupation is only paying me a rental of £100."

What will the position of the judge on the bench be if he is faced with the production in court of this written offer which there will be no difficulty, if necessary, in producing to the court? Will the court not be actually bound by this £500 offer which any landlord can make and which in nine out of ten cases may be a bogus and worthless offer? That is the position that exists under this section of the Bill. This is the great charter of liberty for the business men of this country! We have heard of a demand from the agricultural community for a vote of £1,000,000 to help in the present depression. There is nothing at all about the depressed conditions of the business men of the country. No, they are only distributors; they are of no importance. Will anybody give them £1,000,000 to pay their rates and taxes and to help them out of their difficulties? The business men of Dublin are as hard pressed to-day as any section of the community. They are not getting fair treatment. Anybody who looks at the dividends paid by the business houses knows the economic difficulties at the present time. Section 27 simply means that the tenant in occupation is going to be offered a lease at the full competitive letting value of the premises.

Let me speak with inside knowledge of the position of the business community in the City of Dublin to-day. I know men in the principal streets whose present rental ranges from £200 to £250. If you increase the rental of these premises from £250 to £500 you may as well give the tenants notice to quit. The premises are not worth 2d. to them at that rent. They are hard pressed at present to earn £250 a year, and if you are going under this charter of liberty to impose another £250 a year on them, you had better let things drift. I speak with practical experience of what is taking place at the present moment in the City of Dublin. Under this section of the Bill there is nothing to prevent a landlord coming into this court with a bogus offer of rent. I can give an instance that is in my own knowledge to prove the statement I am making. A shop in Henry Street was held by a draper at £150 a year. The tenant's lease expired. He came to the landlord for a renewal and offered an increase from £150 to £200. The landlord said the figure was inadequate. The man increased his offer to £250 and the landlord said: "I have an offer of £360 for these premises." The result was that the tenant was ejected. That was a perfectly genuine offer and it was made by an Englishman who knew nothing of the value of the premises. The new tenant remained in possession for about ten months. In the meantime, the unfortunate man who had built up his trade and who offered a rent of £250 had his whole business destroyed. He was thrown on the streets without any means of livelihood for himself or his family.

I also had experience of a bogus offer. I brought the case to the notice of the Minister when I was endeavouring to have the Town Tenants Bill speeded up. On the North Strand there were two premises, and the rental originally paid in respect of them was 25/-. The premises were controlled under the Rent Restrictions Act, and when the valuation of premises was cut down these premises became decontrolled. The landlord came to the tenant and asked what rent was he prepared to give. The tenant offered 35/-, and the landlord laughed; the tenant offered 50/- and the landlord laughed. He then said that he wanted £5 a week for these premises, which consisted of a shop and a small house. The tenant went into court, but he had no right in law and he was ejected. These premises are set to-day at £3 odd per week, although the tenant was told by the landlord that he had an offer of £5.

We are told that this great charter of liberty is going to give businessmen in Dublin a lease at full competitive letting value. I may tell the House that this measure is not acceptable to the business men of the city. I do not want to minimise the Minister's difficulties or to say that this is not an exceedingly difficult and delicate measure to deal with in an equitable fashion; but I do suggest that paragraph (f) must go. It is my intention to vote for the Second Reading, but if paragraph (f) is still maintained when the Bill is being dealt with in Committee, I will be unable to support the Government on this section.

It is very seldom that I find myself to a great extent in agreement with Deputy Byrne. I know the cases to which he has referred and I am prepared to confirm them, but it is not necessary to do so. I am aware that hardship has been inflicted on the tenants of those premises. I do not wish to deal at any length with the question of interpreting normal competition, but I would like to give the House a few instances that have occurred in Dublin. A couple of weeks ago in Henry Street a business man who was giving up his business re-let his premises at a profit of something like £1,500 a year over and above the £600 that he had been paying. Deputy Byrne was quite right in the examples he gave, and he might have concluded the argument by giving even more glaring cases. I ask Deputies to visualise three shops, similar in every respect. One of these becomes vacant and a man comes along and offers an exorbitant rent. He gets possession at an exorbitant rent. Subsequently the lease of the next house falls in. The tenant is brought to court and the landlord can prove that for a similar premises he can get probably three times what the tenant is paying. Naturally the tenant has to choose between paying this normal competitive rent or getting out. I trust the Minister will define "normal competition."

The Minister seemed to look on the shortage of premises, particularly housing accommodation, as purely temporary. I venture to say that the shortage of premises is no longer temporary. We are suffering from a chronic disease in the matter of houses, and it will be some considerable time before the building of new premises will have so alleviated the shortage as to make matters normal. It is no exaggeration to say that the house shortage is indeed chronic. There are over 20,000 families in Dublin living in single rooms in tenements. There are at least 15,000 who would be glad to have alternative accommodation in the shape of flats or small houses. Neither in the existing town tenants legislation nor in the present Bill is there any proposal to protect the tenants of single rooms in tenements. A new sort of industry has sprung up in Dublin in the shape of dealers in tenement property. The Minister can get plenty of information on that matter in his own Department. People come into the market with £300 or £500, and they buy dwellings in a congested area or a slum district. They acquire those places so as to enhance their incomes, and they do that by ejecting the occupiers and re-letting the rooms at 1/- or 1/6 more. The present occupants of tenement dwellings have no protection.

Are they not protected under the Increase of Rents Act?

Can the Minister say how they are protected under that Act?

The rent cannot be raised higher than what it was in 1914, if the premises were let in 1914.

Is the Minister prepared to say that in a slum district the tenant has a chance of getting the rent fixed in accordance with the 1914 rates?

The tenant can come in under the provisions of the Increase of Rents Act.

Under what section is the accommodation he is paying for defined?

I think the Deputy had better resume his speech on the Bill, and let the Minister deal with these points when he is replying.

I would like to have a declaration from the Minister on that matter, because a great many of the tenement dwellers will be glad to know that the abnormal rents they are called upon to pay for single rooms will be reduced, and that they have some claim on the landlords for the excessive rents that have been taken from them in past years. I would like the Minister to make a definite declaration so that these poor people may have some guidance. I would like to know if this Bill proposes to give any relief to the holders of leases which contain penal clauses prohibiting the making of improvements on lands adjacent to the house to which they are attached unless the occupant is prepared to pay an increased rent to the landlord. I am sure the Minister has seen numbers of leases containing these penal clauses. Will the Minister make it clear that this Bill will render void such clauses as they appear in existing leases, and that a tenant may improve his property in line with the Bill without having to pay an increase in rent for the improvement he himself makes? Deputy Byrne was very much depressed about present conditions. It is rather surprising that he should be so depressed because he belongs to a Party who have been patting themselves on the back for the enormous amount of prosperity we are enjoying.

I ask the Minister to reconsider the sub-section quoted by Deputy Byrne, which was also referred to by Deputy Lemass, to see if the particular normal situation which is referred to is not really an abnormal one, and that the same protection will be given to tenants whose leases expire and from whom the landlord wants to get a new rent on a competitive basis. The last definition in Section 2 states: "Except in Part V. of this Act, the expression ‘building lease' means a lease made partly in consideration of the lessee having erected or agreed to erect permanent buildings, whether new or additional, on the demised premises." Will the Minister state what is meant by that, and whether in any part of the Bill protection is given to a person who takes, on a building lease, derelict property on which a building already exists, but which has to be put into proper condition and to spend money on it so as to make it habitable? Will the person holding that building lease have any protection under this Bill?

I am afraid the Deputy has not made himself clear.

I am not sure whether this definition of a building lease includes a building lease by a person for a property which has become derelict. There may be a building with no roof on it and the floors may be all gone. A person takes that derelict property and puts it into habitable condition. He may put on a new roof and put in new floors and whatever sanitary arrangements are necessary. Will he have the same right under this Bill as is defined here, or is he excluded under this definition?

He may have only the right to compensation for improvement, or if he erects a new building in pursuance of a covenant in fact it will be a building lease. If it is merely a question of repair, of course it is not building. It is a question of fact.

The Minister knows that what are sometimes called repairing leases are really building leases. I shall leave it at that for the present. I shall see if I can get further information for the Committee Stage, or perhaps the Minister will look into the point so as to be able to deal with it, or he might give us some guidance when replying. I shall be glad if the Minister would make the point clear which I put to him at the outset, that the occupiers of tenement property, the single room dwellers, will have their rights protected under this Bill when passed, in the same manner as other leaseholders described in the Bill.

While it cannot be said that this Bill does not meet, in some way at least, the demands of town tenants as voiced occasionally through the Town Tenants organisation, and in other ways, at the same time it fails in very many essentials to give expression in any way to what I consider the very clamant demands of certain classes of tenants in cities and towns. I have in mind the type of tenant who enters into occupation of business premises and who, because of his personality and capacity, establishes a good connection and eventually builds up a prosperous business. I can produce concrete evidence of the type of tenant I refer to. These tenants are fairly numerous in the City of Cork, and having built up a business, because of the attributes I have referred to, they have their rents almost quadrupled in many cases. There is no attempt in the Bill to meet cases of that character.

Again, reference has been made by Deputy Byrne, and also to some extent by Deputy Briscoe, to certain restrictive clauses in leases. We have evidence of that practice in Cork City. Certain landlords make it a condition of the tenancy that the tenant shall not engage in certain business undertakings. One very big public company, the landlords of a lot of property facing on the quay front, make it a condition that the tenant shall not engage in the selling of coal, the manufacture of flour, the establishment of tanneries, and so on. In some cases, the restriction goes so far as to say that they shall not engage in the sale of intoxicating liquor—possibly a survival of some of the feudal laws. In any case, these restrictive clauses are put in and are operative in the leases to which I refer. I suggest that that is a restriction of trade. It is, if you like, creating a monopoly on the part of some public company. I have in mind a carrying company at the moment who are engaged in the coal trade and who, by virtue of restrictive clauses in the leases, prevent any competition with their particular business. I suggest that that grievance is not met in this Bill. Whilst there is something in the Bill that is very useful and to which tribute might be paid by all Deputies, at the same time I hope that the Minister will at some future stage of the Bill do something along the lines I have indicated to protect this class of tenant.

Again, there is the man who is not engaged in business but who is an ordinary citizen and has a dwelling-house. Here again we find that he gets no protection whatever under the Bill. He is not protected by the Rent Restrictions Acts or by any other Act. Because of the fact that the district in which he lives may be a good business one, or may be a good district for boarding houses, or something else, his rent may be increased year after year. A certain amount of competition is set up and by that means the rent may be forced up. I hope the Minister will at a later stage do something to help the type of tenant I have indicated.

Deputy O'Connell made an observation in reference to this Bill with which I think most of us will be in agreement. He said it was a highly technical Bill. It would be difficult for the Minister to escape from a good deal of technical phraseology in the drafting of this Bill as it is a Bill dealing with the rights of landlords and tenants, and various classes of property, rights which cannot aptly be dealt with except in technical language. The very fact that it is necessarily a technical Bill gives perhaps technical matters a substance and importance that they do not ordinarily deserve. The criticism that I shall direct towards this Bill is of a dry and technical nature, but if it is well founded I conceive it may be of some importance. It affects a large and humble class of tenants in this State, and a class which I am sure this House would not intentionally overlook. I refer to the large number of persons who occupy business premises under what are sometimes accurately, and sometimes only colloquially referred to as weekly, monthly or quarterly tenancies. The Minister will either agree with me, or in reply will point out my error, when I say that those weekly, monthly and quarterly tenancies were the first tenancies with which the original "Increase of Rent" legislation became actively concerned.

Under the earlier Increase of Rent statutes it was necessary, in order to make them operative in regard to a particular tenancy that that tenancy should first be destroyed. In other words that the quarterly, monthly or weekly tenancies should by notice to quit be brought to an end in order that the statutory increase of rent might be made available for the landlord. There was a certain amount of doubt about that for a period, but it was set at rest by a decision of the House of Lords at a time when a decision of the House of Lords was binding and recognised in this country. Now, the importance of that, as I conceive it, and I think I accurately conceive it, is this: that in fact practically all or the vast majority at any rate of the monthly, quarterly, and weekly tenancies were destroyed and brought to an end by the landlords for the purpose of obtaining these increases of rent; that consequent thereon the former tenants of these holdings remained on in possession, and are still in possession, not by virtue of a tenancy but by virtue of the statutory right of possession conferred by the Acts.

It would be a very serious matter if a person in occupation of what is colloquially called a weekly, monthly or quarterly tenancy merely by virtue of a statutory right, and who, for all practical purposes, is indistinguishable from a tenant, were to be outside the ambit of this Bill and this Section 17. That he is outside it would seem clear from the words of the Bill; that he is intentionally outside would seem improbable having regard to the statement which Deputy J.J. Byrne elicited from the Minister for Justice when making his speech to-day. The structure of Section 17 goes, I think, clearly to show that it does not apply to this very large class of persons to whom I have alluded. The opening words of the section are: "On the termination within the meaning of this section of a tenancy in a tenement, this Part of this Act shall apply to such tenement if such tenement complies with any one of the following conditions" and then they are set out. And sub-section (2) of the same section seems exhaustively to state the kinds of determination which are referred to in the section. The sub-section defining the termination of tenancies clearly has reference and reference only, to actual cases where the relation of landlord and tenant under a contract exists, and cannot possibly refer to cases where the occupier is carrying on his business and is in possession merely by virtue of a statutory right.

Such criticism may at first sight seem more worthy of the Committee Stage of this Bill than the Second Reading Stage. But I fear that in Committee the Standing Orders would preclude an amendment or might preclude any amendment which would bring this large class of persons not already within the Bill actually within it. As far as I see, this Bill according to its title, and according to its manifest scope, does not purport to amend the Increase of Rent Acts, and does not propose to deal with any person other than tenants and, therefore, it might be said that such amendment was out of order even if it were necessary. However if the House has a statement from the Minister in charge of the Bill that this large class of tenants are intended to be within the scope of this Bill it might perhaps have some influence upon the fate of any amendment that may be necessary in order to effect that object.

The other matter to which I would refer at this stage is as to the powers given to the landlord by Section 19. The Minister himself referred particularly to Section 19 in his speech this afternoon. He quoted, I think, Section 19, sub-section (1), paragraph (d): That where the landlord terminates a tenancy by notice to quit for good and sufficient reason the right to a new tenancy might be diminished or might disappear altogether. Now the phrase "good and sufficient reason" is a very vague one. It may be calculated to rob persons, whom this Bill purports to benefit, of any real benefit. It may, like some other phrases to which Deputy J.J. Byrne has referred, be utilised and be the means of defeating the whole object of this Bill. The Minister referred to what, I think, we must regard as an inevitable misfortune: that is, the interpretation by the courts of the 1906 Act. That interpretation was inescapable and unavoidable. Yet the effect of it was to render the Act of 1906, from which so much was expected, of little value to the tenant. If the House grants power of the vague and indefinite nature that is mentioned in Section 19, sub-section (1), paragraph (d), they will be giving something which may be utilised to take a great deal of the good out of this Bill: to render a Bill from which so much was expected more or less a dead letter, as the Act of 1906 was rendered. The Minister hints that by sub-section (2) of Section 19 he is robbing this phrase "good and sufficient reason" of the terrors that might otherwise surround it. The Minister stated that there had been a conflict of opinion as to whether that "good and sufficient reason" might emanate from the tenant or from the landlord. Well, the Minister really will have to advance a better reason than that for the retention in this Bill of such a power, because with great respect to the Minister that question has been authoritatively set at rest by the judgment of the Supreme Court in the case of Leahy v. O'Reilly. The judgment of the Supreme Court makes it perfectly clear that whatever doubt may have existed many years ago from the various conflicting judgments of assize judges, the highest court in this State has now laid down that the cause or reason must emanate from the tenant. But that does not deprive this very objectionable sub-section of its sting. It still leaves the matter far too much at large.

The Increase of Rent Acts, which are not models of beautifully drafted legislation, do at least contain in a rather specific and detailed way the causes or reasons which will justify the landlord in obtaining possession of a protected tenement. It would be hardly too much to expect that the Minister for Justice, instead of getting rid of the matter in this short and easygoing fashion, by stating that the landlord can refuse for "good and sufficient cause" would set out precisely what the causes should be. It would not be difficult to enumerate the very few reasons which would justify a landlord in terminating a tenancy. There are a number of other matters dealt with in this Bill to which a good deal of criticism might be directed, but unlike what I have said about Section 17, that criticism can easily remain in cold storage until the Committee Stage of the Bill is reached. I merely say, with some of the other Deputies who have spoken, that it is greatly to be regretted that a Bill which in its structure, its framework and its scheme, is rather happy, should be such a skeleton: that there should be so little real flesh around a Bill on which so much might justly have been expected. That, however, is something that has been dealt with by other Deputies, and I do not feel justified in occupying the time of the House in stating, perhaps, in other words, thoughts which have found expression from other lips.

Deputy Geoghegan has called the attention of the House to the fact that those who, as I understand it, have benefited by the operation of the Rent Restrictions Act are in danger of being omitted from the ambit of this Bill. I would like to call the attention of the House to the general position that will be created when, as the Minister foretold in reply to a question by Deputy Lemass to-day, the Rent Restrictions Act will no longer operate as a corollary to this Bill after it becomes an Act. We have not had the pleasure, or the advantage, of hearing the representatives of vested interests in this House speak on these matters. We would like very much to have heard the usual arguments that the cessation of the Rent Restrictions Act is likely to lead to an increase in building, to a vast amount of speculative enterprise and, in fact, to a possible all-round reduction in rents. The representatives of the building industry have very wisely left it to the Minister for Justice to deal with this Bill, and the Minister has very wisely avoided these contentious matters. He confined himself, in his opening statement, to a simple explanation of the clauses of the Bill.

The Bill, however, as far as the ordinary town tenant down the country is concerned, might fittingly be described as a Bill which, perhaps, protects the small landlords against the big landlords, but it certainly does not protect the ordinary weekly, monthly, or quarterly tenant. What is the object of the Bill at all? It seems to me that the country and this House, when the Government brings forward legislation, has the right to expect that there should be a definite step forward socially: that it is not sufficient to make certain alterations in the law between landlord and tenant without, in fact, doing anything to ease the present housing shortage. I would, no doubt, have been told, if the representatives of the building industry had spoken, that de-control is going to be a very good thing, but the extent to which we have de-control in evidence now will not, I think, lead any impartial observer to believe that de-control is really going to effect any great change. We have in the City of Dublin, in regard to housing, the worst situation, I believe, in any capital in Europe. We have not alone a scarcity of houses, but we have the unbelievably degrading conditions in which 78,000 of our people are housed in single-room tenements. These people do not exist. They do not enter into the philosophy of the Minister for Justice any more than the thousands of small tenants throughout the country. Is it suggested that whatever benefits have accrued to these tenement dwellers and to small tenants under the Rent Restrictions Act are now going to be taken from them, and that they are going to get nothing whatever in their stead? The report of the Town Tenants Commission on the extension of the Small Dwellings Acquisition Act led us to believe that if the Government were somewhat chary on account of their alliance with vested interests in this country of going a big step forward in this matter that, at least, they would show that they were in touch with the times and that they had a progressive outlook in the matter of helping tenants who, by their thrift and their industry, were prepared to help themselves to become owners of their houses. There is nothing whatever in the Bill to deal with that situation, and as far as the small holders are concerned they have nothing whatever to be thankful for.

The Minister for Justice has made great capital out of the provisions for compensation for disturbance. As far as I can see, these provisions do not matter a great deal. In the first place, compensation for disturbance will only be granted to tenants who, if this particular section did not operate in their cases, would be entitled to a renewal of their tenancies. Therefore, a tenant, as far as I can read the Bill—perhaps I am making a mistake, and if I am I hope the Minister will correct me— will not be entitled to compensation for disturbance unless in the case of a residential holding, he and his predecessors in title have been in continuous occupation for forty years. I think that is borne out by the fact that Section 20 (2) refers to the fact that the compensation to be granted is on the basis that the tenant has been carrying on business for three years preceding the termination of his tenancy. Therefore, as far as compensation for disturbance is concerned, it does not affect all classes of tenants who are carrying on business in their holdings. It only affects a limited number. The report of the Commission, as far as I can make out, was distinctly in favour of granting compensation for disturbance to all classes of tenants in the same way as it was in favour of granting relief in the form of fixing fair rents to all classes of tenants.

With regard to compensation for disturbance and the recommendation as to excessive rents which the Commission said should take effect in all cases where the tenant alleged that he was paying 10 per cent. in excess of what a fair rent should be, the report states, on page 24:—

We believe, however, that if the recommendations which we have made as to excessive rents were adopted, the situation would be dealt with satisfactorily if the provisions for compensation for unreasonable disturbance (with the subsidiary alternative provision for the renewal of the tenancy) which we have already suggested, were extended so as to make them apply to any tenancy.

The report of the Commission, therefore, which seems to have been fairly impartial and which seems to have taken all points of view into consideration in trying to arrive at an equitable and a fair conclusion is definitely put aside, because all tenants are not getting the benefit of the recommendations that were made by this Commission. The Minister in his opening statement also stressed that the Commission reported in favour of forty years. I do not think that the Commission were hide-bound in that matter, because I find that when dealing with the question of disturbance, the report states, on page 36:—

The building of the house or the execution of very extensive repairs, or tenure during a long term, or even for a lesser number of years, if the tenant is and has been in actual occupation, and has nowhere else to go to, are all circumstances which, in our opinion, make disturbance without good and sufficient cause unreasonable.

There you have a definite admission that a lesser number of years ought to qualify a tenant for compensation for disturbance, if he has been in actual occupation and has nowhere else to go. I do not see any provision in the Bill dealing with that matter. On page 24 of the report, paragraph 37, dealing with the Increase of Rent Restrictions Act, states:—

In June, 1929, these emergency provisions ceased to operate, and with the present scarcity of accommodation it is perfectly clear that the existing Town Tenants Act would be quite unable to bear the strain that will be put on the permanent legislation affecting the relations of landlord and tenant. We believe, however, that if the recommendations which we have made as to excessive rents were adopted, the situation would be dealt with satisfactorily....

I take it that the meaning of that is that if the Rent Restrictions Acts are to be finally terminated that should only be done on the definite understanding that all tenants would have the right to have fair rents fixed, and that the provision for compensation for unreasonable disturbance should also apply to all tenancies. There is another aspect of this matter that I think concerns us, and that is the part that house rents play in the cost of living. The cost of living in this country, as we find when dealing with expenditure in the public services, is a very important element, and we are constantly told that overhead expenses cannot be reduced: that you cannot reduce public expenditure, and cannot expect to make savings in salaries, bonus and such things as long as the cost of living remains at the present level. I have a great deal of sympathy with that point of view. It seems to me that rent is a very important item in the budget of the ordinary worker or of the ordinary civil servant. The annual charge for rent is generally supposed to be about one-fifth of the income. I think it is very much more than that, and I think the lower we go down in the scale of officials of the State, or of the wage-earning class, the higher will the proportion be.

There is nothing whatever in this Bill to save those classes, who have to pay a much higher proportion of their income than they ought to pay in rent, when the Rent Restrictions Act ends. I foresee that there will be a wholesale increase of rent. That, in turn, will have reactions on the cost of living, and, in our examination of public expenditure here, we shall be forced to the conclusion that, so far as the budget of the civil servant is concerned, he will be faced in some items, at any rate, with a curve upwards instead of downwards. So far as the figures given in the official reports go, rents have been increasing during the past few years. Though we are supposed to have the advantage of de-control in regard to houses which people, let us say, of the lower ranks of the Civil Service would inhabit. there is clear evidence that that, instead of bringing about normality in the market, will actually bring about an increase. The increase was becoming apparent in 1928. There was a considerable increase in 1929. I do not know what the position is during the past six months, but it is quite evident that in this matter of rents it is futile to talk of "normal competition." You have a great increase in the standard of living; you have a great shortage of houses, with very bad conditions in Dublin, and, on top of all that, you are going to release the landlord from the obligations that were imposed upon him, and you are going to allow the house-owning classes to embark, if they wish, upon wholesale increases of rents. The only bright spot in the situation up to the present was the fact that there was a large body of pre-war tenants who were able to avail themselves of the Rent Restrictions Acts. Because there was some security for them, because they had some hope of maintaining their position against the landlord, because they were statutorily protected, the situation was not so bad. But now we are suddenly taking away that protection from them. We are giving them nothing whatever in exchange, and there is no doubt whatever that competition will be intensified.

What is the use of talking about fixing rents upon the basis of normal competition in a city where housing conditions are so bad? It is impossible. There is not normal competition. I do not care how favourable a judge or a tribunal may be to the tenants, current prices will have to be taken into consideration. The tribunal will have to take cognisance of the case the landlord will put up. The landlord will be in a much stronger position than the tenant and will be better able to bear the expense of going before the tribunal. He will be able to have argued a particular case which he considers a strong case. The tenant, generally speaking, will not be able to go to court. Even under the provision in the Bill where, in lieu of compensation for improvements, the tenant must get a new tenancy, he must either take the terms the landlord offers or go into court and contest the matter. If the landlord will fight shy of bringing cases into court on account of the cost of litigation and the fear that unreasonably high compensation might be awarded, what is the position of the unfortunate tenant? How will he bear the expense of going into court? In that, you are simply increasing the bargaining power of the landlord. I am surprised the Government have not taken steps to try to protect the occupier against profiteering, against taking advantage of de-control in the way in which it may be taken advantage of when you have such a housing shortage and when you have people prepared to pay anything in order to get into a house from a flat or even from single rooms. People are simply prepared to pay any rent for a house, yet the Minister tells us that the basis fixed—what a willing lessor will take and a willing lessee will give —is a fair and equitable basis.

I suggest to the House that there should be something more than that. In taking this step into the dark, some limitation, such as was provided in the Rent Restrictions Acts, should be introduced. In those Acts, you had provision for an increase where the landlord could make a case, but you had also a limitation of 10 per cent. or 15 per cent. The landlord could not go beyond that. I would not press that if all tenants could come in and get fair rents fixed. But they cannot. It is only in the case of residential holdings in respect of which the tenants can prove that they themselves or their predecessors in title were in occupation for forty years that that applies. Is it fair to de-control and give the tenants no rights and no safeguards?

In the matter of ground rents, the Minister has protected the mesne landlord by enabling him to turn out a tenant if he says he has a development scheme on hand or that it is inconsistent with good estate management that the tenant should remain in occupation. If the tenants succeeds in establishing his right to a new tenancy, he may only do it in consideration of the fact that he is going to carry out repairs. There is no provision that the tenement shall have been kept in a reasonable state of repair by the landlord, so far as I can see. The fact is that, in this matter of litigation, the weight of evidence will be on the landlord's side. The landlord will have all the advantage. He will have nothing to fear from the tribunal, even though the assessor be appointed by the Commissioner of Valuation. Wherever property values are going up, wherever there is a new tramway or bus service established, wherever the Shannon Scheme has penetrated, wherever a particular area becomes fashionable, these factors will combine and inevitably the landlord must have advantages. We are not against giving him the full advantage of the tribunal, but what we do want to insist upon is that all tenants should have the right to go before it.

In the fixing of the basis of new rents, or the term of a new tenancy, where a new tenancy is granted, I think that the court should take cognisance of what the municipality has done. The Town Tenants Commission had at the back of their minds, I think, the fact that it was a great pity that head landlords who contributed nothing to the amenities of a district, who did nothing to improve a locality, who did not expend money on an estate as they ought to have done, and, in fact, who did nothing but draw their ground rents, should suddenly have had their rents increased fourfold, or, as the Minister said, fifty-fold. It is a pity that the only way which the Government sees fit to tackle that problem is by helping the small landlords against the big landlord. So long as we have new middlemen coming in the problem becomes more difficult, and every new interest that intervenes between the head landlord and the new tenant is an additional burthen on the occupier. Additional rates are placed on the city as new services are brought into operation. Who pays for them? Is it the head landlord? No. Is it the middleman—there may be half a dozen intervening? No. It is the unfortunate occupier who has to pay all the rates.

I am surprised that the Minister has not seen fit, at least, to try and give the municipalities some service in the way of a tax on ground rents, or of buying up ground rents altogether. In any case he should have tried to end the present position where you have the unfortunate ratepayers of the city of Dublin paying very heavy rates, while the ground landlords get away scot-free. The rents that are to be fixed ought to be fixed with regard to the fact that a great deal of the value of a holding is often dependent on what the municipality and the ratepayers have spent, and, where the value of a house or holding is dependent on what the municipality has done, the ground landlord should not get the benefit and the tenant should not have to pay a higher rent because of something which he and his fellow-ratepayers have contributed to bring about.

It seems from the Bill itself, from the Minister's opening statement, and from most of the speeches up to the present, that the Minister and many Deputies are of opinion that when we talk about tenants we have in mind only shopkeepers. I think that the Bill might properly be entitled a Shopkeepers Bill and not a Town Tenants Bill. So far as the Bill is concerned, it completely ignores the vast bulk of tenants throughout the country. In his speech the Minister made no reference whatever to the vast bulk of the tenants. So far as there is any good at all in the Bill, it is going to confer benefits only on business houses. The extent to which it will confer benefits on the occupiers of residential houses is very small. The Minister, I think, revealed what is in his mind when he stated that the Bill was introduced to deal with the problem which the 1906 Act was introduced to deal with. As we know, that Act purported to deal only with business houses, but it failed even to do that.

I would like to hear from the Minister whether it is the Government's intention at any time to provide protection for the vast mass of the tenants, the tenants I have in mind, and that I want particularly to see protected, namely, the working class tenants throughout the country, the weekly, monthly, and, in some cases, quarterly tenants. I agree that it is essential that people in business houses should be protected from the landlords, because many of these houses are both business and dwelling houses. We know the necessity which exists for that protection, but there is a greater necessity to protect the working man, the man who is paying a weekly rent and who is not in a position to challenge the landlord. The Minister is well aware that were it not for the Rent Restrictions Act many of these tenants would be compelled to pay even much higher rents than they are paying to-day. When speaking of that Act we ought not to forget what has been done for the landlords since this State was set up. The Act which was in force when the Free State was established was passed by the British House of Commons and prevented the landlords from increasing rents over and above what is called the standard rent, the rent which obtained in 1914. That Act was due to expire in this country in 1923. The Government, when they brought in their own measure to continue that Act, gave a bonus of 10 per cent. to the landlords. In other words, in the 1923 Act it was provided that the landlords could increase the standard rent by 10 per cent.

That Act was to remain in operation until 1926, and when it came to be renewed in that year the Government, thinking, apparently, that the landlords were not getting sufficient by way of a bonus of 10 per cent., increased the 10 per cent. to 20 per cent. As a matter of fact, the actual increase was much more, but they gave them a free bonus of 20 per cent. on the standard rent. There were other provisions by which the landlords could increase the standard rent over and above the 20 per cent. by a certain percentage for repairs. It ought to be within the Minister's knowledge, it is well known to many of us who for years have been interested in the Town Tenants movement, that the landlords were in many cases able to get an increase as high as 50 per cent. As has been pointed out by Deputy Lemass and others, we have no guarantee that the Rent Restrictions Act, bad and all as that Act is, is going to be kept in operation. I would suggest to those who are so fond of talking about the aims of the Town Tenants Organisation being to confiscate the property of the landlords to remember that the landlords have been treated very well. They have been given the right to increase the 1914 rent by 20 per cent. on houses which were deteriorating each year. On property which was deteriorating they have been enabled by law to increase the rent. There are, of course, Deputies in this House and, apparently, members of the Government who hold the view that there should be no restriction whatever, that there should be free play, and that so far as houses in this country are concerned the only law which should apply should be the law of supply and demand. As a matter of fact, that is already embodied in the Bill before us.

That is the direction which is going to the courts, that the way in which a fair rent is to be decided is according to the law of supply and demand. The Minister stated, and laid emphasis on the point, when Deputy Byrne was speaking, that the rent was to be what the landlord was willing to accept and what the prospective tenant was willing to pay in a free market with vacant possession. In the present housing shortage in this country it is not right to use the words "what the tenant is willing to pay." If a man is without a house or if a man is living in a slum he will be coerced into offering for any house which is going a much higher rent than he is actually able to pay. That is happening every day. I know it from information I received in this city. I know myself that in the country children have to go without sufficient food because of the proportion of the father's wages which has to go to pay the high rent. The balance is not large enough to purchase sufficient food for the children.

I want to put this to the Minister. Certain houses were brought out from control in 1929. I can give the Minister cases here in Dublin of houses the rent of which before 1929 was £60, and which to-day are being let at £100 or £110 a year. I am sure the Minister is aware of that. I had hoped that when introducing this Bill, that he would have been able to say to the House that this was the beginning of a Town Tenants code. I was hoping that the excuse he would give for this Bill was that it was such a big problem. We must all admit that it is a big problem and a very difficult problem, and certainly much more difficult than ever the land business was. As far as I am concerned I am prepared to admit that I myself would have very little cause for complaint if the Minister stated that in the three years at his disposal he was endeavouring to get a Bill which would provide a satisfactory law for determining the relation between landlord and tenant in all cases. But no, the Minister's claim is that this Bill will put the relation of landlord and tenant on a permanent and satisfactory basis. I can only come to the conclusion that the Minister was not aware that there are tenants, other than those who occupy business houses when he made that statement, because there is nothing whatever in the Bill to deal with the vast majority of the weekly and monthly tenants, and these are the more defenceless of the tenants. I would like, with Deputy Lemass, to get from the Minister some explanation of the forty years. I must say that I thought, when I looked through this Bill during the holidays, that it was a printer's error, but being assured by the Minister to-day that it was not, and that he was quite serious in putting it there, I can only come to the conclusion that it is mere window-dressing, and that it is put there because the Minister knows it is not going to be effective.

A good deal has been said about what can be done with this Bill in the Committee Stage. No doubt it can be amended, in so far as it affects business houses and others, but if we are to meet in any way the demand of the representatives of the town tenants in this country, and, as I say, all the claims of the tenants in the towns and villages throughout the country it will, in my opinion, require a new Bill, because you will have to introduce new principles into the Bill which, of course, you would not be allowed to do in the Committee Stage, if you were to make this a Bill which would in any way be acceptable to the representatives of the tenants. I would like to emphasise a point made by another speaker, early in the afternoon, when he said that one of the best proofs we have that this Bill is not of much use to the tenant is the fact that we have not heard a word from the Houseowners Association, or from the representatives of the landlords against it.

They are not here.

I am not saying here, either here or outside. Deputy Thrift reminds me that they are not here. I am sure they would be if there was any necessity for them. They were certainly here in force in 1924 and 1926, when Deputy Redmond's two Bills were introduced into the House and beaten by very few votes—I think, on one occasion, two votes. On that occasion the landlords had more supporters than they have to day, and the tenants had fewer supporters. Further, as Deputy Lemass said, I suppose we will have to vote for the Second Reading of this Bill, although, as one who has been connected with the Town Tenants' Association for the last 14 or 15 years, I may say that this falls very short of any Town Tenants Bill which I could visualise being introduced by any Government in this House.

Speaking on behalf of the organisation with which I am connected, we are very much disappointed with the Bill and with the Government for not having made a better attempt to deal with what is undoubtedly a very grave problem. I would like to hear from the Minister why the Government did not take any action on the interim report of the Town Tenants Commission. The Town Tenants Commission looked upon the Small Dwellings Act as of such importance that it was the first matter they tackled. They got special evidence and made an interim report, and, so far as I am concerned, I am satisfied myself that the most satisfactory way of dealing with the town tenants' problem is to carry out the recommendations of the Commission so far as the acquisition of small dwellings is concerned. By doing that you will make it possible for nearly all tenants to purchase their own houses. The only way to satisfy, fully and permanently, the demands of the town tenants would be by proper machinery which would enable them to become houseowners of their own. By doing that you would make each man a better citizen by giving him a stake in the country, which would be good, not only for the landlords, but for the country as a whole.

From the criticism levelled at this Bill, I am afraid that it is only the beginning of a series of Town Tenants Acts. There is one class of tenant who has suffered rather unfairly as a result of the delay in bringing forward this measure. I refer to those whose leases expired during the past two years. One of them, writing to me, states that the Minister for Justice promised repeatedly to bring in the new Bill and that his landlord knowing that the Bill was being introduced squeezed anything he could out of him in the interval between the finding of the Commission and the introduction of the Bill. Many people whose leases expired in the interval between the report of the Commission and the introduction of the Bill, have been rather hard hit, and I think it would be only fair that portion of the measure should be made retrospective.

If the Minister had ever any fear of being considered a radical he has saved his character for all time by the introduction of this Bill. It certainly is the least revolutionary attempt to deal with a big problem that has ever been made. As there has been a fair amount of general criticism, I will confine myself to asking a few questions on particular matters. First of all, it occurs to me that the important question of whether the electrification of houses is an improvement or not, is not clear in the Bill. For instance, in Section 11 there are certain things laid down that must be done before the making of an improvement. A statement in the prescribed form of the intention to make such improvement and plans and specifications of such an improvement, and an estimate verified by an architect or surveyor of the cost of making such an improvement, must be submitted. It would not appear that electrification was in the minds of those who drafted that Bill. As that is the most general type of improvement that is made in the ordinary residential tenements, I suggest to the Minister that he should consider whether there is any need to make it clear that electrification is an improvement. It is evident from Section 13 that the question of improvement is left entirely to the landlord and tenant to decide. The public have no voice in the matter. Should there not be an effort made to give the people in the townships or in the immediate area, the right to insist upon an improvement even though the landlord and tenant are satisfied that it need not be gone on with? Should a public authority not have the right to apply for an improvement?

With regard to Section 14, the exclusion of all tenants who have contracts for less than five years or whose existing contracts have run for less than five years seems to me indefensible. As the section is worded, in my opinion, it leads to this that I may have been in possession of a house for twenty years. I may have recently signed a new contract for three or four years. In such a case I am debarred from the improvement provision. Further, if an improvement is demanded there is no reason why the court should not try to make it irrespective of any period of tenancy. I think there are certain provisions in that section that seem very much in need of reconstruction. Sub-section (7) of that section reads:—

"Where an improvement order has been made and the tenant fails or neglects to execute and complete in accordance with such order the improvement thereby authorised within the time limited in that behalf by such order or, where no such time is so limited, within a reasonable time, the landlord or any superior landlord may apply to the court and on the hearing of such application the court may make such orders as justice may require."

I suggest in that case the court should not be empowered to make an order to nullify an improvement order. An improvement order once made should be proof that improvement is needed. It should not be left open to a court to go back upon that. Similarly, with regard to Section 15, sub-section (2), I think the proposal is wrong. The sub-section reads:

"A tenant shall not be entitled to compensation for improvements in respect of an improvement made before the passing of this Act on a tenement in contravention of a lease or other contract of tenancy under which such tenement was held."

A court, I suggest, should at least have discretion. If the improvement was injurious the landlord had the power to prosecute. I do not think the House found the Minister's defence of excluding anybody who was under three years established in business from compensation for disturbance satisfactory. Such a tenant would obviously have spent a great deal of capital in the first two years. He would spend a great deal more than he would spend in the subsequent two years. He would spend a great deal of his capital in trying to establish himself and in making his business known. But to say that because he was not more than three years in the place he should be excluded from compensation seems to me almost the reverse of what should apply. The Minister said he would not have established goodwill in less than three years. But he surely would have spent a great deal of his capital.

With regard to Sections 20 and 21, it seems to me a very extraordinary thing that notwithstanding the criticism that was levelled at the 1906 Act because of the fact that it gave no compensation for disturbance to the tenant of a private house, that that principle should still apply in the new measure. The Minister would find it very hard to defend the principle of a tenant of a private house being refused a new tenancy and not being entitled to some compensation for the disturbance. In some cases he may have suffered as much loss as a business man in similar circumstances. That alone would justify Deputy Morrissey's description of the Bill as a shopkeepers' Bill rather than a town tenants' Bill. I think it will be found that letting for temporary convenience will have to be considerably modified. There again it is strange that the Minister does not appear to have been influenced by the criticism levelled at the previous Act or by decisions that were made in court on points arising out of the previous Act. I think the decision has been given in court that lettings for temporary convenience may mean lettings for a person's lifetime. To exclude cases of that kind from the provisions of the Bill looks rather remarkable if this is intended to be really serious legislation to establish fair conditions with regard to the town tenants for any considerable length of time.

The forty years' provision has been so much emphasised that I would like if the Minister would tell us whether the definition given of predecessors in title is the same definition as applied to the previous measure. I think that in a case that arose under a previous measure, the case of Adams v. Dunseath, it was decided that the predecessor in title means any former occupant, notwithstanding any change in the tenancy of the holding. If that is so, it gives, of course, a different view of the forty years from that which one would take at the first reading. I think that requires to be made clear.

There are other things, too, that arise out of the definitions. There is, for instance, the definition of "a good and sufficient reason." I understand that a good and sufficient reason may be taken to mean a refusal by the tenant to pay an increase of rent. In that case the reading of Section 19 of the Bill is rather remarkable. That section reads:

A tenant shall not be entitled to a new tenancy under this Part of this Act where—

(a) his tenancy is terminated by ejectment for non-payment of rent; or

(b) his tenancy is terminated by ejectment, notice to quit or otherwise on account of a breach by such tenant of a condition of such tenancy; or

(c) he terminates his tenancy by notice of surrender or otherwise; or

(d) his tenancy is terminated by notice to quit given by his landlord for good and sufficient reason ...

If good and sufficient reason means that the tenant is not prepared to pay what the landlord considers a reasonable increase of rent, surely that would be an extraordinary provision. That is, that he will not be entitled to a new tenancy for the reason that he is not prepared to pay what the landlord demands for a new tenancy.

That is not in the Bill.

The Bill is obviously largely a Committee Bill, but it is not an impressive measure, and one wonders why, after so much time, the Government did not attempt to deal more thoroughly with this problem. The principal effect it will have in my opinion, will not be the effect of creating more tolerable relations between the landlord and tenant, but the effect of creating a very strong agitation for a new and a much more adequate Bill than the present one.

I regret that the Government has seen right to occupy so much of the time of the House to-day with such a useless measure as this. During the past four years since I came here I heard month after month and week after week complaints from town tenants looking for relief and for a Bill to remedy their grievances. Before we came in here there were two measures introduced and when those two measures were finished with, a guarantee was given by the Government that they were going to bring in a Town Tenants Bill. This Bill goes about as far towards satisfying the needs of the town tenants of the Free State as does the Intoxicating Liquor Bill, which gives power to open the publichouses for an extra three hours in the twelve months, to satisfy the publican. I do not agree with those who have said that this Bill can be amended in Committee. With the experience that we had here a short time ago in connection with the Land Bill my advice to those who represent the town tenants is to throw out this Bill.

I would call this rushed legislation, because the Government took only five years to consider the measure. When rushed legislation like this is brought in on the eve of a General Election for vote-catching purposes, the town tenants may be sure that it is not going to do any good to them or to anybody. It may blind a few unfortunate tenants, but the Government will find that it will be of no use to them. It has no relation whatsoever to the Report of the Town Tenants Commission. The Bill is a useless one. From time to time I have attended meetings of town tenants in Cobh, and in other areas. These are people who are very hardly hit by the landlords. To such people this Bill is absolutely useless. If the Government have nothing better to do than to occupy the time of the Dáil with stuff of this description they had better adjourn the Dáil until the General Election when some other Party will come in here to satisfy the needs of the people.

I am surprised that Deputy Redmond has not spoken upon this Bill, having regard to the fact that on a previous occasion he took an active part in this particular agitation. One would have anticipated that he would have remained consistent in that attitude and that he would have protected in some way the interests of the town tenants. One would have expected that he would have pursued a consistent line. Possibly now he is going to take a different view in politics. He seems to be more closely allied with the present Government and does not see fit to take up the same attitude on this Bill as he took up on former occasions with reference to the relation between landlords and tenants.

The Bill, as has been shown by all the Deputies who have spoken on it, is very defective and defective from almost every point of view. It is defective from the point of view of the shopkeepers, because although it does something for their benefit it hedges around these benefits with so many conditions that really it is very difficult to say that they are going to get very much out of it. "Having regard to normal competition" is a very wide term. The Minister has not told us what he considers to be "normal competition". He has not told us how that phrase will be interpreted by a court of law. Does he consider the basis of 1914 as a normal basis? Or in the alternative what does he consider? Is he going to take into consideration the value of money? After all this Bill is going to be interpreted not by one or two judges of the High Court, but by all the Circuit Judges throughout the country, and one may get the most extraordinary variations of opinion as to what is to be the basis of "normal competition."

The thing that one should aim at in a Bill of this kind is to try and stabilise prices. There should be some attempt to get fair prices. The Government shirked putting into force the recommendations of the Commission on Food Prices. In the same way they have really shirked the whole issue of trying to arrive at what would be a fair basis in the fixing of rent. I suggest that the proper method in fixing rents is a method that would give a proper return to the landlord on the money invested. Property in houses is very much more akin to property in land than it is to any other form of property, and it should be dealt with by a different set of principles altogether than the principle of the fluctuation of market value.

Anyone who has any knowledge of any city knows the way in which prices vary and the extraordinary fluctuations in prices and rents. I know where successive numbers of tenants have taken a shop at £300 a year. At least two of them were broken because they could not make good with such a rent. There must be some reality introduced into what is no mere gambling. Let us look at the rents that are current in the City of Dublin. In one street the rents will be very high. That is the street that is supposed to be fashionable. Running off that street you will find that the rents are lower, and most people do their shopping there because the prices are lower. The element of gambling has entered to such an extent that reality has gone out of the situation altogether. The profit which the landlord is getting bears no relation to the money he invested. The Government have completely shirked any attempt to deal with the matter from that point of view.

The poor people who are merely residents are seeking to get a reduction of rent. I think it was Diogenes who went around with a lamp looking for an honest man. The Minister will have to go around with a lamp looking for a tenant who has held his premises for forty years, or who is under a tenancy which can be proved to have been continuously in existence for that period. This is an insult as well as an injury to the people who have been seeking justice for the town tenants. I know of cases in Waterford City where people were very badly treated under the Rent Restrictions Act; they are suffering considerable grievances because of the way the landlords managed to escape the full terms of the Rent Restrictions Act. This Bill offers no amelioration and gives them no hope.

There is no attempt made to deal with the slum problem. The only people whose interests are to be really safeguarded are the landlords. A great many of the landlords in Dublin City hold their titles in the most dubious fashion. These titles were granted by a corrupt Corporation which never did anything to improve sanitary conditions either in the matter of drainage or a water supply. They were granted leases of enormously valuable property at banquets for trivial sums of money. Some property was transferred for £1,000, and other property worth hundreds of thousands was handed over for £5,000. That is ancient history, but the city is still suffering because it is a continuous imposition. The Government has not faced the problem created by the unfair and dishonest giving away of property belonging to the municipality. Even in this Bill there is no attempt to get back what is due to the people through the appreciation in the value of property.

The Minister might have put into the Bill the principle that a landlord should not get more out of his land than he put into it; he should not get more than a fair profit upon the money he invested. Any increased value of property should go to the community, where it properly belongs. A large part of the slum problem in Dublin is due to the fact that the Corporation does not own the property where the slums exist. That property was given away at another time when there was a corrupt Corporation. The Corporation now in existence have no way of remedying the evils under which the people are suffering. It was pointed out in the report of the Commission that the 1906 Act was so hedged round with conditions as to defeat the objects that were aimed at. Even in this Bill we find certain things that will help to defeat the objects those truly interested in the town tenants desire. Let us take the supposed advantages to be given to the tenants under Section 17. The termination of a tenancy will date from the notice to quit. That places an enormous power in the hands of the landlord. He will be able to foresee in certain cases that if he does not issue a notice to quit the tenant will have certain rights under this section and the landlord will take jolly good care to bring about a termination of the tenancy so as to prevent the operation of the section.

The Bill has already received such hearty condemnation from almost all the speakers that it is not necessary for me to labour my criticism of it. I hope the Minister will consider bringing in other legislation very soon. Even when we have amended this Bill as far as we can within the limits of its title, it will not achieve what the people who are interested really desire. When the volume of criticism has increased to a sufficient extent perhaps the Minister may extend the title of the Bill. I once read a story about Russians crossing the snow in a sleigh. Wolves were following, and the Russians found it necessary to keep throwing things off the sleigh so as to keep the wolves back. They first threw a coat, and then something else, in order to occupy the wolves for the time being. The process by which this Government carries out its policy is something like that. At one stage it threw to the people the report of the Town Tenants Commission. When the wolves of public opinion had torn that to pieces, the Government now throw them a Bill. I hope the wolves of public opinion will hurry up and get on to the Government again so that it will be obliged to throw them something else more substantial and satisfactory than anything it has done up to this.

I think it is time that the monotony of the remarks made about the Bill was somewhat broken, and although I cannot pretend to any such technical knowledge as would enable me to criticise the Bill in its details, there are two or three general remarks of principle that I feel myself called upon to make. On the main parts of the Bill, I disagree very much with most of the speakers who have given their views. I think, for the most part the Bill is a genuine attempt to deal fairly with the very difficult problem of establishing an equitable basis of dealing between landlord and tenant. In one section of the Bill I disagree entirely with any speaker whom I have heard. I think there is one part of the Bill to which one term alone can be applied, and that is the term "confiscation." For the first time I have seen produced here a Bill which confiscates rights without any compensation whatever offered to the holder of those rights. I refer to Part V which deals with building leases, and I am not without hope that I shall make all sections of the House think that there is justice in the view I wish to put forward.

I ask Deputies to remember that when these building leases were given they were given as a definite contract, and accepted willingly by the takers of those leases, the takers intending to and being able to make a profit by the leases that were given. The contract was made for a period of years on definite terms, and the takers of the leases knew that they would be able to make a profit out of taking such a lease within that period or they would not have taken them. They knew at least they would have a reasonable expectation of a profit by those leases, or they would not have taken them. They took these leases, and there was no suggestion that they were gaining any more in the way of rights than was specified in the leases. These specifications left to the giver of the leases definite rights over property that might be established upon the ground within that period, and the takers of the leases knew that at the termination of the leases such buildings as they erected would become the property of the ground landlord.

That has been, and is at the present moment, theoretically the landlord's right. He can, under our law, become the owner of the buildings erected upon the land which he had leased to another for a certain period. It is quite true and right that good landlords at the termination of such leases give to the holders of the leases fair terms for the renewal of such leases. It is equally true that bad landlords have frequently acted unfairly to the tenants and have exacted harsh terms from them when renewing those leases. Both cases have occurred. We here have in this Bill the direct consequence, making good landlords suffer for bad ones, inasmuch as both are, under the Bill, to be penalised by what can only be called the confiscation of rights in property without any compensation whatever.

There can be no question as to those rights, because, as Deputy Lemass, I think it was, remarked, the Government, in levying death duties, have exacted them to the full. Any holder of a reversionary right has had to pay, if he came into possession by the death of another, the full death duties on property, not valued at the current lease, but at the value that that property would have when that reversion fell in, and has had to pay on an estimate calculated on the full value at which the property would be let, unless he was able to establish clearly that it was his definite practice to renew leases on much lower terms. If he could establish that his practice was to give a lease on very much lower terms, then he was able to claim that those terms should be accepted in reference to the particular property in question. Otherwise, he would have had to pay death duties calculated on the full reversionary value of the property. So that there can be no doubt as to what view the Government took as to the rights of the landlords in such matters. Nevertheless we have it in this Bill that when such a lease falls in he is to gain nothing from the falling in of the lease. He has to renew the lease on the old terms. Here I can agree completely with the criticism that Deputy Lemass made on this part of the Bill. He is to renew this lease in such a way as seems to me to be the most unfavourable way of doing it from a general point of view. Because I take it the ideal thing to aim at in this matter, if we want to give fair treatment generally, is to get rid of the middleman, to have immediate contact between the ground landlord and the tenant. I think we are much more likely then to get fair dealing on both sides. But under this Bill it is the holder of the profit rent who seems likely to be the man to benefit—neither the tenant nor the landlord.

Deputy Lemass satisfied himself by saying that somebody was sure to support the point of view of the landlord. He seemed to have sympathy for him, but he did not feel called upon to bring out his claims in the matter. He accepted the position that the landlord had no right to gain anything. I disagree with him in that respect, but I agree with him when he says that the holder of the profit rent surely has no right to gain, whereas under the Bill, in the Sections from 41 to 43, you will find that in some cases it will probably be the holder of the profit rent who will get the renewal of the lease and who will gain by these sections an unexpected bonus in this respect. It is not going to the benefit very often of the actual tenant occupier. It is going to the holder of the reversionary lease at the time when the lease falls in. It will depend upon circumstances as to the exact person who benefits, but, generally speaking, I believe, from the little knowledge I have on the matter, that it will not be the tenant in occupation who will benefit. He did not expect to benefit either when he took such a lease.

I agree with Deputy Lemass when he said that in this respect the working out of the Bill will be difficult. If you take Section 43, paragraph (d), you will see that at least two abstruse and difficult calculations will have to be made in order to arrive at the rent that is to be fixed when this new lease is given. I would like to suggest to the Minister and the House generally, that it would be only reasonable and fair to arrive at a scheme which would give the ground landlord some advantage when the original lease falls in. It does not seem to me to be fair and equitable that the whole of the advantage should fall either to the tenant or the middleman who may be the intermediate lease holder. Deputy Lemass admitted that. I think it ought to be possible to get a very much simpler scheme and arrive at some basis that would apply in a general way, and that would avoid much of these complicated calculations that would have to be made in accordance with the Bill. I think it ought to be possible to arrive at some basis of accommodation which would, in a general way, give the landlord some advantage—it might be small, but at any rate, some advantage—and give the tenant in occupation the major part of the advantage.

It is the tenant in occupation that I would like to benefit as well as the landlord. I throw out the suggestion merely that it might be possible to take a general percentage of the Poor Law valuation and say that the landlord should get a certain percentage of that as the advantage under the new lease, and that the holder should get the rest. I would appeal to the Dáil to consider this matter both from the landlords' point of view and the tenants' point of view, and see whether we could arrive at some reasonable compromise between the different interests involved. I think we are obliged to attempt it from the point of view of both interests involved, and that it is not right to say that one man, because he is a landlord, must lose everything, and that another man, because he is a tenant, must gain everything. That is a point I think we can deal with better on the Committee Stage, but I was not prepared to let pass the general statement that this was a Bill which was entirely in the landlords' interests. It is very much the reverse. I was not prepared to let pass the statement made by two or three speakers that so much was that the case that there had not been a single word of protest against it. I do not profess to be a landlord. I have a certain interest in this Bill, because the constituency I represent has a very considerable part of its property in the city. I do not think the Bill affects that constituency very much. I think that that constituency has been a very fair landlord. I disagree entirely with the view that this is a landlords' Bill. I regard it as an attempt to be fair except in this particular part where that attempt has been wholly abandoned, but I hope we shall be able to modify it considerably in Committee Stage. There are many other amendments which I would like to see discussed in regard to other parts of the Bill, but they are all of minor importance.

I would like to make some reference to the hare of confiscation raised by Deputy Thrift. "Confiscation" is a word that could be widely used. We could say that the Government confiscates twenty-one or twenty-three millions of money every year. I think the object that the majority of Deputies on this side of the House have in view in regard to this Bill is to protect the interests of the occupying tenants. The suggestion thrown out by some of our Deputies that if the value of land which has been built upon has gone up because of the work of the community, the township or the county council, it is to the people that the increment should accrue. If we examine the ground landlord's title in many cases in lettings made 100 years ago we would find it is pretty faulty. The landlords will not be badly off if they get for the future a guarantee of the rents they are getting up to the present.

I certainly hope the Dáil will support us in trying to amend this section so that neither the original ground landlord nor the holder of the profit rent is going to benefit at the expense of the community and the occupying tenants. We shall have suggestions to put forward in that connection on Committee Stage. Deputy Thrift will have to get some other word rather than "confiscation" for the process of continuing to the ground landlord what he has been entitled to get up to the present.

There seems to have been manifestly a desire to attack this Bill from certain quarters of the House, but when they came to attack it there seemed to be a terrible dearth of ammunition in the lockers opposite.

What about the lockers behind you?

And much as was their desire to find fault with the Bill, they seemed to be driven to the very smallest little points in order that they might be able to say something against it. Certainly a more completely irrelevant debate, within the rules of order, I think could hardly have taken place in this House. We had, for instance, nine-tenths of the speeches made by a considerable number of Deputies directed to the Increase of Rent and Mortgage Acts and how they should be amended, and as to what are the present effects of these Acts. Indeed, some Deputies opposite, and Deputy Derrig especially, appeared to be of opinion that this Act repealed the Increase of Rent Restrictions Act. Otherwise I could not follow his argument.

Let me say in passing—because I do not want to follow and see myself committing the sin of irrelevancy that I condemn in others—dealing with the Increase of Rent Restrictions Act that it is an Act which is now in force. The working of it, of course, must be very carefully watched, because our ultimate object and designs and end and aim is this: that there shall be an adequate supply of houses in this country for the needs of the people of the country, and any steps taken to prevent that aim being achieved, such as making building so unattractive that no one would build, is a thing we must very carefully avoid. I might just also point out that that Increase of Rent Act applies to rooms as well as to whole houses, to any house or part of a house used as a separate dwelling, and, therefore, applies to workmen's rooms and to rooms in tenements let as separate dwellings. So much for the Increase of Rent Act.

I do not intend to go through the considerable number of small criticisms that were made, such, for instance, as Deputy Moore made. He talked about electrification and other matters which would be almost too small for the Committee Stage. I will deal with the few things which were said about what one would consider to be the important parts of the Bill. The first is the question of building leases. We have had two views put forward: the one that the head landlord is not to get back at the expiration of the lease the thing which was contracted for him to receive back. I dealt with that in my opening statement. I grant that, in strict terms, it is not in accordance with the old principles of complete freedom of contract. I do not intend to repeat myself, but I think that in natural justice a person who has invested his money, even though he may have thought that it would go away at the end of a certain year, has more right to the bricks and mortar in which his capital now shows itself than the person who enabled him to invest his capital by setting to him for a certain period of time a particular plot of ground. We have had a number of interesting suggestions by which neither the landlord nor the tenant should receive any particular advantage, but that the State should receive some. I will not deal with that, because Deputy Lemass has promised us that we will get his suggestion that neither the landlord nor tenant should gain by the expiration of a lease, but that the proceeds should go to the community, in a definite and specific form by way of amendment on the Committee Stage. We will consider the amendment then, and give it all the weight it deserves.

The main attacks which have been made were on the definition of rent. The definition of rent is not primarily our definition. It is a definition which we took from the Report of the Commission. It is not a definition which we would have taken unless we were of the opinion that it was a completely workable definition. For myself I cannot see that there should be any difficulty as regards the experts in the valuation department finding it harder to fix a rent on the basis of normal competition than it is for them to fix the valuation of a house which is going to endure.

Would the Minister define "normal competition"?

It is impossible to define a thing which is in as simple terms as it can be put. I can put the adjective "normal" and the noun "competition" into other words if the Deputy wishes, but I think "normal" is as simple an adjective, and "competition" as simple a noun, as you can find.

Mr. Byrne

The sting is in the word "competition."

Assume that there are a certain number of lessors with houses to rent, and a certain number of lessees willing to take these houses, what the court will have to decide is what would be the result of competition between these two sets of people. That is the principle which is set out here, and which, I think, will give no difficulty to experts to solve. We got some definite specific instances, especially from Deputy Briscoe, as to a house which was let at, I think, £15. It was sublet at £300. Of course, the reason for that was that the tenant was subletting, not merely his interest in the house, but his goodwill in his business. That is precisely the one thing which governs this definition. The Deputies who have criticised this have refrained from reading the definition because it says that the rent shall be fixed without having regard to any goodwill which will exist. In other words, no doubt, a landlord could produce a tenant who would say: "I am willing to take that house." He would give so much for the house and the goodwill. What the court will have to decide is what the value of the premises would be if there was no goodwill attached to them. They will have to decide the value of the premises as premises in which business has never been carried on before. That is the plain and only meaning of the word. On the question of monthly tenants in business premises, a monthly tenant who has been in possession for seven years plainly comes, in my judgment, under the terms and provisions of the Bill.

I have dealt, I think, with the main objections which have been taken to the Bill. I am not now going to deal with the various Committee points that have been made. There would be very little good in dealing with them now and dealing with them again when they arrive on the Committee Stage. I quite understand that on the Second Reading it is necessary for Deputies to raise Committee points, because if they did not do so many of the poor Deputies would have to remain dumb, and on Bills of this nature it would be painful to a number of Deputies if they had to remain dumb. With anything approaching criticism of the main portions of the Bill I have dealt. The main principles of the Bill stand practically untouched and are practically unassailable.

Would the Minister deal with the point raised by Deputy Geoghegan in reference to clause 17 and the effect of sub-section (2)?

What point does the Deputy wish me to deal with particularly?

The condition created by the operation of the earlier Rent Restriction Acts.

To come under this Act a person must have been in occupation of a tenancy. If in occupation, whether a monthly, a weekly or a yearly tenancy, it does not matter in the least. If the person was not in occupation the Act does not apply.

Deputy Geoghegan's point was that most of the small dwellings to which the earlier Acts applied were held not as tenancies but under statutory rights.

I would point out that this clause deals with business premises, and business premises qua business premises never came under the Increase of Rent Restrictions Act. The only cases which could come under the Increase of Rent Restrictions Act were business premises which were more largely dwelling-houses than business premises and in respect of which notice to quit was actually served and had reached completion.

In the case of the premises dealt with by paragraph (b) of sub-section (1) surely they are not business premises where tenants were in occupation for 40 years.

If notice to quit has been served and has actually expired they would not come under this Bill.

Even though they were weekly, quarterly or monthly tenancies?

Will the Minister state what the Government intends to do with regard to the recommendations in the Interim Report of the Town Tenants Commission dealing with Small Dwellings (Acquisition) Act?

Is not that a matter which affects the local authorities concerned? Have the local authorities put up any proposals? Deputy Briscoe and Deputy O'Kelly are members of the Dublin Corporation for the past six months, and we have had no representation from them concerning that matter. Does the Deputy remember what the recommendations were?

I remember that the Dublin Corporation made representations to the Commission which are embodied in the Report.

Does the Deputy remember what the terms of the recommendation were?

Will the Deputy tell us what they are?

The maximum price was £1,200.

What was the sum to be advanced?

90 per cent.

Would the Deputy advance it?

That is another matter. I am asking if it is the intention of the Government to introduce any legislative proposals arising out of the recommendation?

If and when proposals are put forward by the bodies concerned, who are the bodies responsible for the payment of the money. If we lend £100,000 to local authorities we want back £100,000. It is for them to say if there is sufficient security in respect of an advance so that the money will be repaid.

Has the President made any attempt to consult these bodies?

It is their business to consult us.

Are you the Government of the country?


Why then do you not exercise the functions of a Government?

We do not want to press money on anyone unwilling to accept of it. We want to be repaid, and we will not accept 90 per cent. of what we advance.

Will the President say why he asked the Commission for a report?

For the information of the local authorities, who are mainly concerned with that side of the matter.

Not for the information of the Government?

As far as the Government is concerned, it is prepared to accept any proposal from local authorities on the consideration that if we advance £100,000, we are going to get back £100,000 and that if in the course of five or six years there is a reduction in the value of house property—and the Deputy understands what that means—we will not be asked to accept a lesser sum than we have advanced, in order to facilitate what I consider to be a very costly proposition.

Introduce your proposals.

Take the two figures of £1,200 and £800; would the Deputy be prepared to make advances of 90 per cent.

I am concerned with the report submitted by a Commission set up by the Government.

I am also concerned with the report, but my first concern is that State money must be properly used.

Will the President introduce his proposals for the proper utilisation of State money?

When asked to do so by the bodies concerned. The Deputy has a few members of his Party—much fewer than he expected this time twelve months—in the Dublin Corporation. They are able to make speeches during the holiday time. If they are concerned with this matter let them make proposals.

Do I take it that the President is implying that Deputy P.S. Doyle and Deputy B. O'Connor and other members of his Party who are members of the Dublin Corporation have no interest in this matter?

They have, but a much more sensible interest than Deputies opposite.

Does the President recollect that when the Housing Bill was before the House I asked him to offer facilities by way of loans to people who wanted to buy their houses, and that that would be far better than giving subsidies? In answer he stated that that could be dealt with under the Town Tenants Bill. Will the President consider the matter seriously now, as it would make a very big difference if such facilities were offered?

If the Deputy's idea is that every problem in this country is to be solved by the Government I think he is drawing very largely on his imagination. We cannot solve every problem.

Will the President try to solve this one?

We have been solving problems for a long time and have made better efforts than Deputies opposite, whose only policy is that where we have done one thing they have promised to do two.

But you have done nothing and we want to try and do something.

Except talk, at which Deputies are excellent.

Question put and agreed to.

When is it proposed to take the Committee Stage?

This day fortnight.

This is a most complicated Bill, and I think we could not possibly have amendments ready in a fortnight.

I am most willing to agree to whatever the House considers a reasonable time for the Committee Stage.

I thought after the Minister's speech that he did not think the Bill capable of amendment.

Then I will go back to my original suggestion, a fortnight.

I suggest three weeks.

This day fortnight may be wanted for other business.

If Deputies wish longer than a fortnight I am willing to agree.

Committee Stage ordered for May 13th.