Committee on Finance. - Rent Restrictions (Amendment) Bill, 1954—Final Stages.

I move amendment No. 1:—

In page 2, Section 3, to delete lines 35 to 40, and in page 3, to delete lines 1 to 3 and substitute a new section as follows:—

(1) Where a provisional order relating to any premises was quashed by order of certiorari made absolute before the passing of this Act and any arrears of rent are due in respect of the premises which would not be due if such provisional order were valid, the provisions of this section, shall have effect.

(2) Where judgment is given by the court for payment of any sum of money in respect of such arrears or for possession because of such arrears and the court is satisfied that it is reasonable to do so, the court may stay the execution of the judgment for such time and upon such conditions as the court thinks proper.

(3) Such conditions may include a condition that the said sum and costs shall be paid by the debtor by such instalments and at such times as the court may appoint and, from time to time, the court may vary the said conditions, whether or not circumstances have arisen whereby the stay of execution upon the judgment may have ceased, and impose a further stay upon the execution thereof.

(4) No order or warrant of execution shall issue on breach of any condition upon which execution of judgment has been stayed under this section except by order of the court made on notice to the tenant after such breach.

(5) In this section "judgment" includes order and decree.

We had a long discussion yesterday on Section 3. The purpose of the amendment is to preserve in the individual case in respect of which there was the court decision the contractual rights that were created by that court decision as between the parties and to provide at the same time, while preserving those rights, that it would be in the discretion of the court to ensure that in the enforcement of the rights the maximum and the widest possible latitude that any court can give will be given so as to ensure that the enforcement of the rights will not create hardship to the individual.

I do not think it is necessary to go over the arguments we put forward yesterday. The amendment, in my view, saves the principle and saves the individual. The Minister and I were at one in regard to Section 2 for the cases which had not been dealt with by the courts. I do not think there is much difference between the Minister and me on the individual. All we wanted to ensure was that the principle was not taken in this Bill that the Oireachtas could act as a court of appeal from a decision of the court.

As Deputy Sweetman has said, we had a long debate on this yesterday and, as I said yesterday, it was not in a lighthearted way that we brought in this Bill because we realise that retrospective legislation of this kind is a thing that ought to be avoided if possible. Great hardship was being inflicted on two individuals, through no fault of their own, who firmly believed, and had every reason to believe, that they were entitled to this reduction in rent. What I wanted to avoid was the hardship that would be inflicted on an individual—a working man living in a room—by having to pay out an enormous amount of money, which he probably would not be able to get.

I have considered the matter since. Even after our debate yesterday, I again asked the Attorney-General for his opinion on the constitutionality of this section and he was quite positive, as far as he was concerned, that it was entirely in accordance with the Constitution. Nevertheless, as the thing has been eased by this amendment, I think the court will take the view that arrears to that amount could not be expected from a man in the position of this particular tenant and that they will give him adequate time to pay. I will accept this amendment.

I appreciate the manner in which the Minister met the discussion. Both of us were interested to see that there would be no hardship. It was the principle I was concerned with. No court will impose a hardship with these powers.

Amendment agreed to.
Question—"That the Bill, as amended, be received for final consideration"—put and agreed to.
Agreed to take the Fifth Stage now.
Question proposed: "That the Bill do now pass."

Has the Minister any idea as to when he will be able to bring a more general Bill to the House, particularly a general Bill dealing with the point that was raised in the tribunal's report, where the good tenant who has never had his tenancy determined and who dies, does not get the statutory protection under the Act and the bad tenant, who has had his tenancy determined, gets it? The Minister will agree with me that that is a complete reversal of what we intended in 1946. The law should be weighted, if anything, in favour of the tenant who has lived up to his obligations in regard to repairs, maintenance, behaviour in premises, and so on.

It is grossly unfair that the position should arise—just as unfair as this case —that where we made a mistake in the drafting of the 1946 Act—and I think the Minister will agree that we did make a mistake—a tenant who has behaved as a perfect tenant and who dies and because he was not a statutory tenant, because his tenancy was not determined, gets no benefit, while the person who perhaps ran into great arrears of rent, had his tenancy terminated and became a statutory tenant on paying up the arrears, then gets the benefit of the Act. I would suggest to the Minister that that is as urgent a case, very nearly, as this and if it will be a long time before he brings his main Bill to the House he should consider bringing in an interim measure to cover that point.

Mr. Boland

I have considered that but I think the Deputy will agree that it is not as urgent as the case we have been dealing with.

It is, pretty nearly.

Mr. Boland

Only about a week before the Dáil adjourned for Christmas I made a statement on an annual Bill that we were preparing a comprehensive Bill arising out of the report of the tribunal. It will be towards the end of the year before we will have it. I will do anything I can to expedite it but I do not think the Deputy would like to have us legislating piecemeal for every little thing that has arisen.

No, I do not, but people have been put out of their premises because of that.

Mr. Boland

I will do all I can to expedite preparation of a comprehensive Bill.

I know cases where they have been put out and have lost their homes as a result of that drafting defect.

Question put and agreed to.