That is a fine point which I will deal with in greater detail on Committee Stage. In my view section 60 is fairly couched in the interests of the landlord and tenant because in the final analysis when a court awards compensation for the termination of a tenancy the measure of the compensation will primarily be related to the financial loss, damage or expense which the tenant sustains or incurs. It was suggested that in the circumstances the tenant should be rehoused immediately by the landlord. That is a reasonable point but I imagine a court in the circumstances will take into consideration in compensating the tenant the cost of a new house and of replacing the tenant as near as possible to the position he was in in the tenement which is the subject of the litigation. In my view section 60 has a fair balance. I have no doubt that that point of view will be argued against on Committee Stage when we will have the usual friction between the Opposition and the Government side. I am grateful to Deputy Keating for his contribution.
Deputy Quinn suggested that the Bill be sent to a select committee. There is a lot of merit in that suggestion. This is a big Bill which will take up a lot of the time of the House on Committee Stage. A lot of time was devoted to it in the Seanad by the worthy legal luminaries there. Some fine, obtuse and obscure points were brought up in the Seanad and they were gone into in detail. I do not know whether the time of this House should be taken up with the Committee Stage of a complex Bill like this. I will bring this matter to the attention of the Fianna Fáil Chief Whip and I have no doubt that Deputies Quinn and Keating will refer it to the Chief Whips of their parties. I would be willing to deal with this Bill in a select committee because I believe it would be dealt with more efficiently and speedily. If it was sent to a select committee the House could proceed to deal with other legislation.
Deputy Quinn welcomed certain provisions of the Bill, particularly those in relation to business leases in the commercial world generally in Dublin. He referred specifically to the section which deals with the 21-year lease. The difficulty there was that up to recently under a 21-year lease a rent had to be fixed for 21 years. The rent was at a grossly inflated rate to make it worth the landlord's while to lease the property. The Landlord and Tenant Commission recommended that there should be a rent review every seven years but the Government took the view that in the event of a court adjudicating on this the period of the rent review should be five years. We are all aware that the value of money depreciates annually and for that reason I believe a five-year review was a proper one. I should like to state that the Bill is for the use of landlords and tenants in relation to their rights. The courts will have to be given some guidelines in relation to this matter. I believe the decision to permit a rent review every five years represents a considerable improvement. However, the points raised in relation to that can be considered in greater detail on Committee Stage.
Deputy Quinn raised the question of young couples trying to procure housing accommodation, a matter which is not strictly relevant to the Bill. It is my view that, generally speaking, people are fairly treated by landlords but some very mean people will not take in a young couple who have a baby. That is unfortunate. In addition, I am aware that some landlords when they hear that one of their tenants is expecting a baby seek to evict them. That is all in the general area of social justice.
It was suggested that I should include in this Bill a flatdwellers' charter and a provision for the setting up of a rents tribunal. Much as I would like such a charter to be incorporated, with all its attendant good, I must point out that such a suggestion is not relevant to this Bill. It may be relevant to the housing Acts or some other Acts for which the Minister for Justice is not responsible. I shall deal with the question of a rents tribunal in more detail before concluding.
I agree with Deputy Quinn that overall responsibility for the private rental sector might be contained in one area, might be taken out of the Department of Justice and placed with the Department of the Environment, or with some section of that latter Department. I understand that that situation has been examined. I am grateful to Deputy Quinn and I have no doubt that when we reach Committee Stage he will bring undoubted knowledge gleaned from his professional life as an architect to bear on it.
Deputy B. Ahern was correct in saying that this Bill is not the end of landlord and tenant legislation generally. There will be a gap between this and the next Bill. Nobody denies that, but we hope it will not be a long one. We would hope in time to consolidate the totality of landlord and tenant legislation in one Bill. Indeed nor is it the end of the prospect of the flatdwellers' charter which has been bandied about here by Deputies opposite. But I should think that the legislation required by Deputies opposite in this respect might be incorporated in a Bill to be introduced by some other Minister than the Minister for Justice. The Deputy wanted a number of definitions—an occupational tenancy is one where the landlord owns the bricks and mortar interest and a ground rent tenancy is one where the tenant owns the bricks and mortar interest. I am not quite certain what point he was making there, but if the Deputy would like to discuss the matter further with me I shall be glad to help him in that regard. I think Deputy Ahern referred also to section 48 of the Bill and said that the landlord could be prejudiced by the non-service of notice, for example, if (a) he could have done the improvement himself more effectively or at less cost by securing an improvements undertaking, or (b) if he would have been entitled to sustain an improvements objection had a notice been served on him. That answer might help the Deputy.
Deputy Fitzpatrick, who brought his experience of legal practice in rural Ireland to bear on the Bill, made the point that it is good as far as it goes but that it does not go far enough. He mentioned also the Landlord and Tenant Commission appointed in January, 1966, which had produced a number of reports within a fairly short space of time thereafter. The Bill with which we are dealing and previous legislation was produced on the basis of recommendations of the Landlord and Tenant Commission. We are, in the main, now enacting that legislation, some people might say belatedly, but nonetheless it is being done.
I should like to deal specifically with section 4, which I know will cause a lot of controversy when it comes to be dealt with on Committee Stage. This relates to the question of the State's exemption from this legislation: in other words, that the State in its capacity as a lessor or immediate lessor of any premises, will not be bound by the landlord and tenant code. Perhaps I may refer to a few notes here. Up to mid-1976 it was generally held that the Landlord and Tenant Acts did not bind the State as lessor and all previous legislation in this area was drafted on that assumption. Proceedings that were taken in 1976 by a tenant of the State led to that assumption being called in question for the first time. The provision in section 4 simply resolves the doubt that arose in that case although this doubt has never been given the authority of any court decision. Certainly we take the view that there is no reason to fear for the position of tenants of the State. Assuming that section 4 stands in the Bill when enacted into law, the situation of such tenants will remain what it always has been: on the basis that the State is and always was exempt. If there are difficulties for tenants of the State those difficulties would surely have been brought to notice long before now. Indeed, a State authority must be more awake to any criticism of its operations than a private landlord since it can so readily come under public scrutiny. The reasons for the exemption of the State, as landlord, from the provisions of the Landlord and Tenant Acts lies in the recognition that the role of the State as a landlord is not the same as that of a private individual or corporation. Whereas in the latter case the ownership and leasing of lands and property represents an entrepreneurial activity motivated by profit, the State is normally involved in the ownership and leasing of lands and property incidental only to its administration of such lands and property, possession of which by the State is necessary in the public interest.
Perhaps I might be permitted to give couple of examples of what I am speaking about and to which Deputy Briscoe in his worthy contribution adverted. The first is that of the Minister for Tourism and Transport, who owns tracks of land in the vicinity of the three State airports, ownership of which is necessary in order to ensure against development of the land in a manner that would inhibit airport operations. The second example is that of the Minister for Defence, who holds lands adjacent to certain military installations for purposes similar to those I have outlined in connection with airport operations. Additionally, most leases of land made by or on behalf of the Minister for Defence include a proviso that possession of the lands may be recovered at any time if military exigencies so demand.
That is not to suggest for one moment that it is not my intention to put right a feature again adverted to in the Seanad, that is the situation where a tenant is a tenant of a private landlord and the private landlord is bought out by the State, and the tenant finds himself in a rather invidious position. It is my intention to examine the possibility of introducing an amendment ensuring that tenants' rights in those circumstances are protected. But, let us be clear about it: when a tenant becomes a tenant of the State he goes into a property or properties knowing the State to be the owner and in those circumstances goes in with his eyes open. Again, in those circumstances he must accept on his legal advice the restrictions placed on him. On the other hand, if a tenant goes into a premises belonging to a private individual and thereafter the State takes him over in those circumstances he is entitled to protection. It is my intention to take a very serious look at section 4 to ensure that such individuals' rights are protected.
I am most grateful to the Deputies who contributed. I should not like it to be thought that by virtue of my not dealing with some of the points I am in any way dismissing them. Quite the contrary. It is my intention to revert to many of the points I may not have touched on on this occasion, and that is not out of any discourtesy to the Deputies who so ably contributed.