HC Deb 19 October 1915 vol 74 cc1603-6
50. Mr. O'GRADY

asked the Prime Minister whether, having regard to the fact that owners of houses let to working-class families, of whom many of the fathers are in the Army and Navy now fighting for their country, are raising rents and giving as reasons the increase in wages and increased taxation in the Budget, steps will be taken to prevent evictions in the cases of refusal to pay such increase of rents by the promotion of a Bill setting up Courts that will assess fair rents?


asked the Prime Minister whether his attention has been drawn to demonstrations and discontent in some of the working-class districts of Glasgow, Birmingham, and other centres against what are regarded as excessive and unwarrantable increases in rent; whether he is aware that among the families who are refusing to pay these extra charges and who are threatened with eviction are many whose husbands and sons are with the Colours; that the house famine in certain districts is largely due to the influx of munition workers; and that many property owners are believed to be taking advantage of this situation in order to pass on their share of additional Imperial taxation to their tenants; and whether, in view of this discontent, the Government will cause investigation to be made and consider the advisability of establishing Fair-Rent Courts in districts where they are most required?


The whole question is under the consideration of the Government.

74. Mr. PRATT

asked the Secretary for Scotland whether he can now state the terms of reference and composition of the Committee to inquire into the question of increased house rents in Scotland?

The SECRETARY for SCOTLAND (Mr. McKinnon Wood)

I have appointed the Hon. Lord Hunter and Dr. W. R. Scott (Professor of Economics in the University of Glasgow, and recently President of the Economic Section of the British Association) to be a Committee to make immediate inquiry into the circumstances connected with the alleged recent increase in the rental of small dwelling-houses in industrial districts in Scotland. Mr. P. B. Moodie, of the Scottish Office, will act as secretary to the Committee, and communications should be addressed to him, for the present, at 6, Parliament Square, Edinburgh.


Will this Committee deal with only munition areas, or with the whole of Scotland?


With the whole of Scotland.


asked the President of the Board of Trade whether he is aware that rents at Shirehampton, in the city of Bristol, have been twice raised by a total of 1s. weekly since January last, and that this has been done in spite of the fact that the rates have decreased by 4d. in the £, arrears of rents have decreased owing to increased employment, and the losses from voids have decreased owing to the greater demand for houses; and will he propose legislation to deal with cases of this kind?

87. Mr. W. THORNE

asked the President of the Board of Trade if his attention has been called to the way in which the house property owners of Birmingham, Tooting, and many other parts of London are raising the weekly rents of their tenants; if he has seen a copy of a letter that the landlords of the Beckton Road estate, Canning Town, E., have sent round to their tenants demanding an increase of rent, and at the same time enclosing a formal notice to quit the house; if he is aware that the rates in the borough of West Ham, in which the property is situate, have been reduced by 1d. in the £; and if he intends setting up some Fair-Rent Courts, with a view to putting an end to this form of rent exploitation?


Perhaps I may be allowed to answer these questions at the same time. I am aware that there have been increases in rent in many parts of the country, and, in the Debate on Thursday last, it was stated that measures were being adopted to deal with this evil in certain munition areas. The question, however, is not confined to these areas, and the whole matter is receiving the anxious consideration of the Government.


May I ask whether the Government are going to make up their minds at once to stop the bleeding of tenants not only in munition areas, but in other areas where the workers are worse paid?


It is quite obvious that the question is one of extreme difficulty, and I think it would be utterly wrong to announce a decision at a moment when we are giving to the matter our careful attention and consideration.


In coming to a conclusion, will the right hon. Gentleman take into consideration the fact that the owners of these houses have very much more to pay in the way of increased taxes and in the price of materials for repairs?


All these facts are before us.


May I ask the right hon. Gentleman whether the question is being considered of setting up a Fair-Rent Court, and whether inquiry is being made into the precedents?


Will the right hon. Gentleman bear in mind the increased charges which are due to the increased taxation on buildings owing to the finance of the late Chancellor of the Exchequer?


asked the Minister of Munitions whether his attention has been drawn to the unrest among munition workers owing to the increase of rents; whether he has made the promised inquiry into this increase; and whether the Government proposes to take any action in the matter?


I am not at present able to add to the reply given to a question addressed to me on Wednesday last by my hon. Friend the Member for Linlithgow. Every effort, however, is being made to expedite the inquiries.


Will the right hon. Gentleman make inquiries in various other areas of England similar to those which the Secretary for Scotland announced for that country?


I will make practically the same kind of inquiry. I will look into that matter.


Will the right hon. Gentleman take into consideration the evidence as to England as well?


Certainly; I am inquiring into England.

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