HC Deb 11 March 1919 vol 113 cc1238-40

  1. (1) Where, in the case of any dwelling-house to which the principal Act as originally enacted applies, or to which as extended by this Act it applies, an increase of rent is permitted by this Act, then if the landlord of any such house in accordance with Rules of Court shows to the satisfaction of the County Court—
    1. (a) that the standard rent of the house is substantially less than the standard rent of similar houses in the same locality; or
    2. (b) that by reason of the letting of the house to lodgers or the taking in boarders the wear and tear on the house has been substantially increased; or
    3. (c) that by reason of the sub-letting of the house or for any other exceptional reason an increase of rent exceeding such ten per centum as aforesaid should be allowed,
    the Court may authorise an increase in the rent exceeding ten per centum of the standard rent.
  2. (2) Where in any such case the tenant of any such house in accordance with Rules of Court shows to the satisfaction of the County Court that, as respect a house first let since the third day of August, nineteen hundred and fourteen, the standard rent is substantially higher than the standard rent of similar houses in the same locality, the County Court may order that no increase in the standard or an increase of less than ten per centum shall be allowed in the case of that house.

Amendment made: In Sub-section (1, a), leave out the words

"in accordance with Rules of Court."—[Sir G. Hewart.]


I beg to move, in Sub-section (1), to leave out paragraph (a).

The House has not been given any reason why this variation was inserted. It presumes a substantial difference between the rents at present paid for houses of several classes. The only instance quoted by the right hon. Gentleman who moved the Second Reading was that some houses were let at a nominal rent much below their value. It is undesirable that we should legislate for what are exceptions, having regard to the statements that have been made here—that the housing difficulty is not one that has arisen merely since the War, but since 1909. I think it is assumed that between 1909 and 1914 the position would be that, generally speaking, each house would be let at a fair rent. If that be so, if all the houses are on the same basis, the difficulty is to understand why there should be a proposal of this descrip- tion. It can only lead to endless litigation, and cause a great deal of irritation. The standard is purely speculative. It is to be discovered by an action in the Court. No one case can determine the whole principle upon which this rests. I mentioned on Friday that one of the reasons why we welcomed this Bill was because it did help very substantially in regard to what is known as industrial unrest. Absence of legislation of this sort, we urged, would very seriously disturb the agreements that had been made in regard to wages in the manner that would recreate unrest in the minds of the working classes. If we have the 10 per cent. increase, as already determined in the Bill, and then the tenants are to be sued in the County Court in order to answer as to whether their house is substantially equal to another house in the same neighbourhood where other circumstances may be different, such a course is going to create a good deal of irritation in the minds of people with no advantage to come out of it. There are houses which appear to be similar in character and yet which vary in some form or other so far as their internal arrangements are concerned The difficulty of finding a comparison between houses that appear to be similar will be very difficult indeed, and there will undoubtedly be a class of landlord who will seek to get some increased rent by this method. I suggest that that will be the means of creating an element of disturbance, which I suggest is not warranted. I submit to the Government that the scarcity of houses up to 1914 had substantially been the means of establishing the rents in accordance with the value of the houses themselves, and there is not sufficient difference between the different kinds of property to warrant a provision of this sort in the Bill.


I find myself very much in agreement with what has been said with reference to this particular part of Clause 5. We have now had the opportunity of reconsidering the Clause as a whole, and we quite see it must give rise to a great deal of controversy, and we are anxious to get through the Committee stage to-night. In these circumstances I propose to make an offer to the Committee which I trust will be accepted. I see that there is at a later stage on the Paper an Amendment in the name of three hon. Members to leave out Clause 5 as a whole. If and when that Amendment is proposed, the Government will be prepared to accept it.


If that should meet the view of the Committee, the best way will be to withdraw this Amendment.


I ask leave to withdraw my Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause, as amended, negatived.