§ Mr. CAMPBELL STEPHEN
I beg to move,That leave be given to bring in a Bill to provide for the reduction and control of rents of houses and shops.Members of the House will be aware that very many thousands of the houses in the country are now decontrolled and very difficult circumstances have arisen in various parts because of the uncertainty as to which houses are controlled and which are decontrolled. One object of this Bill is to bring back all the houses that have been decontrolled—
§ Mr. STEPHEN
The right hon. Member for West Woolwich (Sir K. Wood) is anxious to know where the Minister is, but so long as he himself is here we are all right. His universal wisdom will carry us through. Many of these houses are in a very doubtful position, and I have found among my own constituents that they are being charged as if the rent of those houses were not controlled. In order to get over that, they have got to bring an action in the civil court, and the Lord Advocate, when he has gone into the matter, has found much difficulty, because the state of the law is so very uncertain. I maintain that this matter should he cleared up, and that the tenants should be adequately protected against high rents.
The second purpose I have in connection with this Bill is to bring hack rents to the pre-War level. Since 1920 the working people of this country have suffered reductions of wages amounting to over £700,000,000 per annum. Not only that, but workers are at the present time being threatened with further reductions. When the Act of 1920 was passed, and increases of rent were allowed, one of the main reasons given for those increases was the high wages that were ruling throughout the country.
Would I he in order in moving that the debate be adjourned until some representative of the appropriate Ministry is present?
§ Mr. STEPHEN
Perhaps hon. Members will allow me to proceed. This is a very important matter, and the main 1988 reason that was given for the increases of rent that were permitted under the 1920 Act was the high cost, of repair owing to the high cost of wages. Now that wages have come down, I believe that the time is ripe for the reduction of rents in order that the people may be able to pay them. Also, it is very commonly recognised that very little is being done in the way of repairs, and the tenants have a very good case for the reduction of their burdens.
I want in this Measure also to extend control to the small shops. There has come this industrial slump; there has come this reduction in the wages of workers, and the small shop-keeping community have had to bear very heavy burdens, because of the reduced circumstances of their customers. I think it is time, therefore, that this House gave some consideration to the difficult circumstances of so many of these small shopkeepers. During the time of high wages and high prices, the rents of many of these shops were forced up to exorbitant figures, and many of these shopkeepers at present are not getting a livelihood. They are struggling to pay these very high rents, and I would like to see extended to them the benefit of control in connection with their rents. I think that a very suitable figure to take is the pre-War figure, and to include within the ambit of rent control the small shopkeepers as well as the tenants of these smaller houses to which the Rent Restriction Act applies. Those are the main purposes which I seek to cover in this Bill. With the tremendous reduction in wages, with the difficult circumstances facing the working people, and facing the small shopkeeper who gives service to those people, I hope that there will be general assent to my request to be given leave to bring in this Bill.
§ Bill ordered to be brought in by Mr. Stephen, Mr. Buchanan, Mr. Brockway, Mr. Cove, Mr. Kirkwood, Mr. Kinley, Mr. Maxton, Mr. McGovern, Mr. McShane, and Mr. Wallhead.