§ Amendment made: In page 8, line 7, leave out the word "thereupon," and insert instead thereof the word "thereon."—[Miss Lawrence.]
§ Miss LAWRENCE
I beg to move, in page 8, line 12, after the word "land" to insert the words:unless the authority are satisfied that the opening out of the area will be adequately carried out by the owner or owners of the land.This is an Amendment of substance but of small substance. It was strongly urged in the Committee that owners of property themselves might wish to carry out development schemes, and this Amendment makes provision for cases in which the local authority is satisfied that the opening out of the area will be adequately carried out by the owner or owners. The Amendment is intended to meet a pledge which was given to the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Edgbaston (Mr. Chamberlain) who, in Committee, moved an Amendment with a similar purpose, but providing that local owners might give notice of schemes of their own. The right hon. Gentleman's proposal in Committee was that if within one week after the publication of the notice, the owners intimate their intention to develop their land, the local authority might specify a time within which such scheme should be submitted. We think that the words proposed in this Amendment meet the case satisfactorily, and that, in substance, they achieve the purpose of the right hon. Gentleman's Amendment.
I very much appreciate the desire of the Minister to meet the point which I raised in Committee, but I do not feel quite satisfied that the Amendment now before us carries out the intentions which I and the supporters of my Amendment in Committee had in mind. This Amendment only applies to paragraph (ii) of Sub-section (1). That is to say the only thing that the local authority will refrain from 310 doing, if they are satisfied that the owners are prepared to open out the land, is purchasing the land for that purpose themselves. In the preceding paragraph it is stated that the local authorities are to serve notices requiring the execution of all necessary works or the demolition of houses, and what I was afraid of in Committee was that in cases where the owners themselves were willing to demolish the houses and carry out schemes of development, the local authority might proceed with these notices and with the demolition of houses, and subsequently with their own development or possibly with no development at all. I wish to ask the hon. Lady if she is satisfied that under her proposal the local authority will, at least, give a reasonable opportunity to the owners to say whether they intend to project any scheme for the-opening up of these areas. Can she say that there is any provision for allowing the necessary time to owners, at least to give notice of their intention to do so? Of course, owners cannot prepare schemes under a considerable period of time and what we are endeavouring to do is to see that they have the chance to give notice that they intend to prepare such schemes. I do not see anything to that effect in this Amendment.
§ Miss LAWRENCE
What is contemplated in paragraph (i) of this Subsection is that notices should be served upon owners in regard to demolition or repairs. What is contemplated by the right hon. Gentleman is, I think, schemes of redevelopment by the owners themselves. But if the local authority does not wish to purchase the land then the whole business falls as far as they are concerned, and the land remains in the hands of the owners and they can carry out whatever scheme of development or demolition or whatever works may be necessary. The only obstacle to owners carrying out their own schemes of development would be if the local authority took the land away from them, and we conceived that we were meeting quite a substantial part of what the right hon. Gentleman desired by saying that the local authority should consider whether the development of the area will be adequately carried out by the owners of the land. I think there is no point at all in the right hon. Gentleman's objection to the Amendment because the 311 only case in which the local authority would interfere with the owners would be a case where they were purchasing the land themselves. I think we have substantially met his point.
§ Amendment agreed to.
§ Further Amendment made: In page 8, line 31, after the word "six," insert the words "of the principal Act."—[Miss Lawrence.]
§ Lieut.-Colonel FREMANTLE
I beg to move, in page 8, line 34, to leave out Sub-section (4).
This Amendment refers to the question of the Rent and Mortgage Interest (Restrictions) Acts in respect of the particular improvement areas which we are now considering, and the point is not covered by the Clause which we considered earlier in relation to this matter. This Sub-section provides that where action is taken by a local authority under this Clause, which results in a tenant being removed, the Rent Restrictions Acts if applicable to that house, shall not cease to apply, by reason only of the fact that the landlord comes into possession of the house. One of the features of the Rent Restrictions Act of 1923 was that when the existing tenant vacated a house the landlord came into possession, and that was a step in the direction of freeing the property from the restrictions of the Act. We cannot go into the whole question of rent restrictions here, but everybody concerned with housing knows that it is a very bad thing to have exceptions made in regard to one particular case. It was open to question whether it was advisable for houses to be released at all from these restrictions, pending the entire removal of the Part I Restrictions of the Rent Restrictions Act of 1923, but it was agreed by Parliament that it was necessary to bring about a gradual freeing of houses from these restrictions where it could reasonably be done, and it was laid down clearly that, when a new tenant came into a house, he did so with the knowledge that whatever rent was being imposed upon him he must take it or leave it.
312 On the whole, that provision has had this effect—that where one house belonging to a landlord is freed from restrictions in this way, while the other houses round about remain under restrictions, taking it in a broad sense and, in general, the landlord cannot go in for excessive profiteering in any one particular case. In this instance, however, it might be very inconvenient and deleterious to the improvement area if the Rent Restrictions Acts were to continue to apply despite the new treatment of the area proposed in this Measure. The development of the area might be held up. Some of the most improved buildings in the area which are essential for the proper treatment of the area might be affected. I do not wish to go into the matter more closely. I think we all recognise that the rent restriction was necessary, and is still necessary, but we must also recognise that in this case the application of these Acts may hold up development, and what we are trying to do here is to secure the development and improvement of areas. I think the retention of Sub-section (4) would interfere seriously with that purpose.
§ Miss LAWRENCE
I hope that the hon. and gallant Member will not press this Amendment. Let us contemplate the state of affairs that will arise. A local authority desires in the case of an improvement area to move families from one house to another. The desire is to put nine persons into a new large house and move into the vacated house a family of four persons. There is a general shifting of tenants in the area. That would be made impossible if the process of shuffling involved decontrolling the house, since the landlord would have an opportunity, on the removal of the tenant, of resuming possession of the house. It is desired, therefore, to exclude the operation of Section 2 of the Rent Restrictions Act of 1923 in these cases. Take another case of two families in a house which holds one and you desire to move one of these families into new premises. If you move out the sub-tenant nothing happens in regard to the Rent Restrictions Acts, but if the family which moves out is that of the head tenant, the house is decontrolled and a thousand complications might 313 arise which would prevent the moving on of persons from house to house. This question was very fully discussed in Committee and I hope that the hon. Member will not press his Amendment.
§ Lieut.-Colonel FREMANTLE
Will not the case which the hon. Lady gave work the other way round? If the Rent Restrictions Acts still hold good, the instance which she has given seems to work the other way round. The head tenant may refuse to move and the local authorities may not be able to move on the persons they want to move.
§ Miss LAWRENCE
I contemplate that by-laws will be made to prevent overcrowding and if there is alternative accommodation the local authorities will be able to move them out. The local authority would be unable to carry out their plans if the Amendment were accepted.
§ Sir T. WALTERS
I hope that this Amendment will not be pressed. The hon. Lady stated the case perfectly fairly, and I cannot understand why there should be any apprehension about the Rent Restrictions Act. Those Acts are not scientific Acts based upon principles that need to be abolished or amended at one stroke. They are only possible if constant exemptions are made to them, and the provisions of this Bill with regard to them are essential to deal with the questions arising from rehousing in these insanitary areas. My hon. and gallant Friend, who is one of the most enthusiastic supporters of housing, has misunderstood the effect of this Clause, or he could not have moved the Amendment.
§ Lieut.-Colonel FREMANTLE
I do not want to press it, but I still maintain that the effect is as I have suggested.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.