HC Deb 16 July 1930 vol 241 cc1286-9

I beg to move: That leave be given to bring in a Bill to repeal Section two, Sub-section (1), of the Rent and Mortgage Interest Restrictions Act, 1923. The purpose of this Bill is to repeal that section of the 1923 Act which decontrols a house when it comes into the vacant possession of the landlord. It is a short and simple Bill to effect what is, I believe, a very important purpose. The practice up to the present has always been that, whenever a change of tenancy occurs through any cause whatever, the house has to be decontrolled. Now the original Rent Restrictions Act was passed to prevent landlords benefiting unduly by the effect of the War which created a great shortage of houses. I believe that a great shortage of houses still exists and that we cannot do without the protection of the Rent Restrictions Act. Therefore, I believe that what is by far the greatest defect in this Act should be repaired at the earliest possible moment. Now by far the biggest cause of the decontrol of houses is a change of tenancy, and the greatest cause of a change of tenancy is the fact that a large amount of house-building is going on. In the city of Birmingham, a part of which I have the honour to represent, nearly 5,000 houses a year are being built through the beneficent action of the corporation; but we find that, as a result, in the centre of the city a large number of houses are becoming decontrolled from this cause alone. I call attention to this very great increase in the number of decontrolled houses in order to show the necessity of repealing Sub-section (1) of Section 2 of the Rent and Mortgage Interest Restrictions Act, 1923.

I will give the House one or two instances of what actually happens when a house becomes decontrolled. I will give as instances two houses in my own constituency. In one of them, in Alma Crescent, the controlled rent was 7s. 3d. per week, and the new rent was 17s. The other example was in Harrow-road, Birmingham, where the controlled rent was 10s. per week, and the decontrolled rent is 20s. per week. I have another case in Stirchley where the rent has been increased from 10s. per week to 17s. 6d. Even in this city of Westminster, within 200 yards of this House, there are many cases where the rents have been enormously increased upon a change of tenancy. I think these facts show distinctly that the whole standard of life of a working-class family inhabiting one of these houses is in danger when their house becomes decontrolled.

I recognise the Rent Restrictions Acts are full of difficulty, and I feel that it may be impossible at this stage to make any legislation on this subject retrospective. The sale of decontrolled houses has taken place in the open market and it may not therefore be possible to bring them into control again. But I appeal to the Government to give an undertaking to find time to deal with this Measure during the next Session of Parliament. I ask the Government to introduce a short and simple Measure which will stop the decontrolling of further houses owing to a change of tenancy. This problem will press more and more severely as more and more of these houses become decontrolled.

It is to some extent true that such an extension of the present Rent Restrictions Act may cause injustice here and there to poor landlords who have rich tenants; but I think that anyone who looks at this question with an unprejudiced eye must realise that for every injustice which this Bill would do, it would prevent a hundred. If we bring our legislation up to that level, I do not think we shall do very badly. I appeal to the Government, if they cannot give time this Session, to give an undertaking to deal with this injustice during the next Session and not merely to include the present unamended Rent Restrictions Acts in the Expiring Laws Continuance Bill.


It is perfectly true that this particular Measure is not likely to become law, and for that reason it may seem undesirable that we should spend much time discussing it. At the same time, I do not think it is fair or reasonable to allow the speech of the hon. Member for Aston (Mr. Strachey) to pass entirely without comment. The hon. Member said, in his concluding remarks, that this Measure might cause injustice, and he dismissed that point in a light and airy fashion as if it did not matter much. I disagree entirely with him as to where the injustice will lie. I have every reason to think that if this Measure were passed into law there would be very much more injustice done to the landlords than justice to the tenants. [An HON. MEMBER: "Quote a case."] Nobody will deny that there are many such cases, and I do not think hon. Members will contend that those injustices will be remedied by this very imperfect Measure. The Bill we are now considering presses very hardly on the landlords and on the tenants, but more upon the landlords and particularly the poor landlords. I do not propose to divide the House against this Bill, but I hope and believe that when the hon. Member has introduced it, and has walked up to the Table with that grace to which we must look forward, that will be the last that will be seen of it.

Question put, and agreed to.

Bill ordered to be brought in by Mr. Strachey, Mr. Mills, Mr. W. J. Brown, Mr. Longden, Mr. Gossling, Mr. Aneurin Bevan, and Mr. Simon.