§ 3.55 p.m.
§ Mr. GREENWOOD
I beg to move, in page 1, line 8, to leave out from the word "until" to the end of the Subsection, and to insert instead thereof the words "Parliament otherwise determines."
As Sub-section (1) of Clause 1 stands, it expresses the intention of the Government to continue to operate the Rent Restrictions Actuntil the twenty-fourth day of June, nineteen hundred and thirty-eight, and no longer.I do not propose to waste time by discussing the purport and meaning of the words "and no longer." No doubt they have been included in the Bill as a sop to those who would like control to be finally ended. The purpose of my Amendment is to take out the fixed date, 1938, and to make the Clause read so that the Act will continue in force until Parliament otherwise determines. The principal Act of 1920, and the Act of 1923, made provision for a gradual resumption of decontrol after full control came to an end. It was visualised in those days that a complete cessation of control on a particular date would prove to be impracticable, and legislation has continued on that basis. From year to year Parliament has continued, in the Expiring Laws Bill, the operation of the Rent and Mortgage Interest (Restrictions) Acts. In this Bill, a definite date has been stated after which control is to end completely.
The only justification for ending control five years from now will be that the supply of houses is sufficiently large to enable control to be relaxed without the raising of rents to existing tenants. Since the post-War Rent Restriction Acts have been in operation, notwithstanding a very considerable amount of building, both under Housing Acts aided by public 1204 finance and otherwise, the rent of decontrolled houses stands as high to-day as it did 10 years and more ago, and we have no reason to believe that in five years from now the situation will be sufficiently relieved to enable the Government of the day to end control completely without risk to the existing tenants of old houses. It was proved to the Royal Commission on Unemployment Insurance, and to the Departmental Committee on the Rent Restrictions Acts, that, as soon as houses are decontrolled, rents rise, and the fact is that the rise in rents is very considerable.
Even if we suppose—I am not prepared to accept the assumption myself—that the Government's new Housing Bill will result in an enormous crop of private-enterprise houses in those highly congested areas where the pressure is terrific, and where rents rise most under decontrol, even if we assume that the Government's proposal to hand over the work to private enterprise is a success, the situation five years from now, in those areas that need protection most, will be almost as bad as it is to-day. The areas of which I am speaking are very largely the slum and semi-slum areas. The right hon. Gentleman has promised us a crusade against slums, on the scale of 12,000 houses in the first year, or more if he can get them, but, even if his scheme works, five years from now the situation will hardly be touched, and the plight of tenants of these overcrowded houses will be as desperate as it is to-day. To put a date in the Bill is a pure gamble. There is no certainty that private enterprise is going to meet successfully the demand for small working-class houses. That lies in the future; one does not know; but I suggest to the Committee that the Government have no right to gamble in this way on a supposition that, in five years from now, unaided private enterprise, plus the small contribution which local authorities will make under slum clearance schemes, will be sufficient to meet the needs of tenants who want houses, and to relieve the pressure for increased rents if decontrol comes about.
It seems to me to be reasonable that this new method of control should continue until Parliament deliberately says, on the basis of ascertained facts, that title time has come to end control. I understand that there are interests who have bombarded the Government because they 1205 would like to see control ended now, once and for all, and there are Amendments on the Order Paper to shorten the period of five years. The concession has been made of five years "and no longer." Those words do not bind any successor to this Government. Those words do not bind this Government. Those words are completely meaningless. The only fact that is certain is that the Government intend, willy-nilly, whatever the situation may be, at the dictates of interests who have been clamouring for years, to end control five years from now. I should hope that the Committee will see the reasonableness of an Amendment leaving the responsibility definitely to Parliament to determine, in the light of circumstances, when the necessity for control has ceased, and decontrol can be put into operation. I should hope that Members on the other side of the Committee, many of them with actual knowledge of the facts as regards the rents of decontrolled houses, will be prepared to support this very mild Amendment.
§ 4.2 p.m.
§ Mr. LEWIS
In view of the variety of Amendments on the Order Paper to-day, there is considerable difference of opinion in the Committee as to what is the proper time to lay down for the duration of the Rent Restrictions Acts. The hon. Member for East Willesden (Mr. D. G. Somerville) suggests 12 months. The hon. Member for Flint (Mr. Llewellyn-Jones) suggests nine years. The right hon. Gentleman who has just spoken suggests an indefinite period. In my view, the period suggested by the Government has two distinct advantages. It is long enough to hold out a reasonable hope that the shortage of working-class houses will be largely made good by the time that period is over, and it is short enough to encourage the building industry to make the necessary effort. Therefore, it has the supreme merit that it is definite.
I do not think that members of this Committee can fully appreciate the significance of this question of time without giving some consideration to the general effects of the Rent Restrictions Acts. It is quite true that, on the one hand, they have served a useful purpose in preventing the forcing up of the rents of large numbers of working class houses. But there is the other side of the account to consider. They have deprived a num- 1206 ber of owners of the value of their property. In some cases they have actually prevented men from occupying, for their own use, their own houses. They have, in some cases, created an entirely unjustifiable profit for intermediate tenants, themselves protected by the Act and getting money from sub-tenants not so vitally protected. They have hampered, in many cases, important schemes of development, and, I think, beyond all doubt they have very largely checked the building of further accommodation of the same kind. The right hon. Member for Wakefield (Mr. Greenwood), speaking on the Second Reading of this Bill, said:The Restrictions Acts are a symptom of a disease, and that disease is the serious and the continuing housing shortage."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 12th December, 1932; col. 74, Vol. 273.]If I may say so with all respect to the right hon. Gentleman, I think he has not been quite accurate in the words that he has used. The Rent Restrictions Acts are not now a, symptom of the disease of the continuing shortage of housing; they are themselves one of the causes of that continuing shortage. In my judgment, and I think in that of many in this Committee, the evils which have arisen out of the policy of rent restriction now tend to outweigh the good that these Acts have accomplished. The Government propose various modifications of the system in this Bill, modifications which, I think, in the main, judged by the speeches on the Second Reading, commend themselves to the House. They hold out the hope of the complete abolition of rent restrictions. With the object of securing the provision of an adequate-supply of houses as working class dwellings, a purpose which would have the incidental advantage of securing immediate employment for large numbers of those engaged in the building trades who are now unemployed, I would venture to urge upon the Committee that the period suggested by the Government—five years—is long enough, and that it is essential that the period should be definite.
§ 4.9 p.m.
§ Mr. KIRKWOOD
I rise to support the Amendment. We who come from working-class districts know perfectly well the terror which exists at the moment in case the houses become decontrolled. I would ask the Committee to remember what brought about legisla- 1207 tion regarding rents and houses. It was no mere accident. It was because those who owned the houses were taking advantage of the poor folks' extremity at the time, and they raised the rents beyond all bounds, with the result that there was an outcry in the country, and special legislation during the War had to be passed in order to protect the helpless tenants of those houses from those who owned the houses. It is because of that bitter experience that we are putting forward this very reasonable claim that the houses should remain controlled until this House, which had to pass special legislation to protect the tenants, is satisfied that there is a sufficiency of houses, so that those who own the houses cannot again take advantage of a scarcity to raise the rents beyond all reasonable bounds.
I have in my hand a statement sent to me from the City Assessor at Glasgow, and I would ask the Committee seriously to consider what is before us at the moment. He points out that the poorest type of house in Glasgow is the house which, through being decontrolled, has had the rent increased 104 per cent., whereas in the case of the best type of house in Glasgow, ranging from five to six apartments, which is a fairly substantial house in the tenements of Glasgow, all the increase that has been put on is 5 per cent. beyond the usual increase. In the one case, where the inhabitants are on the employment exchange drawing from 22s. to 32s. a week, when their house becomes decontrolled it is increased by more than 100 per cent. over and above the 48 per cent. which the law allows; but in a home where the income is £10 a week, the increase in the rent is only 5 per cent.
No matter what the Government's supporters may say, we are here again supporting and standing by the bottom dog, and it is the bottom dog which the Government are attacking. Whether they will admit it or not, there is no gainsaying the fact. Here is the statement made by the City Assessor of Glasgow. We want to keep control. We want to keep a grip on those individuals who, time and again, have taken advantage of the poorest section of the community. We find in the West of 1208 Scotland that before the War, in 1912, there were about 34,000 houses unoccupied. To-day, out of all the West of Scotland working-class houses, there are not 2,000 unoccupied. Therefore a scarcity of housing still exists.
Another instance is my own constituency of Clydebank. To show what we are up against, the late Secretary of State for Scotland, the right hon. and gallant Member for Caithness (Sir A. Sinclair), immediately he took office made a great speech at Edinburgh urging the local authorities to get on with building, and he assured his audience that they could depend on the whole power of the Scottish Office being behind them in the building of working-class houses. The town council of Clydebank took the right hon. Baronet at his word and proposed to build 500 houses. They had to get the sanction of the Board of Health. In the interval the property owners got busy and sent up a deputation which interviewed the present Under-Secretary, and amongst them they turned down the unanimous recommendation of the Clydebank Town Council to go ahead with their programme. That shows the power that the property owners have. Tory Governments have always backed the factors against the working class. I appeal to the Committee on behalf of the poorest of the poor to support my right hon. Friend on this occasion.
§ 4.19 p.m.
The whole of the Rent Restrictions Acts were a War-time Measure and they have in years gone by inflicted on the property of a certain section of the community a hardship which has not been inflicted on the property of any other section of the community. My own view is that, had it been possible soon after the War to abolish all control, although without doubt it would have inflicted great hardship on certain sections of the community at that time, by now every section of the community would have benefited. As long as you maintain these conditions of control, you are introducing artificial conditions into the building trade. The hon. Member who spoke last accused the Government of attacking the under-dog. Surely the Government is doing exactly the opposite. If it had not been for the introduction of this Bill, a very large number of houses in the C category 1209 would have become decontrolled. If that had the effect in the future that it has had in the past of immediately raising the rent of these C houses, perhaps it would have inflicted a hardship on certain sections of the community, the poorest in the land, but owing to the action that the Government are taking in this Measure those very houses occupied by the poorest are going to remain under control for another five years and, therefore, the Government are assisting the under-dog whom they are accused of attacking.
The right hon. Gentleman who moved the Amendment said that in many cases the rents of houses that have become decontrolled have immediately increased. That is perfectly true in regard to the C category of houses, but they have increased for the very good reason that rents usually increase, because there is a shortage of that particular kind of house. We believe that, as a result of what the Government are doing in this Measure and in the other housing Measures, that shortage will very largely be rectified at the end of five years time. The arguments in favour of that were put on numerous occasions when the Bill was introduced. There is not the slightest doubt that one of the greatest advantages, both from the point of housing and of the general amenities of the working class, as the result of this Measure is that it will lead to a great mobility of labour and that the man who to-day lives in a controlled house and has been frightened of leaving it because he has not felt certain that in any other district where he may find a job he will also be able to get a controlled house will now feel a very definite degree of certainty that wherever he may go there will also be a controlled house. Again, I believe as the result of decontrol in categories "A" and "B"—
§ The CHAIRMAN
The hon. and gallant Gentleman is getting rather beyond the Amendment. The Amendment is rather wide in scope, but we cannot have a Second Reading Debate on the principle of the Bill.
I was pointing out that I believe that at the end of five years there will be a sufficiency of houses of this particular category, which justifies the Minister in fixing five years as the time at which rent control should come 1210 to an end. Because of decontrol in the A and B category, we believe there will be a larger number of houses built which to-day would come within the category of B houses within the capacity of the working class to afford, which will mean that a very large number of people will go out of these C houses and live in decontrolled houses of the better class. Of course decontrol, when it comes, must inflict some hardship on some sections of the community, but I believe it will not only not inflict any undue hardship on the working classes but the mere fact that a definite date has at last been given to this measure of decontrol will give another stimulus to the building industry and I hope the Minister will abide by the decision that he has already come to.
§ 4.26 p.m.
§ Mr. JANNER
I rise to support the Amendment, not because I am altogether enamoured of the Amendment as a whole but because I am certainly not enamoured of the period fixed for the duration of the Bill. The most important feature of the Bill is the one that is going to provide a continuation and extension of the Acts that exist so that people who are in working class houses will know that they are not going to be turned out under Section 2 of the 1923 Act. We have a memorandum which has been prepared for us showing the statistics for houses. The figures that are given of Class C houses are 4,150,000 controlled and 1,550,000 not controlled. Of the 1,550,000 which are not controlled, 850,000 have become decontrolled since July, 1923, and only 700,000 new houses have been built within that time. Assuming that the most optimistic hopes of the new Housing Acts are realised, assuming that they double those figures, it will take 10 years before you get 1,400,000 new houses supplied, and that will only supply a third of the houses which would become decontrolled at the end of 10 years. It is clear that, if you take a period of five years, the number of houses that are going to be built will certainly not be sufficient to cover the number which will become decontrolled.
If that is so, the whole purpose of the protection which the Committee have intended to give C class houses alone is going to be defeated. The Committee said they were not going to fix a date. Obviously, they were not satisfied that any possible date could be fixed. There 1211 is every reason to understand why they came to that conclusion, because, apart from anything else, they realised that there must be a sufficiency of houses before control could be removed. It is clear, if that is not so, that a man who to-day is living in a controlled house in one district will think for a long time before he goes into another district in order to find work when he is not assured that there is in the other district either -a sufficient supply of houses or at least that the existing houses are covered by the existing Acts and consequently cannot impose an enormous drain upon his pocket. In those circumstances, I would ask the right hon. Gentleman, even if he is not prepared at this stage to accept the Amendment as it stands, at least to consider at a later stage extending the period contained in the Bill.
The hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for Chippenham (Captain Cazalet) rightly said that if a period is fixed in the Act both the landlord and the tenant will consider that it is the intention of the House that at the end of that period the Acts will definitely terminate There have been so many Acts that at last people will say that the only conclusion is that they know definitely that at the end of five years the Act will cease, and consequently they can act accordingly in regard to their transactions. A disastrous situation will be created because it is clear that at the end of five years there will be no possibility of bringing the Act to an end. If that is so, it will upset all the calculations both of the landlords and of the tenants in respect of the period during which control is to operate and will ultimately mean that there will be considerable dissatisfaction from all sides. No person in the country to-day can possibly say that at the end of five years the housing accommodation, particularly in respect of "C" class houses, will be sufficient, and in those circumstances I ask the Committee to support the Amendment. I need hardly remind the Committee—and if I may I will couple the right hon. Gentleman with his colleagues in the Government—that it is not so very long ago that a statement was made in the House—it is not one which I and indeed most hon. Members are prepared to accept—by the Chancellor of the Exchequer to the effect that it will be 10 1212 years at least before we shall find ourselves out of the mire of unemployment. If that is so—and I am very loath to accept it—I would say to the Minister of Health that he is not acting consistently in accordance with the views expressed by his colleague, when he asks in the middle of that period that those who will still not have proper employment shall not be given the protection which at present exists.
It is not true to say that at the end of control the rents of houses will not be increased. The Minister said in the course of his speech on the Second Reading that the average increase in the rent of a decontrolled house is 85 per cent. Where are you going to find tenants of houses occupying, particularly, "C" class houses—and on these benches we also look at the position with regard to the "A" and "B" houses—who at the end of five years will be able to pay 85 per cent. more rent than they are paying at present? It is not consistent with the position as far as the purchase price of houses is concerned. The landlord will not suffer. If the landlord invests his money in any other direction, he will not get an increase of that nature in the course of five years. It is unreasonable to expect when the five years is up and when we shall only have, say, 1,500,000 Additional "C" class houses that we should there and then decontrol the other two-thirds. In these circumstances I ask the Minister to reconsider the position, and to say that although he is not prepared to accept the Amendment he will at least extend the time to 10 or 12 years or to some period more consistent with the situation which exists at present.
§ 4.38 p.m.
§ Mr. BATEY
The Committee have been discussing the Amendment as if it only raised one question, when, as a matter of fact, it raises two questions. The hands of the House of Commons are to be tied with regard to rent restrictions for five years. The Government do not intend to bring in any further rent restrictions Bills before the end of five years, when they intend to decontrol houses. When the Government decided to bring in a Bill I thought that it was intended to base it upon the report of the committee. I have looked up the report with regard to the question of decontrol and find that the committee do 1213 not recommend that there should be decontrol at the end of five years. They refer to the fact that some of the witnesses who came before them wanted decontrol to end in three years, others in five years, others in six years and others in eight years. They say:We have been asked by several witnesses to follow the precedents set by other committees and predict a date when working class houses should be finally decontrolled. These predictions have all been falsified by events. We recommend that the new Act should place no time limit on the control of that class of house"—The class with which we are now dealing—The question will doubtless require further consideration at a later date in the light of conditions then obtaining.It seems as if the Government have set aside the findings of the committee in regard to decontrol and have made up their mind to decontrol at the end of five years. Some witnesses suggested three years and some six years, and the Government have decided upon a period between those two dates and have fixed decontrol to take place at the end of five years. In taking that step the Government have made a huge mistake. There is an old saying that Governments dig their own graves. All we need to do is to go to the working classes and say: "The Government are handing you over to the landlords at the end of five years. They have decided that decontrol shall take place at the end of five years, and then you will be completely at the mercy of the landlords." That is the argument which the Government have given to us to use on the platforms when addressing the working classes. After what the Government have done to the working classes, it is strange that they should now come along with this extra injury and say to the very poorest of the poor: "At the end of five years your houses will be decontrolled."
The Government, no doubt, when they put those words into the Bill meant that the House would not again be troubled with the question for five years. Such a course is altogether contrary to the experience of the House in dealing with rent restrictions. Within a space of four years the House passed three Bills, one in 1919, one in 1920 and one in 1923, and, considering the temper of the people outside to-day, the House of Commons cannot expect that they will be allowed to 1214 sail along for five years without dealing with the important question of high rents. The feeling of the working classes is such that whatever Government is in power, long before five years have elapsed the Government will be compelled to give attention to the question. High rents come upon the working classes with full severity at a time when low wages are being paid and when unemployment is rife. High rents prevail to-day notwithstanding the fact that wages have been reduced. It is only natural that the working classes will make themselves heard upon this question and demand that serious attention be given to it and that something should be done to give some relief to the working classes. High rents are a real burden on the working classes. When the Act of 1920 was passed and the 40 per cent. increase was fixed for working class houses conditions were altogether different from what they are to-day. At that time 25 per cent. was allowed for repairs, and the cost of repairs was altogether different from the cost of repairs to-day. The working classes will be justified in demanding of the House of Commons that, seeing that the cost of repairs has been reduced, the percentage allowed to be charged as increased rent should be reduced.
§ The CHAIRMAN
I would remind the hon. Member that what he has just been saying goes beyond the Amendment.
§ Mr. BATEY
I thought that you would have pulled me up before. I was going to go on as long as I could. It would be immensely better for the House to allow Parliament a free hand to deal with this question. To fix a time limit of five years and then to decontrol is a stupid thing even for the Government to do, and I hope that they will reconsider their decision before we pass from the Amendment.
§ 4.44 p.m.
§ The MINISTER of HEALTH (Sir Hilton Young)
The Government do not propose to accept the Amendment, nor will it be my intention to recommend the Committee to accept any Amendments altering the provisions as to the duration of the Bill. It is clear that the arguments of the Mover and supporters of the Amendment have proceeded upon the basis that control ought to be a permanent system. If you really believe 1215 that control ought to be a permanent system, then certainly you ought to resist a proposition for any time limit such as we are now considering, but that is a point of view which the Government could not possibly accept, and for which I do not think there is any large measure of support in the country as a whole. If you do not accept the proposition that control is to be a permanent system and you recognise that it is a temporary system, due to war conditions, which we shall be better without as soon as circumstances permit, and you proceed on that basis, to what conclusion do you come? First of all, you come to the conclusion that the period at which you will be able to cease control is the period at which the supply of houses which you have under consideration equals the demand for those houses. That is the basis of the proposal in the Bill. I cannot possibly put it better than it was put by the hon. Member for Colchester (Mr. Lewis) namely, that what you need to do is to give time enough to allow supply to equal demand, but not too much time, in order that the country may know quite certainly where it stands in the matter. I submit that the measure of time allowed for by the Government is a reasonable measure of time under the circumstances.
It is true that no time limit was recommended by the Committee, but the Committee did say that the the question would doubtless need further consideration at a later date in the light of the circumstance of the conditions then obtaining. This is a substantially later date than the date of the report of the Committee, and the conditions now obtaining have put rather a different complexion on the matter. The principal condition to which I refer is the Government Housing Bill. The hon. Member for Whitechapel (Mr. Janner) based part of his argument upon the statement that the rate of the provision of small houses in the past had been inadequate. That is the Government's case. It is because the rate of the provision of small houses in the past has been inadequate that we are changeing the system in a new direction, which we believe will accelerate the rate of the provision and make the provision more adequate in the future.
§ Mr. JANNER
I should like to know what is the estimate of the number of 1216 houses that will be provided in the next five years of Class C houses?
§ Sir H. YOUNG
The only statement I will make and the only statement that would be relevant is that five years is a reasonable length of time to allow for the free play of those forces which we are now calling into active operation. The five years' period is a period such as one can look forward to as a reasonable period to allow supply to overtake demand. If you act on the basic assumption that this is not a permanent system but a system which ought to be limited in its operation, then, while we are passing a Bill on the subject, it is more in accordance with our duty to give certain information to people as to where they stand, as a. guide to the future, and to insert a time limit. The right hon. Member for Wakefield (Mr. Greenwood) said there was no reason to believe that in the five years' period the supply will be equal to the demand. I say, on the contrary, that there is no reason to believe that it will not. That being so, the right thing to do, surely, is td secure, as we do secure by the five years' provision, an opportunity for the House of Commons to be certain of having the matter brought sharply to its attention at the end of that period. Were it not for that, what might happen? It might be that conditions were all favourable to the removal of control, but simply owing to the lack of Parliamentary time or the lack of any signal circumstance to call the attention of Parliament to the matter, control might be continued indefinitely, year after year, very much to the prejudice of the general economic interests of the country.
Let me refer to the expression of the right hon. Member for Wakefield that this is a gamble. It is a gamble which involves no consequences of any necessary misfortune to the country. Let us suppose that the other event turns up and that five years hence the supply is not equal to the demand. There is then no prejudice to the general situation. The Act can be continued in the Expiring Laws Continuance Act, just as it is being continued at the present time. If we are to choose the best arrangement, I suggest to the Committee that the best arrangement, when you are dealing with a system which is not a permanent system, is to insert a time limit, and thereby secure that there shall be a definite occa- 1217 sion in the future when the matter shall be reviewed by Parliament. In these conditions, I think the Committee will find that the better course is to adopt the time limit in the Bill.
§ 4.52 p.m.
§ Mr. LUNN
I think the argument which the Minister used at the close of his speech is one that I should like to take up for the purpose of supporting the Amendment. He says that it may well be that at the end of the five years we shall not have a sufficiency of houses to meet the demand, and that it will be possible in that case to continue the Act in the Expiring Laws Continuance Act from year to year. It is a better Parliamentary designation to use the phrase, "until Parliament otherwise determines," than to fix a date, and then afterwards have to put the Act in the Expiring Laws Continuance Act. The Bills that are in the Expiring Laws Continuance Act are almost a menace to the time of the House of Commons that may be taken up later when business of a more important character could be done on the Floor of the House. The Minister has put forward no case whatever against the Amendment. If one looks at his Second Reading speech there are two arguments in which I think he will see the necessity for accepting the Amendment. The first one was the argument that there has not been a sufficiency of houses built since the last Rent Restrictions Act was passed to meet the demand. He says that in the past there has only been 13 per cent. increase in the number of Class "C" houses built, whilst there has been an increase by four or five times in the number of better class houses, and that that fact has justified him in continuing control of the Class "C" houses.
We have been told by other Ministers that there would be a sufficiency of houses built if we would only allow free play for the building of these houses, but we have not got the houses, despite Government assistance and the giving of the subsidy. We have to-day a serious lack in the supply of houses for working people to meet the demand. As conditions are continually growing worse, and will become worse so long as this Government are in office, there is no possibility of the houses being provided 1218 to meet the demands of the people, nor do I believe any Member in this House expects that private enterprise is going to build the houses in the next five years in sufficient number to meet the demand, and at the same time to provide them at rents which people can pay.
There was another argument in the right hon. Gentleman's Second Reading speech, dealing with the increase in the rents charged for houses. He said that the average rent of the decontrolled Class "C" houses had been increased 85 per cent. He also said that there are many of these houses that have not been increased in their rentals 85 per cent. by reason of the fact that some landlords are not as bad as others. There are many Members of this House who can take the Minister to areas where the percentage of increase has been considerably over 100 per cent. In the same street and in the same class of house you find one rental 10s. and another more than £1 a week. I should like to have seen this Bill dealing with the houses that have been already decontrolled in the class "C" category, but that is not in the Bill. I hope, however, that there will be a discussion upon that matter, because of the hardships that have been created for thousands of people who will have to on paying exorbitant rents, whilst their neighbours who live in houses which are controlled will pay what may be termed a reasonable rent in their case.
I appeal to the Minister to accept the Amendment, instead of laying it down that in five years' time we shall cease to deal with the control of Class "C" houses, although we know that there is no likelihood of the supply being equal to the demand. I am convinced that there is no possible expectation on the part of the Minister or on the part of any Member of this House that that will be the position and that supply will equal the demand. I ask the right hon. Gentleman to accept the Amendment, because it would be far better in every way. We could then discuss the matter not simply at the end of five years but even before five years if necessary. We could discuss the matter fully and completely and do something to assist people who are in a very impoverished position to-day and are not likely to be in an improved position during the next five years.
§ 4.58 p.m.
§ Mr. McENTEE
I do not suppose that the arguments of my hon. Friend will in any way influence the Minister, and therefore I do not suppose that any appeal that I may make will have any influence. I wonder what the date in the Bill really means. The Minister says that on a certain date, the 24th June, 1938, the control of these houses is to cease. The Bill says that control is to continue until then "and no longer." But the Minister now says that in 1938 the House will be in position to discuss the matter in the light of the then existing circumstances, and if it so desires it can continue the Act in the Expiring Laws Continuance Act. In that case, what do the words "and no longer" mean? What value have they? The only effect of them will be to mislead the house-owner and the terrorised tenant. Undoubtedly that will be the effect. Most people, whether they are house-owners or tenants, have little knowledge of the meaning of words in an Act of Parliament. I am not sure that many of us inside the House are capable at times of interpreting some of the Acts of Parliament that are passed. Certainly any ordinary landlord or tenant who takes up this Bill if it becomes an Act in its present form, as far as this Clause is concerned, and sees a date fixed and the words "and no longer" following, the only conclusion he can come to is that in 1938 the control which is now exercised over the houses which he rents or owns will be brought to an end. No one can say that in five years from now there will be any likelihood of a situation being reached when the demand for houses will be met by the supply.
I should like to believe that such a state of things will exist at that time, but the experience of the last 10 years in regard to the building of houses does not warrant such a belief, and the restrictions which will now be placed on the building of houses by the new Housing Bill, restrictions which will make it difficult for local authorities to build, will have the effect of restricting the building of houses, although it is hoped that the Bill will have the opposite effect so far as houses built by private enterprise are concerned. I believe more houses will be built by private enterprise under the new Bill than have been built before, but I have grave doubts whether the 1220 number of houses which will be built, including those by local authorities and by private enterprise, will be greater than the number built during the last five years. And during the last five years, in spite of all the efforts made by the late Government, the number of houses built did not reach the number required to meet the ordinary wastage that is taking place year by year. In most areas where there is a large poor working-class population the housing situation to-day is not better, in some cases it is far worse, than it was five and 10 years ago. What chance is there that five years hence it will be any better? If there is any doubt in the matter what purpose is there in misleading both landlord and tenant in the way that the Bill does? Why should we attempt to bind future Parliaments? Everyone knows that we have no such power, and, therefore, why pretend to bind future Parliaments by inserting the words "and no longer." In reality they have no meaning at all.
The Minister has told us that when the supply equals the demand will be the time, assuming that all his other surmises are accurate, that decontrol ought to operate. That may be, but unless you have some reasonable certainty that the supply will meet the demand in the time indicated I cannot see what purpose the Minister can have in putting these words in the Bill. It may be that he has been badgered by people outside to definitely close control over houses, and that in order to get away from that continuous badgering he has introduced into this Bill words which will hoodwink them into believing that the Government are going to do something which they have not the power to do, and it may be which they have no intention of doing when the time comes. If I could be sure that every tenant and landlord would read the speech of the Minister this afternoon, when he admitted that in five years time the conditions may be such that Parliament will by means of the Expiring Laws Continuance Bill extend the period by another year, and after that by another year, I should have some assurance that the people are not being misled. I know a good deal about the average working-class man and woman, and I know that until they became acquainted with the law and the making of laws they were frightened by words. The only purpose 1221 the Bill will succeed in achieving is to frighten people when the five years have nearly expired. I hope the Minister will take out these stupid meaningless words, to which neither he nor anybody else can give effect.
But there is another effect which the Bill will have. The Minister has said that in five years time, as a consequence of the new Housing Bill, there will be a sufficient number of houses to meet requirements. One of the effects of the new Housing Bill will be to increase rents. Some of the tenants who are now to be brought out of control in what are called A class and B class houses will be compelled, because of the power the landlord will have, and which will be exercised, to increase the rents of A and B class tenants, to seek cheaper accommodation in the type of house which we are now discussing, the C class house, and as a consequence there will be an increased demand for C class houses. If the demand for C class houses is increased, and if control is removed in five years time, the number of houses will be insufficient to meet the demand and that will mean that the rents will be increased considerably. The Bill, indeed, is going to act generally against the people. I cannot see any purpose at all for keeping these words in the Bill.
§ 5.10 p.m.
§ Sir FRANCIS FREMANTLE
There is just one point I desire to raise; it has not been mentioned so far. I was a member of the Departmental Committee which considered this matter, and I agree that the committee did suggest that no particular date should be mentioned, but at the same time we concurred with the Government in their proposals. But hon. Members should realise that this is a very anomalous form of legislation. It is a particular control of a particular form of property, which is not applied to any other form of property. It is an anomaly to continue it, and the members of the Departmental Committee recognise that. The earlier Departmental Committee suggested that there should he early decontrol, and the Socialist Members of that committee in their Minority Report suggested the year 1932 as being the date at which control should come to an end. That shows that we all recognise this as an anomalous form of legislation, and that 1222 some provision should be made for it to come to an end.
§ Sir F. FREMANTLE
Surely we can invent some new proposal to meet hard cases in 1938, which would not continue control with all its anomalies. I think it is right that we should give notice that it is to end in 1938. We must also recognise that this question is also accompanied by the holding up of mortgages. That is, of course, another question, but it is one of tremendous importance and it has introduced a whole lot of difficulties which we should like to sweep away. As long as the legislation goes on as at present the hands of executors of those who are dead are tied. Hon. Members opposite who speak on behalf of our industrial areas forget sometimes that they are only a small part and fraction of the population of the country. The more we look into the results of the War we see that by degrees they are focussing themselves on certain parts of the country.
The earlier Departmental Committee recognised this fact; we saw that the trouble was mainly in the larger industrial towns. I was responsible for a minority report which suggested that we should never expect to get decontrol over the whole country at the same time, and I suggested that we should have a local option scheme by which certain areas would be able to continue control while the rest of the country would be free. If we look into the science of the subject we shall find that there are other ways of dealing with this matter besides keeping on control, and it is for that reason I suggest that there should be a signpost put in this Bill, that in 1938 this anomalous system should come to an end, even if it was replaced by some other system which will apply to the actual needs and difficulties of the case. There is very little in it, but it is an indication; and I think it is right that we should give some indication that we intend to change the legislation in 1938.
§ 5.14 p.m.
§ The CHAIRMAN
This may be interesting, but I am not sure that it has anything to do with the Amendment.
§ Mr. GRAHAM
The Amendment is to secure that the Act shall remain on the Statute Book until Parliament shall otherwise determine. The Minister proposes that the Act shall come off the Statute Book in 1938. I was merely reminding the Committee that in 1923 we put in 1928 as the date when the Act should come off the Statute Book, and we were wrong. Every Government that has come in since then has realised that to have taken the Act off the Statute Book in 1928 would have been a very serious mistake. There is nothing unreasonable in the Amendment. I understand that in principle the Minister agrees with it, for he does not look forward with any assurance that in 1938 the supply of C class houses will be sufficient to satisfy the needs of the people who want them. In that case I think it would he a commendable action on his part to accept the Amendment, which would go far to meet the wishes of the Labour party and of the masses of the people outside the House. Let Parliament have the responsibility of seeing that the supply of houses in the future is sufficient to meet the needs of the community, whether in industrial or agricultural areas or any other part of the country.
§ 5.17 p.m.
§ Mr. LLEWELLYN-JONES
I trust that after the appeals that have been made from different quarters of the Committee the Minister will accept the Amendment. When I first read the Bill I felt that the period indicated in it was too short, and I put down an Amendment to extend the time to 1942, but having heard the speech of the right hon. Member for Wakefield (Mr. Greenwood), and other speeches to-day, I am more than satisfied that it would be a great mistake to put any date whatever in the Bill. It would be very much better for the Act to continue in force until Parliament otherwise determines. Reference has been made to the provisions in previous Acts. It is remarkable that from the start Parliament fixed a date and 1224 then discovered that it had made an egregious mistake. In the Act of 1915, passed during the War, the first of a long series which has now reached a total of one dozen, these words appeared:This Act shall continue in force during the continuance of the present War, and for a period of six months thereafter, and no longer.At that time Parliament may have thought that six months after the end of the War there would be no necessity to continue the control of houses. The Act was obviously a war Measure at the start. The very fact that this Bill has to be introduced to-day proves that, although actual war conditions have passed away, the conditions under which a very large number of our people are being housed at the present time do make it necessary to have some continuance of rent control. One speaker has spoken of the hardship inflicted on a large portion of the community because they were deprived of the possibility of dealing with their property in the way that they would wish. I am not quite certain whether the owners of dwelling-houses have not been far better off since the War than they were before.
§ The CHAIRMAN
I think that was just about the point at which I pulled up another hon. Member because he was making a Second Reading speech.
§ Mr. LLEWELLYN-JONES
But my point is that that is not the class that will suffer hardship if the control of houses is brought to a sudden end, either now or at the end of five years. There will then be a very large section of the community who will be faced with the possibility not only of having to leave their homes, but of very serious economic difficulties. That is why I think the Amendment would meet the situation very much better than the words of the Bill. The Minister of Health said, in referring to the report issued by the Rent Restrictions Acts Committee in July, 1931, that even today conditions have altered, in regard to housing, compared with 1931. I am not certain whether conditions have not become even more difficult than they were in 1931. That Committee was set up by the Minister of Health in the last Government as early as October, 1930. At that time there were not the serious economic difficulties that we are facing to-day.
1225 There is another point. In 1930 municipalities were proceeding with the erection of houses. They felt that they were under an obligation to remedy the housing shortage. But the situation has changed entirely since then. Owing to the action of the Government, municipalities and local authorities have been deprived of the opportunity of providing houses. From all points of view I am satisfied that it would be very much better, in the interests of landlord and tenant and of the community at large, that no date should be fixed in the Bill. Although looking at events as they are to-day one does not find ground for very much hope, it is conceivable that there might be a great improvement within the next three or four years, and that the Government might introduce legislation, perhaps on the line suggested by the hon. Member for St. Albans (Sir F. Fremantle) to apply a partial kind of rent restriction to certain areas. A great deal can be said for the hon. Member's view in that connection, but it is better to leave the thing perfectly open, so that if Parliament realises that changed conditions justify the introduction of legislation Parliament can proceed to introduce it. No attempt should be made to repeal the principal Act until Parliament is satisfied that the conditions justify the repeal.
During the Debate reference has been made to the houses occupied by the workers of the country, the cheapest type of house. If the Bill is passed with the date suggested by the Minister of Health I am not certain that other classes are not going to suffer equally with, if not more than, the workers. There are the skilled artisans and the black-coated workers. Take Class "B" houses, which are referred to in the statistics of houses. Those are houses between £40 and £45 in London, and £13 and £35 elsewhere. In September, 1932, it was estimated that there were 1,300,000 of such houses still controlled. That was 50,000 less than the total on the date of the Committee's report. The position of many of the occupants of these houses is certainly very serious. If the Bill is passed in its present form, at the end of five years this class will be affected. Do we realise that many of the occupants of these houses are suffering in a way that, as a class, they have never suffered before? There are not merely the skilled artisan and the 1226 clerk or young professional man, the junior civil servant, but there is also the very large number of persons who are in receipt of small incomes which have become depreciated during the past few months, as a result of the legislation with regard to War Loan and so forth. They would have to look forward within a period of five years to the possibility of having to find houses. If they have not the capital to erect houses for themselves their position is going to be very difficult and I am certain that, with the Bill in its present form, considerable alarm and anxiety is being created among a class which was largely responsible for the great majority secured by the Government at the last Election. I trust that in the interests of that large portion of the community who deserve the consideration of this Committee, the Minister will accept the Amendment.
§ 5.31 p.m.
§ Mr. BRIANT
The Minister is making a very hopeful estimate of the situation in fixing this date and he will remember that there have been previous hopeful estimates followed by unsatisfactory results. The right hon. Gentleman needs all the optimism he can command in approaching a campaign, in which I wish him every success, but does he, in his most optimistic moments, think that the necessary number of houses can be provided in five years? Not only is that not probable but I do not think it is possible. I do not think that under the most favourable conditions it can be expected. Even supposing—and it is a large supposition—that every public body is going to work its hardest and supposing that private enterprise finds—which it does not find—that building houses for tenants of this class is a profitable proposition, is it likely that five years is sufficient time?
The point which I wish to emphasise is the enormous danger of decontrol unless houses are provided. The London County Council and other local bodies have built large numbers of houses round London and yet the conditions of overcrowding are actually greater than they were two years ago. That is the result of two things. In the case of houses that were then decontrolled rents have gone up and people forced to give up the houses. You may make whatever provision you like but you can never prevent overcrowding unless suitable arrangements have been 1227 made to deal with that kind of situation. When that happens a medical officer of health is confronted with circumstances, in which out of pure humanity he is compelled to waive the strict application of rules and allow overcrowding to exist. Then you had a large number of houses built which were much more expensive than people could afford, and even those who went into the houses were compelled to leave them later. Then you had the remarkable fact that people who had left the slums and gone into superior houses were in the long run in even worse houses than they had occupied before. Unless we have a more definite promise, or something more than a promise, of the general fulfilment of this housing programme by the end of five years, it is a very dangerous experiment to risk removing control.
I know how hard the position is at present for many of those who have no earnings except unemployment benefit, and I cannot imagine that even the most optimistic of us believe that we shall find the economic conditions much better within a comparatively short period. It is extremely unsafe to remove this control, and I hope the Minister will say that he does not propose to do so until he can give us some more definite promise or some ground for the belief that these houses will be provided. He has given us no ground yet for believing that five years will be sufficient to provide the houses which are necessary for the occupation of the poorer paid workers, and more especially for those who are receiving no wages at all, who are living on public assistance or transitional benefit or unemployment insurance. In that situation, I think the Minister is asking too much when he asks us to agree that these houses should be decontrolled at the end of five years. I agree that there should be a date, but the limit of five years is much too short. I am prepared to vote for 10 years, but, as such an Amendment will not be before the Committee, I have no alternative but to vote for the Labour party's Amendment.
§ 5.35 p.m.
I have been struck by the remarkable support which the Amendment has received and by the remarkable speech of the Minister in defending the Clause as it stands. I 1228 think the Minister himself would admit that he has put no facts before us which give the slightest indication that by 1938 houses with a rateable valuation below £13 will have been built in sufficient numbers to give a decent opportunity to workmen with low wages to get houses at rents which they can afford. The hon. Member for St. Albans (Sir F. Fremantle) has been a member of a Departmental Committee on this question. He is about the only speaker who has supported the Bill in its present form, and yet he signed a report which gave no date at all for the discontinuance of the Rent and Mortgage Interest Restrictions Act. When the previous Measure was passed provision was made for gradual decontrol, but there will be no gradual decontrol when this Measure is on the Statute Book. We can look for no relief at the end of five years, and there will be no reasonable opportunity for those with low wages to get houses at reasonable rents. The landlords will be in a position to increase the rents owing to the shortage which will inevitably exist in 1938.
An hon. Member who spoke earlier seemed to suggest that this and other Measures dealing with the control and restriction of rents since the War were a tax on the landlords. As a matter of fact, there is no greater scandal than the 40 per cent. which landlords are drawing on property built years before the War. There is an inclination to forget the kind of property which we are protecting by these Acts. We are protecting property which was built, in some cases, 100 years before the War. Not only that, but we are protecting a rent, which was the "economic rent" fixed by the landlords in the days before the War. Then, it was the landlord's privilege to fix an "economic rent," undisturbed by Parliament or anybody else, and all the rents prevailing before 1914 were economic in the sense of giving the landlord a fair amount of interest on the money invested.
I leave that subject, but I think it well to point out that in this Measure we are dealing with property which was erected before the War. I do 1229 not think the Minister has put before the Committee one argument to prove that in 1938 we shall have a plentiful supply of the Class 3 type of house especially in the provinces. During this Parliament facilities for building houses have been taken out of the hands of the local authorities and, taking into consideration the progress of the local authorities during the last eight or 10 years, let us try to imagine what will happen when the work of building houses is transferred to private enterprise. We can only conclude that it will be a sad look out in 1938 for the people with low wages when decontrol it applied to all property. Under the system of gradual decontrol a number of houses have been decontrolled and the result has inevitably been that rents have increased above the 40 per cent. previously allowed.
If we are in that position in 1938 we shall be handing over to the landlords lock, stock and barrel the working class people who now reside in controlled houses and whose wages have been considerably reduced, and are being reduced month after month. The landlords will then be able to fix the rents at their own will and desire. I join with others who have supported this Amendment in appealing to the Minister to reconsider the situation. He has suggested that to put in a figure makes no difference. We say it does. If there is anything likely to discourage the building of houses of this kind between now and 1938 it is the fact that private enterprise will know beforehand that in 1938 all that property will be decontrolled, and that a shortage will be created, and that they can increase the rents to whatever extent they like. We fear that the Minister in keeping with his previous Tory and reactionary legislation is handing over the working class people to the landlord class to be further bled. Nevertheless, in view of the effects which we have indicated, we ask him to reconsider this Clause and to leave Parliament with a free hand to bring in decontrol when the circumstances permit. The right hon. Gentleman said the country did not desire a continuation of control. I wish a General Election could be fought on the rent question now and I think he would get a shock.
I do not desire to transgress your Ruling, but in view of the right hon. Gentleman's statement, I wanted to challenge him to take the opinion of the country.
§ Sir H. YOUNG
Surely the hon. Member does not want to misrepresent me. What I said was that the opinion of the country would be against a continuation of restriction under a, permanent system.
I certainly would not wish to misrepresent the right hon. Gentleman, but I am not so certain that he would not be beaten even on that issue. I will conclude by adding my appeal for a reconsideration of this question. There is no need to have these figures in the Bill, and I am satisfied that, in the interests of the community as a whole, they should be left out.
§ 5.46 p.m.
§ Mr. LOGAN
We have had a difference of opinion to-day with regard to interpretation, and I am at a loss to understand what the Minister means when he says that, if necessary, in 1938 we can deal with this question under the Expiring Laws Continuance Bill, and that at the end of each year we can review the question. The Mover of the Amendment said that, considering that these difficulties are likely to present themselves year by year, we might meet the views of the House and of the Minister himself, as expressed to-day, by accepting the Amendment, which says "Parliament otherwise determines." There is no Minister who, knowing that a new era in building is about to come into operation, can honestly say, definitely—and it is no good being problematical with regard to the absolute necessity of housing—what is likely or unlikely to happen when there is no data upon which to base an opinion. The Government, by their housing legislation, have changed the whole system, and they are now bringing in a Bill based on a supposition which they are not able to prove by any reliable data. They are now asking Parliament holus bolus to bring into operation a Bill which says in substance that a definite date shall be decided upon.
I know that when Ministers introduce Bills into this House, we are liable to be told on a question of drafting that 1231 the Government's interpretation is different from that of hon. Members. I see that the learned Solicitor-General is present. On a former occasion I had to ask what was the meaning of a Clause that was placed before us, and I now ask the Solicitor-General if he will kindly tell me and the members of the Committee what this particular Clause really means. It seems rather singular that we are told that permanently means permanently, and yet that the matter may be dealt with under the Expiring Laws Continuance Act. If this Clause does not mean what it says, what are we to understand? Are we to understand that at the end of 1938 the Minister will come forward and say, "In the Act we did agree that the expiration was to be on the date mentioned, but I now ask you to agree in substance to the Amendment that has been suggested by the right hon. Member for Wakefield (Mr. Greenwood)"? Surely, if the Bill means anything, the Government would never pretend to say that a thing shall cease to exist on a specified date, and then protest against an Amendment which gives latitude, unless there is a determination on the part of the Ministry that the Act is to be effective. If it is to be non-effective, the Minister ought to be candid about it, and he ought to say, "This is a subterfuge, a system whereby we are simply juggling with an Act of Parliament, and we shall come along when it suits us and upset it, but we will not accept an Amendment from the Labour party which states in terms exactly what we mean."
As a member of the housing department of the Corporation of Liverpool, I say that there is no authority in the country that is able to say that, in the new era of house-building, you are not by this Clause giving to the landlord classes the power to raise rentals and no power to supply the demand for houses on the part of the people. I am as anxious as is the Minister that we should get a response to his appeal, but I am anxious also to be definite, and I do not want to base my premises on what are not facts. I hope that before the Debate closes the Solicitor-General will give us an interpretation of this Clause. Does it mean that it will expire on the date named, or does it not? I understand that it means expiration in 1938, and that if there is a housing shortage then, there 1232 will be the possibility of de-control, with higher rentals to be charged. That is a position for which I do not think any Member from an industrial area, in view of the danger which there is likely to be from the shortage of houses, could be expected to vote. If the Solicitor-General would say that this proposition would only be tantamount to what the Labour party propose in their Amendment, we could understand that it is a mere juggling with words, but we are asked to pledge ourselves to a definite date, and I think it is wrong, and that it is inconsistent for the Minister to state that under the Expiring Laws Continuance Act there will be the power of revision year by year. It is tantamount to double dealing, and I think the Government ought to be more explicit.
§ 5.56 p.m.
§ Mr. TINKER
I believe I am the seventeenth speaker on this Amendment, and it is very unusual for so many hon. Members to speak on a single Amendment. It shows the great concern of the Committee in this connection, and I would appeal to the Minister, even though he has made a reply, to reconsider the appeal that has been made to him from so many sides. There have been three or four Members from the Conservative benches, two of whom sat on the Departmental Committee, and neither of them seemed to be emphatic in favour of the Government's proposition. The hon. Member for St. Albans (Sir F. Fremantle) said that it did not matter very much either way. As a rule, the Minister himself is very emphatic when he defends his Bill, but on this occasion he seemed to be not quite certain of his position, and when he made the assumption spoken of by my hon. Friend the Member for the Scotland Division (Mr. Logan), that in 1938, if the position had not materially changed to put the Government in a safe position, the Parliament of that day would then continue the Act, I thought he was implying that, even though he is bringing in another Bill to deal with housing, he is not quite certain that it will meet the requirements for which we are asking here. If the Government are not quite sure of their ground, at least they might give further protection with regard to rent to those who require it.
We on this side are quite sure in our own minds that the housing problem will 1233 not be solved by 1938, and therefore we ask the Minister to reconsider the position. If he is not quite certain, at least this Amendment ought to be accepted, and if it does not mean very much, and he says it can be altered in 1938, why not give way to us now? In between now and then, if the Government's policy succeeds and they provide the houses, we shall stand discredited, and I do not think there is anybody in this House who would not be glad to be discredited in that matter. If in 1936 or 1937 the supply of houses has already met the demand, there would be no opposition on this side to the Act ending at once and free play with regard to rent coming into operation. Therefore, what we are asking does not seem to me to be out of reason at all. It is quite a simple Amendment, which has aroused great feeling on our side, and we are most eager that the Committee should accept it. In view of that fact, I would ask the Minister to reconsider the question. I do not think he has said the final word on the matter, and if the Committee stage of a Bill means anything at all, surely it means that if there is a strong feeling on any point in a Bill, the arguments put forward ought to have some weight with the Minister in charge. As so many speakers have urged this point of view upon him, I suggest that he ought to get up again and say that he will reconsider the matter between now and the Report stage.
§ 6.0 p.m.
§ Mr. KNIGHT
I want to press a particular view on my right hon. Friend with all the strength I can. I was called out to other duties, and did not hear the whole of his statement in answer to the Amendment. I want him to recall the circumstances in which the original Act was framed and the continuing circumstances which warranted a succession of Governments extending the Statutes under the Expiring Laws Continuance Act from year to year. They did that to avoid the disquiet, agitation and general disturbance which any interference with those Acts would have caused. My right hon. Friend, who has had the duty in recent months of surveying the whole of the ground, has the official records. We have not, but some of us have numerous letters from citizens in various parts of the country giving particulars of their personal cases. My right hon. Friend has 1234 the official records, and I want to ask him this simple question: Does he think that there has been such a change in national circumstances as to warrant an interference with the Statutes which hitherto every Government has sought very carefully to avoid?
This Bill is causing enormous disquiet. At a later stage we shall remove protection from 'a whole range of tenants. Such has been the attention—perhaps my hon. Friends opposite will not agree with this—fastened in the country on the work of the present Government up to this moment, that it has not quite appreciated what the effect of this Bill is going to be; and with the greatest respect I warn my right hon. Friend that if the Bill passes in its present form with the Amendment which he has put down to defer decontrol until next September, there will, between September and December, be such an agitation up and down the country from households from whom protection is being withdrawn that will cause the Government very much concern. I do not want to make any critical remarks about these matters if I can avoid them, but I venture to warn my right hon. Friend. I am not dealing with technical matters. Behind these words lie the necessities and anxieties of countless citizens who Are watching the proceedings here to see how they are to be affected in their households.
§ The DEPUTY-CHAIRMAN (Captain Bourne)
The hon. Member now appears to be making a Second Reading speech.
§ Mr. KNIGHT
I am not intentionally doing that, but I am afraid that I am extending my warning longer than I had intended. I venture to advise my right hon. Friend to push back as far as he can the expiration of these Statutes because the withdrawal of the relief which they afford will create conditions which, I think, the Government will regret. I am not particularly concerned about the form of the Amendment, but we cannot bind the action of future Parliaments. I am certain that whatever the Government do with this Bill, they will have to use the Expiring Laws Continuance Act in future years because of the commotion that will be created by this Bill. I ask my right hon. Friend to give us some further assurance so that we can postpone the 1235 withdrawal of the relief of the present Acts.
§ 6.6 p.m.
§ Mr. CHARLES WILLIAMS
Attention has already been called to the fact that there have been some eight or nine speeches on one side in this discussion, and I would remind the Committee that there are two distinct sides to this question. As to the words "and no longer," I agree that they are mere superfluous naughtiness and could be cut out quite well, for they have no meaning. I do not dispute what has been said about the difficulties of the tenant, for I agree with it. Still less do I wish to stand up on behalf of the bad landlord. I would like to take stronger lines with him than some of my hon. Friends above the Gangway. A large number of people in the building trade believe that these restrictions have a definite limitation on the production of houses, and that, I gather, is the real reason why the Government are obliged to fix a date. It is curious that the blind belief in the protective value of restrictions is so largely confined to the Liberal and Socialist parties. I would like to warn them that there is a serious danger of lengthening these restrictions. There are large sections of the people on whom they bear hardly. I agree with what has been said by hon. Members as to the hardships of the tenants, but I ask them not to be too hard in pressing their case, and to remember that there is another section of the community as well.
§ 6.8 p.m.
§ Mr. MALLALIEU
I want to add my voice to the chorus which has been imploring the Minister to reconsider his point of view on what seems to me to be so reasonable an Amendment. May I say that there has been no suggestion from these benches that ultimate decontrol may not be desirable? The sole point, as I understand it, in this Amendment is not to deal with ultimate decontrol, but merely with the time of decontrol. All the speakers whom I have heard from these and the Socialist benches have also seemed to accept the desirability of ultimate decontrol, but have preferred to extend the time during which control shall operate. Generally speaking, I agree with the hon. Member for St. Albans (Sir F. Fremantle) in what he 1236 said about this rather anomalous legislation. It is obviously desirable to fix some sort of limit to anomalous legislation which penalises a small section of the community unduly. The Amendment which was put down to extend the time, and yet to limit it to a fixed specific period of years is not, I understand, to be called. It, therefore, remains to support this Amendment, which is not very different, although no specific limit of years is mentioned in it.
I would like to call the Minister's attention once again to the extraordinary uncertainty in which, owing to economic conditions, large numbers of families are now living. It is particularly obvious, perhaps, in the case of the black-coated worker. Very often, owing to a long period of unemployment, he is finding life extremely difficult, and feels not unreasonably that the control which these Acts afford is the last hawser which keeps him to the quay when the gale is blowing. Anything which tends to give him further uncertainty is undesirable, and this House could quite easily and should avoid it. The Government, by maintaining their present position, are tending to create uncertainty, and therefore real hardship to a large section of the people. I ask the Government to accept the Amendment, which does not in any way prejudice the ultimate position, but merely seeks to extend the protection while the economic blizzard blows. If it were likely to be a prejudice to the ultimate position, I would certainly not ask the Minister to accept the Amendment, but it is plain from all the speeches that the ultimate position will not be prejudiced in the least.
§ 6.13 p.m.
§ Mr. CAPE
It will be a grave mistake for the Minister to refuse to accept the Amendment. When I read the Bill and came to this Clause, I tried to analyse what had caused the Minister to allow the draftsman to put these words in. I know the Minister very well, for I have been in the House as a Member as long as he has; I have followed his career and I know that when he makes a statement he has a definite meaning in what he says. I tried to visualise what he probably meant by the words in this Clause and I decided that he probably meant that in 1938 sufficient houses would have been built to enable him to let control go out 1237 of existence, or that he intended in 1938, if he were still Minister of Health, to use his power for the benefit of the landlord at the expense of the tenant. When the Minister made his speech to-day I came to the conclusion that I was wrong in both assumptions. If he had been satisfied that he could have built sufficient houses before 1938, there would have been no reason to suggest that the Bill at that time could come under the Expiring Laws Continuance Act.
The same applies to the second assumption that I made. I am satisfied that the Minister knows perfectly well that by June, 1938, there will be nothing like sufficient houses to meet the demand at that time, and that housing conditions then will be in such a state that no Government would dare to propose immediate decontrol, because in the storm of opposition that would be raised it would be difficult for any Government to exist. I suggest that it would be in no way to the discredit of the Minister to accept this Amendment. Though we have often thought it right and proper to insert in an Act of Parliament a specific date when it shall cease to operate, this is one of those peculiar cases when nobody can say for certain at what time the provisions of this legislation should
§ eventually come to an end. It can depend only upon circumstances in the future. If I were in the Minister's position, and were as satisfied as he seems to be that under his new housing proposals he will accomplish the miracle of supplying sufficient houses by June, 1938, I should not be afraid to accept this Amendment. The adoption of this Amendment is the only reasonable thing Parliament can do if it wishes the people outside to regard it as a responsible authority looking after their welfare. If the new schemes produce the houses for the working classes then, when their demands have been met, no Minister will have any difficulty in getting through the House a Bill to take away all the provisions of the Rent Restrictions Acts. Therefore, I add my appeal to those already made to the Minister to reconsider his decision and accept this Amendment, because I feel satisfied that to do so would really meet with the general approval of the vast majority of hon. Members.
§ Question put, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Clause."
§ The Committee divided: Ayes, 301; Noes, 68.1241
|Division No. 96.]||AYES.||[6.18 p.m.|
|Acland-Troyte, Lieut.-Colonel||Brocklebank, C. E. R.||Cross, R. H.|
|Adams, Samuel Vyvyan T. (Leeds, W.)||Brown. Col. D. C. (N'th'l'd., Hexham)||Cruddas, Lieut-Colonel Bernard|
|Agnew, Lieut.-Com. P. G.||Brown, Brig.-Gen. H. C. (Berks., Newb'y)||Culverwell, Cyril Tom|
|Albery, Irving James||Browne, Captain A. C.||Dalkeith, Earl of|
|Allen, Sir J. Sandeman (Liverp'l, w.)||Buchan-Hepburn, P. G. T.||Davidson, Rt. Hon. J. C. C.|
|Allen, William (Stoke-on-Trent)||Burghley, Lord||Davison, Sir William Henry|
|Amery, Rt. Hon. Leopold C. M. S.||Burnett, John George||Dawson, Sir Philip|
|Apsley, Lord||Cadogan, Hon. Edward||Denman, Hon. R. D.|
|Astbury, Lieut.-Com. Frederick Wolfe||Campbell, Edward Taswell (Bromley)||Dickie, John P.|
|Astor, Viscountess (Plymouth, Sutton)||Campbell, Vice-Admiral G. (Burnley)||Donner, P. W.|
|Atholl, Duchess of||Caporn, Arthur Cecil||Doran, Edward|
|Atkinson, Cyril||Carver, Major William H.||Drewe, Cedric|
|Baillie, Sir Adrian W. M.||Castlereagh, Viscount||Duckworth, George A. V.|
|Baldwin, Rt. Hon. Stanley||Cautley, Sir Henry S.||Dugdale, Captain Thomas Lionel|
|Balfour, George (Hampstead)||Cayzer, Sir Charles (Chester, City)||Duggan, Hubert John|
|Balniel, Lord||Cayzer, Maj. Sir H. R. (Prtsmth., S.)||Duncan, James A. L. (Kensington, N.)|
|Barclay-Harvey, C. M.||Cazalet, Thelma (Islington, E.)||Dunglass, Lord|
|Barton, Capt. Basil Kelsey||Cazalet, Capt. V. A. (Chippenham)||Eastwood, John Francis|
|Beauchamp, Sir Brograve Campbell||Chorlton, Alan Ernest Leofric||Eden, Robert Anthony|
|Beaumont, M. W. (Bucks., Aytesbury)||Christie, James Archibald||Elliot, Major Rt. Hon. Walter E.|
|Beaumont, Hon. R. E. B. (Portsm'th, C.)||Clayton, Dr. George C.||Ellis, Sir R. Geoffrey|
|Beit, Sir Alfred L.||Cobb, Sir Cyril||Elliston, Captain George Sampson|
|Benn, Sir Arthur Shirley||Cochrane, Commander Hon. A. D.||Elmley, Viscount|
|Betterton, Rt. Hon. Sir Henry B.||Colville, Lieut.-Colonel J.||Erskine, Lord (Weston-super-Mare)|
|Bevan, Stuart James (Holborn)||Conant, R. J. E.||Erskine-Bolst, Capt. C. C. (Blackpool)|
|Birchall, Major Sir John Dearman||Cook, Thomas A.||Essenhigh, Reginald Clare|
|Blindell, James||Cooke, Douglas||Everard, W. Lindsay|
|Boothby, Robert John Graham||Copeland, Ida||Falle, Sir Bertram G.|
|Borodale, Viscount||Courtauld, Major John Sewell||Ford, Sir Patrick J.|
|Bower, Lieut.-Com. Robert Tatton||Craddock, Sir Reginald Henry||Forestier-Walker, Sir Leolin|
|Bowyer, Capt. Sir George E. W.||Cranborne, Viscount||Fox, Sir Gifford|
|Boyce, H. Leslie||Craven-Ellis, William||Fremantle, Sir Francis|
|Boyd-Carpenter, Sir Archibald||Crooke, J. Smedley||Fuller, Captain A. G.|
|Braithwaite, J. G. (Hillsborough)||Crookshank, Col. C. de Windt (Bootle)||Ganzoni, Sir John|
|Briscoe, Capt. Richard George||Crookshank, Capt. H. C. (Gainsb'ro)||Gault, Lieut.-Col. A. Hamilton|
|Broadbent, Colonel John||Croom-Johnson, R. P.||Gilmour, Lt.-Col. Rt. Hon. Sir John|
|Glossop, C. W. H.||Macdonald, Capt. P. D. (I. of W.)||Samuel, Samuel (W'dsworth, Putney)|
|Gluckstein, Louis Halle||McEwen, Captain J. H. F.||Sandeman, Sir A. N. Stewart|
|Glyn, Major Ralph G. C.||McLean, Dr. W. H. (Tradeston)||Sanderson, Sir Frank Barnard|
|Goodman, Colonel Albert W.||Macmillan, Maurice Harold||Savery, Samuel Servington|
|Gower, Sir Robert||Magnay, Thomas||Selley, Harry R.|
|Grattan-Doyle, Sir Nicholas||Maitland, Adam||Shakespeare, Geoffrey H.|
|Gretton, Colonel Rt. Hon. John||Makins, Brigadier-General Ernest||Shute, Colonel J. J.|
|Grimston, R. V.||Margesson, Capt. Rt. Hon. H. D. R.||Sinclair, Col. T.(Queen's Unv., Belfast)|
|Guinness, Thomas L. E. B.||Marsden, Commander Arthur||Skelton, Archibald Noel|
|Gunston, Captain D. W.||Mason, Col. Glyn K (Croydon, N.)||Smiles, Lieut.-Col. Sir Walter D.|
|Hacking, Rt. Hon. Douglas H.||Mayhew, Lieut.-Colonel John||Smith, Bracewell (Dulwich)|
|Hamilton, Sir George (Ilford)||Meller, Richard James||Smith, Sir Jonah W. (Barrow-In-F.)|
|Hanbury, Cecil||Merriman, Sir F. Boyd||Smith, Louis W. (Sheffield, Hallam)|
|Hannon, Patrick Joseph Henry||Milne, Charles||Smith, R. W. (Ab'rd'n & Kinc'dine, C.)|
|Harbord, Arthur||Mitcheson, G. G.||Smith-Carington, Neville W.|
|Hartington, Marquess of||Moore, Lt.-Col. Thomas C. R. (Ayr)||Smithers, Waldron|
|Hartland, George A.||Morris, Owen Temple (Cardiff, E.)||Somervell, Donald Bradley|
|Harvey, Major S. E. (Devon, Totnes)||Morris-Jones, Dr. J. H. (Denbigh)||Somerville, Annesley A. (Windsor)|
|Haslam, Henry (Horncastle)||Morrison, William Shepherd||Soper, Richard|
|Haslam, Sir John (Bolton)||Muirhead, Major A. J.||Sotheron-Estcourt, Captain T. E.|
|Headlam, Lieut.-Col. Cuthbert M.||Munro, Patrick||Southby, Commander Archibald R. J.|
|Hellgers, Captain F. F. A.||Nall-Cain, Hon. Ronald||Spender-Clay, Rt. Hon. Herbert H.|
|Henderson, Sir Vivian L. (Chelmsf'd)||Nation, Brigadier-General J. J. H.||Stanley, Lord (Lancaster, Fylde)|
|Hepworth, Joseph||Newton, Sir Douglas George C.||Stanley, Hon. O. F. G. (Westmorland)|
|Herbert, Capt. S. (Abbey Division)||Nicholson, Godfrey (Morpeth)||Steel-Maitland, Rt. Hon. Sir Arthur|
|Hills, Major Rt. Hon. John Waller||Normand, Wilfrid Guild||Stevenson, James|
|Hope, Capt. Hon. A. O. J. (Aston)||North, Captain Edward T.||Storey, Samuel|
|Hore-Belisha, Leslie||Nunn, William||Stourton, Hon. John J.|
|Hornby, Frank||O'Connor, Terence James||Strauss, Edward A.|
|Horne, Rt. Hon. Sir Robert S.||Ormsby-Gore, Rt. Hon. William G. A.||Stuart, Lord C. Crichton-|
|Horobin, Ian M.||Patrick, Colin M.||Sueter, Rear-Admiral Murray F.|
|Howitt, Dr. Alfred B.||Pearson, William G.||Sugden, Sir Wilfrid Hart|
|Hudson, Capt. A. U. M. (Hackney, N.)||Peat, Charles U.||Summersby, Charles H.|
|Hume, Sir George Hopwood||Percy, Lord Eustace||Sutcliffe, Harold|
|Hurd, Sir Percy||Perkins, Walter R. D.||Tate, Mavis Constance|
|Hurst, Sir Gerald B.||Peters, Dr. Sidney John||Thomas, Rt. Hon. J. H. (Derby)|
|Iveagh, Countess of||Petherick, M.||Thomas, James P. L. (Hereford)|
|Jackson, Sir Henry (Wandsworth, C.)||Peto, Sir Basil E. (Devon, B'nstaple)||Thompson, Luke|
|James, Wing-Com. A. W. H.||Peto, Geoffrey K. (W'verh'pt'n, Bilst'n)||Thomson, Sir Frederick Charles|
|Joel, Dudley J. Barnato||Pike, Cecil F.||Titchfield, Major the Marquess of|
|Ker, J. Campbell||Potter, John||Touche, Gordon Cosmo|
|Kerr, Lieut.-Col, Charles (Montrose)||Pownall, Sir Assheton||Tryon, Rt. Hon. George Clement|
|Kerr, Hamilton W.||Procter, Major Henry Adam||Turton, Robert Hugh|
|Knox, Sir Alfred||Raikes, Henry V. A. M.||Vaughan-Morgan, Sir Kenyon|
|Lambert, Rt. Hon. George||Ramsay, Alexander (W. Bromwich)||Wallace, Captain D. E. (Hornsey)|
|Law, Sir Alfred||Ramsay, T. B. W. (Western Isles)||Ward, Lt.-Col. Sir A. L. (Hull)|
|Law, Richard K. (Hull, S. W.)||Ramsbotham, Herwald||Ward, Irene Mary Bewick (Wallsend)|
|Leckie, J. A.||Ramsden, Sir Eugene||Wardlaw-Milne, Sir John S.|
|Leighton, Major B. E. P.||Rankin, Robert||Warrender, Sir Victor A. G.|
|Levy, Thomas||Reed, Arthur C. (Exeter)||Waterhouse, Captain Charles|
|Lewis, Oswald||Reid, James S. C. (Stirling)||Watt, Captain George Steven H.|
|Liddall, Walter S.||Reid, William Allan (Derby)||Wedderburn, Henry James Scrymgeour-|
|Lindsay, Noel Ker||Rhys, Hon. Charles Arthur U.||Wells, Sydney Richard|
|Lister, Rt. Hon. Sir Philip Cunliffe-||Roberts, Sir Samuel (Ecclesall)||Williams, Charles (Devon, Torquay)|
|Little, Graham-, Sir Ernest||Ropner, Colonel L.||Wills, Wilfrid D.|
|Lloyd, Geoffrey||Rosbotham, Sir Samuel||Windsor-Clive, Lieut.-Colonel George|
|Lockwood, Capt. J. H. (Shipley)||Ross, Ronald D.||Winterton, Rt. Hon. Earl|
|Loder, Captain J. de Vere||Ross Taylor, Walter (Woodbridge)||Womersley, Walter James|
|Lumley, Captain Lawrence R.||Ruggles-Brise, Colonel E. A.||Wood, Rt. Hon. Sir H. Kingsley|
|Lyons, Abraham Montagu||Runge, Norah Cecil||Worthington, Dr. John V.|
|Mabane, William||Russell, Albert (Kirkcaldy)||Young, Rt. Hon. Sir Hilton (S'v'oaks)|
|MacAndrew, Lt.-Col. C. G. (Partick)||Russell, Alexander West (Tynemouth)|
|MacAndrew, Capt. J. O. (Ayr)||Rutherford, Sir John Hugo (Liverp'l)||TELLERS FOR THE AYES.—|
|McConnell, Sir Joseph||Salmon, Sir Isidore||Sir George Penny and Major George|
|McCorquodale, M. S.||Salt, Edward W.||Davies.|
|MacDonald, Malcolm (Bassetlaw)||Samuel, Sir Arthur Michael (F'nham)|
|Acland, Rt. Hon. Sir Francis Dyke||Daggar, George||Holdsworth, Herbert|
|Adams, D. M. (Poplar, South)||Davies, David L. (Pontypridd)||Janner, Barnett|
|Aske, Sir Robert William||Davies, Rhys John (Westhoughton)||Jenkins, Sir William|
|Attlee, Clement Richard||Evans, R. T. (Carmarthen)||Johnstone, Harcourt (S. Shields)|
|Banfield, John William||Foot, Dingle (Dundee)||Jones, Henry Haydn (Merioneth)|
|Batey, Joseph||George, Rt. Hon. D. Lloyd (Carn'v'n)||Jones, J. J. (West Ham, Silvertown)|
|Bernays, Robert||Greenwood, Rt. Hon. Arthur||Jones, Morgan (Caerphilly)|
|Bevan, Aneurin (Ebbw Vale)||Grenfell, David Rees (Glamorgan)||Kirkwood, David|
|Briant, Frank||Groves, Thomas E.||Lansbury, Rt. Hon. George|
|Brown, C. W. E. (Notts., Mansfield)||Grundy, Thomas W.||Lawson, John James|
|Cape, Thomas||Hall, F. (York, W.R., Normanton)||Llewellyn-Jones, Frederick|
|Cocks, Frederick Seymour||Hall, George H. (Merthyr Tydvil)||Logan, David Gilbert|
|Cove, William G.||Hamilton, Sir R. W. (Orkney & Zetl'nd)||Lunn, William|
|Cripps, Sir Stafford||Hicks, Ernest George||McEntee, Valentine L.|
|Curry, A. C.||Hirst, George Henry||McGovern, John|
|Maclay, Hon. Joseph Paton||Price, Gabriel||Williams, David (Swansea, East)|
|Maclean, Neil (Glasgow, Govan)||Rea, Walter Russell||Williams, Edward John (Ogmore)|
|Mainwaring, William Henry||Roberts, Aled (Wrexham)||Williams, Dr. John H. (Llanelly)|
|Mallalieu, Edward Lancelot||Salter, Dr. Alfred||Williams, Thomas (York, Don Valley)|
|Mander, Geoffrey le M.||Samuel, Rt. Hon. Sir H. (Darwen)||Young, Ernest J. (Middlesbrough, E.)|
|Maxton, James||Sinclair, Maj. Rt. Hn. Sir A. (C'thness)|
|Milner, Major James||Thorne, William James||TELLERS FOR THE NOES.—|
|Parkinson, John Allen||Tinker, John Joseph||Mr. John and Mr. D. Graham.|
|Pickering, Ernest H.||Wallhead, Richard C.|
§ 6.29 p.m.
§ The SOLICITOR-GENERAL (Sir Boyd Merriman)
I beg to move, in page 1, line 11, to leave out from the beginning, to the word "is," in line 12, and to insert instead thereof the words:(2) As from the twenty-ninth day of September, nineteen hundred and thirty-three, the principal Acts shall not apply to any dwelling-house unless it.Whatever differences of opinion there may be about the advantage of having a fixed date for the termination of the Rent Restrictions Acts there can, I think, be no two opinions about the propriety of having a fixed date for the beginning of this Measure. In spite of a very full discussion upon the first Amendment, and in spite of the large number of Amendments on the Paper, we shall presumably get this Bill through the House some time before the House itself is decontrolled for the Summer Recess. No landlord and tenant in the whole of England can say with certainty when that day is to be, but on that day the relations between the landlords and tenants of controlled houses will change. Therefore, it is essential that we should have in advance a definite date declared upon which this Bill shall begin to operate. The purpose of this Amendment is to do that. If hon. Members will allow me to read the Sub-section as it will run when this Amendment and three or four consequential Amendments have been passed, they will see what the point is. It will read as follows:As from the twenty-ninth day of September, nineteen hundred and thirty-three, the principal Acts shall not apply to any dwelling-house unless it is a dwelling-house to which they applied immediately before the passing of this Act or then formed part of such a dwelling-house, and it is also a dwelling-house of which either the annual amount of the recoverable rent on the appointed day or the rateable value on the appointed day did not exceed"—the figures which are Set out immediately thereafter. That is the substance of this Amendment. In due course I shall be proposing to move another Amendment which, it is hoped, will have the effect of clarifying the position as between land- 1242 lord and tenant when the 29th September arrives.
§ 6.31 p.m.
§ Mr. JAMES REID
I want to raise a small point in regard to Scotland. I understand that the 29th September is term day in England, and no doubt it a convenient day there, but it is not a term day in Scotland, where it is quite unknown. I suggest that provision should be made, in applying this Clause to Scotland, so that Martinmass should be substituted for the 29th September as the term day on which all contracts should come to an end. As a matter of fact, the term for dwelling-houses has been satisfactorily altered.
§ The SOLICITOR-GENERAL
I would like to answer that point at once. It is a point which clearly requires consideration, and it shall be considered.
§ 6.32 p.m.
§ Mr. LLEWELLYN-JONES
I felt, during the discussion on a previous Amendment, that the Government had a very weak case. From the Amendment which has now been moved by the learned Solicitor-General, I think that that case is infinitely weaker. When the Bill was before the House on Second Reading, I said that a large number of tenants might find themselves in considerable difficulties as soon as the Bill was placed on the Statute Book, and an appeal was made to the Minister that he ought not to bring it into operation on such an early date and in such a drastic manner. It was pointed out that if that were done, it would cause a considerable amount of hardship to a very large number of people in all parts of the country. An attempt is made in this Amendment to modify the stringency of the Measure to a certain extent, but I venture to suggest that it does not go nearly far enough.
§ The DEPUTY-CHAIRMAN
I think that it would be for the convenience of the Committee if we got rid of the words proposed to be left out, and then, on the 1243 Amendment standing in the name of the hon. Member for Workington (Mr. Cape) we took the discussion as to on what date the provision shall operate. Otherwise I am afraid that we shall get very mixed in the Debates. We must get rid of the words.
§ Question, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Clause," put, and negatived.
§ Question proposed, "That those words be there inserted."
§ 6.35 p.m.
§ Mr. CAPE
I beg to move, as an Amendment to the proposed Amendment, to leave out the words "twenty-ninth day of September, nineteen hundred and thirty-three," and to insert instead thereof the words, "first day of January, nineteen hundred and thirty-four."
In the course of the Debate in regard to the leaving out of certain words, an hon. Member said that settling day was, generally speaking, on the 29th September. I had been wondering why the 29th September had been put into the Minister's Amendment, and whether it had any special virtue. I would like to tell the hon. Member that the majority of houses who will be affected by the Amendment are of weekly tenancies, and consequently the 29th September will be of very little value to them. I agree with the learned Solicitor-General that we must specify a date when the Act begins to operate, but we 'think that the date suggested by the Minister is too early. In the original draft of the Bill, I think something was said about it operating in June of this year, but evidently the Minister has had to change his mind about that. His difficulty was to get the Bill through in a reasonable time. Even if he can get his Bill through within a reasonable time, I still think that the 29th September is too early. I do not pose as having much legal knowledge on these matters, and I do not say that I am an expert on the laws that we have upon the Statute Book relating to this subject, although I did take a very active part, when the first Rent and Mortgage Interest Restrictions Act was put upon the Statute Book, in order to make landlords pay back rents that they had taken from the tenants.
1244 The coming into operation of the Bill at an early date will have most effect upon tenants of Class "A" and Class "B" houses. We ought to give those people a good deal of consideration. One of my hon. Friends, when we debated the last Amendment, mentioned the case of people who were in a very deplorable position, through lack of employment and large reductions in their salaries and wages, and who had been brought into a sad state of distress. In all probability they will not all be living under good landlords, and unless we give these people a certain amount of time to look round in order to improve their conditions by getting out of a large house and getting into a smaller one, they may be the victims of unscrupulous landlords, and in that case they will find themselves in a very serious position. I do not know that there is any special virtue in the 29th September. Generally speaking, Acts of Parliament start on 1st July or let January, and very seldom on any other date in the year, and I think that we should keep in line with that in this Bill. I ask the Minister not to reject our Amendment. It is only a matter of the date, and if he accepts the Amendment we shall have been able to get at any rate one Amendment in the Bill.
§ 6.40 p.m.
§ Mr. LLEWELLYN-JONES
I was about to remark when you intervened, Captain Bourne, that this suggestion, though it appeared to modify the form of the Bill as it was originally introduced, is still open to very serious objection. The Bill comes into operation, according to the suggestion now made on behalf of the Government, on 29th September next. There are certain provisions subsequently which deal with the determination of statutory tenancies, and those provisions must be kept in mind in dealing with the proposal in the Government's Amendment. Before dealing with the hardship that is going to be caused to a very large number of people, some 500,000 persons, I would recall that the hon. Member for Stirling and Falkirk (Mr. J. Reid) pointed out that tenancies end on 11th November. I know that in other parts of the country tenancies invariably end either on 25th March or on 29th September. In many smaller towns with which I am acquainted there are a large number of houses where the 1245 tenancies commence on 1st May or 1st November. If the Bill is enacted in its present form, there will be this difficulty that a landlord, by reason of a subsequent proposal of the Minister, will be able, by giving a month's notice prior to the 29th September to get possession on that date. That is not, in many cases, the usual practice for changing houses, and you may have a period between 29th September and 1st November when an unfortunate tenant who received notice, in pursuance of the provisions of this Bill, would be absolutely homeless.
There is a very much more serious objection to the proposals of the Government. The tenants who will be affected by the date when the Bill comes into operation, are those who are in Class "A", and they, according to a statement which was circulated some time ago number as many as 500,000. Does the House realise of what this class consists? In the first instance, there is a large number of small tradesmen with a house and a small shop attached to it. Hon. Members can imagine what the plight of those people will be. Assume that the Bill gets through the two Houses and is placed on the Statute Book some time between now and the end of July, and the landlord of a tenement of the kind in question decides that he is going to give notice, not with a view to getting possession on 29th September, because that probably would be furthest from his mind when he gave the notice; but he realises that by giving notice a month before 29th September he will be in a position to give to his unfortunate tenants, whose livelihood depends upon it—
§ Sir H. YOUNG
May I interrupt the hon. Member, in order that we may get our discussion clear? The hon. Member realises, no doubt, that there is a specific Amendment coming along later to deal with the case of shops.
§ Mr. LLEWELLYN-JONES
I am bound to make the point here, because the Bill fixes a date when the landlord of such property will be able to take steps, not to get possession, but to extort from the tenant a higher rent, which will largely arise in respect of goodwill. There is also a large number of lodging-house keepers in seaside resorts who, if the Bill goes through that at the end of September, before their season comes to 1246 an end, are very likely to find themselves without a house in which to cary on their business. In addition there is, as has already been pointed out, a large number of persons within this class who have comparatively small incomes, which have been very much reduced during the last few months, and these people also will be faced with the possibility of their having to leave their homes at an early date. Personally, I do not think that the Labour Amendment to postpone the date to the 1st January, 1934, extends the period sufficiently. There should be a very much longer period of notice in order that tenants of Class "A" houses may be able to realise what their position is, and to make other arrangements. If the Bill goes through in its present form, I am satisfied that the Government, even before the date they have fixed, will find it necessary, owing to the tremendous outcry from tenants all over the country, to extend the date upon which the Act is to come into operation.
§ 6.47 p.m.
§ Mr. LEWIS
It is interesting to notice the varying degrees of reaction to the Bill which are indicated in the different Amendments which have been put down. Labour Members, as represented by the Amendment standing in the name of the hon. Member for Workington (Mr. Cape), desire to do nothing for three months. Liberal Members, as represented by the Amendment of the hon. Member for Dundee (Mr. Dingle Foot), desire to do nothing for two years; while those thorns in the flesh of the Labour party who are normally to be found on the bench below the Gangway opposite desire positively to move backwards in this matter. The plain truth is that the reforms outlined in the Bill are long overdue. It was abundantly evident in the discussion on the previous Amendment that many of those Members who support the continuance of rent restriction in its present form are going about in blinkers. They see immediately before their eyes the advantage to the tenant who has the use of someone else's property at some thing less than its true value, but they do not see on either hand the very grave objections to which our present system of rent restriction lies open.
They do not appreciate, for example, the effect on the mobility of labour to which reference was made by my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Chip- 1247 penham (Captain Cazalet). They do not appreciate the hardship entailed on the man who is prevented from living in his own house. They do not attach any importance to the fact that owners of this class of property are prevented from getting a fair return on their invested capital. They do not seem to care about the very serious restrictive effect that this legislation has had on many schemes of development, with resulting loss of work in the building industry. They do not seem to regard as of any importance the paralysis of that section of the building trade which normally provides working-class dwellings, and the consequent grave lack of employment in that section of the trade. Fortunately, the Minister of Health has taken a somewhat wider view. While he appreciates the advantages of rent restriction to the tenant in a house that is affected by it, he also appreciates the serious disadvantages which arise from the existing state of the law, and I hope very much that he will not be dissuaded by the eloquence of any Members of the Committee to delay beyond the date suggested by the Solicitor-General the operation of these overdue reforms.
§ 6.51 p.m
§ Mr. DINGLE FOOT
I must confess that I listened with surprise to the speech of the bon. Member for Colchester (Mr. Lewis). I hope that he does not in this matter speak for his party in the House. I think that, when some of us put down Amendments to postpone the date of decontrol in the case of middle-class houses, we have a right to expect, and might reasonably hope for, a certain amount of support from Members of the Conservative party. We on these benches are not particularly enamoured of control for its own sake, and the sooner we are able to dispense altogether with control, owing to relief of the shortage of houses in that class, the better.
Nobody denies, at any rate with regard to Class "B" and Class "C" houses, that the need for control remains, and I suggest that the need is still very great in regard to Class "A" houses. I would ask whichever Minister is to reply whether the Government really think that this is an opportune moment at which to decontrol houses occupied by middle-class people at rents ranging from £45 1248 to £105? We heard a good many references, in the discussion both on the Minister's Amendment and on the last Amendment, to the black-coated worker, and a good many speakers have drawn attention to the fact, of which we are all aware, that the black-coated worker is going through, perhaps, the most difficult time he has ever experienced. It is a time of salary cuts, and a time when there is more unemployment among clerks and in the professions than has ever been known before. Must this moment be chosen, of all times, to deprive middle-class tenants of the statutory protection which they have enjoyed for the last 10 years?
It is true that the Marley Committee said, on page 26 of their report, that they were satisfied that in the case of the more expensive houses a shortage no longer existed. If one could feel quite sure that that was so, of course one would not be supporting Amendments of this character. It may be that there is no actual shortage of that type of houses, but I suggest that there still is, at any rate in certain districts, a considerable shortage of that type of houses for letting. Of course, there are plenty to be sold. We have seen in the last few years the activities of the building societies, and if the last year or two had been years of prosperity, the activities of the building societies would probably have gone a long way to solve the problem of middle-class houses, because they would have gone on increasing the number of owner-occupiers, which, I imagine, is something that we all want to see. At this time, however, when the prospects of employment are so uncertain, and when, as I have said, there are salary cuts in, I suppose, almost every office, the middle-class tenant does not feel that he can risk taking up a building society mortgage: and so, at a time like this, more than at other times, he feels that he needs to rent a house. I suggest that there is not sufficient evidence, either in the report of the Marley Committee or from any other source, to show that the need for houses to let at these rentals has yet been met.
The hon. Member for Colchester and several other speakers have referred to the hardship which the Rent Restriction Acts impose upon the landlord, and I think it is true that those Acts have 1249 imposed certain hardships upon the landlord. But I suggest that those hardships are greater in the case of the lower-rented houses, and that the hardship on the landlord is not so noticeable in the case of that class of houses which is to be decontrolled under the Bill. In the lower-rented houses there is very often sub-letting. That means that the houses are overcrowded and occupied by large families, tending to increase the wear and tear of the house and to increase the depreciation of the property. Those conditions do not exist, at any rate to anything like the same extent, in the higher-rented houses. There is not nearly so much sub-letting, overcrowding and wear and tear, so that the landlord does not lose any large proportion of the value of his property through depreciation. I do not think that, as regards this class of house, we can really say very much about the hardship to the landlord.
I suggest that there is not very much substance in talking about the difficulties of the landlord at a time like the present. It may be true that the landlord has undergone hardships as a result of rent control during previous years, when prices were higher and it was much easier than it is to-day to find a good investment: but to-day 'house property is one of the best investments that it is possible to find. The landlord of this class of house is, after all, able to get a 40 per cent. better return on his money than he was able to get before the War, and there is scarcely any other class of property of which that can be said at the present time.
The advantage which the landlord derives from having his money invested in this form of property does not stop there. If he spends money on repairs, he is entitled to get a return of 8 per cent.—I think that is the figure—on the money he has spent in that way. Therefore, I think that, under the conditions of to-day, at any rate comparatively speaking, the landlord of the class of house which it is proposed to decontrol is not suffering any real hardship, at any rate when his position is compared with that of other property owners and other investors. We on these benches think it would be perfectly fair to ask the Government to postpone for a year or two—or perhaps a shorter time, but we should like to see it postponed for a year or two—the moment when decontrol is to come 1250 into operation. We are not putting forward this suggestion in order to make unnecessary difficulties, but we feel that the Government's proposals may involve a very real hardship to the middle classes and to the black-coated worker. Although it may not be possible to accept the Amendment moved by the hon. Member for Workington, I would ask the Minister very seriously to consider these matters before we deal with the Bill on Report.
§ 6.59 p.m.
§ Mr. BATEY
The hon. Member for Colchester (Mr. Lewis) suggested that we on this side were going about in blinkers, but, even if we were, we can still see that there are a good many other people who have interests and who need consideration besides the landlords. This proposal of the Government does not affect Class "C" houses, but, as regards Class "A" and Class "B," the Government propose to decontrol 3,500,000 houses. We suggest that the Government might give to the people who live in Class "A," and Class "B," houses a little more time than is proposed. I am inclined to agree with the last speaker that, instead of the Amendment we are moving, which is most moderate, and which is to substitute 4th January next year for 29th September this year, we should give a much longer time to the people living in these houses. It seems to me that the Government are treating these two classes as if they were one. They will be dealt with as if they paid quarterly rents. The Government fix upon 29th September, perhaps because of quarterly rents being paid. Quarterly rents may be paid, to a large extent, by people living in Class "A" houses, but that cannot apply to Class "B" houses, the majority of the tenants of which are weekly tenants. Why should the Government treat them as being on the same level as Class "A" tenants? To do so is a great mistake.
The Government take the 29th September and put it into the Bill, although that date is a Friday. The Government could not select a worse day for weekly tenants. I could have understood the position if the Government had selected the 2nd October, which is a Monday. I think, however, it is much better that the date should be that stated in the Amendment we are moving. That date is a Monday. The Amendment would 1251 also give them a breathing-space to ascertain where they were before decontrol commenced. We understood that all this rent restriction legislation was based upon the Report and recommendations of the Marley Committee. That Committee did not recommend that decontrol should commence immediately with regard to Class "B" houses. On page 27 they say:…therefore, we consider that a gradual process of decontrol is desirable, and the present process of decontrol by possession established by the Act of 1923 appears to us, on balance, to be less objectionable than any other system of partial or gradual decontrol which has been put before us. We, therefore, recommend that the decontrolling provisions of the Act of 1923 should continue to apply to this class of house.They had in mind Class "B" houses, and considered that they should come into the possession of the owners when the houses became vacant. I think we are proposing a most modest Amendment, and one which the Minister ought to adopt.
§ 7.5 p.m.
§ Sir H. YOUNG
I want to clear away some misapprehensions in the observations which have been made by the last speaker, and others. The recommendation of the Marley Committee in connection with Class "B" houses has been followed out, literally, in the Bill. But in the present Amendment we are only dealing with Class "A" houses, and an issue which has arisen on Class "A" houses. What is the purpose of the Amendment? It is not in any way based on the necessity for prolonging the control of Class "A" houses. I want to put it as badly against myself as I can, and to make my attitude clear. The Amendment is not moved because of the necessity for prolonging control of Class "A" houses at all. It. is moved, as was explained by my hon. and learned Friend, because, after close examination of the way in which the machinery of decontrol will work, it became obvious that unless you made some provision of this sort you would produce a great legal confusion between landlords and tenants of Class "A" houses.
It is a most carefully prepared proposal of a technical nature in order to prevent that confusion. The proposal is this. First of all it is to give time enough for the tenants and landlords to 1252 look about them and come to fresh arrangements. In the second place, it is in order to give time for the landlord to give to the tenant, in every case, one month's express notice. After very careful reflection, from the practical and legal aspects of the matter, we came to the conclusion that, in order to keep things definite and businesslike during the process of decontrol, it would be necessary to have that express notice from the landlord to the tenant. These are the purposes for which this Amendment is intended. It is to prevent the occurrence of any confusion in the relations between the landlord and tenant, and to prevent the tenant from being taken by surprise. The Debate, of course, on this Amendment has been on a much wider basis. It has been argued on the basis that we should have no decontrol of Class "A" houses at all. The contention behind the Amendment of the hon. Member for Workington (Mr. Cape) is hostility to any sort, or amount, of decontrol of Class "A" houses. That was argued in the speeches of hon. Members below the Gangway on this side of the Committee.
They entirely failed, I think, to make their case against the recommendation of the Marley Committee. That committee viewed this matter from no partisan angle. The distinguished chairman was a member of the party opposite, and hon. and learned Members of that party signed this recommendation. There was only one exception, the hon. Member for Hamilton (Mr. D. Graham). He was the only exception among the representatives of the Labour party. The case for this recommendation is overwhelmingly strong, because the question is whether or not the supply of the particular class of house you have under consideration meets the demand. At least that is the point of view of the Government in the matter, and it is the point of view of the great majority in this House. The point of view of the other section of the House is that control should be a permanent system. From the speeches opposite I think that is at the back of their minds. Accepting as a basis that you are to decontrol when the supply meets the demand, I have no hesitation in saying that the recommendation of the committee still stands in this matter. The committee say: 1253Shortage no longer exists of the more expensive houses, which for the sake of convenience we call Class 'A'If shortage no longer exists, the raised rent difficulty and trouble with the landlord, fears of which were expressed by some hon. Members, are not justified, and need not be apprehended. Remember also that it is said that there is a positive benefit conferred on tenants of this class of house by decontrol. I cannot put it better than by quoting the words of the recommendation in which the Committee said:The continuance of control in the interest of this minority"—That is, a minority of occupiers of "A'' class houses which are controlled, be cause the majority of that class of house is already decontrolled—must be to the detriment of the majority in that it artificially restricts the amount, and so raises price, of the accommodation in the market, and in view of the great amount of new building in this class of house we do not think that there is any reason to anticipate that owners will be able to exact scarcity rents.
§ Mr. KNIGHT
May I ask the right hon. Gentleman whether he has taken into account any change in the financial circumstances of the tenants since Marley recommendation?
§ Sir H. YOUNG
Certainly I have borne that in mind, but it is absolutely irrelevant to the contention I have given to the Committee. If I am right in my contention that decontrol would assist in keeping down rents, then that will be a benefit to "A" class tenants, however poor they may be. The contention of the Committee is well founded, and its nature will be clear to the Committee of this House. It is: Remove the control and you increase the provision of the type of house we have now under consideration. By increasing the provision of that type you introduce a strong element to keep down the rents and the poorer people are the more important it is to keep down rents. The case was put against this contention very clearly by the hon. Member for Dundee (Mr. D. Foot). He put it with some ingenuity. He said that the statement of the Marley Committee, that such houses were no longer in need of control because the Committee were satisfied a shortage no longer existed, might be true regarding houses to sell, but was not true about houses to let.
1254 As I understood his case, houses to let are what there is a special need for at the present time. That does not seem to have relation to the facts of the case, and the great change in habits and customs in the relations between landlord and tenant. I believe that the opinion of those with the most intimate practical knowledge of the subject would be in practically a contrary direction in both regards. The demand is increasingly for small houses to buy. In this class, the provision of small houses to let is, taking the country as a whole, ample in relation to the demand. Further, if I may say so, one should consider the implication of questions of fact. I was surprised at a little mistake in the logic of his arguments, a thing which the hon. Member does not often make in his able speeches. He said that these houses were a good investment. If they are such a wonderfully good investment, there will be plenty of investors and, if there are plenty of investors, there will be plenty of houses to let.
§ Mr. DINGLE FOOT
They were a good investment for those who have invested in them before the War compared with those who invested money in any other way before the War. On the whole this class of investor has come better out of it than any other class. That is what I was endeavouring to argue.
§ Sir H. YOUNG
As a matter of fact, it would have been better if the hon. Member had advanced the other contention. These houses are a good investment, and those who watch the situation know that there is a, strong investment demand for such houses. If that is so, the prospect is that there will be an increase of houses to let. The fact is that the situation as regards these "A" Class houses no longer warrants the continuance of control. I know that, whatever moment you choose, it will always be possible to make a case and say that decontrol involves hardship. I do not believe, if you look on the matter as a national or a local problem, that there are any cases of hardship which need be considered as against the enormous benefits that will be obtained by freeing this class of house from control. I am sure the Committee will realise that, whenever you bring forward a, proposal of this sort, you will be told, "This is not the right moment. You must put it off and 1255 try again later." I suggest that this is the best moment that could be found, this moment which coincides with a great fall in the cost of building, and the serious conditions, amongst the class of tenants involved makes it all the more necessary that we should obtain those benefits for all classes by bringing into play forces which decrease the price of the accommodation in question in the manner referred to in the report of the Committee.
The Debate on the Amendment has neessarily covered a wide ground, but I think the Committee will be satisfied that the proposal now under consideration for the decontrol of Class "A" houses is both justified by present conditions and is an essential part of the very carefully dovetailed scheme prepared by the Marley Committee. It is a scheme every part of which is fitted into the other parts. They are all carefully related to certain basic facts and, if we destroy one part which we happen to dislike, we run the risk of destroying some other part which we happen to like. I believe we shall be well guided in these discussions in adhering as closely as we can to the very well considered recommendations of the Marley Committee.
§ 7.20 p.m.
§ Mr. GREENWOOD
The right hon. Gentleman's speech is interesting as indicating the shabby nature of the Bill. It appears now that this alteration in date is not intended as a concession to anyone at all but arises from the fact that the Government have given so little consideration to the matter that they have not realised until well after the Second Reading that the operation of Clause 1 would cause confusion between landlords and tenants. This is a most extraordinary admission to make on the Committee stage and proves conclusively that the Government's consideration of the wonderfully constructed scheme of the Marley Report has not been as thorough as it might hare been. It was also intended, we are told, in order to give landlords and tenants time to look about and come to a fresh arrangement. A fresh arrangement about what? About rent. If the right hon. Gentleman's contention is true, if supply is meeting demand now, why this necessity for making an alteration of the date at all? What will be the 1256 nature of the new arrangement if there is any new arrangement at all? In the vast majority of cases it will be an increase in rent.
We are told also that this date, 29th September, is being introduced in order to ensure that every tenant shall get a full month's notice. This is going to be an astonishing situation. These Class "A" houses will be for the most part let quarterly or annually, and the tenants will have assumed that there would be no alteration of the law which would break that contract. Now we are in the position that, owing to this lack of consideration of the question by the Government before they introduced the Bill, the most they are going to do for these people is to ensure them one month's notice. In nine-tenths of the cases coming under the category of Class "A" houses that will be a legal, but nevertheless an immoral infringement of the agreement made between the landlord and the tenant.
The right hon. Gentleman justified his treatment of the Class "A" houses by referring to the recommendations of the Marley Report. But all their evidence was collected in 1930. It is now 1933 and the situation is entirely different. The circumstances that applied in 1930 do not apply now. Unemployment is severe—relatively it is almost a new problem—in the suburbs where the Class "A" houses are the chief houses in the district. In hundreds of cases men who have bought houses have been driven by sheer poverty to get out of them. In hundreds, perhaps thousands, of cases these people are being driven to look for houses to let. I do not accept the right hon. Gentleman's statement that in this day of a new poverty amongst these people the conditions of 1930 necessarily apply. He said the speeches that have been made about the poverty of the residents of Class "A" houses are irrelevant. They may be irrelevant but they draw attention to a serious human problem which the Government is ignoring.
The right hon. Gentleman makes the case that decontrol will assist in keeping down rents and will actually increase the provision of Class "A" houses. He has not told us how it will increase the provision of them, nor is it clear how decontrol will assist in keeping down rents. If the right hon. Gentleman had virtually 1257 to recast this part of the Clause in order to permit of time for new agreements and leases to be made between landlord and tenant, that could not have been done on the assumption that rents were going to remain stable and I am pretty satisfied that, having regard to the influences which press upon the Government with regard to decontrol, the last thing he thought about was that rents would, as a matter of fact, come down. Indeed, we had from the hon. Member for Colchester (Mr. Lewis) a speech early on, and a repetition of it again on this Amendment about the hardship to the landlord who is letting a house at less than its true value. The whole object of decontrol, as urged by landlords, is in order that they may be able to get a better return on their money than they have been getting hitherto. If that is not their object, they are the most public spirited set of owners of capital that there is in this country. They are naturally concerned to get the best possible return on their money. This time for making new arrangements will in most cases result in rents rising rather than in rents falling. I thought the right hon. Gentleman's speech on the first Amendment was a very doubtful contribution on the wisdom of the Bill. I am more than ever convinced, after this speech, that its operation might be adjourned, not till 1st January of next year but sine die, until the Government have really given full consideration to all the problems involved.
§ 7.27 p.m.
§ Mr. JANNER
There are one or two points in favour of the Amendment which its supporters have not dealt with as fully as they might have done. The charter on which the Bill is being based, or the statistical permit for it, is given to us in the form of statistics of houses which, I assume, are submitted in order to prove the case for the new Act which is to be added to the Statute Book. I was surprised to hear the right hon. Gentleman say that the only reason why he was concerned about putting in a date was in order to comply with certain legal formalities. In other words, he meant this. There are 500,000 Class "A" houses which are at present controlled, and he does not consider that there is any necessity for any interval to intervene except for the purpose of legal formalities being observed before those 1258 half-million houses are decontrolled. Surely, he could not have meant that. If he had given the matter consideration, he would have realised that, even if his contentions were correct and no hardship would occur in the majority of cases, there must be a very large number out of that half-million who are going to be placed in a difficult position and now is obviously not the time to place them in this difficult position.
What happened in the 10 years during which decontrol has been enforced? Has it meant that houses have been provided from time to time to such an extent that there has been no need to regain control? On the contrary, instead of the position being relieved to the extent one would have expected if his contention had been correct, instead of practically eliminating the number of controlled houses, instead of people moving out of the houses into others, and satisfying themselves that there were better conditions prevailing in new houses which could be obtained at the same or lower rentals, 500,000 houses have remained under control. In other words, half-a-million houses, containing about 2,000,000 people, have retained their control and the occupiers have refused to move into these new circumstances which have been created by the large amount of building which has gone on—the large amount of building in those 10 years has only been 420,000 houses—and have retained the protection of the Acts. We on these benches had hoped that, as several years have intervened since the report was presented, people were beginning to feel that the old story of the Increase of Rent Acts was going to be continued and that it really did not matter a lot because the Acts were supposed to finish at the end of the year and they go on from year to year, and no one has really made any definite arrangements in order to cope with the new position that might be created, consequently leaving themselves in the position where they are not able to move with the speed which is necessary in order to do so by September of this year.
We on these benches had hoped that if this glorious position which has been created for us was correct, and, if new houses were springing up so that all of us could obtain whatever accommodation we required at a cheaper rental than that which prevails in regard to controlled houses, that at least the benefit of the 1259 doubt would have been given to the few who might have been left in controlled houses, so that they might have some opportunity of finding other accommodation under these new and glorified conditions. The actual position is that, if this provision comes into force in September of this year, not only will 500,000 houses be decontrolled, but we are not at all sure—hence the Amendments which we propose to put from these benches at a later stage—that houses in Class "A" which have been turned into sub-tenancies will be conceded to us. We assume from the attitude which has been adopted all along that the Amendments will not be conceded to us, and, therefore, not only will Class "A" houses be decontrolled, but, in addition, a large number of houses let off into tenancies by the tenant will also come within the provisions of decontrol. The poor person housed in one portion of these houses will also be subject to the conditions relating to decontrol. I have studied the proviso of Clause 2 very carefully.
§ The DEPUTY-CHAIRMAN
I hope that the hon. Gentleman will not anticipate the discussion which may arise on that proviso.
§ Mr. JANNER
I merely want to point out that Class "A" houses are not merely the houses occupied by people who can afford to rent a house which has a rateable value of £105. The provision will fall upon a large number of people who are really rated at a lower level. There is another point. We talk of a rateable value of £105 and about reducing it to £45. We talk about £105 recoverablerent—
§ The DEPUTY-CHAIRMAN
I must direct the attention of the hon. Member to the fact that there are Amendments on the Paper to be discussed which raise both those points, and he had better leave the matter until the Amendments are reached.
§ Mr. JANNER
It is difficult to dissociate this particular Clause from the general provisions contained in the Bill and which really affect Class "A" houses. It is really important to know the type of house which is to be affected. I 'abide by your Ruling, Captain Bourne, on this point, and will content myself with saying that a very large proportion, 1260 not only of the higher middle-class, but of the lower middle-class, and of the working-class will be brought into it by one clear-cut Measure which will come into force within four months from the present time. Four months is an entirely unreasonable period in which to allow people to make their arrangements. The Amendment only provides for another few months, and we certainly think, as this is the only Amendment accepted in these circumstances, we should give as long as possible to these 500,000 houses so that the tenants may adjust themselves to the new conditions and be able to take the new houses which are being provided for them at a cheaper rental. According to the statement put before us by the right hon. Gentleman, it appears that they will merely have to move from one house to another, if there are plenty of houses about.
I do not think that it is unreasonable to ask for an extension of a few months. The landlord, we are told, certainly will not object. After all, he is getting a better rent to-day than he will when conditions are changed. The tenants ought to object, but as far as I have been able to gather they do not seem to object to control remaining. Therefore, if it is a question of covering the landlord, I think that he will be agreeably surprised to find that the period has been extended for a few months, and the tenants will be contented, and in those circumstances I think that the Committee will be agreeable to the extension, and I hope that the right hon. Gentleman will accept it.
§ 7.38 p.m.
§ Mr. BUCHANAN
I beg to move, "That the Chairman do report Progress, and ask leave to sit again."
I think that a representative of the Scottish legal Department ought to be present during this Debate. I am not making a joke; I am serious. I would remind the Lord of the Treasury the hon. Gentleman the Member for Grimsby (Mr. Womersley) that he must not take this as part of the ordinary English-Scottish battle. There are not many of our problems which are distinctive, but the rent problem is distinctive with us, and in common fairness either the Lord Advocate or the Solicitor-General for Scotland should have been present. If the Solicitor-General will carry his mind 1261 back he will realise that I was one of the active Members associated with moving the rejection of this Measure. I wish to raise a Scottish legal problem. The Lord Advocate treats this House with an almost studied contempt, and it is about time we raised the question. I wish to raise a point in connection with the Scottish position to whch I attach great importance. The Scottish rent problem is distinct from the English problem. It contains different terms; in fact, it is wholly different. I am therefore moving to report Progress, not in order to discuss the merits of the issue, but to discuss the terms which arise in Scottish rent matters.
§ 7.40 p.m.
§ The SOLICITOR-GENERAL
Of course, the hon. Member realises that the issue of this Amendment is the date—29th September. At a moment when the hon. Member for Gorbals (Mr. Buchanan), who is always so fair about these things, was not present in the Committee the point was raised that the date was not convenient as regards Scotland, and I gave an undertaking that the matter should be con-
§ sidered separately with regard to the Scottish point of view. I have already given that undertaking in the course of this discussion. Therefore, I think that perhaps the hon. Member, not knowing that fact, because he was not in the Chamber at the time, is a little unfair in making his point when there is no one present at the moment to deal with it.
§ 7.41 p.m.
§ Mr. BUCHANAN
I am grateful for the information, although I did not catch all that was said, but even so there are points which I wish to raise. I have been present fairly regularly, and the Lord Advocate and the Solicitor-General for Scotland should have been present when the hon. and learned Gentleman made his statement. I have moved to report Progress because the Scottish Law Officers ought to be present at this point in the Debate.
§ Question put, "That the Chairman do report Progress, and ask leave to sit again."
§ The Committee divided: Ayes, 44; Noes, 250.1263
|Division No. 97.]||AYES.||[7.42 p.m.|
|Adams, D. M. (Poplar, South)||Grundy, Thomas W.||Maxton, James|
|Attlee, Clement Richard||Hall, F. (York, W. R., Normanton)||Milner, Major James|
|Banfield, John William||Hall, George H. (Merthyr Tydvil)||Parkinson, John Allen|
|Batey, Joseph||Hirst, George Henry||Price, Gabriel|
|Bevan, Aneurin (Ebbw Vale)||Jenkins, Sir William||Salter, Dr. Alfred|
|Brown. C. W. E. (Notts., Mansfield)||John, William||Thorne, William James|
|Buchanan, George||Jones, J. J. (West Ham, Slivertown)||Tinker, John Joseph|
|Cape, Thomas||Jones, Morgan (Caerphilly)||Wallhead, Richard C.|
|Cocks, Frederick Seymour||Kirkwood, David||Williams, David (Swansea, East)|
|Cove, William G.||Lansbury, Rt. Hon. George||Willioms, Edward John (Ogmore)|
|Cripps, Sir Stafford||Lawson, John James||Williams, Dr. John H. (Llanelly)|
|Daggar, George||Logan, David Gilbert||Williams, Thomas (York, Don Valley)|
|Davies, David L. (Pontypridd)||Lunn, William|
|Davies, Rhys John (Westhoughton)||McEntee, Valentine L.||TELLERS FOR THE AYES—|
|Greenwood, Rt. Hon. Arthur||McGovern, John||Mr. Duncan Graham and Mr. Groves|
|Grenfell, David Rees (Glamorgan)||Maclean, Neil (Glasgow, Govan)|
|Acland-Troyte, Lieut.-Colonel||Blindell, James||Cobb, Sir Cyril|
|Agnew, Lieut. Com. P. G.||Bower, Lieut. -Com. Robert Tatton||Cochrane, Commander Hon. A. D.|
|Albery, Irving James||Bowyer, Capt. Sir George E. W.||Colville, Lieut. -Colonel J.|
|Allen, Sir J. Sandeman (Liverp'l, W.)||Boyd-Carpenter, Sir Archibald||Conant, R. J. E.|
|Allen, William (Stoke-on-Trent)||Bracken, Brendan||Cook, Thomas A.|
|Apsley, Lord||Braithwaite, J. G. (Hillsborough)||Copeland, Ida|
|Aske, Sir Robert William||Briant, Frank||Courtauld, Major John Sewell|
|Atholl, Duchess of||Briscoe, Capt. Richard George||Craddock, Sir Reginald Henry|
|Atkinson, Cyril||Broadbent, Colonel John||Cranborne, Viscount|
|Baillie, Sir Adrian W. M.||Brocklebank, C. E. R.||Craven-Ellis, William|
|Baldwin, Rt. Hon. Stanley||Brown, Brig.-Gen. H. C. (Berks., Newb'y)||Crooke, J. Smedley|
|Balfour, George (Hampstead)||Buchan-Hepburn, P. G. T.||Crookshank, Col. C. de Windt (Bootle)|
|Barclay-Harvey, C. M.||Burnett, John George||Croom-Johnson, R. P.|
|Barton, Capt. Basil Kelsey||Campbell, Edward Taswell (Bromley)||Cross, R. H.|
|Beauchamp, Sir Brograve Campbell||Campbell, Vice-Admiral G. (Burnley)||Crossley, A. C.|
|Beaumont, M. W. (Bucks., Aylesbury)||Caporn, Arthur Cecil||Cruddas, Lieut.-Colonel Bernard|
|Beaumont, Hon. R. E. B. (Portsm'th, C.)||Carver, Major William H.||Culverwell, Cyril Tom|
|Beit, Sir Alfred L.||Cautley, Sir Henry S.||Dalkeith, Earl of|
|Bernays, Robert||Cayzer, Maj. Sir H. R. (Prtsmth., S.)||Davies, Maj. Geo. F. (Somerset, Yeovil)|
|Birchall, Major Sir John Dearman||Cazalet, Thelma (Islington, E.)||Denman, Hon. R. D.|
|Denville, Alfred||Lindsay, Noel Ker||Roberts, Sir Samuel (Ecclesall)|
|Doran, Edward||Little, Graham-, Sir Ernest||Ropner, Colonel L.|
|Drewe, Cedric||Llewellyn-Jones, Frederick||Rosbotham, Sir Samuel|
|Duckworth, George A. V.||Lockwood, Capt. J. H. (Shipley)||Ross, Ronald D.|
|Duncan, James A. L. (Kensington, N.)||Loder, Captain J. de Vere||Ross Taylor, Walter (Woodbridge)|
|Eastwood, John Francis||Lovat-Fraser, James Alexander||Ruggles-Brise, Colonel E. A.|
|Elmley, Viscount||Lyons, Abraham Montagu||Runge, Norah Cecil|
|Erskine, Lord (Weston-super-Mare)||Mabane, William||Russell, Alexander West (Tynemouth)|
|Erskine-Bolst, Capt. C. C. (Blk'pool)||MacAndrew, Lieut.-Col. C. G. (Partick)||Rutherford, John (Edmonton)|
|Essenhigh, Reginald Clare||MacAndrew, Capt. J. O. (Ayr)||Rutherford, Sir John Hugo (Liverp'l)|
|Everard, W. Lindsay||McConnell, Sir Joseph||Salmon, Sir Isidore|
|Foot, Dingle (Dundee)||McCorquodale, M. S.||Sandeman, Sir A. N. Stewart|
|Ford, Sir Patrick J.||MacDonald, Rt. Hon. J. R. (Seaham)||Sanderson, Sir Frank Barnard|
|Fox, Sir Gifford||Macdonald, Capt. P. D. (I. of W.)||Selley, Harry R.|
|Fremantle, Sir Francis||McEwen, Captain J. H. F.||Shakespeare, Geoffrey H.|
|Fuller, Captain A. G.||Maclay, Hon. Joseph Paton||Shute, Colonel J. J.|
|Ganzoni, Sir John||McLean, Dr. W. H. (Tradeston)||Sinclair, Col. T. (Queen's Unv., Belfast)|
|Gault, Lieut. -Col. A. Hamilton||Magnay, Thomas||Skelton, Archibald Noel|
|Gillett, Sir George Masterman||Maitland, Adam||Smith, Sir Jonah W. (Barrow-In-F.)|
|Glossop, C. W. H.||Makins, Brigadier-General Ernest||Smith, Louis W. (Sheffield, Hallam)|
|Gluckstein, Louis Halle||Mallalieu, Edward Lancelot||Smith, R. W. (Ab'rd'n & Kinc'dine, C.)|
|Glyn, Major Ralph G. C||Margesson, Capt. Rt. Hon. H. D. R.||Somervell, Donald Bradley|
|Goodman, Colonel Albert W.||Marsden, Commander Arthur||Somerville, Annesley A. (Windsor)|
|Gower, Sir Robert||Mayhew, Lieut.-Colonel John||Soper, Richard|
|Grattan-Doyle, Sir Nicholas||Meller, Richard James||Sotheron-Estcourt, Captain T. E.|
|Grimston, R. V.||Merriman, Sir F. Boyd||Southby, Commander Archibald R. J.|
|Guinness, Thomas L. E. B.||Milne, Charles||Spens, William Patrick|
|Guy, J. C. Morrison||Mitcheson, G. G.||Stanley, Lord (Lancaster, Fylde)|
|Hacking, Rt. Hon. Douglas H.||Morris, John Patrick (Salford, N.)||Stanley, Hon. O. F. G. (Westmorland)|
|Hamilton, Sir George (Ilford)||Morris, Owen Temple (Cardiff, E.)||Storey, Samuel|
|Hanbury, Cecil||Morris-Jones. Dr. J. H. (Denbigh)||Stourton, Hon. John J.|
|Hannon, Patrick Joseph Henry||Munro, Patrick||Strauss, Edward A.|
|Harbord, Arthur||Nail, Sir Joseph||Strickland, Captain W. F.|
|Harris, Sir Percy||Nall-Cain, Hon. Ronald||Sugden, Sir Wilfrid Hart|
|Hartland, George A.||Nation, Brigadier-General J. J. H.||Summersby, Charles H.|
|Harvey, Major S. E. (Devon, Totnes)||Newton, Sir Douglas George C.||Sutcliffe, Harold|
|Haslam, Henry (Horncastle)||Nicholson, Godfrey (Morpeth)||Tate, Mavis Constance|
|Haslam, Sir John (Bolton)||Normand, Wilfrid Guild||Thomas, Rt. Hon. J. H. (Derby)|
|Headlam, Lieut.-Col. Cuthbert M.||Nunn, William||Thomas, James p. L. (Hereford)|
|Heilgers, Captain F. F. A.||Ormsby-Gore, Rt. Hon. William G. A.||Thompson, Luke|
|Henderson, Sir Vivian L. (Chelmsford)||Patrick, Colin M.||Thorp, Linton Theodore|
|Hepworth, Joseph||Pearson, William G.||Touche, Gordon Cosmo|
|Holdsworth, Herbert||Peat, Charles U.||Tryon, Rt. Hon. George Clement|
|Hope, Capt. Hon. A. O. J. (Aston)||Penny, Sir George||Turton, Robert Hugh|
|Hore-Belisha, Lesile||Percy, Lord Eustace||Wallace. Captain D. E. (Hornsey)|
|Hornby, Frank||Perkins, Walter R. D.||Ward, Irene Mary Bewick (Wallsend)|
|Horobin, Ian M.||Peters, Dr. Sidney John||Ward, Sarah Adelaide (Cannock)|
|Horsbrugh, Florence||Petherick, M.||Wardlaw-Milne, Sir John S.|
|Hudson, Capt. A. U. M. (Hackney, N.)||Peto, Sir Basil E. (Devon, B'nstaple)||Warrender, Sir Victor A. G.|
|Hume, Sir George Hopwood||Peto, Geoffrey K. (W'verh'pt'n, Bilston)||Waterhouse, Captain Charles|
|Hurst, Sir Gerald B.||Pickering, Ernest H.||Watt, Captain George Steven H.|
|Jackson, Sir Henry (Wandsworth, C.)||Pike, Cecil F.||Whiteside, Borras Noel H.|
|James, Wing-Com. A. W. H.||Potter, John||Williams, Charles (Devon, Torquay)|
|Janner, Barnett||Pownall, Sir Assheton||Wills, Wilfrid D.|
|Johnston, J. W. (Clackmannan)||Procter, Major Henry Adam||Windsor-Clive, Lieut.-Colonel George|
|Johnstone, Harcourt (S. Shields)||Ramsay, Alexander (W. Bromwich)||Wise, Alfred R.|
|Jones, Sir G. W. H. (Stoke New'gton)||Ramsay, T. B. W. (Western Isles)||Wood, Sir Murdoch McKenzie (Banff)|
|Jones, Henry Haydn (Merioneth)||Ramsden, Sir Eugene||Worthington, Dr. John V.|
|Knebworth, Viscount||Rankin, Robert||Young, Rt. Hon. Sir Hilton (S'v'oaks)|
|Law, Sir Alfred||Reed, Arthur C. (Exeter)||Young, Ernest J. (Middlesbrough, E.)|
|Law, Richard K. (Hull, S. W.)||Reid, James S. C. (Stirling)|
|Leckie, J. A.||Held, William Allan (Derby)||TELLERS FOR THE NOES.—|
|Lewis, Oswald||Rhys, Hon. Charles Arthur U.||Sir Frederick Thomson and Mr.|
|Liddall, Walter S.||Roberts, Aled (Wrexham)||Womersley.|
§ Question again proposed, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the proposed Amendment."
§ 7.48 p.m.
§ Mr. NEIL MACLEAN
On a point of Order. I want to draw attention to your Ruling on a former occasion as compared with your Ruling this evening. On the previous occasion on a Motion to report Progress, a Seconder was asked for. Tonight the hon. Member for Gorbals (Mr. Buchanan) spoke on the Motion to report progress. It is right for the Chair to 1264 permit him to do so. I am not questioning that but I would point out that no request was made from the Chair for anyone to second the Motion to report progress. I intended to rise and put some questions to the Solicitor-General in respect of the Motion of the hon. Member for Gorbals and I wish to ask you what are the reasons for the difference in the procedure adopted on the two separate occasions when you were in the Chair.
§ The DEPUTY-CHAIRMAN
I am sure the hon. Member will forgive me if I 1265 cannot, offhand, recall the occasion to which he refers as having occurred previously. Perhaps he will be good enough to bring it to my notice in the OFFICIAL REPORT.
§ Mr. MACLEAN
I think it is a matter which should be told to the Committee. On the evening in question you took my Motion called for a seconder, and then you refused to put it. You refused to permit me to continue my speech on the ground that the Motion was negatived. If you will remember, I came to you afterwards after having consulted Erskine May on the point, and found that you were wrong. Erskine May points out that a Member was not permitted to continue his speech if his Motion to report Progress had been negatived. The Motion that I made was not accepted by you. You ruled it out of order. Perhaps that will bring the incident to your notice.
§ The DEPUTY-CHAIRMAN
To the best of my memory—I will not say that I am right—the occasion to which the hon. Member refers was in the House. Honestly, I cannot recall it more accurately. It is quite possible that the hon. Member is right and that I am wrong. He cannot expect me to recall the incident, offhand, for I think it occurred nearly two years ago.
§ Mr. MACLEAN
No. It was not in the House. You were sitting in the place that you are occupying to-night. I will have the matter looked up. My memory is quite clear. The House was in Committee and I am asking why a different procedure was adopted on that occasion.
§ The DEPUTY-CHAIRMAN
I can only reply that so far as the incident to which the hon. Member refers as having taken place, I cannot give him, offhand, an answer without having had an opportunity of looking up the matter. I am sorry that I do not remember it. I do, however, remember that on one occasion he came to me but my recollection is that I was then in the Chair of the House and not in the Chair in Committee. I may he in error, but I do not recollect the incident more accurately than that.
§ The DEPUTY-CHAIRMAN
The hon. Member is quite entitled to do that. In regard to his first point he will realise that under Standing Order 23, on a dilatory Motion, "That I do report Progress," or a Motion "That I do leave the Chair," if moved in Committee, it is within my discretion to accept the Motion, to put it and permit discussion on it, to put it forthwith, or to refuse to accept it. I chose the middle course, and I am not bound to give any reason for my decision.
§ Mr. MACLEAN
That is not the point. I am not challenging your right in permitting an hon. Member to speak on the Motion. What I am challenging is your right to refuse to put it without calling for a Seconder.
§ The DEPUTY-CHAIRMAN
The hon. Member must realise that in Committee a Motion does not require a Seconder. If I permitted an hon. Member to speak on it I am permitting a Debate. It is within my discretion whether I should permit a Debate or not.
§ 7.57 p.m.
§ Mr. BUCHANAN
I am not criticising the two hon. Members of the Government who have come into the House, the Parliamentary Secretary and the Solicitor-General, both of whom I have always found to be courteous, anxious and willing to help hon. Members as far as they can, but I do think that the time has come when the Lord Advocate should be present. The point that I wish to raise on this Amendment is that as far as the Amendment of the Minister of Health is concerned he seeks to alter the date from the 29th September. The terms of the Amendment of the hon. Member for Whitehaven (Mr. Cape) is to alter the date to January, 1934. Therefore, the conflict between us is as between September and January. Let me deal with the first point in regard to Scotland. These particular houses are covered by what we call the missive system in Scotland. Since the 40 per cent. increase was allowed the figure, roughly speaking, stands at about £26 10s. Consequently, all houses in Scotland of £26 10s. and under are free from the missive obligation, but once you go over the £26 10s. rent you come under 1267 the missive obligation. The missive binds the tenant or occupier of the house for a year following the 28th May after he has signed the missive. It is usual to ask him to sign it by the month of March, but very often he is presented with the missive earlier in the year. Cases arise where the landlord says: "If you do not sign it in March I shall refuse to allow you to sign it in April. What happened in regard to the Labour party's rooms? The trustees occupied the rooms as from May to May, but the factor said that they had the rooms from April to April and that he could refuse to let them have them unless they signed in the month of January. Here is a missive which may be signed in January, in March or in April, but not in May.
This Bill is to come into force in September. The tenant signs a missive carrying him on for a year, to 1934, and that missive carries on the contract so that tenant must remain and occupy the house until May, 1934. If he leaves before he is legally responsible for the rent and rates. What is the position now? He takes on a house of £45 or over. The Bill says that the landlord can increase the rent, that is, he can increase the rent during the existence of a contract or a bargain. I want to know the legal position. Is the Bill to override a bond entered into between a tenant and the landlord? If it is an annual tenancy, and the landlord is given power to increase the rent in September, or even in January, then the bargain or contract is broken.
Surely both the Amendment of the Government and the proposed Amendment to the Amendment are out of order as far as Scotland is concerned, because the Bill could not apply to this class of house before the end of May, 1934, unless they are to be permitted to break a contract. Surely it is a serious matter that an Act of Parliament should smash a written contract between tenant and occupier. But if that is to be permitted then surely it is also permissive for a tenant to give up his tenancy when he desires. The hon. Member for Hamilton (Mr. D. Graham) found himself in a fix last year when he desired to give up a heavily rented house for a better one, but he could not do so because his contract ran until 28th May. I have a brother who is a doctor, who occupies a 1268 £40 a year house. If he signs his missive now the rent of his house can be increased, but he himself cannot break any bargain which he has entered into. This provision does not apply to houses on a quarterly tenancy, only to houses over £40 a year, and I say that it ought not to apply in Scotland until May. I am not going into the merits of the Amendments, there is not much between September, 1933, and January, 1934, the problem will be as acute on the one date as on the other. The point I am pressing is that of the contract, and I hope that we shall have a reply from the Solicitor-General for Scotland.
§ 8.7 p.m.
§ Mr. McENTEE
The Minister of Health does not appear to be aware of the very large number of houses within the London area which are let to subtenants. I have here a report, with which no doubt the Minister and the Department are acquainted, by a committee of the London County Council in regard to the operation of this Bill in their area, and they point out that half the houses in the London area of this class are sub-let to sub-tenants, and that most of these sub-tenants are members of the working classes—
§ Mr. McENTEE
I want to submit that every possible delay in bringing this Bill into force will be a benefit to these subtenants.
§ The CHAIRMAN
The hon. Member may argue that point at proper tunes, but he certainly cannot go into the question which he is proposing to go into now.
§ Mr. McENTEE
I submit that these are the class of houses which are being decontrolled under the Bill at a date which we are now discussing. The difference between us is the date at which they are to come out of control. My submission is that the argument put forward by the Minister in regard to the number of houses was not correct as far as it applies to London, and that in London quite half of the sub-tenants, according to this report of the London County Council, of Class "A" houses are sub-tenants of the working classes, and that as a consequence of the Bill 1269 coming into force on 29th September these sub-tenants will come under the operation of the Bill and will be brought out of control. Therefore, it becomes a serious matter for these sub-tenants even if it is only a difference of three months. After all, these sub-tenants are working-class tenants, and as the Amendment to insert 1935 has not been called I feel bound to give my support to any Amendment which will delay the bringing into operation of this Bill, even if it is only for a period of three months. The other point is extremely important—it is the question of the one month's notice. The Minister proposes to insert a new date, the 29th September, 1933, and in his explanation of the reasons for this Amendment said that it would enable the landlord to give the tenant one month's notice. In most cases the tenancy in this class of house is a yearly tenancy and are entitled to a much longer notice than one month. I should like to know whether it is the intention of the Government to change existing agreements and the law in regard to them by substituting one month's notice.
§ The CHAIRMAN
I cannot allow that point to be raised here. It may be raised on the Amendment of the Minister of Health but not on the Amendment to the Amendment.
§ Mr. McENTEE
My only point is that the Minister himself raised it and, therefore, I am asking for further information in regard to the point, which appears to be one of extreme importance. I do not desire to question your Ruling, but I think the Minister should give us some answer as to what he really means by a month's notice.
§ 8.12 p.m.
§ The SOLICITOR-GENERAL for SCOTLAND (Mr. Normand)
The Committee is much indebted to the hon. Member for Gorbals (Mr. Buchanan) for raising these matters. As regards his first point—namely, the date which appears in the Amendment, the 29th September, 1933, this has already been considered and an alteration appropriate to the circumstances of Scotland will be made in the Scottish adaptation Clause. It is proposed to substitute for that date the 28th November, 1933. As regards the other point, it is not, I think, the intention of the Amendment or of the Bill to 1270 alter in any way the contractual relations of landlord and tenant while a contract is in force. It is a matter of great importance and we must carefully weigh the points which have been put forward by the hon. Member and those which will be made by those who are considering the view of the Government. I can assure the hon. Member that the point will not be overlooked but will be carefully considered before the Report stage is reached.
§ Mr. MACLEAN
There are several other points later in the Bill which conflict with the practice in Scotland.
§ 8.14 p.m.
§ Mr. D. GRAHAM
May I reinforce what has been said by the hon. Member for Gorbals (Mr. Buchanan). In Scotland the contract is from May to May. You sign your missive to occupy the house from May to May, and you cannot break your tenancy. If it was possible to do so I should have done it this year. It is obvious that some misunderstanding has arisen in this matter and it can only be put right by extending the date to 28th May. If a contract can be broken, under the Bill as it stands, because the house owner has a right to alter the rent from the 28th November, then clearly the tenant is put in an unfair position, and in a position into which, I suggest, the Minister of Health does not desire them to be put.
There are landlords who have been able to take advantage of the powers they are given under the Bill to raise rents, and the tenant will have no redress whatever because he cannot break his contract and will be compelled to remain in the house. It is a substantial point that needs to be met. Otherwise there will be considerable suffering inflicted on a big proportion of the occupiers in Scotland, and particularly on the type of occupier who has been most patriotic in the sense of having supported this Government at the last election—the type of occupier who is always willing to listen to the fairy tales told by the Tory party when seeking votes. It is a piece of gross ingratitude on the part of the Government 1271 to have abandoned their friends in the hour of their need. I appeal to the Minister of Health to meet the Scottish Office in the matter and to extend the date to 28th May.
§ 8.17 p.m.
§ Mr. BUCHANAN
I understand that the Solicitor-General for Scotland has promised that between now and the Report stage he will deal with the matter by inserting a date in the Scottish application of the Bill. Why wait for the Report stage?
§ Mr. MACLEAN
Will the learned Solicitor-General for Scotland bear in mind that the missives are now being signed, or have been signed, and that unless our proposal is adopted these people will be compelled to pay increased rents?
§ 8.18 p.m.
§ The SOLICITOR-GENERAL for SCOTLAND
I am afraid I have not made things as clear as 1 intended. We shall certainly consider this point before the Report stage, when the House in Committee considers the Scottish Application Clause. When I mentioned the Report stage just now I forgot the earlier opportunity of making this change. The second point is that the effect of the Amendment will no doubt be that Houses of a certain category will become free from control as from the date which appears for England as 29th September, 1933, but will appear as another date in the Scottish application Clause. Although that is so, it will not enable any landlord to break or breach any term of a contract that is come to between him and a tenant in respect of such house. The fact is that nothing in this Bill will enable a landlord to cancel a contract which is in force between him and a tenant on the date when the house, under the Act, becomes decontrolled.
§ Mr. LLEWELLYN-JONES
We are to assume, then, that all the tenancies that will be affected are the statutory tenancies that come into existence under the different Acts.
§ Mr. MACLEAN
My point is this: If the landlord or the factor in Scotland cannot break a contract, why not put the date in the Bill? Why not include it in the form requested by this side of the Committee?
§ 8.20 p.m.
§ The CHAIRMAN
Perhaps I can help the Committee. Indeed I think it is really my duty to intervene. This discussion is one which would arise on Clause 9, but not here at all. Clause 9 deals especially with the application to Scotland, and that will be the place to make any alteration of any date.
§ The UNDER-SECRETARY of STATE for SCOTLAND (Mr. Skelton)
Although an Amendment has not yet been put down, it has been considered, and we have decided to make the appropriate alteration for Scotland in the application Clause.
§ The CHAIRMAN
Then it is not really a question which arises here. Hon. Members interested in the Scottish position have the definite statement from the Government that the matter will be dealt with in Clause 9. I do not want to be too strict, but it would have been possible to have ruled out of order any discussion on such an alteration of the date here for Scottish purposes.
§ 8.22 p.m.
§ Mr. RHYS DAVIES
I am very interested in the point that has been raised by the hon. Member for Gorbals (Mr. Buchanan), for there is a great deal of substance in it. We are dealing with the date of the coming into operation of the Bill. I agree entirely with the claims made by the representatives of Scotland, but those of us who are Englishmen have a word to say on the subject. Whatever the Minister may have promised to the hon. Member for Gorbals, I think I am right in saying that there are contracts in respect of houses in England and and Wales that fall very nearly into the same category. I therefore, want the Minister to bear in mind those of us who live in England and Wales.
§ 8.23 p.m.
§ Sir H. YOUNG
I have a great deal of sympathy with the desire of the hon. Member to see that England secures any privilege that is given to Scotland, and I can promise him that I shall be a most jealous guardian of the rest of my compatriots in the matter. There is nothing in the Act or the Amendment to interfere with any existing contracts.
§ 8.24 p.m.
§ Sir HENRY CAUTLEY
I wish to raise a point on a question of construc- 1273 tion, and to put it to the learned Solicitor-General for Scotland. Something has been said about sub-tenants of Class "A" houses. How are they to be protected? I expected the Minister to say something about them. Sub-section (2) as amended by the Minister's proposal would read:As from the twenty-ninth day of September, nineteen hundred and thirty-three, the principal Acts shall not apply to any dwelling-house unless"—
§ The CHAIRMAN
The hon. and learned Gentleman is going into the terms of the Minister's Amendment, but I would point out to him that we are now dealing with an Amendment to that Amendment, which relates solely to the question of whether the date is to be 20th September, 1933, or 1st January, 1934.
§ Sir H. CAUTLEY
And my conclusion upon that question depends on the construction of these words. That is why I was limiting my question to that point. I do not quite understand the effect of these words and I could not come to a conclusion upon it without some explanation. Perhaps I may put the point which is only a short one. The words which I have been quoting go on as follows:unless it is a dwelling-house to which they applied immediately before the passing of this Act, or then formed part of such s dwelling-house.What does that mean? How could it form part of a dwelling-house? It is more a legal question than anything else
§ and perhaps I should have addressed it to the Solicitor-General.
§ 8.28 p.m.
§ Sir H. YOUNG
Though it be a legal question, let me do my best to reply to it. I think these words have been inserted from a drafting point of view to make it clear that what we are dealing with here is the unit of the dwelling-house, whether it be part of a larger dwelling or not, provided that, if it is a sub-let part of a larger dwelling, it comes within the limits as regards rateable value or recoverable rent. Throughout the Clause we are dealing with the dwelling-house—sometimes it is part of the single structure and sometimes it is the structure.
§ Sir H. CAUTLEY
Does it not follow that sub-tenancies of Class "A" houses are protected and come within the control?
§ Sir H. YOUNG
I think the hon. and learned Member will find that that matter comes up for discussion on a later Clause which deals with the decontrol of sub-tenancies, and he will find that the distinguishing characteristic which decides whether there is decontrol or not, is whether the tenancy was created by the landlord of the whole house or by the sub-tenant of that landlord.
§ Question put, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the proposed Amendment."
§ The Committee divided: Ayes, 213; Noes, 59.1275
|Division No. 98.]||AYES.||[8.29 p.m.|
|Acland-Troyte, Lieut.-Colonel||Caporn, Arthur Cecil||Emmott, Charles E. G. C.|
|Allen, Sir J. Sandeman (Liverp'l, W.)||Cautley, Sir Henry S.||Emrys-Evans, P. V.|
|Allen, William (Stoke-on-Trent)||Cayzer, Maj. Sir H. R. (Prtsmth., S.)||Erskine, Lord (Weston-super-Mare)|
|Apsley, Lord||Cazalet, Thelma (Islington, E.)||Erskine-Bolst, Capt. C. C. (Blackpool)|
|Aske, Sir Robert William||Cazalet, Capt, V. A. (Chippenham)||Essenhigh, Reginald Clare|
|Atkinson, Cyril||Cobb, Sir Cyril||Ford, Sir Patrick J.|
|Baillie, Sir Adrian W. M.||Cochrane, Commander Hon. A. D.||Forestier-Walker, Sir Leolin|
|Baldwin, Rt. Hon. Stanley||Colfox, Major William Philip||Fox, Sir Gifford|
|Barclay-Harvey, C. M.||Conant, R. J. E.||Fremantle, Sir Francis|
|Barton, Capt. Basil Kelsey||Cook, Thomas A.||Fuller, Captain A. G.|
|Beauchamp, Sir Brograve Campbell||Copeland, Ida||Ganzoni, Sir John|
|Beaumont, Hn. R. E. B. (Portsm'th, C.)||Craddock, Sir Reginald Henry||Gault, Lieut. -Col. A. Hamilton|
|Beit, Sir Alfred L.||Craven-Ellis, William||Gillett, Sir George Masterman|
|Birchall, Major Sir John Dearman||Crooke, J. Smedley||Glossop, C. W. H|
|Borodale, Viscount||Crookshank, Col. C. de Windt (Bootle)||Gluckstein, Louis Halle|
|Bower, Lieut.-Com. Robert Tatton||Croom-Johnson, R. P.||Goodman, Colonel Albert W.|
|Boyd-Carpenter, Sir Archibald||Crossley, A. C.||Gower, Sir Robert|
|Bracken, Brendan||Cruddas, Lieut. -Colonel Bernard||Grattan-Doyle, Sir Nicholas|
|Braithwaite, J. G. (Hillsborough)||Dalkeith, Earl of||Greene, William P. C.|
|Briscoe, Capt, Richard George||Davies, Maj. Geo. F. (Somerset, Yeovil)||Gretton, Colonel Rt. Hon. John|
|Broadbent, Colonel John||Doran, Edward||Grimston, R. V.|
|Brocklebank, C. E. R.||Drewe, Cedric||Guinness, Thomas L. E. B.|
|Buchan-Hepburn, P. G. T.||Duckworth, George A. V.||Guy, J. C. Morrison|
|Burnett, John George||Duggan, Hubert John||Hacking, Rt. Hon. Douglas H.|
|Campbell, Edward Taswell (Bromley)||Duncan, James A. L. (Kensington, N.)||Hamilton, Sir George (Ilford)|
|Campbell, Vice-Admiral G. (Burnley)||Elmley, Viscount||Hanbury, Cecil|
|Hannon, Patrick Joseph Henry||Mitcheson, G. G.||Selley, Harry R.|
|Hartland, George A.||Morris, John Patrick (Salford, N.)||Shakespeare, Geoffrey H.|
|Harvey, Major S. E. (Devon, Totnes)||Morris, Owen Temple (Cardiff, E.)||Shute, Colonel J. J.|
|Haslam, Henry (Horncastle)||Morris-Jones, Dr. J. H. (Denbigh)||Sinclair, Col. T. (Queen's Unv., Belfast)|
|Haslam, Sir John (Bolton)||Munro, Patrick||Skelton, Archibald Noel|
|Headlam, Lieut.-Col. Cuthbert M.||Nation, Brigadier-General J. J. H.||Smith, Sir Jonah W. (Barrow-in-F.)|
|Hellgers, Captain F. F. A.||Normand, Wilfrid Guild||Smith, Louis W. (Sheffield, Hallam)|
|Henderson, Sir Vivian L. (Chelmstord)||Nunn, William||Smith, R. W. (Ab'rd'n & Kinc'dine, C.)|
|Hepworth, Joseph||O'Donovan, Dr. William James||Somervell, Donald Bradley|
|Hills, Major Rt. Hon. John Waller||Ormsby-Gore, Rt. Hon. William G. A.||Somerville, D. G. (Willesden, East)|
|Hope, Capt. Hon. A. O. J. (Aston)||Pearson, William G.||Soper, Richard|
|Hornby, Frank||Peat, Charles U.||Sotheron-Estcourt, Captain T. E.|
|Horobin Ian M.||Penny, Sir George||Southby, Commander Archibald R. J.|
|Horsbrugh, Florence||Percy, Lord Eustace||Spens, William Patrick|
|Hudson, Capt. A. U. M. (Hackney, N.)||Perkins, Walter R. D.||Stanley, Lord (Lancaster, Fylde)|
|Hume, Sir George Hopwood||Peters, Dr. Sidney John||Stanley, Hon. O. F. G. (Westmorland)|
|Hurst, Sir Gerald B.||Petherick, M.||Stevenson, James|
|Jackson, Sir Henry (Wandsworth, C.)||Peto, Sir Basil E. (Devon, Barnstaple)||Storey, Samuel|
|James, Wing-Com. A. W. H.||Peto, Geoffrey K. (W'verh'pt'n, Bilst'n)||Stourton, Hon. John J.|
|Johnston, J. W. (Clackmannan)||Potter, John||Strickland, Captain W. F.|
|Jones, Sir G. W. H. (Stoke New'gton)||Powell, Lieut.-Col. Evelyn G. H.||Sugden, Sir Wilfrid Hart|
|Kerr, Hamilton W.||Pownall, Sir Assheton||Summersby, Charles H.|
|Knebworth, Viscount||Procter, Major Henry Adam||Sutcliffe, Harold|
|Law, Sir Alfred||Ramsay, Alexander (W. Bromwich)||Tate, Mavis Constance|
|Law, Richard K. (Hull, S. W.)||Ramsay, T. B. W. (Western Isles)||Thomas, James P. L. (Hereford)|
|Leckie, J. A.||Ramsden, Sir Eugene||Thompson, Luke|
|Lewis, Oswald||Rankin, Robert||Thorp, Linton Theodore|
|Liddall, Walter S.||Reed, Arthur C. (Exeter)||Touche, Gordon Cosmo|
|Lindsay, Noel Ker||Reid, James S. C. (Stirling)||Turton, Robert Hugh|
|Lockwood, Capt. J. H. (Shipley)||Reid, William Allan (Derby)||Wallace, Captain D. E. (Hornsey)|
|Lovat-Fraser, James Alexander||Rhys, Hon. Charles Arthur U||Ward, Irene Mary Bewick (Wallsend)|
|Mabane, William||Roberts, Sir Samuel (Ecclesall)||Warrender, Sir Victor A. G.|
|MacAndrew, Lieut.-Col. C. G. (Partick)||Rosbotham, Sir Samuel||Waterhouse, Captain Charles|
|MacAndrew, Capt. J, O. (Ayr)||Ross, Ronald D.||Watt, Captain George Steven H.|
|MacDonald, Rt. Hon. J. R. (Seaham)||Ross Taylor, Walter (Woodbridge)||Whiteside, Borras Noel H.|
|McEwen, Captain J. H. F.||Ruggles-Brise, Colonel E. A.||Williams, Charles (Devon, Torquay)|
|McLean, Dr. W. H. (Tradeston)||Runge, Norah Cecil||Wills, Wilfrid D.|
|Maitland, Adam||Russell, Albert (Kirkcaldy)||Windsor-Clive, Lieut.-Colonel George|
|Makins, Brigadier-General Ernest||Russell, Alexander West (Tynemouth)||Wise, Alfred R.|
|Margesson, Capt. Rt. Hon. H. D. R.||Rutherford, John (Edmonton)||Womersley, Walter James|
|Marsden, Commander Arthur||Rutherford, Sir John Hugo (Liverp'l)||Worthington, Dr. John V.|
|Martin, Thomas B.||Salmon, Sir Isidore||Young, Rt. Hon. Sir Hilton (S'v'oaks)|
|Mayhew, Lieut.-Colonel John||Salt, Edward W.|
|Meller, Richard James||Samuel, Samuel (W'dsworth, Putney)||TELLERS FOR THE AYES.—|
|Merriman, Sir F. Boyd||Sandeman, Sir A. N. Stewart||Lieut.-Colonel Sir A. Lambert Ward|
|Milne, Charles||Sanderson, Sir Frank Barnard||and Captain Sir George Bowyer.|
|Adams, D. M. (Poplar, South)||Hall, F. (York, W. R., Normanton)||Maxton, James|
|Attlee, Clement Richard||Hall, George H. (Merthyr Tydvil)||Milner, Major James|
|Banfield, John William||Harris, Sir Percy||Parkinson, John Allen|
|Batey, Joseph||Hirst, George Henry||Pickering, Ernest H.|
|Bernays, Robert||Holdsworth, Herbert||Price, Gabriel|
|Bevan, Aneurin (Ebbw Vale)||Janner, Barnett||Roberts, Aled (Wrexham)|
|Briant, Frank||Jenkins, Sir William||Rothschild, James A. de|
|Brown, C. W. E. (Notts., Mansfield)||Johnstone, Harcourt (S. Shields)||Salter, Dr. Alfred|
|Buchanan, George||Jones, Henry Haydn (Merioneth)||Thorne, William James|
|Cape, Thomas||Jones, Morgan (Caerphilly)||Tinker, John Joseph|
|Cocks, Frederick Seymour||Kirkwood, David||Wallhead, Richard C.|
|Cove, William G.||Lansbury, Rt. Hon. George||Williams, David (Swansea, East)|
|Cripps, Sir Stafford||Lawson, John James||Williams, Edward John (Ogmore)|
|Daggar, George||Llewellyn-Jones, Frederick||Williams, Dr. John H. (Llanelly)|
|Davies, David L. (Pontypridd)||Logan, David Gilbert||Williams, Thomas (York, Don Valley)|
|Davies, Rhys John (Westhoughton)||Lunn, William||Wood, Sir Murdoch McKenzie (Banff)|
|Foot, Dingle (Dundee)||McEntee, Valentine L.||Young, Ernest J. (Middlesbrough, E.)|
|Greenwood, Rt. Hon. Arthur||McGovern, John|
|Grenfell, David Rees (Glamorgan)||Maclay, Hon. Joseph Paton||TELLERS FOR THE NOES.—|
|Groves, Thomas E.||Maclean, Neil (Glasgow, Govan)||Mr. John and Mr. Duncan Graham.|
|Grundy, Thomas W.||Mallalieu, Edward Lancelot|
§ Proposed words there inserted.
§ Sir H. CAUTLEY
On a point of Order. There is an Amendment in the name of the hon. Member for Guildford (Mr. Rhys) and other hon. Members, including myself, in page 1, line 12, to insert, after the word "dwelling-house" the words: 1276bona fide used for the purposes of private residence only.Does that not come in here?
§ Sir BASIL PETO
May I point out to the hon. and learned Member for East Grinstead (Sir H. Cautley) that I propose to move an Amendment, also in my name, 1277 two pages later on the Order Paper, to insert, in line 25, after the word "premises," the words "used as a shop or"?
§ The CHAIRMAN
In any case, the Amendment of the hon. and learned Member was not one of those selected for discussion.
§ 8.42 p.m.
§ Mr. BANFIELD
I beg to move, in page 1, line 12, to leave out from the word "is" to the second word "a" in line 15.
The purpose of the Amendment is to leave out the words:a dwelling-house to which they applied immediately before the passing of this Act or then formed part of such a dwelling-house if it is.The removal of these words is necessary in order to pave the way towards an Amendment to bring back into control houses that have been decontrolled, provided their rents do not exceed the amount laid down in the Bill. I am fully conscious of the difficulties which may be put forward in dealing with the question of controlling once again any house that has already become decontrolled, but I would point out to the Minister that the Bill itself and his speech in introducing it show very conclusively indeed the very strong case that there is for control to be still exercised, particularly over the Class "C" houses. I can imagine nothing more likely to give rise to friction, discontent, and bitter feeling, as it does already, than the fact that in precisely the same class of house, with exactly the same accommodation, one tenant may be paying, and is paying in many cases, anything up to 50 or 60 per cent. more than his neighbour on either side. It appears to me that, in view of the fact that ever since the Marley Report, upon which this Bill was based, circumstances have altered considerably, and that there have been drastic reductions in wages among all classes of people, the majority of the tenants of Class "C" houses in particular are to-day less able than ever to pay even the increase of 40 per cent. over pre-war rents.
The vast majority of the 3,000,000 unemployed occupy Class "C" houses, and many of them, through circum- 1278 stances over which they have no control, have been obliged to remove from controlled to decontrolled houses. There is no justice nor reason why there should be differentiation between one person and another and one house controlled and another decontrolled. It is strange in face of a good many remarks that have been made in the House to-day to realise that, in spite of all that has been done, the housing shortage remains, that people are helpless in face of economic circumstances, and that very poor people, people on transitional payment and with wives and families to keep on less than 30s. per week, are, through force of circumstances, obliged to occupy decontrolled houses and to pay exorbitant rents. The Minister might take into consideration the equalisation of rents as between one person and another. It is true that if the Amendment were carried it would apply not only to Class "C" houses; it would apply to each class of house mentioned in the Bill; but I believe that there is also a strong case to be put up for some equality of treatment among the tenants of Class "B" houses.
In view of the hardships which exist among the unemployed and among the black coated people who, in the main, occupy Class "B" houses, and the hardships of the wage earners who have had their wages reduced 30 and 40 per cent. as compared with even two years ago, the Minister must recognise that there is a limit to what the majority of people can pay in rent. I have heard hon. Members talking as if by the end of five years things will work themselves out and all houses will be able to be decontrolled, but the Government must recognise that rents cannot continue to go up. Rent is the biggest factor for the vast majority of people, not only among the working classes, but among the non-manual workers. Rent is the biggest problem most of our people have to face. It is admitted, and the Minister has never attempted to deny it, that decontrol means increases in rent. The pressure of the landlord class in the House and outside has been directed to the Government to do away with any kind of control. They expect, and know that in the circumstances of the next five years they will get bigger rents.
This question cannot possibly remain where it is. If the Government think that people can continue to pay rents 1279 which are exorbitant in relation to the wages and salaries received by the majority of people, and if they think that that exorbitant standard can be maintained for the next five years and beyond, there will be a serious revolt. The position will arise in which hundreds of thousands of people will declare that unless rents come down there will be no rents at all. I believe that if we could get these houses back under control it would stop what I consider will be little short of a rent ramp within the next five years. If the Government will get back these houses under control and give people an equality of justice in this matter they will have done something to allay a considerable amount of discontent. Out of 26s. or 27s. a week people have to pay at least 10s. in rent, even for houses which are in some measure under control, and more is asked for houses which are decontrolled; and it is obvious that the payment of this huge proportion of the family income for rent cannot possibly be continued.
I know that the Minister has already expressed the opinion that the difficulties of bringing decontrolled houses under control again are far too great, but I suggest to him that the real reason is that the landlord class want to get rid of control as soon as they can. I do not suggest that we look upon control as a permanency, but I suggest that under present conditions and under the conditions that are likely to obtain for the next five years it is useless to talk about decontrol unless we can at the same time curb a little the greed of many of the landlords who are concerned only about what they can wring out of their tenants and who, in many cases, have never done their duty towards their tenants in their obligation to carry out repairs and to make the houses decent and comfortable. Unless the Government are prepared to control the greed and selfishness of so many landlords, a serious situation will come about sooner or later. I am positive that the inequality of rents and the question of the control of one house and the decontrol of another will cause a great deal of bitter discontent which sooner or later will come to a head. Up to now has been quiescent because, ingrained in the heart and mind of most English people, particularly the poorer classes, is that whatever comes and what- 1280 ever goes the rent must be paid. If, however, rents go up too high the day will come when they will refuse to pay, and the Government will have to deal with the situation in a far more drastic way.
§ 8.55 p.m.
§ Mr. LLEWELLYN-JONES
I think I can see the object which the hon. Member has in view, and realise that it would meet with the approval of many people, but at the same time I am quite convinced that the Amendment would bring about a hopeless state of affairs in various parts of the country. In view of the Amendment put forward by the Minister of Health, which was adopted a few minutes ago, the Clause, if this further Amendment were adopted, would read in this way:As from the twenty-ninth day of September one thousand nine hundred and thirty-three the principal Act shall not apply to any dwelling-house unless it is a dwelling-house of which either the annual amount of the recoverable rent on the appointed day or the rateable value on the appointed day did not exceedand so on; and it goes on to give the figures for London, Scotland and other parts of the country. I suggest that if this Amendment were accepted the result might be that practically all the houses within the categories mentioned further on in the Clause would immediately become subject to control. So long as the words "Subject to the provisions of the principal Act" remain in the Clause, it is obvious that this Amendment would bring back under control those houses which had been taken out of control by the operation of previous Acts. Consider the type of house which would again be brought under control by this Amendment. Anyone who has had experience of the administration of the rent Acts and of property transactions will realise that houses which were once controlled houses have been sold. Many of them have been bought by members of the working class, who have raised mortgages on them from building societies or other sources. In some cases the person who bought the house may have had to leave it, or the owner may have died and the members of his family who inherited the house have subsequently let it. It is easy to see that a large amount of injustice would be done to persons 1281 who have bought these houses under the impression that they were decontrolled, and apart from that there would be injustice in many other ways and we should create a vast amount of confusion.
Although the object of the Amendment is a commendable one, I can hardly think the Committee will bring back under control many houses which for eight, nine or 10 years have been decontrolled houses, and have in that period passed from one hand to another, perhaps been sold two or three times. To realise how widespread the consequences might be, one has only to look at the returns giving the number of houses which have gone out of decontrol. The number of working-class houses decontrolled is 850,000. A large number of those houses are now in the occupation of their owners, but in a very large number of cases also the houses are in the occupation of tenants. Agreements with regard to structural alterations have been made and obligations as regards mortgages entered into, and many of the owners, who are working men themselves, would be very severely hit if this Amendment were adopted. I trust the Committee will reject the Amendment, as it would only cause a good deal of confusion and create injustices.
§ 9.0 p.m.
§ Mr. D. GRAHAM
Whatever may be the position as regards the type of houses acquired by people who have borrowed money from building societies and in other ways, as described by the hon. Member, that state of affairs does not apply in Scotland to the members of the working classes who live in tenement dwellings, among whom are large numbers of people engaged in the mining industry. Their experience during the last 10 years has been that the landlord has taken every advantage of existing legislation at their expense. He has used all sorts of cunning and wiles to get a tenant out of a house and has then immediately raised the rent, with the result that in many cases there are people living next door to one another paying a rent of, may be, £20 in one case and in the other nearer £40. Since the beginning of the century rents have increased, generally speaking, by something like 100 per cent. The Minister of Health may indicate his dissent, but 1282 there are other authorities beside him, and it is the fact that the rents of colliery houses have increased during the course of the present century by over 100 per cent. According to the information given to the Royal Commission on Housing which sat in 1911, rents in Glasgow were 1s. 6½d. per room, and they have increased to 2s. 10¼d. That statement applies to the regular tenants of houses, and has nothing to do with tenants who have been fraudulently deprived of their houses so that the landlord might increase the rent.
I frankly say that the object of this Amendment is to bring back those houses under control. I suggest to hon. Members on both sides of the Committee that the warning given by my hon. Friend who moved the Amendment ought to be taken to heart. I am old enough to remember the beginning of the Parnellite movement. The rent question was the beginning of the trouble in Ireland, and as a result we see Ireland as it is to-day; and during the War even the Army could not have kept the people in the West of Scotland from open rebellion against the tactics that were employed by the people who owned the houses and to a large extent controlled the lives of the people in working-class areas.
I will appeal to the Minister of Health. If he is really actuated by patriotic motives, he should take advantage of the very reasonable advice given by my hon. Friend who moved this Amendment; he should take notice also of the warning that if the same thing happens again, if houses are decontrolled and rents are increased to the extent to which the rents of decontrolled houses have been increased, there will be nothing less than the beginning of a rent war. I am not prepared to tell a man who is living on 15s. 3d. a week that he should pay his rent first. Food for his wife and family are of infinitely greater importance to him and his than the payment of an exorbitant rack-rent to the people who own the houses in our areas in the west and south-west of Scotland.
We might not have a very great deal of experience in legal matters, but we know something of the conditions under which the working-class are living, and we know the type of house in which they live. We know also the unreasonable rents that are 1283 charged for those houses, and we want the Government to meet the plea that, until the period of rent control ceases altogether, and is taken from the Statute Book, rents for houses occupied not only by the working-class, but by a big proportion of those who are generally described as black-coated people, should be re-controlled, if the Government wishes to give fair play to the people who are living in those houses. I desire to see peace, and I do not want to see rent war or strikes of any kind, if they can be avoided, but we have reached the position in which there is no alternative but to offer the advice that we have given. It is advice born of experience and knowledge of the actual conditions. For these reasons, we hope that the Minister of Health will be prepared to meet the claim which we make that this Amendment should be accepted by the Government, who should say that an increase of these rents will not be allowed.
§ 9.8 p.m.
§ Sir H. YOUNG
I am aware, of course, of the desire of the hon. Member for Hamilton (Mr. D. Graham) on this subject, because he was the only member of the Marley Committee who recommended re-control of the decontrolled houses. Let me remind him that there were other members of that committee who had intimate and first-hand knowledge of Scottish conditions and who differed from him in their settled conviction. The hon. Member for Hamilton asked me if we were proposing an immediate decontrol of working-class houses. As a matter of fact, we are not doing so. We are proposing to perpetuate the control of class "C" houses for five years, so as to ensure for that period that there is no diminution of the pool of class "C" houses available at controlled rents. We do not propose to re-control the decontrolled houses. The reasons for that decision on the part of the Government are those which were given with incontrovertible force by the Marley Committee. Those reasons show that whether you think you ought, or would like to, do it, it is impossible now to say that, by the stroke of the pen, you are going to re-control some 850,000 houses which have been decontrolled in the whole pool of 5,700,000.
The first reason which is advanced by the Marley Committee involves a con- 1284 sideration which will always be raised by any retrospective legislation of the sort, and that is that you do more solid injustice than you do justice. You would do injustice to those who have invested their money and purchased decontrolled houses at their present value. Why should you confiscate what they have invested? Consider the positive injustice and social harm to those who have conferred a social benefit by improving and re-conditioning these houses, and who depend upon the freedom to get a fair commercial return upon the fresh capital which they have put into them. You would be permitting a kind of fraud upon those who have inherited property of this sort from those who died during the period.
During the 10 years that have elapsed since the beginning of decontrol there has been a readjustment of rights and equities in this matter which it is now impossible to put back. If you seek to do so, in comparison with any benefit which you may think you are securing, you will do a great and positive harm and injustice to those concerned. I remember referring to another matter in the Second Reading Debate, and inviting the particular attention of the House, as I will do upon this occasion. I ask the House to consider: If you re-control decontrolled houses, how, according to any principle of commonsense, can you refuse to extend the re-controlling process to new houses The hon. Member for Hamilton will follow out to any conclusion the convictions that he holds, however extravagant the conclusion may be. Some 700,000 new houses have been built, with a firm assurance from the law to those who built them and who ought to be receiving a commercial return upon their invested capital. The hon. Member for Hamilton proposes to extend his retroactive legislation to them.
We desire to get a supply of small houses through the operation of the productive forces of investment. I should despair of doing so if I rendered the employment of capital and enterprise in that behalf subject to some such action as this, and if the houses were made subject to control, with a limitation upon the return which investors expect. I believe that the deepest social instincts are involved in drawing the line where we have drawn it, in stopping decontrol and 1285 saying that you cannot go back and re-control the houses which have been decontrolled.
§ 9.15 p.m.
§ Mr. LEWIS
The Mover of this Amendment laid considerable stress on the fact that, as he said, rent forms so high a proportion of the total outgoings in an average working-class home. That, of course, is a circumstance of the greatest gravity and importance. The hon. Member went on to say that in his judgment rents must come down. As I understood him, he advocated an all-round reduction in the rents charged for working-class dwelling-houses. I wonder whether he realises the implication of that argument? The rent of property varies with the cost or constructing the property, and, in the case of small house property of the kind to which the hon. Member referred, the principal item in the cost of construction is the wages paid to the building operatives. Therefore, when the hon. Member and his friends say they want an all-round reduction in the rent of property of this kind, they are really making a covert attack upon the wages of building operatives, and I think it is well that that implication should be brought to the attention of the Committee. Personally, I do not believe that a strong case can be, made out for a severe reduction in the rates of pay of building operatives, and, therefore, I do not believe that an all-round reduction in rents such as the hon. Member advocates is possible. But at least I hope that those Members who advocate an all-round reduction in rents will realise the implication of what they say, namely, that it would entail a substantial reduction in the wages of building operatives.
§ 9.17 p.m.
§ Mr. CHARLES BROWN
I was surprised to hear the Minister characterise this Amendment as an attempt to put back the clock. He went on to say that you could not put back the clock. I should not have thought that that would have been a difficult task for this National Government. Anyway, they have been putting back the clock ever since they came into office. So far as trading relations are concerned, they have put it back about a century. I thought the Minister made a very poor reply to the arguments in favour of the Amendment. Having taken a very wide survey of 1286 housing conditions in the country, he has presented to the House this Bill, in which he is compelled to make proposals for retaining control of more than 4,000,000 Class "C" houses for another five years, because he fears the grave social injustice which would arise if decontrol took place at once.
The Minister knows that in the last few years some 850,000 houses have been decontrolled, and he must know also that that decontrol, as was made clear by the Mover of the Amendment, has occasioned very serious injustices to large numbers of tenants. The Minister himself, in this very legislation, dare not let houses of that type be decontrolled at once, because he fears the grave social abuses and injustices which would arise. La this Amendment we merely ask that the injustices already perpetrated on innumerable working class tenants should be rectified by recontrolling the houses which have been decontrolled. To my way of thinking, the very argument that the Minister uses in favour of continuing control of 4,000,000 houses for five years, is an argument that we are entitled to use when we are asking him to recontrol those houses which have already been decontrolled, because upon those tenants the same injustice has been perpetrated from which be seeks to protect 4,000,000 other tenants by the prolongation of control for five years.
§ 9.20 p.m.
§ Mr. McGOVERN
I desire to associate myself with this very reasonable Amendment. The question raised by the hon. Member for Mansfield (Mr. C. Brown) is an extremely important one, namely, the question why the Government are not decontrolling all these houses, if it is proper that some of them should be decontrolled. I take it that the Government realise that during the past few years there has been a continually falling market so far as wages and salaries are concerned, and that there is a complete inability to pay the increased rents that would be demanded if all these houses were decontrolled. Agreeing with that, I think it is also quite logical that the houses which have been decontrolled should be brought under control again.
In the case of those houses which have been decontrolled, the tenants have been subject to very grave abuses by landlords and house factors throughout Scot- 1287 land, and especially in the industrial parts. As the hon. Member for Hamilton (Mr. D. Graham) has said, people living in tenements on the same landing are paying different rents. I know of tenements where three or four different rents are being charged. A typical example will illustrate the point. I have in mind the case of an employed man living in a controlled house and paying 7s. 9d. per week. His wage is £3 per week, and he has no family. Across the landing is a man who is unemployed, who has six children under 14, and who is called upon, in a decontrolled house, to pay 10s. 6d. per week. Can anybody on the Government benches say that there is any equity or justice in such conditions as these.
If the argument were that a similar type of house across the way was a new house, which had cost more money to build, which had additional compartments, or, at least, the ordinary modern arrangements of a new house, one could perhaps understand, while not agreeing altogether with it, the necessity for an increased rental. But, in a property where the Government have recognised that they dare not decontrol all the houses, they ought, to be logical, to bring within the ambit of the Bill those which have already been decontrolled, and for which tenants are paying exorbitant rents. I have also in mind a specific case relating to property of the same kind under different landlords. One landlord, under decontrol, says, in a humane and reasonable manner, that, although he is at liberty, on decontrol, to raise the rents, it is wrong to raise them to an exorbitant figure, and he passes 1s. per week on to the house. The landlord across the way, however, passes 4s. a week on to the house. Therefore, even under decontrol, you have what might be termed the good landlord and the bad landlord.
The Minister says that if the hon. Member for Hamilton (Mr. D. Graham) is logical, he ought also to agree that the houses which have been built since decontrol came into operation should also be brought within the scope of the Bill. The hon. Member for Hamilton has no difficulty in agreeing to that, nor have I. We have to remember that where you built a house costing £500 10 years ago, and which now costs £250, owing to cheaper money and to the cheaper cost of 1288 houses, you are entitled to say that you have to cut your loss, and have only the right to the present market value. There should be no increase in the rent, but it should be brought within the scope of the Bill and there should be a fixed rental for it. The logic has been with the hon. Member for Hamilton, and it is the Minister of Health and the Government who are taking up an illogical position. They are not allowing control in a large number of these houses out of any humane instinct or sympathy with the people, but because they believe that if they were to put the whole of the tenants under the same process of rack-renting there might be a rent war stirred up and the Government, the property owners and the bondholders might suffer in consequence. Therefore they say, "Let us divide to conquer." Those houses which have already passed out of control are to be left to the landlord and you are to allow control to operate, and, by the process of years, as changes of tenancy take place, you will find that the landlords are able to get the houses out of control and get increased rental.
Then in connection with houses that are already under control we have seen many processes for getting tenants out of houses. Every form of trickery is used by landlords and house factors in Glasgow. You hear of a summons to court for rent. The landlord or the factor comes along and says there is no need to go to court, and he will accept a settlement of eight or nine shillings a week. The poor woman accepts his word and does not attend court. Then a decree is obtained in the absence of the woman and she is put out and an increased rental is obtained. Factors have candidly admitted to me that their job was not to accept settlements from tenants but to get them out of houses in order to get an enhanced value on the property and retain the bonds at the old figure of £800. With every form of trickery being used, the tenant is placed in a very difficult position. I did think the Minister might have accepted an Amendment of this character to bring within the scope of the Bill those who are likely to be the victims of increased rental.
When the Minister talks about those who have inherited property, I would ask, what about those who have inherited poverty I Surely they are more entitled 1289 to consideration. I remember many years ago the late Mr. Wheatley was asked at a meeting, when he proposed controlling the whole rents of houses, "What about the poor old woman who has been left a tenement property which is her only means of livelihood?" He replied, "I would arrange a conference of all the old widows who have inherited property and the widows who are the tenants and allow them to settle the matter between themselves." I do suggest to the Minister he should not give us that sort of sob-stuff. When we were told about the poor old woman who has been left property, I almost saw tears in the eyes of the Minister as he trotted that imaginary old woman out. That old woman is generally some big company or trust which has invested money in property, and which is extorting the last farthing and shilling out of the tenants. I advise the Minister not to go in for sob-stuff of that character. We have met these poor old women who have inherited property—with tall hats and white spats, periodically going round for the rents and threatening all kinds of things if the tenants do not pay up.
That is not up to the standard of the Minister of Health, who usually advances better reasons. If that is the best thing he can think of, he had better go back to the Cabinet, his masters, and ask them for some other argument. We go down to the courts periodically and see these poor people there, with the lawyers and all the legal tribe in Glasgow trying to extract rents. I think this is a most reasonable suggestion. I know quite well the Minister of Health has come here as the man with the big stick. Very well, you can go on with the process, but the present system is gradually reducing incomes. This is going to apply a means test to families with rentals. Then go on with the process of declining incomes in the homes and go on maintaining the old standard of rentals, and it will mean in a very short time an intensification of the war against the ruling classes. This Amendment, besides being modest in every shape or form, is reasonable and has logic behind it, and it ought to be accepted by the Government.
§ 9.32 p.m.
§ Mr. BATEY
Those Members of the Committee who have spoken against this 1290 Amendment have pointed out the difficulties if it be accepted. We do not say that there would not be any difficulties. What we do say is that it is the business of this House to get over difficulties. As a matter of fact, we are Always legislating on difficult questions, and because there may be slight difficulties in connection with this Amendment that is not the material objection to it. The Minister did not attempt to deal with any of the difficulties when he replied. All he dealt with was the point that there would be some injustice involved if this Amendment were carried. He said there would be injustice to those who had bought these houses, to those who had reconditioned them, and to those who had died and where Death Duties had been paid.
I would like the Minister to remember that there is some injustice at the present time to the working classes who have got to pay these increased rents. We should be unfaithful to the working classes if we did not take this opportunity to point out to the Committee their difficult position, in having to pay these rents for decontrolled houses. The rent of decontrolled houses, we are told officially, has increased between 85 per cent. and 90 per cent. If the whole of the 850,000 decontrolled houses were owned by the occupiers we might have no case, but the great majority of them are inhabited by tenants in receipt of low wages and who have to pay these increased rents. Therefore, we claim that these tenants are entitled to consideration, and that something should be done to bring these decontrolled houses—and especially those that are not in the occupation of the owners but inhabited by tenants—back into control.
I remember the Debate that took place in 1923 when the House decided to make provision for decontrol. If the House had imagined then that the rents of the houses that would go out of control would be increased by 85 per cent. or 90 per cent., while the rent of the controlled houses remained at something like 50 per cent., it would not so readily have agreed to decontrol. With the experience that we have had, we ought to take some steps to bring the bulk of those 850,000 houses which have been decontrolled back into control.
§ Mr. JANNER
Will the hon. Member tell us why in 1924 and 1629 his party did not do what he is suggesting now?
§ Mr. BATEY
If the hon. Member had been in the House at that time, he would not need to ask that question. Not only do we need to bring back those 850,000 houses under control, but there is some need for something to be done to bring the rents of new houses under control. There are huge numbers of men in the North of England in receipt of extremely low wages, to say nothing of unemployment relief and transitional benefit, and the rents are too high for working men to pay. To me this is a most important Amendment and not one that ought to be brushed aside. It is essential, in the interest of the very poorest of the working classes, to bring back houses which have been decontrolled and to pull down the rents which have been so greatly increased.
§ 9.39 p.m.
§ Mr. BUCHANAN
There is another tragic feature that I see in this business. Before the owner of a controlled house can get possession, he has to prove that he needs it for one of his family or for a person engaged in his business, but the moment the house is decontrolled that does not need to be proved. Here you have 800,000 people who may fall into arrears with their rent, and they have not the protection that the controlled people have. I think Glasgow is much the same as any other centre. There are large blocks of tenement dwellings in the centre of Liverpool. A business may want to extend. In the case of a controlled house, the owner must go to the court and state the reasons why the house is to be taken over, but the moment the house passes out of control the occupier is left defenceless.
§ Sir B. PETO
Are these tenement dwellers of whom the hon. Member is speaking in houses of a rateable value of £45 a year?
§ Mr. BUCHANAN
The hon. Baronet has not gripped the Amendment. Its object is to bring back into control every house that is out of control. A large number of the houses that have passed out of control are small houses, and it is vital in their case that the tenant should be given the protection of the court. I want to put this to the miners' and steel- 1292 workers' representatives. There is a steel works in my division, and the owner also owns the houses. In 1926 a large number of these men struck work in sympathy with the miners, and others were locked out. Before a tenant can be put out of a controlled house, the owner has to prove that he needs it for a certain specific purpose, and the Glasgow sheriffs have exercised the law with a vigilance which is to their credit from the tenant's point of view. What happens is that a removal takes place, the house becomes decontrolled and the new tenant has no longer the protection of the court. The firm can now come along and say, "If you do not work for a certain wage, or if you do not agree to certain conditions, we can put you out of your house for any reason that we like," whereas in the protected case they must show definite legal grounds on which it may be done. This aspect in some respects is as great as the question of increased rent.
I speak only from my knowledge of the City of Glasgow, and the peculiarity in that city is that there are three classes of houses occupied by what may be called the working-class. There are the houses occupied by the very poor, by the artisans, and by what may be termed the very comfortable of the working population, such as teachers or civil servants. To some extent, the landlords are faced with economic conditions. In the poorer class houses one of the difficulties of the landlord is that he may remove one person because he cannot get his rent and yet the poor person who follows the ejected tenant also usually accumulates debt. Frequently houses are owned by companies, and in those cases, where there has been removal, you are giving power to increase the rent, and power almost of life and death over the tenant. This aspect ought to be faced by the Solicitor-General and the Solicitor-General for Scotland.
I raise these points because they are of substance. When you talk of injustice and inequality, you should not forget that it is not only a, question of increase of rent but of leaving tenants open to attack. I have never been a critic of the legal profession. At times I have been indebted to the profession of the hon. and learned Gentleman. The thing which amazes me is that sometimes solicitors 1293 particularly those from Scotland, come here and allow things to go too easy and leave me to protect them. I have been indebted to the profession both in Scotland and in England for services given gratuitously, but in this case I desire the protection of the courts for these people. The protection of the courts is a valuable protection, but the worst feature is that the protection of the courts is being taken away from the tenant.
There is another aspect of this problem upon which I wish to say a flew words, and again I hope that hon. Members will not be too critical if I deal with what I call the Glasgow problem, which I know best. A large number of the small houses which are decontrolled are occupied by low-wage men and by men who are unemployed. These people get into difficulties with their rent. The Under-Secretary of State for Scotland, to his credit, has aided us by getting the Poor Law authorities to make grants so that these people may continue to occupy their houses in times of difficulty. In Glasgow a great number of the people who have to apply for public assistance come from decontrolled houses. They are usually new houses which have been decontrolled because of new tenancies and because the tenants have not the protection of the courts, and can therefore be more easily evicted. The Clause will result in throwing upon local authorities
§ a burden of rent which will add considerably to the problem of rates.
§ When hon. Members talk of injustices, they should try to remember the injustice created by the existence of both high-rated areas and low-rated areas. I appeal to the Government on this issue. They have been fair about the Bill. When they introduced it, they practically said that it was based upon the report of the Marley Committee. The Marley Committee dovetailed the whole thing so-perfectly that it was not possible to disturb it. It was a great compliment to a Member of the Labour party that he had shown so much knowledge, skill and draftsmanship. We have hitherto always heard that Labour was unfit to govern, but on this occasion it has done well. I wish that one could say that of all Members of the Labour party, but one does not want to go into those issues. The Government are causing great injustice because they are taking away the valuable protection of the courts, and are going to throw a burden upon local areas which they can ill afford to bear. I would ask the Minister of Health, the Solicitor-General, and the Solicitor-General for Scotland to give us at least the protection of the courts for many of those very poor people.
§ Question put, "That the words proposed to be left out to the word 'if,' in line 15, stand part of the Clause."
§ The Committee divided: Ayes, 235; Noes, 40.1295
|Division No. 99.]||AYES.||[9.54 p.m.|
|Acland-Troyte, Lieut.-Colonel||Cadogan, Hon. Edward||Drewe, Cedric|
|Agnew, Lieut.-Com. P. G.||Campbell, Edward Taswell (Bromley)||Duckworth, George A. V,|
|Albery, Irving James||Campbell, Vice-Admiral G. (Burnley)||Dugdale, Captain Thomas Lionel|
|Allen, Sir J. Sandeman (L'pool, W.)||Caporn, Arthur Cecil||Duggan, Hubert John|
|Apsley, Lord||Carver, Major William H.||Duncan, James A. L.(Kensington, N.)|
|Atkinson, Cyril||Castle Stewart, Earl||Dunglass, Lord|
|Baillie, Sir Adrian W. M.||Cautley, Sir Henry S.||Eastwood, John Francis|
|Baldwin, Rt. Hon. Stanley||Cayzer, Maj. Sir H. R. (P'rtsm'th, S.)||Elliston, Captain George Sampson|
|Balfour, George (Hampstead)||Cazalet, Thelma (Islington, E.)||Emmott, Charles E. G. C.|
|Balniel, Lord||Cobb, Sir Cyril||Emrys-Evans, P. V.|
|Barclay-Harvey, C. M,||Cochrane, Commander Hon. A. D.||Erskine, Lord (Weston-super-Mare)|
|Barton, Capt. Basil Kelsey||Colfox, Major William Philip||Erskine-Bolst, Capt. C. C. (Blackpool)|
|Beauchamp, Sir Brograve Campbell||Conant, R. J. E.||Essenhigh, Reginald Clare|
|Beaumont, M. w. (Bucks., Aylesbury)||Cook, Thomas A.||Foot, Dingle (Dundee)|
|Beaumont, Hon. R. E. B. (Portsm'th, C.)||Cooke, Douglas||Ford, Sir Patrick J.|
|Bevan, Stuart James (Holborn)||Copeland, Ida||Fox, Sir Gifford|
|Birchall, Major Sir John Dearman||Courtauld, Major John Sewell||Fremantle, Sir Francis|
|Boulton, W. W.||Craven-Ellis, William||Fuller, Captain A. G.|
|Bower, Lieut.-Com. Robert Tatton||Crooke, J. Smedley||Ganzoni, Sir John|
|Bowyar, Capt. Sir George E. W.||Crookshank, Col. C. de Windt (Bootle)||Gault, Lieut.-Col. A. Hamilton|
|Boyd-Carpenter, Sir Archibald||Croom-Johnson, R. P.||Gillett, Sir George Masterman|
|Braithwaite, J. G. (Hillsborough)||Cross, R. H.||Glossop, C. W. H.|
|Briant, Frank||Crossley, A. C.||Gluckstein, Louis Halle|
|Briscoe, Capt. Richard George||Cruddas, Lieut.-Colonel Bernard||Glyn, Major Ralph G. C.|
|Broadbent, Colonel John||Curry, A. C||Goodman, Colonel Albert W.|
|Brocklebank, C. E. R.||Davidson, Rt. Hon. J. C. C.||Gower, Sir Robert|
|Brown, Col. D. C. (N'th'l'd., Hexham)||Davies, Maj. Geo. F. (Somerset, Yeovil)||Grattan-Doyle, Sir Nicholas|
|Buchan-Hepburn, P. G. T.||Doran, Edward||Greene, William P. C.|
|Gretton, Colonel Rt. Hon. John||McLean, Dr. W. H. (Tradeston)||Russell, Albert (Kirkcaldy)|
|Grimston, R. V.||Makins, Brigadier-General Ernest||Russell, Alexander West (Tynemouth)|
|Guinness, Thomas L. E. B.||Mallalieu, Edward Lancelot||Rutherford, John (Edmonton)|
|Guy, J. C. Morrison||Margesson, Capt. Rt. Hon. H. D. R.||Rutherford, Sir John Hugo (Liverp'l)|
|Hacking, Rt. Hon. Douglas H.||Marsden, Commander Arthur||Salmon, Sir Isidore|
|Hamilton, Sir George (Ilford)||Martin, Thomas B.||Salt, Edward W.|
|Hanbury, Cecil||Mayhew, Lieut.-Colon el John||Samuel, Samuel (W'dsworth, Putney)|
|Hannon, Patrick Joseph Henry||Merriman, Sir F. Boyd||Sandeman, Sir A. N. Stewart|
|Hartland, George A.||Milne, Charles||Sanderson, Sir Frank Barnard|
|Harvey, Major S. E. (Devon, Totnes)||Mitchell, Harold P. (Br'tf'd & Chisw'k)||Selley, Harry R.|
|Haslam, Henry (Horncastle)||Mitcheson, G. G.||Shakespeare, Geoffrey H.|
|Haslam, Sir John (Bolton)||Morris, John Patrick (Salford, N.)||Shute, Colonel J. J.|
|Headlam, Lieut.-Col. Cuthbert M.||Morris, Owen Temple (Cardiff, E.)||Sinclair, Col. T. (Queen's Unv., Belfast)|
|Hellgers, Captain F. F. A.||Muirhead, Major A, J.||Skelton, Archibald Noel|
|Henderson, Sir Vivian L. (Chelmsford)||Munro, Patrick||Smith, Sir Jonah W. (Barrow-In-F.)|
|Hepworth, Joseph||Nall, Sir Joseph||Smith, Louis W. (Sheffield, Hallam)|
|Herbert, Capt. S. (Abbey Division)||Nation, Brigadier-General J. J. H.||Smith, R. W. (Ab'rd'n & Kinc'dine, C.)|
|Hills, Major Rt. Hon. John Waller||Normand, Wilfrid Guild||Somervell, Donald Bradley|
|Holdsworth, Herbert||O'Connor, Terence James||Somerville, Annesley A. (Windsor)|
|Hope, Capt. Hon. A. O. J. (Aston)||O'Donovan, Dr. William James||Somerville, D. G. (Willesden, East)|
|Hornby, Frank||Oman, Sir Charles William C.||Sotheron-Estcourt, Captain T. E.|
|Horobin, Ian M.||Ormsby-Gore, Rt. Hon. William G. A.||Southby, Commander Archibald R. J.|
|Horsbrugh, Florence||Patrick, Colin M.||Spens, William Patrick|
|Howitt, Dr. Alfred B.||Pearson, William G.||Stanley, Lord (Lancaster, Fylde)|
|Hume, Sir George Hopwood||Peat, Charles U.||Stevenson, James|
|Jackson, Sir Henry (Wandsworth, C.)||Penny, Sir George||Storey, Samuel|
|James, Wing-Com. A. W. H.||Percy, Lord Eustace||Stourton, Hon. John J.|
|Janner, Barnett||Perkins, Walter R. D.||Strickland, Captain W. F.|
|Jennings, Roland||Petherick, M.||Sugden, Sir Wilfrid Hart|
|Johnston, J. W. (Clackmannan)||Peto, Sir Basil E. (Devon, Barnstaple)||Sutcliffe, Harold|
|Jones, Sir G. W. H. (Stoke New'gton)||Pickering, Ernest H.||Tate, Mavis Constance|
|Jones, Henry Haydn (Merioneth)||Potter, John||Thompson, Luke|
|Ker, J. Campbell||Powell, Lieut.-Col. Evelyn G. H.||Thorp, Linton Theodore|
|Kerr, Hamilton W.||Pownall, Sir Assheton||Touche, Gordon Cosmo|
|Law, Sir Alfred||Ramsay, Alexander (W. Bromwich)||Turten, Robert Hugh|
|Law, Richard K. (Hull, S.W.)||Ramsden, Sir Eugene||Wallace, Captain D. E. (Hornsey)|
|Leighton, Major B. E. P.||Rankin, Robert||Ward, Lt.-Col. Sir A. L. (Hull)|
|Levy, Thomas||Reed, Arthur C. (Exeter)||Ward, Irene Mary Bewick (Wallsend)|
|Lewis, Oswald||Reid, Capt. A. Cunningham-||Waterhouse, Captain Charles|
|Liddall, Walter S.||Reid, James S. C. (Stirling)||Watt, Captain George Steven H.|
|Lindsay, Noel Ker||Reid, William Allan (Derby)||Williams, Charles (Devon, Torquay)|
|Llewellyn-Jones, Frederick||Renwick, Major Gustav A.||Wills, Wilfrid D.|
|Lockwood, John C. (Hackney, C.)||Rhys, Hon. Charles Arthur U.||Windsor-Clive, Lieut.-Colonel George|
|Lockwood, Capt. J. H. (Shipley)||Roberts, Aled (Wrexham)||Wise, Alfred R.|
|Lovat-Fraser, James Alexander||Roberts, Sir Samuel (Ecclesall)||Womersley, Walter James|
|Mabane, William||Ropner, Colonel L.||Wood, Sir Murdoch McKenzie (Banff)|
|MacAndrew, Lieut.-Col. C. G. (Partick)||Rosbotham, Sir Samuel||Young, Rt. Hon. Sir Hilton (S'v'noaks)|
|MacAndrew, Capt. J. O. (Ayr)||Ross, Ronald D.|
|McConnell, Sir Joseph||Ross Taylor, Walter (Woodbridge)||TELLERS FOR THE AYES.—|
|McCorquodale, M. S.||Rothschild, James A. de||Sir Frederick Thomson and Captain|
|Macdonald, Capt. P. D. (I. of W.)||Ruggles-Brise, Colonel E. A.||Austin Hudson.|
|Maclay, Hon. Joseph Paton||Runge, Norah Cecil|
|Adams, D. M. (Poplar, South)||Grundy, Thomas W.||McGovern, John|
|Attlee, Clement Richard||Hall, F. (York, W.R., Normanton)||Maclean, Neil (Glasgow, Govan)|
|Banfield, John William||Hall, George H. (Merthyr Tydvil)||Maxton, James|
|Batey, Joseph||Hirst, George Henry||Milner, Major James|
|Brown, C. W. E. (Notts., Mansfield)||Jenkins, Sir William||Parkinson, John Allen|
|Buchanan, George||John, William||Price, Gabriel|
|Cape, Thomas||Jones, J. J. (West Ham, Silvertown)||Thorne, William James|
|Cocks, Frederick Seymour||Jones, Morgan (Caerphilly)||Tinker, John Joseph|
|Cripps, Sir Stafford||Kirkwood, David||Williams, David (Swansea, East)|
|Daggar, George||Lansbury, Rt. Hon. George||Williams, Edward John (Ogmore)|
|Davies, David L. (Pontypridd)||Lawson, John James||Williams, Dr. John H. (Llanelly)|
|Davies, Rhys John (Westhoughton)||Logan, David Gilbert||Williams, Thomas (York, Don Valley)|
|Greenwood, Rt. Hon. Arthur||Lunn, William|
|Grenfell, David Rees (Glamorgan)||McEntee, Valentine L.||TELLERS FOR THE NOES.—|
|Mr. Groves and Mr. Duncan Graham.|
Question put, and agreed to.
§ The SOLICITOR-GENERAL
I beg to move, in page 1, line 12, to leave out the words "if it is," and to insert instead thereof the words "and it is also."
§ This is a purely consequential Amendment.
§ Amendment agreed to.1296
§ 10.3 p.m.
§ Sir B. PETO
I beg to move, in page 1, line 15, to leave out from the word "which," to the first word "the" in line 17.
I hope to be able in connection with this Amendment to bring to the notice of the Committee a question which will 1297 not arouse controversy. Judging from the Amendments which have been discussed to-day it is difficult to introduce any subject which is not one of controversy. Here is a question which is purely one of advantage and clarity. The words that I propose to omit are:either the annual amount of the recoverable rent on the appointed day or.We have in the words in the Bill a double test of value, either the recoverable amount of rent or the rateable value. That introduces a question of doubt, and there may be disputes which may be costly to settle in the courts of law. The Committee will observe that in Clause 2 we have the words:shall not apply to any dwelling-house of which the rateable value on the appointed day did not exceed.There you have the simple definition of rateable value only. The purpose of the Amendment is to bring Clauses 1 and 2 into agreement, to have one measure of value by which it will be simple to settle the debateable question as to whether a house is to be decontrolled or not. If the Amendment is accepted, it will only be necessary to refer to the rate book to find out at what value the house is rated. If it is rated in the City of London below £45 or in Scotland below £45, or elsewhere below £35, the matter is settled, and there will be no subject of dispute. But if you have two standards of value, the amount of the recoverable rent on the day appointed or the rateable value, there is clearly a subject for argument. I am asking the Solicitor-General to tell me why these two different values are introduced. There must be a reason, and probably a very good reason, which may be good enough to satisfy me.
The Amendment is put forward by the Austioneers and Estate Agents Institute of Great Britain. I do not pretend to have any special knowledge of these matters, but I believe that the auctioneers and estate agents know something of the simplification of the law under which they act, and are not people who have any interest in having anything in the nature of difficulties as to the interpretation of an Act. They point out that some dwellings are rented at rents inclusive of rates and that others are rented at rates exclusive of rates, and that you may have two buildings of identical accommodation and identical value which, under this double definition, might in one case be 1298 controlled and in the other case decontrolled. That is clearly undesirable, and that is the point I desire to put to the Solicitor-General. Perhaps he will tell us why it is necessary to have this double, standard of ascertained value of these properties?
§ 10.9 p.m.
§ The SOLICITOR-GENERAL
I am glad to respond to the request of the hon. Member. He has said that the object of the Amendment is to produce greater clarity. Let me tell him at once what the point is. In 99 cases out of 100 the rateable value is, in fact, lower than the rent, and, as he says, if either is below the figure the house remains under the Bill. But he asks, why have two standards? The answer is that a great many of the houses which still remain included are the type of a dwelling-house which is a dwelling-house within a dwelling-house, two rooms, or one room, out of seven or eight, one floor out of three or four floors, which have never been separately assessed. If we do not give the alternative measure of rent as distinct from rateable value, landlords and tenants will have to go through the process which is open to them under Section 12 of the principal Act, to go to the court and incur the expense of getting an apportion-merit.
We do not want to cause that sort of unnecessary trouble and expense, and we give the alternative measure, if either the rent or the rateable value is below the figure, the house remains within the Bill. One or other of these two things is readily ascertainable without the trouble of going to the court. Incidentally, it follows a precedent which has already been applied for years under existing Acts. The hon. Member points out that in Clause 2 we refer only to rateable value. The reason for that is that we make the rateable value the measure, and the only measure, for the type of house in Clause 3, because it is the compounding limit for rates; that is why in Clause 3 rateable value only is mentioned.
§ Sir B. PETO
I am completely satisfied with the explanation of the Solicitor-General. My only object in putting down the Amendment was that it was represented to me that it would simplify procedure, but the hon. and learned Member 1299 has satisfied me that it would not have that effect, and I hope it will satisfy also those interests outside who are specially concerned in this matter. I beg to ask leave to withdraw the Amendment.
§ Mr. MACLEAN
Since we have given the alternative of rent or rates, would it not be advisable to leave rates out altogether and increase the amount of rent which will keep houses out of control?
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ 10.12 p.m.
§ Mr. RHYS DAVIES
I beg to move, in page 1, line 20, to leave out the word "forty-five" and to insert instead thereof the word "seventy."
It is obvious that if the Bill becomes law, as it now stands, the rateable value or the recoverable rent of houses to be controlled is one of the most important provisions in the Bill. Let me explain why it is that we raise the issue of the amount of recoverable rent or rateable value. Under this Clause houses will be controlled if they do not exceed a maximum of £45 in the London area, £45 in Scotland, and £35 elsewhere. Under this Amendment I am only entitled to deal with the case of London, that is to say, I am proposing to substitute £70 in the case of London instead of £45. I have an Amendment later, which I hope will be called, under which I shall be able to deal with the problem outside the Metropolis in a much more familiar way. It will be noticed that £35 covers everywhere outside London and Scotland, and of course I am more familiar with everywhere else than with London or Scotland. The Amendment as stated raises a very important point. The Minister on Second Reading stated, as to Class "B" houses:I think we must recognise that the pace of decontrol started by the Act of 1923, with gradual decontrol, is just about right. We cannot afford to go any faster and we need not go any slower."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 12th December, 1932; col. 53, Vol. 273.]There is a difference of opinion on that issue. Even if our Amendment were accepted and a sum of £70 were inserted instead of £45, the house to which our Amendment refers would still be subject to gradual decontrol under the provisions of the 1923 Act. What we are proposing to do is to bring a larger number of Class "B" houses within this category 1300 now confined to a £45 rateable value. It is not generally understood, whatever may be the case in London—though I do not think that London differs from other large cities in this respect—that working-class families have been compelled to remove into the larger houses because they could not secure the tenancy of smaller ones. We have the anomaly that where the income of a family might be very low and the size of the family very large, that that family has been forced to tenant some of these old vacant houses at high rents because they could not secure the tenancies of smaller ones with lower rents. We want to include these larger houses because they have now become definitely, in some quarters of our large cities, working-class houses, whereas formerly they were the houses of middle-class folk. There is indeed a case to be made out for raising the figure as we suggest.
It is not generally understood what a change has taken place in domestic economy in respect of rent. Before the War it was always understood that the rent should not absorb more than one-eighth of the family income. I believe it is true to say that now the average amount absorbed for rent out of the income of a working-class family is one-fifth of the income. In some cases of these large old houses the rent may absorb as much as 33 to 50 per cent. of the tenant's wages. We ought, therefore, to increase the recoverable rent mentioned in the Bill, particularly in the Metropolis, in order to prevent the exploitation of poorer folk who are being forced to tenant these large houses. A goodly number of working people, especially those employed in the markets of our great cities, cannot go out to live on the new suburban estates. They have to live near their place of employment. My hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Hulme (Sir J. Nall) knows that as well as I do. Therefore you have in the large cities terraces and streets of very large houses that were once occupied by fairly rich people who have gone to reside in the countryside, and these old houses have now become more or less slums. But whether they are slums or not, the rents remain high. In fact, the rents in some cases are very high and consequently we want to insert this increased sum which would bring them into control once again.
§ The DEPUTY-CHAIRMAN
I do not want to do anything to curtail the hon. Gentleman's argument. I realise that this is a very important subject, but it seems to me that the argument which he is now directing quite correctly towards the Metropolis, is one which obviously must be repeated to some extent on the next two Amendments. I only want to safeguard the position of the Chair. If it is the wish of the Committee we could have a general discussion of the whole principle on this Amendment, on the understanding that Divisions were taken on the remaining Amendments, which deal with the same question. I am in the hands of the Committee but I feel that, unless some such course is taken, we may be in the difficulty that hon. Members speaking on subsequent Amendments will be repeating arguments which have already been used.
§ Mr. KNIGHT
As some of my hon. Friends and I are responsible for an Amendment to insert the larger figure of £100, which I understand is not going to be called, in our view it would be an advantage to have a general discussion on the lines suggested.
§ Sir H. YOUNG
I think your suggestion, Captain Bourne, would be helpful to the Committee, and would enable us to have a business-like discussion. I would only suggest that the discussion might be extended so as to include the Amendments dealing with (a), (b) and (c) as all three involve the same principle.
§ Mr. N. MACLEAN
Are there not some points in which the Class "C" houses differ entirely from the Class "A" and Class "B" houses?
§ Sir H. YOUNG
The hon. Member has misunderstood me. I am not referring to Classes "A," "B" and "C" houses, but to paragraphs (a), (b) and (c) of the Sub-section.
§ The DEPUTY-CHAIRMAN
My feeling is that it may be convenient to take a general discussion covering all the houses included in paragraphs (a), (b) and (c) on this first Amendment, on the understanding, of course, that it is open to hon. Members to divide on the question of the £45 in London and the £45 in Scotland, and the £35 elsewhere, if they so desire. With regard to the point 1302 raised by the hon. and learned Member for South Nottingham (Mr. Knight), his Amendment in any case would be covered by this Amendment, but it is open for him to argue that the larger figure should be inserted.
§ Mr. RHYS DAVIES
I am much obliged, Captain Bourne, for your suggestion, and I am pleased that the Committee appear to have taken the gentle hints which I made on several occasions in my remarks that it would be better to deal with the whole problem on this Amendment. That I now propose to do If we take the rents which apply to these figures, I am told that a weekly rent of 17s. 6d. would be equivalent to the £45 figure in London, and about 13s. 6d. would be the equivalent in the provinces. The rents paid by working-class folks for some of these larger houses are much higher than that.
Let me deal with part of the country with which I am familiar. It has been argued to-day that we ought to decontrol houses as quickly as we can. The proposals of the Minister would, of course, decontrol them sooner than our Amendment. That argument is put because, forsooth, we are told, property is in a bad way, and we ought to give help to property-owners in order to bring about the free play of supply and demand once again. In Manchester it seems that some property-owners are not doing badly at all. I have here a copy of a report which has some bearing on this point. I have a report of the firm of Messrs C. W. Provis & Sons, one of the largest firms of auctioneers and property dealers in Manchester, and it has astonished me to find that in spite of all this depression, in spite of the scarcity of cottage property, this firm has informed the public that in 1931 it realised on sales of property £279,000, and in 1932, £289,000, an increase of £10,000 in one year, and that in spite of the trade depression. Consequently, we ought to start right away with this in our minds, that property owners and estate agents are not doing badly, in spite of the depression in other spheres. No man in his senses would put all property owners in the same category. The vast majority of the people of this country, property owners and employers, do the right thing, but we have to legislate in these matters against the man who takes undue advan- 1303 tage of his fellows, and there are property owners who do that.
I will read a case that has been brought to my notice in a very admirable report issued by the Manchester and Salford Housing Council. This deals with one of the large houses that we want to cover in our Amendment, a house in Red Bank. It is a very strange thing about slumdom, that the more slummy they are the more beautiful are the names. They are either Paradise Avenue, or Angel Meadow, or something like that. The paragraph reads:One house furnishes an extraordinary example. A firm of estate agents let it to a man not resident in the district, who sub-lets it to another man who does not live there himself but in turn sub-lets it to the actual occupier for £1; the occupier again sub-lets part of the house to another family for 8s. The rent of a neighbouring house in better condition and with more habitable rooms is 8s. 9d.As I said, this House of Commons is never called upon the legislate in respect to the good employer or the good landlord. What we have to do in this House is to deal with the man who does that sort of thing to his tenants, and that is one of the objects of the Amendment. We want to bring to the notice of the Minister this new problem in connection with housing. I have streets in my mind in the City of Manchester—there will be half a dozen of them, I should imagine, within a mile of the centre of the City—that were the best houses probably in the city 50 years ago. They are to-day rented at £1 or 25s., and I have instances here where the rent paid by the occupier of one of those houses may be 25s. a week, and he gains by sub-letting separate rooms as much as £10 a week on the house. Therefore, I think our case is a good one indeed. Now let me say a word or two further about Manchester, just to show what can happen there. This is in another district, Chorlton-on-Medlock:One or two streets in this district contain larger and, at one time, better class houses.These are now let off in furnished and unfurnished rooms. I will give one case of a house with six rooms. The landlord receives 14s. 6d. rent. The house is let off as follows: one room, rent 9s., a man, wife and one child; one room, rent 9s., a man, wife and two children; one room, 1304 rent 6s., one woman; one room, rent 6s., one woman and her granddaughter; one room, rent 5s., one woman; one room, rent 5s., another woman. The tenant of the house draws 40s. a week in rents. We want to be certain that this sort of thing shall be stopped not only in London or Scotland, but throughout the country. The purpose of my Amendment is to deal with that problem. I am not without sympathy with the argument that the man who builds a house ought to have a fair return on his property, but I have come across cases like this.
I know a street in Manchester where the pre-War rent of a house was 11s. 6d. and the rent now is 19s. 6d. That house is still controlled, but the house next door is decontrolled and the rent is 25s. Unless this Amendment is carried, the house which is now let at 19s. 6d. will at once he 25s. Hon. Members know cases like that in every part of the country. I also know a house the rent of which was 8s. 6d. prior to the War. There has not been an ounce of paint put on it and no decorations or repairs done to it by the owner and the rent is now 23a. 6d. We are afraid, therefore, that unless we extend the amount of the rateable value or the recoverable rent by our Amendment we shall not be able to include houses like that within this category. There is nothing better for the purposes of an argument like this than to take actual cases based upon facts which are sent to Members of Parliament. Let me give a case which was brought to my notice the other day. A man wrote that he had a son who lives in Blackpool in a decontrolled house, the rent of which is 16s. a week, and with rates £1 0s. 6d. The controlled houses in the same street belonging to the same owner are 8s. 9d. exclusive of rates.
I feel sure that unless the Minister accepts the Amendment those houses will all be let at the higher rent. Another case is of a man living in a decontrolled house paying 13s. 6d. clear. The controlled houses in the same block are 7s. 6d. a week clear. You do not require to be a revolutionary to talk about the plunder of the house owner against the tenant. As a matter of fact, this question has long ago left the category of house owners exploiting the working classes only. There are now house owners who exploit other house owners and members of the middle class who 1305 exploit the middle class tenant. There are cases coming to light that warrant me in saying that no matter what colour or politics the Government may be, we are entitled to call upon the Government of the day to put a stop to the plundering that is going on in connection with rents in this country. For these reasons I beg to move the Amendment, and I trust the Minister will be good enough to tell us why he has put in these specific figures and has not made the sums larger. I know that he will reply that they are based upon the recommendations of the Departmental Committee, but it is not always that Governments translate the reports of commissions and committees into law and not always that they do it with the exactness which they are adopting in this case. I should imagine that the right hon. Gentleman appreciates the political significance of keeping the figure too low here.
§ 10.36 p.m.
§ Sir H. YOUNG
I rise to a point of Order. The hon. Member addressed a. good deal of his arguments to "C" class houses, and as to the limitations between the "C" and "B" class houses. If we could extend the scope of this Debate to include also Amendments under Clause 2 as to the limitation of "C" class houses, that might be a convenience, but I think we ought to be quite clear whether we are going to do that or not, because hitherto all that you have allowed us to do, in your discretion, Captain Bourne, is to discuss Amendments to Clause 1 as to the limitations between Class "A" and Class "B" houses.
§ Mr. DAVIES
I hope I did not deal with Class "C" houses. If I did, I acted inadvertently in thus slipping outside the scope of this Clause. May I respectfully ask the right hon. Gentleman that we should confine ourselves on Clause 1 to Class "A" and Class "B" houses, because if we deal with Class "C" houses as well we shall land ourselves in a difficulty.
§ Sir H. YOUNG
I entirely agree with the hon. Member, but I thought it was as well that we should be clear that the Debate on this Amendment was not to range over the distinction between Class "B" and Class "C" houses.
§ The DEPUTY-CHAIRMAN
I think it would be better to confine the discussion to the Clause. I must admit that I have found it a little difficult to follow all the intricacies of this subject.
§ 10.38 p.m.
§ Mr. JANNER
I rise to support the Amendment, and though I do not want to repeat unnecessarily some of the arguments that were used in respect of previous Amendments, I think it is important that we should realise exactly what the Bill proposes to do. Before this Bill becomes an Act houses of a rateable value of £105 in London will remain controlled. In September of this year, if this Bill is passed, it is intended that houses of a rateable value of £45, or of a recoverable rent of £45, should be the ones to be retained under control. A drop from £105 to £45 at one swoop sounds sufficiently drastic, and affects, as I have said before on other Amendments, 500,000 houses, occupied by somewhere in the neighbourhood of 2,000,000 people. The position is even worse than appears on the face of it. If we take the recoverable rent as the basis, the "standard rent" of £105 meant a rent that you were entitled to increase by 15 per cent., by 25 per cent, and so on,
Therefore, if you take the £45 basis, which the Act places as the limit to which decontrol shall in future apply, or above which limit houses shall become decontrolled forthwith, you are dealing with a house which is based on a standard rent of £30. So that you have dropped, not from £105 to £45, but from £105 to £30, and you are below one-third of the amount that was controlled before. To do that in one step is a very serious thing. You are dealing with people who belong to the professional classes in the so-called black-coated occupations, and you are also dealing with a large number of people belonging to the working class. It is perfectly true that the Minister of Health said that it does not matter because the rents will not be increased, but on the contrary will be decreased, and that when the houses are decontrolled everything will be perfectly happy and men will be able to obtain alternative accommodation without any difficulty. That is precisely what the right hon. Gentleman said was going to be the effect of it.
If that is to be the effect of it, why not give it an opportunity of working 1307 down by a more gradual process? I would go much further than hon. Members on the Opposition Benches, and would want a much higher standard. They put it at £70, and that is a drop from £105 to something between £45 and £50. My contention is that theirs is not by any means an unreasonable request. We do not know how many of the 500,000 houses which are still uncontrolled come within that category. It would have been helpful if we had known how many of them could be fitted into the compartments of rateable value ranging between £105 and the £45 suggested. We do not know that, and we cannot afford to take any risks in this matter. It is a very serious thing to take a risk of this nature, because no one knows what is going to happen to those people. I have illustrations here, which have not been contradicted, which I quote from the "Star" newspaper, and in which those who are affected by the provisions of this Bill have written letters to Mr. Rider stating particulars of their own cases. He has not received any letters from people who have suggested for a moment that their rents will be decreased after decontrol. I would like to mention one or two of these illustrations, because they clearly show the fear that exists in the minds of the people concerned.
A civil servant says, "I have been badly hit, for one in my position, by the economy and other measures of the Government. I have suffered by repeated falls in pension and by the Conversion of the 5 per cent. War Loan. All my pension, security and other savings having been invested in the War Loan, which the Government were constantly urging people, especially civil servants to purchase. I have lived in this house since 1912. The rent was formely £43 and the rateable value £36. Now the rent is £60 and the house is rated at This is one of the houses which would come out of the sphere of control at the present time. If the Bill passes, I shall be obliged to leave the neighbourhood altogether." That man is a civil servant and clearly is not incapable of working these things out for himself, and, if he feels satisfied that his rent is going down, he would not complain in such a manner as would bring the complaint to the notice of everybody and anybody. He 1308 says that, if the Bill passes, he fears he will have to leave his house.
Assuming that there are only 100,000 such cases among the 500,000—my own opinion is that more probably there will be 499,000—can we at this stage afford to put these people in jeopardy, to put them in such a plight that they will not be able to help themselves, in such a position that they will still have to meet their ordinary commitments, and provide themselves with food and clothing, while, on the top of all that, when their income has been considerably reduced, they will have to find an additional rent. I have another case, that of a private tutor, who has rented a house since 1911. The rent was then £58, and the rateable value £52. The rent was increased under the Act to £77, and, if the house were decontrolled, it would be put up to over £100.There is not the slightest chance of my income going up,says this man. [An HON. MEMBER: "What are the rates?"] The house is certainly rated at a higher figure to-day; it would come within the provisions of the Clause to which we are referring. I am giving facts which have been published, and which have not been denied by anyone. As I have said, the house was rated at £52. If the hon. Member thinks that that was the actual amount of the rates, I would suggest that he should look up the handbook on these matters, when he will find that the rates are slightly lower than the rateable value in most cases. Anyhow, we will assume that in this case they are lower.
I have given two typical illustrations of what may happen, and I believe, and my hon. Friends on these benches believe, that it is our duty to protect people from being placed in a position of this sort if we can possibly do so. The same thing applies in the provinces, and I assume that it also applies in Scotland. We ask that, if there is to be decontrol, at least the axe should fall slowly, that people should have the option of moving out of their house if they choose, so that the house may become decontrolled by being empty, and that at least they should be given some little time by retaining control of houses up to a rateable value of £70.
§ 10.48 p.m.
§ Mr. MICHAEL BEAUMONT
I oppose this Amendment, and have little doubt that the Minister will resist it. I should 1309 have a great deal more sympathy with it if the arguments and complaints as to hardship to which we have listened were not so entirely one-sided. Throughout the whole of the arguments to which I have listened in the Debate, from hon. Members opposite and from hon. Members below the Gangway, there is the same old fallacy that, because a man is a tenant, he is some form of angel who can do no sin, while, if a man is a landlord, he must be an evil scoundrel. That is the underlying basis of the whole of their speeches. The hon. Member for Westhoughton (Mr. Rhys Davies), whose speech was the real cause of my rising, said one thing with which I am disposed to agree. He said that the conditions of rent are such that any Government might be asked to intervene in certain conditions to deal with the matter. I agree, and that applies just as much to deterioration of property by bad statutory tenants as it does to the exactions of bad landlords.
In dealing with this matter of the decontrol of Class "B" houses, it is essential to see on which side the greatest hardship lies. We heard certain cases put forward by the hon. Member for Westhoughton. He gave us a number of cases in which the rooms were let out at different rents, but he did not explain to us how this Amendment was going to affect those cases. If the houses are now under control, those rents are illegal and should be dealt with; if they are not under control, this Amendment will not affect them in any way. Therefore, the cases he put forward are entirely irrelevant to the issue. He gave us the further case of two houses, one of which was controlled and let at a rent of 8s. 9d. and the other was decontrolled and let at £1 0s. 6d. He brought forward no evidence to show which was the just and fair rent. I contend it is entirely fanciful to assume that the 8s. 9d. rent is just as opposed to the £1 0s. 6d. rent.
What this Committee has to do in dealing with this particular Bill is not to bring forward partisan Amendments biased in favour of one class or the other, but to try and strike the happy medium of justice or injustice—call it what you will—between landlord and tenant. Whatever we do there is going to be hardship. The object of this Bill, of this Clause and, I hope, of this 1310 Amendment is to reduce that hardship on both sides. If that be the intention of the Amendment, it signally fails in that respect. It is, in fact, asking for a new class of houses to be created, a class of "A2" or "B1" houses, a special class of houses unknown to previous Acts or to any of the committees which have discussed the subject. It is asking, in effect, that the class of decontrolled houses should be cut in two. There has been no argument put forward for that course.
There are many people, both landlords and tenants, who are dissatisfied with the categories into which controlled houses have fallen in the past. There are many border-line cases in which people have wished to create special classes of houses for rent control purposes for their own benefit. Those demands have always been refused. In the whole history of rent restriction those three classes, "A," "B" and "C," have been adopted, and on the whole that division has worked well. There is no reason to assume it will not work well in the future. The report of the Marley Committee, on which this Bill is based, has shown that the time has now arrived when Class "A" houses can be freed from control without hardship, and that there are enough houses to enable the rents to adjust themselves without any form of profiteering resulting from a shortage of houses. The decontrol of Class "B" houses has been going on very satisfactorily; it is not being changed by this Measure and will continue perfectly satisfactorily.
There is no case whatever for putting in a new class of house at £70 or £80 to cut across the whole principle of the classification of houses under the Rent Restriction Acts of the past. In fact the hardship is very largely manufactured. There are a great many people who know they have been paying unduly low rents and are frightened that they are going to be made to pay proper rents. I do not blame them. I have every sympathy with them, but I do not think the House should act upon their agitation. For these reasons I contend that the Amendment is entirely unnecessary. An alteration of the classification of houses would be a very serious matter. It would disorganise the whole aspect of the Rent Restriction Acts. It would throw out of gear the whole basis on 1311 which we have worked in the past, and nothing but a very strong case, far stronger than has been made out tonight, would justify such a very considerable departure from the whole principle on which the Acts have been based as would be involved in the acceptance of the Amendment. I do not pretend to have any knowledge of Scotland but, as far as England is concerned, there is no case for the Amendment or for a departure from the principle of the Bill. I hope the Government will, as I have no doubt they will, say they cannot see their way to accept the Amendment.
§ 10.58 p.m.
§ Mr. KNIGHT
I shall not have time to advance the reasons that I desire to put before the Committee, but I wish to inform the hon. Member that the opponents of the Clause are not moved by the feelings that he attributes to them. We realise that there are contesting claims and we desire to weigh them with sympathy, but on cool consideration of the whole matter we think there are reasons why the Government should hesitate to proceed with any proposals in regard to decontrol. Our view is that there are changes in the economic situation which are reflected in the financial circumstances of many citizens of such a character that the Government should hesitate before they proceed with these proposals. There are other matters in the Bill which we think meet the national necessities, but so far as decontrol is concerned, we desire to place before them views which we hope will persuade them not to continue with these proposals in the present emergency. I took the occasion on the Second Reading to make some submissions to the House as to the consequences which I feared would follow from the pursuit of these proposals. The result has been that I have received in confidence very many communications from householders in all parts of the country showing how they will be affected by these proposals, and it was because of this circumstance that I desired on this occasion to go into these particulars.
§ It being Eleven of the Clock, the CHAIRMAN left the Chair to make his Report to the House.1312
§ Committee report Progress; to sit again upon Monday next.