HC Deb 12 April 1938 vol 334 cc1075-82

Section two of the Act of 1920 (which provides for permitted increases in rent) is hereby repealed.—[Mr. Stephen.]

Brought up, and read the First time.

11.20 p.m.

Mr. Stephen

I beg to move, "That the Clause be read a Second time."

Section 2 of the Act of 1920 permitted an increase in the rents of houses. At that time the Labour party were in Opposition. The position now as compared with 192o is much worse. These houses are a quarter of a century older and the people owning them are still being allowed these increases in rent. The Marley Committee regarded the increases as the maximum, and evidently thought that the maximum would not necessarily be paid. I do not know of any case where the owner of property is taking less than the permitted increase—the maximum has become the minimum. I want the position to be on the basis of pre-war rents for pre-war houses. I know that this might mean that in a small number of cases owners of property would get less than they were getting in 1914, but that would not distress me unduly. I have put down the new Clause in order to force the issue. It is high time these increases were discontinued and that there was a reduction in rents. The cost of commodities has been steadily rising; people have to pay more for food and are not able to pay big rents for what in Scotland particularly are rotten, rat-infested houses. They are being asked to pay these increased rents for rotten slums. I protest against the way in which the people in these poor working-class houses are being treated. They have not been given the houses they ought to have. I repeat once more the slogan of pre-war rents for pre-war houses.

11.24 p.m.

Mr. Maxton

I beg to second the Motion.

I do not propose to make a speech, although I know that frequently the importance of the subject is judged by the length of the speech. I want to make just a formal speech, but it must be regarded as being in inverse ratio to the importance I attach to the Motion. The importance I attach to the Motion is infinitely greater than the length of the speech I propose to make.

11.25 p.m.

Mr. Johnston

My hon. Friends and I intend to support this new Clause, as we supported it when it was moved in the Standing Committee. We do so on the following grounds. First, the 25 per cent. increase allowed for repairs in innumerable cases is not being expended on repairs, and therefore, the recipients are guilty of extracting from their tenants an increased sum every year to which they are neither morally nor, in my opinion, legally entitled. Secondly, even if it were the case that the landlords were expending this 25 per cent. increase on repairs, the fact remains that since 1920, when the figure of 25 per cent. was estimated to be an adequate amount to give to the landlords, the cost of repairs has fallen remarkably. It is difficult to get precise figures, but the only evidence tendered to the Ridley Committee was tendered by the Scottish Office, and they declared that since 1920, labour jobbing costs have fallen from 3s. 3d. to 2s. 4d. per hour; slates have fallen from £12 5s. to £10 15s.; cement from 120s. 6d. to 45s.; timber from 6s. per cubic foot to 2s. 10d.; and lead from £50 per ton to £27 5s. a ton. With prices and costs falling, even if it was justifiable to give the owner an increase of 25 per cent. for repairs in 1920, it is no longer justifiable to give him the same amount now.

Thirdly, the owner was given an allowance of 10 per cent. for increased mortgage interest. Any number of them have never expended one penny on mortgage interest, and some of them have had no increase in their mortgage interest. Fourthly, they were allowed a 5 per cent. increased yield upon their capital invested in the property. Since 1920, it will be admitted, the rate of interest on gilt-edged securities has fallen certainly by from 1½ per cent. to 1¾ per cent., and there is no justification now for the increased yield of 5 per cent. I say that in Scotland alone, where the landlord has to meet out of his own pocket increased rates as compared with 1920, he has a grievance, but that grievance does not exist in the case of the English landlords, who are operating on a different rating system. Apart from that, I believe that the new Clause moved by my hon. Friend the Member for Camlachie (Mr. Stephen) is justified in every way, and I and my hon. Friends intend to vote for it in the Division Lobby.

11.29 p.m.

Sir K. Wood

I propose to make only a brief reply to the speech of the hon. Member for Camlachie (Mr. Stephen). I hope that he will not consider that I am showing any disrespect to him, but he will remember that I explained the position of the Government at some length when we dealt with this matter in the Standing Committee. The matter was very carefully considered then, and the new Clause was rejected by 22 votes to 9. The hon. Gentleman has rightly said that the object is to restrict the rent which can be charged for a whole house to the pre-war rent. This matter was carefully examined, in the first instance, by the Marley Committee, which looked into the propriety of the 40 per cent. total of permitted increase in rent and found the increase justified. The matter was again examined by the Ridley Committee, which pointed out, in paragraph 106, the fact that, as circumstances had not materially changed since 1931, the conclusions of the Marley Committee were still valid. The permitted increases included the increase in rates chargeable on the house in 1914. That increase, of course, does not inure to the benefit of the landlord, because he has to pay it over to the local authority. Therefore, if this Clause were adopted by the House in its present form, it would mean that the landlord of a small controlled house would in fact obtain substantially less rent for it than he did in 1914. For that and for other reasons, I must ask the House to reject the Clause.

11.32 p.m.

Mr. Gallacher

It would be one of the most desirable things that this House could do if it were to pass this Clause and bring the rent of controlled houses hack to the pre-war rent. Any hon. Member who has gone round about working-class districts and who has discussed the matter in any way with housewives. must surely appreciate the amount of worry, amounting almost to agony, that is being experienced in district after district on this question of rents, hot only on account of the fact that the rents have increased, but also on account of the fear of what is going to happen. This is one of the heaviest burdens of any householder. If hon. Members consider the income of the average working-class householder, no one can deny that the prewar rent is the absolute maximum that should be taken out of that income, but the Minister says that the landlord should be given an increased rent because he puts the rates on to the rent. That may be a desirable thing from the landlord's point of view, but it shows the big consideration of the Minister and those associated with him for the landlord class.

The right hon. Gentleman shows the very greatest consideration for the landlord. In his view, it is justifiable that the landlord should put the rates on to, the rent. But what consideration has the right hon. Gentleman shown for the poor fellow who is paying the rent? He has not only to pay the rent, but he pays also the rates, and rates on rates, in Scotland at any rate. When you allow the landlord to put the rates on to the rent, the tenant has to pay not only rates on the required rent, but also rates on the rates. Have you any consideration for the tenant? None at all. An hon. Member said to-night that he objected to landlords being called blackmailers and said that they would not rob the tenants. Are we supposed to accept that seriously? Does any hon. Member on the other side really believe that the landlord would not rob the tenant? Why was rent restriction introduced if it were not that the landlord was robbing the tenant? Thousands of Acts have been passed to keep the robbers from completely fleecing the working-class.

The Minister of Health has a great responsibility for the health of the people, and he knows that nothing plays such havoc with health as worry. I am prepared to take the Minister to any working-class district, where, if he were to say in any home, "are we prepared to support a Clause that will restore pre-War rents?" he would see worry flee at once from the household. If he wants health he should keep down rents, and one of the best ways to do that is to pass this new Clause. I was one of a number of people who were responsible for the campaign which brought about rent restriction because we saw the most ter-

rible conditions reigning in the area in which we lived. The Minister of Health should not worry about the landlords; none of them have as yet had to go to the public assistance committees. They will make good all right. As Minister of Health, however, he should consider the great mass of the people, the men and women who keep industry and the homes going. It is on them that the well-being of the population depends.

Mr. Magnay

Will the hon. Member address his remarks to the Labour councils which exercise a means test before they let houses at far bigger rent——

Mr. Deputy-Speaker (Captain Bourne)

I do not think that that can possibly arise on this new Clause.

Mr. Gallacher

The lack of intelligence that is demonstrated on the other side is amazing. We are discussing a problem that affects the Minister of Health more than any other problem—the problem of overcoming the declining population and building up the health of the community, and I say that one of the most important items is to safeguard the family budget. The way to do that is to keep down rents. So I will give the Minister a slogan for his health campaign—"Down with rents and up with the health of the population."

Question put, "That the Clause be read a Second time."

The House divided: Ayes, 107; Noes, 187.

Division No. 180.] AYES. [11.39 p.m.
Adams, D. (Consett) Ede, J. C. Hopkin, D.
Adams, D. M. (Poplar, S.) Edwards, Sir C. (Bedwellty) Jagger, J.
Adamson, W. M. Fletcher, Lt.-Comdr. R. T. H. Jenkins, Sir W. (Neath)
Alexander, Rt. Hon. A. V. (H'lsbr.) Frankel, D, John, W.
Ammon, C. G. Gallacher, W. Johnston, Rt. Hon. T.
Anderson, F. (Whitehaven) Gardner, B. W. Jones, A. C. (Shipley)
Attlee, Rt. Hon. C. R. Garro Jones, G. M. Kelly, W. T.
Banfield, J. W. Gibson, R. (Greenock) Kirby, B. V.
Barnes, A. J. Graham, D. M. (Hamilton) Lansbury, Rt. Hon. G.
Barr, J. Green, W. H. (Deptford) Lathan, G.
Benn, Rt. Hon. W. W. Greenwood, Rt. Hon. A. Lawson, J. J.
Benson, G. Grenfell, D. R. Leach, W.
Bevan, A. Griffiths, G. A. (Hemsworth) Lee, F.
Bromfield, W. Griffiths, J. (Llanelly) Logan, D. G.
Brown, C. (Mansfield) Groves, T. E. Lunn, W.
Buchanan, G. Guest, Dr. L. H. (Islington, N.) Macdonald, G. (Ince)
Burke, W. A. Hall, G. H. (Aberdare) McEntee, V. La T.
Cape. T. Hall, J. H. (Whitechapel) Maclean, N.
Cassells, T. Harvey, T. E. (Eng. Univ's.) Maxton, J.
Cocks, F. S. Heyday, A. Milner, Major J.
Daggar, G. Henderson, A. (Kingswinford) Morrison, R. C. (Tottenham, N.)
Davidson, J. J. (Maryhill) Henderson, J. (Ardwick) Muff, G.
Davies, R. J. (Westhoughton) Henderson, T. (Tradeston) Noel-Baker, P. J.
Davies, S. O. (Merthyr) Hills, A. (Pontefract) Oliver, G. H.
Dunn, E. (Rather Valley) Hollins, A. Paling, W.
Parkinson, J. A. Silverman, S. S. Viant, S. P.
Pearson, A. Simpson, F. B. Watson, W. McL.
Pethick-Lawrence Rt. Han. F. W. Smith, Ben (Rotherhithe) Westwood, J.
Price, M. P. Smith, E. (Stoke) Wilkinson, Ellen
Pritt, D. N. Smith, T. (Normanton) Williams, T. (Don Valley)
Quibell, D. J. K. Sorensen, R. W. Windsor, W. (Hull, C.)
Ridley, G. Stephen, C. Woods, G. S. (Finsbury)
Riley, B. Stewart, W. J. (H'ght'-le-Sp'ng) Young, Sir R. (Newton)
Ritson, J. Summerskill, Edith
Roberts, Rt. Hon. F. O. (W. Brom.) Taylor, R. J. (Morpeth) TELLERS OR H A S.—
Robinson, W. A. (St. Helens) Tinker, J. J. Mr. Whiteley and Mr. Mathers.
Soxton. T. M. Tomlinson, G.
Acland-Troyte, Lt.-Col. G. J. Furness, S. N. Petherick, M.
Adams, S. V. T. (Leeds, W.) Fyfe, D. P. M. Pilkington, R.
Albery, Sir Irving George, Megan Lloyd (Anglesey) Ponsonby, Col. C. E.
Allen, Col. J. Sandeman (B'knhead) Gibson, Sir C. G. (Pudsey and Otloy) Pownall, Lt.-Col. Sir Assheton
Anderson, Rt. Hn. Sir J. (Sc'h Univ's) Gledhill, G. Procter, Major H. A.
Apsley, Lord Gluckstein, L. H. Radford, E. A.
Assheton, R. Gower, Sir R. V. Raikes, H. V. A. M.
Astor, Hon. W. W. (Folham, E.) Griffith, F. Kingsley (M'ddl'sbro, W.) Ramsbotham, H.
Atholl, Duchess [...] Gritten, W. G. Howard Rathbone, J. R. (Bodmin)
Baillie, Sir A. W. M. Guest, Lleut.-Colonel H. (Drake) Rayner, Major R. H.
Baldwin-Webb, Col. J. Guest, Maj. Hon.O. (C'mb'rw'll, N.W.) Reid, J. S. C. (Hillhead)
Balfour, Capt. H. H. (Isle of Thanet) Gunston, Capt. Sir D. W. Reid, W. Allan (Derby)
Balniel, Lord Hacking, Rt. Hon. D. H. Ropner, Colonel L.
Bernays, R. H. Hannah, I. C. Ross Taylor, W. (Woodbridge)
Boulton, W. W. Hannon, Sir P. J. H. Rowlands, G.
Boyce, H. Leslie Harbord, A. Royds, Admiral Sir P. M. R.
Braithwaite, Major A. N. Haslam, Sir J. (Bolton) Ruggles-Brise, Colonel Sir E. A.
Briscoe, Capt. R. G. Heilgers, Captain F. F. A. Russell, Sir Alexander
Brooklebank, Sir Edmund Hely-Hutehinson, M. R. Salmon, Sir I.
Brown, Col. D. C. (Hexham) Hepburn, P. G. T. Buchan- Salt, E. W.
Bull, B. B. Hepworth, J. Samuel, M. R. A.
Butcher, H. W. Herbert, Major J. A. (Monmouth) Sandys, E. D.
Campbell, Sir E. T. Holdsworth, H. Sassoon, Rt. Hon. Sir P.
Cartland, J. R. H. Holmes, J S. Scott, Lord William
Carver, Major W. H. Hope, Captain Hon. A. O. J. Seely, Sir H. M.
Cazalet, Thelma (Islington, E.) Hudson, Capt. A. U. M. (Hack., N.) Selley, H. R.
Channon, H. Hutchinson, G. C. Shaw, Major P. S. (Wavertree)
Clarke, Colonel R. S. (E. Grinstead) Inskip, Rt. Hon. Sir T. W. H. Shepperson, Sir E. W.
Colman, N. C. D. James, Wing-Commander A. W. H. Shute, Colonel Sir J. J.
Colvllle, Lt.-Col. Rt. Hon. D. J. Joel, D. J. B. Smith, Bracewell (Dulwich)
Cooke, J. D. (Hammersmith, S.) Jones, Sir G. W. H. (S'k N'w'gt'n) Smith, Sir R. W. (Aberdeen)
Cooper. Rt. Hn. T. M. (E'nburgh, W.) Jones, L. (Swansea W.) Somervell, Sir D. B. (Crewe)
Cox, H. B. Trevor Kerr, Colonel C. I (Montrose) Spears, Brigadier-General E. L.
Craven-Ellis, W. Kerr, J. Graham (Scottlsh Univs.) Spens. W. P.
Crookshank, Capt. H. F. C. Latham, Sir P. Storey, S.
Croom-Johnson, R. P. Lennox-Boyd, A. T. L. Stourton, Major Hon. J. J.
Cross, R. H. Liddall, W. S. Strauss, E. A. (Southwark, N.)
Crowder, J. F. E. Llewellin, Colonel J. J. Strauss, H. G. (Norwich)
Cruddas, Col. B. Lloyd, G. W. Sueter, Rear-Admiral Sir M. F.
Culverwell, C. T. Locker-Lampson, Comdr. O. S. Taylor, Vice-Adm. E. A. (Padd., S.)
Davies, C. (Montgomery) Loftus, P. C. Thomas, J. P. L.
Davies, Major Sir G. F. (Yeovil) Lyons, A. M. Thomson, Sir J. D. W.
Dcland, G. F. Mabane, W. (Huddersfield) Titchfield, Marquess of
Duckworth, W. R. (Moss Side) MaCorquodale, M. S. Tryon, Major Rt. Hon. G. C.
Dugdale, Captain T. L. MacDonald, Rt. Hon. M. (Ross) Wallace, Capt. Rt. Hon. Euan
Duggan, H. J. Macdonald, Capt. P. (Isle of Wight) Ward, Lieut.-Col. Sir A. L. (Hull)
Duncan, J. A. L. McKie, J. H. Warrender, Sir V.
Eastwood, J. F. Magnay, T. Water house, Captain C.
Eckersley, P. T. Maitland, A. Watt, Major G. S. Harvie
Edmondson, Major Sir J. Margesson, Capt. Rt. Hon. H. D. R. Wayland, Sir W. A
Elliot, Rt. Hon. W. E. Maxwell, Hon. S. A Wells, S. R.
Ellis, Sir G. Mayhew, Lt.-Col. J. White, H. Graham
Elliston, Capt. G. S. Meller, Sir R. J. (Mitcham) Whiteley, Major J. P. (Buckingham)
Emery, J F. Mellor, Sir J. S. P. (Tamworth) Williams, H. G. (Croydon, S.)
Errington, E. Morrison, G. A. (Scottish Univ's.) Willoughby de Eresby, Lord
Erskine-Hill, A. G. Morrison, Rt. Hon. W. S. (Cirencester) Winterton, Rt. Hon. Earl
Evans, Capt. A. (Cardiff, S.) Muirhead, Lt.-Col. A. J. Wise, A. R.
Fildes, Sir H. Neven-Spence, Major B. H. H. Womerslay, Sir W. J.
Findlay, Sir E. Nicholson, G. (Farnham) Wood, Rt. Hon. Sir Kingsley
Fleming, E. L. O'Connor, Sir Terence J. Wragg, H.
Foot, D. M. O'Neill, Rt. Hon. Sir Hugh Wright, Wing-Commander J. A. C.
Fox, Sir G. W. G Palmer, G. E. H.
Fremantle, Sir F. E. Peat, C. U. TELLERS FOR THE NOES.—
Mr. Munro and Mr. Grimston.

Lords Amendments considered, and agreed to.

Ordered, That further consideration of the Bill, as amended, be now adjourned."—[Captain Margesson.]

Bill, as amended (in the Standing Committee), to be further considered To-morrow.

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