HC Deb 13 April 1938 vol 334 cc1185-219

6.5 p.m.

Mr. Johnston

I beg to move, in page 1, line 9, to leave out "relating to registration." I will, if I may, with your permission, Sir, discuss with this Amendment the substance of a later Amendment which appears under my name and the names of two of my hon. Friends—in page 1, line 21, at the end, to insert: Provided that the provisions of Section five of the Act of 1920 (which relates to restrictions on the right to possession and other like matters) shall continue to apply to any dwelling-house to which the principal Acts would apply but for the provisions of this Sub-section. The first Amendment, the one that I am actually moving, is only a preliminary to enable us to discuss the substance of the other, and we will discuss them together, if we may, on the understanding that we do not debate the second one after the first one is disposed of.

Mr. Deputy-Speaker

I understand that the right hon. Gentleman's proviso would not be in order without the omission of these words, and, therefore, the discussion must obviously take place on this first Amendment.

Mr. Johnston

In our view, this is a matter of considerable importance, and I hope the Government will be able to accede to our request. As the law now stands, a proprietor is given three months in which to register his house as a decontrolled house. Under the Act of 1920, Section 5, a proprietor may only get control of a house if he proves certain things to the satisfaction of a law court. Even admitting that the Government are right when they ask that upper class B houses should be taken out of control so far as rent is concerned, we are asking by this Amendment that the eviction of an upper class B tenant shall not be permitted unless certain complaints are proved to the satisfaction of a law court; that is to say, a landlord is to be permitted to get an increase of rent, but not to evict unless he proves certain things to a court. What do we ask him to do? By Section 5 of the Act of 1920 a landlord of a controlled house may only get possession provided he can prove, either that the tenant has failed to pay his lawful and legitimate rent, or that the tenant is using his house for an immoral purpose, or that he has become a nuisance to his neighbours, or that he has allowed the house to deteriorate to the disadvantage of the proprietor. There are certain other stipulations of a smaller character which I need not particularise. Essentially, however, if a tenant who has failed to pay his rent, or who has allowed his house to deteriorate, or who has kept it for an immoral purpose has either of these things proved against him in a law court, then the landlord can get possession.

What we ask by our Amendment, quite simply and seriously, is that even if Clause 2 of this Bill is passed, decontrolling an upper class B house so far as rent is concerned, we shall not permit the eviction of a tenant unless and until he can be proved in a law court to be guilty of one or other of the offences which I have mentioned. It is true that this is in a way temporising with the devil, but we cannot help that. Under a later Amendment we have tried to limit the amount of rent which a landlord can exact from a tenant, but still he ought not to pitch him on to the street unless he can prove that he is guilty of one or some of the offences which Parliament, in its wisdom, specified in Section 5 of the Act of 1920. The right hon. Gentleman the Minister of Health has always relied, in these discussions, on the reports of the Ridley Committee and the Marley Committee, and he has said that, in the opinion of those committees, which carefully investigated the matter, on the average there will be no shortage of upper class B houses, and that, therefore, there will be economically some protection against the wholesale persecution or exploitation of these tenants if decontrol takes place.

That may be true, on the law of averages, taking from John o' Groat's to Land's End, but there are areas in this country, little pockets of places, where there is a shortage of upper class B houses, where persecution can take place, and where there is no decent alternative accommodation, and I would beg of the right hon. Gentleman to consider that the standards of housing change. The class of house considered fit and proper for bottom class C tenants yesterday will not be considered fit and proper for them to-morrow. Standards change, they move upwards, and they demand more and better quality houses, more and better sanitary conveniences. The drive is eternally and ever up towards the upper class B house. If that is so, I beg of the right hon. Gentleman to give the upper class B tenant this protection at any rate, that if he insists upon his being mulcted by the landlord in additional rent, he should at least give him the protection that he and his wife and family, his goods and chattels, shall not be put out on the street unless and until a law court of the land, a county court in England or a sheriff court in Scotland, has found him guilty of one or other of the malpractices specified in Section 5 of the Act of 1920.

6.14 p.m.

Sir K. Wood

Hon. Members will be relieved to know that I do not propose on this occasion to quote the report of either the Marley Committee or the Ridley Committee, but my answer to this proposal is that I do not think it would carry into effect in any way what the right hon. Gentleman really desires. will assume, for the sake of argument on this Clause, that I agree with the right hon. Gentleman in his proposal, but if one looks at the very first Sub-section of Section 5 of the Act of 1920, one finds this: No order or judgment for the recovery of possession of any dwelling-house to which this Act applies, or for the ejectment of a tenant therefrom, shall be made or given unless— (a) any rent lawfully due from the tenant has not been paid… If this Amendment were on the statute book and some of the landlords were as the right hon. Gentleman described them and put rents at such a height that it would be impossible for the tenants to pay, they could immediately put into operation this paragraph.

Mr. Johnston

The right hon. Gentleman has tripped over himself this time. Will he look at the Act of 1920, where, at the end of the paragraphs in Section 5, he will see the words, in any such case as aforesaid, the court considers it reasonable to make such an order or give such judgment. If a landlord in the circumstances that the right hon. Gentleman has visualised jumps the rent from £10 to £100, no court in the land would evict under this section.

Sir K. Wood

Paragraph (a) of Section 5 of the Act of 1920 which refers to any rent lawfully due gives rise to the consideration whether the rent charged is a reasonable one. If it is and the rent is owing, the Section would come into operation. The right hon. Gentleman will find that it is illusory to protect the tenant in this way without any control. There can be no security of tenure without rent control and I am afraid that the right hon. Gentleman's object could not be met by his Amendment. As regards upper B class houses the Bill represents the considered policy of the Government which is based on the conclusions reached by all the members of the Ridley Committee except the three members representing the party opposite, and I cannot ask the House to accept the Amendment.

6.18 p.m.

Mr. Bellenger

The right hon. Gentleman did not convey to the House whether, if it were possible under the 1920 Act to attain what we are seeking, he would be in agreement with our proposal. I take it that he is not in agreement with us, although the reason he has given is not the real reason. May I ask the right hon. Gentleman to note our next Amendment, which, if it is called and carried, would limit the amount of rent which the landlord could charge on getting control of class B houses. I do not know whether the Government are going to meet us on that point, but if they do the right hon. Gentleman's argument will fall to the ground. The purpose of our Amendment is not to limit the landlord's right to charge a reasonable rent, although we have endeavoured to persuade the Minister that he should not give the landlord that opportunity, but it is to provide that, even if he does get a reasonable rent—and I do not think a landlord can get an unreasonable rent, for he can get only the market value of the premises—he should be restricted in his powers of getting possession of the premises. There are landlords who will not want to get an increased rent from a particular tenant, but who, for some reason or another, often a frivolous reason, will give notice to quit and get the tenant out irrespective of the rent he is prepared to pay.

All we are asking is that the landlord should be restricted in his powers in turning the tenant out into the street. In the 1920 Act, Section 5 provides that the landlord, before he can recover possession of the premises, must show to the county court judge that there is alternative accommodation which the tenant can have if the judge makes an order. If there is plenty of alternative accommodation, obviously the judge will make the order. As the law stands, in the case of decontrolled houses or premises the landlord has to take the tenant to court to get an order for eviction, and the judge, if the premises are decontrolled, has no option but to make an order for possession. It is true that he generally accompanies the order with a stay of execution for 28 days or more, but that is purely a matter of discretion for the judge. He must give an order for possession in the case of a decontrolled house The B class houses which the right hon. Gentleman proposes to decontrol in September will come in that category. As soon as September comes and the landlord has given the proper notice to quit, the tenant can within a short time be put on the street, even though he is prepared to pay a reasonable rent. That is very unjust treatment to that class of tenant, and the purpose of the Amend- ment is not to control the rent but to control the powers that the landlord has of putting the tenant into the street, more or less at a moment's notice. We fear that a good many ejections will take place on unjustifiable grounds apart from rent, and we are moving the Amendment in order to avoid that.

6.22 p.m.

Mr. Silverman

I do not know that I entirely agree with the presentation of the Amendment which has just been made by my hon. Friend, or that I entirely agree that a landlord cannot get an excessive rent. I know that my hon. Friend did not quite say that and that he does not think it, but when he reads the words he used he will see that they are open to that interpretation. The whole point of this legislation is that landlords can and do charge excessive rents. If no landlord charged excessive rents in any circumstances, no matter what the market conditions were, there would never have been any demand for control. The Minister of Health seemed to do less than justice to the arguments of my right hon. Friend. Under Section 5 of the Act of 1920 two conditions have to be satisfied before possession can be given.

The Solicitor-General (Sir Terence O'Connor)

I would point out to the hon. Member that Sub-section (1) of Section 5 of the 1920 Act is repealed. Part of it is re-enacted in Section 3 of the 1933 Act and the remainder in the Schedule, although the wording is slightly different.

Mr. Silverman

I only used that particular citation because it had been used in the argument. The point is that under the legislation as it exists two conditions have to be satisfied before the landlord can get possession. One is that there must be arrears of rent. The other is that in any such case as aforesaid, the court considers it reasonable to make such an order or give such judgment. That does not mean that the county court judge has a right to say whether the rent is a reasonable one or not, but it still leaves in the county court judge a discretion to say, "Although I cannot determine whether the rent charged is a reasonable one, and although the landlord has satisfied me that the rent is in arrear, still do not consider it reasonable in all the circumstances to give immediate possession." In the 1933 Act, Subsection (1) of Section 3 says: No order or judgment for the recovery of possession of any dwelling-house to which the principal Acts apply or for the ejectment of a tenant therefrom shall be made or given unless the court considers it reasonable to make such an order or give such a judgment. In fact, the amending legislation to which the Solicitor-General refers really strengthens it, because, whereas under the old legislation the reasonableness was a mere qualification introduced at the end of the Section, it comes first in the 1933 Act which has taken its place. The effect of that surely would be to give a greater measure of security of tenure than would exist without it. If my right hon. Friend's Amendment were accepted undoubtedly there would be the difficulty that some landlord wanting possession might do what my hon. Friend said no landlord ever did, that is, to charge a rent greater than the market value, but that would not lead inevitably to the result, which the Minister invited us to accept, that the county court would then have no discretion but would have to make an order for eviction. That is not so.

If the Amendment were carried the judge would no doubt have to accept that the rent was in arrear, but if he thought that in all the circumstances—and there is no limit to what circumstances he has to consider—of the particular case it was unreasonable to grant an order for possession or for ejectment, he could decline to do so and it would be his duty under this Act to decline. There would then obviously exist a real check upon the power of the landlord to raise rent unduly. The real sanction that the landlord has by which he secures payment of his rent is his right to possession of the premises on notice given or, in certain circumstances, without it, or to distrain for the rent due.

If the Minister would only accept some limitation upon the landlord's right to do that, vesting it in the discretion of the county court judge, we should then have some check upon the otherwise inevitable rise in rents which will follow the decontrol granted here. It is very difficult for us on this side to understand why every proposal we make with the object of imposing some check upon a landlord's right to raise the rent of decontrolled houses should always be met with some objection, either to the principle of it or to the drafting of the Amendment or that it should be left finally to be rejected by the overwhelming weight of the Government's majority. It is no good the Government saying, "Even if we agree with you the Amendment does not carry out your purpose." Perhaps it does not, but if the right hon. Gentleman does not think so let him redraft the Amendment. He has means available for drafting Amendments such as we do not possess. We do the best we can, though no doubt it is often very inadequate. We want him to accept the principle, and if we have not created satisfactory machinery for the purpose let him do it for us; we are not committed to any form of words, but will he not co-operate with us to some limited extent in the fight we are making to guard against the rise of rents which will be inevitable upon the decontrol of houses?

6.32 p.m.

The Solicitor-General

The hon. Member invited the co-operation of the Government, but in order that there should be that co-operation there must be some identity of aim. There is no indentity of aim.

Mr. George Griffiths

I could not have said it better myself.

The Solicitor-General

That is the highest tribute I have ever had in this House. The Government accept the conclusions of the Ridley Committee that the time is now ripe for the decontrol of the upper class B houses, and if that view is not accepted as fundamental of course other proposals may be put forward as alternatives; but that is the proposition from which we start. All control involves hardship, and all decontrol may involve some hardship, and the whole course of the progress of the Rent Restriction Acts involves an estimation from time to time of where the balance of hardship lies. Accordingly, committees have been set up from time to time to give the Government guidance as to the most appropriate way in which the burden of hardship on those whose houses are controlled can be relieved, consistently with the minimum amount of hardship on those living in houses which are decontrolled in that way. The Ridley Committee have said in the clearest terms that hardship will not result, broadly speaking, from the removal of control in the case of the upper class B houses, and the Government accept that conclusion. That is really the answer to the argument which is put forward from the other side.

That being the point of view of the Government, they do not, of course, go halfway to meet the arguments of hon. Members on the other side, but there are many other reasons why their particular solution of the problem would not work at all. Their proposal is an attempt to separate rent control and possession control. What the Amendment says in effect is that the landlord shall not be able to get control of his premises but shall be able to get control of his rent. Legalistically I am not sure what the position would be as regards a tenant who remains in a house. Suppose the landlord makes a demand for an increased rent—say any figure you like, say a rent 500 per cent. in excess of the existing rent, in order to make it as ridiculous as possible. What is the position of the tenant? In those circumstances we cannot, I think, imply an acceptance of the tenancy under the terms of paying that rent—I do not know whether we can or not—nor is there any machinery by which a county court is empowered to act as a rent court.

The hon. Member for Nelson and Colne (Mr. Silverman) pointed out that under Sub-section (1) of Section 3 the court cannot exercise its power, cannot come to the conclusion that a thing is reasonable, without having regard to all the circumstances. That means that it has to discharge a judicial function, has to exercise its discretion on a review of all the circumstances. I do not think the fact that the landlord had done something which the law permitted him to do, increase the rent, would be one of the circumstances.

Mr. Silverman

The object of the Amendment is to protect the tenant in the security of his tenure. The hon. and learned Gentleman argues that an unscrupulous landlord could get out of that by charging a rent which was neither fair nor reasonable, by rocketing the rent sky high—not to get the rent but in order to evade what would then be the law of the land. Does the hon. and learned Gentleman say that that would not be one of the circumstances which a county court judge would take into consideration in deciding whether it was reasonable to give such a landlord the possession which, but for that circumstance, he could not get?

The Solicitor-General

That is the point which I am arguing. I very much doubt whether, as a matter of law, a county court judge would be entitled to take into account what the landord is to be free by law to demand, any rent he wanted or was asking for the premises. I entertain a most serious doubt as to whether a county court judge would be entitled to take that into account in determining whether it was reasonable to make an order for possession. But supposing that is wrong and that he is entitled to take it into account; then we should be, by this Amendment, doing something which we on this side of the House have repeatedly argued against, that is, turning the county court into a rent court, doing by a side wind the very thing which the Government have argued against both upstairs and in the House and for which we have given our reasons, because the judge would then have to consider, viewing the demands of the landlord "Do they constitute a circumstance so unreasonable or so reasonable that I ca n exercise my discretion under this Section?" Therefore, we say that it is only an alternative way of setting up a rent court.

I admit frankly that from the legal point of view I do not know under what terms the tenant would be in possession if this Amendment were passed, because the landlord would be demanding a rent and the tenant would be staying on, and normally the staying-on of the tenant would be deemed to be an implied acceptance of the rent. An action to recover possession would not be the only remedy open to the landlord. He could levy distress—there are a thousand and one things which he could do to the unfortunate tenant—if that be the correct view of the law, and I am not binding myself to the statement that it is—in order to make the tenant's life quite impossible. For those reasons I do suggest that the Amendment as it stands would not give any substantial safeguard to the upper class B tenant, but would put them in a most difficult position. It might lay them open to serious obligations, the extent of which I cannot define, and it would impose upon the county courts a function which the House has repeatedly declared that it does not want to give them.

6.40 p.m.

Mr. Johnston

May I have the leave of the House to address one further word to the Solicitor-General? I am not a lawyer, but I have watched how this kind of thing has been "done upon the Opposition" since the Bill was brought in. We argue that the tenant should have the protection of an appeal to the law before he is evicted, and the Minister of Health says, "Oh, that is not enough, you must protect him in his rent." We come along with an Amendment to deal with rent, and then the Minister says "Control of rent is no use, what we want is to give him protection against eviction." It is on record that those are the words he used in Committee upstairs. So the Government get us either way. Apart from the purely legalistic arguments, by taking things in compartments in this way what the Government say is correct, but what we argue is that on moral grounds, on economic grounds, and on grounds of public policy and interest, some protection should be given to the upper class B tenants against harsh and unconscionable treatment arising from a monopolistic control of their houses. The Government say that the Ridley Committee, the Marley Committee and some other committee have said that there will be a sufficient number of these houses, and that that fact in itself will provide an economic protection.

I put it to the right hon. Gentleman—never mind the lawyers for a moment: Will he not admit that there are areas in this country where that economic protection will not exist? Whatever he may say about the averages for the whole country, will he not admit that in places like Coatbridge, where 44 per cent. of the people are overcrowded, and in other areas where there are munition works, there is a shortage of houses for B class tenants—a temporary shortage if you like—and that therefore the economic defence will fail in those cases? We on this side say that we should like to give these B class tenants some protection against eviction. The Government say "No." Therefore, whatever the legal arguments may be, we are going into the Lobby tonight on moral grounds, on economic grounds, and on the grounds of public interest, in favour of giving protection to B class tenants.

6.43 p.m.

Sir K. Wood

With the leave of the House I should like to add a final word. The right hon. Member for West Stirling (Mr. Johnston) has put his point of view with great clearness. The Government have been bound to deal with these Amendments and to explain the meaning of them to the House, so that the House may know what would happen if they were embodied in this Measure. That has been the duty of the Solicitor-General and myself in regard to all these proposals, as it would be the duty of any Ministers who occupied our positions. The right hon. Gentleman rightly says that there is a fundamental difference of opinion on this matter between hon. Members opposite—at any rate, some of them—and those who sit on this side of the House. We are adopting in the case of the B class tenants the recommendation of the majority of the committee which was set up to consider the case. It is true that the Marley Committee did take into account the fact that, obviously, when certain sections of houses are decontrolled, certain difficulties arise, but they came to the conclusion, as anybody would in considering this matter, that they had to consider on balance what was the right thing to be done; and both the Marley Committee and the Ridley Committee said that on the whole, while not disguising that difficulty might arise, decontrol of the B class houses was the right thing to do, and the Government have adopted their proposals.

It is true that in future rent legislation areas may have to be considered. I will say a word on that subject on the Third Reading. It may very well be that we shall have to turn our attention to particular areas in considering further decontrol and have regard to their condition; but that is another matter. The right hon. Gentleman has put his point of view clearly, and I cannot take the matter any further this evening beyond saying that we are following the advice that has been given to us by the majority of the committees, whose members have included Members of this House as well as other people who were outside politics altogether.

6.46 p.m.

Sir Percy Harris

The right hon. Gentleman is always so reasonable that he often disarms criticism, and it is certainly difficult to be angry with him or to find fault; but we have to be realists in this matter. There is a genuine alarm among thousands of people who have for many years been living in what we rightly describe as the higher class B house. It is not always simply a question of rent, but may also be actual attachment to the house in which they are living. I received a letter a day or two ago from a complete stranger who lives in a seaside town which has been developing very rapidly during the last few years. He writes: Might I trouble you with one or two facts as they affect us personally?"— That is to say, the tenants of these houses—. House built by speculating builder landlord himself, one of many. He has a four or five-figure rent roll. In 1910 they cost under £300. He fixes the rents at his own figure "— before the War— at 10s. 6d. per week, undertakes repairs and is satisfied. Then the War, 40 per cent. increase and nothing done inside. Now, under decontrol, we are threatened with £1 per week and shall probably have to pay it because there is no alternative to be got for less. The trouble is that they cannot leave the neighbourhood. They are attached to it. It is the kind of town where people depend for their living upon the locality.

I think there is a need to soften the hardness of the blow of the change-over from control to the mercy of the landlords. These Amendments are very difficult to draft, especially to a Bill of this character, which is legislation by reference. The Solicitor-General may be surprised to hear that I am a bit of a lawyer. Many years ago—I will not say how many they were—I qualified as a barrister. My slight legal training makes it extremely difficult, as the hon. and learned Gentleman admits, to draft Amendments of a practical kind. We are a democratic country, and I suggest that we have to consider the public who send us here. If there is a real feeling of alarm, the Government should try to devise something to relieve the pressure upon these most desirable people. Most of them are supporters of the Government. They are just the kind of people who automatically vote Conservative be- cause it is more respectable to do so. They regard themselves as a bit above the black-coated worker. It is important for them to keep up appearances. They live in what I have heard described as "a little semi-attached house." I suggest that the right hon. Gentleman might exercise his great ingenuity in softening the blow to that large army of people, many of whom will suffer very much from the change-over.

6.50 p.m.

Mr. Cassells

I support the Amendment on various grounds. In connection with another Amendment the right hon. Gentleman invited the attention of the House to Command Paper 5667 and he referred in particular to page 4 where we find a reference to the precise nature of the present Government's policy. For the benefit of the House I should like to read what the paragraph states. It is as follows: The Government believe that in the case of all three countries it is in the national interest that decontrol should be effected as soon as there is an adequate supply of housing accommodation. I assume that the strict interpretation which must be placed upon that sentence is that the Government definitely appreciate that if there is not an adequate supply of accommodation, individual tenants will be left at the mercy of the individual landlords. I would furthermore refer to the position in Scotland, which is dealt with in the same paper. I find the following statement at the bottom of page 3: In Scotland, on the other hand, the survey of overcrowding has disclosed that the average percentage of overcrowding is 22.6. When I refer to an answer given by the Secretary of State for Scotland to a question by my hon. Friend the Member for Linlithgow (Mr. Mathers) on 22nd February, I find some rather astonishing figures of the percentage of houses overcrowded in various localities in Scotland. Glasgow, for example, is given as 29.12; Dundee, 23.94; Coatbridge, 44.79; Port Glasgow, 42.14, and, in small burghs, Cowdenbeath, 39.93, and Lochgelly, 35.83.

From my knowledge of those localities I am satisfied that there are many upper class B tenants who are covered by those percentage figures of overcrowding, and I cannot appreciate why there should be the slightest difficulty in the minds of the Government in affording discretion to the judges. We are constantly hearing from Government Benches that our judges are men of discretion in whom the greatest trust and confidence may be placed. The Solicitor-General made the rather astonishing statement that county court judges and sheriffs-substitute in Scotland would be compelled to sit in cases where the ordinary rent courts should operate. The truth is that they have been doing so for years. They have been sitting under Section 31 (1) dealing with questions as to whether they might in their discretion grant an Order or a judgment for the possession of any dwelling-house to which the principal Act applied. If ever the policy of the Government were laid stark bare and naked, we find it so this afternoon. Falling from the lips of the Minister of Health there has been a complete justification for the Amendment. He pointed out that there was a distinct probability of rocketing in rental charges, and the Solicitor-General said he would take the preposterous case of rocketing to the extent of 500 per cent.; but only last night figures were placed before the House by hon. Members from the Birmingham Division, and among them I find one case of decontrol where the rental jumped from 6s. 6d. to 25s. per week, an increase of approximately 400 per cent.

Some supporters of the Government seem to possess a great faith in the landlords of this country. There was a statement from the hon. and learned Member for Bridgwater (Mr. Croom-Johnson) last night which, I think, I might repeat. He said he disliked the expression "good and bad landlords" and he went on to say that he would rather characterise all landlords as men who were unfortunately carried away by their private instincts so far as finance was concerned. We do not dispute that there are good landlords, but laws are not passed in this House to protect tenants against good landlords. They are passed, admittedly, to protect tenants against what one might describe as a minority movement in the landlord section of the community. Does the Solicitor-General really appreciate what will eventuate if the Amendment is not accepted? When first, as a young lawyer, I was faced with complaints emanating from tenants of decontrolled and controlled houses with regard to rental charges which were being exacted, nobody seemed to be bothering about them. There was one case where the rental in decontrolled subjects was returned to the assessor for valuation roll purposes. For a whole street of houses there were rents rising approximately from £10 to £15 a year and the landlord was actually mulcting the tenants in at least double that sum. He was defrauding the valuation assessor, and at the end of the day—you can call it legalised blackmail if you like—the pistol was held to his head and he had to refund to the tenants something like £800.

I appeal to the Minister to look with confidence on this Amendment. Can it be said that we are asking anything unreasonable? We deny anything of the sort. We are vesting that discretion in the judge. In regard to the levying of distress, we have been given the English procedure, and not the Scottish procedure. The position in Scotland is that in decontrolled subjects the tenant must be taken to the sheriff-substitute before a demand for ejectment can be conceded. Why should not the procedure which has been followed in the past operate in the future? Has the right hon. Gentleman no trust or confidence in our judicial system? If hon. Members are wise in their day and generation, they will not just go blindly into the Lobby and vote against this Amendment. I am satisfied that if they do so there will be serious repercussions.

7 p.m.

Mr. Ede

Yesterday the Front Government Bench exuded so much sympathy that we were almost washed away in the flood of it. To-day there is no sympathy, but at least we have got down to the hard fact that on this particular Amendment there is a definite cleavage of principle between that side of the House and this. I think that is all to the good. The hon. and learned Gentleman the Solicitor-General told us quite truly that control involves hardship on landlords and that decontrol may involve—he was very careful to insert the word "may"—hardship on tenants. I think it is quite certain that it will involve hardship on some tenants. Since the passing of the first Rent Restrictions Act every succeeding Act has been one to mitigate the hardships on the landlords. There has been no Act that has substantially mitigated the hardships that decontrol has brought to the tenants, and what we are asking to-day is that there shall be some words inserted in this Bill which shall mitigate those hardships. That does not appear to me to be a wrong or revolutionary proposal, but the answer in principle is that the Government do not think it worth while to put words into this Bill that will mitigate the hardship on tenants.

I want to remind the hon. and learned Gentleman of the first time that any Government talked of decontrol. That was in 1923. Through a pure accident I managed then to get very much into the middle of the picture. There was a by-election at Mitcham in 1923, a constituency the whole of the southern part of which is occupied by people living in what are now called upper class B houses—the solicitor's clerk and that type of small man who goes into the City every morning, and lives in these houses of £35 rateable value and just over. The hon. and learned Gentleman, I am quite sure, has not forgotten the fate that overtook the Minister of Health, who went down and proposed decontrol for that constituency. If he has any doubt, let him ask the present Minister of Labour, who was the Liberal candidate on that occasion and just saved his deposit. Now we ask, having voted on the general issue, that there shall be no decontrol for these people, that there shall be a measure of retained control with regard to security of tenure. It is not enough for the Government, with all the resources of the draftsman behind them, to say, "Well, even if you were right your Amendment does not do what you want, because the drafting is not good enough." I would remind hon. Gentlemen opposite that the courts have not been very complimentary about the official drafting of this type of Measure, and if the drafting in this case were a bit fantastic it would be nothing new in this type of legislation.

If the Government feel that these people, who really are most defenceless, ought to receive any assistance at all they should be prepared to put the Government draftsman to work in order to give them protection. But the answer, of course, is that they do not intend to protect them. The hon. land learned Solicitor-General holds out no hope for them. As the hon. Baronet the Member for South-West Bethnal Green (Sir P. Harris) said, he will rely upon them to vote Conservative because it is respectable. But I would ask him to remember the series of by-elections in the early part of 1923, of which the Mitcham by-election was the most notable. There was one at Willesden, and there was one in the Edgehill division of Liverpool, and there were other by-elections that year in this particular type of constituency where, owing to the state of mind produced by the fear of decontrol, even those people declined to vote Conservative, and there was a Labour Government before the end of the year.

Now it is not the fear of decontrol that is going to preoccupy these people, but the actuality of decontrol. And will anybody contend that in these areas, which are to be found round all our great cities, there is yet such a supply of houses of the type that these people require that the market value would be other than a famine value? I agree with the hon. Member for Bassetlaw (Mr. Bellenger) that the landlord can get only the market value, but when there is a famine the market value is astoundingly high. Let me tell the Solicitor-General what happened to the house in which I lived in 1923. After I was eelcted Member of Mitcham I moved from Epsom, where I was living, to Mitcham. I was a controlled tenant at Epsom, and I was paying 13s. 7d. a week rent, which was the maximum the landlord was entitled to charge. I moved out on a Saturday. On the Monday a person moved in and paid 35s. a week, and that house has never been much below that figure since. That is still the position in the suburbs of London and of the great cities of this country. You are handing over these defenceless people, who have no trade union, who have no organised body to protect them, to the mercy of people who will get the market value in a market which can command famine rates.

The hon. and learned Gentleman may feel that in producing this cleavage of opinion between this side of the House and the other, and in abandoning the attitude of sympathy which befogged the whole atmosphere yesterday, he is doing a good thing for his party. I venture to say the only people he is benefiting—and that not for very long—are the landlords of the type of property which is being decontrolled for these class B tenants. I have no doubt myself that the reaction in the country will be as great as it was in 1923 when this Bill has become an Act and these defenceless people find themselves handed over to the mercy of rapacious landlords.

Question put, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Bill."

The House divided: Ayes, 159; Noes, 120.

Division No. 183.] AYES. [7.10 p.m.
Adams, S. V. T. (Leeds, W.) Findlay, Sir E. Orr-Ewing, I. L.
Albery, Sir Irving Fleming, E. L. Palmer, G. E. H.
Allen, Col. J. Sandeman (B'knhead) Fox, Sir G. W. G. Patrick, C. M.
Anderson, Rt. Hn. Sir J. (Sc'h Univ's) Fremantle, Sir F. E. Peake, O.
Apsley, Lord Furness, S. N. Petherick, M.
Assheton, R. Fyfe, D. P. M. Ponsonby, Col. C. E.
Atholl, Duchess of Gilmour, Ll.-Col. Rt. Hon. Sir J. Raikes, H. V. A. M.
Baillie, Sir A. W. M. Gluckstein, L. H. Ramsbotham, H.
Balfour, Capt. H. H. (Isle of Thanel) Gower, Sir R. V. Rathbone, J. R. (Bodmin)
Balniel, Lord Gritten, W. G. Howard Reid, J. S. C. (Hillhead)
Baxter, A. Beverley Guest, Lieut.-Colonel H. (Drake) Reid, W. Allan (Derby)
Beamish, Rear-Admiral T.P. H. Guest, Maj. Hon. O. (C'mb'rw'll, N.W.) Remer, J. R.
Bernays, R. H. Hannah, I. C. Robinson, J. R. (Blackpool)
Boothby, R. J. G. Harbord, A. Ropner, Colonel L.
Bossom, A. C. Hartington, Marquess of Ross Taylor, W. (Woodbridge)
Boulton, W. W. Harvey, Sir G. Rowlands, G.
Boyce, H. Leslie Haslam, Sir J. (Bolton) Royds, Admiral Sir P. M. R.
Briscoe, Capt. R. G. Hely-Hutchinson, M. R. Ruggles-Brise, Colonel Sir E. A.
Broadbridge, Sir G. T. Hepworth, J. Russell, Sir Alexander
Brocklebank, Sir Edmund Herbert, A. P. (Oxford U.) Salmon, Sir I.
Bull, B. B. Herbert, Major J. A. (Monmouth) Samuel, M. R. A.
Burghley, Lord Holmes, J. S. Sandys, E. D.
Burgin, Rf. Hon. E. L. Hope, Captain Hon. A. O. J. Solley, H. R.
Butcher, H. W. Hudson, Capt. A. U. M. (Hack., N.) Shaw, Major P. S. (Wavertree)
Campbell, Sir E. T. Hume, Sir G. H. Shaw, Captain W. T. (Forfar)
Cazalet, Thelma (Islington, E.) Hurd, Sir P. A. Smiles, Lieut.-Colonel Sir W D.
Chamberlain, Rt. Hn. N. (Edgb't'n) Hutchinson, G. C. Somervell, Sir D. B. (Crewe)
Channon, H. James, Wing-Commander A. W. H. Spens. W. P.
Clarke, Frank (Dartford) Joel, D. J. B. Stanley, Rt. Hon. Lord (Fylde)
Clarke, Colonel R. S. (E. Grinstead) Jones, L. (Swansea W.) Strauss, E. A. (Southwark, N.)
Clarry, Sir Reginald Kerr, Colonel C. I. (Montrose) Strauss, H. G. (Norwich)
Clydesdale, Marquess of Kerr. H. W. (Oldham) Tasker, Sir R. I.
Colville, Lt.-Col. Rt. Hon. D. J. Kerr, J. Graham (Scottish Univs) Tate, Mavis C.
Cooke, J. D. (Hammersmith, S.) Latham, Sir P. Taylor, Vice-Adm. E. A. (Padd., S.)
Cox, H. D. Trevor Leighton, Major B. E. P. Thomas, J. P. L.
Craven-Ellis, W. Lipson, D. L, Train, Sir J.
Croom-Johnson, R. P. Lloyd, G. W. Wallace, Capt. Rt. Hon. Euan
Cross, R. H. Locker-Lampson, Comdr. O. S. Ward, Lieut.-Col. Sir A. L. (Hull)
Crowder, J. F. E. Loftus, P. C. Wardlaw-Milne, Sir J. S.
Davies, C. (Montgomery) Mabane, W. (Huddersfield) Watarhouse, Captain C.
Davies, Major Sir G. F. (Yeovil) MacDonald, Rt. Hon. M. (Ross) Wedderburn, H. J. S.
De la Bère, R. MacDonald, Capt. P. (Isle of Wight) Wells, S. R.
Denman, Hon. R. D. McKie, J. H. Whiteley, Major J. P. (Buckingham)
Denville, Alfred Margesson, Capt. Rt. Hon. H. D. R. Wilson, Lt.-Col. Sir A. T. (Hitchin)
Duckworth, W. R. (Moss Side) Markham, S. F. Winterton, Rt. Hon. Earl
Duggan, H. J. Maxwell, Hon. S. A. Withers, Sir J. J.
Duncan, J. A. L. Mayhew, Lt.-Col. J. Womersley, Sir W. J.
Edmondson, Major Sir J. Mellor, Sir J. S. P. (Tamworth) Wood, Hon. C. I. C.
Elliot, Rt. Hon. W. E. Mills, Sir F. (Leyton, E.) Wood, Rt. Hon. Sir Kingsley
Ellis, Sir G. Morrison, Rt. Hon. W. S. (Cirencester) Wright, Wing-Commander J. A. C.
Elmley, Viscount Munro, P. Young, A. S. L. (Partick)
Enlwistle, Sir C F. Nall, Sir J.
Evans, Capt. A. (Cardiff,S.) Nicholson, G. (Farnham) TELLERS FOR THE AYES.—
Everard, W. L. O'Connor, Sir Terence J. Captain Dugdale and Mr.
Adams, D. (Consett) Burke, W. A. Evans, D. O. (Cardigan)
Adams, D. M. (Poplar, S.) Cassells, T. Fletcher, Lt.-Comdr. R. T. H.
Adamson, W. M. Charleton, H. C. Fool, D. M.
Alexander, Rt. Hon. A. V. (H'lsbr.) Chater, D. Frankel, D.
Ammon, C. G. Cluse, W. S. Gardner, B. W.
Anderson, F. (Whitehaven) Cove, W. G. George, Megan Lloyd (Anglesey)
Aske, Sir R. W. Cripps, Hon. Sir Stafford Gibson. R. (Greenock)
Attlee, Rt. Hon. C. R. Daggar, G. Green, W. H. (Deptford)
Banfield, J. W. Dalton, H. Greenwood, Rt. Hon. A.
Barr, J. Davidson, J. J. (Maryhill) Grenfell, D. R.
Bellenger, F. J. Davies, R. J. (Westhoughton) Griffith, F. Kingsley (M'ddl'sbro, W.)
Bonn, Rt. Hon, W. W. Davies, S. O. (Merthyr) Griffiths, G. A. (Hemsworth)
Benson, G. Day, H. Griffiths, J. (Llanelly)
Bevan, A. Dobbie, W. Groves, T. E.
Broad, F. A. Dunn, E. (Rother Valley) Guest, Dr. L. H. (Islington, N.)
Brown, C. (Mansfield) Ede. J. C. Hall, G. H. (Aberdare)
Buchanan, G. Edwards, Sir C. (Bedwellty) Hall, J. H. (Whitechapel)
Hardie, Agnes Leslie, J. R. Seely, Sir H. M.
Harris, Sir P. A. Logan, D. G. Sexton, T. M.
Harvey, T. E. (Eng. Univ's.) MoEntee, V. La T. Silverman, S. S.
Hayday, A. Maclean, N. Simpson, F. B.
Henderson, A. (Kingswinford) Magnay, T. Smith, Ben (Rotherhithe)
Henderson, J. (Ardwick) Mainwaring, W. H. Smith, E. (Stoke)
Henderson, T. (Tradeston) Maxton, J. Sorensen, R. W.
Hills, A. (Pontefract) Messer, F. Stewart, W. J. (H'ght'n-le-Sp'ng)
Holdsworlh, H. Montague, F. Taylor, R. J. (Morpeth)
Hollins, A. Morrison, G. A. (Scottish Univ's.) Thorne, W.
Hopkin, D. Morrison, R. C. (Tottenham, N.) Tinker, J. J.
Jenkins, Sir W. (Neath) Noel-Baker, P. J. Tomlinson, G.
Johnston, Rt. Hon. T. Oliver, G. H. Viant, S. P.
Jones, A. C. (Shipley) Parkinson, J. A. Walkden, A. G.
Jones, J. J. (Silvertown) Pearson, A. Westwood, J.
Jones, Morgan (Caerphilly) Price, M. P. White, H. Graham
Kelly, W. T. Pritt, D. N. Williams, D. (Swansea, E.)
Kennedy, Rt. Hon, T. Quibell, D. J. K. Wilson, C. H. (Attercliffe)
Kirby, B. V. Ridley, G. Windsor, W. (Hull, C.)
Lathan, G. Riley, B. Woods, G. S. (Finsbury)
Lawson, J. J. Ritson, J.
Leach, W. Roberts, Rt. Hon. F. O. (W. Brom.) TELLERS FOR THE NOES.—
Lee, F. Robinson, W. A. (St. Helens) Mr. John and Mr. Mathers.
Leonard, W. Salter, Dr. A. (Bermondsey)
Mr. Speaker

The next four Amendments on the Paper deal with the same subject as affecting different parts of Great Britain, and I think it will probably be for the convenience of the House to discuss them together, voting on each separately if that be desired.

7.17 p.m.

Mr. Ammon

I beg to move, in page 1, line 19, to leave out "thirty-five," and to insert "forty."

I am obliged to you, Mr. Speaker, for your Ruling. I was proposing myself to make the same suggestion. The intention of these Amendments is to prevent as many houses as possible from going out of control, because we think that the proposal to decontrol these houses is somewhat premature. In spite of what the Minister has said with regard to the Marley and Ridley reports, other factors have arisen since those reports were made, which have put an altogether different complexion on the housing situation in this country. It must be borne in mind that the number of controlled houses cannot increase. In this connection the Ridley Committee, in paragraph 43 of their report, said: In considering what effect any further measure of decontrol would be likely to have on the general level of working-class rents, it must be borne in mind that …the number of controlled houses cannot increase. I tis in fact, steadily diminishing as a result of demolition… There is another factor which could not have been in the minds of the Ridley Committee, much less the Marley Committee. It relates to a point which has been referred to on more than one occasion by the hon. and learned Member for Bridgwater (Mr. Croom-Johnson). He said on the Second Reading that those landlords who owned small amounts of property were in the majority, but I think that neither he nor the Minister has quite appreciated what a tremendous change has taken place with regard to the holding of house property. The small shopkeeper has largely disappeared owing to the growth of multiple shops and the co-operative movement, and the same thing is happening now with regard to house property. Large financial groups, finding that they have no other outlet for their money, are buying up house property and exploiting the tenants. This is being done, as has already been mentioned on another Amendment, in districts which are so overcrowded already that it is not possible to build houses competitively and, consequently, it is possible to demand maximum rents. Moreover, having got control of the property, they resort to all manner of devices to force out any tenants who may be in controlled property, so that they may obtain complete control. Under the Bill, no fewer that 450,000 houses of rateable value between £35 and £40will be decontrolled. That is a very serious inroad into the present position.

In dealing with a question like this, hon. Members are apt to talk about the amount of building that is going on, but it does not necessarily follow that, because a good deal of building is going on, there is any great increase in housing accommodation, because, as the Ridley Committee themselves have pointed out, a large amount of demolition is going on, and the demolition is often a long way in advance of the new housing accommodation that can be supplied. These Amendments have been put down with the object of trying to maintain control for a longer period than is set out in the Bill in the case of as many as possible of those houses which are at present controlled. There is another aspect of the matter which may have escaped the attention of these Committees and of some Members of the House. The hon. Member for East Birkenhead (Mr. White), in replying to my right hon. Friend a little while ago with regard to Sir E. D. Simon, said that Sir E. D. Simon had no doubt taken into consideration the factors to which my right hon. Friend referred. But some of those factors, as I have already indicated, Sir E. D. Simon could not have had in mind, because they have arisen since.

In addition, there is a certain amount of overcrowding, which is now beginning to increase owing to the increased cost of living and also owing to the shortage of houses that is resulting from the slowing down of building. There may be a slowing down of building by local authorities, because the Measure recently passed will reduce the contribution to local authorities to enable them to build, and that is bound to have an effect, anyway on the poorer local authorities, who will not be able to go in for the same amount of building as they have hitherto. I brought before the Committee at least one instance that alarmed me. I had a letter from the town clerk of one of the Metropolitan boroughs pointing out that, in the new housing estates which have recently gone up, overcrowding has already commenced because people are being forced out owing to the fact that houses are falling out of control and there are not sufficient to meet the demand. Consequently, in spite of the regulations that may be made by the local authorities, there is already a considerable percentage of overcrowding in property which has only recently been erected.

In such circumstances, I suggest, it is a mistake for the Government to insist rigidly on the very letter of the Bill. It is true, and they do not challenge it, that they are mainly concerned with the difficulties of landlords, but at the same time they ought to have some regard to the tenants, and particularly to the class of tenants who have to present a more or less respectable front to the world, though probably in many cases they are worse placed than the manual labourer, who can live under different conditions because of the economic position he is supposed to occupy. These people, also, are to a large extent the most helpless, having no machinery or organisation for their own defence. I hope the Minister will at any rate be able to see his way to make this small concession, which, while it may not lead to any advance on the present number of controlled houses, will at any rate diminish the number that will be decontrolled as and when the Bill becomes an Act.

7.27 p.m.

Sir K. Wood

The hon. Member will no doubt recollect that we discussed this matter very fully in Committee, and that the view we take is that the terms of the Bill should be adhered to. The hon. Gentleman says that the Government only have regard to landlords, and not to tenants, but that is a mistake, as is obvious from the proposals in the Bill dealing with the lower class B houses.

Mr. Ammon

What I said was that we had had an admission. I was referring to what was said by the hon. and learned Gentleman opposite to the effect that the Government were mainly concerned about the landlords.

The Solicitor-General

I did not make any admission at all. What I said was that control was a hardship, and decontrol was a hardship, and our object was to hold the balance fairly.

Sir K. Wood

I must say that I do not know of any admission, and I think the Solicitor-General would be the last person to make an admission. I should like to say a word about the housing corporations which have been operating in London and some of our large cities, and which, I understand, buy blocks of property and hold them. The House will appreciate that, so far as the houses bought are controlled, such corporations are bound by the law, just as other landlords are, and it is only in the case of decontrolled houses that they are, like other landlords, able to charge economic rents. But I think the hon. Gentleman will agree, because I know he has considerable knowledge of this matter as far as London is concerned, that these corporations in fact deal only with the cheaper classes of houses. So the effect of the Bill in preventing further decontrol of lower B class houses will, at any rate, hamper any rent-raising proclivities they may possess, and I do not think that the decontrol of upper B class houses will affect the position much, because where these houses are in fact occupied by what we call the working classes—not a phrase I like very much, but the common one—it is generally the case, where there are two or more families in one house and

where that class of tenancy is concerned, that the present law is to remain unchanged. I must, in the circumstances, take up the same attitude as I adopted in Committee, and ask the House to adhere to the proposals in the Bill, on the ground that the Committee, which very carefully inquired into this matter, recommended them.

Question put, "That the word 'thirty-five' stand part of the Bill."

The House divided: Ayes, 142; Noes, 117.

Division No. 184.[ AYES. [7.32 p.m.
Adams, S. V. T. (Leeds, W.) Fox, Sir G. W. G. O'Connor, Sir Terence J.
Albery, Sir Irving Furness, S. N. Orr-Ewing, I. L.
Allen, Col. J. Sandeman (B'knhead) Fyfe, D. P. M. Palmer, G. E. H.
Assheton, R. Gilmour. Lt.-Col. Rt. Hon. Sir J. Peake, O.
Atholl, Duchess of Gluckstein, L. H. Petherick, M.
Baillie, Sir A. W. M. Gower, Sir R. V. Ponsonby, Col. C. E.
Balfour, Capt. H. H. (Isle of Thanet) Gritten, W. G. Howard Ramsbotham, H.
Balniel, Lord Guest, Lieut.-Colonel H. (Drake) Rathbone, J. R. (Bodmin)
Baxter, A. Beverley Gunston, Capt. Sir D. W. Reid, J. S. C. (Hillhead)
Beamish, Rear-Admiral T. P. H. Hannah, I. C. Reid, W. Allan (Derby)
Bernays, R. H. Harbord, A. Remer, J. R.
Bossom, A. C. Hartington, Marquess of Robinson, J. R. (Blackpool)
Boulton, W. W. Harvey, Sir G. Ropner, Colonel L.
Briscoe, Capt. R. G. Haslam, Sir J. (Bolton) Ross Taylor, W. (Woodbridge)
Broadbridge, Sir G. T. Hely-Hutohinson, M. R. Rowlands, G.
Bull, [...] B. Hepburn, P. G. T. Buchan- Royds, Admiral Sir P. M. R.
Burghley, Lord Hepworth, J. Ruggles-Brise, Colonel Sir E. A.
Burgin, Rt. Hon. E. L. Herbert, A. P. (Oxford U.) Russell, Sir Alexander
Butcher, H. W. Herbert, Major J. A. (Monmouth) Salmon, Sir I.
Campbell, Sir E. T. Holmes, J. S. Samuel, M. R. A.
Cazalet, Thelma (Islington, E.) Hope, Captain Hon. A. O. J. Sandys, E. D.
Chamberlain. Rt. Hn. N. (Edgb't'n) Hudson, Capt. A. U. M. (Hack., N.) Selley, H. R.
Clarke, Frank (Dartford) Hurd, Sir P. A. Shaw, Major P. S. (Wavertree)
Clarke, Colonel R. S. (E. Grinstead) Hutchinson, G. C. Shaw, Captain W. T. (Forfar)
Clarry, Sir Reginald James, Wing-Commander A. W. H. Somervell, Sir D. B. (Crewe)
Clydesdale, Marquess of Joel, D. J. B. Strauss, E. A. (Southwark, N.)
Colville, Lt.-Col. Rt. Hon. D. J. Jones, Sir G. W. H. (S'k N'w'gt'n) Strauss, H. G. (Norwich)
Cooke, J. D. (Hammersmith, S.) Jones, L. (Swansea W.) Tasker, Sir R. I.
Craven-Ellis, W. Kerr, Colonel C. I. (Montrose) Tale, Mavis C.
Croom-Johnson, R. P Kerr, J. Graham (Scottish Univs.) Taylor, Vice-Adm. E. A. (Padd., S.)
Cross, R. H. Latham, Sir P. Train, Sir J.
Crowder, J. F. E. Leighton, Major B. E. P. Wallace, Capt. Rt. Hon. Euan
Davies, C. (Montgomery) Lipson, D. L. Ward, Lieut-Col. Sir A. L. (Hull)
Davies, Major Sir G. F. (Yeovil) Locker-Lampson, Comdr. O. S. Wardlaw-Milne, Sir J. S.
De la Bère, R. Lyons, A. M. Wayland, Sir W. A
Denman, Hon. R. D. Mabane, W. (Huddersheld) Wedderburn, H. J. S.
Danville, Alfred MacDonald, Rt. Hon. M. (Ross) Wells, S. R.
Duckworth, W. R. (Moss Side) Macdonald, Capt. P. (Isle of Wight) Whiteley, Major J. P. (Buckingham)
Duggan, H. J. McKie, J. H. Wilson, Lt.-Col. Sir A. T. (Hitchin)
Duncan, J. A. L. Margesson, Capt. Rt. Hon. H. D. R. Winterton, Rt. Hon. Earl
Edmondson. Major Sir J Markham, S. F. Wood, Hon. C. I. C.
Elliot, Rt. Hon. W. E. Maxwell, Hon. S. A. Wood, Rt. Hon. Sir Kingsley
Ellis, Sir G. Mayhew, Lt.-Col. J. Wright, Wing-Commander J. A. C.
Elmley, Viscount Mellor, Sir J. S. P. (Tamworth) Young, A. S. L. (Partick)
Entwistle. Sir C. F. Mills, Sir F. (Leyton, E.)
Evans, Capt. A. (Cardiff, S.) Morrison, Rt. Hon. W. S. (Cirencester) TELLERS FOR THE AYES.—
Everard, W. L. Munro, P. Captain Waterhouse and Mr.
Findlay, Sir E. Nall, Sir J. Grimston.
Fleming, E. L. Nicholson, G. (Farnham)
Adams, D. (Consett) Barr, J. Chater, D
Adams, D. M. (Poplar, S.) Bellenger, F. J. Cluse, W. S.
Adamson, W. M. Benson, G. Cove, W. G.
Alexander, Rt. Hon. A. V. (H'lsbr.) Bevan, A. Cripps, Hon. Sir Stafford
Ammon, C. G. Broad, F. A. Daggar, G.
Anderson, F. (Whitehaven) Brown, C. (Mansfield) Dalton, H
Aske, Sir R. W. Burke, W. A. Davidson, J. J. (Maryhill)
Attlee, Rt. Hon. C. R. Cassells, T. Davies, R. J. (Westhoughton)
Banfteld, J. W. Charleton, H. C. Davies, S. O. (Merthyr)
Day, H. Johnston, Rt. Hon. T. Ridley, G.
Dobbie, W. Jones, A. C. (Shipley) Riley, B.
Dunn, E. (Rather Valley) Jones, J. J. (Silvertown) Ritson, J.
Ede, J. C. Jones, Morgan (Caerphilly) Roberts, Rt. Hon. F. O. (W. Brom.)
Edwards, Sir C. (Bedwellty) Kelly, W. T. Roberts, W. (Cumberland, N.)
Evans, D. O. (Cardigan) Kennedy, Rt. Hon. T. Robinson, W. A. (St. Helens)
Fletcher, Lt.-Comdr. R. T. H. Kirby, B. V. Salter, Dr. A. (Bermondsey)
Frankel, D. Lathan, G. Seely, Sir H. M.
Gardner, B. W. Lawson, J. J. Sexton. T. M.
George, Megan Lloyd (Anglesey) Leach, W. Silverman, S. S.
Gibson, R, (Greenock) Leonard, W. Simpson, F. B.
Green, W. H. (Deptford) Leslie, J. R. Smith, Ben (Rotherhithe)
Greenwood, Rt. Hon. A. Logan, D. G. Smith, E. (Stoke)
Grenfell, D. R. Macdonald, G. (Ince) Sorensen, R. W.
Griffith, F. Kingsley (M'ddl'sbro, W.) McEntee, V. La T. Stewart, W. J. (H'ght'n-le-Sp'ng)
Griffiths, G. A. (Hemsworth) Maclean, N. Taylor, R. J. (Morpeth)
Griffiths, J. (Llanetly) Mainwaring, W.H. Thorne, W.
Hall, G. H. (Aberdare) Mander, G. le M. Tinker, J. J.
Hall, J H. (Whitechapel) Mathers, G. Tomlinson, G.
Hardie, Agnes Maxton, J. Viant, S. P.
Harris, Sir P. A. Messer, F. Walkden, A. G.
Harvey, T. E. (Eng. Univ's.) Montague, F. West wood, J.
Henderson, A. (Kingswinford) Morrison, R. C. (Tottenham, N.) Wilkinson, Ellen
Henderson, J. (Ardwick) Nathan, Colonel H. L. Williams, D. (Swansea, E.)
Henderson, T. (Tradeston) Noel-Baker, P. J. Wilson, C H. (Attercliffe)
Hills, A. (Pontefract) Oliver, G. H. Windsor, W. (Hull, C.)
Holdsworth, H. Parkinson, J. A. Woods, G. S. (Finsbury)
Hollins, A. Pearson, A. Young, Sir R. (Newton)
Hopkin, D. Price, M. P.
Jagger, J. Pritt, D. N. TELLERS FOR THE NOES.—
Jenkins, Sir W. (Neath) Quibell, D. J. K. Mr. Groves and Mr. John.

7.40 p.m.

Mr. Johnston

I beg to move, in page 1, line 21, at the end, to insert: Provided that in the case of a dwelling-house to which the principal Acts cease to apply by virtue of the provisions of this Subsection the rent recoverable by the landlord shall not exceed by more than ten per centum per annum the rent recoverable in respect of the dwelling-house on the twenty-eighth day of September, nineteen hundred and thirty-eight. The purpose of this Amendment is very clear. We seek to limit to 10 per cent. the amount of increased rent which the landlord shall be permitted to charge upon the upper B class houses which will be decontrolled in September of this year. Already the landlord is allowed at least 40 per cent. of the increase. He may have had more than that. If there have been structural improvements, he will have had 80 per cent. on his expenditure. But if he has had already 40 per cent.; if the costs of repairs have fallen considerably, as they have since the permitted increases were introduced; if, therefore, it can reasonably be proved that he is better off than in 192o, we submit that it is not unreasonable to ask that he shall not take anything more than an additional 10 per cent.

When we moved an Amendment something similar to this in Committee, the right hon. Gentleman said, "Whatever I may think of the merits of this proposal, and even if I were sympathetic to it in principle, this is not the way to do it, because if you only say that a landlord is not to be permitted to increase his tenant's rent by more than 10 per cent., and if you still leave the landlord power to get possession and evict his tenants, all the landlord will have to do will be to give notice to the tenant to quit; and then the new tenant will pay up." We had to accept that upstairs. Then to-night we start by asking that there shall be no eviction. The Solicitor-General, who is put up to reply, says, "That is not the way to do it. If you ask for protection against eviction, that is wrong. What you have to do is to protect tenants against increased rents." So they have it both ways. Upstairs they say you must deal with eviction first; and here they say you must deal with increases of rents first. I hope the right hon. Gentleman will say that there is nothing unreasonable in this provision. The essential purpose of this Amendment is that the tenant who has already had an imposition of 40 per cent. by way of increase on his rent and is now to suffer decontrol in 1938, shall have not more than an additional 10 per cent. added to his rent when that decontrol comes. We say that the cost of the landlord's repairs is falling; he is benefiting in every way; and we ask the Government to agree with this proposal to protect almost half a million tenants from what will be, in some districts at all events, considerable increases in rent this year.

7.45 P.m.

Sir K. Wood

I regret to have to give these answers on personal grounds to the right hon. Gentleman, but I am bound to take these Amendments as they appear on the Paper. It is true that on a previous Amendment my hon. and learned Friend the Solicitor-General criticised the Amendment in a certain way, and I must criticise this Amendment for the same reason that I gave upstairs in Committee. The real fact is, as I dare say the right hon. Gentleman appreciates, that to secure effective control you must control both the tenure and the rent. Directly you endeavour to separate the two, as has been done in the two Amendments, one in relation to tenure and the other in relation to rents, you get into serious difficulties. I appreciate the intention and desire of the right hon. Gentleman and those who sit with him, but when you come to deal with the Amendments on their merits you are up against the difficulties which I indicated when we were in Committee upstairs. If you were once to accept the statement which the right hon. Gentleman has just made on the question of rents, there is really no reason why, if there was to be a limitation of rent in respect of decontrol, it should not also apply to the houses which have gone out of control on the ground that the landlord has re-gained possession. To be logical, you would come to the original proposal of the right hon. Gentleman, which I know he desires to place on the Statute Book, that there should be control of all houses as far as rent and tenure are concerned. He would like to set up tenancy courts.

The intention of the right hon. Gentleman and his friends is in direct opposition to the proposal contained in the Bill, but he has adopted a method which is open to him. I would probably have done the same if I held his views. It is an attempt to put forward another view of this proposal, but, as I indicated upstairs, it would not be effective. If you conceded a principle of this kind, there would he no reason why it should not apply to all people. It is for that reason that I ask the House to reject the Amendment.

7.48 p.m.

Mr. Sorensen

If ever I have the misfortune to stand on the scaffold expecting execution, I shall pray earnestly that the right hon. Gentleman the Minister of Health will be the hangman. I am certain that his bland and amiable countenance, looking at me as I disappear into eternity, will considerably modify the unfortunate experience. I feel that way because I am extremely sympathetic towards numbers of his constituents who are in a similar position to those who are in my constituency and in other constituencies around London. Some time ago I saw the hon. Member for Ilford (Mr. Hutchinson) in his place. In his vast, expanded area of bricks and mortar there are, I am certain, a large number of people who are as apprehensive of execution as I might be in the instance that I have given. It is rather astonishing that the hon. Member for Ilford has not spoken on behalf of his constituents this evening. I will, therefore, perform that responsibility. Quite definitely, there are many in that area who have grave fears as to the operation of this Bill in a few months' time. Although they assume that they do not belong to the working class, the difficulties which surround them in having to prepare their family budgets are as severe as the difficulties of those who are called the working class.

Many of the alleged representatives of the so-called lower middle class in this House have not sufficiently paid attention to that kind of constituent. It is very strange for us on these benches to pose as the defenders of the lower middle class. We constantly have to perform duties which are supposed to be performed by hon. Members who sit on the benches opposite. Obviously, this Bill will deal very hard blows at numbers of the so-called middle class tenants in this country who for the most part are supporters of hon. Members opposite. I would like those who have supported hon. Members opposite and who are in this category to realise that, when it comes to a critical issue, it is to the Labour benches they must look for support and assistance, and I am giving that assistance now. There are many who have carefully budgeted for months and sometimes years ahead, and they are finding themselves in very great financial difficulties at the present time. Unfortunately, they often join ratepayers' associations and Municipal Reform leagues and disguise themselves under various other aliases, and assume that the responsibility for their difficulties is otherwise than it really is. Here is one difficulty that is to be placed upon the backs of the lower middle class which would not have been imposed upon them if they had voted for the right people and had taken some political interest in the affairs of their country, and had understood the landlord more clearly.

I speak on behalf of that lower middle class not only in my own constituency, but also in the constituency of the right hon. Gentleman the Minister of Health and the hon. Member for Ilford and in many other constituencies around London. I earnestly trust that, if this class of tenants are to be executed in the coming September, at least they should know to what extent that execution is to take place. Perhaps the strangulation can be modified in some measure if 10 per cent. increase is allowed. I am sure that many of the lower middle-class tenants in the country, if they knew precisely that this unjustifiable increase would be limited to 10 per cent., would feel a little easier in the circumstances. As it is, of the 450,000 who will be affected, many of them, already with great anxieties in their domestic life, are wondering exactly what will be their increased anxiety when September comes round. A little mercy should be exercised in this respect, and the Government should say "Though we must impose at least some punishment, we will limit that punishment to 10 per cent." That would mean that lower middle-class families, when drawing up their domestic budgets in the privacy of their front room, would know that, though their expenses were to be greater, they would not definitely be so. They would then be able to say, "We can perhaps postpone the last three or four payments on our wireless set or on our Austin Seven, or perhaps limit our holidays or economise in some other way." I plead with hon. Members opposite, and with the Minister in particular, for the sake of many of their own rather servile supporters in the constituencies and of many obedient sheep who follow the Minister and his colleagues at election times, to give them at least some little reward for their obedience and servitude by limiting the increase to 10 per cent.

7.55 p.m.

Mr. McEntee

The argument of the right hon. Gentleman the Minister of Health was an extraordinary one, and certainly very weak. The whole purpose of his argument appeared to be that, because the proposition contained in the Amendment would apply only to a comparatively few people, therefore it was wrong. It was not considered right to apply the principle of a limited increase of rent to the whole of the people who have been, or are to-day, in controlled houses, and, therefore, the concession must not be given to anybody. That is the logic of the argument which the right hon. Gentleman put forward. Originally a limit was put on the amount of increase that a landlord can levy of 40 per cent. I remember the arguments which took place in this House at that time. We were told that the reasons for fixing 40 per cent. were, in the main, that there were certain increases in the price of commodities which landlords had to pay in respect of repairs. Careful calculation had been made on behalf of the Government as to what would be a reasonable compensation to the landlord in respect of the increase in the cost of materials and of labour for repairs. It was fixed at 25 per cent. The Minister of Health, who personally took a leading part in the discussion on that occasion, told us that the proposal was reasonable and that we ought to accept it.

If the argument was sound at that time—and I think that it was fairly sound, at any rate—is it sound to-day? Would the Solicitor-General or anybody else argue that, compared with the prices which landlords were compelled to pay for building material for the purposes of repairs and labour at that time, prices to-day are anything like as high. Does not that lead one to a reasonable view that we ought not to be asking tenants to pay more, but to pay less? The landlord is not being compelled to pay as much for repairs which he is supposed to do. We have had experience of what landlords do when houses go out of control. I know of the case of two houses in my area of exactly the same type, standing side by side, and occupied by similar tenants, in respect of which one of the tenants pays almost double the amount paid by the other tenant. Nobody can justify that sort of thing. I do not think that any Member of the Government would come into a constituency such as mine and attempt to justify the conduct of landlords in these cases. Is it not reasonable that we should ask the Government to do something for the tenants of the houses which are now to be put out of control?

I am speaking on behalf of many personal friends who are living in the type of house which is to be decontrolled. I know what they feel, and I know what they fear. Rents will go up, not merely 10, but probably 30, 40, 50, or even 100 per cent., if the opportunity offers. I do not admit that the Government represent these people any more than I do. I have many of them in my own constituency, and in the constituency in which I live there are many scores of these people. They are in real fear of what is going to happen. I am surprised that, with the knowledge of what has happened to other tenants when their houses have gone out of control, and the shameful exploitation to which they have been subjected, anyone should come forward and say that, in spite of that exploitation, other tenants shall submit to similar exploitation and robbery. I hope that even now the Government will take the other course.

Why is it that the right hon. Gentleman and his friends in the Government are so anxious in these cases, as they have done in regard to the other houses when they have been decontrolled, to allow people to be exploited? If in any other business people carried on the practices that have been carried on by certain landlords in regard to house property, there would be such a public outcry that the Government would be compelled to take some action. Companies have been formed—they are operating in my own

area and in other areas—and are buying up property in the belief that this Act will be carried, and they are making ready to reap very big harvests by robbing the people who are living in these houses. The right hon. Gentleman knows perfectly well what is going to happen. The Government are playing into the hands of the landlords, with deliberation, so that they will be able to exploit this section of the middle class public as they have exploited poorer tenants in the past.

We are not asking for anything unreasonable in saying that, if there is to be further exploitation, there should be some limitation to the exploitation. In view of the fact that prices from the point of view of the landlord are lower, and that his expenses are lower than when the original 40 per cent. was fixed. we are not asking too much when we ask that not more than an additional Io per cent. can be allowed to the very had type of landlord who will benefit from this Act. I hope the right hon. Gentleman will make some concession and give some form of protection to the very unfortunate class of people who are to be exploited very badly if this Bill becomes an Act of Parliament.

Question put, "That those words be there inserted in the Bill."

The House divided: Ayes, 114; Noes, 145.

Division No. 185.] AYES. [8.5 p.m.
Adams, D. (Consett) Dunn, E. (Rother Valley) Jenkins, Sir W. (Neath)
Adams, D. M. (Poplar, S.) Ede, J. C. Johnston, Rt. Hon. T.
Adamson, W. M. Edwards, Sir C. (Bedwellty) Jones, A. C. (Shipley)
Alexander, Rt. Hon. A. V. (H'lsbr.) Evans, D. O. (Cardigan) Jones, J. J. (Silvertown)
Amnion, C. G. Evans, E. (Univ. of Wales) Jones, Morgan (Caerphilly)
Aske, Sir R. W. Fletcher, Lt.-Comdr. R. T. H. Kelly, W. T.
Attlee, Rt. Hon. C. R. Frankel, D. Kennedy, Rt. Hon. T.
Banfield, J. W. Gardner, B. W. Kirby, B. V.
Barr, J. George, Megan Lloyd (Anglesey) Lathan, G.
Bellenger, F. J. Gibson, R. (Greenock) Lawson, J. J.
Bonn, Rt. Hon. W. W. Green, W. H. (Deptford) Leach, W.
Benson, G. Greenwood, Rt. Hon. A. Leonard, W.
Bevan, A. Griffith, F. Kingsley (M'ddl'sbro, W.) Leslie, J. R.
Broad, F. A. Griffiths, G. A. (Homsworth) Logan, D. G.
Brown, C. (Mansfield) Griffiths, J. (Llanelly) Macdonald, G. (Ince)
Burke, W. A. Groves, T. E. McEntee, V. La T.
Cassells, T. Hall, G. H. (Aberdare) Maclean, N.
Charleton, H. C. Hall, J. H. (Whitechapel) Mainwaring, W. H.
Chater, D. Hardie, Agnes Mander, G. la M.
Cluse, W. S. Harris, Sir P. A. Mathers, G.
Cove, W. G. Harvey, T. E. (Eng. Univ's.) Maxton, J.
Cripps, Hon. Sir Stafford Henderson, A. (Kingswinford) Messer, F.
Dalton, H. Henderson, T. (Tradaston) Montague, F.
Davidson, J. J. (Maryhill) Hills, A. (Pontefract) Nathan, Colonel H. L.
Davies, R. J. (Westhoughton) Holdsworth, H. Noel-Baker, P. J.
Davies, S. O. (Merthyr) Hollins, A. Oliver, G. H.
Day, H. Hopkin, D. Parkinson, J. A.
Dobbie, W. Jogger, J. Pearson, A.
Price, M. P. Silverman, S. S. Walkden, A. G.
Pritt, D. N. Simpson, F. B. Westwood, J.
Quibell, D. J. K. Smith, Ben (Rotherhithe) White, H. Graham
Ridley, G. Smith, E. (Stoke) Wilkinson, Ellen
Riley, B. Sorensen, R. W. Williams, D. (Swansea, E.)
Ritson, J. Stewart, W. J. (H'ght'n-le-Sp'ng) Wilson, C. H. (Attercliffe)
Roberts, Rt. Hon. F. O. (W. Brom.) Taylor, R. J. (Morpeth) Windsor, W. (Hull, C.)
Roberts, W. (Cumberland, N.) Thorne, W. Young, Sir R. (Newton)
Robinson, W. A. (St. Helens) Tinker, J. J.
Seely, Sir H. M. Tomlinson, G. TELLERS FOR THE AYES.—
Sexton. T. M. Viant, S. P. Mr. John and Mr. Anderson.
Adams, S. V. T. (Leeds, W.) Fox, Sir G. W. G. Nall Sir J.
Albery, Sir Irving Fyfe, D. P. M. Nicholson, G. (Farnham)
Allen, Col. J. Sandeman (B'knhead) Gluckstein, L. H. O'Connor, Sir Terence J
Apsley, Lord Gower, Sir R. V. Orr-Ewing, I. L.
Assheton, R. Grimston, R. V. Palmer, G. E. H.
Atholl, Duchess of Gritten, W. G. Howard Peake, O.
Baillie, Sir A. W. M. Guest, Lieut.-Colonel H. (Drake) Ponsonby, Col. C. E.
Baldwin-Webb, Col. J. Gunston, Capt. Sir D. W. Raikes, H. V. A. M.
Balfour, Capt. H. H. (Isle of Thanet) Hannah, I. C. Ramsbotham, H.
Balniel, Lord Hannon, Sir P. J. H. Rathbone, J. R. (Bodmin)
Baxter, A. Beverley Harbord, A. Rayner, Major R. H.
Beamish, Rear-Admiral T. P. H. Hartington, Marquess of Reid, J. S. C. (Hillhead)
Bernays, R. H. Harvey, Sir G. Reid, W. Allan (Derby)
Bossom, A. C. Haslam, Sir J. (Bolton) Remer, J. R.
Boulton, W. W. Heilgers, Captain F. F. A. Robinson, J. R. (Blackpool)
Briscoe, Capt. R. G. Hely-Hutchinson, M. R. Ropner, Colonel L.
Broadbridge, Sir G. T. Hepburn, P. G. T. Buchan- Ross Taylor, W. (Woodbridge)
Bull, B. B. Hepworth, J. Rowlands, G.
Burgin, Rt. Hon. E. L. Holmes, J. S. Royds, Admiral Sir P. M. R.
Butcher, H. W. Hope, Captain Hon. A. O. J. Russell, Sir Alexander
Campbell, Sir E. T. Hudson, Capt. A. U. M. (Hack., N.) Salmon, Sir I.
Castlereagh, Viscount Hurd, Sir P. A. Samuel, M. R. A.
Cazalet, Thetma (Islington, E.) Hutchinson, G. C. Selley, H. R.
Chamberlain, Rt. Hn. N. (Edgb't'n) Inskip, Rt. Hon. Sir T. W. H. Shaw, Major P. S. (Wavertree)
Channon, H. Joel, D. J. B. Shaw, Captain W. T. (Forfar)
Clarke, Frank (Dartford) Jones, Sir G. W. H. (S'fc N'w'gt'n) Smith, Bracewell (Dulwich)
Clarke, Colonel R. S. (E. Grinstead) Jones, L. (Swansea W.) Somervell, Sir D. B. (Crewe)
Clarry, Sir Reginald Keeling, E. H. Strauss, E. A. (Southwark, N.)
Clydesdale, Marquess of Kerr, Colonel C I. (Montrose) Strauss, H. G. (Norwich)
Colville, Lt.-Col. Rt. Hon. D. J. Kerr, J. Graham (Scottish Univs.) Tasker, Sir R. I.
Cooke, J. D. (Hammersmith, S.) Latham, Sir P. Tate, Mavis C.
Craven-Ellis, W. Leighton, Major B. E. P. Taylor, Vice-Adm. E. A. (Padd., S.)
Croom-Johnson, R. P. Lindsay, K. M. Thomson, Sir J. D. W.
Cross, R. H. Lipson, D. L. Train, Sir J.
Davies, Major Sir G. F. (Yeovil) Llewellin, Colonel J. J. Ward, Lieut.-Col. Sir A. L. (Hull)
De la Bère, R. Locker-Lampson, Comdr. O. S. Wardlaw-Milne, Sir J. S.
Denman, Hon. R. D. Loftus, P. C. Waterhouse, Captain C.
Denville, Alfred Lyons, A. M. Wayland, Sir W. A
Dower, Major A. V. G. MacDonald, Rt. Hon. M. (Ross) Wells, S. R.
Duckworth, W. R. (Moss Side) Macdonald, Capt. P. (Isle of Wight) Whiteley, Major J. P. (Buckingham)
Duncan, J. A. L. McKie, J. H. Wilson, Lt.-Col. Sir A. T. (Hitchin)
Edmondson, Major Sir J. Macmillan, H. (Stockton-on-Tees) Winterton, Rt. Hon. Earl
Elliot, Rt. Hon. W. E. Margesson, Capt. Rt. Hon. H. D. R. Wise, A. R.
Ellis, Sir G. Markham, S. F. Withers, Sir J. J.
Entwistle, Sir C. F. Maxwell, Hon. S. A. Womersley, Sir W. J.
Evans, Capt. A. (Cardiff, S.) Mayhew, Lt.-Col. J. Wood, Hon. C. I. C.
Everard, W. L. Mellor, Sir J. S. P. (Tamworth) Wright, Wing-Commander J. A. C.
Findlay, Sir E. Morrison, Rt. Hon. W. S. (Cirencester)
Fleming, E. L. Munro, P. TELLERS FOR THE NOES.—
Mr. Furness and Major Herbert.