HC Deb 13 April 1938 vol 334 cc1219-43

8.12 p.m.

Mr. Maxwell Fyfe

I beg to move. in page 6, line 1, to leave out Sub-section (2).

The object of the Amendment is to deal with a problem which arises from the practice of compounding, by which an allowance is made to the landlord when he pays the rates in advance. We suggest that the consequence of the proposals in this Sub-section, will be to cause the incidence to fall hardest on the poorest class of tenants. The position under the Act of 1920 is that one of the permitted increases is the difference between rates actually payable in the current period and in the period including the date 3rd August, 1914. That is, up to the time of this proposal in the Bill, the landlord has been able to add the difference between the actual sums paid in rates. The new proposal made in this Sub-section would enable him to add the difference between two entirely hypothetical sums; sums arrived at by adding the compounding allowance to the rates actually paid. We suggest that in heavily rated areas like Liverpool this will mean a higher sum to be paid by the tenants of the lower assessed houses.

I will give one concrete example which will convey to the House the suggestion behind the Amendment. I will take a house in Liverpool where the assessment is fir. In the current period 1937–38 the actual amount paid under the compounding, the composition rate, was £15 11s. 5d., whereas in 1914 the amount paid under the composition rate was £2 16s. That means a difference of £2 15s. 5d. Under the Government's proposal, in the current period on the hypothetical full rate of fir the sum paid would be £8 16s. 11d., while on the hypothetical full rate for 1914 it was £4 9s. 8d., a difference of £4 7s. 3d. That means that under the proposal a landlord will be able to add another £1. 11s. 10d., or approximately 7d. per week, to the rent of these lowly assessed houses of £11. The reason for this is obvious.

When you are dealing with full rates you have two factors which have increased, the assessments of houses in the case I gave from £9 to £11, and, in the second place, the rates, which have considerably increased since 1914. They were then approximately 10s. in the £ to-day they are 16s. in the £, that is in the case of Liverpool. The two factors which go to make up the difference, namely, the rates and the assessment, have increased, and, therefore, under the present proposal you are taking the difference between the present assessment and half the old assessment, whereas under the law as it stands you are now taking the difference between -half the present assessment and a fraction of the old assessment. In those cases where you have compounding in the present period and in the old period, it is hound to tell against the tenants of lowest rated houses. In fairness to the proposal it is only right to admit that it does tell in favour of the tenants of houses of a slightly higher assessment. If the assessment of a house has been raised so that it comes out of the compounding period at £17, then, of course, you will be comparing, under the present proposal, the actual rates to-day with the full rates in 1914, instead of with the compounded rates in 1914. Therefore, you will get a smaller difference, and it will show in favour of the tenants of houses of £17 and upwards.

But I respectfully suggest that the tenants we want specially to look after are those of the lowest rated houses. In cases like this we have to judge for ourselves and decide whether the balance of hardship is greater in the case of tenants of the lowest assessed houses. In deference to the argument we have had from the Treasury Bench I ought not to conclude without some reference to the reports of which we have heard so much. I agree that in paragraphs 100-102 the Ridley Committee put forward a suggestion which is embodied in this Sub-section, but I invite the attention of the Government to this fact, that as far as can be seen from an examination of the Minutes of Evidence on which the Ridley Report was founded, the question of compounding was not discussed at any great length, nor was a great deal of evidence directed to it. They seem to have gone back to the findings of the Marley Committee when circumstances were different, and when the full results of this state of affairs were not appreciated. I, therefore, suggest that this is a matter which wants further consideration. If I am right, taking the Liverpool cases as an example, there will be an increase of 7d. per week, and that is not an inconsiderable sum when dealing with people who inhabit these houses. If I am wrong, and the more important considerations are those of tenants of higher assessed houses, then I think the matter does deserve further consideration in order that I may be proved wrong. If there is even a chance that I am right and that the hardship will fall on tenants of houses assessed at the sums I have mentioned, it is something which the House should try to prevent. I say that this matter at any rate deserves further consideration, which I hope it will receive.

Captain W. T. Shaw

I beg to second the Amendment.

8.22 p.m.

The Solicitor-General

I hope my hon. and learned Friend will acquit me of any discourtesy if I limit the length of my reply to the case he has made. The matter was fully exposed in Committee upstairs by the Attorney-General, when this same point was under discussion, and I can do no better than compress the arguments he then used. First, as regards the burden. Taking the country as a whole, the effect of this Clause will cancel out, according to the calculations we have made. There may be a slight increase in some districts and a slight reduction in others. It is impossible to say, as regards any given area, what the exact effect will be, but such examination as we have been able to make seems to suggest that the figures which the hon. and learned Member gave in regard to Liverpool are very much on the high side. What does this Sub-section do? It gives effect to a recommendation of the Marley Committee which was subsequently a recommendation of the Ridley Committee. The facts are these: In certain areas the landlord is allowed to compound with the local authority for the payment of rates, he makes himself responsible for the rates, and if the tenant fails the local authority does not lose. Not only that, he has to find the money very often in advance before the rates are due. In some cases it is a condition of getting the compounding allowance that he finds the rates before they are actually due. He has the responsibility, he has to pay early, he has to advance capital, and then has the duty of collecting the rates on behalf of the local authority from the tenant. For these reasons, he is given, as a matter of convenience, a compounding allowance.

Mr. McEntee

Is it not a fact that the rates are actually due on the day when the rate is made? How, therefore, can the landlord be called upon to pay the rates before they are due?

The Solicitor-General

As I am informed, the practice with some local authorities is that, in order to get the compounding allowance, the payment must be made by the landlord before it is due. [HON. MEMBERS: "No."] I agree that the hon. Gentleman seems to get a good point against that practice where it exists.

Mr. Gordon Macdonald

The landlord has himself received six months rates in the rent before he has to pay any.

The Solicitor-General

I am afraid I do not follow that. The point I am trying to make is that the landlord, for services which he, by himself and by his capital, provides, is given a compounding allowance. In the case of Nicholas versus Jackson, the House of Lords gave a decision on the meaning of the words "rates payable" which appear in Section (2, b) of the 1920 Act: An amount not exceeding any increase in the amount for the time being payable by the landlord in respect of rates, which he is allowed to use as the basis for his permitted increase of rent. They decided that that applies only to money that he actually pays over, and that he is not to be given any advantage for the expenditure to which he is put for a service for which he gets the compounding allowance. Everybody who has examined that has agreed that it was unfair. There is no earthly reason why a tenant should be given an advantage over the landlord for services which the landlord has himself rendered, and in respect of which he compounds with the local authority. That is what the Marley Committee pointed out. In paragraph 103 of their report, after referring to the case of Nicholson versus Jackson, they stated: The effect of this judgment upon the Rent Restrictions Acts is that—

  1. (a) whatever the poundage of rates and the percentage of compounding allowance, the landlord retains the amount allowed to him in 1914;
  2. (b) The tenant benefits where the amount of the current compounding allowance has increased since 1914, and the landlord benefits where the amount is less than in 1914;
  3. (c) In the case of properties brought into compounding for the first time (i.e. where there was no compounding allowance in 1914), the tenant gets the benefit of the compounding allowance in place of the landlord for whom it was intended.
We think that, in equity, the law as settled by the decision in Nicholson versus Jackson should be altered so that, whatever the compounding allowance might be at any particular moment it should enure to the benefit of the landlord. The Marley Committee went on to say that the only reason they did not recom]ment that was that it would mean the reopening of the assessments in a very large number of cases. When the Ridley Committee came to consider that matter, they had to consider another decision of another court which seemed to conflict with the decision in the case of Nicholson versus Jackson. Therefore, the state of the law was in some confusion. The case which they had to consider was that of Strood Estates Company, Limited versus Gregory, which was decided in 1937. On account of that decision, it was in any case necessary to make a considerable number of alterations in assessments. Therefore, the Ridley Committee, looking at the matter afresh, said that they agreed with the Marley Committee that, in equity, the money paid to the landlord for services that he renders should not inure to the benefit of the tenant, that the reasons which had prevented the Marley Committee from recommending it had disappeared, because in any case there had to be an alteration in a very large number of assessments, and that, therefore, it was an appropriate occasion for making an alteration which both the Marley Committee and they considered to be fair and equitable. Having expressed their agreement with the Marley Committee, they went on to say: We also think that if the contrasting principles established by these two decisions are both allowed to stand unaltered throughout the period during which, if our recommendations are adopted, control will continue, they will be a constant source of embarrassment to all concerned with the application of the Acts. We regret to recommend any alteration of the law which will involve a general recalculation of rents of houses within the compounding limits, but we consider it the lesser of two evils, and we accordingly recommend that the necessary statutory amendment should be made"—— as we are making it. That is the position. For those reasons, although in some cases the tenant will no longer get the benefit of an inequitable advantage —[Interruption.] I agree that in the case of thousands of assessments he will cease to get an advantage to which he is in no sense entitled in equity. He is getting an advantage which is entirely accidental, due to the interpretation placed upon this particular Section being entirely different from the interpretation placed upon another Section.

Mr. G. Griffiths

When did the House of Lords give its decision?

The Solicitor-General

In the case of Nicholson versusJackson, the decision was in 1921, and in the case of Strood Estates Company, Limited versus Gregory it was in 1937. They were both interpreting words which to the layman mean the same thing, words which appear not in the same Section, but in the same Act. In one case the words were: An amount not exceeding any increase in the amount for the time being payable by the landlord in respect of rates, and in Section 12 (1, c), there were the following words: The expression 'net rent' means, where the landlord at the time by reference to which the standard rent is calculated paid the rates chargeable on"—— To anyone except a lawyer, there is very little difference between those words, but the difference in emphasis was that in the first case, according to the House of Lords, the word "payable" meant actually handing the money over, whereas under the other Section, in which one had to calculate the net rent, the words "paying the rates" mean payment of the total rate before deducting the compounding allowance. There is no sense in allowing a contradiction such as that to remain on the Statute Book. It is true that it will involve the reopening of a number of assessments, but taking the country as a whole, we are advised that it will not make any difference in the total sum—some people will gain and some will lose. The amounts in any case will be small, and as it is clearly unjust that the position should remain as it is at the present time, we feel that this is an appropriate moment to make an alteration, and therefore we cannot accept the Amendment moved by my hon. Friend.

Mr. Montague

Are we to understand from what the Solicitor-General has said that the tenant, as a tenant, has to pay the total extra rate independently of the allowance made to the landlord?

The Solicitor-General


Mr. Montague

He has to pay the allowance made to the landlord as well. So he has to pay twice over.

The Solicitor-General

The local authority benefits. If the local authority did not benefit it would not go through this procedure. It says, "It is cheaper for us, and we have greater security in collecting our rates by allowing the landlord to do it." Therefore the landlord is discharging work which otherwise the local authority would have to do and is running a risk which the local authority would otherwise have to take. Instead of the local authority losing its rates because the tenant cannot pay, the landlord loses, if the tenant cannot pay. Those are services which the landlord renders, instead of the local authority and in respect of which he is paid these small sums. Why should the tenant in those circumstances claim the benefit of those services rendered by the landlord as a matter of equity? Surely if anything inures to anybody, it ought to inure to the landlord.

8.36 p.m.

Mr. Tomlinson

The Government's attitude on this Amendment was stated by the Minister when he pointed out on a previous Amendment the difference between the attitude of hon. Members on this side and that of hon. Members opposite towards these questions. Here the Government find themselves in a difficulty. The Solicitor-General says they have found what he considers to be the best way out of it by following the Marley Report. He admits that in seeking a way out of the difficulty, they have come down on the side of the landlord because the Marley Report suggested that they should do so, and in order to bolster up his case, he cites the practice, what is far from being the actual practice. As a matter of fact the landlord is allowed to compound with the local authority in those interests of both, and the landlord who pays rates is not called upon to pay those rates until he has himself collected them; I contend that the advantage which the landlord receives in the first six months of the year, in collecting the rates from the tenant, ought to be set off against the advantage which the Solicitor-General argues ought to go to him, because of his having met his liabilities before the end of the year. Surely he receives some interest on the money which he has collected?

I take it that the argument of the hon. and learned Gentleman is that the landlord is entitled to some return for the money laid out by him. In answer to that, I suggest that the landlord is not called upon to pay the rates under the compounding arrangement until the six months period for which the rate is levied has passed. Surely we are entitled to ask that the rate which he has collected in rent from the tenant should be set off against the amount for the further six months? It is the tenant who is paying for the first six months and who is called upon afterwards to pay interest on the money that the landlord has provided for the second six months. In effect he pays the rate and then pays the landlord for simply advancing the amount of the second six months. That is all there is in it, and it seems to me, as I say, that the Government have come down on the side of the landlord as against the tenant. In extenuation they say that it will not amount to much, but it appears as though they realise that the tenant is being robbed by this Bill. Therefore, they think that a few more coppers each week will not matter much to the tenant

8.39 p.m.

Mr. McEntee

I ask the Solicitor-General to consider what will be the effect of the Bill if it becomes law without this Amendment. If the Solicitor-General had the same experience of this system as the Minister doubtless has had, he would know that in practice the people who receive compounding allowances collect the money from the tenant over a period of either three months or sic months. If the rate is a half-yearly rate, they collect three months rent before they pay any rate. They have the use of that money for three months. In the second half-yearly period, they collect another three months' rent before they pay again. So, in each half-yearly period, they collect three months' rent from the tenant before they pay anything at all and any hon. Gentleman opposite who is in the habit of dealing with finance, would, I am sure, be very glad of the opportunity of holding and using money on those terms.

What will be the effect of the Bill without this Amendment? It will just give the landlord another opportunity of increasing the rent of the tenant. I do not think either the Solicitor-General or the Minister could deny that. The Solicitor-General appears to justify it on the ground that it will not amount to very much. I do not know how much the increase will be, but I know that in some instances the compounding allowance is 15 per cent. and that will mean a considerable increase in rent to poor tenants. It is all very well for us to talk about small increases, but many of these tenants feel very keenly an increase of two or three shillings a week, and in many thousands of cases it will mean at least that, and perhaps considerably more. I hope the House will accept the Amendment. It would enable a practice which has gone on for at least 20 years to continue. The landlords in my area never complained of that practice, and I do not think there have been complaints in any other area, because the landlords knew that they were on a good thing. The Government now want to put them on to a better thing, and no doubt they will thank the Government for doing so, but there is no reason, in equity, why it should be done, and when the Solicitor-General talks about equity in this connection he must be doing so with his tongue in his cheek.

8.43 p.m.

Mr. Logan

If this Amendment be not accepted it will mean that 75 per cent. of the population of Liverpool of the poorest class will have to pay higher rents. I go further and say that in all the industrial areas of this country this inequality will be borne by poor people. They will have to meet the burden of increased rent. It is a most unjust proposal, because while people in some of the better class houses will benefit, the people in the poorer class of houses are bound to suffer loss. On the ground of equity, and because of what the landlords are already getting, the House ought to accept the Amendment. In Liverpool we are badly hit by unemployment, and any additional strain on the poor will be very keenly felt, and blame must attach to the Government if they do not accept this Amendment.

8.44 P.m.

Mr. G. Griffiths

I should say that 75 per cent. of the tenants in my division receive the 15 per cent. rebate. At the end of six months when the landlord comes to collect the rent he says to the tenant, "Your rent this week instead of being 12s. 6d. is 5s. 9d., because you get the rebate." If my memory serves me aright, when the first Rent Restriction Act was passed, this point was contested in the court and the decision given was that the landlord could claim only the actual rent that he paid, that is, the rate less the 15 per cent. rebate. This Clause definitely states, "You can put that in your pocket and walk away with it."

Mr. Fyfe

It is not quite as the hon. Member says, if he will allow me to interrupt him. Under the present law the landlord can claim to increase the rent by the difference between the composition rate existing to-day and the composition rate in 1914. Under the Government's Clause he can claim to increase the rate by the difference between the full rate existing to-day and the full rate in 1914, and it is my submission that the effect of that will be to cast a greater burden on the poorer class of houses. It is not a question of the landlord getting away with the whole of the composition, but it is a question that the gap between the full rates will be greater than the gap beween the compounded rates.

Mr. Griffiths

I was looking at the back end of the Clause, and it is clear to a layman, because it says: …the amount of any allowance made to the landlord under any of the enactments relating to allowances given where rates are paid by the owner instead of by the occupier shall be treated as part of the amount payable by the landlord in respect of rates. Therefore, from my standpoint, the tenants will not get the rebate in future. The tenants in my division will not in future get this 15 per cent. rebate, because it says clearly that the landlord can claim any rebate that he may have. I know the Solicitor-General fumbled about at the Box a bit, and he may be a good Solicitor-General in certain things, but he is not an expert on everything, and I am satisfied that he does not really understand this rating question. He does not understand that the tenant in future will have to pay the whole rent all along the line at the end of six months. The Clause means that the landlords in future will get thousands of pounds up and down the British Isles, and it should therefore be deleted.

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

The House divided: Ayes, Noes, 102.

8.55 p.m.

Mr. Johnston

I beg to move, in page 6, line 11, at the end, to insert: (3) Paragraph (d) of Sub-section (1) of Section two of the Act of 1920 shall have effect as if the words 'an amount not exceeding twenty-five per cent. of the net rent' there were substituted the words 'such an amount, not exceeding twenty-five per cent. of the net rent as may be agreed, or as may, on the application of the landlord or the tenant, be determined by the county court to be fair and reasonable, having regard to such liability: Provided that the court may at any time, on a complaint from a tenant that the said liability is not being properly discharged, review such determination.' As the laws stands, the proprietor of a controlled house is permitted to charge 25 per cent. of the net rent if he is responsible for the repairs whether he undertakes the repairs or not. Where he is responsible for only part of the repairs, he is only permitted to get the increase in his rent as fixed by the county court or by agreement. That is to say the apportionment of the 25 per cent. as between the landlord and the tenant has to be settled by the court. Where, however, the landlord is responsible for all the repairs, he is permitted to receive 25 per cent. There has never been any proof demanded from the landlord that he has, since 1920. or any material year, spent the 25 per cent. or any portion of it on repairs. He gets the 25 per cent. year after year whether he makes the repairs or not. As we have repeatedly emphasised in various stages of this Measure, there has been since 1920 a material decrease in the cost of repairs, and if it were right that the 25 per cent. should be the amount allowed in 1920, it is clear now that the landlord would be getting an excessive increase if he were to have 15 per cent. instead of 25 per cent.

What happens in other walks of life? When a trader or a merchant sells rotten food or contaminated fish or meat to the detriment of the public health, the local authority se ads inspectors to seize the contaminated food, and then the merchant is fined in court under the Foods and Drugs Act. He may be fined £20 or three months for the first offence, and £50 or three months for the second offence. The fine can go up to £100, and his stock is destroyed without compensation. His assistant is also rendered liable to penalties. The proprietor of house property, however, who sells diseased property for which he has been permitted to charge an increase of 25 per cent. on the net rent per annum for making repairs, and who does not carry them out to the detriment of the health of the occupants, he is not prosecuted. In the last resort, when the local authority tells him that he must do structural repairs or his property will fall about the ears of the tenants, he is given 8 per cent. of his capital expenditure for the structural repairs which he has been compelled to make. If he then goes through an elaborate process of sub-letting parts of his house, he gets another 15 per cent. for his trouble.

The Solicitor-General

He does not get the 8 per cent. for structural repairs, but only for structural alterations.

Mr. Johnston

That is the sort of thing we have been up against in discussing this Bill. I should have said structural alterations when I said structural repairs, but everybody in the House, including the hon. and learned Gentleman, knew what I meant. The landlord gets an allowance of 8 per cent. of the capital expenditure on structural alterations which he is compelled to make as the result of the prolonged deterioration of the property arising frequently because he has not done the repairs for which he is paid 25 per cent.

We are simply saying in the Amendment that if a tenant can allege that repairs are not being done for which the landlord is taking 25 per cent. from him, and if he goes to the county court and proves his case, it shall be at the option of the court to say that the landlord shall not get the 25 per cent., but only such sum as the court awards, if any. Is there anything unreasonable or unjust about that? Is there anything non-moral about it We are acting in the highest interests of public morality, of honest dealing, and of the fulfilment of contract in endeavouring to stop what is the wholesale public robbery of hundreds of thousands of poor tenants through this permitted increase of 25 per cent. for repairs which are not done.

9.5 p.m.

Sir K. Wood

I do not propose to make a long statement on this Amendment, as I understand that it is the general desire that we should proceed to the Third Reading as soon as we reasonably can, and that a number of hon. Members desire to speak then. The Amendment, which the right hon. Gentleman has explained very fairly from his point of view, suggests in regard to the rent that the landlord and tenant might agree upon a lesser sum than is already specified in the Act, and that if they are unable to agree either of them could apply to the county court judge, who would then have cast upon him the duty of assessing what, in the terms of the Clause, is a fair and reasonable rent. The first observation I desire to make—I do not complain that the right hon. Gentleman did not mention it, but I think it ought to be stated—is that already there is a remedy, and I think a considerable remedy, in the Rent Acts and the Housing Acts—the power to ensure that houses are kept in a proper state of repair.

Under the Rent Acts a tenant can apply to his local authority for a certificate that his house is not in a reasonable state of repair, and Amendments are being made in the law by this Bill with the object of making it easier for a tenant to obtain such a certificate. When that certificate has been obtained the tenant can serve a copy of it upon the landlord, and can then withhold the whole of the permitted increase in rent until the necessary repairs have been executed. I feel there will be considerable danger, as I think hon. Members opposite will appreciate, if we begin to permit an agreement to be made between landlord and tenant in this respect. I can understand the position of a tenant in cases of this kind; he would endeavour to come to some agreement with the landlord and—I will not put it higher—that might tend to encourage the keeping of houses in a state of disrepair. Though I will not develop the point further, a good deal could be said upon that aspect of the matter.

Finally, I would say that this Amendment goes back to a proposition which the right hon. Gentleman has urged on many occasions: it casts upon the county court judge the duty, which we on this side of the House do not think ought to be put upon him, of saying what is a fair and reasonable rent. That is a different matter from the duty of making an apportionment. It would cast upon the judge the duty of saying what is a fair and reasonable rent, and that is suggesting a kind of tenancy court, something which I know the right hon. Gentleman believes in but to which we on this side of the House are opposed. For all those three reasons I do not advise the House to accept this Amendment, and I hope that after this brief explanation—I could have made it longer had I not had regard to the business before us—I must ask the House to reject the Amendment.

9.10 p.m.

Mr. Kingsley Griffith

I do not think the Minister altogether realises the immense amount of resentment which is caused by the operation of this provision in the Act of 1920. If a tenant is told that his rent is to be increased by a certain arbitrary amount he may take it as a stroke of fate, as an act of God, but if he is told that he has to pay more rent because the landlord is liable for repairs, although he knows that his landlord has not done any repairs, he regards it more as a stroke of fraud, and it does create an immense amount of ill-feeling. The Minister suggested that the matter could be cured by serving a non-repair notice and holding the rent in suspense. I ask him to consider this case. I hope there are still cases in which a landlord does keep the house in a fair state of repair, and in that case it may very well be that in a given year he has not had to spend anything at all, and no tenant could then ask for a certificate of non-repair, but that is no reason why a landlord who has not had to spend anything whatever, or only a negligible sum, should still be entitled to an increase of 25 per cent. It seems to me that the Minister has not met the point which is behind this Amendment. After all, the Amendment seeks to do only what is fair. There must be some tribunal to decide, and in this case I cannot see anything except the county court as a convenient tribunal. For those reasons I hope the House will see fit to support the Amendment.

9.12 p.m.

Mr. Frankel

I rise to address the House for a few moments in support of this Amendment in view of the very unsatisfactory and inadequate reply to it from the Minister. He seems to have missed the real point of the Amendment. All the things which he said against the Amendment would apply with equal force to the Act of 1920, which deals with cases in which the repairs have to be done partly by the owner and partly by the tenant. I have noticed no attempt by the right hon. Gentleman to remove that provision from that Act. The power of the county court to apportion the amount of the extra rent which shall be paid by the tenant where repairs are done partly by the tenant and partly by the landlord, remains, and I have not heard that there has been any difficulty about carrying out that provision of the law. If there had been any difficulties we ought to have heard of them. The question before us is of great importance to hundreds of thousands of tenants. When replying to previous Amendments the right hon. Gentleman has referred to differences of principle between the two sides of the House. We on this side do believe in a more or less permanent control of rents, and also believe that there ought to be rent courts, and though there are divisions between us on those matters, still, as the right hon. Gentleman has said, we are entitled to hold our views and he has asked us to respect his. But are there any differences of principle with regard to fraud? Are there any differences between us on the question whether it is fair for people to take money and then not do the things for which they have had the money?

The law does not say that it is 25 per cent, for repairs, it is 25 per cent. above the pre-war cost of repairs, a very different thing. Surely it will be admitted that before the War the landlord made allowance in the rent for having to do some repairs. The allowance which the House gave to landlords was 25 per cent. above pre-war cost of repairs, based upon the supposed increase in the cost of repairs after the War. The hon. Gentleman who moved the Amendment made the point that the 25 per cent. could have been criticised at any time between 1920 and now, as to whether it was a proper sum to be allowed.

The Minister who replied on this Amendment has missed another point which I think is fundamental. He referred to the 40 per cent. which the medical officer of health can certify need not be paid by a tenant after his house is in a certain state of disrepair. Are the Minister of Health and the House to say that we have to wait until irreparable damage has been done to houses before anything can be done about it? Is this House to say that what is happening at the present moment must be allowed to continue? My own constituency is not a bright example of the way in which houses are kept in repair by landlords. The borough council issues scores of summonses month after month against landlords and hundreds of notices under the Public Health Acts. That is an answer in regard to the 25 per cent. extra which we are allowing to landlords, who wait until their houses are so bad that they come under the Public Health Act. If the houses are to wait until then, why should 25 per cent. extra be paid to the landlord during the intervening years? Many hon. Members well know that before a house can be put into repair or into partial repair under the Public Health Act it has to be in a very sad state.

Certain things are also allowed under the Public Health Act. You cannot put a house into a proper state of repair under those Acts as repair was visualised in regard to the 25 per cent. increase. We all know of the great delays which are necessarily caused to-day under the Public Health Act before a house can be put into anything like habitable condition, not to say proper repair, yet the right hon. Gentleman says that the answer to our Amendment is that the tenants can report to the surveyor when their houses become so bad as to be more or less uninhabitable. Is that argument an answer to our Amendment? I could have understood it if the right hon. Gentleman had said: "I do not like the drafting of your Amendment, but I agree in principle that landlords should not be able to do as they are doing in many constituencies, and all over industrial England, taking 25 per cent. for this purpose, not during one year but over many years, and doing nothing for it."

There is some repercussion upon the standard of life of the people because hundreds of thousands of tenants who like to live decently repair their houses themselves out of money that should be spent on food. The landlords know that and on many occasions definitely play upon it. Even when he proposes to do anything, he asks the tenant to contribute a portion of the cost of doing what he ought to do out of his 25 per cent. Before it is too late, and before it goes out to the public of this country that the right hon. Gentleman's answer is that we must wait until the houses are so bad that they can claim 40 per cent., something should be done from the benches opposite to meet the legitimate claim put forward in the Amendment.

9.20 p.m.

Mr. Viant

I have listened very attentively to the arguments advanced by the Minister of Health for the retention of the 25 per cent. The basis of his argument seemed to be an assumption that repairs were being carried out to-day in a satisfactory manner. He should know, if he knows his own constituency, that, good as that constituency may be, the landlords are not keeping the houses in that state of repair that the Bill requires. I know people in my own constituency living in houses the landlords of which will not spend a penny upon repairs or even upon redecoration. In some cases the landlord, if he is approached by the tenant, will say "I am prepared to meet you in this regard. I will give you the paint and the paper, but you must be responsible for the labour." That kind of thing was not envisaged when the 25 per cent. was originally enacted. In view of such facts, I see no reason why the right hon. Gentleman should not be prepared to meet us in this matter.

We are being asked to condone what is in every respect nothing other than a fraud. Tenants are being defrauded because the landlords are not keeping the houses up to the standard required. It is all very well to say that there is the redress of going to the sanitary authority and asking the sanitary inspector to make an inspection. The sanitary inspector will say: "Is the roof all right? Does it leak? Are the drains all right, or are they out of order?" Those are the two main matters in which the sanitary inspectors will be interested, but there are other things equally important pertaining to house property. Tenants pay rent which they are compelled to pay to-day and they are entitled to far better accommodation than is supplied by the average landlord. I know of many houses in which tenants have resided for over 20 years and the landlords of which have in no sense been responsible for the repairs. The tenants have had to meet the cost out of their own pockets. Surely, after all the arguments that have been advanced during the last two days, the right hon. Gentleman should be prepared to meet us in this matter. We are not asking for anything unreasonable. We suggest that county court judges should have an opportunity of giving a decision in respect of the conduct of the landlord. I wholeheartedly support the Amendment.

9.25 p.m.

Mr. Logan

The Bill is very important in its effects upon the large number of people living in small dwellings in Liverpool. Our hospitals are filled because of the bad accommodation which prevails. If landlords receive rents and do not do the repairs, and ill health follows as a consequence, the city suffers. I am proud to say that the majority of landlords in Liverpool are not bad landlords in this respect. They do the repairs because it is a good investment; it pays them well to see that the houses are kept in proper condition. But for a long time we have had in that city a very great number of speculative landlords who buy up this kind of property and spend no money on it, but get for themselves the whole benefit of this 25 per cent. It is not fair, and such landlords are a curse. Anyone who knows Liverpool with its slums ought to agree to the proposition made in this Amendment.

I am not saying a word against the owners of properties which are kept in fair condition, where the landlords want only a fair return on their capital, but there is no hope whatever from the type of landlord who does not care a tinker's curse about the condition of the people as long as he draws the rent. I am anxious that there should be some tribunal before which such a landlord must appear, instead of robbing the poverty-stricken people of Liverpool who are his tenants and who are paying excessive rents. This is a grievance which demands some redress. The Minister of Health knows the conditions perfectly well, because he has visited our great city and seen the wonderful improvements that the Housing Director has made for the welfare of the people: but we have thousands and thousands of houses with the bad conditions that I have described and we are not able to do anything in the matter. Surely from the point of view of health the Minister ought to be able to say, "This is something which should be redressed." We feel that a county court judge who is aware of the rotten conditions there would be able to deal effectively with a slum landlord.

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

The House divided: Ayes, 104; Noes, 143.

Division No. 186.] AYES. [8.50 p.m.
Adams, S. V. T. (Leeds, W.) Baxter, A. Beverley Burghley, Lord
Albery, Sir Irving Beamish, Rear-Admiral T. P. H Burgin, Rt. Hon. E. L.
Allen, Col. J. Sandeman (B'knhead) Bernays, R. H. Butcher, H. W.
Apsley, Lord Bossom, A. C. Campbell, Sir E. T.
Assheton, R. Boulton, W. W. Cazalet, Thelma (Islington, E.)
Baillie, Sir A. W. M. Boyce, H. Leslie Chamberlain, Rt. Hn. N. (Edgb't'n)'
Baldwin-Webb, Col. J. Briscoe, Capt. R. G. Channon, H.
Balfour, Capt. H. H. (Isle of Thanet) Broadbridge, Sir G. T. Clarke, Colonel R. S. (E. Grinstead)
Balniel, Lord Bull, B. B. Clarry, Sir Reginald
Clydesdale, Marquess of Joel, D. J. B. Ropner, Colonel L.
Colville, Lt.-Col. Rt. Hon. D. J. Jones, Sir G. W. H. (S'k N'w'gt'n) Ross Taylor, W. (Woodbridge)
Cooke, J. D. (Hammersmith, S.) Jones, L. (Swansea W.) Rowlands, G.
Craven-Ellis, W. Keeling, E. H. Royds, Admiral Sir P. M. R.
Croom-Johnson, R. P. Kerr, Colonel C. I. (Montrose) Russell, Sir Alexander
Cross, R. H. Kerr, J. Graham (Scottish Univs.) Salmon, Sir I.
Davies, Major Sir G. F. (Yeovil) Latham, Sir P. Samuel, M. R. A.
De la Bère, R. Leighton, Major B. E. P. Sandys, E. D.
Denville, Alfred Lennox-Boyd, A. T. L. Selley, H. R.
Dower, Major A. V. G. Lipson, D. L. Shakespeare, G. H.
Duckworth, W. R. (Moss Side) Llewellin, Colonel J. J. Shaw, Captain W. T. (Forfar)
Ellis, Sir G. Locker-Lampson, Comdr. O. S. Smith, Bracewell (Dulwich)
Entwistle, Sir C. F. Loftus, P. C. Somervell, Sir D. B. (Crewe)
Evans, Capt. A. (Cardiff, S.) Lyons, A. M. Spears, Brigadier-General E. L.
Findlay, Sir E. MacDonald, Rt. Hon. M. (Ross) Strauss, E. A. (Southwark, N.)
Fleming, E. L. Macdonald, Capt. P. (Isle of Wight) Strauss, H. G. (Norwich)
Furness, S. N. McKie, J. H. Tasker, Sir R. I.
Gluekstein, L. H. Macmillan, H. (Stockton-on-Tees) Tate, Mavis C.
Grimston, R. V. Margesson, Capt. Rt. Hon. H. D. R. Taylor, Vice-Adm. E. A. (Padd., S.)
Gritten, W. G. Howard Markham, S. F. Thomson, Sir J. D. W.
Guest, Lieut.-Colonel H. (Drake) Maxwell, Hon. S. A. Train, Sir J.
Gunston, Capt. Sir D. W. Mayhew, Lt.-Col. J. Ward, Lieut.-Col. Sir A. L. (Hull)
Hannah, I. C. Mellor, Sir J. S. P. (Tamworth) Wardlaw-Milne, Sir J. S.
Hannon, Sir P. J. H. Mills, Sir F. (Leyton, E.) Waterhouss, Captain C.
Harbord, A. Morrison, Rt. Hon. W. S. (Cirencester) Wayland, Sir W. A
Hartington, Marquess of Munro, P. Wells, S. R.
Harvey, Sir G. Nall, Sir J. Whiteley, Major J. P. (Buckingham)
Harvey, T. E. (Eng. Univ's.) O'Connor, Sir Terence J. Wilson, Lt.-Col. Sir A. T. (Hitchin)
Haslam, Sir J. (Bolton) Orr-Ewing, I. L. Wintarton, Rt. Hon. Earl
Heilgare, Captain F. F. A. Palmer, G. E. H. Wise, A. R.
Hely-Hutchinson, M. R. Peake, O. Withers, Sir J. J.
Hepburn, P. G. T. Buchan- Ponsonby, Col. C. E. Womersley, Sir W. J.
Hepworth, J. Raikes, H. V. A. M. Wood, Hon. C. I. C.
Holdsworth, H. Ramsbotham, H. Wood Rt. Hon. Sir Kingsley
Holmes, J. S. Rathbone, J. R. (Bodmin) Wright, Wing-Contmander J. A. C.
Hope, Captain Hon. A. O. J. Rayner, Major R. H. Young, A. S. L. (Parlok)
Hudson, Capt. A. U. M. (Hack., N.) Reid, J. S. C. (Hillhead)
Hurd, Sir P. A. Reid, W. Allan (Derby) TELLERS FOR THE AYES.—
Hutchinson, G. C. Renter, J. R. Major Sir James Edmondson
Intkip, Rt. Hon. Sir T. W. H. Robinson, J. R. (Blackpool) and Major Herbert.
Adams, D. (Consett) Gibson, R. (Greenock) Naylor, T. E.
Adams, D. M. (Poplar, S.) Green, W. H. (Deptford) Noel-Baker, P. J.
Adamson, W. M. Greenwood, Rt. Hon. A. Oliver, G. H.
Ammon, C. G. Griffith, F. Kingsley (M'ddl'sbro, W.) Parkinson, J. A.
Aske, Sir R. W. Griffiths, G, A. (Hemsworth) Pearson, A.
Attlee, Rt. Hon. C. R. Griffiths, J. (Llanelly) Price, M. P.
Banfield, J. W. Groves, T. E. Pritt, D. N.
Barr, J. Hall, G. H. (Aberdare) Quibell, D. J. K.
Bellenger, F. J. Hall, J. H. (Whitechapal) Ridley, G.
Bonn, Rt. Hon. W. W. Henderson, A. (Kingswinford) Riley, B.
Benson, G. Henderson, T. (Tradeston) Ritson, J.
Bevan, A. Hills, A. (Ponttfract) Roberts, Rt. Hon. F. O. (W. Brom.)
Broad, F. A. Hollins, A. Robinson, W. A. (St. Helens)
Brown, C. (Mansfield) Hopkin, D. Seely, Sir H. M.
Burke, W. A. Jagger, J. Sexton, T. M.
Charleton, H. C. Jenkins, Sir W. (Neath) Silverman, S. S.
Chater, D. John, W. Simpson, F. B.
Cluse, W. S. Johnston, Rt. Hon. T. Smith, Ben (Rotherhithe)
Cove, W. G. Jones, A. C. (Shipley) Smith, E. (Stoke)
Cripps, Hon. Sir Stafford Jones, Morgan (Caerphilly) Stewart, W. J. (H'ght'n-le-Sp'ng)
Daggar, G. Kelly, W. T. Summerskill, Edith
Dalton, H. Kennedy, Rt. Hon. T. Taylor, R. J. (Morpeth)
Davidson, J. J. (Maryhill) Lathan, G. Tinker, J. J.
Davies, S. O. (Merthyr) Lawson, J. J. Tomlinson, G.
Day, H. Leach, W. Viant, S. P.
Dobbie, W. Leonard, W. Walkden, A. G.
Dunn, E. (Rother Valley) Leslie, J. R. Westwood, J.
Ede, J. C. Logan, D. G. Wilkinson, Ellen
Edwards, Sir C. (Bedwellty) McEntee, V. La T. Williams, D. (Swansea, E.)
Evans, D. O (Cardigan) Maclean, N. Wilson, C. H. (Attercliffe)
Evans, E. (Univ. of Wales) Mandar, G. le M. Windsor, W. (Hull, C.)
Fletcher, Lt.-Comdr. R. T. H. Maxton, F. Young, Sir R. (Newton)
Frankel, D. Messer, F.
Gardner, B. W. Montague, F. TELLERS FOR THE NOES.—
George, Megan Lloyd (Anglesey) Nathan, Colonel H. L. Mr. Mathers and Mr. Anderson.
Division No. 187.] AYES. [9.30 p.m.
Adams, D. (Consett) Green, W. H. (Deptford) Naylor, T. E.
Adams, D. M. (Poplar, S.) Greenwood, Rt. Hon. A. Oliver, G. H.
Amman, C. G. Griffith, F Kingsley (M'ddl'sbro, W.) Parkinson, J. A.
Anderson, F. (Whitehaven) Griffiths, G. A. (Hemsworth) Pearson, A.
Asks, Sir R. W. Griffiths, J. (Llanelly) Price, M. P.
Attlee, Rt. Hon. C. R. Groves, T. E. Quibell, D. J. K.
Banfield, J. W. Hall, J. H (Whiteshapel) Ridley, G.
Barr, J. Hardie, Agnes Riley, B.
Bellenger, F. J. Harvey, T. E. (Eng. Univ's.) Ritson, J.
Benn, Rt. Hon. W. W. Henderson, A. (Kingswinford) Roberts, Rt. Hon. F. O. (W. Brom.)
Benson, G. Henderson, T. (Tradeston) Roberts, W. (Cumberland, N.)
Broad, F. A. Hills, A. (Pontsfract) Robinson, W. A. (St. Helens)
Brown, C. (Mansfield) Holdsworth, H. Seely. Sir H. M.
Burke, W. A. Hollins, A. Sexton, T. M.
Chater, D. Hopkin, D. Silverman, S. S.
Cluse, W. S. Jagger, J. Simpson, F. B.
Cove, W. G. Jenkins, Sir W. (Neath) Smith, E. (Stoke)
Cripps, Hon. Sir Stafford John, W. Stewart, W. J. (H'ght'-le-Sp'ng)
Daggar, G. Johnston, Rt. Hon. T. Summerskill, Edith
Dalton, H. Jones, Morgan (Caerphilly) Taylor, R. J. (Morpeth)
Davidson, J. J. (Maryhill) Kelly, W. T. Tinker, J. J.
Davies, S. O. (Merthyr) Kennedy, Rt. Hon. T. Tomlinson, G.
Day, H. Lathan, G. Viant, S. P.
Dobbie, W. Lawson, J. J. Walkden, A. G.
Dunn, E. (Rother Valley) Leach, W. Walker, J.
Ede, J. C. Leonard, W. Westwood, J.
Edwards, Sir C. (Bedwellty) Leslie, J. R. White, H. Graham
Evans, D. O. (Cardigan) Logan, D. G. Wilkinson, Ellen
Fletcher, Lt.-Comdr. R. T. H. McEntee, V. La T. Williams, D. (Swansea, E.)
Foot, D. M. Maclean, N. Wilson, C. H. (Attercliffe)
Frankel, D. Mander, G. le M. Windsor, W. (Hull, C.)
Gallacher, W. Mathers, G. Young, Sir R. (Newton)
Gardner, B. W. Maxton, J.
Garro Jones, G. M. Messer, F. TELLERS FOR THE AYES.—
George, Megan Lloyd (Anglesey) Montague, F. Mr. Adamson and Mr. Charleton.
Gibson, R. (Greenock) Nathan, Colonel H. L.
Adams, S. V. T. (Leeds, W.) Fyfe, D. P. M. Mayhew, Lt.-Col. J.
Albery, Sir Irving Gluckstein, L. H. Mellor, Sir J. S. P. (Tamworth)
Allen, Col. J. Sandemen (B'knhead) Grimston, R. V. Morrison, Rt. Hon. W. S. (Cirencestar)
Apsley, Lord Gritten, W. G. Howard Munro, P.
Assheton, R. Guest, Lieut.-Colonel H. (Drake) Nall, Sir J.
Atholl, Duchess of Gunston, Capt. Sir D. W. Nicholson, G. (Farnham)
Baillie, Sir A. W. M. Hannah, I. C. O'Connor, Sir Terence J.
Baldwin-Webb, Col. J. Hannon, Sir P. J. H. Orr-Ewing, I. L.
Balfour, Capt. H. H. (Isle of Thanet) Harbord, A. Palmer, G. E. H.
Balniel, Lord Hartington, Marquess of Peake, O.
Baxter, A. Beverley Harvey, Sir G. Ponsonby, Col. C. E.
Beamish, Rear-Admiral T. P. H. Haslam, Sir J. (Bolton) Procter, Major H. A.
Bernays, R. H. Heilgers, Captain F. F. A. Raikes, H. V. A. M.
Bossom, A. C. Hely-Hutchinson, M. R. Ramsbotham, H.
Boulton, W. W. Hepburn, P. G. T. Buchan- Rathbone, J. R. (Bodmin)
Boyce, H. Leslie Hepworth, J. Rayner, Major R. H.
Briscoe, Capt. R. G. Herbert, A. P. (Oxford U.) Reid, J. S. C. (Hillhead)
Broadbridge, Sir G. T. Holmes, J. S. Reid, W. Allan (Derby)
Bull, B. B. Hope, Captain Hon. A. O. J. Remer, J. R.
Burghley, Lord Hudson, Capt. A. U. M. (Hack., N.) Robinson, J. R. (Blackpool)
Butcher, H. W. Hurd, Sir P. A. Ropner, Colonel L.
Campbell, Sir E. T. Hutchinson, G. C. Ross Taylor, W. (Woodbridge)
Cazalet, Thelma (Islington, E.) Joel, D. J. B. Rowlands, G.
Chamberlain, Rt. Hn. N. (Edgb't'n) Jones, Sir G. W. H. (S'k N'w'gt'n) Royds, Admiral Sir P. M. R.
Channon, H. Jones, L. (Swansea W.) Salmon, Sir I.
Clarke, Colonel R. S. (E. Grinstead) Keeling, E. H. Samuel, M. R. A.
Clarry, Sir Reginald Kerr, Colonel C. I. (Montrose) Sandys, E. D.
Clydesdale, Marquess of Kerr, H. W. (Oldham) Selley, H. R.
Colville, Lt.-Col. Rt. Hon. D. J. Kerr, J. Graham (Scottish Univs.) Shaw, Major P. S. (Wavertree)
Cooke, J. D. (Hammersmith, S.) Latham, Sir P. Shaw, Captain W. T. (Forfar)
Craven-Ellis, W. Leighton, Major B. E. P. Simon, Rt. Hon. Sir J. A.
Croom-Johnson, R. P. Lennox-Boyd, A. T. L. Smith, Bracewell (Dulwich)
Cross, R. H. Lipson, D. L. Somervell, Sir D. B. (Crewe)
Davies, Major Sir G. F. (Yeovll) Llewellin, Colonel J. J. Spears, Brigadier-General E. L.
De la Bère, R. Locker-Lampson, Comdr. O. S. Strauss, E. A. (Southwark, N.)
Denville, Alfred Loftus, P. C. Strauss, H. G. (Norwich)
Dower, Major A. V. G. Lyons, A. M. Tasker, Sir R. I.
Duckworth, W. R. (Moss Side) MacDonald, Rt. Hon. M. (Ross) Tate, Mavis C.
Edmondson, Major Sir J. Macdonald, Capt. P. (Isle of Wight) Taylor, Vice-Adm. E. A. (Padd., S.)
Ellis, Sir G. McKie, J. H. Thomson, Sir J. D. W.
Entwistle, Sir C. F. Macmillan, H. (Stockton-on-Tees) Train, Sir J.
Evans, Cant. A. (Cardiff, S.) Magnay, T. Ward, Lieut.-Col. Sir A. L. (Hull)
Findlay, Sir E. Margesson, Capt. Rt. Hon. H. D. R. Wardlaw-Milne, Sir J. S.
Fleming, E. L. Markham, S. F. Waterhouse, Captain C.
Wayland, Sir W. A Wise, A. R. Young, A. S. L. (Partick)
Wells, S. R. Womersley, Sir W. J.
Whiteley, Major J. P. (Buckingham) Wood, Hon. C. I. C. TELLERS FOR THE NOES.—
Wilson, Ll.-Col. Sir A. T. (Hitchin) Wood, Rt. Hon. Sir Kingsley Mr. Furness and Major Herbert.
Winterton, Rt. Hon. Earl Wright, Wing-Commander J. A. C.