HC Deb 30 May 1945 vol 411 cc246-50

Mr. Spearman: I beg to move, in page 34, line 31, leave out "appointed day," and insert "eighth day of May, nineteen hundred and forty-five."

The object of the Amendment is to secure that those hotel owners who are going to receive a higher rent for their hotels which are still requisitioned at the end of the war shall receive that increased rent retrospectively from the end of the German war, namely, 8th May. I realise that it may be very difficult, from the point of view of the Crown, to make that increased rent apply retrospectively to all hotels over the whole period, because, no doubt, many of them are being derequisitioned all the time, and therefore it might mean a great deal of work. What I propose is that those hotels which are still requisitioned after the war shall receive an increase in rent, provided that they are still requisitioned on the appointed day, retrospectively to the end of the war and not from the appointed day. Otherwise, it seems to me that the benefit of this rent increase is going to be minimised to a very great extent. The appointed day is an unknown time, and may be a long way ahead, and, in the meantime, the hotels will not be getting any increase in rent and will be suffering from a great injustice. I would like to point out that local hotel proprietors who have had their hotels requisitioned have suffered a very great hardship compared with their more fortunate rivals. I have no doubt that this applies to many places, but my own knowledge is only of Scarborough and Whitby, where for some years, at any rate, the economic value has been far above the level at the time of requisition, and, consequently, they have suffered very much compared with those who have been able to remain open, and I suggest that they should be shown that consideration now.

I realise that there may be some places where the hotels were fortunate to be taken over, because at that period there were no visitors, but there are places, like Scarborough and Whitby, and no doubt there are others, where that is quite un true and which have suffered very much from requisitioning. Scarborough was absolutely full at Whitsuntide; there were people sleeping in shelters, so there is no question of waiting for some future date before the hotel rents are worth more. I am sure my right hon. Friend would agree that if they were de-requisitioned now they would benefit very greatly. It seems to me there are two methods of dealing with this problem. It might be said, though personally I should not think this would be a good way, "Draw lots and requisition certain houses and certain hotels, and for the people who have the bad luck to be taken over this will be their contribution to the war." The other method is to fix a rent for them, and I think that is probably more fair provided the rents were equitable, that is, the market values were paid.

3.30 p.m.

I should like to add one final point. Many of the hotels in Scarborough which have been requisitioned are not being used. It may be that it is because they are receiving such poor rents from the State that the Treasury are not worrying very much. I am anxious to get all these hotels de-requisitioned because that is essential as much in the interests of the town as of the hotel proprietors, and I am hoping that if a proper rent were paid the Chancellor of the Exchequer might be more willing to co-operate with me in getting the Service Departments to derequisition the hotels they are not using than if the State is getting them very cheaply, as at present.

Sir John Mellor (Tamworth)

I support the Amendment which, of course, covers all forms of requisitioned property and is not limited to hotels. I would only make the point that I think it is rather invidious that the improved compensation should commence to run only from the appointed day, because by Sub-section (2) the appointed day means such day as the Treasury may appoint, and they ought not to be tempted to postpone that date. After all, in this matter the Treasury is judge in its own cause, and I think it would be very much fairer from every point of view that the improved compensation should begin to run from a fixed date, and the proper date, in my submission, is that which is named in the Amendment, the 8th May. I hope that my right hon. Friend will accept the Amendment.

Major York (Ripon)

Very briefly I wish to support the Amendment, because I want to impress upon the Chancellor of the Exchequer that it is not true to say that a very large number of properties involved have been protected from the economic blitz which has fallen upon certain parts of England. In my own constituency, had it not been for requisitioning, all the accommodation would have been taken up at the full economic rate. I hope the Chancellor will give the most sympathetic consideration to my hon. Friend's Amendment.

Sir J. Anderson

I should not like any of my hon. Friends to think that if I find it necessary to oppose this Amend- ment my general attitude at this stage of the proceedings on the Bill is in any way unsympathetic. The position as I see it is this: In Committee the provisions of Clause 45 were inserted in the Bill as a concession to meet admitted hardships. Now my hon. Friend the Member for Scarborough and Whitby (Mr. Spearman) proposes that the benefits of the concession, instead of running from the appointed day, should run from the date at which hostilities in Europe came to an end. The objection to that is a purely practical one. It would in my judgment defeat the object of the concession which we have already provided in the Bill designed to meet the hardship of prolonged requisition—after the period of the emergency has, in respect of the majority of properties, come to an end—of a number of perhaps more or less arbitrarily selected properties at rents fixed in the emergency perhaps on a basis that reflected exceptional conditions which have come to an end with the emergency. If this concession is to be practical it must apply to a limited number of cases and avoid the large number of revisions of rent that would be involved if the concession were made applicable before the process of de-requisitioning, which I hope will now go on very rapidly, has covered large numbers of properties of all kinds. My hon. Friend the Member for Tamworth (Sir J. Mellor) is quite right in saying that the provisions we are dealing with here are general provisions and not designed specially to meet the case of hotels. There is a vast number of small properties that have been requisitioned, running into tens if not hundreds of thousands, which we want to dispose of, and when that has been done we will fix the appointed day, and then those properties which continue to be under requisition in the post-war period will have the benefit of the provisions of Clause 4.

Mr. Spearman

I realise my right hon. Friend's point, that it would make administrative difficulties, and that is why I only ask that it should apply to those hotels which are still requisitioned on the appointed day, so that those still requisitioned then should receive the increased rent retrospectively.

Sir J. Anderson

But my hon. Friend persists in treating this as if it were a special provision for hotels. Would he look at the case of the ordinary little house? A vast number of houses occupied by troops are to be de-requisitioned. What he proposes is that where a property has been de-requisitioned before the appointed day. there should be no question of giving it the benefit of this concession, but if it is occupied one day after the appointed day it is to get the benefit of this concession and not only from the appointed day but retrospectively. Look at the inequalities which would result. Look at the temptation there would be for the Treasury—if such a Department as the Treasury were open to temptation at all—to defer the appointed day so that there should be no possible charge of inequality in the treatment of similar properties. I assure my hon. Friend that the Treasury will not be influenced at all—so far as I can speak for the Treasury during the next few months—in fixing the appointed day by any consideration of a saving by postponing the appointed day. We will fix the appointed day as soon as we feel that we can handle the problem. I hope that after that assurance my hon. Friend will not press the Amendment.

Mr. Spearman

In view of my right hon. Friend's assurance that the Treasury will go out of their way to fix the appointed day as early as possible I beg leave to withdraw my Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause ordered to stand part of the Bill.