HC Deb 16 February 1949 vol 461 cc1193-6
Mr. Piratin

I beg to move, in page 5, line 22, to leave out subsection (2).

Perhaps the Minister will give us an explanation of this subsection, which is not clear to me, however clear it may be to other hon. Members. As I understand the matter, if the subsection remains, where, in the case of a major property, a property which is part of it has its rent determined, then, in the words of the Bill, in making any apportionment under the principal Acts for the purpose of ascertaining the standard rent of any other part of the property no regard shall be had to the determination under Section one of this Act. The problem that arises here is of having two kinds of standard rent in one and the same house, one for the whole dwelling and another for part of the dwelling which falls within the subsection. For that matter, there may be even more than one part of the dwelling with a different standard rent. Therefore, we are likely to have two standards of rent applying to various parts of the house. In the case of the principal dwelling the tenant already has the remedy of obtaining an apportionment under the 1920 Act and under the Act of 1939. No problem arises there.

What I cannot understand is the purpose of the subsection. Hence my Amendment to remove it. If the tribunal fixes a standard rent there will be two types of standard rent. We shall also have the effect that the total rent of the different parts of the house will bear no relationship to the standard rent of the whole house. It may well be that the new standard rent will be higher than the old standard rent, and higher than that which has been the apportionment of the old standard rent of the whole of the house.

I do not know whether I am making my meaning clear. It is all very "abstuse." There has been so much complication that it will be very easy for me to follow in the wake of some of the lawyers and to be found equally difficult to apprehend. I am doing my best to make myself understood. The Minister said, in the course of his speech upon an earlier Amendment which I withdrew, that the tenant could go either to the county court in relation to a whole house which comes within the present rent Acts, or he could go to the tribunal, if we have in mind what the Bill permits the tenant to do. That may be the answer, but it will not explain that there will still be two kinds of standard rent obtaining in one dwelling-house and that there are likely to be anomalies. I am trying to help to make the Bill more constructive and understandable.

Mr. Blenkinsop

The effect of the Amendment would be that the other tenants in the major property would have to have their rents raised, if the new reasonable rent for a particular part of the dwelling-house were taken into account. The remedy for the other tenants is clearly that of going before the rent tribunal and having their new reasonable rents determined. There is no reason at all why they could not do that and it is obviously a desirable thing to do.

Mr. Quintin Hogg (Oxford)

I do not wish to be thought "abstuse," to use the word which I thought was very happily coined by the hon. Member for Mile End (Mr. Piratin) and which I take it is a combination of the words "abstruse" and "obtuse." But I am wondering whether the Parliamentary Secretary will explain the effect of the subsection in the case where property which comes within Clause 1 is the subject of a determination under that Clause and subsequently has to be let in different parts. It might perhaps be argued by a tenant who subsequently applied for an apportionment that this subsection applied, and that the part of the dwelling-house which he then occupied, being part of the original dwelling-house in respect of which a determination had been made, was in fact not the same and was therefore other than that dwelling house, and that, therefore, in making the apportionment in the county court, no regard was to be had to the determination. I may have misread the words, or perhaps the Minister has been advised that that is an impossible construction. If I am mistaken in this matter, perhaps the Minister will forgive me because no one would pretend that these matters are easy to understand.

Mr. Janner

A very important point has been raised by the hon. Member for Oxford (Mr. Hogg). There happens to be an Act of 1938 which says that in order to obtain an apportionment on a dwelling-house which is part of another dwelling-house we must take into consideration the rent of the whole dwelling-house. We have enough confusion with these Acts already. I make this interjection in order to find out whether that will be in conflict with these new provisions. Otherwise a county court will be able to do what a rent tribunal is not able to do, and a rent tribunal may come to conclusions to which a county court would not come, by reason of the fact that the 1938 Act still prevails. I am raising this matter in the hope that the Minister will give me an explanation. It will be difficult to have two Acts on the Statute Book which conflict with each other.

Mr. Bevan

I should have thought that the language of the subsection, whatever else is obscure in the Bill, would be perfectly clear. It says here that the determination of the tribunal shall not affect a determination under the principal Act. It is sometimes better to read out the words, because we are still dependent upon the acoustics of the market-place to penetrate our understandings. The words are: (2) Where the standard rent of a dwelling-house, being part of a property which is a dwelling-house to which the principal Acts apply, has been determined under Section one of this Act, then in making any apportionment under the principal Acts for the purpose of ascertaining the standard rent of any other part of the property no regard shall be had to the determination under Section one of this Act. I should have thought that those words reasserted the supremacy of the principal Act.

Mr. Piratin

Why should it be necessary for the tenant to apply to the tribunal, in view of the fact that the dwelling-house falls within the principal Act and he can go to the county court and obtain an apportionment on a lower standard than he is likely to get from the tribunal?

Mr. Bevan

I do not follow the point which my hon. Friend is making. The effect of leaving out the subsection is to call upon the tribunal to take into account the standard rent of the other parts of the house.

Mr. Piratin

In view of the Minister's statement, I beg to ask leave to withdraw the Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause ordered to stand part of the Bill.