HC Deb 22 April 1952 vol 499 cc191-2
13. Mr. C. W. Gibson

asked the Minister of Housing and Local Government if he is aware that the law against the charging of premiums for lettings of houses and flats is being evaded by the charging of excessive sums for fittings and furniture, examples of which have been sent to him; and whether he will introduce legislation to make this practice illegal.

Mr. H. Macmillan

I have not had many representations on this practice. It is already illegal under Section 3 of the Landlord and Tenant (Rent Control) Act, 1949, and no further legislation is required.

Mr. Gibson

Especially in view of the fact that this practice is illegal, which is not generally known, will the Minister take steps to make it more widely known and encourage people to give information and institute prosecutions in cases where this sort of thing happens? Is he aware that only this morning I received a case where a flat has a statutory rent of £84 a year, but the owner is asking actually £1,250 for the furniture and fittings, which is obviously a gross over-estimate of the value of these things? Is it not important that some special pressure should be put on to secure prosecutions in such cases?

Mr. Macmillan

The hon. Gentleman has referred to excessive sums, but without the knowledge of a particular case no one can say what is excessive. As to the general practice my answer is correct, but I am grateful to him for ventilating this matter. Perhaps his Question and my answer will assist someone in the purpose he has in mind.

Mr. G. R. Howard

Is not the real answer to this that people should deal with reputable firms who do not engage in this sort of practice?

Mr. Hector Hughes

Is the Minister aware that there is a real grievance to be redressed in this matter? Is he not also aware that large amounts of rent are demanded in advance, which amount to premiums, and will he take steps to stop that? Is he further aware that there are certain agents who are battening on the needs of people requiring flats to exact fees from them but not finding the flats?

Mr. Macmillan

The real trouble is the shortage of accommodation, and I am looking to the hon. and learned Gentleman and his friends to assist me in this work.

Mr. E. Shinwell

If those responsible for instituting prosecutions, if allegations are made, fail to act, does the Minister take any action?

Mr. Macmillan

I have no reason to suppose that they fail to act. As I said in the first sentence of my original answer, I have not had many representations on the practice but it rests with the local authorities. If there are any difficulties, I am sure they will do their duty.