HC Deb 23 May 1952 vol 501 cc850-4

11.36 a.m.

Sir Austin Hudson (Lewisham, North)

I beg to move, in page 2, line 41, to leave out from the beginning, to "such," in line 2, on page 3, and insert: (2) Where under the foregoing provisions of this Act the standard rent for any premises would be a rent or amount such as is mentioned in paragraph (a) or (b) of subsection (1) of section one of the Landlord and Tenant (Rent Control) Act, 1949 (a) the said provisions shall have effect subject to the said section one, and (b) those provisions shall not be treated as When this Bill was before the House on Second Reading, this subsection was extremely complicated, and that was the subject of comment from all sides of the House. In Committee upstairs, an effort was made to change the form of words, and they were changed after a Division; but the new form of words is not felt to be completely satisfactory even by the hon. Member who moved the Amendment in Committee.

Since that time I have been endeavouring to find a form of words which would be agreeable both to the promoters of the Bill and to the hon. Member for Henley (Mr. Hay) who moved the Amendment upstairs. I may say, at this stage, that I have had a letter from the hon. Member for Henley whom, I regret to say is in hospital, and in it he states that he agrees with the form of words which I now propose. He adds that he is sorry that he cannot be here himself.

The hon. Member for Henley and the Solicitor-General got together and, with the aid of the Government draftsmen, they have produced a form of words on the Order Paper which I think is a very much simpler form. It does not in any way alter what we intended to do originally, but it is very much simpler than the form originally in the Bill.

For the sake of those people who would like to know what the Amendment is about, I will explain that it does two things. First of all, it makes quite sure that those who come under the Bill shall have the right to go before a rent tribunal, in appropriate circumstances, and to have a reasonable rent determined, in the same way as those who come under the Landlord and Tenant (Rent Control) Act, 1949.

The other part is to make sure that Section 1 (7) of that Act, which says that for rent restricted in any other way except by the Rent Acts the right to go before a rent tribunal, does not apply. I hope, in all the circumstances, that the House will be prepared to accept the Amendment.

Mr. Charles Doughty (Surrey, East)

I beg to second the Amendment.

I was one of those who supported the hon. Member for Henley (Mr. Hay) when the matter was carried to a Division. In the original draft of the Bill, the intention was of the highest, but the wording was such that even those who had practised for many years at the law had no idea what it meant. The hon. Member for Henley and the Solicitor-General got together and have produced something which lawyers can understand, even if hon. Members versed in other professions cannot. We have got as near as we possibly can to carrying out the excellent intentions of the Bill by producing a form of words which can, after much thought, be understood.

Mr. David Weitzman (Stoke Newington and Hackney, North)

As one of those who criticised the Clause as originally framed, I desire only to say that I did not understand what it meant and that I do not think many people did. I think I understand it now. I agree that the words in the Amendment make the Clause very much better.

Amendment agreed to.

Further Amendment made: In page 3, line 3, leave out from second "of," to "(which," in line 4, and insert "the said section one."-[Sir A. Hudson.]

Third Reading.—[Queen's consent, on behalf of the Crown, the Duchy of Lancaster and the Duchy of Cornwall, signified.]

11.45 a.m.

Sir A. Hudson

I beg to move, "That the Bill be now read the Third Time."

I would take this opportunity of thanking those hon. Members on all sides of the House who have done their best to get the Bill through. I would particularly thank the Government, without whose help it would have been impossible to draft the Bill or to have got it to its present stage.

The Bill had its Second Reading in February, and I am now sure that it is required, to judge only from the number of letters I have received. I had one just before I came into the Chamber, saying that the evils that we hope to do away with by the Bill are taking place and asking various questions about the provisions of the Bill. I hope that those provisions will meet these cases. If, as a Private Member of this House, one can carry through a Bill which remedies what people feel to be injustices, I feel sure that the House of Commons is doing its duty.

Mr. Doughty

I beg to second the Motion.

11.47 a.m.

Mr. Weitzman

This is a very useful Bill, but I regret exceedingly that it is limited in its scope in that it does not apply to the direct tenants of the Crown and to Government Departments. I only mention that point in passing because we had a discussion upon it during the debate on Second Reading, when the hon. and learned Member for Kensington, South (Sir P. Spens) opposed that view as expressed by me. At a later stage in the proceedings in Committee he mentioned that a Government Department had acted in a certain way about a block of flats in Kensington, and he appeared to be converted from the view he had expressed on Second Reading.

There was some discussion in Committee on the effect of Clause 1 (3), and the hon. Member for Lewisham, North (Sir A. Hudson) said he was very interested in the criticisms that were made and that he would look into the matter. I criticised that subsection as entirely unnecessary, but it still remains in the Bill. Before we leave the Bill, I would say that it would appear that the subsection is inserted ex abundanti cautela. I am still of the view that is entirely unnecessary.

My final word is that the Amendment which was moved on the Report stage to Clause 2 was to take the place of the very complicated wording which represented Clause 2 as originally drafted. I am glad that that complicated language has gone. I will only point out that it is particularly important in a Bill of this nature, which adds to the mass of legislation in the field of the law of landlord and tenant, that what is enacted should be couched in the most simple language. I hope that when further legislation is brought forward every effort will be made to achieve that purpose. The result of the Amendment is to put the Bill in much simpler form. That is very commendable and ought to be encouraged. I pay tribute to the hon. Member for Lewisham, North, for introducing a Bill which does a considerable amount of good.

11.49 a.m.

The Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Housing and Local Government (Mr. Ernest Marples)

I heartily endorse the sentiments so ably expressed by the hon. and learned Member for Stoke Newington and Hackney, North (Mr. Weitzman), in putting forward a plea for simpler wording in complicated Bills. The Bill is possibly one of the most complicated and difficult for a layman to understand, although it is short when compared with some of the major legislation on the subject. The hon. Member, who is a professional lawyer, did not understand what the Bill meant. Perhaps he now appreciates the difficulties of poor unfortunate laymen like myself and my hon. Friend the Member for Lewisham, North (Sir A. Hudson), when we enter into these complicated discussions.

The Government gave this Bill its benevolent approval on the Second Reading, and it does so again on the Third Reading. It expresses a simple and worthy intention which has the unanimous support of the Government, the Opposition, and almost every other thinking person. It extends the protection of the Rent Restriction Act to a worthy class of people who ought to be protected against one or two unscrupulous people who are taking advantage of this loophole in the law.

May I congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Lewisham, North, who had the good fortune to be lucky in the Ballot and to use it to such good purpose? If I may say so, he displayed great skill upstairs in Committee. He was surrounded by lawyers who, while they are profuse in the advice they give, rarely reach unanimity. It is difficult, when one lawyer interprets in a certain way and subsequently another lawyer interprets in a precisely different way, but my hon. Friend battled his way through. His constituents will benefit by this Measure and they ought to be grateful to him.

Question put, and agreed to.

Bill accordingly read the Third time, and passed.