§ 1. For the purposes of subsection (1) of section fifteen of this Act, the conditions justifying an increase of rent shall be deemed not to be fulfilled in respect of the dwelling-house unless the local authority, on the application of the landlord and on being satisfied that the dwelling-house fulfils both the conditions justifying an increase of rent, have certified accordingly in the prescribed form; and where a certificate has been granted under this paragraph in respect of a dwelling-house, any such certificate of a sanitary authority and any such order of a court as is referred to in paragraph (a) of subsection (1) of section (Application of foregoing provisions of Part II of Act to certain classes of dwelling-house) of this Act which is then in force in relation to the dwelling-house shall cease to have effect.
§ 2. In subsection (1) of section sixteen of this Act (which requires that a notice of increase shall contain certain declarations) for paragraphs (a) and (b) there shall be substituted the following paragraphs—
§ "(a) a declaration that at the date of service of the notice there is in force a certificate granted under paragraph 1 of the Schedule (Modifications of Part II of Act in Application to Certain Classes of Dwelling-house) to this Act;
§ (b) a declaration such as is mentioned in the First Schedule to this Act;
§ (c) a declaration that the landlord and the tenant have agreed in writing or that the sheriff has determined, that work has been carried out as specified in the last-mentioned declaration."
§ 3. The provisions of subsection (5) of section seventeen of this Act (which subsection confers 1371 on the landlord of a dwelling-house a right of appeal to the sheriff in certain cases) shall apply in relation to the refusal of the local authority to grant a certificate under paragraph 1 of this Schedule as it applies in relation to the refusal of the local authority to revoke under subsection (3) of that section a certificate granted under subsection (1) thereof.
§ 4. In the First Schedule to this Act—
§ (a) for sub-paragraph (1) of paragraph 4 there shall be substituted the following sub-paragraph—
§ "(1) The service of a notice of increase containing such a declaration as is required by this Schedule shall be treated for the purposes of subsection (1) of section fifteen of this Act as the production of satisfactory evidence that work has been carried out as mentioned in paragraph (b) of that subsection if, but only if, before the service of that notice, either—
§ (a) the landlord and the tenant have agreed in writing that work has been carried out as so mentioned; or
§ (b) the sheriff, on the application of the landlord, is satisfied that work has been carried out as so mentioned and has determined accordingly;
§ and, where the landlord and the tenant have so agreed or the sheriff has so determined, the validity of a declaration shall not be questioned on the ground that the value of the work stated in the declaration to have been carried out on the dwelling-house is less than that required by the foregoing provisions of this Schedule"; and
§ (b) paragraph 5 shall be omitted.—[Mr. J. Stuart.]
§ Brought up, and read the First time.
§ Mr. J. Stuart
I beg to move, "That the Schedule be read a Second time."
This new Schedule was discussed in connection with the new Clause which was debated in the House on 17th May, the relevant paragraphs in the OFFICIAL REPORT for which will be found in columns 1837 to 1845.
§ Schedule read a Second time.
§ Mr. T. Fraser
I beg to move, as an Amendment to the proposed Schedule, at the end of paragraph 1, to insert:Provided that in considering any such application an appropriate officer of the local authority shall visit each dwelling-house in respect of which an application is made and shall consider any representations made by the tenant of the dwelling-house and shall issue to the tenant a copy of any certificate issued to the landlord.I do not think these words need very much explanation and it is perfectly clear what we are after. When a landlord 1372 applies for a certificate under paragraph (1) of the new Schedule, we suggest that the appropriate officer of the local authority should visit each house in respect of which an application is made and should consider any representations made by the tenant before reaching a decision. Then when a decision is reached we believe that a copy of any certificate issued to the landlord should also be issued to the tenant. It is a reasonable proposition.
§ Mr. Willis
I beg to second the Amendment.
This Amendment gives some extra protection to the tenant and it is reasonable. I hope that the Government will accept it.
§ 8.0 p.m.
§ Mr. J. Stuart
I hope the Opposition will not press this Amendment because, in practice, this would increase very greatly the work of the local authorities. In every case of an application for a certificate of repair under the new procedure now proposed, the local authority would have to require an officer to visit every house, hear the representations of the tenant and issue to the tenant a copy of any certificate issued to the landlord. I suggest that this long and detailed procedure seems hardly necessary because under the Schedule as it is the local authority is allowed to issue a certificate of repair on being satisfied that the house fulfils both the conditions for justifying an increase in rent.
In the first place, the local authority can be trusted to carry out these functions and to take the proper steps before issuing a certificate. And, secondly, the Amendment would mean, almost without exception, that a visit to the house would be necessary, but yet the local authority might already have sufficient information in its possession to act without proceeding to the unnecessary business of a special visit. By the Amendments which we have discussed here we have already added to the safeguards of the tenants in the Bill and, as has already been stated both in Committee and in the House, landlords who are irresponsible and who make false declarations are liable to severe penalties.
I trust, therefore, that the hon. Gentleman will not press his Amendment.
§ Mr. Hoy
That is rather an extraordinary answer. I can understand the right hon. Gentleman when he says that the local authority may have the information on which to give a decision. If, on the other hand, it has not got the information, how can it issue a certificate? On whose authority? On the authority of the landlord? Is he to say to the local authority that the house conforms in every way and is the local authority to accept his word? Or is it to be the tenant?
It seems to me to be an extraordinary position that the local authority will grant a certificate with regard to any dwelling-house in its boundaries without having made an examination of the property concerned. Before he decides to reject this Amendment, the right hon. Gentleman must show on what authority and on what information and evidence the local authority will act. Unless he can do so, I do not see how he can reject the Amendment. We certainly could not accept legislation without any assurance that a certificate will not be issued without evidence. I am certain that the Secretary of State will want to reconsider his reply and will want to say a further word or two before he asks us to reject the Amendment.
§ Mr. David J. Pryde (Midlothian and Peebles)
This is a perfectly reasonable and logical Amendment, and the reply of the Secretary of State demonstrates how far removed are the Government Front Bench from the ordinary walks of life. As my hon. Friend the Member for Leith (Mr. Hoy) said, on what ground is the local authority to act?
This Amendment makes it essential that before a certificate is issued there shall be an examination to allow the local authority to know just what is wanted or what is not wanted. There are any number of local authorities who have not up-to-date information regarding property within their boundaries simply because they have not made a survey for a considerable time. Why, then, should the Secretary of State say casually, "Oh, the local authorities can be trusted to issue certificates legitimately." Yes, but they can only be trusted to do so if they have the necessary data, and that can only be obtained by means of an examination.
So I appeal to the Government Front Bench to reconsider this matter. When 1374 the Bill was drafted they were bound to see that it would involve a considerable amount of work, and on the Committee stage we pointed out how much new work would be required for the administration of the Bill. We pointed out that it would require new staff for every local authority in Scotland. That is the reason why there is such determined opposition on the part of our local authorities who are carrying far too heavy financial burdens already. Will the Government then accede to our request to them to accept the Amendment?
§ Mr. Hector Hughes (Aberdeen, North)
I hope that my hon. Friends will not withdraw this Amendment for two reasons. The first is that the Amendment is perfectly reasonable; the second is that the reason adduced by the Government in asking us to withdraw it was thoroughly unreasonable. The Minister said that the Amendment, if passed, would add considerably to the work of the local authority. Manifestly that is not so because the local authority will already have visited the house for the purpose of carrying out the provisions of this Bill.
Three things are asked for in this small Amendment. One is that the local authority should send an appropriate officer to inspect the house. The second is that it should consider any representations made by the tenant. The third is that it should issue a copy of the certificate to the tenant.
As to the first, I have already pointed out that the local authority will, of necessity, have visited the house. Therefore it is unreasonable for the Government to say that this Amendment will add to the work of the local authority; and it is untrue. As to the second point, to consider any representation made by the tenant would involve the collection of facts and the taking into account of facts coming from the person best able to know, namely, the tenant. That would not add to the work of the local authority.
The third point is that the local authority shall issue to the tenant a copy of any certificate issued to the landlord. Why should there be discrimination against the tenant? It seems thoroughly unreasonable, and the Amendment makes the reasonable suggestion that the tenant should be treated on equal terms with the landlord. I urge my hon. Friends not 1375 to withdraw this Amendment, and I beg the Government to accept it in order to improve the Bill.
§ Mr. T. Fraser
The Secretary of State seems to have had in mind that this procedure would require to be adopted in a large number of cases if my Amendment were accepted. May I call his attention to the fact that it is a proviso to paragraph 1 of the new Schedule, which is limited in its application to houses referred to in subsection (2, a) of the new Clause, the rubric of which isApplication of foregoing provisions of Part II of Act to certain classes of dwelling-house.Referring to that paragraph, we find that the dwelling-house to which this Schedule applies, and to which my Amendment applies, is:(a) any dwelling-house in respect of which there was in force at any time during the period between the thirteenth day of November, nineteen hundred and fifty-three, and the commencement of this Act—(i) a certificate of a sanitary authority under the Rent Acts that the dwelling-house was not in a reasonable state of repair; or(ii) an order of the court under the Rent Acts suspending an increase under paragraph (c) or paragraph (d) of subsection (1) of section two of the Act of 1920 until the court is satisfied that the necessary repairs have been executed.Surely the position is that the new Clause, together with the Schedule, applies to a very limited class of property in respect of which the local authority has issued a certificate of disrepair since the Bill was published or in respect of which a sheriff court has made an order. All we ask is that if the owner of any such house should make an application for a certificate, and the conditions justifying an increase in rent are fulfilled, the local authority should at least see the house before issuing the certificate.
If the local authority has itself issued a certificate of disrepair since the Bill was published, or if a court of law has issued an order certifying disrepair or unfitness for human habitation since the Bill was published, surely no local authority will do less than my Amendment asks. I thought that if the Government were going to resist my Amendment it would be on the grounds that it was quite unnecessary and that no local 1376 authority would ever dream of considering an application for a certificate in respect of this limited class of property without first of all sending a technical officer along to inspect the house and to consider any representation made by the tenant.
I should have thought that any reasonable local authority would do that. I cannot imagine that a local authority would not do it. I do not know how else a local authority could know whether a house in respect of which it had already issued a certificate was no longer entitled to the certificate of disrepair but was, instead, entitled to a certificate of fitness for human habitation and, being in good and tenantable repair, warranted the increase in rent.
I appeal to the Secretary of State to recognise that this is not an unreasonable Amendment. It is a provision to which most local authorities in Scotland would give effect in any case, even if it were not written into the Bill. I ask the Secretary of State even now, if he cannot accept the Amendment because of some advice which he has had, or because of drafting difficulties, at least to say that he will look at the matter again with a view to putting down an Amendment in another place, if he thinks it is necessary.
§ Mr. J. Stuart
I really do not think it necessary to accept the Amendment and to do what is proposed. The hon. Member for Hamilton (Mr. T. Fraser) himself seemed to doubt the necessity for it.
The hon. and learned Member for Aberdeen, North (Mr. Hector Hughes) said that officers of the local authority would already have visited the house. If the Amendment were accepted, those officers would have to visit the house again after the Bill became an Act. That is why I am against the Amendment. There is no point in duplicating work and forcing local authority officers to carry out unnecessary work.
Obviously, where a local authority has not got the information upon which to act, it will have to obtain it, and in order to obtain it, it will visit the houses about which it does not already have the necessary information. The Amendment would require it to visit all houses whether it had the information or not, and that is unnecessary. On those 1377 grounds, I ask the House to resist the Amendment.
§ Amendment to the proposed Schedule negatived.
§ Schedule added to the Bill.