§ Order read for resuming adjourned debate on Question [21st November], That the Bill be now read a Second time.
§ Question again proposed.
§ 4.17 p.m.
§ The Secretary of State for Scotland (Mr. James Stuart)
Before dealing with the essential provisions of the Bill I should like to devote a little time to the general position.
I listened with interest to the hon. and earned Member for Kettering (Mr. Mitchison), who opened the debate for the Opposition yesterday. Having listened to that speech, I think it is a fair comment to say that there is a complete difference in outlook on this matter of rent control and how to handle it, between the Government and the Opposition. We may as well admit that difference. I do not intend to argue about it.
§ Mr. Stuart
Yes, it is fundamental, and it is not the only thing that we differ about, as one learns from listening to other proceedings in this Chamber. I do not know whether there is any great difference between the two parties as to the results which we wish to achieve, that is to say, the effect of our differing policies on the tenants of these houses. Of course, the tenant is the one who is most concerned and whom any Government must consider.
The Labour Party would hand over to the local authorities all these houses, as I understand it; would municipalise them. I do not know how many local authorities in Great Britain would welcome that gesture and that additional responsibility. Apart from that, I do not think any of us knows the view of individual local authorities on the subject, but I could make a fairly good guess about the views of—
§ Mrs. Jean Mann (Coatbridge and Airdrie) rose—1954
§ Mr. Stuart
I think I am entitled to say what I have said. This is a Great Britain Bill and this is a Parliament composed of hon. Members not entirely coming from Scotland. I am coming to the Scottish angle and the Scottish provisions, and if the hon. Lady will refrain from delaying me I will get there all the quicker.
We do not advocate that policy, but I would ask whether the tenants who occupy the houses would benefit more by one approach rather than the other. This affects Scotland as well as England and Wales. In the Labour Party policy pamphlet for housing, entitled "Homes of the Future," there appeared two lines, at the bottom of the page that bears that unlucky number 13, which say:A moderate increase in rent is a small price to pay for such obvious improvements in living conditions.I subscribe to that. Indeed it is the object of the Bill we are discussing—[HON. MEMBERS: "No."]—to get houses kept in decent repair. Yesterday there was a leading article in The Times—
§ Mr. Stuart
I read The Scotsman also, but happen to be quoting from The Times. I have The Scotsman here.
§ Mr. Stuart
The article stated:The existence of a large pool of artificially priced private accommodation—markedly cheaper at most levels even than equivalent council dwellings, in spite of their subsidies—entails social disadvantages which have become intolerable …The article also said:decontrol and will allow rents within it to rise to less out-of-date figures.I am sorry that with these glasses I have difficulty in reading the quotation.
§ Mr. Stuart
I am quoting only the main part of the article, which says:… Common sense demands that landlords should have a fair chance to behave responsibly before being written off as enemies of the people.1955 As I say, that is the object of this Bill, which gives tenants reasonably good safeguards against neglect. The Times article says that the Rent Restriction Acts have continued in operation, either on account ofpublic policy or political cowardicefor all these years. The policy or cowardice—if one chooses to call it so—as we all know, was due to the effect of two wars.
It has been asked, and I think that during our discussion it may be asked again—the hon. and learned Member for Kettering referred to it yesterday—why we did not have a separate Bill for Scotland? I should like to refer to that point because, as I say, we are dealing here with a Great Britain problem. The problem of rent control has been handled in the past by Bills referring to England, Wales and Scotland and our general aim now is similar in all three countries. A difference in application, I admit, exists in relation to Scotland, I will come to that shortly, but over the general conception of what the Government aims to carry out there is not that difference.
Clauses 6, 7 and 8 deal with the application to Scotland, but many other Clauses and Schedules have their effect in Scotland. Since 1920 there have been ten Great Britain Acts, which are known as the Rent Code. I am not going to deny—it would be stupid to deny—that it would be perfectly possible to draft a separate Scottish Measure, but I maintain that this is not an occasion on which that is either necessary or suitable, because this matter has been treated throughout as a Great Britain problem. I must remind the House that there is other Scottish legislation with which the Scottish Standing Committee will have to deal. I do not see much point in duplicating the work on the other Clauses, 9 to 11 and 15 to 18 and certain Schedules, which apply to Great Britain as a whole.
§ Mr. McInnes
The right hon. Gentleman must not say that Clauses 15 to 18 apply to Great Britain as a whole because he must realise that Clause 16 does not apply to Scotland.
§ Mr. Stuart
If Clause 16 does not apply, I apologise to the hon. Member; I thought it did. At any rate many of the 1956 Clauses apply. We have other Scottish legislation to deal with, and, speaking for myself, I am not in favour of the principle of splitting up a Bill such as this between two Standing Committees which might get out of step by one Committee accepting an Amendment which the other does not accept. That would merely lead to further complication during later stages of the Bill. My experience with regard to the machinery of government, with which the Leader of the House and the Whips are concerned, leads me to believe that a Bill of this nature is not one which should be split between two different Committees.
Yesterday the Parliamentary Secretary outlined the objects of the Bill as a whole and the general considerations underlying the objective of the Government, which, as he stated, is to work progressively towards the abolition of rent control. The Government believe that the time has arrived when a start should be made in that direction. With regard to the Scottish provisions as laid down in the Bill, at present houses with rateable values up to £90 a year are subject to the Rent Acts, and Clause 9 (1) proposes that in Scotland houses between that upper limit of £90 and a rateable value of £40 shall be freed from control.
In the view of the Government that figure—which corresponds to the London Metropolitan area figure—represents an equitable dividing line. As a result, the effect would be that approximately 60,000 rented subjects would be affected, about 8½ per cent. of the total number of let controlled houses in Scotland, which number about 700,000. The hon. Member for Hamilton (Mr. T. Fraser) asked a question while the Parliamentary Secretary was speaking on this matter. The Parliamentary Secretary had been giving the percentage of houses to be decontrolled in England and Wales and the hon. Member inquired about the corresponding figures for Scotland. As Table II of the White Paper, Cmnd. 17, shows, the number of let, unfurnished houses being decontrolled in Scotland is 60,000, or about 40 per cent. of the total number of houses between £40 and £90 rateable value, of which there are approximately 150,000.
It is not possible to give comparable figures for 1933 and 1938 for Scotland since no statistics of the numbers of houses in the different rateable value 1957 groups are available for the inter-war period.
As the hon. Member will realise, however, the important point is that the number of houses being decontrolled in Scotland under the Bill is a small percentage of the total number of controlled houses in the country.
As in England and Wales, the Bill also provides that the Rent Acts will not apply to a new tenancy beginning after the commencement of the Act. My hon. Friend the Parliamentary Secretary dealt with this in his very able speech and I do not suppose that the House wishes me to cover all the same ground again.
The effect of this provision, if hon. Members care to turn to Clause 9 (2), is twofold. It means, in the first place, that let controlled houses, on becoming vacant, cease to be controlled. Secondly, it would mean that owner-occupied houses on being let will not be subject to the Rent Acts. That is to say, their owners will be free to let them on such terms as they agree with prospective tenants. For obvious reasons, it is impossible to say precisely how many houses in these two categories may become decontrolled in any given period. Certainly no figures can be provided on this subject now.
We do not know the number of let houses which fall vacant from year to year, nor can anyone estimate how many of the 250,000 owner-occupied houses in Scotland may become available for letting. It depends, of course, on the action of the owner-occupier. We are, however, confident that the removal of these houses from control will lead to an increasing number being left in the letting pool, or being added to it, and that the greater flexibility in the use of our available accommodation to be achieved in this way will be in the general interest. My hon. Friend the Parliamentary Secretary also dealt with this point and with the number of families or people living in houses with more rooms than they require who may move, and so on.
The decontrol proposals in the Bill are the same for Scotland as for England and Wales. My hon. Friend in his opening speech yesterday dealt very fully with all these parts of the Bill, and I will not repeat all that. I turn, therefore, to those provisions in the Bill which are special to Scotland; that is, the provisions relating to rent. It is here, for reasons 1958 which I will explain, that Scotland parts company from England and Wales; for certain reasons, we have to follow a different line owing to our different conditions. In England and Wales, a new rent structure is proposed, based on the new valuations, but in Scotland the existing provisions of the Rent Acts and of the Housing (Repairs and Rents) (Scotland) Act, 1954, will continue, subject to the two changes with which I wish shortly to deal.
Before I come to them, however, as hon. Members know, owners' rates in Scotland have for many years been a special problem. Under the Valuation and Rating (Scotland) Act, 1956, these will cease as from 16th May next year and the occupier will then become responsible, and the rent will be reduced by an identical amount. We have debated this very fully recently and I will not pursue it further, except to say that it is the cause for the difference in application in Scotland as compared with England and Wales.
We have still to get through the transitional period from May next year until the new valuations are available in 1961. In fact, until 1961 we have no basis on which a new rent structure can be built related to new and uniform valuations on the principle of fair rents. It is, therefore, not possible in this Bill to adopt the English method of relating new rents to gross values. However, although we cannot do that and we cannot at this stage provide any permanent solution of the rent problem, we believe that certain changes are justifiable and should be made.
The Bill contains two main changes which are different from those propounded by my hon. Friend last night, because they apply to Scotland and not to England. In the first place, with regard to the new repairs increase, since the Housing (Repairs and Rents) (Scotland) Act, 1954, we have had provision for a repairs increase amounting to 40 per cent. of what is called the 1954 recoverable rent. But since, as I have explained, we cannot proceed to a new basis for determining rents related to gross values, we propose to rely for the time being on the 1954 Act, which aimed, as one of its main objects, at helping owners to keep their property in good repair.
The amount of the repairs increase in rent was based on the increase in the 1959 cost of repairs since 1939 as given by the Hutson Committee. The cost of the repairs has increased further since then by an amount which would justify raising the level of the repairs increase by 10 per cent. We therefore propose in the Bill that the amount of the repairs increase of 40 per cent. should be raised to 50 per cent. of the 1954 recoverable rent. This increase of 50 per cent. will be subject to precisely the same conditions as are laid down in the 1954 Act. Of course, if a landlord is already in receipt of the 40 per cent. repairs increase, he will be entitled on giving four weeks' notice to raise that increase, to which he has proved his entitlement, by this further 10 per cent. What the Government are doing, in effect, is bringing the 1954 Act up to date by recognising the further increase which has taken place in the cost of repairs.
With regard to Clauses 6 and 7 and the Third Schedule, which deal with the 25 per cent. increase—what is called the 1956 Act increase—the Government and I have constantly stressed the importance in these various Measures of doing all that we can to keep property in good repair, in the tenants' interest, and to avoid the progressive deterioration of our stock of houses.
As a means of enabling more repairs to be carried out, the Bill provides for this new increase, equivalent to 25 per cent. of the 1954 recoverable rent. This is an alternative to the repairs increase of 50 per cent., to which I have just referred, and it cannot, of course, be obtained at the same time as the repairs increase. It will be subject to the same conditions as are laid down in the 1954 Act, with the exception of the expenditure test. The safeguards in the 1954 Act provided by certificates of disrepair and the provision for appeals to the sheriff will apply.
The situation which we have in mind is that in cases where a house is in good repair, perhaps, by reason of extensive major repairs which were carried out some time ago and does not, therefore, qualify for the 50 per cent.—or today, 40 per cent.—increase because the owner is unable to satisfy the expenditure test, we hope that the new 25 per cent. increase will enable many landlords to keep their houses in repair. Where a landlord subsequently qualifies for the full repairs 1960 increase of 50 per cent., the 25 per cent. would cease to be payable.
As I said, I did not wish to cover all the ground which my hon. Friend covered, but I have dealt with the two main differences in the application of the Bill to Scotland as compared with England and Wales. I referred at the beginning of my remarks to a leading article in The Times, but I do not think that I mentioned that it was headed, "A vast concealed subsidy". In the course of the final sentences, the article stated:There are reasons for keeping some measure of rent control"—that was dealing with the exceptions to which I referred earlier—poverty, and so on—but none for using it to bestow a vast concealed subsidy upon tenants.What we aim at in this Bill is to make a start in the direction which the Government have announced.
I do not think that anybody, not even my hon. Friends, would suggest that it is a popular Measure, but it is something on which we believe that a start should be made. As indicated by the pamphlet of the Socialist Party, to which I have referred, hon. Members opposite are equally well aware of the problem, but their approach to it is different from ours because, apparently, in their eyes all owners of houses and all landlords are wicked.
What we want to do under the method we propose to adopt and follow, which I have admitted differs radically from the method advocated by the party opposite, is to make a start in breaking away from this artificial situation brought about by years of rent restriction. It is, after all, eleven years since the war ended—my hon. Friend the Parliamentary Secretary referred yesterday to the figures showing the very great number of houses which had been built in this country in those years—and we feel that a start should be made.
The special and different position of housing in Scotland has been taken into account when dealing with this question. What we are doing for Scotland can only be temporary until such time as we have new and uniform valuations in 1961. In 1961, or as soon thereafter as possible, further permanent legislation should be brought in to deal with the matter on a permanent basis. I will not pretend to 1961 the House that I am likely to be in the fortunate position of introducing such a Bill in this House in 1961, or later.
§ Mr. Stuart
I have never really thought about that. I commend this as a temporary Measure to the House. It is a Great Britain Bill and my hon. Friend dealt very clearly and fully with its main provisions yesterday. I hope that I have managed to deal with those sections of the Bill particularly applicable to Scotland.
§ 4.44 p.m.
§ Mr. Thomas Fraser (Hamilton)
We are indebted to the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for Scotland for explaining the provisions of the Bill as they will apply to Scotland. I hope he will not be too upset, however, if I tell him that nothing he has said this afternoon has removed the objections which we feel to the Bill, and I doubt very much whether even his hon. Friends will feel that to any reasonable person his speech is a justification of the changes in the law proposed.
The right hon. Gentleman has reminded us that we have some 700,000 rent-controlled houses in Scotland of which 60,000 are to be decontrolled, leaving some 640,000 houses under control for the time being. He will agree that these 640,000 houses are mostly old houses—very old indeed, a high proportion of them being 100 years old or more—and very lacking in amenities. May I on this point quote something said by the hon. Member for Oldham, East (Sir I. Horobin) in yesterday's debate? The hon. Member was presumably speaking then on behalf of Her Majesty's Government, although he is not himself a member of the Government.[HON. MEMBERS: "No."] He was invited to, I understand. [HON. MEMBERS: "No."] There is some difference of opinion about this. If I may, I will make my quotation and the hon. Member for Oldham, East can speak for himself. He was referring to some remarks made a little earlier by my hon. Friend the Member for Aston (Mr. J. Silverman) about the Birmingham experiment and the cost of repairing and improving the old houses. The hon. Member for Oldham, East, said: 1962In the majority of those cases such houses will have been under old control, and, therefore, it is fair to point out that for 40 years the landlord will not have had the money with which to keep them up. It is no good jobbing backwards on that. I admit at once, and I think the Minister will admit it, that those sort of houses cannot be rescued in this kind of way."—This kind of way being this Bill—Local authorities will have to take them over."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 21st November, 1956; Vol. 560, c. 1877.]I say to the Secretary of State that the houses described by his hon. Friend the Member for Oldham, East are those houses in Scotland. His definition applies to those houses. The 640,000 houses to remain under control are all old controlled houses, and the hon. Member for Oldham, East, who said he was sure that the Minister would agree with this, said that of course these houses could not be rescued by the Bill and should be taken over by the local authorities.
The right hon. Gentleman has just told the House that he doubts very much whether the local authorities in Scotland or Great Britain will be very anxious to adopt the policy set out in the Labour Party's pamphlet. I was in his part of the world during the weekend and I discussed this with some of his constituents. I found them very enthusiastic indeed in support of the Labour Party pamphlet—"Homes for the Future".
§ Mr. Fraser
No, not all of them. The right hon. Gentleman still has a few friends—a diminishing number—but he still has some. Of these old houses in Scotland, approximately 360,000 are without an independent water closet. That is the dreadful picture which one finds—of the 640,000 houses remaining under control about 360,000 do not have even an independent water closet.
§ Mr. Stuart
May I interrupt the hon. Gentleman for a moment? He was referring to my hon. Friend the Member for Oldham, East (Sir I. Horobin) who spoke last night. He said, and I have the words here:It is ridiculous to pretend that such houses are representative of all the millions of working class houses. That just is not true. A great number of these houses will easily be kept in decent repair if rents anything like the present value of money are allowed to be paid, …"—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 21st November, 1956; Vol. 560, c. 1877.]
§ Mr. Fraser
The right hon. Gentleman has not followed my argument. His hon. Friend yesterday was saying that there were millions of old controlled houses which could be rescued by the provisions of this Bill. His hon. Friend said that these old controlled houses could not be so rescued. I am saying to the right hon. Gentleman that in Scotland the vast majority of the 640,000 houses remaining under control are in fact old controlled houses. That is either true or untrue. It is true unless these houses were built between the wars, but only a handful were built between the wars.
§ The Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Housing and Local Government (Mr. J. Enoch Powell)
Will the hon. Gentleman draw attention to the fact that the opening words of my hon. Friend the Member for Oldham, East (Sir I, Horobin) were:Over a small part of the field."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 21st November, 1956; Vol 560, c. 1877.]These are the words beginning the sentence which the hon. Gentleman went on to quote.
§ Mr. Fraser
I thought that the way one could be most fair to the hon. Member for Oldham, East was to quote his exact words, which is what I did. I wonder whether the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Housing and Local Government sought in his intervention to show that his hon. Friend the Member for Oldham, East was unfair to himself, was not speaking for the Government, or had been incorrectly interpreted by me, when he said that these old controlled houses were not capable of being rescued. I sought to show that considerably more than 50 per cent. of the houses remaining under control in Scotland do not have an independent water closet, which shows that they are not capable of being rescued merely by a repairs increase. If these houses are to be rescued, they must be improved and modernised. The Bill does not deal with modernisation, which is why we quarrel with the Secretary of State.
I believe that at least 500,000 houses in Scotland are of one or two apartments, which is not the case south of the Border. That is to say, the vast majority of the 640,000 houses remaining under control are houses of one or two apartments. It 1964 has been said in the House before that in Glasgow 62 per cent. of the population live in houses of one and two apartments—and I stress 62 per cent. of the population, not houses. In Dundee, the percentage is 71. One has only to quote those figures to throw the real problem of Scotland into relief, the problem which the Bill does not face.
It is a great pity that the Secretary of State felt obliged to follow the lead of his right hon. Friend the Minister of Housing and Local Government in introducing these provisions relating to rent control in Scotland. On 30th October, when some of us questioned the right hon. Gentleman about whether we would have a separate Scottish Measure, he replied:The fact is that we have to deal with a number of Scottish Bills in the coming Session, important Bills dealing with subsidies, overspill, and so on; and this question has always been dealt with on a United Kingdom basis. If it is merely a matter of a couple of application Clauses, as it has been in the past, I think it would be a waste of the time of the Scotttish Standing Committee and Parliament to have a separate Bill for Scotland."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 30th October. 1956; Vol. 558, c. 1253.]The Secretary of State has enlarged on that reply today, but that is the crux of his justification of dealing with the Scottish problem as part of the English Measure.
The right hon. Gentleman argued that we cannot have a separate Scottish Bill because the Government have such a volume of impending Scottish legislation that the Bill has to be pushed through. It may be that the unwillingness of his hon. Friends to give attention to Parliamentary duties in the morning by attending the Scottish Grand Committee is the real reason. He said that if it were merely a matter of a couple of application Clauses, as it had been in the past, we should deal with the problem in the one Bill. Did he not know on 30th October that it was not a matter of a couple of application Clauses?
I have spent a little time in Government in a post much junior to that of the right hon. Gentleman's, but long enough to know that on 30th October the Secretary of State knew what was included in the Bill published on 7th November. So he knew on 30th October that it was not a matter of a couple of application Clauses. It is now seen to be not a matter of a couple of application Clauses, but we still do not have a separate Bill. 1965 His other point was that it would be a waste of time for Scottish Members to be enabled to deal with what is admittedly the greatest social problem in Scotland, housing.
The right hon. Gentleman sought to take refuge in a quotation from The Times. I should have thought it was well known in Scotland that The Times has never been accepted as being a newspaper very friendly towards Scottish interests, but we have been led to believe that the Scotsman is slightly different. My hon. Friend the Member for Edinburgh, East (Mr. Willis) invited the Secretary of State to quote the Scotsman. As he declined that invitation, I propose to repair the omission and to quote the Scotsman of yesterday. It said:It is a matter for profound regret that the Government have not dealt with Scotland in a separate measure and that they are not even willing to concede the need for special provision being made for consideration of the Scottish clauses of the Bill.The Scotsman may be wrong about that, and I hope that it is. It went on:The housing position in Scotland is radically different from that in England—that is recognised by Scottish Conservative and Labour M.P.s alike. Yet it is seriously open to question whether the Bill makes anything like adequate allowance for these differences. The Government are making a profound mistake if they think these can be ignored and that their sole concern should be to bulldoze the Bill through Parliament as quickly as possible.That is what the Scotsman thinks of the right hon. Gentleman.
He and his hon. Friends have continually boasted in Scotland that theirs is the party which will give Scottish people more control over Scottish affairs. The answer to that is found in the Scotsman leader. It is no answer to say that we can have one Bill on this occasion because we had one Bill on earlier occasions immediately after the First World War. What happened in 1920 and 1923 is completely irrelevant. We did not then have a Secretary of State. We had a Secretary for Scotland and an Under-Secretary for Health in Scotland. Need I remind the House how many Ministers for Scotland we now have? We have a Secretary of State, a Minister of State and three Joint Under-Secretaries of State. I should have thought it would not have escaped the notice of the right hon. Gentleman that there has been a considerable volume of legislative and adminis- 1966 trative evolution in the last thirty-six years.
§ Mr. Fraser
There is only one Scottish Standing Committee, when it is called together, but I do not know when it will be called together. At present there is no legislation before Parliament with which the Scottish Standing Committee could deal, and this is the only Bill which could conceivably go to that Committee.
In the earlier Statutes, the principles of rent control and rent adjustment were common to both countries. This time the Secretary of State has explained that the principles for rent increases in Clauses 1 to 5 applying to England are very different from those in Clauses 6 to 8 applying to Scotland. We never had this in the earlier statutes. The only precedent we have for rent increases on different principles was the precedent of 1954, when in fact we had different Bills.
It is beyond argument that on this occasion we ought to have had two separate Bills, one for Scotland and one for England, and the one for Scotland should have contained provisions very different from those in the Bill now before us.
Yesterday the Parliamentary Secretary, in justifying the English part of the Bill both as regards rent increases and decontrol, talked about having almost reached the equation of supply and demand. I will not read all his words, but I do not think that it would be unfair to quote this part:It follows that upon an objective basis, and one which has been broadly accepted I think, we are now within sight of, and should in 12 months' time or so be level with, an equation of the overall supply and demand for homes. Rent control as we have it is essentially an emergency measure. It is a product of the war, a product of the stresses of war, a product of the temporary derangement of the relationship between demand and supply which the war inevitably brought with it."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 21st November, 1956; Vol. 560, c. 1766.]Will the right hon. Gentleman say that this argument adduced by the Parliamentary Secretary has any relevance whatever to Scotland?—[HON. MEMBERS: "Answer."]
§ Mr. J. Stuart
I have already answered. I said that the Bill takes account of the different conditions and the differences in 1967 the housing situation. That is why the Scottish part is not quite in line with the English part.
§ Mr. Fraser
The right hon. Gentleman really ought to read the Bill. He should read Clause 9, the decontrol Clause. That takes no account at all of the differences. I do not argue whether there is an equation or whether we are nearing one in England, but I assert that we are nowhere near it in Scotland and the Secretary of State is not in a position to say by what time we shall have reached such an equation.
§ Mr. Fraser
I hope, therefore, that the right hon. Gentleman will take Scotland out of the Bill altogether.
The Parliamentary Secretary, introducing the Measure, gave the justification for it that we had reached the point when there was an equation of supply and demand, and the right hon. Gentleman says now that he has not the foggiest idea when that condition will be achieved in Scotland.
§ Mr. Stuart
To take Glasgow alone, I do not think that the position there will be solved in my lifetime, even if I live a few years.
§ Mr. Fraser
I do not make any prophecy about how long the right hon. Gentleman will live.
I quote another passage from the speech of the Parliamentary Secretary:I would once again emphasise to the House that in the vast majority of cases the object of the owners of these houses will be to ensure that they are not vacant of a tenant."—That is, the houses that have become vacant—If they are to get the value out of those houses, they will have to continue to let them at a market rent at which they can find tenants and they will have to bid for those tenants … in what I have shown is a very large market indeed."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 21st November. 1956; Vol. 560, c. 1766–75.]1968 Does the right hon. Gentleman think that as and when houses become vacant in Scotland the owners will go out into a large market to bid for tenants? Does not every hon. Gentleman who represents a Scottish constituency appreciate that for many years to come the opposite will be the position? It will be the tenants who will be bidding for the houses, as they are at present. That will continue for some years to come, but the right hon. Gentleman does not take those conditions into account. He follows slavishly at the heels of his right hon. Friend the Minister for Housing and Local Government
I quote again from the Report of the Working Party on Housing Subsidies in Scotland, which says on page 4, paragraph 11;In the four cities the number of houses needed for homeless and overcrowded families was in all cases substantially higher than the number needed to replace unfit houses.What does that mean? Surely, it means that our greatest need is for houses for the homeless and those who are badly overcrowded, those living in one- and two-apartment houses. It is not that we have not got slums in Scotland. The proportion of unfit houses in Scotland is immeasurably higher than it is in England and Wales. We are perhaps among the worst housed of the people of Western Europe. I wish that I did not have to say that, but unfortunately it is the truth. However, bad as our housing is, the Secretary of State's own Working Party has shown us in the words I have quoted that our real and biggest problem is that of providing homes for the homeless; yet here is a Bill the justification for which is that we have reached an equation of supply and demand.
It is clear from what I have said already that we Scottish Members could better occupy our time than by discussing a Measure of this kind. It is clear that the repair of our existing stock of houses is not sufficient. No one will deny that we cannot hope within a measurable time to replace all our unfit, old houses, lacking in amenities, with new houses. Many of the houses must be improved, and they will not be improved under the Bill. There is nothing in the Bill to encourage owners to improve their houses.
1969 An effort was made to encourage owners to improve houses in the 1949 Act, under which they were given 50 per cent. of the cost of improvements and were then allowed to increase the rent by 6 per cent. of the money they had spent. The present Government increased the 6 per cent. to 8 per cent., but what has been achieved? How many of these old houses have been improved? Only a handful. We had the 1954 Act, and the Secretary of State told us that the landlords got this provision for a 40 per cent. increase in rent dependent on their carrying out certain repairs and that this increase represented the increase in the cost of repairs since 1939. He has said that the cost of repairs has increased even more since 1954 and that we now have to put up that 40 per cent. to 50 per cent.
There would be some justification for increasing the 40 per cent. to 50 per cent. if, in fact, work had been done under the 1954 Act and if houses were being repaired. I have shown that under the 1949 Act houses are not being improved and that under the 1954 Act the houses are not being repaired, as the Secretary of State knows better than anyone else. That Act has been a complete flop, and this legislation is bound to be a similar flop. This will not be a sound investment. In any case, it is not repairs we need; it is improvement to the vast majority of our existing houses.
We on this side of the House are not blaming the landlords and saying that they should be doing this, that and the other. We are trying to convince the right hon. Gentleman that the landlords cannot be expected to do it. It is not an investment that will yield an attractive profit. Does the right hon. Gentleman think that as a result of this legislation private enterprise will build new houses to let to working people in Scotland? Does he think that they will do that without any rent control?
What would it cost to build a house? Would it be £2,000—or is that too high? It costs nearly that for the local authorities to build, so perhaps I should take a figure of £1,500. The man would want at least 5 per cent. on his money—he would get more than that if he lent it to the local authority—but if he got 5 per cent. profit, that would be £75. He would want something for maintaining, management and insurance of the house and, 1970 surely, he would want something to enable him to replace the house in due course. That would total, I should say, somewhere between 5 per cent. and 10 per cent. That is £150—£3 a week rent, plus rates. But, of course, private enterprise cannot do it. We cannot and must not wait for the private investor to do this job for us. It is too unattractive. He can get his money much more easily almost anywhere else than in housing. That is why there is so much merit in the proposals made by the Labour Party.
The tenants in Scotland are being squeezed. Under the 1920 Act they had to pay an increase of 25 per cent. for increased cost of building, 15 per cent. for dearer money, and whatever was needed to pay the increase in owner's rates in 1920 over 1914. By 1923 building costs were nearly halved, and interest rates fell substantially, and remained down for the whole of the inter-war period. Between the wars neither building costs nor rates of interest ever reached the 1920 level. But the 40 per cent. increase in rents remained, and the tragedy is that the repairs were not done, as every independent committee has shown—and as anyone can see for himself by looking at the existing stock of rent controlled houses in Scotland.
In the course of his remarks, the Secretary of State talked of the merits of the Valuation and Rating (Scotland) Act, 1956, under which, as from next May, the tenants are to carry the whole burden of the rates. The right hon. Gentleman, in justifying only six months ago this change in the law, was saying that by May, 1957, when the occupiers have to carry the whole rate burden, they will have an abatement of the rent to the extent of owner's rates. "No one," he said "will be any worse off. We don't know what you wicked Labour people are complaining about, because no one will be worse off."
Now, only a few months later, he introduces a new Measure, and there is a possibility that it might overlap the Valuation and Rating (Scotland) Act. Therefore, tenants in Scotland, who already know they will have to pay far more rates than ever before—and the rate poundage is going up all the time as borrowing rates increase—are now being told by the Secretary of State, who only a few months ago said that they 1971 would be neither better nor worse off, that they will have to pay more rates and more rent.
I have spoken at too great length already, but I must say that the Secretary of State glossed very quickly over the decontrol provisions of the Bill. Clauses 6, 7 and 8 are serious, but I think that Clause 9 is much more serious. Clause 16 has its effect, and the Secretary of State did not, I think, understand my hon. Friend the Member for Glasgow, Central (Mr. McInnes) when he asked about Clause 16 (2).
A question was asked yesterday about the protection for statutory tenants, and the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Housing and Local Government referred my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Kettering (Mr. Mitchison) to Clause 16 (2). My hon. Friend the Member for Glasgow, Central was calling the attention of the Secretary of State to the fact that there is no provision for Scotland comparable to Clause 16 (2) as it applies to England and Wales. That matter must be gone into, and I hope that we shall get some answer.
But I am much more concerned with the general body of people who will have this protection taken from them.
§ The Solicitor-General for Scotland (Mr. William Grant)
I am grateful to the hon. Member for giving way. He has raised a point of some substance in regard to the relationship between Clauses 16 (2) and 9 (2). I think that the hon. Member for Glasgow, Central (Mr. McInnes) raised the point earlier. May I make it perfectly clear that there is no intention of putting the statutory tenant in Scotland in any worse position than the statutory tenant in England? It may be that, from a drafting point of view, this should be amended. From a legal point of view, I am quite satisfied that Clause 9 (2), standing on its own feet, protects the statutory tenant, but as Clause 16 (2) is there for England and Wales, we shall certainly consider whether a drafting amendment should be made. I do wish to make it quite clear that there is no intention to discriminate against the statutory tenant in Scotland.
§ Mr. Fraser
I am obliged to the Solicitor-General, but may I say, first of all, that I did not think that that was the first 1972 substantial point that I had made. Secondly, I should have thought that he, above all, and the Scottish Law Officers, would have been aware of the problem of Scottish statutory tenants. We have all been reading in the Scottish Press the reports of this poor lady in Melrose who had a High Court decision against her when she claimed statutory tenancy on being deserted by her husband.
§ The Solicitor-General for Scotland
No, I am afraid that the hon. Gentleman is wrong. The lady was not claiming statutory tenancy but the same tenancy as her husband had had. That is quite different—it is a contractual tenancy. I appreciate the hardship.
§ Mr. Fraser
She was claiming succession to the tenancy, and in her case the High Court in Scotland has taken a decision which is the complete opposite of the High Court decision south of the Border. In Scotland, therefore, we have one interpretation of the law and in England and Wales another. The poor woman who was claiming succession in Scotland is evicted and does not get the protection she would have had had she lived over the Border. I should have thought that this was just the sort of thing to which the Scottish law officers would have been paying attenion at this time.
§ Mr. Fraser
The Solicitor-General says he has, but he interrupted me to say that an amendment would be necessary. I would prefer to have no amendments at all. I think that the Government should withdraw the Scottish part of the Bill altogether.
I am thinking, however, of the hardship which will be caused to those occupying these rent-controlled houses. I believe that 60,000 houses will be decontrolled at once. I think even more about the many thousands of houses of low valuation that are to become decontrolled under this Bill. One thinks of what has been happening in Scotland in recent years when there have fallen vacant houses of low value and with no amenities. The landlords did not relet them but kept them standing empty for many months, waiting to get a price that they were willing to accept.
1973 That price bore no relationship whatever to the value of the house, but the landlords were out for their pound of flesh. They wanted the scarcity value, and they have been getting it in many thousands of cases. Many slum houses have been bought by poor, innocent people who had to have a shelter. They have paid from £200 to £300 for slum houses. Nothing has been done to stop that racket. All that has been done has been to give encouragement to another racket.
What will happen in future when one of those slum houses becomes vacant? Let no one tell me that they will not be reoccupied when the present tenant is rehoused by the local authority. It happens now, when the present tenant gets out under those circumstances; the house is occupied by yet another person, so great is the pressure on housing accommodation in Scotland.
But next year, if this Bill ever becomes law, we will not find the occupier having to produce £200 to £300 to get occupation of a slum house, sharing the w.c. on the stair-head. Next year the poor tenant will go in without any protection as to security of tenure or rent, and will be asked to pay a rent of £1 or £2 a week in a miserable single end with a w.c. on the stair-head.
§ Mr. Cyril Bence (Dunbartonshire, East)
A constituent came to see me last week and told me that he was so desperate for a house that he had been compelled to pay a deposit of £5. He then committed himself to paying £1 a week for sixteen years for one room and a kitchen, both of which were in a frightful condition. Those payments amount to a total of £750. It is really shocking.
§ Mr. Fraser
That is the sort of thing which the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State is fostering and encouraging. Yesterday my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Kettering referred to the Secretary of State's confession about the inadequacy of his vocabulary, with particular reference to adjectives. If this Bill ever becomes law in anything like its present form, the Secretary of State might consider compiling a list of adjectives employed by Scottish tenants in describing this Bill and its authors.
The Tory Party told the Scottish electors that they would give the Scottish 1974 people more control over their own affairs. They most certainly did not tell them that they would introduce iniquitous reforms like this. If the Secretary of State has any respect for democracy, he will take Scotland out of this Bill altogether.
§ 5.21 p.m.
§ Sir James Hutchison (Glasgow, Scotstoun)
In his speech yesterday the hon. and learned Member for Kettering (Mr. Mitchison) said, or used words something like these—I took them down as he was speaking—"It is the first duty of a Government to provide houses for the people to live in." I could not agree more. But it astonishes me to hear such a statement from the mouth of an eminent representative of a party which, while it was in power, failed so dismally to do these things.
§ Sir J. Hutchison
It is interesting to consider the promises which were made by the party opposite when it was in power, and the extent to which these promises have been exceeded in the five years in which the party of which I have the honour to be a member has been in power.
§ Mr. McInnes
Would the hon. Gentleman not agree that in the five years of the Labour Government we built 50 per cent. more houses than the Tory Government built between 1919 and 1933?
§ Sir J. Hutchison
I have not got the figures for 1919–33, but that is not a comparable period. The two periods which are comparable are 1945–51, and 1951 onwards, in which, as hon. Members opposite know, their record has been exceeded by this party time and time again.
§ Sir J. Hutchison
It is that failure to build houses after all the brilliant promises of the party opposite which accounts for the sad stories of the kind mentioned by my hon. Friend the Member for Dunbartonshire, East (Mr. Bence).
§ Mr. A. Woodburn (Clackmannan and East Stirlingshire)
The hon. Gentleman has said that the two periods which are 1975 comparable are 1945–51 and 1951–56. Is he suggesting that the period after the war, when the building trade in Scotland was depleted by over 50 per cent., when half the brick works were closed and when material was not available, is comparable to the period after 1951 when the Government succeeded to a stockpile of £600 million worth of timber and other material?
§ Sir J. Hutchison
If what the right hon. Gentleman says is correct, his party had no right to make the promises they made. One of the promises was made by the right hon. Member for Ebbw Vale (Mr. Bevan), who said that by the end of the Socialists' period of office the housing problem would have disappeared completely. That is on the record and can be established.
§ Sir J. Hutchison
I am trying to come to it. It is perfectly true that immediately after the war there were difficulties which were not in existence later on. But let us ignore the first year after the war, and compare the next five years with the five years during which the Conservative Government were in power. The party opposite failed lamentably.
May I now come to the Bill and deal with some of the remarks made by the hon. Member for Hamilton (Mr. T. Fraser). He pointed out, quite correctly, that a very large proportion—some 91 per cent.—of the controlled houses which are treated by this Bill will remain under control, and that a large number of these houses were built about a hundred years ago. He argued that consequently the only way to deal with such a problem is to hand them over to the local authorities.
§ Sir J. Hutchison
Then I do not understand the hon. Gentleman's reference to the pleasure which he said the local authorities would feel at taking over the houses.
§ Mr. Fraser
I am sorry if I did not make myself clear. I said those houses 1976 do not merely need repair; they need improvement. Let us agree that they have got to be improved. Then we have to ask ourselves whether private enterprise can do this work. I maintain that the results of the 1949 Act show that private enterprise cannot do it, and therefore I say that the local authorities should take a hand.
§ Sir J. Hutchison
I agree that there is a subtle difference between "improve" and "repair," but the hon. Gentleman went on to say that local authorities would be happy to take them over.
§ Sir J. Hutchison
The hon. Gentleman said that the local authorities were perfectly prepared to take these houses over, and when interrupted by my right hon. Friend who said that that did not apply in all cases, the hon. Gentleman said that we still had some friends left. That passage will be found in HANSARD.
For years past, property owners in Glasgow have been offering properties to the Glasgow Corporation—the hon Member for Glasgow, Central (Mr. McInnes) can confirm this—free and for nothing, and the Corporation would not have them. No doubt, they are in such a dilapidated state of repair. But the hon. Gentleman cannot claim in the next breath that when the Corporation of Glasgow refused to have them for nothing, the Corporation will be delighted to take them over some years later.
I think it was established yesterday, and indeed it has been said in many of the speeches which have been made from the benches opposite, that both parties were agreed that something needed to be done. It was, in fact, the right hon. Member for Ebbw Vale who, in 1953 said:It is not a responsible Government which leaves pieces of valuable furniture—such as six million to seven million houses—under legislative restrictions which prevent them from being kept in good repair."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 30th Nov., 1953; Vol. 521, c. 819.]With that I heartily agree, and it is to put that situation right that this Bill is introduced. The hon. Member for Hamilton referred to this Bill as a house-building Bill.
§ Sir J. Hutchison
He asked continually whether private enterprise would build the houses. He calculated that the cost of building a house was £2,000, and so on. This is not a building Bill. It is, I hope, a repairing Bill. The hon. Gentleman must also remember the slum clearance programme which is intended to take over the obsolescent and the worst decayed houses, in which Scotland's need is greater proportionately than is the need of England. Incidentally, I hope my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State will fight Scotland's battle for a high proportion in slum clearance.
Hon. Members must also remember, in connection with this question of the provision of houses, that my right hon. Friend has already indicated that legislation is about to be introduced to deal with the overspill population problem—another specially Scottish problem. We therefore have this Bill dealing with repairs and not with building; we have the slum clearance programme, and we have also the overspill population programme. Out of those three together I am tolerably certain that Scotland will get great benefit.
I should like, on the other hand, to pass to certain aspects of the Scottish provisions in which Scotland is getting a raw deal. We are all aware of the fantastic and distressing results brought about by rent controls on the basis on which they have been operating up to now. As was pointed out by the Gird-wood Committee, the cost of house repairs and maintenance has gone up by three times between 1939 and 1953. One cannot expect an owner of any property, whether it is a bus, an overcoat or a house, to be able to keep the thing in repair if the cost of repairing it is going up much faster than his income. I think that must be common ground among all hon. Members. At any rate, those hon. Members opposite who are not so biassed and jaundiced at hearing the words "property owner" that they have stopped thinking straight must realise that one cannot expect houses to be kept in repair unless the owners, whoever they may be, can find the means to do the work.
Let us remember that many owners of small properties are quite impecunious people. Indeed, this is shown by the fact 1978 that this payment of 60 per cent. of a year's rent has very often not been met, because people cannot do so. It is not the sole factor, but it is one of the contributory factors in not being able to claim the repairs increase. Thus we hear of houses literally physically disappearing, of cases in England where houses have disintegrated, knocked down by marauders over a period of time because the owners simply could not keep them under repair.
There is less housing accommodation available for letting than there would be because there is also a tendency among people who are living in houses which are bigger than they need, but which are covered by controls and let at cheap rents, to go on living in such houses though they are unnecessarily large. There is a good deal of evidence of maldistribution in the tenancy of houses. I hope and believe that this Bill will, in fact, tend to improve that situation.
Once again, we have the nigger in the woodpile of the owner's rating system in Scotland rearing his ugly head again. As my right hon. Friend has pointed out, we could not produce a Bill on all fours with the English provisions because we had no usable yardstick of rent on which to build. By 1961, we shall, I hope, be on approximately the same basis as England, but until then I am afraid that Scotland will have to suffer.
Let us consider the extent of this awful plundering of the poor tenant which hon. Gentlemen opposite suggest is happening, or will happen under the Bill. Let us compare the rise in net rents between, shall I say, Birmingham and certain Scottish towns, taking 1914 as our starting point. What will be the increase in rents under the provisions of the Bill? A house owner in Birmingham will receive under the Bill a rent which is somewhere between 182 per cent. and 276 per cent. of the figure in 1914. That is, roughly speaking, nearly three times. Incidentally, wage rates have risen about eight times in the same period.
Let us compare that figure with the results we find in three towns in Scotland. In Aberdeen, there will be a net rise of 31 per cent. from 1914 to 1956. Here, again, this shows the ridiculous state of affairs which can be brought about by the present Scottish rating system, because we find that in Armadale the owner of a 1979 small house will, in fact, using the provisions of the Bill, be 39 per cent. worse off than he was in 1914. Taking a similar example in Edinburgh, which is, so to speak, at the top of the bracket, the owner will receive an increase of 57 per cent. compared with 1914.
What plunder do hon. Members pretend that is? The net rent received by the owner of a house will be, at the maximum, 57 per cent. more than it was in 1914, and, at the minimum, 39 per cent. less. It really makes all this sort of talk which the hon. Member for Hamilton and other hon. Members have used appear quite ludicrous.
Reference has been made to certificates of disrepair. Under the Housing Repairs and Rents Act, 1954, the owner of property could get a 40 per cent. increase in rent. As the hon. Member for Hamilton himself showed, very few have, in fact, received that 40 per cent., and for a wide variety of reasons, one of them being that they simply could not pay the 60 per cent. of the rent in the previous year in order to make the claim. Another reason was the campaign carried out purposely by hon. Members opposite to advise all tenants to claim a certificate of disrepair from the local authority, irrespective of the condition of the house.
§ Mr. McInnes
Surely the hon. Member for Scotstoun (Sir J. Hutchison) is aware that there has never been a Rent Act introduced into this House but the first step taken by a Tory Government is always to protect the tenant against the ravages of landlordism by putting in Clauses relating to such matters as disrepair certificates, going to the courts, and so on. The Government do not even trust the landlords.
§ Sir J. Hutchison
I think that is a perfectly fair provision, but it should not be exploited. It has been exploited to a point where local authorities—no doubt political friends of the party opposite—have granted certificates of disrepair for such things as one broken window cord. That is a fantastic situation, but it has, in fact, been done. No doubt that is an exception, but there were grades of certificate varying from that very ridiculous type up the scale until really the whole thing became farcical.
Moreover, if the certificate of disrepair is granted, the applicant for the increase 1980 in rent does not just go back to where he started; he goes back to 1914, so that, at the end of the day, he is a great deal worse off if the certificate of disrepair has been granted than he would have been if he had left matters alone.
In face of all those disadvantages, was it really likely that there was going to be a rush to claim the 40 per cent. increase by which, and by which alone, there was a hope of these houses being kept in repair? Does the House really imagine that by adding 10 per cent. to the 40 per cent. we shall make a great deal of difference? Let us remember that this is a repairing Bill. We should give it a fair chance and see whether it will get repairs carried out. I do not mean the kind of repairs referred to by the hon. Member for Hamilton, which really come within the slum clearance category or obsolescence; I mean the ordinary repairs to the standard kind of house which is not in perfect condition just now and needs maintenance. Let us give the Bill a chance.
Will the extra 10 per cent. make the difference? I claim that it does not, so long as this system of granting certificates of repair operates on the present basis, and I hope that my right hon. Friend will make Part II of the First Schedule apply to Scotland. It is the English system, and a much more reasonable system. It is evident that in England the repair system has worked much more satisfactorily than it has in Scotland because the standard of repair in England is better.
The hon. Member for Hamilton, who has now left the Chamber, also said that owners of property in Scotland would get a 25 per cent. increase in rent, under the Government proposals, for doing nothing. That is a distorted way of putting it. Perhaps the right hon. Member for East Stirlingshire (Mr. Woodburn) will convey to his hon. Friend my remarks on that subject. I see that the hon. Member for Hamilton has now returned.
As I have said, it is a distorted way of puting it, because the certificate of disrepair can be granted in connection with the 25 per cent. increase as in connection with the 50 per cent. increase. The only difference in the procedure is that for the 50 per cent. increase, 60 per cent. of the previous year's rent must have been expended on repairs. Nevertheless, it is 1981 an unfair distortion to say that the landlord will get a 25 per cent. increase for doing nothing. He will get it only if the house is in a good and tenantable condition.
§ Mr. Woodburn
Is it not the case that the Bill will grant a 25 per cent. increase to a landlord whose tenant keeps the house in repair?
§ Sir J. Hutchison
No. Indeed it will not, as the right hon. Member will see if he studies the Bill.
In Scotland, we should be put on the same basis as England in the matter of certificates of disrepair. In England, if the repair is not being carried out by the landlord he is put on the basis of a tenancy in which there is no repairing liability and receives rent plus one-third.
May I appeal to my right hon. Friend to examine most carefully the second part of the First Schedule to see whether the certificate of disrepair system which I have described can be applied to Scotland? Will he also see that if a certificate of disrepair is granted, the owner of that property is not carried back to the 1914 rent, but is placed once again on the same basis as his opposite number in England? I am satisfied that if my right hon. Friend would do that, then, with the extra 10 per cent. which would be granted, with a new form of procedure for certificates of disrepair and with the removal of the penalty of being returned to the 1914 rent, there is an excellent chance of getting houses put into the state of repair which we should all like to see.
§ 5.42 p.m.
§ Mr. Thomas Hubbard (Kirkcaldy Burghs)
I am sure that on reflection the hon. Member for Scotstoun (Sir J. Hutchison) will regret the statement he has made in the House that those officials of local authorities responsible for the issue of certificates of disrepair have been dishonest in their administration of the procedure merely for party or political purposes and have issued such certificates on the basis of broken windows. That is a shocking statement to have made and it is a criticism of officials who are quite unknown to the hon. Member. I 1982 think that on reflection he will wish to withdraw such a statement.
§ Mr. Hubbard
He has not taken the opportunity of withdrawing the statement. I take it that he is convinced that those officials are dishonest persons.
§ Sir J. Hutchison
I would withdraw the statement if I did not know of cases where it has happened. I am not tarring ad local authorities with the same brush, but there were instances of the procedure being used in that way.
§ Mr. Hubbard
I deplore that any hon. Member should take advantage of his position in the House to criticise an official outside who cannot defend himself. I hope that the hon. Member will have a further opportunity of making those accusations in different circumstances. Let me finish with his speech, however; in the light of what he said, I must disregard the remainder of his speech as being completely unreliable.
The Secretary of State condemned his action under the Bill out of his own mouth when he said that he did not have the foggiest notion when the housing requirements of Scotland would be within measureable distance of being met. He said he did not know when Scotland would be in the position which the Parliamentary Secretary claimed for England and Wales when he opened the debate yesterday.
§ Mr. Hubbard
The Secretary of State was asked when he thought Scotland would be in a comparable position in housing, and in reply he said that he had not the foggiest idea. He said that he had no intention of making a statement. In the light of that, he has no right whatever to allow the position in Scotland to be mixed up with an English Bill. He has admitted that the circumstances of the two countries are in no way comparable. In doing so he has condemned his own case out of his own mouth.
1983 We know perfectly well that none of us can look forward to a time in the foreseeable future when the claim made yesterday by the Parliamentary Secretary about housing in England and Wales can be made about housing in Scotland. Whether the Parliamentary Secretary's claim is well-founded or ill-founded is not for me to judge, but in Scotland all the evidence we have at the moment is that the position is deteriorating.
As for the problem of catching up with house building in Scotland, I would remind the House that every local authority association in Scotland has protested to the Secretary of State that the increased interest charges make it impossible for them to go on with their work, since it means accumulating more and more debts. Every local authority association in Scotland has protested to the Secretary of State about the further difficulties which they expect to face under the Housing Subsidies Bill which will make it almost impossible for them to go on building houses in an attempt to reach the position which was claimed by the Parliamentary Secretary yesterday. I ask the Secretary of State whether it is not a fact that every local authority in Scotland has lodged emphatic protests against increased interest charges and has stated categorically that these are making the building of houses by local authorities next door to impossible. Is it not a fact that every local authority association in Scotland has protested against the Housing Subsidies Bill?
By his own action the right hon. Gentleman is preventing Scotland from getting the houses necessary to put her in the position which the Parliamentary Secretary claimed for England and Wales. It is therefore an unconditional surrender by the Secretary of State that we should be mixed up with this English Bill. I have no kick against England. I do not claim that a person north of the Border is any better or any worse than a person south of the Border, but I claim that in Scotland we have separate legislation and I claim that the Secretary of State has surrendered when he knows full well that he cannot say when we shall be able to house the people properly.
§ Mr. Hubbard
I was quoting what the Parliamentary Secretary said yesterday—that the time was opportune to produce this legislation because within a year's time they would almost have met the housing requirements. Surely the question is germane to the issue. I am trying to prove that the Secretary of State for Scotland and the Scottish Office, who have responsibility for legislation in Scotland—a responsibility which was hardly won and which is very jealously guarded—have thrown that away by mixing us up with this legislation.
The right hon. Gentleman himself admitted that the Rating and Valuation (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act cannot be operated for another five years, and that is a further reason why this is the wrong way and the wrong time to introduce this Bill. If another Bill will have to be introduced at the end of five years, perhaps in the meantime we might have been able to catch up on the short-fall in housing in Scotland.
This is not merely a question of whether we are on one side of the Border or the other. It is a question that the Secretary of State for Scotland has the right, the privilege and the duty to bring in legislation applying to Scotland and not to get mixed up with an English Bill operating under completely different circumstances.
I do not wish to detain the House, because I know that several hon. Members wish to speak, but I must emphasise a point made by the hon. Member for Scotstoun, that there is to be a 25 per cent. increase in rent for these privately owned houses. The Bill permits that. It is wrong to give the impression that the effects of the Bill will apply only to that part of the property in Scotland to be decontrolled which is rated at £40 a year or more. Under the Bill there will be an increase of rent of 25 per cent.
It is perfectly true, and I do not think that even the hon. Member for Scotstoun would wish it to be otherwise, that tenants may claim their houses are in a state of disrepair. However, they can do that now, and even now the landlords, who are so well protected and so well dug in, are bound to see that their houses are wind- and weatherproof. Surely the hon. Gentleman does not object to the fact that the rent increases 1985 permitted under the Bill should be accompanied by some protection to the tenants? Let it be stated clearly that this Bill means an increase of 25 per cent. in rents of all the privately-owned houses in Scotland outwith those decontrolled, and provision for that is made in legislation tied to an English Measure.
I would emphasise, moreover, that a second tenant's rights now go by the board. The moment the first tenant leaves, no matter for what reason, there is no limit to the rent increase which may be made by the landlord. Is not that something for which we ought to have regard? Many repairs have to be done. But I am sure that there will not be many done. So far as I am aware, few landlords in Scotland took advantage of the 1954 Act, because they failed to prove that they had spent the required amount of money on repairs in the preceding two years.
My sympathy for the landlords in Scotland would be greater were it not for the fact, as my hon. Friend the Member for Hamilton (Mr. Fraser) has pointed out, that ever since 1920, when the landlords got an increase of more than 40 per cent., and even at times when the cost of repairs and of labour was reduced, the landlords have simply gone on drawing rents which paid for the houses time and time again, and have not spent them on repairs.
Time is getting short, and many other hon. Members want to speak, and so I shall draw my remarks to a close. My hon. Friend the Member for Hamilton has already dealt with many of the matters which arise. We resent the fact that the Bill is foisted on Scotland against the wishes of Scotland and against the rights of Scotland, and that it gives to the Minister extraordinary powers which he can exercise any time merely by laying orders, without any further legislation—orders which mean increases in rents. I still hope that at least the Secretary of State will ensure that Clauses 6, 7 and 8 may be discussed apart from the rest of the Bill, and thus to that extent redeem himself as the representative official of Scotland.
The party opposite is the party which offered to set the people free. The tenants who have to pay these increased rents will feel that they are getting from the Tory Government the same kind of 1986 freedom as they have always got from Tory Governments. The Tories used to complain when the Labour Party was in power that we held control over the local authorities, and they said we ought to set the local authorities free, but every Act of Parliament introduced by the right hon. Gentleman has proceeded to tie the local authorities more, and more than they have ever been tied before, and has made things increasingly difficult for them.
The James Stuart who was King James VI of Scotland and King James I of England was only a few generations removed from that famous Stuart, Charles Edward Stuart, Bonnie Prince Charlie, called the Young Pretender. I am not suggesting that the Secretary of State is an old pretender, but Bonnie Prince Charlie was beloved by the Scottish people, and inspired their song, "Will ye no' come back again?" Nobody is likely to sing that song in praise of the present Secretary of State. Rather the Scottish people will say, "Will you please go and never come back again?"
§ 5.55 p.m.
§ Mr. J. C. George (Glasgow, Pollock)
I shall not follow the line of argument of the hon. Member for Kirkcaldy Burghs (Mr. Hubbard). Since I have been a Member of this House I have been proud to be associated with the Secretary of State and his courageous legislation. The legislation dealing with valuation and rating was courageous and wise, and the legislation affecting the subsidies was courageous and wise. The legislation to cope with overspill will, I am certain, be equally courageous.
Now we have this Bill. Listening to hon. Members opposite has made me wonder whether we are decontrolling 640,000 houses or the 60,000 which are affected by the Bill. The long discussion about the condition of houses in Scotland has referred to housing which is not to be decontrolled. We have heard nothing from the party opposite about the real problem, which is the decontrol of the higher-rented houses. We on this side are proud, and have every right to be proud, as my hon. Friend the Member for Scotstoun (Sir J. Hutchison) said, of our performance in building since we came to power. We have materially improved the position in the range of 1987 housing which is not to be decontrolled, and we are going on improving it. Therefore, I think much of the eloquence of the hon. Member for Hamilton (Mr. T. Fraser) was wasted.
Nevertheless, I regret the haste with which this Bill has been brought here. I do not share the view that its chief fault is that the Scottish provisions are part of an English Measure. I do not even share the view that they should be in a Scottish Bill. I take the view there should not be a Bill at all at this stage. Scotland is not ready for decontrol, even in the higher ranges.
I felt it was bad tactics on the part of my right hon. Friend to be associated with an English Bill handled by my able and eloquent hon. Friend the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Housing and Local Government. Why? Because the Parliamentary Secretary, in a brilliant speech, gave us all the arguments against decontrol in Scotland. I have listened and extracted from his speech five arguments, every one of which tells us we should not proceed at this stage to decontrol in Scotland.
When the time is ripe, I am entirely in favour of getting rid of rent restrictions, because I have seen the ravages wrought in Scotland by them, but I am conscious that timing is vital, and that we should be absolutely certain, when we do decontrol, that we do it at the right time. Rent restriction was not a temporary measure. It was a temporary measure forty years ago. It has been with us ever since. At no time in those forty years have we felt the time was ripe to get rid of it. I suggest the time is not ripe now.
I have seen the consequences, the disastrous consequences, of these restrictions. Hon. Member opposite have kept up a violent and vicious campaign against the landlords of Scotland, but those landlords have been frustrated. They would far rather in all these years have had income from their houses, to enable them to take pride in keeping their investments in good condition, than see them fall into ruin. It is this House that has kept them from doing their duty properly. They have been frustrated for the past forty years in Scotland. Repairs have not been executed, houses have fallen out of use and the pool of available houses to let has been reduced.
1988 Owners have been forced to sell houses as they became vacant. They have had to sell houses in many cases to obtain money in order to subsidise the remaining houses which they had to let. As a result of control, owner-occupiers have been afraid to let because of the protection which tenants would enjoy if they let them into the houses in whole or in part. The tenant gets a vested interest in the tenancy and he stays there long after the house has become too big for his own use. That is all against the good of the country and against the mobility of labour. All these factors have been obvious, but is this the time to tackle them? I want to be quite certain when I agree to decontrol that I shall not inflict unnecessary hardship on those affected when decontrol takes place.
§ Mr. Callaghan
The hon. Member appears to hold the view, which frankly I cannot understand, that when a person's family grows up and there are vacant bedrooms in the house he should move out if he is a tenant. Does that apply to owner-occupiers?
§ Mr. George
I said nothing of the kind. I have had experience of local authority work and have been up against that horrible word "decanting." We have been doing that in Scotland, on an entirely voluntary basis where people wanted to move out into smaller houses. I am not in favour of compulsory "decanting" and certainly not by the compulsion of high rents.
We have seen a vast national asset depreciate whilst we have been driving on enthusiastically building new houses. We have been attacking on one front when we should have been attacking on two. We should have been conserving old houses as well as building new houses. The time has come to do it, but we must choose the date and methods properly when we attack an established system which in Scotland has given throughout forty years security of tenure and low rents. Although both these things go with decontrol, it is the loss of security of tenure that worries me more than the raising of rents. We shall be abolishing security of tenure in respect of 60,000 houses in Scotland, and of these 24,500 are in Glasgow. The Bill will impinge more on Glasgow than on any other city in Scotland.
§ Mr. George
I want to make sure that when this is done it will not severely affect the life and comfort of these people. I am more interested in preserving that security of tenure until I am sure that houses are available than I am about raising rents, which I am prepared to see rise even more substantially than they are raised by the Bill.
The arguments so brilliantly put forward by the Parliamentary Secretary seem to me all against decontrol in Scotland—because the time is not ripe. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Scotland said that the question of new houses was not relevant. In my view it is. The Parliamentary Secretary said in favour of decontrol that in England and Wales very soon a balance will be reached, but decontrol affects a far greater proportion of houses in England than in Scotland. Therefore, the Parliamentary Secretary must be doubly careful that he has reasonable security against causing a great deal of hardship. We cannot claim that in Scotland we are reaching a balance, even in the higher ranges which it is proposed to decontrol.
The Parliamentary Secretary spoke of the great benefits accruing from relief to owner-occupiers by decontrol, because the owner-occupier would not then have the incentive to sell. A house would be of as great value to him when let as when empty and for sale. But I do not think that my right hon. Friend can claim that that point will be reached soon in Scotland when the proposed increase in rents will make letting attractive to the owner-occupiers of Scotland.
The Parliamentary Secretary felt that he could depend upon a great deal of assistance from the owner-occupier through decontrol in England. We cannot do so in Scotland. He also said that there would be a large initial reservoir to cover the gap between the bringing in of this legislation and its enactment. This would be the result of the owner-occupier being prepared to let. He also pointed out that there were 125,000 lapsed tenancies in England every year in that category. That would form a pool of assistance and prevent hardship. We cannot look to that happening in Scotland. I believe that the relief of the owner-occupier will have little or no effect on housing to let in Scotland and 1990 that we shall not have that pool of lettable houses.
The Parliamentary Secretary also claimed that the group of houses to be decontrolled in England would be gradually decreasing, because that was the very group in which building was going on at a fast pace. But the group which we propose to decontrol is the group for which no one has built since the end of the war, and it is astonishing the great difference there is between Scotland and England in the matter of free-enterprise building.
A total of 550,000 houses have been built by free enterprise in England since the war, whereas only 20,000 have been built in Scotland. In the first quarter of this year in England free enterprise was, building one for one with the local authorities. Since the war, for every house built by free enterprise in Scotland 27 have been built in England, and in the past quarter of this year for every house built by free enterprise in Scotland 45 have been built in England. As a result of that massive assistance which it is getting from free enterprise, England is able to bring the date of decontrol forward, but we are not getting that assistance in Scotland. That is why I am worried about the Bill. I do not blame the private builder.
The Parliamentary Secretary said that there would not be hardship because he would be decontrolling a large enough number of houses to form a free market. We are not doing that in Scotland. Does anybody in the House believe that we will have a free market in Scotland in the 60,000 houses there which will be decontrolled? Whereas the Parliamentary Secretary was able to claim, I believe with sincerity, that landlords would have to compete for tenants in England, does anybody believe that that would happen in Scotland? I do not.
I am terribly concerned about what is to happen to the people whose houses are decontrolled, because they will then have no protection at all. In many cases they will have to submit to any increase in rent which may be demanded of them. I am not saying that all landlords will be unfair, but we have unfair landlords. We have bad landlords and good landlords, just as we have bad Members of Parliament and good Members of Parliament.
1991 I am concerned because many tenants are old, retired people living on pensions, who deserve our sympathy, and who will be in difficulties because there are no houses for them to go to. If they decide to take the only way out, which is to put their names on the local authority housing list, where do they get the points? They are not overcrowded, their houses are not in bad repair, so it will be many years before they reach the top of the housing list, and their outlook under this Bill is black. I believe that it is more important for us to preserve their security than anything else.
Let me emphasise here that I would not object to far greater consideration being given to raising rents. I share the view that the 1954 Act has been a complete flop. I know that the 1949 Act was a failure because of my experience in local government. I thought that there would be a rush to take advantage of the 1949 Act, but the applications we received came only from a few owner-occupiers.
§ Mr. Woodburn
Perhaps the hon. Gentleman will be glad to know that Stirlingshire did a lot under the 1949 Act to improve and reconstruct houses of that type, and in making them available with modern improvements.
§ Mr. George
I know that we gave the local authority power to do that, and I am glad to hear that it was done. But the individuals who applied under the 1949 Act were owner-occupiers. I would like to believe that 50 per cent. instead of 40 per cent. would make all the difference and that instead of the failure of the 1954 Act there will be a success in 1956. However, I do not think that this increase will make any difference, nor do I believe that the 25 per cent., to which hon. Gentlemen opposite object so seriously, but which I am prepared to rectify, will make any great impact upon the tremendous problems facing us.
I say with reluctance that I doubt very much the value of the proposals for Scotland put forward in this Bill. 1992 Frankly, I think that they are not worth bringing forward. We on this side of the House have an unfortunate tendency to take too many bites at the cherry. We tackle an unpopular matter, do a little about it and then, later, tackle it again and once more meet the same venom. Let us do the job properly now or leave it alone and come back to it when we are in a position to do it well. England feels that there are provisions in the Bill which will do the task that we trumpet abroad we want to do, namely, to rescue the vast reservoir of houses which are going to rack and ruin, but I do not think that this Bill will do that for Scotland.
§ 6.14 p.m.
§ Mr. James McInnes (Glasgow, Central)
I cannot say that I was surprised at the speech of the hon. Member for Pollok (Mr. George), because he has always displayed a considerable degree of courage. Certainly I was most impressed when the hon. Gentleman indicated that the best way for the Tory Party to tackle the job was to leave it alone altogether. But I absolutely agree with the hon. Gentleman—
§ Mr. McInnes
The hon. Gentleman said what I indicated, although perhaps he did not mean to do so. In opening the debate this afternoon, the Secretary of State indicated that he subscribed to the policy set out by the Labour Party in its pamphlet "Homes of the Future", particularly that part on page 13 which seems to indicate that a moderate increase in rent is a small price to pay for improvements and repairs, and the right hon. Gentleman indicated that this was all that the Bill was doing. Of course, this is the fourth attempt which the Tory Party has made to bring about the repair and improvement of houses. It tried with the 1920 Act, with the 1949 Act and with the 1954 Act, and under none of them have repairs been carried out. Each one has been a colossal failure.
I shall deal as briefly as I can with many of the points raised by the hon. Member for Pollok, and by the Secretary 1993 of State and the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Housing and Local Government. The latter indicated yesterday that rent restricion was of an emergency character. The hon. Gentleman said that it was not only losing its usefulness but was becoming productive of greater and widely recognised evils. The hon. Gentleman listed those evils as follows. First, he said that rent restriction discourages landlords from keeping houses in good repair; secondly, that it causes a waste of accommodation; thirdly, the hon. Gentleman referred to the constant erosion of the stock of houses available for letting because landlords were putting up their houses for sale; and finally, the hon. Gentleman said that if the position is allowed to continue, all people in this country except owner-occupiers will be compelled to depend upon their local authority for getting a house.
The hon. Member for Pollok indicated that the position in Scotland is entirely different, and I want to deal with that. It could not possibly be argued that it was rent restriction which discouraged Scottish landlords from carrying out repairs. Indeed the Ridley Committee of 1945 indicated clearly that it had received a considerable volume of evidence to the effect that the increase granted under the 1920 Act had not been applied for the purpose for which it was designed, but had been regarded by the landlords as an added increment to their income. The Committee said there was evidence of a tendency on the part of landlords to look upon property as an investment to give perpetual income without any expenditure on repairs and maintenance. I do not think that the hon. Member for Pollok will deny that almost every tenant of a rented house in Scotland, with experience of the inter-war years, would subscribe to the viewpoint expressed by the Ridley Committee.
The Parliamentary Secretary went further, and indicated that rent restriction created a waste of accommodation. Again I must point out that that is not the position in Scotland. In Scotland there are 1½ million houses, almost 500,000 of which are municipally owned. Of the 1 million houses which belong to private enterprise, 300,000 are 100, 110 and 130 years old, while another 300,000 of that million are between 77 and 100 years old.
1994 Sixteen per cent. of our population live at the rate of more than two persons per room, while the corresponding percentage for England and Wales is two. Also 503,000 of the remaining 1 million houses are one- and two-apartment houses, and almost 50 per cent. of Glasgow's population live in such dwellings, whereas the corresponding percentage for Bimingham is 14 and Liverpool only 12. Those conditions exist in Glasgow in spite of the fact that it has already built 100,000 municipal houses. How can one speak of a wastage of accommodation as the result of rent restriction when we have not the accommodation to waste? It is a shocking state of affairs that almost half a city's population live in one- and two-apartment houses.
Scotsmen are compelled always to assert that housing, health and unemployment constitute an inter-related problem which should concern the nation, because Scotland has the greatest slum problem, the greatest tuberculosis problem and the greatest unemployment problem in the United Kingdom. That is why we say that the Bill does absolutely nothing to relieve the position. Indeed, it will tend to intensify and aggravate the problem.
The Parliamentary Secretary's third point concerned the constant erosion of our existing stock of rented houses because of landlords putting them up for sale. At this very moment Glasgow has more than 2,600 unoccupied houses. That is in a city with 112,000 applicants on its waiting list. It is criminal, to say the least, that such a situation should be allowed.
Mr. Charles Fletctaer-Cooke (Darwen)
As I know little about Scotland, I trust I shall be forgiven for intervening. Does not the hon. Gentleman think it possible that the reason there are so many houses vacant in Glasgow, as there are in many English cities, is that the Rent Restrictions Acts make it difficult, if not downright silly, to let them in present circumstances?
§ Mr. McInnes
If the hon. Member had not been so impetuous, he might by this time have been satisfied on that point. I was about to make the point that Glasgow's unoccupied accommodation is not in any way due to the operation of the Rent Restrictions Acts. These houses have been vacant for ten, twelve or fourteen months, and some even longer, and 1995 there are tens of thousands of people who would be willing to buy them tomorrow but for two facts. The first fact is the price, which is absolutely prohibitive, and the second is that the experience of those who have bought such houses in the past has now become well known in the city.
What is the price being demanded for a two-apartment house? Would the hon. Member pay more than £300 today for a two-apartment house built more than ninety years ago and having no toilet, no bathroom and no electric light?
§ Mr. Fletcher-Cooke
The answer is, clearly, "No", but I might be prepared to rent it if the owner were able to let it at a higher rent than he is at present entitled to charge.
§ Mr. McInnes
The old houses in Glasgow were not repaired when they could have been. Between the wars building costs were low, money was very cheap and rating was at a low level, and the landlords were able to get a 47½ per cent. increase. What did they do? Scarcely a tenement in the City of Glasgow was repaired, and that is the reason for the present situation.
I know a young couple who invested their savings in buying one of these houses. They paid, in my view, a prohibitive price. As young couples will do in their desire to get accommodation, they made sacrifices. They had been in the house only four months when the wall fabric became dangerous and the whole tenement was condemned. They lost their house and their money, and indeed they lost all faith in Governments which allow such a state of affairs to continue.
The Parliamentary Secretary's final point was that unless something was done there would be no alternative but for everyone, except those becoming owner-occupiers, to go to local authorities for a house. The hon. Member for Pollok answered that point exceedingly well. In Scotland since 1945 private enterprise has built only 1 per cent. of the houses provided for letting. How, then, can our citizens do otherwise than look to local authorities to provide the houses which they want? Private enterprise will not build houses for letting in Scotland. Our experience in the inter-war years was similar. Since 1920 private enterprise
1996 has made little or no contribution to the provision of houses for people to rent.
§ Mr. John Hay (Henley)
I hesitate to interrupt on a Scottish point but is not the reason for that very largely the archaic system of owners' rates which has prevailed for so many years in Scotland? Is it not likely that after next May, when the new basis comes into force, the situation will be completely transformed?
§ Mr. McInnes
The hon. Gentleman overlooks the fact that in the 1920s and the 1930s owners' rates were an insignificant element in the total cost of a house. They were in the region of 3s. or 4s. in the £. It would have been easy for a house builder to incorporate them in his capital expenditure and let the house on an economic basis. Of course, as my hon. Friend explained, the situation is now completely different. But that is the record of private enterprise contribution to the housing problem in Scotland during those years.
The conditions which I have described cry out for remedial action. Instead we are getting this Bill which, in my submission, will only intensify and aggravate the situation. I record, in stronger language than that of the hon. Member for Pollok, that this Bill is a foul, vicious and vindictive Measure, unworthy of the Secretary of State for Scotland, and indeed unworthy of any Government. The effect of it in Scotland will be to reward landlordism to the extent of £10 million a year for creating all the degradation and squalor of which our people are so well aware.
§ 6.31 p.m.
§ Mr. C. N. Thornton-Kemsley (North Angus and Mearns)
If I represented an English constituency, I think I should give a very warm and almost unqualified welcome to this Bill, but I propose to be highly critical of the Scottish provisions in the Bill. Therefore, let me hasten to say that it is possible to discern a sensible and logical pattern in the approach of the Government to housing policy in the United Kingdom.
The drive to overcome the shortage of houses; the transfer of the emphasis, after the major shortage has been overcome, to the improvement of the older houses; the foundations now being laid for slum clearance and for arrangements to house 1997 the overspill populations from the great urban conurbations; the provision in Scotland of the machinery and the plan for making fair and uniform rating valuations; the concentration of housing subsidies on houses to meet the most urgent needs; and now this substantial move in the United Kingdom towards the decontrol of rents, are, in my view, an essential part of the plan—of a combined operation—to restore some semblance of reality to the distorted economics of housing in this country.
I pass now to the main provisions of this Bill as they apply to Scotland. In Scotland, as in England and Wales, the great majority of controlled rents—as the hon. Member for Glasgow, Central (Mr. McInnes) has reminded us—were fixed before the First World War. They are, therefore—they must be—completely out of harmony with the value of money; with the level of earnings and with the cost of repairs. That is undeniably unfair to the unfortunate owners of controlled houses, but I cannot expect hon. Members opposite to lose any sleep over that. What is surprising is that they disregard the illogical and, as I think, the anti-social effects of continuing after the war controls imposed in the first instance as a temporary measure.
For example, can they be satisfied with a system under which similar properties have widely different rents; under which some tenants enjoy a substantial subsidy at the expense of landlords who, not infrequently, are less well off than their tenants; under which private tenants—by which I mean tenants of private houses—have their rents frozen while tenants of council houses and of new town corporations have no such security? Is it not apparent, even to hon. Members opposite, that protected tenants cannot afford to take jobs elsewhere and that the mobility of labour is affected; that, every day, houses are falling into premature decay because owners are unable to charge rents which allow for adequate maintenance and repair?
In England and Wales, owners have received the 40 per cent. increase allowed by the 1920 Act practically intact; whereas in Scotland, as hon. Members representing Scottish constituencies will know, owners have had out of this 40 per cent. to pay all increases in owners' rates since 1920.
§ Mr. Thornton-Kemsley
And out of that, owners in Scotland have had to meet every increase in owners' rates since 1920.
Owners of old controlled houses in England and Wales have thus had at least 40 per cent. more rent than in 1914, whereas in Scotland, in most cases, owners have received a lower rent than they would have received forty years ago.
I have been into this problem, and from examples which I have I will quote only two. My hon. Friend the Member for Scotstoun (Sir J. Hutchison) spoke about Armadale. When he did so I scratched my head. I could not remember where Armadale was—I apologise to the hon. Member in whose constituency it may lie.
§ Mr. Thornton-Kemsley
I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman. It is said that one learns one thing every day. I think that Armadale must be a very pleasant place for tenants, but not very pleasant for landlords, according to the figures quoted by my hon. Friend.
I know of the case of two cities because they flank my constituency, Aberdeen to the north and Dundee to the south. If we take a basic rent of £20 in 1914, which was about the average for a three-or four-apartment house, in Aberdeen that would yield, after the deduction of owners' rates, a net rent of £17 6s. 8d. to the owner with which to do all the repairs and pay other outgoings. With his basic rent of £20 increased by the full amount allowed under the Acts, his net rent in 1956 is only £15 9s. 9d. In Dundee, the £20 basic rent of 1914, became a net rent of £17 16s. 8d. After adding the full additions allowed by the Rent Restrictions Acts, it is £17 15s. 3d. in 1956. I could give many more-examples showing exactly the same-tendency.
I hoped that when rent restriction legislation was introduced it would place Scottish owners in a not less favourable 1999 position than owners in England and Wales, but the Bill has not done that. In England and Wales, rents which remain controlled may be increased by sums up to twice the current gross value. I readily admit with the Secretary of State that we have not the yardstick of gross value in Scotland, because until 1961 we shall not be on a basis where we have fair and uniform rating valuations. We shall have that yardstick in 1961. In those circumstances the proper course would have been to lay down in the Bill the basis for rent increases in Scotland with the coming into force of the new valuation lists in 1961.
It could have been done, and could still be done. I hope that I shall have an opportunity in Committee of moving an Amendment to that effect. It could be done by the introduction of a new Clause and the amendment of Clauses 6 to 8, to cover the transitional stage between the coming into operation of the Bill and the approval of the new list in 1961. If those changes had been made we should have obviated the necessity of coming to the House with yet another property Bill in four years' time, and we should have given some sort of assurance to owners of property in Scotland that they would be treated fairly, and not worse, after 1961, than comparable owners of comparable properties in England and Wales. My hon. Friend the Member for Pollok (Mr. George) spoke about "two bites at a cherry." If we are to have two Bills they will be two nibbles at a very small cherry indeed.
In the meantime, houses have to be kept in repair. The 25 per cent. permitted increase is inadequate in most cases to secure proper standards of maintenance, let alone give an adequate return upon invested capital. The hon. Member for Hamilton (Mr. T. Fraser) referred to this question when he said that existing houses had to be improved and that there was nothing in the Bill to encourage it. I agree with him upon that point. My suggestion, which I think is fair, is that in the interim period of four years between now and when new legislation will be necessary in order to catch up with the 1961 position, graduated increases in rent should be allowed.
For example, in the first two years the rent increase should be 25 per cent. as in the Bill, in the third year 50 per cent., and in the fourth year 75 per cent Those 2000 increases would apply to houses which remained controlled, provided that they met the other requirements of the Bill. That would enable owners to keep their properties in repair and would lead into the increases expected when rating valuation is put on a realistic basis in 1961. If we want a precedent for a build-up of that sort we have only to look at Clause 2 (2).
We have to be careful not to be misled by percentages. I calculate that a 75 per cent. increase would mean that the additional rent paid by tenants of the best houses remaining under control in Scotland would not amount to more than 8s. 8d. per week. In the case of typical working-class houses, presently let at £15 a year, which I think hon. Members will agree is a fair average, the increase will be only 3s. 3d. a week.
Before the war we used to reckon that a fair rent was about 10 per cent. of the personal income. The Blue Book on National Income and Expenditure in 1956 shows that, with the post-war rise in wages, the proportion of personal incomes spent on rent, rates and water charges in the United Kingdom had fallen, from about 7½ per cent. in 1946 to 6½ per cent. in 1953. It is not without interest that, in working out the new subsidy proposals, my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State contemplated a weekly rent of 15s., which is the equivalent of 7½ per cent. of the average weekly wage, and that the party opposite based its subsidy proposals for England and Wales, as the House was reminded yesterday, on 10 per cent. of the average earnings. It is not unreasonable to assume that the great majority of weekly tenants would be prepared to pay a little more rent in return for the knowledge that their houses would be properly maintained and cared for.
I agree with everything said by my hon. Friend the Member for Scotstoun about certificates of disrepair. It is absurd that if a certificate of disrepair is granted the application for increased rent fails and the rent goes back to the 1914 level. It is as if a man went to his employer and asked for a rise in wages, and the employer said, "No, you must go back to where you started as an office boy". [Interruption.] Yes. In other ways the position is quite illogical. The cost of repairs has risen by 600 per cent. since 1914.
§ Mr. William Hannan (Glasgow, Maryhill)
Surely the hon. Member realises that the increase in that portion of the rent was on condition that repairs were effected. The certificate of disrepair is proof positive that they have not been done.
§ Mr. Thornton-Kemsley
I wonder if the hon. Member would take home quietly with him tonight Part II of the First Schedule of the Bill and read through it to see whether he does not think that is fair. What it does is to say that landlords and tenants must get together and talk things over to see if they can arrive at agreement. It provides time to arrive at what is—
§ Mr. T. Fraser
If my hon. Friend is to take any part of the Bill home with him tonight he ought to take a part which applies to Scotland. The First Schedule does not. [Laughter.]
§ Mr. Thornton-Kemsley
That is so funny, is not it? If the hon. Member for Hamilton had listened to the debate he would have heard my hon. Friend the Member for Scotstoun urge—and I am supporting him—that Part II of the First Schedule should apply to Scotland. In Part II of the First Schedule there is a reasonable way of settling that problem. I think we ought to make that Part apply to Scotland.
To recapitulate: I urge that the Bill should include provisions for post-1961 rent increases which will be not less favourable than those provided for England and Wales; that the Bill should make it clear that Clauses 6 to 8 are to cover only the intervening four years; that in the meantime graduated increases in rents up to a total of 75 per cent. above the 1954 level should be permitted in order to enable landlords to keep their properties from falling into decay; and, finally, that the procedure with regard to certificates of disrepair should be brought into line with that which will obtain in England and Wales.
§ 6.52 p.m.
§ Mr. David J. Pryde (Midlothian)
If every hon. Member were to say a few brief words on exactly what this Bill means to Scotland we should be able to make the Government realise the mood of the people of Scotland about it. This Bill is a complete insult to the people of Scotland.
2002 It was promulgated, first, by an Englishman, and that Englishman demonstrated clearly that this Bill revealed no particular idea of what conditions are in Scotland. I am not going to hold him responsible for that because he just does his particular job. I am not going to hold the Secretary of State for Scotland responsible, except that rather than putting this Bill before the British House of Commons he should have told the Government to do their own dirty work.
Everyone in this country knows perfectly well that conditions in Scotland are not comparable with those in England. The Bill is a deliberate attempt to Anglicise the people of Scotland. The people of Scotland will resent that. The hon. Member for Scotstoun (Sir J. Hutchison) told us that his party had always built more houses in Scotland than had our party. That is where he made a deliberate mistake. He asked for our authority in contesting that. I will tell him where to find it, because I asked a Question of the late George Buchanan, when he was Joint Under-Secretary of State for Scotland.
If the hon. Member goes into the Lobby and obtains the OFFICIAL REPORT for 7th June, 1947, he will find that the Joint Under-Secretary of State gave a complete list of all houses built, under the Addison Act, under the Chamberlain Act, under the Wheatley Act and then under the various Tory Government Acts. He can compare the numbers and he will see that, although under Toryism a few hundred were built, under the two minority Labour Government Acts of 1924 and 1930 more houses were built than under Tory Governments from 1919 onwards.
Under the 1919 Act there was no subsidy. Local authorities were allowed to levy rates up to a fraction of a 1d. in the £. Under one of the two Chamberlain Acts houses did not attract a subsidy but were built unassisted, and under the other, the Slum Clearance Act, local authorities were allowed £6 a house for 20 years. Under the Wheatley Act the amount was £9 a year for 40 years and under the Greenwood Act of 1929 it was £2 10s. for 40 years for every person rehoused.
It is true that later there was a period when labour was cheap and materials were both cheap and plentiful. It was possible to build a great number of 2003 houses if nothing else was being built—if one focussed the full volume of labour and materials on the building of houses—but look at those houses today. They are not comparable with houses built under the Wheatley Act or the Greenwood Act. It is possible to go into one of them, stand on the floor, and redecorate the ceiling. I could take any hon. Member opposite to my Burgh of Bonnyrigg and Lasswade and prove that completely. That is not the only instance; there are others.
This Bill will do something which will redound to the discredit, dishonour and danger of the party opposite. It will stretch the political elastic so far that it will come back with a rebound. The Government are attempting to take out of the pint pot more than is in it, and to lengthen the degree of exploitation to such an extent that the people will be looking across to the Continent and watching Hungary and other countries. There are ways and means of doing it without repeating the General Strike of 1926. The people of Scotland know now that all power comes from the industrial field, whether it is political or any other form of power, and now they fight intelligently.
I ask the Government to listen for a moment to the voices of two of their own Tory Members who have expressed a certain amount of concern about the policy on which the Government are embarking. We listened to the hon. Member for Pollok (Mr. George), who is experienced in local government administration, and to the hon. Member for North Angus (Mr. Thornton-Kemsley), who also begins to feel that the Government are going a step too quickly.
I think there is much to be said for what the hon. Member for Pollok said—that it is all a question of timing. Our houses in Scotland are of a greater age than those in England. It is significant that our local authorities have built houses—it was not a Tory Government that built them, although they took credit for doing so, but local authorities—and now, with the reduction of the subsidy, the Government have already aroused the people of Scotland. The people know perfectly well that no balance will be struck in the supply and demand of houses in Scotland for a great many years.
2004 I warn the Government. Now is the time to take the necessary steps. Take the Scottish part of the Bill out and send it to the Scottish Grand Committee. I know that efforts are to be made to turn us into a deaf and dumb institution, but we shall fight that, and the people of Scotland will be behind us in that fight.
§ 7.0 p.m.
§ Mr. Harold Gurden (Birmingham, Selly Oak)
I regret that I cannot help Scottish Members by anything which I say.
Having listened to the debate all yesterday and today I find myself in agreement with the majority of hon. Members, who have said that the 1954 Act and the 1949 Act did very little, if anything at all, to help to solve the problem which we now face and which we are seeking to tackle by this Bill. Indeed, if we look further back, we find that every action concerned with control of rents and control of living accommodation can almost certainly be said to have failed.
It seems that both sides of the House at any rate the responsible people, are agreed that the rents of houses today are completely unrealistic and must be raised. The problem seems to be how it is to be done and to what extent it is to be done. In view of what I have said and what others have said about previous attempts to alleviate the situation, it is certainly to my right hon. Friend's credit that he has made a very bold attempt to solve the problem—an attempt which stands out quite apart from anything else which has ever been done.
§ Mr. Gurden
I will come to that point.
I believe that nothing short of a Measure of this description can solve the problem, and I support my right hon. Friend wholeheartedly in what he is attempting to do. We can all honestly say that there has rarely been a clearer example of the failure of controls by Governments or local authorities than this example of housing. The complete inflexibility of the control has been an important part of the failure. Like my hon. Friends, I am now convinced, if I needed convincing, that controls are not necessary to the housing problem. They 2005 have their place elsewhere; that is what Governments largely do—control things. But housing is a fair example of how control can be taken too far.
This example has been before us not merely in the last ten to fifteen years, during the modern days of control, but for about thirty years, and I share the view that the slums of today are a direct result of those controls. Whatever hon. Members opposite have said would surely never convince anyone that bad landlords alone have caused the slums. Obviously the landlord has not had sufficient money to spend on the property, because the last twenty or thirty years has been the time when the houses have fallen rapidly into disrepair.
Hon. Members who can look back to thirty years ago—as I can—and think of the houses in those days, will recall that they were in reasonable repair, although they had no bathrooms, for bathrooms were not fashionable in those days. Our present problem is a result of the controls on rents. How can anyone suggest that a property owner wants to see his asset wasting away to the extent that it has done? How can any hon. Member opposite, having credited a man with enough brains to try to make money, suggest that the same man wants to see his capital assets wasting as they have been wasting? This waste has been forced upon the landlord. He has had no alternative.
§ Mr. Stan Awbery (Bristol, Central
Is not the hon. Member aware that we had a slum problem before the First World War? The landlords were receiving good rents, but the houses were not kept in good condition even in those days.
§ Mr. Gurden
There may well have been a slum problem before the war of 1914, but I am not old enough to remember what happened then. I am referring in particular to the speed with which this wastage of property has been gaining momentum. It is an admitted fact that over the last ten to twenty years the speed at which houses have become slums has been appalling.
§ Mr. Gurden
Houses which have been built only sixty or seventy years certainly ought never to be in that state.
2006 It would not take hon. Members opposite very long to find property owners who have not the money to pay for the repairs. I know some of the property agents who are collecting the rents for these houses, and they tell me that they are unable to get money from the owners because they have no money. Some of the widows and old people who are owners of these properties have no money left. At the same time the people living in the house have an income of £20, £30 or £40 a week, out of which they have to pay a rent of 10s. or 15s. a week. The hardship is not all on one side; it is often on the landlord's side if he has one, two, three or perhaps half-a-dozen houses. In many places these houses have been offered free to the tenants and the tenants have refused to accept them. Such a case was reported to me yesterday.
May I refer to the solution to this problem which has been suggested by the Labour Party? I am very unimpressed by it because it is not at all constructive. It is simply a suggestion of more controls and more nationalisation, which the public rejected at the last General Election as strongly as they possibly could.
§ Mr. Gurden
I want to refer to a remark made yesterday by the hon. Member for Aston (Mr. J. Silverman); I am sorry he is not in his place. He was pointing to Birmingham as an example to be used in support of the Socialist case for the municipalisation of houses. He was pointing to Birmingham as an example of good management of houses in local authority ownership and using that to support his argument that local authorities should own all rented houses.
I was on the City Council of Birmingham for ten years. A colleague of mine, Councilor Griffin, who is still on the City Council and is a member of the Housing Committee, has been pointing out only this week the local authority's failure to manage the houses which it has on its hands in Birmingham. In view of Councillor Griffin's comments, I fail to understand how the hon. Member for Aston can seek to justify the Socialist policy on housing by pointing to Birmingham as an example.
2007 Councillor Griffin exposed in that committee the failure of the Socialist-controlled council to handle housing. Nearly £1 million is needed to put the housing account of the City of Birmingham on a sound footing, and the rate fund subsidy last year for the municipal tenants—that is, the housing account—was no less than £369,000. In other words, over one-third of a million pounds is being paid out of Birmingham's rates to subsidise the municipal tenants in Birmingham.
§ Mr. Percy Shurmer (Birmingham, Sparkbrook)
The hon. Member for Selly Oak (Mr. Gurden) has been on the Birmingham City Council, but I have been on that council for twenty-eight years, much longer than he has been. I have lived in the slums of Birmingham, and I know exactly what the Birmingham Housing Committee has done. Will he deny the fact, whatever his colleague Councillor Griffin has to say about municipal houses, that all parties from all parts of the country have eulogised the wonderful work done by the Birmingham City Council in taking over thousands of houses which were absolutely neglected for years by the landlords, and which today are decent to live in and are assets in meeting the housing needs in Birmingham?
§ Mr. Gurden
I must agree that a certain amount of the work which has been done by the Housing Committee in Birmingham has been good work. But I certainly do not agree that it has done the right thing in spending vast sums of money on houses which ought to have been pulled down and new houses built in their place. I think that there has been a shocking waste of money by the City of Birmingham, in spite of what the hon. Gentleman has said.
§ Mr. Gurden
Let us consider what this subsidy on housing means. I know what it means in Birmingham. It means that many of my constituents and the hon. Gentleman's constituents who are less well off than council tenants have to pay a good part of their rents for them. It is a most unfortunate thing that any Member of this House of Commons should support a suggestion that rents should be 2008 subsidised by those who cannot afford to subsidise other people's rents. I should hate to see the people in Birmingham or anywhere else having to pay out of their smaller incomes to help to pay the rents of people who have perhaps £30 or £40 a week going into their homes.
§ Mr. Gurden
If we do nothing else, we ought to be grateful to my right hon. Friend for trying to solve this problem of rent in the whole of the country. I do not think that the landlord should be called upon to subsidise anybody. He has never been subsidised in my lifetime.
§ Mr. Gurden
If anything more is to be said about the subsidising of houses, I know of a case in Birmingham where I say there is bad management on the part of the committee.
The weekly rents of more or less comparable houses in Birmingham vary between 7s. 3d. net rent and 48s. net rent. There are dozens of different rent standards. No reasonable attempt has been made to get any equality of rent. There are some on the city council who talk about the equalisation of rents and a subsidy, but they are not taking any practical steps. I am pointing this out to show what is likely to happen to an even worse extent if the Labour Party policy for housing comes into effect.
We are all agreed that something has to be done in this matter. No one whom I have yet heard speak wants to leave the position where it is. I congratulate my right hon. Friend on the Bill because it will allow mobility of labour, and allow people to change their houses. Nothing that has been said by hon. Members opposite can prove to me that if these people whose houses are decontrolled have to get out, they will have nowhere to live. Property owners certainly are not going to have several hundred thousands of houses remain empty. They will want to get people to live in them. If there are some hon. Members in the House of Commons today who have not the sense to see that, they are crediting the property owners with having a little less brains than they 2009 have. The property owner wants the tenant to have a good house which is in good repair and fit to let. He does not want to see it become a wasting asset.
I congratulate my right hon. Friend upon this Measure and I shall certainly support him.
§ 7.15 p.m.
§ Mr. H. W. Butler (Hackney, Central)
Before dealing with the Bill, I should like to reply to the hon. Member for Selly Oak (Mr. Gurden), whose memory does not go back before 1900. He has not heard that there were slums in this country prior to the Rent Restriction Acts, and seems to be living in a state of political thought which is more than a hundred years old. He was advancing as a sound proposition that no citizen should make a contribution to a service provided for the community. Therefore, when my hon. Friend the Member for Sparkbrook (Mr. Shurmer) interrupted, one assumed that he was opposed to paying the education rate and to people without children having to subsidise, through the education rate, people with children. Really, his mind has gone right back to days which I cannot place in point of time.
I have heard practically every speech in this debate, and I have read those to which I have not been able to listen. The speeches from hon. Members opposite have borne no relation at all to the problem we are discussing, but they have had a relation to the arithmetical problem to which the Parliamentary Secretary turned his mind. The Parliamentary Secretary said that there were so many million families and so many million units of accommodation, and therefore there was no problem. Every speech which has been made from the opposite benches, apart from those hon. Members which have declared an interest in connection with property owners' associations or housing associations, has been about an inanimate thing, the house. No hon. Member opposite in favour of this Bill has mentioned the tenants who are affected, who, by the way, are responsible for returning them to this House.
The landlords and the property owners cannot, on their own, send hon. Members to this House. For their positions here they rely on the people who, in the main, are forced to live under landlords, not by 2010 their own choice. Therefore, there is a measure of responsibility when we are discussing this problem to consider the outlook and the position of the tenant. There has been no contribution from hon. Members opposite about that. What this Bill really does, as has been said from this side of the House, is to provide another part of the pay-off to the people who finance the Tory Party. Hon. Members may laugh, but this is part of the new deal. We believe in a redistribution of the wealth of this country. This Bill is a reversal of the procedure which we inaugurated under the Labour Government of 1945. We altered the balance, but now this proposal is, in the main, going to take anything from £100 million out of the pockets of the tenants and put it into the pockets of the landlords.
§ Mr. Gurden indicated dissent.
§ Mr. Butler
Apparently the hon. Member was a member of the Birmingham City Council. I do not want to be rude to him, but if his mentality at that time was what it is now, I do not wonder that he has given up the Birmingham City Council.
This is the new deal to the property owners. There is no question about that. They have been promised it. The electorate was never asked to give a decision, but the people who subscribe the funds and the journals issued by property owners' associations have been saying that provisions of this sort would come along. I took down what the Parliamentary Secretary said about the percentage of wages which the increases would represent. I hope that when we get the next, cost-of-living index these figures will be included.
Some computations have been made, and they vary from 7s. 6d. to £1 a week. My right hon. Friend the Member for Poplar (Mr. Key) drew attention to specific cases in which he claimed the increases would be more than £1. What do hon. Members opposite believe that the trade unionist should do when he has to pay 15s. or £1 a week more for his rent? He will go home on a Friday night and give his wife his wages. She will say that the rent has gone up by 2011 7s. 6d. Do hon. Members believe that he will say that the landlords do not really want the money, that they are a good lot of people and make no money out of owning property but the Government have said that he must pay 15s. a week extra. What do hon. Members expect that the wife will say.
§ Mr. Butler
The hon. Member is getting on dangerous ground. I am one who does not indulge in that particular vice, but I have others. I do not know what the hon. Member's leisure-time habits are. I should not like to investigate. It is hardly fair for the hon. Member to say what a workman should do with his wages.
§ Mr. Butler
I do not know about that, but I imagine that the trade unionist will say at branch meetings that it is time some effort was made to recoup the extra money which he has to pay and for which he has no responsibility. I imagine that it is very difficult for hon. Members opposite to put themselves in the position of someone earning a weekly wage. I do not blame them. If they had to face this practical problem, what would they do? I assume that they would take the necessary steps to endeavour to recover the extra money which they had been forced to pay.
One can consider this problem with all sorts of figures and, with one exception, I have not heard an hon. Member opposite tell us what happened in his constituency as a result of the Housing Repairs and Rents Act, 1954. Judging by the attendance of hon. Members tonight, they have probably not taken the trouble to discover how that Act affects their constituents. I should be interested to hear whether we can have an analysis of what is happening in those areas.
It is not as a matter of figures that the problem has to be faced. This is a problem not of inanimate bodies but of human bodies, of men and women, of families, of children, of people who are forced to live somewhere. I ask hon. Members to appreciate that fact and not attempt to apply a mathematical formula, and think that because there are 2012 so many houses throughout the country everything in the garden is lovely.
I want to give some details to indicate the situation.
§ Mr. Gurden
The hon. Member has painted a completely false picture. He knows perfectly well, as does everyone else, that rents have been stationary at a very low figure while wages have increased all the time. He referred to the cost-of-living index. Let him complete the picture by giving figures which show that rents should have been increased years ago.
§ Mr. Butler
My father and I lived in a tiny bug hutch of a house, and my father lived there for 50 years. He paid successive landlords probably five and ten times more than the house cost to build. It is no good the hon. Member talking to me about dearness. If the house cost £75 or £100 to build, that was a great deal of money. My father lived there and paid and paid and, but for Hitler's bombs, other people would have moved in and paid again. The houses about which the hon. Member weeps such crocodile tears are eighty to one hundred years old and have been paid for by successive landlords over and over again—successive tenants.
§ Mr. Butler
The hon. Member says I was right. What happened with these properties? Rents have been stabilised, but since the introduction of the Rent Restriction Acts the properties have changed hands several times. People bought these properties at market prices knowing that their rents were restricted. It is fantastic to advance the argument that these landlords are poor people who have been oppressed. It is left to the hon. Member for Selly Oak to introduce the poor widow. He was rather late in the day. It is the Parliamentary Secretary's prerogative to bring in the widow and orphan, but this time he left it to the hon. Member. Obviously any attempt to find a defence for legislation of this character must introduce the poor orphan and the poor widow.
In my own area, we have 11,700 properties whose rateable value is more than £40, which virtually means that in the borough of Hackney, with the exception of owner-occupiers, we have families who will lose their sense of security and the 2013 security of their house, families who will be faced with the possibility of having to go somewhere else. The Parliamentary Secretary says that the landlord will not throw them out because he has to have their rents.
However, the Parliamentary Secretary himself saidThe capital value of a house is the capitalisation of its market rent. The inducement to an owner to attempt to get the current value of his house by selling it will disappear."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 21st November, 1956; Vol. 560, c. 1773.]People who are at the moment protected can get a notification from their landlords increasing their rents considerably. Landlords, being people in business not for the benefit of their health but for money, will get as much as they possibly can; hon. Gentlemen opposite do not disagree with that. Consistent with retaining the cow that gives the milk, they will get as much as they can. As soon as rents increase, the market value of empty houses itself increases. If houses are drawing in £30 rent, and the Minister allows that figure to be increased to £60 and £75, the price of empty properties is bound to increase. That is elementary.
When 11,700 dwellings in my constituency, with the exception of those owner-occupied, as I have said, come out of control, what will be the mental state of the men who live with their families in these properties? It is no good hon. Members running away from it. These families, hitherto, provided they met their financial obligations, did not constitute a nuisance to their neighbours or to anyone else, had security of tenure so long as they met the obligations into which they had entered; but now, under these proposals, there is to be no security at all for them. Hon. Gentlemen opposite represent people of all grades of income. Do they really believe that such a thing can be equitable? They do not; but they believe that, by the exercise of these powers, as they say, some of the problems of our housing situation will be eased.
I come now to consider those properties which are still occupied and which are below this rateable value of £40. As I have indicated, the figures vary. One hon. Gentleman opposite, in a very discreditable statement, said that certificates of disrepair were sometimes issued by officials because of the political com- 2014 plexion of a local authority. I think that was a dastardly statement to make. It is deplorable, when local officials are not here to defend themselves, that a Member should utilise his position and immunity in this House to make statements of that character. I hope he makes it outside.
I have had these figures prepared by local authority officials. As my right hon. Friend the Member for Poplar did, I have taken half a dozen cases. I have in mind one particular dwelling which will be subject to an increase under the Bill. Prior to 1954, the rent was £30 per annum. After the 1954 Housing Repairs and Rents Act, the rent went from £30 to £60; and under this proposal it will go up to nearly £75. The town clerk computes that in this case, over that short period, there has been an increase of 14s. 9d. a week. In another case, there is an increase of 9s. 5d.; in another, an increase of 9s. 7d.; and in another case, 13s. 2d. I suggest to hon. Gentlemen opposite that we ought not to allow that situation to come about, particularly as regards the class of property constituting the bulk of the dwellings to which I referred in my opening remarks.
Included among houses which are to have increases are those whose tenants have been accepted as statutory tenant by the owners of requisitioned property. It will be remembered, of course, that the tenants who went into requisitioned property—not all, I agree, but most of them—were people who had suffered most from Hitler's bombs. Their chattels were destroyed, and they were put into accommodation in order that they might have a roof over their heads. Many property owners lost tenants as a result of the instructions or advice of the Government. People were advised to leave London, and many landlords, quite rightly offered, to the local authority the properties which became vacant, receiving the compensation to which they were entitled.
The local authorities sought to get the owners of requisitioned property, as we all know, to accept the people living in those houses as tenants. Many of these chaps, or their sons, are now in the Forces. We are now saying to them that, by this Bill, after having become statutory tenants of the property owners, they are now to be subject to a further increase in rent.
2015 This is indicative of the attitude of the Government to the two sections of the community. Owners of requisitioned property who accepted the licensees as statutory tenants received a "sweetener" from the Government. Anyone who had a lease with 28 years and upwards to run received as compensation five years' rental. As my hon. Friend the Member for Shoreditch and Finsbury (Mr. Collins) pointed out yesterday, in many cases this five years compensation rental plus the amount under the proposal in Clause 2 (1, b) exceeds the value of the property itself. The Government then say to the owners of requisitioned property, "We will now give you an opportunity of getting even more money from the people who suffered from Hitler's bombs or from our policy in Egypt. We are going to stick a few more bob on the tenants because the poor landlords are in a bad way."
I venture to suggest that that is not a thing which should commend itself to this House of Commons. The Tory Party gave a "sweetener" to the landlords. This now is the brandy, liqueurs and cigars. It is another gift to their pals, and I hope the country will take note of it.
How does this affect the local authorities? The organiser of the Conservative Party, as I think he is—he used to be a Member of this House—was at some pains to point out that the local authorities of the country are approximately two-thirds Tory in complexion and one-third Labour. There is thus a measure of responsibility on the Government towards the people who control the local authorities. How does this proposal affect them?
It will be remembered that the difference between the amount which is paid to the landlord and the amount which the tenant pays is made up as to 25 per cent. by the local authority and 75 per cent. by the Government. In the case of 598 statutory tenancies created by owners in my own area, the deficiency payments amount to about £1,600 per quarter. These deficiency payments will, of course, increase, and a check on 24 cases of deficiency payments taken at random shows at the moment a payment of £420 from the local authority, which will be increased to £1,620. These figures are not prepared for the purpose of 2016 lending colour to a particular point of view. The contracts to which I have referred for the release of property are of recent date.
As far as my information goes, there has been no consultation whatever on this point with the local authorities. I am not saying that the Minister regards himself as being under any obligation to them, but the Conservative Party and the Government have paid lip-service to local authorities and local government and have agreed that it is a firm basis upon which our democracy rests. According to my information, however, there has been no consultation on this point.
In view of this and of the fact that the formula for the "sweetener," as it was called, was based upon 1955 conditions, does the Minister now propose, so that public money shall not be spent on people who do not really need it, to amend the formula for the "sweetener" because the landlords now are getting more money? Local authorities are particularly interested in this.
Under the Bill, the Minister is taking power not only to deal with houses of a rateable value of £40 but is taking power to himself to decide at a later date that this figure will be lower and lower. Parliament has a measure of responsibility and I should have thought that if we are to decide upon issues involving so many of our constituents, the place to decide and argue the case is in this House of Commons and not in the Minister's room. That is a system of Government which does not commend itself to us. I imagine that the armed conflict—not war, but armed conflict—in which we are at present involved arises from the view that we cannot have individuals exercising dictatorial powers. It is rather unfair for the Minister to take for himself in an Act of Parliament power to affect the lives of so many millions of people.
I have spoken of the 11,700 people in my constituency. As one who lives and mixes with them every day, I know that the prominent Tory working man in my constituency will not be particularly happy when he finds that the dose of freedom which he receives is the giving to his landlord of the right to turf him out whenever he likes. I imagine that there might be some reaction on the part of those who attend Conservative fetes 2017 and fairs, and those who bake the little home-made cakes to get the funds together, when they find the notices to quit on their doors and that the Government have given landlords this power.
When the 1954 Act came in, one hon. Member opposite complained that tenants were going to local authorities for certificates of repair. We told the Government at the time that the property owned by landlords was in such a bad condition that it would not be profitable to landlords to effect repairs and take advantage of the provisions of the Act. We set up centres where we could advise the people of their rights. The people exercised their rights and consequently the Bill became exactly what one of my right hon. Friends called it—"this mouldy turnip". The Government have now had to find some other way in which they can supplement the income of their friends.
I am still connected with a housing authority. I assure hon. Members opposite that it is impossible at present in London for local authorities to deal with people who for one reason or other are evicted. If hon. Members opposite really believe that private enterprise and private building will ever provide accommodation for the people, they are making the biggest mistake of their lives. Local authorities in London cannot possibly deal with the people who are evicted.
Consider, for example, the manager of a shop, or somebody who has come from Ireland, who has his home and his wife in London but is evicted for one of a number of reasons. Local authorities, sympathetic as they are, even though they are under a moral obligation to meet the requirements of the people, find it impossible to rehouse those who are evicted. The rest centres and the temporary accommodation provided by the London County Council under Part III of the Act is totally inadequate to meet these demands.
What will happen when these people are evicted because there is no protection? The Parliamentary Secretary rests upon his assumption that there will be no evictions and that the whole thing will equate itself in 1957. If he goes into any East or North London constituency, he would see that there are evictions going on day after day and that it is difficult for us to deal with them.
2018 When there are local authorities like my own, with 5,500 people on the housing register and approximately 2,500 living in requisitioned properties, it is pointless for the Parliamentary Secretary to work out his little sum and say that he is equating supply and demand. Let him come down and see what is happening. If we on this side are defeated in the Lobbies tonight, we will not be defeated in the country because eventually the wrath of the people will throw this lot right out of power.
§ 7.46 p.m.
§ Mr. Richard Fort (Clitheroe)
I find it difficult to follow all the details given by the hon. Member for Hackney, Central (Mr. H. Butler), because conditions vary enormously between one part of the country and another. What the hon. Member was describing bears little resemblance to the conditions which I know so well in the north-east of Lancashire. If the hon. Member was as wild in his statements on matters about which I do not know as he was on those about which I do know, I suspect that at the best he has over-emphasised the case and at the worst he has grossly exaggerated it.
To refer to an affirmative Order as a dictatorial command from a Minister when, as we shall know very well on Thursday next week, on an important matter like this the House has almost limitless time for debate in which the points of view of our constituents can be put forward, is really an absurd exaggeration.
The hon. Member talked at great length about the hardships which will fall on tenants when the rents go up, but he failed to say that under his own party's policy, as the booklet issued by his party confesses, rents are to go up markedly.
§ Mr. Butler
I indicated that I am still a member of a local housing authority. Perhaps I may tell the hon. Member for his information that we have not increased our rents since 1949.
§ Mr. Fort
I should still think that the 1949 rents were markedly above the rents charged in 1939.
2019 The hon. Member referred with pathos to the problem of security. The security of a council tenant is what—a week's notice? We all know many private landlords who make leases subject to notice of at least three months.
I scarcely recognised the talk about the great grasping landlords in the hon. Member's speech and in the remarks last night by the hon. Member for Wellingborough (Mr. Lindgren). In my part of the world, I know far more landlords who own the house in which they live and the two on either side of them than I know housing companies. Indeed, I do not know of a single large property company in my part of the world.
§ Mr. Lindgren
Surely the hon. Gentleman knows his own hon. Friends, and that there are forty directors of property companies on his side of the House?
§ Mr. Fort
I am obliged to the hon. Gentleman for telling me about my hon. Friends on this side of the House, but what I was saying was that in my constituency, which I know even better than I know my hon. Friends, I do not know of any large property companies. As I have said, one part of the country differs from another. I know a very large number of these landlords, who have been deeply distressed not only at not getting any profit but at not getting even enough money to keep their houses in good repair and so to keep up their value, and to see them looking as decent as they were when they or their fathers bought them.
The party opposite recognises the importance of the small landlords. In "Homes of the future" there is really an extraordinary confusion, as it seems to me. After saying that tenant-occupied property should be taken into public ownership it says, in page 14:We intend, however, to make provision allowing landlords, where hardship might be caused or where the owner has strong domestic or family reasons for retaining the property … to have their property excluded from the plans of acquisition.
§ Mr. Fort
The hon. Gentleman wants to go on? I thank him for allowing me to proceed.
The party opposite recognises that itself. What it does not say is, how under its arrangements, these small landlords will be able to keep their houses in order, under what, I presume, will be a rigid system of rent control, carrying on what we have at present. It seems to me that under the Labour Party's policy the tenants of the small landlords would be in a very bad way indeed.
I cannot help feeling that hon. Members opposite have really exaggerated enormously the problem with which this Bill tries to deal. Surely, all it does essentially is to recognise the changed value of money. It bases the increases on the 1956 valuation, which in turn is based upon the rentable value in 1939. Then it increases the rents in certain circumstances broadly by a factor of two, which we all know is a great deal less than that by which the value of money has fallen between 1939 and the present time. Having allowed for an increase to cover the fall in the value of money, it allows the present regulations about rent control to continue.
Surely, as my hon. Friend the Member for Oldham, East (Sir I. Horobin) said yesterday, what we are all agreed upon is that we have to recognise that the value of money has fallen and that there are real injustices because of the accumulation of past Rent Restrictions Acts. The real argument between the two sides of the House is not about the need to make a drastic alteration to the present rent control methods but about who is to own the houses.
We on this side of the House obviously want to continue the present system. We stand for the private ownership of property. Hon. Members opposite, with equal sincerity stand for the public ownership of all property. I think that that is what they said originally, and while it is rather a recent development in Socialist thought that the State should take over house property, that fits in logically with what the Socialists have always said.
I fail to understand how, by their policy, they propose to produce the 2021 mobility of labour of which they talk in their pamphlet. They will either have to put up rents, as we are proposing to do at the present time, or they will have to use some method of compulsion, to say that no family of less than such a number shall have more than so many square feet—or some such restriction as that. They will still confront tenants with exactly the same problem as that with which they are confronted at the present time, of facing increased rents, for I am quite sure the party opposite would not take power compulsorily to move people from one house to another.
§ Mr. Shurmer
I do not know what type of constituents the hon. Member has, but is he aware that in a large city like Birmingham there are thousands of widows and old people living in large houses into which the municipality would be prepared to put decent families, who would pay their rents to the landlords, and yet the landlords refuse to allow this exchange, although they would still be getting their rents? Is that compulsion? Is that trying to force a distribution of houses in a city like Birmingham?
§ Mr. Fort
I have been told it has had considerable success.
However, the hon. Member's party has been left with exactly the same problem as the rest of us have, which is to get people to move from houses which are too large for them into smaller houses. It means either putting up the rents, or the use of some compulsory powers.
The argument, which others have put, but which, I think, should be driven home, is that there is no doubt that large authorities could look after all the houses which would come into their hands. I do not know how many there are which 2022 could, but there are many authorities which could not. One hon. Gentleman has already quoted the right hon. Member for Ebbw Vale (Mr. Bevan), who publicly recognised that fact at some recent conference. Indeed, the Labour Party's own pamphlet on this matter has tied the whole question of municipalities taking over the houses to the question of local government reorganisation.
It is quite certain that a great number of the smaller authorities have not the wish to take over all the rented houses in their districts, because they know they have not the staff to undertake what is an immense job of house management. They have been successful enough with, perhaps, 200 or 300 houses each on their housing estates, but to take over 2,000 or 3,000 houses each—which are the numbers in the three main towns of my constituency—would be an enormous job which they would be, as indeed they are, extremely reluctant to undertake.
There is another point which requires elucidation. I hope that whoever is the Labour Party's spokesman in the debate will elucidate it. It is the question of that party's compensation terms for the houses which it proposes should be taken over. As I understand the Labour Party's pamphlet, the proposal is to take them over at the rent-restricted rents, which in turn are based on pre-war money values. We all know that the basic problem in this whole matter is that money is worth a great deal less than it was before the war. I cannot believe that there would not be an enormous injustice in taking over houses at a value based on their pre-war rents in view of the enormous change in the value of money. Yet that is the proposal which hon. Members opposite seem prepared to adopt.
Times change and sometimes policies change too, and if and when hon. Members opposite have the opportunity to put their proposals forward I think they will feel that they will have to produce plans a great deal more practical than those which they have now. They are now putting forward a policy so impracticable as to be no alternative at all to the one contained in the Bill. I congratulate my right hon. Friend on making his proposal in such a way that there will be a large enough number of houses decontrolled when the Bill comes into operation as 2023 to enable a fair market price to be established for rents; and the workings of the economic system will produce the results which we all want to see. Those results are the better use of the space we have and the bringing into and keeping in repair existing houses.
§ Mr. Lindgren
The hon. Member has been most courteous in giving way. I hope, therefore, that he will permit me to say on his point that we should make a reply that it is not our job to reply by way of justifying a policy which we shall justify to the electors. It is our job to get the Government to justify their policy on the Bill at the present time.
§ 8.2 p.m.
§ Mr. Barnett Janner (Leicester, North-West)
I am obliged to my hon. Friend the Member for Wellingborough (Mr. Lindgren) for having raised that point, because that is the first matter with which the hon. Member for Clitheroe (Mr. Fort) has to deal. The hon. Member spoke quite dispassionately about this whole subject and, I thought, somewhat in a vacuum. He said that he did not know very much about what was happening anywhere else but he could speak about his own constituency. I do not know how far he was consulted when his party decided, in May, 1945, to tell the electors what it was or was not going to do, but he must take the responsibility for what the party said.
If the hon. Member is going to take that responsibility, he should look at the notes which were issued by his party's head office. One of those notes reads as followsThere is another rumour about rents to the effect that the protection of tenants under the Rent Restrictions Acts would be removed if the Conservatives are returned to power. This seems to have travelled far and been eagerly picked up by Mr. Aneurin Bevan. Speaking at Huddersfield he said. 'If the Tories get back with a majority, all rent controlled houses will have an increase in rent.' Apart from the fact that this is not true, it was most misleading …In other words, it was categorically stated, in spite of or perhaps because of the experience of the hon. Member for Clitheroe, that all rents should not be increased; and now we all know that all rents will be increased. Therefore, it is not possible for the hon. Member to hide behind conditions in his own constituency, because he was returned to the House, 2024 not on what he is saying now, but on what he said then.
We must look at several matters and keep them in our minds when discussing the Bill. In my constituency, only yesterday or the day before, a statement was made by the chairman of the housing committee, who is a very able and knowledgeable woman. She said that the stopping of the subsidy in regard to 365 houses planned in the category in which it had been stopped would mean that 11,000 applicants on the city council's waiting list had a poor chance of ever getting council houses. What nonsense it is for hon. Members opposite to say, "It is all right. It is only a question of supply and demand. You go from one house to another. Everything is fine."
There are 11,000 potential tenants in Leicester who are waiting for houses and who will become part and parcel of those who will compete for houses when tenants are turned out of houses decontrolled under the Bill. That is the important thing. If there are 11,000 in Leicester, I dare say hon. Members will realise how many potential competitors in the country generally will be forced to look for the houses out of which tenants will be thrown as a result of the enactment of this Bill.
I would call the dispossessed tenants "rent refugees". This is the creation of a new set of refugees who will be placed in a position in which it will be almost impossible for them to secure roofs over their heads. They are rent refugees who will be appealing to local authorities for accommodation but there will be no possibility of those authorities housing them.
I appeal to the Government, even at this very late hour, to drop the Bill. The proposals are not a question of just another Measure being placed on the Statute Book. They go very much deeper than that. We are dealing here with a human problem of the greatest importance to the happiness and welfare of millions of people. All kinds of statistics have been used on both sides of the House to illustrate the effectiveness of the respective arguments. I cannot approach this matter purely on the basis of statistics. I think it is wrong to do so.
I go so far as to say that at least one of the great challenges posed to the world 2025 at the end of the last war is involved in this issue—the establishment of freedom from fear. We hear every day of the distressing effect of the lack of suitable home life on members of a household. Obviously, there can be no home life without a house that can be regarded as a home. We are dealing here with nothing short of the homes, as we understand the word in its fullest sense, of a large section of the community.
I do not refer only to the cases which come before the courts, although those cases in themselves would give us sufficient reason for moving extremely cautiously in regard to disturbing the homes of our people. I am speaking in addition of the homes of the hundreds of thousands to whom the daily return of their families from their respective activities means so much to the members of the household. The old, familiar rooms in the old. familiar house mean more to their real happiness than all the outside diversions, no matter whether they be in work, in cultural pursuits or in any other element of living. The home gives stability to their existence and provides a calm, an atmosphere which stimulates inspiration in every other sphere of their life. So when we talk about a subject involving between 4 million and 5 million homes, we should be extremely cautious lest we create irreparable emotional disturbances.
That is why I am appealing to the Minister. I have witnessed the effect of the security given to tenants by the various Rent Acts almost from the day I commenced my professional practice on leaving the Army in 1919 at the end of the First World War. If I may strike a personal note, my first case in the courts was one in which an attempt was being made to eject a tenant who had lived in her home and had brought up her family there for a considerable period. The provisions of the Rent Acts saved that home, as they have saved innumerable homes for their residents during the forty-one years during which they have been in existence.
Is this really the time when we can permit ourselves even to take the risk of being wrong on an issue of this description? Men and women of this country are finding it difficult to make both ends meet as it is. The cost of living is going up, and is certain to go up further. How can we possibly place a further burden on those who have to budget meticulously? 2026 In the main there is no margin available for an additional rise, certainly amongst those who occupy houses affected by the Rent Acts.
I challenge any hon. Member in this House to prove the contrary. In the main, people have to scrimp and strain already. I am not exaggerating. Men and women are now asking themselves how they will be able to keep a roof over their heads. The dread—and it is a dread—of being dispossessed by these new provisions hangs over the heads of many families in this country. We have heard how much it will mean—a 10s. rent being increased by a further 10s. or more. That may sound very little to us and very little to the Minister when he is dealing with statistics involving millions of pounds. But 10s. means a lot; much too much, to a person who has not a penny to spare, or who is already running into debt. I say, therefore, that our approach to the Bill must take this background into consideration.
The question arises whether it is reasonable, in spite of this, to allow matters to go on as they have done up to the present in respect of the landlord's income. That is the question which is being posed on the other side of the House. What are the facts? The landlord of a rent-controlled house who bought it during the currency of the Rent Acts has no cause for complaint, any more than a person who buys any commodity which goes down in value. He bought the house with his eyes open. He took his chance. He knew the facts of the case. He speculated on the future. He is no worse off than the person I mentioned who has bought any other commodity. If the commodity has deteriorated it is unfortunate, he made a mistake, but he cannot ask the community to help him out because of that mistake.
Another person, left with an asset of that description, cuts his loss speedily if he is wise. The choice rests with him. It is reasonable to assume that from 1915 to 1923—it will be noticed that I am making a distinction between certain periods during which the Rent Acts have been in force and others—and from 1933 to the present time, all purchasers knew precisely where they stood. Indeed, in the period between 1923 and 1933 also vast numbers of houses were still under control.
2027 It is obvious from what happened that there had to be recontrol of large numbers of properties which had been decontrolled, not for the sake of some whim on the part of the Government, but because the urgent necessities of the time pressed so heavily upon those in houses that no Government dared allow those houses to be decontrolled. Every committee which has sat, and there have been a number, has said time after time that we could not, and must not, decontrol houses unless and until there was a supply equal to the demand. That supply is not here. It is not to be found in Leicester. It is not there in Clitheroe and it is not there in the constituency of any single hon. Member of this House, wherever that constituency may be situated.
In speaking in this House I have always acknowledged that there are good and bad landlords, but we cannot escape from the fact that whilst the 1920 Act permitted an increase in rent of 25 per cent. of the net rent for repairs, vast numbers of landlords took advantage of the increased rent, but carried out no—or negligible—repairs. Some hon. Gentlemen opposite, with experience in the courts and in their own districts, know very well that what I am saying is correct, and also that in many cases a larger amount than was legally recoverable from tenants was paid to their landlords.
I should not be surprised if the total amounted to millions of pounds rather than hundreds of thousands of pounds. I judge that from the fact that I have been involved in conducting cases in which thousands upon thousands of pounds in the aggregate have been recovered in those years. And one must remember that this was only in respect of a period of two years' overpayments, for people were only allowed to recover two years of the overcharge, whereas a landlord might have owned the house and collected unrecoverable rents for a long period.
Houses were left in a state of disrepair by very many landlords and became slum properties. It is no use shedding tears today over the person who pocketed the money and did not do the repairs. He could have done the repairs at a time when the additional 25 per cent. was adequate to cover all the repairs, so what 2028 is the use of saying today that because such people did not do what they should have done with the money paid to them for that purpose they are not in a position to do the repairs now? Other people cannot escape responsibility in that way. Why should the Government let these people do so, particularly at this critical time?
If there were plenty of houses, and if it were possible to transfer easily from one house to another, that might be of some relief, but it is not the position. We have the serious state of affairs that if people are ejected, they cannot find another house to go to; a position in which thousands upon thousands of people are waiting for houses and will never be able to get accommodation if things go on as they are at present.
I have seen conditions in Leicester, and I have given figures about Leicester in this House. Hundreds of houses had been neglected until they have almost fallen into decay, but all the time the rent has been taken. Of course, I appreciate the fact that there are hardships in respect of the ownership of property by inheritance, but forty years have elapsed since the commencement of these Acts, and in my view the proportion of such houses is very small compared with the proportion bought during that period. I ask the Minister to think about the following suggestion. If he wanted to introduce a Bill to deal with exceptional cases of hardships to landlords there is no reason why he should not do so.
A person who inherits a house need not take it if he does not want to. We have heard it argued that one cannot give away such a house. If it is a burden, one is not bound to take it. If one does take it, it is no use crying afterwards that it is a burden.
Another point which has been raised is that of a person transferring from one district to another. The Minister could have brought in a small Measure for that purpose. All sorts of provisions could have been made instead of having this wide, drastic Measure. The recent revaluation brings within the scope of the Bill many persons who would otherwise have been outside it. It means that this Bill is merely the continuance of a process which the Tory Party categorically denied that it would embark upon.
2029 I have seen the Housing Repairs and Rents Act at work. I have known of landlords suggesting that a room should be divided in two, and afterwards they have said that the premises were decontrolled because they had been so divided and made into complete entities. No new house is controlled. No converted house is controlled. This is Tory policy.
What on earth do hon. Members opposite expect to happen? Do they think the people concerned really understand what protection they have or have not got? The Government refuse them proper access to advice, by not allowing them the opportunity of going to a solicitor without charge to ascertain where they stand. A poor person cannot go to a solicitor under the Legal Aid scheme to ask for such advice. He must pay for it. How many people in such circumstances can afford to pay for that legal advice?
§ Mr. Janner
Rent legislation is already sufficiently complicated, and yet the Government are introducing a Measure of this kind. The landlord will now have the whip hand. The tenant will be afraid not to come to terms with him, because if he does not he will be put out.
All this—there is much more that one could say about it—leads me to the conclusion that if the Minister has a heart and understanding he will respond to the appeal that I have made. Many professional men and white-collared workers may find themselves unable to pay the new rents, and they will be turned out. Where will they go? Who will find them accommodation? Even furnished apartments will not be protected.
All these things are bad. They are bad socially and economically. They will cause heartbreak in many homes and create terrible difficulty. What is the reason for it? The National Assistance Board will be called upon for more help and people will be separated from their families merely because the Government have not the sense to deal with the individual problems which exist. Why do not the Government introduce a Bill to deal with houses which are not being used? Why should they allow houses to remain empty? Why do they not compel the owners to accept tenants? In this connection the rent tribunals, which have 2030 done excellent work, could be used. Why drive people to the county courts when they cannot afford to go there? The rent tribunals have had sufficient experience to deal with these cases.
The Bill is based upon misunderstanding. There is misunderstanding of human needs and misunderstanding of the position of landlords. The Bill will not result in more repairs being done. It will not alter the designs of bad landlords. I am not referring to good landlords, who will come to terms with their tenants. There are good landlords, and one frequently finds that their tenants have done repairs which they were not compelled to do. There are hundreds of thousands of such tenants who have contentedly carried out repairs which they were not compelled to do.
What has given rise to the Bill? I do not want to be particularly harsh about this, but I consider that the approach is wrong. It is the Tory approach. It is not a human approach, like that of the Labour Party. It is a statistical approach, the Government using figures which in innumerable cases do not apply but have been aggregated and averaged.
The Minister is not a bad fellow at heart.
§ Mr. Janner
I will tell my hon. Friend. I think that the Minister, as a man, is no doubt a decent fellow. However, as a politican, he is thoroughly wrong. It is a wrong outlook in politics that is driving him into his present position.
§ Mr. Janner
I will not enter into that argument now.
I want the Minister to think about what I and many of my hon. Friends have said. He should not put fear into the hearts of the people; on the contrary, he ought to relieve them of fear, and he would then do something to help our economy. If he makes them fear that they will lose their homes, he will find that the result will be disastrous.
§ 8.28 p.m.
§ Mr. Charles Fletcher-Cooke (Darwen)
The hon. Member for Leicester, Northwest (Mr. Janner) has had a lot of experience in and out of court of the operation of the Rent Acts. I have had a 2031 certain amount of experience, and I think that one thing on which we can all agree is that when this Bill becomes law the amount of work for lawyers will be considerably reduced.
§ Mr. Fletcher-Cooke
If there is one section of the community that this Bill will hit, it will be the lawyers.
§ Mr. Janner
The hon. Gentleman says that he has had experience of these Acts. Does he really say that his experience has led him to the conclusion that these Acts pay the lawyer? He knows better.
§ Mr. Fletcher-Cooke
All I know is that they provide a small but steady income for a great many people in both the junior and senior branches of the profession, and such income will no longer be available. When the hon. Member for Leicester, North-West says that people will be driven to the county court, all one can say is that by reducing the rateable value limit to £40 and then to £30 and eventually abolishing it altogether, the Rent Acts work will eventually go, to his sorrow if not to mine.
§ Mr. Fletcher-Cooke
I am glad that the hon. Gentleman puts his political views—as I do—before his professional interests. Undoubtedly it is true to say that the Rent Acts work will largely and progressively disappear.
We have been talking about our constituencies, and I wish to refer to mine. I have had figures sent and the extraordinary thing is that in the borough of Darwen 99 per cent. of privately-owned houses are below the £30 rateable limit. I think that is a record even higher than that quoted by the right hon. Member for Poplar (Mr. Key). We in Darwen are particularly concerned, therefore, with the part of the Bill which deals with the houses below that limit. The proportion of home ownership is very high. It is in that part of Lancashire of which my hon. Friend the Member for Clitheroe (Mr. Fort) spoke.
There is no large landlord in the sense that there is no company which owns houses in the borough of Darwen, so far 2032 as I know. When a house falls vacant, it is put up for sale. They are not particularly large houses, nor are they particularly new. They are always put up for sale, and some are empty because, as was stated by the hon. Member for Glasgow, Central (Mr. McInnes), in many cases people cannot afford to buy them. It seems to me that one consequence of this Bill will be that those houses will become available to let. When the hon. Member for Glasgow, Central spoke of the enormous number of empty dwellings in Glasgow—I think he mentioned the figure of 2,600—it seemed to me that this Bill would be justified if, as its only consequence, such a position is altered.
Surely, no one can defend a situation in which, in an overcrowded city like Glasgow, there are 2,600 empty dwellings. Something must be wrong about the present situation if it permits that. What is the alternative? The hon. Member for Wellingborough (Mr. Lindgren) said that there was no question about the policy of the Labour Party. But is that quite right? Hon. Members on both sides of the House agree that the present situation is wholly unsatisfactory and have put forward proposals. Surely, it is taking a very technical view of the functions of this House of Commons to say that in those circumstances the right comparison is not between what his party proposes and what we propose, but between what his party proposes and the status quo.
§ Mr. Lindgren
The difference between the two sides is this We tell the country what we would do if in fact we were given authority to do it, if we were given the opportunity to form a Government. The Tory Party tell the country they are going to do a certain thing, but then do exactly the opposite. The Tory Party said they would not increase rents; that they would not decontrol houses, and now they are doing it, in spite of having said exactly the opposite. Can the hon. Member justify that?
§ Mr. Fletcher-Cooke
Had I known that the hon. Gentleman was proposing not to answer my question but to ask something completely different, I should not have given way to him. But I gather from the implication of his intervention that he agrees it is perfectly justifiable to compare the two policies, and I think that must be so.
2033 I am surprised that the hon. Gentleman should be frightened of a comparison. When he takes a technical point of view, it sounds as if he were frightened of the comparison which the country and hon. Members in this House would rightly draw. What we should like to know, because this is relevant to the subject—the hon. Member for Hackney, Central (Mr. H. Butler), for example, said that there was bound to be more trade disputes or more wage claims as a result of this—is whether the hon. Member for Wellingborough admits that under the Labour Party proposals rents would go up. That is a simple question, but it is not faced fairly in the Labour Party pamphlet, although it is implied that they would. If they would not, how does the hon. Gentleman explain where the money will come from? The pamphlet says quite clearly on page 44 that there would be a subsidy only for new houses. Does the Labour Party stand by that? The hon. Member for Cardiff, South-East (Mr. Callaghan) has just come into the Chamber. I understand he is going to reply for the Opposition. I would be grateful if he would deal with that point in his reply.
§ Mr. Fletcher-Cooke
On page 44 of the pamphlet is the statement that there will be a subsidy on new houses, implying that there will be no subsidy on the houses that the municipalities are to take over under the Labour Party's proposals?
§ Mr. Fletcher-Cooke
It is interesting how frightened hon. Gentlemen on the Opposition Front Bench are of the comparison. Every time an Opposition speaker refers to the subject he takes this very technical point that the House is not supposed to be discussing the Labour Party's proposals.
§ Mr. Mitchison
The Minister was pressing me about that sort of point yesterday. I want to make it clear that housing subsidies go into the ordinary housing revenue account of the local authority, and it is out of that account that the housing repairs account is fed. It is true that the occasion of the subsidy is the building of a new house, but it is equally true that both building and repairs are fed out of a number of 2034 sources, one of which is the subsidies. Therefore it is a little bit difficult to answer, on any view of the matter, the sort of question which the hon. Gentleman is asking.
§ Mr. Fletcher-Cooke
It may be difficult to answer because the party opposite has not made up its mind. It is a very important question.
§ Mr. Mitchison
That is not quite fair. It is not a question in anybody's mind. It is a question of the form of municipal accounts. If the hon. Gentleman would apply his mind to the answer I gave, he would see the point of it.
§ Mr. Fletcher-Cooke
I perfectly well see the point. My question is: do the proposals of the hon. and learned Gentleman's party allow the municipality to use its funds to subsidise the houses that they are going to acquire compulsorily? It is a sensible question which can be answered with "Yes" or "No", provided that the party opposite has made up its mind.
§ Mr. Mitchison
The answer is "Yes, as it can now". The two accounts are indistinguishable at present. It is for the local authority to decide what it does with its housing revenue account.
§ Mr. Fletcher-Cooke
That is very fair. It means that the Labour Party's policy is to allow the local authority to decide whether it should subsidise the rents of the houses that it is to acquire compulsorily. It is to be left to local option. I am grateful to the hon. and learned Gentleman. That is something we have been trying to get for a long time. Now we have it on the record, and I feel that my speech is worth while, if only for that.
Once we start subsidising old houses from the rates and taxes we get on a very slippery slope. We shall soon get the position in which everybody is subsidising everybody else. There is no particular reason why all these people should be subsidised, or some of them, or none of them. I do not know by what criterion local authorities are to be guided on this subsidy that we now know they will be permitted to pay.
I am sorry that I was diverted by interruptions. I have undertaken to keep my speech very short. There is absolutely no desire in my constituency, by 2035 the local authority, the landlords or the tenants, for these houses to be taken over by the council—absolutely none. Of that I am convinced. If there is one thing that this relatively small borough does not want it is the enormous amount of new work that this operation would involve.
The party opposite has made it quite clear that the operation will be compulsory. Here again it has been very frank Its programme, by which the municipalisation of this enormous number of houses will take place, is to be mandatory upon every local authority, whether it likes it or not. It may be right or wrong, but it is a very strong form of direction for the central Government to give to a local authority. It must be the strongest that has even been suggested, and the country ought to realise that, and so ought all the local authorities who do not like it.
These are the alternatives. Although people may raise a lot of pity about the increase in rents, nobody really believes that the present situation can last any longer. Either the municipal authorities must put it right or the private landlord must do it. Hon. Gentlemen opposite say that the private landlords will not do it.
§ Mr. Fletcher-Cooke
I suspected that that would be the answer. I do not believe they will be made to do it by all the methods that some people suggest—on my own side of the House as well—as by complicated certificates of one kind or another, of which we have all had experience. I give this point to hon. Gentlemen opposite. I do not believe, except marginally and here and there, that is really an effective way. I believe the only effective way of making private landlords do it is to make it worth their while doing it. If we make it worth their while to preserve their asset—as it has not been worth their while hitherto—we shall get it done, but not otherwise. That is what we are trying to do by this Bill.
§ Mr. Percy Collick (Birkenhead)
I am interested in the argument of the hon. Member. He said that a council in his constituency would not be in favour of the municipalisation of houses and, likewise, his constituents would not be in favour. Would he proceed to tell the 2036 House that his constituents are in favour of the very substantial rent increases they will have consequent upon this Bill?
§ Mr. Fletcher-Cooke
One cannot say whether they would all be in favour or not. The hon. Member for Hackney, Central said that not one hon. Member in this House could possibly be returned on the votes of landlords and householders and their families. I am not at all sure that that is absolutely right. In my constituency there is the highest proportion of home ownership in the country. I shall not argue that statistically, because I do not know what the figures are, but it is not to be assumed that there is an enormous number of tenants and only one or two landlords That is not the position.
In my area the average amount of house ownership by any one person is something like two houses, the one in which he lives and the one next door. I think it impossible to assume, as is so often assumed, that tenants outnumber landlords to the vast extent as in the case put forward by hon. Members opposite—not so much in the country districts, but certainly in the towns.
It may be true, certainly, that in the large towns that is so, but the large towns are not the whole of England. Hon. Members ought to bear that in mind, not only from the point of view of political morality, but of political expediency, when they are slanging the landlord in this way.
I promised to be brief and, in spite of the many interruptions, I will bring my speech to an end.
§ 8.42 p.m.
§ Mr. David Weitzman (Stoke Newington and Hackney, North)
When I was called to the Bar—which was more years ago than I care to remember—as a very young man, I made a living to a large extent out of cases arising under the Rent Restriction Acts. Those years have passed, and therefore I cannot be accused of any ulterior purpose in this matter; but I have had very considerable experience of the various Rent Restriction Acts. I had hoped tonight to make some detailed criticism in regard to them, but I am afraid that I cannot do so in the amount of time at my disposal.
I really cannot understand the sort of argument which is bandied about in this 2037 Chamber, of what this side or that side would do. What is happening is that a Bill is before the House proposing certain changes from the status quo. We are entitled to consider the Bill and the provisions it tries to bring into force, to consider that Bill and criticise the provisions. I am going to try to concentrate on one point only. No one doubts for a moment that there are many complex matters about the Rent Restriction Acts. As we know, they give rise to considerable litigation.
I am concerned with one statement made yesterday by the Parliamentary Secretary, which, as I understand it, is the basis for this proposed legislation. The hon. Gentleman said that the addition of at least three-quarter million houses between the end of 1954 and 1957 would mean the equation of supply and demand. That is the all-important point which we have to consider, because I am sure the Parliamentary Secretary will agree that it is wrong to apply any measure of decontrol if there is any doubt that the supply will at least be equal to the demand.
I looked with considerable interest at the report of a speech made in 1932 by Sir Hilton Young, then Minister of Health, in introducing the Rent and Mortgage Interest Restrictions (Amendment) Act, 1933, which was a decontrolling Act. This is what he saidWe recognise, too, that the essential condition that the time at which control can be safely removed is when the supply of any class of houses is roughly equal to the demand. We are making for decontrol, and it will be possible and safe when supply and demand are more or less in relation to each other. These are the principles which must underlie all legislation on the subject. It is not safe, as we know, to decontrol before supply and demand are in relation.He then addedI might compare it to a boiler, where the pressure inside is the demand and the pressure outside is the supply. As soon as the pressures inside and outside are equal, you can safely take the plug out, but until they are equal you cannot take the plug out or there will be an explosion which will blow up rents and many other things with them."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 12th December, 1932; Vol. 273, c. 49.]Those were the words used by the Tory Minister of Health when introducing a Bill proposing some decontrol in 1933.
The truth of the matter is that in no sense of the term does supply approach 2038 demand. In the Government's White Paper in November, 1953, there appeared this statementSince there is still a severe housing shortage, rents of privately-owned houses cannot yet be freed from control.As my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Kettering (Mr. Mitchison) pointed out, in May, 1955, on the eve of the General Election, no suggestion of decontrol being effected was made. In fact, when it was suggested that the Tories intended decontrol, that was hotly denied by them. Now it is suddenly claimed that supply is nearly equal to demand.
A suggestion has been made by a number of hon. Members opposite as well as by the Parliamentary Secretary that houses which are now owner-occupied will suddenly become available for tenants. Where are those houses? What is the number of them? We are told about empty houses. I know of no considerable number of empty houses in my constituency—a pretty large constituency—and I know of a good many other constituencies where there are few empty houses. Where is there any data to show that, whether they are owner-occupied houses or empty houses which will become decontrolled, they will help to solve the problem in any material way? We have been given no figures at all.
Of course, it depends on what the Government mean by supply equalling demand. If the Government mean that the increase in rents will lead to tenants being dispossessed, and if they mean that because of the high rents which will be demanded for decontrolled houses only tenants who can pay those rents will be able to demand those houses, then they are right; but in no other sense of the term can it possibly be said with any truth whatever that supply even remotely or roughly equals demand.
If there is no question of supply equalling demand today, how can the Government be justified in introducing a Bill of this kind? Today the scarcity of houses is as bad as ever. The cost of living is rising. Yet through the Bill the Minister proposes to make the difficulties of the tenant greater and to add to his expense. I suggest to the Parliamentary Secretary and to the Minister that, in the words of his predecessor, decontrol should not be imposed today and that it is not safe to decontrol because supply and demand are nowhere near equal. I 2039 venture to suggest that in those words I quoted the Minister will pull the plug out and cause an explosion such that, apart from other matters, it will blow this Government out of office.
This Bill's main provision is to decontrol houses with a rateable value of over £40. As was mentioned by my hon. Friend the Member for Hackney, Central (Mr. H. Butler), in the borough of Hackney, part of which I have the honour to represent, there are nearly 12,000 dwelling houses of over £40 rateable value which will be decontrolled. In Stoke Newington, which forms part of my constituency, one-third of the dwellings, nearly 4,000, are over £40 annual rateable value. Both those borough councils view this matter with great alarm because of the consequences that must inevitably follow.
The tenants will lose their protection. If they had the means, if they desired to purchase houses, if they had the money to expend, the position might be different; but we know what the conditions are today. There is the credit squeeze, the difficulty of borrowing money at a high rate of interest. What will be the result? Many of these people will be ejected into the street.
I have dealt with the question of control, and I want to add this further fact. One has to remember that, apart from the decontrol of houses with a rateable value of over £40, there is an important provision which decontrols all new lettings at or after the commencement of the Act unless the tenant to whom the tenancy has been granted was immediately before the tenancy a controlled tenant. That is irrespective of the rateable value, so there we have a considerable class of house which will be decontrolled.
It is idle talking about landlords making arrangements by which the tenant will be allowed to remain there. Of course, the landlords will take advantage; they would not be human if they did not do so. They will demand the highest possible rent and the tenant who does not pay it will go. What will that mean? The dispossessed tenant will go on to the housing list, the housing list will be swamped, the authorities will not be able to cope with the numbers on their housing lists. So again it is ridiculous to 2040 talk about the supply being equal to the demand. We know that the London boroughs and the London County Council have thousands of people on their lists.
§ Mr. J. A. Sparks (Acton)
Can my hon. and learned Friend say how many homeless families are at present housed by the L.C.C. in hostels?
§ Mr. Weitzman
No doubt the Parliamentary Secretary knows the figure and that the supply of houses cannot in any sense of the term be equal to the demand today. It is a pious hope that, by the end of 1957, some miracle will have occurred which will justify the Minister in what he is saying. We know how ridiculous that is.
§ Mr. Weitzman
Under Clause 9 (3) of the Bill, the Minister is given power to decontrol all the rest of the houses as and when he will, in whatever manner he chooses, at whatever time, and all he has to do is to have a statutory instrument and put it before the House. He cannot amend it in any way. This is an iniquitous provision in itself made more iniquitous, if possible, by the method of doing it.
Surely the slightest reflection would show the Minister that the increases will be serious for many tenants who can ill afford to pay. The cost of living is increasing and it is no answer for the Government to ask what the Labour Party would do in future. We are dealing with the position as it is today. The cost of living is high enough as it is and the Government will add many shillings a week, to be paid by pensioners and others who can ill afford it, to what goes into the landlords' pockets.
I remind the Parliamentary Secretary of the point made by his hon. Friend the Member for the Isle of Thanet (Mr. Rees-Davies) yesterday. It is not only the poor, not only the pensioners, but many people with fixed incomes, the middle classes, who will be affected. Does the Parliamentary Secretary realise that there are many houses and flats in London with controlled tenancies, where the tenants today are paying £200 or £300 a year, which will become decontrolled? The landlords will be able to raise the rents and people with incomes 2041 of £1,500 a year will have to pay rents of £400 or £500 where before they paid £200 or £300. I warn the Parliamentary Secretary and the Minister that this Measure will affect not only the poorer classes and the working classes, but the middle classes and many others. If there was ever an iniquitous Measure, it is this. It is something which will bring such a storm about the Government that the Government will be bound to fall as a result.
§ 8.57 p.m.
§ Mr. James Callaghan (Cardiff, South-East)
This is the first time in eleven years' membership of the House that I have ever had the temerity to take part in a housing debate. I approached it with some trepidation, but I found what I think most hon. Members who studied the Bill and other matters relating to it would find, that every hon. Member is an expert on housing, because all of us who have studied our constituencies and who walk around them and see the conditions there find reflected in this legislation all the problems with which we have had to deal in practice as Members of Parliament. That has certainly been my experience in the last few days.
I am disappointed that no hon. Member for Wales has managed to catch your eye, Mr. Speaker. We have had no Welsh speaker—
§ Mr. Callaghan
We have heard a number of speakers from Scotland, who made a singularly interesting contribution to the debate, a contribution which cannot have brought much comfort to the Government benches, certainly not to the Secretary of State for Scotland.
However, we have not had one speaker from Wales and as the first—and last—Member from Wales to speak, I should like to say that, so far as I can ascertain, the collective view of Members from Wales is that the Bill will do nothing to solve our housing problems, that it will mean considerable hardship to those living on small fixed incomes. Although the problems of decontrol will not affect us very much—because rateable values in Wales are too low—nevertheless I am assured by my hon. Friend the Member for Aberdare (Mr. Probert) and others who have 2042 studied this problem that it appears to them that the smaller the house, the larger proportionately will be the increase in rent. That is a summary of the views from Wales which I hope will be developed in Committee.
This has been a curiously abstract debate. We have been talking about rents, but our minds have been more on Suez. The fact that the benches are not occupied, even now, is perhaps an indication that other events are engaging our attention even more than the Bill. I was not particularising, but, if I am asked, I am bound to say that the Labour benches are much fuller than the Conservative benches, but then, perhaps, hon. Members opposite have much more to worry about.
Although the House may not be paying attention to the Rent Bill today, I can assure hon. Members that in six months' time their constituents will be inquiring where they were when this debate was going on, because this Bill will have reactions and repercussions during the months and years that lie ahead. Suez is certainly going to be a watershed in our political history, but this Bill will mark a further watershed and one which will also mark the steep climb downwards of the Tory Party towards destruction.
A great deal of flattering attention has been paid to Labour Party policy. It has been most encouraging to watch one hon. Member opposite after another rise in his place in order to give hon. Members on this side a lecture and to ask us questions about our policy. I cannot say that I blame them. Anything that turns attention away from their own Rent Bill is undoubtedly a welcome diversion. Of course, it is the case that before very long, when we have the task of translating our policy into administrative action, there will be plenty of opportunity for hon. Members opposite, when sitting on this side of the House, to question us about our policy.
However, that is not the object of the exercise this evening and, however seductive and flattering the questions of hon. Gentlemen opposite may be, I propose to spend my time discussing the intentions of the Government in present circumstances, and it is to that matter that I am going to devote my attention. That will 2043 be unusual, I quite agree, because practically every hon. Gentleman opposite has failed to discuss the provisions of the Bill at all. Therefore, it is high time that we turned to the Measure.
I think that most of us heard with incredulity yesterday the Parliamentary Secretary say that within twelve months, by the end of 1957, we should approach an equality of supply and demand in the matter of housing. We thought it was a boast, but when I came to think about it again I came to the conclusion that it was not a boast but was, in fact, one of the most sinister parts of the hon. Gentleman's speech. Of course, it is possible to create an equality between supply and demand if one chooses the appropriate level.
I imagine that there is equality between supply and demand in the matter of Rolls-Royce motor cars today. Is that the way in which the Minister proposes to get this equality between supply and demand? Does he propose to allow rents to skyrocket to Rolls-Royce prices? That, of course, could happen, and that is the way in which we could get equality between supply and demand.
I am bound to say that the only conclusion to which I can come from my own experience and that of every one of my hon. Friends, and, I doubt not, of hon. Members opposite too, is that it is impossible for the demand of families for homes to be satisfied in twelve months' time. I want to put a question very straightly to the Minister, and I think that the House and the country deserves to have an answer to it from him.
Is the Minister going to get his equality between supply and demand in the matter of housing by smothering, stifling and suppressing demand? Is that the way in which he proposes to get it? Of course, if it is not, then I should like him, if he will—I think it is a perfectly fair question—to answer this further question. Is he then saying that in twelve months' time every family will have a home and every woman who wants it will have a kitchen of her own, because that is the way in which we see the equation of supply and demand? I think that is a perfectly fair point to put
The Parliamentary Secretary may have misled a lot of people yesterday. Temporarily, he certainly misled us until we 2044 had time to gather breath and recover from the effrontery of his statement. We cannot believe that the second interpretation of his statement is correct. No hon. Member who knows the true situation can believe it. His own hon. Friend the Member for Pollok (Mr. George) did not believe that it was true of Glasgow, and there are many other areas, particularly in the industrial parts of the country—Birmingham is another place, no doubt—where it is impossible for the Minister to say that he will equate supply and demand by providing all the families seeking it with a home and kitchen of their own. That is the first point to which we should like the Minister to address himself tonight. My conclusion is that the Parliamentary Secretary was making not a boast but a threat. He was threatening that rents and decontrol combined would frighten off families and dampen down demand. That, as I understand it, is the way the Conservative Government propose to solve the housing problem.
Local authorities are building fewer houses to let. That is the policy of the Government, who do not want them to build so many. It is certainly true that no private speculative builder is building houses to let today. I take it that the Minister does not anticipate that as a result of the Bill we shall find any speculative building of properties to rent. No one really believes that. The speculative builder has had an opportunity of doing that over the last few years, and has not done so. It is not an economic proposition, as my hon. Friend the Member for Hamilton (Mr. T. Fraser) said, in a most noteworthy speech, this afternoon.
If local authorities are not going to provide houses to let, and if the speculative builder is not going to do it, where are the houses to come from? Who will provide houses for the large number of young couples who are marrying every year, unless, of course—and we must come back to this—the old people are to be pushed out, which, I think, is what the Government hope will happen? When the family unit has served its economic usefulness, the children have been reared and have gone into the world, then let the old people move out and let a fresh succession of young people come and take their places.
2045 My hon. Friend the Member for Hamilton made a most important request. I see that the Joint Under-Secretary of State for Scotland is here, and I wish the Secretary of State himself were present. My hon. Friend asked that the Scottish Clauses of the Bill should be separately considered in the Scottish Grand Committee. Any hon. Member who sat through the Scottish part of the debate must have been impressed by the almost unanimous view of Scottish Members that this Bill, wherever else it might be applicable, was not applicable to Scotland. To take but two of them, the hon. Member for Pollok said he was highly critical of the Bill, and the hon. Member for North Angus (Mr. Thornton-Kemsley) said it should not be brought forward at this time.
I can foresee that if we have a common Committee to deal with this matter, a great deal of time will be taken up with these very important Scottish problems. But they will be debated by a Committee on which will sit only six or, at the most, eight Scottish Members. Unless hon. Members from Scotland can have this matter referred to their Grand Committee, we shall find the future of these grave problems which affect Scotland so radically discussed and decided upon by six or eight Scottish Members in a Committee which will be mostly made up of English and Welsh Members.
I repeat as forcefully as I can the request to the Joint Under-Secretary of State and to the Minister of Housing that the appropriate Clauses of this Bill which relate to Scotland should be referred to the Scottish Grand Committee, in view of the very heavy criticism which they have run into from both sides of the House. Having listened to the debate this afternoon, I do not believe there is a single hon. Member from Scotland who can conscientiously go into the Lobby and vote in favour of the Bill; and any hon. Gentleman who has heard the debate will, I am sure, find it very difficult to reach a different conclusion.
I come now to consider the latest Tory nostrum, under-accommodation. There are enough rooms, the Government say, but people are not properly distributed. There are too many people occupying some rooms and not enough people occupying others. Of course there is a problem. Families grow up, the children marry and the old people are left behind. What is the intention? Are we to try 2046 to re-slot them all into the appropriate compartments so that there is one person, one room? Hon. Gentlemen opposite cannot seriously mean that.
Can they really take old people out of the homes in which they have married, laid down their own lino, brought in the furniture, seen the children born, grow up, marry, have had the wedding reception there and have the grandchildren coming along? The whole of the life of the family has revolved around that home. It may be a marketable commodity at the best price to the landlord but it is the central point in the life of a man or woman.
Can we really accept the doctrines of the statisticians and the Conservative Government that what we must do is to re-slot them all? It is all very well if the old people are willing to leave, if they want to leave and would like to go into the pensioners' bungalows—we have all seen them and I can think of nothing better for them; but how many of them want to treasure their memories in the homes in which they have spent their lives? If we take memories away from old people, they are left with precious little else. To speak of them, as we do, as units occupying unnecessary accommodation is something that I find revolting in this connection.
If the old people will leave voluntarily, well and good, but they should not be compelled. What the Minister is proposing to do in the Bill is to put up the rents to such a level that they will either have to move or alternatively have to take in lodgers to pay the rents. That is the real purpose of the Bill. All the rest is a smokescreen. All this talk about under-accommodation, getting a larger pool of houses to rent and all the rest, is simply a smokescreen, just like the reasons for invading Egypt, thought up afterwards. It is the same old story.
The real purpose of the Bill is to raise rents. The Secretary of State for Scotland, as usual, blurted out the truth in his nonchalant manner when he was being questioned by my hon. Friend the Member for Hamilton about the housing position. The Secretary of State lurched to his feet and said, "But this Bill is not about housing; it is about rents"; and as he sat down he said, "That is the truth". I do not know where the right hon. Gentleman is now but his words will 2047 five after him—they are recorded in HANSARD. That is exactly what the Bill is about.
The effect of the Bill—let us say it once more and quite simply—is to double the rents of about 5 million families. It will cost, my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Kettering (Mr. Mitchison) says, £100 million.
§ Mr. Callaghan
My hon. and learned Friend has, I think, under-estimated. At least £100 million will be the cost of this. I want to translate these global figures into particular figures.
Last weekend, I spent some time in my constituency finding out what it would mean over a large range of households. I contacted a property company which has look after its houses, built in about 1870. When I went in to see the managing director last Friday, he at once said to me, "Mr. Callaghan, every penny we get out of this Act is entirely justified". That is his view. I said, "That is fine. Let us look at the figures". He produced some hundreds of cases and we selected what we thought was a typical case representing some hundreds of cases in Cardiff.
The average rents for those houses, including rates, are at the moment between 10s. and 15s. I took one specimen house that is typical of many hundreds. The average rent, plus rates, for this house is at the moment 11s. 5d. Under the Bill, it will become, in time, 22s. 8d. There will be an increase in respect of that house, typical of hundreds, of 11s. 3d. a week.
When the Minister last spoke in this House about housing, on the Third Reading of the Housing Subsidies Bill, he poked a lot of fun at some of my hon. Friends about increases in rents which they said would take place. He said that that Measure would mean 8d. a week—[An HON. MEMBER: "Twopence a week."] Yes, 1d., 2d., and 8d.
§ Mr. Callaghan
Somewhere. He said that at Kettering it would be 8d., at Willingborough 9d., at Ebbw Vale 8½d., 2048 Birmingham 6d., Newcastle 11½d., Salford 7d.
He cited the constituencies of a number of my hon. Friends, and he taunted us with those increases. Is he going to do the same tonight? Are we to hear from him what the increases in rents are going to be in those constituencies? Is he going to tell us what the increases will be in his own constituency of Streatham? In case he might be reluctant, I took the precaution of getting a few figures from Streatham to see what the increases will be. After all, I was set a very good example. I should like to tell the right hon. Gentleman, in case he does not already know. I am going to quote only five cases in Streatham. They are typical cases, not specially selected. I think they are the cases of Labour Party people, but they are none the worse for that.
I am not going to give the addresses, for that would not be fair, but I can supply them to the right hon. Gentleman. In the first case the present net rent is 13s. 2d. The new rent will be £1 10s. 6d., an increase of 17s. 4d. per week. In the second the present net rent is 19s. 3d. and it is going up to 30s. 6d., an increase of 11s. 3d. In the third case the net rent is 8s. and that is going up to £1. That is in the case of a railwayman whose basic wage is £7 16s. a week. His rent is to be increased by 12s. The fourth case is of a rent of £1 going up to £1 12s., an increase of 12s. a week. The last case is of an increase of 23s. 4d.—23s. 4d. on the rent. Moreover, these tenants will be paying higher rents for the same accommodation.
§ Mr. Callaghan
I hope the right hon. Gentleman will have a few meetings in his constituency in the next few months.
§ Mr. Callaghan
I do beg the Minister to understand that what the tenants object to is paying these vastly higher rents for the same accommodation. The Cardiff houses that I mentioned just now are two-up, two-down houses, with no bathroom, no proper kitchen, no garden—just a bit of a yard of the size of the 2049 Table of the House, literally, and that is all. The tenants are to be asked to pay double the rent that they have been paying for those houses.
It is my experience, and it must be the experience of a great many hon. Gentlemen, that tenants are ready to pay higher rents if they can get accommodation which they believe justifies the higher rents, and there is evidence of that in the applications for council houses. There are applications every week by people who want to move out from the two-up, two-down houses to the outskirts of Cardiff, or any of the other great cities, and are willing to pay double their rents and extra fares to obtain the better amenities. What they do not believe is justified is that they should now be asked to pay double their rents for houses the accommodation of which is inferior, the amenities of which are sub-standard, and the capital value of which has been repaid, probably by the same tenants, three or four times over. That is what they object to.
"Oh," say hon. and right hon. Gentlemen opposite, "but the tenant's income has been substantially increased, and he can afford to pay, and the landlord's income has not." I have never yet heard any justification for assuming that the landlord has a lien upon the increased earnings of the tenant. What is the relationship between the two?
§ Mr. Callaghan
The value of money? Why should that be visited on the tenant? What is the hon. Gentleman going to do about Government securities? Widows invest in them, too, and the irredeemable stocks in this country, since the advent of the Conservative Government, have depreciated by at least 25 per cent.
This Government are no friend of gilt-edged securities. They are going down and down, and the widows are suffering. Are the Government proposing that that depreciation of 25 per cent. in the value of their investments should be made up? They say that the landlord has a grievance, that he has been subsidising the tenant, and now they propose to reverse the grievance and to provide that the tenant should subsidise the landlord because he is in distress. I have never been able to understand the argument 2050 that because the landlord is in distress, as the result of the depreciation of his assets, it is the responsibility of the tenant. So far as I know, this argument is applied nowhere but in the case of landlords.
Even more serious than the increase in rents is the loss of security. This is the burden of correspondence which I have begun to receive and which hon. Members opposite will be receiving very shortly. Is the Minister aware of what he is doing in this respect? He must not forget that because tenants have had security in the past, even though they have not been able to persuade the landlords to do the repairs, a great many have done their own repairs. They have put in a new fireplace or repaired the cracked sink or the leaking lavatory cistern. How many scores of hundreds of times has that happened? The right hon. Gentleman will destroy that incentive, because overnight, by Ministerial Order, he can take away the tenant's security. The result will be that the last state of the houses may be worse than the first, and the repairs now being done by the tenants will be done neither by tenant nor landlord.
The Minister says, "The landlord will do the repairs out of the increased rent." How does he know that? Two years ago he secured the passing of an Act which said, "Do the repairs first and then you can get higher rents." Everybody in the House agrees that that Act was a flop. The repairs cost too much, and the return to the landlord was too little. It is true that the Minister does not think so. One of the blurbs put out by the Ministry of Housing and Local Government on 2nd December, 1954, saidThe Repairs and Rents Act will work. Mr. Duncan Sandys gives three reasons …'I feel entirely confident that it will work and achieve its purpose.'Would the Minister like to say that tonight? If he was wrong then, why should he not be wrong again?
§ Mr. Callaghan
How does the Minister know that the landlords will do the repairs this time? He is relying on the good faith of the landlord. "Give him the increase first," he says, "and then he will undertake to do the repairs".
What a short memory the Minister must have of all the occasions in the past when 2051 the landlord drew a higher rent and did not put a penny piece into repairs. The Parliamentary Secretary spoke of the possibility of increased rents not covering the cost of repairs. Therefore, the landlords will have the money and will be back in the same position as they were before. He says that rents can be negotiated. Negotiated? The Government give the landlord a pistol and put the tenant at the other end and say to him, "Come on and negotiate".
§ Mr. Callaghan
The same sort of thing. They do not go to war, they have a state of armed conflict. They do not deliver an ultimatum to the tenant, they let him negotiate with the landlord.
Landlordism is at an end in this country. This is the last attempt to shore it up, and I assure the Minister that it will fail, and housing will take its own place alongside the other social services—alongside education, the health service and the pensions Acts. This proposal will break down. We dismiss the concept that housing and homes are a commodity to be bought and sold in the market place. Our belief is that the provision of homes is a social service. We are certain that the country will come more and more to that conclusion. In our view, the attempt which this Measure represents will fail.
There are some other questions which I should like to ask the Minister. The first is, where is the increased rent to come from? Working-class homes, where people are living on £8 or £9 a week, laying out their budgets in rent and housing and food and clothing, do not have 10s. a week to spare. They do not have 10s. lying about which they can pick up and pay to the landlord. What the Minister is doing by this Bill is to break through the plateau. Has he consulted the Chancellor of the Exchequer? He will engender wage claims which will not be denied or there will be profound—[An HON. MEMBER: "Starvation."]—conflict in this country. I say that the Minister does not know the effects on the cost-of-living index of what he is doing. I know that, because I rang up and asked, and they could not tell me.
This is the most important piece of legislation of the Session, and it was not 2052 in the Tory Party manifesto. Some other things are in it, of course, such as the proposal to revise the Shop Acts, the proposal to assist the fishing fleet, the proposal to reduce Stamp Duty. Those are all there, and also thisUnder Conservative administration we have broken away … from the regular cycle of crises.The manifesto also says that our prestige throughout the Middle East has been restored. But what are we to expect in a manifesto which is labelled, "United for peace and progress"? There is no peace, the progress has become economic stagnation, and whatever else the Cabinet is, it is not united.
The Minister fears misrepresentation. He need not worry. His deeds will speak far louder than our words during the next twelve months. I say that this Bill, petrol rationing, the increased prescriptions and the increase in the price of bread—all these have broken through the plateau. My own belief is that this Government will not live to implement this Measure. They will have a General Election first. They will not dare risk increases in rents of 10s., 12s., 15s. a week. I hope they will go to the country, and then we shall see that they will be swept out of office.
§ 9.27 p.m.
§ The Minister of Housing and Local Government (Mr. Duncan Sandys)
I do not know whether the last remarks of the hon. Member for Cardiff, South-East (Mr. Callaghan) about the approach of a General Election were wishful thinking—
§ Mr. Sandys
—because if there were a General Election at this time I believe he might get a rude awakening. [An HON. MEMBER: "Then resign."] The hon. Gentleman was at pains to explain why we have had such a quiet debate. He attributed it to all kinds of reasons which had nothing to do with housing. I do not propose to embark upon that intriguing topic. [An HON. MEMBER: "Yes, intriguing."] I can only observe that we have had a very amicable discussion during the course of this debate.
§ Mr. Sandys
I am sorry if the hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for 2053 Kettering (Mr. Mitchison) thinks that I have failed to appreciate fully the synthetic feelings he expressed during his speech.
It has been said that the Government ought not to bring in a Bill which will raise the cost of living at a time when we are trying to curb inflation and stabilise prices.
The hon. Member for Cardiff, South-East said that we as a Government do not know what the effect of the Bill will be on the cost of living. All I can say is that the effect upon the cost of living has been very greatly exaggerated in many speeches which we have heard during the debate. The great majority of households will not be affected at all. To begin with, there are the 3½ million council tenants. There are also the 4¾ million owner-occupiers, who will not be touched. The bulk of the furnished lettings will not be affected. The Bill will extend to less than one-third of the households of the country; that is, to about 4¾ million out of 15 million.
But—let me emphasise this, and do not let me be misquoted—that does not mean, of course, that all the affected households will have their rents raised. Since the Bill does not allow landlords to increase rents without doing the necessary repairs—[HON. MEMBERS: "It does."] I know there is a misunderstanding. I will try to clear it up.
§ Mr. Mitchison
I am not referring to this point. I wish to refer to what the right hon. Gentleman said just now.
§ Mr. Sandys
Since the landlords cannot increase rents without doing the necessary repairs, it can be assumed that the 850,000 houses which have been identified by local authorities as unfit will not qualify for rent increases. At the outside, the rent increases which might result from the Bill may eventually—I stress "eventually"—raise the cost-of-living index by about 2 per cent.
§ Mr. Mitchison
Did the right hon. Gentleman mean what he said just now? Will no furnished houses or furnished let-tings be affected by the Bill? I would call the right hon. Gentleman's attention to Clause 10.
§ Mr. Sandys
Only a very small minority. I said that the bulk of them would not be affected. The hon. and learned Gentleman can check in HANSARD what I said.
We are told that this is not the right time to bring forward a Bill of this kind. But would there ever be a right time? [HON. MEMBERS: "No."] When the Labour Party were in power, they repeatedly stated that the problem of rent control needed to be tackled. They said it over and over again, but over and over again they shied away from the issue. This may not be the right time, but there probably never will be a right time. However, we on this side of the House are convinced that the effects of the present system of rent control are so damaging that the problem cannot any longer be shelved.
It has been said that we should not introduce the Bill while there is still a housing shortage. There are, of course, shortages, particularly in certain areas, but do not let us exaggerate the extent of those shortages, nor overlook the relief which has been given by the large-scale new construction in recent years.
The hon. Member for Cardiff, South-East expressed surprise at a passage in the speech of the Parliamentary Secretary yesterday in which he referred to the approaching overall—I draw attention to "overall"—equation between supply of and demand for homes in England and Wales. Incidentally, my hon. Friend has pointed out to me that HANSARD has recorded "overall" as "average". Obviously, "average" means nothing at all. If hon. Members opposite can make any sense out of the word "average", I ask them to do so.*
The hon. Member for Cardiff, South-East tried to read into the speech of my hon. Friend much more than in fact he said. My hon. Friend did not say a lot—[Laughter.] There is nothing new at all in what he said [HON. "MEMBERS: "Hear, hear."] I am very glad that we are all agreed that there is nothing new in what my hon. Friend said. He merely restated the conclusions of the P.E.P. Report—to which hon. Members opposite pay such respect—on the housing situation in 1954 and showed that if the Report was correct in estimating that we were only three* Note.—This correction has been made in col. 1766, 21st November.2055 quarters of a million homes short in 1954, then the gap must before very long be closed.
In my opinion, it is fair to say that, "taking the country as a whole, we are not very far away from the total amount of accommodation which the nation requires." [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh."] Do hon. Members opposite deny that?
§ Mr. Sandys
All right. Those are not my words—[HON. MEMBERS: "Nothing new again."] I will repeat them.… taking the country as a whole,"—
§ Mr. Sandys
we are not very far away from the amount of total accommodation which the nation requires."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 30th November, 1953; Vol. 521, c. 826.]
§ Mr. Sandys
That is taken from a speech made in this House by the right hon. Member for Ebbw Vale (Mr. Bevan)—[Interruption.]—I know hon. Members opposite do not like it—on 30th November, 1953. Since then 800,000 more new houses have been built.
§ Mr. Sandys
No, I must get on.
The hon. Member for Cardiff, South-East attacked the Government for advocating the movement of people out of over-large houses—
§ Mr. Sandys
He accused the Conservative Government of wanting to make old people move out of their homes—
§ Mr. Sandys
Evidently the hon. Gentleman has not read the Labour Party's pamphlet, "Homes of the Future" and I should like to read to him what is said. It says 2056local authorities will be able to encourage the transfer of small families from houses and flats that are too large to others more in keeping with their requirements.
§ Mr. Sandys
It is all very well to say "encourage". The moment you expropriate the private landlord, hand over all private rented property to local authorities and scrap rent control completely—because that is what the Labour Party intend to do—all protection and security of tenure disappear, and the "encouragement" of local authorities amounts to something rather more like compulsion.
I turn now to the question of under-occupation, to which the hon. Member for Cardiff, South-East referred. He and other Members—my hon. Friends the Members for Aldershot (Sir E. Erring-ton), Leeds, North-East (Sir K. Joseph) and Walsall, South (Sir H. d'Avigdor-Goldsmid)—pointed out that an artificial housing shortage is being created by under-occupation. I would refer to the 1951 Census Report, which showed that two and a half million households had more than two rooms per person, which means at least three rooms for one person or at least five rooms for two persons. On the other side of the scales, there are, of course, many houses which are overcrowded.
Referring to the maldistribution of houses, the hon. and learned Member for Northampton (Mr. Paget)—I do not see him in his place now but he often speaks very good sense—writing to the Economist, saidThe main cause is rent restriction…. The price mechanism for distributing houses has been removed and nothing has been put in its place.Discussing the housing needs of the country, the right hon. Member for Ebbw Vale, who sometimes makes very convenient remarks from our point of view, said, talking about the middle-sized towns, that there arehundreds of houses occupied by only one person apiece.He went on to sayThe nation is in grave danger … of being stupidly extravagant."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 30th November, 1953; c. 826, v. 521]We are, I think, all agreed.
2057 I come now to the question of rent limits. Throughout my speech, any references to rents or rent limits will be net figures, that is to say, exclusive of rates and service charges. It has been said that many families will not be able to afford the new controlled rents. Is that really so? It is worth remembering that the average level of adult male earnings is not far short of £12 a week. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh."] That is the official figure. Nearly three-quarters of all the houses in England and Wales which will remain controlled will still have rents below £1 per week. Thus, nearly three-quarters of all the controlled rents will be under 10 per cent. of the average weekly earnings. That is the figure upon which the Labour Government based their housing subsidy policy.
The increases will, of course, vary, but the houses that will have the steepest rises will be those whose rents have been most abnormally depressed as a result of the anomalies of rent control. For example, at present nearly 1 million houses in England and Wales have rents of less than 5s. per week.
§ Mr. Sandys
It has been said that rents will double. For the reasons I have just given about variations from place to place, I do not propose to generalise on this subject.
§ Mr. Maurice Orbach (Willesden, East)
The right hon. Gentleman does not propose to live in one of those houses, does he?
§ Mr. Sandys
However, it is worth noting the view expressed by Mr. Herbert Ashworth, the General Manager of the Co-operative Permanent Building Society. I am not necessarily identifying myself with his views, but I think they are worthy of note. At a conference last month, Mr. Ashworth saidIf the rents of all the rent restricted houses were doubled I do not think their occupiers would have any difficulty in paying the increased rents.
§ Mr. Sandys
I am not associating myself with the Co-operative movement. [An HON. MEMBER: "The right hon. Gentleman wants to get the dividend."]
2058 The hon. Member for Cardiff, South-East and others have said that in the view of the Labour Party housing should be regarded as a social service, but they have never made very clear what they mean by that. I do not think they are very clear about it. On behalf of Her Majesty's Government I have said more than once that our view is that no family should, through lack of means, be prevented from having a decent, healthy home. A house is a necessity of life. It is the responsibility of government to see that as soon as possible every family should have a good home of its own. But, because houses are a necessity, it does not follow that they ought to be made artificially cheap to everybody. Clothes are a necessity, but that does not mean that shopkeepers should be expected to sell clothes to their customers below cost.
§ Mr. B. T. Parkin (Paddington, North)
It does not mean that one pays £20 for a second-hand suit either. [Laughter.]
§ Mr. Sandys
Nobody can say that this is not a good-humoured debate. There will, of course, always be some people—although not a large proportion—who genuinely cannot afford to pay a reasonable rent. Those people must be helped, but if help is needed in the form of council house subsidies or other assistance, we maintain that it is for the community as a whole and not for individual landlords to provide it.
It has been said that the Bill does not compel landlords to do repairs if they do not want to do them. It is true that we are not proposing to make it a criminal offence to own a house which is not in good repair. [An HON. MEMBER: "It ought to be."] On the other hand, the Bill provides positive means, which we believe will be fair and effective, for dealing with the problem of repairs. By allowing rents to be charged which are more in keeping with realities, the Bill should ensure that most landlords will put their houses in good repair where that can be done at reasonable cost.
Where the landlord for any reason does not do repairs for which he is responsible, he will receive—I emphasise this—no benefit whatsoever under this Bill from the new and higher rent limits. There appears to be some misunderstanding about this.
§ Mrs. Jeger rose—
§ Mr. Sandys
I am sorry, I cannot give way as I want to explain this and time is short.
Several hon. Members seem to think that the landlord could put up rents to 1⅓ times the gross value even though the house is in bad repair. That is not the position. Leaving aside internal decorations, that is quite incorrect. In a house where there are defects of repair, other than repairs for which the tenant has specifically accepted responsibility under his tenancy contract—and those are very rare cases—the tenant can prevent the landlord from making any increase in rent whatsoever. Among the lower-rated houses which will remain in control, there are very few whose tenants have entered into such contracts. They are very rare birds. In fact, they are almost non-existent. Thus, it can be said that the tenant is protected against any increase in rent unless the house is in good repair or the landlord undertakes to make it so.
A number of hon. Members have criticised the proposals to decontrol the block of higher-valued houses, and in this connection reference has been made to the Marley Committee, set up by the Labour Government in 1930. Its Report, which formed the basis of the 1933 Act, recommended decontrol of rather more than half-a-million houses out of a total of 10 million in Great Britain. Under the present Bill, we propose to decontrol 800,000 houses out of a present-day total of 15 million. That is 5 per cent. compared with 6 per cent. under the 1933 Act.
It is worth noting that in 1933 all the same fears and anxieties were expressed as have been heard in the debate yesterday and today, but the fact is that decontrol worked quite smoothly. The best evidence is that the Ridley Committee, which reviewed the whole problem again in 1937, recommended that a further slice should be decontrolled.
Some speeches have given the impression that rents of decontrolled houses will soar regardless of the value and condition of the house and that tenants will be swept out into the streets. That is a wholly misleading picture. In the slice of higher-valued houses being decontrolled, there are large numbers which are already near to the market value. It 2060 also comprises a substantial number of flats built or converted in recent years whose rents are based on present-day values. Moreover, it includes a fairly high proportion of the dwellings which obtained repairs increases under the 1954 Act, which has had the effect of narrowing the margin between the present controlled rents and free-market rents.
It is true, of course, that under the present system of rent control landlords are naturally eager to get rid of their tenants and to sell the houses with vacant possession simply because they are not allowed a fair return for letting. Once the house is decontrolled, the landlord will obviously no longer have the same urge to sell as he has at present; and if he wants to sell he will be able to get full value without necessarily giving vacant possession.
One hon. Member said that most decontrolled houses would be put up for sale, but that, owing to the credit squeeze, the people who needed these houses would not be able to borrow the money to buy them. If that is so, the landlords will not be able to sell them and will have to continue to let them. In particular, the hon. Member for Aston (Mr. J. Silverman) forecast that most or all of the 800,000 houses which are to be decontrolled would be sold. He went on to say that that would put large sums of money into the pockets of the landlords and would therefore be inflationary. All I will say is that if our proposal to decontrol 800,000 houses is inflationary, then how much more inflationary is the Socialist proposal to buy 5 million or 6 million houses all at once?
I do not claim that this is an agreed Measure. [Laughter.] It is all very well for hon. Members to laugh. They cannot deny that this Bill rests on a very wide measure of agreement.
We are agreed that the present system of rent control has hopelessly broken down.
We are agreed that our housing problem is much accentuated by under-accommodation and that that is largely due to the immobility caused by rent control.
We are agreed that countless thousands of houses are being allowed to decay before their time, and that one of the main causes is the artificially depressed level of rents.
§ Mr. Sandys
The hon. and learned Gentleman says "No.": I am surprised that he does not agree. It says in "Homes of the Future"Rent control has been quoted as the main reason for the deterioration in the condition of rented property since 1920. That it is one of the reasons cannot be denied, …Finally, we are agreed that, whether we adopt a Socialist or a Conservative solution, rents will have to go up. There is no denial of that.
Nor should it be assumed that all members of the Labour Party are convinced that municipalisation is the right answer. My predecessor, Lord Silkin, speaking in another place, said this. Hon. Members opposite will not like it, but this is what he said
§ "… as a long-term solution there is the proposal which I should favour … of having rents fixed on the basis of the new valuations under the Local Government Act of 1948. On the assumption that those valuations are going to be uniform throughout the country and centralised, and that they would take care of the differences in different localities, you have a basis upon which you can start a new series of rents which would iron out anomalies and make matters clear as between one dwelling and another."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, House of Lords, 10th December, 1952; Vol. 179, c. 927.]
§ That is precisely what this Bill sets out to do.
§ Question put, That the Bill be now read a Second time:—
§ The House divided: Ayes 314, Noes 250.2065
|Division No. 4.]||AYES||[9.59 p.m.|
|Agnew, Cmdr. P. C.||Cooper-Key, E. M.||Harris, Reader (Heston)|
|Aitken, W. T.||Cordeaux, Lt.-Col. J. K.||Harrison, A. B. c. (Maldon)|
|Allan, R. A. (Paddingon, S.)||Corfield, Capt. F. V.||Harrison, Col. J. H. (Eye)|
|Alport, C. J. M.||Craddock, Beresford (Spelthorne)||Harvey, Ian (Harrow, E.)|
|Amery, Julian (Preston, N.)||Crosthwaite-Eyre, Col. O. E.||Harvey, John (Walthamstow, E.)|
|Amory, Rt. Hn. Heathcoat (Tiverton)||Crouch, R, F.||Harvie-Watt, Sir George|
|Anstruther-Gray, Major Sir William||Crowder, Petre (Ruislip—Northwood)||Hay, John|
|Arbuthnot, John||Cunningham, Knox||Head, Rt. Hon. A. H.|
|Armstrong, C. W.||Currie, C. B. H.||Heald, Rt. Hon. Sir Lionel|
|Ashton, H.||Dance, J. C. G.||Henderson, John (Cathcart)|
|Astor, Hon. J. J.||Davidson, Viscountess||Hesketh, R. F.|
|Atkins, H. E.||D'Avigdor-Goldsmid, Sir Henry||Hicks-Beach, Maj. W. W.|
|Baldock, Lt.-Cmdr. J. M.||Deedes, W. F.||Hill, Rt. Hon. Charles (Luton)|
|Baldwin, A. E.||Digby, Simon Wingfield||Hill, Mrs. E. (Wythenshawe)|
|Balniel, Lord||Dodds-Parker, A. D.||Hill, John (S. Norfolk)|
|Barber, Anthony||Donaldson, Cmdr. C. E. McA.||Hinchingbrooke, Viscount|
|Barlow, Sir John||Doughty, C. J. A.||Hirst, Geoffrey|
|Barter, John||Drayson, G. B.||Holland-Martin, C. J.|
|Baxter, Sir Beverley||du Cann, E. D. L.||Hope, Lord John|
|Bell, Philip (Bolton, E.)||Dugdale, Rt. Hn. Sir T. (Richmond)||Hornby, R. P.|
|Bell, Ronald (Bucks, S.)||Duncan, Capt. J. A. L.||Hornsby-Smith. Miss M. p.|
|Bennett, F. M. (Torquay)||Duthie, W. S.||Horobin, Sir Ian|
|Bennett, Dr. Reginald||Eccles, Rt. Hon. Sir David||Horsbrugh, Rt. Hon. Dame Florence|
|Bevins, J. R. (Toxteth)||Eden, J. B. (Bournemouth, West)||Howard, Gerald (Cambridgeshire)|
|Bidgood, J. C.||Emmet, Hon. Mrs. Evelyn||Howard, Hon. Greville (St. Ives)|
|Biggs-Davison, J. A.||Errington, Sir Eric||Howard, John (Test)|
|Birch, Rt. Hon. Nigel||Erroll, F. J.||Hughes, Hallett, Vice-Admiral J.|
|Bishop, F. P.||Farey-Jones, F. W.||Hughes-Young. M. H. C.|
|Black, C. W.||Fell, A.||Hulbert, Sir Norman|
|Body, R. F.||Finlay, Graeme||Hurd, A. R.|
|Boothby, Sir Robert||Fisher, Nigel||Hutchison, Sir IanClark (E'b'gh, W.)|
|Bossom, Sir Alfred||Fletcher-Cooke, C.||Hutchison, Sir James (Scotstoun)|
|Bowen, E. R. (Cardigan)||Fort, R.||Hyde, Montgomery|
|Boyle, Sir Edward||Fraser, Hon. Hugh (Stone)||Hylton-Foster, Sir H. B. H.|
|Braine, B. R.||Fraser, Sir Ian (M'cmbe & Lonsdale)||Iremonger, T. L.|
|Braithwaite, Sir Albert (Harrow, W.)||Freeth, D. K.||Irvine, Bryant Godman (Rye)|
|Bromley-Davenport, Lt.-Col. W. H.||Garner-Evans, E. H.||Jenkins, Robert (Dulwich)|
|Brooke, Rt. Hon. Henry||George, J. C. (Pollok)||Jennings, J. C. (Burton)|
|Brooman-White, R. C.||Gibson-Watt, D.||Jennings, Sir Roland (Hallam)|
|Browne, J. Nixon (Craigton)||Glover, D.||Johnson, Dr. Donald (Carlisle)|
|Bryan, P.||Godber, J. B.||Johnson, Eric (Blackley)|
|Buchan-Hepburn, Rt. Hon. P. G. T.||Gomme-Duncan, Col. Sir Alan||Johnson, Howard (Kemptown)|
|Bullus, Wing Commander E. E.||Gough, C. F. H.||Jones, Rt. Hon. Aubrey (Hall Green)|
|Joseph, Sir Keith|
|Burden, F. F. A.||Gower, H. R.||Joynson-Hicks, Hon. Sir Lancelot|
|Butcher, Sir Herbert||Graham, Sir Fergus||Kaberry, D.|
|Butler. Rt. Hn. R. A.(Saffron Walden)||Grant, W. (Woodside)||Keegan, D.|
|Campbell, Sir David||Grant-Ferris, Wg Cdr. R.(Nantwich)||Kerby, Capt. H. B.|
|Carr, Robert||Green, A.||Kershaw, J. A.|
|Cary, Sir Robert||Gresham Cooke, R.||Kimball, M.|
|Channon, H.||Grimond, J.||Kirk, P. M.|
|Chichester-Clarke, R.||Grimston, Hon. John (St. Albans)||Lagden, G. W.|
|Clarke, Brig. Terence (Portsmth, W.)||Gurden, Harold||Lambert, Hon. G.|
|Cole, Norman||Hall, John (Wycombe)||Lambton, Viscount|
|Conant, Maj. Sir Roger||Hare, Rt. Hon. J. H.||Lancaster, Col. C. G.|
|Cooper, A. E,||Harris, Frederic (Croydon, N. W.)||Langford-Holt, J. A.|
|Leather, E. H. C.||Neave, Airey||Spearman, Sir Alexander|
|Leavey, J. A.||Nicholas, Harmar||Speir, R. M.|
|Leburn, W. G.||Nicholson, Godfrey (Farnham)||Spence, H. R. (Aberdeen, W.)|
|Legge-Bourke, Maj. E. A. H.||Nicolson, N. (B'n'm'th, S. & Chr'ch)||Spens, Rt. Hn. Sir P. (Kens'gt'n, S.)|
|Legh, Hon. Peter (Petersfield)||Noble, Comdr. A. H. P.||Stanley, Capt. Hon. Richard|
|Lennox-Boyd, Rt. Hon. A. T.||Nugent, G. R. H.||Stevens, Geoffrey|
|Lindsay, Hon. James (Devon, N.)||Oakshott, H. D.||Steward, Harold (Stockport, S.)|
|Lindsay, Martin (Solihull)||O'Neill, Hn. Phelim (Co. Antrim, N.)||Steward, Sir William (Woolwich, W.)|
|Linstead, Sir H. N.||Ormsby-Gore, Hon. W. D.||Stewart, Henderson (Fife, E.)|
|Llewellyn, D. T.||Orr, Capt. L. P. S.||Storey, S.|
|Lloyd, Rt. Hon. G.(SuttonColdfield)||Orr-Ewing, Charles Ian (Hendon, N.)||Stuart, Rt. Hon. James (Moray)|
|Lloyd, Maj. Sir Guy (Renfrew, E.)||Orr-Ewing, Sir Ian (Weston-S-Mare)||Studholme, Sir Henry|
|Lloyd-George, Maj. Rt. Hon. G.||Osborne, C.||Sumner, W. D. M. (Orpington)|
|Low, Rt. Hon. A. R. W.||Page, R, G.||Taylor, William (Bradford, N.)|
|Lucas, Sir Jocelyn (Portsmouth, S.)||Pannell, N. A. (Kirkdale)||Teeling, W.|
|Lucas, P. B. (Brentford & Chiswick)||Partridge, E.||Temple, J. M.|
|Lucas-Tooth, Sir Hugh||Peyton, J. W. W.||Thomas, Leslie (Canterbury)|
|McAdden, S. J.||Pickthorn, K. W. M.||Thomas, P. J. M. (Conway)|
|McCallum, Major Sir Duncan||Pilkington, Capt. R. A.||Thompson, Kenneth (Walton)|
|Macdonald, Sir Peter||Pitman, I. J.||Thompson, Lt.-Cdr. R.(Croydon, S.)|
|Mackeson, Brig. Sir Harry||Pitt, Miss E. M.||Thorneycroft, Ht. Hon. P.|
|McKibbin, A. J.||Pott, H. P.||Thorton-Kemsley, C. N.|
|Mackie, J. H. (Galloway)||Powell, J. Enoch||Tiley, A. (Bradford, W.)|
|McLaughlin, Mrs. P.||Price, David (Eastleigh)||Tilney, John (Wavertree)|
|Maclean, Fitzroy (Lancaster)||Price, Henry (Lewisham, W.)|
|McLean, Neil (Inverness)||Profumo, J. D.||Touche, Sir Gordon|
|Macleod, Rt. Hn. lain (Enfield, W.)||Raikes, Sir Victor||Turner, H. F. L.|
|MacLeod, John (Ross & Cromarty)||Ramsden, J. E.||Turton, Rt. Hon. R. H.|
|Macmillan, Rt. Hn. Harold (Bromley)||Rawlinson, Peter||Vane, W. M. F.|
|Macmillan, Maurice (Halifax)||Redmayne, M.||Vaughan-Morgan, J. K.|
|Maddan, Martin||Rees-Davies, W. R.||Vickers, Miss J. H.|
|Maitland. Cdr. J. F. W.(Horncastle)||Remnant, Hon. P.||Vosper, D. F.|
|Maitland, Hon. Patrick (Lanark)||Renton, D. L. M.||Wade, D. W.|
|Manningham-Buller, Rt. Hn. Sir R.||Ridsdale, J. E.||Wakefield, Edward (Derbyshire, W.)|
|Markham, Major Sir Frank||Rippon, A, G. F.||Wakefield, Sir Wavell (St. M'lebone)|
|Marlowe, A. A. H.||Robertson, Sir David||Walker-Smith, D. C.|
|Marples, A. E.||Robinson, Sir Roland (Blackpool, S.)||Wall, Major Patrick|
|Marshall, Douglas||Robson-Brown, W.||Ward, Hon. George (Worcester)|
|Maude, Angus||Rodgers, John (Sevenoaks)||Waterhouse, Capt. Rt. Hon. C.|
|Maudling, Rt. Hon. R.||Roper, Sir Harold||Watkinson, Rt. Hon. Harold|
|Mawby, R. L.||Ropner, Col. Sir Leonard||Webbe, Sir H.|
|Maydon, Lt.-Cmdr. S. L. C.||Russell, R. S.||Whitelaw, W. S. I.(Penrith & Border)|
|Medlicott, Sir Frank||Williams, Paul (Sunderland, S.)|
|Milligan, Rt. Hon. W. R.||Sandys, Rt. Hon. D.||Williams, R. Dudley (Exeter)|
|Molson, Rt. Hon. Hugh||Schofield, Lt.-Col. W.||Wills, C. (Bridgwater)|
|Monckton, Rt. Hon. Sir Walter||Scott-Miller, Cmdr. R.||Wilson, Geoffrey (Truro)|
|Moore, Sir Thomas||Shepherd, William||Wood, Hon. R.|
|Morrison, John (Salisbury)||Simon, J, E. S. (Middlesbrough, W.)||Woollam, John Victor|
|Mott-Radclyffe, C. E.||Smithers, Peter (Winchester)|
|Nabarro, G. D. N.||Smyth, Brig. Sir John (Norwood)||TELLERS FOR THE AYES:|
|Nairn, D. L. S.||Soames, Capt. C.||Mr. Heath and|
|Mr. T. G. D. Galbraith.|
|Ainsley, J. W.||Castle, Mrs. B. A.||Evans, Albert (Islington, S. W.)|
|Albu, A. H.||Champion, A. J.||Evans, Edward (Lowestoft)|
|Allaun, Frank (Salford, E.)||Chapman, W. D.||Fernyhough, E.|
|Allen, Arthur (Bosworth)||Chetwynd, G. R.||Fienburgh, W.|
|Allen, Scholefield (Crewe)||Clunie, J.||Finch, H. J.|
|Anderson, Frank||Coldrick, W.||Fletcher, Eric|
|Awbery, S. S.||Collick, P. H. (Birkenhead)||Forman, J. C.|
|Bacon, Miss Alice||Collins, V. J.(Shoreditch & Finsbury)||Fraser, Thomas (Hamilton)|
|Baird, J.||Corbet, Mrs. Freda||Gaitskell, Rt. Hon. H. T. N.|
|Balfour, A.||Cove, W. G.||Gibson, C. W.|
|Bellenger, Rt. Hon. F. J.||Craddock, George (Bradford, S.)||Gooch, E. C.|
|Bence, C. R. (Dunbartonshire, E.)||Cronin, J. D.||Gordon Walker, Rt. Hon. P. C.|
|Bann, Hn. Wedgwood (Bristol, S. E.)||Cullen, Mrs. A.||Greenwood, Anthony|
|Benson, G.||Daines, P,||Grenfell, Rt. Hon. D. R.|
|Beswick, F.||Dalton, Rt. Hon. H.||Grey, C. F.|
|Bevan, Rt. Hon. A. (Ebbw Vale)||Darling, George (Hillsborough)||Griffiths, David (Rother Valley)|
|Boardman, H.||Davies, Ernest (Enfield, E.)||Griffiths, Rt. Hon. James (Llanelly)|
|Bottomley, Rt. Hon. A. G.||Davies, Harold (Leek)||Griffiths, William (Exchange)|
|Bowden, H. W. (Leicester, S. W.)||Davies, Stephen (Merthyr)||Hale, Leslie|
|Bowles, F. C.||Deer, G.||Hall, Rt. Hn. Clenvil (Colne Valley)|
|Boyd, T. C.||Delargy, H. J.||Hamilton, W. W.|
|Braddock, Mrs. Elizabeth||Dodds, N. N.||Hannan, W.|
|Brockway, A. F.||Donnelly, D. L.||Harrison, J. (Nottingham, N.)|
|Broughton, Dr. A. D. D.||Dugdale, Rt. Hn. John (W. Brmwch)||Hastings, S.|
|Brown, Thomas (Ince)||Dye, S.||Hayman, F. H.|
|Burke, W. A.||Edelman, M.||Henderson, Rt. Hn. A. (Rwly Regis)|
|Butler, Herbert (Hackney, C.)||Edwards, Rt. Hon. John (Brighouse)||Herbison, Miss M.|
|Butler, Mrs. Joyce (Wood Green)||Edwards, Rt. Hon. Ness (Caerphilly)||Hewitson, Capt. M.|
|Callaghan, L. J.||Edwards, Robert (Bilston)||Hobson, C. R.|
|Carmichael, J.||Edwards, W. J. (Stepney)||Holman, P.|
|Holmes, Horace||Mitchison, G. R.||Snow, J. W.|
|Houghton, Douglas||Monslow, W.||Sorensen, R, W.|
|Howell, Charles (Perry Barr)||Moody, A. S.||Soskioe, Rt. Hon. Sir Frank|
|Howell, Denis (All Saints)||Morris, Percy (Swansea, W.)||Sparks, J. A.|
|Hubbard, T. F.||Mort, D. L.||Steele, T.|
|Hughes, Cledwyn (Anglesey)||Moss, R.||Stokes, Rt. Hon. R. R. (Ipswich)|
|Hughes, Emrys (S. Ayrshire)||Moyle, A.||Stones, W. (Consett)|
|Hunter, A. E.||Mulley, F. W.||Strachey, Rt. Hon. J.|
|Hynd, J. B. (Attercliffe)||Neal, Harold (Bolsover)||Strauss, Rt. Hon. George (Vauxhall)|
|Irvine, A. J. (Edge Hill)||Noel-Baker, Francis (Swindon)||Stross, Dr. Barnett (Stoke-on-Trent, C.)|
|Irving, S. (Dartford)||Noel-Baker, Rt. Hon. P. (Derby, S.)||Summerskill, Rt. Hon. E.|
|Isaacs, Rt. Hon. G. A.||O'Brien, Sir Thomas||Swingler, S. T.|
|Janner, B.||Oliver, G. H.||Sylvester, G. O.|
|Jay, Rt. Hon. D. P. T.||Oram, A. E.||Taylor, Bernard (Mansfield)|
|Jeger, George (Goole)||Orbach, M.||Taylor, John (West Lothian)|
|Jeger, Mrs. Lena (Holbn & St. Pncs. S.)||Oswald, T.||Thomas, Iorwerth (Rhondda, W.)|
|Jenkins, Roy (Stechford)||Owen, W. J.||Thomson, George (Dundee, E.)|
|Johnson, James (Rugby)||Padley, W. E.||Thornton, E.|
|Johnston, Douglas (Paisley)||Paget, R. T.||Timmons, J.|
|Jones, Rt. Hon. A. Creech (Wakefield)||Paling, Rt. Hon. W. (Dearne Valley)||Tomney, F.|
|Jones, David (The Hartlepools)||Paling, Will T. (Dewsbury)||Turner-Samuels, M.|
|Jones, Elwyn (W. Ham, S.)||Palmer, A. M. F.||Ungoed-Thomas, Sir Lynn|
|Jones, Jack (Rotherham)||Pargiter, G. A.||Usborne, H. C.|
|Jones, J. Idwal (Wrexham)||Parker, J.||Viant, S. P.|
|Jones, T. W. (Merioneth)||Parkin, B. T.||Warbey, W. N.|
|Kenyon, C.||Paton, John||Watkins, T. E.|
|Key, Rt. Hon. C. W.||Peart, T. F.||Weitzman, D.|
|King, Dr. H. M.|
|Lawson, G. M.||Pentland, N.||Wells, Percy (Faversham)|
|Lee, Frederick (Newton)||Plummer, Sir Leslie||Wells, William (Walsall, N.)|
|Lee, Miss Jennie (Cannock)||Price, J. T. (Westhoughton)||West, D. C.|
|Lever, Harold (Cheetham)||Price, Philips (Gloucestershire. W.)||Wheeldon, W. E.|
|Lever, Leslie (Ardwick)||Probert, A. R.||White, Mrs. Eirene (E. Flint)|
|Lewis, Arthur||Proctor, W. T.||White, Henry (Derbyshire, N. E.)|
|Lindgren, G. S.||Pryde, D. J.||Wigg, George|
|Lipton, Lt.-Col. M.||Pursey, Cmdr. H.||Wilcock, Group Capt. C. A. B.|
|Logan, D. G.||Randall, H. E.||Wilkins, W. A.|
|Mabon, Dr. J. Dickson||Rankin, John||Willey, Frederick|
|MacColl, J. E.||Redhead, E. C.||Williams, David (Neath)|
|McGhee, H. G.||Reeves, J.||Williams, Rev. Llywelyn (Ab'tillery)|
|Molnnes, J.||Reid, William||Williams, Ronald (Wigan)|
|McKay, John (Wallsend)||Robens, Rt. Hon. A.||Williams, Rt. Hon. T. (Don Valley)|
|McLeavy, Frank||Roberts, Goronwy (Caernarvon)||Williams, W. R. (Openshaw)|
|MacMillan, M. K. (Western Isles)||Robinson, Kenneth (St. Pancras, N.)||Williams, W. T. (Barons Court)|
|MacPherson, Malcolm (Stirling)||Ross, William||Willis, Eustace (Edinburgh, E.)|
|Mahon, Simon||Royle, C,||Wilson, Rt. Hon. Harold (Huyton)|
|Mallalieu, E. L. (Brigg)||Short, E. W.||Winterbottom, Richard|
|Mallalieu, J. P. W. (Huddersfd, E.)||Shurmer, P. L. E.||Woodburn, Rt. Hon. A.|
|Mann, Mrs. Jean||Silverman, Julius (Aston)||Woof, R. E.|
|Marquand, Rt. Hon. H. A.||Silverman, Sydney (Nelson)||Yates, V. (Ladywood)|
|Mason, Roy||Simmons, C. J. (Brierley Hill)||Younger, Rt. Hon. K.|
|Mayhew, C. P.||Skeffington, A. M.||Zilliacus, K.|
|Mellish, R. J.||Slater, Mrs. H. (Stoke, N.)|
|Messer, Sir F.||Slater, J. (Sedgefield)||TELLERS FOR THE NOES:|
|Mikardo, Ian||Smith, Ellis (Stoke, S.)||Mr. Popplewell and Mr. Pearson.|
§ Bill accordingly read a Second time.
§ Motion made, and Question put, That the Bill be committed to a Committee of the whole House.—[Mr. Bowden.]:—
§ The House divided: Ayes 250, Noes 307.2071
|Division No. 5.]||AYES||[10.10 p.m.|
|Ainsley, J. W.||Bowles, F. G.||Corbet, Mrs. Freda|
|Albu, A. H.||Boyd, T. C.||Cove, W. G.|
|Allaun, Frank (Salford, E.)||Braddock, Mrs. Elizabeth||Craddock, George (Bradford, S.)|
|Allen, Arthur (Bosworth)||Brookway, A. F.||Cronin, J. D.|
|Allen, Scholefieid (Crewe)||Broughton, Dr. A. D. D.||Cullen, Mrs. A.|
|Awbery, S. S.||Brown, Thomas (Ince)||Daines, P.|
|Bacon, Miss Alice||Burke, W. A.||Dalton, Rt. Hon. H.|
|Baird, J.||Butler, Herbert (Hackney, C.)||Darling, George (Hillsborough)|
|Balfour, A.||Butler, Mrs. Joyoe (Wood Green)||Davies, Ernest (Enfield, E.)|
|Bellenger, Rt. Hon. F. J.||Callaghan, L. J.||Davies, Harold (Leek)|
|Bence, C. R. (Dunbartonshire, E.)||Carmichael, J.||Davies, Stephen (Merthyr)|
|Benn, Hn. Wedgwood (Bristol, S. E.)||Castle, Mrs. B. A.||Deer, G.|
|Benson, G.||Champion, A. J.||Delargy, H. J.|
|Beswick, F.||Chapman, W. D.||Dodds, N. N.|
|Bevan, Rt. Hon. A. (Ebbw Vale)||Chetwynd, G. R.||Donnelly, D. L,|
|Boardman, H.||Clunie, J.||Dugdale, Rt. Hn. John (W. Brmwch)|
|Bottomley, Rt. Hon. A. G.||Coldrick, W.||Dye, S.|
|Bowden, H. W. (Leicester, S. W.)||Collick, P. H. (Birkenhead)||Edelman, M.|
|Bowen, E. R. (Cardigan)||Collins, V. J.(Shoreditch & Finsbury)||Edwarde, Rt. Hon. John (Brighouse)|
|Edwards, Rt. Hon. Ness (Caerphilly)||Lever, Harold (Cheetham)||Roberts, Goronwy (Caernarvon)|
|Edwards, Robert (Bilston)||Lever, Leslie (Ardwick)||Robinson, Kenneth (St. Pancras, N.)|
|Edwards, W. J. (Stepney)||Lewis, Arthur||Ross, William|
|Evans, Albert (Islington, S. W.)||Lindgren, G. S.||Royle, C.|
|Evans, Edward (Lowestoft)||Lipton, Lt.-Col. M.||Short, E. W.|
|Fernyhough, E.||Logan, D. G.||Shurmer, P. L. E.|
|Fienburgh, W.||Mabon, Dr. J. Dickson||Silverman, Julius (Aston)|
|Finch, H. J.||MacColl, J. E.||Silverman, Sydney (Nelson)|
|Fletcher, Eric||McGhee, H. G.||Skeffington, A. M.|
|Forman, J. C.||Molnnes, J.||Slater, Mrs. H. (Stoke, N.)|
|Fraser, Thomas (Hamilton)||McKay, John (Wallsend)||Slater, J. (Sedgefield)|
|Gaitskell, Rt. Hon. H. T. N.||McLeavy, Frank||Smith, Ellis (Stoke, S.)|
|Gibson, C. W.||MacMillan, M. K. (Western Isles)||Snow, J. W.|
|Gooch, E. G.||Mahon, Simon||Sorensen, R. W.|
|Gordon Walker, Rt. Hon. P. C.||Mallalieu, E. L. (Brigg)||Soskice, Rt. Hon. Sir Frank|
|Greenwood, Anthony||Mallalieu, J. P. W. (Hudderfld, E.)||Sparks, J. A.|
|Grenfell, Rt. Hon. D. R.||Mann, Mrs. Jean||Steele, T.|
|Grey, C. F.||Marquand, Rt. Hon. H. A.||Stokes, Rt. Hon. R. R. (Ipswich)|
|Griffiths, David (Rother Valley)||Mason, Roy||Stones, W. (Consett)|
|Griffiths, Rt. Hon. James (Llanelly)||Mayhew, C. P.||Strachey, Rt. Hon. J.|
|Griffiths, William (Exchange)||Mellish, R. J.||Strauss, Rt. Hon. George (Vauxhall)|
|Grimond, J.||Messer, Sir F.||Stross, Dr. Barnett (Stoke-on-Trent, C.)|
|Hale, Leslie||Mikardo, Ian||Summerskill, Rt. Hon. E.|
|Hall, Rt. Hn. Glenvil (Colne Valley)||Mitchison, G. R,||Swingler, S. T.|
|Hamilton, W, W.||Monslow, W.||Sylvester, G. O.|
|Hannan, W.||Moody, A. S.||Taylor, Bernard (Mansfield)|
|Harrison, J. (Nottingham, N.)||Morris, Percy (Swansea, W.)||Taylor, John (West Lothian)|
|Hastings, S.||Mort, D. L.||Thomas, Iorwerth (Rhondda, W.)|
|Hayman, F. H.||Moss, R.||Thomson, George (Dundee, E.)|
|Henderson, Rt. Hn. A. (Rwly Regis)||Moyle, A.||Thornton, E.|
|Herbison, Miss M.||Mulley, F. W.||Timmons, J.|
|Hewitson, Capt. M.||Neal, Harold (Bolsover)||Tomney, F.|
|Hobson, C. R.||Noel-Baker, Francis (Swindon)||Turner-Samuels, M.|
|Holman, P.||Noel-Baker, Rt. Hon. p. (Derby, S.)||Ungoed-Thomas, Sir Lynn|
|Holmes, Horace||O'Brien, Sir Thomas||Usborne, H. C.|
|Houghton, Douglas||Oliver, G. H.||Viant, S. P.|
|Howell, Charles (Perry Barr)||Oram, A. E.||Wade, D. W.|
|Howell, Denis (All Saints)||Orbach, M.||Warbey, W. N.|
|Hubbard, T. F.||Oswald, T.||Watkins, T. E.|
|Hughes, Cledwyn (Anglesey)||Owen, W. J.||Weitzman, D.|
|Hughes, Emrys (S. Ayrshire)||Padley, W. E.||Wells, William (Walsall, N.)|
|Hunter, A. E.||Paget, R. T.||West, D. G.|
|Hynd, J. B. (Attercliffe)||Paling, Rt. Hon. W. (Dearne Valley)||Wheeldon, W. E.|
|Irvine, A. J. (Edge Hill)||Paling, Will T. (Dewsbury)||White, Mrs. Eirene (E. Flint)|
|Irving, s. (Dartford)||Palmer, A. M. F.||White, Henry (Derbyshire, N. E.)|
|Isaacs, Rt. Hon. G. A.||Pargiter, G. A.||Wigg, George|
|Janner, B.||Parker, J.||Wilcock, Group Capt. C. A. B.|
|Jay, Rt. Hon. D. P. T.||Parkin, B. T.||Wilkins, W. A.|
|Jeger, George (Goole)||Paton, John||Willey, Frederick|
|Jeger, Mrs. Lena (Holbn & St. Pncs, S.)||Peart, T. F.||Williams, David (Neath)|
|Jenkins, Roy (Stechford)||Pentland, N.||Williams, Rev. Llywelyn (Ab'tillery)|
|Johnson, James (Rugby)||Plummer, Sir Leslie||Williams, Ronald (Wigan)|
|Johnston, Douglas (Paisley)||Popplewell, E.||Williams, R. Hon. T. (Don Valley)|
|Jones, Rt. Hon. A. Creech (Wakefield)||Price, J, T. (Westhoughton)||Williams, W. R. (Openshaw)|
|Jones, David (The Hartlepools)||Price, Philips (Gloucestershire, W.)||Williams, W. T. (Barons Court)|
|Jones, Elwyn (W. Ham, S.)||Probert, A. R.||Willis, Eustace (Edinburgh, E.)|
|Jones, Jack (Rotherham)||Proctor, W. T.||Wilson, Rt. Hon. Harold (Huyton)|
|Jones, J. Idwal (Wrexham)||Pryde, D. J.||Winterbottom, Richard|
|Jones, T. W. (Merioneth)||Pursey, Cmdr. H.||Woodburn, Rt. Hon. A.|
|Kenyon, C.||Randall, H. E.||Woof, R. E.|
|Key, Rt. Hon. C. W.||Rankin, John||Yates, V. (Ladywood)|
|King, Dr. H. M.||Redhead, E. C||Younger, Rt. Hon. K.|
|Lawson, G. M.||Reeves, J.||Zilliacus, K.|
|Lee, Frederick (Newton)||Reid, William|
|Lee, Miss Jennie (Cannock)||Robens, Rt. Hon. A.||TELLERS FOR THE AYES:|
|Mr. Pearson and Mr. Simmons.|
|Agnew, Cmdr. P. G.||Barter, John||Braine, B. R.|
|Aitken, W. T.||Baxter, Sir Beverley||Braithwaite, Sir Albert (Harrow, W.)|
|Allan, R. A. (Paddington, S.)||Bell, Philip (Bolton, E.)||Bromley-Davenport, Lt.-Col. W. H.|
|Alport, C. J. M.||Bell, Ronald (Bucks, S.)||Brooke, Rt. Hon. Henry|
|Amery, Julian (Preston, N.)||Bennett, F. M. (Torquay)||Brooman-White, R. C.|
|Amory, Rt. Hn. Heathcoat (Tiverton)||Bennett, Dr. Reginald||Browne, J. Nixon (Craigton)|
|Arbuthnot, John||Bevins, J. R. (Toxteth)||Bryan, P.|
|Armstrong, C. W.||Bidgood, J. C.||Buchan-Hepburn, Rt. Hon. P. G. T.|
|Ashton, H,||Biggs-Davison, J. A.||Bullus, Wing Commander E. E.|
|Astor, Hon. J. J.||Birch, Rt. Hon. Nigel||Burden, F. F. A.|
|Atkins, H. E.||Bishop, F. P.||Butcher, Sir Herbert|
|Baldock, Lt.-Cmdr. J. M.||Black, C. W.||Butler, R. Hn. R. A. (Saffron Walden)|
|Baldwin, A. E.||Body, R. F.||Campbell, Sir David|
|Balniel, Lord||Boothby, Sir Robert||Carr, Robert|
|Barber, Anthony||Bossom, Sir Alfred||Cary, Sir Robert|
|Barlow, Sir John||Boyle, Sir Edward||Channon, H.|
|Chichester-Clark, H.||Hughes-Young, M. H. C.||Nugent, G. R. H.|
|Cole, Norman||Hulbert, Sir Norman||Oakshott, H. D.|
|Conant, MaJ. Sir Roger||Hurd, A. R.||O'Neill, Hn. Phelim (Co. Antrim, N.)|
|Cooper, Sqn. Ldr. Albert||Hutchison, Sir Ian Clark (E'b'gh. W.)||Ormsby-Gore, Hon. W. D.|
|Cooper-Key, E. M,||Hutchison, Sir James (Scotstoun)||Orr, Capt. L. P. S.|
|Cordeaux, Lt.-Col. J. K.||Hyde, Montgomery||Orr-Ewing, Charles Ian (Hendon, N.)|
|Corfield, Capt. F. V.||Hylton-Foster, Sir H. B. H.||Orr-Ewing, Sir Ian (Weston-S-Mare)|
|Craddock, Beresford (Spelthorne)||Iremonger, T. L.||Osborne, C.|
|Crosthwaite-Eyre, Col. O. E.||Irving, Bryant Godman (Rye)||Page, R. G.|
|Crouch, R. F.||Jenkins, Robert (Dulwich)||Pannell, N. A. (Kirkdale)|
|Crowder, Petre (Ruislip—Northwood)||Jennings, J. C. (Burton)||Partridge, E.|
|Cunningham, Knox||Jennings, Sir Roland (Hallam)||Peyton, J. W. W.|
|Currie, G. B. H.||Johnson, Dr. Donald (Carlisle)||Pickthorn, K. W. M.|
|Dance, J. C. G.||Johnson, Eric (Blackley)||Pilkington, Capt. R. A.|
|Davidson, Viscountess||Johnson, Howard (Kemptown)||Pitman, I. J.|
|D'Avigdor-Goldsmid, Sir Henry||Jones, Rt. Hon. Aubrey (Hall Green)||Pitt, Miss E. M.|
|Deedes, W. F.||Joseph, Sir Keith||Pott, H. P.|
|Digby, Simon Wingfield||Joynson-Hicks, Hon. Sir Lancelot||Powell, J. Enoch|
|Dodds-Parker, A. D.||Kaberry, D.||Price, David (Eastleigh)|
|Donaldson, Cmdr. C. E. McA.||Keegan, D.||Price, Henry (Lewisham, W.)|
|Doughty, C. J. A.||Kerby, Capt. H. B.||Profumo, J. D.|
|Drayson, G. B.||Kershaw, J. A.||Raikes, Sir Victor|
|du Cann, E. D. L.||Kimball, M.||Ramsden, J. E.|
|Dugdale, Rt. Hn. Sir T. (Richmond)||Kirk, P. M,||Rawlinson, Peter|
|Duncan, Capt. J. A. L.|
|Duthie, W. S.||Lagden, G. W.||Rees-Davies, W. R.|
|Eccles, Rt. Hon. Sir David||Lambert, Hon. G.||Remnant, Hon. P.|
|Eden, J. B. (Bournemouth, West)||Lambton, Viscount||Renton, D. L. M.|
|Emmet, Hon. Mrs. Evelyn||Lancaster, Col. C. G.||Ridsdale, J. E.|
|Errington, Sir Eric||Langford-Holt, J. A.||Rippon, A. G. F.|
|Erroll, F. J.||Leather, E. H. C.||Robertson, Sir David|
|Farey-Jones, F. W.||Leavey, J. A.||Robinson, Sir Roland (Blackpool, S.)|
|Fell, A.||Leburn, W. G.||Robson-Brown, W.|
|Finlay, Graeme||Legge-Bourke, Ma). E. A. H.||Rodgers, John (Sevenoaks)|
|Fisher, Nigel||Legh, Hon. Peter (Petersfield)||Roper, Sir Harold|
|Fletcher-Cooke, C.||Lennox-Boyd, Rt. Hon. A. T.||Ropner, Col. Sir Leonard|
|Fort, R.||Lindsay, Hon. James (Devon, N.)||Russell, R. S.|
|Fraser, Hon. Hugh (Stone)||Lindsay, Martin (Solihull)||Sandys, Rt. Hon. D.|
|Fraser, Sir Ian (M'cmbe & Lonsdale)||Linstead, Sir H. N.||Schofield, Lt.-Col. W.|
|Freeth, D. K.||Llewellyn, D. T.||Scott-Miller, Cmdr. R.|
|Garner-Evans, E. H.||Lloyd, Rt. Hon. C.(Sutton Coidfield)||Shepherd, William|
|George, J. C. (Pollok)||Lloyd, Maj. Sir Guy (Renfrew, E.)||Simon, J. E. S. (Middlesbrough, W.)|
|Gibson-Watt, D.||Lloyd-George, Maj. Rt. Hon. G.||Smithers, Peter (Winchester)|
|Glover, D.||Low, Rt. Hon. A. R. W.||Smyth, Brig. Sir John (Norwood)|
|Godber, J. B.||Lucas, Sir Jocelyn (Portsmouth, S.)||Soames, Capt. C.|
|Gomme-Duncan, Col. Sir Alan||Lucas, P. B. (Brentford & Chiswick)||Spearman, Sir Alexander|
|Gough, C. F. H.||Lucas-Tooth, Sir Hugh||Speir, R. M.|
|Cower, H. R.||McAdden, S. J.||Spence, H. R. (Aberdeen, W.)|
|Graham, Sir Fergus||McCallum, Major Sir Duncan||Spens, Rt. Hn. Sir P. (Kens'gt'n, S.)|
|Grant, W. (Woodside)||Macdonald, Sir Peter||Stanley, Capt. Hon. Richard|
|Grant-Ferris, Wg Cdr. R. (Nantwich)||Mackeson, Brig. Sir Harry||Stevens, Geoffrey|
|Green, A.||McKibbin, A. J.||Steward, Harold (Stockport, S.)|
|Gresham Cooke, R.||Mackie, J. T. (Galloway)||Steward, Sir William (W'lwich, W.)|
|Grimston, Hon. John (St. Albans)||McLaughlin, Mrs. P.||Stewart, Henderson (Fife, E.)|
|Gurden, Harold||Maclean, Fitzroy (Lancaster)||Storey, S.|
|Hall, John (Wycombe)||McLean, Neil (Inverness)||Stuart, Rt. Hon. James (Moray)|
|Hare, Rt. Hon. J. H.||Macleod, Rt. Hn. Iain (Enfield, W.)||Studholme, Sir Henry|
|Harris, Frederic (Croydon, N. W.)||MacLeod, John (Ross & Cromarty)||Sumner, W. D. M. (Orpington)|
|Harris, Reader (Heston)||Macmillan, Rt. Hn. Harold (Bromley)||Taylor, William (Bradford, N.)|
|Harrison, A. B. C. (Maldon)||Macmillan, Maurice (Halifax)||Teeling, W.|
|Harrison, Col. J. H. (Eye)||Maddan, Martin||Temple, J. M.|
|Harvey, Ian (Harrow, E.)||Maitland, Cdr. J. F. W. (Horncastle)||Thomas, Leslie (Canterbury)|
|Harvey, John (Walthamstow, E.)||Maitland, Hon. Patrick (Lanark)||Thomas, P. J. M. (Conway)|
|Harvie-Watt, Sir George||Manningham-Buller, Rt. Hn. Sir R.||Thompson, Kenneth (Walton)|
|Hay, John||Markham, Major Sir Frank||Thompson, Lt.-Cdr. R.(Croydon, S.)|
|Head, Rt. Hon. A. H.||Marlowe, A. A. H.||Thorneycroft, Rt. Hon. P.|
|Heald, Rt. Hon. Sir Lionel||Marples, A. E.||Thornton-Kemsley, C. N.|
|Heath, Rt. Hon. E. R. G.||Marshall, Douglas||Tiley, A, (Bradford, W.)|
|Henderson, John (Cathcart)||Maude, Angus||Tilney, John (Wavertree)|
|Hesketh, R. F.||Maudling, Rt. Hon. R.||Touche, Sir Gordon|
|Hicks-Beach, Maj, W. W.||Mawby, R. L.||Turner, H. F. L.|
|Hill, Rt. Hon. Charles (Luton)||Maydon, Lt.-Comdr. S. L. C.||Turton, Rt. Hon. H.|
|Hill, Mrs. E. (Wythenshawe)||Medlicott, Sir Frank||Vane, W. M. F.|
|Hill, John (S. Norfolk)||Milligan, Rt. Hon. W. R.||Vaughan-Morgan, J. K.|
|Hinchingbrooke, Viscount||Molson, Rt. Hon. Hugh||Vickers, Miss J. H.|
|Hirst, Geoffrey||Monckton, Rt. Hon. Sir Walter||Vosper, D. F.|
|Holland-Martin, C. J.||Morrison, John (Salisbury)||Wakefield, Edward (Derbyshire, W.)|
|Hope, Lord John||Mott-Radclyffe, C. E.||Wakefield, Sir Wavell (S. M'lebone)|
|Hornby, R. P.||Nabarro, G. D. N.||Walker-Smith, D. C.|
|Hornsby-Smith, Miss M. P.||Nairn, D. L. S.||Wall, Major Patrick|
|Horobin, Sir Ian||Neave, Airey||Ward, Hon. George (Worcester)|
|Howard, Gerald (Cambridgeshire)||Nicholls, Harmar||Waterhouse, Capt. Rt. Hon. C.|
|Howard, Hon. Greville (St. Ives)||Nicholson, Godfrey (Farnham)||Watkinson, Rt. Hon. Harold|
|Howard, John (Test)||Nicolson, N. (B'n'm'th, E. & Chr'ch)||Webbe, Sir H.|
|Hughes Hallett, Vice-Admiral J.||Noble, Comdr. A. H. P.||Whitelaw, W. S. I.(Penrith & Border)|
|Williams, Paul (Sunderland, S.)||Wilton, Geoffrey (Truro)||TELLERS FOR THE NOES:|
|Williams, R. Dudley (Exeter)||Wood, Hon. R.||Mr. Redmayne and|
|Wills, G. (Bridgwater)||Woollam, John Victor||Mr. T. G. D. Galbraith.|
§ Bill committed to a Standing Committee pursuant to Standing Order No. 38 (Committal of Bills).