HC Deb 30 October 1956 vol 558 cc1247-9
51. Mr. Elliot

asked the Secretary of State for Scotland to make a statement on the subject of rent control in Scotland.

48. Mr. Woodburn

asked the Secretary of State for Scotland to make a statement as to the Government proposals to change or abolish rent restrictions in Scotland.

53. Mr. Willis

asked the Secretary of State for Scotland to make a statement on the future of rent control in Scotland.

55. Mr. McInnes

asked the Secretary of State for Scotland what proposals he has for alterations in the Rent Restriction Acts so far as these relate to Scotland.

57. Mr. Rankin

asked the Secretary of State for Scotland what proposals he has in regard to rent control in Scotland.

60. Mrs. Mann

asked the Secretary of State for Scotland if, when introducing new legislation amending the Rent Restriction Acts, he will take steps to prevent the eviction of wives and families who have been deserted by husbands who remain nominal tenants and have a security of tenure they no longer require.

Mr. J. Stuart

The Government have had under review the present application of rent control in Scotland and have come to the conclusion that, subject to necessary safeguards, the first steps should be taken towards the abolition of control. Account must, of course, be taken of the special conditions which prevail in Scotland, and the Government's proposals will be placed before Parliament in due course.

Mr. Elliot

In his consideration, will my right hon. Friend pay special attention to the fact that overcrowding is very much higher in Scotland than it is south of the Border? Will he take that specially into consideration in the review which he carries out?

Mr. Stuart

I assure my right hon. Friend, who has very great knowledge of this matter, that that is, of course, being taken into consideration.

Mr. T. Fraser

Will the right hon. Gentleman, when considering the matter, also take into account the deplorable state of much of the housing accommodation in Scotland? Will he give an assurance that he will not merely tack his provisions on to some Bill which may be put forward in this House by the Minister of Housing and Local Government? Will he give an assurance that we who represent Scotland will be able to deal with the matter in our own way?

Mr. Stuart

I know that this is a matter of very great importance and obvious interest to Scottish Members of Parliament, but the fact is that the subject has been dealt with in the past on a United Kingdom basis. The ten Acts on the Statute Book which deal with rent control or the rents code are all United Kingdom Measures. I am not aware of any special reason for departing from past practice and having a separate Bill for Scotland.

Mr. Fraser

Did we not have a separate Scottish Measure in 1954?

Mr. Stuart

That related to repairs and rents. I am dealing at the moment with rent control.

Mr. McInnes

As the right hon. Gentleman has been responsible for introducing the Measure relating to rents and repairs, a 40 per cent. increase in rents, the abolition of owners' rates, other rating and valuation provisions and the proposed cut in housing subsidies, all being measures which have imposed hardship on the Scottish people, and is now to be responsible for the ultimate annihilation of rent restriction, will he tell the Scottish people what they are to use in future in place of money?

Mr. Stuart

The hon. Member says "in place of money". He must know very well that the truth is that the average weekly wage has been increased very considerably. Due to general costs rising, the cost of maintaining houses in good repair has risen equally. Our object is to try to ensure that houses are maintained in good condition.

Mr. Rankin

From the statement of the Secretary of State, it now appears that it has been the intention all along to tag on to the English Bill the question of rent control in Scotland. Why was that information not given at the very beginning? What fight did the Secretary of State put up to get a separate Bill for Scotland?

Mr. Stuart

I do not know what the hon. Member means by the information not having been given at the very beginning. I have not had the advantage of a Scottish platform in Wales, but I am now giving the information.

Mr. Fraser

Will the right hon. Gentleman bear in mind the promises which he and his colleagues have given to the Scottish people about Scottish Members of Parliament being allowed to look after Scottish affairs? Will he in this matter follow the example which he himself set when he had legislation dealing with rents before the House in 1954?

Mr. Stuart

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 Scottish Standing Committee and Parliament to have a separate Bill for Scotland.