HC Deb 27 March 1957 vol 567 cc1284-90

It may be convenient to discuss with this, the Amendments in page 26, lines 34 and 38, and in page 27, line 7.

These Amendments are linked with previous Amendments which passed under the Guillotine and which I have not had an opportunity to explain—[HON. MEMBERS: "Oh."]—yes, and as all those were minor paving Amendments, I am taking the opportunity to explain the main Amendments here. This group of Amendments deals with proposals to amend the valuation lists which were made before 15th March, 1957, the date on which the Amendments were tabled.

Under the Bill as drafted, the gross value for calculating the rent limit is the gross value in the list on 7th November last. There is provision for adjusting that gross value to take account of proposals to alter the list that were made before 7th November, but there is no corresponding provision for rateable value on that date. It is rateable value which determines whether a house is decontrolled or not, so it is reasonable to allow proposals which have the same effect on rateable value for the purpose of decontrol as they have on the 1956 gross value. That is one of the results which the Amendment achieves.

It deals with a further matter. The date before which proposals must be made has been brought forward to 15th March. The reason is that it is desirable to bring in as many bona fide proposals as possible. If a dwelling is above the decontrol limit at the commencement of the Act, and if a proposal, made before 15th March to reduce the rateable value, is still pending, the dwelling will remain in control until the proposal is settled. If the dwelling is finally shown to be decontrolled, the 15 months' standstill will begin to run from that day.

There is one case where a pending proposal is not allowed to hold up decontrol. It is the case in which the old rateable value, that is the pre-1956 rateable value, was above the decontrol limit. This Amendment is to prevent decontrol being held up where, for instance, an Amendment to the valuation lists in respect of a house with a rateable value of say £75 is now pending. Reduction of rateable value in that case could not conceivably bring it below the decontrol limit. Where there is a pending proposal to increase the value for rating purposes of a dwelling that is now under the decontrol limit, the dwelling will remain controlled until the proposal results in the rateable value being raised above that limit.

This matter was touched on in Committee and there was a consensus there that action of this kind should be taken. Paragraph 5 of the Amendment provides for the application of this part of the Schedule to Scotland. It contains provisions equivalent to those contained in Part I for England and Wales, but it does not contain the provision for aggregation as in paragraph 1 (c) of the English provisions because the case dealt with in that provision does not arise in Scotland. I hope that with that brief explanation—[HON. MEMBERS: "Shame."]—I will have satisfied English, Scottish and Welsh Members that the Amendment is reasonable.

Mr. Deputy-Speaker (Sir Charles MacAndrew)

The Question is, "That those words be there inserted in the Bill." Those that are of that opinion say "Aye".

Hon. Members


Mr. Deputy-Speaker

To the contrary, "No".

Hon. Members


Mr. Deputy-Speaker

The "Ayes" have it.

Mr. Mitchison

On a point of order. I had risen, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, before you finally collected the voices.

Mr. Weitzman

Further to that point of order. I was on my feet before you put the Question, Mr. Deputy-Speaker.

Mr. Deputy-Speaker

I did not see the hon. and learned Member.

Mr. Weitzman

I am sorry, but I rose immediately the Minister sat down.

Mr. Deputy-Speaker

Of course, I have a name, which the hon. and learned Member might have shouted. Mr. Weitzman.

Mr. Weitzman

As the Minister has stated, the Amendment is linked with a number of Amendments which could not be discussed because of the Guillotine. I see that paragraph 1 (a) of the Amendment deals with premises that are a hereditament, whilst paragraph (1) (b) deals with premises that form part of a hereditament. I want to ask the Minister if he can assist me and say whether the Amendment deals with a very difficult situation which I think arises under the Bill. May I put an instance to him?

Suppose that a person is a tenant of premises in London the rateable value of which is over £40, and suppose that these premises are let to a number of sub-tenants, the tenant retaining one or two rooms only. Clearly, the subtenants can have their rateable values apportioned, and if their premises are rated at less than £40 they will foe controlled tenants, but, as I read the Bill, the tenant whose rateable value is over £40 is a decontrolled tenant. If the Minister would be good enough to look at Clause 10 and to link that up with Clause 19, which is the definition Clause. he will see that that situation arises.

Clause 10 says quite clearly that the Rent Acts do not apply to a dwelling-house where, in London, the rateable value is £40. Clause 19, the definition Clause, defines a dwelling thus— dwelling ", in relation to a controlled tenancy, means the aggregate of the premises comprised in the tenancy: It is true that subsection (3) of Clause 19 deals with the rateable value of part of premises, but that does not affect the definition of a dwelling as contained in that Clause, and, as I read it, the extraordinary position is created that a tenant of premises in a tenancy of a house with a rateable value of over £40, where he may have been in occupation for many years and may now be in occupation of perhaps one or two rooms only, is a decontrolled tenant, and the rest of the premises, let to a number of sub-tenants, are controlled premises.

There are thousands of these cases throughout the country, and this means that a very difficult situation will be created and a great deal of injustice done to the tenants of premises who, although technically tenants of premises where the rateable value is £40, are only in physical possession of a very small part of the premises. I ask the Minister whether he recognises that difficulty, whether this Amendment deals with it in any way, and, if it does not deal with it, whether he will look into it again so that grievances of this kind may be remedied as soon as possible, and litigation made unnecessary to clear up the point if there is any doubt about it.

Mr. H. Brooke

I will certainly examine and re-examine what the hon. Gentleman has said, but, if I understand him aright, the point he has raised has been covered by an Amendment to page 24, line 21, to which a rather thinner House agreed about an hour ago.

Mr. Harold Gurden (Birmingham, Selly Oak)

I will be very brief, but I wish to touch on the same point. Apparently, according to columns 1318 and 1330 of the OFFICIAL REPORT of the debates of Standing Committee A, the Members of the Committee were not quite clear what the position would be under the Schedule. I am concerned, and I think most of us should be concerned, with the position regarding flats over shops. I still do not understand, even after listening to my right hon. Friend, whether or not a flat which is rented with a shop as one whole tenancy would be decontrolled or not under this Schedule.

10.15 p.m.

There are thousands of cases where flats may have a rateable value of £20 or £25, with the shop having a rateable value of £30 or £35, which brings the whole property out of control, if it is considered as a whole, whereas the flat itself is the only part which is a dwelling. If it is the intention of the Minister to take out of control only dwellings which are over the £30 or the £40 limits, I cannot see why dwelling accommodation consisting of a flat over a shop should not continue to be controlled if it is below the £30 limit.

I should be grateful if my right hon. Friend would clarify that point. If, even with the Amendments which have been made, the provisions of this Bill will result in taking out of control dwelling accommodation below a rateable value of £30, some of us have been deceived—[HON. MEMBERS: "We have all been deceived."]—and I ask that my right hon. Friend clarify that point.

Mr. H. Brooke

A dwelling-house with a rateable value below £30 will certainly remain controlled. [HON. MEMBERS: "For how long?"] I think that my hon. Friend has at the back of his mind certain difficult questions about mixed tenancies, and I shall be glad to have a talk with him about it—[HON. MEMBERS:"Talk to the House."]—but I would say, with respect, that the Amendment which I am commending to the House deals with an entirely different matter.

Mr. Weitzman

Will the Minister please note that the Amendment to which he refers as being an answer to the point I raised does not answer my point in any way? I shall be grateful, therefore, if he will look at the matter again.

Amendment agreed to.

Further Amendment made: In page 26, line 34, leave out from "the" to "or" in line 35 and insert: fifteenth day of March, nineteen hundred and fifty-seven".

In line 38, leave out "said date" and insert: seventh day of November, nineteen hundred and fifty-six".—[Mr. H. Brooke.]

Mr. H. Brooke

I beg to move, in page 27, line 1, to leave out paragraph 3.

This is a paving Amendment for a much longer Amendment in line 36 at the end to insert Part III and Part IV. The new Part III deals with the position of the tenant who has carried out, or has contributed, to the cost of improvements which he claims have had the effect of increasing the 1956 gross value and rateable value of his house. I hope that I shall have the attention and sympathy of hon. Members opposite in explaining this Amendment, because it deals with a point raised originally by the hon. Member for Widnes (Mr. MacColl) in the earlier stages of the Bill. In fact, it was my predecessor who gave an undertaking that he would look into this matter, and I have carried out that promise.

The provision of this new Part III will carry out the assurance given by my predecessor both as regards the 1956 gross value, which determines the rent limit for the letting of the house remaining in control, and as regards rateable value which decides whether the house should go out of control or not. It is only improvements of a substantial nature which will affect the valuation for rating purposes and the provisions are accordingly limited to improvements which involve structural alterations, extensions or additions.

The Amendment explains how the tenant must make his claim, how the reduction of the gross value and the rateable value may be effected by agreement between the landlord and tenant, and how, if there is disagreement, the tenant must refer the matter to the county court, whose decision is final and conclusive.

As this is an Amendment designed —successfully designed, I believe—to meet a point raised in Standing Committee by the Opposition, and as I am anxious that the Opposition should have an opportunity to move an Amendment later on the Order Paper, I will, with the permission of the House, not prolong my explanation.

Amendment agreed to.

Further Amendments made: In page 27, line 7, leave out "said seventh day of November" and insert: fifteenth day of March, nineteen hundred and fifty-seven".

In page 27, leave out lines 26 and 27.

In line 36, at end insert:

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