§ [3RD ALLOTTED DAY]
§ Order for Third Reading read.
§ 4.18 p.m.
§ The Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Housing and Local Government (Mr. J. R. Bevins)
I beg to move, That the Bill be now read the Third time.
We are sometimes rather apt to forget that although the two sides of the House approach the problem of rent control differently there is, nevertheless, more common ground between us than is supposed. For example, I think that we agree that so long as rents remain at their present levels the condition of literally millions of houses must become worse and lead to the creation of an ever-increasing number of houses which are simply unfit for human beings to live in. That is certainly the view of right hon. and hon. Members on this side of the House, and I do not think that it is unfair to say that that view is also implicit in the last policy statement of the Labour Party.
I think that it is also common ground that— as one hon. Member opposite recently put in a letter to the Economist — the occupation of controlled houses has now becomea vested interest which nobody will ever part with if he can help it.That is a perfectly fair statement. This, in turn, is one reason why, taking the country as a whole, there is now, in our view, at any rate, a good deal of under-occupation.
As I say, that is our view, and it was also the view that was implicitly expressed by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Ebbw Vale (Mr. Bevan) when we debated the 1954 Housing Repairs and Rents Act. He then said that… taking the country as a whole, 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.]I think that it was in this connection that the hon. Member for Wellingborough (Mr. Lindgren) commented that his right hon. Friend did not walk upon 1363 the water. I hasten to agree with him; we never thought that the right hon. Gentleman did, but, on that particular occasion, the right hon. Gentleman was probably correct.
Against this background, it seems to us that we should be scampering away from our responsibilities if the Government were content merely to pull down the slums and build new houses while turning a blind eye to the consequences of rent control itself. I think that the party opposite recognises that almost as much— perhaps as much— as we do on this side of the House. Of course, it is one thing to agree on certain of the weaknesses that exist in our housing situation and quite another to agree upon a solution. That is when the daggers come out. That is why the OFFICIAL REPORT of the proceedings in the Standing Committee covers 1,362 columns of print— about three-quarters of a million words. I have no doubt that, but for the Guillotine about which hon. Gentleman opposite have complained so bitterly, the OFFICIAL REPORT would have covered very many more columns.
We have been criticised by right hon. and hon. Members opposite not so much for having decided to tackle this problem, but rather for refusing to bow down before the sacred cow of public ownership— not that that is, I think, quite so sacred as it was, in the minds of some hon. Gentlemen opposite. Of course, it is no secret that a few of my hon. Friends, whose ideological rectitude I should never dream of questioning, have been just a bit restive in recent weeks. Indeed, their untiring support for the principles of the Bill has almost been equalled by their longing to drive a coach and horses through it.
As originally introduced, the Bill contained two main provisions. The first, as a preliminary to eventual rent decontrol when that can be done with safety and justice to the community, is to provide for limited increases in the rents of several million controlled dwellings in England and Wales, conditional upon their being put into proper repair. The second is to decontrol about 800,000 rented houses of relatively high rateable value. I leave aside for the moment, if I may, the millions of owner-occupied 1364 houses, which, as hon. Members know, are also affected by the Measure.
Naturally, the Bill has excited a certain amount of controversy. It is true to say that it has excited also certain apprehensions in the House and throughout the country. I should like, if I may, to say right away that my right hon. Friend really has been painstaking in considering the many representations and ideas which have been put to him to vary and amend provisions of the Bill. Having said that, I should like now to recount— 'because I think that the House would like me to do so— for the sake of clarity the principal changes which have been written into the Bill since it had its Second Reading.
Perhaps I may group these changes under four broad headings. They are: first, decontrol; secondly, the adjustment of gross and rateable values; thirdly, rent increases and the disrepair machinery; and, fourthly, and lastly, new tenancies. First, decontrol. What was becoming quite well known as— I think the adjective "infamous" has been used about it — Clause 9, now Clause 10— has undoubtedly given rise to a great deal of hard thinking.
I do not disguise from the House that my right hon. Friend has received quite a few letters about the Clause, and has read quite a few articles about it as well. He has devoted a great deal of time to consideration of the Clause. The suggestion was put to him early in our proceedings that the Bill was decontrolling too large a number of houses, and that it might be more prudent to reduce the rateable value figure from £ 100 to, say, £ 60 in the case of London, and, perhaps, from £ 75 to £ 40 or £ 50 in the areas outside London. As it happens, the houses in the higher brackets of rateable value are relatively few, and my right hon. Friend eventually dismissed this idea for the reason that creeping and slow decontrol on such cautious lines would have concentrated far too great a demand on far too few houses.
He did, however, come to the conclusion that the complete decontrol of these houses at only six months' notice after the Measure comes into force would be too sudden, too abrupt. To begin with, it was doubtful whether such a period as six months would have given the market time to settle. It was even more doubtful 1365 whether such a period would be altogether sufficient to enable landlords and tenants to reach agreement on new terms.
Moreover, there will obviously be certain cases where landlords will wish to regain vacant possession, either for their own occupation or for conversion into additional dwellings, and in such cases tenants should be given sufficient time to find other accommodation which will suit them. I think that it goes without saying that it is desirable to give time for the conversions of larger houses to be carried out, so that more individual lettings may come on the market.
Mainly for these reasons, my right hon. Friend made the decision to extend the six months period of standstill to 15 months. He has provided that if, during that period, a new tenancy for a period of at least three years is agreed between landlord and tenant it can come into operation as from the date of the agreement at a higher rent during the standstill period. Meanwhile, any notice to quit will have to provide for a six-month interval before it operates and, of course, it cannot operate until the 15 months' standstill period has elapsed.
One of the vexed questions arising out of this Clause is whether the 15-month period is right and reasonable. Some hon. Members think that it is too short; others, that it is too long. In the last resort, this is a matter of judgment, but my right hon. Friend believes that this revised period is the right one. It affords to tenants a reasonable term of security, and it ought to encourage landlords to come to terms with tenants. If they fail to do so during that interval of 15 months they are tied to the controlled rent for the whole of that period.
Now I turn to the anti-premium provisions. We now say, quite simply, that no premium or similar payment shall be required for any dwelling-houses decontrolled under the Bill, so that landlords shall not have this incentive to evict a sitting tenant in order to demand a premium from an incoming tenant. This prohibition will apply to all tenancies granted in a period of three years from the date on which the Bill comes into force, including those tenancies at rents of less than two-thirds of the rateable value and running for a term up to twenty-one years.
For the purpose of the Bill, premiums include excessive prices for furniture 1366 and fittings, forced loans which include a requirement to take shares in a company, and also rent in advance. It is fair to say that we have now removed doubts whether local authorities can prosecute under the 1949 Act for premium offences. There is a third provision which, in certain cases, although by no means all, will help to smooth the way to decontrol.
It is this: if a tenant is obliged to give up possession because of decontrol he will be entitled, under what we think are fair conditions, to claim compensation for improvements for which he has been responsible, provided that they were made since the end of the war, which is going back a matter of eleven or twelve years. The value of the improvements and of the compensation to be paid will be determined, according to the Bill, by the county court in default of agreement between landlord and tenant.
In the view of my right hon. Friend these three modifications of decontrol, looked at collectively, are just to tenants and to landlords. At the same time, they do not impair the fundamental principles of the Bill and they will facilitate the transition to decontrol provided for in this part of the Bill.
§ Mr. J. A. Sparks (Acton)
How is the landlord to be detected in the taking of a premium for a tenancy? It presupposes that the tenant must be prepared to pay that premium. Otherwise, there is no case against the landlord. Would it, therefore, be possible for a tenant who has paid a premium to a landlord to take the landlord to court and sue him for the return of the premium? If that procedure is not acceptable, a landlord can never be apprehended by the court for receiving a premium.
§ Mr. Bevins
The position under the Bill is that it is within the jurisdiction of the local authority in certain cases to take action against the offending landlord, and if it is demonstrated that the premium has been required a fine will be paid; and the tenant has certain rights against the landlord who has offended against this provision of the Bill.
I turn to the second group of changes in the Bill, those concerning gross values and rateable values. We have provided for the adjustment of gross values or rateable values to take account of 1367 alterations in the valuation lists which result from proposals made before 15th March, 1957, that is, alterations following the settlement of proposals mainly following upon the last revaluation. This is obviously right.
In the second place, we have arranged to adjust both gross values and rateable values to take account of improvements in the property carried out by or paid for by the tenant. The amount of these improvements can be agreed between landlords and tenants. Failing that, the county court can determine the extent of the tenants' improvements. From that point it will be the responsibility of the valuation officer to certify by how much the gross value or the rateable value should be reduced as a result.
There has been quite a number of cases — referred to extensively in the newspapers and by the hon. Member for Widnes (Mr. MacColl) in the Standing Committee— where tenants, at their own expense, have added such things as garages or other structures to the houses which they occupy and who, on that account, then found their rateable values at a level which would take them out of the sphere of control. That, obviously, is wrong.
Then there are other cases where, although the properties will remain in control because the rateable value in London is less than £ 40 or outside London than £ 30, nevertheless the gross value has risen because of the tenant's own exertions. The landlord in that class of case would be entitled to a higher controlled rent. I am sure that hon. Members would agree that both of those consequences would be unjust if they were allowed to persist. We believe that the provisions imported into the Bill subsequent to the Second Reading will ensure that those cases do not occur.
I now come to the principal Amendment affecting rent increases, and the disrepair machinery. Where a house remains in control the landlord will not now be able to increase the rent against the provisions of a contractual tenancy. There is fairly general agreement that that was a wise change. Next, we have taken steps to protect tenants against what is commonly termed the "bad landlord". Local authorities will now have discretion to refuse to accept from a landlord an 1368 undertaking to do repairs after it has decided to issue a certificate, if the landlord has previously fallen down on his obligations in respect of repairs; if, for example, the landlord has been served with a previous certificate of disrepair on that house, or has failed to carry out an undertaking given in the area of that local authority. We have written into the Bill a provision that where a landlord has given an undertaking to execute repairs, then either the landlord or the tenant may apply at the end of six months for a certificate saying whether the undertaking has been carried out.
We have had long and detailed debates in Committee and in the whole House on the disrepair provisions. It has been strenuously argued by hon. Gentlemen opposite that entitlement to increases of rent ought to be made conditional upon the execution of repairs. It is true, and I concede it freely— the House knows it, anyway— that the procedure in the Bill represents a departure from that embodied in earlier legislation; but it is not a sin to innovate. We look in an empirical fashion at the problem as it faces the country today, and we know that repairs have often not been done because owners of property have lacked the means to do them. Therefore, we are doing what we think is reasonable. We are giving landlords the incentive offered by increased rents from the start. We are also saying that if they fail to do repairs they will be beaten by the stick of rent abatement.
I come to new tenancies. As originally drafted, the Bill protected the right of a widow or other member of a deceased tenant's family to succeed to the statutory tenancy of a controlled house, but it was difficult for a non-lawyer to know how this was secured by the provisions and the phraseology of the Bill.
§ Mr. Bevins
That does not surprise me at all.
This has now been put beyond all doubt by the Government's Amendment. We have also ensured that if a sitting tenant is given a new tenancy of a house remaining under control that tenancy will remain controlled if some part of the 1369 premises are common to both the new and the old tenancies. That is designed, of course, to prevent a tenant from being led into giving up a controlled tenancy in return for a new one which would not be controlled.
Finally, we have put in a new Clause, applicable practically to all lettings, including those of local authorities and housing associations, which ensures a minimum period of four week's notice to quit.
So much for the principal changes which have been imported into the Bill. I should like to say that, whether those changes have been suggested by hon. Members opposite or by hon. Members on this side of the House, my right hon. Friend is very grateful indeed for them, as, indeed, he is also grateful to all those Members of the House who served on the Standing Committee for, in the aggregate, about 70 hours.
I want to make one or two brief comments on the Bill as a whole. The first is this. The assumption that this Bill will help no one but the landlord is, in my view, quite untenable. The House knows perfectly well the Government's case for this Measure. It is, I think, sometimes overlooked to what extent the Bill will also help millions of owner-occupiers. We all know that in present circumstances people who have bought their houses or are buying them on mortgage and want to move, but do not want to sell their property, are very often in the greatest difficulty. Now, for the first time for many a long year, many of these people will be able to let unfurnished under a normal tenancy the houses which they at present occupy. This, undoubtedly, will help people who want such tenancies and who cannot get them at present to get them in future.
Moreover, the existing temptation, which, as the House knows, is almost irresistible as long as control exists, for owners to sell controlled houses when they get vacant possession will be much less urgent than it has been in the past. Indeed, in certain parts of the country many of these houses are now being held in anticipation of letting once this Bill becomes law.
These things will all help young families who want to rent houses, but who have been prevented from doing so by the operation of rent control. I would go so 1370 far as to say that if there is one section of the community which has been hit by rent control it is the young men and women who have married in the post-war years and who have never had a stake in a rent controlled house.
No doubt we shall continue to differ about the Bill, at least for a little time to come, but in the long run its successful operation will depend not only on whether the Bill itself is soundly conceived, as my right hon. Friend and hon. Members on this side of the House believe it is, but also on the attitude of mind of those who will work the operation of it, the tenant, the landlord and the local authority.
Hon. Members on both sides are all too familiar with a phenomenon common to all our post-war Elections— the feeling against the rising cost of living. The party in office always says, "Oh, it is really not too bad, after all." And the party in opposition always says, "It is shocking ". Among all the glorious uncertainties of the political sphere in which we live there is always the one cast-iron certainty that no one likes the price of anything to go up unless he happens to be selling it, including his own labour, and that is why, in the short run, this Measure cannot be universally popular. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh."] We do not expect it to be. We should be asses If members of Her Majesty's Government expected a Measure to raise rents in a general fashion to bring votes to the Conservative Party. The only reason Her Majesty's Government have introduced this Bill is that we believe that it is right, and in the national interest.
In the long run, this Bill, embarking as it does, on the abolition of one of our major economic controls, will be judged as the public has judged other decontrols, not by its impact on the rent of this house or that house, but by its broad, general influence on the housing situation and the national economy; and we are confident that that judgment, in the course of time, will be favourable.
§ 4.46 p.m.
§ Mr. G. Lindgren (Wellingborough)
It is not unusual on the occasion of a Third Reading to offer congratulations, but it is very difficult to do so on this occasion. One has sympathy with both the Minister and the Parliamentary Secretary who 1371 have been flung into this Bill. I will not say that it was entirely without their own agreement, but, at least, they were made responsible for it after the original Bill had been presented to the House. As has been so often said, it is an infamous Bill. We cannot congratulate them at all on their conduct of the Bill through the House because we feel that, in accepting office in a new Government, they ought to have been courageous enough to throw out this landlords' charter. At least, we can say for the Parliamentary Secretary that he this afternoon made a valiant effort, and with some success, to make the best case he can for the Bill.
If we are to give congratulations, I should like on behalf of hon. Members on this side of the House to say to my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Kettering (Mr. Mitchison) that we congratulate him and appreciate the work he has done in connection with the Bill and the mass of Amendments which have been dealt with. [Interruption.] I am delighted to see that these congratulations and appreciations are readily responded to by hon. Members opposite. My hon. and learned Friend's work has made the examination of the Bill much easier for those of us who have not had his legal training, and it has also made it possible for us sometimes to understand what, at first, were really incomprehensible Clauses in the Bill.
At this stage of the Bill it is very difficult to find anything really fresh to say about it, and all I propose to do is to try to ram home the points of objection which we have to the Bill and to expose the fallacious claims of the Government for the Bill. Some of these claims were reiterated by the Parliamentary Secretary this afternoon.
The first is, of course, that the Government have no mandate for the Bill at all. In fact, it has been brought into the House in defiance of direct pledges by the Government against it. My hon. and learned Friend the Member for Kettering, in his Second Reading speech, called attention to the fact that during the General Election campaign of 1955 my right hon. Friend the Member for Ebbw Vale (Mr. Bevan) and my right hon. Friend the Member for Bishop Auckland (Mr. Dalton), stated that if the Tory Party was returned to office in that election it would 1372 make Amendments to the Rent Restriction Acts to enable landlords to have considerably increased rents and would bring about some measure of decontrol.
As soon as my right hon. Friends made that statement, a denial was issued officially on behalf of the Tory Party. Strangely enough, it was issued under the heading of "Rents: Deceiving the people." Again, I ask the Minister, as my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Kettering put it to the then Minister on Second Reading, who was deceiving the people? The deception of the people by the Bill is against a pledge given at the General Election that the Government would not do this. It is somewhat similar to the statements by hon. and right hon. Members opposite concerning food subsidies and the rest at the time of the General Election of 1951.
We have had to fight the Bill under the Guillotine. As the Parliamentary Secretary rightly said— we are glad to agree when we can— but for the Guillotine the Bill as it emerged from the Committee stage would have been a much weightier document. The party opposite have sought to justify the use of the Guillotine procedure on the Bill by saying that a Labour Government used the Guillotine on the nationalisation of the transport, the mines, gas, electricity, steel and town and country planning.
It is true that we did it, but on those occasions the Conservative Party, then the Opposition, was defying the will of the people. [Interruption.] The Labour Government of 1945 were elected on a mandate which included the nationalisation of the mines and of transport and steel. [HON. MEMBERS: "Town and country planning?"] As hon. Members opposite seem to have doubts concerning the Town and Country Planning Act, 1947, I would remind them that the Labour Government were elected on a mandate to equate compensation and betterment, which was clearly stated in our 1945 Election manifesto. The Government of the day, therefore, were faced by an Opposition which was seeking to cause delay in giving effect to election pledges.
On this occasion, we as an Opposition are trying to stop the Government in their attempt to put over something for which they have no mandate. At Question Time, at least, we could judge from the 1373 talk about the "blower" that races were on, and we know something about three-card tricks. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh."] Oh yes, we knock around a bit. So far as tricksters are concerned, however, those who perpetrate the three-card trick on race trains have nothing on hon. and right hon. Members opposite. I have yet to hear of the trickster who came off the train with £ 100 million in his pocket. The Government are handing £ 100 million to their pals the landlords— that is the function of the Bill— and it is coming from the pockets of the ordinary men and women of the country.
We shall oppose the Third Reading of the Bill because of the hardship and anxiety that it will create amongst millions of people. The Parliamentary Secretary admitted that it has created doubts among the Government's own supporters. On one aspect of the Bill— the 810,000 houses with a rateable value of more than £ 30 or £ 40— we have seen considerable disquiet amongst hon. Members opposite and their disquiet has been shown by the Amendments which they have put down from time to time. Whilst by their Amendments' on the Order Paper hon. Members opposite have created a great deal of publicity for themselves in the newspapers, however, when it came to the question of dividing against the Government their courage failed them and we could get them to do no more than abstain from voting.
The Government have a majority of seventy. Where was that majority as we went through the Report stage? It was down to twenty-five, twenty-seven, thirty and thirty-one. Many Members of the Tory Party have taken advantage, as, of course, they are entitled to do, of abstaining from voting because they were afraid of the effect of those votes on their constituents at the next General Election.
We owe a debt to the party opposite in that they have put up the backs of the people against the Government. We ought to congratulate the Government on providing us with some of the best audiences we have had, from Lands End to John o' Groats, since the General Election of 1945. We also have to thank them for having enabled us to win the North Lewisham by-election, as a result of which we have secured a very good advocate on these benches. My hon. Friend the Member for Lewisham, North (Mr. MacDermot) yesterday made a 1374 brilliant speech attacking the Government on the Bill.
§ Mr. Lindgren
I do not claim that that was won on the Rent Bill.
The Parliamentary Secretary referred to the concessions in the Bill. The only material concession is that of the period of fifteen months and the possibility of three years' security upon agreement. But is that really much of a concession? I doubt it. In those cases, the landlord will give six months' notice to quit as soon as the authority of the Bill enables him to do so. The tenants of the 810,000 houses will then be in the position, having been given notice to quit, that the landlord says to them, "You have the notice to quit. We will negotiate a future rent, but if you do not agree to my terms, out you go."
The tenants will not be negotiating on an equal basis with the landlord and the landlord is bound to get the increase of rent to which he considers himself entitled, whether it is an increase of 200, 300 or 400 per cent. The tenant will have no redress whatever and will be negotiating under duress. Failure to reach agreement and the fact that, with his wife and family, he will be put out on the streets will place him in an intolerable position.
The Parliamentary Secretary said that the Minister has received quite a lot of letters. I believe that he has received a lot of telegrams, too. Sometimes the folk who send the letters and the telegrams are so anxious to let us know that the Minister has had them that they send copies to us. I have here a copy of a telegram sent to the Minister today. It says:Why not twice gross value as ceiling for three-year agreement? Only way to avoid hidden premium. What reasonable landlord could object? You know we speak for thousands.Does the Minister know where the telegram comes from? It comes from the Hampstead Anti-Rent Bill Association, from his own constituents— many thousands of them.
My early political activity was in the borough of St. Pancras which adjoins the right hon. Gentleman's constituency, and there were times when we enthusiastically expected a Labour candidate to win his 1375 constituency. I think there is a greater opportunity for that to happen now. The Minister knows from the activities within his own constituency that he has no authority from his people for the Bill. Hampstead will now become like Leamington, a very marginal constituency.
The Minister claimed— the Parliamentary Secretary did the same today in slightly less strenuous language— that the iniquities of the Rent Acts had caused the deterioration of property and had prevented landlords from maintaining their property in good repair. Landlords of working-class houses have never kept their property in good repair. In 1868 we had the Torrens Act which placed upon landlords the responsibility to maintain their property. We also had the Public Health Act, 1875, which gave local authorities public health powers because landlords were not maintaining their property.
Was it rent control in 1868 which prevented landlords from maintaining their property? Was it rent control in 1875 which caused the Government of that day to give local authorities such powers? I would emphasise that they were Tory Governments. We have thus had Tory Governments in the past who have had to place restrictions on the viciousness of landlords. Those Tory Governments knew their own friends. We also had the Housing of the Working Classes Act, 1890, which gave local authorities powers in respect of the compulsory purchase of land and compensation in respect of slum property, the local authorities being given power to carry out slum-clearance schemes and build dwellings where the owner was unable or unwilling to do so. What was it in 1890 that prevented landlords from maintaining their property?
Landlords never have maintained their property in a satisfactory condition, and they never will unless they have a local authority chasing them to do so. Those of us who have been associated with local government realise that it has taken some local authorities all their time to keep pace with landlords who have been deliberately evading statutory notices. I have a case in my constituency. It began in 1946, and it was completed only last year when the local authority applied a 1376 closure order to the property. That case took ten years to settle.
On the basis of our experience, I say that the increase in rent now made possible will go into the pockets of the landlords and will not in any way give rise to a better standard of property maintenance. One of the major complaints against the Bill is that, in spite of what the Parliamentary Secretary has said, nowhere in it is there any compulsion upon the landlord to spend any of the increased rent on his property. The only protection the tenant has is that of getting a certificate of disrepair, and even with that all the bias is against the tenant and in favour of the landlord.
I now turn to the question of the other 5 million houses which are subject to future control. Yesterday we had a statement from the Parliamentary Secretary which was by no means clear. I do not know whether it was intended to be evasive. The Minister has taken power to decontrol any or all of that property at any future time or in any place. There has been no indication whatever to the people of what the time lag is likely to be before future decontrol takes place.
The only statements that we have are those of the Minister and the Parliamentary Secretary and their predecessors that it is the aim of the Tory Party as quickly as possible to get a completely free market in housing and to decontrol all houses. Those statements being on the record, right hon. and hon. Gentlemen opposite cannot complain if the Opposition warns the people that that is likely to happen very quickly. It is true that in doing so we cause a considerable amount of disturbance in the minds of people who have had their homes for perhaps forty years and think that they are likely to lose them, but the reason for it is that the Government will not give any pledge about their intentions except that they intend as quickly as possible to bring about complete decontrol.
I wish now to refer to the subject of under-occupation. Although we have been discussing the Bill for a long while, no evidence has been put before us of under-occupation. The only evidence brought forward was given by me and it was in respect of right hon. and hon. Gentlemen opposite who have two or three houses, perhaps a London flat and a country house.
1377 It is true that a number of working class families and a number of elderly people today have perhaps a spare bedroom whereas they did not have one between the wars. Are hon. Gentlemen opposite prepared to let it go out from the House that they object to working-class families having a spare bedroom or sitting room?
Apparently hon. Gentlemen opposite are not rising to the bait this afternoon. No engineer, bricklayer, carpenter or railwayman has a town house and a country cottage. All they have is a spare bedroom or two. The Opposition is content that they should have such spare bedrooms. Many of us remember what it was like in the old days. We had to do our homework in the kitchen with the rest of the family running round. Hon. Gentlemen opposite have objected to such families having a sitting room where the youngsters can do their homework quietly. They object to the fact, and we have had it from Ministers opposite, that they can have television in the house.
There has been a big change in working-class standards, and that was brought about very largely as a result of the Labour Government of 1945. That Government gave the ordinary worker in this country the effective purchasing power with which to buy a higher standard of housing, and that was the cause of a considerable amount of the housing shortage, to which hon. Gentlemen opposite referred continually during that time, and which still exists.
The only way in which the accommodation can be made available is by forcing, by means of increased rents, those who have spare rooms to let them to other families which cannot afford to buy a house of their own— the normal practice of doubling up. On this side of the House, we contend that those who are producing the nation's wealth are entitled to enjoy a reasonable standard of housing in which to bring up their families. It is true that, as a result of the Welfare State, to which the Labour Government made such a great contribution and which hon. and right hon. Gentlemen opposite have been trying to do everything they can to destroy since they came to power in 1951, the old folk are now remaining in their own houses or in rented houses instead of going to the workhouse.
1378 Of course, it is true that some old-age pensioners have houses with a couple of spare bedrooms. They do not generally tenant 40-roomed mansions. The average working-class person does not rent anything more than the three-bedroom, parlour type house and, in such instances, all they have to spare is a couple of bedrooms. Hon. and right hon. Gentlemen opposite can increase the rent to such an extent that these old-age pensioners can no longer maintain their own homes. They can force them back to the workhouse, if they want to.
It is true, of course, that some hon. Gentlemen opposite have said, "We do not want to do that, but the Assistance Board will give the old-age pensioner an increased rent allowance." If they do that, do hon. Gentlemen opposite realise what it means? I thought they objected to subsidies, but it is estimated that, under this Bill, if old people remain in their houses, it will cost the Assistance Board £ 18 million a year. What is this £ 18 million for? It is £ 18 million of the taxpayers' money to be given to the old-age pensioners for half an hour and then handed over to the landlord, and, to put it bluntly, we might just as well make a direct payment from the Assistance Board to the landlords of £ 18 million.
§ Mr. Albert Evans (Islington, South West)
I suppose my hon. Friend is aware that the National Assistance Board has an upper limit of rent which it will pay? If one has a high rent above that limit, the Board can tell the tenant that he must find other accommodation, and that will result in some of these old people being forced out.
§ Mr. Lindgren
I am grateful to my hon. Friend the Member for Islington, South-West (Mr. A. Evans) for his intervention, which was relevant to my reference a moment ago to why these old folk are likely to be forced out of their houses. It means that they have either got to go into rooms or to the workhouse. [Interruption.] I do not think that hon. and right hon. Gentlemen opposite can be very proud of the fact that they are going to secure additional accommodation by turning old folk out of their houses, either into rooms, where they will be in great discomfort and perhaps an inconvenience to others——
§ Mr. Lindgren
One of my hon. Friends behind me says that there will be no rooms. I think there will be. It is true that hon. and right hon. Gentlemen opposite are going to make it so difficult for the ordinary worker to pay the rent, because it is being doubled, that he will be forced to let the spare bedroom, and some poor old lady will have to get out of her house and take a room for five or six shillings a week.
§ Mr. Sparks
I think the Minister was making the point that all the owner-occupiers henceforth will be letting their spare rooms to people who are going to be put out as a result of Clause 10 and the decontrol provisions. Will not my hon. Friend agree with me that the owner-occupiers who are going to let any such rooms do not want old people in their homes, and neither do they want young people with children? Therefore, these are two categories of people who will not be able to get accommodation at all.
§ Mr. Lindgren
I quite agree with my hon. Friend the Member for Acton (Mr. Sparks). I am making the best case I can for it. No one likes to share accommodation, and no one likes even the lodger, or the paying guest, as hon. Gentlemen opposite call him, but if one is up against it and has to find the money with which to pay the new rents, one has either to let accommodation or take in a lodger. It is on that basis that this Government is forcing up the rent, so that these people will have to do that kind of thing in order to meet their obligations for rent to their own landlords.
The Parliamentary Secretary made reference to the cost of living. If the present Government have been effective in anything, they have been effective in continually raising the cost of living and increasing the cost of rates and all sorts of things. Indeed, it is not so very long ago— in November, 1955— -when we had the Housing Subsidies Bill. I know that it is not an uncommon thing among Members of Parliament to read their own speeches, whatever they do about the speeches of others, but I have reread the speech that I made on the Housing Subsidies Bill, and I should like to conclude 1380 my speech on this Bill by reading to the present Minister and to hon. Gentlemen opposite the conclusion of that speech. I said:I conclude on this note, and I hope that the Minister will listen. Many of us on this side of the House are trade unionists. We still have some say in the policies which are adopted by our trade unions. In spite of the viciousness of the present Government in making attacks on the living standards of the people of this country, many of us have counselled inside the trade unions that there should be restraint in the making of wage claims. We have always said that no one really derives any advantage from the spiral which comes from wages chasing prices, and we have tried to get that policy adopted inside some of our trade unions.We have also tried to impress upon the Government the necessity of stabilising prices if wages are to be held equally in check. Some of us, because we have taken this attitude in cpite of the attitude of he Government, have been dubbed as Right wing.
§ Mr. Lindgren
The hon. and gallant Member for Portsmouth, West (Brigadier Clarke) does not like it. Let him wait until the end, and the end of the hon. and gallant Gentleman in Portsmouth will not be very long, either. I continue:It has not been easy to hold the position, and what little ground we had under our feet before has now been taken right away by the right hon. Gentleman. For what happens in the industrial field now the responsibility is not on those of us in the trade union movement. It lies with the Government and with the right hon. Gentleman, who is the willing instrument of that Government. The responsibility will be his, and it will be no use for him to look to the trade unions to get him out of the mess."— [OFFICIAL REPORT, 17th November. 1955; Vol. 546, c. 827.]May I say in all sincerity that the present Minister of Labour has a very difficult task on his hands, but that it has been created for him by this Government? I warned them in 1955 that they could not expect the trade unions to stand idly by while rent increases take place, while increases of rates take place, while the cost of living rises and the workers see their standard of living gradually lowered.
§ Mr. H. A. Price (Lewisham, West)
Does not the hon. Gentleman realise that wages have risen by 45 per cent, against a rise of only 30 per cent, in the cost of living? It is now a case of the rabbit chasing the greyhound.
§ Mr. Lindgren
The hon. Gentleman may get away with a statement like that if he tells it to his wife, but he would find it a little more difficult to convince my wife.
The fact is, and everyone knows it, that the ordinary workers have great difficulty in making ends meet. If the wife of a worker is now called on to find, out of the allowance which her husband gives her, an extra 5s., 10s., 15s., or even £ 1 a week for rent, it means that less will be spent on food, clothing, footwear and the rest of it. We in the trade union movement will not stand idly by and see the standard of living of our members gradually reduced. The Government have a very heavy responsibility, and none more than the Minister of Housing and Local Government, for one of the major factors affecting the cost of living and the standard of life of a family is the house and home. I ask the Minister of Housing and Local Government, even at this late stage, to make a contribution to the national stability by withdrawing this Bill and enabling us to find a more equitable basis on which to negotiate within industry.
§ 5.22 p.m.
§ Mr. John Hay (Henley)
There are only two things in the speech of the hon. Member for Wellingborough (Mr. Lindgren) with which I am entirely in agreement. The first is that we are all glad to see the end of our labours on this Bill, which, I notice, has grown in size from the modest 37 pages of which it consisted when it was first introduced, to 51 pages in the final print. Those of us who have taken part in the debates on this Measure have found it an interesting experience, and I believe that to hon. Members on both sides of the House it has proved an experience worth undergoing.
The second thing about which I agree with the hon. Gentleman— I hope that the hon. and learned Gentleman will forgive me if I say this publicly— is the tribute which he paid to his hon. and learned Friend the Member for Kettering (Mr. Mitchison). Of course, hon. Members on this side of the House regard as indefensible the policies and suggestions made from time to time on these matters by the hon. and learned Member. Nevertheless— if I may say this as an opponent 1382 — we recognise the very hard work which the hon. and learned Gentleman has put in on the Bill and I think that his stature has increased not only in his party, but in this House, as a result of what he has done.
Now may I turn to the Bill and the situation with which we have to deal? Unlike the hon. Member for Wellingborough, I regard the Bill as a major step forward in the post-war housing policy of Britain. Whatever we think about it individually, and whether my conclusion is accepted or not, I do not think that there is any doubt that with this Bill we have reached a milestone in the development of our post-war housing policy. As I look back over the last twelve years I think it possible to distinguish two clearly recognised stages.
First, there was the immediate postwar period, which was with us for quite some time, when the nation set about the task of building new houses regardless, largely, of expense and regardless, largely, of the actual physical circumstances under which they were being built; that is to say, the demands on the national economy, and so on. Then, with the coming into office of one of the predecessors of the present Government, after 1951, a new stage arrived; at that point we became rather more selective in the assistance given to the country in its housing problem. That stage was marked, as the House will recollect, by the switch in the housing subsidies policy and in the wider opportunity given to private owners to build houses for themselves. Now we have reached another stage.
One of the points which has been in the minds of all of us during the passage of the Bill is whether we have now reached a stage where there is enough accommodation throughout the country to ensure that any decontrol that takes place will take place "without tears". I wish to refresh the memories of hon. Members, particularly the hon. Member for Wellingborough, about the views of the Conservative Party on this subject. Whatever be the rights and wrongs, and what was said, or was not said, at the last General Election, it was made clear — not only then, but in 1950 and in 1951 — that the Conservative Party did not believe in the removal of rent control until 1383 there was an adequate supply of accommodation for all the people in the country. That we made clear— certainly, I did and I know that my hon. Friends did— on as many occasions as possible.
I wish to recall to the minds of hon. Members what was said by my hon. Friend who is now Financial Secretary to the Treasury, the hon. Member for Wolverhampton, South-West (Mr. Powell), when he moved the Second Reading of the Bill. My hon. Friend has been much misquoted ever since, but I think it worth while recollecting what he said about this whole subject of the supply of accommodation. At the very beginnig of his speech on 21st November he pointed out that the last Census, in 1951, provided, as he saida firm basis upon which could be founded an estimate of need and the availability of homes to meet it.My hon. Friend referred to the P.E.P. conclusions, and I should like to quote what he said when he himself was quoting from the conclusions in the P.E.P. Report in 1954:Rough estimates … of the position at the end of 1954 … suggest that the need for additional dwellings had fallen, in England and Wales, to about three-quarters of a million.My hon. Friend went on to quote:It is … clear that the demand for more houses is beginning to be met.If I may pause there, what my hon. Friend was saying was that by the end of 1954 an entirely independent inquiry into the equation between demand and supply of housing accommodation showed that the demand was beginning to be met.
§ Mr. James McInnes (Glasgow, Central)
The quotation which the hon. Member is making relates to the position, not in Great Britain as a whole, but in England and Wales, and it excludes Scotland.
§ Mr. Hay
That is perfectly true as, indeed, the quotation makes clear.
My hon. Friend went on to point out that since 1954, the end of 1954, as P.E.P. had said, there was an estimated demand for about three-quarters of a million houses and thatTaking that admittedly rough estimate of demand as it was at the end of 1954, from then until the end of 1957"—1384 that is, this present year—when the provisions of the Bill will be coming fully into force, we can calculate with certainty that there will be a net addition of at leas three-quarters of a million homes."— [OFFICIAL REPORT, 12th Nov., 1956, Vol. 560. c. 1759–60.]That must be borne in mind, because if the P.E.P. Report is right— and the conclusions of P.E.P. have often been accepted by hon. Members opposite as being correct— it is clear that by the end of this year, statistically, we shall have enough housing accommodation.
May I remind the House that since my hon. Friend made that speech on 21st November, 1955, between then and today, approximately 100,000 new houses have been erected? We are, therefore, 100,000 new houses better off— that is net— today than we were when this Bill was introduced. We are, of course, overtaking the demand by new building, and it is still going on all the time. But I do not think that that is enough. We know that in a number of areas in the country, particularly in the big cities and towns, there are acute shortages— —
§ Mr. Percy Shurmer (Birmingham, Sparkbrook)
Does the hon. Member want to move those people from the big cities?
§ Mr. Hay
If the hon. Member will be good enough to restrain his ebullience and listen to what I have to say, I may answer his point in the course of my remarks.
I believe that these shortages are due to the fact that until now, until this Bill was introduced, we have not had a coherent and sensible rent policy in Britain since the end of the war.
I believe that the mainspring of a sensible housing policy for Britain must be a sensible rent policy, and I hope to show why that is so. I do not need to dwell on the evils of rent control. They have often been described in this House, and anybody who wants to look for the locus classicus need only refer to the speech of my right hon. Friend who is now Minister of Defence, at the Conservative Party Conference at Llandudno, where he will find these evils set out. Indeed, they constitute a most formidable list.
The hon. Member for Wellingborough said that there is no real evidence of 1385 under-occupation. My right hon. Friend, in the speech to which I have referred, emphasised that there was substantial under-occupation, and that is one of the most serious consequences in this country of the continuance of rent control. Since the hon. Member for Wellingborough denies that anybody has ever put forward any figures about under-occupation, may I remind him that the Financial Secretary to the Treasury, in his speech on Second Reading, on 21st November, quoted the figures of the 1951 Census and pointed out that 1,250,000 households in this country had more than three rooms per person.
When the hon. Member for Wellingborough says that we on this side of the House begrudge the working man having a spare room, he knows that that is quite untrue. He knows perfectly well that he is just making that statement in the hope of getting us on to our feet to make an interruption to help his speech along. But this is the sort of thing which the hon. Gentleman ought to look at. If, in 1951, there were 1,250,000 households with more than three rooms per person, is it not likely that the situation is even worse today?
§ Mr. Lindgren
Surely the hon. Gentleman will admit that in most of those cases the householder is better off, often in his owner-occupied house, and frequently where the house is very large and the family very small. Those are not to be found among the 5 million people in Wigan, Warrington, Birmingham, and Manchester.
§ Mr. Lindgren
Take the case of two old ladies in a house in the constituency of Warwick and Leamington. What is the use of that house to a fitter in Birmingham? Are those old ladies likely to let their rooms to a fitter and his wife and family in Birmingham?
§ Mr. Hay
The answer to the latter part of the question, I think, is yes. The answer to the first part is simply this, and 1386 it leads me direct to the other serious consequence in the country of rent control. That is the lack of mobility, the freeze which this system imposes. The very fact that there may be extra accommodation in an old house in Warwick and Leamington may be a great advantage to somebody in my constituency who wants to go there to live and work. Similarly, all over the country, if accommodation at present not in use is brought into the pool of accommodation for the whole nation, it will provide better homes for other people. That is why this Bill is introduced.
§ Mr. Hay
If I cannot persuade the hon. Gentleman that what I am saying is true, I can only ask him to wait for events to prove it.
Certain other consequences of rent control, apart from under-occupation and lack of mobility, are in the minds of us all. There is, I think, a general regret throughout the nation that the only hope for people who are seeking accommodation is the housing waiting list of the local authority. In our big cities, of which London is a prime example, the housing waiting list is a farce because there are not the sites on which to build new houses. It leads to overspill problems and other aspects of our housing difficulties, with the housing authorities in the big cities trying to find more accommodation within the framework of our present system and having to go miles away, at inordinate public expense and with the loss of agricultural land, to build new estates, or new towns if they can get permission.
Moreover, it leads to what I regard as one of the most unpleasant features of the present housing scene, namely, the existence of rackets. Provision has been made in the Bill to deal with premiums and with the sort of people whom we do not want to encourage. These provisions will be effective, I believe, but I dislike intensely looking at the advertisement pages in the evening newspapers every night and seeing dozens of flats and houses to let but either at extraordinarily high rents or at low controlled rents with the words added at the end 1387 " £ 500 f. & f. at val." which, as we all know, means "at valuation." That is wrong. If we can only get back to a sensible rent structure those rackets will disappear.
I want to turn to the general subject of decontrol. I believe that a great many tenants of houses having a rateable value of over £ 40 in London and £ 30 in the rest of the country——
§ Mr. Mitchison
I do not want to pick up the hon. Gentleman on a single phrase, but I think he said, "get back to a sensible rent structure." Does that mean the rent structure before rent control began?
§ Mr. Hay
Since I was born in 1919. and the rent structure before rent control existed some time before I was born, I have no knowledge of it. I am talking of a sensible rent structure which will enable houses to be repaired and will enable landlords to let accommodation freely to whoever wants to use it.
I believe that many tenants who will be affected by Clause 10 (1) have been needlessly worried by a lot of scare stories which have been put around about their immediate eviction when the Bill comes into effect. My hon. Friend the Member for the Isle of Thanet (Mr. Rees-Davies) and several of my other hon. Friends have been worried about this problem, and I do not blame them, because it is quite possible to have a view about this matter which is not shared by the Government or by the majority of my hon. Friends on this side of the House.
My hon. Friend the Member for the Isle of Thanet will remember a conversation that I had with him a few days ago, when he said to me, "You are an optimist about this Bill and I am not." I am an optimist about the Bill. I believe that the framework of decontrol which is being created here is sufficient to ensure that no widespread evictions and no substantial increases in rent will take place.
I think it is necessary to bear in mind the structure of Clause 10, which has not been adequately publicised throughout the country. The structure of Clause 10 is this. Under subsection (1) houses are to be decontrolled by reference to their rateable value, and I emphasise "houses". Under subsection (2) new 1388 tenancies are to be freed of rent restriction. The difference between the two provisions is this, that whereas no person can have his rent raised or can be evicted under subsection (1)— that is, if he lives in a house over the rateable value limits — for a period of 15 months, under subsection (2), from the moment the Bill becomes law, a landlord can let accommodation, if he has got it, for whatever rent the market will pay.
It means that during those 15 months a substantial pool of accommodation will be building up, made up from the under-occupied houses which I was talking about earlier, to act as a cushion for anybody who may, at the end of the 15 months, be evicted. That, I believe, is what will happen.
May I remind hon. Members that the 15-month period will not fall in on the same date throughout the whole of the country? It will be a "rolling" period, that is to say, not every landlord of a subsection (1) house will serve 15 months' notice on the very day the Bill becomes law. Many people will think carefully about this and will take advice. I have no doubt that the number of notices which will actually go out on the day will not be nearly so large as many hon. Members and others outside this House have thought. Therefore, I believe that this will be adequate to ensure that there will be no hardship, and I am certain that I shall prove right about that in the future.
The other major factor dealt with in the Bill, to which my hon. Friend the Parliamentary Secretary referred, is the repair of houses. I do not want to speak for too long, but I should like to say a word about that. The whole point, which has been omitted or ignored by the House — certainly, by the party opposite— in the debates on the Bill is that it is in the landlord's own interest to spend as much money as possible on repairs.
In the Bill, we have highly complicated, very technical and lengthy provisions about certificates of disrepair. I am not saying that they should not be there; I believe that in some cases they will prove necessary. But I believe that the greatest and most potent sanction we have to ensure that houses will be repaired with the rent increases which will be obtained is the landlord's own self-interest. His desire is not simply to get as much money 1389 as he can and put it in his pocket. His desire is to maintain his asset, which is producing income for him, for as long as he can.
Although it is true that many of the older houses will need a lot of money spent upon them, as regards the modern type of house, with still a good many years of life ahead, a landlord who did not repair, particularly now he has sufficient income to enable him to do it, would be foolish; it would mean that he would be risking in a very short time a hole in the roof, such as we were discussing yesterday, or some other form of disrepair and, possibly eventually, slum clearance action if the house becomes completely unfit.
Has the hon. Gentleman not learnt from the experience of the last forty years or, anyhow, since his appearance on earth, that the landlords, when given the additional 25 per cent, for repairs, have not, in fact, done the work even at a time when they could have used the money and carried out the full repairs without any increased cost? Has he not realised that this just will not work?
§ Mr. Hay
If it were not true, we should have been in the extraordinary situation that, by 1933, for example, ten years later, or by 1939, an enormous number of houses throughout the country would have tumbled down.
To take, again, the example of a hole in the roof, such a thing results in progressive deterioration at an accelerating rate. As soon as a hole appears in the roof, water starts to come in, and it is not very long before disrepair has spread throughout the entire house. If landlords were not spending the 40 per cent., as the hon. Member for Leicester, North-West frequently alleges, houses would 1390 have fallen into a terrible state of disrepair by the beginning of the war. But, in fact they did not.
Throughout the debates on the Bill, the Opposition have regarded this as a landlords' Bill. [HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear."] I thought I might get a cheer. I beg hon. Members opposite to realise that this is not a landlords' Bill. It is really a tenants' Bill. More tenancies will be created under it than by any other piece of legislation affecting private houses which has passed through this Parliament since before the war. Also, it will ensure much better conditions of tenancy for millions of people who live in private houses today. It is not just a rent-raising Bill—
§ Mr. Hay
— and it is not just a Bill to promote rackets in decontrolled property. The House must surely realise that the Bill is intended to provide more homes for our people. That is the object of the Bill, and I am sure that it will be attained.
I believe that in about two years from now we shall be able to look back at this time, not in anger, but in appreciation of the action which has been taken by the Government in introducing the Bill. I believe that we shall look back in thankfulness that in 1956 and 1957 we had a Government with courage to take what they knew would be a highly unpopular step, but who took it because they knew that the physical conditions of our people demanded it and that they would thereby improve the living conditions of everyone.
§ 5.46 p.m.
§ Dr. Horace King (Southampton, Itchen)
The hon. Member for Henley (Mr. Hay), like the Parliamentary Secretary, has been at great pains to prove that this Bill, which will hurt millions of our people, is really hurting them for their own good.
As I listened to the end of the hon. Member's speech and the end of the Parliamentary Secretary's speech, I was reminded of the silversmiths of Ephesus, who objected to Christianity coming to their city because, hitherto, they had made a racket profit out of making silver statues of Diana; but the specious pretext for their objection was the importance of the worship of Diana. We shall 1391 have speeches this afternoon, it seems to me, the text of which will be, "Great is Diana of the Ephesians,"
I am an owner-occupier. I do not want the mythical benefits which the Parliamentary Secretary alleges are to be found in this Bill for me if it means misery, as I believe that it does, for some hundreds of thousands of people at the bottom end of the social scale.
The main argument advanced by the hon. Member for Henley was that, statistically, the housing problem is more or less solved and that all one has to do is to raise rents all round and, thereby, the problem of under-occupation and over-occupation will solve itself according to the sacred laws of supply and demand. To show the hon. Gentleman whether the housing problem is really solved or not, whatever statistics say, I would invite him to come to Southampton, where, at my "surgery," the principal number of cases with which I have to deal arises from housing; or I would suggest that he goes to the London County Council, which is still grappling pathetically with the problem of housing hundreds of thousands of families in this great city.
The hon. Gentleman's theory is that increased rents will redistribute housing accommodation. I believe that increasing rents will merely move out of one house into some other accommodation the poorer people of the country, and the Bill will not have the effect of equally spreading housing accommodation but will drive the poorest section of the community into the overcrowding which existed for a hundred years under capitalism.
§ Mr. Hay
I dislike interrupting an hon. Member who follows me, but the hon. Gentleman has not put quite fairly to the House what my argument was. I was not saying that increased rents all round would solve the housing programme problem. I said that we had to have a coherent and sensible rent policy, and we also had to have that freedom for new lettings which alone will create the new accommodation for which people on housing lists are looking, in my constituency just as much as in his.
§ Dr. King
It will not help the hon. Member to explain to his constituents that the main purpose of the Bill is to 1392 provide a coherent rent policy, because they will realise that what he calls a coherent rent policy is one which raises the rents of the people concerned.
I would end my comment on what the hon. Member said by saying that I believe that if adequate statistics existed it would be shown that not only are we better housed at the moment than ever in our history, but that there is less maldistribution of housing, less inequality, less luxury under-occupation, on the one hand, and vicious overcrowding, on the other, than there has ever been in our history. One of the by-products of the Welfare State has been that there are today more families living one family per house than ever in the history of the country. One effect of this Bill, I fear, will be to send us back towards the maldistribution from which we have been emerging.
Third Reading debates are usually the occasion for compliments, but on what I believe to be a wicked Bill it would be hypocritical— I speak only for myself— if I were to compliment the Minister on the technical skill he has shown in piloting through all its stages in this House a Bill which adds millions of pounds of unearned and untaxed increment to wealthy property owners, which adds millions of pounds of annual rental to the income of property owners, which has already brought anxiety to millions of homes and which, as its effect is felt, will depress the standards of living of the poorest people.
I would congratulate my hon. Friends who had the good fortune to serve on the Standing Committee, especially my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Kettering (Mr. Mitchison) and my hon. Friend the Member for Wellingborough (Mr. Lindgren), on the magnificent work they did in resisting the Bill there. No man is held by his party in more affection than my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Kettering. He has added to the golden opinions we hold of him by the skilled, capable, energetic leadership he has given to my hon. Friends in Committee. I only wish that those who have been called "the Margate musketeers" had rallied to the support and intelligent lead given by my hon. and learned Friend. Then this Bill would indeed have been a better Bill.
§ Dr. King
We on this side of the House regard housing as a social service; the Government regard it as a financial investment. I think that that is the classic division of the House of Commons. Back in the times of Addison and Wheatley it was realised that private enterprise could no longer solve the problem of housing the people, either by building houses or letting them. On the one hand, we began to subsidise house building. The Government are beginning to reverse that process. On the other hand, even earlier than Wheatley, we began to control house rents. What the Minister called "the iniquitous system of rent control" when, the other day, he dropped the mask of being a statesman and revealed real Tory policy, has preserved the standard of living of millions of people living in rented houses in the past forty years.
§ The Minister of Housing and Local Government and Minister for Welsh Affairs (Mr. Henry Brooke)
Does the hon. Member really believe that it is in the national interest that millions of houses should decay because rent control means there is not enough rent paid to keep them in order?
§ Dr. King
The right hon. Gentleman not only begs the question, but puts a question which I am quite certain my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Kettering has answered again and again in Committee, and to which an answer was given this afternoon by my hon. Friend the Member for Wellingborough. If he could assure me that in the days when rents were not controlled all properties in England were kept in decent order, half the case against the Bill would go. But we have always had slums.
The Bill seeks to end rent control. It is the first step back to landlordism. It is interesting to note how fearful the Tories are of carrying into full force their own doctrine of the sacred right of a man to do what he likes with what he has got, no matter how he got it and no matter how many others suffer for it. Reference has been made this afternoon by the Parliamentary Secretary to a sacred cow. I suggest that that sacred cow of Toryism is standing on its last legs in this Parliament and in this Bill. 1394 It has taken the Government five years to introduce the Bill. All that prevented them from doing so earlier in their career was fear of losing the last Election, as they must realise that they will lose the next.
Even when they brought it in they had to spare the people the full effect of Tory philosophy. They dared not decontrol all rented houses. They have been scared stiff by the reaction of those who will suffer from the first dose of decontrol— the unlucky three-quarters of a million who now face the consequences of Tory freedom and who are left to the mercy of the landlords. The Government have had to temper freedom even for this group and delay the falling of the axe for 15 months. According to a correspondent in today's Tory Daily Telegraph, the efforts of the Minister to prevent the extortion of premiums will fail.
As for the rest of the rented houses, the Government have slipped into the Bill the power to decontrol by statutory Order when they think that the climate is suitable. They are afraid to face another battle about the under £ 30 house like that they had over Clause 9, which is now Clause 10 of the Bill. Yet these are the people who, when in opposition, howled about the Labour Government using Statutory instruments in Socialist Measures. The minor concessions they have made as the Bill went through Committee merely postpone the agony. A week's notice becomes a month's notice, the first few months of rent increases are tied to maximum figures for most houses and tenants are to be given a few weeks' grace before the full impact of the Bill hits them.
The reactionary nature of the Government was seen most clearly on Tuesday, when they refused to accept a most reasonable and moderate Amendment moved by the hon. Member for Thanet (Mr. Rees-Davies) to protect Londoners against what he had calleda speculator's paradise which will attack the living standards of the middle class."— [OFFICIAL REPORT, 21st November, 1956; Vol. 560, c. 1855.]In the debate on Tuesday the hon. Member naively said:… it is certainly not against Tory philosophy that we should have control, when it is in the interests of the country that there should be such control."— [OFFICIAL REPORT, 26th March, 1957; Vol. 567, c. 991.]1395 He therefore proposed control to save some London citizens from the full impact of the Bill. When he spoke that wa9 the voice of the Tory reformers and the voice of the Prime Minister, when he wrote "The Middle Way". It was the voice which has been strangled by the reactionaries who are now in the saddle.
The Bill enriches property owners as other Tory Measures have enriched the moneylenders and the rentiers. It is what the right hon. Member for Woodford (Sir W. Churchill), in his Liberal days, called government of the party of the rich against the poor. In this Bill the Government take a leaf out of the Bible and say:Unto everyone that hath shall be given … but from him that hath not shall be taken away even that which he hath.—even security in his home.
I want the Government to know just what unhappiness and anxiety the Bill has brought into the homes of thousands of British folk. I want to read to the House a letter to me from an old-age pensioner. She writes:I do hope you don't mind me writing to you but I am beginning to wonder what is going to happen to us old-age pensioners about this Rent Bill. You see, my husband has been ill four and a half years and I myself have been ill now with phlebitis for six months. I have it about six to eight months every year, in both my legs. My husband is 76 this year and I am 70 years of age. I know it's a few months to go yet"—She has read about the Bill and about the delayed action—but time flies. We lost our home at Woolston, in the war."—They were blitzed. She continues:We have been here fifteen years in a month or two and, like a good many people, have done all repairs. The landlord would not give us a roll of paper and my husband did everything, even to drains. Not a thing he paid us for and two years ago he had one coat of paint put on the outside and that was an undercoat. If he could have got my husband to have done it he would have had a top coat because that would have saved in the labour he had to pay for it. We pay £ 1 a week and £ 22 a year rates.I would like you to give a little idea of what is going to happen to all the people that will have to find new homes like us "—There is the flexible, mobile policy—because the young people won't put up with the old people in their homes. I have got two daughters. They are in council houses.1396They have their family and if they took in anyone up their rent would go. They pay almost £ 2 a week rent. We have had our name on the waiting list. I don't see as it is much good now. Where are we going to pay more rent than what we do?The Rent Bill rewards the landlord by adding hundreds of pounds to the value of his property and it gives him the power to increase her rent. What is she to do?
If this old-age pensioner and her husband are one of the million families on National Assistance, the Assistance Board may meet her increased rent. I say "may", because it is arguable whether National Assistance will be able to meet all the claims for increased rents submitted by people on National Assistance. In other words, the State will give a direct subsidy to the landlord— the only kind of subsidy in which the Tory Party believes. If she is just above National Assistance, it may be that the increased rent will bring her within the purview of National Assistance. I am not sure whether even that charitable assumption is true. I would hope that it is.
If, despite her increased rent, she has some savings and her husband some other little pension and she is above National Assistance level, this increased rent can do only one thing. It can depress her standard of living. She either has to pay more rent and do with less food and clothing, or forgo the happiness to a couple aged 76 and 70 of living in their own home for the evening of their lives. And all this so that property owners may join shareholders and moneylenders in getting rich at the expense of the poor.
§ Mr. John Eden (Bournemouth, West)
Does the hon. Member know the circumstances of the landlord of that property?
§ Sir Ian Horobin (Oldham, East)
Can the hon. Member tell us what is the gross rateable value of the house?
§ Sir I. Horobin
If the rateable value is £ 22 her rent cannot be increased at all. If the gross rateable value is as low as that, and she is already paying £ 1 a week, 1397 her rent cannot be increased. Perhaps the hon. Member can tell her that and put her out of her misery.
§ Mr. Mitchison
Whatever the rent, the calculation will not be on the gross rateable value. First, there is the rate poundage and then there is the net rateable value.
§ Sir I. Horobin
Would the hon. Member for Itchin (Dr. King) take the trouble to find out the gross rateable value?
§ Dr. King
If the hon. Gentleman is correct then the landlord is already squeezing out of her as much rent as this Bill will allow.
The Bill attacks the standard of living of the worker. I believe that it has done more during the past few weeks to provide an alibi for the Communist Party, shattered by the crimes of Communism in Hungary, than a thousand Palme Dutts or a hundred Harry Pollitts. Like other acts of the Government, it is an attempt to redistribute the national income in favour of the rich. Indeed, so blind and so greedy have the Government become that they have not minded striking, by this Bill, a bitter blow against the middle classes who have so far loyally supported them.
I ask the House to remember, and make no mistake about it, that the property owners know the meaning of the Bill to the full. Landlords throughout the country are already frightening their tenants. They are already trying to bully them into buying houses at twice or at least half as much again as they offered them 12 months ago. The landlords are already drunk with the new power that the Bill brings to them. The so-called free negotiations, which the Government unctuously hope will take place between landlord and tenant, are negotiations into which the tenant enters with his hands tied behind his back whilst the landlord is armed with all the powers of the Bill.
Let the Government make no mistake about the ultimate effect of the Bill. The Government practise, if they do not preach, class war. As my hon. Friend the Member for Wellingborough has said, far more eloquently than I could say, the Bill has made its own contribution to the bitter struggle which the trade unionist is waging in the industrial field to protect 1398 himself against the effects of Tory legislation. It has also contributed to the disillusionment of many a Tory working man and his wife who, as late as the last Election, still believed that the Tories would cut the cost of living, that they were no longer a class party and that they meant it when they said, in 1950, thatRent control must continue until it can be shown that there is no housing shortage at any given level.The Bill epitomises the struggle between the rights of property and the rights of the community. It has done more than any other single act of this Government to ensure that at the next Election the Labour Party will sweep the country. But I am not happy at the thought that many people will have to suffer to learn the lesson that the Tory Party has not really changed its spots since the right hon. Member for Woodford described it fifty years ago.
Some of us learned our Socialism the hard way. I am sorry to think that now, as the Bill puts a heavy burden on those least capable of bearing it, there are hundreds of thousands of people who will learn to support us on this side of the House in the same hard way as we learned our lesson.
§ 6.10 p.m.
§ Mr. C. N. Thornton-Kemsley (North Angus and Mearns)
Before I turn, as I intend to turn, to Scottish affairs, I should like to say to the hon. Member for Southampton, Itchen (Dr. King) that it is clear that he chose his example very unfortunately from his point of view. It is quite clear, from the facts that he gave to the House, first, that the rateable value of the property of his constituent, assuming that she was a constituent, would be below the £ 30 limit and, therefore, the house would not be decontrolled; and, secondly, since the house remains controlled, the tenant whose letter he read is already paying the maximum and the rent cannot be increased.
I understand, however, that it is the intention of the Chair that the House should now turn for a little while to consideration of the effects of the Bill on Scotland. Although the problem of rent control is basically the same throughout the United Kingdom, it has always faced special difficulties in Scotland, for some reasons which I shall give to the House. First, the housing problem in Scotland is 1399 particularly intractable, and notably so— perhaps I should say notoriously so— in the City of Glasgow, as well as in other great cities. Secondly, decontrol to the rateable value limits of £ 40 in Scotland and in the Metropolitan Police District of London, and £ 30 elsewhere in England and Wales, will release about 15 per cent, of the controlled houses in England and Wales and about 8½ per cent, in Scotland.
Thirdly, Scotland has not yet been able to rid itself of the aftermath of the bugbear of owners' rates, and there is as yet no uniformity of rating valuation north of the Border. Fourthly, landlords in Scotland have not at any time received the full benefit of the increases allowed under the 1920 Act. The increases allowed over the 1914 rental limits in England and Wales have been received intact by owners of property in those countries, whereas in Scotland they have been reduced by all increases of owners' rates since 1920.
While the Bill makes the same provisions for Scotland as it does for England and Wales in respect of the immediate decontrol of owner-occupied property; while it makes the same provision for the decontrol of all properties upon a change of tenancy; and while it makes similar provisions in respect of decontrol with relation to the level of rateable values, and makes the same provisions for the Minister to introduce further instalments of decontrol, either for the whole or parts of the country, it introduces certain provisions of an interim character in respect of those houses which, in Scotland, will still remain the subject of control.
That is really the basic difference between the position in England and Wales and that in Scotland. Time and time again my hon. Friend the Joint Under-Secretary of State, who represents Craigton, has pointed that out. Here, if I may, on one of those occasions when so many compliments are paid, I would like to pay my tribute to the courteous way in which my hon. Friend conducted Scottish affairs throughout the long-drawn-out Committee stage of the Bill. We may not all have been satisfied, on either side of the Committee, with the answers we received to many Amendments which we advocated, yet my hon. Friend met us 1400 with unfailing courtesy, and went to great lengths to explain his point of view.
I cannot say more on this occasion than that I regret that it was necessary that these provisions should be interim only. I regret very much that it was not found possible to write into the Bill provisions for the post-1961 valuation list position. The increases in the rents that are allowed for those properties which will still remain subject to control in Scotland are interim only, and we shall have to pass new legislation when the new valuation lists are in force from 28th May, 1962, to deal with the post-revaluation position. Now, however, owners of property in Scotland will be allowed to increase rents of controlled property by 25 per cent, of the pre-1954 Act rents.
In Committee we were told time and time again— I remember the hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for Kettering (Mr. Mitchison) telling us on one occasion— that as a result of the Bill in England and Wales the rents of the properties which would still remain subject to control would be roughly doubled. In Scotland, however, the maximum increases payable by the tenants of the best houses which will still remain subject to control will be about £ 10 a year, which is equivalent to a little under 4s. a week. Average increases will be slightly over 2s. a week. Here, I am bound to make the relevant point that this will happen at a time when average male earnings are over £ 11 15s. a week. For years and years in Scotland properties have not been properly maintained because there has not been sufficient received from the rents for their proper maintenance.
I shall not speak at any length, but I want to face one or two fundamental points before I resume my seat. First, I want to face the fear, so often expressed, about the level of decontrolled rents in Scotland after the Bill comes into operation. The timetable seems to indicate that it will receive the Royal Assent about the time that the House rises for the Whitsun Recess, and it will come into operation within one month from the date of the Royal Assent.
There has now been written into the Bill the provision about a stay of execution. Perhaps that is the wrong term for the further security of tenure for the tenants of decontrolled houses for a 1401 period of fifteen months. As a matter of fact, in Scotland that period will be, on the whole, rather more than 15 months because most houses of the type that will be decontrolled are held on yearly tenancies from Whitsun-day to Whitsun-day, so that the effect of the 15 months' stay of execution will be to enable those tenants to remain over until Whitsun-day, 1959.
Be that as it may, the effect of the month after the Royal Assent, and then the 15-month period after that, means that there will be at least 18 months from now before possession can be claimed. Then, of course, as was said earlier by my hon. Friend the Member for Henley (Mr. Hay), possession will not be claimed all at once, but progressively.
Considerable changes are bound to take place in the supply of houses in Scotland in the next 18 months. First, at the anticipated rate of building, there will be between 40,000 and 45,000 new houses provided in Scotland during that period. There will also be the cumulative effect of decontrol. Every change of tenancy will add one more to the pool of houses.
§ Mr. Thornton-Kemsley
Those houses will become decontrolled. The occupiers will no longer have a vested interest in staying there at all costs.
§ Mr. Thornton-Kemsley
The hon. Member for Edinburgh, East (Mr. Willis) is right in a sense. It does not add the total number of houses which will be decontrolled on a change of tenancy, but it will add a number to the pool, because a number of tenants whose houses will be decontrolled, no longer having a vested interest in possession, will no longer require to remain in houses which are, perhaps, too large for them.
§ Mr. Willis
I fail to understand the hon. Gentleman. He is saying that when a person moves from a house his housing needs suddenly disappear. But where does that person go?
§ Mr. Thornton-Kemsley
The housing needs do not disappear, of course. I am trying to suggest that there are various ways in which the pool of available decontrolled houses will be enlarged during the next 18 months. I have said that there will be 40,000 or 45,000 new houses. There will then be a certain number of houses decontrolled and rendered vacant as a result of a change of tenancy. Then there will be the 250,000 owner-occupied houses which will automatically be decontrolled when the Bill comes into operation.
There will also be some houses which are too large and will be converted into smaller apartments. We do not know the number, although we may have ideas and guess. The fact is that there are numbers of larger houses which ought to have been vacated earlier, and they will be converted into flats. They have not previously been vacated because of the operation of the Rent Restrictions Acts and the vested interest in possession claimed by the tenants.
Another source is houses which are at present vacant because of the operation of the Rent Restrictions Acts. The hon. Member for Glasgow, Central (Mr. McInnes) can hardly disagree with me, because he told the Standing Committee that there were 2,000 such houses in Glasgow.
I really do not believe that the fears about extortionate rents being charged in respect of the 60,000 houses in Scotland— that is all it is— which will be decontrolled because they are above the rateable value limit. I believe that those fears are, if not unfounded, at least greatly exaggerated.
The effect of the 15-month extension— that is a useful Amendment, and I am glad that the Government were able to introduce it— combined with the provisions of the Fourth Schedule by which landlords and tenants can get together during the 15-month period and agree upon a new tenancy at a new rent, will be valuable. There will be an incentive for the landlord, because he will get a higher rent at once if he can agree with his tenant rather than wait for 15 months or more for it, and there will be an incentive for the tenant, because he will get three years' security of tenure instead of fifteen months as under the Bill. I believe that these provisions will be widely 1403 used and that there will be many agreements about new tenancies.
If owners were to force rents above what is reasonable, they would simply be cutting their own throats. In such circumstances, the Secretary of State would be highly unlikely to exercise the powers which he has under Clause 10 (3) to decontrol by further instalments the houses in Scotland still remaining subject to control.
§ Mr. George Lawson (Motherwell)
Will the hon. Gentleman say what he means by "reasonable rent"? He has talked on many occasions about rents being far too low.
§ Mr. Thornton-Kemsley
I am not going to be drawn by the hon. Member for South Ayrshire (Mr. Emrys Hughes) into stating a sum, but I will say that I think a rent is unreasonable unless it allows sufficient for the proper maintenance and repair of the property. My complaint is that the effect of rent restriction has been that it has not allowed enough for the maintenance and repair of Scottish houses.
§ Mr. William Ross (Kilmarnock)
The hon. Member must have had a figure in mind when he talked about the Bill being only an interim Measure. Surely he has certain ideas about what the rent should be?
§ Mr. Thornton-Kemsley
I had on the Notice Paper yesterday an Amendment which was guillotined. It sought to provide that when we had uniform valuations in Scotland the maximum rent to be charged for a house which remained subject to decontrol would be equal to the new gross value.
§ Mr. Thornton-Kemsley
With additions for services, such as heating, if they were provided by the landlord.
I believe that it is wrong that controls which were imposed to meet special conditions in time of war and in the difficult period immediately following war should be continued for even a month longer than is absolutely necessary to meet the purpose for which they were imposed. The effect of rent control in Scotland 1404 has undoubtedly been to hasten the deterioration of our houses, a process which has been harmful to tenants and unjust to owners of property, whose costs are three or three and a half times as much as they were before the war. With others, I welcome the courage shown by the Government in grasping this very troublesome nettle.
§ 6.30 p.m.
§ Mr. James McInnes (Glasgow, Central)
I am extremely glad that the hon. Member for North Angus (Mr. Thornton-Kemsley) took the opportunity to deal with Clause 10 of the Bill— it was formerly Clause 9— as it related to Scotland, because when he had an opportunity in Committee to deal with the topic of decontrol he elected to confine himself entirely to the English situation, making absolutely no reference to the position in Scotland.
The most devastating reply I could make to the hon. Member's observations would be to quote from the speech of his hon. Friend the Member for Henley (Mr. Hay), who stated, in quotations which he took from the P.E.P. survey and the Conservative Party election manifesto, that decontrol justifies itself only when an adequate supply of houses is available.
The hon. Member for North Angus said that it was most unfortunate that because of the rating system in Scotland landlords did not receive the full benefits of the 1920 legislation for the repairs they carried out. But they got more than they were entitled to get. That is not only my view, but the view of a number of Government commissions which investigated the rating and valuation system of Scotland.
I am reminded of the Marley Committee, which stated that it had received a considerable volume of evidence to the effect that owners of house property in Scotland were not applying the increase for the purpose for which it was intended, but regarding it as an increment to their annual income which they looked upon as being something in perpetuity. The fact emerges that they the landlords did absolutely no repairs. It is our long experience in the inter-war years and the years after the war that repairs were not done that has motivated us in opposing the increases for which the Bill provides.
1405 The hon. Member for North Angus said that we wanted to avoid perpetuating a state of affairs such as that which exists in the City of Glasgow, where 2,000 houses are unoccupied pending sale by their owners, and that the Bill would tend to provide a remedy. But there is no need of a Bill to decontrol houses in Scotland. We have begged the Government to introduce another type of Bill which will prevent factors and property owners holding houses for sale.
I want now to confine myself to the decontrol provisions, because time does not permit making any observations about the increases. I should be scrupulously fair if I said that the three principal reasons adduced in favour of decontrol were, first, the equation of supply and demand; secondly, existing under-occupation; and thirdly, the inhibition of natural movements of population. Indeed, the then Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Housing and Local Government devoted practically the whole of his Second Reading speech to equations. He said:… we are now within sight of, and in 12 months' time or so we level with, an equation of the overall supply and demand for homes." — [OFFICIAL REPORT, 21st November, 1956; Vol. 560, c. 1760.]In Committee, the Minister said:… there is a much greater … underoccupation than there was in the 1930s."— [OFFICIAL REPORT, Standing Committee A, 19th February, 1957; c. 786.]What truth there may be in the Government's argument about the equations and under-occupation for England and Wales, I do not pretend to know, but I do know that there is absolutely no truth in that argument as applied to Scotland.
I think we all remember that when the then Secretary of State for Scotland was speaking on Second Reading he was asked by my hon. Friend the Member for Hamilton (Mr. T. Fraser) whether he could say when we were likely to reach that equation in Scotland. The Secretary of State said:I have no idea and no intention of being such a fool as to prophesy.Later, he intervened to say:To take Glasgow alone, I do not think that the position there will be solved in my lifetime. …"— [OFFICIAL REPORT, 22nd November, 1956; Vol. 560, c. 1967.]If Scottish Ministers apparently recognise that there is no possibility of Scotland 1406 reaching the equation or any degree of under-occupation in the foreseeable future, I am justified in asking the Secretary of State why, if he recognises that, he has included Scotland in Clause 10 of the Bill.
I do not want to inflict a deluge of statistics on the House. I have frequently quoted Scottish housing statistics, but I hope that the House will forgive me if I quote one or two more, so that they may go on the record and conclusively prove that, in Scotland, we are far removed from the equation or any question of under-occupation. At present, we have in Scotland approximately 1½million houses, of which 500,000 are municipal, about 280,000 owner-occupied and slightly more than 700,000 privately rented.
Of the million privately owned houses — owner-occupied and rented— no fewer than 610,000 are from 77 to 140 years old, that is to say, two out of every three are that age. Of the 700,000 rented houses, more than 400,000 have no internal water closet and, basing the calculation on the While Paper on slum clearance in Scotland, which deals with unfit houses, of that 700,000 approximately 300,000 are unfit for human habitation.
Even at the most conservative estimate Scotland still requires a minimum of 350,000 new houses before these revolting and abominable conditions are eliminated and we can cheerfully say that we have reached the stage of equation. Even upon the calculation made by the hon. Member for North Angus how long will it take to complete that number? At the present rate of building it will take over fifteen years to reach the stage which the Conservative Party itself deems it necessary to reach before decontrol should be introduced.
I now turn to the question of under-occupation. In Great Britain, 3.56 per cent, of the population live at a density of more than two persons per room. In Liverpool, which is perhaps the worst example in England, the percentage is 6.21. In Glasgow, however, it is 25.91 per cent. Glasgow's figure is nearly eight times as much as the average for the United Kingdom. Let us look at the size of the housing accommodation in Scotland. I always have the utmost difficulty in getting my English colleagues to 1407 appreciate what I mean when I refer to a three-apartment house; it is what we should call in England a two-bedroom house.
In Birmingham, the percentage of the population living in one, two, and three-apartment houses is 14.6; in Manchester, it is 10.7; and, in Glasgow, it is 76. That is a shocking state of affairs. I am informed that at this very moment 1,200 families in Glasgow are living six persons to a room. In the light of those facts and figures, how can we talk about under-occupation?
The extent of the housing problem in Scotland has often been mentioned in the House. The four cities of Scotland — Glasgow, Aberdeen, Edinburgh and Dundee— have a total waiting list of over 200,000 families. I know that the Secretary of State is aware of this fact, which bears out some of the figures that I have given.
According to the latest figures issued by the Convenor of Housing, the City of Glasgow has a waiting list of 120,000 families, some of whom have been waiting for municipal accommodation for over twenty-five years. The tragedy is that that figure includes 43,000 young married couples. Furthermore, when Glasgow completes the houses which it has under construction now it will not have a single site left on which to build another house. What a cheerful prospect for the people who are waiting for homes in that city. It is sheer nonsense, and a mockery, to talk in terms of equation and under-occupation in Scotland.
The Joint Under-Secretary used some mystical phrases in Committee. He tried to tell us that the Government were simply decontrolling about 60,000 houses, and that the houses with which we were most concerned would not be decontrolled. Of course, as each controlled house becomes vacant it is automatically decontrolled. The Joint Under-Secretary estimated that the number of houses which would become decontrolled in that way would be 20,000 a year. He said that that number would be added to the pool. What pool? The hon. Member for North Angus also talked about this pool. I do not know whether it is Murphys, Strangs or Littlewoods; it is certainly not a pool of houses.
1408 The Secretary of State should try to clarify the position. I want to know how the process of decontrol adds a single house to the pool. Can he tell us how this magical happening occurs— in ordinary, simple language? These houses already become vacant every year and are relet. I know that some of them are held unoccupied to allow the landlords to sell them, but, in the main, those 20,000 houses which become available are relet. In my submission, decontrol does not add a single house to any pool, or anything else. All that it does is to enable landlords to exploit the tens of thousands of homeless families by charging them exorbitant rents.
The hon. Member for North Angus said, "When these 60,000 houses are decontrolled there will be no exorbitant rents, or anything like that." Two days ago there was an article in the Glasgow Herald by my very good friend Mr. Murray MacGregor, the Secretary of the Property Owners and Factors' Association Ltd. He dealt with what would be a "fair rent", as he called it, not an unreasonable rent— he probably does not know his own members as well as I do. He said that at present, on a house rented at £ 45 a year, the tenant pays occupier's rates of £ 33 a year, so that the total expenditure of rent and rates for that tenant today is £ 78 4s.
When the Bill becomes law, and when this £ 45 house becomes decontrolled— in May this year, as the result of the Government's Rating and Valuation Bill, the tenant will become responsible for all the rates— the owner's rates element contained in the rent will reduce the rent, and this is how it works out. Today, the tenant pays £ 78, but under the provisions of the Bill the rent— a fair rent, said Mr. Murray MacGregor— will be £ 70 a year, and the tenant becomes responsible for all rates. On £ 70 a year the rates add up to £ 54 8s., and, altogether, the tenant's liability increases from £ 78 to £ 124, a net increase of £ 46 4s.
According to Mr. Murray MacGregor that is not unreasonable, that is a fair increase in rent. But were I making my own calculations, I should add at least another £ 30 or £ 40 to Mr. Murray MacGregor's figures, because of my knowledge of the factors and property owners in the City of Glasgow.
1409 It is because of these things that we regard this Bill as a callous and inhuman Measure so far as it affects Scotland. We have demonstrated quite clearly that the situation in Scotland does not warrant any measure of decontrol. During the debate on Second Reading, the hon. Member for Pollok (Mr. George) said that it was not the time to introduce decontrol in respect of lower rented houses. I hope that the hon. Member still holds that view, and that he will join with us in making what is an eleventh hour appeal, as it were, to the Secretary of State for Scotland, to ask whether the right hon. Gentleman, in view of the situation, would be disposed to do something about it.
I feel it is futile for me to plead with the right hon. Gentleman. But I wonder whether, at this eleventh hour, recognising that the housing problem in Scotland is so radically different compared with that of England and Wales, and that our people are entitled to a square deal, even from a Tory Government, the Government will be persuaded to do something about it.
§ 6.54 p.m.
§ Mr. J. C. George (Glasgow, Pollok)
The hon. Member for Glasgow, Central (Mr. McInnes) by implication paid me the compliment of saying that I have more influence with the Secretary of State for Scotland than he has, and that perhaps an intervention on my part would bring about a change in the situation, even at this late hour. I do not think that I should appeal for a change. But I have felt all along that rent control, and all the dangers of rent control, were becoming more evident every year and that some party at some time would have to tackle the problem. To my mind, it was only a question of when the time should be.
I always knew, as the hon. Member for Glasgow, Central has pointed out, that the time need not be the same in Scotland as in England. During the debate on the Second Reading of this Bill I said that we all feel very deeply on this question. It is not a matter about which one can speak lightly and I did not speak lightly during that debate. I spoke after studying the question and coming to certain conclusions. I felt then that we had been too bold on the Scottish Clauses regarding decontrol after the six-month lag. I felt, also, that we had been too timid about 1410 raising the controlled rents. I said then that the purpose of raising the rents of houses which are to remain under control was to save them from falling into decay, and that the amount by which we were allowing them to be raised would not achieve that object.
§ Mr. George
I still believe it to be the case that the increases we are allowing on houses to remain controlled will not save them from falling further into decay.
I wish, however, to address my remarks to the question of houses to be decontrolled. It is in respect of those houses that there is the greatest anxiety. I anticipated what would be the reaction of the people I represent, and of all the people of Scotland, to the Scottish Clauses in this Bill. I felt that the Clauses were inflicting on tenants a loss of security in a tight housing market. I felt that we should be leaving the tenants of houses over the £ 40 figure at the mercy of the landlords, and, as I pointed out during Second Reading, there are good and bad landlords. I felt that we were leaving these tenants at the mercy of landlords in a tight housing market. I was afraid that present landlords might change, that speculators might come in and, by offering ready cash to landlords who were fed up with being landlords, secure houses fairly cheaply at this time. Having done that, I felt that they would not treat the tenants with the same consideration as the old landlords would have done and that a buy or quit campaign might start.
I know that in the City of Glasgow some of these speculators are already active. From the vast volume of correspondence which I have had from my constituents, and from elsewhere in Scotland, I know that two fears are agitating the minds of these people. They are loss of security, as I predicted, and the possibility of rents being raised to a level which they cannot afford and against which they have no appeal. If these people find they cannot pay the rents, they cannot see where they may turn for alternative accommodation. That is the position, as I see it, in Scotland.
I listened with envy to hon. Members who represent English constituencies 1411 reiterating what was said by the Parliamentary Secretary during the Second Reading debate on the Bill, that in England they had nearly reached the position where the supply equated statistically with demand.
§ Mr. George
I listened with envy to that, and I assumed that hon. Members knew what they were talking about when they produced figures to support what they were saying. I listened to them saying that there were 1,250,000 houses in England with three or more rooms per person and that there was a large pool of houses which would form a cushion during the period of decontrol, and that they felt reasonably certain that at the end of fifteen months little, if any, hardship would be inflicted on anybody in England by the passing of the Bill.
I am not convinced that that applies to Scotland. I still feel that in the case of the higher-rented houses, from the figure of £ 40 to £ 90, there will be a great deal of hardship experienced after the passing of the Bill. I am comforted to some extent by the changes made in this Measure during the Committee stage. The six-month period terrified me, and I am glad that it has been extended to fifteen months. As was pointed out by my hon. Friend the Member for North Angus and Mearns (Mr. Thornton-Kemsley), in effect that period will probably be two years in Scotland. I also feel comforted by the arrangement made to induce tenants and landlords to get together and have a three-year lease drawn up enabling the landlords to obtain an increase in rent now and restoring security to the tenant. These changes will be beneficial and will go some way, although not very far, towards removing the fears which I expressed in my Second Reading speech.
I cannot think that decontrol of owner-occupied houses will play any great part in easing the housing situation, although I hope that I shall be proved wrong. I have been trying to assess the benefits that will flow in my own constituency from the decontrol of owner-occupied houses, but, frankly, I do not rate them very high.
There is one aspect of the housing position in Scotland where we might make 1412 progress. I have been inundated with correspondence from pensioners and people on small fixed incomes saying that although they have managed throughout the years of the falling value of the £ to live and pay their rents— which they knew were too low— some managing to do it by selling little articles every month in order to keep going, they cannot see how they can pay double their rents or more, and they do not know where to turn for alternative accommodation.
As a party, we have made statements through the ex-Secretary of State for Scotland about council house policy, which is that those who can pay the full rent should do so and that those who cannot pay it should be assisted. With that policy I agree. However, having this volume of correspondence from genuine, sound people who feel that they will be in financial difficulty in trying to meet the new rents, I wonder whether we can think out a scheme to put all those who cannot pay the rent, council tenants and private tenants, on the same footing without municipalisation. Let us think out a scheme from this side of the House so that people in private houses who cannot pay the rent should have the same assurance from us that they will be assisted as we give to council tenants. I plead with my right hon. Friend to give that aspect of the matter some study. We seem to have one law for the council tenant and another for the private tenant. Let us bring them together more closely in the future.
The Bill comes to its Third Reading. I accept it cautiously and with no enthusiasm. I pray that the forecast of my right hon. Friend, that little hardship will follow from it, will be borne out and that something of great moment to the housing position in Scotland is being done. I hope that my right hon. Friend is right and that I am wrong.
§ 7.4 p.m.
§ Mr. William Ross (Kilmarnock)
It is a measure of the condemnation of the Bill that on Second Reading the hon. Member for Glasgow, Pollok (Mr. George) voiced certain fears and difficulties that he foresaw from the Bill for the people of Scotland and that now, on Third Reading, after all the discussion and the Government's opportunities for making changes and accepting advice, the hon. Member is still voicing those fears.
1413 The Bill is one of a trilogy of legislation affecting property occupiers and ratepayers in Scotland. The first was the Valuation and Rating (Scotland) Act, 1956, the net effect of which was to shift the burden of rates to the occupiers of property, at a time when the burden of rates was becoming higher. The second part of the trilogy is the Bill we have in the Scottish Standing Committee, so I will not mention it further than to say that, ultimately, it will mean that local authorities who build council houses will need higher rates. The third part of the trilogy is the Bill we are now discussing, which is related to the rents of houses. The immediate effect of it in Scotland will be increases of rents of tenanted property.
What are the origins of the Bill? Certainly not the facts of Scottish housing. We have heard statistics given by my hon. Friend the Member for Glasgow, Central (Mr. McInnes) who, for a considerable time, occupied a position in charge of housing in Glasgow. No one knows better than my hon. Friend that those statistics damn the whole system of private property-owning in Scotland. Many of the houses in Scotland were more than 100 years old even in 1920, and people will have to pay additional rents for them. In many cases, people should be paid for staying in these houses instead of being subjected to an increase of 25 per cent.
Let us be clear that this will be an increase of 25 per cent, on all the houses in Scotland under a rateable value of £ 40 in 1954. There is no condition that repairs have to be carried out before the increase is granted, or that the additional 25 per cent, will be used to repair the houses. What justice is there in that? Only a short time ago we passed a Bill to give a 40 per cent, increase to Scottish landlords provided they were able to satisfy a financial condition about the carrying out of repairs. We have been told that only 3 per cent, of the Scottish landlords could take advantage of that Act because they had not spent the money on repairs. Under the Bill they can get an increase of 50 per cent, if they satisfy the conditions, but they are doing nothing. Without guaranteeing that they will do anything, they will get an increase of 25 per cent.
I represent Kilmarnock, where 6,000 engineers are on strike for an increase against the high cost of living. The Bill will put something else upon them, an 1414 additional burden of up to 4s. and up to 10s. a week in rent, without or with repairs to justify the increase. This is not in accordance with the pledges that were given to the Scottish people by Government supporters. For none of the Measures in the trilogy have the Government any mandate. The Joint Under-Secretary of State for Scotland is the hon. Member for Glasgow, Craigton (Mr. J. N. Browne), in one of the lowest marginal seats in Glasgow, Did he tell the people that he would put up all their rents? I am sure that he did not. He should be thoroughly ashamed of himself.
For 60,000 families in Scotland the Bill will mean a prospect of immediate increases in rent to which there is no ceiling. The hon. Member for Pollok rightly voiced their fears. We have all received letters from people. Let us admit that the Bill does not apply to a great many houses in Scotland. In Kilmarnock it applies to about 400, but injustice to 400 people is something that we should take note of in this House.
The hon. Member for North Angus and Mearns (Mr. Thomton-Kemsley) said that there would be a pool of houses because there were 250,000 owner-occupiers. What about them? I am one of them. Does the hon. Gentleman think that as soon as the Bill becomes law I shall vacate my house? Where shall I go? Theoretically, the owner-occupying people in Scotland will be decontrolled, but that will not add a single house to the pool or help in any way at all. For these 60,000 families in Scotland, including the 400 people in Kilmarnock, it is a question of paying higher rent. There is no ceiling, and there is no law as to whether the rent will be reasonable, whether it is Murray MacGregor's standard of "reasonable" or the hon. Gentleman's idea of it. The rents will be decided by the landlords and if people do not pay them they will be out. There is no great satisfaction in the fact that it is only fifteen months before they are out. This is a complete injustice in view of the situation in Scotland.
It was the former Secretary of State for Scotland who stood at the Dispatch Box and who was very kindly reported, because I can remember his words. His words were that he had not the foggiest idea when there would be a balance between the housing needs of Scotland 1415 and the houses available. He said that so far as Glasgow was concerned it would not be in his lifetime. When we had the new Secretary of State there was the chance that he would assert himself and say, "This will not apply to Scotland," but he allowed it to go on and has supported it by his voice and his presence here tonight. I think that it is disgraceful.
I think that the most sinister part of the Bill is that subsection of Clause 10 which gives to the Secretary of State the power to go further along this dismal road of decontrol. It is dismal in the light of the facts of Scottish housing, and it has not been justified at all by any spokesman of the Scottish Office. It means that without adequate discussion in the House and without the House having the power to amend it, the Secretary of State can come here with an order to bring in more houses by reducing the £ 40, may be, to £ 30 or £ 20 — based upon what? If he can do that at the present time to houses between £ 40 and £ 90, despite the situation which his hon. Friend has pointed out, that does justify our fears that he will come along again and still further extending the range of decontrol. He could do it in relation to the rent at any time and for any part of Scotland.
The hon. Member for North Angus (Mr. Thornton-Kemsley) has proved a very able prophet in matters of legislation. The first of this tragic trilogy which we had was the Valuation and Rating (Scotland) Act. In his speech on the Second Reading of that Measure he pointed to the fact that it was only one part of a three-pronged attack— I think those were his very words— and he told us then that we were to get a Rent Act and what it would contain. He called it on that occasion a measure of justice for Scottish landlords. He told us that the next thing was to reduce the housing subsidies in Scotland, and we have got it. Today he tells us with equal certainty that the Secretary of State for Scotland is going to use the power of further extending the number of houses that are to be decontrolled in Scotland.
§ Mr. Thornton-Kemsley
I said no such thing. I said that it was most unlikely that my tight hon. Friend would use that 1416 power if owners of houses were so unwise as to demand extortionate rents.
§ Mr. Ross
Yes, but we have no advice as to what the words "extortionate rents" mean. I am sure that the hon. Gentleman's speech could not mean anything except that the power was there, that he was glad the power was there and that he was sure that his right hon. Friend would use it. It may be that in the circumstances he would consider it worth while, but we on this side of the House would certainly not consider it opportune. The position is that we are on that road.
I do not think that the Secretary of State can be congratulated on his strength and courage. I think that those were the words that were used. Cruelty is not courage. This Bill is cruel to people who are in a position in which they may lose their homes and it is cruel to people who will be forced to pay higher rents not justified by the circumstances under which they are living. Injustice is not strength. The Bill is cruel and unjust, and in the light of the circumstances of the economy of the country and of the state in which we find ourselves I think that it is a piece of national folly.
§ 7.15 p.m.
§ The Secretary of State for Scotland (Mr. John Maclay)
The hon. Member for Kilmarnock (Mr. Ross) has used expressions about the Bill which he is perfectly entitled to use, but I would emphasise— and I am sure that he would give us credit for this— that we as well as hon. Members on the other side of the House all want to achieve better housing in Scotland and to see that the people who need the houses get them. We must all, if we are sane, want to prevent houses falling further into disrepair, but there is room for argument and for judgment on the best way of doing it.
What we are putting forward is what we believe to be, in the present position, a step forward towards what we all desire. Hon. Members opposite possibly have some other ideas, but I am not going to start on that because I should be out of order in doing so in a Third Reading speech. In their judgment they have better ideas. They are entitled to hold those ideas, but I do not think that they are entitled to use the adjectives which were used in the last part of the hon. Gentleman's speech.
1417 At this stage, no doubt, some people are worried. The Bill is not wildly popular with some of my constituents, but there are others of my constituents who think that good may come out of it, and that is the way I approach it. I am not pretending that the Bill is going to be a cure for all the problems in Scotland. Of course it will not cure them all, but I genuinely believe that it can make a proper contribution to what we all very much desire. I do not propose to go into great detail on the subject. It would be wrong to do so on Third Reading.
Some of the speeches that we have had this afternoon have covered ground which I would like to cover again because I think that it is most useful that I should restate some of the essentials of what will happen in Scotland under the Bill. In the course of what I have to say— and it will not be a long speech— I think that I should take up some of the main points made earlier this afternoon in speeches by Scottish hon. Members.
My hon. Friend the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Housing and Local Government covered much ground in his opening speech which applies equally to Scotland and I do not propose to go over his detailed points again. The Government have all along felt it right that, making full allowance for different Scottish conditions, their general policy of working towards a gradual abolition of rent restriction should apply to Scotland as well as to England and Wales.
We are satisfied that the time has come to make a beginning with this policy. At the same time, we can claim that we have had full regard to the current housing situation in Scotland. [Interruption.] As hon. Members know, and as my hon. Friend the Member for North Angus and Mearns (Mr. Thornton-Kemsley) pointed out, the number of houses in Scotland— I will repeat the figures that have already been given this afternoon— that it is estimated will stand to be decontrolled under Clause 10 (1) is no more than about 60,000 out of the total of some 700,000 controlled houses at present let, or about 8£ per cent, of the total. This percentage is substantially smaller than the percentage of controlled houses due to be decontrolled in this way.in England and Wales. The reason for the difference in percentage is quite simple. The housing 1418 situation in the two countries is well known to be different.
The Government have never sought to disguise the fact that much remains to be done to improve Scottish housing generally. We are, however, convinced that this modest measure of decontrol in Scotland— I repeat the word "modest"— coupled with the freeing of new tenancies from control, will have good results by introducing a degree of mobility and thereby— this is the point I would emphasise— making more accommodation available in the pool of which we have heard so much this afternoon.
§ Mr. Willis
The right hon. Gentleman has just admitted that the conditions in Scotland are different yet they are to be treated in exactly the same fashion under the Bill. We have heard a lot about how the pool, mobility, and that sort of thing, are supposed to benefit Scotland. Will the right hon. Gentleman tell us what the Joint Under-Secretary could not tell us in Committee, in spite of the fact that he was asked many times— where the under-occupation which is to provide additional occupation is supposed to be in Scotland?
§ Mr. Maclay
I cannot this evening produce figures, but do not hon. Members opposite know very well what happens every morning in great areas of Scotland? People leave their homes and have to catch trains in order to get to work at a distance. What is the cause of that? It is the complete rigidity which exists over this question. I am not saying that the measures we propose will do a great deal to change that, but this is a modest beginning. If we can get people to go to smaller houses— [HON. MEMBERS: "Where are they?"]— which are nearer their work, undoubtedly we can increase the amount of accommodation. I am certain hon. Members opposite know what goes on in their constituencies, as I hope I know to a considerable extent what goes on in mine. I know there are numbers of houses which have fewer people in them than they could properly hold while there are badly overcrowded houses in other places. That is what we mean when we say that increased flexibility and decontrol must give some assistance, but I repeat that I am not claiming that there will be terrific results.
§ Mr. Lawson
The right hon. Gentleman made a virtue out of the 8½ per cent, of 1419 houses to be decontrolled in Scotland. I listened to the former Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry when he argued the case for England. The figure there was about 30 per cent, and there had to be a sufficiently large number or the pool would not be large enough to prevent abuse and extortionate rents. How does the 8½ per cent, work out in Scotland?
§ Mr. Maclay
We have to judge percentages and all these figures in relation to a given situation. I claim that this is a modest contribution. I do not say more than that, but it is a start. I am certain that if we do not make a start soon the position will remain frozen and we shall have the ridiculous situation of people living in houses which they do not want because they are too large. If hon. Members do not know that from their own constituencies, they cannot know their constituencies very well.
§ Mr. McInnes
It is no use the right hon. Gentleman making statements unless he is prepared to prove them by illustrating how by decontrolling a house another house can be made available in the pool.
§ Mr. Maclay
We get more flexibility and once we have flexibility we increase the total number if we can get the right size family into the right house.
Under the transitional provisions of the Fourth Schedule, as amended by the Government in Committee, the possibility of hardship in the individual case is reduced to the minimum, and, as hon. Members for Scottish constituencies will have noted, the various other modifications that the Government have included in the Bill to safeguard the interests of tenants and prospective tenants will apply to Scotland as well as to England and Wales— compensation for tenants' improvements, the ban on premiums in the three years following decontrol, and the like.
So far as the rent provisions of the Bill are concerned, the Scottish Clauses take a very different form from those relating to England and Wales. The Scottish Clauses are, frankly, of an interim nature. Until new and uniform valuations, based on the principle of fair rents, are available under the Valuation and Rating Act, 1956, we have no basis on which to build a new rent structure. We in Scotland must therefore continue meanwhile 1420 to rely on the Rent Acts and on the Housing (Repairs and Rents) (Scotland) Act, 1954.
The changes that the Bill brings about — the new 25 per cent, increase and the revised repairs increase of 50 per cent, of the 1954 recoverable rent— are necessarily limited in scope. Since we cannot at this stage seek to provide a new rent structure and new rent limits, our object has been, in the changes introduced by the Bill, to make the 1954 Act work better and so to enable as many houses as possible to be kept in, or put into, repair. We believe that the Bill, with its provision for the two alternative increases— the 25 per cent, increase and the 50 per cent, increase— will help substantially to that end.
In monetary terms, as has been pointed out, these increases are not large. The maximum increase payable weekly for the highest rented houses remaining in control will be 7s. 8d. a week in the case of the repairs increase and 3s. 10d. a week in the case of the 25 per cent, increase. These, I stress, are the maximum amounts. For the large majority of houses remaining in control the amount of the increase will be less than 4s. a week and 2s. a week for the repairs increase and the 25 per cent, increase, respectively. It must also be kept in mind that the increases are payable only if and so long as the statutory conditions are satisfied, that is, that the house is in good repair and fit for habitation.
§ Mr. Maclay
That is the statutory position. In the adjustment that we made in the disrepair provisions in relation to the 1920 Act increase, our object has likewise been to make the 1954 Act work better. Hitherto, the issue of a certificate of disrepair has meant that the landlord has lost not only the repairs increase, but also the increase under the 1920 Act, with the result that his rent has gone back to the 1914 level. We take the view, quite simply, that at this time of day it is absurd that rents should be liable to fall back to the level at which they were before the First World War.
§ Mr. Maclay
I have made the position clear and do not propose to go over it again.
These rent provisions are, as I have said, of an interim nature and the Government do not look on them as representing a new rent structure for houses remaining in control. It will be necessary, once the new valuations become available in 1961, to make a fresh and comprehensive review of the position as a whole.
Meanwhile, we regard the Scottish provisions of the Bill as useful, indeed necessary, measures to enable our stock of houses to be kept in repair. If, as we expect, the Bill helps us to achieve that object it will make a highly important contribution in dealing with what is one of the main tasks of hon. Members on this side of the House and hon. Members opposite who want the same thing, the improvement of Scotland's housing.
§ 7.29 p.m.
§ Mr. David Weitzman (Stoke Newington and Hackney, North)
I listened with very great interest to the speech that was made earlier by the hon. Member for Henley (Mr. Hay), who said that a Tory Government would not think of introducing decontrol unless they could see the supply of housing equal to or greater than the demand. I think that I am stating accurately the gist of his remarks.
The hon. Gentleman then went on, as have other hon. Members, to talk about the supply of housing, about large houses which were occupied by two or three people, which would now become available to others. No figures were produced which could support an argument of that kind. I would say to the Minister that we can only judge this matter from the point of view of our constituencies, which we know intimately.
I have the honour to represent a London constituency, and I know the housing situation there. It is idle for the Minister to say that there are any large houses or under-occupied houses there or anything that will satisfy our needs, since we have a genuine housing list of 3,000 registered with the borough council, a large number with the London County Council and many occupying requisitioned premises How it could be argued 1422 soundly that there is any prospect in the near future of accommodation becoming available for these people requiring accommodation, that supply can possibly equal or be more than demand, I do not know.
We have to judge on the facts as we know them. If the Bill is based on the belief by the Tory Government that that is the position, it is a completely false hypothesis. Once that goes, the Bill stands condemned. I join with my hon. Friends in condemning wholeheartedly what I think are the iniquitous provisions of the Bill.
My object in rising is to deal shortly with one point that troubles me a great deal, and to which I referred, as far as I could, yesterday. The Minister will, perhaps, recollect the point. I hope he will do me the honour of listening carefully to this matter, because it is a vital point which affects thousands of tenants.
Under Clause 10, the Rent Act shall not apply to any dwelling in London where the rateable value exceeds £ 40. I take for my purpose houses in London where the rateable value exceeds £ 40. The Minister will concede that there are thousands of houses which come within that class, where the rateable value exceeds £ 40. There are thousands of cases where tenants have sub-let those premises and the tenant has retained only one, two or three rooms for himself.
I put to the Minister, on Report, that according to the provisions of this Bill a tenancy in those circumstances would be decontrolled but that the sub-tenant's tenancy, on the other hand, would remain controlled. My justification for putting forward that proposition is contained, I suggest, in a true reading of the Bill. I have already referred to Clause 10, which says that the Rent Acts are not to apply to a dwelling-house where, in London, the rateable value is over £ 40. The tenant is and, despite the sub-tenancies, remains the tenant of the whole house rated at over £ 40. As I read Clause 10, he is the tenant of the premises which will become decontrolled.
It will be observed that the definition of "dwelling" according to Clause 22, is:' dwelling', except in section fifteen of this Act"—1423 which we can disregard—means in relation to a controlled tenancy the aggregate of the premises comprised in the tenancy, and in relation to a contract the aggregate of the premises to which the contract relates.So far as the sub-tenant is concerned, there is provision in the Bill for the rates to be apportioned according to the subtenancy that he occupies, and if the rates are so apportioned and are under £ 40 he is controlled and remains a controlled tenant.
As for the tenant, however, if we take the definition Clause, apart from Clause 10, in relation to the contract between him and the landlord, his premises arethe aggregate of the premises to which the contract relates …that is, the whole of the premises. We therefore have this extraordinary position of hardship whereby tenants of houses in London with a rateable value of over £ 40, who are living in two rooms, for example, and have been so doing for many years, will be decontrolled by the provisions of the Bill. The sub-tenants in the same house occupying two or three rooms, or possibly more than the tenant, remain controlled.
When I raised that point on Report, the Minister said that it had been covered by a previous Amendment. I have checked the Amendment to which he referred——
§ Mr. H. Brooke
May I tell the hon. and learned Gentleman that having now had an opportunity of reading his speech yesterday I find that I was not correct in thinking that that further Amendment to which I referred him was an answer to what he said.
§ Mr. Weitzman
I am very much obliged. I would say, further, that I have taken very great care to go through any Amendment that would possibly refer to this matter. Of course, I can only speak from my poor knowledge of the law, but I would say that nothing that I can find touches this matter in any way. Even if one refers back to Section 5 of the 1938 Act, which deals with apportionment and gives power to apportion premises, that, in my view, will not assist in this case.
I respectfully suggest to the Minister that in this case he is under the mistaken 1424 impression that the matter has been dealt with; and this is an example of a difficulty that has arisen because, through the operation of the Guillotine, we have not been able to go into these matters in detail and discuss them properly.
I put this point to the Minister, because I am very troubled about it. If it is his intention to decontrol tenants in the situation which I have described, I would ask him to say so plainly. If it is not his intention to do so, I ask him to look at the Bill and see that something is done to correct what is wrong. If the matter is left in doubt, I would remind the Minister of the confusion which followed all the Rent Restrictions Acts, and the rich volume of judicial decisions which followed. I take it that the Minister's object is not to make work for lawyers, however desirable that may be from the point of view of my profession, but to set out the position as clearly as possible so that there can be no doubt on the point.
In my opinion, this is a bad Bill, but the least that the Minister can do is to refrain from cloaking its evil intentions.
§ 7.38 p.m.
§ Mr. H. A. Price (Lewisham, West)
I propose to divide my remarks into two, but as a preamble I should like to begin by joining those who have congratulated the hon. and learned Member for Kettering (Mr. Mitchison) and my right hon. Friend the Minister on the way in which they have discharged their different functions vis-a-vis this Bill during the last few weeks. I hope that the hon. and learned Member for Kettering will not object— in fact, I hope he will join with me— when I say how much we appreciate the patience and the courtesy with which my right hon. Friend has dealt with the suggestions which have been made to him in Committee, on the Floor of the House, in correspondence and conversations.
My right hon. Friend knows that while I welcome the Bill as a whole, I have very serious misgivings about the consequences of Clause 10 (1). In my view, not only is it almost entirely unnecessary, but the Bill would be better without it. It is possible to divide into four fairly clearly defined categories the properties which are to be decontrolled under the Bill. There are the owner-occupied properties, the new lettings, the controlled 1425 properties, of whatever rateable value, falling vacant, and properties which will become decontrolled by reference to their rateable value under Clause 10 (1).
It will be noted that in respect of the first three categories there is no question of anxiety or hardship being imposed upon sitting tenants. Those factors apply only to properties to be decontrolled under Clause 10 (1).
I know that the argument advanced in respect of this particular category is that there must be created a pool of decontrolled lettings sufficiently large to prevent landlords taking advantage of a scarcity market and to enable a free market to form. That is a perfectly sound argument. But, in my opinion, the Minister would be quite safe and, indeed, wiser, to rely upon the combined effects of Clause 1 and Clause 10 (2) for that purpose and dispense with Clause 10 (1), with all the admitted risks involved. Indeed, a great amount of time, trouble, and ingenuity has been devoted during the past weeks to devising safeguards against these risks.
It has been argued that there will be a fair amount of moving around of tenants from one house to another within the Clause 10 (1) category. If there is, as there probably will be, that will result in decontrol under 10 (2). Clause 10 (1) is unnecessary for that purpose. It has been argued that this subsection is necessary to deal with under-occupation. Here again, I submit that Clause 10 (1) is unnecessary for that purpose. The operation of Clause I will, to my submission, be sufficient to persuade tenants of these larger properties either to seek smaller and cheaper accommodation elsewhere, in which case the properties will become decontrolled under Clause 10 (2), or to co-operate with the landlords in allowing these larger properties to be converted into accommodation for two or more families, in which case, again, they become decontrolled under Clause 10 (2).
The more I think about this, the more does it become clear to me that the benefits, if any, resulting from Clause 10 (1) are so small that they are not worth the risks involved. These properties could, of course, make a substantial contribution to the pool if there were a substantial number of evictions at the end of the 15-month period; but that would involve considerable hardship, 1426 which nobody wants. If, on the other hand, the number of evictions is small, as my right hon. Friend and I believe will be the case, then the contribution towards his pool will be very small.
It is argued that tenants of the properties concerned will have 15 months in which to negotiate a new agreement with their landlords and that, in the absence of agreement, at the end of that period there will be alternative accommodation available for them as a result of the operation of Clause 10 (2). I agree that there might be. But there might not be. In London, there is a very big question mark over that possibility. Such people will not be the only applicants for accommodation becoming available under Clause 10 (2). There will be the families on the waiting lists of the London County Council and the Metropolitan boroughs.
I am afraid that, for the most part, tenants faced with this choice will not run the risk, but will decide that the chances of accommodation being available at the end of the 15 months are so slender that they would be well advised to sign an agreement as soon as possible, to obtain the security which such an agreement would confer upon them. In doing so, they will be very likely to agree to pay perhaps more than they can afford.
I complete this part of my speech by arguing that the risk involved just is not worth the prize to be gained. The advantages of the subsection, will, it seems to me, be so small that it would be better not to run the risk. The French have a proverb, "If it is not necessary to change, it is necessary not to change". I paraphrase that and say, "If it is not necessary to run this risk, it is necessary not to run the risk". I hope that, even at this late stage, my right hon. Friend will think very seriously over the arguments which I have advanced, which, I am quite sure, are sound. I have discussed them with many people, such as estate agents and solicitors, well qualified to express an opinion, and, so far, very few, if any, have felt able to disagree.
§ Mr.Herbert Butler (Hackney, Central)
I understand that the hon. Gentleman is coming to the end of that part of his argument. If so, there is a question I should like to put to him at this point. I understand that he is opposed to subsection (1) of Clause 10. Will he say 1427 whether he is opposed to subsection (3), which applies these evils to another 5 million people instead of to 800,000?
§ Mr. Price
No; the only part of the Bill to which I am opposed is Clause 10 (1), and I will tell the hon. Gentleman why. If it had been possible for me to vote on that subsection I should have voted against it. If it had been possible for me to vote on Clause 10, or Clause 9 as it then was, I should have abstained. I was not, in fact, a member of the Committee. As regards the Bill itself, I shall vote in favour.
If the Minister were to rely upon Clause 10 (2), even without Clause 10 (1), there would become available additional units of accommodation to the estimated number of about 125,000 a year. I do not know how reliable that figure is, but we will not quarrel about it.
§ Mr. Price
Even if we say 100,000, which is appreciably below the estimates, then, after three, four or perhaps five years— we can differ as to the appropriate period— it would become safe then to apply Clause 10 (1), and the Minister could do that under the powers conferred upon him by Clause 10 (3). That is why I am not opposed to subsection (3).
I come now to the second part of my argument. If my right hon. Friend has found what I have said so far not very agreeable, I hope that he will find what I have to say now more palatable. This Bill has been very unpopular. One hon. Gentleman opposite attributed the defeat of the Conservative candidate in Lewisham, North to the Rent Bill, and I entirely agree with him.
§ Mr. Price
Is the hon. Gentleman suggesting that his right hon. Friend the Member for Lewisham, South (Mr. H. Morrison) is about to lose his seat?
I agree that the Rent Bill was almost entirely responsible for the adverse result, from my point of view, of the Lewisham, North by-election. But I am quite certain that the unpopularity of the Bill is very largely based upon a misunderstanding. It is based upon a com- 1428 pletely false comparison. It is based upon a comparison between the position as it is now and the position as it will be when the Bill becomes an Act. Even worse, it is based upon a comparison between a completely distorted conception encouraged by Socialist propaganda of the sort that I saw in Lewisham, North and what the position will be when the Bill becomes an Act.
That comparison is not open to the people of the country. Every hon. Member in the Chamber knows that it is completely false. Neither party has the slightest intention of allowing the present position to continue. Both parties are committed to altering it. The only comparison open to the electorate is that between our solution, which is indicated in the Bill, and the Socialist solution, which I understand to be the municipalisation of all rent controlled, tenant-occupied property.
§ Mr. Mitchison
Perhaps I might point out to the hon. Member that what we are now considering is whether or not we shall give a Third Reading to this Bill. The view of the Opposition is definitely that the Bill will make matters worse than they are at present. For that reason, we have opposed it and shall continue to oppose it inside and outside the House.
§ Mr. Deputy-Speaker (Sir Gordon Touche)
On Third Reading the House can consider only what is in the Bill.
§ Mr. R. J. Mellish (Bermondsey)
Perhaps I might interrupt the hon. Gentleman, who is a near neighbour of mine. I do not deny his courage, and I will say that for him publicly. But has he, in justification of the Bill, held any meetings in his constituency, explaining the Measure and defending it?
§ Mr. Price
I tried to hold another, but could not get a hall.
There is another part of my comparison which will be in order. Another factor left out of public consideration so far has been the long-term advantages of the Bill. There is no doubt in my mind that the long-term advantages will accrue despite the misgivings that I have about the operation of Clause 10 (1). We have only to look at the history of the past ten years. For five years hon. Members opposite were struggling to build 200,000 houses a year— [HON. MEMBERS: "And factories."] Since then we have been building 300,000 houses a year.
§ Mr. Price
We have been building 300,000 houses a year. [HON. MEMBERS: "Who are 'we'?"] The nation under a Conservative Government. [HON. MEMBERS: "The local authorities."] It is not local authorities who build houses; it is builders who build them. Hon. Gentlemen know as well as I do that when we say "we" we mean the nation, under the present Administration. We have built 300,000 houses a year——
§ Mr. Price
— and it seems that we are no nearer a solution to our housing problem than we were when we started. [HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear."] The reason for that is obvious. While we have been pouring an enormous amount of our national resources into building 300,000 houses a year for the housing pool we have been allowing 200,000 houses a year to pour out at the other end of the pool through lack of maintenance. At the same time, we have allowed an enormous amount of under-occupied property to remain frozen because of the operation of the Rent Restrictions Acts. I am sure that as a result of the Bill a substantial 1430 part of the under-occupied property will become available for letting.
The people who will derive the greatest benefit from the Bill are young married couples who are now living with in-laws and have not so far been able to obtain a home of their own, those living in furnished rooms which they cannot afford, and those who want to get married but cannot yet find anywhere to live. For the first time since the war there will be lettings coming on to the market, at first only a trickle but then in an ever increasing number. That is a benefit for which it is well worth running a slight risk.
§ Mr. Price
I dislike being diverted in this way, but I must deal with that point. Hon. Gentlemen opposite underestimate what has been done under the 1954 Act. My criticism of that Act— this has been one of the few occasions when I have agreed with the right hon. Member for Ebbw Vale (Mr. Bevan)— is that it did not offer sufficient incentives. I believe that this Bill will remedy that. I believe that once we have got over the awkward period, which will come about 18 months from now, the benefits will begin to flow, and we shall look back with gratitude upon a Government which has had the courage to face the unpopularity which is inseparable from such a Measure.
§ 7.57 p.m.
§ Mr. Simon Mahon (Bootle)
After being associated with housing matters for so many years and after having devoted a considerable part of the last ten years to easing the problem in Merseyside, I am of the opinion that most hon. and right hon. Gentlemen opposite know very little about the real housing situation.
I am very pleased that the Parliamentary Secretary, like myself, is a Merseyside man and had some experience in a local authority before being elevated to Parliament and his present office. However, I wonder whether he would put to the people of Liverpool and Merseyside 1431 with the same diligence the specious arguments advanced here during the last three weeks.
§ Mr. Bevins
I can answer the hon. Gentleman straightaway. I have already done so and am continuing to do so.
§ Mr. Mahon
Has the hon. Gentleman explained to them that 350,000 people on Merseyside are living in houses which the Ministry has agreed are unfit, which will come within the jurisdiction of the Bill and in respect of which increased rent will be payable? I wonder whether he would be able to convince those people that the benefits of the Bill will be so great. In view of my knowledge of the people of Merseyside and the terrible conditions which they endure, I should find it difficult to advance such arguments to them. I have no legal experience; my experience is of the people and the way they live.
It is relevant in relation to the Bill and to conditions today that there are 100,000 people on Merseyside on strike. What is the position of those people who are among the 350,000 people now living in these houses? Do the industrialists ever think of the effect of the workers' domestic life on industrial relationships and their reaction to society as a whole? It has a great effect in Liverpool. If our people were better and more securely housed, there would be better relationships in industry as a whole. I have always been an enemy of class war, and I can see in the Bill the old class war and the old relationships reappearing. If they want peace in industry and in society, the Government must get rid of this class attitude towards our people.
Whatever the Government's reasons for bringing the Bill forward, there is no doubt in the minds of the landlords about what it means. It means £ 100 million more cash in their pockets, £ 18 million of which will come from the National Assistance Board. The landlords have no altruistic motives at all. They are not concerned with providing more houses and preventing further deterioration. They say in their circulars relating to the Bill that more cash is coming along. Does it surprise anyone in the House that the landlords should continue to behave as they have always behaved in the industrial cities?
1432 Are the charges which I and many other people have advanced against the landlords for many years all untrue? Are they all made by unscrupulous people? Are the charges of usury unfounded? Are the charges of a lack of social conscience unfounded, and the charge that they have ruined the health of our people? I believe that these charges in the case of the people whom I represent are well and truly founded. If the Bill were being considered against the background of an enlightened landlordism, there would have been a different reaction, but it is because we know so much about the past activities of these people that we oppose the Bill.
I had thought from what I had read in the newspapers that there would be a revolt against the Bill in the Conservative Party. Whatever I may lack in political or Parliamentary knowledge as a new man in the House, I can say that if my party were putting over on the people something which was as unpopular and unjust as this Bill and I raised my voice in the House against it, I should have the courage to go into the Lobby and vote against it.
§ Mr. H. A. Price
If the hon. Member is referring to me, as he appears to be doing, I must tell him that, whilst I said that the Bill was unpopular, I did not for one moment suggest that it was unjust.
§ Mr. Mahon
The hon. Member may have been among the rebels to whom the national Press has given so much publicity and who have been making constituency speeches in order to absolve themselves from the difficulty in which the Government have placed them. If I had been a rebel against the Bill I should have had the courage to vote against it. Hon. Members still have an opportunity. Everybody in the country knows that the Bill is unjust. The British are a reasonable people and yet, all over the country, there has been this violent reaction against the Bill.
The hon. Member for the Isle of Thanet (Mr. Rees-Davies) has said that 10 per cent, of landlords were bad. If that is so, surely we should try to offset the activities of these people. The hon. Member did not tell us how much property the 10 per cent, owned or how wide was the sphere of their activities. I 1433 could give the Parliamentary Secretary the names of a number of people in Liverpool. If I mention Newman, does not the hon. Gentleman's mind go back to people who have battened on tenants for so long and who own half the city? If I mention Graff Brothers and the B.T.G. Trust, does not the hon. Gentleman's mind go back to the people who come to his "surgery" every week? That is the Parliamentary Secretary's background to housing and it is mine. I am fairly reasonable in my approach and I do not like to be unjust, but in all my activities on Merseyside I have met only one landlord who was socially enlightened in the administration of his houses. If I had met any more I would say so, as the Parliamentary Secretary knows.
The Bill may turn out to be something like "Operation Rescue" and, though perhaps a little more remunerative, something like the "mouldy turnip" where the social advance of our people is concerned. There is a social use and a private use of property. Many years ago, I tried to learn something about the balance of our social life, because my environment was rather unbalanced in many ways. I tried to learn about the social uses and the private uses of property. The private use of property is being over-emphasised by the Government today and the social use is being under-played. The Communist Party will fail because it over-plays the social use and the present Government will fail because they are over-playing the private use. A balance is needed. We on this side of the House are trying to supply that balance.
There is no objection to the owner-occupier. We agree that the owner-occupier should be secure in every way. I am an owner-occupier and I believe fundamentally in the rights of the family and private ownership of its own home. It is most important that a man should feel that he has a stake in a modern industrial society. The best way of making him feel that he has such a stake is by allowing him to own his home and making it easy for him to do so. The Government are not doing that; they are, indeed, making it much more difficult. I am not judging the Bill from the point of view of political dogmatism. It is not a question of whether the Bill is Right or Left. Like many other things which should be based on moral foundations, this is a question of whether it 1434 is right or wrong from the country's point of view, and it is a very wrong and wicked Bill indeed.
I have dealt with the position of ownership and now I want to talk about a point mentioned some time ago. If we want an exchange between properties, which is so advisable today, and if we want free exchange between the young and the old people and between the large and the small families, a Bill is not needed. Yet the argument has been put forward that we want an interchange of property. This Bill is not necessary to do this.
I have been advocating the interchange of property for the last ten years with little success. I blame the landlords in this respect, and, if I am wrong, hon. Members can interrupt me. On another occasion, when I felt better than I do now, I said in this House that the landlords had been given social absolution. I could not improve on that phrase. All the time that we were struggling to solve the housing problem of Merseyside, the landlords stood on the sidelines and left us to wrestle with all the social causation arising in their properties. They would not grant an exchange and when, up to twelve months ago, houses became free in the slum-clearance area, as my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Kettering (Mr. Mitchison) knows, they sold the houses. That is the background of landlordism in the City of Liverpool.
I do not believe that there will be any change. I believe that when houses become empty under the Bill in the City of Liverpool landlords will continue to sell, as they did previously. They will do so for one principal reason, because they know that there will be a change of Government one day in this country, and they are very wide-awake people. I have always believed in the municipalisation of this type of house and I would be disappointed in any Labour Government that did not carry it out.
Now I want to refer to a statement made by right hon. and hon. Gentlemen opposite to the effect that the position will be equated by 1958. I want to draw the attention of the Parliamentary Secretary to the fact that amongst the houses which will account for that equation there will be approximately 300,000 built in one year. I have praised the Government before for this achievement. It is a considerable achievement to build 300,000 1435 houses in any one year. I have criticised the type of house, but, nevertheless, it is an achievement. What is happening to those houses today, and what will be the effect on them of this Bill? Approximately half of them will be sold, leaving about 150,000. All the local authorities have suggested that they will use half of what are left for slum clearance, leaving half again for those on the waiting list.
Anybody who says that by 1958 the market will have equated itself, does not know what he is talking about, and does not know the housing position. There will be only a quarter of those houses for slum clearance, so the statement from the Front Bench opposite that the position will be equated and that there will be a free market by 1958 is ridiculous.
Now I want to quote the figures from my town to prove that there cannot be a free market in 1958. It is a simple sum, but it has taken a long time to work out by statistical analysis. In 1956 the total number of families on the waiting list of Bootle were 5,480. In 1946 there were 3,924, so we now have 1,500 families more on the waiting list than we had then, and that is after building 800 houses a year for letting, and after letting 6,643 dwellings
So instead of the position getting better, in spite of all our efforts, it is getting considerably worse, and this is not the time for decontrol in any form. It is wrong and immoral to say that there is any premise for that argument, yet that is the false premise upon which the Bill is based, that there will be a free market by a certain time. It is impossible in the big cities.
§ Mr. R. Gresham Cooke (Twickenham)
If I may interrupt the hon. Gentleman, I do not think anybody has suggested that there would be a free market in all types of houses by 1957 or 1958. The suggestion has been made that there would be a free market in the upper brackets of houses.
§ Mr. Mahon
The general impression that has gone out deliberately from the other side of the House is that we shall, more or less, have equated the housing position by 1958. That is what hon. Gentlemen opposite have said. I say that we are going back to the days not of the single occupation of houses, not of 1436 the dignity of one family in one home, not of one family secure in its home, not of one marriage secure in its home— which is important in these days of easy divorce, when church authorities are looking at the break-up of family life— not of dual ownership or occupation of houses, but of treble occupation.
That is what will happen in the City of Liverpool, on Merseyside and in Glasgow. The people in Henley and in other parts of the country may look at this differently, but we have had a lot of experience. We have not yet sorted out all the social causation, and before we are half way along the road to do so we shall get back to the previous position. There will be overcrowding generally on Merseyside. In my opinion, inadequate as I may be to say all that I want to say, this is a vicious and vile Bill and a piece of class legislation.
§ 8.17 p.m.
§ Mr. Graeme Finlay (Epping)
It is a pleasure to follow the hon. Gentleman the Member for Bootle (Mr. Mahon), who devotes a great deal of attention to this subject.
On the question of equation between the supply and demand of houses, I will not refer to what my hon. Friend the Member for Henley (Mr. Hay) said earlier about the P.E.P. Report. I want to refer, instead, to what the right hon. Member for Ebbw Vale (Mr. Bevan) said in 1949, that an equivalence between those two things was fast approaching. Coming from such an untainted source, perhaps that will impress hon. and right hon. Gentlemen opposite.
Not only is there that support, but there is what must be a tremendous availability of technical advice in the hands of a great Government Department. After all, the Minister of Housing and Local Government and his Parliamentary Secretary have the greatest personal interest in getting this problem solved, and from the pinnacle on which they sit, coupled with the advice they get, they are entitled to respect on this matter.
When people want to rely on figures I find that they are extraordinarily decisive about them. For instance, the hon. Gentleman the Member for Bootle was prepared to accept a figure of 10 per cent, of bad landlords. That is all very well when relying on an argument about bad 1437 landlords, but when it comes to the equation of the supply and demand of housing we are not so decisive in accepting figures. This Bill has been called the landlords' charter. I believe that the hon. Gentleman the Member for Wellingborough (Mr. Lindgren) was the author of that expression. I wonder whether that is accurate, taking into account previous terminology which has been applied to Government legislation of this kind.
We remember the Housing Repairs and Rents Act, 1954, which was emasculated as a result of opposition. I do not think that the Opposition wanted it to work. That was called, much more realistically, a "mouldy turnip" by the right hon. Member for Ebbw Vale— he was probably right— while, on the other hand, the hon. Member for Newcastle-upon-Tyne, East (Mr. Blenkinsop), who also occupies an influential position in the party, called it "a gold mine for the landlords." These things do not add up, and I wonder how accurately will be the terminology "landlords' charter".
A point which struck me as significant crept out almost unconsciously from the hon. and learned Member for Kettering (Mr. Mitchison) yesterday when he talked about how "fed up" some Government supporters are with the prospect of leaving houses which, over the years, they have come to consider as their own. That is a very significant observation— "come to consider as their own". It was not only the hon. and learned Member for Kettering who made this remark. His hon. and possibly soon learned Friend, the Member for Lewisham, North (Mr. MacDermot) said, in the course of a very able speech on the constitutional aspect of Clause 10 (3):We are concerned here with the security of people in their own homes, the ability of people to consider the place where they live as being their own home and not some temporary foothold.…."— [OFFICIAL REPORT. 27th March, 1957; Vol. 567. c. 1178.]
§ Mr. Finlay
This attitude of mind is fascinating in right hon. and hon. Members opposite. I am a rent-controlled tenant, but I recognise that I live in somebody else's property and that many, many years after the emergency has passed perhaps those who put their 1438 money into their property have some rights, too, under the law of the land.
§ Mr. Mitchison
The hon. Member must know that people, particularly old people who have lived in a house for eighteen or twenty years——
§ Mr. Mitchison
— and possibly longer, like to consider it as their home. They consider it as their own home; they are not thinking in terms of property, but regarding it as their home.
§ Mr. Finlay
I listened with great respect and attention to the hon. and learned Member, as I always do. He was trying to make the point that we are the inhuman forces and hon. Members opposite purely the social forces. While I respect the position of elderly people living in other people's property, they have no right, however long they have lived, to think that as a result of a prescription which arose from emergency conditions the property belongs to them. It is a very human thing to do, but it is not morally right.
If we are to speak of elderly people, let us consider the position of an elderly widow who owns a house and who must continue to live on a 1939 rent although possibly her husband invested money in that house purely as a basis for keeping her when he died. Consider her position today. When the hon. and learned Member lectures me, in however gracious a fashion, about the position of the elderly, I hope that he will remember that there is another side to the picture which concerns the elderly who own the house and derive from it an income which is completely out of touch with the realities of 1957.
§ Mr. Mitchison
May I lecture the hon. Member again by way of asking him a question? I was looking in Dod to see whether he is a lawyer, and I find that he is. Surely he is aware that a landlord and a tenant each has a legal interest in the house; it belongs to both of them. The landlord has his interest and the tenant has his interest. I hope that the hon. Member will use more accurate language next time.
§ Mr. Finlay
The hon. and learned Member must not blow hot and cold. One minute he is lecturing me for not 1439 being sufficiently human and the next minute he is telling me that I am not sufficiently technical. He cannot have it both ways.
To turn to this matter in its human form, it is very intelligible that people should not like the Bill. That is why I state that it is an act of courage. A Scottish hon. Member opposite said it was an act of cruelty, but we must remember that all hon. Members are politicians and are, therefore, presumably interested in popularity, and it must be conceded at once that it is against the self-interest, if no more, of any Government to propose such a Measure as this, which is inherently unpopular.
§ Mr. Lindgren
That is all according to how much the Government were paid by the interests concerned for what they have done for them. The Tory Party has never yet disclosed the contributions of the landlords to their party funds.
§ Mr. Finlay
The hon. Member has a very pleasant disposition, but he has wild prejudices against the landlords as a class which, I think, rather colour his approach to the problem. They are quite in conflict with his agreeable disposition, but I do not think that he will ever change as long as he remains in the House.
Perhaps I may call for order in the rather loud conversation which is taking place. It is understandable that the Bill is unpopular. No one likes to have to pay more for what he has. If we want to sell something, we want to get as much as we can for it. If we want to buy something, we want to buy it as cheaply as we can. If people have been fortunate enough to pay 1939 prices for all this time, I can well understand how unpopular such a proposal as this will be.
§ Mr. J. Hynd
The hon. Member has referred to paying 1939 prices. Will he bear in mind that he is paying the 1939 price for a 1939 or earlier product, purchased at 1939 or earlier prices?
§ Mr. Finlay
One would not like to be dogmatic about the construction or value of things put up in 1939 contrasted with what was put up after the war. Some of us would be very pleased to pay 1939 prices for something put up in 1935, because before the war there was a superior type of construction, probably more solid 1440 than many things built since the war. I am complaining that we have been paying a price for something which is not in accordance with its true value. Hon. Members opposite have spoken about justice. I do not see how, in justice, it can possibly be contended that a particular class of the community— landlords, if hon. Members like to describe them in that way— should be subsidising out of their private pockets other people who are living in their houses.
§ Mr. Shurmer
Will the hon. Member tell us about the 40 per cent, increase in 1920? When the Birmingham Corporation took over thousands of houses it had to spend an enormous amount of money to repair them because, by fraud, landlords had taken the 40 per cent, increase of 1920, but had never— or hardly ever— done any repairs to those houses. Even when they did repairs, it cost the Corporation money to take them to court to compel them to do the repairs. Of course they have had the money. The trouble is that they will not do the repairs.
§ Mr. Finlay
I am giving way a great deal, but I cannot see the relevance of the rent restriction position between the wars and the Third Reading of this Bill. We are talking about very different surrounding circumstances.
The difficulties which people anticipate will arise from the Bill— and one is entitled to one's judgment, informed by expert advice— are greatly over-exaggerated. There will be some hardship and I do not think that such an operation, carried out one way or the other— I shall not talk about what hon. Gentlemen opposite contemplate doing— could be accomplished without some degree of hardship. But substantially more hardship is caused at present to other people under the existing system. We have to balance those considerations and I think that this legislation is going along the right lines and, indeed, is overdue.
When one considers that whole streets in the City of Leeds have disintegrated, decayed and have fallen down, because it was no longer economic for landlords to maintain their property— ——
§ Mr. Finlay
It was not worth while in that particular part of the world to maintain houses, and so they fell into rubble. I cannot believe that anyone will think that that is a sound housing policy. This is a matter which has to be rectified.
In the course of the Second Reading debate, the hon. and learned Member for Kettering said that it was an iniquitous thing— that is a fashionable expression to use about it. People are "disgusted" and think it is "iniquitous", and so on, He said that "one obvious effect" was to transfer large sums of money from people who could not afford to pay to people, whose need was not so great. It is worth analysing and dissecting that political statement, because the results are interesting.
Is it really obvious that that is the process? I do not think so. Let us consider the case of the people who cannot afford to pay. Right hon. and hon. Gentlemen opposite are always very fond of contending how great has been the social revolution since the war. It is true that there has been an enormous social revolution. There has been an enormous transference of wealth; those at the top of the income groups have come down and those at the bottom have gone up— the brackets have closed. The expression "those who cannot afford to pay" must be read in the context of a wealth grouping which has radically changed since the war. In my division I have a family, bringing in about £ 40 or £ 50 a week, which is living in a six-room house and paying a rent of 12s. 6d. That is one of the families who cannot afford to pay and there are many like it.
§ Mr. H. Butler
That will become a public statement. How does the hon. Member know that a man is getting £ 40 or £ 50 a week?
§ Mr. Finlay
Many assertions are made in this Chamber with far less to support them than I have in this case. Perhaps the hon. Member would like to continue the argument outside the Chamber.
The proportion of the national income devoted to rent has been steadily shrinking. In 1946, on rent, rates and water charges the nation spent £ 548 million and 1442 the total consumers' expenditure was £ 7,159 million. Expressed as a percentage of the total consumers' expenditure, the amount on rent, and so on, was 7.65 per cent. In 1955, on rent, rates and water charges the nation spent £ 837 million and the total consumers' expenditure was £ 12,783 million, which means that the nation spent on rent 6.55 per cent, of the total consumers' expenditure. The figure is appreciably declining.
What has the nation been doing with the money? It has been spending £ 859 million a year upon drink; £ 880 million on tobacco; £ 300 million upon sweets, ice cream and chocolate; and £ 68 million upon new television sets.
§ Mr. Lindgren
It is very interesting to have the hon. Member's figures, but surely he will agree that it is not only the tenants of rented houses who drink or smoke. Surely private owners or owner-occupiers drink and smoke, and are included in the figures he gives. The private owner and owner-occupier also have television. Why does the hon. Member quote the figures for total consumption against one section of the population— the tenants?
§ Mr. Finlay
As a matter of statistical evidence it would be very difficult to break down the figures. I am trying to get a good, rough picture of the position. Right hon. and hon. Members opposite talk from time to time about the standard of living not going up, but the interesting fact deposed to by these statistics is that the position is quite to the contrary. All I am saying is that those people who cannot afford to pay must be considered in the context of what has been happening to the national wealth.
Let us turn to the other side of the picture. What about the people who do not need the money nearly so much— the beneficiaries of this £ 100 million? What about the pensioner landlord, who bought a few houses in his working prime for a retirement investment?
§ Mr. Finlay
How can the hon. Member say that? He is very cautious about other figures, but quite decisive about this aspect of the matter, because it suits his case. What about the person whose capital happens to be locked up in a rent-controlled house with a tenant in it? 1443 Many of my constituents tell me that the Rent Restrictions Acts are unfair. Such a person may say, "I cannot get my capital. My boy is growing up and wants to go out into the world. I want to establish him in business, but I cannot sell. I want to give him something to start with." That is certainly an injustice, no matter how one looks at it. There is nothing wrong about the landlord who goes into the matter expecting to get a reasonable return upon his investment, in exchange for a proper service.
§ Mr. Janner
Does the hon. Member realise that the Rent Acts have been in existence for over forty years, and that any such purchase made in the last forty years by an old-age pensioner or anybody else must have been made in the knowledge that the house was controlled, and priced accordingly.
§ Mr. Finlay
There are some cases to which that observation applies; on the other hand, there are some to which it does not.
§ Mr. Finlay
That is too broad a generalisation. In some cases no doubt the Acts have applied since 1915, but in others they have not, because there were substantial measures of decontrol in 1922, 1925 and 1933. To that extent the hon. Member is not correct.
I appreciate that in some cases hardship may be caused, but the correct way of dealing with the matter is to consider the level of pension rates and not to prolong what is wrong at present— the depression of rents to a 1939 value which bears no relationship to modern conditions.
§ Mr. Finlay
I should like to be able to give way, but I have no doubt that other hon. Gentlemen opposite wish to speak. The hon. Member for West Ham, North (Mr. Lewis), who is very vocal on other occasions, may have an opportunity to catch Mr. Deputy-Speaker's eye.
I will not do more than make a brief reference to the subject of municipalisation. It was referred to by the hon. 1444 Member for Bootle. I noticed a certain diffidence on the part of right hon. and hon. Gentlemen opposite. They have proved themselves splendid armchair critics of this matter and have specialised in destructive criticism of an intrinsically unpopular Measure. The hon. Member for Bootle referred to municipalisation, but the nation has not been confronted with the alternative proposed by hon. Members opposite which is higher rents, more inflation and more subsidies, which would come out of the pockets of the taxpayers. The Government are entitled to inquire why hon. Members opposite have been so diffident in proffering a constructive alternative in this serious matter of setting the nation's stock of houses in proper order.
I have spoken quite long enough— [HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear."] I have been interrupted quite long enough ——
§ Mr. Mitchison
May I interrupt the hon. Gentleman again to tell him that if he looks at the speech I made during the Second Reading debate he will find that I did refer to the policy of the Labour Party in these matters? As the hon. Gentleman does not seem to know much about it, may I recommend him to buy a copy of "Homes for the Future," price 9d., at Transport House?
§ Mr. Finlay
The hon. and learned Gentleman has been very good to me, because now, without being out of order, I can perhaps refer at rather greater length to that document, which ——
§ Mr. Deputy-Speaker
The hon. Member would be out of order in doing that. I hope that he will not refer at greater length to that document.
§ Mr. Finlay
If I may say so, I think that to put 8 million of the nation's stock of 13 million houses into the hands of the municipalities, with the alternative of higher rents, is something about which hon. Members opposite have been remarkably coy. I wish to give my support to the Government.
§ 8.42 p.m.
§ Mr. John Hynd (Sheffield, Attercliffe)
We have heard a remarkable speech by the hon. Member for Epping (Mr. Finlay) in which was clearly outlined the 1445 difference of approach of the two sides of the House to this general question. The hon. Member was putting not only his view, but the view of the majority, if not all, of the right hon. and hon. Members opposite when he expresses his conviction that the tenant of a house, whose family may have lived in the house for twenty, thirty or forty years, has no right to conceive that that house is his home and the home of his family, but that it belongs entirely to the landlord who has invested money in it or whose predecessors may have invested money in it many generations ago to an amount which is very small in relation to present-day values, and who have been repaid over and over again by the tenant and his family.
The hon. Member referred to the fact that one of the problems we face today is that so many houses have been allowed to fall into dilapidation and that we are losing housing accommodation.
§ Mr. Lewis
Is my hon. Friend aware that I was brought up in a house in which, between them, my mother and her mother had lived for over eighty years? For eighty years they paid the rent, and never saw the landlord do any repairs. The house originally cost £ 100 and my mother and grandmother paid for it fourteen times over, and never saw the landlord.
§ Mr. Hynd
That is a common experience. Hon. Members representing industrial constituencies, or, for that matter, any constituency, and who take an interest in the lower standard properties in their constituencies, will know that that is a common experience. Therefore, hon. Members on Government Benches reject entirely any claim by families of that kind to consider these houses as their homes, although, as my hon. Friend the Member for West Ham, North (Mr. Lewis) has said, they have paid for them over and over again.
§ Mr. T. L. Iremonger (Ilford, North)
I quite follow the hon. Member's argument, but I have been unable to reconcile it with the case of a person who puts a sum of money into the Post Office Savings Bank and leaves it there for many years. The Post Office might well say, on the basis of that argument, that the money belongs to it because it has paid 1446 3½ per cent, for so many years that it has paid for the capital over and over again.
§ Mr. Hynd
Conditions of lending in the Post Office Savings Bank change from time to time. People put their money in the Post Office as well as in other kinds of investment, knowing the conditions. There are certain kinds of Government investments and stocks which have been bought by people in good faith, but the people have lost their money. There was no possibility of a Bill being brought into this House to recoup them for their loss.
Investment in housing property was made at a time when it was understood what was being invested. The rent was fixed according to the values of the time and adjusted subsequently, in order to ensure that the landlord would have enough money to keep the property in good repair. Thousands of landlords have been drawing 25 per cent, or 15 per cent., which has been given to them for purposes of repair, but, in spite of that fact, many of the houses have gone into dilapidation. Government supporters say that millions of units of housing property have been allowed to go into dilapidation; they thereby admit that the majority of landlords have been drawing that money under false pretences.
One of my objections to the Bill is its proposal that by giving the landlords more money still we shall ensure that repairs are done. There are many provisions in the Bill for long delays, up to eight months or more, before anybody can take effective action to get repairs done. These Clauses do not mean very much. In the legislation of 1920, 1954 and all the other Acts, provision was made that if repairs were not done the tenants could withhold the repairs increase and that local authorities could take landlords to court or could do the repairs and charge the landlords. In spite of those provisions the repairs have not been done. This is admitted by Government supporters. Neither will repairs be done under the Bill.
The hon. Member for Epping (Mr. Finlay) falls back upon the usual Tory argument that we have heard so often about the equation of the supply of houses with demand, based upon statistics, which he accepts as facts. We have had a remarkable example. The Minister asked 1447 us in Committee to accept that, in a country with a population of 50 million people, 15 million housing units were obviously sufficient accommodation because it was something like three persons per unit. That is not bad, but life does not work out like that. We cannot get people averaged out into units. Everyone knows that housing lists in industrial areas are so large that the waiting period is now from seven to ten years and are not diminishing, but increasing. We have still the slum property to deal with.
Take the statistics which the hon. Member asked us to accept. He talked about national expenditure on various things and said that the national expenditure had gone up on drink, gambling, tobacco and all kinds of things. He did not break the figures down a little further. I should have liked to hear him do that. In regard to drink, the increase has been entirely on spirits and liqueurs. There has been a decrease in what is the normal alcoholic drink of the people in these controlled houses. Those who go in for alcohol, drink beer and the amount drunk had been reduced.
It is among people in the upper income bracket who spend money on wines and spirits, that the figures have gone up. Does the right hon. Gentleman expect our constituents, the old-age pensioner, the widow or anyone else on a fixed income level or in a low income group, when they complain to us about the level of their pensions or the difficulties of existence to be convinced when we say to them, "You must accept the facts and statistics. The average income in this country is supposed to be somewhere between £ 12 and £ 15 a week, so what are you grumbling at. Your average expenditure on whisky, gin and wine is so much per week.
We are told that these are averages and facts. Are we to tell our constituents, the old-age pensioners and others, that because the average expenditure on liqueurs, wines, spirits and cigars in so much, they have no case for an increase of pension? That is the logic of the argument about figures and statistics, but it will not work in relation to the facts of existence.
How do we correct this matter, with which everyone is concerned, of getting 1448 repairs done to houses? All the legislation that has been passed and all the increases which have been given to the landlords have not solved this problem. The landlords have taken the repairs increase and have not done the repairs. All the legislation that we can pass in this House will not force them to do the repairs in most cases. How do we correct this?
I submit that the basic fault of the Bill is that it does not recognise the fact that we cannot have a satisfactory housing policy in any modern community which is based upon private landlordism, for the very reason that the motive of the private landlord is to get as much money into his pocket as he can. Therefore, all our Bills and Acts of Parliament will be dodged by the landlord. They have all the power of their solicitors' advice and the rest of it on their side.
The tenants, generally speaking, and as I believe the Parliamentary Secretary admitted recently in the debate on the Report stage, are not informed about these things. They are afraid of going to solicitors and becoming involved in charges which they do not understand, and they are also terrified of going to the county court or to any other court. It happens to be the case that most people are proud of the fact that neither they nor any member of their family has ever been in court. They do not like going to court. That is a psychology which has to be taken into account. Private landlordism, whatever provisions are put into Acts of Parliament of this kind, will not solve this problem.
One factor which I think has not been sufficiently aired in this debate is the inflationary effects of the Bill. An hon. Member opposite said he hoped that the Bill would reduce overcrowding. One of my hon. Friends rightly replied that because of the enormous increases in rents both for controlled tenants and the tenants of houses that are now to be decontrolled, far from young married couples being able to come out of overcrowded conditions and having to live with their parents and being able to go into available housing units, the effect would be quite the opposite.
Because of the rents and very high prices that will be charged for the houses that are decontrolled, young people will not be able to afford houses of their 1449 own. There will be more overcrowding unless there is an enormous increase in wages and other incomes which will enable young people to pay for houses of their own. The stronger trade union organisations will demand increases to enable people to pay these rents. What about the mass of the people who are not catered for by strong trade union organisations? They will have no relief from the Government.
We have asked over and over again what will be the position, as a result of the Bill, of the old-age pensioners and persons on low fixed incomes who will have to go to the National Assistance Board. We have asked whether or not it is expected that the taxpayer is to pay for the whole of the increase in rents to the landlord through the National Assistance Board, but we have not had a clear reply. All we have been told is that the National Assistance Board will be asked to take the increase in rent into account.
If the Board is not to pay the whole increase, obviously many of these people will not be able to remain in their houses. Are the Government to enable the Board to increase payments to those people, or are the Government to give an increase in pensions in order to enable them to meet the increased rents? If that is so, there will be serious inflation. If that is not so, those people will have to get out of their present accommodation. The Bill will not only not mitigate present housing difficulties, but will make them worse. Alternatively, and possibly at the same time, it will increase the inflationary pressure which the Government claim they are trying to avoid.
An hon. Member opposite asked why we think the Government, with all the expert advice they have at their disposal, should miscalculate the effects of the Bill. It has been admitted by the Minister and other hon. Members opposite that if they miscalculated those effects there would be very serious results for many people. One or two hon. Members opposite said there would be "brutal effects" if there were miscalculation. The hon. Member for Epping said that the Government 'have at their disposal a collection of expert advice, that we must have confidence in that and realise that they could scarcely go wrong. But that is the same expert advice which 1450 was available to the Government when they drew up the 1954 Bill. The Minister and Parliamentary Secretary have admitted over and over again that that advice has not worked out properly and the Act of 1954 has not been a success. We still have no assurance that the advice given on this occasion would work out any better.
The hon. Member asked why the Conservative Party, knowing how unpopular the Bill is, knowing that it has lost by-elections, should go on with the Bill unless it is thoroughly satisfied that it will work out. I will tell the hon. Member the reason. In spite of what he said in reply to certain interventions, the answer is a clear one. The Conservative Party, like any other party in a democratic society, is a concentration of pressure groups. There are certain powers which have influences on the party. The party depends on those powers and has obligations to those powers. In many cases, they are financial obligations because the party has to have money for elections, and so on.
The Labour Party at least publishes balance sheets and statements of accounts. It is known where the money for the Labour Party comes from, but we have never had published accounts of Conservative Party funds. We know, however, that the landlords, hauliers, financiers and brewers are the people who finance the Conservative Party and that they call the tune. The Conservative Party is in this quandary. Either it has to risk losing popular support in some marginal seats or risk losing the support of people who make it possible for it to continue as a party. That is the position, as the hon. Member well knows.
On the other hand, we in the Labour Party have been charged with opposing the Bill because we want to make party advantage and because we are trying to get political advantage. Why should we expect to get political advantage from trying to get the Bill defeated or improved when the best political stick we have to use against the Tories is the Bill as it now stands? The best thing that could happen for the Labour Party politically would be for the Bill to go through in its present form.
It will be to our advantage as a political party that none of the many Amendments that we moved in Committee for 1451 the benefit of the tenant was accepted. It would certainly be a loss to us as a political party if we had improved this Bill to such an extent that it became acceptable to everybody. We have no political axe to grind in trying to improve the Bill. Nevertheless, we continue to oppose the Bill, and we have sought to make improvements in it because we are interested in the conditions of the people whom we represent. If we were not interested in those conditions, there would be no Labour Party.
What about the Tory rebels? They have put down Amendments. They have to support the Government but they are also afraid for their seats. While the Tory Party is dependent on the landlords and others for winning elections, obviously the individual Tory Member in the marginal constituency, loyal as he may want to be to his Government, realises that it is not much good being loyal to the Government if he is not going to sit in this House after the next election. Therefore, these Tories, with a responsibility for their constituencies, put down Amendments to the Bill. They put down a number of Amendments just before the Lewisham by-election, but those Amendments were not called, and immediately after the by-election they were withdrawn entirely.
At another stage, the Tory rebels tabled some Amendments and spoke on them in Committee. On one occasion they even abstained from voting so that the Government were defeated. That was a very good move from the constituency point of view——
§ Mr. Graham Page (Crosby)
The hon. Member is speaking of an occasion when the Government were defeated in Committee by entirely different Members from those whom he called the rebels.
§ Mr. Hynd
Certain Tory Members abstained in Committee, and the Government were defeated. One would have thought that was a very good thing and that it made clear to the constituents of those Members that they were not in favour of the Bill. But on the Report stage the Minister moved an Amendment to restore the position and those Members supported it. That is what has been happening all along. The position of the Tory rebels has been entirely phoney. Everyone knows it.
1452 The Bill has taken us back to the classic position of Toryism and to the Tory conception of the national economy, that is, more money for the wealthy. As has been pointed out, over the years a great change has taken place in the distribution of wealth. The people at the top have come down a bit, and the people at the bottom have gone up a bit. Now the party opposite is trying to reverse the position. Why are they doing it?
Some of the old-fashioned among them still believe that the only way in which society can be run and in which one can ensure a continuity of development in building, industry, and so forth, is to hand out vast sums of money to a limited number of people and hope that some of the better of those people will reinvest the money and enable the country to carry on. That conception is embodied in the Bill.
There is no provision in the Bill requiring that repairs shall be carried out as a condition of these increases. All the Government are doing is to say to the landlords, "You did not take advantage of the 1954 Act. All right, we will give you so much money. You will have no more excuse for not doing the repairs, and we hope that some of the better among you will do something for the tenants." That is all. If this House is prepared to pass legislation on that basis, I suggest that those who are responsible for carrying it through deserve the fate that will certainly be theirs at the next General Election.
§ 9.4 p.m.
§ Mr. R. Gresham Cooke (Twickenham)
I am amazed at the dreamlike description of the Tory Party by the hon. Member for Attercliffe (Mr. J. Hynd). He said that it is made up of pressure groups, but forgets his own party's pressure groups.
§ Mr. J. Hynd
I said that all parties in a democratic society are made up of pressure groups, but that whereas we on this side of the House publish our accounts the party opposite does not.
§ Mr. Gresham Cooke
I am glad that the hon. Gentleman admits that. He did not go on to describe the pressure group of trade unions, and so on, in his part.
The hon. Member for Attercliffe referred to the hoary old argument about houses being paid for over and over again, forgetting, of course, that capital 1453 has to have its return. Indeed, the trade unions expect it on their investments. One assumes that if ever, by some misfortune, the Labour Party was returned to power, one plank of its programme now would be to provide that Post Office Savings should in future bear no interest whatsoever. In fact, the hon. Gentleman was, as I understood him, suggesting that landlords should give houses to the tenants.
As a member of the Standing Committee I must add my congratulations to the leaders of both sides for carrying this complicated Bill through the Committee stage, not forgetting, also, my hon. Friend the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Housing and Local Government. I have admired the way in which my right hon. Friend, the Minister, has dealt with all the cross-references between one section and another, not forgetting the cross-references to the Bill which hon. Members opposite made.
After all, we have in this Bill the last great act of derationing that this party has to carry through.
§ Mr. Gresham Cooke
That will be derationed by the time the Bill is in operation.
Each side of the House, of course, has agreed that the Rent Acts must be dealt with. We are dealing with them now. Anybody who looks at this question impartially, as we all must do, since we have a duty to the nation to be impartial and right injustices, must agree that the landlords have been unjustly treated since the war. Rents have not borne any relation to prices or earnings. As my hon. Friend the Member for Epping (Mr. Finlay) said, it is time that the landlords got a less mean slice of the national cake.
§ Mr. James Callaghan (Cardiff, South-East)
Why? Mr. Gresham Cooke: As part of justice. The national cake has increased, and all other sections of the community have got bigger slices.
There has been much misrepresentation of the Bill throughout the country.
§ Mr. Gresham Cooke
I did very well.
One old couple told me that the rent of their house was to be doubled. On inquiry, I found out that, when the Bill was passed, the house would still be controlled, the rateable value being such that the rent would not go up more than a shilling or two. When I asked them where they got the notion from that their rent was to be doubled, they said that they had been reading the Daily Mirror. They had been just as much misled as the elderly couple spoken of by the hon. Gentleman the Member for Southampton, Itchen (Dr. King) was misled, whose house is still controlled and will, as I understand from the figures the hon. Gentleman gave, still be occupied by them at much the same rent.
§ Dr. King
Is it not the hon. Member who has made the mistake of assuming that I did not know, any more than did the old-age pensioner referred to, that the house is not decontrolled under the Bill as it stands? The two old people are protected from the full force of Tory freedom in housing by the element of control which still stands in the Bill, but it is that element of control which can be removed under one of the Clauses.
§ Mr. Gresham Cooke
I am glad to hear that the house of the constituents of the hon. Member for Itchen is still controlled, but from the way he read the letter from them one would have imagined that the rent was to be doubled.
Most tenants to whom I have spoken on this Bill have agreed that it is just that the landlord should get a reasonable increase in rent. Why should not the rent of a landlord-controlled house be increased? The rents of council houses have been going up everywhere. The rent of a pre-war council house in my constituency has this week risen by about 10s. a week.
§ Mr. Gresham Cooke
The average increase in the constituency is about 5s. 1455 — only, of course, equal to the hire-purchase payment on a television set. That increase is in addition to an increase which took place in council house rents in 1949 by the same amount. What possible argument can there be against putting up the rents of privately controlled houses?
Apart from the issue of justice involved in the Bill, what will be the positive advantage?
§ Mr. Gresham Cooke
I will tell the hon. Member. I am convinced that it will bring more properties on to the market.
§ Mr. Gresham Cooke
I know from personal knowledge of my constituency that already, in anticipation of the Bill, landlords are making plans with builders to convert the larger houses into flats. Elderly couples whose children have married, and who have a house perhaps a little too big for them— three up and two down, as it is called— are thinking of letting the top part of the house. They have not wanted to do this before, because they were afraid of getting a tenant who came within the control provisions of the Rent Restrictions Acts. Now they are thinking of letting off the top half of the house.
§ Mr. Gresham Cooke
In my view, the Bill has been very considerably improved in Committee, to the benefit of the tenant. I refer to four things. First, there has been the extension of the period of notice of decontrol from six months to 15 months. Secondly, there is now an apportunity for a tenant to reach an agreement with his landlord for a further three years before decontrol. Thirdly, we decided to abolish premiums for decontrolled houses. Fourthly, there is to be compensation for 1456 improvements made by the tenants; that will be obtainable when the tenant gives up the house. In many ways the Bill has been greatly improved to the benefit of the tenant.
Having said that, I speak as one of the so-called rebels ——
§ Mr. Gresham Cooke
— and I should like to emphasise that there is a special position in London and the Home Counties which is to some extent marked by the purchase prices of houses throughout the country. I have observed that the purchase price of a suburban type of house outside a small country town in the provinces may be £ 1,700. It may be £ 3,000 outside a big provincial town. On the outskirts of London it may be £ 4,000 to £ 5,000. There is a ratio which may tend to make us believe that the prices of houses in London are about three times the prices in parts of the provinces.
§ Mr. Gresham Cooke
I believe that they will. Many people, of course, fear that the rents of flats and houses in the Home Counties and the London area will perhaps go up by three times. That may be so, and that is why I put my name to an Amendment creating a ceiling of two and a half times the gross rateable value, but this is a matter of judgment. The pool of houses and flats will undoubtedly become larger and will grow until the supply of houses meets the demand. There is no doubt about that, and rents will be easier.
The question to be answered is whether the pool will grow to such an extent in 15 months. No one knows. It is a matter of opinion. I hope that the Minister is right in his contention that the pool will be sufficiently large in fifteen months so that rents in the home counties and around London will be reasonable. In my constituency, which is a fortunate one, no fewer than 17,000 houses will be decontrolled and therefore the potential size of the pool is very large. I have listened to the Minister, knowing that he has been guided by his advisers and trusting that his judgment will be confirmed.
There is no doubt that the steps taken by means of the Bill had to be taken by 1457 someone, unpopular as they are. They may be unpopular in the short run, but in the long run it is very obvious that they will bring about a great improvement in the housing position. I support the Bill as another step in decontrol and derationing. I think that it is perfectly obvious to all of us that in a year or two the effect of the Bill will be to bring more houses and flats on to the market for letting, so that the housing situation for the nation as a whole will be greatly improved.
§ 9.17 p.m.
Mr. Barnett.fanner (Leicester, North-West)
I cannot understand the type of argument that comes from men who say that their constituents will benefit by the proposals which they put forward against the Government's Bill and who afterwards hastily withdraw when the Whip is put on them and leave their constituents stranded, high and dry. That is precisely what has happened with the so-called rebels, of which the hon. Member for Twickenham (Mr. Gresham Cooke) is one. What is the Government's policy other than that which has been clearly and emphatically declared by the Minister? It is intended by him to have complete decontrol as soon as possible. It is a pure gamble.
Let us look at this matter in its proper light. The Minister has never stated that he is sure that what he had in mind, namely, that houses would be available after the Bill is in operation, is a certainty. It is all right if one gambles with something that does not matter, but it is an extremely serious matter indeed when one gambles with the homes of the people. We have no right at all to take a chance. A game of chance is a criminal offence in many cases, and it is a criminal offence to gamble at the possible expense, and I put it at its highest, of the homes of the people. It is nonsense for anybody, on either side of the House, to regard this problem as one that can be dealt with by means of the type of statistics that we have heard quoted this evening.
We cannot deal with a situation of this description by saying that the nation spends so much more on drink than it did before, and so much on various other commodities, and that therefore, because the aggregate comes to a certain sum, the proportion paid for rent in the aggre- 1458 gate is not reasonable. That is nonsense, because it does not take into consideration the fact that we are not breaking down the statistics to analyse the problem of the people concerned with the houses with which we are dealing.
It has been made clear by my hon. Friend that the amount of drink consumed, particularly spirits and liquors, has not the slightest meaning in relation to a pensioner or of a poor person occupying a home. Of course, we cannot argue that way. Neither can we argue about the amount of accommodation available, and not being used, because a mansion or a large house taken into the account may have many rooms. The occupier of such a house feels entitled to have spare rooms for his guests, so we cannot take the total amount of available space and say that because of it, the individual who has a small house which he has occupied for many years must be deprived of his home because he cannot afford to pay a higher rent.
I speak without heat when I say that it is a shameful abuse of a situation when a Minister and the Government recklessly take steps which may have disastrous results for their fellow men. Anyone who has investigated the position knows very well that it cannot be done this way. The Ridley Commission said categorically, and, I think, rightly:We accept the principle that rent control must continue in some form until there is "—It did not say, "there is presumed to be" or "there may be", but "there is"—an adequate supply of houses throughout the country, and we recommend that legislation should be framed in the expectation that it may be necessary to continue control for ten years.The ten years have passed, and a couple of years more since them, but the position has not altered. How can the Government suggest that ample housing accommodation will be available soon? In my constituency, 10,000 people who are waiting for homes cannot be accommodated. Do the Government really think that by a piece of dodgery they will be able to take people from one house to another or from one room to another? Of course not. They know very well that those 10,000 people will still be unhoused.
The only result of the Bill, when it becomes an Act, will be that the experience of forty years will be lost in a few months, and the result will be chaotic 1459 for the people. That is illustrated by the fact that the Government themselves are boasting about the improvement they have made as regards people charging premiums. Why is there a need to stop that practice if the supply is equal to the demand? By all means let there be premiums if the supply is equal to the demand as no one will pay them, but the reason why premiums must be stopped now is, as the Government know very well, because supply does not equal demand. Consequently, people will take advantage of the situation by charging large premiums, and it is useless to talk about legislation to stop that practice. Everyone knows that this goes on under the counter and that some legal method will be found to sidetrack legislation.
Take the example of a person who lets, or purports to let, premises to another and charges a big sum, calling it a deposit or something of that sort, and then allows a mortgage to remain on payment of a certain rent. The house is decontrolled and he can charge whatever rent he likes by whatever mortgage interest he likes, according to the Bill, and if the occupier does not pay the mortgage interest, then he is out in the street just the same. It is no great solace to the occupier that the Government do not allow a premium. The Measure may have said that there should be no premium, but the man has nevertheless paid one in a legitimate way. These things will not stop.
What about furnished lettings? It is no good the Government telling the country that places will be available. There is an Act which lays down that furnished premises shall not be let at a rental which is unreasonable. The word "controlled" is not used and there is no question of a limit having been set; it is merely laid down that the rental shall be reasonable. In the Minister's view, this Measure is creating something which is reasonable. That is nonsense. There are available to us as examples of reasonableness two provisions which can easily be tested.
One provision is contained in the 1949 Act, which refers to a tribunal ascertaining what is a reasonable rental, taking all circumstances into consideration, on a first letting after 1949. As a result of 1460 that, people have gone to the rent tribunals, but the Minister has not bothered his head about the results.
The Furnished Houses (Rent Control) Act, 1946, laid down that a person occupying furnished apartments was entitled to go to a rent tribunal to have a reasonable rental assessed. What happened? The last figures available are those for the quarter ending 31st December last. They show that under the 1946 Act 884 cases were heard. Of those cases, 178 were dismissed, which meant that the tenants were paying a reasonable rental, and in 611 cases the rents were reduced, which meant that unreasonable rentals had been paid. With regard to controlled tenancies of premises which were let for the first time after 1949, 516 cases were heard, and it was found that in more than 395 cases more than a reasonable rental was being paid.
Yet the Minister urges us, "Accept the Bill. Set the people free. Set the markets free. Let everybody get at everybody else's throat in 15 months' time. We will give you 15 months in which to worry, in which to get your family involved in all the difficulties of having to find other accommodation. We give you 15 months in which the tragic situation will become blacker and blacker for you. In 15 months' time out you go."
Until now it has been recognised that landlords of controlled houses could not get possession without going to the courts. The courts were reasonable and time after time granted an extension of the period of possession fixed by orders. All lawyers know that the courts have seen that it was impossible to do otherwise. Councils could not give people houses and, therefore, often illegally, the courts extended the period, because they did not have the heart to allow people to be turned into the street.
This is a human problem and the Government are acting on this human problem in an inhuman way. They have not considered the effects of this legislation and I beg them, late as it is, to stop this terrible thing, which may have, and which I believe will have, disastrous results for millions of our fellow countrymen.
§ 9.31 p.m.
§ Mr. G. R. Mitchison (Kettering)
May I express my personal thanks to hon. Members on both sides of the House for some kind words? I will leave it at that, if I may. I hope that it will be understood. I express to the Minister and to the Parliamentary Secretary, once more, my very sincere sympathy at having had to take up the Bill when it had already been begun by others. It has meant a very great deal of hard work and nobody can say that it has been an easy Bill with which to deal.
The first thing we have to get clear is the background of the Bill. It was defended by the present Financial Secretary 4o the Treasury, and has again been defended today, on the ground that we can be reasonably certain that an overall balance will be reached in a short time between the demand for houses and the supply of houses. I agree at once that there always is a certain element of uncertainty in these estimates about housing needs, because some of it, at any rate, depends upon the nature of the demand. People very naturally continue— and we ought not to prevent them— to ask for rather better houses than they used to have in the past, but that is not the question with which I am now concerned.
In November, 1953— and I apologise for repeating this— the right hon. Gentleman's predecessor in office, who, no doubt on account of this statement, has since become the Prime Minister, declared in the White Paper, "Houses— The Next Step":Since there is still a severe housing shortage, rents of privately-owned houses cannot yet be freed from control.Referring to the decontrol of houses in the higher rateable value categories, he said:… that method of approach would not in any event deal with the problem of maintenance and repair among those houses left under control.That was what the Government said in 1953, before the General Election. We know perfectly well that during the Election campaign they denied the suggestion that they were to put up, or allow to be put up, rents of rent controlled houses.
Now we are told that that must be wrong and the only authority we are given for it is a P.E.P. report which is said to come from 1954. Let us get this 1462 out of the way. The P.E.P. report was on the results of the 1951 Census. The sentence quoted from it had all sorts of qualifications and, at the most, it pretended to be a rough putting forward of the position to the end of 1954.
If all that the Government can rely upon now is a report by an amateur body upon the 1951 Census carried on by a series of rough estimates three years later, they had better look at what they said themselves before the Election. As to policy, also, they had much better look at what they said to the people at the time of the General Election than at some of the very thin and wholly untenable arguments which have been put forward today.
What has happened since then? What has made the Government change their minds— other than the General Election, as a result of which they came here with a majority which made them feel safe for a little? There has been nothing much to encourage them. They themselves have slackened off council house building by eliminating the general need for housing subsidy. They must take their share of responsibility for the position in London, where there are 160,000 people on the housing list, including 53,000 urgent cases. The other day the right hon. Gentleman himself admitted the almost insoluble difficulty of the London housing problem.
The Government also have their share of responsibility for neglecting to put up any more new towns around London, and for trying to get municipalities to do what they ought to have done themselves. All this does not represent a sudden improvement in the housing situation; it represents, if anything, a worsening since the time when "Houses— The Next Step" appeared. Now the Bill is the Government's one positive contribution to the housing situation. No wonder they attribute to it consequences which only the most fantastic imagination could possibly attribute to it.
Let us see what the Bill is supposed to do. I leave over for the moment the Government's sacred cow— a very sacred cow— the landlord's right to be assured by Parliament of some return or other, called a reasonable return, or a normal return, or a proper return or, by the more moral Members opposite, a just return, 1463 upon the money that he has put into housing.
Let us leave aside the question of the sort of milk the sacred cow has given in the past, or is likely to give in the future. What positive contribution have the Government made, other than that? Clearly, the £ 85 million or £ 100 million extra a year going out of the pockets of the tenants into the pockets of the landlords will not of itself make a very large contribution to the solution of the housing difficulty.
What will happen as a result of the Bill? We are to have mobility, and the Government's old friend— flexibility. The Secretary of State for Scotland fished out that well-worn word. It always seems to me that the Government's policy is particularly flexible when they do not know what it is, or what will be the effect of the immediate step they are taking at any one moment. We shall have mobility and flexibility, and by dint of these two majestic conceptions we shall deal with the problem of under-occupation.
I do not for a minute say that there is not some under-occupation. Nobody denies that. How far the 1951 Census figures are a good guide for a responsible Ministry to take, when it has apparently made no further inquiries of its own or, at any rate, has not let us know what the results of its inquiries have been, is quite another matter. Let us assume that there is some under-occupation. That is the only other thing that I have been able to pick out of all these curious arguments, besides the sacred cow of the landlord's return. Just those two arguments provide the Government's reasons for the Bill.
Let us look at the milk that we have had from the sacred cow. The sacred cow, so far, has left lying about some rather poor milk— which, I think, has gone bad — in the shape of nearly a million slum houses in Great Britain. That is some of the milk. The rest of the milk is the shortage of houses, and we have been referring to that; the shortage of proper modern houses.
I do not propose to trouble the House too much with figures, but it is right to remember that between the slum house and the council house there lies a very long range of houses including those which, if 1464 not slum houses, are equipped by Victorian standards which no longer suit us today. Nearly half of them have no separate bath. About a quarter of them have no separate water closet. All the rest of the legacy of the sacred cow of private landlordism is marked through the Victorian era.
We should like to go forward a little occasionally, even about housing under a Tory Government. One rather rash hon. Member did add a word— I would not hold it too much against him; I am sure it was a slip of the tongue, but probably an indication of Tory philosophy in these matters— that the great object of the Bill was to get back— notice the word "back" — to normal rents. Well, let us see. What are the Government going to do to effect a proper return for the landlord and the solution of the under-occupation problem?
We have heard very little about the contribution to repairing houses. That was the reason, of course, for, "Houses— The Next Step" and the 1954 Act which followed it. In that case, any increase in rent was tied up directly with the liability upon the landlord to make repairs. There is this enormous difference in this Bill.
It is perfectly true that a highly complicated, unworkable and still very unfair Schedule does enable the tenant in some cases— and I say some cases only— to withhold the increase of rent. But to put all that machinery— the machinery of a delay of eight or nine months; the machinery of having to accept landlords' undertakings on the prescribed form— between the question of rent and the question of repairs, simply means that we are, as I see it, deliberately limiting and restricting the right of the tenant to insist on having his house repaired properly as a condition of the increased rent.
It is true that the right hon. Gentleman has made some concessions to us. We laughed at him. We talked about the hole in the roof. This simple notion drove hon. Members opposite into fits of laughter. They did not think that there could be such a thing. They did not know that it happens quite often in some houses in industrial areas. It suddenly struck them for the first time: what is the effect of a hole in the roof? Why, it is dry rot, and the Schedule is still so worded that if dry rot follows a hole in the roof you have to go back 1465 and start over again, or go to the county court about it.
The Bill stinks of complications and county courts. If I could not produce a Bill that did the job more simply than this, and did not provide for the whole future of the junior Bar at the same time, I should think myself pretty unsuccessful. I know that the National Assistance Board does not look after them properly and that we have to do what we can for the junior Bar. I recognise all that. But, all the same, to do it at the expense of the tenants of the smallest and poorest houses— because it is to them that the First Schedule relates— seem to be just another characteristic effect of Tory legislation.
There it is. It would have been quite simple to do it in a way that would have given the tenant a quick and easy remedy and really have linked up repairs and rents. It was done in the 1920s under the Rent Act, and it worked for twenty or thirty years. The Minister, who is the Prime Minister's creature, must not disown the Prime Minister, who put a Schedule into the 1954 Act which was much simpler than this. I do not think the Government want tenants to use this repair Schedule.
There is an idea about among some of my hon. Friends that the part of the Bill about decontrol does not concern them very much and that it is a matter for the "Margate mutineers", who represent marginal suburban constituencies full of rather better houses. Let us leave them alone. They can have it. Think of the anxious life that the "Margate mutineers" have been living in the last fortnight or so. We should not be too rude to them now, although their courage failed at the last minute. It is not only they who are concerned with ——
§ Mr. Robert Jenkins (Dulwich)
I wonder whether the hon. and learned Gentleman remembers the phrase used by Sir James Barry in the rectorial speech he made at Glasgow University, which was, "Never ascribe to your opponents motives meaner than your own."
§ Mr. Mitchison
I was not ascribing any motives to the hon. Gentleman one way or another. I found him a little deficient in courage in the matter, but I did not expect too much. The "Margate mutineers" had to think of keeping their 1466 own party in power and their own seats, and for that reason one must not be too hard on them now; but one must not, in future, expect too much. The hon. Gentleman should not take it amiss. No one doubts that he had good intentions in the matter, up to a point.
I come to what used to be Clause 9 of the Bill and is now Clause 10. I want to make two points about it. The first is that it does not concern only the rather better type of house. The Bill is the first step towards complete decontrol. There is no doubt whatever about it. Government supporters, upholders of the British Constitution and democratic liberty, those who would like Parliament occassionally, but only occasionally, to be effective, if they were quite sure they could work it every time, are taking power to put through complete decontrol, down to the last shilling, in one, two or three stages, as they think fit.
They are doing it by affirmative Resolution, without incurring any kind of inconvenience such as they have experienced at the hands of the "Margate mutineers" and of the electors of Lewisham, North and sundry other places, and which they are now experiencing and will go on experiencing in public meetings, all over the country, of honest British people who know perfectly well what the Government are at with the Bill.
§ Mr. Philip Bell (Bolton, East) rose ——
§ Mr. Mitchison
I am sorry, but I tried to give way to the hon. and learned Gentleman— [Interruption.]
§ Mr. Mitchison
I am sorry, but I tried to give way to the hon. and learned Member and all he did was to stand up with his hands in his pockets, and say nothing.
§ Mr. Bell rose ——
§ Mr. Mitchison
Let us go on with the effect of this. That is one part of this. They are taking the power to put complete decontrol through without disturbing their own party, without losing by-elections, without upsetting public opinion up and down the country and I say that this is thoroughly undemocratic.
§ Mr. Bellrose——
§ Mr. Mitchison
The second point to which I have to call the attention of the House on this same Clause is the new tenancy provision. The provision is that on any new tenancy a house which would not otherwise have been decontrolled, that is to say, one of the small and poor houses becomes free of control.
§ Mr. Bellrose ——
§ Mr. R. T. Paget (Northampton)
The hon. and learned Member is only demonstrating that he can still stand up.
§ Mr. Mitchison
As the Bill is at present the only effect of that will not be to encourage exchanges but to discourage exchanges, because the result of this will obviously be that people will not leave houses where they are tenants at controlled rents in order to find that they then become tenants at the mercy of the landlords.
§ Mr. Bellrose——
§ Mr. Mitchison
That is the result of the Bill as it is at present. It is only fair for the right hon. Gentleman to say that an undertaking was given yesterday to do something on this particular point. I have two comments to make on that undertaking. One is this. If, in fact, it had been the real intention of the Government to encourage exchanges, and if that was the other main purpose of the Bill, and to encourage them with the object of dealing with under-occupation, it is perfectly clear they would not have put in that subsection in its present form. On the contrary, they would have made express provision for the exchanges which are after all, from this point of view, the one moral justification of the Bill.
The second comment I make is that what we have been asking for is exchanges that are something than a mere voluntary agreement between the landlord and tenant on the one side and the landlord and tenant on the other side. 1468 We know full well from experience in many places— we had examples yesterday from Sheffield and Scotland— that there are thousands of cases, as hon. Members well know, in which a great many landlords do not like exchanges, although there is no reasonable and proper reason for them to object.
The reason they object is that they hope to be able in the one case, up to the present, to get possession of the house and, under this Measure, to get decontrol of the house. For that reason, in the past they have objected, quite unjustifiably, to exchanges which are in the public interest, and for that same reason they will continue to do so under this Measure, even with the addition we were promised yesterday, unless something is done to deal with the unreasonable landlord.
What about the unreasonable landlord? I have never said, and am not going to begin saying now, that all landlords are unreasonable, but we know perfectly well that the unreasonable landlord and the bad landlord do exist. Incidentally, of course, the bad landlord will get round the premium provisions. It is quite right that they should be in the Bill. They were put in in a wholly ineffective form and at our insistence they have been tightened up a bit. It is better to have something than nothing, but we must not rest too much on that.
What does the Bill do about the bad landlord? It does absolutely nothing. It does not, in practice, get him to do the repairs he has failed to do in the past. It does not, in practice, get him to avoid the sort of devices, premiums and the like, he has used in the past. It is simply a question of either secret dealings or a different form of dealings. If the right hon. Gentleman thinks that he has stopped all the holes in that sieve effectively he has only to look at one very simple example, the provision in the law that rent books should be provided. Every hon. Member knows perfectly well that that provision, even with the penalty, simple as it is, is far more often disregarded than it is obeyed.
That is the conclusion I come to on all of this. This Bill will inflict on tenants by way of an increase in rent, by way of insecurity in their cases— some up to the present and others to come when the Minister makes his new Orders— a 1469 degree of hardship that cannot possibly be justified in such an ineffective and such a harsh Measure. If we have to weigh the one thing against the other the increase in rent is clear. Then, if we turn to what is to happen in future, have we, as my hon. Friend said so rightly, any right to gamble on a Measure of this sort as a means of dealing with a very limited problem when we know quite clearly that it will throw insecurity upon people who have never.had to face it in the past?
The Parliamentary Secretary said, after referring to the Bill as being not universally popular in the short run— rather an understatement I think— that its succesful operation would depend not only on the Bill but on the attitude of the people. Is there any reasonable chance that with the beginning that this Bill has had in this House, and from both sides, with the feeling that has already been aroused in the country— and not by any vicious propaganda— [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh."]— but just by telling people what,is in the Bill— [Interruption.] Did hon. Members opposite listen the other night to the party political broadcast delivered by two of my hon. Friends, which was confined to telling people what was in the Bill? We have no need to elaborate.
With that beginning and with those contents, has this Bill any reasonable chance of making any contribution to the housing programme, of dealing with the question of under-occupation, of doing anything, in fact, but bringing hardship to many tenants, insecurity to many more and, to add one other thing that I regard as of importance, of making a final inroad— let us hope that it is the last one— by the Tory Party on the principles of parliamentary supremacy and some effective control by Parliament, the public and the country as a whole, over the Executive? That is a dangerous road. They take it at their peril, and they take it in a thoroughly bad cause in support of a thoroughly bad Bill.
§ 10.1 p.m.
§ The Minister of Housing and Local Government and Minister for Welsh Affairs (Mr. Henry Brooke)
I wonder if we might for one moment, stilling our political differences, join in expressing thanks to those non-political people behind the scenes who serve us so excellently on an occasion like this— the 1470 printers, for example, who have served Parliament most admirably in producing for us today a new edition of the Bill incorporating the Amendments made up to half-past ten last night, the officials of the House, Parliamentary Counsel's Office and all the Departments who bear no responsibility for policy and yet on whom a major Bill of this kind throws a heavy load of work. I know that the House in its generosity is the first to respect and admire their essential services.
I, too, am grateful to the hon. and learned Member for Kettering (Mr. Mitchison), who I know has been appreciating what I have just said, for the good-humoured way in which he has led his difficult team through these debates.
§ Mr. Mitchisonrose——
§ Mr. Brooke
Only once in Committee did he leave his place and advance menacingly upon me until he was warned by the Chair not to get within striking distance.
I want to thank my hon. Friends the Joint Under-Secretary of State for Scotland and, particularly, the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Housing and Local Government who introduced the Third Reading this afternoon in a model Third Reading speech. My predecessor courageously shaped the Bill ——
§ Mr. Lewis
On a point of order, Mr. Deputy-Speaker. I understood Mr. Speaker to say earlier that on Third Reading one can refer only to what is in the Bill. For four minutes— indeed, almost for five minutes— I have listened to the right hon. Gentleman and he has not mentioned one word of what is in the Bill. Can we now have a Third Reading speech from him?
§ Mr. Deputy-Speaker (Sir Gordon Touche)
I do not think the right hon. Gentleman was out of order. He made a few courteous remarks about those who had worked on the Bill.
§ Mr. Brooke
My predecessor courageously shaped the Bill and presented it to the House nearly five months ago, which disposes of all allegations that we have rushed it through the House of Commons. Then he left these peaceful pastures and became more martial. He exchanged the rent book for the sword, and I inherited 1471 his Bill. I know that I have his agreement for the main Amendments we have made in it.
There has been plenty of approval and plenty of criticism of the Bill, but not even my worst enemy has at any time alleged that I have no understanding of the human problems involved in rent matters. I represent, as does my right hon. Friend, a London constituency, and I have had the opportunity of reading literally hundreds of letters as well as articles on the Bill. My hon. Friend the Parliamentary Secretary has described the Amendments which have been made during the passage of the Bill. What they show is that we did discuss the Bill thoroughly both in Committee and on Report.
In fairness to the hon. and learned Member for Stoke Newington and Hackney, North (Mr. Weitzman), I want to deal with the specific point which he raised today, because, on the Report stage yesterday, I had not quite followed his argument. He was quite right today in his reading of the Bill, but I would point out to him that it would be anomalous if the tenant of a house of a kind which is being decontrolled could himself keep the benefits of control notwithstanding that he may be able to have a new sub-tenant coming in at a later date and be able to charge that new subtenant a free rent. If the hon. and learned Gentleman will examine what I have said, I think he will see both that he is correct in his reading of the Bill and that the Bill is wisely drafted.
When the hon. and learned Gentleman suggested that there was no surplus accommodation in his constituency, I looked up the figures and saw that, according to the 1951 census, there were in Stoke Newington no fewer than 1,500 households with more than two rooms per person, and, in the Borough of Hackney, more than 5,000 of the same character. That sort of evidence disposes of the suggestion that the only cases of under-occupation are in highly residential districts and among owner-occupiers.
§ Mr. Brooke
My hon. Friend the Member for Lewisham, West (Mr. H. A. Price) made a very sincere speech, saying that he himself would have preferred 1472 that subsection (1) of Clause 10 were omitted from the Bill. It is, however, subsection (1) which has the greatest value in adding to the amount of accommodation that can become available through the Bill. There were successful operations of decontrol of the higher-rated properties in 1933, and.again in 1938. In 1951, throughout England and Wales, there were more than 2½ million households which had more accommodation than two rooms per person, compared with 1½ million in 1931.
§ Mr. Brooke
Similar figures are true of the Metropolitan Police District which, by common consent, is the crux of the proposals in Clause 10.
What I would say is that both tenants and landlords will be wise, when this Bill comes into operation, to take professional advice, if they are not themselves professionally qualified, as to their position under the Bill and as to the actions which they are taking under it. In particular, tenants ought not to sign new agreements the moment they are put before them without taking advice from solicitors, surveyors, citizens advice bureaux or their own town halls, all of which will be well qualified to guide those who are affected by the Bill, because it surely must be the wish of the whole House that when a new Act comes into operation everybody affected by it should have the fullest opportunity of discovering how they stand under it. The professional organisations can play a most valuable part.
I am quite convinced that it is right to decontrol the higher-rented properties under Clause 10 (1), and I do not depart from what I said before I became Minister of Housing and Local Government when I was addressing my constituents on the Bill. I said ——
§ Mr. Brooke
In this case, "I said." I said that in the normal case, taking the country as a whole, the rents of these decontrolled properties will settle down at between two and three times the gross value. I well know that there may be abnormal cases in either direction, and I told the House very frankly a couple of 1473 days ago that in places with scarcity attraction, such as for some reason or another in the immediate neighbourhood of this House, we may find rents going to very high figures. But that is my judgment, and I think we shall find it working out like that.
As a result of the Bill, additional accommodation will become available.
§ Mr. Shurmerrose ——
§ Mr. Brooke
I cannot understand why the hon. and learned Member for Kettering says that the Bill will make matters worse. It will withdraw no accommodation. It will provide extra accommodation— [HON. MEMBERS: "Where? "]— by the conversion of large houses which are now controlled and where it is now impossible for the landlords to carry out conversion. It will mean that when a landlord obtains vacant possession of a house there will no longer be the strong incentive to sell it, because he will be able to get a reasonable rent by letting it. When he obtains vacant possession of a flat, whereas now we are only too familiar with the fact that he has a stimulus to let it furnished, in future he will be able to get a reasonable rent by letting it unfurnished.
The people who fear that they will be turned out because the landlord wants to let to someone else better off, so often forget that this someone else must be leaving somewhere else and that that somewhere else will become vacant.
All the time, through these long discussions on the Bill, I have kept in mind its two main purposes— first, to stop the disrepair and decay of millions of houses, and, second, to bring into better use the enormous amount of under-occupied accommodation which exists. [HON. MEMBERS: "Where?"] My quarrel with the Opposition is that they have never addressed themselves to those two main needs of the situation. That is why nine-tenths of their criticism in Committee has been quite unreal. They have seemed concerned only to delay as long as possible the charging of any increased rent and have been completely indifferent to the state of repair of the property. They know perfectly well that the nation cannot get the houses into proper repair without higher rents, and yet they say that 1474 no one can afford to pay higher rents. It is a funny thing how council rents have been going up all over the country.
What does the Opposition really think? Do hon. and right hon. Members opposite think that rents ought to go up, or do they think that the houses should stay unrepaired as, of course, they will if this iniquitous system of rent control at inadequate levels is allowed to continue? Nobody would dream of letting anything like that happen, say, to our railway system. Everybody would say that a railway system in disrepair was a national disaster, and what rent control has been doing to 5 million houses is a national disaster. Yet the Opposition is saying that if rents rise to the new limit under Clause 1, it is an attack on the living standards of the people.
Does it make no difference whatever to the living standards of the people that millions of rent-controlled houses are in their present state? Has the Opposition no knowledge whatever of what is happening down the streets and in the villages? The unreality of it is that the Opposition is content to let the people live in homes that need repair, provided that it can oppose the proposals of the Government.
§ Mr. Brooke
What about Socialist councils that have put up rents in the last few years? What about the way house rents will go up if all these rent-controlled houses are taken over by the councils, at a cost which the hon. Member for Rossendale (Mr. Greenwood) has estimated at £ 2,500 million?
The House has to make a choice. There is no escape from this. Hon. Members on both sides know that there is a problem here to which we cannot blind our eyes. We have had this rent control system now for forty years, and I am quite certain that there is not a single hon. Member on either side of the House who believes it would be right for the country if things were to remain indefinitely as they are at present. As I see it, we have either the plan in the Rent Bill or, alternatively, we have to make 5 million tenants into council tenants who do not want to be council tenants, taking away from them security of tenure [HON. MEMBERS: "No."] and rent control alike.
1475 The hon. Member for Wellingborough (Mr. Lindgren) and the hon. Member for Itchen (Dr. King) earlier in the debate spoke of anxieties and fears. As the Minister in charge of the Bill, I well know that there are genuine anxieties. I also know that there are false fears that have been fanned by the Opposition and by their Communist friends. [HON. MEMBERS: "What?"] Their Communist friends. One of these false fears is that the landlords of rent-controlled houses can raise rents without putting the house into repair. The hon. Member for Rossendale published an article in an official Labour Party publication dealing with controlled houses, which will still be controlled. He wrote:One of the worst features of the Bill is that these increases are not conditonal upon keeping the property in repair.That, of course, is completely untrue.
§ Mr. Mitchison indicated dissent.
§ Mr. Brooke
The hon. Member for Newcastle-upon-Tyne, East (Mr. Blenkinsop) in the recent by-election there wrote an article ——
§ Mr. A. Evans
On a point of order. Is it not out of order, Mr. Speaker, for the Minister to quote a document without saying which document it is? We do not know what he is quoting from.
§ Mr. Brooke
I am reading now from the Northern Star, which appeared to be published in connection with the recent Newcastle by-election. The hon. Member for Newcastle-upon-Tyne, East wrote there what the Labour Party say… is that the houses must be kept in good repair. This Government gives the tenant no real protection against the landlord who will not do the repairs.That is completely and totally untrue.
§ Mr. A. Blenkinsop (Newcastle-upon-Tyne, East) rose——
§ Mr. P. Bell
On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. May my right hon. Friend have a moment or two in which to reconsider the courtesy of giving way, as the hon. and learned Gentleman did? [An HON. MEMBER: "He gave way."] Only to the objections of his own party.
§ Mr. Blenkinsop rose——
§ Mr. Brooke
That statement is wholly untrue and is as misleading as the statement contained in a leaflet circulating at the North Lewisham by-election, also designed to steal votes, which read—It will be easier than ever before for landlords to increase rents without doing repairs.Who is it that is raising the false fears now? Another wholly false fear is that the Government intend very quickly to decontrol all the 4¼ million controlled houses. I have here a cutting from the South Wales Argus of Newport— there is some advantage in being Minister for Welsh Affairs— which states:Within 12 months of the passing of the Rent Bill the housing Minister would bring in an order and withdraw practically five million houses from rent control, predicted … the Member for Wellingborough …
§ Mr. Lindgren rose——
Order. I hope that the hon. and learned Member's point of order is more a point of order than his previous one.
§ Mr. Lindgren
The statement in the Press referred to by the right hon. Gentleman is perfectly true. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh."] I base it on the withdrawal of the housing subsidy. There was a similar provision in the housing subsidies Measure, but the remaining housing subsidies were withdrawn within twelve months. Indeed, I made the same statement in the House yesterday.
§ Mr. Brooke
If the hon. Member thinks that what he has said is perfectly true, it only shows that he is completely unreliable, because I have no intention whatever of bringing in any decontrol order at all within twelve months. It is also wholly untrue that landlords of controlled properties under the Bill will be able to get increased rents without putting their property in proper repair.
1477 The Bill has brought in a vast amount of correspondence. I have done all in my power, and so has the Parliamentary Secretary, to deal with every genuine inquiry which his been made. I would ask hon. Members on both sides of the House to do all in their power now that the Bill is going to another place to help genuine inquirers to understand what the facts of the Bill are and to cease the gross misleading of the public which has been done by Left Wing spokesmen.
The events of the last few minutes prompt me to read almost the most recent letter that I have received:Good luck to you, Mr. Brooke. You will probably be howled at and shouted at, but, believe me, you have a lot of support in the country.
§ I have been asking hon. Members to allay these false fears. One letter which was received from an hon. Member opposite enclosed a letter which he said showed the way tenants in his constituency were being frightened, but the enclosed letter, when we read it, revealed that what those constituents of his were frightened about was not the Rent Bill but what would happen to them under the Socialist policy of municipalisation. The hon. Member at least has the chance this evening of abandoning his top sacred cow of municipalisation and supporting this practical and courageous Rent Bill.
§ Question put, That the Bill be now read the Third time: —
§ The House divided: Ayes 321, Noes 261.1481
|Division No. 92.]||AYES||[10.30 p.m.|
|Agnew, Sir Peter||Conant, Maj. Sir Roger||Grimond, J.|
|Aitken, W. T.||Cooke, Robert||Crimston, Hon. John (St. Albans)|
|Allan, R. A. (Paddington, S.)||Cooper, A. E.||Grimston, Sir Robert (Westbury)|
|Alport, C. J. M.||Cooper-Key, E. M.||Grosvenor, Lt.-Col. R. G.|
|Amery, Julian (Preston, N.)||Cordeaux, Lt.-Col. J. K.||Gurden, Harold|
|Amory, Rt. Hn. Heathcoat (Tiverton)||Corfield, Capt. F. V.||Hall, John (Wycombe)|
|Anstruther-Gray, Major Sir William||Craddock, Beresford (Spelthorne)||Hare, Rt. Hon. J. H.|
|Arbuthnot, John||Crouch, R. F.||Harris, Frederic (Croydon, N.W.)|
|Armstrong, C. W.||Crowder, Sir John (Fincley)||Harris, Reader (Heston)|
|Ashton, H.||Crowder, Petre (Ruislip—Northwood)||Harrison, A. B. C. (Maldon)|
|Astor, Hon. J. J.||Cunningham, Knox||Harrison, Col. J. H. (Eye)|
|Atkins, H. E.||Currie, G. B. H.||Harvey, Air Cdre. A. V. (Macclesfd)|
|Baldock, Lt.-Cmdr. J. M.||Dance, J. C. G.||Harvey, Ian (Harrow, E.)|
|Baldwin, A. E.||Davidson, Viscountess||Harvey, John (Walthamstow, E.)|
|Balniel, Lord||D'Avigdor-Goldsmid, Sir Henry||Harvie-Watt, Sir George|
|Barber, Anthony||Deedes, W. F.||Hay, John|
|Barter, John||Digby, Simon Wingfield||Heald, Rt. Hon. Sir Lionel|
|Baxter, sir Beverley||Dodds-Parker, A. D.||Henderson, John (Cathcart)|
|Beamish, Maj. Tufton||Doughty, C. J. A.||Henderson-Stewart, Sir James|
|Bell, Philip (Bolton, E.)||Drayson, G. B.||Hesketh, R. F.|
|Bell, Ronald (Bucks, S.)||du Cann, E. D. L.||Hicks-Beach, Maj. W. W.|
|Bennett, F. M. (Torquay)||Dugdale, Rt. Hn. Sir T. (Richmond)||Hill, Rt. Hon. Charles (Luton)|
|Bennett, Dr. Reginald||Duncan, Capt. J. A. L.||Hill, Mrs. E. (Wythenshawe)|
|Bevins, J. R. (Toxteth)||Duthle, W. S.||Hill, John (s. Norfolk)|
|Bidgood, J. C.||Eccles, Rt. Hon. Sir David||Hinchingbrooke, Viscount|
|Biggs-Davison, J. A.||Eden, J. B. (Bournemouth, West)||Hirst, Geoffrey|
|Birch, Rt. Hon. Nigel||Elliot, Rt. Hon. W. E.||Hobson, J. G. S.(War'ck&Leam'gtn)|
|Bishop, F. P.||Elliott, R. W.||Holland-Martin, C. J.|
|Black, C. W.||Emmet, Hon. Mrs. Evelyn||Holt, A. F.|
|Body, n. F.||Erroll, F. J.||Hope, Lord John|
|Boothby, Sir Robert||Farey-Jones, F. W.||Hornby, R. P.|
|Bossom, Sir Alfred||Fell, A.||Hornsby-Smith, Miss M. P.|
|Bowen, E. n. (Cardigan)||Finlay, Graeme||Horobin, Sir Ian|
|Boyd-Carpenter, Rt. Hon, J. A.||Fisher, Nigel||Horsbrugh, Rt. Hon. Dame Florence|
|Boyle, Sir Edward||Fletcher-Cooke, C.||Howard, Gerald (Cambridgeshire)|
|Braine, B. R.||Fort, R.||Howard, Hon. Greville (St. Ives)|
|Braithwaite, Sir Albert (Harrow, W.)||Foster, John||Howard, John (Test)|
|Bromley-Davenport, Lt.-Col. w. H.||Fraser, Hon. Hugh (Stone)||Hughes Hallett, Vice-Admiral J.|
|Brooke, Rt. Hon. Henry||Fraser, Sir Ian (M'cmbe & Lonsdale)||Hughes-Young, M. H. C.|
|Brooman-White, R. C.||Freeth, Denzil||Hulbert, Sir Norman|
|Browne, J. Nixon (Cralgton)||Galbraith, Hon. T. G. D.||Hurd, A. R.|
|Bryan, P.||Garner-Evans, E. H.||Hutchison, Sir Ian Clark (E'b'gh, W.)|
|Bullus, Wing Commander, E. E.||George, J. C. (Pollok)||Hutchison, Sir James (Scotstoun)|
|Burden, F. F. A.||Gibson-Watt, D.||Hyde, Montgomery|
|Butcher, Sir Herbert||Glover, D.||Iremonger, T. L.|
|Butler, Rt. Hn. R.A.(Saffron Walden)||Godber, J. B.||Irvine, Bryant Godman (Rye)|
|Campbell, Sir David||Gomme-Duncan, Col. Sir Alan||Jenkins, Robert (Dulwich)|
|Carr, Robert||Goodhart, P. C.||Jennings, J. C. (Burton)|
|Cary, Sir Robert||Gough, C. F. H.||Jennings, Sir Roland (Hallam)|
|Channon, Sir Henry||Gower, H. R.||Johnson, Dr. Donald (Carlisle)|
|Chichester-Clark, R.||Graham, Sir Fergus||Johnson, Eric (Blackley)|
|Churchill, Rt. Hon. Sir Winston||Green, A.||Johnson, Howard (Kemptown)|
|Clarke, Brig. Terence (Portsmth, W.)||Gresham Cooke, R.||Jones, Rt. Hon. Aubrey (Hall Green)|
|Joseph, Sir Keith||Milligan, Rt. Hon. W. R.||Smithers, Peter (Winchester)|
|Joynson-Hicks, Hon. Sir Lancelot||Molson, Rt. Hon. Hugh||Smyth, Brig. Sir John (Norwood)|
|Kaberry, D.||Moore, Sir Thomas||Soames, Christopher|
|Keegan, D.||Morrison, John (Salisbury)||Spearman, Sir Alexander|
|Kerby, Capt. H. B.||Mott-Radclyffe, Sir Charles||Speir, R. M.|
|Kerr, H. W.||Nabarro, G. D. N.||Spence, H. R. (Aberdeen, W.)|
|Kershaw, J. A.||Nairn, D. L. S.||Spens, Rt. Hn. Sir P. (Kens'gt'n, S.)|
|Kimball M.||Neave, Airey||Stanley, Capt. Hon. Richard|
|Kirk, P. M.||Nicholls, Harmar||Stevens, Geoffrey|
|Lagden, G.W||Nicholson, Godfrey (Farnham)||Steward, Harold (Stockport, S.)|
|Lambert, Hon.G||Nicolson, N. (B'n'm'th, E. & Chr'ch)||Steward, Sir William (Woolwich, W.)|
|Lambton, Viscount||Noble, Comdr. A. H. P.||Stoddart-Scott, Col. M.|
|Lancaster, Col. C. G.||Nugent, G. R. H.||Storey, S.|
|Langford-Holt, J. A.||O'Neill, Hn. Phelim (Co. Antrim, N.)||Stuart, Rt. Hon. James (Moray)|
|Leavey, J. A.||Ormsby-Gore, Rt. Hon. W. D.||Studholme, Sir Henry|
|Leburn, W. G.||Orr, Capt. L. P. S.||Summers, Sir Spencer|
|Legge-Bourke, Maj. E. A. H.||Orr-Ewing, Charles Ian (Hendon, N.)||Sumner, W. D. M. (Orpington)|
|Legh, Hon. Peter (Petersfield)||Orr-Ewing, Sir lan (Weston-S-Mare)||Taylor, Sir Charles (Eastbourne)|
|Lennox-Boyd, Rt. Hon. A. T.||Osborne, C.||Taylor, William (Bradford, N.)|
|Lindsay, Hon. James (Devon, N.)||Page, R. G.||Teeling, W.|
|Linstead, Sir H. N.||Panned, N. A. (Kirkdale||Temple, John M.|
|Llewellyn, D. T.||Partridge, E.||Thomas, Leslie (Canterbury)|
|Lloyd, Rt. Hon. G.(Sutton Coldfield)||Peyton, J. W. W.||Thomas, P. J. M. (Conway)|
|Lloyd, Maj. Sir Guy (Renfrew, E.)||Pickthorn, K. W. M.||Thompson, Kenneth (Walton)|
|Lloyd, Rt. Hon. Selwyn (Wirral)||Pike, Miss Mervyn||Thompson, Lt.-Cdr. R. (Croydon, S.)|
|Longden, Gilbert||Pilkington, Capt. R. A.||Thorneycroft, Rt. Hon. P.|
|Low, Rt. Hon. A. R. W.||Pitman, I. J.||Thornton-Kemsley, C. N.|
|Lucas, Sir Jocelyn (Portsmouth, S.)||Pitt, Miss E. M.||Tiley, A. (Bradford, W.)|
|Lucas, P. B. (Brentford & Chiswick)||Pott, H. P.||Tilney, John (Wavertree)|
|Lucas-Tooth, Sir Hugh||Powell, J. Enoch||Turner, H. F. L.|
|McAdden, S. J.||Price, Henry (Lewisham, W.)||Turton, Rt. Hon. R. H.|
|MacAndrew, Rt. Hon. Sir Charles||Prior-Palmer, Brig. O. L.||Tweedsmuir, Lady|
|Macdonald, Sir Peter||Profumo, J. D.||Vane, W. M. F.|
|Mackeson, Brig. Sir Harry||Raikes, Sir Victor||Vaughan-Morgan, J. K.|
|MoKibbin, A. J.||Ramsden, J. E.||Vickers, Miss Joan|
|Mackie, J. H. (Galloway)||Rawlinson, Peter||Vosper, Rt. Hon. D. F.|
|McLaughlin, Mrs. P.||Redmayne, M.||Wakefield, Edward (Derbyshire, W.)|
|Maclay, Rt. Hon. John||Rees-Davies, W. R.||Wakefield, Sir Waveil (St. M'iebone)|
|McLean, Neil (Inverness)||Remnant, Hon. P.||Walker-Smith, Rt. Hon. D. C.|
|Macleod, Rt. Hn. lain (Enfield, W.)||Renton, D. L. M.||Ward, Rt. Hon. G. R. (Worcester)|
|MacLeod, John (Ross & Cromarty)||Ridsdale, J. E.||Ward, Dame Irene (Tynemouth)|
|Macmillan,Rt.Hn.Harold(Bromley)||Rippon, A. G. F.||Waterhouse, Capt. Rt. Hon. C.|
|Macmillan, Maurice (Halifax)||Roberts, Sir Peter (Heeley)||Watkinson, Rt. Hon. Harold|
|Macpherson, Niall (Dumfries)||Robertson, Sir David||Webbe, Sir H.|
|Maddan, Martin||Robson-Brown, W.||Whitelaw, W.S.I.(Penrith & Border)|
|Maitland, Cdr. J. F. W. (Hornoastle)||Rodgers, John (Sevenoaks)||Williams, Paul (Sunderland, S.)|
|Maitland, Hon. Patrick (Lanark)||Roper, Sir Harold||Williams, R. Dudley (Exeter)|
|Manningham-Buller, Rt. Hn. Sir R.||Ropner, Col. Sir Leonard||Wills, G. (Bridgwater)|
|Marlowe, A. A. H.||Russell, R. S.||Wilson, Geoffrey (Truro)|
|Marshall, Douglas||Sandys, Rt. Hon. D.||Wood, Hon. R.|
|Mathew, R.||Schofield, Lt.-Col. W.||Woollam, John Victor|
|Maude, Angus||Scott-Miller, Cmdr. R.||Yates, William (The Wrekin)|
|Maudllng, Rt. Hon. R.||Sharpies, R. C.|
|Mawby, R. L.||Shepherd, William||TELLERS FOR THE AYES:|
|Maydon, Lt.-Comdr. S. L. C.||Simon, J. E. S. (Middlesbrough, W.)||Mr. Heath and Mr. Oakshott.|
|Medlicott, Sir Frank|
|Ainsley, J. W.||Brown, Thomas (Ince)||de Freitas, Geoffrey|
|Albu, A. H.||Burke, W. A.||Delargy, H. J.|
|Allaun, Frank (Salford, E.)||Burton, Miss F. E.||Dodds, N. N.|
|Allen, Arthur (Bosworth)||Butler, Herbert (Hackney, C.)||Donnelly, D. L.|
|Allen, Scholefieid (Crewe)||Butler, Mrs. Joyce (Wood Green)||Dugdale, Rt. Hn. John (W. Brmwch)|
|Awbery, S. S.||callaghan, L. J.||Dye, S.|
|Bacon, Miss Alice||Carmichael, J.||Ede, Rt. Hon. J. C.|
|Baird, J.||Castle, Mrs. B. A.||Edelman, M.|
|Balfour, A.||Champion, A. J.||Edwards, Rt. Hon. John (Brighouse)|
|Bellenger, Rt. Hon. F. J.||Chapman, W. D.||Edwards, Rt. Hon. Ness (Caerphilly)|
|Bence, C. R. (Dunbartonshire, E.)||Chetwynd, G. R.||Edwards, Robert (Bilston)|
|Benn, Hn. Wedgwood (Bristol, S.E.)||Coldrick, W.||Edwards, W. J. (Stepney)|
|Benson, C.||Collick, P. H. (Birkenhead)||Evans, Albert (Islington, S.W.)|
|Beswick, Frank||Collins, V. J. (Shoreditch & Finsbury)||Evans, Edward (Lowestoft)|
|Blackburn, F.||Corbet, Mrs. Freda||Fernyhough, E.|
|Blenkinsop, A.||Cove, W. G.||Fienburgh, W.|
|Blyton, W. R.||Craddock, George (Bradford, S.)||Finch, H. J.|
|Boardman, H.||Cronin, J. D.||Fletcher, Eric|
|Bowden, H. W.(Leicester, S.W.)||Crossman, R. H. S.||Forman, J. C.|
|Bowles, F. G.||Cullen, Mrs. A.||Gaitskell, Rt. Hon. H. T. N.|
|Boyd, T. C.||Dalton, Rt. Hon. H.||George, Lady Megan Lloyd|
|Braddock, Mrs. Elizabeth||Davies, Ernest (Enfield, E.)||Gibson, C. W.|
|Brockway, A. F.||Davies, Harold (Leek)||Gooch, E. G.|
|Broughton, Dr. A. D. D.||Davies, Stephen (Merthyr)||Gordon Walker, Rt. Hon. P. C.|
|Brown, Rt. Hon. George (Belper)||Deer, G.||Greenwood, Anthony|
|Grenfell, Bt. Hon. D. R.||MacMillan, M. K. (Western Isles)||Short, E. W.|
|Grey, C. F.||MacPherson, Malcolm (Stirling)||Shurmer, P. L. E.|
|Griffiths, David (Rother Valley)||Marion, Simon||Silverman, Julius (Aston)|
|Griffiths, Rt. Hon. James (Llanelly)||Mainwaring, W. H.||Silverman, Sydney (Nelson)|
|Griffiths, William (Exchange)||Mallalieu, E. L. (Brigg)||Simmons, C. J. (Brierley Hill)|
|Hale, Leslie||Mallalieu, J. P. W. (Huddersfd, E.)||Skeffington, A. M.|
|Hall, Rt. Hn. Glenvil (Colne Valley)||Mann, Mrs. Jean||Slater, Mrs. H. (Stoke, N.)|
|Hamilton, W. W.||Marquand, Rt. Hon. H. A.||Slater, J. (Sedgefield)|
|Hannan, W.||Mason, Roy||Smith, Ellis (Stoke, S.)|
|Harrison, J. (Nottingham, N.)||Mayhew, C. P.||Snow, J. W.|
|Hastings, S.||Mellish, R. J.||Sorensen, R. W.|
|Hayman, P. H.||Messer, Sir F.||Soskice, Rt. Hon. Sir Frank|
|Healey, Denis||Mikardo, Ian||Sparks, J. A.|
|Henderson, Rt. Hn. A. (Rwly Regis)||Mitchison, G. R.||Steele, T.|
|Herbison, Miss M.||Monslow, W.||Stewart, Michael (Fulham)|
|Hewitson, Capt. M.||Moody, A. S.||Stokes, Rt. Hon. R. R. (Ipswich)|
|Hobson, C. R. (Keighley)||Morris, Percy (Swansea, W.)||Stonehouse, J. T.|
|Holman, P.||Morrison,Rt.Hn.Herbert(Lewis'm,S.)||Stones, W. (Consett)|
|Holmes, Horace||Mort, D. L.||Strachey, Rt. Hon. J.|
|Houghton, Douglas||Moss, R.||Strauss, Rt. Hon. George (Vauxhall)|
|Howell, Charles (Perry Barr)||Moyle, A.||Stross,Dr.Barnett(Stoke-on-Trent,C.)|
|Howell, Denis (All Saints)||Mulley, F. W.||Summerskill, Rt. Han, E.|
|Hoy, J. H.||Neal, Harold (Bolsover)||Swingler, S. T.|
|Hughes, Cledwyn (Anglesey)||Noel-Baker, Francis (Swindon)||Sylvester, G. O.|
|Hughes, Emrys, (S. Ayrshire)||Noel-Baker, Rt. Hon. P. (Derby, S.)||Taylor, Bernard (Mansfield)|
|Hughes, Hector (Aberdeen, N.)||O'Brien, Sir Thomas||Taylor, John (West Lothian)|
|Hunter, A. E.||Oliver, G. H.||Thomas, George (Cardiff)|
|Hynd, H. (Accrington)||Oram, A. E.||Thomas, lorwerth (Rhondda, W.)|
|Hynd, J, B. (Attercliffe)||Orbach, M.||Thomson, George (Dundee, E.)|
|Irvine, A. J. (Edge Hill)||Oswald, T.||Thornton, E.|
|Irving, Sydney (Dartford)||Owen, W. J.||Timmons, J.|
|Isaacs, Rt. Hon. G. A.||Padley, W. E.||Tomney, F.|
|Janner, B.||Paget, R. T.||Ungoed-Thomas, Sir Lynn|
|Jay, Rt. Hon. D. P. T.||Paling, Rt. Hon. W. (Dearne Valley)||Usborne, H. C.|
|Jeger, George (Goole)||Palmer, A. M, F.||Viant, S. P.|
|Jeger, Mrs. Lena(Holbn & St.Pnes,S.)||Panned, Charles (Leeds, W.)||Warbey, W. N.|
|Jenkins, Roy (Stechford)||Pargiter, G. A.||Watkins, T. E.|
|Johnston, Douglas (Paisley)||Parker, J.||Weitzman, D.|
|Jones, Rt. Hn. A. Creech (Wakefield)||Parkin, B. T.||Wells, Percy (Faversham)|
|Jones, David (The Hartlepools)||Paton, John||Wells, William (Walsall, N.)|
|Jones, Elwyn (W. Ham, S.)||Peart, T. F.||West, D. G.|
|Jones, Jack (Rotherham)||Pentland, N.||Wheeldon, W. E.|
|Jones, J. Idwal (Wrexham)||Plummer, Sir Leslie||White, Mrs. Eirene (E. Flint)|
|Jones, T. W. (Merioneth)||Prioe, J. T. (Westhoughton)||White, Henry (Derbyshire, N.E.)|
|Kenyon, C.||Price, Philips (Gloucestershire, W.)||Wilcock, Group Capt. C. A. B.|
|Key, Rt. Hon. C. W.||Probert, A. R.||Wilkins, W. A.|
|King, Dr. H. M.||Proctor, W. T.||Willey, Frederick|
|Lawson, G. M.||Pryde, D. J.||Williams, David (Neath)|
|Ledger, R. J.||Pursey, Cmdr. H.||Williams, Rev. Llywelyn (Ab'tillery)|
|Lee, Frederick (Newton)||Randall, H. E.||Williams, Ronald (Wigan)|
|Lee, Miss Jennie (Cannock)||Rankin, John||Williams, Rt. Hon. T. (Don Valley)|
|Lever, Harold (Cheetham)||Redhead, E. C.||Williams, W. R. (Openshaw)|
|Lever, Leslie (Ardwick)||Reeves, J.||Williams, W. T. (Barons Court)|
|Lewis, Arthur||Reid, William||Willis, Eustace (Edinburgh, E.)|
|Lindgren, G- S.||Rhodes, H.||Wilson, Rt, Hon. Harold (Huyton)|
|Lipton, Marcus||Robens, Rt. Hon. A.||Winterbottom, Richard|
|Mabon, Dr. J. Dickson||Roberts, Albert (Normanton)||Woof, R. E.|
|MacColl, J. E.||Roberts, Goronwy (Caernarvon)||Yates, V. (Ladywood)|
|MacDermot, Niall||Robinson, Kenneth (St. Pancras, N.)||Younger, Rt. Hon. K.|
|McGhee, H. G.||Rogers, George (Kensington, N.)||Zilliacus, K.|
|McGovern, J.||Ross, William|
|McInnes, J.||Royle, C.||TELLERS FOR THE NOES:|
|McKay, John (Wallsend)||Shlnwell, Rt. Hon. E.||Mr. Popplewell and Mr. Pearson.|
§ Bill accordingly read the Third time and passed