HC Deb 29 April 1958 vol 587 cc201-8

3.48 p.m.

Mr. R. T. Paget (Northampton)

I beg to move, That leave be given to bring in a Bill to empower the Minister of Housing and Local Government and Minister for Welsh Affairs to prescribe, either generally or district by district, a multiplier of the gross rateable value of dwelling-houses decontrolled under subsection (1) of section eleven of the Rent Act, 1957; to provide that where such a dwelling-house is sold for a price in excess of the prescribed multiple of its gross rateable value, the tenant at the time of sale or, if the dwelling-house is untenanted at the time of sale, a tenant evicted prior to and for the purpose of effecting a sale with vacant possession shall be entitled to claim from the landlord an amount equal to the said excess; and for purposes connected with the matters aforesaid. May I begin by expressing an apology both to you, Sir, and to the House for my absence from my place on Thursday? It was entirely through my own fault. I thought that this matter would arise after the Budget Resolution and I was behind your Chair at the time.

The Bill I seek leave to introduce is designed to deal with what both sides of the House have described as profiteering, that is, profiteering from the scarcity of houses and taking the opportunity to profiteer from what has resulted from decontrol. That this profiteering is taking place I had evidenced to me by a letter which I received from my constituency only yesterday, saying that no fewer than four houses were being offered for sale at between sixty and eighty times the gross value. I believe that that situation can be reproduced all over the country. The Bill would also serve in some degree to measure the genuineness of the supporters of the Government who have expressed disapproval of this form of profiteering.

What I propose is that the Minister shall have the right, either generally or district by district, to select a multiplier of the gross value of houses. I say district by district, because what is a fair price expressed in terms of a multiplication of the gross annual value of a house may vary from district to district. That multiplier would be designed to arrive at a fair price for a house in a free market, but a genuinely free market which is not inflated by the scarcity element.

In the event of a house being sold for more than that, the tenant at whose expense the inflated price had been obtained would have a claim against the landlord for the excess. I can put it in simple figures. If we have a house in London, say, with a gross value of £60 and the multiplier fixed by the Ministry were 20, the fair price would be £1,200; that is to say, twenty times £60. If the house were sold for more than that, say, for £1,800 or £2,000—and they are being sold for more than that—the £600 or £800 difference would be paid to the tenant at whose expense it had been obtained.

It might be payable to the tenant himself if he had been forced to pay an excessive price to preserve his home, or if he had been ejected to facilitate a sale. Then, he would have a share in the price obtained for the house, which would be some compensation to him at least for having lost his home. It seems to me that he is the person to whom the excess should fairly go. After all, he is the sufferer.

There is another principle which we on this side of the House, at any rate, recognise, and that is that the owner is not the only person who has an interest in somebody else's home. The man who lives there, whose children have been born there, has an interest, and if an excessive price is to be obtained and that man is to be deprived of his home, or is forced to expend all his savings to preserve his home at an excessive price, he is the person who ought to get that compensation.

I hope that the Government will accept the Motion, which will certainly give effect to the sentiments which they have been expressing. It will be a test of their sincerity and their genuineness, but there is another purpose for the introduction of the Bill. We have heard about warnings with regard to retrospective legislation. I hope that this may be a clear warning that if landlords do seek to profiteer in this situation, then, when another Government come into power, they may have to disgorge some of their profits to some of the tenants at whose expense they gained them. That is a warning which they might very profitably bear in mind.

3.54 p.m.

Mr. Philip Bell (Bolton, East)

It is really rather cheerful to find one kind of debate in which a back bencher does not have to compete with Privy Councillors in catching your eye, Mr. Speaker, but as I have been sitting here quite relaxed, watching the ritualistic dance put on so kindly this afternoon by the Opposition, I realised that despite the didactic delivery and the flashing eyes, the technique is still very much the same. It might have been suitably addressed to a bench of magistrates, provided that they were elderly and slightly deaf, because this matter of fitting compensation or fixing a price by reference to the rateable value of property is very old.

It was, in fact, suggested in 1945, by the Morris Committee, and paragraph 20 of its Report gives good reasons why it is impracticable and unfair. There was this to be said for the argument; it absolutely convinced hon. Members opposite, because they never brought in any legislation on that basis, nor, indeed, did they bring in any on the basis which the Morris Committee did suggest, for reasons which are quite simple, but which we have not had the opportunity of hearing, and which I find I have just about got time to give to the House.

The first is that when we take the value of old property for selling it is quite different from the way we value property for rating purposes. We do not pay much attention to rating in the case of old property, though it is true that we do to the state of repairs. When we are assessing property for rating purposes, we do not make the sort of inquiries we make about repairs. There is also the difficulty of leasehold properties, which gather the same rateable value as freehold properties.

Then, there is the experience of anybody who has considered the question of maximum price, namely, that what we think is the ceiling turns out very shortly to be the floor; that is to say, we do not have any competitive price, but the maximum price becomes the minimum price. These are reasons which anyone can find in the Report of the Morris Committee, which are as sound now as they were when they convinced the Morris Committee.

There are wider considerations. In this proposed Bill, no account is taken, or ever is taken in these matters, of the balance of resources or of needs between the landlord and tenant. It is always assumed that tenants are weak, powerless and bankrupt, and that landlords are wealthy and smoke long cigars. All this is assumed, although it is not proved, and the real point is that some consideration might be given to the position of people who badly need houses. If, in fact, this method of assessment of a ceiling price only fixes a fair market value, then we do not want to waste our time with all this complicated legislation. If, on the other hand, it fixes what I suspect it is intended to do, something less than market price, there is a margin which is to be confiscated or taken away.

Why should it be taken away from one citizen and not the other? Have we considered, for instance, the claims of a landlord who wanted to sell his house so that he might buy a house to which to retire? No. He will have his margin taken away. What about the case of a house in trust, a house forming part of an estate which has to be wound up and the proceeds used? More exciting possibilities occur to me. One of the right hon. Gentlemen opposite might possibly want, and very laudably, to send his boy to a public school before the T.U.C. closes them all down. He might require the proceeds of the sale of his house so that he can send his boy to Winchester. These are possibilities, but nobody considers what the money may be wanted for by the landlord.

I am not beyond saying that in certain circumstances it might be right to have purchase prices fixed for houses in times of great scarcity, say, of a muddled Socialist Government, with perhaps a housing programme such as that which staggered and staggered until it brought defeat at the polls to the party opposite. These may be occasions when, for a short time, we might have that price, but what convinces me most is that the party opposite had the power and also had the Morris Report, but did not bring in such legislation for old houses, as it could have done, but only for new houses.

There is something to be said for that, but what is to be said for the proposition that a margin of the price is not to be given to the State, is not to be given to the poor or given away on the basis of any sense of justice at all? What is to be said for it? One thing only, and it is not very pleasant, but somebody had better say it. It would buy votes. This is the sort of manœuvre that might buy votes, and that is all it is for, though I myself do not believe that votes can be bought quite as easily as that. At any rate, I do not believe that they will be in the end.

Therefore, I advise my hon. Friends to reject this Motion on the grounds that this

proposed Bill is impracticable, that it is arbitrary, that it is spiteful, and, in my opinion, despicable.

Question put, pursuant to Standing Order No. 12 (Motions for leave to bring in Bills and nomination of Select Committees at commencement of Public Business):—

The House divided: Ayes 187, Noes 243.

Division No. 97.] AYES [4.0 p.m.
Ainsley, J. W. Hewitson, Capt. M. Parkin, B. T.
Albu, A. H. Hobson, C. R. (Keighley) Paton, John
Allen, Arthur (Bosworth) Holman, P. Pearson, A.
Allen, Scholefield (Crewe) Holmes, Horace Peart, T. F.
Awbery, S. S. Howell, Charles (Perry Barr) Pentland, N.
Bacon, Miss Alice Hoy, J. H. Popplewell, E.
Balfour, A. Hughes, Hector (Aberdeen, N.) Prentice, R. E.
Bence, C. R. (Dunbartonshire, E.) Hunter, A. E. Price, J. T. (Westhoughton)
Benson, Sir George Hynd, H. (Accrington) Price, Philips (Gloucestershire, W.)
Boardman, H. Irvine, A. J. (Edge Hill) Probert, A. R.
Bottomley, Rt. Hon. A. G. Irving, Sydney (Dartford) Proctor, W. T.
Bowden, H. W. (Leicester, S.W.) Jay, Rt. Hon. D. P. T. Rankin, John
Boyd, T. C. Jeger, George (Goole) Redhead, E. C.
Braddock, Mrs. Elizabeth Jeger, Mrs. Lena(Holbn & St. Pncs. S.) Reid, William
Brockway, A. F. Jenkins, Roy (Stechford) Robens, Rt. Hon. A.
Brown, Rt. Hon. George (Belper) Johnson, James (Rugby) Roberts, Albert (Normanton)
Brown, Thomas (Ince) Johnston, Douglas (Paisley) Roberts, Goronwy (Caernarvon)
Burke, W. A. Jones, David (The Hartlepools) Robinson, Kenneth (St. Pancras N.)
Burton, Miss F. E. Jones, Elwyn (W. Ham, S.) Rogers, George (Kensington, N.)
Butler, Herbert (Hackney, C.) Jones, J. Idwal (Wrexham) Shinwell, Rt. Hon. E.
Butler, Mrs. Joyce (Wood Green) Jones, T. W. (Merioneth) Short, E. W.
Callaghan, L. J. Key, Rt. Hon. C. W. Silverman, Julius (Aston)
Castle, Mrs. B. A. Lawson, G. M. Silverman, Sydney (Nelson)
Champion, A. J. Lee, Frederick (Newton) Simmons, C. J. (Brierley Hill)
Chapman, W. D. Lee, Miss Jennie (Cannock) Slater, Mrs. H. (Stoke, N.)
Chetwynd, G. R. Lindgren, G. S. Snow, J. W.
Clunie, J. Lipton, Marcus Sorensen, R. W.
Collins, V. J.(Shoreditch & Finsbury) Logan, D. G. Soskice, Rt. Hon. Sir Frank
Corbet, Mrs. Freda Mabon, Dr. J. Dickson Sparks, J. A.
Cove, W. G. McCann, J. Stewart, Michael (Fulham)
Craddock, George (Bradford, S.) MacColl, J. E. Stonehouse, John
Crossman, R. H. S. McGhee, H. G. Stones, W. (Consett)
Darling, George (Hillsborough) McGovern, J. Strauss, Rt. Hon. George (Vauxhall)
Davies, Ernest (Enfield, E.) McInnes, J. Stross, Dr. Barnett(Stoke-on-Trent, C.)
Deer, G. McKay, John (Wallsend) Summerskill, Rt. Hon. E.
Delargy, H. J. McLeavy, Frank Sylvester, G. O.
Diamond, John MacMillan, M. K. (Western Isles) Taylor, Bernard (Mansfield)
Dugdale, Rt. Hn. John (W. Brmwch) MacPherson, Malcolm (Stirling) Taylor, John (West Lothian)
Dye, S. Mahon, Simon Thomas, George (Cardiff)
Ede, Rt. Hon. J. C. Mallalieu, E. L. (Brigg) Thornton, E.
Edwards, Rt. Hon. Ness (Caerphilly) Mallalieu, J. p. W. (Huddersfd, E.) Tomney, F.
Edwards, W. J. (Stepney) Mann, Mrs. Jean Usborne, H. C.
Evans, Albert (Islington, S.W.) Mason, Roy Viant, S. P.
Evans, Edward (Lowestoft) Mayhew, C. P. Weitzman, D.
Fernyhough, E. Mellish, R. J. Wells, William (Walsall, N.)
Fletcher, Eric Messer, Sir F. West, D. C.
Foot, D. M. Mikardo, Ian Wheeldon, W. E.
Forman, J. C. Mitchison, C. R. White, Mrs. Eirene (E. Flint)
Fraser, Thomas (Hamilton) Monslow, W. Wilcock, Group Capt. C. A. B.
Gaitskell, Rt. Hon. H. T. N. Moody, A. S. Willey, Frederick
Gibson, C. W. Morris, Percy (Swansea, W.) Williams, Rev. Llywelyn (Ab'tillery)
Gordon Walker, Rt. Hon. P. C. Mort, D. L. Williams, Rt. Hon. T. (Don Valley)
Grenfell, Rt. Hon. D. R. Moss, R. Willis, Eustace (Edinburgh, E.)
Grey, C. F. Moyle, A. Wilson, Rt. Hon. Harold (Huyton)
Griffiths, David (Rother Valley) Neal, Harold (Bolsover) Winterbottom, Richard
Griffiths, William (Exchange) Noel-Baker, Francis (Swindon) Woodburn, Rt. Hon. A.
Hall, Rt. Hn. Glenvil (Colne Valley) Noel-Baker, Rt. Hon. P. (Derby, S.) Woof, R. E.
Hamilton, W. W. Oram, A. E. Yates, V. (Ladywood)
Hannan, W. Orbach, M. Younger, Rt. Hon. K.
Harrison, J. (Nottingham, N.) Oswald, T. Zilliacus, K.
Hastings, S. Paling, Rt. Hon. W. (Dearne Valley) TELLERS FOR THE AYES
Healey, Denis Palmer, A. M. F. Mr. Janner and Mr. Paget.
Henderson, Rt. Hn. A. (Rwly Regis) Pargiter, G. A.
Herbison, Miss M.
Agnew, Sir Peter Gresham Cooke, R. Mott-Radclyffe, Sir Charles
Aitken, W. T. Grimond, J. Nabarro, C. D. N.
Allan, R. A. (Paddington, S.) Grimston, Sir Robert (Westbury) Nairn, D. L. S.
Alport, C. J. M. Grosvenor, Lt.-Col. R. G. Neave, Airey
Amery, Julian (Preston, N.) Gurden, Harold Nicholls, Harmar
Amory, Rt. Hn. Heathcoat (Tiverton) Hall, John (Wycombe) Nicholson, Sir Godfrey (Farnham)
Anstruther-Gray, Major Sir William Hare, Rt. Hon. J. H. Nicolson, N. (B-n-m'th, E.& Chr'ch)
Atkins, H. E. Harris, Frederic (Croydon, N.W.) Noble, Comdr. Rt. Hon. Al[...]an
Baldwin, A. E. Harris, Reader (Heston) Nugent, G. R. H.
Balniel, Lord Harrison, A. B. C. (Maldon) Oakshott, H. D.
Barber, Anthony Harrison, Col. J H. (Eye) O'Neill, Hn. Phelim (Co. Antrim, N.)
Barlow, Sir John Harvey, Sir Arthur Vere (Maccles'd) Orr, Capt. L. P. S.
Barter, John Harvey, Ian (Harrow, E.) Orr-Ewing, Charles Ian (Hendon, N.)
Beamish, Col. Tufton Harvey, John (Walthamstow, E.) Osborne, C.
Bell, Ronald (Bucks, S.) Heath, Rt. Hon. E. R. G. Page, R. G.
Bennett, F. M. (Torquay) Henderson, John (Cathcart) Pannel, N. A. (Kirkdale)
Bevins, J. R. (Toxteth) Hesketh, R. F. Peel, W. J.
Bidgood, J. C. Hicks-Beach, Maj. W. W. Peyton, J. W. W.
Biggs-Davison, J. A. Hill, Rt. Hon. Charles (Luton) Pickthorn, K. W. M.
Birch, Rt. Hon. Nigel Hill, Mrs. E. (Wythenshawe) Pike, Miss Mervyn
Bishop, F. P. Hinchingbrooke, Viscount Pilkington, Capt. R. A.
Body, R. F. Hirst, Geoffrey Pitman, I. J.
Bonham-Carter, Capt. M. R. Holland-Martin, C. J. Pitt, Miss E. M.
Bowen, E. R. (Cardigan) Hope, Lord John Powell, J. Enoch
Boyd-Carpenter, Rt. Hon. J. A. Hornby, R. P. Price, Henry (Lewisham, W.)
Boyle, Sir Edward Hornsby-Smith, Miss M. P. Prior-Palmer, Brig. O. L.
Braine, B. R. Howard, Hon. Greville (St. Ives) Ramsden, J. E.
Bromley-Davenport, Lt.-Col. W. H. Hughes-Young, M. H. C. Rawlinson, Peter
Brooke, Rt. Hon. Henry Hulbert, Sir Norman Redmayne, M.
Browne, J. Nixon (Craigton) Hurd, A. R. Remnant, Hon. P.
Bryan, P. Hutchison, Michael Clark(E'b'gh, S.) Renton, D. L. M.
Bullus, Wing Commander E. E. Hutchison, Sir Ian Clark(E'b'gh, W.) Ridsdale, J. E.
Burden, F. F. A. Hyde, Montgomery Roberts, Sir Peter (Heeley)
Butler, Rt. Hn. R.A.(Saffron Walden) Hylton-Foster, Rt. Hon. Sir Harry Robertson, Sir David
Campbell, Sir David Iremonger, T. L. Robinson, Sir Roland (Blackpool, S.)
Carr, Robert Jenkins, Robert (Dulwich) Rodgers, John (Sevenoaks)
Cary, Sir Robert Jennings, J. C. (Burton) Roper, Sir Harold
Channon, Sir Henry Jennings, Sir Roland (Hal[...]am) Ropner, Col. Sir Leonard
Chichester-Clark, R. Johnson, Eric (Black[...]ey) Sharples, R. C.
Churchill, Rt. Hon. Sir Winston Joynson-Hicks, Hon. Sir Lancelot Shepherd, William
Cooke, Robert Kerby, Capt. H. B. Smithers, Peter (Winchester)
Corfield, Capt. F. V. Kerr, Sir Hamilton Smyth, Brig. Sir John (Norwood)
Craddock, Beresford (Spelthorne) Kershaw, J. A. Spearman, Sir Alexander
Crosthwaite-Eyre, Col. O. E. Kimball, M. Speir, R. M.
Crowder, Sir John (Finchley) Lagden, G. W. Stevens, Geoffrey
Crowder, Petre (Ruislip—Northwood) Lancaster, Col. C. G. Steward, Harold (Stockport, S.)
Currie, G. B. H. Langford-Holt, J. A. Steward, Sir William (Woolwich, W.)
Dance, J. C. G. Leather, E. H. C. Stoddart-Scott, Col. Sir Malcolm
Davidson, Viscountess Leavey, J. A. Storey, S.
Davies, Rt. Hon. Clement(Montgomery) Leburn, W. G. Studholme, Sir Henry
D'Avigdor-Goldsmid, Sir Henry Legge-Bourke, Maj. E. A. H. Summers, Sir Spencer
Deedes, W. F. Legh, Hon. Peter (Petersfield) Taylor, Sir Charles (Eastbourne)
Digby, Simon Wingfield Lennox-Boyd, Rt. Hon. A. T. Taylor, William (Bradford, N.)
Dodds-Parker, A. D. Lindsay, Hon. James (Devon, N.) Teeling, W.
Doughty, C. J. A. Linstead, Sir H. N. Temple, John M.
du Cann, E. D. L. Llewellyn, D. T. Thomas, Leslie (Canterbury)
Duncan, Sir James Lloyd, Maj. Sir Guy (Renfrew, E.) Thompson, Kenneth (Walton)
Duthie, W. S. Longden, Gilbert Thorneycroft, Rt. Hon. P.
Eden, J. B. (Bournemouth, West) Low, Rt. Hon. Sir Toby Thornton-Kemsley, Sir Colin
Elliott, R.W.(Ne'castle upon Tyne. N.) Lucas-Tooth, Sir Hugh Tilney, John (Wavertree)
Emmet, Hon. Mrs. Evelyn McAdden, S. J. Turton, Rt. Hon. R. H.
Erroll, F. J. Macdonald, Sir Peter Vane, W. M. F.
Farey-Jones, F. W. McKibbin, Alan Vaughan-Morgan, J. K.
Finlay, Graeme Mackie, J. H. (Galloway) Vickers, Miss Joan
Fisher, Nigel McLaughlin, Mrs. P. Wade, D. W.
Fletcher-Cooke, C. Maclay, Rt. Hon. John Wakefield, Edward (Derbyshire, W.)
Fraser, Hon. Hugh (Stone) Maclean, Sir Fitzroy (Lancaster) Wakefield, sir Wavell (St. M'lebone>
Fraser, sir Ian (M'[...]nmbe & Lonsdale) McLean, Neil (Inverness) Walker-Smith, Rt. Hon. Derek
Freeth, Denzil MacLeod, John (Ross & Cromarty) Wall, Patrick
Galbraith, Hon. [...]. G. D. Macmillan, Maurice (Halifax) Ward, Dame Irene (Tynsmouth)
Gammans, Lady Macpherson, Niall (Dumfries) Watkinson, Rt. Hon. Harold
Garner-Evans, E. H. Maddan, Martin Webbe, Sir H.
George, J. C. (Pollok) Manningham-Buller, Rt. Hn. Sir R. Whitelaw, W. S. I.
Gibson-Watt, D. Markham, Major Sir Frank Williams, Paul (Sunderland, S.)
Glover, D. Marples, Rt. Hon. A. E. Williams, R. Dudley (Exeter)
Glyn, Col. Richard H. Marshall, Douglas Wilson, Geoffrey (Truro)
Godber, J. B. Mathew, R. Woollam, John Victor
Goodhart, Philip Mawby, R. L. Yates, William (The Wrek[...]n)
Gower, H. R. Maydon, Lt.-Comdr. S. L. C. TELLERS FOR THE NOES
Graham, Sir Fergus Milligan, Rt. Hon. W. R. Sir Herbert Butcher and
Grant, W. (Woodside) Molson, Rt. Hon. Hugh Mr. Philip Bell.
Grant-Ferris, Wg. Cdr. R.(Nantwich) Morrison, John (Salisbury)
Green, A.