HC Deb 05 February 1958 vol 581 cc1193-205
Mr. C. W. Gibson (Clapham)

I beg to move, That leave be given to bring in a Bill to enable tenants of dwellinghouses decontrolled under section eleven of the Rent Act, 1957, to retain possession of those dwelling-houses for terms not exceeding three years at rents to be determined by rent tribunals and otherwise upon the terms and conditions applicable to their tenancies before that Act came into force; and for purposes connected therewith. It is the tradition of the House that an hon. Member does not make an attempt to break the rules of procedure and that he keeps his speech short on such occasions as this. I will try to do so, although I think that it will be very difficult.

My proposed Bill does not get rid of decontrol; I think that is unfortunate, but it is inevitable. It provides means whereby the tenants of decontrolled houses can have a little more sense of justice in their dealings with their landlord than they have at the moment, as is being expressed all over the country in all the newspapers and in the correspondence which hon. Members are receiving.

I do not want to go into many figures about the number of houses affected, but in the London area the problem is very serious. For example, over 25,000 houses in the Borough of Wandsworth and over 13,700 in the Borough of Lambeth are decontrolled. As I find week after week, when I meet my constituents, all these tenants are being worried by the fact that they have received notices to quit next October and are not in a fair bargaining position with their landlords to negotiate new agreements.

What applies to London applies to many other towns throughout the country. All of us are hearing of the great distress which the issue of these notices by owners is causing. Owners are quite entitled to issue them under the Rent Act, but it is causing great distress to many thousands of families throughout Britain. I hope that the House will take this opportunity to give these tenants a chance to negotiate on a little more opal basis than exists at the moment.

The Minister cannot say that he was not warned about this, because during the discussions on the Rent Bill, both in the House and in Committee, it was pointed out that the tenants of decontrolled houses were in a completely unfair position to negotiate with their landlords. I remember the newspapers in London, particularly the Star, emphasising that point and calling attention to the injustice The Times had an editorial on the subject on 27th January last year. Discussing the proposed changes in that section of the Bill dealing with decontrolled houses. The Times wrote: Such a change might not suffice to meet the special difficulties of London, where there is a real danger that decontrol, even deferred for 18 months, will leave tenants exposed to exploitation. That is what is happening. Tenants are being grossly exploited in many cases by the owners of the houses in which they live.

While I have a list of cases that have occurred in my own division, I will select one that reached me only this week. It concerns a tenant whose rent, hitherto, has been £39 a year, inclusive of rates—a rent which, I admit, was a bit on the low side. He has now been served by the owner of the property with a notice to quit in October, and an offer of an agreement at a rent of £100 net, plus rates, plus interior repairs and decorations—something that he has never done in the whole fifty years that he has been in the house.

I do not believe that anybody can justify that kind of thing happening. I do not believe that it was the intention of this House that it should happen, but it is happening all over London. I have only today received evidence of what is occurring on the north side of London. In the Times and Guardian published in Hendon, there is a report headed: M.P. to lead delegation on Edgware rents. The article goes on to say: For two months, 77 residents of the Deans-way and Farm Road area of Mill Hill have lived in fear owing to the implementation of the Rent Act. Many of them have brought up families, and have made their roots in Mill Hill, and the prospect of having to leave their homes, with no prospect of having anywhere to go, has filled them with alarm and dread of the future. That is in the highly-respectable and, at any rate in the past, Tory Mill Hill. I read on: In their alarm they banded themselves together and formed a Tenants' Association to protest to their landlords, and they were backed up by their Member of Parliament, Mr. Charles I. Orr-Ewing… Later, in the same report—

Mr. Speaker

If the hon. Gentleman is referring to an hon. Member of this House, he should refer to him by his constituency.

Mr. Gibson

I am quoting from a local paper, published this week, Mr. Speaker.

Mr. Speaker

I understand.

Mr. Gibson

I want to quote only one sentence from the report of the speech made by the hon. Member for Hendon, North (Mr. C. I. Orr-Ewing) at a meeting that these tenants held. He said: It was not feasible…that thousands should be turned out of their homes and he added that he would lead a delegation of M.P.s to the landlord's agents. [HON. MEMBERS: "Where is he?"] I therefore hope that the hon. Member will support the First Reading of this little Bill, and will back us on Second Reading.

It is significant that the very issue that is raised by this Bill—

Mr. Robert Jenkins (Dulwich)

I am most grateful to the hon. Gentleman for giving way. I know that he would wish to be fair to the House in quoting my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State for Air. In fact, what the Under-Secretary did was to organise certain hon. Members, who saw these particular landlords last Friday in this House, and that did, in fact, effect a substantial increase in the rents.

Mr. Gibson

I did not want to quote at too great length for fear of annoying the House—

Mr. Jenkins

A decrease, I should have said.

Mr. Gibson

I was, of course, aware that the hon. Member for Dulwich (Mr. Robert Jenkins) was one of the hon. Members who was referred to as being in the group of M.P.s who would like to try to help the tenants in question. That being so, let him help us to get this Bill through. It is a Bill that will give all tenants in these decontrolled houses a little more sense of justice and fairness than they have at present.

I hope, therefore, that without having to spend too much time on it, the House will agree that this is an aspect of the Rent Act, which, although attention was called to it while it was before the House, has resulted in tremendous hardship to many worthy families. I know, from my own experience, that it has caused complete heartbreak to many people in my constituency who thought that, although they were paying much higher rents than the average, they were safe for the rest of their lives in their places near Clapham Common. They now know that they are not. They have all been served with these notices, and some of them, including the tenant to whom I have referred, are old-age pensioners, who are quite unable to find the additional money for the stiff increase in rent that is being demanded.

Therefore, I submit that, in fairness to its own reputation and as a matter of justice to the people, the House ought to give this Bill its First Reading, and so help to provide machinery whereby these people can get consideration of their cases by an unprejudiced and unbiased body that has been tried and tested in our social machinery and has proved successful. Let the rent tribunals settle what the rents shall be in these disputed cases.

Mr. Graham Page (Crosby)

I rise to oppose the Motion. [HON. MEMBERS: "Shame."] It is only a week since the House rejected a similar Motion moved by the hon. Member for West Ham, North (Mr. Lewis) by the substantial majority of 65. The Motion before us today can scarcely be anything more than party political propaganda, and I am surprised that the hon. Member for Clapham (Mr. Gibson) lends himself to this manœuvre.

I recognise quite well the sincerity of his feelings on this subject, although I think that they are wrong, but he does no good service to himself, or those for whom he speaks, to lend himself to this sort of manœuvre in relation to a Ten Minutes Rule Bill only a week after a similar manœuvre was rejected.

Mr. Arthur Lewis (West Ham, North)

What about the hon. Member's interest?

Mr. Page

If he is sincere about this, I would remind him that the rules of procedure do not oblige him to make a ten-minute speech on the Motion, and then have it rejected, as it is bound to be rejected today. He is at liberty to present the Bill, to you, Mr. Speaker, without the necessity of a propaganda speech—

Mr. Norman Dodds (Erith and Crayford)

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. Is it not an honourable custom of this House that any Member speaking should declare his interest at the outset?

Mr. Speaker

Although no rule is involved, it is a custom generally observed in this House for hon. Members who speak on a matter in which they have a personal interest to declare that interest beforehand, lest their motives should be misconstrued.

Mr. Page

I have no interest to declare, beyond the fact that the attic flat of my own house is let furnished—if that is an interest. It was not controlled even before the Act came in. This is evidently another smear campaign from the other side.

Because this is merely a party political manœuvre, I hope that the House will, if for that reason alone, reject it with a substantial majority. The hon. Member for Clapham may think that he is doing a service to tenants. In fact, he is doing exactly the opposite. Threats from him and his colleagues about repealing the Rent Act and attempts by Ten Minutes Rule Bills to amend the Act have caused many landlords to decide against letting and to decide for selling.

So far as the number of landlords who desire to sell has increased over the past few months, the party opposite is wholly and entirely to blame. Furthermore, persistent statements by hon. Members opposite that rents will be doubled and trebled have been an encouragement to many landlords to ask high rents and

a spur to tenants to agree precipitately to those high rents.

Hon. Members opposite and their propaganda machine have entirely misled the country on this matter, and it is perhaps opportune to put on record the average increase in rents in London, an area with which the hon. Member for Clapham is particularly concerned. I quote from the Financial Times of last week, which reports the Tenants' Protection Council as follows: The Act decontrolled 190,000 rented houses and flats in the London area. The Tenants' Protection Council estimates that about half these tenants have received new leases with which they are satisfied, roughly another 25,000–30,000 have received new leases but think that the rents are too high, while another 65,000–70,000 have not yet arranged new leases at all…. On the average the large companies have increased rents by 40–50 per cent.…the fact that existing tenants are not being charged the full market rent. This is estimated to be about three times the gross value…

The Bill would propose to put rents before a rent tribunal. I presume that such a tribunal would decide on the market value—I cannot see what other decision it could take. If it decided on a market value, greater hardship would be imposed on tenants than any resulting from leases arranged by private treaty. Socialist propaganda plus this manœuvre of Ten Minutes Rule Bills are creating great difficulties for tenants in arranging leases by private treaty and playing straight into the hands of some greedy landlords. I ask the House to reject the Motion.

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 195, Noes 234.

Division No. 35.] AYES [3.55 p.m.
Ainsley, J. W. Bowles, F. G. Collins, V.J, (Shoreditch & Finsbury)
Allaun, Frank (Salford, E.) Boyd, T. C. Cove, W. G.
Allen, Scholefield (Crewe) Brockway, A. F. Craddock, George (Bradford, S.)
Awbery, S. S. Brown, Rt. Hon, George (Belper) Cullen, Mrs. A.
Bacon, Miss Alice Brown, Thomas (Ince) Davies, Ernest (Enfield, E.)
Balfour, A. Burton, Miss F. E. Davies, Harold (Leek)
Bence, C. R. (Dunbartonshire, E.) Butler, Herbert (Hackney, C.) Davies, Stephen (Merthyr)
Beswick, Frank Butler, Mrs. Joyce (Wood Green) Deer, G.
Bevan, Rt. Hon. A. (Ebbw Vale) Callaghan, L. J. de Freitas, Geoffrey
Blackburn, F. Carmichael, J. Delargy, H. J.
Blenkinsop, A. Champion, A. J. Diamond, John
Blyton, W. R. Chetwynd, G. R. Dodds, N. N.
Boardman, H. Clunie, J. Ede, Rt. Hon. J. C.
Bottomley, Rt. Hon. A. G. Coldrick, W. Edwards, Rt. Hon. John (Brighouse)
Bowden, H. W. (Leicester, S.W.) Collick, P. H. (Birkenhead) Edwards, Rt. Hon. Ness (Caerphilly)
Edwards, W. J. (Stepney) Lee, Frederick (Newton) Randall, H. E.
Evans, Albert (Islington, S.W.) Lewis, Arthur Rankin, John
Fernyhough, E. Lindgren, G. S. Redhead, E. C.
Finch, H. J. Lipton, Marcus Reeves, J.
Fletcher, Eric Logan, D. G. Reid, William
Foot, D. M. Mabon, Dr. J. Dickson Rhodes, H.
Fraser, Thomas (Hamilton) MacColl, J. E. Robinson, Kenneth (St. Pancras, N.)
Gaitskell, Rt. Hon. H. T. N. McGhee, H. G. Ross, William
George, Lady Megan Lloyd (Car'then) McGovern, J. Shinwell, Rt. Hon. E.
Gooch, E. G. McInnes, J. Silverman, Julius (Aston)
Gordon Walker, Rt. Hon. P. C. McKay, John (Wallsend) Simmons, C. J. (Brierley Hill)
Grenfell, Rt. Hon. D. R. McLeavy, Frank Skeffington, A. M.
Grey, C. F. MacMillan, M. K. (Western Isles) Slater, Mrs. H. (Stoke, N.)
Griffiths, David (Rother Valley) MacPherson, Malcolm (Stirling) Smith, Ellis (Stoke, S.)
Griffiths, Rt. Hon. James (Llanelly) Mahon, Simon Sorensen, R. W.
Griffiths, William (Exchange) Mallalieu, J. P. W. (Huddersfd, E.) Soskice, Rt. Hon. Sir Frank
Hale, Leslie Mason, Roy Sparks, J. A.
Hall, Rt. Hn. Glenvil (Colne Valley) Mayhew, C. P. Steele, T.
Hannan, W. Mellish, R. J. Stewart, Michael (Fulham)
Harrison, J. (Nottingham, N.) Mikardo, Ian Storehouse, John
Hastings, S. Mitchison, G. R. Stones, W. (Consett)
Hayman, F. H. Monslow, W. Strauss, Rt. Hon. George (Vauxhall)
Heatey, Denis Moody, A. S. Stross, Dr. Barnett (Stoke-on-Trent, C.)
Henderson, Rt. Hn. A. (Rwly Regis) Morris, Percy (Swansea, W.) Sylvester, G. O.
Herbison, Miss M. Mort, D. L. Taylor, Bernard (Mansfield)
Hobson, C. R. (Keighley) Moss, R. Taylor, John (West Lothian)
Holman, P. Moyle, A. Thomas, George (Cardiff)
Holmes, Horace Mulley, F. W. Thomas, Iorwerth (Rhondda, W.)
Houghton, Douglas Neal, Harold (Bolsover) Timmons, J.
Howell, Denis (All Saints) Noel-Baker, Francis (Swindon) Usborne, H. C.
Hoy, J. H. O'Brien, Sir Thomas Viant, S. P.
Hubbard, T. F. Oram, A. E. Warbey, W. N.
Hughes, Hector (Aberdeen, N.) Orbach, M. Watkins, T. E.
Hunter, A. E. Oswald, T. Wheeldon, W. E.
Hynd, H. (Accrington) Padley, W. E. White, Mrs. Eirene (E. Flint)
Hynd, J. B. (Attercliffe) Paget, R. T. White, Henry (Derbyshire, N.E.)
Irving, Sydney (Dartford) Paling, Rt. Hn. W. (Dearne Valley) Wilcock, Group Capt C. A. B.
Isaacs, Rt. Hon. G. A. Paling, Will T. (Dewsbury) Willey, Frederick
Janner, B. Pannell, Charles (Leeds, W.) Williams, David (Neath)
Jay, Rt. Hon. D. P. T. Pargiter, G. A. Williams, Rev, Llywelyn (Ab'tillery)
Jeger, Mrs. Lena (Hlbn & St. Pncs, S.) Parkin, B. T. Williams, Ronald (Wigan)
Johnson, James (Rugby) Pearson, A. Williams, Rt. Hon. T. (Don Valley)
Jones, Rt. Hon. A. Creech (Wakefield) Peart, T. F. Williams, W. R. (Openshaw)
Jones, David (The Hartlepools) Pentland N. Willis, Eustace (Edinburgh, E.)
Jones, Elwyn (W. Ham, S.) Plummer, Sir Leslie Woof, R. E.
Jones, Jack (Rotherham) Popplewell, E. Yates, V. (Ladywood)
Jones, J. Idwal (Wrexham) Prentice, R. E. Younger, Rt. Hon. K.
Jones, T. W. (Merioneth) Price J. T. (Westhoughton)
Kenyon, C. Price, Philips (Gloucestershire, W.) TELLERS FOR THE AYES:
Key, Rt. Hon. C. W. Probert, A. R. Mr. Percy Wells and Mr. Gibson
Lawson, G. M. Proctor, W. T.
Aitken, W. T. Brooke, Rt. Hon. Henry du Cann, E. D. L.
Allan, R. A. (Paddington, S.) Brooman-White, R. C. Dugdale, Rt. Hn. Sir T. (Richmond)
Alport, C. J. M. Browne, J. Nixon (Craigton) Duncan, Sir James
Amery, Julian (Preston, N.) Bryan, P. Duthie, W. S.
Amory, Rt. Hn. Heathcoat (Tiverton) Bullus, Wing Commander E. E. Elliott, R.W. (N'castle upon Tyne, N.)
Arbuthnot, John Butcher, Sir Herbert Emmet, Hon. Mrs. Evelyn
Armstrong, C. W. Butler, Rt. Hn. R. A. (Saffron Walden) Farey-Jones, F. W.
Atkins, H. E. Campbell, Sir David Fell, A.
Baldock, Lt.-Cmdr. J. M. Carr, Robert Fisher, Nigel
Baldwin, A. E. Cary, Sir Robert Fletcher-Cooke, C.
Balniel, Lord Chichester-Clark, R. Fraser, Hon. Hugh (Stone)
Barber, Anthony Cole, Norman Fraser, Sir Ian (M'cmbe & Lonsdale)
Barlow, Sir John Conant, Maj. Sir Roger Freeth, Denzil
Barter, John Cooke, Robert Gammans, Lady
Baxter, Sir Beverley Cooper, A. E. Garner-Evans, E. H.
Bell, Philip (Bolton, E.) Cooper-Key, E. M. George, J. C. (Pollok)
Bell, Ronald (Bucks, S.) Corfield, Capt. F. V. Gibson-Watt, D.
Bennett, F. M. (Torquay) Craddock, Beresford (Spelthorne) Glover, D.
Bevins, J. R. (Toxteth) Crosthwaite-Eyre, Col. O. E. Glyn, Col. Richard H.
Bidgood, J. C. Cunningham, Knox Godber, J. B.
Biggs-Davison, J. A. Currie, G. B. H. Gomme-Duncan, Col. Sir Alan
Bingham, R. M. Dance, J. C. G. Goodhart, Philip
Birch, Rt. Hon. Nigel Davidson, Viscountess Gower, H. R.
Bishop, F. P. Davies, Rt. Hn. Clement (Montgomery) Graham, Sir Fergus
Body, R. F. D'Avigdor-Goldsmid, Sir Henry Grant, W. (Woodside)
Bossom, Sir Alfred Deedes, W. F. Grant-Ferris, Wg Cdr. R. (Nantwich)
Boyle, Sir Edward Digby, Simon Wingfield Green, A.
Braithwaite, Sir Albert (Harrow, W.) Donaldson, Cmdr. C. E. McA. Gresham Cooke, R
Bromley-Davenport, Lt.-Col, W. H. Drayson, G. B. Grimond, J.
Grimston, Sir Robert (Westbury) Longden, Gilbert Ridsdale, J. E.
Grosvenor, Lt.-Col. R. G. Low, Rt. Hon. Sir Toby Robertson, Sir David
Hall, John (Wycombe) Lucas, Sir Jocelyn (Portsmouth, S.) Rodgers, John (Sevenoaks)
Harris, Frederic (Croydon, N.W.) Macdonald, Sir Peter Roper, Sr Harold
Harris, Reader (Heston) Mackeson, Brig. Sir Harry Russell, R. S.
Harrison, A. B. C. (Maldon) McKibbin, Alan Scott-Miller, Cmdr. R.
Harrison, Col. J. H. (Eye) McLaughlin, Mrs. P. Sharples, R. C.
Harvey, Sir Arthur Vere (Macclesf'd) Maclean, Sir Fitzroy (Lancaster) Shepherd, William
Harvey, Ian (Harrow, E.) McLean, Neil (Inverness) Smithers, Peter (Winchester)
Harvey, John (Walthamstow, E.) MacLeod, John (Ross & Cromarty) Speir, R. M.
Hay, John Macmillan, Maurice (Halifax) Spens, Rt. Hn. Sir P. (Kens'gt'n, S)
Heald, Rt. Hon. Sir Lionel Macpherson, Niall (Dumfries) Stanley, Capt. Hon. Richard
Heath, Rt. Hon. E. R. G. Maddan, Martin Stevens, Geoffrey
Henderson, John (Cathcart) Maitland, Cdr. J. F. W. (Horncastle) Steward, Sir William (Woolwich, W.)
Hicks-Beach, Maj. W. W. Maitland, Hon. Patrick (Lanark) Stoddart-Scott, Col. Sir Malcolm
Hinchingbrooke, Viscount Markham, Major Sir Frank. Storey, S.
Hirst, Geoffrey Mathew, R. Stuart, Rt. Hon. James (Moray)
Holland-Martin, C. J. Maude, Angus Studholme, Sir Henry
Holt, A. F. Maydon, Lt.-Comdr, S. L. C. Summers, Sir Spencer
Hope, Lord John Milligan, Rt. Hon. W. R. Sumner, W. D. M. (Orpington)
Hornby, R. P. Molson, Rt. Hon. Hugh Taylor, Sir Charles (Eastbourne)
Hornsby-Smith, Miss M. P. Moore, Sir Thomas Taylor, William (Bradford, N.)
Horsbrugh, Rt. Hon. Dame Florence Mott-Radclyffe Sir Charles Temple, John M.
Hughes Hallett, Vine-Admiral J. Nabarro, G. D. N. Thomas, P. J. M. (Conway)
Hughes-Young, M. H. C. Neave, Airey Thompson, Kenneth (Walton)
Hulbert, Sir Norman Nicholls, Harmar Thompson, Lt.-Cdr. R. (Croydon, S.)
Hutchison, Michael Clark (E'b'gh, S.) Nicholson, Godfrey (Farnham) Thorneycroft, Rt. Hon. P.
Hutchison, Sir Ian Clark (E'b'gh, W.) Nicolson, N. (B'n'm'th, E. & Chr'ch) Thornton-Kemsley, C. N.
Hyde, Montgomery Noble, Comdr. Rt. Hon. Allan Tiley, A. (Bradford, W.)
Iremonger, T. L. Nugent, G. R. H. Tilney, John (Wavertree)
Irvine, Bryant Godman (Rye) Oakshott, H. D. Turton, Rt. Hon. R. H.
Jennings, J. C. (Burton) O'Neill, Hn. Phelim (Co. Antrim, N.) Tweedsmuir, Lady
Jennings, Sir Roland (Hallam) Ormsby-Gore, Rt. Hon. W. D. Vane, W. M. F.
Johnson, Dr. Donald (Carlisle) Orr, Capt. L. P. S. Vaughan-Morgan, J. K.
Joynson-Hicks, Hon. Sir Lancelot Orr-Ewing, Sir Ian (Weston-S-Mare) Vickers, Miss Joan
Kaberry, D. Pannell, N. A. (Kirkdale) Vosper, Rt. Hon. D. F.
Kershaw, J. A. Partridge, E. Wade, D. W.
Kimball, M. Peel, W. J. Wakefield, Edward (Derbyshire, W.)
Lambert, Hon. G. Peyton, J. W. W. Wakefield, Sir Wavell (St. M'lebone)
Lambton, Viscount Pickthorn, K. W. M. Wall, Major Patrick
Lancaster, Col. C. G. Pike, Miss Mervyn Whitelaw, W. S. I.
Leavey, J. A. Pilkington, Capt. R. A. Williams, Paul (Sunderland, S.)
Leburn, W. G. Pitt, Miss E. M. Williams, R. Dudley (Exeter)
Legge-Bourke, Maj. E. A. H. Pott, H. P. Wills, G. (Bridgwater)
Legh, Hon. Peter (Petersfield) Price, David (Eastleigh) Wood, Hon. R.
Lennox-Boyd, Rt. Hon. A. T. Profumo, J. D. Woollam, John Victor
Lindsay, Hon. James (Devon, N.) Ramsden, J. E. Yates, William (The Wrekin)
Llnstead, Sir H. N. Redmayne, M.
Lloyd, Maj. Sir Guy (Renfrew, E.) Remnant, Hon. P. TELLERS FOR THE NOES:
Lloyd, Rt. Hon. Selwyn (Wirral) Renton, D. L. M. Mr. Page and Sir Peter Agnew
Mr. John Hay (Henley)

I wish to raise a point of order with you, Mr. Speaker. This is the second time within a week that we have had a private Member's Motion for leave to introduce a Bill for which the only notice which the House has received has been less than one day. Although it is within the rules of the House that Motions of this kind may be debated under Standing Order No. 12 at short notice, is it not in accordance with the practice of the House, and certainly so far as Government Motions are concerned, that the House is entitled to and expects longer notice of Motions of this kind?

Is it possible for the House to be protected against Motions of this kind being placed on the Order Paper late at night for debate, and possibly a Division, the following afternoon, without having had some better opportunity to consider

such a Motion and for us to make our arrangements?

Mr. Speaker

The hon. Member raises a point on which the Standing Orders give no guidance at all. A Motion of this sort, which is taken at the commencement of public business, or before public business, requires no notice, except that notice shall be given in time for it to appear on the Order Paper for that day. Even Government Motions to be debated at that time appear only that day for the first time. That is the position under the Standing Orders. As far as I recollect off-hand, the only Standing Order which makes provision for definitely longer notice is Standing Order No. 8, with regard to Questions. I know of no other one.

Mr. Hay

Further to that point of order, Sir. With regard to private Member's business generally, we expect and do receive rather longer notice than that given in the case of a Motion under Standing Order No. 12. The point that I want to put is whether it is not more consistent with the dignity of the House and the convenience of hon. Members that longer notice of Motions for leave to introduce Private Bills in this way should be given.

Mr. Eric Fletcher (Islington, East)

Further to that point of order, Mr. Speaker. Surely, private Members are entitled to precisely the same rights as members of the Government? It frequently happens that Government Motions are put down with no more than 24 hours' notice, which may or may not be for the convenience of hon. Members. Surely it has always been the general rule and practice of the House, in respect of giving notice on the Order Paper in accordance with the Standing Orders, that every Member, be he private Member or member of the Government Front Bench, has precisely the same rights. I hope that that rule will be upheld.

Mr. W. A. Wilkins (Bristol, South)


Mr. Speaker

Does the hon. Member for Bristol. South (Mr. Wilkins) wish to speak to this point of order, because I have already expressed my opinion on it?

Mr. Wilkins

No, Mr. Speaker.

Mr. Speaker

The fact is that the rules of the House are as I have stated. While it may be convenient for hon. Members to have as long notice as is feasible and proper, I do not want to say anything which seems to throw any doubt at all on the perfect right of hon. Members to put down Motions in accordance with the rules of the House.

Mr. Wilkins

On a point of order. May I draw your attention, Mr. Speaker, to the fact that when I came through the "Aye" Lobby, the Clerks and Tellers had departed, and I was, therefore, unable to record my vote. May I ask that my name be included in the votes?

Mr. Speaker

It is too late now to do that, because the Division is over and I have declared the figures from the Chair. I will look into it, and see whether there is anything I can do to help the hon. Member.

Mr. Lewis

On a point of order. Is it not the recognised custom of this House that an hon. Member who has a personal interest should declare that personal interest? I have knowledge, as have many of my hon. Friends, that many hon. Members opposite are either company directors or legal advisers of property companies which will now make untold thousands of pounds profit under the Rent Act. Is it not at least decent and honourable that hon. Gentlemen opposite, when dealing with a Motion such as this, should either abstain from voting or at least declare their interest before voting on Motions and Bills such as this, which will put vast profits into their private pockets?

Mr. Speaker

To invalidate a vote, a pecuniary interest must be a direct and personal one to the Member, and one which is enjoyed by him and not in common with other persons in the same class. I have seen many farmers in this House, under all Governments, voting for Bills affecting farmers, and I have seen Co-operators doing the same thing. There is no question in this case of anybody having a direct and personal interest such as would affect his vote.

Mr. Lewis

May I further explain the point to you, Mr. Speaker? I know that many hon. Members are, in fact, directors of property companies who, as Members of this House, would get vast incomes from supporting certain Bills, or, as in this case, objecting to Bills, such as this one. If they do receive a direct and pecuniary interest, are they not in honour bound to declare that fact to the House?

Mr. Speaker

The hon. Member really cannot indict a whole section of nameless people. To ask me to disallow a vote, he must name a specific person, and show that any personal interest on this Bill comes within the category I have roughly described; but nothing can be done by merely accusing a whole lot of people of a vague interest which is not personal to themselves.

Mr. Lewis

If I obtain for you, Mr. Speaker, the names and the details of hon. Members who are receiving a direct pecuniary benefit from voting against Bills such as this one for which my hon. Friend sought leave, will you give the matter your further consideration?

Mr. Speaker

I hope that there will be no further proceedings on this matter unless they are in accordance with what I have said and the practice of the House. To go on accusing each other of having a personal interest, because we are doing something as a matter of State policy which affects a section or occupation to which we belong, would reduce the whole of our proceedings to a nullity.

Mr. Page

Further to that point of order. Would it not have been more in accordance with the decencies of this House if the hon. Member for West Ham, North (Mr. Lewis), in raising his point about interest, had prefaced his remarks by an apology to me for shouting, while I was speaking, that I had an interest?

Mr. Speaker

I suppose it is true to say that, in the matter we have just been discussing, tenants there have interests as well as landlords.