HC Deb 03 March 1958 vol 583 cc840-916

3.32 p.m.

Mr. G. R. Mitchison (Kettering)

I beg to move: That this House deplores the threats of eviction, the oppressive agreements and the serious hardships imposed upon tenants as a result of the Rent Act, 1957, and calls upon Her Majesty's Government to take immediate steps to remedy these grievances. In November, 1953, in "Houses—The Next Step", the Government said that it would not yet be right to free even the houses in the higher rateable values. During the General Election campaign in May, 1955, the Tory Central Office told its speakers to deny any intention to raise rents generally.

In November, 1956—not very long afterwards, but, meanwhile, the Government had started to improve the housing situation by cutting the housing subsidies—the hon. Member for Wolverhampton, South-West (Mr. Powell), then the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Housing and Local Government, told an astonished House, in his own inimitable language, that we should, in twelve months or so, be level with an equation of the average supply and demand for homes.

This remarkable proposition, which, the hon. Gentleman ventured to suggest, would meet with general acceptance, met with general denial. When harried about it, the hon. Member replied that it was only an average. Many hon. Members will know the story of the man who came to a ford, inquired of a bystander how deep it was, was told that the average was 2 ft., started to wade the ford, and was drowned "in the average". What we have to deal with today are a good many people who are being drowned in the hon. Member's "average".

The "year or so" to which the hon. Member referred has since elapsed, and the present position is, as every hon. Member knows perfectly well, that there is a desperate shortage of houses and living accommodation in London and in all the large towns. That is what we have to face. The Minister of Housing and Local Government told us on 28th November, 1957, that in the large towns up and down the country there were more than 1 million people who had to be moved out in relief of overcrowding. The shortage has, of course, been aggravated by the removal of the housing subsidies and the high rates of interest which have cramped council building. A day or two ago, the Tory Government succeeded for the first time in their objective of getting the number of council houses built in a month below the number built by private enterprise.

In addition to that, no new towns have been designated by the Government, and the overspill arrangements are moving very slowly. In those circumstances, it is not surprising that the London County Council is still unable to deal with the cases on its list, urgent cases, more than 50,000 of them, at a rate of more than 2,000 or 3,000 a year.

That is the background against which the Government brought in the Rent Act and gave liberty to landlords to evict tenants from houses with a rateable value of more than £40 in London or £30 in the provinces, and, further, took power by order to decontrol even more houses, having the aim—as the present Minister of Defence told the Tory Conference at Llandudno in the summer of 1956—of full decontrol.

What is the position of the tenants who are now faced with the consequences of this Act? Literally, in those circumstances, they have nowhere else to go but the street into which they may be turned out if the landlord so chooses. If they are to avoid eviction, if they are to avoid having nowhere to live, they must accept any bargain, however oppressive, that the landlord may offer them, for they have no alternative.

It is, therefore, not surprising that we get case after case, by letter, by interview or in the Press, of tenants who here and now are being driven frantic with anxiety. One of the Sunday newspapers yesterday called it neurosis—"Rent Act neurosis" or "Eviction neurosis"; I have forgotten which it was. I had called to my attention this morning—for obvious reasons I shall not give the details—four cases coming to a single medical practitioner of people who had fallen seriously ill simply as the result of worrying about this matter.

We have had a fairly full admission of, at any rate, some of the trouble from the Minister of Housing and Local Government himself in a speech on 22nd February which attracted notice everywhere. I shall quote from that speech; but I say at once that I regard it as an understatement of what has been happening. I will take one or two points from the speech. The Minister, first, gave not his Ministerial but his political blessing to the landlords as a mass. This is not one of the right hon. Gentleman's Ministerial speeches; it is, I have discovered, one of his political ones, and one has to get a copy from the Conservative and Unionist Central Office.

Having said that, he went on: But, as always, there are exceptions. There are more than exceptions, I am afraid. He said: I am thinking particularly of those landlords who, instead of reletting, are planning to sell simply for the sake of selling. I accept the right hon. Gentleman's words and I call them to the attention of hon. Members opposite, who, somewhat desperate at the consequences of what they have done, seek to put the responsibility for this anxiety on any shoulders other than those which should properly bear it. Those, as I see it, are the shoulders not so much of the landlords as of the Government, who have enabled the landlords to cause the trouble which is now occurring.

I quote the right hon. Gentleman again: …to sell simply for the sake of selling… giving their tenants no option but to buy or get out. That has happened, and there is such an overwhelming case to put to the Government today that I should be the last to try to exaggerate it by taking a few examples of thoroughly bad landlords. We know that there are such people. We know quite well that unnecessary hardship is being caused by people who are behaving ruthlessly and greedily. We know that at the other end of the scale—and I have never denied this—there are good landlords who, from motives of charity or policy, will not exercise their full rights.

But in the middle there is a vast mass of landlords, corporate and individual, who hold these houses as an investment, for the money they can get out of them, and who have now been enabled to threaten tenants, sometimes of considerable age, even more frequently of longstanding in their tenancies, with leaving the homes they have been accustomed to and having nowhere else whatever to go.

I take one example. I take Bell London and Provincial Properties Limited. On 7th February, 1958, the local paper which covers the area of Chiswick Village, where this company has flats, came out with the news, which I believe to be well founded, that the tenants of all the decontrolled flats in Chiswick Village had been served with notices to quit and that they had been told that there was no room for bargaining: no new lease would be offered to them.

On 22nd Febraury, the right hon. Gentleman made his speech. On 24th February, in the Daily Telegraph, there appeared a report of a statement by one of the directors of this company saying that this could not concern their company, and, indeed, it was the case that then, or shortly before or after that date, new leases had been offered to the tenants. The tenants attributed it to the publicity which had been given to the original refusal to negotiate at all.

That is not the end of the story. The question was: at what rent? The rents in these houses were comparatively low, £2 to £4 or thereabouts. People going round Richmond and Chiswick found, not surprisingly in the state of affairs I have indicated, that they would have to pay three or four times that rent. They were people of all types and conditions. Many of them could not and cannot afford it.

Nor is that the end of the story. The right hon. Gentleman must know this company well. It has four blocks of flats in Hampstead. It has another block in Park West, near the Marble Arch. The information I have about Park West is that all the tenants who can be turned out there are to be turned out without the opportunity of a new lease so that flats may be furnished and let furnished at the high rates which prevail in that part of London for furnished flats.

This is something of which we warned the right hon. Gentleman when the Rent Bill was going through. We told him this was not merely a case of having one tenant of unfurnished premises in place of another, that it was also a question of landlords taking these homes and offering them either for the purpose of sale, which I have mentioned already, or for the purpose of letting very profitably, furnished.

That is one part of the trouble. Now we will come to what I call the oppressive agreements; and I mean it. I am not saying, that this is the case where every landlord is concerned, or even of the majority of landlords. I am simply saying that it is the case of a substantial number of people, and that the House ought to intervene to protect those people.

My hon. Friend the Member for Fife, West (Mr. Hamilton) has a Question on the Order Paper for tomorrow referring to rent increases of five times to eight times. I heard of one increase of six times. The right hon. Gentleman tells us in this speech that the right figure is two to three times, not the previous rent, but the gross rateable value. I simply say that in these cases most of these people have been for some time in these houses, and I ask, if we oblige them, at comparatively short notice—I know it will not happen till October; I know that leases can be negotiated meanwhile—at comparatively short notice, to pay many times what they have been accustomed to pay in rent before, where are they to get the money to do it?

I want hon. Members to consider what happens. People nowadays, given the housing shortage, have had great difficulty in finding accommodation. They have often stayed on in places where the rent was already more than they could afford, and with the rising cost of living they are now asked to pay highly increased rents. I am talking for the moment of the somewhat better-off tenants of the decontrolled premises. They will not be able to do it. They will not be able to get out of other commitments. Let us face the face quite bluntly and simply: they will take it in getting less to eat.

I have said this before, and I say it again, and it is right that it should be said. I have cited before and I cite again a case in Stockton-on-Tees, in the 'thirties, where just that happened as the result of a sharp rise in rent on removal from a slum area to a good council house. What we are doing now is not moving them out from a bad house into a better. We are leaving them in the same house, and we are presenting the landlords with an additional rent for nothing more done. That goes both for the decontrolled houses and for the others to which I shall refer in a minute.

There are some other types of oppressive agreements. The Government Amendment, which, I understand, is to be moved to the Motion, says that we shall secure better maintenance of the nation's stock of houses. Let me tell the House what steps are being taken to that end in the new agreements that are being offered to tenants. Previously, in most of these cases the responsibility was the landlord's. Often he did not carry it out. Now, in all the new leases that I have seen the landlord seeks to put the full responsibility upon the tenant. I dare say that there are exceptions, but that seems to be the general practice.

Whether that will or will not secure the better maintenance of the nation's stock of houses depends quite simply on whether the tenant can afford to do the repairs. We can take it from long practice that even where the responsibility is the landlord's the tenant, in the past, has usually done his best to keep his own home in order.

This is a rather unsatisfactory state of affairs. On the Third Reading of the Rent Bill, we had the Minister saying about a Measure which affects millions of ordinary people who are unskilled in these technical things, that those affected should enter into no agreement, make no bargain with the landlords, take no action under this iniquitous Act except upon professional advice. Professional advice may be useful, but it cannot curb the greed of some landlords and the natural money-making instincts of many more. That is the root of this trouble.

We discovered the other day, in another debate, that over a quarter of a million tenants of controlled houses were being helped to pay these rent increases out of public funds by the National Assistance Board. I leave them out for the moment. Every hon. Member knows that there are many people affected by rent increases who are not receiving National Assistance. They are just on the right or the wrong side of getting it. Those people will find it even harder. They will get no help. They are paying only a 7s. 6d. increase at the most now, but when the additional increase comes along how will they pay it?

The Minister of Housing and Local Government said the other day that the question of repairs was going along nicely. Is it? I do not think so. Let hon. Members consider the formalities through which any tenant has to go in connection with arrangements to secure repairs. And these arrangements are well and truly weighted on the side of the landlord. Some houses are being patched up. Others are not being mended at all. Meanwhile, despite these "notable contributions" to the housing conditions in the country, there is nothing in the Act to oblige the landlord to get a house in proper order before he increases the rent. These are complicated provisions. They are working badly and there are too many tenants at present still living in houses which are in need of repair.

The Minister of Housing and Local Government said that these classes of landlords are in a minority, and that they have no right to leave their tenants in uncertainty and anxiety by not offering them a new lease. The right hon. Gentleman said: Landlords intending to offer new tenancy agreements have no justification for using eviction notices as a prelude to negotiations. The right hon. Gentleman had better say that to Bell London and Provincial Properties Ltd. He himself says that he knows of many tenants who will be quite needlessly upset by eviction orders when it turns out that the landlord was quite prepared to negotiate a new tenancy.

Many hon. Members will be wanting to give examples of these heart-rending cases. The right hon. Gentleman recognises these grievances. They exist in a substantial number of cases. He differs from me in thinking that they concern only a small minority. They concern quite considerably the average landlord.

At the end, having called attention to the consequences of his own legislation, the right hon. Gentleman said of the landlord: It is in his interest as well as in the tenant's to reach agreement. And now we come to the menacing words: There is still plenty of time for my words to have effect … Those who do not heed them may regret it. I shall be watching closely to see how things go on. Let hon. Members think of the landlords of England being watched closely by the right hon. Gentleman to see how things go on! He looks at me occasionally and I do not find it intimidating. It would not really make me change what I proposed to do.

What action will the Government, and the right hon. Gentleman in particular, take to remedy these grievances affecting, on his own showing, very many people indeed? Putting it as low as one likes, that is true on the right hon. Gentleman's own speech and on his own admissions. We on this side of the House do not suggest any more steps to him. We have been going on doing it. During the progress of the Rent Act through the House we made many suggestions.

The Government's Amendment today talks about under-occupation. We suggested that exchanges should not be purely dependent on the landlord's consent as well as the tenant's wishes. We were voted down. Since then, many of my hon. Friends have sought to introduce Bills under the Ten Minutes Rules, repeating suggestions made by us in the course of the debates on the Rent Act, and sometimes improving on those suggestions.

One such Bill would have postponed the date of operation of the Rent Act. Another suggested that there should be power for tenants to stay, subject to the rent tribunal fixing a reasonable rent, but the party opposite prefers an unreasonable rent when the landlord gets it. Again, we asked that the courts should be given powers to restrain or delay evictions in cases of aged tenants, long occupation or grave hardship.

Could there have been a more moderate claim than that, put forward by my hon. Friend the Member for Willesden, East (Mr. Orbach)? Then, most recently, my hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham, Aston (Mr. J. Silverman) asked that power be given to local authorities to take over these houses, not by the clumsy, slow and inappropriate means of compulsory purchase orders, which take time to go through and require the Minister's consent, but on their own, and in proper cases, by means of the procedure for speedy acquisition.

Every single one of these steps has been voted down by right hon. and hon. Members opposite, with their blind and obstinate views. Right hon. and hon. Members opposite must carry in their own consciences the burden of what they have done by means of the Rent Act. They must carry the burden of refusing to recognise the hardship which they have created and refusing to take the action open to them to correct it.

There is one piece of property which is not rent-controlled and that is the Treasury Bench. Right hon. and hon. Gentlemen opposite have had notice to quit from their landlords, the British people. Instead of forcing evictions on tenants, instead of driving the aged and sick out into the streets, with nowhere else to go, let them quit. They need not wait until October. The time is now.

4.0 p.m.

Mrs. Lena Jeger (Holborn and St. Pancras, South)

I rise briefly to support the Motion so ably moved by my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Kettering (Mr. Mitchison).

May I start, Mr. Speaker, by saying a personal word to the Minister? I wish to express my regret at the occurrences at the meeting which the right hon. Gentleman attempted to address recently in my constituency. I do so because I feel that the arguments against this vicious piece of legislation do not need balloons and bicycle chains to underline them; it is unnecessary and undesirable for organised hooliganism and personal exhibitionism to be used to break up meetings of that kind.

Moreover, I am very sorry that my constituents could not hear the Minister's speech, because the more he speaks on this Act the greater assistance he is to the Opposition. I am even more sorry that the right hon. Gentleman was not able to hear what my constituents wanted to say to him, because many people who do not normally attend public meetings went to the Holborn Hall last Monday night, weighed down with desperate, personal anxieties. They wanted very much to let the Minister know what their landlords were doing to them. There was not one of them who had a story of a good landlord to tell the Minister. Because many cases have been brought to me, I will briefly put one or two of them to the right hon. Gentleman, on which clarification is needed.

I find that the words of warning which the Minister spoke to landlords the other day have had a very unhelpful effect. The only effect they have had in the cases with which I have had to deal is that landlords have tried to hurry on the signing agreements, which they must feel in their consciences are wrong, in case the Minister takes some action against them.

Of the specific difficulties which I wish to raise briefly today, one is the question of the backdating of leases. The case I describe is not an isolated one and I use it because it points the difficulty. This constituent is paying a rent of £135 inclusive. He lives in the dreary hinterland of the railway termini which make up part of my constituency. This is the territory that Bernard Shaw explored when he was on the St. Pancras Borough Council, and was looking for material for "Widowers' Houses". Those houses are still there.

This tenant has now been asked to pay £200 inclusive, although the gross rateable value is £65. Hon. Gentlemen opposite who have recommended that two-and-a-half times the gross value is a fair figure will notice that this is well above that suggestion. This constituent is nearly 70 years of age, so is his wife. They are people of small means and their biggest fear is of being homeless. So, in their desperation, they take this bitterly difficult decision: they do as the Minister tells them and seek professional advice. They go to a solicitor and tell him that they will have to starve to pay this increased rent, but that they will pay it to keep a roof over their heads in their old age.

A letter comes back from the solicitor—I have it here—dated 12th February. He has just received the draft lease offering the rental of £200 per annum exclusive—payable as from 6th July, 1957. This means that my constituent has been informed that he already owes the landlord over £120.

Mr. G. Lindgren (Wellingborough)

The Tories are the pals of the landlords.

Mrs. Jeger

Yet my constituent has a perfectly clear rent book. There are no arrears marked on it, but his solicitor tells him that under the Act this procedure is apparently not illegal. I ask the Minister to try to clarify the position today, because there are other cases of leases being backdated and of the consequent arrears being demanded as a capital sum. I put it to the Minister that such demands for arrears can only be interpreted as disguised premiums, and should be regarded as illegal under Section 13 of the Act. Surely it is impossible for a man with a clear rent book to be told that he owes over £120 in rent, plus his share of the rates, for a period which has already elapsed.

Because the Minister has suggested that not all landlords are bad, he should know what kind of landlords we are dealing with. The landlords in this case are notoriously bad; in fact, they are so disreputable that the local authority exerts its rights under paragraph 5 (d) of the First Schedule of the Act not to accept any undertakings from them in respect of proposals to deal with items under certificates of disrepair.

Mr. W. R. Rees-Davies (Isle of Thanet)

Would the hon. Lady give way for a moment? If she is dealing with landlords who she asserts are bad landlords—I am not criticising this—and is not afraid of facts, should not publicity be given to them? Why not name them?

Mrs. Jeger

I thank the hon. Gentleman. I was intending to name them at the end of the indictment. I thought that the House might be interested to know that these landlords, who own about 50 houses in St. Pancras, have had, in the last six years, 296 intimation notices against them and 44 summonses, including one for refusal to obey a magistrate's order. They are properly and appropriately named Winner Investments Limited.

To show that this is not an isolated example, I will give the House another. I have been approached by an elderly widow whose rent of £150 inclusive is to be increased to £400 exclusive. She lives in a miserable block, which has 84 stairs to her flat, with no amenities and no services. She was prepared to do as she is advised by the Minister, so she tried to negotiate with her landlord. The Minister will be interested to know that she has succeeded in getting the rent reduced from £400 to £375—on condition that she pays this as from 6th July, 1957.

I submit to the House that this must be regarded as a concealed premium and that the Minister must make it clear today that this is the only way in which the law can be interpreted. If the right hon. Gentleman has nothing else to say to the House today, I ask him at least to say that such back-dating and demands for arrears of rent in a lump sum is illegal, because there is confusion among the legal profession about this point.

We all know of other kinds of disguised premiums which are afflicting people sorely in Central London. The provision made by the Minister in the Act as regards illegality of payments over and above the fair valuation for furniture and fittings is an absolute farce. Every newspaper, every hoarding outside the little shops which show advertisements, is covered by examples of obviously inflated prices being charged for furniture and fittings.

We know that the answer is that these cases should be reported and that certain steps should be taken, but I wonder whether the Minister has ever stopped to think what it is like for people who are house hunting, perhaps with two or three children, trailing around in bad weather, desperate to find a place to live. They cannot be deflected from their purpose by going to the town hall or the police and becoming involved in such cases. All they know is that they have not the £200 to pay for a pair of old curtains and that they will, therefore, not get the flat. It must rest upon the Minister to take some initiative. I am sure that even a few cases, which could be used as examples, against this kind of unreasonable and illegal behaviour would have a salutary effect.

One dodge, which is probably legal but which I think should be discouraged, is that by which many people are being induced to exchange tenancies when their present tenancy is controlled. They make the exchange only to find that through the exchange the tenancy has become decontrolled, because the exchange ranks as a new tenancy. These people are trying to do what the Minister wants them to do— move from perhaps large, under-occupied premises—and they find that by so doing, and by trying to behave in a good social way, they have put themselves outside any protection, even though they move into premises in London where the rateable value is less than £40.

I believe that the Minister must realise that, particularly in London, the Act is already proving an absolute disaster. That is particularly so in Central London, where we are not dealing with the imaginary Tory landlord, the poor little widow with an income of £1 a week, whose property is occupied by a tenant earning £20 a week and paying 5s. a week rent. We do not have such people. We are here dealing mainly with big companies and big trusts. One of them is paying 32 per cent. in dividends and has just notified a very large increase in the rents of one large block of flats in my constituency.

Moreover, the difficulties of building in Central London, which the Minister has done very little to help us overcome, are exacerbating the situation. In St. Pancras, for instance, when we carry out a slum clearance scheme and put up the tallest blocks of flats which are allowed, we often find that we have less accommodation than was provided by the mean little streets which we pulled down, be-because these were so densely occupied, with a family in every room. Under the density ruling we have a net loss all the time. Consequently, that part of the Amendment which deals with increasing accommodation is irrelevant.

I hope that the Minister will not say that these people should not expect to live in Central London, because there are many people who must live in Central London by virtue of their jobs. These include the people who drive the last trains into the railway stations, the Covent Garden porters, the newspaper printers in Fleet Street, the waiters who work in the restaurants of Soho and the West End, and the theatrical profession. All these people make a contribution towards the life of the capital, towards the life of the community, and it is impossible for the Minister to argue that they have no right to live in Central London.

Although I have perhaps been somewhat parochial in my approach, I assure the Minister that what I have said applies not only throughout London but in varying degree all over the country. I ask him today to make it absolutely clear that he was not just playing with words when he recently promised that he was prepared to take some action. He must take some action now, because every day that passes more and more people are being forced by the fear of homelessness into signing these agreements which are so unfair and which he himself has said should be discouraged.

4.15 p.m.

The Minister of Housing and Local Government and Minister for Welsh Affairs (Mr. Henry Brooke)

I beg to move, to leave out from "House" to the end of the Question and to add instead thereof: congratulates Her Majesty's Government upon the rapid expansion of house building achieved in the past six years which has rendered a measure of decontrol possible; reaffirms its belief that the Rent Act, 1957, will make a valuable contribution to the nation's housing needs by securing better maintenance of the nation's stock of houses and by bringing into use accommodation which because of rent restriction has remained under-occupied; and maintains its support for Her Majesty's Government in all measures necessary to achieve these ends in a fair and reasonable manner". It lies ill in the mouth of the Labour Party to criticise the Government on housing policy. Ever since the war the country has suffered from the failure of the Labour Governments from 1945 to 1951 to build enough houses.

Mr. Marcus Lipton (Brixton)

What is the right hon. Gentleman going to do?

Mr. Brooke

That failure of theirs has contributed to more hardship than the Rent Act will ever do. In those years they were asleep to the housing need. The moment that the Labour Party was swept from office, in 1951, as the Amendment says, a "rapid expansion of house building" took place. For five years in succession we have hit a target which is 50 per cent. higher than the Socialist Government thought and said was good enough for the people of this country.

Rent control is not a housing policy. It is a frustration of wise housing policy. When rents are anchored to a figure which is long outdated, tenants also become anchored to houses which may be too big for them but where they can live cheaply. Young families who wanted to rent unfurnished could not get accommodation anywhere because no ordinary landlord who could get vacant possession would let again unfurnished at a hopelessly uneconomic rent. Far from the Rent Act having come too soon, it can very well be argued that it came too late, but that was because those six years were wasted when the Labour Government would not let the builders build.

For eighteen years, and in some cases more, tenancies had become petrified; the longer they were frozen in, no one realises better than I how painful it may be to move in the end. It is this much-too-long freeze of tenancies which causes difficulties now, and what the Amendment says is that we must thaw it out and do so in a fair and reasonable manner. No one has ever claimed or imagined that rent restriction at 1939 rents can be altered without any hardship or inconvenience to anybody. What we have to do is to keep down the hardship and to go forward with the policy.

The cardinal fact is that never before has there been as much house room in the country at large as there is now. Within a short time, 3 million new houses and flats will have been built in Britain since the war—two-thirds of them under a Conservative Government. We have reached a point where between 9 and 10 million people, one-fifth of the whole nation—equal, if one puts it this way, to the whole population of Australia—have been able to get into good, modern homes—and this is chiefly due to this Government.

The building of new houses, however, is only one way of helping people to live better. We are also, as a Government, carrying on a major slum clearance drive. Over and above all that, it is absolutely essential, also, to encourage the repair and improvement of the older houses, and to urge on the conversion of large, old houses into flats and maisonnettes, and to stop subsidising under-occupation. Everybody who thinks honestly must agree with all that; and these are the purpose of the Rent Act.

There are about 15 million dwellings in this country. The Rent Act affects the tenants of about 5 million of them. Six out of every seven of those tenancies affected by the Rent Act remain controlled, and six out of every seven tenants still enjoy security of tenure. Critics of the Act seldom mention that fact, and the Motion that we are asked to discuss certainly conceals it. For the 4¼ million tenancies that remain under control, the Act has worked, and is working, very smoothly.

The Opposition alleged that the whole system of certificates of disrepair would break down. The hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for Kettering (Mr. Mitchison) said this afternoon that the arrangements are working badly. Well, I have had inquiries made, and I think that the House will be interested in these figures.

The Act has been so successful in stimulating the putting in hand of repairs that up to the end of last year, 31st December—and that is in the first six months of the operation of the Act—local authorities had issued only 13,000 certificates of disrepair because the landlord would not do the work. There were, at that time, another 10,000 applications under consideration. Even if all those were granted—which, judging by the earlier applications, they would not be—it would make a total of 23,000 certificates of disrepair out of more than 4¼ million tenancies—

Mr. John Diamond (Gloucester)rose—

Mr. Brooke

—just about half of 1 per cent.

Mr. Diamond

I am grateful to the right hon. Gentleman for giving way. I wanted to ask him whether those figures include cases, some of which I have knowledge myself, where the tenant, in spite of being so advised by his own Member of Parliament, has refused to put in the application because he is terrified of being thrown out?

Mr. Brooke

I really cannot help tenants who are so foolish as all that—[HON. MEMBERS: "Oh."] We can lay down the law here as best we can, but if the tenants do not seek the protection it provides, and are not even guided by so admirable an adviser as the hon. Gentleman, then what can we do?

Mr. Leslie Hale (Oldham, West)

Does not the right hon. Gentleman realise that in cases where certificate K has been issued, many very bad landlords file an acceptance of the obligation to repair which they have no intention whatever of carrying out? Is he also aware that yesterday I visited a house in Oldham—51, Brunlees Street—where a man and woman, obviously suffering from pneumonic and rheumatic trouble because of the terrible state of the house, had got a certificate that all the floors were defective, most of the walls were defective, part of the roof was defective; that there are coals under the stairs, no hot water, no lavatory of any kind; and that the old rent was 8s. 6d. and the new rent 14s.?

Mr. Brooke

I do not know what the hon. Gentleman did about that, but I trust that, with his legal knowledge, he advised his constituent that if, in fact, the landlord did not fulfil his promise to carry out repairs, the tenant would, under the Rent Act, be able to recover any extra rent he had paid.

Miss Alice Bacon (Leeds, South-East)

Would the Minister say how he reconciles his figures with the fact that the Labour Party has distributed 300,000 forms—[Interruption.] These have been actual requests for forms by people whose houses are in disrepair. Is he aware that those 300,000 forms for certificates of disrepair have been distributed?

Mr. Brooke

I think that that must be because a great many tenants decided not to take the Labour Party's advice.

Apart from the 23,000 cases I have mentioned, in all the other cases where a rent increase has been claimed the landlord has done the necessary repairs, or is doing them, or has undertaken to do them. That, Mr. Speaker, is thanks entirely to the Rent Act.

The Opposition's Motion ignores the whole of that, and concentrates on the decontrolled tenancies. As I have said, these decontrolled tenancies concern only about one in seven of the homes affected by the Act. That is about 6 per cent. of all the dwellings in the whole country. Even the terms of the Motion imply the opposite of the truth. The great majority of decontrolled tenants have not been threatened with eviction. The great majority of decontrolled tenants have not been asked to pay an unreasonable rent for new tenancies. All the exaggeration by Socialists and Communists helps no one at all except that small minority of landlords who might like to frighten tenants into paying too much.

Excellent, balanced articles have been coming out recently in some newspapers, disposing of the scare stories but pointing out where the real difficulties lie. For instance hon. Members may have read a very sensible series in the Daily Mail recently. I want to give the House an example of the scare story. The President of the Enfield Labour Party told the Middlesex County Council that 800 families in Enfield would be evicted because of the Rent Act. He arrived at this figure because, from inquiries made of the Enfield Labour Party, it appeared that 200 families would be evicted. He then multiplied that figure by four—no doubt because he could not believe that more than one person in four would come to the Labour Party for advice.

Fortunately, or unfortunately, someone else adopted a more reliable way of finding the facts, and took the trouble to ask the leading estate agents who manage property in Enfield. The truth then came out: that out of over 300 decontrolled properties managed by four leading local agents only seven notices to quit had been served. The truth is that both in London and elsewhere the majority of the decontrolled tenants have already taken up new leases for three years or more.

Mr. Mitchison

I wonder whether the right hon. Gentleman is right. I have here an article from the Financial Times of 26th February, and the figures mentioned there show that in London, out of 190,000 decontrolled tenants—if I may so refer to them—only 90,000 have agreed new leases. Thirty thousand have received draft leases and think the rents too high; 64,000 have received notice to quit, or have not yet heard from their landlords; and 6,000 have been made aware of the fact that their landlords are definitely going to take possession.

Mr. Brooke

I took that article in the Financial Times into consideration, together with a good deal of other information. What I have said is supported by studies that have been made by responsible journalists; by articles in the Estates Gazette which, as the hon. and learned Member probably knows, reports upon what is happening in the property market—perhaps some hon. Members opposite read it each week as carefully as I do—and by information collected by the Chartered Auctioneers' and Estate Agents' Institute.

Mr. Mitchison

Will the right hon. Gentleman tell the House whether the figures that I have quoted are right or wrong?

Mr. Brooke

I cannot tell for certain whether the figures are right or wrong, although I think that, broadly speaking, they are well based—and, broadly, they bear out precisely what I have been saying—[HON. MEMBERS: "Oh."] Indeed, I doubt whether the hon. and learned Member would care to read out the rest of the article, because it demolishes most of his argument.

In a great many other cases negotiations are still proceeding; in others the tenants are buying the houses from the landlords, often at prices below those which the properties might fetch in the market. In the same way—and this has been acknowledged throughout the Press—the big property companies have, generally speaking, quoted very reasonable new rents to sitting tenants. There are still seven months to go before the end of the standstill period, and in those seven months many more new tenancy agreements are certain to be reached.

I thought that this was the right moment to give a strong word of advice to those landlords who have not yet completed agreements with their tenants. I made it quite clear that my words did not apply to cases where there was a genuine and responsible reason. I have just had a letter about such a case from an elderly lady who wants vacant possession of her nine-roomed house, in which two people are living as tenants and refuse to budge.

Mr. Lipton

Because they had nowhere to go.

Mr. Barnett Janner (Leicester, North-West)

Will the Minister explain why he did not reply to that lady that under the Rent Act she can apply to the court, anyhow—on the ground of hardship—for possession of part of that house, and will get it if the facts are as the Minister has stated?

Mr. Brooke

The reason why I have not replied is because I received the letter only this morning.

There is another common type of case in which irresponsible tenants have been trading upon the inability of the landlords to get rid of them, and a kind of civil war has been going on for years. There are bad landlords and there are bad tenants, and I have no sympathy with either. Cases where genuine hardship may arise are the exceptions, and a good many of them have been caused directly by the Labour Party's thoughtless and misleading pledge to municipalise rented houses. But for this nothing like so many landlords would be wanting to sell. The Labour Party seems to feel quite callous and unconcerned about them. It is adding to the tenants' anxieties, yet we all know that Socialist promises have a way of not being carried out.

Meanwhile, I have given a warning to thoughtless landlords. I have no intention of elaborating it at present. When one gives advice the first thing to do is to allow time to see whether it is taken?

Mr. Lipton

How long?

Mr. Brooke

I have said that I will watch closely how things develop. I had no opportunity either to repeat or to elaborate what I had said in Hampstead on Saturday week when I spoke at Holborn on the following Monday.

I did not imagine for a moment that the hon. Member for Holborn and St. Pancras, South (Mrs. L. Jeger) would do other than dissociate herself from what happened in her constituency; I am sure that she regretted it as much as the whole of responsible London. I am only sorry that the leader of the St. Pancras Borough Council was mixed up in the affair.

The hon. Lady asked me about making rent increases retrospective. She put down a Question to me about that last week, and I should gladly have answered it but for the fact that she deferred it. I believe that it now stands to be answered by me tomorrow, and I shall give her a properly detailed answer then. I should like to say at once, however, that although it is not for me or any Minister to interpret the Act, the advice that I have been given is that to backdate a three-year lease in the way she describes would mean that it would not be effective to break the standstill period. Indeed, the advice that I have received is contrary to the solicitor's advice quoted by her. If she will put the Question to me tomorrow, however, I shall give her a detailed answer.

Mr. Niall MacDermot (Lewisham, North)

This is a very important point, because this is a very widespread practice. Does the Minister mean that if the lease is merely backdated and is running for only three years from the backdating, that is not sufficient to cause it to escape the other provisions? If the landlord backdates it and makes it a four-year agreement, is the Minister advised that it is not valid?

Mr. Brooke

I should prefer to give a detailed answer tomorrow but I am advised that, broadly speaking, a lease which purports to commence before the date upon which its terms were, in fact, agreed would not represent a tenancy which attracts the operation of paragraph 4 of the Fourth Schedule of the Act.

I have only two points to add; I know that hon. Members on both sides wish to take part in this short debate. I am a London Member, and I probably have as clear a picture of the position in and around London as anyone. Outside London, decontrol is causing difficulty in only a very small number of places. The difficulties are not nation-wide, but where they exist we must not ignore them. We must see whether we can overcome them, as the Amendment says, in a fair and reasonable manner. The second point I want to make is that so far as I can judge it is very largely a problem not of the young and able-bodied, but the elderly. That is why I sent a special circular about the old people to local authorities in November. It is much easier for the younger people to make a move if they have to. [HON. MEMBERS: "Where?"] People who change their jobs constantly have to move; that is nothing to do with the Rent Act. Critics of the Act so often seem to forget that while every move fills one vacancy it creates another. If it is a large house or flat being left empty it can be used to house more people than were in it before, so the Act all the time will be increasing, and not diminishing, available accommodation.

It is not easy for old people to move: I know it is not. Those are the people we all want to see helped, although I really cannot find it in my heart to encourage old people to stay on in houses which are so big that they have become a burden if something better can be found. [HON. MEMBERS: "Where?"] When I said the other day that I was "watching the position closely," I was thinking not only of the small minority of unhelpful landlords, but also of elderly tenants who might find it more difficult than younger people to help themselves. The House should reject the Motion, which gives a one-sided and, therefore, distorted picture.

Mr. Douglas Jay (Battersea, North)

What is the proper advice to give to an elderly tenant who is threatened with eviction and when the landlord refuses to negotiate at all?

Mr. Brooke

I am not at all sure that all those people who so far have refused to negotiate will, in fact, continue to refuse as the months go by. The Government have no intention of repealing the Rent Act, nor any part of it—

Mr. Jay rose—

Mr. Deputy-Speaker (Sir Charles MacAndrew)

If the Minister does not give way, the right hon. Member is not allowed to intervene.

Mr. Jay

On a point of order, Mr. Deputy-Speaker. Did I not ask the Minister a perfectly fair question?

Mr. Deputy-Speaker

That is certainly not a point of order.

Mr. Brooke

I have said the Government have no intention of repealing the Rent Act, nor any part of it. I am making no forecast, but, if we should conclude that any further steps are necessary to secure that the objects of the Act are accomplished in a fair and reasonable way, we shall take them with the same courage as we showed when we introduced the Rent Bill for the benefit of the nation as a whole.

4.44 p.m.

Mr. Donald Wade (Huddersfield, West)

As the time allotted to this debate is short, I shall endeavour to be brief and, I hope, constructive. I do not propose to produce a number of harrowing tales, because I believe that we can put this limited time to better use by discussing this subject as calmly and dispassionately as possible.

The troubles facing us today are, in part, due to the long delay in tackling the Rent Restrictions Acts during the post-war period. The result has been that when a partial measure of decontrol was introduced by the Act of 1957 it came very naturally as a jolt, and a serious jolt, to tenants, particularly in some parts of the country, such as London. More than seven years ago, I advocated in this House an overhaul of the Rent Restrictions Acts. They had become appallingly complicated, they had led to many anomalies and they were also the cause of many houses falling into disrepair and some becoming uninhabitable.

It was clear that something had to be done. If there had been a gradual raising of rents to a more economic level over a period of years, if there had been a very gradual decontrol beginning with houses in the highest rateable value category, much of the hardship might have been avoided. Unfortunately, that policy was not adopted, but, if my analysis of the position is correct, the remedy does not lie in a repeal of the Act of 1957. The problem, rather, is how to minimise the hardship.

In discussing the question whether there should be any legislation to amend the Act of 1957, I think it fair and right that we should consider whether circumstances have altered at all since the Bill was introduced last year and became law. In some respects, the circumstances have altered. In the first place, the threat by the Labour Party to repeal the Act and to adopt its policy of municipalisation, has had an effect. Many landlords who might have been willing to enter into new tenancy agreements have been deterred from doing so. The Labour Party is perfectly entitled to pursue that policy if it thinks it right. I am merely stating what I believe to be a fact, that it has deterred landlords from granting new tenancies.

Mr. E. Fernyhough (Jarrow)

Can the hon. Member give us some evidence of that, as some of us on this side of the House have never met those landlords?

Mr. Wade

Yes, I know of cases where that has happened.

Mr. Fernyhough

Give us the information.

Mrs. Harriet Slater (Stoke-on-Trent, North)

If that is so, after the Housing Repair and Rents Act passed in 1954, why did landlords not do the repairs?

Mr. Wade

As I forecast when that Act was being discussed, it was very largely a dead letter. I do not want to take up time now discussing that.

Mr. Godfrey Lagden (Hornchurch)

If the hon. Member for Huddersfield, West (Mr. Wade) is unable to give the evidence required, I can give it to him.

Mr. Wade

May I give another case of change of circumstances which hon. Members on the Government side of the House will perhaps not like so much?

Mr. Denis Howell (Birmingham, All Saints)

Is this what the hon. Member said in Rochdale?

Mr. James Griffiths (Llanelly)

Would the hon. Member for Huddersfield, West (Mr. Wade) say that the statement he is now making is official Liberal Party policy?

Mr. Wade

Yes, it is, and is in accordance with speeches I have made on a number of occasions in many parts of the country, including Rochdale.

Another change in circumstances has been Government policy. One must face the fact that the credit squeeze and the increase in interest rates has made it more difficult for tenants who wish either to buy houses they occupy or other houses, to raise the necessary mortgage. Therefore, it is clear that mobility, particularly so far as it involves buying another house, has been made more difficult by this change of circumstances. For those reasons, there is a strong case for some amending legislation. I am not making any new departure in Liberal policy. This has been stated in resolutions by the Liberal Party Council and by the Society of Liberal Lawyers.

The question we have to consider is what form this amending legislation should take. One suggestion is that there should be postponement of the particular Section of the Act coming into force in October. I do not think that a general postponement of the date when the right of possession of decontrolled property takes effect would prove to be the best way of dealing with this problem. It would amount to shelving the real difficulty to be faced later. It would be an easy way out for the Minister, but not, I think, the best way in the long run.

Then there is the suggestion that local authorities should be asked to intervene. Frankly, I do not feel very strongly in favour of the proposal that local authorities should requisition houses where landlords have acted unreasonably and have refused to come to terms with their tenants. I do not think that the responsibility should be thrown on the local authorities. They would have a very invidious task to carry out, and it would probably lead to great divergence as between different local authorities in the use which they made of this power. I certainly feel no enthusiasm for reverting to the practice of requisitioning, which was an unpleasant but necessary wartime measure.

Mr. C. W. Gibson (Clapham)

It still is.

Mr. Wade

What are we to do? There is no simple solution, but I think that our attention should be directed mainly to the procedure on eviction, and I am asking the Minister to pay particular attention to this aspect. As I understand, the court has no power to refuse an eviction order if the premises are decontrolled. I believe that the court should have the power to refuse an order in certain circumstances, and I propose to outline these circumstances very broadly.

If the Minister is not able to accept the suggestion, perhaps I might say now that my colleagues and I will abstain from voting. We do not wish to associate ourselves with the Opposition Motion, because we do not accept the general line of policy put forward by the Labour Party on this subject.

I suggest that the court should have the power to refuse an order for eviction in respect of a decontrolled house if the tenant proves that he has made every reasonable effort to obtain alternative accommodation. That is the first point. Secondly, it should not prevent landlords from obtaining possession, on the grounds permitted under the Rent Acts for controlled premises. For example, the landlord should be entitled to an order if he requires the premises for his own use. Thirdly, to be fair, the tenant of decontrolled premises should not be placed in a more favourable position as regards rent than tenants of controlled premises.

I do not think that that presents an insuperable difficulty, but the court should be satisfied that the tenant has given an undertaking to pay a rent not less than the increased rent to which the landlord would be entitled if the premises were still controlled under the Rent Act, 1957. I think that a method of calculation could be laid down with reasonable clarity, but I am not going into the details, because I wish to be short and deal only with the general principle.

Mr. Albert Evans (Islington, South-West)

I presume that the hon. Member has read the debates in Committee on the Rent Bill. May I suggest that he should refresh his memory, because he will find that most of the suggestions he is now putting forward about reasonable rent and the efforts of the tenant to find alternative accommodation were put to the Minister in Committee and rejected by the Minister.

Mr. Wade

I did not serve on that Committee, and, therefore, I am not able to comment on that point.

I ought to deal with one objection that may be put forward to the proposal I have been advocating. The objection may be made that, under my proposal, the burden of proof is thrown on the tenant, but I do not think it would be unreasonable to ask the tenant to show that he or she has endeavoured unsuccessfully to obtain alternative accommodation. If the tenant had been to the local authority and had been told that it had nothing to offer, and had then gone to a number of local estate agents and had again been told that there was nothing, except perhaps a suite at the Ritz Hotel, that, I think, should be accepted as evidence and should suffice. The burden of proof would then fall on the landlord to show, if he could, that there was suitable alternative accommodation.

I believe that if this power to refuse an order for eviction was granted, there would be very many fewer cases of eviction, and that unscrupulous landlords would be much more inclined either to enter into new agreements with their tenants or to find suitable alternative accommodation for them, and the main object of alleviating hardship in districts where there is a high scarcity value would be achieved.

I do not necessarily regard this proposal as one which should become a permanent feature of our landlord and tenant legislation. The ultimate objective must be to achieve that balance of supply and demand, with which I am sure we all agree, but I think that the proposals I have suggested, and the modifications of the law to which I have referred, would be preferable to setting up rent tribunals all over the country.

Mr. Rees-Davies

I am following with great interest the general line of argument and the particular points which the hon. Members has put forward, but I should like to ask him about what is the really difficult point. Let us take the case of the old widow who owns one house and who, for financial reasons, wants to recover it, while the tenants are a couple of retirement pensioners. Should not the landlord be allowed to claim not only for benefit of occupation but also for financial hardship, which would be an entirely new element for the court to decide?

Mr. Wade

I believe that it would be wiser to stick to the provisions of the existing Rent Restrictions Acts. I think it would be rather difficult to introduce a new condition into decontrolled premises, because that would make it much more complicated.

Finally, I should like to refer to the warnings which have been uttered by the Minister. Personally, I do not think that they will achieve the desired objective. The kind of landlord who would listen to those warnings would probably come to reasonably satisfactory agreements with his tenants. The kind of landlords who are unscrupulous, and are out to take every possible advantage of the existing scarcity of accommodation, will not, I fear, take very much notice of the Minister's warning. Therefore, I would say that if anything is to be done, it should be done speedily. I do not believe that there is plenty of time. I am quite convinced that if the Minister is to act at all, he should act at once.

4.58 p.m.

Mr. John Hay (Henley)

The hon. Member for Huddersfield, West (Mr. Wade) has given the House an interesting speech, and I think that the pleasure which so many of us always enjoy when a Liberal makes a speech was again evident today. We saw the hon. Member wrestling with his conscience, not knowing whether to vote for the Amendment, the Motion or to abstain. I suggest—

Mr. Wade

I am sorry to interrupt the hon. Gentleman so soon, but I should like to make it clear that if the Government will accept the proposals I have put forward we shall vote for the Government Amendment. Frankly, the picture which is outlined in the Amendment is somewhat rosy, but if our suggestions are not accepted we shall abstain.

Mr. Hay

I am very grateful to the hon. Gentleman for that clarification of the position. We now know where he and, presumably, his hon. Friends stand in the matter.

It is clear from the speeches already made that the debate, which is tantamount to a Motion of Censure on the Government, revolves around, and will continue to revolve around, one main feature of the Rent Act. That is the feature of decontrol. I propose to confine my remarks to this matter only, although there is a great deal that one could say about the other aspects of the Act.

I believe that three questions are uppermost in the minds of hon. Members. The first is: was the policy of decontrol a right policy? Were the Government right in introducing a measure of decontrol? The second is: are the provisions for decontrol working well or badly? Thirdly, does the policy need to be modified or changed? I should like to say something about each of these three points.

First, as far as the original policy was concerned, I think it is absolutely right to say that it was the correct policy for the Government to introduce. Decontrol was not brought in just to be beastly to tenants. It is not as if the Government had a grudge against tenants. It was done for one reason only—to contribute to the solution of the nation's housing problem. That fact must always be remembered.

The solution of the nation's housing problem still depends on two things. The first is a high and continuous rate of new building, and I think that my right hon. Friend did right this afternoon to underline the figures, because not sufficient attention in the debate so far has been paid to the steadily expanding output of new building. The second facet of the policy must be to assure a system of realistic rents and the removal of the distortions of rent control. Until and unless both of these things are done at the same time we shall never solve our housing problem.

I hope that the House will remember that we are trying to help a very wide section of our community. There are a number of cases about which one hears of elderly people being affected by the Rent Act, but I hope the House will also bear in mind the claims of the younger members of the community. We heard a very interesting and somewhat moving speech by the hon. Member for Holborn and St. Pancras South (Mrs. L. Jeger). I, personally, was very impressed with what the hon. Lady said about the need for providing living accommodation in the centre of our big cities for younger people who have to work in those cities.

This is something that we have to do, but we shall not do it, I suggest, if we maintain a policy of freezing the pattern of occupation of elderly people who, in many cases, would be far happier and far better off if they moved out of the centre of big cities and went to live with their relatives or in smaller accommodation. I hope that the House will try to keep a sense of perspective on the matter, because I think that the claims of our younger people, with their way to make and their children to bring up, need to be considered from time to time.

I pass now to the second point. How is the policy of decontrol working? We have heard during the course of the debate, and shall no doubt hear again, a lot about the "Notices to regain possession," as they are correctly called—notices to quit on Form S—which have been served by landlords. It is only right to consider for a moment why these notices have been served. Landlords have not served such notices simply because they think it is a good or clever thing to do. They have been served for a number of reasons.

First, there is some legal doubt—I put it no higher than that—whether or not a landlord, before he can negotiate a new three-year tenancy under paragraph 4 of the Fourth Schedule of the Act, should or should not have given notice to recover possession. It is a tricky point. It depends upon the wording of paragraphs 2 and 4 of the Fourth Schedule. I believe that many landlords have received very definite legal advice to the effect that they must, first, to get themselves into a right position as it were, to give themselves a sort of locus standi, serve a notice to recover possession—Form S—under the regulations prescribed by the Minister under the Act.

Mr. H. Brooke

I am sure that my hon. Friend will forgive me for intervening, but I must point out that the legal advice available to me is directly contrary to that.

Mr. Hay

I was just about to say exactly that. I said that there was a doubt, and I put it no higher than that. Many landlords have been given such advice, which may be wrong, and it is because they have been so advised that they have served these notices.

I now come to the next group of landlords in this situation. There are many landlords who have served these notices who never intend to negotiate a three-year tenancy with their tenants, but who nevertheless do not intend to turn out their tenants. They intend to put themselves right with the Act by serving the notices and then, in October, when the period of protection runs out, to offer a weekly, monthly or quarterly tenancy to the tenants.

Mr. Julius Silverman (Birmingham, Aston)

How does the hon. Gentleman know?

Mr. Hay

I know because I am keeping in fairly close touch with the situation. I saw a letter from Leeds—my right hon. Friend has also seen it—which says that that is happening on a very wide scale there. There are many property owners and landlords who do not intend to turn out their tenants, but who, on the other hand, do not want to tie themselves to a three-year lease.

Mr. Lipton

Why do they not say so?

Mr. Herbert Butler (Hackney, Central)

I wish to put a point to the hon. Gentleman, who, I think, is always fair in his explanation of these matters. How does the tenant who has received notice to quit know what is in the mind of the landlord?

Mr. Hay

He does not know unless the landlord chooses to tell him, or unless he makes his own inquiries. That is what my right hon. Friend meant in his Hampstead speech when he said that the landlords should try to clear up these difficulties. They should act properly.

Mr. Silverman

Surely it is not necessary for a landlord to serve notice to quit in order to enforce an increase of rent in October.

Mr. Hay

That is perfectly true, but my point is that many landlords, like many tenants, do not know. They have a broad idea of what the Act is all about. They have bought the little green book issued by the Ministry and they have tried to puzzle the matter out. One thing that sticks in their minds, against the background of forty years of rent control, is that after 7th July last year they could serve on the tenant a notice to quit and that that notice can eventually be enforced. That is the main thing they have in their minds.

We must accept the fact that some landlords will ask their tenants to quit, but the vast majority are asking their tenants to continue occupation on different terms. We know that that is so because evidence coming from every quarter of the country shows that a large number of such agreements are being made. We know, too, that every landlord who intends to go on in the property business does not want to evict his tenants. He wants them to remain, but to pay a proper rent and to observe the conditions of the tenancy.

Mr. Gibson

If what the hon. Gentleman says about Leeds is also true of the big property companies in London, that they do not know what they are doing, then they are serving these notices to quit in October on wrong advice.

Mr. Hay

The big companies who have the funds can get the right advice. I am talking about the small landlords. I am trying to examine why landlords are failing to negotiate. I think it is largely due to the fact that many of them do not intend to evict their tenants but, at the end of the protection period, intend to offer them weekly or monthly or quarterly tenancies.

Mr. Liptonrose—

Mr. Hay

I have given way three times times and I hope that I may be permitted to continue my speech.

Another group of landlords are those who, frankly, want possession in order to sell. They want to unlock the capital which they have had locked up in these properties for so long, and the threats of municipalisation made by the Labour Party have a great deal to do with the attitude of many of these people. They see the opportunity of selling with vacant possession, as they think. They see the alternative, if hon. Members opposite are elected at the next Election, of losing their property for some undisclosed compensation. I will not argue about that with the hon. and learned Member for Kettering (Mr. Mitchison). They also see that the credit squeeze is making it more and more difficult for people to buy.

It is hardly surprising that many of these people say, "Let me get out of this game while I can. Let me try to get the tenant out and to sell on the open market as quickly as possible." I think that, in practice, many of them will be forced into re-letting, against their will in fact, because I believe that the physical and financial circumstances will be such that they will not be able to sell.

There is a fourth group, those who want to live in the property themselves. Many of them let their properties either before or during the war and have been trying ever since to get it back. Many of them do not know their legal rights; they do not know that since the Rent Act more of them have been able to go to the courts and get a possession order on the ground of greater hardship. I know that that has been in the Act, but many of them do not know. They have thought that they had to serve a notice to quit and to wait until October and that they would then get the tenants out. There are many who want possession to live in the property themselves.

Mr. Janner

The hon. Member knows very well that in a vast number of the cases where the question of hardship has arisen, these people took advice from solicitors or from some legal aid society and, consequently, knew the position very well. The courts have acted on that matter. The hon. Member cannot advance that argument now.

Mr. Hay

The hon. Member has completely misunderstood me. Perhaps I expressed myself badly. I said that there is another group of landlords who have been serving notices to quit and refusing to negotiate three-year tenancies simply because they want to live in the property themselves.

There is a fifth group consisting of those who have been saddled for years with thoroughly unsatisfactory tenants. Let us face it, there are a great many unsatisfactory tenants. For instance, there are dirty tenants. I have some photographs here of a house in Edmonton which was left in a most appalling state by tenants some years ago. There are a number of these photographs, which I cannot display to the House, but anybody who looks at them will be revolted by what he sees. It shows the sort of thing which many landlords have had to put up with. Such landlords do not want to re-let. They want to get out of the letting business altogether. In addition, there are a number of landlords who want to pay off old scores. Let us face that fact, too.

A question which I raised at the beginning of my remarks was whether it was the right time for some kind of modification of the policy behind the Act. In face of all the evidence which we have had up to now, my own view is that it is too early by far to talk about modifying or amending the Act. I appreciate the views of the hon. Member for Huddersfield, West but I was delighted—and I say that advisedly—to hear my right hon. Friend today give a categorical assurance that the Act is not to be amended, because I think nothing would do more harm than to make unspecified or vague promises about some action that would amend the Act.

After all, a great many people have changed their position already under the Act and we still have a long time to go. It is another month before the last date for giving the notice to expire in October—6th April. It is seven months before the first eviction can take place. Let me remind the House that in seven months we shall be approximately 150,000 new houses to the good compared with the present situation. There will be another 150,000 new houses by the time the "massive evictions" talked about by hon. Members opposite take place. I think that the closer we come to the end of the year the more clearly shall we be able to see and measure the extent of the problem.

I would, therefore, suggest to my right hon. Friend, with all respect, that his actions from now on should be governed by three major considerations. The first is that it is clear that some kind of safety net, if I may so call it, some kind of protective mechanism, must be created to meet the very worst cases of the old people who cannot fend for themselves and who have no relatives to look after them. There must be some protection for those cases, but I suggest to my right hon. Friend that it must not take the form of ensuring that these people stay where they are, come what may. I think that this is the sort of action that the local authority, as housing authority, could easily take in order to look after such people. I am sure that my right hon. Friend and the Minister of Health could work out something reasonable, logical and sensible.

The second consideration which he ought to have in his mind—and I say this with all respect—is that he should do nothing to give a disincentive to landlords to let. I think that to make wild or vague or unspecified threats of "big sticks" would be extremely dangerous, because it would make a large number of landlords still more determined not to re-let if they get the chance but to wait until they are forced by the Government to re-let. That would make them less ready to negotiate on the kind of terms on which we all want to see them negotiate.

Finally, I suggest, again with respect to my right hon. Friend, that if he is troubled by the hostile eruptions which come from the other side of the House, he should keep his eye on the ball; he should keep his eye on what we are trying to do in the Act. What the Government have been trying to do throughout the whole of their housing policy for the last few years has been to create a supply of enough houses for the people of this country. I urge my right hon. Friend not to amend the Act but to see the question always in the perspective of solving our housing problem, not to be dismayed, but to carry on as he has carried on so far.

5.18 p.m.

Mrs. E. M. Braddock (Liverpool, Exchange)

I want to draw attention very forcibly to what is happening in the area I represent and also to cases which I have received from elsewhere.

I listened to the Minister's remarks and to the statement which he made, and I think that he is very badly informed about what is the situation throughout the country. He is heading for very serious trouble in the country about October. He says that the people in difficulty are very limited in number and he quotes figures which he has obtained to try to prove it. But I have been watching the Press, and I find that all the newspapers are concerned about the matter and are asking people to write to them. That applies to all sections of the Press. Throughout the Press of the country letters are being published about the difficulties and the distress in which people are being placed, particularly by the decontrol Section of the Act.

I saw one of these letters last week with which I agree very sincerely indeed. I intend to read it, to say what I think about it and to state what advice I shall give to my constituents who are in this position. I hope that people throughout the country will take notice of it when I have given that advice.

The letter to which I refer appeared in the Star last week and it was headed "I'm staying put." It reads: Sir, My landlord gave me notice to quit and refused to extend the tenancy. I wrote to his agent and said I was not prepared to vacate the premises unless I had found suitable alternatice accommodation, and that is the advice I give to anyone placed in a similar position to myself. I shall give that advice—and people take some note of my opinions. I shall advise them not to take any steps now, but to stay put in their homes if the landlord refuses to negotiate or to help them to secure alternative accommodation. The Minister deserves to have that happen.

If the Minister comes to Liverpool, he will get something worse than what he had at Holborn. I shall not apologise if he comes to Liverpool and the people there do what the people in Holborn did; I shall glory in it, because his whole attitude is of a total and utter disregard for people in these circumstances.

He said that these cases were found only here and there and related to only certain landlords. Of course, there are some good landlords, but it is not those about whom we are bothered. The landlords about whom we are concerned are those who are refusing to allow tenants to continue to live in houses which they have occupied for a long time. As has been said, they are mostly elderly people and the landlords are refusing to give them any consideration, whether in new tenancies or in new agreements about what they should pay.

Many landlords are offering agreements to their tenants, but at rents which they know their tenants to be incapable of paying. They are thus waiting for the full sanction of the Rent Act to be able to go to the courts to obtain an eviction order. The hon. Member for Huddersfield, West (Mr. Wade) referred to the courts deciding in these matters, but the amazing situation is that when a landlord goes to the court to seek an eviction order, the court has no power to refuse that order.

Mr. Janner

There is no need to go to the court. A tenant can be turned out by the landlord's bailiff and have his furniture put on the street.

Mrs. Braddock

I do not quite agree with my hon. Friend on that, but I do not want to argue. As I understand the position, the landlord has to go to the court for an eviction order and the bailiff cannot enter the house without such an order. Whatever the situation is, if the landlord has to go to the court, the court cannot refuse to grant an eviction order. We have no need to talk about that procedure. A tenant can be evicted either as a result of a court order, or by the landlord. Let us leave it at that.

The point is that under decontrol a tenant can be put on the streets unless there is an agreement. I want to read a letter. It is not from my constituency, but it is the type of letter which is coming to every hon. Member on this side of the House and—if they are honest—to hon. Members opposite as well. I do not want to quote names without permission of the people concerned, but this letter comes from Buckinghamshire. It says: Away from Liverpool—not many miles from Parliament—I am threatened with the street—eviction—in October—just one of thousands unless something is done quickly—even a further period before eviction is operative. Twenty-two years' occupation of 'Ruby Cottage'—wife and I approaching 61 years of age—legal notice 'buy at landlord's price or quit in October, 1958.' Replied prepared to pay higher rent as authorised by Act—this the landlord rejected. Not in a position to buy so we worry and wonder and await the next opportunity to vote. If the Minister wants to see the name and address on that letter, he can do so, but it is not fair to quote it in the House without the permission of the people concerned.

Let me refer to another case in my constituency, one which I must in all fairness say has been straightened out, mainly because the landlord was afraid that what happened to the Minister in Holborn might happen to him in my constituency—and perhaps a bit worse if he did not do something about the matter. This concerns an elderly woman of 70 years of age who has lived in the house for fifty-seven years. She has received notice to quit in October. The reason given in the notice to quit is that the rent which the owner could obtain for the property as industrial premises is very much more than the rent he could get if it remained as residential premises.

The Minister may reply that that cannot be done. I know that, but that is the reason which has been given. When I interviewed the landlord—rather, when he interviewed me on Saturday morning—he told me that although he is getting 19s. 6d. rent for the premises, he will not ask for anything more from the present tenant because he has been offered £20 a week rent for the use of the premises for industrial purposes. I know that town and country planning legislation will not allow that change, but people do not know these things and when an old lady of 70 years of age, with nowhere to go, receives such a notice, what is she to do? As I have said, that matter has been straightened out and I do not want to deal with it in detail.

Most of the trouble arises because the Act gives landlords not only power but licence. By the Act the Minister has created a scarcity value for houses which it is sought to sell. The population has increased by two million and Liverpool still has 35,000 applicants on the housing register. Some of them have no hope of getting accommodation because they are not in slum clearance areas.

All the stress is given to slum clearance, but newly married couples want accommodation. Local authorities cannot build houses without subsidies and that results in priority being given to slum clearance. The Minister may reply that when people are taken out of a slum clearance area, other people could take over the property they vacate, but that would merely confuse the situation.

Whether the Minister knows it or not, the position is very serious and there will be trouble in the country before October unless something is done about landlords who are not prepared to discuss alternative terms, but who want to get vacant possession in order to sell the property. If Governments put on the Statute Book Acts which put upon the community heavy burdens which sections of the community cannot stand, then they are inciting people to break the law. [HON. MEMBERS: "You are."] I am. I am saying that that is what the Minister has done. I take responsibility for what I say. The right hon. Gentleman is a Minister. I might have to take a different view if I ever became a Minister, but I never will.

I say quite honestly that unless something is done about this matter, I will advise those people who come to me to stay in their places. This has had to be done before in this country under a similar sort of Government. People have had to be barricaded in their houses to prevent them being evicted.

It is not only the ordinary people who are being put into these difficulties. People in the higher-income groups are being affected. Oddly enough, people with lower incomes who live in controlled houses and who have to pay increased rents are scared stiff of giving landlords an opportunity to put them out. Do not let it be thought that there is no grumbling about the 7s. 6d. a week increase. There is plenty of that, but those people are scared stiff because they know that there is someone waiting to pay a much bigger amount if their houses become decontrolled through being vacated.

The Minister is giving licence to those who want to get rid of their property at a scarcity value and is doing something totally unjust to people who want to stay in their homes. These people are not all extremists. The Minister is giving those who are in the Communist tenants' associations—they are not all Communist- controlled, though many of them are—an opportunity to do the things which he has not enabled people to do legally. The Minister and his Government are inciting people to break the law. They have done so deliberately by this Act. They promised in their 1951 manifesto that they would give property owners an opportunity to get something back which they thought they had been denied for a long time.

I have said that not all property owners are bad. I had a letter from one in my own constituency who says that he has not raised the rents of any of the properties which he owns and that he has no intention of selling, but he says that people in his area are very concerned about the situation and are asking him about it. He offers a suggestion for an improvement. Perhaps when we criticise what the Government have done it is as well to mention suggestions from people who will have to apply the Act, people who are in the middle of this great difficulty, to see what they think about it.

This person says: My suggestion is that where, as a result of the Rent Act, a landlord is in a position to sell a house with vacant possession, the selling price should be controlled, i.e., he should only be able to sell it at its investment value and not vacant possession value, the investment price to be based on what the rent was before the Act decontrolled them. I received this letter only when I arrived at the House today. It suggests holding down the price of property when the owners want to sell. It is no use the Minister saying that this has resulted from something that we on these benches have said. Whenever a Government get into a difficulty—all Governments do it—they always blame somebody else. The Minister is blaming the party on this side of the House, because the Labour Party has been discussing the question of the transfer of houses to local authority or public ownership. That is only a get-out. He does not believe it; neither does anybody else.

The Minister has given licence to those landlords who want to sell on scarcity value. He has done something which his party promised it would do in the 1951 Election manifesto. I warn the right hon. Gentleman and the Government that unless they take some steps to stop this sort of thing, they are in for some trouble when the Act comes to be operated.

I noticed in the Sunday Times yesterday a report which perhaps the right hon. Gentleman could explain. It is headed: No return to control of rents. Apparently the right hon. Gentleman had an interview with the Sunday Times and, according to this report, he made a peculiar statement. He said: If you think your rent increases excessive, consult your local house agent. Get him to negotiate with the landlord on your behalf and, wherever possible, act in conjunction with other tenants, for in these matters unity is strength. Well, he is coming on a bit. That is one of our slogans, and it is a slogan which I shall suggest to those tenants who are to be forcibly put out, unless the right hon. Gentleman alters this Section of the Act which is about to cause great hardship to the people.

I suggest that one of the first things the Minister should do is to ask those people who will be in a difficulty to write to him and give him the details. He should make an individual inquiry of every one of them. He should find out whether it is right, as has been suggested, that the landlord does not really know the situation and does not understand, and that he is giving notice only because he thinks he has got to do so. Most of the notices that I have seen do not bear that implication. They imply that the landlords or the owners have said, "We want this property; we can get more for it by selling it. We want to cash in on the Tory Government's policy while they are in power because we know that we shall not be able to cash in on it afterwards."

May I quote some rents which were published in a London newspaper today? I think they should all go on the record in HANSARD. It says, "Property shares up." Let us look at the facts. The figures in 1956 are compared with the present-day figures in respect of various companies. Taking Alliance Property, its lowest figure in 1956 was 1s. and it is now 1s. 10½d. Beaumont Property Trust was 23s. 9d. and it is now 30s. 9d. Bell London was 21s. and is now 32s. 6d. Berkeley Property & Investment was 5s. 1d. and is now 7s. 10½d.; London County Freehold 20s. 10d., 26s. 9d.; London and Westcliff 14s. 6d., 33s. 9d.; Metropolitan Estate and Property Corporation 24s., 32s. 9d.; A. Peachey & Co., 6s. 9d., 11s. 1½d.; Raglan Property Trust, 1s. 4d., 2s. 3d.; Regis Property 34s. 9d., 42s. 6d.

Mr. Hay

I should make it clear that I do not own any shares in any of the companies mentioned or in any other property of the kind mentioned, but does not the hon. Lady realise that the sort of dividends which she has been quoting—

Mr. Arthur Skeffington (Hayes and Harlington)

They are not dividends; they are prices.

Mr. Hay

—very well, prices; does she not realise that they are not based solely on earnings from dwelling accommodation, but that many of these property-owning companies—in fact, most of them, I think—have large commercial and industrial properties from which they make their profits?

Mrs. Braddock

If the hon. Gentleman had allowed me, I was about to finish quoting from this report. It concludes by saying: Most of the companies also own shop and office property. The peculiar thing is that the prices have not been going up until this Act was passed. That is the basis of the matter. When there is something to grab, up go the prices. It is because of what the Act has done; it is because the property market will have the time of its life that these people are cashing in on the Act. I would add, in passing, that this newspaper report also states that while these prices have gone up, industrial shares have gone down. The whole situation is one of private enterprise grab. It is the effect of the capitalist system of society, and as long as it is there, we shall have the difficulties and the differences which exist between those who have the opportunity to grab everything and these poor devils who have got to crawl and take the least of what is left.

Mr. Diamond

Does my hon. Friend appreciate that this is against a background of falling shares, and the proportionate increase, therefore, was infinitely higher?

Mrs. Braddock

Hon. Members opposite know that. There is no need to tell them that.

I hope the Minister—I know it is only a forlorn hope—will consider this matter. Difficulties enough have been created. People have made agreements to pay more than they can afford to pay even now, because they are scared stiff of being on the streets. It is no use asking local authorities to do anything more about it. Because of increased interest rates, local authorities cannot borrow the money to buy properties which the Minister suggests they should buy to turn into flats for other people. Does not the right hon. Gentleman realise that the people—and not only those who have always voted for my party but his own people—are sick and tired of the things which he and his Government have been doing, especially in relation to rents?

If the Minister is so positive that what he has done is right, if he is not living in a world of make-believe, why does not he realise that the wisest think would be to allow democracy to decide, by asking the people whether the Government should go on with the sort of thing they are doing? That would be honest, but this Government are dishonest, and will be shown to be so as soon as the electorate has an opportunity to say so.

5.40 p.m.

Mr. Anthony Marlowe (Hove)

That there is a residual problem in relation to evictions under the Rent Act is something upon which we are agreed. The hon. Lady the Member for Liverpool, Exchange (Mrs. Braddock) greatly exaggerated the case, but that there is a problem is accepted, and it is a matter to which we ought to turn our attention.

As one who has not been able to find himself marching entirely in step with my right hon. Friend the Minister of Housing and Local Government on this matter ever since its inception, I should like to say that I took some encouragement from his concluding words in what I thought was a wholly admirable speech this afternoon. My right hon. Friend finished his speech by saying that, if, as matters progressed, it became evident that some action was necessary, the Government would have the courage to take it. I find encouragement in those words.

From the inception of the Act, I have taken the view that the way evictions were likely to operate ought to be modified, and I have never really changed that view. There have been forty years or more of control, and I do not believe that one ought to abolish that situation in a way which brings it to its conclusion too suddenly. There are certain ways in which the blow could be softened to the sitting tenants.

My right hon. Friend took the view that the fifteen-months' procedure which he put into operation was satisfactory for that purpose. I never shared that view, but I put before him an entirely different proposal, that, from the date when the Act was first published, a sitting tenant should be given three years' security of tenure under a new lease, and that, if there were difficulty in agreeing the rent, it should be settled by the county court. That was the substance of the proposal I made, and the principle is one to which I still adhere. Obviously, much time has passed since then and the actual proposal, in that form, would not now be appropriate. I was, however, greatly impressed by the advice given to the House by the hon. Member for Huddersfield, West (Mr. Wade), speaking from the Liberal benches, and I thought that some of the schemes he put forward deserved further investigation by the Government.

The Government must direct their attention to finding some way of relieving the problem of the sitting tenant who has been in occupation for many years. It may be that there is not a vast number of such cases. I understand that there are only 800,000 houses decontrolled under the Act; but, even if the proportion of problem cases is only 10 per cent., it means that there are about 80,000 of them. That is a great deal too many for us to tolerate. It would not be acceptable to the people of the country that the occupants of about 80,000 houses should find themselves thrown out on to the street, particularly when many of them have been in occupation for a long time.

I do not believe that the problem is insoluble. There are certain ways in which it can be solved. I do not intend to elaborate them this afternoon, because I have promised to take only a short time, but I impress upon the Government that they cannot leave the matter where it is. It is important to adhere to the main principles of the Act—I support the Government entirely on the question of decontrol, and I think that the Act was absolutely right in principle—but the problem which arises is how to work it so as to avoid hardship. All of us have constituents who present us with these problems, and all of us should exert our minds to find a way of resolving them.

One hon. Member, when moving the Second Reading of one of the Private Bills introduced under the Ten Minutes Rule recently, put forward the suggestion that a new rent should be settled by the arbitration of rent tribunals. I do not myself approve that; it is far better, in my view, that any disputes of this kind should be resolved in the ordinary courts of the land. Objection was taken to my proposal that it would cause too much congestion in the courts. I do not believe that it would, because, in practice, things do not happen quite in that way. A few cases are brought in each district, and the landlords and tenants together very soon get an idea of the sort of way the problem is being resolved, and that process hastens them towards agreement among themselves.

I believe that there should be some method by which it would be possible to ensure that, before a tenant is evicted, his case is heard in one of the appropriate courts of the land. He should be protected from eviction for some substantial period of time. In that way would be preserved the principle of decontrol, in which I thoroughly believe, and hardships would be avoided.

My right hon. Friend knows, I think, that I had felt myself in some difficulty as to whether I could support him in the Lobby tonight. As I say, I was encouraged by the words which he used, but I still want to be satisfied that the Government have not wholly rejected the idea of taking action as it becomes more evidently necessary. I agree that a proposal to amend the Act is probably too late now. We certainly cannot have postponement of the whole principle—still less repeal of the Act—but I feel that it would be possible for the Government to introduce legislation to make sure that, when 6th October comes, those who are threatened with eviction have some kind of protection. I hope that my right hon. Friend will keep this in mind and make sure that those who are so threatened are protected by legislation in this House. People look to the House to protect them, and we ought to give that protection.

5.47 p.m.

Miss Alice Bacon (Leeds, South-East)

The hon. and learned Member for Hove (Mr. Marlowe) made a very honest and courageous speech, the purport and feeling of which, I believe, would be shared by many hon. Members opposite, if they were honest. What I could not quite understand was where he found any encouragement in the speech of the Minister this afternoon. Bearing in mind the sufferings of thousands of people in the country, I thought that the right hon. Gentleman's speech was incredible and absolutely disgraceful; it did not give any crumb of hope whatsoever to those suffering in their thousands outside.

The Minister said that the Labour Party was callous and unconcerned about housing. "Callous and unconcerned"—what words to come from the right hon. Gentleman. As I listened to his speech, I wished that we had reached the stage of having our proceedings televised so that people outside could see and hear the kind of speech he made. [An HON. MEMBER: "They might switch off."] They might switch off, or they might, of course, damage their own sets.

We warned the Government what it would mean when the Act was passed, but the amount of hardship has been greater than even we expected at that time. A great deal has been said this afternoon about the tenants of decontrolled houses and the enormously increased rents which are being charged. and much has been said also about those having no option but to leave their homes in October this year. There will be complete chaos when October comes. In my constituency, not so very many houses have been decontrolled, for I represent the centre of a large city which, like the centres of most of our large cities, is full of unfit and insanitary houses—a great many of them.

This afternoon the right hon. Gentleman blandly stated that only 13,000 certificates of disrepair had been issued. Is he suggesting that of those houses where there has been an increase of rent only 13,000 of them are unfit? There are 13,000 in Leeds alone and thousands in many other parts. It is true that slum-clearance areas were not to be affected by an increase in rent, but there is a very narrow definition in the Act of what is a slum area, and only those houses which have already been represented to the Minister come into that category. The hopes of these people living in these unfit houses were pinned on the certificates of disrepair. They have discovered that the obtaining of a certificate of disrepair is the longest, the most complicated and the most unfair procedure ever devised. Whatever happens, in the end the landlord wins.

No wonder people have not gone right through with it. It took some people a matter of weeks to obtain a Form G. It was not until we were able to produce them that many people were able to obtain them. But the obtaining of a Form G is merely the beginning of a long and complicated process. First, they have to serve it on the landlord, completed in the appropriate manner. The landlord at this stage is allowed six weeks in which to decide, not whether he will do the repairs, but whether he will promise to do the repairs. If he promises to do the repairs he is given six months in which to do them. If within six weeks he does not undertake to do the repairs, it is only at that stage that the tenant goes to the local authority with half a crown—I do not know whether tenants are required to take the half a crown.

The local authority then takes time to go to the house to inspect it. Incidentally, there is only a certain number of sanitary inspectors in Leeds to do this work. Even then the certificate of disrepair is not granted, because by this Act the local authority is then to give the landlord another three weeks after the six weeks to decide whether to do the repairs. If he decides to do them, he then has six months in which to do them. We reckon that it could take ten months from a tenant obtaining a Form G, for a certificate of disrepair to the time when the actual repairs are done.

That, however, is not the whole story, because at the end of that six months the landlord might have defaulted and not done the repairs. Indeed that has already happened in some cases. All this time the landlord has been receiving an increased rent. This is a disgraceful state of affairs. It is true that the Act makes provision for a tenant to deduct from future rent any rent that might have been paid if at the end of the period the landlord has not done the repairs. I would like to ask the Minister a question, because this matter is not clear in my constituency. The tenant has a right to stop the rent. Supposing, however, that the tenant does not know all these legalities, is the landlord committing an offence if he goes on collecting the rent and does not tell the tenant that it should be lowered? That is not understood in my constituency.

Regarding certificates of disrepair, it seems to me that tenants must have a knowledge of the law far and above that possessed by the ordinary people of the country. The onus in every case under every Section is always on the tenant. No wonder the right hon. Gentleman can blandly say today that only 13,000 certificates of disrepair have been issued. We know perfectly well that many more thousands of forms have been filled in, but in this long process some tenants have given up altogether or there has been a hitch and they have not been able to carry the matter through to the end. In any case, the right hon. Gentleman has no figures whatsoever to show how many of the original forms have been served on landlords by tenants because, obviously, those figures are not available.

I would like to mention one other point which has not been mentioned this afternoon. If in the past a tenant has made a considerable alteration to his house out of his own money this can be taken into account in the rent increase. But Form T had to be in by 17th August. Hardly anybody in the country was aware of the fact that that had to be done. Even though an increase of rent was not asked for, that form had to be in by 17th August.

May I give one example. A man of over 70 years of age came to see me. He had lived in his house for about 20 to 30 years. His rateable value was £32. He had been given notice to quit with no option whatever of coming to an alternative arrangement with the landlord. He told me that, among other things, he had put a new floor in his kitchen, had put in new fireplaces and made many alterations and improvements. But he came to me a month too late. It was after 17th August. Had the man known this or had the date been made a little later for the purposes of the Act, the £32 rateable value would probably have been reduced to below £30, and he would still have been in a controlled house. I appeal to the Minister to promise that the date 17th August will be extended, because nobody in the country knew anything about it.

The Government have not only passed an unjust and complicated piece of legislation, but have left the people to fend for themselves. Thank goodness there was a Labour Party in this country, a Labour Party that set up advice bureaux, a Labour Party that gave help and advice, a Labour Party that gave guidance, and a Labour Party that came to the help of the people when they were deserted by the Government. Let me give on example. We have distributed 1½ million explanatory leaflets telling the people what their rights are under the Rent Act. In Birmingham alone 20,000 poeple have gone through the advice bureau. It has been left to the Labour Party to try to explain this complicated piece of legislation.

Mr. Geoffrey Hirst (Shipley)

Quite untrue.

Miss Bacon

A leaflet has gone out from the Tory Party Central Office to say—I am sure these are the instructions—"Whenever the Labour Party starts to criticise the Rent Act, do not defend it; merely attack the Labour Party's housing policy instead." Indeed, the right hon. Gentleman this afternoon followed that course. Rather than defend his own Rent Act, he started by trying to attack the Labour Party.

What have we promised the country? At Brighton, on behalf of the party, I promised the following things. It would be interesting to hear if hon. Gentlemen opposite disagree with them. First, I said that if we get back to power there will not be any further evictions. Does the party opposite disagree with that? We said that we shall set up rent tribunals to fix fair rents and that there will be further provision for transferring the tenancy in the event of the death of a near relative, that we will simplify the procedure for getting certificates of disrepair and that we will restore to tribunals the power to fix reasonable rents for all furnished lettings.

The truth now is that the Government in general and the Minister of Housing and Local Government in particular have ceased to regard this as an issue on its merits. It is now regarded as an issue of prestige. However, let me assure the right hon. Gentleman that he would not lose any face or prestige if he decided, even at this late hour, to change his mind. After all, it was not even his Measure; it was the Measure of the Minister of Defence and the hon. Member for Wolverhampton, South-West (Mr. Powell), who is not now a member of the Government.

The housing position today is extremely serious, and it will become more serious as the months go by, but we have had nothing from the Government Front Bench today to show that right hon. Gentlemen opposite understand in any way whatsoever the gravity of the situation.

6.1 p.m.

Mr. Robert Jenkins (Dulwich)

I think it is generally agreed throughout the House and throughout the country that, in the main, the Rent Act is a bold and constructive Measure to deal with a very difficult problem. Such opposition to Section 11 of the Act which comes from this side of the House is an attempt to persuade the Government to protect a helpless minority of people who may be evicted in October.

The Minister said that afternoon that figures published in the Financial Times were properly based. I wish to go through them for a moment. Last Wednesday, the Financial Times said that in London there were 190,000 people affected by Section 11; that 90,000 had agreed to new leases, 30,000 had taken up new leases but considered them far too high—that was "taking up a lease at the pistol point"—64,000 remained under notice to quit prior to bargaining or have not heard anything yet, and 8,000 families will be evicted for certain. If we take it at three persons per family, that will mean 24,000 people evicted for certain. I draw attention to the figure of 64,000 who remain under notice to quit prior to bargaining or have not heard anything yet. I think it is fair to assume in respect of the figures given by the Financial Times that a substantial number of the 64,000 will be in the same category as the 8,000 families who will be evicted.

I do not propose to give any instances of difficulties, although I have many hundreds, as other hon. Members have, but it is clearly established, both from the speech of my right hon. Friend last Saturday week and speeches which have been made today, that evictions in large numbers will take place during October, November and December.

The Amendment moved by my right hon. Friend says that the House: … reaffirms its belief that the Rent Act, 1957, will make a valuable contribution to the nation's housing needs by securing better maintenance of the nation's stock of houses and by bringing into use accommodation which because of rent restriction has remained under-occupied.… I submit that the Rent Act will be helpful in those respects because of Sections other than Section 11. Those sections will have the effect of increasing rents so that landlords can improve property, the decontrol of all empty property, of which some is being made available every week to help the situation, the decontrol of owner-occupied property, and the reconstruction of large houses and flats. Therefore, in regard to that part of the Amendment, Section 11 does not actually apply.

It appears to me from what has been stated that Section 11 is designed to provide a pool of houses of a rateable value of more than £40 a year in London and more than £30 a year in the provinces into which people can go, and also to increase mobility. Those are very desirable objectives.

The speech of my right hon. Friend ten days ago gave hundreds of thousands of the 860,000 tenants coming under Section 11 and a smaller number who are faced with eviction great hope that something was to be done. The Minister made it clear that he wanted existing landlords to come to terms on a fair rent, and that he deprecated the action of those landlords who are giving their tenants no option but to buy or get out and those who are asking too high rents or have given notice of eviction. He made it abundantly clear that he opposed the landlords who were going to do that.

The peculiar situation therefore arises that if the Minister's advice were accepted by landlords there could be no evictions in October because all the tenants will have agreed a rent with their landlords. In these circumstances, Section 11 can only be effective to create a pool of empty properties and makes sense only if there are evictions. Therefore, the situation is that the Minister, with the utmost sincerity which we know him to possess, makes a speech giving hope to these people, and yet makes it impossible for the purposes of Section 11 to be carried out, because if his wishes were acceded to by the landlords there would be no pool of houses and no empty properties.

In the past, the Government have undoubtedly done a very great deal for the housing of our people. The phrase "300,000 houses a year" has frequently been heard over the last few years. The Housing Repairs and Rents Act, 1954, was not a huge success, but it achieved some improvements. It was brought in by the Prime Minister. The Landlord and Tenant Act, 1954, did not go as far as the Opposition wished, but it gave some protection to leaseholders. The Requisitioned Houses and Housing (Amendment) Act, 1955, brought in by the present Minister of Defence, gave some justice to the landlord in respect of getting his property back in 1960, while security was given to the tenant in that no tenant could be turned out without the local authority providing other accommodation.

The Rent Act appears to me to be the only Measure brought in by the present Government which has created fear. That is the difficulty that I see about it. It has created fear in the hearts of large numbers of people, and on the present facts it now becomes apparent that those fears will be justified. In the past, the Prime Minister and the Minister of Housing and Local Government have shown the utmost energy and sympathy in respect of the erection of homes and the building up of family life in the many private and public activities to which they have devoted themselves. I cannot believe that they will allow prestige to prevent them from having second thoughts to avoid cruelty and hardships to thousands of families. I think the facts are proved. There will be a very large number of evictions this year consequent upon this Act.

Time is short. One thinks there are about seven months from now in which something can be done. In fact, there are only four months before the Summer Recess, and the Easter and Whitsun Recesses come out of that time. Every hon. Member knows perfectly well how difficult it is to get new legislation just before or after any Recess.

I am not at this late hour going to make any suggestions as to what can be done, although there are many, but I wonder one thing—whether in the archives of the Ministry of Housing and Local Government there are hidden away somewhere some powers that have not come to light yet and which would give the Minister, without amending the Act, the right to deal with this matter. I do not know whether there are. There may be.

I am not going to make any suggestions. I am interested only in the result. Governments can pass unpopular legislation, they can increase taxation, they can even cut the social services, and be forgiven, but if they take away a man's home unjustly they will never be forgiven.

I think the case is proved that there is going to be substantial hardship, even amounting to cruelty, within the next few months. I know perfectly well that my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister and my right hon. Friend the Minister of Housing and Local Government, when they brought the Bill before the Standing Committee, had no intention that this should be the result: no such intention whatever. They visualised something entirely different. However, in view of a number of things mentioned by the hon. Member for Huddersfield, West (Mr. Wade) today, building societies not being able to lend the amount of money required, the credit squeeze, banks not being able to advance money to buy houses, and the local authorities, which have been told more or less to close down on housing and lending money to people who want to purchase—

Mr. H. Brooke

With respect to my hon. Friend, what he has just said is entirely untrue.

Hon. Members

It is quite right.

Mr. Jenkins

The Minister is absolutely right. He has never told the local authorities to cut down on lending money for the purchase of houses. He has not told them that. What has been suggested is that they should cut their general expenditure. In the process of doing so, one of the easy ways of cutting down expenditure is to not lend money. The Minister is absolutely right.

Mr. Percy Shurmer (Birmingham, Sparkbrook)

Let the Minister answer that one.

Mr. Jenkins

The Minister is absolutely right, and I withdraw what I said about that.

I make one final appeal, knowing, as we all know, of the cruelty and hardship which is taking place now and the fears there are in the minds of scores of thousands of families in this country. I make it in view of what the Minister has said today, that "If we come to the conclusion that something needs to be done, we will do so with the same courage with which we introduced the Bill." I hope that tonight it may be that the fears of the large number of people who have no right to suffer will be alleviated.

6.14 p.m.

Mr. William Hannan (Glasgow, Maryhill)

In following the hon. Gentleman the Member for Dulwich (Mr. Robert Jenkins), I feel I must extend to him a personal apology. I interjected a question to him earlier, namely, whether he would vote for the Motion. In his speech he has made it quite clear, and I accept at once his sincerity.

This is, as the hon. Member rightly said, one of the most important matters for countless thousands of our people. It affects one of the most important features of their life, their dwellings where they spend their lives with their families. I shall not dwell on the speech of the Minister today, because he let the House know that he is quite impervious to and oblivious of any human approach to the matter. It is to the Secretary of State for Scotland that I want to address my remarks.

The Secretary of State knows that one of the objections made to the introduction of the Rent Bill was that the Bill was made to cover conditions in Scotland with the same provisions as were provided for England and Wales, although, as he knows, the housing conditions are quite different in Scotland from what they are in England, and although the rating and valuation systems are quite different, the housing conditions prevailing in Scotland being much worse than those in England and Wales. So that United Kingdom Bill imposed on Scotland conditions which are quite wrong, and from which many hundreds of people will suffer now. An opportunity to undo the harm of this inhuman Act is in his hands today.

He predicted that as a result of the Bill there would be no housing shortage in Scotland. He knows that that is quite untrue and that at the moment there is an overall housing shortage as it is. He predicted that landlords would be willing to let houses and that the competition to dispose of the available houses would keep rents down. He knows now that all this is untrue, and if any one experience has taught him so, I hope it was his experience at Kelvingrove on Friday last, as will the Election result which is to come. He will at least be well informed of how the people of Kelvingrove and of all Glasgow and of Scotland feel about the Rent Act.

One result of the Act will be that aged people who are now going to be evicted from their homes will be calling on the local authorities for some protection and some accommodation. There is another Bill affecting local government before the Scottish Standing Committee now, and it will become a very important question whether some provision will be made in that Bill to enable accommodation to be provided for pensioners who will be evicted.

The central feature of this debate is the decontrol of houses in present circumstances, particularly in Scotland. The hon. Member for Glasgow, Pollok (Mr. George) clearly pointed out the difficulty on Second Reading of the Bill. Unfortunately, however, he went into the Lobby to support the Government on that occasion. He is provided with an opportunity tonight to reinforce his speech on that occasion, and to say whether now, in view of his letters in the Glasgow Herald, and in view of the information now to hand, he still thinks he should support the Government tonight.

In my constituency, there are three old-age pensioners in a four-apartment house which was rented at £50. Because of a change in the rating system, that figure came down to £26 a year for that four-apartment house. Then, because it was valued at over £40 and decontrolled, the rent was increased to £66 a year. The right hon. Gentleman knows that on top of that, because of the rating change, those pensioners, two brothers and a sister, have now to pay £66 rent plus 66 times £1 6s. 8d., making a total of £156. Does the right hon. Gentleman think that that is a reasonable figure? Does he think that three old-age pensioners should suffer anxiety of mind for months because of that situation?

Pensioners and others are now faced with a request from the factor to buy a house or get out. While it is true that in the end the factor or property owner may say that he is willing to negotiate, what does negotiation mean in an atmosphere of that kind? It is sheer blackmail. It is bludgeoning the tenant to pay a higher rent than otherwise he would do, because behind the negotiation is a spirit of vindictiveness and oppression. Tenants who are badly advised, or act on their own, assent to a higher rent because of the pressure of the "buy or quit" notices in the first instance.

Claims were made by the Minister, and no doubt will be made by the Secretary of State for Scotland, about the Government's overall provision of houses. I hope that it will also be added that the percentage of four-apartment houses has fallen as the number of three-apartment houses has gone up. One can always provide more houses in those circumstances. I hope that it will also be made clear that the houses overall are smaller than those which were built in the days of the Labour Government.

There is another feature to which I wish to draw the attention of the Secretary of State for Scotland, and I quote from official facts and figures provided by Glasgow Corporation. In 1956, there were in Glasgow 2,616 unoccupied tenement houses, of which 1,780 were of one, two and three apartments. In 1957, the number of unoccupied houses in Glasgow increased to 2,939 of all sizes, and of that number 2,057 were of one, two and three apartments. I contend that this makes nonsense of the Government's claim that when houses become unoccupied they will become available for the homeless. These houses are for sale. Tenants are being squeezed out as houses become decontrolled, and others who require houses are held up to ransom when asked to purchase the houses. These are some of the conditions with which we in Scotland have now to contend.

In view of the anxiety felt by so many people, particularly the aged, I hope that the Secretary of State will answer two questions. Is he prepared to give some assurance that some form of protection will be given to tenants? Where houses are falling vacant, will he try to authorise local authorities to consider taking over those houses? The situation is desperate, as the right hon. Gentleman knows. The Government must address themselves to questions such as these in the hope of offering some alleviation and peace of mind to some of our old-age pensioners.

6.26 p.m.

Sir Henry d'Avigdor-Goldsmid (Walsall, South)

I hope that the hon. Member for Maryhill (Mr. Hannan) will forgive me if I do not follow him in his remarks across the Tweed, except to say that the last point which he made brings me to the point to which I wish to address myself. The number of empty houses in our cities has been a disgrace, and it was to remedy that disgrace that the Rent Act was originally introduced, with the idea of securing a better usage of empty premises.

Hon. Members have spoken throughout the debate as though the number of houses decontrolled by the Rent Act was 800,000 whereas the number really is 5½ million. The houses freed from controlled rent are the 800,000. The remaining 4,650,000 were owner-occupied houses which, before the Act was passed, would have been subject to rent control if they had been let. Therefore, one would have thought that there was a very good chance that, with 5½ million houses potentially available, accommodation would have been found for all who wanted it.

What has prevented that being the case? It has been the determination of hon. and right hon. Members opposite to make sure that the Act would not work, their determination to frustrate the expressed will of Parliament and their determination to offer the landlord the most appalling penalties if he remains as landlord when, as they hope, they come to power. The penalties which they hold over the landlord have effectively prevented his having any desire to remain a landlord. Just as in the game "Slippery Ann" the object of the players is to get rid of the Queen of Spades, so the landlord's object is to get rid of his house, because he has been terrorised by the threats offered by hon. and right hon. Members opposite.

I have had the pleasure of sitting in the House and in Committee with the hon. and learned Member for Kettering (Mr. Mitchison). Knowing his charm of character, I should not be very nervous of suffering injustice at his hands, but the public outside, not having had the advantage of proximity with him, must judge him on his words, which certainly carry a real threat. In the debate on the Address, the hon. and learned Member made one of his all-too-short speeches, which I think lasted one hour and 20 minutes, during which he was tackled by my hon. Friend the Member for Henley (Mr. Hay) about the inflationary effect of distributing large sums of money to landlords in return for the property which his party proposed to municipalise.

The hon. and learned Member said: What inflation is there in a local authority taking, on the one hand, the rent of the house and, on the other, paying that or a smaller sum to the landlord … and paying to the landlord the interest on a bond or some form of terminable annuity? … No capital sums will be required."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 11th November, 1957; Vol. 577, c. 615.] Let us analyse those words.

Is the hon. and learned Member proposing in those words to hand over a negotiable security? If he is, it is saleable, and, being saleable, must have an inflationary effect. The amount of property to be taken over under this proposed municipalisation is very extensive. It can run into millions of houses. I do not think that it is unfair to ask whether the owners of those houses are to receive a negotiable security, the effect of which would be highly inflationary, or whether the houses are to be subject to confiscation. I think that is an unavoidable alternative, and I would like a considered opinion from hon. Gentlemen opposite on this point.

The fundamental difference between hon. Gentlemen opposite and my right hon. Friend and my hon. Friends is that they regard housing as a form of social service and we regard housing in the traditional sense—

Miss Margaret Herbison (Lanarkshire, North)

Profit making.

Sir H. d'Avigdor-Goldsmid

I hear the words "profit making". I understand that the party opposite anticipate coming into office. Therefore, the obvious thing for them to do is to come to terms with some of the owners of this despised property. That is only common sense. They should do that, instead of terrorising, scaring and driving those people to make what are in many cases disreputable deals in order to get out of their holdings.

The people of this country have to live in houses whatever Government are in power. Those houses must be maintained. The Rent Act was a genuine attempt to put the housing of this country on the right footing. Even if hon. and right hon. Gentlemen opposite do not approve of all of it, surely the thing to do is to give the Act a chance to work. When it comes to their turn for office, if it does come, they can remedy the abuses to which they object.

When hon. and right hon. Gentlemen opposite took over the hospital service they did not treat the people who ran the hospitals as if they were behaving disgracefully. They accepted the fact that it was necessary to make use of their services. The same is true here. It is straightforward common sense, if they are confident of being returned and of having to deal with this problem, not to terrorise, frighten and blackguard the people who now own the property. If they do that they will find themselves faced with a much more serious problem than has ever confronted us.

I consider that this Act has been a genuine attempt to sort out the appalling difficulties created by forty years of various kinds of rent control. I take encouragement from the fact that the Government, whilst sticking to their guns, are prepared to do something to help to remedy the obvious injustices which may occur.

6.33 p.m.

Mr. Thomas Fraser (Hamilton)

It was obvious from the speech to which we have just listened that the hon. Member for Walsall, South (Sir H. d'Avigdor-Goldsmid) would much rather discuss the Labour Party's policy document "Homes for the Future" than the consequences of the Rent Act. If he should have the good fortune to return from the wreckage of the next General Election, the hon. Gentleman will have an opportunity to participate in our debates here when we give legislative effect to that document. In the meantime we have a duty to the people of this country, to discuss the Motion before us on the consequences of the Rent Act, 1957.

It is also interesting to note that, apart from the hon. Gentleman himself, everyone who has addressed the House today, including the Minister, seemed to support our Motion. What does it say? It says "That this House deplores the threats of eviction. …" Does not the Minister deplore the threats of eviction? I thought he did. I thought that was why he made the speech he did in his constituency the other day. I thought he wanted to repeat that speech in Holborn last week when he was howled down. I thought that everyone who has spoken today, except the last speaker, had deplored the threats of eviction.

I thought that hon. Members on both sides of the House deplored the oppressive agreements that are being made. Indeed some of the most eloquent pleas came from the Government benches. It is true that some hon. Gentlemen opposite said there were not as many as we have suggested, but nevertheless they deplored them where they existed. I also thought that hon. Gentlemen opposite deplored the serious hardships imposed upon tenants as a result of the Act. I thought they merely argued that we had grossly exaggerated the position, but that in their speeches today, inasmuch as serious hardship obtained, they deplored this consequence of the Act.

Our Motion then calls upon Her Majesty's Government to take immediate steps to remedy these grievances. If grievances do not exist, no steps would be needed to deal with them.

So there is no doubt that in the course of this debate every hon. and right hon. Gentleman opposite who has participated, including the Minister, has supported our Motion. It was clear, of course, that the Minister preferred to discuss matters other than those arising on the Motion, and that is why the Amendment was put down, so that he could tell us once again that the Conservative Party built more houses in the six years during which it has been responsible than we built during the six years of the Labour Government. The right hon. Gentleman completely ignored all the war damage repairs that were carried out. He ignored the fact that the record of the Labour Government in building houses after the war exceeded that of any other country involved in it. If I may say so, the Minister deliberately misled the House.

The right hon. Gentleman went on to say that the Rent Act had not been introduced too soon but too late. If that is so, why did the Conservative Central Office say in the 1955 General Election that the Conservative Party had no intention of imposing any general increase in rents? Why did it issue in its notes the intimation to all speakers and candidates that my right hon. Friend the Member for Ebbw Vale (Mr. Bevan) was misleading when he said that if the Tories were returned to power there would be a general increase in rents? Or does the Minister agree with a former Tory Prime Minister that one can stick anything into an election manifesto? He was the one who today said that the Socialists never keep election promises, but his great fear is that we will keep our election promises, and of course we will.

The Minister said that notices to quit had been issued by owners not because they wanted to terminate tenancies but as a prelude to negotiating new ones. I doubt that. I do not know the position in England and Wales as well as I know it in Scotland, but this is not true of Scotland.

Mr. James Callaghan (Cardiff, South-East)

Or of Wales.

Mr. Fraser

The Secretary of State for Scotland will agree that notices to quit are not issued in Scotland as a prelude to negotiating new tenancies. He will know well that in Scotland this practice has been increasing every year since the end of the war. When houses previously tenant-occupied have become vacant they have not been relet, but have been offered for sale. The Secretary of State for Scotland knows well that when the Labour Government left office in 1951 there was a Bill on the stocks on that very issue. He also knows that my hon. Friend the Member for Dunbartonshire, West (Mr. Steele) introduced the Bill in 1952 and that the Government blocked it. So this is not a new problem arising since the publication of the Labour Party's policy document "Homes for the Future". This has been going on for many years in Scotland, and, as my hon. Friend the Member for Glasgow, Maryhill (Mr. Hannan) said, at this time there are 3,000 houses empty in Glasgow with sale notices stuck on them.

I would like my hon. Friends from English constituencies to believe me when I say that this is a more widespread problem in Scotland than in England. I say that for the following reason. I believe that in England people do not sell individual flats in a block, but that the property has to be sold from the ground upwards. In Scotland we can sell any individual flat or tenement, as it is called, in a huge block of tenements. Sometimes there are 40 or 60 of these accommodation units which can be sold individually. So this practice has been going on for a number of years now, and it is the worst possible kind of property ownership there can be with this divided responsibility for one property block. It is going on now and the Government have encouraged this practice by the introduction of the Rent Act, because so many more houses are going out of control and the owners have been given the opportunity of cashing in.

The Government have said that decontrol is necessary because it will lead to better use being made of bigger houses. Again, this is not true of Scotland. It is not true of Glasgow. The people who are being turfed out of the over-£40 houses in Glasgow are not the one and two persons who are living in such houses, but the families, because it is they who are least able to pay the higher rent.

On Friday night, at Kelvingrove, the Secretary of State was asked a question by a widow with four children who was being turfed out of her house because she was not able to pay the new rent that the landlord wanted. She is being prised out of her house, which has been decontrolled. Who is going into it? Is it somebody with more than four children? Of course not. It is somebody with more money than the widow with the four children, and the right hon. Gentleman knows this as well as any other hon. Member.

The Minister expressed his sympathy for the old people. He gave the impression that his heart was bleeding for the old people who were to be turned out of the tenancies that they have occupied for fifteen or twenty or even thirty years. He made some vague offer of doing something to help them if they are to be evicted in October of this year. His hon. Friend the Member for Dulwich (Mr. Robert Jenkins) was, however, right to say that if the Minister is to do anything legislatively, he must do it soon. It was at this time last year that he was in great panic to get the Rent Bill on the Statute Book to get decontrol working. It was necessary to get the Bill on the Statute Book at an early date to give assurance to the landlords. Therefore, he guillotined the whole procedure. Now, at the same time this year, he has not even started his legislative process to give protection to the tenants who are threatened with eviction. He gives them his promise that he will do something for them, but he tells us that this is not the time for him to amplify that promise.

There is no doubt that many people who occupy houses which have been decontrolled are suffering great mental anguish and are being made very ill by the threat of being turned out of their homes—either the straight notice to quit, or the notice to buy or quit when they certainly do not have the money to buy. Even in the odd case when they are being asked to negotiate a new rent, they are asked a rent which is so far beyond their means that they know they will never be able to pay it, and there is nowhere else for them to go. The Secretary of State knows that.

A few years ago, I remember the House being very concerned about a certain Mr. Pilgrim. Hon. Members will remember the fate of Mr. Pilgrim, because the local council was taking his house. How many Mr. Pilgrims have there to be under the Rent Act before the Secretary of State and the Minister will take action? In fact, I wonder how many Mr. Pilgrims there have been already. I wonder how many of those gassing tragedies have not, in fact, been Mr. Pilgrims. [HoN. MEMBERS: "Oh."] Yes, of course. It is tragic when the council takes a piece of land—

Captain F. V. Corfield (Gloucestershire, South)

Can the hon. Member explain, then, why his party voted against the Bill that was designed to put right the Pilgrim type of case?

Mr. Fraser

The hon. and gallant Member is like many of his hon. Friends. I do not wish to discuss other legislation just now. I thought we were having a brief half-day debate on the Rent Act. It is the Rent Act Mr. Pilgrims about whom I am concerned, but, apparently, the supporters of the Government are quite unconcerned about the tenants of the houses which are being decontrolled.

Let me mention one part of the country which has not so far been mentioned. My hon. Friend the Member for Fife, West (Mr. Hamilton) has put down Questions to the Secretary of State about the problem of Prinlaws, in Fife, a village of 150 houses which has been bought by a London property company, not for the benefit of the inhabitants of the village, but admittedly with a view to making profit on the investment.

Those houses, as the Secretary of State will know, are now having their rents increased by from 500 to 800 per cent. They are houses which are over 100 years old, are very damp and in a bad state of repair and they are being offered to the tenants at £1,750. Tenants of houses with no modern conveniences and no sanitary arrangements are now being asked to pay rent at double the council rents in the area. My hon. Friend the Member for Fife, West, who writes from his sick bed, wrote thus to me: Old Shylock was a benevolent philanthropist compared to the sharks who are now trying to get their teeth into the humble and honest folk of Prinlaws. I hope that the Secretary of State will give an undertaking that the tragedy that is overhanging so many of the people in Scotland, whom he claims to be looking after down here, will be averted by action. He knows full well that any justification that the hon. Member for Wolverhampton, South-West (Mr. Powell) offered for the Rent Bill in its application in England had no foundation in Scotland. His predecessor said eighteen months ago that he would not be such a fool as to prophesy when there would be enough houses to satisfy the demand in Scotland. In our great cities—in Glasgow, for example—we still have over 100,000 people on the waiting list for houses. I hope that the right hon. Gentleman will give some comfort to them in his reply to the debate this evening.

6.47 p.m.

The Secretary of State for Scotland (Mr. John Maclay)

In the relatively short time that remains, I want to deal at once with one or two points which have been raised in case I miss them later. Concerning Prinlaws, for example, to which the hon. Member for Hamilton (Mr. T. Fraser) referred, the hon. Member may know that the houses in question have nothing to do with the Act. They are not houses which were decontrolled by reason of rateable value in excess of £40. Whether the Rent Acts apply is a matter which may need to be decided in the courts. I have a Question on the matter tomorrow, when I shall be dealing with it. We can, therefore, get Prinlaws out of the argument. It is a separate matter.

I will deal also with the point raised by my hon. Friend the Member for Dulwich (Mr. Robert Jenkins). My right hon. Friend the Minister of Housing and Local Government has asked me to make perfectly clear the position about loans for house purchase by local authorities in England and Wales. Far from there being any Government restriction on the policy of local authorities in this respect, my right hon. Friend sent a circular to local authorities in November reminding them afresh of their powers to lend money to would-be house purchasers. [HON. MEMBERS: "At what interest?"] My right hon. Friend is desirous of encouraging and not restricting this method. To help local authorities, he has told them that there can be varying rates of interest. I have not dealt with the point in a circular in Scotland, but local authorities have been told that there is scope for varying rates of interest. Of course, I cannot be precise on the rates of interest, but there is scope for varying rates of interest. Far from discouraging this kind of operation, my right hon. Friend and I are prepared to encourage it.

The hon. Member for Maryhill (Mr. Hannan) asked two questions. One was whether local authorities had power to buy houses and whether I would help them. What was in the hon. Member's mind was whether local authorities had power to buy houses in case of need. The position is that local authorities have power to buy either by agreement or by compulsion. That is the position.

Mrs. Jean Mann (Coatbridge and Airdrie)

Is not the right hon. Gentleman aware that authorities in Scotland have already tried to operate the Act and have found that the arbiter has fixed a price which has been that of a scarcity value?

Mr. Maclay

That is not relevant to what I was saying.

The hon. Member for Hamilton said that my right hon. Friend had referred to the number of houses which the present Government had built compared with those built by the Labour Government, and he said that I would probably do the same. I shall do so, because the hon. Member for Hamilton had his facts wrong. I know that immediately after the war there was a job of war damage to be done, but that consideration did not apply in Scotland to anything like the degree to which it applied in England. Of course, we have had to build some temporary houses, but can the hon. Member for Hamilton deny that in 1950–51, five years after the war, it was a deliberate decision of the Labour Government to keep the rate of building down to 200,000 houses a year?

Mr. A. Woodburn (Clackmannan and East Stirlingshire)

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that when the Labour Government were in office there was never an occasion when the building trade in Scotland was not asked to build all the houses it could, and that in fact it complained that it was being asked to build too many?

Mr. Maclay

How is that borne out by the figures? The figures are worth considering. They show that in 1950 the number of houses built in Scotland was 25,800; in 1951, 22,900; in 1952, 30,900; and in 1953, 39,000.

My point is quite simple and straightforward. It is that the hon. Member for Hamilton should know what went on inside his own party, and that it was his party's decision on priorities in 1950, five years after the end of the war, to keep down to a relatively low level of building. Our decision on priorities was that housing was one of the greatest human problems. That was why we went for 300,000 houses and not only achieved that figure but did a great deal better. I wanted to make those issues clear for the record.

Let us consider one or two other aspects of the Scottish situation. I agree that the position in Scotland is different from that in England, but so are our provisions of the Rent Act, as the hon. Member for Hamilton knows. The number of houses in Scotland affected is about one in twelve of all controlled houses. It was inevitable, after so many years of control, that an even limited measure of decontrol would give rise to some difficulty. I have never disguised that in any statement which I have made, in the House or outside.

I repeat what my right hon. Friend said earlier, that the Government believe that it is right to make a beginning in Scotland, as well as in England and Wales, in breaking away from the totally artificial situation which complete rent control involves. There is no other way in which we can make the best use of our available supply of houses and flats. If hon. Members have any doubt about that, they should consider what happened in the years after the war in other countries which had a very tight form of rent control, with completely disastrous results for their building programmes and for the people who had to live in those circumstances. We were bound to take action, and I am glad that we did.

Another important topic during the debate was that of the number of houses in Scotland coming into the market to be let. In considering this matter, I ask hon. Members to keep in mind the effect of Section 11 (2) of the Rent Act, under which a new tenancy of a house when the house falls vacant is free from control under the Rent Acts. It is our view that this subsection, taken in conjunction with the decontrol provisions in Section 11 (1), is a valuable means of increasing the size of the letting pool.

I will give the House some figures about what is happening. There is very good reason to think that a considerable number of houses which the owners have been holding for sale were relet following the coming into operation of the Rent Act on 6th July last. Since last week, I have had some more figures which illustrate what has been happening. These figures are from a sample taken from a number of factors in Glasgow. They do not cover the whole of Glasgow, but a sample is the only way in which these figures can be obtained. Between 6th July, 1957, and December, 1957, the number of houses empty on 6th July was 736 and between then and December no fewer than 2,574 were vacated, a total of 3,310; of those, no fewer than 3,267 were relet, as many as 98 per cent. of the houses becoming vacant. That is not a "fixed" sample—hon. Members can take a sample anywhere they like—and it does not bear out the allegations of hon. Members opposite, nor the implications of the Questions which I get from week to week.

There has been much concern about the position of elderly people, and I think that I ought to repeat what my right hon. Friend said this afternoon, because it is very important to show what we feel about the matter. My right hon. Friend said: I said the other day that I was watching the position closely. I was thinking not only of the small minority of unhelpful landlords, but also of elderly tenants who might find it more difficult than younger people to help themselves. He went on: The Government have no intention of repealing the Rent Act, nor any part of it. I am making no forecast, but if we should conclude that any further steps are necessary to secure that the objects of the Act are accomplished in a fair and reasonable way, we shall take them with the same courage as we showed when we introduced the Rent Bill for the benefit of the nation as a whole. There has not yet been time to know how much effect the circular to local authorities about the position of elderly people has had. We cannot tell precisely how many people will need help of the kind which the circular suggests, but I reinforce what my right hon. Friend has said.

I turn finally to the Motion and to the Amendment. The hon. Member for Hamilton made much play with the fact that nobody had disagreed with the terms of the Opposition's Motion. My right hon. Friend pointed out very clearly, and I repeat, that the Motion gives a completely unbalanced view of the effects of the Rent Act as a whole. The Amendment, which I strongly commend to the House, puts the matter in its proper perspective. The Rent Act had several functions—to improve the condition of houses and to make more houses avail-

able for letting—and many of those conditions have been fulfilled. I sincerely hope that the House will be ready to support the Amendment. How can hon. Members possibly fail to agree that Her Majesty's Government have taken all the measures necessary to achieve their ends in a fair and reasonable manner?

Question put, That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Question:—

The House divided: Ayes 246, Noes 304.

Division No. 52.] AYES [7.0 p.m.
Ainsley, J. W. Edwards, Rt. Hon. Ness (Caerphilly) Lever, Harold (Cheetham)
Allaun, Frank (Salford, E.) Edwards, W. J. (Stepney) Lindgren, G. S.
Allen, Arthur (Bosworth) Evans, Albert (Islington, S.W.) Lipton, Marcus
Allen, Scholefield (Crewe) Evans, Edward (Lowestoft) Logan, D. G.
Anderson, Frank Fernyhough, E. Mabon, Dr. J. Dickson
Awbery, S. S. Finch, H. J. McCann, J.
Bacon, Miss Alice Fletcher, Eric MacColl, J. E.
Baird, J. Foot, D. M. MacDermot, Niall
Balfour, A. Fraser, Thomas (Hamilton) McGhee, H. G.
Bellenger, Rt. Hon. F. J. Gaitskell, Rt. Hon. H. T. N. McGovern, J.
Bence, C. R. (Dunbarton, E.) George, Lady Megan Lloyd (Car'then) McKay, John (Wallsend)
Benn, Hn. Wedgwood (Bristol, S[...].E.) Gibson, C. W. McLeavy, Frank
Benson, Sir George Gooch, E. G. MacMillan, M. K. (Western Isles)
Beswick, Frank Gordon Walker, Rt. Hon. P. C. MacPherson, Malcolm (Stirling)
Bevan, Rt. Hon. A. (Ebbw Vale) Greenwood, Anthony Mahon, Simon
Blackburn, F. Grenfell, Rt. Hon. D. R. Mainwaring, W. H.
Blenkinsop, A. Grey, C. F. Mallalieu, E. L. (Brigg)
Blyton, W. R. Griffiths, David (Rother Valley) Mallalieu, J. P. W. (Huddersfd, E.)
Boardman, H. Griffiths, Rt. Hon. James (Llanelly) Mann, Mrs. Jean
Bottomley, Rt. Hon. A. G. Griffiths, William (Exchange) Mason, Roy
Bowden, H. W. (Leicester, S.W.) Hale, Leslie Mayhew, C. P.
Bowles, F. G. Hall, Rt. Hn. Glenvil (Colne Valley) Mellish, R. J.
Boyd, T. C. Hannan, W. Messer, Sir F.
Braddock, Mrs. Elizabeth Harrison, J. (Nottingham, N.) Mitchison, G. R.
Brockway, A. F. Hastings, S. Monslow, W.
Brown, Rt. Hon. George (Belper) Hayman, F. H. Moody, A. S.
Brown, Thomas (Ince) Healey, Denis Morris, Percy (Swansea, W.)
Burke, W. A. Henderson, Rt. Hn. A. (Rwly Regis) Morrison, Rt. Hn. Herbert (Lewis'm,S.)
Burton, Miss F. E. Herbison, Miss M. Mort, D. L.
Butler, Herbert (Hackney, C.) Hewitson, Capt. M. Moss, R.
Butler, Mrs. Joyce (Wood Green) Hobson, C. R. (Keighley) Moyle, A.
Callaghan, L. J. Holman, P. Mulley, F. W.
Carmichael, J. Holmes, Horace Neal, Harold (Bolsover)
Castle, Mrs. B. A. Houghton, Douglas Noel-Baker, Francis (Swindon)
Champion, A. J. Howell, Charles (Perry Barr) Noel-Baker, Rt. Hon. P. (Derby, S.)
Chapman, W. D. Howell, Denis (All Saints) O'Brien, Sir Thomas
Chetwynd, G. R. Hughes, Cledwyn (Anglesey) Oliver, G. H.
Coldrick, W. Hughes, Emrys (S. Ayrshire) Oram, A. E.
Collins,V. J. (Shoreditch & Finsbury) Hughes, Hector (Aberdeen, N.) Oswald, T.
Corbet, Mrs. Freda Hunter, A. E. Owen, W. J.
Cove, W. G. Hynd, H. (Accrington) Padley, W. E.
Hynd, J. B. (Attercliffe) Paget, R. T.
Craddock, George (Bradford, S.) Irvine, A. J. (Edge Hill) Paling, Rt. Hon. W. (Dearne Valley)
Cronin, J. D. Irving, Sydney (Dartford) Palmer, A. M. F.
Crossman, R. H. S. Isaacs, Rt. Hon. G. A. Pannell, Charles (Leeds, W.)
Cullen, Mrs. A. Janner, B. Pargiter, G. A.
Dalton, Rt. Hon. H. Jay, Rt. Hon. D. P. T. Parker, J.
Darling, George (Hillsborough) Jeger, George (Goole) Parkin, B. T.
Davies, Ernest (Enfield, E.) Jeger, Mrs. Lena (Holbn & St. Pncs,S.) Paton, John
Davies, Harold (Leek) Jenkins, Roy (Stechford) Pearson, A.
Davies, Stephen (Merthyr) Johnson, James (Rugby) Peart, T. F.
Deer, G. Jones, Rt. Hon. A. Creech (Wakefield) Pentland, N.
de Freitas, Geoffrey Jones, David (The Hartlepools) Plummer, Sir Leslie
Diamond, John Jones, Jack (Rotherham) Prentice, R. E.
Dodds, N. N. Jones, J. Idwal (Wrexham) Price, J. T. (Westhoughton)
Donnelly, D. L. Jones, T. W. (Merioneth) Price, Philips (Gloucestershire, W.)
Dugdale, Rt. Hn. John (W. Brmwch) Kenyon, C. Probert, A. R.
Dye, S. Key, Rt. Hon. C. W. Proctor, W. T.
Ede, Rt. Hon. J. C. King, Dr. H. M. Pursey, Cmdr. H.
Edelman, M. Lee, Frederick (Newton) Randall, H. E.
Edwards, Rt. Hon. John (Brighouse) Lee, Miss Jennie (Cannock) Rankin, John
Redhead, E. C. Sparks, J. A. Wells, Percy (Faversham)
Reeves, J. Steele, T. Wells, William (Walsall, N.)
Reid, William Stewart, Michael (Fulham) West, D. G.
Rhodes, H. Stonehouse, John Wheeldon, W. E.
Robens, Rt. Hon. A. Strachey, Rt. Hon. J. White, Mrs. Eirene (E. Flint)
Roberts, Albert (Normanton) Stross, Dr. Barnett (Stoke-on-Trent,C.) Wigg, George
Roberts, Goronwy (Caernarvon) Summerskill, Rt. Hon. E. Wilcock, Group Captain C. A. B.
Robinson, Kenneth (St. Pancras, N.) Swingler, S. T. Wilkins, W. A.
Rogers, George (Kensington, N.) Sylvester, C. O. Willey, Frederick
Ross, William Taylor, Bernard (Mansfield) Williams, David (Neath)
Royle, C. Taylor, John (West Lothian) Williams, Rev. Llywelyn (Ab'tillery)
Shinwell, Rt. Hon. E. Thomas, George (Cardiff) Williams, Ronald (Wigan)
Shurmer, P. L. E. Thomas, Iorwerth (Rhondda, W.) Williams, Rt. Hon. T. (Don Valley)
Silverman, Julius (Aston) Thomson, George (Dundee, E.) Williams, W. R. (Openshaw)
Silverman, Sydney (Nelson) Timmons, J. Willis, Eustace (Edinburgh, E.)
Simmons, C. J. (Brlerley Hill) Tomney, F. Winterbottom, Richard
Skeffington, A. M. Ungoed-Thomas, Sir Lynn Woodburn, Rt. Hon. A.
Slater, Mrs. H. (Stoke, N.) Usborne, H. C. Woof, R. E.
Slater, J. (Sedgefield) Viant, S. P. Yates, V. (Ladywood)
Snow, J. W. Warbey, W. N. Zilliacus, K.
Sorensen, R. W. Watkins, T. E.
Soskice, Rt. Hon. Sir Frank Weitzman, D. TELLERS FOR THE AYES:
Mr. Popplewell and Mr. Short.
Agnew, Sir Peter Crowder, Petre (Ruislip—Northwood) Harvey, Ian (Harrow, E.)
Aitken, W. T. Cunningham, Knox Harvey, John (Walthamstow, E.)
Allan, R. A. (Paddington, S.) Currie, G. B. H. Harvie-Watt, Sir George
Alport, C. J. M. Dance, J. C. G. Hay, John
Amery, Julian (Preston, N.) Davidson, Viscountess Heald, Rt. Hon. Sir Lionel
Amory, Rt. Hn. Heathcoat (Tiverton) D'Avigdor-Goldsmid, Sir Henry Henderson, John (Cathcart)
Anstruther-Gray, Major Sir William Deedes, W. F. Henderson-Stewart, Sir James
Arbuthnot, John Digby, Simon Wingfield Hesketh, R. F.
Ashton, H. Dodds-Parker, A. D. Hicks-Beach, Maj. W. W.
Astor, Hon. J. J. Donaldson, Cmdr. C. E. McA. Hill, Rt. Hon. Charles (Luton)
Atkins, H. E. Doughty, C. J. A. Hill, Mrs. E. (Wythenshawe)
Baldock, Lt.-Cmdr. J. M. du Cann, E. D. L. Hill, John (S. Norfolk)
Baldwin, A. E. Dugdale, Rt. Hn. Sir T. (Richmond) Hirst, Geoffrey
Balniel, Lord Dunoan, Sir James Hobson,John(Warwick & Leam'gt'n)
Barber, Anthony Duthie, W. S. Holland-Martin, C. J.
Barlow, Sir John Eccles, Rt. Hon. Sir David Hope, Lord John
Barter, John Eden, J. B. (Bournemouth, West) Hornby, R. P.
Baxter, Sir Beverley Elliott,R.W.(Ne'castle upon Tyne,N.) Hornsby-Smith, Miss M. P.
Beamish, Col. Tufton Emmet, Hon. Mrs. Evelyn Horobin, Sir Ian
Bell, Philip (Bolton, E) Errington, Sir Eric Horsbrugh, Rt, Hon. Dame Florence
Bell, Ronald (Bucks, S.) Erroll, F. J. Howard, Gerald (Cambridgeshire)
Bennett, F. M. (Torquay) Farey-Jones, F. W. Howard, Hon. Greville (St. Ives)
Bennett, Dr. Reginald Fell, A. Howard, John (Test)
Bevins, J. R, (Toxteth) Fisher, Nigel Hughes Hallett, Vice-Admiral J.
Bidgood, J. C. Fletcher-Cooke, C. Hughes-Young, M. H. C.
Biggs-Davison, J. A. Forrest, G. Hulbert, Sir Norman
Bingham, R. M. Foster, John Hurd, A. R.
Birch, Rt. Hon. Nigel Fraser, Hon. Hugh (Stone) Hutchison, Michael Clark (E'b'gh,S.)
Bishop, F. P. Fraser, Sir Ian (M'ombe & Lonsdale) Hutchison Sir Ian Clark (E'b'gh, W.)
Black, C. W. Freeth, Denzil Hutchison, Sir James (Scotstoun)
Body, R. F. Galbraith, Hon. T. G. D. Hylton-Foster, Rt, Hon. Sir Harry
Boothby, Sir Robert Gammans, Lady Iremonger, T. L.
Bossom, Sir Alfred Garner-Evans, E. H. Irvine, Bryant Godman (Rye)
Boyd-Carpenter, Rt. Hon. J. A. George, J. C. (Pollok) Jennings, J. C. (Burton)
Boyle, Sir Edward Gibson-Watt, D. Jennings, Sir Roland (Hallam)
Bromley-Davenport, Lt.-Col. W. H. Glover, D. Johnson, Dr. Donald (Carlisle)
Brooke, Rt. Hon. Henry Glyn, Col. Richard H. Johnson, Eric (Blackley)
Brooman-White, R. C. Godber, J. B. Johnson, Howard (Kemptown)
Browne, J. Nixon (Craigton) Gomme-Duncan, Col. Sir Alan Jones, Rt. Hon. Aubrey (Hall Green)
Bryan, P. Goodhart, Philip Joseph, Sir Keith
Bullus, Wing Commander E. E. Gough, C. F. H. Joynson-Hicks, Hon. Sir Lancelot
Butcher, Sir Herbert Gower, H. R. Kaberry, D.
Butler, Rt. Hn. R.A. (Saffron Walden) Graham, Sir Fergus Keegan, D.
Campbell, Sir David Grant, W. (Woodside) Kerby, Capt. H. B
Carr, Robert Grant-Ferris, Wg Cdr.R. (Nantwich) Kerr, Sir Hamilton
Cary, Sir Robert Green, A. Kershaw, J. A.
Channon, Sir Henry Gresham Cooke, R. Kimball, M.
Chichester-Clark, R. Grimston, Hon. John (St. Albans) Kirk, P. M.
Clarke, Brig, Terence (Portsmth, W.) Grimston, Sir Robert (Westbury) Lagden, G. W.
Cole, Norman Grosvenor, Lt.-Col. R. G. Lambton, Viscount
Conant, Maj. Sir Roger Gurden, Harold Lancaster, Col. C. G.
Cooke, Robert Hall, John (Wycombe) Langford-Holt, J. A.
Cooper, A. E. Hare, Rt. Hon. J. H. Leather, E. H. C.
Cooper-Key, E. M. Harris, Frederic (Croydon, N.W.) Leavey, J. A.
Corfield, Capt. F. V. Harris, Reader (Heston) Leburn, W. G.
Craddook, Beresford (Spelthorne) Harrison, A. B. C. (Maldon) Legge-Bourke, Maj. E. A. H.
Crosthwaite-Eyre, Col. O. E. Harrison, Col. J. H. (Eye) Legh, Hon. Peter (Petersfield)
Crowder, Sir John (Finchley) Harvey, Sir Arthur Vere (Macclesf'd) Lindsay, Hon. James (Devon, N.)
Linstead, Sir H. N. Ormsby-Gore, Rt. Hon. W. D. Spens, Rt. Hn. Sir P. (Kens'gt'n, S.)
Llewellyn, D. T. Orr, Capt. L. P. S. Stanley, Capt. Hon. Richard
Lloyd, Rt. Hon. G. (Sutton Coldfield) Orr-Ewing, Charles Ian(Hendon, N.) Stevens, Geoffrey
Lloyd, Maj. Sir Guy (Renfrew, E.) Orr-Ewing, Sir Ian (Weston-S-Mare) Steward, Harold (Stockport, S.)
Lloyd, Rt. Hon. Selwyn (Wirral) Osborne, C. Steward, Sir William (Woolwich, W.)
Longden, Gilbert Page, R. G. Stoddart-Scott, Col. Sir Malcolm
Low, Rt. Hon. Sir Toby Pannell, N. A. (Kirkdale) Storey, S.
Lucas, Sir Jocelyn (Portsmouth, S.) Partridge, E. Stuart, Rt. Hon. James (Moray)
Lucas, P. B. (Brentford & Chiswick) Peel, W. J. Studholme, Sir Henry
Lucas-Tooth, Sir Hugh Peyton, J. W. W. Summers, Sir Spencer
McAdden, S. J. Pike, Miss Mervyn Sumner, W. D. M. (Orpington)
Macdonald, Sir Peter Pilkington, Capt. R. A. Taylor, Sir Charles (Eastbourne)
McKibbin, Alan Pitman, I. J. Taylor, William (Bradford, N.)
Maclay, Rt. Hon. John Pitt, Miss E. M. Teeling, W.
Maclean, Sir Fitzroy (Lancaster) Pott, H. P. Temple, John M.
Macleod, Rt. Hn. Iain (Enfield, W.) Powell, J. Enoch Thomas, Leslie (Canterbury)
MacLeod, John (Ross & Cromarty) Price, David (Eastleigh) Thompson, Kenneth (Walton)
Macmillan, Rt.Hn.Harold(Bromley) Prior-Palmer, Brig. O. L. Thompson, Lt.-Cdr.R.(Croydon, S.)
Macmillan, Maurice (Halifax) Profumo, J. D. Thorneycroft, Rt. Hon. P.
Macpherson, Niall (Dumfries) Ramsden, J. E. Thornton-Kemsley, Sir Colin
Maddan, Martin Rawlinson, Peter Tiley, A. (Bradford, W.)
Maitland, Cdr. J. F. W. (Horncastle) Redmayne, M. Tilney, John (Wavertree)
Maitland, Hon. Patrick (Lanark) Rees-Davies, W. R. Turton, Rt. Hon. R. H.
Markham, Major Sir Frank Remnant, Hon. P. Tweedsmuir, Lady
Marples, Rt. Hon. A. E. Renton, D. L. M. Vane, W. M. F.
Marshall, Douglas Ridsdale, J. E. Vickers, Miss Joan
Mathew, R. Rippon, A. G. F. Vosper, Rt. Hon. D. F.
Maude, Angus Robertson, Sir David Wakefield, Edward (Derbyshire, W.)
Maudling, Rt. Hon. R. Robinson, Sir Roland (Blackpool, S.) Wakefield, Sir Wavell (St. M'lebone)
Mawby, R. L. Robson Brown, Sir William Walker-Smith, Rt. Hon. Derek
Maydon, Lt.-Comdr. S. L. C. Rodgers, John (Sevenoaks) Wall, Patrick
Medlicott, Sir Frank Roper, Sir Harold Ward, Rt. Hon. G. R. (Worcester)
Milligan, Rt. Hon. W. R. Ropner, Col. Sir Leonard Ward, Dame Irene (Tynemouth)
Molson, Rt. Hon. Hugh Sandys, Rt. Hon. D. Watkinson, Rt. Hon. Harold
Moore, Sir Thomas Scott-Miller, Cmdr. R. Webbe, Sir H.
Mott-Radclyffe, Sir Charles Sharples, R. C. Whitelaw, W. S. I.
Nabarro, G. D. N. Shepherd, William Williams, Paul (Sunderland, S.)
Neave, Airey Simon, J. E. S. (Middlesbrough, W.) Williams, R. Dudley (Exeter)
Nicholls, Harmar Smithers, Peter (Winchester) Wills, G. (Bridgwater)
Nicholson, Sir Godfrey (Farnham) Smyth, Brig. Sir John (Norwood) Wilson, Geoffrey (Truro)
Nicolson, N.(B'n'm'th, E. & Chr'ch) Soames, Christopher Wood, Hon. R.
Noble, Comdr. Rt. Hon. Allan Spearman, Sir Alexander Woollam, John Victor
Nugent, G. R. H. Speir, R. M.
O'Neill, Hn. Phelim(Co. Antrim, N.) Spence, H. R. (Aberdeen, W.) TELLERS FOR THE NOES:
Mr. Heath and Mr. Oakshott.

Question put, That the proposed words be there added:—

The House divided: Ayes 307, Noes 246.

Division No. 53.] AYES [7.10 p.m.
Agnew, Sir Peter Bossom, Sir Alfred D'Avigdor-Goldsmid, Sir Henry
Aitken, W. T. Boyd-Carpenter, Rt. Hon. J. A. Deedes, W. F.
Allan, R.A. (Paddington, S.) Boyle, Sir Edward Digby, Simon Wingfield
Alport, C. J. M. Bromley-Davenport, Lt.-Col. W. H. Dodds-Parker, A. D.
Amery, Julian (Preston, N.) Brooke, Rt. Hon. Henry Donaldson, Cmdr. C. E. McA.
Amory, Rt. Hn. Heathcoat (Tiverton) Brooman-White, R. C. Doughty, C. J. A.
Anstruther-Gray, Major Sir William Browne, J. Nixon (Craigton) du Cann, E. D. L.
Arbuthnot, John Bryan, P. Dugdale Rt. Hn. Sir T. (Richmond)
Ashton, H. Bullus, Wing Commander E. E. Duncan, Capt. J. A. L.
Astor, Hon. J. J. Butcher, Sir Herbert Duthie, W. S.
Atkins, H. E. Butler, Rt. Hn. R. A.(Saffron Walden) Eccles, Rt. Hon. Sir David
Baldock, Lt.-Cmdr. J. M. Campbell, Sir David Eden, J. B. (Bournemouth, West)
Baldwin, A. E. Carr, Robert Elliott,R.W.(NewcastleuponTyne,N.)
Balniel, Lord Cary, Sir Robert Emmet, Hon. Mrs. Evelyn
Barber, Anthony Channon, Sir Henry Errington, Sir Eric
Barlow, Sir John Chichester-Clark, R. Erroll, F. J.
Barter, John Clarke, Brig. Terence (Portsmth, W.) Farey-Jones F. W.
Baxter, Sir Beverley Cole, Norman Fell, A.
Beamish, Col. Tufton Conant, Maj. Sir Roger Fisher, Nigel
Bell, Philip (Bolton, E.) Cooke, Robert Fletcher-Cooke, C.
Bell, Ronald (Bucks, S.) Cooper, A. E. Forrest, G.
Bennett, F. M. (Torquay) Cooper-Key, E. M. Foster, John
Bennett, Dr. Reginald Cordeaux, Lt. Col. J. K. Fraser, Hon. Hugh (Stone)
Bevins, J. R. (Toxteth) Corfield, Capt. F. V. Fraser, Sir Ian (M'cmbe & Lonsdale)
Bidgood, J. C. Craddock, Beresford (Spelthorne) Freeth, Denzil
Biggs-Davison, J. A. Crosthwaite-Eyre, Col. O. E. Galbraith, Hon. T. G. D.
Bingham, R. M. Crowder, Sir John (Finchley) Gammans, Lady
Birch, Rt. Hon. Nigel Crowder, Petre (Ruislip—Northwood) Garner-Evans, E. H.
Bishop, F. P. Cunningham, Knox George, J. C. (Pollok)
Black, C. W. Currie, G. B. H. Gibson-Watt, D.
Body, R. F. Dance, J. C. G. Glover, D.
Boothby, Sir Robert Davidson, Viscountess Glyn, Col. R.
Godber, J. B. Lambton, Viscount Prior-Palmer, Brig. O. L.
Gomme-Duncan, Col. Sir Alan Lancaster, Col. C. G. Profumo, J. D.
Goodhart, Philip Langford-Holt, J. A. Ramsden, J. E.
Gough, C. F. H. Leather, E. H. C. Rawlinson, Peter
Gower, H. R. Leavey, J. A. Redmayne, M.
Graham, Sir Fergus Leburn, W. G. Rees-Davies, W. R.
Grant, W. (Woodside) Legge-Bourke, Maj. E. A. H. Remnant, Hon. P.
Grant-Ferris, Wg Cdr. R. (Nantwich) Legh, Hon. Peter (Petersfield) Renton, D. L. M.
Green, A. Lindsay, Hon. James (Devon, N.) Ridsdale, J. E.
Gresham Cooke, R. Linstead, Sir H. N. Rippon, A. G. F.
Grimston, Hon. John (St. Albans) Llewellyn, D. T. Robertson, Sir David
Grimston, Sir Robert (Westbury) Lloyd,Rt.Hon.G.(Sutton Coldfield) Robinson, Sir Roland (Blackpool, S.)
Grosvenor, Lt.-Col. R. G. Lloyd, Maj. Sir Guy (Renfrew, E.) Robson Brown, Sir William
Gurden, Harold Lloyd, Rt. Hon. Selwyn (Wirral) Rodgers, John (Sevenoaks)
Hall, John (Wycombe) Longden, Gilbert Roper, Sir Harold
Hare, Rt. Hon. J. H. Low, Rt. Hon. A. R. W. Ropner, Col. Sir Leonard
Harris, Frederic (Croydon, N.W.) Lucas, Sir Jocelyn (Portsmouth, S.) Sandys, Rt. Hon. D.
Harris, Reader (Heston) Lucas,P.B.(Brentford & Chiswick) Scott-Miller, Cmdr. R.
Harrison, A. B. C. (Maldon) Lucas-Tooth, Sir Hugh Sharples, R. C.
Harrison, Col. J. H. (Eye) McAdden, S. J. Shepherd, William
Harvey, Sir Arthur Vere (Macclesfd) Macdonald, Sir Peter Simon, J. E. S. (Middlesbrough, W.)
Harvey, Ian (Harrow, E.) McKibbin, A. J. Smithers, Peter (Winchester)
Harvey, John (Walthamstow, E.) Maclay, Rt. Hon. John Smyth, Brig, sir John (Norwood)
Harvie-Watt, Sir George Maclean, Sir Fitzroy (Lancaster) Soames, Christopher
Hay, John Macleod, Rt. Hn. Iain (Enfield, W.) Spearman, Sir Alexander
Heald, Rt. Hon. Sir Lionel MacLeod, John (Ross & Cromarty) Speir, R. M.
Henderson, John (Cathcart) Macmillan,Rt.Hn.Harold(Bromley) Spence, H. R. (Aberdeen, W.)
Henderson-Stewart, Sir James Macmillan, Maurice (Halifax) Spens, Rt. Hn. Sir P. (Kens'gt'n, S.)
Hesketh, R. F. Macpherson, Niall (Dumfries) Stanley, Capt. Hon. Richard
Hicks-Beach, Maj. W. W. Maddan, Martin Stevens, Geoffrey
Hill, Rt. Hon. Charles (Luton) Maitland,Cdr.J.F.W.(Horncastle) Steward, Harold (Stockport, S.)
Hill, Mrs. E. (Wythenshawe) Maitland, Hon. Patrick (Lanark) Steward, Sir William (Woolwich. W.)
Hill, John (S. Norfolk) Markham, Major Sir Frank Stoddart-Scott, Col. Sir Malcolm
Hirst, Geoffrey Marlowe, A. A. H. Storey, S.
Hobson, John(Warwick & Leam'gt'n) Marples, Rt. Hon. A. E. Stuart, Rt. Hon. James (Moray)
Holland-Martin, C. J. Marshall, Douglas Studholme, Sir Henry
Hope, Lord John Mathew, R. Summers, Sir Spencer
Hornby, R. P. Maude, Angus Sumner, W. D. M. (Orpington)
Hornsby-Smith, Miss M. P. Maudling, Rt. Hon. R. Taylor, Sir Charles (Easthourne)
Horobin, Sir Ian Mawby, R. L. Taylor, William (Bradford, N.)
Horsbrugh, Rt. Hon. Dame Florence Maydon, Lt.-Comdr. S. L. C. Teeling, W.
Howard, Gerald (Cambridgeshire) Medlicott, Sir Frank Temple, John M.
Howard, Hon. Greville (St. Ives) Milligan, Rt. Hon. W. R. Thomas, Leslie (Canterbury)
Howard, John (Test) Molson, Rt. Hon. Hugh Thompson, Kenneth (Walton)
Hughes Hallett, Vice-Admiral J. Moore, Sir Thomas Thompson, Lt.-Cdr.R.(Croydon, S.)
Hughes-Young, M. H. C. Mott-Radclyffe, Sir Charles Thorneycroft, Rt. Hon. P.
Hulbert, Sir Norman Nabarro, G. D. N. Thorn[...]on-Kemsley, Sir Colin
Hurd, A. R. Neave, Airey Tiley, A. (Bradford, W.)
Hutchison,SirIanClark(E'b'gh, W.) Nicholls, Harmar Tilney, John (Wavertree)
Hutchison, Sir James (Scotstoun) Nicholson, Sir Godfrey (Farnham) Turton, Rt. Hon. R. H.
Hutchison,MichaelClark(E'b'gh, S.) Nicolson, N. (B'n'm'th, E. & Chr'ch) Tweedsmuir, Lady
Hylton-Foster, Rt. Hon. Sir Harry Noble, Comdr. Rt. Hon. Allan Vane, W. M. F.
Iremonger, T. L. Nugent, G. R. H. Vickers, Miss Joan
Irvine, Bryant Godman (Rye) O'Neill, Hn. Phelim (Co. Antrim, N.) Vosper, Rt. Hon. D. F.
Jenkins, Robert (Dulwich) Ormsby-Gore, Rt. Hon. W. D. Wakefield, Edward (Derbyshire, W.)
Jennings, J. C. (Burton) Orr, Capt. L. P. S. Wakefield, Sir Wavell (St. M'lebone)
Jennings, Sir Roland (Hallam) Orr-Ewing, Charles Ian (Hendon, N.) Walker-Smith, Rt. Hon. Derek
Johnson, Dr. Donald (Carlisle) Orr-Ewing, Sir Ian (Weston-S-Mare) Wall, Patrick
Johnson, Eric (Blackley) Osborne, C. Ward, Rt. Hon. G. R. (Worcester)
Johnson, Howard (Kemptown) Page, R. G. Ward, Dame Irene (Tynemouth)
Jones, Rt. Hon. Aubrey (Hall Green) Pannell, N. A. (Kirkdale) Watkinson, Rt. Hon. Harold
Joseph, Sir Keith Partridge, E. Webbe, Sir H.
Joynson-Hicks, Hon. Sir Lancelot Peel, W. J. Whitelaw, W. S. I.
Kaberry, D. Peyton, J. W. W. Williams, Paul (Sunderland, S.)
Keegan, D. Pike, Miss Mervyn Williams, R. Dudley (Exeter)
Kerby, Capt. H. B. Pilkington, Capt. R. A. Wills, G. (Bridgwater)
Kerr, Sir Hamilton Pitman, I. J. Wilson, Geoffrey (Truro)
Kershaw, J. A. Pitt, Miss E. M. Wood, Hon. R.
Kimball, M. Pott, H. P. Woollam, John Victor
Kirk, P. M. Powell, J. Enoch
Lagden, G. W. Price, David (Eastleigh) TELLERS FOR THE AYES:
Mr. Heath and Mr. Oakshott.
Ainsley, J. W. Bence, C. R. (Dunbartonshire, E.) Bowden, H. W. (Leicester, S.W.)
Allaun, Frank (Salford, E.) Benn, Hn. Wedgwood (Bristol, S.E.) Bowles, F. G.
Allen, Arthur (Bosworth) Benson, Sir George Boyd, T. C.
Allen, Scholefield (Crewe) Beswick, Frank Braddock, Mrs. Elizabeth
Anderson, Frank Bevan, Rt. Hon. A. (Ebbw Vale) Brockway, A. F.
Awbery, S. S. Blackburn, F. Brown, Rt. Hon. George (Belper)
Bacon, Miss Alice Blenkinsop, A. Brown, Thomas (Ince)
Baird, J. Blyton, W. R. Burke, W. A.
Balfour, A. Boardman, H. Burton, Miss F. E.
Bellenger, Rt. Hon. F. J. Bottomley, Rt. Hon. A. G. Butler, Herbert (Hackney, C.)
Butler, Mrs. Joyce (Wood Green) Irving, Sydney (Dartford) Price, Philips (Gloucestershire, W.)
Callaghan, L. J. Isaacs, Rt. Hon. G. A. Probert, A. R.
Carmichael, J. Janner, B. Proctor, W. T.
Castle, Mrs. B. A. Jay, Rt. Hon. D. P. T. Pursey, Cmdr. H.
Champion, A. J. Jeger, George (Goole) Randall, H. E.
Chapman, W. D. Jeger,Mrs.Lena(Holborn&St.Pncs,S.) Rankin, John
Chetwynd, G. R. Jenkins, Roy (Stechford) Redhead, E. C.
Coldrick, W. Johnson, James (Rugby) Reeves, J.
Collins, V. J. (Shoreditch & Finsbury) Jones, Rt. Hon. A. Creech (Wakefield) Reed, William
Corbet, Mrs. Freda Jones, David (The Hartlepools) Rhodes, H.
Cove, W. G. Jones, Jack (Rotherham) Robens, Rt. Hon. A.
Craddock, George (Bradford, S.) Jones, J. Idwal (Wrexham) Roberts, Albert (Normanton)
Cronin, J. D. Jones, T. w. (Merioneth) Roberts, Goronwy (Caernarvon)
Crossman, R. H. S. Kenyon, C. Robinson, Kenneth (St. Pancras, N.)
Cullen, Mrs. A. Key, Rt. Hon. C. W. Rogers, George (Kensington, N.)
Dalton, Rt. Hon. H. King, Dr. H. M. Ross, William
Darling, George (Hillsborough) Lee, Frederick (Newton) Royle, C.
Davies, Ernest (Enfield, E.) Lee, Miss Jennie (Cannock) Shinwell, Rt. Hon. E.
Davies, Harold (Leek) Lever, Harold (Cheetham) Shurmer, P. L. E.
Davies, Stephen (Merthyr) Lindgren, G. S. Silverman, Julius (Aston)
Deer, G. Lipton, Marcus Sllverman, Sydney (Nelson)
de Freitas, Geoffrey Logan, D. G. Simmons, C. J. (Brierley Hill)
Diamond, John Mabon, Dr. J. Dickson Skeffington, A. M.
Dodds, N. N. McCann, J. Slater, Mrs. H. (Stoke, N.)
Donnelly, D. L. MacColl, J. E. Slater, J. (Sedgefield)
Dugdale Rt. Hn. John (W. Brmwch) MacDermot, Niall Snow, J. W.
Dye, S. McGhee, H. G. Sorensen, R. W.
Ede, Rt. Hon. J. c. McGovern, J. Soskice, Rt. Hon. Sir Frank
Edelman, M. McKay, John (Wallsend) Sparks, J. A.
Edwards, Rt. Hon. (Brighouse) McLeavy, Frank Steele, T.
Edwards, Rt. Hon. Ness (Caerphilly) MacMillan, M. K. (Western Isles) Stewart, Michael (Fulham)
Edwards, W. J. (Stepney) MacPherson, Malcolm (Stirling) Stonehouse, John
Evans, Albert (Islington, S.W.) Mahon, Simon Strachey, Rt. Hon. J.
Evans, Edward (Lowestoft) Mainwaring, W. H. Stross, Dr. Barnett (Stoke-on-Trent,C.)
Fernyhough, E. Mallalieu, E. L. (Brigg) Summerskill, Rt. Hon. E.
Finch, H. J. Mallalieu, J.P.W.(Huddersfd.E.) Swingler, S. T.
Fletcher, Eric Mann, Mrs, Jean. Sylvester, G. O.
Foot, D. M. Mason, Roy Taylor, Bernard (Mansfield)
Fraser, Thomas (Hamilton) Mayhew, C. P. Taylor, John (West Lothian)
Gaitskell, Rt. Hon. H. T. N. Mellish, R. J. Thomas, George (Cardiff)
George, Lady Megan Lloyd (Car'then) Messer, Sir F. Thomas, Iorwerth (Rhondda, W.)
Gibson, C. W. Mitchison, G. R. Thomson, George (Dundee, E.)
Gooch, E. G. Monslow, W, Timmons, J.
Gordon Walker, Rt. Hon. P. C. Moody, A. S. Tomney, F.
Greenwood, Anthony Morris, Percy (Swansea, W.) Ungoed-Thomas, Sir Lynn
Grenfell, Rt. Hon. D. R. Morrison, Rt. Hn. Herbert (Lewis'm,S.) Usborne, H. C.
Grey, C. F. Mort, D. L. Viant, S. P.
Griffiths, David (Rother Valley) Moss, R. Warbey, W. N.
Griffiths, Rt. Hon. James (Llanelly) Moyle, A. Watkins, T. E.
Griffiths, William (Exchange) Mulley, F. W. Weitzman, D.
Hale, Leslie Neal, Harold (Bolsover) Wells, Percy (Faversham)
Hall, Rt. Hn. Glenvil (Colne Valley) Noel-Baker, Francis (Swindon) Wells, William (Walsall, N.)
Hannan, W. Noel-Baker, Rt. Hon. P. (Derby, S.) West, D. G.
Harrison, J. (Nottingham, N.) O'Brien, Sir Thomas Wheeldon, W. E.
Hastings, S. Oliver, G. H. White, Mrs. Eirene (E. Flint)
Hayman, F. H. Oram, A. E. Wigg, George
Healey, Denis Oswald, T. Wilcock, Group Capt. C. A. B.
Henderson, Rt. Hn. A. (Rwly Regis) Owen, W. J. Wilkins, W. A.
Herbison, Miss M. Padley, W. E, Willey, Frederick
Hewitson, Capt. M. Paget, R. T. Williams, David (Neath)
Hobson, C. R. (Keighley) Paling, Rt. Hon. W. (Dearne Valley) Williams, Rev. Llywelyn (Ab'tillery)
Holman, P. Palmer, A. M. F. Williams, Ronald (Wigan)
Holmes, Horace Pannell, Charles (Leeds, W.) Williams, Rt. Hon. T. (Don Valley)
Houghton, Douglas Pargiter, G. A. Williams, W. R. (Openshaw)
Howell, Charles (Perry Barr) Parker, J. Willis, Eustace (Edinburgh, E.)
Howell, Denis (All Saints) Parkin, B. T. Winterbottom, Richard
Hughes, Cledwyn (Anglesey) Paton, John Woodburn, Rt. Hon. A.
Hughes, Emrys (S. Ayrshire) Pearson, A. Woof, R. E.
Hughes, Hector (Aberdeen, N.) Peart, T. F. Yates, V. (Ladywood)
Hunter, A. E. Pentland, N. Zilliacus, K.
Hynd, H. (Accrington) Plummer, Sir Leslie
Hynd, J. B. (Attercliffe) Prentice, R. E. TELLERS FOR THE NOES:
Irvine, A. J. (Edge Hill) Price, J. T. (Westhoughton) Mr. Popplewell and Mr. Short.

Main Question, as amended, put and agreed to.


"That this House congratulates Her Majesty's Government upon the rapid expansion of house building achieved in the past six years which has rendered a measure of decontrol possible; reaffirms its belief that the Rent Act, 1957, will make a valuable contribution to the nation's housing needs, by securing better maintenance of the nation's stock of houses and by bringing into use accommodation which because of rent restriction has remained under-occupied; and maintains its support for Her Majesty's Government in all measures necessary to achieve these ends in a fair and reasonable manner."