HC Deb 13 March 1958 vol 584 cc606-8
45. Mr. Prentice

asked the Prime Minister what recent representations he has received from hon. Members relating to the hardships which will result if there is no amendment of the Rent Act; and what assurances he has given to those who made them.

49. Mr. Lipton

asked the Prime Minister how many representations he has received from hon. Members relating to evictions under the Rent Act 1957.

The Prime Minister (Mr. Harold Macmillan)

As I said last Thursday, I would prefer to keep the tradition, which I think the right one, of not discussing in public private communications which I receive from both sides of the House.

Mr. Prentice

While we are glad to see the Prime Minister in the House today, may I ask him whether he will acknowledge that this is the third time in less than a fortnight that he has evaded a direct reply—he and the Lord Privy Seal—to Questions on this point? Surely when a large number of his supporters have made representations to him on a matter of great public importance—[HON. MEMBERS: "Question."]—was it not rather a poor excuse to suggest that this was purely private correspondence?

The Prime Minister

It is very important to preserve the tradition that communications of this kind from the other side of the House shall be regarded as private, because they are a very valuable part of our procedure. I doubt whether the Leader of the Opposition would like to make a statement on representations, let us say on the question of defence, that he may have received.

Mr. Lipton

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that, however much he tries to ignore or minimise hostility to the Rent Act, the public conscience will not tolerate the spectacle next October of British refugees made homeless in their native land? Even if it means cracking the stony heart of the Minister of Housing beforehand, the public just will not tolerate that.

The Prime Minister

That is a speech which the hon. Gentleman should have made, and perhaps did make, in the debate that we had on Monday, 3rd March.

Mr. J. Griffiths

Has the Prime Minister's attention been called to the public representations made by one of his hon. Friends that this country would not forgive a Government that put people out of their homes?

The Prime Minister

All sorts of statements are made and I pay the greatest regard to them.

Mr. Gaitskell

Is not the Prime Minister aware that the Minister of Housing himself has expressed anxiety about the possible hardships resulting from this Act and given a warning to landlords that if they do not behave properly the Government will bring in fresh legislation? May I ask the Prime Minister whether the Government will make up their mind on this point, and whether he will give us an assurance that the matter will be considered urgently, with a view to legislation in the present Session?

The Prime Minister

All that matter was fully discussed only a few days ago. I have nothing to add to it. On reflection, I am sure that what I have said will be of benefit to both sides. Private communications should be possible without their being revealed in public.

Mr. Langford-Holt

Is not it a fact that those who write to Prime Ministers from time to time, from whatever party they may come, would deplore any departure on the part of my right hon. Friend from the normal practice?