HC Deb 06 May 1958 vol 587 cc1129-47

  1. (1) Where a rating authority is satisfied that the owner of any hereditament which has become unoccupied within their area is without reasonable cause allowing that hereditament to remain unoccupied, they may, after giving to such owner notice in writing of their intention to do so, levy upon him, in respect of the period commencing on such date as may be specified in the notice (not being earlier than three months from the date of the notice) and ending on the date on which the hereditament ceases to be unoccupied, a charge of an amount equal to such proportion (not exceeding twenty-five per cent.) as may be so specified of the rates which would have been payable for the said period in respect of the hereditament by an occupier thereof.
  2. (2) Where the owner of any hereditament is aggrieved by the decision of a rating authority to levy any charge upon him in pursuance of the foregoing subsection he may, not later than one month from the date of the notice sent to him under that subsection by such authority, appeal to quarter sessions against the said decision and a court of quarter sessions shall have power to confirm, vary or annul the decision of the authority, and their decision shall be final.
  3. (3) In any case where in pursuance of this section a charge is being levied on the owner 1130 of any hereditament and such owner is of opinion that that hereditament is no longer being allowed to remain unoccupied without reasonable cause, he may apply to quarter sessions to annul the decision of the rating authority in pursuance of which the charge is being levied as aforesaid and, if a court of quarter sessions is satisfied that the hereditament is no longer being allowed to remain unoccupied without reasonable cause, the court shall annul such decision as from the end of the year then current; and the decision of a court of quarter sessions on any application made in pursuance of this subsection shall be final.
  4. (4) A charge under this section shall be leviable and recoverable as if it were a rate and shall be treated as money paid as rates.
  5. (5) This section shall not apply in the case of a hereditament—
    1. (a) in relation to which a building preservation order under section twenty-nine of the Town and Country Planning Act, 1947, is in force, or which is included in any list compiled or approved by the Minister under section thirty of that Act; or
    2. (b) which is the subject of a preservation order under the Ancient Monuments Acts, 1913 to 1953, or which is included in any list published by the Minister of Works under the said Acts.—[Mr. Mitchison.]

Brought up, and read the First time.

Mr. Mitchison

I beg to move, That the Clause be read a Second time.

The Clause represents a belated attempt to get some measure of equality between England and Scotland. The position, so far as Parliamentary history goes, is that after the usual heated proceedings in the Scottish Standing Committee the Valuation and Rating (Scotland) Bill came to the House on recommittal on 27th June, 1956, when the Secretary of State for Scotland moved what now appears in that Statute as Section 17, and there was considerable discussion about it. It differs from the Clause now proposed in only two respects.

The first is the obvious one that, being a Scottish Clause, questions of appeal and so on went to the sheriff, whereas in England—where our sheriffs do not perform the same functions—appeals on matters of this sort usually go to quarter sessions. The second is concerned with the question of timing, which I shall mention in a moment. Subject to those two points, the wording is copied from that Section of the Scottish Act.

I am going to call a hereditament a house, for a change. No doubt the word covers other kinds of property, but "house" is a short word. If the owner of a house has left it unoccupied and the local authority considers that he has done so without reasonable cause, it may give him notice and then levy on him a charge by way of a rate from a date specified in the notice, and after an interval of at least three months. The Section in the Scottish Act provides for a longer period of six months, and the change in the time has been made since the Committee stage, when we discussed a similar Clause, because the view was expressed by my hon. Friends that, in all the circumstances, while six months might be suitable for Scotland it was too long for English purposes. There is a corresponding alteration in the date of an appeal, which is a quite minor matter, and the charge is not to be the whole rate which would have been leviable but only one-quarter.

Subsection (2) allows an appeal not later than one month from the date of the notice, and the Scottish version is six weeks. It is an appeal to quarter sessions, which can— confirm, vary or annul the decision". It is a complete appeal, and again, when the charge by way of rates is actually being levied and the owner considers that it is no longer the case that the house is unoccupied without reasonable cause, there is another right of appeal to quarter sessions. Again, if the course is satisfied that it is no longer unoccupied without reasonable cause, it can— confirm, vary or annul the decision". There is an exception in the case of houses about which building preservation orders have been made, or preservation orders under the Ancient Monuments Act, and in similar exceptional cases.

The object of the new Clause is to ensure that the owners of these unoccupied houses do not entirely escape rate liability, and, as a matter of justice, I would suggest that that is right in itself but that it is also right that they should not pay the full rates. No doubt, as long as the house is unoccupied, the owners do not get the full benefit of the local authority's services, but that, as we have said in this Committee during the discussion on an earlier Clause, is not really the right criterion. The services have to go on, and they will get the benefit of them when the house is occupied again, and some, at any rate, of these services will be useful, even in relation to an unoccupied house, such as, for instance, the police and fire services and so on.

There is a broader point. If there is any doubt about the matter, I suggest that we should lean towards discouraging owners from leaving houses unoccupied without any reasonable cause. The owner can always say that he has a reasonable cause and that he is not satisfied with the authority's view of the matter. One can think of many cases where, even for three months, houses may be left empty with reasonable cause, but it is much easier to think of cases where houses are left empty without any reasonable cause.

The kind of case I have in mind is not in relation to houses so much as to flats. Everybody knows that the housing situation in London at the moment is very difficult indeed and that as a result of the changes introduced by the Rent Act—and I am not putting this as controversially as it could be put—there are distinct inducements for owners of large blocks of flats to turn out a number of tenants at the time and in the way in which they are now allowed to do and to let the flats for a more profitable purpose, perhaps furnished, perhaps on seasonal lets and so on.

In the course of the debate the other day, I mentioned the case in which a large block of flats was in fact being used in this way and people were being turned out. Some of them were incapable of being turned out, and so they had to stay there. It was intended in that case to use the flats for American visitors. I make no particular complaint about that. It might be for any other profitable letting purpose, but one of the features of that case, though I did not mention it at the time, was that a considerable number of these flats had been deliberately left unoccupied, because, at the beginning of the process, tenant A and tenant B were turned out and their flats remained empty until finally tenant Z came to be turned out.

It may be said that that is reasonable. Personally I do not regard it as reasonable, in view of the London housing situation at present, and certainly I would regard it as not in any sense right or reasonable if the owner sticks out for so much money by way of rent that he never succeeds in getting the flats reoccupied. That is what is happening, not only in relation to rent, but in relation to sales, too.

It is unreasonable, and I believe it will seem to the Committee and to the Parliamentary Secretary wholly unreasonable, that people should leave houses unoccupied for long periods when there is a housing shortage, simply because they want to sell and the price they are asking is so much above what anybody is prepared to pay that they do not succeed in selling. If they are taking a gamble of that sort, it is an unreasonable gamble at the expense of the general housing situation. It is a gamble at the expense of many people in London who can find nowhere to live.

This is not intended to be a punitive Clause. It aims at getting a reasonable contribution to local authority expenses in the case of unoccupied houses. It is one on which the Committee should look kindly, because it will discourage landlords from doing the kind of thing I have described. Landlords do it, not for any vain reason. The reason is simple; they are trying to get too much money. In big towns it is hard enough that there are between 1 million and 2 million people for whom we can find no housing in those towns. We cannot neglect the opportunity of giving a small push in the right direction to owners of unoccupied houses where the vacancy is prolonged without reasonable cause, even though that is not the only purpose of the proposed new Clause.

As a matter of abstract justice, it is fair that owners of unoccupied houses should make a contribution to the rates. What is fair in Scotland is probably fair in England. If we are told that there is a difference between the two countries and that what is fair in Scotland is unfair in England I have no doubt that the Parliamentary Secretary will clear up the distinction in morals, circumstances, colour, complexion, religion or nationality, which justifies that distinction. He may say that that is not the real distinction, which was that the Secretary of State for Scotland was such a forcible character at the time—he had been the Tory Chief Whip for quite a period—that he succeeded in getting through the higher ranges of this Govern- ment something which his right hon. Friend the English Minister could not possibly have managed to get through, even if he had believed in it. The Parliamentary Secretary will not say it quite in that form; however, it will come out.

The second reason is that the social effect and the social justice of the Clause are clearly so good that I do not think the hon. Gentleman will object to it for one moment. I hope that the Tory Party is not unduly wedded to landlords' interests. I have a crack at them occasionally, and some of my hon. Friends have many more cracks. I am sure that the hon. Gentleman will realise that if he says that it is wholly reasonable that owners should leave houses and flats unoccupied for long periods in an overcrowded metropolis he may simply be inviting a degree of savagery in those attacks which so far has not appeared. I would not suggest that my hon. Friends will throw their boots at him, but that would be the sort of way to provoke it.

8.45 p.m.

Mr. Wheeldon

I support what my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Kettering (Mr. Mitchison) has said. In Birmingham we are concerned with the problem of empty properties. It is not an easy problem to overcome, but I think the Government might at least agree to do something along the lines suggested in the new Clause.

There are one or two points which might be stressed. There is the question of the services rendered by the local authority to the owners. Whether the property is occupied or unoccupied, services such as fire, water, health and cleansing still operate in respect of them, and it seems just that the landlord should make a contribution towards their cost. The amount suggested in the Clause is a modest one. Indeed, the Clause is in its entirety modest.

In Birmingham we have about 700 houses which have remained unoccupied for six months or more. Besides the loss in rateable value, there is the loss in respect of housing to persons on the council's waiting list. Many people have been on the list for a number of years and are becoming frustrated. Citizens come to me asking why certain houses should remain unoccupied and whether I can do something about it. They see houses standing empty for three, six or even twelve months. If we can do something to bring the empty houses into occupation we shall be rendering a useful service to many people on local authority waiting lists.

The Clause is reasonable in all respects. It says that the local authority must show reasonable cause before taking action. After it has decided to act, it must give three months' notice to the owner. Finally, the owner has a right of appeal to the court. These proposals are reasonable and ought to be accepted by the Committee. We ought to take every possible step here and elsewhere to reduce the number of empty houses.

What has been done in Scotland is a good precedent. I appreciate that the Parliamentary Secretary may reply that in Scotland the rating law, like other laws, is different from that in England. Nevertheless, in this respect we should be wise to follow Scotland's lead. My hon. and learned Friend pointed out that the proposal was brought forward by a Scottish Minister, and I think the Parliamentary Secretary might follow that lead and thus give very useful help to many people on local authority housing lists.

Mr. Bevins

I entirely agree with the hon. and learned Member for Kettering (Mr. Mitchison) and the hon. Member for Birmingham, Small Heath (Mr. Wheeldon) that it is undesirable, especially at the present time, that there should be a considerable number of houses or flats left vacant for considerable periods. I do not think there is any dispute on that. Where I am not convinced personally, nor is my right hon. Friend, is that the proposal put forward by the hon. and learned Member would achieve anything worth while. That is my difficulty. Perhaps in a moment or two I might explain in a little detail why I take that view.

May I first, as quickly as I can, get rid of the argument of the Scots precedent. We had a discussion on this aspect of the matter in Standing Committee and I resist the temptation to go over the ground again. Perhaps it will suffice if I say that in England and Wales we have never had the tradition of owners' rates. The tradition has always been quite different and owners as such have never been rated. Although this provision was imported into the Scottish Measure, it has not been utilised by any local authority in Scotland. That may well be an indication of the value or lack of value of the provision.

Nobody can dispute the hon. Member's argument that from a moral point of view there may be a case for asking the owners of unoccupied property to make some contribution to local rates. It is true that the owners of unoccupied property derive some benefits from the existence of the police force, the fire service and, perhaps, the local water undertaking, for example, but, as I ventured to remark in an earlier debate this afternoon, it would be unfortunate if we were to start, in this or any other matter, trying to relate liability for rates to services enjoyed by individual ratepayers. I will leave the point there, having conceded that morally I think the hon. Member is right.

What worries me is the operation of this provision from a practical point of view. I invite the Committee to consider it from two points of view. I have here the publication of the Institute of Municipal Treasurers and Accountants, which gives the amounts of irrecoverable rates arising from empty properties in England and Wales. What do these statistics show? They show that by and large the amounts of rates irrecoverable in 1956–57 because properties which are empty are not rateable varied a good deal from area to area. Looking at these figures, which have not been totalled, I see that the average works out at about 1½ per cent. In the hon. and learned Member's constituency it is 1.06 per cent. and in Birmingham it is 1.33 per cent. It is a mistake to assume, however, that this new Clause would enable the rating authority in Birmingham, for instance, to recover the whole of the 1.33 per cent.

Mr. Mitchison

Has the hon. Member no more recent figures? The figures he has given are before the Rent Act, which has caused a great disturbance in London and other large towns. I am not putting that in a contentious way, but I think the hon. Member will recognise it as a fact. He must approach this in relation to the present housing situation.

Mr. Bevins

It may well be that in certain parts of the country the number is higher than it was in 1956.57, but if the hon. and learned Member will be good enough to follow me, as I know he will, he will see that even if the figures today are substantially higher than in 1956.57 it would still not be a worthwhile operation from the point of view of the local authorities. I was taking the case of Birmingham——

Mr. Sparks

Can the hon. Gentleman give any indication of the financial implications of the percentages he has quoted? I assume that they are related to hereditaments and not to the financial implications. Can he convert them into financial terms?

Mr. Bevins

I think the hon. Gentleman has misunderstood me. What I said was that the amount of the rates which were irrecoverable in this particular year, because the properties were not rateable because they were empty, varied from area to area, and in the city of Birmingham the percentage of irrecoverable rates through voids was 1.33 per cent. I think that is the answer to the hon. Gentleman.

Mr. Wheeldon

I do not think it is. Does not the Parliamentary Secretary realise that that 1.33 is a 3d. rate? In millions of pounds of rates is not it worth while?

Mr. Bevins

Of course it is worth while. If it were a 3d. or 6d. rate in the £ I think that I should be prepared to be on the side of the advocates of this new Clause, but what I am trying to explain to the Committee is that it is not a matter of a 6d. rate or a 3d. rate. It is something which is really quite negligible.

I think the mistake which is being made by some of the supporters of the new Clause is that, although in this case I have cited the percentage of the irrecoverable rates through vacant properties is 1.33 per cent., this new Clause would not enable the rating authority to recover anything like that amount—I think the hon. Gentleman will see that—because, of course, some of the properties are vacant for relatively short periods. Quite a number, for example, will be vacant for periods of less than three months. In that case this new Clause would have no effect whatever on the rates received by the rating authority. There will be other houses vacant for longer periods than three months which would not be rateable for at least the first three months. Many of them would not be rateable at all because there was reasonable cause for their being vacant; that is to say, if the owner of the house has a house which is vacant for three months and then lets it or sells it, this new Clause would not bite at all.

If in the second class of case it is vacant for three months, when the local authority goes to the owner and makes a demand for rates, the owner may say it was vacant with reasonable cause Again the local authority would lose its entitlement to rates, even though the house remained empty. What is more, for those that were rated, assuming they were empty because of some unreasonable cause, even in the residue of cases, a rate of only 25 per cent. of the total rate would be applied by virtue of this Clause.

I therefore suggest to the Committee that the cumulative effect of these factors, which, I agree, are reasonable within the context of empty property, would be that whereas the treasurers' booklet shows that the irrecoverable rates a couple of years ago were perhaps 1½ per cent. for the country as a whole, that amount would probably be whittled down, because of the provisions of this new Clause, to about one-third or one-quarter of that amount. If that were to happen, and I seriously suggest to the Committee that would be the end result of this operation, then I do not think the gain would be worth the candle to the local authorities, and I have a shrewd suspicion that the reason why the comparable provisions are not being operated in Scotland is that the local authorities realise the operation is not worth while.

Mr. Wheeldon

Does the Parliamentary Secretary realise what an excellent case he has made for a strengthening of the new Clause? He has suggested in effect what I suggested in the first place in the Standing Committee—that we were far too modest in proposing an Amendment or a new Clause like this. What the hon. Gentleman is arguing now is that the three months' period is too long for the owners, and secondly that we should be much more vigorous. Would he, therefore, be prepared to support in another place a suitable Amendment?

9.0 p.m.

Mr. Bevins

The hon. Member is quite wrong. When he says what he has said he emphasises the dilemma of those supporting this new Clause. There is no dispute between us on the moral issue. The dispute arises as to whether it is worth while at all to embark on this operation. When I say I do not think it is, the hon. Member says that I am implying that the new Clause should go further, reduce the three months' time limit, and perhaps impose a rate imposition of 50 per cent. to 75 per cent. I think that would be most unreasonable.

To illustrate the case from another angle, I will look at it from the point of view of the hon. and learned Member for Kettering. He argued very reasonably that one effect of a Clause of this sort would be to induce owners of empty flats and houses, especially in a time of relative scarcity, to let or sell and thereby to help towards a solution of our housing difficulties. When we were discussing this matter in Standing Committee, I gave an example of the sort of thing which might happen. I hope I may be forgiven for giving a similar sort of case within the structure of the new Clause.

Take the commonplace case of an individual who owns a house with, say, a rateable value of £50. He wants to sell it and thinks it is worth £3,000. He gets offers of £2,600 or £2,700 and decides that, as the house is worth £3,000, he will wait. He waits for a period of three months. During that period he is under no rating liability now and would not be under the new Clause. Suppose that at the end of the three months he has still not sold his house or flat. He might allow the matter to drag out for a further six months, which is a good average case in favour of the new Clause. If the local authority could establish that he was being unreasonable by neither selling nor letting, he would be liable for a payment of rates for the six months which followed the first three months' period of exemption from rates.

Assuming that the rate poundage was 20s. in the £ on a house with an average rateable value of £50, his liability for rates for a period of nine months' unoccupancy, a payment for six months as provided for by the Clause, would amount to the princely sum of £8 5s. I just do not believe that any individual who is holding out for a higher rent is likely to be deterred by a rating position or penalty of that sort. Much as I would hope that it might be possible to contrive some method of achieving the aim the hon. and learned Member has in mind, I just do not see how this Clause would achieve it. I do not see how it is possible to achieve it without being grossly unfair to the owners of unoccupied property.

Mr. Mitchison

It is very difficult to get it right with this Government. We produced an Amendment a little time ago which they said was not stiff enough. It was an educational question about providing a minimum in relation to the weighted population. So we stiffened it by ten times on the figures they gave us. Then they would not take that. This time we had that sort of criticism in the Committee and we were a hit more moderate. We reduced the six months to three months but we are still told that does not really make it worthwhile.

If that is the only difficulty, let us reduce it a bit further, because at the end of the day the owner has, in the opinion of the local authority, to be acting unreasonably, and if he differs from that opinion he has a right of appeal when the local authority makes its original decision, and a continuing right of appeal afterwards. Therefore, he is well safeguarded. If the hon. Gentleman said, "Having regard to that safeguard about unreasonableness, I say that three months is unnecessarily long, let us make it one month", I would not mind that.

I go one further step with the hon. Gentleman. He says to me "It will not have a very large effect." Of course, the more we stiffen it up the more effect it will have. I never put it forward as having a large effect, but I suggest that it is wrong, when considering contributions to the solution of housing difficulties, to dismiss any contribution because it is only a little one. It is well worth making, and I am afraid that I do not take that argument too seriously.

The next question is the total amount. I hope that I understood the hon. Gentleman correctly that the average "voids", as I think they are called, over the whole country is about 1 per cent. of the rateable value——

Mr. Bevins

It is 1½ per cent.

Mr. Mitchison

This is for 1956–57, when the rateable value of all hereditaments amounted to £572 million and a bit. Surely, 1½ per cent. of that is worth having. If the hon. Gentleman made me a present of it, I would not mind at all——

Mr. Bevins

That is precisely the point I was making. Of course, 1½ per cent. of that global total is well worth having, but the serious question is: can we contrive any system that is fair to the occupiers of property and will get us even a very small fraction of that amount?

Mr. Mitchison

This is quite fair to the occupiers of property. I did not understand that to be denied. In fact, the hon. Gentleman was saying that I was being much too fair to them, giving them too long, and so on; that they had too many rights of appeal. This is all a matter of judgment, and I think that we can trust the Government, if stiffening up the Clause against property owners, not to stiffen it up too far. I would not have thought that there was any real difficulty about this at all. I did what I thought was reasonable, but perhaps I was guided a little too much by Scottish example. I am told that the Scots have always rated empty property, and I am told that the new Clause introduced by the Government has not been used much only because it has been in operation for just a short time, but that it was and is desired by all the Scottish local authorities—and the Government introduced it.

I know that Glasgow is different, but, apart from Glasgow, the housing difficulties in the really big towns in England beat anything in either country, and surely the contribution to their financial difficulties and those of other local authorities should not lightly be neglected. I agree that it is a question of how much in time and, if the hon. Gentleman likes, in percentage. I should be perfectly happy were the hon. Gentleman or his right hon. Friend to say: "We do not think you have gone far enough. We want to make it stiffer—say 50 per cent."

There has, however, been no denial at all that these houses, taken as buildings, benefit from local authority services. There has been no suggestion that it is not perfectly just that some payment should be made for those services; no suggestion that the new Clause is unfair to occupiers. I say that it is wholly and completely wrong that the Government should reject it on the very flimsy ground, with respect to him, that the hon. Gentle- man put forward just now, and I hope that my hon. Friends will support the new Clause in the Division Lobby.

Mr. Sparks

I ask the hon. Gentleman to accept the Amendment on the basis of the case which he made in opposing it. First, he said that, if the Amendment were carried, the amounts to be recovered by local authorities would be so small that they really would not bother about doing it. Very well; let it be put in the Bill in permissive form. They may wish to use it, but, if they do not, why withhold the opportunity from them? Next, the hon. Gentleman referred to the fact that there would not be much in it for local authorities, perhaps about 1d. rate, he said. A 1d. rate in my constituency means over £6,000. We should be very pleased to receive it, if it were made possible under the Bill.

While it is true that, in some areas, the amount of property void through non-habitation may be very small, in the larger, built-up areas, especially as a result of the working of the Rent Act, there is, remarkable though it may seem, quite a fair number of houses which are empty for quite a long time. The Parliamentary Secretary admits the morality of our case; on moral grounds, he says, it is justified. He admits himself that, although a house may be unoccupied, it does receive the benefit of all the appropriate services for which other ratepayers must pay. I can see no reason whatever why the owner, if he wants to keep his house empty in order to sell it at the figure he wants, should not make a contribution towards the services which he is enjoying although making no contribution towards them.

It is not a sufficient argument to say that there is not very much in it and the local authorities would not bother about collecting it. That is not an argument for rejecting the Amendment. Let the local authorities have power to levy a rate on unoccupied dwellings. I ask for that strictly on the ground that the owner of a house is enjoying the benefit of services, towards which he himself is not contributing, which assist him to obtain what he regards as a satisfactory price for the house when he sells it. If the theory is that the longer he can keep the house empty—for nine or twelve months rather than six—the better off he will be, that is all the more reason for saying that he should make a contribution out of the increased price which he will receive for the house by keeping it for so long and enjoying the benefit of the local authority services for that time.

The case has already been made for the Amendment and the Minister's objection is very flimsy indeed. Unless he has a stronger case than he has so far put forward, he ought to accept it without more ado.

Mr. Barnett Janner (Leicester, North-West)

I should like to apologise, first, to the Minister for not having been present when he replied to the debate, but I have gathered from the remarks passed by my hon. Friends what the gist of his reply was.

I am deeply concerned about this matter. The Minister has made great play of the fact that the provisions he is now introducing for release from rent control mean that there will be an opportunity for people to obtain housing accommodation. If he is to be consistent at all, he must obviously do all he can to see to it that houses which are empty shall be available for those evicted in consequence of his actions through the provisions of the Rent Act. This is an old problem. The original suggestion of the single tax, which has come up time after time in the course of my experience in the House, contained within in it the idea that a house should not be kept empty when there was some opportunity for it to be used.

Nobody in his senses would suggest that there is sufficient accommodation available to enable houses to be kept empty. A landlord does not keep his house empty because there is no one to fill it. On the contrary, plenty of people would take the house if it were available for letting. For what purpose does the landlord keep it empty? The answer is, to try to get the highest price that he can for it with vacant possession. That is precisely what the Minister says he does not want. The Minister's argument is that everybody should use their houses to the best possible advantage of the people who require accommodation. Yet he does not take a simple step to compel people who have houses to let them because it would not pay them to keep them empty.

9.15 p.m.

The Minister ought to think once again if he opposes this proposed new Clause because he is taking an illogical action. It is no good saying that there is a small number of houses which are empty. We were told when the Rent Bill was under discussion that the reason why there were so many empty houses was because it did not pay the landlords to let them at the rentals prevailing before the passing of the 1957 Act and because of that houses were going to waste, falling into disrepair, and so on. The picture at that time was that there was a large number of empty houses.

I gather from what I have heard since I have been in the House this evening that we are now told that there is not a large number of these houses. If that is so, very few people will complain about this proposal, which is important for the purpose of getting those houses occupied. If there is a large number of empty houses, this proposal will obviously do a good turn by enabling people to occupy them.

I cannot understand the Minister refusing a suggestion of this sort, which would at least make possibly tens of thousands or hundreds of thousands of houses available for occupation instead of having to turn people on to the streets, which will happen, in spite of the new attempt to try to remedy the mistake by the Bill that we are now discussing in Committee. Many thousands of people will still not have the opportunity of protection under that Bill. The question is: where are they to go? The councils cannot take them. They cannot buy the houses. There will be empty houses which it will be possible to occupy, but the Minister merely turns his head and says that it does not matter—I nearly said something which might not have been Parliamentary language—[HON. MEMBERS: "Say it."] All right; I am prepared to say it. It does not matter a damn to him or to anybody else. That will not do, because if the Minister is genuine in his desire to provide accommodation or to make accommodation available, he has no alternative but to change his mind about this Amendment.

Question put, That the Clause be read a Second time:—

The Committee divided: Ayes 177, Noes 213.

Division No. 112.] AYES [9.20 p.m
Ainsley, J. W. Griffiths, Rt. Hon. James (Llanelly) Palmer, A. M. F.
Albu, A. H. Grimond, J. Pannell, Charles (Leeds, W.)
Allen, Scholefield (Crewe) Hall, Rt. Hn. Glenvil (Colne Valley) Pargiter, G. A.
Awbery, S. S. Hamilton, W. W. Parker, J.
Bacon, Miss Alice Harman, W. Paton, John
Balfour, A. Harrison, J. (Nottingham, N.) Pentland, N.
Bellenger, Rt. Hon. F. J. Hastings, S. Popplewell, E.
Bence, C. R. (Dunbartonshire, E.) Hayman, F. H. Prentice, R. E.
Benson, Sir George Hewitson, Capt. M. Price, J. T. (Westhoughton)
Beswick, Frank Hobson, C. R. (Keighley) Price, Philips (Gloucestershire, W.)
Bevan, Rt. Hon. A. (Ebbw Vale) Holman, P. Probert, A. R.
Blackburn, F. Houghton, Douglas Proctor, W. T.
Boardman, H. Howell, Charles (Perry Barr) Pryde, D. J.
Bottomley, Rt. Hon. A. G. Hoy, J. H. Randall, H. E.
Bowden, H. W. (Leicester, S.W.) Hughes, Cledwyn (Anglesey) Rankin, John
Bowen, E. R. (Cardigan) Hughes, Emrys (S. Ayrshire) Redhead, E. C.
Bowles, F. G. Hughes, Hector (Aberdeen, N.) Roberts, Albert (Normanton)
Brockway, A. F. Hunter, A. E. Roberts, Goronwy (Caernarvon)
Brown, Rt. Hon. George (Belper) Hynd, J. B. (Attercliffe) Robinson, Kenneth (St. Pancras, N.)
Brown, Thomas (Ince) Irvine, A. J. (Edge Hill) Rogers, George (Kensington, N.)
Burke, W. A. Irving, Sydney (Dartford) Ross, William
Burton, Miss F. E. Janner, B. Short, E. W.
Butler, Herbert (Hackney, C.) Jeger, George (Goole) Silverman, Julius (Aston)
Butler, Mrs. Joyce (Wood Green) Jenkins, Roy (Stechford) Slater, Mrs. H. (Stoke, N.)
Callaghan, L. J. Johnson, James (Rugby) Slater, J. (Sedgefield)
Castle, Mrs. B. A. Jones, Rt. Hon. A.Creech(Wakefield) Snow, J. W.
Chetwynd, G. R. Jones, Elwyn (W. Ham, S.) Sorensen, R. W.
Clunie, J. Jones, Jack (Rotherham) Soskice, Rt. Hon. Sir Frank
Coldrick, W. Jones, J. Idwal (Wrexham) Sparks, J. A.
Collick, P. H. (Birkenhead) Jones, T. W. (Merioneth) Steele, T.
Collins, V. J. (Shoreditch & Finsbury) Kenyon, C. Stewart, Michael (Fulham)
Corbet, Mrs. Freda Key, Rt. Hon. C. W. Stonehouse, John
Cove, W. G. King, Dr. H. M. Stones, W. (Consett)
Craddock, George (Bradford, S.) Lawson, G. M. Stross,Dr.Barnett(Stoke-on-Trent,C.)
Cronin, J. D. Lee, Frederick (Newton) Sylvester, G. O.
Crossman, R. H. S. Lee, Miss Jennie (Cannock) Taylor, Bernard (Mansfield)
Cullen, Mrs. A. Lewis, Arthur Thomas, George (Cardiff)
Darling, George (Hillsborough) Logan, D. G. Thomson, George (Dundee, E.)
Davies, Stephen (Merthyr) McAlister, Mrs. Mary Thornton, E.
Deer, G. McGhee, H. G. Timmons, J.
de Freitas, Geoffrey McKay, John (Wallsend) Ungoed-Thomas, Sir Lynn
Delargy, H. J. McLeavy, Frank Viant, S. P.
Diamond, John MacPherson, Malcolm (Stirling) Wade, D. W.
Donnelly, D. L. Mahon, Simon Watkins, T. E.
Dye, S. Mainwaring, W. H. Weitzman, D.
Ede, Rt. Hon. J. C. Mallalieu, J. P. W. (Huddersfd, E.) Wells, William (Walsall, N.)
Edwards, Rt. Hon. John (Brighouse) Mann, Mrs. Jean West, D. G.
Edwards, R. Hon. Ness (Caerphilly) Marquand, Rt. Hon. H. A. Wheeldon, W. E.
Edwards, Robert (Bilston) Mitchison, G. R. Willey, Frederick
Edwards, W. J. (Stepney) Moody, A. S. Williams, David (Neath)
Evans, Edward (Lowestoft) Morris, Percy (Swansea, W.) Williams, Rev. Llywelyn (Ab'tillery)
Finch, H. J. Morrison,Rt.Hn.Herbert(Lewis'm,S.) Williams, Rt. Hon. T. (Don Valley)
Fletcher, Eric Moyle, A. Willis, Eustace (Edinburgh, E.)
Forman, J. C. Mulley, F. W. Winterbottom, Richard
Fraser, Thomas (Hamilton) Noel-Baker, Rt. Hon. P. (Derby, S.) Woodburn, Rt. Hon. A.
Gibson, C. W. O'Brien, Sir Thomas Woof, R. E.
Gordon Walker, Rt. Hon. P. C. Oliver, G. H. Yates, V. (Ladywood)
Grenfell, Rt. Hon. D. R. Orbach, M.
Grey, C. F. Padley, W. E. TELLERS FOR THE AYES:
Griffiths, David (Rother Valley) Paling, Rt. Hon. W. (Dearne Valley) Mr. Pearson and Mr. Simmons.
Agnew, Sir Peter Bingham, R. M. Conant, Maj. Sir Roger
Aitken, W. T. Birch, Rt. Hon. Nigel Cooke, Robert
Alport, C. J. M. Bishop, F. P. Cooper, A. E.
Arbuthnot, John Body, R. F. Cordeaux, Lt.-Col. J. K.
Armstrong, C. W. Boyd-Carpenter, Rt. Hon. J. A. Corfield, Capt. F. V.
Atkins, H. E. Boyle, Sir Edward Craddock, Beresford (Spelthorne)
Baldwin, A. E. Bromley-Davenport, Lt.-Col. W. H. Crosthwaite-Eyre, col. A. E.
Balniel, Lord Brooke, Rt. Hon. Henry Crowder, Sir John (Finchley)
Barlow, Sir John Brooman-White, R. C. Cunningham, Knox
Barter, John Browne, J. Nixon (Craigton) Dance, J. C. G.
Baxter, Sir Beverley Burden, F. F. A. Davidson, Viscountess
Beamish, Col. Tufton Butcher, Sir Herbert D'Avigdor-Coldsmid, Sir Henry
Bell, Philip (Bolton, E.) Butler, Rt. Hn. R. A. (Saffron Walden) Digby, Simon Wingfield
Bell, Ronald (Bucks, S.) Carr, Robert Doughty, C. J. A.
Bennett, F. M. (Torquay) Cary, Sir Robert du Cann, E. D. L.
Bevins, J. R. (Toxteth) Channon, Sir Henry Dugdale, Rt. Hn. John (W. Brmwch)
Bidgood, J. C. Chichester-Clark, R. Duncan, Sir James