HC Deb 11 March 1959 vol 601 cc1265-85

Amendment proposed: In page 5, line 12, at the beginning to insert: Subject to the provisions of section Applications for standard grant at instance of tenants (England and Wales)) of this Act"—[Mr. Mitchison.]

Question again proposed, That those words be there inserted.

3.48 p.m.

Mr. B. T. Parkin (Paddington, North)

I was encouraged by the time taken by the Parliamentary Secretary, in his speech on this Amendment on 4th March, to hope to lay before him and the Minister one or two more considerations which he might bear in mind when trying to find, as we were led to hope he would, a formula which could be incorporated in the Bill, perhaps, in another place. I hope that the Parliamentary Secretary and the Minister have not been too much deterred by the onslaught upon them by the hon. Member for Crosby (Mr. Page) and what he called an essential principle of this Amendment.

The hon. Member for Crosby spoke of the difficulties of small landlords, but he spoke in such a way as to provoke the indignation of some of my hon. Friends, who pointed out that in many of these cases it is not a small landlord at all but a large financial organisation which is responsible for the ownership and maintenance of houses which may be the subject of these grants. None the less, I hope that the Minister will bear in mind that the problem of the small landlord is a serious problem. Indeed, it is one of the most intractable problems in houses let under private ownership.

Most people must be aware of isolated instances in which two or three houses are owned by one elderly person who has no other resources. This is a phenomenon which crops up more frequently in some parts of the country than in others. It crops up where the ownership of houses has been part of the pattern of working-class savings and perhaps part of the pattern of saving for retirement by small traders and small professional people. The problem becomes acute when, perhaps late in the life of the legatee for whom these savings were intended to make provision, it no longer becomes possible—or apparently so—for the legatee to find the necessary resources to keep these houses in repair. This is a commonly understood problem.

I should like to say a word in support of another character—the honest estate agent. I refer here, in particular, to the estate agent who is often left to manage these pitifully small estates, who is constantly being asked by the tenants to carry out some highly desirable repairs but who always has to say that he will have a "word with the old lady" when he knows perfectly well that there is no money available for the work and that the amount which he can allow for maintenance when he makes his quarterly settlement is pitifully small.

We must all be aware that we need some machinery to inject the necessary extra capital in order to carry out these repairs, but I think that the Minister has that in his hands already. The Parliamentary Secretary said that there might be some difficulty in recovering the money, but I observe that the Minister has been most careful in drawing up Clause 12, which makes provision for the rent of a dwelling to be increased after such an improvement, and that he has paid attention to the fact that there is a new situation following the coming into operation of the Rent Act. It is laid down in Clause 12 that if it appears to the local authority reasonable so to do, having regard to all the circumstances and, in particular, to the rents payable for similar dwellings in their area with respect to which no limit or condition is imposed by the Rent Act, 1957, or the Act of 1958, they may, on approving the application, fix such higher rent for those purposes as they think reasonable. That assumes that there will be a stabilised fair rent in the new circumstances which will be easily assessed by the local authority. I have always supposed that the provisions for increasing the rents were calculated on an arithmetical basis which allowed for the repayment over a period of years of the money invested in the improvement. I am sure that, in general, that is the principle and that it could be applied in this case.

I should like the Minister to realise that although this may be small it is, nevertheless, an important aspect of the problem, that it is a long-standing problem with which we are all well acquainted but that there is a new situation as a result of the decontrolled rents which gives him an opportunity to look at the matter again and to consider whether the local authority, in putting up the money, would be able to recover it through the machinery of the increased rent in the same way as it already recovers it where it carries out repairs under orders made after an inspection by a sanitary inspector.

That would be an immense help for the managing agent whom I have mentioned. At present, he can only ask the landlord whether he would mind carrying out the improvements, whereas if the Amendment were carried there would be a legal obligation, if it were so framed, and the agent could explain to the landlord that the improvements would be carried out through the medium of the increased rent.

The hon. Member for Crosby said that these were not necessities, but only amenities, but what is an amenity in one case is often a necessity in another case. What is an amenity in one case may be the kind of improvement which would make the difference in an overcrowded tenement between life being tolerable and life being not tolerable. May I give an example which came to my notice in Paddington? It concerned an old lady living in two rooms at the top of a tenement house. As she grew older she found it more and more onerous to go downstairs—true it was only nine stairs—to fetch water. She did not know how much longer she would be able to do this without help, and she applied to the landlord to extend the water supply up the nine steps so that she could continue to live in those two rooms. She had no desire to leave and to occupy another flat. Her furniture was not abundant, but it was large and was best left where it was.

I passed that case to a Conservative alderman of Paddington Borough Council who I knew took a very close interest in the problem of rehousing old people. I offered it to him as the kind of riddle which ought to be capable of a solution. I know that he took it very seriously. He saw the old lady, the landlord and the local authority, but apparently there was no way of carrying out that simple addition to the amenities by carrying a water pipe up nine steps. Under the provisions suggested in the Amendment that kind of thing could easily be done.

I suggest to the Minister that if the provisions of the Amendment extend the machinery through which the local authority can assist in improving the amenities of old houses they will fill what is at present a very serious gap concerning a type of house to which I hope the Minister will be able to pay attention. I refer to the house which has been scheduled under town planning schemes or included in a slum clearance plan which is not to be carried out immediately but which is dated for five, ten or fifteen years' time.

There are cases in which the fundamental reconstruction of a house or the extensive repair to walls and roofs or chimneys, or the inclusion of new damp courses, would be out of the question without demolition or would be inordinately expensive. In any case, the local authorities might run themselves into the legal difficulty that if a house is made habitable up to proper standards, when the time comes to acquire it the owner has to be paid compensation at market value instead of site value. This is beginning to be a very serious problem in some parts of London.

4.0 p.m.

I glanced at an evening paper before coming into the debate, and I saw a headline which says that, as part of the search for a missing person, the police are making a search of 500 empty houses in Paddington. There ought not to be 500 empty houses in Paddington, of course. There is something wrong with the process by which this designation and clearance system works.

I have another example which I intended to ask the Minister to investigate. It arose from a fire which took place in my constituency about a fortnight ago, at No. 1, Amberley Road, Paddington. This is a classic example of the sort of house which many people consider ought to have been pulled down many years ago. It is part of a plan, and it is said that the property is to be demolished and the houses rebuilt in four or five years' time.

In the meantime, things are happening which ought not to happen, and I think that if the provisions of this Amendment were carried into effect there might be a means by which the local authority could still help in making life at least tolerable in these houses in the slum clearance areas, and without committing the local authority to reconstructing them completely and putting itself into a position in which it would have to pay high compensation.

As a result of the fire at No. 1, Amberley Road, a fortnight ago, one life was lost on the top floor. A young woman was asphyxiated. The fire was caused by a child turning over an oil stove on the ground floor. In all probability, there is no other way of heating that house, because the chimneys—and I have had examples of this in other houses in the same street—are in such a bad state that smoke comes out into the living rooms of the houses next door. I am submitting that some improvements, even the inclusion of gas or electric fires which could be paid for out of the rent fund during these few remaining years of the lease, would be well worth considering in order to make life tolerable, and would also be safer, because nobody comes very well out of this matter.

At the inquest, the coroner asked the fire brigade officer whether he had anything to say to the public, and, reading between the lines, one could sense the embarrassment of the fire brigade officer, who did not know what to say. I know that he knows that smoke comes from that house into the house next door, and I also know that following the fire there was an investigation to find out the cause of a second alarm which the fire brigade received. It was thought that the first fire was still burning. Some of the tenants in No. 2 called the fire brigade again, and the brigade found that the smoke was not coming from the house where the fire had occurred, but was coming through from No. 3, the house on the other side, where a coal fire had been lighted in the fireplace, and from which smoke came through the cracked walls into No. 2.

These are the sort of houses which a few years ago were held on leases by small owners, to whom the hon. Member for Crosby referred. They are characters like "old Annie", who was quite well known in the road for her habit of hoarding waste paper and rubbish and the way in which she managed her house in her own way. She has now disappeared, and someone has been selling the freeholds of these houses at some astonishing prices. When there were about ten years to go on the lease, the leases were being sold for £100 or £200, but I now find that these houses are selling at £700, £800 or £900 each.

I am not quite certain what is being sold, but the Grand Junction Canal Company is selling them through a firm of estate agents, Messrs. Hooper & Jackson. No. 1 was sold to a West Indian for £700, but what was sold I am not sure. Whether they sold the freeholds with a sort of "go ahead" on the understanding that the leaseholder was not to be found, and that the head lessee had disappeared, and, therefore, they had a very good case to make whatever use of the house they could during the period between the sale and the demolition under the slum clearance order, I do not know, but I take it that it is something like that.

The lessee has disappeared and also the head lessee. The Grand Junction Canal Company is now selling the freeholds, and somebody is getting far too much money for them. They are now emerging in the ownership of people who are not always without substance. One of the houses is owned by a perfectly respectable hotel keeper, who has done his best by redecoration and improvements of the installations to make the houses habitable, for the very sensible reason that, although he takes rather high rents from his tenants, he does want them to stay. He does not want them to disappear in a few weeks, which is increasingly the kind of thing which happens in these ruined and condemned areas.

It is clear that where people buy these houses for occupation themselves, or where they buy Them to rent, they often try very sincerely to improve the decorations and make it possible for people to live decently in the houses, but there is a big gap in legislation in the powers of the local authorities, and this gap ought to be filled. I hope that the Minister will take this opportunity to look at this problem between now and the time when he will decide what he can do about the principle of the Amendments.

I am sure that this problem is likely to get rather worse during the period between now and the time when these slum clearances are completed in the London area. This is a situation out of which nobody comes with any particular credit, either the freeholders, the local authorities or the planners. It seems to be a situation in which a decision has been made that slum clearance will take place at some date in the future which is not very precisely specified, and everybody walks by on the other side, saying that this is a matter about which they can do nothing. Yet it is a problem which could be solved. It has reached a state where people's lives have been in danger. I would not appeal too emotionally, but I would press on the Minister soberly the fact that this is one aspect of a complicated problem which I think he will be able to look at again and perhaps find a solution on the lines suggested in the Amendment.

Mr. G. R. Mitchison (Kettering)

The object of this Amendment is to enable tenants to get standard amenities, as they are called, into their houses, and to recover the cost from the immediate landlord or from the owners of the houses.

The Parliamentary Secretary was good enough to say that we must not conclude that his right hon. Friend the Minister had any objection whatever to it in principle, and he then proceeded to raise other objections, which led him to the conclusion that it was unworkable. I am glad to say that the Clause was, apparently, clear enough. The first objection was the impecunious landlord, whose appearance I had expected.

What we have to consider first is the relation between these two parts of the Bill, and when this was put to the Parliamentary Secretary his answer was to suggest that the building societies would not make advances. He said: I do not think that the building societies would make advances for these old houses—the two-up and two-down—in the class of case that we are discussing, that is to say, the small tenanted houses let mainly at a controlled rent."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 4th March, 1959; Vol. 601, c. 506.] One would assume from that that the building society provisions under the earlier part of the Bill were not intended to apply to that type of case—the small, older house let at a controlled rent, but, when the right hon. Gentleman was introducing the Bill on Second Reading he seems to me to have said the opposite. After referring to the £1,800 house, he said: He need not spend nearly as much as this, because outside London, at any rate, there are good sound houses, built before 1919, available at £1,000 or under, which will be within the reach of almost anyone who really wants to own his house. If it is one of the older houses, by the Bill the Government are seeing to it that the building societies will no longer say, as they constantly have to say now, 'Sorry, we have not got enough money to meet all demands'. The right hon. Gentleman also said: The Government are rendering their new Measures to encourage house ownership still more attractive by linking them with facilities for improving the houses and by putting in requirements which everybody nowadays accepts should be part of any house."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 15th December. 1958: Vol. 597, c. 796–7.] It is, apparently, intended that the building society advances should be towards the purchase of small, old houses. Presumably, if a building society will advance for the purchase of such a house it will also advance for its improvement. Indeed, to call it an improvement is rather an exaggeration.

I adopt what the Minister said, that these are things that … everyone now accepts … should be part of any house. Today we are considering what is the right course if the landlord says that he cannot afford to put in the improvements. My first answer is that I do not accept the proposition that one cannot get an advance from a building society, but, if one does get it, what is the conclusion? Does one leave the house indefinitely in a condition in which it should not be—and which the Bill is intended to remedy—simply because the landlord cannot pay for the improvements?

Nothing could illustrate better the difference of attitude towards landlords adopted by the two sides of the Committee. Our view is that to be a landlord nowadays entails responsibility; that those responsibilities go beyond receiving rent, and that if a landlord cannot keep his house in decent condition and put in those things that everybody admits should be part of a house, he had better sell it and, the tenant remaining there, pass it on to someone who can afford to do it.

Right hon. and hon. Members opposite know very well that I do not regard that as a final solution. If the houses are owned by landlords who cannot afford to put them in decent condition the sooner those properties go to the municipality the better. That is why we advocate the municipalising of these rent-controlled houses. For the purposes of the Bill, however, we could not go so far as that, because t can see no reason why the building societies should not advance the money.

Let us look at the tenant's position. If the tenant puts up the money, as he would have to in the first place, he has to get it out of the landlord. He will not take the chance of not getting it out of the landlord if he knows that the landlord cannot, in fact, afford it. There is another aspect of the tenant's position. He will not ask for these improvements unless he really wants them, because he knows quite well that these improvements will result in an increase in rent. We must regard the tenant as being a sensible person.

We all know that there are tenants all over the country who do work on houses that they are under no contract obligation to do. They maintain them when the landlord should be doing so. They effect improvements—those necessary things of which we are talking today—that the landlord should effect. It is absurd to provide that the landlord should be able to act in that way, and not to give the tenant any right to get it done. We can trust the tenant not to spend his own money on it if he cannot afford it, and if he knows—or even suspects—that the landlord cannot pay.

4.15 p.m.

The second objection was that as the tenant's consent has to be obtained for a standard improvement put in by the landlord we should get the landlord's consent before the tenant is allowed to ask for it. That is a monstrous proposition. The tenant is the man who is living there. It is he who has to use the bath, the hot water supply and the rest. Why should he get those things that form part of every house—to refer to what the right hon. Gentleman said—only when the landlord allows him?

Where are we getting in the relations that concern people's homes? By every social right, at any rate, the tenant is entitled to get this done. It is quite reasonable to leave it to the tenant to omit to claim in cases where he knows that the landlord cannot pay, and will not sell—if there are many such cases, and I doubt it—and, in all other cases to get the money back from the owner of the property who is to benefit by an increased rent and, if he chooses to sell later, by an increased purchase price.

For that reason, we on this side think that the new Clause not only has the good intention which the Parliamentary Secretary was good enough to attribute to it; is not only—as I understand from the passage I have quoted—unobjectionable in principle, but is also perfectly workable in practice, and that the result will be to get done a number of improvements that landlords, at present, simply do not choose to do.

Not all landlords are models of virtue. I have never said that they were all models of vice, but they are not all models of virtue, and many of them prefer to treat the investment that, from their point of view, the house represents, as something into which they will not put more money. In those cases, the result is that the house does not get modernised even to this very limited extent, and the tenant suffers. Social justice entitles us to say that our proposition should be accepted. There is nothing substantially wrong with it, and every ground of moral justice, good sense or the improvement of the stock of houses supports it.

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

I am sorry that the debate on this group of Amendments and new Clauses was interrupted a week ago, because, as my hon. Friend the Parliamentary Secretary said then, this is an interesting proposal, and one that deserves serious consideration by the Committee. On that occasion I listened to the speeches with interest, and I have done so again today.

The hon. Member for Paddington, North (Mr. Parkin) clearly supports these proposals strongly, though I thought that his speech went considerably beyond them, as he appeared to have in mind houses that were under threat of demolition within five or ten years on either slum clearance or planning grounds; whereas he will recollect that Clause 5 lays down that the standard grant will be given only where the local authority is satisfied that the house is not unfit for human habitation, and is likely to remain in that condition, and available for use as a dwelling, for a period of not less than fifteen years.

Further, it is the standard grant to which these new Clauses apply, and the standard grant system does not extend to such things as putting in electric or gas fires, and other items to which he referred—

Mr. Parkin

What I had in mind in suggesting to the Minister that there was a gap in the Bill was that these rules about the house having so many years of life remaining, and the rest, should be based upon a reasonable length of time over which the money invested would be recovered. What I suggest now is that, in view of the provisions the right hon. Gentleman himself has made in the Bill for consideration of market values of houses at present decontrolled, it is possible to consider a certain amount of amenity expenditure that would be recovered, with the consent and good will of the tenant, over a very short period of years.

Mr. Brooke

That may well be, but it does not appear to me to arise on the Amendment or on the new Clause. The standard grant scheme is based on the principle that the house will have fifteen years' life in it. I must address myself to that issue.

The approach of the Government in the drafting and preparation of the Bill was that we should seek to provide for speeding up the provision of standard amenities, by way of the new standard grant, on a basis of agreement. The Government accepted that that should be done where it was agreed between the landlord and the tenant that it was needed. The Government accepted an Amendment from the other side of the Committee to ensure that the tenant was in agreement, though we had argued that it would not be possible for the work to be done unless the tenant agreed, because the landlord would be unlikely to obtain entry.

Nevertheless, we accepted that Amendment and it appeared to us that the whole of the Committee was at one in wishing to put on record that this scheme was to proceed by way of agreement and not otherwise. Now we have to address ourselves to the Opposition's new Clause, which was included in the recommittal Motion on 4th March and which presumes disagreement and seeks to provide a system of compulsion: not compulsion on the tenant—that has been ruled out by hon. Members on the other side of the Committee through their Amendment—but compulsion on the landlord if he and the tenant do not agree.

The hon. and learned Member for Kettering (Mr. Mitchison) said that the landlord had every incentive to agree. He has an incentive. In the great majority of cases, if the tenant wants such an improvement made and indicates that to the landlord, then if it is practicable, the landlord will, when the Bill is on the Statute Book, apply for and obtain the standard grant and put the work in hand.

That is our approach. We have been seeking in the Bill to secure that, where there is that agreement and where the house can be improved by means of a standard grant, the carrying out of the work will be facilitated. As I have said repeatedly, our main object is to have the houses improved.

It seems to the Government to be important, and I suggest that it is important to the Committee also, to distinguish between the object which the new Clause seeks to secure and the method by which the object is to be achieved. The object is quite simple and, to my mind, wholly acceptable. It is to secure that as many rented houses as possible will be improved with the benefit of these grants for standard improvements. There cannot be any quarrel whatever about the desirability of that. I am quite sure that hon. Members on both sides of the Committee wish to see that work going forward on the fullest scale.

When we come to examine the method which is proposed in the new Clause, in the Government's view we get on to much less sure ground. In a somewhat complicated fashion, though I do not complain of that, the Clause seeks to introduce an element of compulsion on landlords in order to force the carrying out of improvements. That is what the Opposition are asking the Committee to accept, and that is a view which the Government feel that they must resist.

We need to ask ourselves two questions. First, we need to ask whether it is right to introduce this element of compulsion. Secondly, we need to ask ourselves whether it is necessary. As to whether it is right, it is not a question of arguing whether it is desirable that as many houses as possible should be provided with bathrooms. We have to decide how we regard these improvements. We have to decide whether we look at them as facilities and amenities which it is highly desirable to see provided in every house, or whether they are to be regarded as essential requirements which every house must have.

It is important to be clear in our minds about what the second view would imply, because it would mean in effect setting a new standard of housing fitness. If Parliament accepted the new Clause it would be saying that all houses must be equipped with standard improvements if they are to provide an acceptable standard of accommodation.

Mr. Mitchison

Why not? Has the right hon. Gentleman forgotten his own words which I quoted, that these are … requirements which everybody nowadays accepts should be part of any house."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 15th December, 1958; Vol. 597, c. 797.]

Mr. Brooke

That is what I am saying. These improvements are desirable. This is the ideal which the country should strive to achieve. I am certain that all lion. Members on both sides of the Committee will welcome the day when these facilities and amenities are provided in every house. It would be a major change if we were now to accept this as a kind of minimum statutory standard. After all, if it is to apply, why should it apply to rented houses only? Why is not Par-lament saying that every house must have these facilities?

Mr. Mitchison

Why not?

Mr. Brooke

Why is not Parliament saying that every house which does not include these facilities must be considered unfit for human habitation? That, however, is not what the Clause says. The Clause is designed to bring pressure to bear on the landlord of rented property, and on the landlord of rented property only. I am arguing that, if we are to accept that principle, Parliament should go further and exert the same kind of compulsion on all owners of houses, instead of singling out some.

Mr. Albert Evans (Islington, South-West)

Surely there is a distinction between a house with a life of fifteen years or more and other houses? We are not saying that this should apply to all houses. We are saying that it should apply to a sound house with a life of fifteen years.

Mr. Brooke

I think that the hon. Member for Paddington, North was applying it to houses which had a life of less than fifteen years. I was drawing the distinction between rented houses and the others. If Parliament is to set up what would be a totally new standard of acceptable accommodation, it must give much more fundamental consideration to it and not introduce it by the side wind of a new Clause on the House Purchase and Housing Bill.

Mr. Mitchison

Before the right hon. Gentleman leaves that point, he is drawing a distinction between owner-occupied and tenanted houses. What the Clause is about is the tenant obliging the landlord to have improvements put in when the tenant wants them. If an owner-occupier wants improvements, he will not find much difficulty in persuading himself as the owner to make them.

Mr. Brooke

The hon. and learned Member for Kettering does not appear to realise that the only principle upon which one could make the change would be the acceptance by Parliament that all houses must have these facilities and amenities. If one does not accept that, there is no case for imposing compulsion on one group of owners. The question of what should be the overall standard of housing accommodation cannot be considered and settled on a limited Bill of this kind, which is dealing simply with standard improvements.

So far, I have been speaking on grounds of principle. Now I will speak in terms of practical difficulty. As has been pointed out by other hon. Members, quite clearly the Clause would not work unless provision were made for some form of appeal. There would need to be a provision whereby a landlord who thought he had good reason for not doing the work, even though the house would last for fifteen years, should be able to go before some kind of tribunal and state his case. He might be able to improve some houses which he owned, but not others. There is no provision for that in the Clause.

The proposition on which the Clause is based is that a tenant can come along at any time and force a landlord to put standard improvements into his house, or that all the tenants can come at the same time. Regardless of the fact that the landlord might be willing to make a start but could not do all the work simultaneously, under the Clause he would have no protection whatever against the demand that it should be done simultaneously in all his properties.

4.30 p.m.

Further, as has also been said, and as I think the hon. and learned Gentleman himself recognises, some means would have to be found for ensuring that the landlord who had to do the work could have access to the money, because there must be, and undoubtedly there are, many landlords who could not afford to pay their share of the work—certainly not for all the houses that are suggested.

Mr. Mitchison

They ought not to be landlords.

Mr. Brooke

it is all very well for the hon. and learned Gentleman to say that they ought not to be landlords. Many people are in this position because of the totally unjust Rent Restrictions Acts which have operated for so long.

The hon. and learned Gentleman suggested that it would be quite easy to solve this problem of finding the money because the landlords could go to the building societies which would provide the money. I think that he has made a genuine mistake here. He may be quite genuinely unaware that in the agreement of which we spoke in connection with the earlier Clauses building societies are agreeing to advance that part of the cost of the improvement which the owner will have to meet in the case where an owner-occupier has himself started to buy the house through an advance from a building society.

Indeed, if I may refer the hon. and learned Gentleman to the White Paper, the last paragraph reads: If a mortagor who is purchasing his house under this scheme improves it with the aid of a `standard improvement' grant within two years of the completion of the purchase, the Building Society will lend him the money to pay his share of the cost of the improvements … subject to various provisions which are set out.

I am bound to tell the hon. and learned Gentleman that there is nothing either in this Bill or in the agreement which has been reached with the building societies that will compel a building society to advance the owner's share of the cost of the standard improvement regardless of whether or not the owner is engaged in buying the house with mortgage advances from that society. These are complex matters which would have to be thought out with much greater care than is intended in this Amendment if, at some time, Parliament were disposed to make a change of this kind. They cannot be dealt with on a side wind in the present Bill.

Earlier in the discussion on this Amendment, a week ago, the Parliamentary Secretary used words to indicate that I was not necessarily hostile to the principle underlying this new Clause. What he said was entirely correct. It does not mean, as my hon. Friend the Member for Crosby (Mr. Page) seems to have inferred, that I necessarily accept the whole principle of the Clause. That would take me much further than I would be prepared to go, at all events at this stage.

The Government do not take the view that this is the occasion for introducing, through a new Clause in this Bill, major changes in the conception previously held of what is a habitable dwelling. It is upon that that the case for compulsion must basically rest. What we have to do is to work towards a general improvement in standards wherever we can, but we ought not to force a step like that universally without taking account of all its implications. Certainly, the Government would not be well disposed to making that change in the present Bill, which rests on the conception of encouragement and not of compulsion.

The second question which was asked a few minutes ago was whether this introduction of compulsion is necessary. That, obviously, rests with the future. I am quite sure that at present there is so much that can be done by agreement that there is no need here and now to introduce the principle of compulsion. I do not share the view of those who assume, without evidence, that the standard improvements will not be carried out by landlords unless they are under a threat of compulsion.

Under this Bill, in fact, owners of houses are given new opportunities of improving their houses. They can now look forward to receiving standard grants as of right, which they never could before. They can make their plans with a much greater degree of certainty. They also have a larger incentive to take advantage of these new standard grants, now that the conditions to be observed are, in the Bill, being made less onerous and restrictive than they were before.

The fact is that owners of house property are being offered by the Bill a new deal, and we ought to give that new deal a fair trial so that we can find out

what results it will achieve. My own belief is that its results will be far-reaching. I have always believed—and I should have thought that this was the general opinion of Parliament—that one should proceed as far as possible on a basis of incentive and agreement and not on a basis of compulsion. Not unless and until it can be shown that proceeding by way of incentive and agreement will not solve this problem could the Government advise Parliament to introduce, as we think unnecessarily, the element of compulsion which the new Clause contains.

Mr. Mitchison

The right hon. Gentleman has three or four times referred to the element of compulsion. Compulsion in cases of this kind rests equally on the tenants who have to live in these old, out-moded houses because under the policy of the present Government they cannot find anywhere better to live.

Mr. E. G. Willis (Edinburgh, East)

A shocking answer from the Minister.

Question put, That those words be there inserted:—

The Committee divided: Ayes 197, Noes 236.

Division No. 56.] AYES [4.38 p.m.
Ainsley, J. W. de Freitas, Geoffrey Hughes, Emrys (S. Ayrshire)
Albu, A. H. Delargy, H. J. Hughes, Hector (Aberdeen, N.)
Allen, Arthur (Bosworth) Diamond, John Hunter, A. E.
Allen, Scholefield (Crewe) Dodds, N. N. Hynd, H. (Accrington)
Awbery, S. S. Donnelly, D. L. Irvine, A. J. (Edge Hill)
Bacon, Miss Alice Ede, lit. Hon. J. C. Irving, Sydney (Dartford)
Balfour, A. Edelman, M. Janner, B.
Benoe, C. R. (Dunbartonshire, E.) Edwards, Rt. Hon. John (Brighouse) Jeger, George (Goole)
Benson, Sir George Edwards, Rt. Hon. Ness (Caerphilly) Jeger, Mrs. Lena(Holbn & St.Panc,S.)
Beswick, Frank Edwards, Robert (Bilston) Jenkins, Roy (Stechford)
Blackburn, F. Edwards, W. J. (Stepney) Jones, Rt. Hon. A. Creech (Wakefield)
Blenkinsop, A. Evans, Albert (Islington, S.W.) Jones, David (The Hartlepools)
Blyton, W. R. Fernyhough, E. Jones, Elwyn (W. Ham, S.)
Boardman, H. Finch, H. J. (Bedwellty) Jones, J. Idwal (Wrexham)
Bottomley, Rt. Hon. A. G. Fitch, A. E. (Wigan) Key, Rt. Hon. C. W.
Bowden, H. W. (Leicester, S.W.) Fletcher, Eric King, Dr. H. M.
Bowles, F. G. Form an, J. C. Lee, Frederick (Newton)
Boyd, T. C. Fraser, Thomas (Hamilton) Lindgren, G. S.
Brockway, A. F. Gaitskell, Rt. Hon. H. T. N. Mabon, Dr. J. Dickson
Broughton, Dr. A. D. D. Gibson, C. W. McAlister, Mrs. Mary
Brown, Rt. Hon. George (Belper) Gordon Walker, Rt. Hon. P. C. MacColl, J. E.
Brown, Thomas (Ince) Grenfell, Rt. Hon. D. R. MacDermot, Niall
Burton, Miss F. E. Grey, C. F. Mclnnes, J.
Butler, Herbert (Hackney, C.) Griffiths, Rt. Hon. James (Llanelly) McKay, John (Wallsend)
Butler, Mrs. Joyce (Wood Green) Griffiths, William (Exchange) McLeavy Frank
Castle Mrs. B. A. Hall, Rt. Hn. Glenvil (Colne Valley)
Champion, A. J. Hamilton, W. W. MacMillan, M. K. (Western Isles)
Chapman, W. D. Hannan, W. MacPherson, Malcolm (Sterling)
Chetwynd, G. R. Harrison, J. (Nottingham, N.) Mahon, Simon
Clunie, J. Hastings, S. Mallalieu, E. L. (Brigg)
Coldrick, W. Hayman, F. H. Mallalieu, J. p. W. (Huddersfd, E.)
Collick, P. H. (Birkenhead) Healey, Denis Marquand, Rt. Hon. H. A.
Corbet, Mrs. Freda Henderson, Rt. Hn. A. (Rwly Regis) Mason, Roy
Craddock, George (Bradford, S.) Herbison, Miss M. Mayhew, C. P.
Cronin, J. D. Hobson, C. R. (Keighley) Mellish, R. J.
Cullen, Mrs. A. Holman, P. Messer, Sir F.
Darling, George (Hillsborough) Howell, Denis (All Saints) Mikardo, Ian
Davies, Ernest (Enfield, E.) Hoy, J. H. Mitchison, G. R.
Deer, G. Hughes, Cledwyn (Anglesey) Monslow, W.
Moody, A. S. Rankin, John Thornton, E.
Morris, Percy (Swansea, W.) Reeves, J. Timmons, J.
Morrison, Rt.Hn.Herbert(Lewis'm,S.) Reid, William Ungoed-Thomas, Sir Lynn
Mort, D. L. Reynolds, G. W. Viant, S. P.
Moss, R. Rhodes, H. Warbey, W. N.
Moyle, A. Roberts, Albert (Normanton) Watkins, T. E.
Mulley, F. W. Robinson, Kenneth (St. Pancras, N.) Weitzman, D.
Noel-Baker, Francis (Swindon) Ross, William Wells, Percy (Faversham)
Noel-Baker, Rt. Hon. P. (Derby, S.) Shinwell, Rt. Hon. E. Wells, William (Walsall, N.)
Oliver, G. H. Short, E. W. Wheeldon, W. E.
Oram, A. E. Silverman, Julius (Aston) White, Mrs. Eirene (E. Flint)
Owen, W. J. Simmons, C. J. (Brierley Hill) White, Henry (Derbyshire, N.E.)
Paget, R. T. Slater, Mrs. H. (Stoke, N.) Wilcock, Group Capt. C. A. B.
Palmer, A. M. F. Slater, J. (Sedgefield) Wilkins, W. A.
Pannell, Charles (Leeds, W.) Smith, Ellis (Stoke, S.) Willey, Frederick
Pargiter, G. A. Snow, J. W. Williams, David (Neath)
Parker, J. Soskice, Rt. Hon. Sir Frank Williams, Rt. Hon. T. (Don Valley)
Parkin, B. T. Sparks, J. A. Williams, W. R. (Openshaw)
Paton, John Spriggs, Leslie Williams, W. T. (Barons Court)
Pearson, A. Steele, T. Willis, Eustace (Edinburgh, E.)
Peart, T. F. Strachey, Rt. Hon. J. Woodburn, Rt. Hon. A.
Pentland, N. Strauss, Rt. Hon. George (Vauxhall) Woof, R. E.
Plummer, Sir Leslie Stross,Dr.Barnett(Stoke-on-Trent,C.) Yates, V. (Ladywood)
Popplewell, E. Summerskill, Rt. Hon. E. Younger, Rt. Hon. K.
Price, J. T. (Westhoughton) Swingler, S. T. Zilliacus, K.
Price, Philips (Gloucestershire, W.) Sylvester, G. O.
Probert, A. R. Taylor, Bernard (Mansfield) TELLERS FOR THE AYES:
Randall, H. E. Thomson, George (Dundee, E.) Mr. John Taylor and Mr. Rogers.
Agnew, Sir Peter Currie, G. B. H. Howard, Gerald (Cambridgeshire)
Aitken, W. T. Dance, J. C. G. Howard, John (Test)
Allan, R. A. (Paddington, S.) de Ferranti, Basil Hughes-Young, M. H. C.
Alport, C. J. M. Digby, Simon Wingfield Hurd, Sir Anthony
Amory, Rt. Hn. Heathcoat (Tiverton) Donaldson, Cmdr. C. E. McA. Hutchison, Michael Clark (E'b'gh,S.)
Anstruther-Gray, Major Sir William Doughty, C. J. A. Hutchison, Sir Ian Clark(E'b'gh, W.)
Arbuthnot, John Drayson, G. B. Hutchison, Sir James (Scotstoun)
Armstrong, C. W. du Cann, E. D. L. Hylton-Foster, Rt. Hon. Sir Harry
Ashton, H. Dugdale, Rt. Hn. Sir T.(Richmond) Iremonger, T. L.
Baldwin, Sir Archer Duncan, Sir James Irvine, Bryant Godman (Rye)
Balniel, Lord Eden, J. B. (Bournemouth, West) Jenkins, Robert (Dulwich)
Barber, Anthony Elliott,R.W.(Ne'castle upon Tyne,N.) Johnson, Dr. Donald (Carlisle)
Barlow, Sir John Emmet, Hon. Mrs. Evelyn Johnson, Eric (Blackley)
Barter, John Errington, Sir Eric Kimball, M.
Batsford, Brian Farey-Jones, F. W. Kirk, P. M.
Beamish, Col. Tufton Finlay, Graeme Lancaster, Col. C. G.
Bell, Ronald (Bucks, S.) Fisher, Nigel Langford-Holt, J. A.
Bennett, F. M. (Torquay) Fraser, Hon. Hugh (Stone) Leather, E. H. C.
Bennett, Dr. Reginald Freeth, Denzil Leavey, J. A.
Bevins, J. R. (Toxteth) Galbraith, Hon. T. G. D. Leburn, W. G.
Biggs-Davison, J. A. Gammans, Lady Legge-Bourke, Maj. E. A. H.
Bingham, R. M. Garner-Evans, E. H. Legh, Hon. Peter (Petersfield)
Birch, Rt. Hon. Nigel Gibson-Watt, D. Lindsay, Hon. James (Devon, N.)
Bishop, F. P. Glover, D. Lindsay, Martin (Solihull)
Black, Sir Cyril Glyn, Col. Richard H. Linstead, Sir H. N.
Body, R. F. Godber, J. B. Lloyd, Maj. Sir Guy (Renfrew, E.)
Bossom, Sir Alfred Goodhart, Philip Longden, Gilbert
Bowen, E. R. (Cardigan) Gough, C. F. H.
Boyd-Carpenter, Rt. Hon. J. A. Gower, H. R. Loveys, Walter H.
Braine, B. R. Grant, Rt. Hon. W. (Woodside) Low, Rt. Hon. Sir Toby
Braithwaite, Sir Albert (Harrow, W.) Grant-Ferris, Wg Cdr.R.(Nantwich) Lucas, Sir Jocelyn (Portsmouth, S.)
Bromley-Davenport, Lt.-Col. W. H. Green, A. Lucas-Tooth, Sir Hugh
Brooke, Rt. Hon. Henry Grimond, J. Macdonald, Sir Peter
Brooman-White, R. C. Grimston, Sir Robert (Westbury) Mackeson, Brig. Sir Harry
Bryan, P. Grosvenor, Lt.-Col. R. G. Maclean, Sir Fitzroy (Lancaster)
Bullus, Wing Commander E. E. Gurden, Harold McLean, Neil (Inverness)
Butcher, Sir Herbert Hail, John (Wycombe) Macmillan.Rt.Hn.Harold(Bromley)
Butler, Rt.Hn.R.A.(Saffron Walden) Harris, Frederic (Croydon, N.W.) Macmillan, Maurice (Halifax)
Campbell, Sir David Harris, Reader (Heston) Maitland, Cdr. J. F. W. (Horncastle)
Cary, Sir Robert Harvey, Sir Arthur Vere (Macclesf'd) Maitland, Hon. Patrick (Lanark)
Channon, H. P. G. Hay, John Manningham Buller, Rt. Hn. Sir R.
Chichester-Clark, R. Heath, Rt. Hon. E. R. G. Markham, Major sir Frank
Clarke, Brig. Terence (Portsmth, W.) Henderson-Stewart, Sir James Marlowe, A. A. H.
Cole, Norman Hicks-Beach, Maj. W. W. Mathew, R.
Conant, Maj. Sir Roger Hill, Rt. Hon. Charles (Luton) Maudling, Rt. Hon. R.
Cooke, Robert Hill, Mrs. E. (Wythenshawe) Mawby, R. L.
Cooper, A. E. Hill, John (S. Norfolk) Maydon, Lt.-Comdr. S. L. C.
Cooper-Key, E. M. Hinchingbrooke, Viscount Milligan, Rt. Hon. W. R.
Cordeaux, Lt.-Col. J. K. Hobson,john(Warwlck & Leam'gt'n) Molson, Rt. Hon. Hugh
Corfield, F. V. Holland-Martin, C. J. Moore, Sir Thomas
Craddock, Beresford (Spelthorne) Holt, A. F. Mott-Radclyffe, Sir Charles
Croathwalte-Eyre, Col. O. E. Hornby, R. P. Nairn, D. L. S.
Crowder, Sir John (Finchley) Horobin, Sir Ian Neave, Airey
Crowder, Petre (Ruisllp—Northwood) Horsbrugh, Rt. Hon, Dame Florence Nicholls, Harmar
Nicholson, Sir Godfrey (Farnham) Remnant, Hon. P. Thompson, Kenneth (Walton)
Nicolson, N. (B'n'm'th, E. & Chr'ch) Ridsdale, J. E. Thompson, R. (Croydon, S.)
Noble, Comdr. Rt. Hon. Allan Robertson, Sir David Thornton-Kemsley, Sir Colin
Noble, Michael (Argyll) Robinson, Sir Roland (Blackpool, S.) Tiley, A. (Bradford, W.)
Nugent, G. R. H. Robson Brown, Sir William Tilney, John (Wavertree)
Oakshott, H. D. Rodgers, John (Sevenoaks) Tweedsmulr, Lady
O'Neil, Hn. Phelim (Co.Antrim, N.) Ropner, Col. Sir Leonard Vane, W. M. F.
Ormsby-Gore, Rt. Hon. W. D. Russell, R. S. Vaughan-Morgan, J. K.
Orr, Capt. L. P. S. Sandys, Rt. Hon. D. Vickers, Miss Joan
Osborne, C. Scott-Miller, Cmdr. R. Vosper, Rt. Hon. D. F.
Page, R. G. Sharples, R. C. Wade, D. W.
Pannell, N. A. (Kirkdale) Smithers, peter (Winchester) Wakefield, Edward (Derbyshire, W.)
Partridge, E. Smyth, Brig. Sir John (Norwood) Wakefield, Sir Waved (St. M'lebone)
Peel, W. J. Spearman, Sir Alexander Wall, Patrick
Peyton, J. W. W. Speir, R. M. Ward, Rt. Hon. G. R. (Worcester)
Pilkington, Capt. R. A. Stanley, Capt. Hon. Richard Ward, Dame Irene (Tynemouth)
Pitman, I. J. Stevens, Geoffrey Watkinson, Rt. Hon. Harold
Pitt, Miss E. M. Steward, Harold (Stockport, S.) Webster, David
Pott, H. P. Steward, Sir William (Woolwich, W.) Wills, Sir Gerald (Bridgwater)
Powell, J. Enoch Stoddart-Scott, Col. Sir Malcolm Wilson, Geoffrey (Truro)
Prioe, David (Eastleigh) Storey, S. Wolrige-Gordon, Patrick
Prior-Palmer, Brig. O. I. Stuart, Rt. Hon. James (Moray) Woollam, John Victor
Profumo, J. D. Summers, Sir Spencer Yates, William (The Wrekin)
Ramsden, J. E. Taylor, William (Bradford, N.)
Rawlinson, Peter Teeling, W. TELLERS FOR THE NOES:
Redmayne, M. Temple, John M. Colonel J. H. Harrison and
Mr. Whitelaw.

Clause ordered to stand part of the Bill.