HC Deb 11 March 1959 vol 601 cc1291-313

(1) During a period of fifteen years after the making of a standard grant under this Part of this Act to a person in respect of a dwelling, section six of the Housing Act, 1957 (which prescribes conditions to be implied on the letting of small houses), shall apply to any contract for letting that dwelling or any part thereof, being a letting by that person, his successor in title or a person deriving title from the first-named person or his successor, as that section applies to the contracts mentioned in its subsection (1).

(2) Where under a contract of employment of a workman employed in agriculture the provision of a dwelling for his occupation forms part of his remuneration, and the provisions of the last foregoing subsection are inapplicable by reason only of the dwelling not being let to him, section seven of the Housing Act, 1957 (which applies section six of the said Act to houses occupied by agricultural workers otherwise than as tenants), shall have effect in relation to that dwelling and to the provisions of the last foregoing subsection as it has effect in relation to such a house as is mentioned in that section and to the provisions of the said section six of that Act.—[Mr. Lindgren.]

Brought up, and read the First time.

Mr. G. Lindgren (Wellingborough)

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

We had a very short discussion on a similar Clause in Committee on 18th February. That discussion was all too short, mainly because of the lateness of the hour and the fact that the weather was very bad. The object of the new Clause is to give any house which receives a standard grant the same conditions as regards repair that apply to houses which are commonly called small houses. In other words, it places an obligation on a landlord to carry out elementary repairs and to maintain what is not, after all, a very high standard of fitness for the house.

Under the Rent Act, for which right hon. and hon. Gentlemen opposite were responsible, a landlord is now able to evict a tenant where a house is not subject to rent control. He can re-let it and impose almost what conditions he likes. This is a common occurrence in large towns. It is common in London, Birmingham, Manchester and Liverpool, and I admit that it is much more preferable that there should be these onerous requirements in large towns than in the same type of house in smaller urban towns in the Provinces.

The works which attract the standard grant increase the value of a house, and we suggest that the landlord should be required to maintain the house. After all, these grants go to an owner-occupier or to a landlord of a tenanted house. There is every reason to believe that the owner-occupier, because his own comfort and standard of life are involved, will maintain that house at a proper standard of fitness. We are seeking to impose that condition upon the landlord who has received the improvement grant to his property.

The Minister, in the very brief opportunity which he had to reply to my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Kettering (Mr. Mitchison) in the debate in Committee to which I have referred, said that the new Clause was unnecessary and he quoted Clause 5 (2), which reads: The local authority must be satisfied that after the execution of the works specified in the application the dwelling will be in such condition as not to be unfit for human habitation, and that it is likely to remain in that condition and available for use as a dwelling for a period of not less than fifteen years. The important words are … likely to remain in that condition and available for use as a dwelling … The question is: who is to pay for it? We say that the obligation should be on the landlord and not on the tenant. We are trying to protect the tenant. In all their activities the Government have not been concerned about the tenant but about the landlord. Having made their hand-out to the landlord to improve his property, then we say that they should at least show some regard for the tenant and give him the protection which the new Clause will provide.

I know that the Minister will say in his airy-fairy way, as he often does, that the new Clause is not necessary because the tenant can agree or disagree with the conditions which the landlord might like to put in the tenancy agreement when the tenant takes over the house. That is just bunkum. There is no such thing as a free market in houses, and the conditions which some tenants have to accept through sheer desperation sometimes have to be seen to be believed. There is a scramble for any accommodation which becomes available because of the actions which the Government have taken over the past few years, and it is likely to continue for some time to come.

That being so, we suggest that the Government, in addition to showing their friendliness towards landlords, should on this occasion, for the first time during the passage of the Bill through the House, show some consideration for the tenant who is living in the house which has been improved at the expense of both the local ratepayer and the national Exchequer.

Mr. James MacColl (Widnes)

I beg to second the Motion.

Mr. Willis

I hope that the Government will be favourably disposed towards the new Clause. The demand made in it is quite moderate and I should have thought was necessary in the light of our experience over the past thirty or forty years with regard to rented houses. It has been shown in the past, and it was shown during the inter-war period, that quite a number of landlords, who were authorised to make increases in rent in order to meet increasing charges, particularly with regard to repairs, did not do this. I think that this was pointed out by the Ridley Committee.

We cannot easily accept the proposition put forward by the Minister on a previous Amendment that landlords are always bursting with desire to maintain and improve their property. In a very large number of cases, of course, history proves that precisely the opposite is true, and that even when given increases of rent in order to enable them to effect repairs landlords do not do the job. Now, of course, we are going to spend public money on improving the houses and we ought to have some guarantee that they will be kept in a state of good repair by the owners. After all, the landlord is going to receive extra rent to enable him to meet the extra cost in which he is involved. I have no doubt that when the Government calculated how much the landlord should receive they had this job in mind.

During the debate on the two new Clauses which were earlier turned down by the Government, I asked for some information from the Scottish Minister—which, incidentally, we did not get—concerning the extent to which the owners of property had used the bribes given to them by the Government during the past two or three years, first by the 1954 Act and then by the Rent Act, with which to improve their properties.

So far as I have been able to ascertain, and I think that the Government's experience supports this in respect of the 1954 Act, even though the landlords were bribed by being given an increase in rent they did not set about the job of repairing the houses. The great "Operation Rescue" was not a rescue operation at all. It was a gigantic flop, and everyone knows that. As far as we have been able to ascertain up to the present, no great deal of extra work is being done on houses as a result of the Rent Act. A great deal has been done, of course, in pushing up the rents and also in clearing out people in order to enable properties to be sold, but the great work of repair is not being done.

I suggest to the Government that the lesson learned from this is a lesson which has been obvious to anyone associated with this problem for any length of time. It is that a great number of owners do not keep their properties in a state of repair. They are content to sit back, draw the rent and say, "Well, this will last my time. Why should I spend good money so that someone else can reap the benefit?" That is an attitude of mind quite common among landlords.

By this proposed new Clause we seek to ensure that where public money is spent on improving houses and on enabling various amenities to be provided that, in fact, the houses shall be kept in a proper state of repair. As public money is being spent in this way I should have thought that there ought to be an obligation on the Government to see that this happens and to give the House of Commons an assurance that the money which we are virtually voting under the Bill is not simply going to be used for the purpose of increasing the income of a certain group of people who, by and large, do not accept their responsibilities.

I have no vendetta against landlords particularly, although I see that one of the constituents of the right hon. and learned Lord Advocate had a great vendetta against one landlord. I believe that he smashed him across the head with an iron bar or something because he came to collect the rent. That, of course, is rather typical of the outlook of some people in Scotland on the question of rent and landlords. We on this side of the House do not necessarily share that view.

5.15 p.m.

I have tried to indicate some of the things that happen and which have happened for a long time, things with which the Government are familiar. Perhaps the Lord Advocate is now able to tell us that all the property owners in Scotland are bursting to maintain their houses in good repair. I do not think that he will be able to tell us that, but we shall be glad to hear his comments on the matter. We ask him seriously to consider the point, and we think it a reasonable demand to make when substantial sums of public money are being spent in this direction.

Mr. A. Evans

I wish to support the Clause and to confine my remarks to the first part of it. The second part deals with the agricultural worker, and, being an urban Member, I do not feel competent to deal with that subject.

It seems to me that the Minister will be almost obliged to accept the Clause, at any rate the first part of it, because all it does is to underline that Section 6 of the Housing Act, 1957, shall apply to these houses. That Act was passed during the term of office of the right hon. Gentleman the present Minister of Housing and Local Government, and presumably, therefore, it has his approval.

Briefly, we are saying that Section 6 of the 1957 Act shall apply to houses which have had the benefit of grants and of public money being spent on them. That, quite simply, is the position. We ask the Minister to accept the proposed new Clause and to say, in effect, that his own Act will apply to those houses improved at public expense for a period of fifteen years.

The standard that we seek to apply is quite a reasonable one. We say that the owner of the house must observe the terms of the Housing Act, 1957, and that he must keep the house fit for human habitation for a period of fifteen years. That seems to me to be an eminently reasonable thing to ask and to which no one could possibly take objection.

The definition laid down in the 1957 Act is not too difficult to carry out. The local authority will determine whether the house is fit or unfit for human habitation by having regard to certain items. It will have to insist, as, indeed, the Minister's own Act insists, that the house shall be in good repair. The local authority will look at the state of the house. That, obviously, is a reasonable thing to do when public money is being spent on a house—to see that it is in a state of sufficient repair to warrant the expenditure of that money. Secondly, the house must remain in that state of repair for fifteen years. It is simply an ordinary, commonsense requirement that a house which is to be improved by public money should remain stable for a period of fifteen years.

The next item is freedom from damp. This is often a difficult matter, but it is not asking too much of any landlord to keep his house generally free from clamp. The next item is natural lighting. All these items are in the Minister's own Act. We are only reminding him and the landlords that they have a legal obligation to observe these standards.

The next is ventilation. Again, it is a reasonable and obvious requirement for the community to require any landlord to ensure that there is proper ventilation in his property. Water supply is dealt with under the standard grant, so this requirement, presumably, is already being met. It is not going too far to insist that the house must pass the standards of the local authority in respect of drains and sanitary conveniences. The final item relates to facilities for the storage and cooking of food. This, too, was laid clown in the Act and is reasonable. All of these conditions have been accepted by the House of Commons in an Act of Parliament. That was a Measure framed by the Minister and piloted by him through Parliament. It is his Act.

This is a simple proposal. We ask the Minister in the Bill to say to the recipients of public money for the improvement of their property, "You must observe the standards which Parliament has laid down in the Housing Act, 1957."

Mr. G. W. Reynolds (Islington, North)

I support the new Clause for two main reasons. First, I would hark back to some remarks I made in Committee and refer to the fact that I have supported the idea of the local authorities being compelled to make improvement grants. On one occasion, in fact, I said that I and hon. Friends of mine had been supporting that proposal at least a couple of years before the Minister himself introduced it.

At the same time, I pointed out on an earlier occasion that the safeguards to a local authority, now that it was being compelled to make these grants, were inadequate. One or two changes have already been made, but, on the whole, the local authority still has far too few safeguards. It has to make the grant when the landlord applies, except in one or two instances. Once a local authority has made the grant and satisfied itself that the property has been improved by virtue of the standard grant and is in a fit state for human habitation—or, to put it the other way round, is not in a state unfit for human habitation—once the work has been carried out, for the sake of the local authority there is a strong case for stipulating in the Bill that for the next fifteen years the local authority, having provided a quite substantial sum of public money, should know exactly who is responsible for ensuring that the property remains in a state fit for human habitation. From the point of view, that this is merely a safeguard for the local authority, it is essential that this provision should be incorporated in the Bill.

All of us who have had any experience of local authorities—and the Minister himself has had quite considerable experience—know how difficult it often is to enforce statutory notices under either the Housing or Public Health Acts to make landlords carry out repairs that are necessary to put the property in a state fit for human habitation. The Minister, I am certain, also knows how so many landlords are able to twist the provisions of these notices and evade the court action which might follow by carrying out one or two of the repairs which they are asked to do, and then the local authority has to start all over again.

To a certain extent, that sort of thing could be avoided by including in the Bill a Clause of this nature, specifically laying the responsibility upon the landlord of the property to keep it in a state fit for human habitation over the next fifteen years. In this way, the local authority would know to whom it is to look for the responsibility for doing this work on the property. I assume that it would have some sanctions upon the owner if he did not carry out his obligations and might in certain circumstances, I would hope, be able to put pressure upon the owner, having received money from public sources, to keep the property in a state fit for human habitation, not only at the time the work is carried out, but for the next fifteen years thereafter.

Unless this provision is included in the Bill, in some cases it may well be difficult for the local authority to find out who is responsible for doing certain repairs of one kind and another—for example, broken sashcords, leaking roofs, gutters and drainpipes, damp and other things that my hon. Friend for Islington South-West (Mr. A. Evans) mentioned. From time to time, the local authority might find it difficult to discover who was responsible for doing the work. If public money is to be spent on these properties, the local authorities have the right to be able to say "Once you have got this public money, you, the landlord, are responsible for this work for at least the next fifteen years." I sincerely hope that the Minister will see his way clear either to accept the Clause or to assure us that something like it may be included in the Bill at a later stage.

Mr. Ross

I sincerely hope that the Minister will accept the new Clauses. In fact, I am surprised that he did not rise right away to give us that assurance. Acceptance of the new Clauses—I speak in the plural, because the same principle applies to Scotland as to England and Wales—follows logically from what the Government already have stipulated in relation to the granting to local authorities of the facility to authorise the work and to pay for their proportion of it in Clause 5, subsections (1) and (2).

If we examine those two subsections, we find that before a local authority approves an application for standard grant it must be satisfied that after the execution of the works the dwelling will be in such condition as not to be unfit for human habitation, and that it is likely to remain in that condition arid available for use as a dwelling for a period of not less than fifteen years. The principle, therefore, is already accepted by the Government. All we are suggesting is that the Government should go a little further and try to ensure that what they think should be the basis of the original grant should be kept as part of the contract of the granting of the money and the execution of the work. It should not be merely a case of likelihood that the house is kept fit for habitation but that it actually remains in the proper state and that a responsibility is laid squarely upon the landlord for ensuring this.

I cannot see how any Government who believe in what they have said in Clause 5, with particular relation to the conditions laid down in subsection (2), can dismiss a new Clause of this nature. My first reason, therefore, is that the Clause follows logically from what the Government have already provided.

The other reason is that it follows from our historic experience of what has happened in the past in relation to these houses. So far, we have been concentrating on the first part of the new Clause in relation to houses which are let in the ordinary way. I would, however, remind the House that we are dealing also in the new Clause with houses which are let to agricultural workers, in which the provision of the dwelling forms part of a worker's remuneration for his work. In other words, it is a tied house.

5.30 p.m.

I would ask hon. Members to remember that in the past we have spent a great deal of public money on the housing of rural workers and that if there are any Acts in respect of which the spending of money in pursuit of those desirable ends gives room for thought they are the Housing (Rural Workers) Acts. The Committee that investigated their working in Scotland said that much of the money was just wasted because the houses were not kept up to the proper standard despite the fact that Government money had been used on them.

I sincerely hope, therefore, that the Solicitor-General for Scotland, who well knows what has been said in relation to this and the desirability to safeguard the public purse, will see the force of the new Clause. It will ensure that where not only rented houses in town and country bat also tied houses are improved by the application of the standard grant an obligation will be laid on the landlord in each case to keep the house up to the proper standard. That is all that the Clause requires. We have dealt with this matter in a fairly objective way. I do not think that there has been or that there could be any exaggeration in the matter of the neglect of obligations by landlords in the past.

If we feel it necessary under Clause 5 (2) to lay upon the local authority the obligation to ensure, first of all, that the house is not unfit for human habitation and is likely to remain so for fifteen years, we should equally require the landlord, having received this grant, to keep those conditions for fifteen years. I should be very disappointed if the Solicitor-General for Scotland, in his new-found glory of looking after Scottish housing in the unavoidable absence of the Secretary of State, does not agree. I do not know the reason for the absence of the Joint Under-Secretaries of State for Scotland.

Miss Margaret Herbison (Lanarkshire, North)

Perhaps I should let my hon. Friend know that they are ill.

Mr. Ross

It must have been the prospect of coming here to face this new Clause that brought this spate of illness into the Scottish Office. I hope that these hon. Gentlemen will be back before long, but here is a chance for the Solicitor-General for Scotland to free himself from the shackles of St. Andrew's House and to accept the Clause for the good of Scottish housing.

Mr. H. Brooke

This Clause was moved by an English Member and, therefore, I think I should speak at this stage. The hon. Member for Welling-borough (Mr. Lindgren), who moved its Second Reading, said that we had had a number of discussions on a similar Clause in Committee. I have refreshed my memory on that. We discussed it for a full half hour. Although I agree that it was a foggy evening, the hon. Member should not imagine that I cut my remarks short on that occasion. I gave a full, comprehensive and convincing answer—so convincing that the Committee negatived the new Clause without a division. Nevertheless, I will address myself to the matter again.

First of all, I want to remove any misconception there may be on either side of the House that unless we accept the new Clause the house may become unfit for human habitation. It has already been pointed out that under Clause 5, before the standard grant is made at all, the local authority must be satisfied that after the execution of the works … the dwelling will be in such condition as not to be unfit for human habitation, and that it is likely to remain in that condition … for a period of not less than fifteen years". There is no dubiety or uncertainty there.

During the whole of the fifteen years, the local authority has powers under Section 9 of the 1957 Act in England and Wales to serve notice if it has reason to think that the house is unfit for human habitation. Therefore, the question which the Clause raises is not one of seeing whether the house is unfit and making it fit. The question is who shall pay for the work. The hon. Member for Wellingborough and his hon. Friends ask that in the particular case where a standard grant has been made for doing certain work on a house, the obligation to keep the house fit for human habitation should be put on the landlord, even though the tenancy agreement may provide otherwise.

As recently as the Rent Act passed two years ago, the whole question was reviewed of whether in certain circumstances the obligation should rest exclusively on the landlord to keep a house in repair. It was decided at that time by Parliament to revise the limits, and they have applied, since July 1957, to houses let at annual rents of less than £80 in London and £52 elsewhere in England and Wales. I know of no new reason emerging in the last eighteen months or so why these limits should now he amended by Parliament.

The new Clause would extend the provisions in Section 6 of the 1957 Act and the subsidiary provisions in Section 7, which deal with certain types of house or cottage, to any house improved by the aid of a standard grant regardless of the rent at which it is let. That seems illogical. If Parliament has held for many years, as it has, that we shall have a provision on a basis similar to that of Sections 6 and 7 of the 1957 Act, then clearly those obligations should apply to all houses up to certain rent limits. It may be open to argument what those limits should be, but there is no reason inherent in the Clause or in the general principle that could support an argument that one should pick out certain other houses above those rent limits and shift all obligation to repair on to the landlords in those cases.

Hon. Members have argued that this should be done where a standard grant has been given. They saw no reason to do this when they introduced the improvement grant system in 1949. There was their opportunity, but they ignored it. Either they did not think of it—I am being charitable—or they thought of it and realised how inconsistent and baseless a change of that kind would be.

Mr. Reynolds

The right hon. Gentleman would agree—in fact it was one of his own criticisms of the 1949 procedure—that the conditions with which the landlord had to comply in 1949 as to the standard of property after improvements had been carried out were very high indeed. Here, the right hon. Gentleman must agree, we are dealing with a much lower standard of property. The case we put is that this provision is urgently needed. It might have been needed in 1949, but these are two different types of property, two different types of grant, with different standards.

Mr. Brooke

The hon. Member is now saying that it is wise to get this work done and that one should relax the conditions, but he is urging in another direction that we should tighten the conditions. There might be a case if the local authority had no powers and had to form a judgment in the light of Clause 5(2) as to whether a house was likely to remain fit for human habitation for fifteen years or more; and then, having reached a favourable judgment could find itself powerless for the remainder of the fifteen years. That cannot happen, however, as long as section 9 of the 1957 Act is on the Statute Book, because there the local authority has power to serve notice to compel the carrying out of the work.

The suggestion I put to the House is that we should keep Section 9 in operation to provide the local authority with that sanction to ensure that the house is kept properly and does not become unfit I submit that there is no basis for altering the terms of the tenancy agreement between the landlord and the tenant as to the responsibility for repair if the house has received a standard grant but not—I notice in this proposed Clause—if it has received an improvement grant. So there again we should be committing another anomaly if we accepted this Clause.

I am sorry if I have disappointed hon. Gentlemen opposite, but before speaking this afternoon I read my speech during the Committee stage of the Bill, and they are even more unwise than I had supposed them to be if they seriously imagine that I should have changed my view from the very powerful and compelling position which I took up a few days ago.

Mr. Lindgren

There might be two points of view as to what is powerful and what is compelling. I am not unknown in this House for my lack of sympathy with landlords. Unfortunately many of us have had to live under them for far too long to have any sympathy with them.

The remarks made by the Minister are not good enough. The right hon. Gentleman referred to the fact that the limits of the small house, or what is commonly known as the small house, were revised in the 1957 Act. That is true. It is also true that these houses would come outside those revised limits of £52 for the provinces and £80 in London. We are trying to bring them in. It should be remembered that the houses in question were sub-standard prior to receiving the grant. If a landlord has kept them sub-standard all that time, it being agreed that they are reasonably large houses because otherwise they would not be over those limits, what guarantee have we got that he will maintain his property?

Ever since—I was going to say time but certainly since the Torrance Act of 1860—successive Governments have had to pass Acts of Parliament to oblige landlords to carry out their obligations. Indeed this has been the job of Parliament almost annually in various Public Health Acts, and wherever there has been a possibility of avoiding their obligations the majority of large landlords have done so. The properties in this country, which the Minister called a national asset, deteriorate into slums because the landlords do not carry out their obligations.

My hon. Friend the Member for Kilmarnock (Mr. Ross) referred to Scottish rural housing, which covers tied cottages. In England we have made grants to agricultural cottages, and I am willing to admit that in this connection practically the only landlords who have applied these to tenanted properties have been those associated with large estates and agricultural properties. In the majority of cases, I agree, they have maintained the properties in a fit condition, although some have not done so.

5.45 p.m.

Our job in Parliament is not to legislate for the fellow who normally does the right thing. We have to legislate to protect citizens against the person who, in one way or another, does not do the right thing. A classic example is provided by the Factories Bill, on which a Committee of this House has been sitting morning after morning. The average decent employer in this country is far ahead of factory legislation. The average decent landlord is well ahead of the requirements of the Public Health Acts. We are asking here that where a landlord has secured the grant, his property has been improved by it and he draws a bigger rent as a result, he should be required to maintain the property.

The Minister has made great play with Clause 5 (2) which I mentioned in my opening statement. It is true that under that subsection the local authority must be satisfied, after the work has been executed, that the property is likely to remain in a condition fit for human habitation for fifteen years. Unlike the majority of hon. Gentlemen opposite, the Minister has had local government experience. What will any clerk, surveyor or other officer of a local authority assume when he sees Clause 5 (2)? Surely it is a fair assumption to be made by a local authority that the landlord of a property which has been improved by the works arising as a result of the standard grant will maintain normal, elementary running repairs to it. Certainly if the house is neglected for fifteen years, it will not remain fit for human habitation. So that subsection will make the local authority believe that the normal repairs will be carried out.

The dispute between us is about who will pay for those running repairs for the fifteen years following receipt of the standard grant. We say that the landlord should pay them. He has received the benefit of public money from the local ratepayer and from the national Exchequer. The value of his property has been improved. The rent has been improved if it is a rented property, and if it is a tied cottage it will be a greater attraction for a prospective employee. Therefore, we say that he is the person who should maintain the property.

The Minister says that he is not concerned about this. If the property is large enough and a person enters into an agreement, it is all right not only for the landlord to get the standard grant and the increased rent but also to fleece the tenant, and the Minister will help him to do so by placing upon the tenant the obligation which should really be placed on the landlord. This is a further instance of what has been obtaining throughout the tenure of office of the right hon. Gentleman. If ever the landlords of this country subscribe for a permanent memorial to anyone, it should be for the right hon. Gentleman. I know of no other Minister, even in this present Government—and that is saying something—who has gone more out of his way to make it better for the landlord and worse for the tenant.

Miss Herbison

There are two proposed new Clauses, one applying to England and Wales and the other to Scotland and I am glad that my hon. Friends who represent Scottish constituencies have shown how important it is that the one which applies to Scotland should be accepted.

For the last few weeks, on my way to the House of Commons from my home in London, I have seen a bright new Conservative Party poster saying, "Freedom with Conservatives". The experience of the people of Scotland and of Britain as a whole is that there is freedom under the Conservatives for some people and strict compulsion for others. The Minister's attitude towards these Clauses has again clearly demonstrated the freedom on the one hand and the compulsion on the other.

We are trying to rectify the provision giving landlords this freedom to get a subsidy, the standard grant. There is no talk of a means test for this subsidy. There is no talk of a differential rate. With previous housing legislation, when we have imposed far heavier burdens on the people, we have been told that local authorities could introduce differential rent schemes. The Government are always very tender in their dealings with landlords.

Some landlords are careful to keep their property in good repair, but there are not strong enough words to condemn what landlords in Glasgow, Edinburgh, the mining villages of my constituency, and other parts of Scotland have done. It is because of our experience of that type of landlord that we have put forward these new Clauses.

The Minister claimed that his answer in Committee was so convincing that we did not take the matter to a Division. He knows very well that it was because of the inclement weather on that occasion that we did our best to help the progress of the Bill. He said that under Clause 5 (5) a house will have to be fit for human habitation and likely to remain in that condition before a local authority makes a grant. However, the right hon. Gentleman and the Secretary of State for Scotland know that even if the local authority examines the property and finds it likely to remain in good condition, that condition will remain only if there is a good landlord willing to undertake repairs. We are talking about houses without sinks, without bathrooms, without food storage space. Those are old houses, and old houses almost always need some repairs some time during the year.

The Minister's answer showed that the Government are willing to give the money of the ratepayers and taxpayers to landlords, relieving them of any obligation to ensure that the money is wisely and carefully spent. It is of the utmost importance that close attention should be paid to our case, because if we press it strongly enough, the Minister may change his mind and in another place the Government may agree to what we want.

We are gravely short of houses in Scotland and we want to keep our pool of houses in the best possible state of repair. As we know from experience, that can be done only if landlords are obliged to keep houses in good repair. I ask the Minister to reconsider the matter before finally deciding that he has an overwhelming case. It is an overwhelming case for the landlord, but not for the Minister, who should be taking great care of the money of ratepayers and taxpayers.

Mr. Willis

Surely we are to have an answer from the Solicitor-General for Scotland, the only Scottish Minister present.

The Solicitor-General for Scotland

I had not understood the hon. Lady the Member for Lanarkshire, North (Miss Herbison) to raise any particular point which had not already been covered. The hon. Lady and the hon. Member for Edinburgh, East (Mr. Willis) agree with me that we want to keep our houses in good repair. The Bill is designed to that end, so that landlords can and will put in improvements. The "can" is the financial side, and the "will" is not a compulsion, but an opportunity and inducement to landlords to do so.

The view underlying the new Clauses, a view which I think fallacious, is that the greater the obligations on a landlord, the more likely he will be to operate the provisions of the Bill. However, I believe that the greater the obligations on the landlord, the less likely he will be to take advantage of the Bill and the less likely the tenant will be to benefit. That is one of the fundamental reasons why the Clause should be rejected.

Miss Herbison

The right hon. and learned Gentleman has made a very grave statement. He suggested that if we put this obligation on a landlord, he would not apply for the standard grant; in other words, a landlord would apply for the standard grant if the obligation were not imposed, which means that such a landlord would have no intention of keeping a house in good repair.

Mr. Ross

Does the right hon. and learned Gentleman mean that it is far too onerous an obligation that a landlord should keep a house fit for human habitation?

The Solicitor-General for Scotland

No. I say that if the landlord has entered into a contract of tenancy under which the tenant is under an obligation to keep the house in good repair, these provisions would discourage the landlord from applying for a grant. As hon. Members from Scottish constituencies know, the ordinary case in Scotland is that the landlord has responsibility for structure and so on. However, the matter must be decided in every case according to the lease. If a lease has been signed and the landlord does not have this obligation, he is unlikely—I put it no higher than that—to take advantage of this method of improving houses—if the new Clauses are adopted.

Mr. Willis

Has the Scottish Office any evidence of an increasing desire by landlords to keep their property in repair because of the legislation to enable them to do so?

The Solicitor-General for Scotland

There are far more houses in Scotland to which repairs have been made and which have been brought up to proper standards than there were before 1954. I do not say that that applies to all houses, but the Bill is another stage in the steps which we are taking towards the objective which we all have in view.

6.0 p.m.

Mr. James McInnes (Glasgow, Central)

Surely the Solicitor-General for Scotland will concede that, despite the financial provisions of the Government's

Housing (Repairs and Rents) (Scotland) Act, less than 4 per cent. of the houses that came within its scope were repaired. Surely he will also concede, as my hon. Friend pointed out, that very few owner-occupied houses were repaired to any great extent.

The Solicitor-General for Scotland

I do not think that the hon. Member's figure is entirely accurate. It is well below what I understand the real figure to be. Further, I would say that, on the whole, owner-occupiers have taken advantage of the improvement grant system, for which I readily concede we have to thank hon. Members opposite.

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

The House divided: Ayes 193, Noes 237.

Division No. 58.] AYES [6.2 p.m.
Ainsley, J. W. Forman, J. C. Mallalieu, J. P. W. (Huddersfd, E.)
Albu, A. H. Fraser, Thomas (Hamilton) Marquand, Rt. Hon. H. A.
Allen, Arthur (Bosworth) Gibson, C. W. Mason, Roy
Allen, Scholefield (Crewe) Gordon Walker, Rt. Hon. P. C. Mayhew, C. P.
Awbery, S. S. Grenfell, Rt. Hon. D. R. Mellish, R. J.
Bacon, Miss Alice Grey, C. F. Mikardo, Ian
Balfour, A. Griffiths, Rt. Hon. James (Llanelly) Mitchison, G. R.
Bence. C. R. (Dunbartonshire, E.) Griffiths, William (Exchange) Monslow, w.
Benson, Sir George Hall, Rt. Hn. Glenvil (Colne Valley) Moody, A. S.
Beswick, Frank Hamilton, W. W. Morris, Percy (Swansea, W.)
Blackburn, F. Hannan, W. Morrison, Rt. Hn. Herbert(Lewis'm, S.)
Blenkinsop, A. Harrison, J. (Nottingham, N.) Mort, D. L.
Blyton, W. R. Hastings, S. Moss, R.
Boardman, H. Hayman, F. H. Moyle, A.
Bottomley, Rt. Hon. A. G. Henderson, Rt. Hn. A. (Rwly Regis) Mulley, F. W.
Bowden, H. W. (Leicester, S. W.) Herbison, Miss M. Noel-Baker, Rt. Hon. P. (Derby, S.)
Bowles, F. G. Hobson, C. R. (Keignley) Oliver, C. H.
Boyd, T. C. Holman, P, Oram, A. E.
Brockway, A. F. Howell, Denis (All Saints) Owen, W. J.
Broughton, Dr. A. D. D. Hoy, J. H. Padley, W. E.
Brown, Rt. Hon. George (Belper) Hughes, Cledwyn (Anglesey) Palmer, A. M. F.
Brown, Thomas (Ince) Hughes, Emrys (S. Ayrshire) Pannell, Charles (Leeds, W.)
Burton, Miss F. E. Hughes, Hector (Aberdeen, N.) Pargiter, G. A.
Butler, Herbert (Hackney, C.) Hunter, A. E. Parker, J.
Castle, Mrs. B. A. Hynd, H. (Accrington) Paton, John
Champion, A. J. Irvine, A. J. (Edge Hill) Pearson, A,
Chapman, W. D. Irving, Sydney (Dartford) Peart, T. F.
Chetwynd, G. R. Janner, B. Pentland, N.
Clunie, J. Jeger, George (Coole) Popplewell, E.
Collick, P. H. (Birkenhead) Jeger, Mrs. Lena(Holbn & St. pncs. S.) Prentice, R. E.
Corbet, Mrs. Freda Jenkins, Roy (Stechford) Price, J. T. (Westhoughton)
Craddock, George (Bradford, S.) Johnson, James (Rugby) Price, Philips (Gloucestershire, W.)
Cronin, J. D. Jones, David (The Hartlepools) Probert, A. R.
Crossman, R. H. S. Jones, Elwyn (w. Ham, S.) Pursey, Cmdr. H.
Cullen, Mrs. A. Jones, Jack (Rotherham) Randall, H. E.
Darling, George (Hillsborough) Kenyon, C. Rankin, John
Davies, Ernest (Enfield, E.) Key, Rt. Hon. C. w. Reeves, J.
Deer, G. King, Dr. H. M. Reid, William
de Freitas, Geoffrey Lee, Frederick (Newton) Reynolds, G. W.
Delargy, H. J. Lindgren, G. S. Rhodes, H.
Diamond, John Mabon, Dr. J. Dickson Roberts, Albert (Normanton)
Dodds, N. N. McAlister, Mrs. Mary Rogers, George (Kensington, N.)
Donnelly, D. L. McCann, J. Ross, William
Ede, Rt. Hon. J. C. MacColl, J. E. Shinwell, Rt. Hon. E.
Edelman, M. MacDermot, Niall Silverman, Julius (Aston)
Edwards, Rt. Hon. John (Brighouse) McInnes, J. Silverman, Sydney (Nelson)
Edwards, Robert (Bilston) McKay, John (Wallsend) Simmons, C. J. (Brierley Hill)
Edwards, W. J. (Stepney) McLeavy, Frank Skeffington, A. M.
Evans, Albert (Islington, S.W.) MacMillan, M. K. (Western Isles) Slater, Mrs. H. (Stoke, N.)
Fernyhough, E. MacPherson, Malcolm (Stirling) Slater, J, (Sedgefield)
Finch, H. J. (Bedwellty) Mahon, Simon Smith, Ellis (Stoke, S.)
Finch, A. E. (Wigan) Mallalieu, E. L. Brigg Snow, J. W.
Sorensen, R. W. Tomney, F. Willey, Frederick
Soskice, Rt. Hon. Sir Frank Ungoed-Thomas, Sir Lynn Williams, David (Neath)
Sparks, J. A. Viant, S. P. Williams, Rt. Hon. T. (Don Valley)
Spriggs, Leslie Warbey, W. N. Williams, W. R. (Openshaw)
Steele, T. Watkins, T. E. Williams, W. T. (Barons Court)
Strachey, Rt. Hon. J. Weitzman, D. Willis, Eustace (Edinburgh, E.)
Strauss, Rt. Hon. George (Vauxhall) Wells, Peroy (Faversham) Wilson, Rt. Hon. Harold (Huyton)
Summerskill, Rt. Hon. E. Wells, William (Walsall, N.) Woodburn, Rt. Hon. A.
Sylvester, G. O. Wheeldon, W. E. Woof, R. E.
Taylor, Bernard (Mansfield) White, Mrs. Eirene (E. Flint) Vates, V. (Ladywood)
Thomson, George (Dundee, E.) White, Henry (Derbyshire, N.E.) Zilliacus, K.
Thornton, E. Wigg, George
Timmons, J. Wilkins, W. A. TELLERS FOR THE AYES:
Mr. John Taylor and Mr. Short
Agnew, Sir Peter Farey-Jones, F. W. Low, Rt. Hon. Sir Toby
Aitken, W. T. Fell, A. Lucas, Sir Jocelyn (Portsmouth, S.)
Alport, C. J. M. Finlay, Graeme Lucas, P. B. (Brentford & Chiswick)
Amory, Rt. Hn. Heathcoat (Tiverton) Fisher, Nigel Lucas-Tooth, Sir Hugh
Anstruther-Gray, Major Sir William Freeth, Denzil Macdonald, Sir Peter
Arbuthnot, John Galbraith, Hon. T. G. D. Mackeson, Brig. Sir Harry
Armstrong, C. W. Gammans, Lady McLaughlin, Mrs. P.
Ashton, H. Garner-Evans, E. H. Maclean, Sir Fitzroy (Lancaster)
Astor, Hon. J. J. Gibson-Watt, D. McLean, Nell (Inverness)
Baldock. Lt.-Cmdr. J. M. Glover, D. Macmillan, Rt. Hn. Harold (Bromley)
Baldwin, Sir Archer Glyn, Col. Richard H. Macmillan, Maurice (Halifax)
Balniel, Lord Godber, J. B. Maitland, Cdr. J. F. W. (Horncastle)
Barber, Anthony Goodhart, Philip Maitland, Hon. Patrick (Lanark)
Barlow, Sir John Gough, C. F. H. Manningham-Buller, Rt. Hn. Sir R.
Barter, John Grant, Rt. Hon. W. (Woodside) Markham, Major Sir Frank
Batsford, Brian Grant-Ferris, Wg Cdr. R. (Nantwich) Marlowe, A. A. H.
Beamish, Col. Tufton Green, A. Marshall, Douglas
Bell, Ronald (Bucks, S.) Grimond, J. Mathew, R.
Bennett, F. M. (Torquay) Grimston, Sir Robert (Westbury) Maudling, Rt. Hon. R.
Bennett, Dr. Reginald Grosvenor, Lt.-Col. R. G. Mawby, R. L.
Bevins, J. R. (Toxteth) Gurden, Harold Maydon, Lt.-Comdr, S, L. C.
Biggs-Davison, J. A. Hall, John (Wycombe) Medlicott, Sir Frank
Bingham, R. M. Hare, Rt. Hon. J. H. Moore, Sir Thomas
Birch, Rt. Hon. Nigel Harris, Frederic (Croydon, N.W.) Mott-Radclyffe, Sir Charles
Bishop, F. P. Harris, Reader (Heston) Nairn, D. L. S.
Black, Sir Cyril Harrison, Col. J. H. (Eye) Neave, Airey
Body, R. F. Harvey, Sir Arthur Vere (Macclesf'd) Nicolson, N. (B'n'm'th, E. & Chr'ch)
Bossom, Sir Alfred Harvey, John (Walthamstow, E.) Noble, Comdr. Rt. Hon. Allan
Bowen, E. R. (Cardigan) Hay, John Noble, Michael (Argyll)
Boyd-Carpenter, Rt. Hon. J. A. Heald, Rt. Hon. Sir Lionel Nugent, G. R. H.
Braine, B. R. Heath, Rt. Hon. E. R. G. Oakshott, H. D.
Braithwaite, Sir Albert (Harrow, W.) Henderson-Stewart, Sir James O'Neill, Hn. Phelim (Co. Antrim, N.)
Bromley-Davenport Lt.-Col. W. H. Hicks-Beach, Maj. W. W. Orr, Capt. L. P. S.
Brooke, Rt. Hon. Henry Hill, Rt. Hon. Charles (Luton) Osborne, C.
Brooman-White, R. C. Hill, Mrs. E. (Wythenshawe) Page, R. G.
Bryan, P. Hill, John (S. Norfolk) Pannell, N. A. (Kirkdale)
Bullus, Wing Commander E. E. Hinchingbrooke, Viscount Peel, W. J.
Burden, F. F. A. Hobson, John (Warwick & Leam'gt'n) Peyton, J. W. W.
Butcher, Sir Herbert Pike, Miss Mervyn
Campbell, Sir David Holland-Martin, C. J. Pilkington, Capt. R. A.
Cary, Sir Robert Hornby, R. P. Pitman, I. J.
Channon, H. P. G. Horobin, Sir Ian Pitt, Miss E. M.
Chichester-Clark, R. Horsbrugh, Rt. Hon. Dame Florence Pott, H. P.
Clarke, Brig. Terence (Portsmth, W.) Howard, Gerald (Cambridgeshire) Price, David (Eastleigh)
Cole, Norman Howard, John (Test) Prior-Palmer, Brig. O. L.
Conant, Maj. Sir Roger Hughes Hallett, Vice-Admiral J. Profumo, J. D.
Cooke, Robert Kurd, Sir Anthony Ramsden, J. E.
Cooper-Key, E. M. Hutchison, Michael Clark(E'b'gh, S.) Rawlinson, Peter
Cordeaux, Lt.-Col. J. K. Hutchison, Sir Ian Clark(E'b'gh, W.) Redmayne, M.
Corfield, F. V. Hylton-Foster, Rt. Hon. Sir Harry Remnant, Hon. P.
Craddock, Beresford (Spelthorne) Irvine, Bryant Godman (Rye) Ridsdale, J. E.
Crosthwaite-Eyre, Col. O. E. Jenkins, Robert (Dulwich) Roberts, Sir Peter (Heeley)
Crowder, Sir John (Finchley) Johnson, Dr. Donald (Carlisle) Robinson, Sir Roland (Blackpool, S.)
Crowder, Petre (Ruislip—Northwood) Johnson, Eric (Blackley) Robson Brown, Sir William
Currie, G. B. H. Jones, Rt. Hon. Aubrey (Hall Green) Rodgers, John (Sevenoaks)
Dance, J. C. G. Kimball, M. Roper, Sir Harold
Davies, Rt. Hn. Clement (Montgomery) Lancaster, Col. C. G. Ropner, Col. Sir Leonard
de Ferranti, Basil Langford-Holt, J. A. Russell, R. S.
Digby, Simon Wingfield Leather, E. H. C. Sandys, Rt. Hon. D.
Donaldson, Cmdr. C. E. McA. Leavey, J. A. Scott-Miller, Cmdr. R.
Doughty, C. J. A. Leburn, W. G. Sharples, R. C.
Drayson, G. B. Legge-Bourke, Maj. E. A. H. Shepherd, William
du Cann, E. D. L. Lindsay, Hon. James (Devon, N.) Smithers, Peter (Winchester)
Dugdale, Rt. Hn. Sir T. (Richmond) Lindsay, Martin (Solihull) Smyth, Brig. Sir John (Norwood)
Duncan, Sir James Linstead, Sir H. N. Spearman, Sir Alexander
Eden, J. B. (Bournemouth, West) Lloyd, Maj. Sir Guy (Renfrew, E.) Speir, R. M.
Elliott, Ft. W.(Ne'castle upon Tyne, N.) Lloyd, Rt. Hon. Selwyn (Wirral) Stanley, Capt. Hon. Richard
Emmet, Hon. Mrs. Evelyn Longden, Gilbert Stevens, Geoffrey
Errington, Sir Eric Loveys, Walter H. Steward, Harold (Stockport, S.)
Steward, Sir William (Woolwich, W.) Tiley, A. (Bradford, W.) Ward, Dame Irene (Tynemouth)
Stoddart-Scott, Col. Sir Malcolm Tilney, John (Wavertree) Watkinson, Rt. Hon. Harold
Storey, S. Tweedsmuir, Lady Webster, David
Stuart, Rt. Hon. James (Moray) Vane, W. M. F. Whitelaw, w. S. I.
Summers, Sir Spencer Vaughan-Morgan, J. K. Wills, Sir Gerald (Bridgwater)
Taylor, William (Bradford, N.) Vosper, Rt. Hon. D, F. Wilson, Geoffrey (Truro)
Teeling, W. Wade, D. W. Wolrige-Gordon, Patrick
Temple, John M. Wakefield, Edward (Derbyshire, W.) Woollam, John Victor
Thompson, Kenneth (Walton) Wakefield, Sir Wavell (St. M'lebone) Yates, William (The Wrekin)
Thompson, R. (Croydon, S.) Wall, Patrick
Thornton-Kemsley, Sir Colin Ward, Rt. Hon. G. R. (Worcester) TELLERS FOR THE NOES:
Mr. Legh and Mr. Hughes-Young.