§ 3.41 p.m.
§ Mr. Harold Wilson (Huyton)
I beg to move.That this House deplores the intolerable extortion, evictions and property profiteering which have resulted from the Rent Act 1957, and demands that Her Majesty's Government take immediate and drastic action to restore security for threatened tenants.Try as they may to play this matter down, Ministers know that the people of this country have been gravely shocked by what they have read in the national Press and by what they saw in "Panorama" last Monday about the methods of slum landlords in London. I think that it is a commentary on our times and undoubtedly on the myopic complacency of Ministers that it needed a chance reference to Rachman in recent judicial proceedings to bring this record of extortion and fraud into the light.
Sometimes one turns over a stone in a garden or field and sees the slimy creatures which live under its protection. This is what has happened in these past weeks. But the photophobic animal world has nothing to compare with the revolting creatures of London's underworld, living there, shunning the light, growing fat by battening on human misery.
Our purpose today must be to draw the lessons from the facts which are available to us and which have been available to Her Majesty's Government for a very long time. We have to ask how far these conditions result from actions of the House or of the Government, or, for that matter, failure by the Government and by the House to act when action was needed.
Before I do this, I want to say just this: I trust that no words of mine, or of any other hon. Member, will be twisted by persons of evil intent, particularly the Fascist 1059 scum which infests parts of London, and used for the purposes of anti-Semitic or any other racial hatred. I trust that we are not to have in this debate, or in the wider debate outside, any attempt to set black against white. Rather let us follow the honourable example of the courageous men and women who form the tenants' protection society in Paddington and who have as a badge a coloured hand grasping a white. Black and white tenants have equally been terrorised and exploited by evil men seeking monetary gain.
Black hooligans have been used against peaceable law-abiding white citizens. Equally, thugs with white skins have been used to procure the eviction of peaceful and law-abiding coloured families. Of course, we know that there are black landlords who exploit their fellow countrymen and white landlords who do the same. We condemn them not as black or white, but as bad landlords. Our job, regardless of prejudice or colour, is to curb their evil powers and to bring them to account.
As I have said, the debate stems from the Rachman disclosures, but the lessons which have to be drawn are not confined to Rachman or to London. The Rachman story is a lurid version of a story which goes on in more sombre, sepia tones in other slum empires and other cities as well as London. Although many of us will be using the word "Rachman" today, we shall be using it more as a convenient form of shorthand, because Rachman was only part of a much wider conspiracy. Indeed, there is growing evidence that he may not have been the controlling figure and that he was one of the "front men" of a much bigger organisation. Whatever his rô1e in the organisation was, there is no doubt the conspiracy is continuing and is still using the same methods.
Summarising the evidence which has appeared in the public Press, and a great deal of other evidence available to my hon. Friends and myself the disease of Rachmanism, if one likes to call it that, can be described in this way. It is to buy controlled properties at low prices and to use every means, legal or illegal, blackmail, or physical violence, to bring about evictions which, under the Rent Act, 1957, have the effect 1060 of decontrolling the property so that it can then either be sold to business associates or independent property speculators, or can be let at high rents to people in acute housing need, or still higher rents to prostitutes, because the Rachman property empire was a vice empire, too.
Then, to evade the palsied hand of official control, the loopholes in the Companies Act are used to create a proliferation of interlocking companies so that any action which may be taken—sanitary notices, certificates of disrepair, or the cumbersome machinery of compulsory acquisition—can be frustrated by a total inability to identify the beneficial owner of the property.
The machinery that has been used, based on the operation or co-operation of a small number of lawyers and accountants willing at a price or for a share in the gain to pervert their professional ability, was well described in a newspaper yesterday. I could equally well quote from a whole series of cuttings from practically the entire Press, but I will quote from just one Sunday newspaper, the Sunday Times, which is generally regarded as Conservative.
I make no apology for a somewhat lengthy quotation, because if Ministers had been doing their job—and I think that at the Rachman headquarters, if we could ever find them, there must surely be honoured places for portraits of a Macmillan, a Sandys, a Brooke, a Hill and a Joseph—we would long ago have had a ruthless and searching inquiry and a full report available to us.
As we do not have that White Paper, I am compelled to read at some length this detailed account from the Sunday Times. It says:As with most property concerns"—I want those words to be noted—Rachman operated through an interlocking chain of limited companies, usually with his own nominees as directors. The real control of the companies, however, remained securely with Rachman, because each nominee would be required to provide him with an undated letter of resignation and a 'blank transfer' for the return of any assets vested in the company. (Should one of the parent companies require the return of any property, it was simply a matter of putting a dale on the transfer, which would then become binding.)As Rachman's empire grew, these nominee companies proliferated In a typical set-up, Company A might have the freehold, 1061 Company B the head lease, and there might be subsidiary companies whose sole assets were an under-lease on one house or even of just one self-contained floor. There is little expense involved in setting up these companies—the usual 'retail' price for each is £25, but regular buyers like Rachman could buy companies 'wholesale' at about £19 a time.All this is fairly standard business procedure in the speculative property world. It was a system that grew up mainly for minimising tax liability, and for greater operating flexibility. But for Rachman it also had two fringe benefits. The raising of finance was sometimes easier, because the scale of borrowing from each company was within the discretionary powers of bank managers and building societies. And it had the effect of concealing ownership—of putting Rachman at a further remove from the sources of his income.I think that it might be convenient, at this stage, to ask the Chief Whip whether we are to have the benefit of one or two of the responsible Ministers here this afternoon. Tax avoidance is a very important part of this, and we could do with the presence of the Chancellor of the Exchequer. Since what we are to debate this afternoon is the whole situation which the Prime Minister glories to have created, I think that we should have the Prime Minister here, too.
The quotation continued:It was this that for years foiled attempts by local councils and rent tribunals to get at the facts behind rackets in property and clubs.…If a public health notice or certificate of disrepair is to be served, the council's first problem is to find someone to serve it on. They have two possible clues as to the owner: the person who pays the rates, and the name appearing on the tenant's rent book.…This is unlikely to get them beyond the name of the agent.There is then a long account of the way in which they "fiddle" the agency business.The council has power to serve the notice on the agent, but the agent may have no power or money to act until he receives instructions from his client; and he will no doubt refuse to give his client's name. 'It would be quite unethical to reveal such confidences,' the agent says blandly. Prevarication of this type can go on for several weeks.Meanwhile, the issue may have been further confused and delayed—though not ultimately avoided—by the immediate owners, Company C being wound up, their underlease reverting to Company B or being assigned to Company D.
§ Lieut.-Colonel J. K. Cordeaux (Nottingham, Central) rose—1062
§ Mr. Wilson
I will give way later, because I recognise that the hon. and gallant Gentleman is one of those—there are a number of Members on both sides of the House—who have been fighting this racket for many years, but I want to complete the quotation because it is essential to know the method by which this system has been worked. I can understand the embarrassment which this is causing some hon. Members opposite although I do not refer to the hon. and gallant Member for Nottingham, Central (Lieut.-Colonel Cordeaux).
I will continue the quotation:Meanwhile, the issue may have been further confused and delayed—though not ultimately avoided—by the immediate owners, Company C, being wound up, their underlease reverting to Company B or being assigned to Company D. 'Look guv,' says the owner of Company D, 'I've only just bought the joint. Give me time.' 'One way or another,' said a colleague of Rachman, 'we reckoned we could keep a defective drain going for four or five months without the legal penalties becoming uneconomic' And by that time they would probably have achieved their original ends—of persuading statutory tenants to leave, or simply playing for time in financial difficulties.They could keep a defective drain going for four or five months, and a British family with the same inalienable right to a home as any other member of the community, and with full statutory rights guaranteeing security of tenure, could be driven from that home by the intolerable stench of that drain so that Rachman or those behind him could become millionaires. Is this what hon. Members opposite mean when they say, "Life's better under the Conservatives"—because if would be a pity to let Labour ruin it by the introduction of legislation which for once protected the rights of tenants and not the profits of landlords and of legislation which closed the loopholes in the Companies Act?
§ Lieut.-Colonel Cordeaux
I am grateful to the right hon. Gentleman for giving way and also for what he said. I simply want to ask him whether he was aware, as the Sunday Times apparently was not aware, that as a result of the Landlord and Tenant Act, which came into force last November, the name of the owner of the house has to appear on the rent book?
§ Mr. Wilson
I am certainly aware of that, and I recognise the fight which has been put up by the hon. and gallant 1063 Member and by my hon. Friend the Member for Brixton (Mr. Lipton), who has been fighting the Brady case, I think, since 1952. But I shall have a number of quotations in respect of hon. Members who have had an honourable record in this matter.
§ Mr. R. J. Mellish (Bermondsey)
Since that Act was passed landlords have had to give their names, but when one comes to investigate them one finds that the addresses are accommodation addresses and that there are no such people.
§ Mr. Wilson
I shall come to the operation of this system later.
What did all this mean to the tenants? My hon. Friend the Member for Paddington, North (Mr. Parkin) has given the House details over the years of the way in which tenants have been treated in his constituency. He has given these details in the House with about as much impact on the complacency of the Treasury Bench as if he had been describing housing conditions in Nero's Rome.
I can select today only one or two cases from a formidable dossier which hasbeen handed to me—a dossier which will be available to any tribunal of inquiry which the Government will set up which is clothed with adequate powers to uncover the truth and to protect innocent witnesses. Nor, of course, can I say that the dossier to which I am referring is complete, because there are many tenants and many ex-tenants in this country who today are living in fear—in fear for their lives—about coming out with the truth. Let me give one or two examples.
§ Mr. Wilson
There were two old ladies, sisters, entitled to a peaceful and dignified tenure of their home in which they had lived for many years, but who were forced under duress by one of these landlords to pay two months' rent in advance. When they were pressed for more rent the next month, having already paid it, they were told that the property had been sold—it had been transferred from one subsidiary company to another—and that the new owners had no responsibility for the earlier payment. The payment had been made in cash, with no receipt and no rent book.
1064 When the old ladies hesitated to pay, they were brutally beaten up, and now they live in permanent terror. They will not give evidence on this question. They are afraid, because they fear that knock on the door which Ministers sometimes reserve for their perorations about Hitler's Germany or Stalin's Russia; and that fear of a knock on the door exists within three miles of this House. That is what happened to these two sisters. What was the message on the Conservative posters which were plastered over Paddington in the last L.C.C election? Was it "Conservatives Care"? I ask for what and for whom do Conservatives care when this is allowed to go on?
Another woman, aged 64, living with a brother aged 63, was driven out of her home and is now living in North London, and she tells how her rent was not collected, although repeatedly offered, so that she could be evicted. And Rachman's hirelings drove her out. The next case is a man of 52. He happens to be called Mr. Joseph. He has the same rights under our laws as any of his kinsmen. He has gone into hiding this month because he has been terrorised by thugs. His furniture was smashed up as recently as 5th July, after he had refused to move out of his flat.
The previous Tuesday four men arrived with an Alsatian dog and ordered him to leave. A police constable was brought, who rightly told these thugs that they could not evict him without an order of the court. But three days later he came home from work to find that his furniture had been smashed and piled in the corridor outside the flat, and the floorboards ripped up, and he realised the price of refusing to go. He has no redress. He does not know the name of his landlord.
§ Mr. Wilson
I am sure that my hon. Friend does, but how could the tenant know? I am sure that if he catches your eye, Mr. Speaker, my hon. Friend will have a number of disclosures to make.
How could Mr. Joseph know the name of his landlord? The property in which he lives has changed hands fifteen times since he moved in eighteen months ago.
On 10th July, after the last housing debate, in which the Minister intervened with his utterly silly suggestion that there 1065 were adequate powers to deal with Rachman and his ilk, Mr. Joseph gave an interview to a local newspaper, and as a result of this he was followed by strong arm men and he had to go into hiding. This is in Britain in 1963. What was it that the Prime Minister said in 1959, before the last election?
§ Mr. Wilson
This is what he said:All the evidence shows that the Rent Act is working out more or less as we believed it would.[HON. MEMBERS: "Where is he?"] My hon. Friends must realise that he has no time for dealing with the state of the nation these days. He has other things to deal with. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh."] Then bring him here. Why is he not here?
§ Mr. W. R. Rees-Davies (Isle of Thanet) rose—
§ Mr. Wilson
It was the Prime Minister I was asking for, not the hon. Member for the Isle of Thanet (Mr. Rees-Davies).
The Home Secretary, when Minister of Housing and Local Government had this to say at a Conservative conference in 1958:Whenever people show signs of believing other Socialist scares about the general grant or this or that, I will remind you to remind them how it turned out over the Rent Act. The honourable people in the Labour Party must have it on their conscience that they caused thousands of tenants so much needless anxiety, fear and misery by false propaganda.I will give the House only one more reference to what has being going on. I quote now a former member of the staff of this slum empire. He said:I was a member of the Heavy Glove Gang"—
§ Mr. Wilson
That is a very silly question. If we were to give the man's name his life would be in danger. But we can bring him forward to give evidence if the Minister will set up a proper inquiry which will protect witnesses in respect of evidence given.
1066 Meanwhile, I will give the evidence to the House, and I expect it to be taken seriously. This man said:We were the men employed to clear unwanted tenants out of houses in the Rachman empire.The gang is still working for Rachman's successors. The method of working hasn't changed.We got paid up to £250 to clear a house of unwanted tenants. Sometimes it is easy. Sometimes hard.Tenants who knew what is good for them usually got oat without giving trouble as soon as the Heavy Glove men appeared.Those who don't get roughed up and chucked into the street, with all their belongings.He goes on with a long account of their methods:At one house in Roseford Terrace, Shepherd's Bush, a girl called Norma Mayers was giving trouble. She was from Barbados and shared room with another coloured girl.The House was owned by"—
he gave the name of the man responsible for it, but I do not suppose that the House wants me to give names:A few of the boys called on her but she locked them out so they smashed down the door. When they found Norma's sick baby in the house they decided not to throw her out. Instead, they cut off her gas, water and electricity. When Norma called the police, the gang took off. A coloured man, who had nothing to do with the job, was arrested.He then goes on to say:But this girl Norma wasn't scared. She took"—such-and-such a person—to court and got £50 damages. The court case, however, didn't stop the organisation using the Heavy Glove men. They are still working as hard as ever.Another man in that organisation said:This organisation is real big. They can get anything done. They have big money behind them. I'm hiding from them now. If they catch me they'll string me up.These are some of the questions that really need to be inquired into. It reminds one of what Lord Hailsham has said inToryism and Tomorrow":Our Conservative ideal is to see that…all get true social justice. My hope, and I believe our aim, is to make each group within society feel that, subject only to the interest of the whole, they are the wanted, the admired and beloved members of a Christian nation. There are no vermin in our conception of a Conservative Briton. All are needed. All must be cared for. None must be denied the 1067 opportunity or the just rewards of the style of life they aim at for themselves or their children…"All must be cared for";"…the style of life they aim at for themselves for their children." Was that meant to include Norma Mayers and her sick baby? Hypocrisy such as that in the mouths of Conservative Ministers makes any decent person want to throw up.
I could go on with case after case. In some cases, peaceful persuasion—the peaceful persuasion of a padlock on the door, gas, electricity and water all cut off, the humiliation of tearing the lavatory door off its hinges and taking it away, leaving the place open, windows smashed, or the roof made to let in rain. In other cases, physical violence—Alsatian dogs, beatings up, terrorism that I think that most hon. Members genuinely find it almost impossible to credit in a so-called Christian civilised society.
This is the property-owning democracy the people have been cozened into voting for at election after election. We shall be told of course, that it has nothing to do with the Rent Act. One Conservative Sunday newspaper yesterday argued that it was due to control, not to decontrol. If the Minister argues that, we must ask whether he plans any further measures of decontrol. But, of course, these things do stem from the Rent Act. They stem from the creeping decontrol provisions by which any property vacated by the sitting tenant becomes free of rent control, a provision that gives a built-in incentive to unscrupulous landlords, to get tenants out.
Of course, Rachman's was an extreme case, but this evil is still going on in the Rachman or ex-Rachman empire. But there are others who use similar methods to be found in overcrowded districts in London and other big cities: rent collections with no receipts, no rent book, and evictions varying from the more or less peremptory but legal letter from a lawyer to "strong-arm" methods.
In Newcastle-upon-Tyne, for example, the pace of evictions has quickened so much in the past few months that the city council there has set up an emergency evictions committee. I was in the North-East at the weekend, and Saturday's edition of the Newcastle evening paper said: 1068Some landlords have called in violent strong-arm men to try to terrorise old people out of their homes.The newspaper quoted the city's director of housing, as saying:These are not fairy tales. We have case histories to substantiate every one of them.He proceeded to give examples of kinds very familiar to those who know the Rachman techniques. That is in Newcastle, and I am sure, Mr. Speaker, that hon. Members who catch your eye can give other cases from other parts of the country.
Before I come to the measures referred to in our Motion that need to be taken, I must refer to certain other issues of public policy. The first is the unscrupulous use of the Companies Act both for tax avoidance—and here we are entitled to call it tax evasion, because it is illegal avoidance of tax evasion—and also even to frustrate the serving of statutory notices.
There is nothing new in this use of the Companies Act. In the piece I quoted from the Sunday Times it said that this was the common pattern throughout the property speculators' world and, of course, we raised this, question of the proliferation of companies under the Companies Act in the last Parliament. During the last election the Jasper case, the Lintang case, broke—right in the middle of the election—causing the ruling party a period of acute embarrassment. Everything we then said about the Jasper case has been justified—the manoeuvring of the Companies Act to get quick, tax-free capital gains by buying and selling blocks of residential property was justified by the findings of Mr. Neville Faulks' Companies Act inquiry.
We took the straightforward, commonsense view that if some people can make a killing of £1 million by an overnight sale of property someone has to pay that £1 million—it does not come from nowhere. It is paid for, of course, by the tenants. Look at the whole record of Dolphin Square; and there have been others. It is going on all the time, sometimes with the cognisance of the big insurance companies.
At the weekend there was an advertisement for a placing with a company whereby a young man, who was clever enough to get into the property market, 1069 is to be a quarter-millionaire as a result of getting large loans from an insurance company—and he is getting it from the rents paid by the tenants.
During the election, when the Jasper case broke, we were promised prompt and effective action, even by the Prime Minister himself—he is always more vigorous at election times. We were promised a companies Act inquiry and effective action to follow. To show that he meant business the right hon. Gentleman appointed as President of the Board of Trade, responsible for this, the present Chancellor of the Exchequer who, in this job, has been a dead loss. We had to wait three years for the Report, and the kindest thing we can say of it is that it failed to live up to its own analysis.
In the first paragraph of the Jenkins Report figures were produced to show that the number of new company registrations had doubled from 1955 to 1960–61. The Jenkins Committee went on to accept that the case was proved that most of these were being formed for purposes of tax avoidance or other reasons which have nothing to do with the trade and industry of this country. I think that most commentators have found the proposals they made for amendments to the Companies Act miserably inadequate for the purpose. But, even so, having made the proposals, the Government have failed to propose the legislation. In fact, whoever one blames, be it the Jenkins Committee or the Government—and the responsibility rests with the Government—the promises made at the last election have not been carried out.
Again, I must refer to another common feature between the two cases because the House was warned by the Lintang case. I am referring to the use of unscrupulous building societies controlled by, or linked with, the property racketeer. We all attach too much importance to the good name which the vast majority of building societies have fairly earned to feel happy about some of these cases of a very small minority. I think that it is clear that further legislation is needed, because some of the cases which have been recently reported suggest that the 1960 Act, which was inspired by the Lintang affair, may not have closed all the loopholes.
1070 I think that concern must be expressed about the loans made for property speculation both by banks and insurance companies. A case was mentioned on the Floor of the House last week, again within the Rachman sphere, where both the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Housing and Local Government and a well-known insurance society were taken in by the story about Rachman striking oil in the remote wilds of North Staffordshire. If they are as simple-minded as that, they will fall for the gold brick story next. What I think is more likely is that the Staffordshire valuation was the bait to secure funds for a further extension of Rachman's slum and vice empire in London.
There is another question here. Is it not Government policy to stop insurance company funds and bank loans being used for property speculation? This was announced by the former Chancellor of the Exchequer in the 1961 crisis. On 25th July, at column 227 of Hansard, he said that the banks were being asked to be particularly severe on borrowing applications, for speculative purposes, property development or other speculative services. He went on to say that the Governor of the Bank of England was making a similar request to the British Insurance Association that the insurance companies should observe a similar policy in their lending. Is this still Government policy, or has it beenrescinded? If it has been rescinded, have we been told publicly about it, or is the Government's policy in this case, in our view a wise if belated decision, being frustrated?
I think, too, that we must express concern about the behaviour of some members of the legal profession in this business. I suggest that the Law Society must investigate some of these things that have been going on. If it does not, I think that the House will have to do it.
Finally, before I come to the action that we propose to the House, we cannot ignore the clear and insolent record of tax evasion. We are told that Rachman amassed a fortune of several millions without ever having paid a penny Income Tax from the day he arrived in this country to the day he died. The possibility of being able to get away with this is exactly what we have argued year after year from this Box in debates on 1071 the Budget and Finance Bills. I remember at the last election, when we talked about tax avoidance, the Prime Minister, with great authority, said that if we tackled tax avoidance we could not save more than £250,000 a year. We could have saved ten times as much on the Rachman profits alone.
What of Rachman's estate at the time of his death? The affidavit says that it was £8,000. We have said often enough that death duties are a voluntary tax, but we have never thought that Income Tax was as voluntary as all that. What has the Revenue been up to in all this business? It is always vigorous enough in pursuing an export manager to include in his assessable income the values of meals or laundry services that he has saved from abroad on export business. The teacher with £1,000 a year and two young children, has no means of evading his payment of £52 a year, or £1 a week, in taxation because it is in Schedule E. The research scientist who earns £1,750 a year has to pay £5 a week under Schedule E, yet these racketeers use services provided by the Board of Trade under the Companies Act and manage to evade every penny of tax they owe.
I doubt whether the full investigation facilities of the Inland Revenue can get at the facts. For one thing, it has no access to Land Registry files. It has no hope of ever tracing the beneficient ownership of these slippery property companies—in any case rents are mostly paid in cash, without records. We shall never know the extent of the illegal salting away of these profits in Switzerland or other countries, despite exchange control, and this is one reason why we fed that a full-dress inquiry, covering all aspects of this case, is necessary.
While I am on this, I must ask the Minister of Housing and Local Government whether he will make a full and frank statement on the curiously passive rôle of the police in this shabby record of gangsterism. Were they always unable to find evidence sufficient to secure a conviction? Will the Minister say what instructions have been given locally, and what instructions have been given by the Commissioner of Police for the Metropolis, on this question? Are they clear and unequivocal? I ask this because I think that we have reached the stage 1072 where these issues cannot be regarded as a private quarrel between two private citizens, or between landlord and tenant. We have to recognise that they are a standing threat to the Queen's peace. With all the free money that was involved—I hope that this is true, but we have to ask—can we be sure that there has been no corruption of individual officers? We shall need to be reassured about this whole question.
Finally, I turn to the drastic action for which we have called in our Motion. The Minister, I see, is to move an Amendment which reaches an all-time low in complacency and irrelevance. Of course we agree with the Government that the answer to overcrowding is to build more new houses, but what does the Minister propose in order to get houses built in adequate numbers at rents which the Paddington and Notting Hill tenants can afford? Where is the land coming from? And at what price? The House debated land prices a fortnight ago. The Minister defends his free market in land. If he does, he has no hope of rehousing these evicted or overcrowded tenants or the 4,000 homeless in London whose plight stems largely from Rent Act evictions.
Under the present Government, as is well known, the number of local authority houses built has fallen to little over half the number which Aneurin Bevan achieved in 1948, three years after the war. Does the right hon. Gentleman think that there is any hope in the idea of a free market for houses? The Sunday Express has been given an instruction from its noble proprietor to support the present Prime Minister at all costs, so I acquit it of any Socialist tendencies. A week ago last Sunday it carried a front page lead about the rocketing prices of owner-occupied houses in the London area—a 30 per cent. increase in three years. This is the Rent Act at work, solving all our problems!
But this is not what the Government are to tell us in their Amendment. We are to be told that because of this beneficent 1961 Act local authorities now possess all the powers they need to deal with the property racket. It is true that some vigorous Labour-controlled local authorities have taken action—Birmingham by a process of municipalisation of whole areas, and Newcastle's evictions committee, to which I have referred, 1073 is threatening compulsory acquisition wherever it can, and has dealt with some bad cases.
Is the failure in Paddington simply the total inability of a paralytic Conservative-controlled council to deal with the situation? I see the Minister of Housing and Local Government nodding. Now the right hon. Gentleman is shaking his head. Perhaps I might suggest that he move it in a diagonal direction, because it has taken virtually no action. The Minister must know—and this, I think, is the reason for his gyrations—that the power that he has given is totally inadequate.
The Standing Joint Committee of Metropolitan Boroughs has made it clear that it regards the Act as worse than useless in dealing with the worst landlords. In one respect, the Act weakened the power of boroughs by repealing their former powers to prosecute for failure to comply with an order to execute the works needed to make a multi-occupied house suitable for occupation, and substituting default powers instead of the powers of prosecution. But how many councils will take the risk of doing the work at great cost to the ratepayers, when they do not know whether they will ever trace the landlords in order to recover the money?
The Clerk of the Fulham Borough Council, who is also the Clark of the Works Sub-Committee of the London Boroughs Standing Committee, said:At present, we are allowed only to sue the man receiving the rents. He might be a man of straw and a council will find itself footing substantial bills out of the ratepayers' pocket. It is this fear that is making London authorities wary in their use of their Housing Act powers.The switching round of properties from one Rachman subsidiary to another, or one property company subsidiary to another, makes a complete monkey of the Act and of the Minister who stands there and pathetically professes his faith in it, because the 1961 Act, as a means of dealing with the Rachman-type empire in London and other big cities, is as ineffective as a peashooter against a pack of wolves.
The same is true of compulsory acquisition. The Bermondsey Borough Council used it with identifiable landlords whose ideas of rent are a bit over rapacious, but, again, there is the prob- 1074 lem of finding the owner. This is anextract from Hansard, I7th June, 1952:Lieut.-Colonel Lipton asked the Minister of Housing and Local Government"—that is, the present Prime Minister—what steps he will take to ensure that the correct name? and addresses of property owners are recorded with local rating authorities.The right hon. Gentleman replied:I do not think that any steps are called for on my part."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 17th June, 1962; Vol. 502, c. 977.]Now I will tell the Minister of Housing and Local Government what we consider to be essential. He could have taken very short, sharp action on this. I think that full justice would have been met in this case if he had taken over the whole of the properties in this empire, and I think that it would have been quite fair if the compensation paid for it had been based on tax returns made by these companies. After all, we always believe in fair compensation; and that would be fair.
What I suggest to him is that he should introduce a Bill now—and we will grant every facilities to get it through before the Recess, even after ten o'clock at night—to give powers to take over all the rented property in these zones of dubious ownership, wherever extortion and exploitation is the order of the day and wherever statutory notices are ignored. The failure of the existing legislation—I put this quite seriously to the right hon. Gentleman—is that it is directed against an individual—and an individual who can defy it by concealing his identity or transferring his property. The powers should be directed not at the individual, but at the property.
Just as an Admiralty marshal can nail a writ of attachment to the mast of a ship, after which it is illegal to move it—and then the legal argument can begin—so the acquisition notice should be nailed on the door of the house. From that moment the house is the property of the local authority and it alone can collect the rent. Once this is done, any legitimate landlord—there may be some and still are some in these areas—can come forward and make his claim by due legal process.
But the racketeer will be faced with a rather difficult choice, either of identifying himself and discharging his responsibilities in connection with a statutory 1075 disrepair, or sanitary, or overcrowding notice, or of remaining in his hide-out, in which case he sacrifices his rent income. So let the Government introduce this legislation forthwith, and we will join with them in making it law. And let them see that the powers are put into immediate effect after the Royal Assent.
Then again, I think that there is a strong case, although this is not so immediately urgent, for legislation in the near future requiring full registration of all rented property with full details of the beneficial ownership and the rents charged, the sanction for failing to register being requisitioned by the local authority. This would prevent the degeneration of other properties into the hands of racketeers, and the information given would be of inestimable value to the Inland Revenue. Legislation on the Companies Act and on capital gains are the duty of other Ministers, but none the less urgent for that.
The Rent Act. I repeat where we stand. We shall repeal the 1957 Act and replace it by a Bill which restores full security of tenure to the tenant, which establishes rent tribunals to fix rents when they are appealed to by either the tenant or the landlord, on the basis not of arbitrary local decisions, still less on strong arm methods, but on decisions of this House on what constitutes a reasonable rent in relation to the rateable value, and, of course, to the conditions and amenities of the house.
On the question of bringing up the conditions of old houses to adequate standards, we published our proposals very recently, and I think that the Minister has seen them and even commented on them.
The issue that we are debating today goes far beyond the sleazy slum empires of London and other cities. One major reason for the overcrowding which evil men can exploit is the sheer breakdown of Government planning, because the overcrowding in London, which is the main cause, has gone on and developed pari passu with vast and costly office-building programmes for speculative purposes. These have not only added to the congestion in Central London and acted as a magnet for still more employees coming into London requiring housing, but they have also pre-empted urgently 1076 needed building resources, including the scarcest of all resources—land—from the housing programme.
Equally, the effects of the Rent Act cannot be measured and cannot be dismissed in terms of gangsterism. It will not be enough to say, "These are evil men. How we deplore them." Respectable property companies which are operating within the law—the law which hon. Members opposite made—have brought untold hardship to hundreds of thousands. This is not a problem of the slums and the twilight zones. I have received hundreds of letters during the last three or four days since it was announced that this debate was to take place. Hon. Members might be surprised; or perhaps they might not be surprised. Many have come from the Finchleys, the Hampsteads and the Richmonds, and much further afield.
I will quote only one:Twenty-three years in one flat. Pre-rent Act rent £72 a year, including rates. Now rising at the end of this year to £375, plus rates of £60, plus water rate. In other words, a rise from £72 to £440, more than six fold increase.We have all seen the figures of the properties and dividends of the big property companies, but where, in the London area, are people dispossessed from their homes by inability to pay these high rents to go; and why should they go? What this debate shows is that private landlordism has failed. This is why we say: repeal the Rent Act and replace it with a Measure fairer to the tenant. Strengthen the measures needed to enable houses to be built for sale to owner-occupiers, and this means firm action on interest rates and still firmer action on land prices.
Finally, let it be recognised that for the great number of people living in overcrowded conditions and slums the answer must be rented houses, but houses worthy of our people in this age—not the conditions I have been talking of—houses built to let at rents which ordinary families can afford. That is why this problem will never be solved on the basis of speculative gains and private profit. Slums and overcrowding can only be solved by a housing policy which, in its inspiration, its administration and its humanity reflects the spirit of social purpose.
§ 4.30 p.m.
§ The Minister of Housing and Local Government and Minister for Welsh Affairs (Sir Keith Joseph)
I beg to move, to leave out from "House" to the end of the Question and to add instead thereof:while deploring any disreputable practices engaged in by some unscrupulous landlords, rejects the suggestion that these have resulted from the Rent Act 1957, and recognises that the effective remedy lies in the Government's policy to achieve a larger programme of new building and the modernisation of many more homes".Perhaps I should start by answering the Leader of the Opposition's question about the location of my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister. My right hon. Friend is at the moment meeting the Prime Minister of the Congo, Mr. Adoula. My right hon. Friend is carrying out his duty, as he always does, of meeting visiting Heads of State and visiting Prime Ministers. My right hon. Friend the Home Secretary is fulfilling a long-standing and important engagement connected with his Department, and will be here as soon as he can—probably at about eight o'clock.
Reports of intimidation that have been appearing in the Press have shocked the whole country, but the House will expect from me a fuller story of cause and effect, and scope, than the retailing of current newspaper contents that we have just listened to from the right hon. Gentleman. We have had a speech—the contents of which we could all have gathered from the Press—without, as I understand, a single effort to verify anything, without a single word about the background which makes this problem so intractable and so awful, and with a few perfunctory words at the end related to the so-called, alleged Socialist solution.
I shall now try to explain—[Interruption.] If right hon. and hon. Gentlemen opposite are concerned—as I am sure they are—that we should have a productive debate, I hope that I shall be allowed to deploy the facts, bad as well as good. I have a lot to say.
The essence of the offence which Rachman committed is, in one word, "sweating". He appears to have been a racketeer, battening from before the Rent Act, on the London housing shortage. He was not hindered because, at the time that he was in full activity, 1078 the law was not effective to prevent gross mismanagement and abuse of property ownership in housing, and because, moreover, the law did not bite on the owner who protected himself, as Rachman did, by a smokescreen of complicated company transactions. That is why he was not hindered.
Rachman was not punished because no people who knew of any crimes that he committed or condoned came forward to give sufficient evidence. The conduct which is alleged against him is loathsome, but I believe that the House would wish to knew what is known about both the past and the present scale of intimidation of this sort. [Interruption.] I hope that hon. Members will allow me to make my speech. The right hon. Gentleman took 50 minutes, and I shall take less if I am allowed to develop my arguments.
In 1959, when it is said that the so-called Rachman empire was at its height—I see that the newspapers are saying that there were involved about 80 houses, but I cannot verify that exact figure—a number of allegations of intimidation in connection with the collection of rents of property said to be owned by him came to the notice of the police. These were rigorously pursued, but although the persons reported to have been victimised were closely questioned few were prepared to say that they had been intimidated. Evidence of about 10 incidents were submitted to the Director of Public Prosecutions, but in each case he considered that the evidence was not strong enough to support a prosecution.
During the course of the long investigation into properties controlled by the Rachman organisation several cases of brothel keeping came to light, and a number of successful prosecutions were taken. But in no case was there any evidence beyond supposition, that Rachman was knowingly conniving at intimidation or brothel keeping, on account of the extent to which he personally was removed from day-to-day transactions, hiding, as he was, behind agents and companies. The police are still watching the situation in respect of those and similar properties. [Interruption.] I apologise to the House for reading four pages, but I want to get the exact police and local authority report before the House before going on to things that 1079 I can speak of from my own experience. The police are still watching the situation in respect of these and similar properties, but no recent complaints of intimidation have been received.
My Department has been in touch with Birmingham, Nottingham, Paddington, Kensington, Islington, Stepney, Lewisham, Camberwell, Hampstead, Lambeth and Willesden. But except in the case of Kensington and Lambeth all authorities say that they have no evidence of rackets on the scale alleged in respect of Rachman, but that there are a good many individual landlords who are exploiting their properties by overcrowding and charging very high rents.
One authority said that it has had complaints of persecution from controlled tenants, but the others have no evidence of intimidation, although they suspect that it is happening here and there. Two authorities suspect that there are two individuals in each borough who may be working some kind of racket. At present, this is only suspicion. We have advised that what is known to the councils should be passed on to Scotland Yard, and the councils concerned are alert and will be on the lookout for any sign of this sort of behaviour.
I should add, to complete this part of the report, that the Paddington Rent Tribunal reports that it has had no complaints of intimidation recently. On the other hand, Kensington says that it has had about three dozen complaints in the last year, and that all were reported to the police. The individual cases of intimidation which have featured in the newspapers, and which the right hon. Gentleman has retailed to us, seem to me best reported to the police. If the people concerned feel willing to talk about them to newspaper reporters and politicians, then they can talk to the police. One of the dangers of repeating Press and other reports without examination is that the full story is not always uncovered.
The cause of Rachman's ability to conduct the sort of racket that he obviously was conducting was not the Rent Act. To do him justice, the right hon. Gentleman did not make any strong argument that it was. He referred to Rachman's activities before the Rent Act was passed, and the whole House will know that Rachman operated 1080 mainly by way of letting off rooms in a way that took them quite outside rent control. Despite rent control he managed to obtain houses which he converted into this kind of letting. Rent control was, is and would be no protection against racketeers using intimidation, deceit and trickery.
§ Sir K. Joseph
I do not even think that it makes it more difficult; is simply increases the temptation to carry it out.
The police are a protection when the victim can bring himself to give evidence. But in the absence of evidence only vigilant local authorities, using the strong new powers made available to them last year, can end this abuse, until we end the shortage of houses which has made it possible.
Hon. and right hon. Gentlemen opposite would do well to remember that there was plenty of sweating and exploitation of property under full rent control, and there are plenty of cases of which I have records—I will not weary the House with them—of this sort of behaviour long before the party opposite went out of office. Lettings, neither self-contained nor furnished, escaped all control and sub-tenants were crammed into controlled dwellings. But, as the right hon. Gentleman has pursued his vendetta against the Rent Act, perhaps I should once again explain what the Rent Act did.
The House will remember that by 1957 rents were, broadly, still at 1939 levels, whereas since then earnings had trebled and, as a result, the economic incentive—on the one hand, for people to house themselves if they could, and, on the other, for the owners to maintain their property—was absolutely blunted. Though there was shortage and decay, there was absolutely no sense in making both worse and that was whatfull rent control was doing. Whatever their needs, whatever their income, whether they needed to be in London or not, people were, naturally, clinging to their bargain accommodation. In those days no new family or household had any chance of renting a home or a flat of their own. Every time a flat or a house became vacant the owner immediately sold it to escape rent control—[HON. MEMBERS: "Where?"] I am coming to that.
1081 On the evidence now available, if hon. Members will read it, 80 per cent. of houses and flats now vacated are kept available for letting, whereas before the Rent Act they were all sold. The fact is that it was right and proper and brave to pass the Rent Act. There are people looking for tenancies now. But there were people looking for tenancies before the passing of the Rent Act. There is decay now. There was very much more decay before the Rent Act was passed. Most of the vacancies that were caused by the Rent Act were not caused by eviction, but because of the voluntary movement of people to house themselves.
As a result of the Rent Act, scores of thousands of people, who would never have been able to rent a house of their own, have been able to do so. Of these scores of thousands of people some have been evicted so that a house could be reoccupied by its owner, or redeveloped. The fact is that those people who have been evicted under the Rent Act have been evicted from tenancies which, but for the Rent Act, they and scores of thousands of others would never have had. There is all the difference in the world between renting property at a rent reflecting current earnings and the standard of the premises and the sharing out of responsibility for repair and maintenance—of which the Government and I absolutely approve—andexploiting, or sweating. It is difficult to stop the latter without reintroducing the distortion, the immobility and decay which goes with full rent control.
The danger of the exploitation of some rented property by some landlords was recognised several years ago, and local authorities were invited to make compulsory purchase orders where exorbitant rent threatened the tenants with homelessness. This power in the hands of local authorities has enabled many of them to negotiate with landlords for the reduction of rents without having to make a compulsory purchase order at all. Of the 84 orders made, 25 have been rejected because the local authorities did not show either that the rent was exorbitant or threatening homelessness; 16 are still outstanding; 27 have been withdrawn because the local authority was successful in negotiating a lower rent; 16 have been confirmed.
It is true that rents are higher since the Rent Act. But for those who cannot 1082 afford the rents of a free market the proper recourse is to local authority housing. There is now a huge stock of local authority dwellings, 4 million, of which 300,000 are in London, and there are those who feel—
§ Mr. Mellish
The right hon. Gentleman said that there is recourse to local authority housing in London. There are 56,000 people on the "A" priority list and the vast majority of them have been told that their cases cannot be dealt with for at least the next three years.
§ Sir K. Joseph
What I was going to say was that there are those who feel that somehow this huge stock of local authority housing—4 million in the country generally and over 500,000 in London—could somehow be more effectively used to help the most needy for whom it was built.
§ Mr. G. W. Reynolds (Islington, North) rose—
§ Mr. Deputy-Speaker (Sir William Anstruther-Gray)
Order. I am sure that the House will have a better debate if the Minister is allowed to make his speech.
§ Sir K. Joseph
The Rent Act did not cause the phenomenon of Rachman. What did cause it was shortages. The housing position is immeasurably better than when we came to power. But in the big cities the gap is still severe.
Let me give the House the figures about London where the problem is at its most intense. In the ten years from 1951 to 1961, by planned and by voluntary overspill, the population in Greater London fell by over 250,000 people. This in itself should have greatly improved the spaciousness and quality of the housing available. But not only did the population fall in those ten years by over 250,000, but in the same period 300,000 extra houses were built in Greater London. So, as a result, most of London is very much better housed now than ten or twelve years ago.
I hope that the House will follow the argument. It is important to get it clear. Within this smaller population one particular component was growing during 1083 that decade. There was immigration from all over the world, especially from the Commonwealth, and it grew during that 10-year period—when the population had fallen by over 250,000—by a figure of 120,000 people. These people—we all know it—were not able to spread themselves over the whole of Greater London. They tended, through no fault of their own, to congregate in areas already crowded.
I may tell the House that the Government very seriously considered—they thought long and hard during that time about it—the possibility of allowing only those immigrants to enter who had some sort of housing certificate to show that they had a place to which to go. I believe it right for me to say that by their conduct the Government have, for honourable reasons, allowed this concentrated demand in some parts of the big cities of the country to be increased and aggravated by their understandable hesitation about Commonwealth immigration.
Commonwealth immigration posed a serious dilemma for the Government. On the one hand, there was the great tradition of free Commonwealth entry and all the ties of duty and friendship, particularly to poorer countries, together with the need for labour—often skilled and always willing—and, on the other, the constant reminder that extra people, however worthy, must sharpen the pressure on housing.
The Government paused honourably and then took a cautious step to moderate the right of entry. The Oppposition, for reasons which were honourable and understandable, opposed the necessary legislation at every stage.
This was the background against which Rachman throve. It is quite right to ask what the Government did. My right hon. Friend the present Home Secretary, in one of his visits to multi-occupied property, was so shocked and appalled by the squalor he saw there that he came back to the Department determined on immediate legislation.
At that time the main emphasis was on somehow year by year mitigating the shortage, but so greatly was my right hon. Friend horrified by what he saw that he decided to include in the 1961 1084 Bill a provision to deal in a more effective way with the squalid evils of multi-occupation. The hon. Member for Paddington, North (Mr. Parkin) had explained to my right hon. Friend and me that, however much we increased and sharpened the powers, they would be quite ineffective unless they somehow bit through the smokescreen of legal complexity which operators knew how to weave around themselves.
So the 1961 Act, which came into force with its regulations in May last year—15 months ago—had four main features. It empowered local authorities to make management orders for houses that were not conducted decently. It empowered local authorities to make works orders to see that more sanitary and other facilities were put into houses to come nearer to matching the number of occupants. It empowered local authorities to make an overcrowding order imposing a maximum number of residents to any one of these houses, but in such a way that the owner was not obliged to evict anyone. He was simply forbidden to fill vacancies which occurred until the number fell below a certain amount. The fourth feature was that the fines and prison penalties were made to bite—if the owner could not be identified—on the manager, or even the rent collector, if necessary.
My right hon. Friend was not sure, even then, that he hadgot enough powers in the hands of local authorities. Local authorities were at that time specifically warned that two years after the Act came into force, in 1964, they would be invited to report to the Government what further powers, if any, they thought necessary to give them a full armoury against this evil.
I know there are worries in the minds of local authorities concerned. I know that many of them are, above all, frightened of the large rehousing obligations ahead of the waiting list which might be caused if owners took it into their heads, instead of submitting to orders, to evict large numbers of tenants. I am, however, glad to say—the right hon. Member for Huyton mentioned this—that the powers are being used effectively by a large number of local authorities.
I was in Birmingham a few months ago, and I was most impressed by the 1085 vigour with which that local authority is tackling its very large multi-occupation problem. It has already made 400 management orders. I gather from my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Nottingham, Central (Lieut.-Colonel Cordeaux), who has been so strong an advocate of these or even stronger powers, that Nottingham has already found the powers useful. I hope my hon. and gallant Friend will be able to catch your eye, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, later in the debate.
§ Mr. Roy Jenkins (Birmingham, Stechford)
Is the Minister aware that Birmingham City Council feels that its powers to regulate multi-occupied property are limited by inadequate rights of entry, which are much less than under the Public Health Act? Will he consider amending the law to deal with this part of the problem?
§ Sir K. Joseph
Certainly I shall come to that.
In London, two of the authorities most troubled by this problem have had different experiences. Kensington is using the power vigorously and reports that if a Rachman appeared there the council thinks it could bring him to heel. Paddington, however, has real difficulty and thinks that new and stronger powers might be needed. I am seeing Paddington in a few days' time.
The Government's position is that, instead of waiting for 1964 to review the 1961 Act powers, we are embarking straight away—I have already issued the invitations—on consultations with the local authorities principally concerned to see what further powers, if any, they want. Among these powers we shall no doubt be considering powers which I believe the hon. Member for Paddington, North may be advocating in this debate. I do not want to prejudge any consideration given to these powers by the House.
I gather that what the hon. Member has in mind is that for really sweated and exploited property the right thing might be to provide for a more summary form of compulsory purchase order where the property would vest very quickly in the local authority. Certainly we can consider this. The problem will be to define sufficiently by Statute the sort of property for which 1086 such treatment would be just. The local authorities, also, may object because they would have to be willing to carry out their housing responsibilities to a very much lower standard than they would like. They might be frightened that the standards would be so shocking to their members that there would be a growing pressure to place some of the people ahead of the list.
However, we shall consider anything that the hon. Member and the local authorities wish. One thing I can tell the House, which I hope will ease the mind of the hon. Member, is that if a compulsory purchase order were made for such a property the price certainly would not reflect the exorbitant rents or the exorbitant number of people packed into such a property.
Then there is the suggestion for registration of multi-occupied property, which might be a valuable weapon. This was felt particularly by my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Nottingham, Central. Here again the Government will certainly consider allowing this power locally. There is a power already for it to be introduced next year, but I shall have to consult local authorities because there is a difficulty of definition. Of the tens of thousands of multi-occupied houses, the vast majority are decently conducted, orderly establishments, providing rooms for nurses, students, teachers and typists. It would wrong to force these premises to be registered unless that were the only way to increase the power against racketeers. [HON. MEMBERS: "Why?"] It can certainly be considered.
The position then is that urgent consultations are going on with the local authorities and the Government will introduce any necessary legislation at the earliest possible opportunity. But the main solution must be, of course, more houses and, as the right hon. Member said, better distribution of employment. Over most of the United Kingdom the Government's housing programme has outpaced the growth in population sufficiently to keep us still one of the most spaciously housed people in Europe—[HON. MEMBERS: "Oh."]—this is true, and statistics show it—but in a few cities and towns the shortage is still very severe.
I say to the right hon. Member that the shortage cannot be conjured or controlled away. The only answer to it is more houses and better distribution of 1087 the working population. The limitation to more houses is not finance; we are reviewing the subsidies at the moment. The limitation is not even land; we shall get all the housing land inside the cities and possibly other sorts of land too. The imperative necessity is to increase the output of the building industry and to achieve somehow more decentralisation from our big cities.
We have a difficult task to obtain a better distribution of employment from the big cities, without imperilling the prosperity which is so vital to the country. Of course London and Birmingham are magnets, and will remain magnets whether or not there is a more or a less slice of office building. We have tried with office building to steer a middle course. Perhaps we should have acted more quickly—[HON. MEMBERS: "Hear hear."]—but it was not so obvious then as it is now.
It was the Government, and my right hon. Friend now the Secretary of State for Commonwealth Relations, who in 1956 had to require the L.C.C. to reduce the amount of acreage available for offices in London. Over the years we shall, of course, reduce the relative magnetism of London and the Midlands by increasing the magnetism of the areas which are now less prosperous, but this will not happen overnight. Meanwhile we cannot build a wall round London.
Our policy is more houses, better decentralisation of employment, and sharpening the law if necessary against the abuse of shortage. But there is no magic wand, and what worries a Minister of Housing is the condition of the people in the rented property in the time intervening before we can abolish the shortage in big cities. This must occur until our solution or that of any party can finally be effective.
This is the worry which I and my right hon. Friends before me have had seriously in mind, and from the start I was concerned about the effect of the shortage that reaches forward from the present generation to future generations by degrading the lives of families and the children who come to them. Because of this worry about the scale of the pressure upon the tenants of rented property I tried last autumn to see whether there was any conclusive evidence about the amount 1088 of pressure that was being brought to bear. I had inquiries made of town clerks and of citizens advice bureaux, and by January I had a report from them on an informal basis. As I suppose was inevitable, it was inconclusive.
As a result, when the Government produced a White Paper on London: Employment, Housing and Land, paragraphs 48 and 49 of that document spoke of carrying out a survey of existing housing so that the Government might know the scale of any pressures which were being brought to bear upon the tenants and might ensure that rented property both public and private, in this still remaining period of shortage, was used to the best possible advantage of those needing housing.
I had hoped that this committee would be set up a month ago, in June. I hope that the House will consider that it was worth waiting the extra few weeks, because I am now in a position to announce that Sir Milner Holland, Q.C., has undertaken to chair this committee. I think that the House will agree that that is a guaranee that the survey which will be made will be impartial and thorough. The membership and the exact terms of reference will be announced as soon as possible. I do not think that we have lost any time, because over the last months my Department has been doing a lot of preparatory work which I hope Sir Milner Holland and his committee will find will help them forward. Although the committee will limit its activities to London housing, both public and private, any lessons which we may learn from London may prove to be valuable elsewhere. Let me set this vitally important but extremely limited problem of racketeering in its place.
§ Mr. John Hynd (Sheffield, Attercliffe) rose—
§ Sir K. Joseph
I will certainly consider what the hon. Member says, but this report by its terms of reference must be 1089 limited to London. I have not had the impression that the problems anywhere else in the country are as intense as they are in London.
I was about to say that the evil of racketeering is bred by shortage and that the shortage, because of the area and size of the big cities, cannot be solved overnight. We have a larger housing programme and within it a larger local authority housing programme. All land that is practicable will be obtained for housing, and there is and there will continue to be a rising tempo of decentralisation, but while the shortage exists there is the danger of exploitation. The local authorities have strong powers. They have compulsory powers—they can make management orders, works orders, overcrowding orders for housing in multi-occupation—and we are consulting urgently to see whether further powers are needed.
I have been speaking of the problem we face, of its highly localised nature, of its intractable causes, and of what we have done and may have to do. But, if I may turn from an analysis of the problem to a matter of politics, I think it right to say that the justifiable anxiety about all these things should not obscure for a moment the extreme weakness of the Opposition's position. The right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition is absolutely entitled to probe and criticise, but when he adopts, as he did just now, a highly moral tone I am bound to remind him and the House that there were parasites in the Socialist paradise, too. [Interruption.] Mr. Brady was one of them.
The right hon. Gentleman does not often open housing debates. We have had two in the last three months, if he had been interested. The right hon. Gentleman expresses horror now, but he knew these allegations before. He had heard his hon. Friend the Member for Paddington, North as I have done. The hon. Member for Fulham (Mr. M. Stewart), a diligent, capable and very conscientious representative of the Opposition, has only once in the last four years, in one line of one speech, made reference to this sort of evil of intimidation. I will say why the Leader of the Opposition has only just intervened. The Opposition did not intervene before because they 1090 knew that Government action in introducing the 1961 Act was designed to strengthen the hands of the local authorities, and was being used. They raise the subject now not because of worry about housing but because of the Rachmanlink with the Ward case. The high-minded Leader of the Opposition leapt at the opportunity of a general smear based on an admitted evil of which he should have known for several years. [Interruption.] If hon. Members opposite will not hear me I shall stayhere until they do. Am I being asked whether I knew? [HON. MEMBERS: "Yes."] I am sorry but I did not hear the question. Yes, the hon. Member for Paddington, North told me of this in 1960, just before the 1961 Bill was introduced.
§ Mr. Parkin
If I am fortunate enough to catch your eye, Mr. Speaker, I undertake that I will show the Minister documents which came into my hands yesterday afternoon from the shopping bag of an old lady who was frightened to go back home. These documents could have been available to the Home Secretary from the tenants' association at the time, but he again, again, and again refused to meet those deputations.
§ Mr. Rees-Davies
Before my right hon. Friend replies to that matter, may I ask whether he has not yet been informed that this association to which reference is made is one known to be Communist-inspired? Has the information also not yet been put in front of him, and is he not aware that the leaders of this and the other associations with it are all persons convicted of serious criminal offences?
§ Sir K. Joseph
No, no. There is a real evil here somewhere.
So the Labour Party's chosen solution to all these problems of housing is neither humane nor relevant. A promise to repeal the Rent Act is designed to catch votes and not to produce houses. To cancel the Rent Act and to restore rent control to the 16 per cent. of housing stock which has been freed would make things worse, not better. Such a policy would increase decay, increase shortage, decrease self-help, hold in London people 1091 who do not need to be there, build not a single extra house, remove any hope for new families of a home of their own to rent and encourage racketeering.
The only main answer is more houses. I will tell the House the Labour Party's policy on that, too. Hon. Members opposite have not yet once told us during these last few years how many houses they would or we should build. Speech after speech by the hon. Member for Fulham contained no overall target at all. Only after we announced that our next step would be at least 350,000 houses a year did hon. Members opposite, more or less, adopt that figure also.
§ Mr. M. Stewart (Fulham) rose—
§ Sir K. Joseph
The hon. Gentleman—to save him getting up—said that there should be a programme of 200,000 local authority houses, but he never gave an overall programme—not in this House. I defy him to show that he did.
§ Mr. Stewart
The Minister is mistaken about that. In housing debates, when the present Lord Hill of Luton was Minister, I set out reasons why I believed the present rate of building overall to be inadequate and described what I thought should be the very minimum figure allowed. I have done that more than once. In fact, I arrivedat a figure very similar to the 350,000 which the Government announced about a year later. But I stressed that that could not be regarded as a figure adequate to our needs. Now the Minister has stated that never once in the House have I mentioned a target. That is totally untrue, and the right hon. Gentleman ought to withdraw it.
§ Sir K. Joseph
I want to save time. I do withdraw it. The hon. Gentleman did not repeat it during my tenure of office. I apologise to him.
Both sides are agreed that if 300,000 is the next step we all want to go higher. The right hon. Gentleman who opened the debate is a great one for criticising others, but when it comes to bold and necessary reform he is against it. The Rent Act—repeal it. The London Government Bill—repeal it. If we had joined Europe he would repeal that, too. The right hon. Gentleman's speech this afternoon was as irrelevant to the real problems as his party's programme 1092 is to the needs of housing. On housing the party opposite has a bad record in the past and a wrong policy for the future.
§ 5.15 p.m.
§ Mr. John Silkin (Deptford)
Any hon. Member who rises to address this House for the first time must inevitably be a prey to feelings of both awe and of diffidence. How much more must this be so for one who has the temerity to intervene in a debate as momentous as the present one. Nevertheless, I am comforted by the knowledge that the House is traditionally generous to its newcomers, and today I like to think that some of that generosity may stem from the recognition of a name that a few years back was tolerably known in this House.
I have the honour to represent a borough which, for many years, could be termed the typical Rent Act borough of London, the Borough of Deptford. My distinguished predecessor, Sir Leslie Plummer, whose loss I know has been very great, spent much of his time endeavouring to help those of his constituents in Deptford who were victims of bad housing conditions and of the effects of the Rent Act, 1957. I make no apology whatever for being Nor'-Nor'-West controversial in this debate. Having listened for 90 minutes or so I find it almost entirely impossible to make a non-contentious speech.
If one goes back to the days when the Rent Bill was being introduced into the House one finds that certain very definite reasons were given for its introduction, and one of the things that has astonished me today is that these reasons have not been repeated. Let me at least endeavour to bring them again to the House, echoes, as it were, from the past. First, these were the words of the present Minister of Health on Second Reading of the Rent Bill on 21st November, 1956: He said:Then there is the factor of the constant erosion of the stock of houses available far renting by the fact that whenever a rented house falls vacant upon the departure of a tenant, in far mare cases than not the landlord puts it up for sale, however long he has to wait to effect a sale."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 21st November, 1956; Vol. 560, c. 1762.]In other words, by introducing the Rent Bill there will be more houses, he said, for letting, fewer for sale. This has not 1093 been the experience of the Borough of Deptford, and I venture to say it is not the experience anywhere. On the contrary, it would seem that the number of houses—and I am using the word "houses" deliberately, though the same applies to flats—for letting has declined all over the country, that is to say, from among those houses released from control under the 1957 Act.
What has happened to those houses? In the first place, even where they remain let they are now let, we all know, in many cases at exorbitant rents. I said that I was speaking for the people of Deptford, and the House must appreciate that a £2 a week rise in a rent in Hampstead may not be of such enormous moment. In Deptford, it may very often be a crucial rise, because Deptford is a working-class constituency and the effect of the 1957 Rent Act was to render the working class much less able to cope with the enormous difficulties of the present situation. I have in my pocket ready for today's debate a letter which informs me that in a certain house in Deptford for one room the rent charged is £3 a week. The writer hastens to say:Please deal with the matter without angering my landlord.In this case, and I think in many others, when we talk of intimidation we do not necessarily mean the Rachman strong-arm tactics. Intimidation can mean the fear of eviction. All over Deptford, and, I have no doubt, all over London and similar areas where there are large centres of population, this is the real intimidation that exists today.
It is easy to say that where rents are exorbitant the local authority should acquire these houses compulsorily. I speak as a lawyer, and I know from personal and professional experience how difficult it is to get this procedure under way. Let me quote one simple example in Deptford. When a house with vacant possession which, before the passing of the Rent Act, might have been bought for £1,800, is finally offered for £10,000 the resulting difficulties in which the local authority is placed become fantastic.
This is not an isolated example. There are two small cleared sites in a rather unsalubrious part of Deptford—for, believe me, there are very few palaces in 1094 that borough—totalling less than ¼ acre. These were recently sold for over £5,000—small cleared housing sites. How can one expect any local authority to be able to cope with a problem like that?
The Home Secretary said on the Report stage of the Rent Act:What I say is that all the evidence available goes to show that there has been no outburst whatever of speculation, either in expectation of the Bill or after its terms were published."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 26th March, 1957; Vol. 567, c. 1071.]The right hon. Gentleman should really have paid a visit to Deptford. He would have seen for himself. The fact is that there is speculation, there is extortion and profiteering.
While I am on the subject of profiteering, there is one form of profit that I know hon. Members on both sides of the House deplore as much as I. The Minister touched upon it, and so did my right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition. Deptford is a borough in which there has been considerable immigration from the Commonwealth. I think the total of immigrants is now 7½ per cent. of the population—a very large proportion indeed. There are those who have made the more disreputable form of political capital out of the strife between race and race and colour and colour. This is something that I know all hon. Members will deplore. But I am only trying to say that the capital that is made out of the Rent Act is not to be measured entirely in terms of money. It is measured in other terms as well.
What has happened is that ignorance, gullibility, and the fact that many strangers to a new land tend to cling together for safety have all been capitalised, because houses have fallen into decontrol and they can be offered to these people. The political capital has followed the economic capital. It seems to me that if the Rent Act, 1957 had not been passed, all the powers that the Minister has taken and that he proposes to take would have been quite unnecessary. They are palliatives in a difficult situation. I give the right hon. Gentleman full marks for doing his best, but the truth of the matter is that it is really beyond him. So long as we have this Rent Act with its creeping decontrol, so long will the present situation not only remain but become worse.
1095 Two things are necessary to solve the problem—time and the will. Time we still have, but it is slipping past. Whether we have the will depends on the outcome of this debate today.
§ 5.26 p.m.
§ Mr. Robert Allan (Paddington, South)
I have not before had the pleasure of following a maiden speaker, and I could hardly have wished for a happier occasion on which to do so than today. I do not find it easy to refer to the non-controversial nature of the speech of the hon. Member for Deptford (Mr. Silkin). Nevertheless, I have no difficulty in praising its vigour and its clarity of thought, and also in drawing attention to the hon. Gentleman's humanity, which conies well from someone who succeeded the late Member for Deptford. I think that when we learned of the hon. Member's election we all suspected that the son of so distinguished a father would make his mark here, and now we know.
Another man of great humanity and feeling is my colleague the hon. Member for Paddington, North (Mr. Parkin). He and I have represented different parts of our borough for a good many years and are personal friends. I know and share with him the bitter hatred which he has for the type of persecution of the weak and defenceless which he has lately tried to show up. I think he would recognise, too, that all people who value human dignity share that hatred, whatever their political party.
However, I must add that I think, either by design or perhaps because of the almost appaling appetite for the sordid and the scandalous which the British public seem to have at the moment, these admittedly horrible cases have been built up into a vast blown-up picture which bears little resemblance to the original—as little reality as I am sure the remarks and innuendoes which are now being investigated will prove to have when the investigation is completed. Also this kind of widespread calumny involves innocent people.
I hold no brief for, and would not attempt for a moment to defend, Rachman or any of his kind. But his activities must be put in their proper perspective, if only to be fair to public employees who have been castigated, or 1096 rather to the council which was castigated by the right hon. Gentleman and to others who have an interest in the borough of Paddington.
At no time did Rachman have very much property in Paddington. The highest number I have seen of houses which he controlled there was about 20, the lowest eight. But he did operate in Paddington considerably before the Rent Act ever came into force. I first came across him in the autumn of 1953. He had bought a property, with statutory tenants, which he wanted to sell with vacant possession to a developer—the old story about which we have heard a good deal in the last two weeks. In fact, he had alternative accommodation to offer to the tenants and all except two went. Those two, quite rightly, decided that they would not, for when their turn came Rachman's supply of decent property had run out. They decided to stay. Then strong-arm methods were used against them. The gas was cut off, the water was cut off, the electricity was cut off, and so on.
The tenants came to me. I went to the police and to the council, and both co-operated at once, giving full protection to the tenants. The council served notices for the reintroduction of the services. I then called on one of the rather despised legal firms which have been mentioned in the Press recently and gave an account of what was going on. Within a week, those two tenants had been offered satisfactory accommodation and had left.
§ Mr. E. Fernyhough (Jarrow)
What happened to the people who entered the house illegally and cut off the gas, the electricity and the water? Were they prosecuted? Did the hon. Gentleman follow that up?
§ Mr. Allan
They were, in fact, prosecuted on that occasion.
On about three other occasions between 1954 and 1957 I had dealings with tenants of Rachman. All three were women living alone in unfurnished accommodation in houses which Rachman wanted to get hold of so that he could relet the accommodation furnished. These women decided to fight and they came to me. Again, I had full co-operation from the police in all three cases and from the council in the only case 1097 in which its co-operation was relevant. In the end, the police made two arrests in connection with prostitution, covering two cases, and, in the other, an arrest in connection with assault. As a result of what was done, these women won their fight. The houses were eventually sold by Rachman to somebody quite different, not passed to another of his companies. The new landlord offered one woman £150 to go. She accepted and went to live with her sister in the country. Another of the women eventually got council accommodation, and I lost touch with the third. These incidents all occurred before the Rent Act came in, and I had the full co-operation of the local council and of the police in dealing with them.
Eventually, when the Rent Act was passed, the area in which the Rachman rackets could be operated was limited to places where there was property of £40 rateable value or less. The Rachman rackets were transferred to the St. Stephen's Gardens district of which we have heard so much lately. I have made my investigations, as has the hon. Member for Paddington, North. In many cases, I think, we have seen the same man. I do not believe that strong-arm methods were used by Rachman in more than three cases in St. Stephen's Gardens, and one of these was the notorious case of 34 St. Stephen's Gardens where there was the tarpaulin episode. I do not believe that there could have been a large number there because, from information which I have and which, I believe, the hon. Member for Paddington, North has, Rachman did not own more than six houses in St. Stephen's Gardens.
I think that I should give some detail about the tarpaulin episode, because people may have got the impression from what has been said and written that everyone just sat back helpless while tenants were exposed to the elements because a heartless and wicked landlord had removed the roof. In fact, when it happened I was alerted, the council was alerted and the tenants' association was on the spot. The council immediately inspected the roof, and it found that 24 slates had been maliciously damaged. The council had a tarpaulin put on the roof and, within two days, had served a notice on the 1098 owners, which notice was complied with relatively quickly.
§ Mr. Allan
Yes, they were Rachman. I have forgotten the name at the moment—Pierpoint Investments, I think—but it was undoubtedly a Rachman company. That was in the autumn of 1960. I do not believe that Rachman operated in Paddington after that. As I understand it, what his widow is reported today in the papers to have said, namely that he more or less ceased his operations in Paddington by the autumn of 1960, is right.
I shall not deal with the allegations of thuggery now said to be going on. I had a great deal of information given to me over the weekend, and we have heard what my hon. Friend the Member for the Isle of Thanet (Mr. Rees-Davies) said today. I hope very much that there will be a thorough police investigation of all the alleged thuggeries. I think that it might throw a rather different light on what has been going on and may change the impression which many people now have.
I do not imagine that I am a paragon as a Member of Parliament. I am no better than most and, I like to think, no worse. I am in my constituency every day simply because I happen to live there. I have my political "surgeries", as we all do, once or twice a week. I believe that I know pretty well what is going on. People come to me, and, as I have said, a fair amount of notice has been given to the various efforts I have made on behalf of constituents.
With the good name of Paddington at heart, I am interested in trying to put the amount of racketeering which is going on in Paddington into proper perspective. I have gone into some rather exhaustive detail in order to show that, in all the cases in which I have had personal dealings with Rachman or his tenants, I have had full and effective co-operation from both the police and the local authority. I have no doubt whatever that Rachman has never gone unnoticed or, indeed, unhindered because of any lack of drive on the part of the police or the local authority, let alone because of any connivance in his activity on their part.
§ Mr. Simon Mahon (Bootle)
I have been listening to the hon. Gentleman with great interest. He says that the police gave him every support. Earlier, he said, that the slates on the roof of a house were pulled off. What were the police doing? Were they asleep at the time?
§ Mr. Allan
Not at all. It was done at night. It is quite easily done. If the police had been there, I should have been very pleased but somewhat surprised. It is not the job of the police to guard all the roofs in Paddington.
The same co-operation which I have had from the police and the local authority in those cases has been forthcoming in what has been happening in regard to vice and clubs. Again, there has been a good deal of publicity about what has been happening in Paddington in this connection. I was in close touch with the Ministers of the Home Office, as was the Hon. Member for Paddington, North, during the early stages of the framing of both the Street Offences Bill and the Licensing Bill. We knew that we could not even attempt by the Street Offences Act to stop what is, after all, the oldest profession. All we sought to do was to stop its flagrant operation in areas where it had become quite impossible to bring up young families in a reasonable atmosphere. Prostitution, of course, goes on, but I should like to record the continuous and not unsuccessful battle which the local police and the council have been fighting in this direction, too. Because I was personally involved in them, I know of at least twenty obnoxious clubs which have been closed as a result of police and council action.
The second issue of today' sdebate is the question of exorbitant rent. I do not want to go into this matter in such detail as my right hon. Friend, but inevitably it arises from pressure of population on London with resulting overcrowding. In a borough like Paddington the pressure of population is continuous and irresistible. To replace control, as is suggested by hon. Members opposite, merely freezes a bad position. It does not create any more housing and merely gives black market opportunities for racketeers like Rachman to exploit.
People say, as the Leader of the Opposition said, "Give the council more 1100 power and more control. Make it enforce its rights in the provision of amenities." If we do that, what do we do with the displaced persons? I know what my right hon. Friend says. He says that we are merely telling people owning over crowded accommodation to wait till tenants leave and then not replace them. In these circumstances people will never move. Accommodation will be kept overcrowded because it is profitable to do that. Again, if the council is forced to create amenities, it means taking a room for a bathroom and displacing people. What is to be done with those people?
In any borough—this most certainly applies to Paddington—the areas of greatest overcrowding and lack of amenity are those very areas which are inhabited by the most recent arrivals. People from the Commonwealth, the West Indies, Ireland and the provinces come into that sort of catchment area of Paddington and they are there perhaps only for months. Is the council, in acquiring these properties, to give priority to these temporary, transient people on its housing list at the expense of those who have waited months and, as we well know, years for decent accommodation? We in Paddington have a change of population in this densely crowded area of about 40 per cent. every year. This is something which we must recognise. We cannot give priority in permanent housing to transient people.
In my view, the only way to have effective development and to overcome this overcrowding problem is by building at higher density levels. This is a particular hobby horse of mine, and I am very glad to ride it again this afternoon. My right hon. Friend says that the provision of houses is the first priority. That is so. But it is not possible to provide new houses in the centre of London, certainly not in Paddington. One can provide new accommodation and relieve overcrowding only by building at higher density levels.
The Leader of the Opposition talked about the failure toplan. There were great dreams that post-war London would be emptier than it is. But London is a magnet. It will draw people, and we cannot stop it drawing people. If London stops attracting people to it, it means it 1101 is decaying. So long as London offers great opportunities for work, culture and pleasure, then people will come to it, and we cannot stop them. The only way to cater for these people—
§ Mr. G. H. R. Rogers (Kensington, North)
How long is this process of allowing London to develop to go on—ten years, twenty years, fifty years?
§ Mr. Rogers
London. How long is the conurbation to be allowed to develop because it is a magnet for other people?
§ Mr. Allan
We cannot stop it. It is like a tide which we cannot stop. But we can harness it by creating accommodation at higher density levels.
I have investigated this problem in some detail. In 1953 I was chairman of a group of building contractors and civil engineers which devised a scheme in great detail. We produced a book, to which I wrote the foreword, called The High Paddington Scheme, which was to house 8,000 people on an 18-acre site over Paddington goods yard in multipurpose buildings with high density. I am sure that the hon. Member remembers the scheme. It was turned down by the L.C.C. on density grounds. Eight thousand people were not housed. St. Stephen's is overcrowded twice as much as it was then. The Paddington waiting list has become longer only because of this sacred cow of density which a Labour-controlled L.C.C. insists on worshipping.
The same happened in Paddington over a smaller scheme which the borough had called Paddington Heights. It wanted to build at a density of 320 people to the acre. Again, the L.C.C. turned it down and insisted on building at a density of 170 people to the acre. In this case, I am ashamed to say, the Ministry of Housing and Local Government supported the L.C.C. This is another occasion when 450 people were not given houses, for which plans were all ready, on a three-acre site simply because of the decision of the L.C.C. to adhere to an outdated density figure. Last year the Paddington Council offered to rebuild a half acre site in the most overcrowded area in Paddington provided it was allowed to redevelop it at 1102 the rate of 300 people to the acre. The area already had a density of 350, but the L.C.C. turned down even a permitted density of 300. Therefore, again a great opportunity was lost by sticking to this absurd belief in a mystical density figure. I feel as hot under the collar about this insistence on a meaningless formula by a Labour-controlled council as any hon. Member opposite does about so-called Tory landlords.
If my right hon. Friend wants to solve the overcrowding problem and thereby to get rents; down, he must ensure building at a realistic density figure.
§ Mr. Albert Evans (Islington, South-West)
I am sure that the hon. Member appreciates that the density which is permissible under the Act cannot be altered at the will of the local authority. Any proposed change in the density allowed is a matter for consultation between the local authority and the Minister.
§ Mr. Allan
Yes, of course, but the Ministry will certainly accept any suggestions made to the local authority. The L.C.C. has not once tried to raise the density. The hon. Member cannot give me an example of that.
The last constructive suggestion that I wish to make to my right hon. Friend is this. Some effort might be made to allow statutory tenants to acquire their own property. My right hon. Friend believes, with me, that one reason for exploitation is the existence of a specialised class of tenant ready for the racketeer to exploit. A man who knows a fair amount about property made the suggestion to me over the weekend as a practical proposition that statutory tenants should be given the right to purchase their property at a fixed number of years purchase, perhaps on a mortgage arranged through a building society or insurance company but guaranteed by the Government. I tried this out on one or two other people with knowledge of the property world, and they agreed that this was a feasible proposition.
I have said that I hold no brief for and would not seek to defend anything that Rachman or any of his ilk have done—[HON. MEMBERS: "Oh."] I made that clear at the beginning of my speech. By putting things in the perspective in which I have attempted to put them, I 1103 have tried to defend the reputation of Paddington and the zeal of its public servants, who, I think, have done a very good job.
§ 5.50 p.m.
§ Mr. B. T. Parkin (Paddington, North)
If there is one thing for which the hon. Member for Paddington, South (Mr. R. Allan) is noted and recognised all over the House, it is the quality of his collar. Anyone knows by looking at it from here that he never got hot under it in his life. Of course, it is a very good tactic on his part to make that kind of playing-it-down speech. I would have forgiven him for it if I had not been so provoked by the Minister's speech.
The hon. Member's remarks about higher density no doubt link up with the Minister's remarks about the old threat that more use would be made of council dwellings. I suppose that that means doubling up and a means test. As for his remarks about a transit area, if one pauses and thinks, that throws some light on the way the Minister can dupe himself, if not us, with his remarkable statistics.
Does the Minister tell us that 80 per cent. of properties as they become decontrolled are subsequently let for rent? That is the figure that is given to him.
§ Sir K. Joseph
It comes from Professor Donnison's published report, which, admittedly, is two or three years out of date. It was two or three years after the Rent Act was passed.
§ Mr. Parkin
I am obliged to the right hon. Gentleman. I do not have to read Professor Anybody's report. The terrible thing about the two previous speakers from the benches opposite is that, having listened to them, when I come to reply to them I think that I must be talking to them through plate glass. I have no doubt that the professor was right, but what did it signify?
Let me explain to the right hon. Gentleman. He may have heard about people taking up loans to buy property. Does he know what happens if somebody buys a house with the aid of a bank loan and then leases it? The bank wants its money back. The condition of buying with a bank loan is that the property is kept as valuable as it was, and by leasing 1104 it one lowers the value of what is bought. The right hon. Gentleman should look at that one. This is one of the disincentives to leasing over a long period. The bank manager reproaches the borrower and says, "You should not have done that. The security is not what it was. You should keep it unencumbered".
Therefore, the property is let for short periods. As a result, there is an enormous turnover of tenants, and professors who take pure statistics come to the conclusion that this tremendous number of people are living in rented dwellings as a result of the Rent Act, and nothing is said about the economic rent which is charged.
The hon. Member for Paddington, South said that the campaign against vice in Paddington was not unsuccessful. That is all right for the constituency, because for the most part that is not where the patrons come. We know that Paddington Council has always waged a relentless war against vice in the borough, and whenever prostitution raises its ugly head the names of the streets are changed. This is a matter of history. South Paddington, however, is the biggest brothel in Europe. I know of only oneRachman property in my constituency. That was No. 1 Wymering Gardens, which was a Church Commission lease and that is where Serge Paprinski nominally lived, but if one got the keys from Audrey, it was £50 a night with a girl. South Paddington is notorious.
How can the hon. Member expect to persuade this House and the public that one cannot pick up around the West End—I will not give the number; but does not he know the house in Orme Court where half the cast of a recent play are available and one does not need much introduction? I did not know his constituency as well in the old days as I do now after certain recent visits. Does he not know where the girls from the Miramar went? Does he not know who owned the place? I do. Why does he not ask apoliceman? The view which has been given of the hon. Member's constituency simply is not accurate.
When I come back to the point where both of the speakers from the benches opposite were making the case that they knew about it and that they were deprived of information on which they 1105 could act, this is where my most restrained and carefully-prepared speech breaks down. Out of all the mountains of information which I have had, I have had to select a few examples. I had it planned because I wanted only to give cases which were clues to the ownership and working, as I and others have been, in search of the missing link to see whether we would get it right for today.
Yesterday afternoon, I had three journalists in my house discussing a statement that had been made in response to something which I had provoked the day before. So the information had been coming in. I have certain admissions. I know who was the owner of the house where the assault took place. It is Raymond Nash, because he told me so before witnesses. He claimed to own the house. Of course, he says that he has contracted to sell, but what house in these circumstances is not contracted to sell? They are always contracted to sell. That is how this kind of business is done. The house has always been contracted to be sold to someone else. But as he said it in front of journalists and since he said it in my flat, I do not think I am under the umbrella of privilege. Was any action taken? Will any action be taken?
Sykes admitted in my house that he had given instructions for the sale of those houses. We know which houses they were. Those are the ones which were filmed on "Panorama", where this outrage has taken place. Will there be a prosecution or not, or is this a quarrel between two private citizens? Can we still maintain that this is not a public issue of public concern, or are we to say once more that they never had a complaint?
While I was having that conference, there came to my door, unexpectedly, half a dozen people from Paddington-Kensington and another man from Barons Court with another kind of evidence and case. They said, "We have brought you something that might help for tomorrow." I said, "Oh, my dears, I have so much I cannot sort it out. I do not think I can let you in. Leave me alone." Then, I thought that the journalists might have a go and that they might see the documents. So they came in and they all had a cup of tea.
1106 Out of the pile of documents, when I saw the first one I said, "That is mine. This is what I have been looking for for months"—Alexander March & Co., Estate and Property Management, 91–93, Westbourne Grove, London, W.2, the same address as on Peter Rachman Ltd., 91–93, Westbourne Grove, London, W.2. Do not the police know? Does not the Minister know who Alexander March is? They are the middle names, obviously, of Julian Peter Alexander March Phillips De Lisle.
When somebody asked me—amusingly enough, it was an Express man—"When did you first get on to Sykes?" I said, "When you told me about it, on 11th April, 1961, in William Hickey." A fellow rang me up and said, "Have you seen William Hickey? That is him." I said, "What do you mean, 'That is him'?" He said, "Him that is in the Paddington Rent Tribunal every week"—and it was. That is Mr. De Lisle, says the society gossip writer, friend of Captain Anthony Sykes, friend and fellow officer of the Duke of Kent in the Royal Scots Greys.
§ Mr. Rees-Davies
Is the hon. Member willing to repeat that allegation outside? Does he want to tear everyone's reputation to smithereens without opportunity of denial and as an abuse of the privilege of this House?
Mr. Park in
I would not think that the hon. Member had need to advertise himself in this House to get plenty of briefs from that sort of character.
§ Mr. Victor Goodhew (St. Albans)
On a point of order. We are in danger, I think, of people's reputations being bandied about in this House. Is there nothing that can be done to ensure that if these sorts of things are said in this House under privilege there is recourse for these people outside?
§ Mr. Deputy-Speaker
The House will appreciate that I was asked a point of order and another hon. Member rose further to that point of order—[An HON. MEMBER: "It is not one."]—I thought it better to hear whether in my judgment it is a point of order or not. Then I will deal with it. If the hon. Member has a 1107 point of order will he please put it now? Mr. Rees-Davies.
§ Mr. Rees-Davies
Further to that point of order. If in fact—[Interruption.]I was trying to go on when I heard those offensive epithets across the Floor of the House. The point of order I am making is this. The hon. Gentleman made an allegation that I was acting for Mr. De Lisle. It is without foundation. Is it in order—[Interruption.]—it would be ill of the right hon. Gentleman to say anything before one has an opportunity to be heard. Is it in order for an hon. Gentleman to make disgraceful allegations against hon. Members of this House as well as people outside without giving them an opportunity to deal with them?
§ Mr. Deputy-Speaker
There are two points which arise. What is said about persons outside this House is privileged within this House. It is a matter of taste as to what is said. Hon. Members are well aware that such persons cannot answer for themselves. What is said about hon. Members in this House is clearly governed by the rules of order. To make an allegation against an hon. Member is not in order. As I heard the debate going on I would not have thought that a direct allegation was made. I would not have thought that, but surely we can conduct our debate in an orderly fashion. Mr. Parkin.
§ Mr. Parkin
I am much obliged, Mr. Deputy-Speaker. I, of course, would like to conduct my speech in an orderly fashion.
It did seem to me, since the right hon. Gentleman was developing this case and making those remarks about not knowing and nobody complaining, that here was a dramatic example in the shopping bag of that old lady, who was frightened to have her photograph taken, frightened to go back home unaccompanied, frightened to have the documents returned to her at the house because her letters were interfered with, and wished them to be returned to a relative who would return them to her. The documents which I am given would have given all the information that I am now being accused of disclosing under the umbrella of privilege.
They belong to a tenants' association which has been refused again and again 1108 by the right hon. Gentleman and his predecessor who have not been sufficiently interested. That is the fact of the matter. Tenants' associations have pleaded to put their case and put these facts. I am not going to use up the time of the House tonight in going through many of the mountains of cases I have got, but I can assure all those people that it will not be long before their cases are investigated. It cannot be long in any case before the General Election and no Government could survive the scandals of these revelations.
§ Sir K. Joseph
Is the hon. Gentleman saying that I had refused to see or to hear this tenants' association? I did not quite understand that. He said me and my predecessor, I think.
§ Sir K. Joseph
I do not mean to quarrel with the hon. Gentleman. I just do not know whether he said that about me or not. Because if he did, I do not think it is true.
§ Mr. Parkin
Anything for peace and quiet. I withdraw.
Here is a case which I was hoping to use as an example because it was away from Paddington and away from vice, and it was a fresh name. There was a sale by auction on 6th April, 1953, in Battersea. Sinclair & Partners, of Farnham Common. There were four blocks of flats in Prince of Wales Mansions. They did not pay very much for them—three blocks of flats: 31–40; about £2,000 for a block, with 28 years' lease to go; 61–70, £2,400 for 10 flats, 28 years' lease to go; and one round the corner. What was significant was that the address was 21 Mackenzie Street, Slough.
What happened after that was that as the flats became vacant they were sublet to Mr. Rachman, who sublet them to other characters who conducted the sort of operations he would wish them to do in order to induce the rest of the tenants to leave.
A tenants' association was formed and I am assured that they made attempt 1109 after attempt to get a hearing at the Ministry, and they claimed they were refused. That is my information. I get a good deal of it—from people who seem to me to be honourable, reliable, frustrated people. If it proves untrue I will, of course, withdraw. But I doubt it.
The interesting thing about this is that when they had done this and got vacant possession and put the flats up again for sale by auction and got a higher price, about £6,000 the block, for the remainder of the lease, Magdalen College, Oxford, freeholders of one of the blocks, with no powers whatsoever, no rights whatsoever, came down and by strength of will frightened the living daylight out of the scoundrels who bought it and made them give it back without compensation. That is the remarkable story. But it came off. They were not going to have that in their property.
For the sake of cutting down my speech I shall throw away another case. That was where Colonel Sinclair comes into the picture and it was outside Paddington at the time.
What I was going to say about the bundle of documents I got yesterday was about the ownership of a certain house in Paddington. It was the same address, the same letters, from Kramer, giving notice to quit. It is established with these documents I got yesterday that Kramer acted as solicitor, that it was on the instructions "of our client, A. P. Sykes, Esq." and that the Estate Management Company was De Lisle working from Rachman's office. It was not until afterwards that I saw this further little scrap of paper, which was a worn-out circular. I picked it up. I have seen a lot of that sort of thing before. It was a duplicated circular offering to pay money if the lady would get out. I was not much interested at first, till I saw the name on the back of it was 21 Mackenzie Street, Slough.
That is why last night in response to the Kramer-Rachman statement I said there might be one or two gaps to fill in and I would like to know the name of the man who sold large blocks of property to Rachman between 1956 and 1959, because in1956 Colonel Sinclair was the owner of that particular house. There is clear evidence. We know what he did at Prince of Wales Terrace, Battersea. We know what he did in Padding- 1110 ton. At first, he sent the letters offering to buy it. Then he found that there was a better organisation. Then he put the ferrets in. That is how it was done. The properties were changed over to someone else with an undertaking to resell them back again, and when the process was over the price was inflated.
There is one thing about which I can agree with the right hon. Gentleman, that the Rachman activities did not stem solely from the Rent Act. As I never met Rachman, or, apart from this one house, had no properties of his in my constituency, I am very happy to agree on that point. During the course of this debate, I shall certainly not let many people, who are laughing their heads off because their own misdeeds have been overlooked, get away with it.
A great deal of research work has been done during the last few weeks into the Rachman companies and all the rest of the story. It is a very remarkable thing when one considers how much good has been done by the echoes of that entirely harmless pistol shot. Never was a pistol shot fired by a jealous lover with better results. If anybody should get a medal for political and public services, it is "Johnny" Edgecombe.
One of the reasons why this work has been done so well is that in every newspaper group in this country there are journalists who have had this information for years, keeping it in their personal files. They had their stories spiked and scotched by the lawyers who are always threatening what they will do if one mentions any existing company or living person. Time and again it has been impossible to publish, time and again deputations have been refused, and time and again investigations have been refused. Newspapers have been gagged. I pay tribute to those journalists who have preserved that information and are only too glad to use it now. I only hope that the free-lances, who are the most frustrated of all, because if they do not get their stories sold they do not get any pay, are getting something out of it at the present time.
As a matter of fact—I hope that he is a happy character—there is one night club photographer who is walking about London unaware that he has the right to draw enormous royalties in respect of his picture of Rachman, which has 1111 been copied and taken by practically every newspaper in the country.
I am now going back to my own experiences as the Member for Paddington, North—a long way. I remember a party celebrating either my selection or my election, when a lot of clever people were deciding on my political career. They were rather aggressive chaps, and they have all gone high in their different professions and activities. But there was one quiet little chap, a councillor who, at a moment when he and I could hear one another, said, "There is one subject in Paddington that you might well study. It is the problem of fag-ends of leases. I have found in my ward in the borough that very curious things are going on."
He had to explain it all to me. He told me about the great developments in Paddington, including the building of the station, and the fact that 99-year leases were imprudently granted, and they were beginning to fall in because no man of substance could afford to keep a lease because he might have to pay for the delapidations, and as a result the leases were being sold either to men of straw or to perpetually insolvent companies.
I took this very seriously. I had been the Member of Parliament for Paddington only about six weeks when I wrote to the then Minister of Housing and Local Government. I set out the problem and said:In order to face the problem squarely, it is necessary to assemble all the relevant facts and influences. These seem to fall under three headings:I got a reply. Someone has "pinched" it for the autographs, and I have only a carbon copy of it:
- (1) The size of the problem and how fast it is increasing.
- (2) (a) The extent to which colonial citizens are either encouraged or permitted to come here.
- (b) The extent to which any check can be afterwards kept on their means of living.
- (3) (a) The extent to which ends of leases or freeholds of dilapidated properties can be freely disposed of without regard to social consequences.
- (b) The extent to which the 'welfare' aspects of housing management as developed under housing authorities could be extended to cover the unrecognised needs of immigrants living here."The question of the disposal of ends of leases of property comes within the general law of landlord and tenant and is a matter 1112 for the Lord Chancellor's Office. The Housing Repairs and Rents Bill, now before Parliament, contains proposals which would enable local authorities to acquire unfit houses and to exercise their management powers over these as well as over all other houses they own.There is a long piece about local authorities permitting sub-letting.
Then there is a reference to a report reprinted in 1947, which sounds so encouraging. It says that good management is…in effect in a form of social service and aims at teaching a new and inexperienced public to be 'housing minded'. A copy of this report was sent to local authorities, and it may be obtained from H.M. Stationery Office, price 9d. net.This was under the signature of Harold Macmillan. That was my estimate of the problem and is nearly ten years ago.
In view of what happened after my study of the ends of leases I certainly will not let some of the old-established estate agents who have been working the "fiddle" of the perpetually insolvent company get away with it while we ascribe most of the evils of landlordism to the fiddle of Rachman. The practice was this, as I found it out. One learns the hard way. There was a rather dramatic circumstance. An Irishman brought to my notice the fact that his friend next door had been thrown out of the basement flat for which he had been paying five guineas a week. The rent tribunal had reduced it to £3 10s. He had been evicted at the end of his security of tenure. The property had been re-let to a Jamaican, quite illegally, at six guineas a week. It was a flat in which an old lady had died. As she had no relatives, all they had to do was to take the body off the bed, and there they had a fully furnished flat.
§ Mr. Parkin
This was a good many years ago now.
I made a search to find out what the company was. The company was, of course, a £100 company, with two £1 shares allocated to two characters in Martin East's office. Martin East is an expert in these matters. He was the landlord of my hon. Friend's friend—Christie, of Rillington Place, the place with all the bodies in year after year; Timothy Evans's place. Obviously, he 1113 took a very careful interest in the maintenance of his property and what was going on.
The Jamaican did not want to let us in. He said, "Please do not come. I have been thrown out so many times. Leave me alone, I am happy. It is a lovely dwelling." They said there were two tenants in the top floor. We knew that there were six. By the time they admitted there were six, there were 12. Two lovely "boys" were kitchen porters at Lyons at night and ate all their meals there, and they paid £1 to somebody else for a room during the day and sent the rest of their money home to mother.
This was going to be Parkin's great triumph. It was going to be a great occasion when I named the place and the house. Television wanted to take a shot of it, and interviewed the coloured tenants. The television people were told the rents, and they photographed the toilet, and it appeared on the television screen. At last, I thought, we have got something which will stir things up. It certainly did.
Martin East gave all the tenants notice and said that it was done on the instructions of the head leaseholder, and the name of the head leaseholder appeared on the Order Paper of the House of Commons, and he rang up the Church Commissioners to offer to surrender the lease. Forty people were made homeless because the Church Commissioners, through the agency of Colonel Hanbury-Bateman, chucked the lot out, and they got a bonus of a lease which was surrendered. No doubt they rehabilitated this property very nicely and let it at a nice rent, which is no consolation to those tenants. There was George Plant, next door, who had pneumonia after working so hard on the case. He died a few days later. His widow said that he would have been pleased to know that he got a wreath from his Member of Parliament.
That was the result of my first interference—a dead man and 40 homeless people. You cannot win. But that is the established way of running this racket. The Martin Easts of this system, who have been in existence for years and who will not be touched by the Bill of the hon. Member for the Isle of Ely (Sir H. Legge-Bourke), have established a principle—that bad property is 1114 a better investment than good property because if it is owned by an insolvent company all one has to do is charge the company, as a management fee, the exact amount of rents collected.
That system is perfectly well known. Nothing is spent on repairs. As a result, when people add percentages and numbers of years, remembering that gross rent is also net rent, they establish a value through the principle that neglecting property is more profitable than repairing it. This was going on long ago. I have tried to provoke all these revelations in the last few weeks so that we could trace all these stages.
How did I first hear of the practice? It was when constituents came to me and said, "We have nothing against coloured people. When they came into the house we wanted to welcome and help them. But they have these funny habits and make a lot of noise." These people could hardly believe what was happening to them. So there was another stage: the strong-arm man or the noisy, planted tenant. Of course, all the blame was put on them.
Then there was the stage when all the blame was laid—as I gather it is being laid today—on this particular, unhappy, dead foreign Jew. But that is not right, either, because associated with him were a large number of people, some of whom I have named to the outrage of the authorities of this House and of some hon. Members. But I have done so in order to take the investigation a little further. I have said nothing that these people have not since confirmed in public outside the House in conversation with me in front of reporters. I will not labour that, because the evidence is there for whoever wants to follow it up.
I spent a long time at the beginning of my speech to show that such evidence could have been available years ago, had these documents been examined. It would have been possible to piece together the incriminating evidence. I am glad now that all these stages of public interest have been gone through and that today we are, so to speak, in the boardroom looking into the future. Yet I wonder whether we ever left the boardroom to begin with, because an interesting situation has arisen.
1115 These little clues I have been getting seem to strengthen the view—and the Kramer-Rachman statement last night gave us the picture—that Rachman properties were being sold through Has all at inflated values through "phoney" building societies. Kramer has been solicitor of many companies, and of everyone connected with the Rachman story. He was solicitor to Colonel Sinclair at the time that Sinclair and Partners, of Farnham Common, was formed. That is the company which owned the house I mentioned which later went into Rachman's hands.
In 1960, Sinclair formed, with Kramer as secretary, Nominees of George and Marjorie Sinclair, Limited, one of the subsidiaries of which was Kelvin Parade Development Limited, the directors of which were George Sinclair and Abraham Kramer. Kramer was Rachman's solicitor and is now Mrs. Rachman's solicitor and probably the executor of the intestate estate. At various times he appears to have lent money on Rachman's properties.
The other clue is that Sinclair's company, the Long fort Mortgage Investment Company, Limited, of 21, McKenzie Street, Slough, had a second mortgage on Audrey O'Donnell, Limited, which indicates second control there. It would appear that there was a link before—and still existing since—which overrode Rachman and his operations and was interested much more in the long-term buying of bad properties, clearing them by using a gang to put in ferrets, and then selling them again.
I am sorry to weary the House, but I have set all this out so that the Minister will know that there is material enough for the investigation which we are demanding and which it is surely time we should have. I said that there was something missing lastnight. I regret that there was not a second statement by Kramer saying that he would ask the Law Society for permission to release all the files of the Rachman affair.
Someone got the Secretary of the Law Society out of bed—at least, I imagine that was what happened, for the answer seems to have been brusque—and he said that this was nothing to do with lawyers, but with the executors of the 1116 estate. So the ball is back at Kramer's end. He is able to release these papers and I hope that the Minister will see that he does, preferably tonight.
One further matter which surely needs more investigation is the strange mortgage of the Eagle Star Insurance Company. This is a question of the public's money. We know how this sort of thing is done. It was done on the basis described by my right hon. Friend—of companies A, B and C passing from one valuation to another until one reaches a valuation enough to enable it to get a full 100 per cent. loan from the public's money.
The secretary of the Eagle Star Insurance Company must have had his suspicions, but perhaps he was told not to reveal them. There are powers under the law—indeed, it is incumbent upon them—whereby valuers of insurance companies take precautions. If there is any suspicion, there should be an inquiry, and if we have to get the secretary to the Bar of this House he should be invited to reveal the names of each and every valuer engaged in the transaction.
So much for the investigations that still need to be made. I hope soon to finish this part of the story, because now I want to move on and reveal the most important name of all—that of the very significant figure, indeed, the key figure, in the problem. It is a woman, and she has a secret. It is a secret which involves possible pain, threat and suffering to a number of innocent people. I want to talk about her.
This woman lives in my constituency, in Fernhead Road. I will not give the number at the moment. I have been trying to get attention focused on her. I have tried with both the B.B.C. and the I.T.A. I asked them, "Why not get up to date and see Miss Carter? I will get her to re-enact the interview she had with me." They have replied that they do not want to do it because that would make it party politics. I asked them, nevertheless, to get a record of it, because they would eventually need it when someone paid attention to Miss Carter, for this is the nub of the problem that we have to face.
Miss Carter is the owner of two houses. Her net income from both houses for the quarter was nil. It is true that she paid six months' rates in three months and 1117 paid her agent £9 10s., but at the end of the quarter she owed him £2 2s. 4d. I would have liked that interview to have been put on the tape along with a picture of this lady when she came to see me. I asked her, "What do you think I can do for you, Miss Carter?" She said, "I want you to get me a pensioner's flat". She could have got a pensioner's flat because in one of the houses there was an uncontrolled tenancy and the house had a lease which was due to fall in.
If she had lived in that house, she could have had a pensioner's flat from the L.C.C. for life. But she said that that would have meant a court order and, "We do not do that sort of thing in Lancashire". She is about 4 ft. high and is 73. She could have been safe, but she would not do it. Plenty of others would have done it for money, but she would not throw out a family in an uncontrolled tenancy when the lease fell due. Now she is worried. I have to reveal her secret, although she does not like my doing so; it affects many people.
She dropped her voice and leaned her head towards me and said, "I begin to feel that I cannot manage the stairs as well as I could". She is seriously thinking of selling the house, hoping to get enough money to buy another, but feeling that she will not. When the time comes that she cannot manage the stairs, there will be fear in the hearts of the other tenants who have been living there for a long time. It is not poverty or the lack of amenities. These are clean, hardworking people who make the best of what there is, the people who wash their front doorstep every day. Their fear is of strangers coming in with strange habits, and all the other things that they have heard about.
For once, I have an audience. I have made 17 major speeches since 1953. Will someone please now pay attention to the case of Miss Carter, because her case represents the problem of the future? Nearly every other problem in housing is tied up with it. The problem of Miss Carter is how to get her transferred to another property without damaging that in which she is now living by allowing it to become the property of speculators. The problem is how to acquire that house, either through the local council or through a housing association. No single individual can do this because 1118 room to decant is needed to transfer people while conversion and reconditioning are being undertaken.
Linked with that is the problem of how old people are to be treated. There are 100,000 old ladies of pensionable age living alone in London. That means that one in 10 of dwellings of this kind in London is occupied by such a person. Many of these dwellings are grossly under-occupied in terms of square feet, but if these old ladies leave, they lose their present security. It is not a modest increase in rent which they fear, but the horror of insecurity. Since the First World War this country has accepted the principle that no one should make vast profits out of housing shortages, and this has established the right of security. Quite apart from rent, it is the problem of the security of tenure which we have to face.
If people have been listening to this story, they can go on listening a bit longer. If their consciences are smitten by what has gone on, they must demand the inquiry which we are demanding. We are here to counter the Government's argument that this is one limited tragic episode associated with one man. We know that these things have been going on—
§ Sir K. Joseph
The Government do not say that this is one single tragic episode, related to one man. I rather carefully read out the position in other places. We were trying to get it into its scale.
Mr. Park in
I will not recapitulate my argument, but my experience of Paddington is that we had these troubles before Rachmam arrived.
Miss Carter represents a widespread habit in this country associated with the buying of the house next door as part of the pattern of working-class savings—the feeling that one will be all right in one's old age. Not only will one not be all right, but the house will not be. That is because most houses of this kind are dilapidated and they have become dilapidated because their single owners have been unable to carry out repairs, although large corporations could.
At the end of the day, we shall have failed in our duty in exposing these scandals if we have not roused the country to personal determination to do something about it. Everybody can do something about it. Everybody can tackle 1119 this problem of the group breaking up. The loyalties of a community are destroyed through these stresses and strains in such a way that there is this ghastly loneliness in the tenement houses around London. There are ways of co-operating with and pressing local authorities and making them act. Magdalen College, Oxford, can chase thugs off the premises, but frightened old ladies cannot. There is still terror. Tonight there will be a vote and there will be a row. If the result of both is not on the one hand an investigation of all the matters which I have indicated—and it must come, for the Government cannot escape—and on the other hand a widespread determination to push ahead with a two-pronged assault on this intractable problem, we will have failed.
Why do we not get help from other countries? I have had letters from Italy saying that journalists there wrote articles about this sort of thing two or three years ago. Can the Italians not take the same interest in our housing that they take in our scandals? Have we sought advice from Sweden and Norway and elsewhere about the techniques of housing?
This is my moment and I intend to ram it home. How many times have I said this in Standing Committees? All the byelaws must be revised and must then be enforced. Byelaws such as those dealing with fire prevention must be enforced and we must devise penalties which will fall upon the bad landlord and not on the good. While a council must enforce the regulations when a house is brought to its notice, the problems we have been discussing are rarely brought to the notice of a local council. There is one simple reason for this. It is an extraordinary echo of the old notion of property. A local authority is not allowed to demand the name of an owner from the Land Registry, but the owner of the next-door property can get it. The public is not entitled to that knowledge, but property owners can exchange it among themselves. That situation must be changed, as all these gaps in the law must be dealt with.
But none of it will be successful unless we tackle the other problem of how the community is to acquire for itself the increased value which it has put upon the land, not upon what is developed on 1120 the land, but the increased value of the land itself. There is a clue to the answer to this problem in the fact that the law has never admitted private ownership of land. It has admitted only a series of fiddles by which the so-called owner is free to do all sorts of things on it, but the land itself is held from the Crown. Let us restore that Royal prerogative so people can be free to carry on with what they have been doing with the land, on a freehold, until they change its use.
This is the struggle between the two parties. This is the real issue. All sorts of silly arguments are bandied about at the time of a General Election, but if there is not a dedicated determination to tackle this gross error and injustice in the present system of land owning, a system which has provoked and encouraged these disgraceful distorted values which have produced these scandalous, unheard-of situations in which a man, as a joke, can suggest taking the roof off a house, just as he might suggest, in Army terms, "Burn down their huts", a system in which there have been evictions on this scale and the movement of population of the kind that we have witnessed in recent years, the problem will never be solved. This has gone on without many people knowing or caring, because the facts were not brought to their notice by the Government when they could have been.
My final accusation against the Government is that they have failed constantly to listen to what has been said to them, and that now they will have to listen to what the whole country will say to them.
§ 6.41 p.m.
§ Mr. W. R. Rees-Davies (Isle of Thanet)
This debate raises three separate issues. The first issue is housing, and we appreciated earlier that the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition did not wish us to discuss that today. Had he done so, he would have called on a much more able man to put forward a reasoned speech, and I refer to the hon. Member for Fulham (Mr. M. Stewart). It is, of course, clear to those who have had the opportunity of listening to housing debates that the Leader of the Opposition is not qualified to speak on that subject, nor did he deal with the facts of the situation.
1121 The second main issue is the important one of law enforcement to deal with the point at issue, whether one calls it racketeering or anything else. There is a third issue to which I shall refer later but which is of greater importance than the other two, and I beg hon. Gentlemen opposite to pay attention to it. I shall say nothing in this House that I am not prepared to repeat outside. I believe that this House is being used by certain people to get dupes to spread not only Communist but other matters. I am going to prove this, and I hope that hon. Gentlemen opposite will listen to me. I shall give chapter and verse for everything I say, and, furthermore, I shall name the people who have given me the information that I shall put before the House.
I have given careful thought to this whole matter, because a few days ago I realised that this was merely a follow-up to what have been called the Johnny Edgcombe, Aloysius, and other people's earlier visits. I was unable to speak on the occasion of the earlier debate in the House because I was connected professionally with the case. On this occasion I am not professionally connected with Mr. de Lisle, who is here with me.
§ Mr. William Warbey (Ashfield)
On a point of order. Is it in order for the hon. Gentleman to refer to a stranger by name?
§ Mr. Rees-Davies
The third issue with which I want to deal is that a deliberate public mischief has been created by scandal-mongering, the purpose of which is to try to defame not only the Government but certain men who hitherto have borne perfectly good characters, and to abuse the privileges of the House by making statements here which are without foundation and which are not based on any reasonable knowledge of the facts. This is what I shall try to establish, and I shall give the evidence as I proceed.
The Leader of the Opposition was clearly obtaining his general information from someone, and it will be evident to hon. Gentlemen opposite that he was obtaining it from the hon. Member for Paddington, North (Mr. Parkin), on 1122 whom he was placing reliance. I shall deal with the sources of information on which the hon. Member for Paddington was relying, because in the course of 16 to 20 hours work over the last two days I have made it my business to see most of those sources and to take statements from the people concerned.
With regard to the housing issue, it is a preposterous absurdity to suggest that the existence of the Rent Act can possibly have any direct effect on this question of law enforcement or on the staging of this debate. If anyone looks back over a short period, he will see that the reason for this debate is that the hon. Member for Paddington, North, was fed with certain information which he blew through the corridors and spoke about in this Chamber. The hon. Gentleman made allegations against Captain Anthony Sykes, and the Leader of the Opposition—and I am not attacking the right hon. Gentleman—with that information in his possession, and assuming it to be correct, decided to have this debate. I am making the serious suggestion that this House is being used by journalists and others to bring out these matters, and that certain Communists whom I shall name are responsible for having set the wheels in motion and used as their dupe the hon. Member for Paddington, North.
Dealing with the Rent Act, I was one of those who rebelled against my party, so the Labour Party cannot accuse me of having been a Right-wing Tory in that regard. Nevertheless, rightly or wrongly, we know that it is not possible to continue having false rents of14s. or 21s. a week without causing the sort of trouble which came to light at the time of Rachman's death, and therefore, whether we get rid of the Rent Act or not, whether we apply a limit on rents, or whether we leave it to the market, the sooner the present state of affairs is ended the better, but it hardly lies in the mouth of the Labour Party to come forward at this stage and say that it would end rent control, though it would apply some measure of control on the upper limits of rent.
The right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition pointed out that for three years nobody raised the question of strong-arm tactics; that nobody raised the question of unlawful behaviour; and 1123 these questions of evictions which have now been raised—
§ Mr. Laurence Pavitt (Willesden, West) rose—
§ Mr. Rees-Davies
I shall not give way. The Leader of the Opposition refused to give way to me on a very serious point of information, and I do not intend to give way. Anyway, I do not want to take long and I have a lot to say.
It is clear that this question of security is irrelevant to today's debate. The reason that the debate was put on was first to deal with the question of law enforcement on Rachman; but, of course, the main issue was to try to get another stick to beat the Government with, another scandal which would be timed on the same day as the other—[Interruption.]—I shall establish the truth of these things.
The right hon. Gentleman talked about the evil men involved. He named no one. The hon. Member for Paddington, North, named a number of men but gave no evidence to support his statements. As to racketeering, I think that I ought to deal with the facts of at least one man who has borne a very high character and whom I saw today for the first time in my life. I knew nothing of him before he came to see me. He did not come in any professional capacity. He has his own lawyer, and he has not in fact taken any action, but he has authorised me to put before the House the full picture of his position. His name is Julian De Lisle. He tells me that he is in fact issuing a writ for libel in respect of statements made about him in the Sunday Mirror yesterday. Let me make it plain to the hon. Gentleman that I neither act for him nor intend to act for him in any way. There have been no proceedings issued, and he is perfectly entitled to take what action he likes in due course. He would prefer to have the opportunity of saying something.
It was said of this man that he was a close associate of Rachman and, indeed, various defamatory statements were made. The facts are these: he inherited a substantial sum of money from a cousin called Abel Edward Smith, but he never used the name of Smith. He in fact sold that estate in the early part of last year.
§ Mr. Mellish
On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. The hon. Member has just 1124 indicated that he is speaking for a certain gentleman who, I understand, is to bring a libel action on account of something printed in a newspaper. Is it in order now for that article to be read and this matter to be debated, because, as I understand previous Rulings, these matters become sub judice once they become matters for the court to decide?
§ Mr. Rees-Davies
I was not reading from an article. I was in fact giving a set of facts which Mr. De Lisle has authorised me to give. [Interruption.] If the hon. Gentleman had been present he would have known that the hon. Member for Paddington, North and other hon. Members have already attacked this man.
I hope that the hon. Member will not confuse in his speech any answer which he may have to make to any article which appeared in any newspaper, which, I submit, is hardly the concern of this House, with anything that I may have said in describing the group of young men who for a time were associated in this speculative buying and selling of property in Paddington, of which I have said that Mr. Julian De Lisle was one. I know that he withdrew from it and sold out in March, 1962. I do not think that the hon. Member will find that I have said anything discreditable about Julian De Lisle which I could not have said outside the House. I do not need any privilege of this House for any of the remarks that I have made. The documents that I have shown were shown in public and assented to by Captain Sykes and Mr. Raymond Nash yesterday in my house.
§ Mr. Rees-Davies
I will certainly give way to the hon. Gentleman if he is now wishing to withdraw the imputations and allegations—[Interruption.] I am trying to clear in this House the names of one or two men with perfectly good reputations, and if hon. Gentlemen at some time might be in an equivalent difficulty they might like to know that in this House there are some of us who regard reputation and honour above everything.
If the hon. Gentleman now wishes to withdraw what he said on the 8th of 1125 this month when he charged Mr. Sykes with being the owner of property purchased from Mr. Rachman, which, I suggest, he now knows to be completely untrue, and if he wishes to withdraw his allegations against Mr. Sykes or Mr. De Lisle, I shall willingly give way to give him the opportunity too make a public statement to that effect. He has indicated that he does not wish to do so, and also, as I understand it, that he would be willing to repeat those matters outside this House. I have no doubt that these gentlemen will be glad of the opportunity for them to be dealt with in another more appropriate place. That is not a matter for us, but it is a matter for them to have that opportunity.
What I was going to say—and I want to continue quickly—was about the position of Mr. De Lisle. The House I am quite sure realises, or hon. Members do in their hearts, that it is equally disgraceful to tear to smithereens the reputation of men who have borne the highest reputation in this country and who served their country well, without their having any opportunity of replying and meeting these allegations.
The position of Mr. De Lisle is this. It can all be checked against documents and records. If an hon. Member wishes to check these facts, he is at liberty to see him. One cannot say fairer than that. In fact, Mr. De Lisle acquired all of the properties with which this matter has been concerned from a man called Halsall, who was chairman of the EagleBuilding Society. Mr. De Lisle was never a nominee, or agent or had any connection with Rachman. He in fact obtained an interest in certain properties and certain of those properties still remain in his ownership. Those which remain in his ownership are: Nos. 6, 7, 13,14, 31 and 45, Powis Square, 25, Chepstow Road and 262, Westbourne Park Road. I saw all those properties today with him. I went to see them, entirely personally and in order to inform the House of these matters.
I went there because I thought that there had been suggestions that these were all slums. That is quite untrue. If hon. Gentlemen want to do so, I am certain that they can see any of those which they want to see. They will find that all of those in Powis Square have been very much improved. The internal 1126 decoration of many of them is very good. They will need a coat of paint outside, but they are all what I would call above-average working-class property, and are really quite good. In almost every case, baths, bathrooms and electricity have been put in. While I say would that they will probably be better in another twelve months when they have had a coat of paint, no real complaint can be made of those properties.
No. 25, Chepstow Road is a perfectly sound property which hon. Members can see. There is only one of these which is really appalling and that is 262, Westbourne Park Road, Kensington. I shall explain why in a moment. It so happens that apart from those properties which he still owns, he also had an interest in four properties in St. Stephen's Gardens. The first of those properties remains extremely bad. He could never obtain possession of those properties, as a result of circumstances which I shall explain. As a result they were repossessed by a mortgagee—a well-known company. Under this mortgage they are now being redeveloped, possession of the premises having been obtained.
When this, young man decided to go in for the development of property he wanted to be able to repossess certain of it to redevelop it as flats. In some cases this has been done. In what is called the Rachman background there are certain phases. The first phase was one of very bad property, and it existed some years ago. Then various people moved in; there was a change of population, and they moved out. The property was sold in 1960. I have here the contracts which were made at that time, together with complete schedules of the rents that go with the contracts.
In 1960, the properties were sold by Mr. Halsall. On 27th February, 1960, he marketed about 200 properties. Seventy of those had formerly been owned by Rachman. They were bought by a variety of people. One person who bought some of the properties, in association with two other people, was Mr. De Lisle. There were a number of properties in Chepstow Road, including No. 25; a number of properties in St. Stephen's Gardens, and the ones in Powis Square. Other young men also bought property. Unfortunately they are not "rich Charlies", but it so happens that 1127 Mr. De Lisle is a rich man. The others were not even rich at the time. They bought these properties with the intention of carrying out decent redevelopment.
Mr. Has all was chairman of the Eagle Building Society. He marketed the 200 properties, and the contracts were entered into. Those properties then left Rachman, Rachman having sold out. If any hon. Member goes to that area now he will see that most of these properties are extremely good. This morning I went to see powis Square, and I noticed that many of the properties had had their full Georgian façades restored with white paint over the last 12 months. I was amazed at the difference there was from the situation three years ago. Before we deal with the background of this debate it is important to get the facts into the right perspective. The point is that the problem that we are discussing is rapidly being eradicated by the men who have taken over what was at one time the property of Rachman. I have satisfied myself, at least in one or two cases, that the men who have taken them over are doing their best to redevelop them.
I will now state how the whole House has been duped. I want to express strong criticism of the Leader of the Opposition and the hon. Member for Paddington, North, who should have known, and did know, much of the background with which I shall now deal. In the main the rents of these properties vary from £3 10s. a week to £6 a week, according to whether there are two or five rooms. A schedule of rents is available if any hon. Member wishes to see it. How did it come about that these cases arose? How does it come about that one has some shocking property? Shocking property does not make money.
Let me state some of the facts that I have been told by Mr. De Lisle about his properties. No. 262, Westbourne Park Road has three tenants. The one in the basement is named Mr. Pinto Fox; the one on the ground floor is a Mr. Lewis, and the one occupying the first and second floor is a Mr. Miles. These three gentlemen have not paid their rent for upwards of a year. The man in the basement owes £180 and the men in the other two flats also owe very large sums of money. There has been no method of getting rid of these tenants. Why? 1128 I here is an association not far from that house, which is run by a man called Farr. It is called the St. Stephen's Gardens Association. Mr. Farr is a self-confessed Communist and political agitator. Mr. Pinto Fox, the tenant of the basement of No. 262 Westbourne Park Road, is a member of a society called the Rasitafarians, who follow the line of the Black Lion of Judah, and it is their spiritual belief that they are Ethiopians. [An HON. MEMBER: "Tell us the one about the three bears."] Wait a minute. Hon. Members ought to be a little less ribald about it. Let me tell hon. Members what it is.
Rastafarians take an oath in support of the blacks and in detestation of white people. The Rastafarian Society is a religious cult which has the opposite of the Capricorn Society outlook. Its outlook is that the black people are better than the white. The society meets in committee from time to time and its members are not only dedicated Communists; they favour the protection of the blacks. If hon. Members want to know more I will send them to somebody who will give them the details.
These people arequite different from the ordinary run of the decent coloured population in the area. They cause the terror in the area. They are the people who are seeking to get protection money. The evidence is that wherever these people have intervened they have succeeded not only in getting the premises themselves, for a period of 12 months and upwards, but in protecting any other tenants from eviction. The sort of thing they do is to barricade the doors and put up barbed wire, if need be. If a repair is done to the roof they take it off and send for the police. I am not suggesting that there are not problems of this kind both ways, but the important fact is that the information which the right hon. Gentleman has, and which caused him to initiate this debate, came from the hon. Member for Paddington, North, who knows quite well that these were Communist gentlemen and agitators. It is no good saying that the hon. Member did not know. If he did not know that, why did not the Leader of the Opposition have some sense of responsibility and make inquiries? It took me two or three days to obtain this information. I do not believe that I am so 1129 exceptional that hon. Members opposite could not have obtained the information a great deal more quickly.
§ Mr. Michael Foot (Ebbw Vale)
Is the hon. Gentleman attempting to repudiate all the information that has been published, for example, by the Sunday Times about the Rachman empire?
§ Mr. Rees-Davies
No. I was going to say with regard to the Sunday Times that I think there is a great deal of validity in the attempt to deal with Rachman. But I am sure that the hon. Gentleman, with his intellect, will be the first to appreciate and note that I have not been dealing with what I call "phase one", which is Rachman. I have been trying to reply to "phase two", which is what happened after Rachman disposed of the properties he owned. We know that, in the main, he disposed of all the residential property by the end of 1959—some years ago. What we are concerned with is not the resurrection or the creation of a public mischief and scandal relating to the past, but the problems of the future.
I am saying that while there may be cases of bad landlords and bad tenants—undoubtedly there are—and while there may be cases of profiteering—undoubtedly there are—if hon. Gentlemen look for themselves, they will see that there is a considerable improvement in the Paddington district and in those houses compared with the situation which obtained three years ago. If hon. Gentlemen want evidence I am quite prepared to deal with it—
§ Mr. Michael Cliffe (Shoreditch and Finsbury)
On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. May I seek your guidance? Is it correct and proper for an hon. Member to take up the time of this House making charges and counter-charges against personalities while other hon. Members have a number of problems relating to the Motion before the House with which they wish to deal? I think it is not in the best interests of this House or of the country, nor does it relate to the problems which we ought to be discussing, that such personalities should be brought into the debate when there are problems which other hon. Members wish to discuss.
§ Mr. Speaker
That does not raise a point of order for me. In common with my predecessors, I welcome and applaud short speeches, because other hon. Members then have a chance to take part in the debate.
§ Mr. Rees-Davies
As I was saying, this debate was brought about entirely on the whole basis of hearsay. The hon. Member for Paddington, North has been to the Press in detail and to the right hon. Member for Huyton (Mr. H. Wilson) in detail and consequently there has been created a debate in this House of Commons built on a mass of statements and innuendoes, the great majority of which have no foundation and which, anyway, were fed to the hon. Member for Paddington, North by known Communists and convicts—
§ Mr. Rees-Davies
I cannot give way to the hon. Gentleman. I wanted to say that not only are these known Communists—
§ Mr. Parkin rose—
§ Mr. Rees-Davies
I cannot give way again. I am very sorry.
The matter does not end there. There were two other men, de Freitas and Don Ezerco, as well as the men, Farr and Pinto Fox. I understand that all of them have been convicted of serious offences. One of them, I think it was Farr, was convicted of stealing lead from a church. The information available to me is that this is the bunch of men who are feeding information to the hon. Gentleman and upon which he relies—
§ Mr. Ellis Smith (Stoke-on-Trent, South)
On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. I have hesitated to put this point to you because I have been trying to satisfy myself whether it is a point of order—[Laughter.]—Hon. Members who know their Shakespeare will know that he who laughs last laughs best. I am now satisfied that it is a point of order. Time after time the hon. Member for the Isle of Thanet (Mr. Rees-Davies) has made serious reflections upon the personal character of my right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition and on my hon. Friend the Member for Paddington, North (Mr. Parkin). I ask therefore 1131 whether these reflections can be withdrawn because I understand that Standing Orders prevent reflections being made upon hon. Members.
§ Mr. Speaker
I have heard no such reflection or I should have stopped it. I hope that we may get on with the business. There is not much time left.
§ Mr. Rees-Davies
I will not give way again.
I will pass from that matter and deal with why it was that rents which were owing—and are still owing and have been owing for over a year—could not be obtained from 262, Westbourne Park Road. The reason was that the collector was intimidated by these men and had to go back to the solicitor. Far from coming from the landlord, in this case the intimidation came—it is still coming—from the tenants. I am not saying that this is the only case.
Here we have an organisation deliberately trying to poison the minds of certain hon. Gentleman in order to create a scandal which I suppose will be known as the scandal of the Rachman affair. Hon. Members will have observed the way in which it is done. The same journalists are on this case as were on the Ward case—[HON. MEMBERS: "Oh."]—in order to try to pad out the information on the other—[HON. MEMBERS: "Name them?"]—the same gentlemen, of course they are. If hon. Members read the News of the World they will see that Peter Earle was operating in this case and operated in the Ward case, and Mr. Maxwell of the Daily Mirror operated in this case and in the Ward case—and so on. The reason is that they pursued this case as a follow-up, or follow-on—
§ Mr. H. Wilson rose—
§ Mr. Wilson
I have just been informed that the hon. Gentleman has made an allegation against me which is 1132 give way to me earlier. The information quite untrue and I wish to give him a chance to withdraw it.
§ Mr. Rees-Davies
The right hon. Gentleman did not have the courtesy to which he gave to the Housethen was quite untrue. I will now give him the information which was given, and, in turn, ask him to withdraw his wrongful information. This is the information which the right hon. Gentleman gave in his speech. I will certainly give way to him when I have given it. He said that on 5th July of this year a Mr. Joseph was evicted from his flat. It was in fact, 67, Chepstowe Place, and the right hon. Gentleman will confirm that. He said that Mr. Joseph was thrown out in circumstances in which he, the right hon. Gentleman, showed the very greatest sympathy. He in fact said at that time—he went on to deal with the Rent Act. The reference to Mr. Joseph by the right hon. Gentleman was made on documents and information put before his hon. Friend the Member for Paddington, North who obviously did not inform—but ought to have informed—the right hon. Gentleman that in actual fact on 11th July Mr. Joseph of 67, Chepstowe Road was a trespasser and had been given £50 in order to leave the premises.
§ Mr. H. Wilson
If the hon. Gentleman will look at Hansard, he will find that he has totally misreported what I said in the case of Mr. Joseph. I did not say that he was evicted on 5th July, or anything like it. The hon. Gentleman seems to have a lot of information on this subject from certain sources. He said that I got my information from my hon. Friend who got it from crooks and Communists. I have not received information on this subject from my hon. Friend. I will stand by the sources which gave me this information and I certainly do not accept that my hon. Friend the Member for Paddington, North (Mr. Parkin) got his information from crooks and Communists. I can assure the hon. Gentleman that my information was from reputable sources. I have offered to place it at the disposal of the Government if they will have a proper inquiry.
§ Mr. Rees-Davies rose—1133
§ Mr. Rees-Davies
Hon. Members do less than justice. The right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition has just returned to the Chamber. What I said—and I repeat it—was that the information was, of course, clearly available to him from the hon. Member for Paddington, North.
§ Mr. Parkin rose—
§ Mr. Rees-Davies
You wait a minute. On a point of order, may I ask for withdrawal of the statement "Do not lie"?
§ Mr. Speaker
We should do a little better if the hon. Member tried to address his observations to the Chair. It is no good telling me to wait a minute. I am waiting to get on.
§ Mr. Rees-Davies
I am sorry, Mr. Speaker. I am trying to reply to the Leader of the Opposition, if I may.
§ Mr. Parkin rose—
§ Mr. Speaker
If the hon. Member for Isle of Thanet (Mr. Rees-Davies) does not give way, the hon. Member for Paddington, North (Mr. Parkin) must not persist.
§ Mr. Rees-Davies
I want to bring my speech to a close as soon as I can. It is clear that the information of the hon. Member for Paddington, North must have been available to the Leader of the Opposition. It had been raised in this House on two occasions, and on 8th July. If he tells me he did not have that information, of course I accept it, but if he did not have it, I suggest that it was most negligent of him not to get it.
§ Mr. Parkin rose—
§ Mr. Rees-Davies
May I be permitted to conclude?
It seems quite clear that this debate was not raised in order to have a serious discussion on the future of rent restriction. If it were it would not have arisen in the manner in which it did. It was designed to take place on the same day as the Ward trial, produced on evidence fed to hon. Members so that they could use the privilege of the occasion in order to enable newspapers to carry sensational stories 1134 which they could not otherwise do, and that the information came from grossly tainted criminal and subversive sources. Coming from those sources—
§ Mr. Parkin
On a point of order. The hon. Member for Isle of Thanet (Mr. Rees-Davies), I gather, has been consistently attacking me on the ground that I have got all my information from grossly tainted criminal sources and from Communists. Am I entitled to persist in requesting the courtesy of the hon. Member to give way for a moment?
§ Mr. Speaker
That is not a point of order. The rule of the House is that unless the hon. Member who is speaking gives way, another hon. Member cannot persist in trying to interrupt him.
§ Mr. M. Foot
Further to that point of order. If the hon. Member for Isle of Thanet (Mr. Rees-Davies) used the language attributed to him by my hon. Friend the Member for Paddington, North (Mr. Parkin) it is not merely a question of courtesy and giving way, but that such language should be withdrawn.
§ Mr. Speaker
No. I have been listening very carefully. The general effect of it is not that knowingly he puts forward that which he knows to be false, but that he was—and I do not use die word myself—duped as to the material.
§ Mr. J. Hynd
On a point of order. We understand from the Order Paper that we are supposed to be debating a problem which both sides of the House accept as existing and which covers not only Paddington and London, but many other parts of the country. For the last two hours we have been listening to a dialogue of assertion and counter-assertion which, so far as I can see, has had nothing to do with the substance of the debate. Can we come back to the purpose of the debate?
§ Mr. Speaker
I express sympathy with the hon. Member. I have to have regard to the relevancy, but, since the original Motion contained reference to property profiteering, I have not been able to exclude it on the ground of irrelevancy.
§ Mr. Stephen Swingler (Newcastle-under-Lyme)
Are we to understand that it is in order for an hon. Member 1135 to say of another hon. Member that he draws his material from tainted and criminal sources? Is it in order for an hon. Member persistently to attack other hon. Members, including the Leader of the Opposition, and to attribute things to them and then to refuse to give way?
§ Mr. Speaker
It is quite in order to refuse to give way. With regard to the accusation, and order, it has been as I have already said. All the time I have been here that has been the line adopted.
§ Mr. Rees-Davies
I have great sympathy with the hon. Member for Sheffield, Attercliffe (Mr. J. Hynd), who wants to get on with the debate. [HON. MEMBERS: "Why not withdraw?"] Please give me a chance to say what I want to say, without these catcalls which go on all the time. They do not do any good. I made no allegation against the integrity of hon. Members. I said that they were stupid and duped, and so they were. You go and have a look at the inmates of 262 Westbourne Park Road tonight.
§ Mr. Speaker
I have no intention of doing any such thing. [Laughter.] That is an illustration of the importance of our rule that observations must be addressed to the Chair.
§ Mr. Rees-Davies
Thank you, Mr. Speaker, for restoring genuine order with such a nice touch of wit.
If any journalist or hon. Member takes the trouble to go and see the sources of information from which the hon. Member drew his information—
§ Mr. Rees-Davies
The Leader of the Opposition never disclosed the source or gave details. He was referring to the same streets and area, the same material, as the hon. Member for Paddington, North referred to. When we see that in this House this was built up from earlier statements made by the hon. Member on 8th July, it is obvious that this was to be a scandal-mongering debate which had nothing whatever to do with housing. It would be an endeavour once more to try to get an occasion for the Press and other people to beat the Government. I 1136 hope that we shall put paid to this sooner or later, because the methods of trying to inspire Members of Parliament—I believe that that is the technical Rachmanite word—to make of these privileged occasions an opportunity to create scandal are a serious matter. They are a smear and something which is wrong in this House. We should be as jealous of its reputation as we should be of others.
§ 7.28 p.m.
§ Mr. G. H. R. Rogers (Kensington, North)
We have listened to a rather long, and in some ways rather extraordinary, speech. It seemed designed to leave the impression that the charges against the landlords are false and that this whole business is the fault of the tenants. Whether that was the impression the hon. Member for the Isle of Thanet (Mr. Rees-Davies) intended to convey I do not know, but he did nothing to establish the kind of case that we are advocating this afternoon. He said that our purpose in raising this debate was to defame the Government. That is not a very honourable way of looking at the efforts of his colleagues to raise matters of injustice in this House. As to defaming the Government, it seems that they are making a good job of that themselves.
I have been rather amused, with some sense of irony, at the charges recently made that the Labour Party has not sought to raise this matter until the Rachman scandal came to light. This is ironical because, at least in Kensington, we have had this problem for many years and have been fighting it continuously, as the hon. Member for Dulwich (Mr. Robert Jenkins) knows very well.
When the race riots, as they were called, occurred in my constituency I said on television and in the Press that housing was the cause. I said that a new type of landlord had come into London who was exacerbating the situation and whose activities caused the friction which led to what were called the race riots. I saw the Home Secretary about it and I saw the present Minister of Housing when he was Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Housing and Local Government. The columns of the local newspapers in Kensington have been full of our activities against Rachman. I was surprised that the Minister 1137 said today that he had had a letter from Kensington Council saying that if it had a Rachman there it would know how to deal with him.
§ Mr. Rogers
It seems extraordinary to me that this should have been communicated to the Minister, because Rachman began his operations in Kensington. His first house was in Ladbroke Gove.
§ Sir K. Joseph
The council was saying that if there were a Rachman now in the borough the council, having new powers under the 1961 Act, thought that it could bring him to heel.
§ Mr. Rogers
It seemed extraordinary to me, as the Minister put it, that he should have been so much out of touch with the situation in the last few years. My hon. Friend the Member for Hayes and Harlington (Mr. Skeffington) represented the tenants at a tribunal in 1959, where he instanced the kind of physical violence and intimidation carried out by landlords to evict tenants.
I know that the House must be very bored by statistics, but out of deference to the fact that Kensington has hardly received a mention in the debate I must say that we have been continuously occupied with these problems over the last five years even though we have not had much publicity. It has been said that this matter had to wait until my hon. Friend the Member for Paddington, North (Mr. Parkin) engendered the rumour about Rachman being alive and then the Press became interested. The Press was not interested in housing. We have not had much publicity over the past five years, because the Press has not reported speeches in the House on serious matters.
"Panorama" came to my constituency to make a feature which appeared on television last week. Local people tried to interest the "Panorama" staff in the real housing problem, but the interviewers were not in the slightest bit interested. They wanted to know only the sensational aspects of the Rachmans and other racketeers in the area. We in Kensington have been carrying on our work for a long time with a great deal of success. I think that we managed to drive Rachman out by the use of able 1138 lawyers who managed to make his life so unpleasant that he disposed of a great bulk of his property owned by the Eagle Building Society, to which hon. Members have referred.
The local newspaper, the Kensington News, put cur situation very clearly when it said:Until a few weeks ago no one outside West London…had heard of Peter Rachman. Many of those who did here dismissed the whole business as a sensational bogey-tale. Now the whole world has heard the story and the question everyone has asked is why were such things allowed to happen? How did he manage to get away with it for so long? What was done by the authorities to put an end to his dominion? And last, but most important of all, what is happening now?I gather from the Minister that very little will happen now, that we can do nothing to stop the intimidation, the violence and the evictions and that we can do nothing to stop the racket until we solve the general housing problem of London. Does this mean that people will have to pay these rents for five to ten years until the housing problem is solved and that unless they are caught by the police or exposed by courageous tenants the racketeers can carry on until then? I was disappointed by the negative quality of the Minister's speech, despite the fact that I believe that as far as legislation goes he is anxious to do as much as he can.
I must give one or two extreme facts to illustrate the problem as we still have it in Kensington. My right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition said that Rachman is only a symbol of the kind of landlordism we have been experiencing recently. The process is being carried on by small men who have imitated the behaviour of the Rachmanites and the other big property speculators. One house in Bassett Road, North Kensington, recently came to the notice of the council. There were 100 people living in this house which is normally occupied by four families. They got wind of the fact that the council was after them and by swift action the number was reduced to 69. Is nothing to be done about this? Controls are contrary to the Government's ideology and, therefore, we are to have no interference except by the slow and cumbersome machinery dealing with overcrowding. The landlord is not to be touched.
§ Sir K. Joseph
I have great respect for the hon. Member, but I hope that he will face up to the problem. In the face of overcrowding in this limited pressure point, where are these people to go? That is the problem until we have more houses.
§ Mr. Rogers
This matter should not be left to the speculative landlords to solve. It is up to us here and to the public authorities to solve the problem. Do not let us pretend that the landlord who crowded this house with 100 people was doing it from philanthropic motives.
§ Sir K. Joseph
The controls which the hon. Member wants would not solve the problem either. There would still be the need to find somewhere for these people to go.
§ Mr. Rogers
My hon. Friend points out that the logic is that it is right for the 100 to stay.
The borough council made a survey of a very bad road. It was found that the landlord of 39, St. Ervans Road, a house which was formerly let for a total of £2 10s. a week, was drawing £21 a week. This is very slummy property. Another landlord was drawing £10 9s. 3d. for 17 people in a house which had only one internal lavatory for their use. The landlord of 63, Tavistock Road, was drawing £17 4s. a week for a house which previously was let for a pound or two. There were 17 persons in the house and only one internal lavatory for their use. As I have tried to point out, we can concentrate as much as we like on the Rachmans, but there is also a variety of small people who are exploiting the present need.
I think that we on this side of the House look at things rather differently. There is more fire in the belly on this side of the House on behalf of the tenants than there is opposite. Speeches from hon. Members opposite generally show more sympathy for the landlord. Why cannot the Minister consult the Home Secretary and get something done about rooting out these people? Why cannot the Metropolitan Police form an organisation similar to the Fraud Squad which could deal with this property and get 1140 on the track of these people? The areas involved are not extensive and a group of competent men could do something to uncover these people.
I want to quote one further case which came to my notice recently, of a house which has had nine landlords in less than two years. I could quote some names. One is a member of the peerage. Another is a well-known playboy who is associated with a woman of recent notoriety. This property has gone through a series of names of people who have all pretended that they were the landlords of this house in Colville Road. In fact, I think that they have all bean connected with Rachman.
The tenant occupied the ground floor and the basement. He was approached by one of these gentlemen who said, "You have got rather more room than you want Will you move upstairs?" The tenant was not anxious to do this until he had an agreement in writing. He went away on holiday. We have in Kensington a lot of old basements which flood when there is a downpour. In some basements the sewage comes up into the flats. The Kensington Borough Council closed these basements many years ago, but reopened them again after they had had the minimum of repairs to make them habitable, and for these basements in which the sewage comes tenants pay as much as £7 a week. I know of one man whose income is £15 a week and he is paying £7 10s. a week for one of these flats.
When the tenant of whom I was speaking came back from his holiday he found his basement flat under 3 ft. of water. His wife said, "We can move upstairs. These men are gentlemen and we can rely upon their word without an agreement." So they moved up to the top flat and the tenant spent a great deal of money on decorations and repairs. This "gentlemen's agreement" has now resolved itself into a notice to quit, because the tenant, by leaving the basement flat in which he was a protected tenant, cancelled his tenancy and moved to a decontrolled flat upstairs where he has since received a notice to quit.
It is no good saying that this must wait until we have solved the housing problem. That is a most negative way of looking at the problem. Are people to suffer continually till the Government do 1141 something about it? I wish that we could have some dynamism from the Government, a little passion and desire to put injustice right and let these people go to prison if a case can be proved against them. Otherwise, it looks as if we shall have to wait until the people give their verdict on the Government.
When the Minister says that the Rent Act is not responsible for this situation, he must raise laughter in hell. He certainly raises laughter amongst the Conservatives in my constituency. I wonder whether the Government realise how many Conservative votes in London they have lost through the Rent Act. People talk about old ladies and widows owning railway shares, and we talk about old ladies in connection with this housing situation. In my constituency people who have been Tory supporters all their adult lives have turned against the Government because of their experiences which they believe result from the Rent Act. They may be suffering from a complete delusion, but, certainly, that is what they believe.
It is no use the Government saying that the consequences of the Rent Act have not been serious for the great mass of people in overcrowded areas in London. Therefore, I trust that after this debate is over, instead of being content merely to reform the Landlord and Tenant Act and wait for the long-term dispersal of industry in order to review the pressure of housing on London, they will do something to help these people during the next few weeks.
§ 7.44 p.m.
§ Lieut-Colonel J. K. Cordeaux (Nottingham, Central)
I fear that the speech I shall make tonight will be crashingly dull after the sensational details that we have heard bandied about across the House between the hon. Member for Paddington, North (Mr. Parkin) and my hon. Friend the Member for the Isle of Thanet (Mr. Rees-Davies).
I certainly cannot emulate the hon. Member for Paddington, North in his emotional appeal and the sensational details that he has given us. I can also promise the House that I shall not emulate him in the length of my speech. The hon. Gentleman told us that he feels deeply on these subjects and that this was his moment. I would be inclined rather to say that perhaps it was his finest hour.
1142 Apart from the Front Bench leaders in this debate I think that I am the first Member who has been called who does not represent a London constituency—apart, of course, from my hon. Friend the Member for the Isle of Thanet; and his speech was hardly delivered from a constituency angle. I should, therefore, like to take this opportunity of emphasising the fact that the problem which we are discussing, or are supposed to have been discussing, this afternoon, is one which very much affects certain other parts of the country as well as London.
To start with, I should like to refer to one matter which has been mentioned only once briefly in this debate, namely, by the Minister. It was in connection with Commonwealth immigration. I hope that nobody here will accuse me of any sort of colour prejudice when I say that Commonwealth immigration into this country has greatly exacerbated the problem, not just for the people who were originally in this country but for the Commonwealth immigrants as well. The hon. Member for Kensington, North (Mr. G. H. R. Rogers) suggested that the housing situation was the main cause of the race riots which took place in his own constituency, and there is no doubt that it was the main cause of the riots in my constituency. That is one of the reasons why Nottingham and other cities, such as Birmingham and probably Bradford, are equally affected as London over this housing problem.
It should be emphasised that the Government have done a great deal to solve this problem simply by passing the Commonwealth Immigrants Act. That will definitely improve the situation, or certainly prevent it from getting worse than it is. The Leader of the Opposition said at the close of his speech that if hon. Members opposite get back into power at the next General Election they will repeal the Rent Act. I have not heard the right hon. Gentleman say—it may have passed my notice—that hon. Members opposite with also repeal the Commonwealth Immigrants Act. But judging from their reaction to it during its stormy passage through the House, I have no doubt that they will feel compelled to do so. I await an announcement to that effect in due course. But I ask them to think, not once but many times, bearing in mind the present housing problem, whether they 1143 would be advised to do it, for the sake not only of the people originally in this country but of our visitors from overseas.
We have heard a tremendous amount about Mr. Rachman today. I do not know why everybody is getting so excited about Mr. Rachman these days. I suppose that it is largely because of the Profumo-Keeler affair. I certainly agree with one hon. Member opposite who said that in that case we certainly owe a great deal to the performers in that business for having at least dragged the present rackets out into the daylight and into the headlines.
There are many of us who have been talking about these housing rackets for a long time before we heard of the Profumo affair. This problem is not confined to London. We have our problems in Nottingham. My hon. Friend the Member for the Isle of Thanet may think it not very polite of me to say so, but, nevertheless, I will tell the House that we have a man in Nottingham named Whiteman to whom Rachman could teach very little in the way of exploitation and cruelty. Because I have felt impelled on one or two occasions to say censorious things about Indian landlords in Nottingham, I hasten to say that the man Whiteman is very definitely a white man.
I visited two of Whiteman's houses last Saturday evening. They were damp, dirty, broken-down places—hon. Members will know the sort of thing—two up and two down, the back door hanging on its hinges, the floor broken up, bricks broken, outside lavatories broken, windows broken and boarded up. There was no question there of a landlord not being able, because of a controlled rent, to do a certain amount of repairs. One tenant is paying £3 and another is paying £4.
This brings me to the first positive point I want to make. The public health authorities have been called to these houses not once but on more than one occasion. I understand that they have been doing their best to bring pressure on the landlord to do something. To date, they have failed. As I understand it—the Leader of the Opposition referred to this earlier today—the powers of the public health authorities in such cases are at present limited, if they wish to step in and do repairs themselves, to suing 1144 afterwards the person who receives the rent. Of course, the probable result is that that person is found to be a quite inconsiderable individual with no resources at all, the final outcome being that the council will have to pay a very large bill out of the pockets of the ratepayers.
I am convinced that the only successful way of dealing with this particular problem is for the repairs to be made a charge on the property. The council must be empowered to take the property over, receiving all the rents until the bills for the repairs have been settled. I urge my right hon. Friend to consider taking very early legislative action to this effect.
My next proposal also requires legislation, but of a comparatively minor kind. It is legislation in connection with Part II of the Housing Act, 1961. I was delighted to hear my right hon. Friend refer to this earlier today and say that he was thinking of making some modifications. When the Bill was passing through Committee, one or two of us tried to persuade the Minister to bring in some measure of registration of all houses in multiple occupation. I myself introduced three or four new Clauses on these lines. I felt impelled to do so because I know that in Nottingham a great deal of the racket in multi-occupation slums is run by comparatively few men.
My belief is that if only we could find out about all the houses which these particular men own and then concentrate on one or two of the worst cases—I mean the worst landlords, not the houses—we should, perhaps, be able to run these people out of business, and this would be a salutary example to the rest. The other reason why I think it important is that, if we had such a register, it would be available to the Inland Revenue authorities. As someone has already said today, there is the most appalling tax evasion going on on the part of these people.
My suggestion did not find favour with the Committee, but, when the Bill was going through another place, the Government introduced a form of registration. I am sorry to say that it is not of the slightest use to us at present, and I do not think that it will be very much use in the future. It is no use to us at present 1145 because it is not in force. For some reason which I could never understand, it was not to come into force until three years after the Bill became law, that is, not until November next year. I was delighted to hear my right hon. Friend say—I hope I understood him aright—that he would definitely consider the possibility of bringing it into force earlier. It would be an excellent thing if he did.
The reason why I say that I do not think that it will be very beneficial, even when it is brought into force, is that the penalties it prescribes for offending landlords are quite derisory. The maximum penalty for an offending landlord who fails to register his houses or who gives false information is £10.What deterrent will this be to some of these sharks in Nottingham who are pulling in £200 or £300 a week out of this loathsome trade? I most earnestly urge my right hon. Friend to consider, when he is thinking of bringing in some new form of legislation, an alteration of the maximum penalty to a fine of £100 and/or three months' imprisonment for a second offence. Such a penalty would be in line with other provisions in the Act, and it would, I believe, prove a real deterrent.
In spite of these criticisms, I am convinced that Part II of the Housing Act is an absolutely first-class piece of legislation. It can do an immense amount of good to stop this evil if only people will use it. The weapon has been put into their hands by the Government, but it is not for the Government to use it. I congratulate my right hon. Friend in bringing in that legislation. Although he did not, in fact, bring it in himself, he was one of the chief architects since he was, at the time, Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Housing and Local Government. Also, I congratulate most sincerely my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary. I have bitterly disagreed with him on several occasions, in regard to the Rent Act and other matters, but I believe that it was his absolutely firm insistence that something must be done about this evil which resulted in Part II of the Housing Act being brought in, against, so I understand, very strong advice from all the experts who said that such a thing would be quite impracticable or impossible.
1146 My right hon. Friend the Home Secretary has the reputation with some people of being an obstinate person. He is certainly a man with a very grim determination. It is very difficult to alter his view when once it is formed. All I can say is that, in this case, I am only too delighted that no experts or anyone else caused him to alter it.
Part II of the Housing Act is not a perfect or a complete weapon to deal with this evil of multi-occupation slums. Of course it is not. Nevertheless, it can be a very useful weapon if properly used and if the local authorities have the determination to use it.
The right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition spoke of several councils which had had considerable success in their use of Part II of the Act. I understood him to say that they were Labour-controlled councils, so I add to the list ho gave the Nottingham City Corporation which, until a most unfortunate accident a month or two ago, due to the result of mistaken ideas on the part of the citizens of Nottingham, was Conservative-controlled. I think that the same can be said for several other councils of the same kind.
I fully agree with the Government Amendment to the effect that the best and final remedy can only be a much larger building programme and more modernisation, but I feel that other more immediate measures can be taken as well, such as the two modest ones which I have suggested. I hope that those and any others which my right hon. Friend can think of will be taken because, unless we not only do our utmost but are seen to be doing our utmost to cope with this evil of the multi-occupation slums and some of the other matters that we have been discussing tonight, it will be very difficult for us logically to resist the policy of municipalisation of rented houses.
§ 8.0 p.m.
§ Mr. Emlyn Hooson (Montgomery)
The hon. and gallant Member for Nottingham, Central (Lieut.-Colonel Cordeaux) need not have apologised for not introducing sensationalism into his speech, for I feel that he made one of the most constructive and least partisan contributions to the debate that we have had so far.
1147 I came into the Chamber this evening determined that I could support neither the Opposition Motion nor the Government Amendment.
§ Mr. Hooson
I will explain to the hon. Member why I could not do so. Nothing that I have heard in the debate has made me change my mind.
§ Mr. Hooson
—indictment of the Rachman empire and of what is revealed by the information which we have on it, and when he described the unscrupulous landlord battening, I think he said, on the poverty and ignorance of people and making money out of it, every right thinking person, I think, agreed with him. However, it is one thing to describe and condemn an evil, but quite another to pinpoint the cause and suggest a remedy.
What is implicit in the Labour Opposition Motion is that all the trouble flows from the Rent Act, 1957. To suggest that is absolute nonsense. As I understand the Motion, it suggests that if a system of pre-1959 controls were re-introduced we would do away with racketeering. This is simply not right. Racketeers very often like and love the system of controls and regulations, because they are the people who can manipulate it. Anyone in the legal profession in the pre-1957 days who was concerned with property cases will know how much racketeering there was then in furnished property, key money, and so on. The Rachman case is simply one of the worst examples. We have had a glimpse of what can happen when there are far too many people chasing too few dwellings. This is the basic cause of the trouble.
It is clear to me that the suggestion that simply by bringing back controls we will do away with the evil is an attempt to delude people into thinking that this is a simple problem which can be simply solved. It is not. It seems to me that the Motion cannot be supported on this 1148 ground. If it simply demanded that the Government should take immediate and drastic action to cure or curb this evil, I could have supported it—but not if it tries to make the maximum political capital out of the situation by linking it with the 1957 Act.
I should like to say why I am unable to support the Government's Amendment.[Interruption.] It is time that the hon. Member for Bermondsey (Mr. Mellish) learned that there are more than two sides to the problem. The picture is not all black and white, as the hon. Member tries to paint it. It seems to me that implicit in the Amendment is the basic argument that this situation has arisen because too many people are trying to get dwellings and there are not enough dwellings for them and therefore the conditions which make racketeering easy are present. This is true as a long-term diagnosis, but it seems to me that the Government suggest that nothing need to be done about it except that very modest changes are necessary but nothing more.
We are here concerned with the exploitation of ignorance and poverty with unscrupulous landlords waxing fat on it. There must be thousands of people who have lived in absolute misery because of this. To suggest that we can leave it to the effluxion of time and that, when the Government catch up with their housing target some time in the distant future and there are sufficient dwellings for everybody, this problem will not occur and we need do nothing drastic in the meantime, is not good enough.
§ Mr. Hooson
Certainly. If the hon. Member bides his time, I will tell him what can be done.
The long-term remedy is to provide the houses which are needed. But in London, Birmingham and other large cities—and, after all, as was pointed out in several newspaper articles which I read yesterday, this is to a large extent a local and specialised problem; the 1957 Act has generally worked quite well in some parts of the country—
§ Mr. Hooson
As I say, the 1957 Act has worked fairly well in general. What has been lacking is ameliorating legislation to deal with the special problems which have arisen. A racketeer will find a way to exploit any difficult situation. We must be very careful about the kind of control which we introduce, otherwise we may do more harm than good and create more difficulties than we solve.
What I suggest can be done is this. Under Part V of the 1957 Act, power is vested in local authorities to take over by compulsory purchase property for which extortionate rents are charged. Very few people know of this power. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh."] Very few tenants know about this power. Similarly, in the early days of legal aid very few people knew about it. It had to be publicised by the Law Society before people knew of its existence.
One thing which the Government can do is to encourage local authorities to put up notices in post offices, and so on, pointing out the power of local authorities to take over property by compulsory purchase so that tenants can apply to the local authority and inform it about their own conditions.
§ Mr. Mellish
Straight away the Liberal Party is wrong. If the matter were as simple as that we should not be having this row this evening. If all a tenant had to do was to go to the local authority and say, "My rent is high; it is extortionate. Therefore, you should take my property over", we should not be discussing this matter. It is not possible to get a compulsory purchase order as easily as that. There is a whole procedure to go through and many local authorities are deterred even from applying.
§ Mr. Hooson
Perhaps the hon. Member will be patient and listen. First, I say that people should know of this power, and, secondly, that the Government should make it far easier for local authorities to act in exercising it. Many of them have not the necessary financial 1150 resources. Many of the cases reported to the Government have not been confirmed. We want more information about why the Government are not encouraging local authorities to use this power more.
§ Mrs. Joyce Butler (Wood Green)
The power about which the hon. and learned Member is speaking is quite illusory. Does he know that the Minister has said that, in addition to the question of exorbitant rents, he must be satisfied that the quality of the accommodation is not good, that he has to be satisfied about the state of repair of the premises and about the amenities and also about the rent for similar accommodation in the area? He is not prepared to accept the local authority's view that the rent is exorbitant unless all these conditions are satisfied.
§ Mr. Hooson
I know of some of the views of the Minister in the 1962 report. Perhaps the hon. Lady will allow me to develop my argument. I am suggesting that this is; one of the steps which can be taken immediately without legislation.
The second step which could be taken—and I am looking for a practical remedy—is this. We need effective legislation, without going back to all the restrictions and rent control that we had before 1957, which will give tenants much greater security than they have at present. I suggest that a system of rent tribunals could be set up again which would enable a tenant who considered himself or herself to be charged an extortionate rent to apply to a rent tribunal to fix a new and reasonable rent. The rent could be fixed by the rent tribunal by relation to the rateable value of the house.
It is not sufficient to give that power merely by itself. If a tenant so applies and the tribunal changes the rent, the tenant should have security of tenure, attaching not to the premises or to the tenancy, but simply to the tenant or his wife. There could be a power of appeal for both sides from the tribunal to the county court or the registrar of the county court, a provision which has not been provided hitherto.
§ Sir Barnett Janner (Leicester, North-West)
If a rent tribunal fixes the rent of premises, how will it be permanently 1151 fixed to the premises unless there is control of the premises from the point of view of security of tenure?
§ Mr. Hooson
I suggest that the rent tribunal could fix the rent for the particular tenancy, for the tenant or his wife.
§ Mr. Hooson
Thereafter, both the landlord and the tenant could have the right of appeal. The award could be reviewed from time to time.
The third thing which I suggest is that the right of appeal to a rent tribunal could be applied to those whose premises had been decontrolled by a pre-1957 tenant giving up a tenancy which was controlled or a tenancy which had become decontrolled by the raising of the rateable value of the house. This is a simple and direct remedy.
§ Mr. Hooson
It is simple and direct, for this reason. One is not trying to control all rents or premises. What one would be doing would be giving the rent tribunal the right, when an extortionate rent had been charged, to fix a proper, reasonable rent for the tenant and/or his wife. That is all. That is the power that is needed.
§ Mr. Charles Curran (Uxbridge)
Will the hon. and learned Member be so kind as to tell us how he suggests that the words "reasonable", "proper", "fair", and so on, should be defined? What kind of yardstick does he suggest should be used?
§ Mr. Hooson
Certainly, I will explain. Recently, the rateable value of houses has been re-assessed. This is a recent yardstick, by reference to which a reasonable, proper rent could be arranged.
§ Mr. Hooson
One other matter with which I should like to deal is the type of exploitation of which we have heard in the Rachman empire. A far more drastic remedy may be necessary here. If the police investigate cases properly, I cannot see why they would not discover that much of the strong-armed eviction offends the existing criminal law. If a magistrate were satisfied that a tenant had been illegally evicted, either through 1152 force or the threat of force or by means of fraud, and if he made a declaration to that effect, I do not see why the local authority should not be able to requisition the premises immediately, once a magistrate had made a declaration on evidence which he had heard to that effect.
§ Mr. Hooson
This need only be applied in serious cases such as those we have heard of in the Rachman empire. There could still be an appeal, but the onus would be upon the owner of the property or a leaseholder to satisfy a court that he had had nothing to do with the illegal eviction. This would enable a speedy remedy to be obtained, which would be of great benefit in areas such as Paddington.
It is not sufficient, however, for the Government to say that the present situation will be cured by the effluxion of time. Drastic remedies are needed now. The suggestion which we are putting forward is not the same as going back to the pre-1957 controls, and so on, as suggested by the Labour Party. We are putting forward a very simple, direct remedy which would meet the greatest hardships which are encountered nowadays by tenants, especially in the crowded areas of London and the large cities.
In the ultimate, however, there is no remedy but that which has already been mentioned of building far more dwellings, providing far more houses and doing away with the housing shortage, because whilst we have a shortage, whatever controls are applied, evil people will always try to exploit them. It does not matter how many additional controls are introduced. Unless they are fairly simple and direct, there will be racketeers who will get round them the whole time—[Interruption.]—as was the case in the days of the Labour Government, as well as during the time of the present Conservative Government.
In today's debate, we have had much partisan argument about this. An attempt has been made to derive party advantage from these revelations. What we want, however, is a fairly simple remedy that will meet the hardships of the people who suffer.
§ 8.16 p.m.
§ Mr. Robert Jenkins (Dulwich)
I am in nearly the same position as the hon. 1153 and learned Member for Montgomery (Mr, Hooson), inasmuch as when I look at today's Motion in the name of the Leader of the Opposition and of his hon. and right hon. Friends and then look at the Amendment, I am not certain whether either of them is exactly right.
The Motion states thatthis House deplores the intolerable extortion, evictions and property profiteering which have resulted from the Rent Act, 1957.That would appear to mean that all the extortions, evictions and property profiteering have emerged from the 1957 Act, a statement with which I could not agree.
The Government Amendment uses the words:while deploring any disreputable practices engaged in by some unscrupulous landlords, rejects the suggestion that these have resulted from the Rent Act, 1957".I do not regard that as quite right, because, with great respect to my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary, whom I see present and who, with his great skill, piloted the Rent Act through this House, a number of unscrupulous landlords have used the 1957 Act to permit them to indulge in disreputable practices.
Having said that, however, I go on to say that the Rent Act has been beneficial in many ways. It is fair to say that it has enabled landlords to preserve hundreds of thousands of houses from decay. Many streets throughout our big cities look pleasant and agreeable because of their paint, and many hundreds of thousands are all the better inside, to the great advantage of the tenant, because the landlord has had more money to spend on them.
A consequence of the Act is that it has brought new accommodation into occupation in a particular way. Before the Act, an owner-occupier who had two or three rooms to let did not let them because he would have to go to the local authority and get the local authority to agree what the rent should be. Since the Act came in it has meant that the owner-occupier has spent money on the part of the house he does not use and let it for a reasonable rent, or, it may be, for a large rent, but, at any rate, an agreed rent. This has happened many hundreds of times in my own division since the Rent Act. I suggest, therefore that the Act is not responsible for all the 1154extortion, evictions and property profiteering".However, I should like to point out some of the bad results of the Act. This applies in the first instance to houses which are rated in London at under £40 a year and in the rest of the country at under £30 a year. One of the difficulties and one of the serious troubles which have arisen is that under the Act when a part of a house becomes vacant it automatically becomes decontrolled. I think that it was the hon. Member for St. Pancras, North (Mr. K. Robinson) who coined the phrase "creeping decontrol". So there is a house half-empty. Somebody buys the freehold and moves in.
I will not bring the colour question into this debate except to say—because it should be said and it is true; and it is my experience in my division—that somebody will buy the freehold and move in, and, because he is prepared to buy, because the house is half empty, the landlord then, very frequently, intimidates and puts pressure on the existing tenants to get out. That is happening throughout the country and that is a consequence of the Rent Act. The landlord can charge what he likes if he does not occupy it himself, and he probably wants to get them out and sell the place with vacant possession, for a large price. Existing tenants—let us put it at 200 at least in my own division—have been subject to this sort of treatment. Sometimes it is true to say a reign of terror exists.
I should like to underline a point made by the hon. Gentleman the Member for Kensington, North (Mr. G. H. R. Rogers), because it is a serious effect of the Rent Act. Unscrupulous landlords offer unsuspecting tenants better accommodation for reasonable rent. I remember that there were some cases in the East End—I for get just where, I think in Bermondsey—
§ Mr. Jenkins
I am much obliged.
There was a case where the landlord in a block of flats would offer a person accommodation either upstairs or downstairs that was decontrolled because it was empty, and immediately the person left the flat which was controlled it became decontrolled. The consequence is 1155 that the person who goes into a decontrolled flat is subjected for all time to any demand of rent made upon him, and the flat which has been left is decontrolled and the landlord can get anything he likes to ask for it.
Then there is the question of the powers of a tenant to go to the local authority to get a certificate of disrepair. Owing to the very grave shortage of homes and land in Greater London, which I know a great deal about, and in all the built-up areas of this country, tenants are frightened to apply for certificates of disrepair. They are frightened to go to the local authority because they think that the landlord will do something.
I know that local authorities are short of sanitary inspectors and health visitors, but I wonder whether my right hon. Friend would consider, because I think that this would be helpful, that the local authorities should be compelled to take the initiative in these cases, and go round and have an examination to see whether houses ought to be repaired. Otherwise, we shall find that where certificates of disrepair are not applied for there will be a continuous increase in the slums in the areas concerned.
§ Mr. Albert Evans (Islington, North)
In the Central London areas, where this problem is rife, there is a great shortage of public health officers to enforce the things that the hon. Member wishes the local authorities to enforce.
§ Mr. Jenkins
I appreciate that, and thought that I half said it.
Housing should be looked upon as a military operation. It should be carried out like that.
§ Mr. Jenkins
When the war started we had air-raid precautions and the officers of local authorities were turned on to all kinds of jobs. I do not see any reason why local government officers should not be turned on to this job. We must get some vigorous action, because the provision of homes is one of the most important jobs any local authority has to do.
I refer now to the Landlord and Tenant (Temporary Provisions) Act, 1958. It 1156 was my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary who brought that Measure forward. It saved several scores of thousands from being evicted, but since 1961 the situation has substantially deteriorated.
§ Mr. Jenkins
Prior to the Act an estimate was made by the Financial Times that 80,000 families of the middle-class type were likely to be evicted. In my submission, the situation has deteriorated. Why has this happened? I think that one reason is because of the takeover bidders for property. I can remember, because I was—I think that I still am—President of the Tenants' Protection Council, which is now coming back into operation once more, having been in cold storage for a couple of years, that in Chelsea, Kensington, in my own division, throughout London, and outside the County of London, too, takeover bidders have come along and bought up blocks of flats. In one case I know of, in Chelsea about two years ago, a block changed hands three times, each time at a large profit.
As was said by the Leader of the Opposition today, if £1 million profit was made on Dolphin Square somebody has to find the money eventually. It comes out of the pockets of the tenants. Every time the takeover bids take place—and there are dozens of them every month, and, I assume, probably more than that—up go the rents and, therefore, people who have been in the flats for many years are being gradually squeezed out.
The new landlords usually serve them with notice to quit. In many cases they have demanded up to eight times the gross value. I recall a case in Kensington only about a year and a half ago, or perhaps less. In a little backwater there were 16 flats. The new landlord, having bought the block of flats from the old family landlord, put the rent up to eight times the gross value.
As soon as the local council heard of it—as the Leader of the Opposition referred to the "good Labour councils", I would point out that the Royal Borough of Kensington has a Conservative council, overwhelmingly so—it immediately went into action and threatened to put a compulsory purchase order on the block of flats, with the result that, by negotia- 1157 tion, agreements were made for three and five years at four times the gross value. A live and alert local authority, operating under the suggestion of my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary, has been able to do that sort of thing. On the other hand, unless one or two of the tenants had communicated with their local representatives about what was happening, the council would never have known and the whole thing would have been over and finished with.
There is another way in which difficulties have arisen, consequent upon, I think, the Rent Act. Large institutions, such as insurance companies and the Church Commissioners, are getting rid of blocks of flats, the reason being that they do not want the responsibility, presumably, of putting up the rents. They get rid of blocks of flats and sell them to city property companies which have no compassion for the existing tenants. I remember Mr. Stanley Baldwin, when making in the House one of the finest speeches that he ever made, saying that his firm did not mind the old men just walking about in the steelyards—they still got their money. It was a family affair. There was compassion in that firm at that time.
Landlords, generally speaking, are a very decent lot—at any rate, the vast majority of them are—but when city corporations and city property companies buy properties over, they do not really know what has happened in the past. They do not know, for instance, that the block of flats was probably 75 per cent. empty during the war and that that old lady and her husband were there and stayed and paid their rent. All that goes.
I do not want to sentimentalise on this, but I am telling the House what is in the hearts of the people—and these institutions have no compassion. These exorbitantrents can be obtained for semi-luxury or half-luxury flats. Some of the rents are fantastically high—four or five times what they used to be. Honestly, I do not know how some of the tenants, having had the rent already put up since 1957, have continued to pay.
Who are the people who pay these large rents? They are very often the staff of foreign embassies. Foreign embassy staffs are extremely swollen, and they are getting larger and larger every year. Consequently, one finds that they 1158 are able to pay these exorbitant rents. There are also the companies which take over leases for the benefit of their executives, and I believe that even at this moment this is a tax-free emolument. Consequently, in a state of scarcity and shortage in the London area in particular, this is boosting the rents of middle-class flats.
Some landlords who wish to escape publicity in the courts have another dodge which they are now up to. This concerns houses of a rateable value of more than £40 a year. These landlords—they include important bodies—are now giving the tenants six months' notice to quit and, at the same time, offering them the freehold at a fantastic price which the tenants obviously cannot afford to pay. Therefore, when they are taken to court they have the argument that they have been rather good landlords because they have offered the tenants the opportunity of buying the properties—at a high price.
Another racket is the large capital gains which are being made by selling long leases of flats. Sometimes these are eighty-year leases at a price of £5,000 to £6,000, with a £40 a year ground rent and all the rates, plus an unknown payment for the upkeep of the whole building. This is a racket which is going on all over London and elsewhere. I am not sure whether I would disapprove of a system of this kind if it were a new building, because then one knows exactly how long one is going to be there, and so on, and one can more or less make up one's mind what the unknown quantity for upkeep is. Nevertheless, this is another way in which landlords of old houses which are turned into flats can get around the Rent Act.
§ Mr. Leslie Hale (Oldham, West)
I hope that my Member of Parliament, the hon. Member for Dulwich (Mr. Robert Jenkins), will allow me to intervene on the question of new buildings. I hoped that he would not say one word to suggest to the Minister that the building of very expensive houses limits the provision or family units. Opposite my house there is a site of new houses for sale at £21,000 apiece while, as the hon. Member knows, I am refused permission to sublet my property even at an invisible or non-existent rent on the ground that these other properties are being built at a price of £21,000apiece and the sort of 1159 people that I should have in my house as sub-tenants would depreciate down the social value of the area. On the whole, this is not a contribution to the provision of housing accommodation in any neighbourhood.
§ Mr. Jenkins
I have almost finished, but, if the House will allow me, I would just like to say that I have collaborated with the hon. Member for Oldham, West (Mr. Hale), who is also a constituent of mine, over two or three years in an attempt to obtain for him permission to convert his larger house into four flats, but permission has not been granted by the Dulwich College Estates governors, for what reason I do not know. I cannot think that any tenants that the hon. Member for Oldham, West, would have in his property would not mix with or be even better than the people who bought the £21,000 property.
Finally, I do not think that it is any use the Government saying that the Rent Act has not brought substantial hardship. It has. Most of the trouble is due to shortage of housing accommodation, which the Government intend to remedy. But, in my submission, an interim measure must be adopted to deal with the points raised by the hon. and learned Member for Montgomery and other hon. Members, to deal with the spivs and sharks of the property world, and to prevent the growing hardship which is being silently suffered by vast numbers of middle-class families, who, being inarticulate and unorganised, are compelled to succumb to the extortion and are, in many cases, living on the breadline today.
§ 8.39 p.m.
§ Mr. R. J. Mellish (Bermondsey)
I agree with most of what was said by the hon. Member for Dulwich (Mr. Robert Jenkins). His views of the Rent Act coincide with the views of this side of the House. He is one of the few Conservatives who have taken a consistent attitude towards this, and I say to his Front Bench that he knows a lot about this subject, for he lives in an area—Dulwich—which is probably as badly affected as any other by the Rent Act.
I do not understand the Minister's arguments about the so-called advant- 1160 ages of the Rent Act. If it is so good, why do the Government not continue the process? Why do they not decontrol a lot more housing? If it has made available so many more properties and is solving so much of the housing problem, then why not extend it further?
Why do the Government not go to country at the next General Election and say that they believe that the Act was a dynamic success and that they propose to extend it? I will give the answer. The Government know that they dare not do any such thing because such a slogan would be a mockery, especially of the victims of the Act.
It was claimed for the Act that it would provide more accommodation because people who could afford higher rent could move into higher rent accommodation and those who could pay only a lower rent would be able to move into lower rent accommodation. The present Home Secretary said that when he was Minister of Housing and Local Government. He said that it would bring about some kind of equality. The very opposite is happening. I beg the present Minister to understand that.
Before the Rent Act, people were able to move about in my constituency. They were living in privately-owned flats. Those who had been occupying two-roomed flats could move into three or four-roomed flats while those in larger flats could move into smaller. But now, because of so much decontrol, such movement is impossible because those moving out would have to pay such higher rents. That is what is happening in London. [HON. MEMBERS: "It is happening all over the country."]
In my constituency, there is a privately owned block of flats called Hamilton Square. It is a respectable block and, at least in the past—I do not know about the present—the landlords were good. About one-third of the flats are controlled and the remainder decontrolled. It is hard to realise how inhuman are the rents which are being asked for the decontrolled flats. It is grave injustice. Rents of 35s., £2 and £210s. are being demanded for basement flats which should be condemned.
We have referred to the colour problem. I have not much of a colour problem in my constituency but when I went 1161 to work in Deptford during the recent by-election I discovered that the problem there is appalling. Almost one in three houses are occupied by coloured people. One sees five gas stoves in one house. The houses are packed from floor to ceiling with these poor wretches. One may ask, "Why do not the public health inspectors turn them out for overcrowding? "The answer is that these unfortunate people have nowhere else to go. The inspectors are quite powerless.
I do not deny the argument that we must have more flats and houses, but private enterprise in London has not even tried to make a challenge. If it were not for the local authorities I do not know what the position would be. I have a perfect example in my constituency of what this adds up to.
An old couple have lived for 40 years in a flat, where they brought up their children who have now gone away. Then the people downstairs moved and the property was bought by a spiv who sold the flat downstairs to coloureds, seven of whom have moved in.
On Friday the old couple came to see me. It is almost impossible to explain to these people that there is nothing one can do. They are terrified of living with these seven coloured people downstairs whose outlook and habits are so different and who make so much noise. They will probably get out, although I do not know where they can go—and when they do move the house will become decontrolled and so we have another Rachman kind of story. But whatever the system of society we live in we always have spivs. We had them between 1945 and 1951.
I have another case, that of a man called Brady—if that is his name—who took hundreds of thousands of pounds off the Government on false war damage claims. I will tell the House how he did it. First, he bought a lot of properties very cheaply—£400 or £500 a house, which were due for war damage benefits. He went along to the borough council and there got authority to do the repairs. He sent this authority to the War Damage Commission which agreed to it and asked him to put forward builder's estimates, when the appropriate amount would be paid. He did. It was not appreciated that the building firm was his as well and 1162 that it provided him with false receipts. He took the Government of the day for thousands of pounds. An attempt was made to arrest him, but he went to Ireland and set himself up in a company there. I gather that he cannot be extradited.
What happened to the property? This was not just one house, but hundreds of houses. People in those houses did not pay rent for several years and then, suddenly, a company called Various Tenancies—the Minister knows about this because I have written to him to ask him to look into it—came along asking for £200 in back rent and serving notices to quit. This is all perfectly legal and this firm has taken over the Brady empire. Dilapidation notices, and so on, have been served, but not enforced because of absent landlords. All this process did not start with Rachman. The Government have been in power for 12 years and they must take responsibility for whatever is happening in housing. They take the credit, and they must take the blame. So the miserable story goes on.
§ Sir Barnett Janner (Leicester, North-West)
Will my hon. Friend carry this just one stage further and explain to the House that, knowing what Brady had done and how it was done, the Government removed security of tenure, so enabling people as expert as Brady in defrauding to do what they did?
§ Mr. Mellish
My hon. Friend is a lawyer; he had better ask the question himself. All I know is that some of these people, like Brady, are very smart. I do not understand how people can be so wicked. Of course they know the law. They know it backwards, much better than I can ever hope to know it.
I know of seven families who have been paying no rent but who have been paying rates and taxes. Dilapidation notices have been served on them, as well as claims for hundreds of £s in back rent. My own local authority may be at fault, but I want it to make a compulsory purchase order for every Brady property in Bermondsey, and I want the Minister' to give his O.K. at once, with none of this messing about which we have had with previous compulsory purchase orders and none of the legal jargon and legal procedure which has delayed us again and again and by which, when 1163 the landlord is unknown, a C.P.O. notice is stuck on the door and that is that.
The hon. Member for Dulwich mentioned the landlord and tenant legislation which the Government brought in as an emergency Measure, terrified of the wholesale evictions facing them. The Home Secretary knows that he brought in that legislation as a result of the pressure from this side of the House and forced landlords to give three-year leases. Those leases are now running out and we are now reaching the point where we ought to be frightened of the sort of people of whom we were frightened in 1958.
There is the perfect example in my constituency. The previous landlord signed a lease under this landlord and tenant legislation for some decontrolled property. The tenants were paying extra rent, but they were quite happy about that. Suddenly, a Mr. "Singh"—a good old bright Bermondsey name—[HON. MEMBERS: "Singh."]—S-i-n-g-h—I call it "Singe", but that is nothing to what many people call it—buys the property and then writes to the tenants giving them notice to quit from 31st August saying, "You have no leases with me; your leases are finished; they finished from such-and-such a date with the previous owner".
The tenants do not owe a penny rent and, much against my judgment, they are prepared to consider paying more. They are screaming out for security of tenure. There are elderly people and they are asking, "What happens to us? Where are we to go?" The Home Secretary gave them the answer in his Rent Act—to an old people's home. After they have been in their house for 40 years, they can now go to an old people's home. Under the 1957 Rent Act, the landlord is entitled to do that to them.
The Government say that this Act has done a fine job of work. If one asks for a compulsory purchase order, a tremendous amount of work is involved. There has to be a public inquiry to enable people to object to it. We have tried to negotiate with Mr. Singh's solicitors, because he is asking fantastic rents. He is asking £3,000 to £4,000 for houses that are not worth £500, This enormous rise in price is due to current market values and all that we are trying to do 1164 is to get security of tenure for these people.
Many people have tried again and again to expose what is happening to tenants who are being evicted by unscrupulous landlords. Tonight's debate will no doubt hit the headlines because someone called Rachman has been associating with someone called Keeler, whoever she might be. Someof us have been fighting this rent racket for years. We have said time and again that the Rent Act is wrong and is not solving the housing problem. It is causing great harm and hardship to people who do not deserve it in places like my constituency, and we shall continue to fight it with every means in our power.
§ 8.51 p.m.
§ Mr. Charles Curran (Uxbridge)
Having risen to speak as this late hour, I propose to discard my impromptus and let somebody else make my speech for me. I have received a letter from a lady who lives in north London. She does not want her name and full address disclosed. She is an old-age pensioner of 71 and lives in a house which she bought thirty-seven years ago intending to make provision for her old age. She is a spinster, and she says in her letter:I should like to be able to stand on the Floor of the House of Commons today and relate the consequences that I am suffering from the Rent Act restrictions that are still imposed on me. I am a pensioner householder with controlled tenants and I want you to know my case. All that I am getting from the ground floor flat" of three large rooms, kitchen, boxroom, bathroom, lavatory, indoor cellar and a large garden is a rent of 37s. 8d. a week which includes rates and repairs. I am getting only 44s. a week pension.She says that she is being forced to provide this accommodation because it is controlled, and she goes on to speak of her experiences with this house. She says that the council told her that some repairs were necessary so she had them carried out, at a cost of £60, which is one year's rent. She then goes on to say that the tenants next door, where the accommodation is decontrolled, are paying £4 10s. a week for a smaller flat than the one that she is required to let at 37s. 8d. a week, and she considers that this state of affairs will continue for the rest of her life.
§ Mr. Curran
She does not say that. Does it make any difference? Does not the hon. Gentleman think that a lady of 71, living on a pension of 44s. a week, is entitled to a certain amount of fair play? She is living in a house which she bought to make provision for her old age. As the house is still controlled she is unable to make a living out of it.
§ Mr. Arthur Skeffington (Hayes and Harlington)
If the circumstances are as the hon. Gentleman has described, the lady can go to the county court and put her case there. If the case is as described by the hon. Gentleman, almost certainly the county court judge will give her possession. No doubt the hon. Gentleman can advise her about that.
§ Mr. Curran
We have listened to a number of speeches about rents and the injustices done by landlords. I do not dispute that there are disreputable landlords, but when we are passing Acts which affect millions of men and women—and not all landlords are criminal scoundrels—we ought to remember that we are making decisions which affect people like this old lady.
§ Sir B. Janner
Would the hon. Member say how much the lady paid for the house? Was it bought as a controlled house, and, if so, did not she know at the time that she could not raise the rent?
§ Mr. Curran
She is 71. She explains that she is not much good at writing letters. I cannot see why the troubles of an old woman of 71 should be a matter for mockery, nor can I see why someone who is living in these conditions should not have at least as much sympathy and consideration as we give to the tenants of bad landlords.
I shall sit down so as to give the hon. Member for Fulham (Mr. M. Stewart) time to wind up the debate for the Opposition. I hope that he will tell us whether, in urging the repeal of the Rent Act, he is prepared to say that he wants to go back to the state of affairs in which large numbers of people who own houses are to be forced by law to let them at pre-war prices. Does he think that it is fair that people who happen to deal in living space should be compelled to 1166 sell that living space at pre-war prices, when we do not apply that kind of restriction to any other group of citizens? We do not ask butchers or bakers to sell food at pre-war prices. Why should we force people who own houses to sell living space at pre-war prices?
The obvious effect of rent control is that we are compelling people with living space to sell, to sell it at a price fixed many years ago. I believe that that is unjust. It is something which we do not apply to any other group of citizens. There is no other group in the country whom we require not only to sell their products at a pre-war price, but to stand the loss out of their own pockets.
I quite agree that if we allow the market price to prevail there are citizens who will not be able to afford the market price. I recognise, also, that it is the duty of the State to come to the help of those citizens who cannot afford it. I am not asserting that the State should wash its hands of the matter and let the market mechanism operate without reference to human suffering. I am arguing that the State should come to the help of people who cannot afford the market mechanism. The present system of rent control is a system where the subsidy in this one case is extracted not from taxes, but from the pockets of the citizens who happen to own houses. I suggest to the hon. Gentleman that this is not fair, and I invite him to say, when he tells us why he is in favour of repealing the Rent Act, whether he regards this state of affairs as being defensible in any terms at all.
§ 8.59 p.m.
§ Mr. Michael Stewart (Fulham)
The Motion that we axe discussing deals with extortion, evictions and profiteering, and the so-called Rachman episodes have highlighted this extortion and profiteering. I say quite frankly that I am glad that it has been highlighted in that fashion, and that the Press has given it the publicity that it has. I am glad because, for a long time—almost ever since the Rent Act was passed—there has been a great deal of persecution of tenants, of a less lurid and compelling form, but causing quite as much misery in a quiet way all over the country.
That is something, as my hon. Friend the Member for Bermondsey (Mr. Mellish) pointed out—and I say this to 1167 the Minister, in view of some of the things he said—to which my hon. Friends and I had repeatedly referred, without evoking any response from the Government or from any other quarter in particular. When at last something happens which makes everyone aware of the situation, by writing it up in lurid colours, I say that we are fully entitled to seize the opportunity to draw attention again, with a chance of being heard, to abuses which we have repeatedly brought before this House.
The Minister seemed to suggest that there was something improper in doing it at this juncture, when Rachman's name is in the Press, because of his association with Ward, and because of certain unfortunate memories that that might conjure up for the Government. If we were to fight shy of every subject that has disreputable associations for the Government there would be nothing left to talk about at all.
But I shall not tell any lurid stories. I want to show that these are, after all, only the illustrative examples. I propose to quote one example only, and I choose it because it illustrates so many of the things that are wrong. The case is the one which was referred to by my right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition, concerning the house at 67, Chester Road. One of the interesting things about that house is that it seems almost impossible to say who, at any moment, owns it. It travels from person to person and company to company. At various times there has been a dangerous structure notice on it and a sanitary notice, but it has not been possible to get anything done because it has not been possible to nail down at any moment who owns it.
There were decontrolled tenants in it. It was important for the person who was the owner at one stage—and who may be the owner today—to get them out, for the simple reason that once they were out the premises could be let, or the whole house sold with vacant possession, at a handsome profit. At first, the tenants would not go. Their furniture was broken up. They were interviewed by the local newspaper and by the B.B.C. After it was known that they had received visits from those quarters an attempt was made by the B.B.C. to get in touch with one 1168 of the occupants again. Here I wish to quote from a copy of a note—I have seen the original—which the tenants wrote, to be left for the B.B.C. man when he called.
The note says, "I am at"—and he gives his present address. He had gone; the technique succeeded. I do not propose to quote his present address—Kelly's boys were after me this afternoon. After the Kilburn Times and B.B.C. people left they start to keep an eye on us. Please tell the B.B.C. people I am at this address.By a grim and ironic coincidence the note is signed "K. Joseph". That example illustrates, first, that the Rent Act was the mainspring of the landlord's action. We cannot get away from that. The Rent Act provides that when a controlled tenant moves out the tenancy becomes decontrolled. That was what made it profitable for the landlords and their thugs to act in the way they did.
Secondly, it illustrates a pattern of irresponsible ownership of property-property constantly moving from person to person and company to company, so that its proper responsibilities can never be laid upon ownership. It illustrates the difficulty of proper action by the local authority because of this shifting ownership and the weaknesses, for this purpose, of the 1961 Act, to which I shall refer again a little later.
It illustrates also the ugly story of violence. We are all glad to see the Home Secretary here for part of the debate. I am bound to say that I could have wished that the right hon. Gentleman was to reply for the Government because, although this is a matter for which the whole Government are responsible, the right hon. Gentleman carries a good deal of personal responsibility. It was he who triumphantly pushed the Rent Act through the House and assured the country that he was watching its operation carefully. No doubt the right hon. Gentleman is still watching it. It was the Home Secretary who piloted the 1961 Act through its various stages and who steadily resisted suggestion after suggestion which now his successor gradually, one by one, is going to have to adopt. The right hon. Gentleman is now Home Secretary and, whatever the difficulties of the police may be, the responsibility for maintaining peace in the Metropolis lies on the shoulders of the Home Secretary.
1169 I shall say no more about the violence because, wicked and scandalous as it is, in a sense it is incidental to the whole problem. I have known plenty of cases where no violence or even a threat of violence was needed to get people out. They have been terrified and bewildered by solicitors' letters. That was enough. We must notice that the evils done by the Rent Act, as the hon. Member for Dulwich (Mr. Robert Jenkins) pointed out, are not only those of the lurid cases. They are happening all the time. I have here a letter from a constituent who fought in the Korean War. His tenancy has never been controlled. It would have been but for the Rent Act. But, owing to the date when he moved into the premises, it has never been controlled. He has been allowed to stay there for a time. Now he is being told to go for no better, or no other, reason than that his wife is to have a second child. That is the sort of thing which is happening all the time, and that it is the sort of thing which is indefeasible.
We are told that the purpose of the Rent Act is, as it were, to allow the free play of the market. We have been told that hon. Members on this side of the House plead constantly the case of people who are turned out of premises and do not think of those who are allowed to move in. Let us look at how it is working. Admitted that when people are evicted under the Rent Act, the premises can be let. By no means all premises are let. The sale of property still occurs frequently. The premises can be let to somebody else. But at what rent? The evil of the Rent Act is that it hits hardest at the weakest. Granted that once the controlled tenant is out accommodation may be on the market. But the tenant who cannot pay very much; the tenant with children; the tenant who, for any reason of health, may be an embarrassment to the landlord, is the one who has the least chance of getting the accommodation.
In so far as the Rent Act has made more rented accommodation available, on the whole it has made it easier for those for whom the position was already comparatively easy, and it has made it harder for those for whom it was already difficult to obtain accommodation. The Minister is always telling us that we have the Donnison Report which shows us that not so much accommodation is being 1170 sold when it becomes vacant. When the Rent Act was first passed we were told that much more rented accommodation would come on the market. The highest claim made now is that rented accommodation is not going off the market quite so fast.
The Government repeatedly quote the Donnison Report. It was only today that the Minister admitted that this Report was compiled in 1960 from information collected in 1958. Why do the Government still stand on the Donnison Report? They have devoted a good deal of energy to collecting their own more recent information which they have not yet published. I think that will disclose that, although there is this accommodation to rent, most of it is at a rent which provides no answer at all to the problem posed by people who are being evicted, and whose stories we have heard during this debate.
Next I say about the Rent Act that its weakness was shown as soon as 1958 when the Government had to modify it to do things which we told them when they passed the Act it would be necessary to do. There was one think in the 1958 Act which was really useful and which, if the Act were still in force, could be of great value today. There was a provision that anyone who was liable to lose his home as a result of the Rent Act could in no circumstances be turned out except after proceedings in court and by a court order. Since we want this debate to be one which suggests action as well as one which makes criticisms, I offer this to the Government. Take that principle in the 1958 Act now, make it permanent and universally applicable, and make the fact that it is applicable universally known.
Let it be known to everyone in the country that it is completely illegal to turn anyone out of his house without a court order. I wonder if the Minister has ever seen a gas board trying to deal with the situation of a householder who will not pay for his gas. It has to get an order most carefully. It has to bring along a policeman when it executes the order, and to get a witness to see what it is doing. It has to establish in the eyes of everyone that it has been before a court and that what it is doing is perfectly legal. That ought to be the position always before anyone can be turned out of his house and for some people it 1171 would be legal today if the Home Secretary had consented to our plea to make the 1958 Act permanent. But to that suggestion he returned the usual "No" which he has returned to every suggestion to alleviate any people's lot.
I fully accept that anything we do about rent legislation does not of itself provide more accommodation and that the root of the matter—as the Amendment tells us, as if we had not known and already argued in great detail—is simply that there are no enough houses. There is a shortage, but a shortage of what? For the people suffering from the Rent Act, what kind of dwellings have to be provided? In the overwhelming majority of cases they are council houses, the class of dwellings which this Government, until the last 12 months, have steadily cut down the supply of year after year.
Another thing by which we have to remedy the shortage in London is a proper policy for the distribution of industry and employment over the whole country. I do not deny the importance of these things at all. If I do not develop them now, that is only because other debates have given us an opportunity to do so. My righthon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition dealt with these points. I repeat them now only because of the extraordinary remark made by the Minister when he said that my right hon. Friend did not deal at all with the background of this problem. I can only suppose that the Minister was asleep during a large part of my right hon. Friend's speech.
While we are speaking of freeing London from overcrowding, let us remember one real contribution which was made to that task in the days of the Labour Government, the creation of the 14 new towns. It was a great delight to all of us to hear today the maiden speech from the son of a former Member of this House whose great achievement those new towns primarily were. We all admired and respected the speech of my hon. Friend the Member for Deptford (Mr. Silkin). Although I do not wish to drag a maiden speech too much into the path of controversy, I wish that the Minister and some of the other advocates of the merits of the Rent Act would try that medicine on the people of Deptford and certain other constituencies. We 1172 know what Deptford thought of that line of argument.
The Amendment suggests that the House, although not willing to do anything about the Rent Act, would at least deplore the disreputable practices engaged in by some unscrupulous landlords. It is, I am afraid, a common Conservative error when discussing social evils to imagine that they can be interpreted in the light of particular individual villians.
We have to look a bit further below the surface than that. Rachman was a villainous man. Nobody disputes that, but he got the money to acquire the property by loans on mortgage from highly respectable people. In order to console the hon. Member for the Isle of Thanet (Mr. Ress-Davies), if he is here, I would say that I shall not repeat now or say anything about anybody which they have not already said about themselves in the newspapers.
Last Sunday we had several highly respectable people whose names one associates with famous regiments, with famous clubs, with famous schools, saying, "It is true that I lent money to Rachman on mortgage but I had no idea of the methods he employed or the way he ran his property." One thing that always puzzles me is how it is that it comes about that people who are fortunate in possessing wealth and education and the capacity and the facilities to find things out and know their way about the world, people who are shrewd and sophisticated enough to know how to invest their money properly, can be still so ignorant, innocent and naive about something which they could have learned by walking down the street.
It is more than 60 years since Bernard Shaw wrote "Widower's Houses". In that play there is a dialogue between a respectable English gentleman and a slum landlord. The respectable gentleman reproaches the slum landlord with his methods and his extortion. The slum landlord asks, "From what source do you get your income?" to which the gentleman replies, "Not from houses. I get mine from interest." "Yes", replies the slum landlord, "interest on mortgage on my property, and before I can see a penny of what you say I screw and bully out of my tenants I have to pay 7 per cent. to 1173 you. What my rent collector does for me, I have to do for you. You the mortgage holder are the principal. I, and the rent collector, are the intermediaries."
I bring out this point because this means that although some particular man is a bit of a pioneer in certain methods in discovering what the Rent Acts make it profitable to do, this is something which can rapidly take root and become quite at home and a native plant in the most respectable society. This is not to be interpreted in terms of particular villains. This is to be interpreted in terms of the law and of the system which allows irresponsible ownership of property, and we do not imagine that it is restricted to certain districts of London. I believe that it is the view of the police that dangers of violence may now be moving further west towards Shepherds Bush and the West Kensington area.
I have reports not of violence but of pressure on tenants and extortions and threats of eviction from Poplar and from Southwark and in the provinces from Malt by where the Government sold an estate which was once the property of the Royal Ordnance. The tenants are not protected because they have been Crown tenants and now they are faced with extortion and eviction. We have not had a very encouraging story either from the hon. and gallant Member for Nottingham, Central (Lieut.-Colonel Cordeaux) whose speech I am sorry to have missed. Do not let us imagine that this is an evil restricted to a particular locality.
We shall be told that it is all very sad but it can be remedied by perhaps strengthening the 1961 Act. I must tell the Minister and the Home Secretary, who piloted the Act through Parliament, that this Measure as it stands is a terribly weak piece of legislation. The Metropolitan Boroughs Standing Joint Committee has told the Minister so. As my right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition mentioned, the town clerk of my constituency, acting in another capacity, has told him so. Islington and Kensington have expressed their alarm about it. The worry all the time is that if a local authority spends money trying to make these houses decent it will never find anybody from whom it can reclaim the money.
1174 I understand that the hon. and gallant Member for Nottingham, Central said that the same anxiety faces the local authority in his constituency. I think this particular abuse may be a little more common in London because the devices of shifting companies and shifting responsibilities are perhaps a little more known and practised in the capital than elsewhere, but it does not take long for knowledge of that kind to spread.
It is worth looking at what happened in Standing Committee D in 1961 on that Bill. On 11th May my hon. Friends and I put forward an Amendment to secure that local authorities should make a register of all properties in multiple occupation. "No", said the Minister, and then later on he has to admit, "We will let them do so perhaps two or three years later". The Minister today has to say that he will bring that proposal forward. If the Government had accepted our Amendment on 11th May they would have saved themselves the trouble.
On 16th May we proposed an Amendment—and here I should like to give credit to my hon. Friends the Members for Widnes (Mr. MacColl), for Islington South-West (Mr. A. Evans) and others—so that when a local authority makes an order it can more speedily be carried out. The Minister said "No." On 6th June we tried several Amendments so that if people committed an offence under this Act there was power to get not only at the directors but at the shareholders of the company involved. "Most undesirable", we were told, and we were voted down.
We moved an Amendment to require that the duties of landlords and the rights of tenants should be made clearly known to the tenants of houses in multiple occupation by the rent book or some other document. We were voted down on that. Then there was a most important Amendment whereby, where work is done by a local authority and it spends money on that work, that should be a cost to be registered in the register of local land charges so that the authority can nail the cost on to the property without having to trace the owner. On 13th June we brought forward a new Clause saying that where, owing to shifting ownership, men of straw and the rest of it, it proved impossible to enforce the Act, the local authority should have power, as my right 1175 hon. Friend suggested today, forthwith to acquire the property. The answer we received was "No."
Every one of those proposals, which have today received approval from both sides of the House, and even the Minister coming toward them, could have been put into the Act. But all the time we were dealing with the same Minister who was so positive that the Rent Act would not cause hardship, who was so positive that it was unnecessary to make the 1958 Act permanent. All the time the Government knew best, and now we see the result.
The situation is not the result of a single man's villainy. It results from sins of commission, in the passing of the Rent Act, and sins of omission, in the 1961 Act for which the Government are responsible. The results stem from the doctrine that property must always be protected and that people come second. In effect, in this we see Conservative freedom working.
What action is needed to deal with that situation? First, we should deal with the particular conflation of villainies that have made up the Rachman scandal, because as my right hon. Friend pointed out, we have here not only the housing problem, but the question either of breaches in the company law, or the company law itself not being satisfactory, intimidation and evasion of taxes. I repeat, therefore, the suggestion which my right hon. Friend made, that it would be desirable to have an inquiry, with proper powers, to sort this out. We possess certain information, some of which, I again assure the hon. Member for the Isle of Thanet, comes from highly respectable sources, and, if we were certain of the protection of witnesses, we should be prepared to put it before such a tribunal.
Next, there is the longer-term question of what action should be taken to deal with the housing shortage. The Minister saw fit to say that I had not mentioned a target for houses. I agree; it was just forgetfulness. But the mere saying that we will build so many houses does no one any particular good. One has to consider the line of policy to be pursued if one is to get the houses built. The Minister will not suggest that we have been backward in this connection. If he looks at his own most recent White Paper, he will be surprised by the number of paragraphs in it 1176 which are timid shadows of things we have suggested to him in the previous two or three years; in particular, the proposals for preventing houses falling into disrepair.
I was glad to take part in the debate a fortnight ago. I should be glad at any time to debate what action is needed to provide houses and overcome the shortage. I do not think that the Minister or anyone else in the House will accuse me of not being aware of the importance of these matters. Meanwhile, however, there are certain special actions which we must take, and it is in this context that we must consider rent control.
I have shown that the Rent Act provides the motive for a great deal of most merciless action, whether it is legal or illegal, violent or peaceable, and that it results in the persecution of a great many unhappy people. We say, therefore, that the Rent Act should be repealed and that it should be replaced by legislation which would give tenants security of tenure at a fair rent. The hon. Member for Uxbridge (Mr. Curran) would not have needed to ask his rhetorical question if he had listened to what we have so often said should be done about the Rent Act.
I accept at once that to require landlords to receive pre-war rents would be wholly unreasonable. But tenants must be given security of tenure. I listened with interest to the speech of the hon. and learned Member for Montgomery (Mr. Hooson). If he reads his speech, he will find, whether he likes it or not, that he was proposing a form of rent control. If it was not that, it meant nothing. It was a sort of compromise between what we want and what now is. But, alas, the Conservative borough council of Chelsea has already put something forward on those lines to the Minister and he has turned it down. I am sorry to say that the Liberal Party comes in second to Chelsea in this connection.
I hope that we shall have from the Chief Secretary tonight an answer to a question I put a fortnight ago and which was not answered then. In the unlikely event of this Government winning the next election, is it their intention to use their powers under the Rent Act to decontrol further houses? Let us have a plain answer to that. Apparently, further decontrol would please the hon. Member for Uxbridge.
1177 Finally, what should be done to make property owning a responsible business? Power should be given to the local authority to prosecute if work is not done, not merely to do the work at its own expense. There should be power to bring houses quickly into the authority's possession when the public interest so requires. There should be prohibition of eviction except by court order; and, if I may throw out an idea of my own, why not apply to the ownership of houses the idea that we apply to the right to drive a motor car, that if one does it in an anti-social manner one should be disqualified from doing it? I do not see why a landlord who has used his position infamously in an anti-social manner should not be declared, for a certain period, incapable of owning, directly or indirectly, that kind of property.
The Government and hon. Members opposite will say that this would be very difficult to administer. May I suggest that hon. Members opposite and the Government, who are so ingenious in chasing ways of trying to ensure that no council tenant shall pay a penny less rent than he can afford, might apply their ingenuity to solving this problem.
The hon. Member for the Isle of Thanet, in a speech just before he voted for the Rent Act, said this:…the County of London…is a speculators' paradise…it would be unfortunate if the commercial men were enabled to muscle in on the extreme shortage of accommodation in the West End, Chalsea, Battersea and other parts of London…."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 21st November, 1956; Vol. 560, c. 1855–6.]When I read this shoddy story of the shifting of responsibility for the ownership in property from one person and one company to another, it was not of Paradise that I thought but the passage in Dante's Inferno in which he describes that part of hell where lie the thief, the fraudulent and the extortioner. It was one part of their nature and penalty that whenever one looked at them they kept changing into somebody else.
We do not have as part of the common furniture of our minds and speech today that terrible imagery of which Dante was master. But surely we know, or at our peril forget, that the individual who pursues and the law that permits those barren and perverted activities which enrich those who pursue 1178 them without adding a jot to the real wealth of the community, and without regard for one's duty to one's neighbour, twist human society from its proper shape into that horrible parody which Dante described—the society without faith, without law, without happiness.
§ 9.33 p.m.
§ The Chief Secretary to the Treasury and Paymaster-General (Mr. John Boyd-Carpenter)
My first duty must be to join the hon. Member for Fulham (Mr. M. Stewart) in extending congratulations to the hon. Member for Deptford (Mr. Silkin) on his first-class maiden speech. It was a particular pleasure to some of us to hear the hon. Member both because of the happy circumstance that his distinguished father was able to hear it and because many of us in the House recall his father as a parliamentary colleague for whom we all felt the greatest admiration. It was said that he was the only Member on either side of the House who understood the Town and Country Planning Act, 1947. I can pay the hon. Member no higher tribute than to say that his speech was fully in the tradition of his father's speeches.
It has been our experience—it has certainly been mine—to have to pay tribute, and always sincerely but never more so than tonight, to one or two hon. Members opposite on their really brilliant maiden speeches. I must, however, warn them of the unhappy fact that their quality does not seem to go with them when they descend to the Front Bench opposite. It rather recalls G. K. Chesterton's comment, which the hon. Member for Fulham may remember, on education:There must be something rottenly wrong with education. Everybody has wonderful children, but all the grown-ups are such duds.That brings me to the speech of the Leader of the Opposition. I found myself for once in the rather embarrassing position of being in complete agreement with an hon. Member who spoke from the Liberal benches, because the hon. and learned Member for Montgomery (Mr. Hooson) very fairly made the point that the right hon. Gentleman's speech, whatever its qualities, was not directed to supporting the argument contained in the Motion.
1179 The right hon. Gentleman described at great length and with considerable gusto a number of "rackets", a number of the disagreeable, wrong, wicked, unpleasant things done by one individual and by his associates and others of the same kidney. What the right hon. Gentleman did not do was to establish, or even to attempt to establish, a connection between those things and the remedy which he proposes: that is, the repeal of the Rent Act, 1957.
Indeed, when the Leader of the Opposition has the experience of reading his speech tomorrow in Hansard—[HON. MEMBERS: "The right hon. Gentleman should read it."]—he will see how he completely failed to establish that link. Several of the cases that he quoted of people who had suffered from the depredations of this man were, as he went out of his way to describe them, statutory or controlled tenants. Therefore, it would seem that the argument that one should make other people whose tenancies were decontrolled by the 1957 Act controlled tenants, and that one would thereby give them protection against the depredations of men of this sort, plainly falls to the ground.
§ Mr. H. Wilson
Has not the right hon. Gentleman yet understood the process of creeping decontrol and the incentive on the crooked landlords to get statutory tenants out—"de-statting", I think it is called in the profession—so that they can then get the property decontrolled? Secondly, has he not yet understood the link between these problems which we have all been describing and our concrete proposal for taking power to requisition these properties?
§ Mr. Boyd-Carpenter
I understood the right hon. Gentleman's argument very well, but I want to take it a little further. His argument, apparently, is that these practices will not be followed if the result of getting one lot of tenants out is to get in a further lot of controlled or protected tenants. On the face of it, that seems a fairly improbable view. [Interruption.]
Does the Leader of the Opposition really think that people who are not prepared to stop at beating up individuals, invading their homes and breaking up their furniture will be deterred by the fact 1180 that if they put in another tenant they could not legally charge above a certain rent? [Interruption.] And yet, if the right hon. Gentleman does not think that, then it is quite plain that what the right hon. Gentleman is suggesting, the repeal of the 1957 Rent Act, would not help in the slightest degree to protect these people, and that, of course, is the difference between the two sides of the House on this matter.
We on this side of the House are at least as concerned as the right hon. Gentleman and his colleagues to stop practices, abuses, and, indeed, crimes, of this sort, but what we do not follow the right hon. Gentleman in doing is his suggestion that we shall deal with this problem—and this is what the Motion which he has moved suggests, and suggests as the only way to deal with it—by repealing the Act of 1957 and restoring full rent control.
We simply do not believe that that would offer any help. Indeed, our view is that it would hinder, because anything which diminishes the supply of houses, and of houses to rent, in particular, makes the problem the more difficult. The House knows perfectly well, for we have seen it in many other directions—we have seen it in the black markets in food, in clothing, and so on—that the real basis for these abuses is scarcity, and nothing else. If, therefore, in an attempt to deal with those abuses the right hon. Gentleman and his hon. Friends propound remedies which diminish the provision of additional houses to rent, then, so far from it being merely the case that the right hon. Gentleman provides no remedy, the truth of the matter would be that it would make the position worse, and that is why we oppose the Motion.
It makes, as I have said, three propositions, that there exist—these are the words—intolerable extortion, evictions and property profiteeringWell, we need not quarrel about that. We can dispute the degree and the amount of the abuse, and I think that a good many of the speeches made from the other side of the House tended to exaggerate it, as is easy, but its degree in the particular case of the late Mr. Rachman and others nobody will waste his time in disputing.
1181 What I do press the right hon. Gentleman on is this, the second proposition, that these are the results of the Rent Act. That, with great respect, neither he nor his hon. Friend the Member for Fulham, in a very well argued speech, succeeded in establishing. What they did do was to bring out for the umpteenth time their dislike of the Rent Act. On that, we have differed from them in the past and we shall, no doubt, continue to differ from them. That is a matter of argument between the parties, but what this debate is about is the suggestion made by the right hon. Gentleman that it is the Rent Act which has produced these things.
It is our contention that the basis of the problem is a lack still, despite the very great advances which have been made, in the provision of housing, the lack, particularly in certain areas of pressure, of an adequate amount of accommodation. Our remedy for that problem is, first—I shall say a word or two about this in a minute—to maintain and expand the very high rate of building which has taken place in recent years—and of house building—and also the measures, to which the right hon. Gentleman referred, to help and to mitigate and ease the position for those affected during the interim period till the supply of housing is fully adequate.
Right hon. Gentlemen opposite really must face the fact that if one seeks to hold down rents well below their economic value while other commodities are sold at market price, while houses are repaired at contemporary prices for labour and materials; if one seeks to select one thing—rented accommodation—and keep it at an artificially low level—
§ Mr. Boyd-Carpenter
—then one is doing the utmost one can to diminish the supply of that accommodation. That means that the biggest single factor in the shortage of rented accommodation undoubtedly was rent restriction, though I would give the threat of municipalisation a good second place.
The second point is that it is significant that rent, rates, etc., now take a smaller proportion of total consumer expenditure than they did before the war. In 1938, the figure was 11.2 per cent. 1182 of consumer expenditure on rent, rates, etc.; last year it was 8.I per cent. The doctrine that one cannot hold down artificially the charges made for the rent of accommodation has all along been accepted in the local authority sphere, with one very curious result. It is the traditional duty, and the right duty, above all, of local authorities to provide accommodation for the poorest section of our society.
That is undoubtedly now the people on National Assistance. But there is a curious fact deriving from rent control of private accommodation in the past and complete freedom of local authority accommodation. If one looks at the National Assistance Board's Annual Report for 1962 one will find that the average paid by recipients of National Assistance who are local authority tenants is actually higher by about 1s. 10d. than the average rent paid by the tenants of private landlords.
What right hon. Gentlemen opposite must face in that if one makes accommodation artificially cheap, one also makes it artificially scarce.
§ Mr. Boyd-Carpenter
No. I have given way with pleasure to the hon. Gentleman many times, as he knows, but tonight the hon. Member for Fulham, I am sure inadvertently, took between three and four minutes of my time, and I have a good deal to say.
§ Mr. Boyd-Carpenter
I want to say something to the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition about another observation in his speech. He made a remark that, in his view, the photographs of some of my right hon. Friends who have been Minister of Housing and Local Government—he named them one by one—would, undoubtedly be displayed in a place of honour in churchman headquarters. I do not know whether that was intended to be jocular. I think that, on reflection, the right hon. Gentleman will feel that that was no more fair or graceful than if one of us had said that photographs of his right hon. Friends and himself were displayed in the office of Mr. Sydney Stanley.
1183 The real basis of profiteering in any commodity is shortage and I want, therefore, to say a word or two about what we are doing to remedy the shortage of hoping. The right hon. Gentleman was quite wrong when he said that in 1948 the late Aneurin Bevan built more local authority houses than at any subsequent time. That is not the fact. But what is significant is the way that the total of houses built has risen.
Indeed, if one looks at the housing record of right hon. Members, one is surprised at their courageous conscience in raising this matter. I accept, of course, that immediately after the war there were serious difficulties, but by 1948 they were doing reasonably well. In that year they built 227,000 houses, but—and this is the interesting point—after that the figure fell to 197,000 in 1949 and down to 194,000 by 1951.
The House will remember that there was at that time some controversy about the possible size of the housing programme. When my right hon. Friends suggested that 300,000 houses were possible, what did right hon. Members opposite say? Mr. Bevan said that if we set the builders free we would not get 100,000 houses a year, but would have housing riots. Lord Attlee, in a broadcast said that the figure was not possible.
The House will remember what happened. There was a change of Government and my right hon. Friend the present Prime Minister became Minister of Housing and Local Government. He at once got the figure up to 239,000 in the first year and we have achieved better than 300,000 ever since.
§ Mr. Boyd-Carpenter
In the event, there are 1,100,000 people who have been rehoused as a result of Conservative housing policy over and above the level right hon. and hon. Members opposite said was possible.
The right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition still gets a bit mixed up about it. He wrote a Fabian tract called Post-war Economic Policy in Britain in 1957, in which he said:The Tory achievement of building well over 300,000 houses per annum was electorally popular and socially desirable, but it placed 1184 a great strain on our economic resources. They were the years when Britain should have been developing her basic industries.The right hon. Gentleman then had rather less enthusiasm for the housing of the people than he has shown tonight.
The fact remains that we are moving forward with an expanded housing programme. In his White Paper of last month, my right hon. Friend the Minister of Housing and Local Government indicated that we were moving to a target of 350,000 houses a year. The House knows that my right hon. Friend the Minister of Public Building and Works is doing a great deal to modernise and apply industrial methods of construction to the building industry so as to enable us to sustain a pace and speed of an even greater expansion in housing. That is the real way to deal with the housing problem.
The hon. Member for Paddington, North (Mr. Parkin) made a number of observations about individual cases. One of them at least appears likely to be the subject of proceedings in the courts. I can only say to the hon. Member that if he feels, or any of his colleagues feel, that any of these cases discloses evidence of breaches of the law of any sort, whether it be the ordinary criminal law in respect of intimidation, or breaches of the rent legislation, or whatever it may be, not only are the ordinary sources of enforcement of the law open to them, but if, as hon. Members, they wish to see and to put material before whichever of my right hon. Friends is departmentally concerned, my right hon. Friends will be extremely happy to see them. Whatever else divides us, we are united in the House by wishing to see that the law of the land is properly enforced and that innocent people are not intimidated or bullied out of their rights.
One hon. Member asked about the Income Tax position of the late Mr. Rachman and of those associated with him. The House knows very well that neither Ministers nor anybody else outside the Inland Revenue are aware of, or could possibly make statements about, the Income Tax or Estate Duty position of any individual. That is a basic principle of our administration which I am sure is right. The House knows that the Inland Revenue is anxious to fol- 1185 low up any case in which there is any doubt, and I am perfectly certain that the House can leave that aspect of the matter in its competent and skilled hands.
Now I come back to the Motion. The Motion is a nonsense because it proposes to treat a real problem by methods which will not work. Its real purpose, as we all know, is political—to pin on a major act of Government policy responsibility for a rogue and his doings. It can best be described in the language
§ of the race course as being by malice out of political calculation, as coming from a bad stable with a trainer well qualified to snatch defeat out of the jaws of victory, and whose riders have bumped where they have not bored. Let us, in our Amendment, disqualify it.
§ Question put, That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Question:—
§ The House divided: Ayes 232, Noes 329.1189
|Division No. 168.]||AYES||[10.0 p.m.|
|Abse, Leo||Foot, Michael (Ebbw Vale)||MacDermot, Niall|
|Ainstey, William||Forman, J. C.||McInnes, James|
|Albu, Austen||Fraser, Thomas (Hamilton)||McKay, John (Wallsend)|
|Allen, Scholefield (Crewe)||Galpern, Sir Myer||Mackie, John (Enfield, East)|
|Awbery, Stan (Bristol, Central)||George, LadyMeganLloyd(Cmrthn)||McLeavy, Frank|
|Bacon, Miss Alice||Ginsburg, David||MacPherson, Malcolm (Stirling)|
|Baird, John||Gordon Walker, Rt. Hon. P. C.||Mahon, Simon|
|Barnett, Guy||Gourlay, Harry||Mallalieu, E. L. (Brigg)|
|Baxter, William (Stirlingshire, W.)||Greenwood, Anthony||Mallalieu, J.P.W. (Huddersfield, E.)|
|Bellenger, Rt. Hon. F. J.||Grey, Charles||Manual, Archie|
|Bence, Cyril||Griffiths, David (Rother Valley)||Mapp, Charles|
|Bennett, J. (Glasgow, Bridgeton)||Griffiths, Rt. Hon. James (Llanelly)||Marsh, Richard|
|Benson, Sir George||Griffiths, W. (Exchange)||Mason, Roy|
|Blackburn, F.||Gunter, Ray||Mayhew, Christopher|
|Blyton, William||Hale, Leslie (Oldham, W.)||Mellish, R. J.|
|Boardman, H.||Hamilton, William (West Fife)||Mendelson, J. J.|
|Bottomley, Rt. Hon. A. G.||Hannan, William||Millan, Bruce|
|Bowden, Rt. Hn. H. W. (Leics, S.W.)||Harper, Joseph||Milne, Edward|
|Bowles, Frank||Hart, Mrs. Judith||Mitchison, G. R.|
|Boyden, James||Hayman, F. H.||Monslow, Walter|
|Braddock, Mrs. E. M.||Healey, Denis||Moody, A. S.|
|Bradley, Tom||Henderson, Rt. Hn. Arthur(Rwly Regis)||Morris, John|
|Bray, Dr. Jeremy||Herbison, Miss Margaret||Moyle, Arthur|
|Brockway, A. Fenner||Hewitson, Capt. M.||Mulley, Frederick|
|Broughton, Dr. A. D. D.||Hill, J. (Midlothian)||Noel-Baker, Francis (Swindon)|
|Butler, Herbert (Hackney, C.)||Hilton, A. V.||Note-Baker, Rt. Hn. Philip (Derby, S.)|
|Butler, Mrs. Joyce (Wood Green)||Holman, Percy||Oliver, G. H.|
|Callaghan, James||Houghton, Douglas||O'Malley, B. K.|
|Carmichael, Neil||Howell, Charles A. (Perry Barr)||Oram, A. E.|
|Castle, Mrs. Barbara||Howell, Denis (Small Heath)||Oswald, Thomas|
|Chapman, Donald||Hoy, James H.||Owen, Will|
|Cliffe, Michael||Hughes, Cledwyn (Anglesey)||Pannell, Charles (Leeds, W.)|
|Corbet, Mrs. Freda||Hughes, Hector (Aberdeen, N.)||Pargiter, G. A.|
|Craddock, George (Bradford, S.)||Hunter, A. E.||Parker, John|
|Cronin, John||Hynd, H. (Accrington)||Parkin, B. T.|
|Crosland, Anthony||Hynd, John (Attercliffe)||Paton, John|
|Crossman, R. H. S.||Irvine, A. J. (Edge Hill)||Pavitt, Laurence|
|Cullen, Mrs. Alice||Irving, Sydney (Dartford)||Pearson, Arthur (Pontypridd)|
|Dalyell, Tam||Janner, Sir Barnett||Peart, Frederick|
|Darling, George||Jay, Rt. Hon. Douglas||Pentland, Norman|
|Davies, G. Elfed (Rhondda, E.)||Jeger, George||Popplewell, Ernest|
|Davies, Harold (Leek)||Jenkins, Roy (Stechford)||Prentice, R. E.|
|Davies, Ifor (Gower)||Johnson, Carol (Lewisham, S.)||Price, J. T. (Westhoughton)|
|Davies, S. O. (Merthyr)||Jones, Rt.Hn. A. Creech (Wakefield)||Probert, Arthur|
|Deer, George||Jones, Dan (Burnley)||Proctor, W. T.|
|Delargy, Hugh||Jones, Elwyn (West Ham, S.)||Pursey, Cmdr, Harry|
|Dempsey, James||Jones, J. Idwal (Wrexham)||Randall, Harry|
|Diamond, John||Jones, T. W. (Merioneth)||Redhead, E. C.|
|Dodds, Norman||Kelley, Richard||Rees, Merlyn (Leeds, S.)|
|Donnelly, Desmond||Kenyon, Clifford||Reid, William|
|Driberg, Tom||Key, Rt. Hon. C. W.||Reynolds, G. W.|
|Duffy, A. E. P. (Colne Valley)||King, Dr. Horace||Rhodes, H.|
|Ede, Rt. Hon. C.||Lawson, George||Roberts, Arthur (Normanton)|
|Edelman, Maurice||Ledger, Ron||Roberts, Goronwy (Caernarvon)|
|Edwards, Rt. Hon. Ness (Caerphilly)||Lee, Frederick (Newton)||Robertson, John (Paisley)|
|Edwards, Walter (Stepney)||Lee, Miss Jennie (Cannock)||Robinson, Kcnneth (St. Pancras, N.)|
|Evans, Albert||Lever, Harold (Cheetham)||Rodgers, W. T. (Stockton)|
|Fernyhough, E.||Lever, L. M. (Ardwick)||Ross, William|
|Finch, Harold||Lipton, Marcus||Royle, Charles (Salford, West)|
|Fitch, Alan||Loughlin, Charles||Shinwell, Rt. Hon. E.|
|Fletcher, Eric||McBride, N.||Silkin, John|
|Foley, Maurice||McCann, John||Skeffington, Arthur|
|Foot, Dingle (Ipswich)||MacColl, James||Slater, Mrs. Harriet (Stoke, N.)|
|Slater, Joseph (Sedgefield)||Taverne, D.||Wigg, George|
|Small, William||Taylor, Bernard (Mansfield)||Wilkins, W. A.|
|Smith, Ellis (Stoke, S.)||Thomas, George (Cardiff, W.)||Willey, Frederick|
|Snow, Julian||Thomas, Iorwerth (Rhondda, W.)||Williams, D. J. (Neath)|
|Sorensen, R. W.||Thompson, Dr. Alan (Dunfermline)||Williams, W. R. (Openshaw)|
|Soskice, Rt. Hon. Sir Frank||Thomson, G. M. (Dundee, E.)||Williams, W. T. (Warrington)|
|Spriggs, Leslie||Thornton, Ernest||Willis, E. G. (Edinburgh, E.)|
|Steele, Thomas||Tomney, Frank||Wilson, Rt. Hon. Harold (Huyton)|
|Stewart, Michael (Fulham)||Wainwright, Edwin||Winterbottom, R. E.|
|Stonehouse, John||Warbey, William||Woof, Robert|
|Stones, William||Watkins, Tudor||Wyatt, Woodrow|
|Strauss, Rt. Hn. G. R. (Vauxhall)||Weitzman, David||Yates, Victor (Ladywood)|
|Stross, Dr. Barnett (Stoke-on-Trent, C.)||Wells, William (Walsall, N.)||Zllliacus, K.|
|Swingler, Stephen||White, Mrs. Eirene|
|Symonds, J. B.||Whitlock, William||TELLERS FOR THE AYES:|
|Mr. Short and Mr. Rogers.|
|Aitken, Sir William||Crowder, F. P.||Hicks Beach, Maj. W.|
|Allan, Robert (Paddington, S.)||Cunningham, Knox||Hiley, Joseph|
|Allason, James||Curran, Charles||Hill, Mrs. Eveline (Wythenshawe)|
|Amery, Rt. Hon. Julian||Currie, G. B. H.||Hill, J. E. B. (S. Norfolk)|
|Arbuthnot, John||Dalkeith, Earl of||Hirst, Geoffrey|
|Ashton, Sir Hubert||Dance, James||Hobson, Rt. Hon. Sir John|
|Atkins, Humphrey||d'Avigdor-Goldsmid, Sir Henry||Hocking, Philip N.|
|Awdry, Daniel (Chippenham)||Deedes, Rt. Hon. W. F.||Holland, Philip|
|Balniel, Lord||de Ferranti, Basil||Hollingworth, John|
|Barber, Anthony||Digby, Simon Wingfield||Hope, Rt. Hon. Lord John|
|Barlow, Sir John||Donaldson, Cmdr. C. E. M.||Hopkins, Alan|
|Barter, John||Doughty, Charles||Hornby, R. P.|
|Batsford, Brian||Drayson, G. B.||Hornsby-Smith, Rt. Hon. Dame P.|
|Baxter, Sir Beverley (Southgate)||du Cann, Edward||Howard, Hon. G. R. (St. Ives)|
|Beamish, Col. Sir Tufton||Eden, Sir John||Howard, John (Southampton, Test)|
|Bennett, Dr. Reginald (Gos & Fhm)||Elliot, Capt. Walter (Carshalton)||Hughes Hallett, Vice-Admiral John|
|Berkeley, Humphry||Elliott, R. W. (Newc'tle-upon-Tyne, N.)||Hughes-Young, Michael|
|Bevins, Rt. Hon. Reginald||Emery, Peter||Hulbert, Sir Norman|
|Bidgood, John C.||Emmet, Hon. Mrs. Evelyn||Hutchison, Michael Clark|
|Biffen, John||Errington, Sir Eric||Iremonger, T. L.|
|Biggs-Davison, John||Erroll, Rt. Hon. F. J.||Irvine, Bryant Godman (Rye)|
|Bingham, R. M.||Farey-Jones, F. W.||Jennings, J. C.|
|Birch, Rt. Hon. Nigel||Farr, John||Johnson, Dr. Donald (Carlisle)|
|Bishop, F. P.||Fell, Anthony||Johnson, Eric (Blackley)|
|Black, Sir Cyril||Fisher, Nigel||Johnston Smith, Geoffrey|
|Bossom, Hon. Clive||Fletcher-Cooke, Charles||Jones, Arthur (Northants, S.)|
|Bourne-Arton, A.||Forrest, George||Jones, Rt. Hn. Aubrey (Hall Green)|
|Box, Donald||Foster, John||Joseph, Rt. Hon. Sir Keith|
|Boyd-Carpenter, Rt. Hon. John||Fraser, Rt. Hn. Hugh (Stafford&Stone)||Kaberry, Sir Donald|
|Boyle, Rt. Hon. Sir Edward||Fraser, Ian (Plymouth, Sutton)||Kerans, Cdr. J. S.|
|Braine, Bernard||Freeth, Denzil||Kerby, Capt. Henry|
|Brewis, John||Galbraith, Hon. T. G. D.||Kerr, Sir Hamilton|
|Bromley-Davenport, Lt.-Col. Sir Walter||Gammans, Lady||Kimball, Marcus|
|Brooke, Rt. Hon. Henry||Gardner, Edward||Kirk, Peter|
|Brooman-White, R.||George, Sir John (Pollok)||Lagden, Godfrey|
|Brown, Alan (Tottenham)||Gibson-Watt, David||Lambton, Viscount|
|Browne, Percy (Torrington)||Gilmour, Ian (Norfolk, Central)||Lancaster, Col. C. G.|
|Bryan, Paul||Gllmour, Sir John (East Fife)||Langford-Holt, Sir John|
|Buck, Antony||Clover, Sir Douglas||Leather, Sir Edwin|
|Bullard, Denys||Glyn, Dr. Alan (Clapham)||Leavey, J. A.|
|Bullus, Wing Commander Eric||Glyn, Sir Richard (Dorset, N.)||Legge-Bourke, Sir Harry|
|Butcher, Sir Herbert||Godber, Rt. Hon. J. B.||Lewis, Kenneth (Rutland)|
|Butler, Rt. Hn. R. A. (Saffron Walden)||Goodhart, Philip||Lilley, F. J. P.|
|Campbell, Gordon (Moray & Nairn)||Goodhew, Victor||Lindsay, Sir Martin|
|Carr, Compton (Barons Court)||Gough, Frederick||Linstead, Sir Hugh|
|Carr, Rt. Hon. Robert (Mitcham)||Gower, Raymond||Litchfield, Capt. John|
|Gary, Sir Robert||Grant-Ferris, R.||Lloyd, Rt. Hn. Geoffrey (Sut'nC'dfield)|
|Channon, H. P. G.||Green, Alan||Longbottom, Charles|
|Chataway, Christopher||Gresham Cook, R.||Longden, Gilbert|
|Clark, Henry (Antrim, N.)||Grosvenor, Lord Robert||Loveys, Walter H.|
|Clark, William (Nottingham, S.)||Gurden, Harold||Lucas, Sir Jocelyn|
|Clarke, Brig. Terence (Portsmth, W.)||Hall, John (Wycombe)||Lucas-Tooth, Sir Hugh|
|Cleaver, Leonard||Hamilton, Michael (Wellingborough)||McAdden, Sir Stephen|
|Cole, Norman||Hare, Rt. Hon. John||MacArthur, Ian|
|Cooke, Robert||Harris, Reader (Heston)||McLaren, Martin|
|Cooper, A. E.||Harrison, Brian (Maldon)||McLaughlin, Mrs. Patricia|
|Cooper-Key, Sir Neill||Harrison, Col. Sir Harwood (Eye)||Maclay, Rt. Hon. John|
|Cordeaux, Lt.-Col. J. K.||Harvey, Sir Arthur Vere (MacClesf'd)||Maclean, Sir Fitzroy (Bute&N.Ayrs)|
|Corfield, F. V.||Harvey, John (Walthamstow, E.)||Macleod, Rt. Hn. Iain (Enfield, W.)|
|Costain, A. P.||Harvie Anderson, Miss||McMaster, Stanley R.|
|Coulson, Michael||Hastings, Stephen||Macmillan, Rt. Hn. Harold (Bromley)|
|Courtney, Cdr. Anthony||Hay, John||Macmillan, Maurice (Halifax)|
|Craddock, Sir Beresford (Spelthorne)||Heald, Rt. Hon. Sir Lionel||Macpherson, Rt. Hn. Niall (Dumfries)|
|Crawley, Aldan||Heath, Rt. Hon. Edward||Maddan, Martin|
|Critchley, Julian||Henderson, John (Cathcart)||Maginnis, John E.|
|Crosthwaite-Eyre, Cot. Sir Oliver||Hendry, Forbes||Maitland, Sir John|
|Markham, Major Sir Frank||Price, H. A. (Lewisham, W.)||Taylor, Edwin (Bolton, E.)|
|Marlowe, Anthony||Prior, J. M. L.||Taylor, Frank (M'ch'st'r, Moss Side)|
|Marples, Rt. Hon. Ernest||Prior-Palmer, Brig. Sir Otho||Taylor, Sir William (Bradford, N.)|
|Marshall, Sir Douglas||Proudfoot, Wilfred||Teeling, Sir William|
|Marten, Neil||Pym, Francis||Temple, John M.|
|Mathew, Robert (Honiton)||Quennell, Miss J. M.||Thatcher, Mrs. Margaret|
|Matthews, Gordon (Meriden)||Ramsden, James||Thomas, Sir Leslie (Canterbury)|
|Maudling, Rt. Hon. Reginald||Rawlinson, Sir Peter||Thomas, Peter (Conway)|
|Mawby, Ray||Redmayne, Rt. Hon. Martin||Thompson, Sir Kenneth (Walton)|
|Maxwell-Hyslop, R. J.||Rees, Hugh (Swansea, W.)||Thompson, Sir Richard (Croydon, S.)|
|Maydon, Lt.-Cmdr, S. L. C.||Rees-Davies, W. R. (Isle of Thanet)||Thorneycroft, Rt. Hon. Peter|
|Mills, Stratton||Renton, Rt. Hon. David||Thornton-Kemsley, Sir Colin|
|Miscampbell, Norman||Ridley, Hon. Nicholas||Tiley, Arthur (Bradford, W.)|
|Montgomery, Fergus||Ridsdale, Julian||Tilney, John (Wavertree)|
|Moore, Sir Thomas (Ayr)||Rippon, Rt. Hon. Geoffrey||Touche, Rt. Hon. Sir Cordon|
|More, Jasper (Ludlow)||Roberts, Sir Peter (Heeley)||Turner, Colin|
|Morgan, William||Robinson, Rt. Hn. Sir R. (B'pool. S.)||Turton, Rt. Hon. R. H.|
|Morrison, John||Robson Brown, Sir William||Tweedsmuir, Lady|
|Mott-Radclyffe, Sir Charles||Rodgers, John (Sevenoaks)||van Straubenzee, W. R.|
|Nabarro, Sir Gerald||Roots, William||Vaughan-Morgan, Rt. Hon. Sir John|
|Nicholls, Sir Harmar||Ropner, Col, Sir Leonard||Vosper, Rt. Hon. Dennis|
|Nicholson, Sir Godfrey||Russell, Ronald||Walder, David|
|Noble, Rt. Hon. Michael||St. Clair, M.||Walker, Peter|
|Nugent, Rt. Hon. Sir Richard||Sandys, Rt. Hon. Duncan||Walker-Smith, Rt. Hon. Sir Derek|
|Oakshott, Sir Hendrie||Scott-Hopkins, James||Wall, Patrick|
|Orr, Gapt. L. P. S.||Seymour, Leslie||Ward, Dame Irene|
|Orr-Ewing, Sir Charles||Sharples, Richard||Watkinson, Ht. Hon. Harold|
|Osborn, John (Hallam)||Shaw, M.||Webster, David|
|Osborne, Sir Cyril (Louth)||Shepherd, William||Wells, John (Maidstone)|
|Page, Graham (Crosby)||Sheet, T. H. H.||Whitelaw, William|
|Page, John (Harrow, West)||Smithers, Peter||Williams, Dudley (Exeter)|
|Panned, Norman (Kirkdale)||Smyth, Rt. Hon. Brig. Sir John||Williams, Paul (Sunderland, S.)|
|Partridge, E.||Soames, Rt. Hon. Christopher||Wills, Sir Gerald (Bridgwater)|
|Pearson, Frank (Clitheroe)||Spearman, Sir Alexander||Wilson, Geoffrey (Truro)|
|Peel, John||Speir, Rupert||Wise, A. R.|
|Percival, Ian||Stanley, Hon. Richard||Wolrige-Gordon, Patrick|
|Peyton, John||Stevens, Geoffrey||Wood, Rt. Hon. Richard|
|Pickthorn, Sir Kenneth||Steward, Harold (Stockport, S.)||Woodhouse, C. M.|
|Pike, Miss Mervyn||Stodart, J. A.||Woodnutt, Mark|
|Pilkington, Sir Richard||Storey, Sir Samuel||Woollam, John|
|Pitman, Sir James||Studholme, Sir Henry||Worsley, Marcus|
|Pitt, Dame Edith||Summers, Sir Spencer|
|Pott, Percivall||Talbot, John E.||TELLERS FOR THE NOES:|
|Powell, Rt. Hon. J. Enoch||Tapsell, Peter||Mr. Chichester-Clark and|
|Price, David (Eastleigh)||Taylor, Sir Charles (Eastbourne)||Mr. Finlay.|
§ Question put, That the proposed words be there added:—1190
§ The House divided: Ayes 327, Noes 237.1193
|Division No. 169.]||AYES||[10.14 p.m.|
|Aitken, Sir William||Brooke, Rt. Hon. Henry||Crosthwaite-Eyre, Col. Sir Oliver|
|Allan, Robert (Paddington, S.)||Brooman-White, R.||Crowder, F. P.|
|Allason, James||Brown, Alan (Tottenham)||Cunningham, Knox|
|Amery, Rt. Hon. Julian||Browne, Percy (Torrington)||Curran, Charles|
|Arbuthnot, John||Bryan, Paul||Currie, G. B. H.|
|Ashton, Sir Hubert||Buck, Antony||Dalkeith, Earl of|
|Atkins, Humphrey||Bullard, Denys||Dance, James|
|Awdry, Daniel (Chippenham)||Bullus, Wing Commander Eric||d'Avigdor-Goldsmid, Sir Henry|
|Balniel, Lord||Butcher, Sir Herbert||Deedes, Rt. Hon. W. F.|
|Barber, Anthony||Butler, Rt. Hn. R. A. (Saffron Walden)||de Ferranti, Basil|
|Barlow, Sir John||Campbell, Gordon (Moray & Nairn)||Digby, Simon Wingfield|
|Barter, John||Carr, Compton (Barons Court)||Donaldson, Cmdr. C. E. M.|
|Batsford, Brian||Carr, Rt. Hon. Robert (Mitcham)||Doughty, Charles|
|Beamish, Col. Sir Tufton||Cary, Sir Robert||Drayson, G. B.|
|Bennett, Dr. Reginald (Gos & Fhm)||Channon, H. P. G.||du Cann, Edward|
|Berkeley, Humphry||Chataway, Christopher||Eden, Sir John|
|Bevins, Rt. Hon. Reginald||Clark, Henry (Antrim, N.)||Elliot, Capt. Walter (Carshalton)|
|Bidgood, John C.||Clark, William (Nottingham, S.)||Elliott, R. W. (Newc'tle-upon-Tyne, N.)|
|Biffen, John||Clarke, Brig. Terence(Portsmth, W.)||Emery, Peter|
|Biggs-Davison, John||Cleaver, Leonard||Ernmet, Hon. Mrs. Evelyn|
|Bingham, R. M.||Cole, Norman||Errington, Sir Eric|
|Birch, Rt. Hon. Nigel||Cooke, Robert||Erroll, Rt. Hon. F. J.|
|Bishop, F. P.||Cooper, A. E.||Farey-Jones, F. W.|
|Black, Sir Cyril||Cooper-Key, Sir Neill||Farr, John|
|Bossom, Hon. Clive||Cordeaux, Lt.-Col. J. K.||Fell, Anthony|
|Bourne-Arton, A.||Corfield, F. V.||Fisher, Nigel|
|Box, Donald||Costain, A. P.||Fletcher-Cooke, Charles|
|Boyd-Carpenter, Rt. Hon, John||Coulson, Michael||Forrest, George|
|Boyle, Rt. Hon. Sir Edward||Courtney, Cdr. Anthony||Foster, John|
|Braine, Bernard||Craddock, Sir Beresford (Spelthorne)||Fraser, Rt. Hn. Hugh (Staffortf&stone)|
|Brewis, John||Crawley, Aldan||Fraser, Ian (Plymouth, Sutton)|
|Bromley-Davenport. Lt.-Col. Sir Walter||Crltchley, Julian||Freeth, Denzil|
|Galbraith, Hon. T. G. D.||Litchfield, Capt. John||Ridley, Hon. Nicholas|
|Gammans, Lady||Lloyd, Rt. Hn. Geoffrey (Sut'nC'dfield)||Ridsdale, Julian|
|Gardner, Edward||Longbottom, Charles||Rippon, Rt. Hon. Geoffrey|
|George, Sir John (Pollok)||Longden, Gilbert||Roberts, Sir Peter (Heeley)|
|Gibson-Watt, David||Loveys, Walter H.||Robinson, Rt. Hn. Sir R. (B'pool, S.)|
|Gilmour, Ian (Norfolk, Central)||Lucas, Sir Jocelyn||Robson Brown, Sir William|
|Gilmour, Sir John (East Fife)||Lucas-Tooth, Sir Hugh||Rodgers, John (Sevenoaks)|
|Glover, Sir Douglas||McAdden, Sir Stephen||Roots, William|
|Glyn, Dr. Alan (Clapham)||MacArthur, Ian||Ropner, Col. Sir Leonard|
|Glyn, Sir Richard (Dorset, N.)||McLaren, Martin||Russell, Ronald|
|Godber. Rt. Hon. J. B.||McLaughlin, Mrs. Patricia||St. Clair, M.|
|Goodhart, Philip||Maclay, Rt. Hon. John||Sandys, Rt. Hon. Duncan|
|Goodhew, Victor||Maclean, Sir Fitzroy(Bute&N. Ayrs.)||Scott-Hopkins, James|
|Gough, Frederick||Macleod, Rt. Hn. Iain (Enfield, W.)||Seymour, Leslie|
|Gower, Raymond||McMaster, Stanley R.||Sharples, Richard|
|Grant-Ferris, R.||Macmillan, Rt. Hn. Harold (Bromley)||Shaw, M.|
|Green, Alan||Macmillan, Maurice (Halifax)||Shepherd, William|
|Gresham Cooke, R.||Macpherson, Rt. Hn. Niall (Dumfries)||Skeet, T. H. H.|
|Grosvenor, Lord Robert||Maddan, Martin||Smithers, Peter|
|Hall, John (Wycombe)||Maginnis, John E.||Smyth, Rt. Hon. Brig. Sir John|
|Hamilton, Michael (Wellingborough)||Maltland, Sir John||Soames, Rt. Hon. Christopher|
|Hare, Rt. Hon. John||Markham, Major Sir Frank||Spearman, Sir Alexander|
|Harris, Reader (Heston)||Marlowe, Anthony||Speir, Rupert|
|Harrison, Brian (Maldon)||Marples, Rt. Hon. Ernest||Stanley, Hon. Richard|
|Harrison, Col. Sir Harwood (Eye)||Marshall, Sir Douglas||Stevens, Geoffrey|
|Harvey, Sir Arthur Vere (Macclesf'd)||Marten, Neil||Steward, Harold (Stockport, S.)|
|Harvey, John (Walthamstow, E.)||Mathew, Robert (Honiton)||Stodart, J. A.|
|Harvie Anderson, Miss||Matthews, Gordon (Meriden)||Storey, Sir Samuel|
|Hastings, Stephen||Maudling, Rt. Hon. Reginald||Studholme, Sir Henry|
|Hay, John||Mawby, Ray||Summers, Sir Spencer|
|Heald, Rt. Hon. Sir Lionel||Maxwell-Hyslop, R. J.||Talbot, John E.|
|Heath, Rt. Hon. Edward||Maydon, Lt.-Cmdr. S. L. C.||Tapsell, Peter|
|Henderson, John (Cathcart)||Mills, Stratton||Taylor, Sir Charles (Eastbourne)|
|Hendry, Forbes||Miscampbell, Norman||Taylor, Edwin (Bolton, E.)|
|Hicks Beach, Maj. W.||Montgomery, Fergus||Taylor, Frank (M'ch'st'r, Moss Side)|
|Hiley, Joseph||Moore, Sir Thomas (Ayr)||Taylor, Sir William (Bradford, N.)|
|Hill, Mrs. Eveline (Wythenshawe)||More, Jasper (Ludlow)||Teeling, Sir William|
|Hill, J. E. B. (S. Norfolk)||Morgan, William||Temple, John M.|
|Hirst, Geoffrey||Morrison, John||Thatcher, Mrs. Margaret|
|Hobson, Rt. Hon. Sir John||Mott-Radclyffe, Sir Charles||Thomas, Sir Leslie (Canterbury)|
|Hocking, Philip N.||Nabarro, Sir Gerald||Thomas, Peter (Conway)|
|Holland, Philip||Nicholls, Sir Harmar||Thompson, Sir Kenneth (Walton)|
|Hollingworth, John||Nicholson, Sir Godfrey||Thompson, Sir Richard (Croydon, S.)|
|Hope, Rt. Hon. Lord John||Noble, Rt. Hon. Michael||Thorneycroft, Rt. Hon. Peter|
|Hopkins, Alan||Nugent, Rt. Hon. Sir Richard||Thornton-Kemsley, Sir Colin|
|Hornby, R. P.||Oakshott, Sir Hendrie||Tiley, Arthur (Bradford, W.)|
|Hornsby-Smith, Rt. Hon. Dame P.||Orr, Capt. L. P. S.||Tilney, John (Wavertree)|
|Howard, Hon. G. R. (St. Ives)||Orr-Ewing, Sir Charles||Touche, Rt. Hon. Sir Gordon|
|Howard, John (Southampton, Test)||Osborn, John (Hallam)||Turner, Colin|
|Hughes, Hallett, Vice-Admiral John||Osborne, Sir Cyril (Louth)||Turton, Rt. Hon. R. H.|
|Hughes-Young, Michael||Page, John (Harrow, West)||Tweedsmuir, Lady|
|Hulbert, Sir Norman||Page, Graham (Crosby)||van Straubenzee, W. R.|
|Hutchison, Michael Clark||Pannell, Norman (Kirkdale)||Vaughan-Morgan, Rt. Hon. Sir John|
|Iremonger, T. L.||Partridge, E.||Vosper, Rt. Hon. Dennis|
|Irvine, Bryant Godman (Rye)||Pearson, Frank (Clitheroe)||Walder, David|
|Jennings, J. C.||Peel, John||Walker, Peter|
|Johnson, Dr. Donald (Carlisle)||Percival, Ian||Walker-Smith, Rt. Hon. Sir Derek|
|Johnson, Eric (Blackley)||Peyton, John||Wall, Patrick|
|Johnson Smith, Geoffrey||Pickthorn, Sir Kenneth||Ward, Dame Irene|
|Jones, Arthur (Northants, S.)||Pike, Miss Mervyn||Watkinson, Rt. Hon. Harold|
|Jones, Rt. Hn. Aubrey (Hall Green)||Pilkington, Sir Richard||Webster, David|
|Joseph, Rt. Hon. Sir Keith||Pitman, Sir James||Wells, John (Maidstone)|
|Kaberry, Sir Donald||Pitt, Dame Edith||Whitelaw, William|
|Kerans, Cdr. J. S.||Pott, Percivall||Williams, Dudley (Exeter)|
|Kerby, Capt. Henry||Powell, Rt. Hon. J. Enoch||Williams, Paul (Sunderland, S.)|
|Kerr, Sir Hamilton||Price, David (Eastleigh)||Wills, Sir Gerald (Bridgwater)|
|Kimball, Marcus||Price, H. A. (Lewisham, W.)||Wilson, Geoffrey (Truro)|
|Kirk, Peter||Prior, J. M. L.||Wise, A. R.|
|Lagden, Godfrey||Prior-Palmer, Brig. Sir Otho||Wolrige-Gordon, Patrick|
|Lambton, Viscount||Proudfoot, Wilfred||Wood, Rt. Hon. Richard|
|Lancaster, Col. C. G.||Pym, Francis||Woodhouse, C. M.|
|Langford-Holt, Sir John||Quennell, Miss J. M.||Woodnutt, Mark|
|Leather, Sir Edwin||Ramsden, James||Woollam, John|
|Leavey, J. A.||Rawlinson, Sir Peter||Worsley, Marcus|
|Legge-Bourke, Sir Harry||Redmayne, Rt. Hon. Martin|
|Lewis, Kenneth (Rutland)||Rees, Hugh (Swansea, W.)||TELLERS FOR THE AYES:|
|Lilley, F. J. P.||Rees-Davies, W. R. (Isle of Thanet)||Mr. Chichester-Clark and|
|Lindsay, Sir Martin||Renton, Rt. Hon. David||Mr. Finlay.|
|Linstead, Sir Hugh|
|Abse, Leo||Awbery, Stan (Bristol, Central)||Baxter, William (Stirlingshire, W.)|
|Ainsley, William||Bacon, Miss Alice||Bellenger, Rt. Hon. F. J.|
|Albu, Austen||Baird, John||Bence, Cyril|
|Allen, Scholefield (Crewe)||Barnett, Guy||Bennett, J. (Glasgow, Bridgeton)|
|Benson, Sir George||Hill, J. (Midlothian)||Paton, John|
|Blackburn, F.||Hilton, A. V.||Pavitt, Laurence|
|Blyton, William||Holman, Percy||Pearson, Arthur (Pontypridd)|
|Boardman, H.||Holt, Arthur||Peart, Frederick|
|Bottomley, Rt. Hon. A. G.||Hooson, H. E.||Pentland, Norman|
|Bowden, Rt. Hn. H. W. (Leics, S. W.)||Houghton, Douglas||Poppiewell, Ernest|
|Bowles, Frank||Howell, Charles A. (Perry Barr)||Prentice, R. E.|
|Boyden, James||Howell, Denis (Small Heath)||Price, J. T. (Westhoughton)|
|Braddock, Mrs. E. M.||Hoy, James H.||Probert, Arthur|
|Bradfey, Tom||Hughes, Cledwyn (Anglesey)||Proctor, W. T.|
|Bray, Dr. Jeremy||Hughes, Hector (Aberdeen, N.)||Pursey, Cmdr. Harry|
|Brockway, A, Fenner||Hunter, A. E.||Randall, Harry|
|Broughton, Dr. A. D. D.||Hynd, H. (Accrington)||Redhead, E. C.|
|Butler, Herbert (Hackney, C.)||Hynd, John (Attercliffe)||Rees, Merlyn (Leeds, S.)|
|Butler, Mrs. Joyce (Wood Green)||Irvine, A. J. (Edge Hill)||Reid, William|
|Callaghan, James||Irving, Sydney (Dartford)||Reynolds, G. W.|
|Carmichael, Nell||Janner, Sir Barnett||Rhodes, H.|
|Castle, Mrs. Barbara||Jay, Rt. Hon. Douglas||Roberts, Albert (Normanton)|
|Chapman, Donald||Jeger, George||Roberts, Goronwy (Caernarvon)|
|Cliffe, Michael||Jenkins, Roy (Stechford)||Robertson, John (Paisley)|
|Corbet, Mrs. Freda||Johnson, Carol (Lewisham, S.)||Robinson, Kenneth (St. Pancras, N.)|
|Craddock, George (Bradford, S.)||Jones, Rt. Hn. A. Creech (Wakefield)||Rodgers, W. T. (Stockton)|
|Cronin, John||Jones, Dan (Burnley)||Ross, William|
|Crosland, Anthony||Jones, Elwyn (West Ham, S.)||Royle, Charles (Salford, West)|
|Crossman, R. H. S.||Jones, J. Idwal (Wrexham)||Shinwell, Rt. Hon. E.|
|Cullen, Mrs. Alice||Jones, T. W. (Merioneth)||Silkin, John|
|Dalyell, Tam||Kelley, Richard||Skeffington, Arthur|
|Darling George||Kenyon, Clifford||Slater, Mrs. Harriet (Stoke, N)|
|Davies, G. Elfed (Rhondda, E.)||Key, Rt. Hon. C. W.||Slater, Joseph (Sedgefield)|
|Davies, Harold (Leek)||King, Dr. Horace||Small, William|
|Davies, Ifor (Gower)||Lawson, George||Smith, Ellis (Stoke, S.)|
|Davies, S. O. (Merthyr)||Ledger, Ron||Snow, Julian|
|Deer, George||Lee, Frederick (Newton)||Sorensen, R. W.|
|Delargy, Hugh||Lee, Miss Jennie (Cannock)||Soskice, Rt. Hon. Sir Frank|
|Dempsey, James||Lever, Harold (Cheetham)||Spriggs, Leslie|
|Diamond, John||Lever, L. M. (Ardwick)||Steele, Thomas|
|Dodds, Norman||Lipton, Marcus||Stewart, Michael (Fulham)|
|Donnelly, Desmond||Loughlin, Charles||Stonehouse, John|
|Driberg, Tom||Lubbock, Eric||Stones, William|
|Duffy, A. E. P.||McBride, Neil||Strauss, Rt. Hn. G. R. (Vauxhall)|
|Ede, Rt. Hon. C.||McCann, John||Stross, Dr. Barnett (Stoke-on-Trent, C.)|
|Edelman, Maurice||MacColl, James||Swingler, Stephen|
|Edwards, Rt. Hon. Ness (Caerphilly)||MacDermot, Niall||Symonds, J. B.|
|Edwards, Walter (Stepney)||McInnes, James||Taverne, D.|
|Evans, Albert||McKay, John (Wallsend)||Taylor, Bernard (Mansfield)|
|Fernyhough, E.||Mackie, John (Enfield, East)||Thomas, George (Cardiff, W.)|
|Finch, Harold||McLeavy, Frank||Thomas, Iorwerth (Rhondda, W.)|
|Fitch, Alan||MacPherson, Malcolm (Stirling)||Thompson, Dr. Alan (Dunfermline)|
|Fletcher, Eric||Mahon, Simon||Thomson, G. M. (Dundee, E.)|
|Foley, Maurice||Mallalieu, E. L. (Brigg)||Thornton, Ernest|
|Foot, Dingle (Ipswich)||Mallalieu, J. P. W. (Huddersfield, E.)||Thorpe, Jeremy|
|Foot, Michael (Ebbw Vale)||Manuel, Archie||Tornney, Frank|
|Forman, J. C.||Mapp, Charles||Wainwright, Edwin|
|Fraser, Thomas (Hamilton)||Marsh, Richard||Warbey, William|
|Galpern, Sir Myer||Mason, Roy||Watkins, Tudor|
|George, Lady MeganLloyd (Crmrthn)||Mayhew, Christopher||Weitzman, David|
|Ginsburg, David||Mellish, R. J.||Wells, William (Walsall, N.)|
|Gordon Walker, Rt. Hon. P. C.||Mendelson, J. J.||White, Mrs. Eirene|
|Courlay, Harry||Millan, Bruce||Whitlock, William|
|Greenwood, Anthony||Milne, Edward||Wigg, George|
|Grey, Charles||Mitchison, G. R.||Wilkins, W. A.|
|Griffiths, David (Rother Valley)||Monslow, Walter||Willey, Frederick|
|Griffiths, Rt. Hon. James (Llanelly)||Moody, A. S.||Williams, D. J. (Neath)|
|Griffiths, W. (Exchange)||Morris, John||Williams, W. R. (Openshaw)|
|Grimond, Rt. Hon. J.||Moyle, Arthur||Williams, W. T. (Warrington)|
|Gunter, Ray||Mulley, Frederick||Willis, E. G. (Edinburgh, E.)|
|Hale, Leslie (Oldham, W.)||Noel-Baker, Francis (Swindon)||Wilson, Rt. Hon. Harold (Huyton)|
|Hamilton, William (West Fife)||Noel-Baker, Rt. Hn. Philip (Derby, S.)||Winterbottom, R. E.|
|Hannan, William||Oliver, G. H.||Woof, Robert|
|Harper, Joseph||O'MaHey, B. K.||Wyatt, Woodrow|
|Hart, Mrs. Judith||Oram, A. E.||Yates, Victor (Ladywood)|
|Hayman, F. H.||Oswald, Thomas||Zilliacus, K.|
|Healey, Denis||Owen, Will|
|Henderson,Rt.Hn.Arthur(RwlyRegis)||Pannelt, Charles (Leeds, W.)||TELLERS FOR THE NOES:|
|Herbison, Miss Margaret||Pargiter, G. A.||Mr. Short and Mr. Rogers.|
|Hewitson, Capt. M.||Parker, John|
|Parkin, B. T.|
§ Main Question, as amended, put and agreed to.
§ That this House, while deploring any disreputable practices engaged in by some1194
§ unscrupulous landlords, rejects the suggestion that these have resulted from the Rent Act 1957, and recognises that the effective remedy lies in the Government's policy to achieve a larger programme of new building and the modernisation of many more homes.