HC Deb 13 April 1964 vol 693 cc178-96

Amendment made: In page 129, line 54, column 3, at end insert: Section 30(2).—[Mr. Corfield.]

Order for Third Reading read.—[Queen's consent, on behalf of the Crown, signified]

10.57 p.m.

Sir K. Joseph

I beg to move, That the Bill be now read the Third time.

Hon. Members may dispute the exact timing, but I reckon that this brings us into our 96th hour of consideration of this Measure. I should like to pay a heartfelt and sincere tribute to the work of hon. Members of the Committee who laboured so long and, I think, effectively, upstairs. As one who was fortunate enough to have advice, I was genuinely impressed by the hard work, the home work and the constructive efforts which hon. Members on both sides of the Committee contributed. I am sure that the Bill has been improved by their efforts.

I should like particularly to pay tribute to my hon. Friends the Parliamentary Secretary and the Under-Secretary of State for Scotland who have borne so much of the burden and have borne it, I think the House will acknowledge, with courtesy and lucidity. At this stage, too, the House would like to remember for a moment our late colleague, Mr. Brooman-White, who started the Bill with us.

At this stage of the night the House will not expect me to be long, but I want to summarise what has happened since the Bill was introduced. Part I deals with housing societies and proposes to set up a Housing Corporation with money from the Treasury and, we hope, with the support which the Building Societies Association has recommended its societies to offer. The House accepted Part I as making a useful, a growing, a significant, but not numerically a vast, contribution to the housing needs of the country. There was need to reassure hon. Members opposite—and I think that they were reassured—that there was intended no sort of competition with local authorities. Subject to that—and I think that the reassurance was accepted—Part I was generally welcomed. It will enable the Housing Corporation to build on the pilot scheme under which some 5,000 dwellings throughout the country are either in building or in design, and it will enable housing societies to provide houses for rent and for co-ownership without profit and without subsidy. It is the belief of the Government that these houses will provide excellent value for many people and will fill the gap between private enterprise building for owner occupation and public enterprise building for letting.

Parts II and III of the Bill deal with the large subject of improvement grants. The whole House accepts the need to improve that part of our housing stock that is solid enough to justify modernisation. None of us would do it if we had an alternative. It would be far better to replace the houses which are not modern, but faced as we are as a community with the need to overtake shortage at once, keep pace with growth, replace the slums and, once the slums are down, to replace those houses which cannot be improved, we must accept the need to use the improvement system to make life more tolerable for the large numbers of our fellow citizens who will have to live in these houses for some years.

I believe that all hon. Members accept the need to move from the relatively unsystematic procedure with improvement grants that we now have to a more systematic course of conduct. That is what the Bill makes possible. We all accept that it makes sense to seek to concentrate the improvement efforts of local authorities systematically, area by area through their towns, and to couple with the improvement of individual houses the improvement of the environment in which those houses are set. That, too, is what the Bill sets out to make possible.

There is also general acceptance that it is right to use a combination of persuasion, persuasion and persuasion—but that when persuasion fails, compulsion. There is general acceptance, also, that the compulsion should not bite on owner occupiers, although we hope that owner occupiers who have not already used the improvement grant scheme will be more encouraged to do so when they find that the areas in which they live are being systematically improved by local authorities.

I have spoken so far about what has been generally agreed. Some changes were made in Committee, and others suggested but not made.

The whole Committee agreed that it was right to allow the tenant to have some option about whether improvements should take place in the house in which he resides, but there was some disagreement as to the proper period of time for which a tenant should be entitled to hold up the improvements. When the Government introduced the Bill the tenant was allowed to defer the improvement works for 10 years. After some discussion the Government introduced an Amendment, which was generally accepted, to reduce that option to five years. That is how the Bill is now drafted.

There was some disagreement on the priorities about improvement grants. Hon. Members opposite urged that improvement grants should be made available for property with a life of 10 years or more, as opposed to the present situation where they are available only for property with a life of 15 years or more. An argument of balance centred around this point. The Government believe that this provision makes sense only when our limited management and craft resources are concentrated on houses with the longest life. If we had the resources to do everything at once we would indeed do everything at once, but since we do not have those resources it seems more sensible to direct our effort to those areas where there are the most houses with 15 years at least ahead of them, rather than in areas where most of the houses have only 10 years further life ahead.

There are other arguments that could be related on this and allied points, but at this late hour I will only comment on the main strands of the arguments adduced.

There was disagreement about the ultimate sanction that should be necessary if a landlord fails where compulsion is directed at him to carry out improvements. The Government feel that the Bill has adequate sanction. The Opposition wanted in those cases to require the local authority to acquire the house concerned. But, those disagreements being stated, there was, I think, general agreement about the purpose the Government have in mind and about the broad strategy that is being adopted. I think I may hope on behalf of the whole House that this will enable us to accelerate the speed of improvement, from 120,000 to 125,000 houses a year now towards the 200,000-a-year that the Government have set.

Part IV deals with multi-occupation. Multi-occupation is not, in itself, an evil in present circumstances; the lodging-house serves a useful purpose, albeit sometimes very dingy. The evil comes from the exploiters who take advantage of the shortage, and also from the pressure of demand that forces some people, many of them immigrants, people who have very little choice about what shelter they can get and what they have to pay for it, to accept whatever lodging may be available.

The Bill was introduced against a background of the powers given under the 1961 Act by my right hon. Friend the present Home Secretary to local authorities to enable them to require better management, to reduce overcrowding and to have works done to multi-occupied houses. My right hon. Friend the present Home Secretary, when introducing that Bill, undertook that a review would be made two years after the Measure came into effect. In fact, because of the notorious incidents brought to light last summer, the review that would have taken place this year was brought forward to last year, and the results of that interim review are in Part IV.

Briefly, they provide for a charge upon any property where the local authority has, in default of the owner's work, had to carry out work under the 1961 Act. They impose a sanction in some cases. They provide better powers of entry. Above all, they give to local authorities a power by way of control order, to enter summarily into stewardship of any multi-occupied property where the living conditions and general conditions are such that the local authority needs to intervene to protect the safety, welfare and health of the tenants. This is a summary power of intervention by the local authority, with the legal rights of appeal that are necessary in a free society coming later.

This control-order power and the general strengthening of the 1961 Act powers were also welcomed on both sides of the House, but two major issues arose in the Committee. The first arose from the workings of the 1961 Act powers. It emerged that the use of these powers had led in some cases to some evictions, and to meet the danger to tenants the Government were urged to apply the control-order powers to such cases.

The Government felt, however, that the use of the compulsory-purchase-order procedure to protect tenants from homelessness in such cases was more apt, and in the light of arguments put forward by hon. Members opposite the Government introduced a new Clause to give tenants some security of tenure during the processing of a compulsory purchase order. In the light of the further discussion of that new Clause, I undertook during Report to discuss with local authorities the use of the compulsory purchase order power when the 1961 Act weapons threaten homelessness to some or all of the tenants.

The second big issue that arose during discussion of Part IV was when hon. Members opposite sought to extend the use of control orders to cover cases of intimidation and general eviction regardless of the condition of the multi-occupied property in which the people were living. Here, again, the Government view was put that this drastic control-order power should be limited to cases where its need could be objectively shown; and that there were other powers and defences for tenants threatened with eviction either by intimidation or by other improper means.

It is common ground on both sides of the House that no protection written into a statute or available from a local authority to the community is any use unless the tenant at least triggers off the protection that is available to him. In such a situation the tenant has common law rights and statutory rights. He will have much stronger rights under statute once the Bill is passed. Part IV, which exists because we had the 1964 review one year earlier, does not mean that the Government now propose to leave the 1961 Act powers unexamined. I now give warning that we shall propose that there shall be a further review of the working of the 1961 Act next year.

I have been briefly through the Bill as changed in Committee. Though we have had some sharp disagreements on limited issues I think that the whole House will hope that the effort that has gone into the Bill will bear fruit. Some of the ideas in the Bill go back to my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary. Some go back to my predecessor the noble Lord, Lord Hill.

Great effort will be required to make the Bill effective. Effort will be required by the Housing Corporation when we set it up. I hope that energies will be released by individuals throughout the country who under the wing of the Housing Corporation form themselves into housing societies, either for cost rent or co-ownership. Effort will be required by the authorities, from staff, from landlords and owner-occupiers in the improvement grant procedure. Effort, sadly I fear, will also be required by the local authorities and their staffs in dealing with some of the cases of multi-occupation which will now be dealt with by control order.

Although, as I have said, we have had sharp disagreement on individual issues, the whole House will hope that the energies released and the efforts required will do much that is healthy and helpful for the housing of our people.

11.13 p.m.

Mr. A. Fenner Brockway (Eton and Slough)

I pay tribute to the Minister and his lieutenants for the tremendous work which they must have put in to enable the Bill to be before the House. I was not a member of the Standing Committee on the Bill and, therefore, perhaps I may pay tribute also to hon. Members from both sides of the House who contributed so much in Committee to the Bill which is now being read the Third time. I should also like to pay tribute to the staff of the Ministry who must have been engaged for a long period in preparing the Bill.

The right hon. Gentleman has spoken for only about 15 minutes in summarising the Bill. It has over 100 Clauses as well as Schedules and it deals very comprehensively with a large number of issues—the housing societies, the improvement of dwellings, the multi-occupation and many other features. Although we should have liked to have made certain Amendments, I am sure that at the end of these discussions all hon. Members welcome the fact that we now have this Bill. At the same time we must say, as I am sure the right hon. Gentleman recognises, that the Bill deals with only a fraction of the appalling housing problem which many of us feel is the greatest social evil in our society at the present time.

I want to refer to two matters in particular which are in this Bill. The first is this question of dwellings in multiple occupation. I do not want to approach it in a parochial way, but we must speak mainly from our own experience and I expect that the experience of my constituency in Slough is typical of other areas. The right hon. Gentleman has indicated that this is particularly a problem of Commonwealth immigrants. It is not only that, but he is perfectly correct in saying that the problem of multiple dwellings which faces us today in the areas of housing shortage is largely that of Commonwealth immigrants.

The dwellings in multiple occupation take two forms. One of them is, in my view, a commendable form, where people with very few resources, with the terribly high cost of buying houses for accommodation, pool their resources and in effect become a co-operative community in that dwelling; but because housing conditions in the countries from which they come have been much lower than our standards and because of the very high cost of the purchase of their dwellings, they live in overcrowded conditions and in conditions which mean that standards of hygiene recognised here are frequently not observed. Nevertheless, I think we should recognise that there is a real cooperative effort by men and their families to try to make the best of the conditions in which they live in areas of housing shortage.

The other type of house in which Commonwealth immigrants live is that which is owned either by private landlords or by property companies. In Slough many of these multiple dwellings are owned by property companies which have their headquarters in the City of London or they are owned by individual landlords. The exploitation of the immigrants who live in these multiple dwellings is just outrageous. I welcome the fact that under this Bill there will be increased opportunities for the local authorities to look at this appalling exploitation by property companies and private landlords of dwellings in multiple occupation. I hope that the new provisions which have been made in this Bill will allow us to deal with that scandal in a way in which it has not been dealt with before.

The other part of this Bill to which I want particularly to refer, and which again I welcome, is that dealing with housing associations. I suppose a number of Members of this House have been to Scandinavian countries, where they will have seen what co-operative housing associations have done in the way of housing their people and dealing with the problem of housing shortage. I should very much like to see the Scandinavian experiments extended to this country. Democracy is not a matter of central Government. It is not only a matter of local government. It is also a matter of voluntary associations of people with a common purpose. The housing associations which will be encouraged under the Bill should contribute considerably to the solution of our problems.

But the Minister himself wilt recognise that the proposals in the Bill for housing associations do not overcome certain obstacles. After correspondence with the right hon. Gentleman dealing particularly with the shortage of houses in Slough, I went, with his encouragement, to meet the secretary of the National Federation of Housing Societies. The good work being done by the Federation and by the associations was perfectly obvious to me from that meeting. But the right hon. Gentleman had to admit that, in the conditions at Slough, which are typical of many other areas, housing associations can make very little contribution. They can make little contribution because they encounter two obstructions which seem to be insurmountable and which only by the enthusiastic dedication of people can be overcome in some circumstances.

The two obstructions are these. First, there is the limited amount of land. Slough, like many other places in the South of England, is comparatively prosperous and workers are pouring in. There is no accommodation for them. Happily, the town is surrounded by the green belt, but this, too, limits the amount of land available. I hope that the beauties of Black Park, of the banks of the River Thames and of Burnham Beeches are to be retained. But in circumstances such as these, with prosperous industry, the population leaping, workers pouring in, and only limited land for further construction, the restriction on what a housing association can do is obvious. In Slough we have now only 90 acres on which we can build for our crowding population.

The other limitation on the effectiveness of the housing association proposals is the cost of land. Housing associations cannot possibly bear the increase in the price of land which has taken place in the last few years. In Slough, the value of land risen five times within a period of four years. I have told the House before of how the council was compelled to buy land in our high street last year at the rate of £1 million an acre and at the rate of £2 million an acre this year. That land will mainly be used for business premises and for shops, but one hopes that above the shops there will be flats to let. But consider the cost for the construction of the flats when such a price has to be paid for the land.

I wish to draw the attention of the right hon. Gentleman to a particular matter because it comes under the Clauses of the Bill dealing with housing associations. We have in Slough a quite heroic effort to develop a housing association. It is called the Slough Self-Building Group, and it is composed of men who are prepared to build their own houses. Among them are carpenters, bricklayers, plumbers, decorators, and electricians who are able to do all the jobs. They have gone to the local authority, and the local authority has encouraged them. It has said that if land can be found for the development of this self-reliant housing association it will provide the facilities. These men want to build 24 houses—just that limited number—and they will require two acres of land if the houses are terraced, or three acres if the houses are semi-detached. Yet, in a town like Slough, with its great need of land, the council says that it cannot find three or two acres of land to enable these people to put through their plan.

I want, in welcoming this Bill, to say to the Minister that while it will ameliorate certain conditions of our present housing shortage, we shall never be able to face this problem so long as we have the accumulation in land values which is taking place. Until a housing programme is begun on a basis such as we have not yet conceived we shall not overcome the worst social evil in this country.

11.27 p.m.

Mr. Cole

I should like to add my mede of praise for this Bill, but first I should like to congratulate my right hon. Friend on all the work he has done, not only in public but behind the scenes. As I said to one of my hon. Friends this evening, this has been manifest throughout. My right hon. Friend has also stuck to his guns—a quality which we can all admire. He has been persuasive and eloquent, and that persuasion has led a number of us on both sides to accept that his view has often been right.

A Bill of this size—no fewer than 129 pages and, as the hon. Member for Eton and Slough (Mr. Brockway) has said, more than a hundred Clauses—has necessarily meant that much work has fallen on the Minister. The Parliamentary Secretary was an old campaigner before he came to the Government, and he, too, has shouldered his task manfully. I should like also to add my appreciation of what has been said about our departed colleague who occupied the office of Under-Secretary of State for Scotland before his untimely death. The present holder of that position might be said to have had his baptism of fire with this Bill—all 129 pages of it. He has withstood the words and actions of his colleagues in his own country, if not in his own party, and in so doing one must offer some little admiration. I congratulate him in having gone in at the deep end and on swimming so well and satisfactorily.

We have spent quite an amount of time on this Bill, but except for some sections of the public it will not become very well known. I doubt whether many people, apart from those who will have to know about it, will know about the Bill and what it contains. It is a heterogeneous sort of Bill. It has pieces of everything, but all the everything is important, even when it is aluminium houses. Nevertheless, for that reason it is all the more valuable.

This might be an appropriate moment to put on record the debt which we owe to the local authorities, all 1,500 of them, who will have to implement the Bill, because without their disinterestedness, keenness and enthusiasm we would be wasting our time. We are passing legislation which will place more work upon them because we have the joint idea, with them, of improving the housing conditions of so many people.

It must be done this way. I had the dubious privilege of being introduced to London slums the best part of 40 years ago, an experience of my youth which I have never forgotten. We are still dealing with the same kind of problem, but its quantity is much less. Now, however, we have become much more detailed in the way we go at things. We do not simply clear slums, but we try to improve other parts and altogether to increase the quality of our housing. That is the only way it can be done. My right hon. Friend the Minister said that if we had started overnight from the beginning, we should not have started this way; but that is not possible and it must be done in the way we are doing it. We shall put much work upon the shoulders of the local authorities. I am sure that they will carry it out well and that they, like us, will take pleasure in seeing the improvement which is taking place in the quality of the housing of our people.

Already my right hon. Friend has given the House notice that this is only one more milestone upon the way. I guess that before the termination of the next Parliament, we shall have another Bill of this kind, although, perhaps, not quite as long. That will be inevitable. The last such Measure was in 1961, three years ago. This is no reflection upon anybody, least of all upon the various Ministries, who have worked so manfully and well to provide my right hon. Friend with all his ammunition for the Bill, on the Government or on anybody. It is merely a reflection by mirror of the changing times in which we live.

The problems which we have today, in 1964, will not necessarily be the same in 1967 or 1968. Other problems will make their appearance. Some of our existing problems will have taken on a different aspect. There will be movement of population and all that goes with it. Even the immigration problem, to which the hon. Member for Eton and Slough referred, was not present so much five years ago as it is today.

At this stage, we have this large Bill and we shall need another. In the meantime we must implement this one and, as my right hon. Friend has said, increase the working of the 1961 Act, where necessary by review. And so we move on to our goal, to the far distant horizon when we shall have a stock of 20 or 30 million reasonably up-to-date houses, a state of affairs which at one time I did not think many people alive today would ever see. I am, however, becoming more optimistic, which is different from one or two hon. Members opposite, who hold their views equally sincerely.

The time is coming when, with Bills of this kind, and with good will and intention and determination by local authorities and people, our housing will become better. That will bring within the reach of some of us who are alive today the prospect of seeing a great change towards the millennium in housing. I have seen tremendous changes since the time of which I have spoken 40 years ago. One can only hope that the pace will be accelerated with modern techniques and that we shall have far more progress and better conditions in the future.

I do not envy the other place in starting with the Bill in its legislative adventure, but I hope that it will have a speedy passage there and that we will have little to say when it becomes back later with any changes. Again, I voice my congratulations to all concerned, including, probably, all of us in this House for the way we have lived with the Bill. I wish it well, and I am certain that my right hon. Friend is pleased that it is now passing to another place.

11.35 p.m

Mr. M. Stewart

We are now nearing the end of this formidable task, and I should like to pay tribute to the help I have received from many of my hon. Friends during these long hours. I have in mind particularly my hon. Friend the Member for Widnes (Mr. MacColl) and his enormous diligence and his legal knowledge, which was so important at certain stages of the Bill. Of course, there were parts of the Bill where I had to lean very heavily indeed on my hon. Friend the Member for Glasgow, Craigton (Mr. Millan), who was, in effect, our Under-Secretary of State for Scotland on our side. I see here two of my hon. Friends who were with us in Committee, and I was, of course, very grateful indeed for the special knowledge of local government which my hon. Friend the Member for Islington, South-West (Mr. A. Evans) possesses; and my hon. Friend the Member for Paddington, North (Mr. Parkin) was able to bring to bear on the Bill his special knowledge of some of the uglier sides of landlordism which he has particularly made his own field.

It was a formidable task, partly because it was a United Kingdom Bill; and I will say at once that I do not think it is a good thing to have United Kingdom Bills for housing. This was a rush job. I am not at all sure that trying to jam English and Scottish housing legislation into one Bill is not a case of more haste less speed. It makes the wording of the Bill more cumbrous; it means setting out the bits which apply to Scotland and which do not, and how those are to be adapted. What some of the officials who have to interpret it will make of it all I cannot imagine, taking, for instance, something like this truly appalling Schedule 3, which took us so much time.

The effect is liable to be demoralising on the Government back benchers in Committee. The Government, of course, hoped that they would get the Scottish parts considered quicker by not putting any Scottish back benchers on their side on the Committee. It was a vain hope, of course. My hon. Friends from Scotland on our side of the Committee saw to that. For after all, what happened? It meant that during certain Scottish passages of the Bill the Under-Secretary, who, I must say, did very well, so far as an Englishman can judge, and my hon. Friends from Scottish constituencies all performed with great expertise while the Minister, the hon. Gentleman the Member for Bedfordshire, South (Mr. Cole), the hon. Gentleman the Member for Crosby (Mr. Graham Page) and my English hon. Friends all looked on in admiration, and all the remainder of the Government's back benchers got on with their correspondence or writing their articles for The Times or whatever it was in which they were engaged. However, I think, quite seriously, that where there is different local government, different law for England and Scotland, it is not a good thing to have United Kingdom Bills but better to have a separate Scottish Bill and to allow the Scottish Grand Committee really to get down to it.

I am willing, too, to pay tribute to the Minister for being very patient and very willing to try to meet our points of view on everything which was not really important. On quite a number of minor matters he did accept Amendments, and I believe that the Bill is better for them.

The points on which we disagreed all sprang from what is the main theme of this Bill. I do not think that on the Government side the real significance of this Bill was grasped, because the central theme of this Bill is the complete unsuitability of profit-making private enterprise as the way of dealing with the housing problem. That runs all through the Bill. One part of the Bill is engaged in trying to provide substitutes for profit-making private enterprise as the way of providing houses. That is what the first part of the Bill is concerned with. The middle of the Bill is concerned with substituting private enterprise or substituting public enterprise for it in order to get property improved and kept in decent condition. The end of the Bill is concerned with clearing up the messes created by profit-making private enterprise in housing.

It is significant that we should have introduced by a Conservative Government a Bill whose whole theme is the failure of profit-making private enterprise in housing. Do not let us imagine that this failure—it is a failure—can be attributed, as some hon. Members opposite would like to attribute it, to the operation of rent control. There were appalling evils of slumdom, landlordism and tyranny long before rent control ever appeared in this country.

Moreover, the nation has already admitted as a matter of policy that one cannot rely on the operations of the market alone, even in owner-occupied housing. Our taxation is so arranged as, in effect, to subsidise the owner-occupier. We admit that if we did not provide an indirect subsidy of that kind we should not get the owner-occupier's problem satisfactorily solved.

What we are being driven to realise also, and what we know, is that we must have in rented housing a large subsidies element provided by the local authorities. What has remained so far unsubsidised is that section of rented housing provided by profit-making private enterprise. The Bill is an admission that it will not work, that we have to provide all kinds of props for the profit-making private enterprise or substitutes for it.

Let us see how the Bill does that. In Part I it is concerned with the housing societies. The whole point of them is that they are an attempt to meet the provision of rented housing by an appeal, in effect, to philanthropy. It is none the worse for that. But the whole assumption of these societies is that there will be enough people willing to do the administrative work without doing it for profit. I believe that there are people who will do that. As the Minister said, it will not make, quantitatively, all that contribution to the solution of the housing problem, but it will provide a very useful slice in the whole structure of housing. I for one particularly hope that that type of housing society which is concerned with co-ownership of houses will take advantage of the provisions of the Bill and flourish under it.

That is what Part I is concerned with—in effect, philanthropy as a substitute for profit-making private enterprise in housing.

Parts II and III are concerned with subsidy to private enterprise—that is what improvement grants, in fact, are—or, where subsidy fails, with bringing in public enterprise as a substitute for profit-making private enterprise in housing. It is interesting to notice how in one housing Bill after another Governments are obliged to advance further along this road to either subsidy or a stepping in of public enterprise.

The effect of the Bill is to make the arrangements for subsidy—that is, for improvement grant—both somewhat more generous and—this is important—more flexible. I think that the Bill has done a useful job in that direction and has profited from the nation's experience so far in the working of improvement grants.

There remains the fact that there will come a point at which persuasion will not do the whole job and where, in effect, public enterprise has to do what private enterprise will not do. The right hon. Gentleman's own city of Leeds, as we pointed out in Committee, has shown what can be done in that direction, both in persuasion and public enterprise. It was its view, as it was ours in Committee, that the better type of legislation would have been legislation to make it easier and more certain for local authorities to proceed as Leeds is trying to proceed. It has some fears, which I share, that the procedure provided by the Bill may be a good deal more cumbrous than what Leeds is trying to do. We shall have to see how it works out.

Then we come to Part IV, the scavenging part. We have become so used to using the word "Rachmanism" that, apparently, we almost take it for granted that this sort of thing will go on. However, I invite the House to look at it this way: periodically the House debates the reports and performances of the nationalised industries; if any nationalised industry had come before the nation with this record of squalor, tyranny, injustice and disregard for ordinary human rights, there would have been the most appalling uproar in the country and the Press that we have ever heard. What has been in the dock throughout the whole of the discussion of this Bill has been the scandalous failure of private enterprise in a major respect.

It may be said that this is not a typical landlord; but let it be quite clear that it is not our policy and it is not our theory and philosophy on housing which stand in the dock, but private enterprise with a great many stains to clear off its name. We felt that Part IV could have gone much further and we are still of the view that the mechanism of control orders could have been developed to deal with intimidation, although I believe that a better way to deal without would have been by specific legislation, listing, as we tried to list in a new Clause considered to be outside the scope of the Bill, the particular evils which spring from this kind of landlordism, and that the matter could have been remedied by adopting the principle of a Bill of my hon. Friend the Member for Paddington, North of no eviction without a court order and making that clearly known to be the law everywhere. Once that was so, the appearance in a street of nefarious persons trying to turn people out of their houses would immediately rally all the neighbours against them. At present, when people of that kind turn up, nobody is quite sure which side the law is on. We want to get that clear from the start.

It was because we could not do that within the scope of the Bill that we tried to do what we could to widen the circumstances in which control orders could be provided. We repeat that what makes this abuse possible is the creeping decontrol provisions of the Rent Act, and there is no getting away from that. The effect of those provisions is that to get out his tenant of controlled property pays the landlord enormously.

There is only one logical answer to be made to that and some bolder hon. Members opposite have sometimes made it. They hive said that it is not decontrol which is the trouble, but having any control, because if rent control were abolished altogether, the landlord would not need to intimidate his tenants and could get them out by due process of law. It is not open to the Government now to use that argument, because they themselves admitted that they dare not extend decontrol in that manner. They are only too late to proceed by efflux of time. That means that this situation in which it pays to be an intimidating landlord continues. That was why we felt that the provisions of Part IV of the Bill should be stronger.

Having been somewhat acid to the Minister, I will at least congratulate him on having gone further possibly than any other prominent figure in his party would have dared to go in curbing this. He no doubt is one of the modernisers in his party, I do not doubt that he has gone thus far with certain pullings and strains against him, but shrewdly and skilfully he took advantage of the outburst of public opinion against bad landlords to haul some of the savages in his party further than they otherwise could be hauled. For that achievement we are very willing to congratulate him. That is the real nature of this Bill. We shall be glad to see it on the Statute Book, but I think it important for the nation to realise the real implications of a Measure of this kind.

11.52 p.m.

Sir K. Joseph

I speak again by leave of the House. In view of the nature of the last remarks of the hon. Member for Fulham (Mr. M. Stewart) I think I should make a short rejoinder. First, I should like to pay tribute to the hon. Member for his constructive part in the proceedings on this Bill.

I say to the hon. Member for Eton and Slough (Mr. Brockway) that he made a speech which contained its own internal contradiction. He spoke feelingly and rightly of the shortage of land, and he also spoke feelingly and rightly of the importance of maintaining the green belt. This must mean that the only hope for Slough and the people of Slough, just as the only hope for the people in South-East England and those to be born there, is by a planned dis- persal of homes and jobs such as is indicated by the South-East Study.

I am grateful to my hon. Friend the Member for Bedfordshire, South (Mr. Cole) for the kind things he said.

I say only this about what the hon. Member for Fulham said. I should not like it to be thought that the Government accepted for one moment that private enterprise in housing can be judged in the easy way in which he disposed of it. Here is a group—of not even entrepreneurs, of owners, not even economic men and women in the sense of working to an economic calculus—invaded suddenly by a violently accelerated rate of newcomers, often from abroad, and offering them homes, sometimes humanely, sometimes indifferently, sometimes barbarously. This same enterprise of providing homes for the people cannot be judged at a time when we set a limit on the land which is available—and rightly—for our green belt policy; when we set a limit upon the rent which can be charged by the expectation that subsidised rents create; and when there is such a constant stream of odium directed from the Opposition benches on anyone who is a landlord, be he good or be he bad.

Therefore, although I am anxious to keep the temperature of this debate naturally quiet, I must answer the hon. Member for Fulham lest he thinks his case goes by default. But I remain extremely grateful for the co-operation that both sides of the House have shown in working realistically and, in the light of each of them, constructively, on this Bill. I hope that the House will now find it acceptable.

Question put and agreed to.

Bill accordingly read the Third time and passed.