HC Deb 08 December 1964 vol 703 cc1403-43
Mr. Boyd-Carpenter

I beg to move Amendment No. 17, in page 3, line 36, at the end to insert: (a) a contract to which the Rent of Furnished Houses (Scotland) Act 1943 and the Furnished Houses (Rent Control) Act 1946 as amended by the Landlord and Tenant (Rent Control) Act 1949 applied immediately before the termination thereof or would then have applied but for the provision as to rateable value contained in section 12(1) of the Rent Act 1957.

Mr. Speaker

I think that it would be convenient to discuss with this Amendment No. 18, in page 3, line 36, at end insert: (a)a contract

  1. (i)to which the Rent of Furnished Houses (Scotland) Act 1943 and the Furnished Houses (Rent Control) Act 1946 as amended by the Landlord and Tenant (Rent Control) Act 1949 applied immediately before the termination thereof or would then have applied but for the provision as to rateable value contained in section 12(1) of the Rent Act 1957; and
  2. (ii) which related to premises situate in an area which was not at the termination thereof designated by an order of the Minister of Housing and Local Government (made by statutory instrument which shall be subject to annulment in pursuance of a resolution of either House of Parliament) as one to which the provision of this Act apply.
and Amendment No. 19, in line 36 at end insert: (a) a tenancy of a furnished dwelling which has been customarily occupied by visitors for holiday purposes and is not occupied for the purpose of a permanent residence.

Mr. Boyd-Carpenter

I respectfully agree, Mr. Speaker, that I think it would be for the convenience of the House if with this Amendment we took Amendment No. 18, also in the name of my hon. Friends and myself, and Amendment No. 19, in the name of the hon. Member for Dorset, South (Mr. Evelyn King), the more so, because, as the House will have appreciated, Amendment No. 18 is an alternative to Amendment No. 17.

The purpose of the Amendment which I have moved is to exclude from the Bill what are called furnished lettings, and the effect also, I hope, of Amendment No. 18 is to do the same, except in areas as the Minister may by order designate.

This is one of the matters which throughout our discussions on this Bill has seemed to many of us, particularly on this side of the House, to be alien to the main purpose of what the right hon. Gentleman calls this emergency Bill. The purpose of the Bill, as the Minister has told us again and again, has been to deal with the possible effect on tenants who might be evicted as a result of the Government's announcement that they intend to make substantial Amendments in the Rent. Act. It is therefore important on this Amendment for us to be clear as to how little is the connection between furnished lettings and the Rent Act.

In previous Rent Acts, as I think the House is aware, unfurnished lettings have been dealt with, but furnished lettings have been outside the main purpose of the Rent Acts and have been dealt with, where at all, in a separate and subsidiary way. That was true of the 1957 Act whose repeal it is the purpose of the right hon. Gentleman to effect.

Therefore, the first proposition that I wish to put to the House is that the bringing into this Bill of provisions in respect of furnished lettings is completely outside the emergency purpose which we were told was the reason for which the Bill in the Minister's own phrase was solely and exclusively introduced. There has, after all, been no statement that the Government intend to extend the Rent Acts to furnished lettings. There is, therefore, so far as I know, no crisis, no emergency in respect of furnished lettings. That has been created, as I understand it, as a result of the Government's statement in the unfurnished field only. This provision, therefore, whatever may be said for or against it, does not seem to me to come within the emergency concept of the Bill, although of course, the right hon. Gentleman can create very quickly a further emergency if he says that it is his intention to extend the Rent Acts to furnished lettings. But if he does that, he will create an emergency which it will take a good deal more than this Bill to deal with.

It is also a fact—and this is very material—that under previous legislation furnished lettings have been dealt with under a different system from unfurnished. There is the system, with which the House is familiar, of the rent tribunals, and it is significant that this Bill makes no mention of and leaves absolutely untouched the system of rent tribunals. What it does is to provide that furnished lettings shall be dealt with both by the county court, under this Bill, and, in parallel, under the separate system of the rent tribunals. That is surely a highly unsatisfactory position. It is, at any rate, possible that both the rent tribunal and the county court may in rapid succession be concerned in dealing with the same premises, and it is an indication, moreover, of the inappropriateness of dragging furnished lettings into this Bill that the Government leave untouched under this Measure the existing system for dealing with furnished lettings through the rent tribunal. Of course, the reason why furnished and unfurnished lettings have, as a matter of history and of fact, been dealt with by a different system is that the subject matter is substantially different.

Furnished lettings have a very wide scope. They include—I concede this to the right hon. Gentleman—the letting of a complete furnished house to a family in a certain number of cases for a long time, but they extend also over a very wide field indeed down to the let of one room to one person for perhaps a week. They cover the important subject, on which I think some of my hon. Friends may wish to say something, of seaside lettings for holidays. They include the equally important case of people who go abroad on business or duty and let their houses for a limited period designed to coincide with their absence abroad, and they include a vast number of comparatively short lets to students, secretaries and other single people, very often young people.

The field is therefore a very wide one, and I think that must be the reason why our predecessors in this House, when they dealt with this thorny subject, have in general dealt with furnished lettings under a different system to unfurnished. Therefore, it seems to me clear that the onus is very much on the right hon. Gentleman to show why he should reverse that, and why, without altering the existing system in respect of furnished lettings, he should include them in the provisions of this Bill which he introduced to us in the context of a problem relating to unfurnished lettings.

7.30 p.m.

While there may well be problems, particularly in London, affecting the furnished letting of whole houses, taking the country as a whole the typical furnished letting is probably that of the single room to a single person. There are innumerable examples of this. In such cases, the balance of hardship between landlord and tenant would probably be rather different from that in the case of unfurnished lettings. If the owner of an unfurnished house is deprived of occupation of it by legislation, he may well suffer financial loss and the hardship of not being able to occupy his own house. If, on the other hand, the owner of premises let furnished, particularly individual rooms let furnished in a house, is not able to obtain possession of them, he may well be exposed to different and more intense hardship. The problem of the unsuitable tenant, the tenant who misconducts himself or is in one way or another difficult, is probably not so great for the landlord of the unfurnished house, but, when one has taken someone into one's own house to occupy a furnished room, the effect both on oneself and upon other tenants of individual rooms is serious and immediate.

All these facts, arising from the different nature of the subject matter, explain, I think, why it has been settled policy for many years to deal with unfurnished lettings and furnished lettings differently. Equally—on this I must await what the right hon. Gentleman may have to say about Amendment No. 23—the question of the speed of recovery of premises is, generally speaking, even more important in the case of the furnished than in the case of the unfurnished letting.

Holiday resorts pose two special problems. There is the problem of what are called the winter lettings. I understand it is the practice of people who let houses or furnished rooms during the summer to let those same houses or rooms, very often at a low rent, during the winter. They do not expect to make very much profit, but someone is found accommodation and the houses are kept warm and dry. It is essential for such people that, at the beginning of the summer holiday season, occupation of the houses should be given up by the winter tenants. There is the equal and related problem of lettings during the summer, when people take tenancies for specific periods, generally fortnight by fortnight, Saturday to Saturday. If a tenant were to hold out and say that he would not go until he was taken to the county court, and, when taken to the county court, were to apply for a suspension, the whole programme of seaside lettings would be disrupted. Not only would the owners suffer but a very large number of perfectly innocent people would have their summer holidays ruined.

Mr. Mellish

That could happen today.

Mr. Boyd-Carpenter

Everything is possible today, of course, but what the hon. Gentleman, in his sedentary utterances, does not realise is that this Bill, if it continues to apply to furnished lettings, will make it much more likely to happen because it will take away the other methods available to the landlord to secure possession.

There is the other problem of those who go abroad on duty or on business for a limited period and who, very sensibly, let their houses while they are away. It is better, because of our shortage of accommodation that their houses should not remain empty, and, of course, if one is fortunate in finding a good tenant, it can be a most satisfactory arrangement. But what is to happen when the owners return from abroad if these furnished lettings remain covered by the Bill?

Since our discussions on the Bill began, I have received a considerable number of letters from people who feel that they will be adversely affected, in particular, by the incorporation of furnished lettings. Here are a few lines from a letter from a gentleman who is in exactly the position I have described, a gentleman serving in Cyprus as an official. He says: But civil servants serving overseas for a specific term of duty and who are due to return to their home stations to continue work with the Government may not be able to obtain possession of their homes which they let during their three year tour of duty abroad. He goes on to say that the effect of this will be disastrous for people so placed.

This brings me to another important consideration which the House will wish to have in mind. The inevitable effect of applying this Bill to furnished lettings generally must be to reduce the supply of furnished accommodation available. People such as that gentleman who wrote to me from Cyprus, and many others like him going abroad for a limited period, faced with the risk of not being able to get into their homes when they return although the tenants entered under a specific obligation to render them up on a particular date, will decide to leave their houses empty. Equally, people who have spare rooms in their houses suitable for the accommodation of students, secretaries and so on will, at least, hesitate before making them available to people who, as a result of the Bill, would be in a position to stay on for a quite considerable period against the owner's will.

I do not ask the Government to take this from me. I have had a flow of correspondence, though I shall not weary the House by reading it all. This is what is said by a gentleman in South-West London: I have just acquired an 11-room house in Putney which was let as offices and which I propose to convert into self-contained flatlets. If the Bill is passed in its present form, I would leave the house in office use. No doubt, the proposed Bill will cut down heavily the supply of furnished lettings which are badly required by overseas students, visitors, etc. Here is another example: The proposed Bill will discourage owners of private houses letting them if they are temporarily absent. I have here another letter—I do not know whether the right hon. Gentleman has seen it; I gather that the original was sent to him—which says the same, that, as the Bill is drafted, a family going abroad for weeks or months will not, as they do at present, let their house.

The introduction of controls of this kind on lettings inevitably has the effect —this is something one has to balance —of tending to diminish the supply. For the reasons which I have given relating to the special factors affecting furnished lettings, it is demonstrably clear that the drying up of supply will be much more manifest in furnished than in unfurnished lettings. In the light of the representations which many of us are receiving, this is plainly true.

No one knows better than the Minister that our accommodation problem is serious and will remain serious for many years. We ought to use every sound piece of accommodation which is available. It would be singularly unfortunate if by passing a Bill, the main purpose of which, according to the Minister, is to deal with a totally different problem, one enacted principles which would have the effect of reducing the supply of furnished accommodation. I warn the Minister that, if he persists in the inclusion of furnished accommodation within this temporary Measure, he will, before many months have passed, see a diminution of the supply. We have warned him from this side of the House, and he will be taking a serious responsibility if he persists.

I know that, as in all these matters, one must balance not so much good against good but perhaps evil against evil. I do not dispute that, even in respect of furnished lettings, there are family problems in London and perhaps one or two other great conurbations. It is difficult to balance all this against the vast mass of furnished lettings about which there is no problem but about which there will be a problem, undoubtedly, if this Bill goes through in its present form.

It is in an endeavour to find a way of meeting both points that the Amendments have been tabled. The intended effect is that the Minister could apply control of furnished lettings to any area by making an Order subject only to negative procedure, so that there would be no question of delay or loss of Parliamentary time. Unless he applied this provision by Order furnished lettings would not be included in the Bill. Having said this, however, I prefer the Amendment which has been moved to the others, for I do not think there is a case at all for an emergency Bill to apply to furnished lettings.

The Parliamentary Secretary made a point about London which has, I accept, certain validity. If we arrive at a sensible solution by dealing with those parts of the country which the Minister, at his discretion, thinks it necessary to deal with but do not apply the Bill to those parts where he thinks it unnecessary, it may be that we shall effect some improvement in the Bill.

I hope that the right hon. Gentleman, if he does not see the force of the argument on the Amendment I have moved, will at least reflect on the following Amendment. Under that Amendment he would have power, if he thought it right, to apply control to furnished lettings in any part of the country he wished to designate. He would therefore be free to deal with the problems of London housing, which many of us think are special in many ways, but he would do so without inflicting the very serious damage on seaside and holiday resorts, in particular, which will suffer from the Bill as it stands.

I do not see how the Minister can object to a proposal which leaves the power in his hands, which leaves him free, if he thinks it his duty, to apply the Bill to any part of the country, but which does not involve Parliament prejudging the issue as to whether control should operate throughout the country regardless of varying circumstances and without the chance of differentiation.

It is for that reason that we have tabled the second of these three Amendments, although my feelings are very much in favour of the first. I have been impressed, however, by the volume of protest from certain areas as to the risk of a universal application of the Bill to furnished lettings throughout the country. After some reflection, therefore, we tabled the second Amendment in an endeavour to meet that point. This is probably the most important issue which arises at this stage of the Bill. If the Bill goes through in its present form the effects will be very serious. I hope that the Minister and the House will reflect on them.

7.45 p.m.

Mr. Evelyn King (Dorset, South)

My right hon. Friend the Member for Kingston-upon-Thames (Mr. Boyd-Carpenter) has put the case for omitting from the Bill all furnished houses. If I felt that the Amendment would be accepted, there would be nothing else I need say, but I must face the remote possibility that it will not be. If it is not to be accepted, I should like the Government to consider alternatives. There are two possibilities—the exclusion of all furnished houses and the exclusion of furnished houses on a regional basis. I find it difficult to follow arguments against the second Amendment. If the Minister wanted to, he could, under that Amendment, include every region in the country. We are not asking him to give up anything.

The last Amendment stands in my name and it is noticeable that those of my hon. Friends who have also signed it represent such places as Blackpool, Poole, Folkestone, Hythe and Bournemouth. These are all constituencies which border the sea and which smell of sea air. It is equally significant that right hon. and hon. Members on the Front Bench opposite who are dealing with this problem represent Coventry and Bermondsey and West Ham. They are all Members for urban constituencies.

I am sure that if the Minister is to make anything of housing, the first thing that he must get into his head—I am sure that he will—is that we are not living in 1945. Then the housing problem was national. Of course, there is a housing problem even today in most areas but it is at a point where it is regional, where the difficulties existing in Coventry, Bermondsey and West Ham are not those to be found in the seaside towns and the rest of the country. It is a general statement as well as a particular one that regionalism, of which we hear so much today, is nowhere more applicable than it is in housing.

The case made by hon. Members opposite links the problem with what is called "Rachmanism". I do not dispute the desirability or even the necessity of such a Bill in the East End of London and various other big cities, where there is a special case for what may be called extreme measures. But no such thing as Rachmanism or anything like it exists or has been claimed to exist by hon. Members opposite in seaside resorts. The name of Rachman is unheard of in Dorset and in Poole just as cows and sheeps are, no doubt, unheard of in West Ham. There, one is dealing with a totally different problem and the measures needed in London simply do not apply elsewhere.

There has been reference by the hon. Lady the Member for Wood Green (Mrs. Joyce Butler) to landlords as being rogues and villains. That may well be true in Bermondsey but it is not so in Weymouth or Poole or other places where civilised persons live who, for many years, have entered into contracts and have kept them, as do their tenants.

Mr. Mellish

The hon. Gentleman keeps referring to my constituency. For his information, I point out that the municipality owns two-thirds of the borough and we are not, therefore, bothered by landlords either.

Mr. King

The fact remains that the Bill is particularly desirable for London if not for Bermondsey. The argument still applies. There are two kinds of persons with which I am concerned. The first is the Service men who form a big portion of occupants certainly of Portland and many other constituencies. Last week the Weymouth Echo said: Lodgings for senior ratings are urgently needed during the winter months by the Navy at Portland. A naval spokesman at Portland said, 'Many men come in to the base at short notice and we want to have a list of places where they can be directed for lodging.' This is what the Bill will prevent people from doing. Indeed, if a concrete case is desired I will give one forthwith. I have had an enormous mail, and one letter springs to mind immediately. It is from a retired lieutenant of the Royal Navy, now living on a modest pension in a four-bedroomed house. Previously he has for short periods let the top floor consisting of two bedrooms to Naval ratings during their time in Portland. He writes to point out that he has married, grown-up children of his own, and when they come back he uses those rooms for his family. That is a natural family situation.

Mr. Lubbock

What the hon. Gentleman is describing sounds like a licence rather than a tenancy. They cannot be assumed to be tenants.

Mr. King

The top floor is let as a furnished flat.

Mr. Lubbock


Mr. King


Usually, he has used that flat for his children when they returned. He says that if the Bill goes through he will not let that flat. Why should he? We are doing what I should have thought right hon. and hon. Gentleman opposite particularly desired not to do. If the Bill goes through in its present form, it will add to the problem of under-occupation, and many large houses will not be fully occupied as otherwise they might be. That, briefly, is the problem of the Service families.

More important is the problem of the seaside landladies, and perhaps I might first say something about them in general. Many of them are aged 60 or over. Many of them have not got pensions. They have very few ways of making their living, as women of that age cannot easily get a job. For generations past we have had the widow or the spinster at a seaside resort who has found a harmless way of earning a living, and that is by letting rooms to visitors, sometimes for part of the year.

The Bill has caused them alarm. Do not let us think only of being unable to get a tenant out. Let us think also of the landlady. Quite often her lodgers come for a fortnight or so from a Midland town. They may turn out to be thoroughly undesirable. It does not often happen, but if there is a case of drunkenness in the house of a spinster of 60, she is able to tell the person concerned to go. That is a measure of discipline which I do not believe has ever been exercised unreasonably, and I suggest that it is wrong to do away with it.

Many of these women have written to me pointing out that they have no other means of livelihood. I would perhaps go so far as to say there is an element of risk, but there is certainly an element of discomfort if the landlady has lodgers from industrial towns with whom she has been able to deal in the past but will not be able to deal in future. We must remember that this Bill introduces criminal penalties. If these landladies act in a way which may be held to be unreasonable, not unnaturally they will be frightened if they are told that in certain circumstances they may be liable to six months' imprisonment. This is a form of discipline to which the seaside society simply is not accustomed.

I appeal to right hon. and hon. Gentlemen opposite to consider the circumstances of people in whose interests they have not advanced one single argument. We have not heard one case of a landlord or landlady behaving unreasonably in the sort of places which I have described. No doubt there are hundreds of cases in London, but they are not found in small seaside resorts. The Government are taking a bludgeon to beat a problem which does not exist.

If right hon. and hon. Gentlemen opposite think—which I hope they will not—that this is some kind of party case, perhaps I might quote this from one neutral source: Already there gave been … anxious inquiries from poorly-off elderly people, whose sole income derives from long furnished lettings in winter and from short ones in summer, as well as even more desperate cris-de-coeur from others who let furnished rooms in their own houses simply to make ends meet. It has always seemed to me that to saddle such landlords with immovable, though legally blameless, tenants would not only inflict hardship but would remove flexibility from the private letting market. That comes not from any Front Bench speaker on this side of the House or the other side, or from any backbencher, but from the New Statesman, one paper to which I should have thought the right hon. Gentleman might have been prepared to listen, and from which he would accept this as a reasonable and neutral view.

Mr. R. Gresham Cooke (Twickenham)

My constituency is in the London area and a number of civil servants reside there. Many of them are in the Foreign Service, attached to the Colonial Service, the Commonwealth Relations Office, and so on. I have had a number of letters from them on this subject because when they go abroad for perhaps a year or 18 months, they are in the habit of letting their houses. One correspondent says that he always lets his house with a certain amount of trepidation, but that if he now has to face the risk of not being able to recover possession for up to 12 months it may well be the final impediment to him and to others who otherwise would be prepared to accept the risk of letting their houses. This applies not only to these worthy citizens in the Foreign Service but also to engineers and salesmen who have to go abroad on their company's business and to those in the fighting Services. I am convinced that a number of them, particularly if they are going abroad for a few months, will hesitate to let their houses while they are abroad.

To talk for a moment about holiday letting, I think it is often advantageous to quote a human case, and I shall quote one which has been sent to me which puts the case far better than I can. The writer says: I obtained a mortgage on my house some years ago to purchase a furnished terrace cottage in Whitstable to provide seaside holidays for my children and the children of my relatives. In addition I filled in with other fee paying holiday makers and endeavoured to find a winter tenant who was looking for a temporary home. In the event the children have grown up and the tendency is to use the cottage for holidays for my wife and myself and any other holiday makers who may be interested. The winter tenants have included the following types; people who have sold up and are waiting to go abroad, soldiers' families coming back from abroad who are awaiting allocation of married quarters, sailors temporarily stationed at Chatham Barracks who wish to have their families near them, artisans doing temporary work in the district, workmen who are new to the district and are looking round before settling in rented property or houses they are going to buy, finally, scoundrels trying to get something for nothing, who get in under false pretences, pay little or no rent and are difficult to get out. I think the Government proposals will only result in the latter type of person imposing on me. I am aware that I have recourse to the law which in due time will give me the right of entry into my property, but in the meantime what will happen to the holiday makers who have booked to take over the tenancy on a specific date? I think I am offering a useful service to all my tenants except those scoundrels mentioned above. Is it proposed to offer this type something for nothing at the expense of all the others some of whom have been using the cottage for their children for years? I cannot put the case more forcibly than that and I feel that the Government ought to omit holiday and furnished lettings. If the right hon. Gentleman cannot do it in every part of the country, he should accept my right hon. Friend's suggestion and do it on a regional basis.

8.0 p.m.

Mr. Peter Blaker (Blackpool, South)

I rise to support the Amendment moved by my hon. Friend the Member for Dorset, South (Mr. Evelyn King). I also regard the Amendment as an alternative to Amendments Nos. 17 and 18. I rise because it seems to me from the attitude of hon. Members opposite that they have not yet recognised either the size or the nature of the problem which the Bill is likely to cause to a large part of those engaged in the holiday industry. In Blackpool, 500 establishments have recently been converted into flatlets or flats particularly designed for summer letting. Each establishment contains a number of flatlets—some a few and some up to 20.

These establishments are not owned by large property companies; they are owned and run by families. In many cases the persons concerned are of retirement age, who have put into these properties all their savings, and they regard them as their sole means of livelihood. The total number of people engaged in running these flatlets in Blackpool is over 1,000. Most of these establishments have been created in the last five years or so, to meet a new demand—the growing demand from holiday-makers, especially those with young children, for what I may describe as the "do-it-yourself" holiday, in accommodation which is self-contained and where they can keep their own hours.

Like hotels and boarding houses, these establishments are an essential part of the holiday industry. The way in which they make their bookings is very much like that which operates in hotels. They make bookings throughout the summer, for two or three weeks at a time, and take deposits from their customers, who often come back to them year after year. Out of season they are sometimes able to let their flatlets for low rents for limited periods of five or six months. The average rent for a flatlet in Blackpool in the winter is as low as 31s. a week.

I can assure hon. Members opposite that the owners of holiday flats in my constituency are extremely alarmed about the effect that the Bill will have on them if it passes into law in its present form. Indeed, a deputation from the holiday flats industry which came to see me the other day described the Bill as farcical in this respect. The owners of these establishments are worried because they fear that if a winter tenant holds over they will lose a substantial part of their summer earnings, as a result of being unable to get him out—and they rely upon their summer earnings for their livings. They fear that so long as that tenant stays they will be receiving only the low winter rent. Furthermore, their summer programmes will be dislocated.

A point which has not been made is that if it is necessary for the owners of these establishments to take proceedings, however much hon. Members opposite may try to speed things up the owners of holiday flats will not know how long those proceedings will take, and when the tenant will be out. If it is the summer season they will not know whether they will be able to keep the contracts that they have made with the remainder of their customers, or whether they ought to warn them to make other arrangements. If their summer programmes are dislocated and their would-be customers are unable to move into the accommodation promised to them they are worried at the possibility of being faced with litigation initiated by their customers, and by the prospect of having to compensate them for the extra expense involved in finding other hotel accommodation for their holidays.

I followed closely the remarks of the right hon. and learned Gentleman the Attorney-General, earlier this afternoon on the question of expediting proceedings. I had the impression that he could not hold out any serious hope that, at best, proceedings could be completed in less than 14 days. I speak somewhat as a layman in these matters but I suspect that if the Bill causes a great increase in the work of the county courts even a period of 14 days may be an ambitious target.

I noted with interest that at an earlier stage of the proceedings on this Bill the Parliamentary Secretary said that the Bill was aimed at protecting tenants living in their homes. I hope that I am not misrepresenting him if I say that my impression was that he implied that the Bill was not aimed at holiday tenants. As it stands, however, the Bill will apply to holiday tenancies. In default of an Amendment exempting furnished lettings altogether, what is needed is one which takes holiday tenancies right out of the Bill.

I hope that the Government will accept either the Amendment on furnished lettings or Amendment No. 19. Amendment No. 19 will not cause hardship, whereas the Bill as it now stands is likely to cause hardship not only to the modest owners of holiday accommodation but also to holiday makers. Successive Governments have urged—as has the British Travel Association—that the holiday industry should modernise itself so as to provide better facilities not only for British holiday makers but also for visitors from overseas who bring us badly needed foreign exchange. That is what the holiday flatlet owners have tried to do. I ask the Government to help them to do it and not to make their task more difficult.

Mr. Geoffrey Howe (Bebington)

I want to say a word in support of the general case which has been advanced by my right hon. Friend the Member for Kingston-upon-Thames (Mr. Boyd-Carpenter). I suggest that the Government, in including furnished lettings within the Bill, have ignored all the conclusions reached by many committees over the last 40 years, appointed by various Governments, to consider the desirability of control over furnished lettings, starting with the Salisbury Committee in 1920 and including the second Ridley Committee in 1945. All of these recognised that the extension of such control, involving security of tenure for the tenants of furnished lettings, would threaten to dry up the supply, and it was only with the greatest reluctance that the second Ridley Committee in 1945 recommended a limited degree of security of tenure in the emergency conditions which then prevailed. Even then it said: We think that to confer an unlimited right of security of tenure on the tenants of furnished lettings would have the unfortunate consequence of drying up the supply of domestic lettings. In the special conditions then prevailing there may have been a case for passing the 1946 Furnished Houses (Rent Control) Act, but surely we do not have to acknowledge today that the accession to power of another Socialist Government represents another emergency calling for yet another extension of what was thought desirable in 1945.

If we look at the effect of the Rent Act on the supply of furnished lettings, even within Greater London, we find that the survey produced in 1960 on the effects of the Rent Act—Cmnd. 1246—pointed out that the one sector of supply, even in London, which had come forward more abundantly as a result of the Rent Act, was the sector containing furnished lettings. They studied 19,000 properties in Greater London in which the occupation had changed in the two years since the passing of the Rent Act. Of those 19,000 previously controlled unfurnished lettings 2,000 had been let within the two years to new furnished tenants. We have that argument to show that the removal of control does encourage supply. If the Minister and his hon. Friends are not prepared to accept the general case advanced by my right hon. Friend for removing furnished lettings altogether from the Bill, I urge them to look with more sympathy and care than yet they appear to have done at the position of holiday lettings, holiday landlords and holiday tenants.

I do not understand the case the Government are trying to make. Are they suggesting that the holiday-making occupants of holiday-let premises would face hardship or difficulty if the Amendment were accepted? Are they suggesting that hardship would arise if they were not included, as they are now, within the terms of this Bill? I cannot conceive that they are saying that it is essential for the purposes of the Bill to include the holiday lettings within its scope.

Are they saying that the landlords of these holiday premises would face no difficulty if the Bill remains as it is drafted? It may be that no landlord with holiday accommodation to let need be worried because he will always be able to get possession, and holiday tenants will move out on the day they are due to go. I do not believe that can be so. There must be some occasions when tenants will stay on and some landlords will face hardship. The only case which I can conceive that the right hon. Gentleman and his hon. Friends are putting forward is that it is not within their capacity to produce a draft which will release holiday-let property from the provisions of the Bill; that they have not yet been able to devise a suitable formula. I cannot in a logical situation see the case for allowing the Bill to stand as it is drafted.

I suggest to the Minister that there is yet a third formula which the Government might be prepared to consider in place of that advanced by my hon. Friend the Member for Dorset. South (Mr. Evelyn King). I refer to the provisions contained in the New Zealand Tenancy Act of a much longer duration which has been re-enacted on a number of occasions since the war by Governments of different political colour. They recognised the problem and have provided for it in the latest legislation of 1955. In Section 8(1) of the New Zealand Tenancy Act it states: Where an agreement has been entered into at any time after the date of the commencement of this Act for the letting of any dwelling-house for a term not exceeding six weeks, this Act shall not apply to the premises so let or to any part thereof in respect of that tenancy. It exempts lettings of less than six weeks duration, which would include most holiday lettings. The next subsection of the Act makes a comparable provision for camp sites and caravans.

It may be argued that this could be got round if a would-be landlord who wanted to make a long let were to make a let of only six weeks and renew it from time to time. That is provided for by the far-sighted New Zealand draftsmen by the provisions in subsection (3) where it is stated: Nothing in this section shall be construed as preventing the application of this Act in any case where the tenant continues with the express consent of the landlord to occupy the premises after the expiration of six weeks from the commencement of any such tenancy. An Amendment on those lines may not meet the whole case put forward by my hon. Friend but it would go some way towards it. For the reasons which I have indicated I cannot see why hon. Gentlemen opposite are not willing to try to do this, if not in this House in some other place. I see no reason in justice for rejecting the case out of hand and I urge them to look again to see whether something on these lines might not prove acceptable to their general case, whatever it may be.

8.15 p.m.

Mr. Norman Miscampbell (Blackpool, North)

I support my hon. Friends who have spoken on behalf of the seaside resorts. It is quite clear that either Amendment No. 18 or Amendment No. 19 would deal with the problem. The suggestion made by my hon. Friend the Member for Bebington (Mr. Howe) would go a long way, though perhaps not all the way, towards solving the problem of the seaside resorts. If it could be ensured that lettings of no more than six weeks, or perhaps in the case of Blackpool of a considerably less period, would be exempted, a lot of the difficulties would be removed.

My right hon. Friend the Member for Kingston-upon-Thames (Mr. Boyd-Carpenter) mentioned the difficulty of winter lettings. I am quite sure that landlords in many seaside resorts would heave a sigh of relief if either one of these approaches could be made; if either the matter could be dealt with on a regional basis—so that Blackpool was not visited with the sins of London—or on a time basis, as has been suggested. Either procedure would be within the capacity of the Parliamentary draftsmen and would provide an avenue of escape from the very real difficulty which confronts landlords in many a holiday resort.

In Blackpool we have two types of lets for holiday flats. One type of letting is for the winter period when flats are let at low rents purposely, because it is necessary to keep them occupied and to recover the cost of repairs. They are then available for the holiday trade in the summer months. During the summer months it is possible for people to earn a considerable amount more, by working on the Golden Mile and in the amusement arcades, than at any other time of the year, and it might well be a temptation to those who have cheap winter accommodation to say, "I am going to chance my arm and stay on." If that were done, it would wreck the letting programme for the holiday season. Summer lettings vary in length from a week to 10 days or a fortnight, and they depend on people leaving at the agreed time. I admit that this will not be a widespread problem involving every establishment, but, even if it occurs only occasionally, it will cause great difficulty.

It is argued that landlords can go to the county courts where the procedure, it is hoped, will be expedited, and get the occupants out. It is my experience that nothing which this House could do would succeed in making the county court procedure sufficiently speedy to solve the problem confronting a landlord or landlady whose premises are occupied by someone who will not leave. It was argued that such a position is not very different from the position which might exist today, but the situation would be different. Today, if a tenant will not go, the landlord cannot use physical force to drive him out. If a tenant says he is not going, the landlord may go to the county court. If a landlord has a tenant who has taken the premises for a week, 10 days or a fortnight, it is clear that, in the end, and without physical force being used, he will be put out. The landlord may arrive on the doorstep and say, "You are getting out". In my experience there has never been any trouble about people leaving their accommodation—

Mr. Mellish

Why should there be any difficulty now?

Mr. Miscampbell

Because if they stay on now, they know perfectly well that the minimum period they can stay will be a fortnight at least. If anybody tries to interfere with that position he will be brought before the court.

When one thinks of holiday cottages and flats the picture of so-called luxury accommodation may come to mind, the sort of places on parts of the coast of Cornwall. Blackpool, however, caters mainly for the less well-paid person who comes from Lancashire to enjoy a cheapish holiday. Such a person wants for himself and his family a house or part of a house which has been properly converted and which, 5 or 10 years ago, was probably the traditional type of boarding house.

The trade is changing all the time. In many holiday resorts people are no longer content to go to the traditional boarding house. Many people are going in for holiday flats and cottages, which give them a cheaper opportunity to spend a week or longer at the coast with their families. This is the trend in Blackpool. It is an important trend and the town is anxious that it should continue. It is believed that in future it will represent one basis for the development of the town.

Mr. Mellish

What is all this business of holiday flats being made available and built in Blackpool? I always understood that a person went into a flat at the seaside but had a home to go back to after his holiday. I have always understood that after spending two or three weeks at the seaside he and his family were only too glad to return to their own home. Why is everything suddenly changing so that thousands of people who go to Blackpool no longer wish to return to their homes but prefer to stay on? Is it because they love Blackpool so much?

Mr. Miscampbell

The answer is simple. Why are the Government taking such steps to protect these people? The hon. Gentleman cannot have it both ways.

My hon. Friend the Member for Blackpool, South (Mr. Blaker) has had expressed to him by people in Blackpool the fear that if someone does not leave a flat the landlord may in some way be responsible for the damage caused to someone because of his having lost his holiday. I cannot believe that that is a well founded fear. I am subject to correction by others more learned in this matter, but if someone stayed on in a flat and took advantage of the opportunities offered by the Bill, the landlord would be able to plead before the county court—which, no doubt, will have to deal with the matter and decide whether or not the person concerned would have to leave the flat—that the person was not entitled to damages. I suggest that in such circumstances the county court would not say that damages should be awarded.

The trouble is that unless the landlord runs the risk of suffering those damages —claimed by people whose holidays have been ruined, those people saying, "I want compensation because my holiday is ruined"—he must take immediate steps to get the person who is in the property out of it. If not, it might be argued against the landlord, "You have done nothing to get the person out and you are allowing my holiday to be ruined".

This sort of thing is representative of the arguments my hon. Friends have been adducing throughout our discussion of the Bill. We have been claiming that it imposes on landlords the duty to go to considerable expense by going to the county court. If the Bill had been properly drafted he would not be put to such expense and trouble and, as we know, even if the landlord succeeds in the county court against the person who has stayed on in the property, he may well not see a penny of the costs he has incurred.

Mr. W. R. Rees-Davies (Isle of Thanet)

My hon. Friends have developed with considerable experience practically the whole of the case of what one might call the seaside industry. While I may trespass in my remarks on what I might call the lodging side of the subject, I wish to deal with the interests of the tourist industry as a whole.

I do not believe that the Government appreciate the damage which they are likely to do by a Measure of this kind to the whole of the tourist industry. By that I mean much wider than merely seaside resorts. I venture also to suggest that the Bill is the forerunner of things to come.

Nobody can claim that I have been one who in the past has rooted for the landlord. I have always been a rebel in this sphere and I have voted against my party over it more than once. I do not necessarily share the views which are sometimes accepted on this side of the House in certain aspects of this subject.

I strongly and sincerely believe that the greatest mistake the Government have made in the Bill is that they have applied it to the whole of the United Kingdom. Amendment No. 18 is the nub of the matter. If the Minister would still consider the possibility of the Bill being applied to parts, but not all, of the United Kingdom, I suggest that it is along those lines that he might achieve rapidly what he requires, without the need for long debates and without the need to expect trouble from the tourist industry, the seaside resorts and others who will be highly critical of the Bill when it becomes law.

When I mentioned that the Measure may be the forerunner of things to come, I had in mind that we should consider the question of the removal of rent control, for this matter should be considered now. I hope that the Minister will consider that there can be no possible case for the introduction of any form of control over furnished lettings in the future, whether or not this Measure is passed. I say that because there is abundant and sufficient control already, subject to one possible lacuna, and that will depend on whether there is a case in certain parts of the country, certain conurbations and cities, for some form of control over furnished lettings. There is no reason why the Minister should not take powers to control and designate by area those parts of the United Kingdom where a pressing problem arises.

8.30 p.m.

I have some experience, not only of the problems in the country but of direct analysis in the London area. If one takes the Metropolis itself, one finds that only in three or four—at the most, in six—of the areas of particular councils does this problem arise at all. For example, the Joint Under-Secretary pointed out, perfectly accurately, that it did not apply to Bermondsey, although in the East End. On the other hand, one knows that it may well apply to Paddington, and it may apply in certain circumstances, curiously enough, to Chelsea.

It is equally clear that it does not apply to a great many of the other boroughs in the London area. Therefore, this deals with the most delicate part of the problem with which we are concerned, even in one of the main areas. Therefore, if we are to seek to apply a form of control over evictions from furnished lettings over the whole London area, we are wasting our time with regard to a large part of that area.

It must be remembered, too, that this Bill is an emergency Measure. Presumably, therefore, one should have some evidence of evictions from furnished tenancies, but when I flung that question at the Minister for Housing in the initial stages of this debate he was unable to give any evidence of it, and pointed out that in his view there were insufficient statistics to support an answer. I hope that I correctly summarised what the right hon. Gentleman said. That may be, but such statistics are not necessary, because were we to get evictions—and evictions, in certain circumstances, that lead, or are likely to lead to notoriety—we would soon get the sort of statistics that are the best answer.

Mr. Crossman

What I said was that there were no statistics about either furnished or unfurnished accommodation.

Mr. Rees-Davies

Yes, I entirely accept that, but with regard to the furnished ones, to which I was confining myself, there is no evidence at all to support the view that there have been any substantial numbers of evictions in any part of the country at the present time.

The problem in London and the major cities today is that a very large quantity of flexible furnished accommodation is required. We have an enormous turnover of foreigners who come to this country. They are unable to afford, and are also unable to find, accommodation in our hotels. They come from every corner of the world, and much of the record achieved this year in the immense and important tourist industry has resulted from the arrival of large numbers of Australians, Canadians those from the Commonwealth, those who have come here for study, those who have come here for conferences, those who may come here for the Test Match.

They may come for any one of a myriad different reasons, but, when they come, instead of going into hotels they go into furnished accommodation in the Metropolis. They need to stay for a month, perhaps, or two months, or three or four months. With all this accommodation, and with all these people coming here—who frequently decide to stay on—there must be knowledge in the landlord that he has this rapid turnover in tenants for the accommodation available.

When we turn to the centres of our country and to the river areas—down the Thames, and in the tourist centres in the middle of the country—we see that it is equally necessary that they shall be able to have a very rapid turnover and a flexibility in furnished accommodation, very often not only in the summer but in the winter. This, therefore, applies equally to the central areas as to the seaside.

When we turn to the position in all the university towns—Bath, Bristol, Southampton, Oxford, Cambridge, or the others—we find an equal need for this great flexibility. The difficulty is that the pattern of tourism is changing. These people are moving into caravans—which are also caught, in part, by this Measure. The pattern now is not to say in hotels, not to get board and lodging in a boarding house but to get one's own key to one's own flat. Much of the difficulty in this Bill could have been avoided by making everything licensed to provide bed and breakfast, but that is not the picture today.

An illustration—in this case a seaside one, but it applies equally throughout the country—is given in a letter I have received from constituents who go in for the modern type of accommodation. The letter comes from The Moorings Hotel, 14 Albion Place, Ramsgate, and is sent by two elderl ladies—a Mrs. Beauchamp and another lady. I give this as an illustration to the House because it is manifestly true.

These ladies write: We and thousands of other people in the same business are gravely concerned about our position if the Government repeals the Rent Act and gives security to sitting tenants. When the hotel and boarding house business deteriorated"— the writer is referring to what I have alluded to— we converted our hotel into holiday flatlets —let by the week or fortnight—for which there is a great demand. During the winter months we let them at very cheap rates"— an advertisement is included with the letter— making it quite clear that it is only for the off season' as you see by the advertisement we have in the local paper, semi-permanently. We are already nearly fully booked for the 1965 season and have taken the deposits. Can our winter tenants suddenly say they will not move out? If this happened we would be faced with bankruptcy as the business is our only source of income. Please let us hear your opinion. I have had to give them my opinion to the effect that there is no doubt that if their tenants decided to stay on they would be able to stay for the period until the matter went to the court and in those circumstances their subsequent bookings would collapse like a pack of cards.

The hon. Member for Bermondsey (Mr. Mellish) posed this question when intervening in the speech of my hon. Friend the Member for Blackpool, North (Mr. Miscampbell). He asked if the people who went there had flats of their own to go back to. He got a very sharp retort. There is another retort, that this is not so. The people who take these flats at very low rentals are "movables". They are the pensioners and people living on small fixed incomes. They go to the seaside in the winter because they cannot afford to go there in the summer. In the summer they move from the seaside to go inland into cheaper accommodation there. If they outstay their welcome in the winter at the seaside they will cause trouble there and if when they go inland and overstay their welcome they will cause trouble there. That is why this is not such an easy argument to address to the House as one might at first think.

This is an emergency Bill which was brought in with a tremendous clarion call of trumpets because the hon. Member for Paddington, North (Mr. Parkin) and one or two others claimed that in that area, in Acton and perhaps in parts of Liverpool, there is a problem. It is no good the Minister pointing at my right hon. Friend the Member for Kingston-upon-Thames (Mr. Boyd-Carpenter). My right hon. Friend did not ask for this Bill; it is the Minister's Bill. The mere fact that we did not oppose the Second Reading is no answer to the suggestion that the Bill can be properly amended. I have not opposed the Second Reading either in spirit or in thought. But I repeat that there is plenty of opportunity, and the proper thing is to apply the Bill to areas where the problem arises.

If it is applied to Paddington, Acton and parts of Liverpool, Manchester and Birmingham, it would not hurt the fabric of the tourist industry. Nor would it reduce one whit the amount of flexible accommodation. It would satisfy my hon. Friends who represent seaside constituencies and those, who also ought to be present, who represent tourist resorts in England. It would not make it impossible to encourage people to stay in accommodation when they do not want to stay. It would generally achieve the purpose which the Government want to achieve without at the same time showing complete lack of understanding and ineptitude by not appreciating the problems concerned.

There is the same trouble over this Bill as we have had in all these 50 days, the good old hustle and bustle of being seen to be doing something and, therefore, doing far more than we need to do for fear that someone will understand that we are not doing something which we ought to do.

Mr. Crossman

I rise now because I feel that possibly it is time the House heard what we have to say in response to this long and extremely interesting debate. I myself regret that we did not have this discussion in Committee, but this was not our fault. It was postponed by hon. Members opposite because they preferred to discuss it now. I should have preferred a full discussion in Committee so that we could have put our point of view earlier. This is our first chance of doing so.

When considering the full question of rent control one is profoundly tempted to consider the possibility of regionalising the solution. There are great differences between different parts of Great Britain. The regional solution applies no more to furnished than to unfurnished lettings. This is a highly localised problem in its acute form. The localisation is in a few great conurbations. It is in those areas that the problems leading to rent control are so violent and passionate that nobody can deny their existence.

On the other hand, it would be an illusion to imagine that in small country towns, or even in Blackpool or Bournemouth, there cannot be cases of eviction or injustice to isolated individuals. If I am asked what the evidence for that is, I repeat something I said earlier, namely, that one thing which I have learned since I became Minister of Housing is the extreme difficulty of obtaining evidence on this subject. We are fortunate in having the Milner Holland Committee, which is completing its labours and which has made the first, and possibly the most thorough, investigation into the rent and tenant-landlord position in one city. I realise now, having had initial talks with the Committee, that the light it will throw on the position in London emphasises our ignorance of everything outside and the danger of drawing conclusions and saying, "We know that this is localised".

However, it is obviously silly to say now, on Report, that we should take powers to apply the Bill separately to separate regions. If we started to try to do such a thing at this stage of the Bill, there would be no Bill before Christmas. In fact, there would be no Bill. There would be no point in having one. We cannot possibly decide now to change the whole shape of the Bill and make it apply narrowly to certain areas without creating great difficulties for other areas. I am certainly not prepared to consider the possibility at this stage of writing into the Bill the provision that it should apply only to certain specific areas. Such a provision can be discussed when we introduce our long-term Measure. It would make good sense for the Opposition to put forward their ideas on the long-term Measure, but it is an entirely inopportune solution on this short-term Measure.

Mr. Boyd-Carpenter

I think that by a slip of the tongue the right hon. Gentleman said that we seek to apply the Bill as a whole area by area. Our Amendments relate only to that part of the Bill which extends this form of control to furnished lettings.

Mr. Crossman

The argument, if it applies to furnished lettings, applies with equal force to unfurnished lettings. There would be just as strong a case for eliminating certain areas in respect of them. This is the central issue between us. This is an important debate and I will try to respond to it. If I speak at some length, it is because I have a number of arguments to answer and I think that, even at this late hour, the House deserves a serious answer from the Government in reply to a serious debate.

I am sorry that I left the Chamber for a short time, but I found it necessary to have something to eat after all these hours. When I was listening to the debate earlier I was struck by the curiously different world people live in. Speech after speech referred to the landladies of Blackpool and Bournemouth. However, there was not one speech about the families to whom one furnished room is home. Indeed, we heard it argued that this debate should be about homes and protecting them and that homes excluded furnished lodgings because, after all, they are just furnished lettings and not homes. We have to have this for a small but significant section of this community, many of them young men and women with children.

8.45 p.m.

The furnished room is very often the only home they know. To be evicted from that is worse and easier than to be evicted from an unfurnished dwelling. To get rid of them from the furnished room, the landlord does not even have to put their furniture on the street; he just throws them out. To suggest to me that there is no problem of eviction or of pressures, intimidation or harassment of families living in furnished dwellings shows a total ignorance of the conditions which occur in our great conurbations.

From our point of view, there is in this Bill—at the lowest level, where these crises occur—no clear distinction between the furnished and unfurnished lettings.

Mr. Miscampbell

Is it not right that at present our furnished accommodation is protected better than anything else by the provisions of the 1946 and 1949 Acts?

Mr. Crossman

I have thought about this. I was going to deal with it. My contention is that there is not adequate protection. If there were we should not need further protection in this Bill. There is overwhelming evidence—a lot of which will be produced before the big Bill—that there is a grave inadequacy in the security of families compelled to live in furnished lettings.

Mr. Evelyn King

In the big cities.

Mr. Crossman

Yes. In the big cities. The House should understand this: the distinction is not between the furnished and the unfurnished letting but between the conurbation, where rented accommodation is desperately short, and those areas of the country where rented accommodation is not so short. That is the distinction, and where accommodation is desperately short one could have harassment or eviction or misery in the furnished and unfurnished lettings alike. Where it is not so short there is not so much harassment and not so much danger. This applies in exactly the same way to both types of letting.

For us, it was absolutely essential, therefore, in dealing with the segment where evictions were likely, to treat the so-called furnished dwelling as what it often is—an unfurnished dwelling masquerading under the guise of a furnished dwelling to evade the Rent Act. I was looking the other day at some evidence which has been collected about one London borough. Half the one-room lettings in the borough are furnished lettings; 72 per cent. of the furnished lettings are one-room; only 10 per cent. of them have exclusive use of kitchens, whereas, in the case of the unfurnished, a vast proportion have exclusive use of the kitchen. It is the furnished room which tends to be accompanied by the most desperate conditions of poverty and the weakest conditions, where the landlord can punish and penalise. We are talking about the condition of a small segment of the population, as we were in the case of unfurnished accommodation.

Nobody is assuming that the majority of landlords will behave in this way, but, as we heard on the second Reading and in Committee, there is that small minority of landlords who will seek to use the period before the big Bill to get rid of unwanted tenants. And if hon. Members opposite think that this big Bill will not deal with furnished lettings they make a great mistake. Of course it will, because they are one of the most important elements in the problem. Now I turn to the other side. There are very great problems about protecting innocent and decent landlords from the effect of measures which are required in order to protect the tenants of the bad landlords. This is a problem which we have to face in the case of unfurnished lettings as well as in that of furnished ones. I was asked about the present security of tenure. It is true that there are rent tribunals. It is true that if one goes to the tribunal one can get one's three months security prolonged, but there is great evidence that a large number of these people in one-roomed furnished lettings do not go to the tribunal. Anyway, they can be evicted before they do. The landlord gets rid of them before they even go to the tribunal. There is plenty of evidence from London that this happens. I think hon. Members will find when we come to later discussions that a number of hon. Members on this side of the House who have been kind in not speaking in this debate will produce a lot of evidence of the sort of things which happen to poor people in furnished dwellings. In many cases they are no better protected than those in unfurnished dwellings. That is why we had to act to protect them.

Of course, I agree that the measures that we have introduced for this purpose, just like the measures which could have a bad effect on the good farmer, could possibly turn out to be disadvantageous to the good landlord. On that I would like to say one thing to hon. Members opposite. I am sure that everything that was said by those hon. Members who spoke for the seaside resorts was said with sincerity. I have had letters, and a number of people have come to see me, asking "Is it true that my flat is in danger if I let it to somebody and go abroad?" I have said, "It has always been in danger in the sense that if you choose a tenant who is awkward and you want to get him out, in practice you have to go to court." That was always true because no sensible, decent person would try to evict by force.

If the suggestion is that this Bill creates a danger if one should choose a tenant who decided to be awkward, I would say that that is not a new danger. It is not a good service to the constituents of hon. Members opposite to cause alarm and dismay by suggesting that this Bill has introduced a novel risk. The risk in England and Wales always existed. I shall come to the position of Scotland in a minute. There has always been the risk that one might let one's house to a certain type of person and that it might take weeks, by means of the court, to get him out.

What has this Bill done? I want to be absolutely fair because we have asked for an impartial assessment of the problem. The Bill has given the courts the power to grant a stay of execution for 12 months so that the courts can give a tenant the right to stay. It has also given the most elaborate guidance to the courts so that they shall not let tenants stay if they are doing any of the things which it has been suggested they would do at some of the seaside resorts. In such a case the courts would get rid of them. It is also true that if one waited to go to the courts the weeks would be wasted—

Mr. Rees-Davies

I am sure that hon. Members on this side of the House are not saying that what the right hon. Gentleman has said is wrong, but he is giving the tenant an encouragement or a mandate to stay. Thus he will stay and use the procedure of the courts.

Mr. Crossman

The hon. Gentleman is a lawyer. This Bill gives no mandate. The mandate was there in the sense that a tenant who wanted to be awkward on the termination of a tenancy in England or Wales could stay and say, "Get me out if you want but you shall jolly well take me to court to do so." This kind of person in a free country is a damned nuisance to good, innocent people whom he persuades to let him stay in their houses. But this is not the first time that the tenant has been given the right. I think it is a great pity for the tourist industry in our seaside resorts if hon. Members, in the passions of political disagreement, spread alarm by suggesting that this legislation has done something which it has not done. It has given no mandate to these people which they did not have before in England and Wales.

Now I come to Scotland—

Mr. Evelyn King


Mr. Crossman

No, I will not give way now. I am going to refer to Scotland. The hon. Gentleman will have plenty of time to ask questions. I do not dislike answering questions, but I now want to talk about Scotland. Nobody on the other side of the House has yet referred to the landladies in the seaside resorts of Scotland. Why? Because they have been subjected to the Bill's measures, the so-called mandate, for the last 200 years. These unfortunate Scots officers who have let their houses and gone abroad have been doing it for 300 years and no particle of evidence has been collected today to indicate why it is that in Scotland, where they can evict only after a court order, none of these catastrophic events has occurred in their seaside resorts.

This is the answer to people who are trying to spread alarm and despondency. All that the hon. Member for the Isle of Thanet (Mr. Rees-Davies) has to do is to leave Ramsgate for one day and go to Scotland and study the boarding houses there and ask what happens; or he can read a book. He will find that this practice has existed there because there they have a civilised law under which they say that throwing people out by the scruff of their necks by force is an uncivilised practice even when done by the angelic landladies of Ramsgate and Blackpool. Those who let and who are not shrewd enough to see a rotter before he comes in, do not make a success of their lettings. They must get used to facts and must learn more about human nature before they do more letting.

We are legislating here for protection from eviction. We are legislating against the real danger to the tenant of the furnished room. He has been harshly treated and at times he has been under exactly the same kind of risk as the tenant of the unfurnished room. It is true that he has had the tribunal, but he has not used it because he was too weak or too frightened. These people were terrorised by their landlords into thinking that if they wanted to stay they must not use the tribunal. These conditions exist and they are a scandal and disgrace. We shall eliminate them, if we can, in the big Measure. In the meanwhile when the emergency Measure deals with the threat of emergency evictions between now and the coming of the other Bill, it would have been a mockery to leave out furnished lettings.

There was the question also of estimating to what risks we were exposing the landlords and landladies of Ramsgate and Blackpool and also the civil servants. When we were considering the problem I tried to see whether it was humanly possible either to write in a power to discriminate, by schedule, as has been suggested today, or, even better, a power to discriminate between lettings of the kind made in seaside resorts and lettings of the kind which cause trouble in the slums. The more we looked at the matter the more impossible it was to make a distinction, because the crafty landlord in the slum will use all the tricks in the trade every time we try to define the lettings with which we want to deal, and he will turn to other lettings and thus get round the law.

There was no way of outwitting the clever landlord of the furnished dwelling, so we have to use the blunt instrument of saying that all are stopped from evicting without a court order.

9.0 p.m.

The question we now have to ask ourselves is what is the actual risk to the good landlord or landlady in the seaside resorts. So far as I can understand it, the only increased risk that he or she has is that the court could be induced to give a person a two months or three months stay instead of the normal one month which is the maximum given under the existing law. This is the only extra risk. An hon. Member shakes his head. I am assuming that she is a decent landlady who does not evict by force, and who, if she wants to evict one of these tenants, takes him to law. If she has to take him to law the position will be that the court can postpone the stay of execution longer than before.

When I look at the instructions which we give to the court on this subject, it is crystal clear and written into the Bill that this kind of tenant will be given short shrift under this Bill.

If there is one thing absolutely clear in reading the Clauses through, it is that in dealing with the kind of person who takes a winter letting in a seaside resort and over-stays his welcome into the summer, no county court when he appears before it would conceivably give him anything more than the minimum stay of execution.

The only difference is that introduced by an hon. Member opposite when he talked about incitement to tenants and said that there was a kind of provocation. If hon. and learned Gentlemen make long speeches here describing what clever tenants can do to exploit this Bill against their landladies and get their views printed in the local papers, and if they use the House of Commons to spread propaganda of that sort, I cannot be responsible for the effect that they have. If the tenants believed them and took them seriously some crooked people would have been given some pretty shrewd ideas of how tenants could outstay their welcome successfully.

If such tenants listen to me they will be very careful about staying at all because they will know from me that this Bill does not give them any licence or any extension of their freedoms of any kind which could really seriously undermine the defences of the good landlord or the good landlady of furnished rooms.

I apologise to the House for being a little long, but this has been a long and interesting debate and I thought it essential to put the point of view not only of the Government but of all reasonable, decent people who want to give the good landlord a good chance and enable the good landlord to get rid of the bad tenant. We want to do all that, but we are also determined, in this short Bill, to prevent tenants being evicted before the big Bill is passed. That is the point of this Bill.

I can say to the House with absolute conviction that we can safely reject these Amendments because this talk of the terrible threat to seaside resorts was a grave mistake by hon. Members opposite who represent them. It is untrue, it is a gross exaggeration of what is happening, it does no good to their constituencies, it misleads ordinary people, and I am glad to have the opportunity at this Dispatch Box of saying what is really true about the situation and putting things straight.

Mr. Roots

I cannot help feeling that the House will think that the tone of the right hon. Gentleman's speech was unfortunate in the light of the debates which we have had on this Bill. The fact of the matter is that it was a period of non-sequiteurs. He started by asking us to believe, and we were prepared to believe, that he had considered the risks to Service landlords and landlords and landladies generally. Then he proceeded to attack hon. Members who represent constituencies where these problems will be particularly felt for indulging virtually in agitation to create difficulties. He has only to consider that he told us, or he now tells us, that he recognised that there would be difficulties before ever they spoke.

These hon. Gentlemen have spoken on fears and complaints conveyed to them by constituents. If they were trumpery, it is curious that the right hon. Gentleman's mind should have run to them as well. He has admitted that there was a difficulty here, that a number of quite innocent people would suffer, and that he could not find a way round. [HON. MEMBERS: "No."] If the right hon. Gentleman had not thought that they would suffer, he would not have poured crocodile tears and a lot of work allegedly into trying to help them.

The right hon. Gentleman quoted Scots law, but he would have done better to await the presence of the Scottish Law Officers because, as I understand it, Scots law does not at present include any right of suspension. It is true that one needs an order for eviction, but there is no power of suspension such as is given in the present Bill. Under English law, similarly, there is an adequate procedure for immediate eviction under the High Court order of which we have heard.

The Secretary of State for Scotland (Mr. William Ross)

The hon. and learned Gentleman talks rather hastily about what can happen under Scots law. When a case like this is brought before him, the sheriff has the right to allow a stay of eviction, and the average is about five weeks.

Mr. Roots

The right hon. Gentleman has only to think that, if the power under Scots law were really as adequate as he suggests, it would not be necessary to include Scotland in this Bill. In fact, the position under Scots law is quite different and is not what is now sought.

If there is no problem, why was the right hon. Gentleman worried about it? Why did he try, as he said, to find a solution? The real weakness in his case is that he tried and could not find a solution, and he will not listen to any suggestions from this side of the House. He has not sought to answer Amendment No. 19 to which my hon. Friend the Member for Dorset, South (Mr. Evelyn King) spoke. This would meet the case of the holiday letting, and it would also assist as regards lettings by Service owners. But it has been rejected virtually out of hand.

The right hon. Gentleman has rejected the regional approach. It is admitted that the problem in terms of furnished lettings is largely a regional one, but the right hon. Gentleman, as I understood him, rejected the regional solution because he thought that furnished and unfurnished lettings ought to march together. It is no good weeping crocodile tears of sorrow for the good landlord, the good landlady and the good Service tenant if he simply says that he will not consider differentiating, although arguments have been advanced in the House and not answered to show that regionalisation in terms of furnished lettings, at his discretion, would give a just solution for both landlord and tenant.

As far as I could gather, this solution has been rejected because the right hon. Gentleman doubted—I certainly do not agree—that he would get the Bill by Christmas. In fact, there is an appropriate Amendment on the Notice Paper. It would not delay the passage of the Bill one minute, and, on the other hand, it would achieve what my right hon. and hon. Friends have sought to do, that is, not to impede the general principle of the Bill but to provide justice for those who will be unnecessarily harmed by it. There may be some who have to be harmed, but many will be unnecessarily harmed by the Bill.

I very much regret in the circumstances—because I had understood that on both sides of the House it had been conceded that everyone has attempted to make this a workable and sensible Bill—that, in the light of the Minister's reply, I cannot do other than ask my

right hon. and hon. Friends to go into the Lobby in favour of the Amendment.

Question put, That those words be there inserted in the Bill:—

The House divided: Ayes 196, Noes 237.

Division No. 35.] AYES [9.10 p.m.
Agnew, Commander Sir Peter Gower, Raymond Mott-Radclyffe, Sir Charles
Allason, James (Hemel Hempstead) Grant, Anthony Murton, Oscar
Amery, Rt. Hn. Julian Grant-Ferris, R. Neave, Airey
Anstruther-Gray, Rt. Hn. Sir W. Gresham-Cooke, R. Nicholls, Sir Harmar
Astor John Griffiths, Eldon (Bury St. Edmunds) Noble, Rt. Hn. Michael
Awdry Daniel Griffiths, Peter (Smethwick) Nugent, Rt. Hn. Sir Richard
Barlow, Sir John Gurden, Harold Orr, Capt. L. P. S.
Batsford Brian Hall, John (Wycombe) Osborn, John (Hallam)
Bell, Ronald Hall-Davis, A. G. F. Osborne, Sir Cyril (Louth)
Berkeley, Humphry Hamilton, Marquess of (Fermanagh) Page, R. Graham (Crosby)
Berry, Hn. Anthony Harris, Frederic (Croydon, N. W.) Peel, John
Biffen, John Harris, Reader (Heston) Percival, Ian
Biggs-Davison John Harrison, Col. Sir Harwood (Eye) Peyton, John
Bingham R. M. Harvey, Sir Arthur Vere (Maccles'd) Pike, Miss Mervyn
Black, Sir Cyril Harvey, John (Walthamstow, E.) Pitt, Dame Edith
Blaker Peter Harvie Anderson, Miss Pounder, Rafton
Box, Donald Hawkins, Paul Price, David (Eastleigh)
Boyd-Carpenter, Rt. Hn. J. Hay, John Prior, J. M. L.
Boyle, Rt. Hn. Sir Edward Heald, Rt. Hn. Sir Lionel Pym, Francis
Braine, Bernard Heath, Rt. Hn. Edward Redmayne, Rt. Hn. Sir Martin
Brewis, John Hendry, Forbes Rees-Davies, W. R.
Brinton, Sir Tatton Hiley, Joseph Renton, Rt. Hn. Sir David
Bromley-Davenport. Lt.-Col. Sir Walter Hill J. E. B. (S. Norfolk) Ridley, Hn. Nicholas
Brooke, Rt. Hn. Henry Hirst, Geoffrey Ridsdale, Julian
Brown, Sir Edward (Bath) Hobson, Rt. Hn. Sir John Roberts, Sir Peter (Heeley)
Bruce-Gardyne, J. Hordern, Peter Roots, William
Buchanan-Smith, Alick Howard, Hn. G. R. (St. Ives) Russell, Sir Ronald
Buck, Antony Howe, Geoffrey (Bebington) Scott-Hopkins, James
Bullus, Wing Commander Sir Eric Hunt, John (Bromley) Sharples, Richard
Burden, F. A. Hutchison, Michael Clark Shepherd, William
Campbell, Gordon Iremonger, T. L. Sinclair, Sir George
Carlisle, Mark Irvine, Bryant Godman (Rye) Smith, Dudley (Br'ntf'd & Chiswick)
Clark, William (Nottingham, S.) Jenkin, Patrick (Woodford) Smyth, Rt. Hn. Brig. Sir John
Clarke, Brig. Terence (Portsmth W.) Jennings, J. C. Spearman, Sir Alexander
Cooke, Robert Jones, Arthur (Northants, S.) Stainton, Keith
Cordle, John Jopling, Michael Summers, Sir Spencer
Costain, A. P. Kerby, Capt. Henry Talbot John E.
Craddock, Sir Beresford (Spelthorne) Kerr, Sir Hamilton (Cambridge) Taylor, Edward M. (G'gow, Cathcart)
Crosthwaite-Eyre, Col. Sir Oliver Kilfedder, James A. Taylor, Frank (Moss Side)
Crowder, F. P. Kimball, Marcus Temple, John M.
Cunningham, Sir Knox King, Evelyn (Dorset, S.) Thatcher, Mrs. Margaret
Curran, Charles Kitson, Timothy Thomas, Rt. Hn. Peter (Conway)
Currie, G. B. H. Lambton, Viscount Thompson, Sir Richard (Croydon, S.)
Dalkeith, Earl of Lancaster, Col. C. G. Tilney, John (Wavertree)
Dance, James Litchfield, Capt. John Tweedsmuir, Lady
Davies, Dr. Wyndham (Perry Barr) Lloyd, Rt. Hn. Geoffrey (Sut'nC'dfield) van Straubenzee, W. R.
Dean, Paul Lloyd, Rt. Hn. Selwyn (Wirral) Vickers, Dame Joan
Deedes, Rt. Hn. W. F. Longden, Gilbert Walder, David (High Peak)
Dodds-Parker, Douglas Loveys, Walter H. Walker, Peter (Worcester)
Doughty, Charles Lucas-Tooth, Sir Stephen Walker-Smith, Rt. Hn. Sir Derek
du Cann, Rt. Hn. Edward Mc Adden, Sir Stephen Wall, Patrick
Eden, Sir John Maginnis, John E. Walters, Dennis
Errington, Sir Eric Maitland, Sir John Ward, Dame Irene
Farr, John Marlowe, Anthony Weatherill, Bernard
Fletcher-Cooke, Charles (Darwen) Marten, Neil Webster, David
Forrest, George Mathew, Robert Webster, David
Foster, Sir John Maude, Angus E. U. Whitelaw, William
Fraser, Ian (Plymouth, Sutton Mawby, Ray Williams, Sir Rolf Dudley (Exeter)
Galbraith, Hn. T. G. D. Maxwell-Hyslop, R. J. Wills, Sir Gerald (Bridgwater)
Gammans, Lady Maydon, Lt.-Cmdr. S. L. C. Wilson, Geoffrey (Truro)
Gardner, Edward Meyer, Sir Anthony Wolrige-Gordon, Patrick
Gibson-Watt, David Mills, Peter (Torrington) Wylie, N. R.
Giles, Rear-Admiral Morgan Mills, Stratton (Belfast, N.) Younger, Hn. George
Gilmour, Sir John (East Fife) Miscampbell, Norman
Glover, Sir Douglas Mitchell, David TELLERS FOR THE AYES:
Glyn, Sir Richard Monro, Hector Mr. R. W. Elliott and Mr. More.
Goodhew, Victor Morgan, W. G.
Abse, Leo Gourlay, Harry Orbach, Maurice
Albu, Austen Grey, Charles Orme, Stanley
Allaun, Frank (Salford, E.) Griffiths, David (Rother Valley) Oswald, Thomas
Alldritt, W. H. Griffiths, Rt. Hn. James (Llanelly) Owen, Will
Allen, Scholefield (Crewe) Hale, Leslie Page, Derek (King's Lynn)
Armstrong, Ernest Hamilton, James (Bothwell) Paget, R. T.
Atkinson, Norman Hannan, William Pannell, Rt. Hn. Charles
Bacon, Miss Alice Harper, Joseph Pargiter, G. A.
Bagier, Gordon A. T. Harrison, Walter (Wakefield) Park, Trevor (Derbyshire, S. E.)
Barnett, Joel Hattersley, Ray Parkin, B. T.
Baxter, William Hayman, F. H. Pavitt, Laurence
Beaney, Alan Hazell, Bert Pearson, Arthur (Pontypridd)
Bellenger, Rt. Hn. F. J. Heffer, Eric S. Pentland, Norman
Bence, Cyril Henderson, Rt. Hn. Arthur Perry, E. G.
Benn, Rt. Hn. Anthony Wedgwood Herbison, Rt. Hn. Margaret Popplewell, Ernest
Bennett, J. (Glasgow, Bridgeton) Hill, J. (Midlothian) Prentice, R. E.
Bessell, Peter Holman, Percy Probert, Arthur
Binns, John Horner, John Rankin, John
Bishop, E. S. Houghton, Rt. Hn. Douglas Redhead, Edward
Blackburn, F. Howarth, Robert L. (Bolton, E.) Rees Merlyn
Blenkinsop, Arthur Howie, W. Reynolds, Gerald
Boardman, H. Hughes, Emrys (S. Ayrshire) Rhodes, Geoffrey
Boston, T. G. Hughes, Hector (Aberdeen, N.) Richard, Ivor
Bowden, Rt. Hn. H. W. (Leics S. W.) Hunter, Adam (Dunfermline) Roberts, Albert (Normanton)
Boyden, James Hunter, A. E. (Feltham) Roberts, Goronwy (Caernarvon)
Braddock, Mrs. E. M. Irvine, A. J. (Edge Hill) Robertson, John (Paisley)
Bray, Dr. Jeremy Irving, Sydney (Dartford) Rogers, George (Kensington, N.)
Brown, Rt. Hn. George (Belper) Janner, Sir Barnett Rose, paul B.
Brown, Hugh D. (Glasgow, Provan) Jeger, Mrs. Lena (H'b'n & St. P'cras, S.) Ross, Rt. Hn. William
Brown, R. W. (Shoreditch & Fbury) Jenkins, Hugh (Putney) Sheldon, Robert
Buchan, Norman (Renfrewshire, W.) Johnson, Carol (Lewisham, S.) Shinwell, Rt. Hn. E.
Buchanan, Richard Johnston, Russell (Inverness) Short, Rt. Hn. E. (N'c'tle-on-Tyne, C.)
Butler, Herbert (Hackney, C.) Jones, Rt. Hn. Sir Elwyn (W. Ham, S.) Silkin, John (Deptford)
Butler, Mrs. Joyce (Wood Green) Jones, J. Idwal (Wrexham) Silkin, S. C. (Camberwell, Dulwich)
Carmichael, Neil Jones, T. W. (Merioneth) Silverman, Julius (Aston)
Carter-Jones, Lewis Kenyon, Clifford Slater, Joseph (Sedgefield)
Chapman, Donald Kerr, Mrs. Anne (R'ter & Chatham) Small, William
Coleman, Donald Lawson, George Smith, Ellis (Stoke, S.)
Conlan, Bernard Leadbitter, Ted Snow, Julian
Corbet, Mrs. Freda Ledger, Ron Solomons, Henry
Craddock, George (Bradford, S.) Lee, Rt. Hn. Frederick (Newton) Spriggs, Leslie
Crawshaw, Richard Lever, L. M. (Ardwick) Steele, Thomas
Cronin, John Lewis, Arthur (West Ham, N.) Stewart, Rt. Hn. Michael
Crosland, Anthony Lewis, Ron (Carlisle) Stonehouse, John
Crossman, Rt. Hn. R. H. S. Lomas, Kenneth Stones, William
Cullen, Mrs. Alice Loughlin, Charles Summerskill, Dr. Shirley
Dalyell, Tem Lubbock, Eric Swain, Thomas
Darling, George Mabon, Dr. J. Dickson Swingler, Stephen
Davies, G. Elfed (Rhondda, E.) McBride, Neil Symonds, J. B.
Davies, Harold (Leek) MacColl, James Taverne, Dick
Davies, Ifor (Gower) McGuire, James Taylor, Bernard (Mansfield)
Davies, S. O. (Merthyr) McInnes, James Thomas, George (Cardiff, W.)
Delargy, Hugh McKay, Mrs. Margaret Thomas, Iorwerth (Rhondda, W.)
Dempsey, James Mackenzie, Alasdair (Ross & Crom'ty) Thornton, Ernest
Dodds, Norman McLeavy, Frank Tinn, James
Doig, Peter MacMillan, Malcolm Tomney, Frank
Driberg, Tom MacPherson, John E. Tuck, Raphael
Dunn, James A. Mahon, Peter (Preston, S.) Urwin, T. W.
Dunnett, Jack Mahon, Simon (Bootle) Varley, Eric G.
Edelman, Maurice Mallalieu, E. L. (Brigg) Wainwright, Edwin
Edwards, Rt. Hn. Ness (Caerphilly) Manuel, Archie Walden, Brian (All Saints)
Edwards, Robert (Bilston) Mapp, Charles Walker, Harold (Doncaster)
English, Michael Mason, Roy Wallace, George
Ennals, David Mellish, Robert Warbey, William
Ensor, David Mikardo, Ian Watkins, Tudor
Evans, Albert (Islington, S. W.) Millan, Bruce Weitzman, David
Evans, Ioan (Birmingham, Yardley) Miller, Dr. M. S. Wells, William (Walsall, N.)
Fernyhough, E. Milne, Edward (Blyth) Whitlock, William
Finch, Harold (Bedwellty) Molloy, William Wilkins, W. A.
Fitch, Alan (Wigan) Monslow, Walter Williams, Alan (Swansea, W.)
Fletcher, Raymond (Ilkeston) Morris, John (Aberavon) Williams, W. T. (Warrington)
Foot, Michael (Ebbw Vale) Mulley, Rt. Hn. Frederick (Sheffield Pk) Willis, George (Edinburgh, E.)
Ford, Ben Neal, Harold Wilson, William (Coventry, S.)
Fraser, Rt. Hn. Tom (Hamilton) Newens, Stan Winterbottom, R. E.
Freeson, Reginald Noel-Baker, Francis (Swindon) Woodburn, Rt. Hn. A.
Galpern, Sir Myer Norwood, Christopher Wyatt, Woodrow
Garrett, W. E. Oakes, Gordon Yates, Victor (Ladywood)
Garrow, A, Ogden, Eric
George, Lady Megan Lloyd O'Malley, Brian TELLERS FOR THE NOES:
Ginsburg, David Oram, Albert E. (E. Ham S.) Mr. McCann and
Mrs. Harriet Slater.
Dr. Dickson Mabon

I beg to move, Amendment No. 20, in page 4, line 6, to leave out lines 6 to 15 and to insert:

(d) a tenancy to which any of the following Acts apply, that is to say—

(i) the Small Landholders (Scotland) Acts 1886 to 1931;
1949 c, 25 (ii) the Tenancy of Shops (Scotland> Act 1949;
1949 c, 75 (iii) the Agricultural Holdings (Scotland) Act 1949;
(iv) the Crofters (Scotland) Acts 1955 and 1961.

This is a drafting Amendment.

Amendment No. 6, in page 2, line 25, applies to the whole Bill the definition of "tenant" in Clause 1(5). By this definition the term "tenant" is applied to any person who occupies an agricultural tied house under the terms of his employment. As a result of that Amendment, Clause 3(1,d), as originally drafted, would exclude from the Bill tied houses on tenanted farms.

By this Amendment Clause 3(1,d) has been rewritten to make it clear beyond doubt that the tenancies excluded by it are only those which are already protected under the separate codes specifically referred to in sub-paragraphs (i) to (iv). In particular, subparagraph (iii) excludes the tenancy of a complete farm but will not now exclude a tied house on the farm.

Amendment agreed to.