HC Deb 30 June 1965 vol 715 cc633-41

4.4 p.m.

Mr. Mark Carlisle (Runcorn)

I beg to move Amendment No. 6, in page 2, line 19, after "section", to insert "or otherwise".

I know that the Minister and every hon. Member, on both sides, is anxious to make as speedy progress as possible with the Report stage of the Bill. It is for that reason that I think the Minister will be grateful to hear that I intend to be brief in moving this Amendment, not because I do not believe that it is important—I consider that it is extremely important—but because I accept that it was debated in another form during the Committee stage and that similar arguments were raised on new Clause No. 3 during yesterday's debate. Therefore, I do not want to go through those arguments again.

The object of the Amendment is to bring forthwith within one form of regulated tenancy all that property which is to be under control under the Bill. We on this side of the House believe that if the Minister proposes to bring in a system of fair rents and regulated tenancies, he should do so throughout the whole of the property which is to remain controlled, and that we should not be faced with a situation in which part of the controlled property is to be under a regulated tenancy at a fair rent and the remainder to remain under rigid rent control under the 1957 Act.

Very briefly, the arguments against this are, first, that it would mean that in a very short time one would find, since creeping recontrol is to continue, similar properties being let at entirely different rents. That was a justifiable criticism of creeping decontrol under the 1957 Act. Our complaint is that, in the Bill, it has been repeated in another guise. The second argument is that the very fact that rent is based on the creeping recontrol means that someone will be less anxious to move, with all the disadvant- ages of mobility of labour which rigid rent control has always caused.

Thirdly, I believe that the limited rent as at present laid down under the 1957 Act is not a fair rent, in that it is already out of date and is likely to become gradually more out of date. The Minister has said that his intention is to be fair to the landlord and tenant and I believe that, by accepting the Amendment, that fairness will be achieved.

In yesterday's debate, when replying to the debate on new Clause No. 3 and in reference to a remark of mine about his proposals leading to a three-class State, the Minister said: It is quite true, as the hon. Member for Runcorn (Mr. Carlisle) said, that that would simply create three classes of tenants—statutory tenants frozen here, mid-statutory tenants and regulated tenants. All that will have been achieved is the creation of a three-class State. I think that the two-class State is intolerable."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 29th June 1965; Vol. 715, c. 439.] These are sympathies which, I believe, are echoed on this side of the House. The purpose of the Amendment is to give the Minister the opportunity by accepting it, to remove the state which he describes as "intolerable" and to replace it with one which is acceptable to both sides of the House.

The Minister of Housing and Local Government (Mr. Richard Crossman)

I am grateful to the hon. Member for Runcorn (Mr. Carlisle) for moving this Amendment so briefly, because, as he has pointed out, we discussed the substance of the Amendment when discussing new Clause No. 3, which we accepted late last night. There was only one thing which I thought was a little unfair in what he said. That was when he implied that our actions had had something to do with the Amendment. Of course, if the right hon. Member for Hampstead (Mr. Brooke), in his new mood, had had his way and a system of flexible rent control had been introduced in 1957, we should not have had this problem.

The problem now is that, in addition to a rigid system of statutory rent control, about 900,000 people have been decontrolled. I should like to emphasise once again what I said on Second Reading, that the reason for this separation and this staging is not a matter of principle, but of pure administrative convenience, that if we had brought everybody in simultaneously to our new flexible rent control, the tribunals, the rent assessment committees and the rent officers would have been crushed and overburdened by their labour. Therefore, we chose to do it in two stages.

I am grateful to the hon. Member for saying that the reason for the stages is not that we like to perpetuate a two-class State—we like to move as fast as we can—but that we know that, in order to move, we have to do the first priority first—

Mr. Norman Cole (Bedfordshire, South)


Mr. Crossman

I will just finish this, if I may.

If we had literally accepted the Amendment and brought in one single system of flexible regulation, we should have had such a crush that we would not have been able to deal with applications. A total of 900,000 people would have been brought back into recontrol, plus 2¼ million houses with their landlords and tenants, all with equal right to go to the rent officer and, through the rent officer, to the rent assessment committee. It was to avoid that pressure that we made this separation in time between one and the other.

I do not want to see either a three-class system or a two-class system. I want to move, and this can be done, but I must again give the warning which I gave to my hon. Friends yesterday—where we have, as London has, 300,000 decontrolled people being brought in, it will be a matter not of months but of years before we can make an Order which brings the controlled tenant under regulation.

I would ask the House to reject the Amendment on grounds of administrative impossibility.

Mr. Cole

I want to ask the right hon. Gentleman a question which he did not give way for me to put. We all appreciate the great problem of the decontrolled and the administrative matters involved in dealing with it. If one house which is decontrolled is dealt with by the rent officer and a half a dozen houses in the same road happen, because of the time of occupation—before 1957—to be still controlled, why should not the rent officer procedure apply to the whole lot in the same manner?

Mr. Crossman

Apparently one has to say everything twice to be intelligible. I said that the reason was that there would be too many cases. We have put forward this system of regulation for administrative convenience and not for any difference of principle. This is the difference which I had with some of my hon. Friends who wanted to make a difference of principle here. I see no difference of principle.

If one suddenly, and overnight, declared (a) that 900,000 recontrolled decontrolled tenants and landlords should have the right to rent officers and rent assessment committees; and (b) that the tenants and landlords of 2¼ million houses should have an equal and simultaneous right, one would either have to set up such an enormous number of rent officers and rent assessment committees, for which we do not have the personnel, or would have a queue so long and such frustration of waiting that the system would break down.

Therefore, we prepared the Measure in two stages, (a) recontrol and giving the recontrolled tenant and landlord prior access; and (b) when that is complete, an Order flexible from area to area, bringing in the controlled tenants. The problem of controlled and decontrolled houses in the same street, perhaps side by side, results from what happened between 1957 and 1959, when the process of decontrol has halted—I will not go into the reasons—so that some people remained frozen, as it were, in statutory controlled property while others were in decontrolled property. It is to deal with the practical problem that we have put this forward for administrative convenience. The Amendment, if accepted, would destroy that convenience.

Mr. Graham Page (Crosby)

The administrative convenience, in our view, goes so much to the principle that the Minister should have arranged the whole system differently. He could have avoided the crush about which he spoke by applying his regulated tenancy system to a lower rateable value limit and to specific areas.

The whole basis of the right hon. Gentleman's system of regulated tenancies is the fair rent, but if the system is to produce a fair rent for regulated property it should apply that fair rent at the outset to controlled property as well. To leave out controlled property is an admission that controlled property is now under an unfair rent and that it does not matter to the Government that it is—that it can await the Minister's convenience.

We knew that the right hon. Gentleman would resist the Amendment. I had hoped than when the point was raised again in this brief way we would have a stronger undertaking from him that he appreciates the urgency of bringing in controlled property, that he would perhaps delay applying the regulated tenancy system in areas where it was not

really necessary and that when he is setting up the rent officers and rent assessment committees he would bear these matters in mind.

I am sorry to see the Minister looking puzzled. Perhaps I am going too fast for him. I am merely saying that where he is able to set up a rent officer and rent assessment committee in an area he should bring controlled property in very quickly. Because the right hon. Gentleman has not recognised this principle, which we feel is essential, and because he has not given a firm undertaking in this connection I must advise my hon. Friends to divide the House.

Question put, That "or otherwise" be there inserted in the Bill:—

The House divided: Ayes 185, Noes 212.

Division No. 222.] AYES [4.15 p.m.
Alison, Michael (Barkston Ash) Dodds-Parker, Douglas Litchfield, Capt. John
Allan, Robert (Paddington, S.) Douglas-Home, Rt. Hn. Sir Alec Lloyd, Rt. Hn. Selwyn (Wirral)
Allason, James (Hemel Hempstead) Drayson, G. B. Longden, Gilbert
Anstruther-Gray, Rt. Hn. Sir W. Eden, Sir John Loveys, Walter H.
Astor, John Elliot, Capt. Walter (Carshalton) McAdden, Sir Stephen
Atkins, Humphrey Elliott, R. W. (N'c'tle-upon-Tyne, N.) MacArthur, Ian
Balniel, Lord Emery, Peter Maclean, Sir Fitzroy
Barber, Rt. Hn. Anthony Errington, Sir Eric McMaster, Stanley
Barlow, Sir John Eyre, Reginald McNair-Wilson, Patrick
Batsford, Brian Farr, John Maginnis, John E.
Bell, Ronald Fisher, Nigel Marples, Rt. Hn. Ernest
Bennett, Sir Frederic (Torquay) Fletcher-Cooke, Sir John (S'pton) Marten, Neil
Bennett, Dr. Reginald (Gos & Fhm) Foster, Sir John Mathew, Robert
Berry, Hn. Anthony Fraser, Rt. Hn. Hugh (St'fford & Stone) Maude, Angus
Biggs-Davison, John Fraser, Ian (Plymouth, Sutton) Maydon, Lt.-Cmdr. S. L. C.
Birch, Rt. Hn. Nigel Gammans, Lady Meyer, Sir Anthony
Black, Sir Cyril Gibson-Watt, David Mills, Peter (Torrington)
Blaker, Peter Glover, Sir Douglas Mills, Stratton (Belfast, N.)
Bossom, Hn. Clive Goodhart, Philip Mitchell, David
Box, Donald Gower, Raymond More, Jasper
Boyd-Carpenter, Rt. Hn. J. Grant, Anthony Morrison, Charles (Devizes)
Braine, Bernard Gresham Cooke, R. Munro-Lucas-Tooth, Sir Hugh
Brewis, John Griffiths, Peter (Smethwick) Murton, Oscar
Brinton, Sir Tatton Hall, John (Wycombe) Nicholls, Sir Harmar
Bromley-Davenport, Lt.-Col. Sir Walter Hall-Davis, A. G. F. Nicholson, Sir Godfrey
Brooke, Rt. Hn. Henry Harris, Frederic (Croydon, N. W.) Nugent, Rt. Hn. Sir Richard
Bruce-Cardyne, J. Harris, Reader (Heston) Onslow, Cranley
Buchanan-Smith, Alick Harrison, Brian (Maldon) Orr-Ewing, Sir Ian
Bullus, Sir Eric Harrison, Col. Sir Harwood (Eye) Osborn, John (Hallam)
Burden, F. A. Harvey, Sir Arthur Vere (Macclesf'd) Page, John (Harrow, W.)
Butcher, Sir Herbert Harvie Anderson, Miss Page, R. Graham (Crosby)
Buxton, Ronald Hastings, Stephen Pearson, Sir Frank (Clitheroe)
Campbell, Gordon Hay, John Peel, John
Carlisle, Mark Heald, Rt. Hn. Sir Lionel Percival, Ian
Cary, Sir Robert Hendry, Forbes Peyton, John
Chataway, Christopher Higgins, Terence L. Pickthorn, Rt. Hn. Sir Kenneth
Clark, William (Nottingham, S.) Hill, J. E. B. (S. Norfolk) Powell, Rt. Hn. J. Enoch
Cole, Norman Hobson, Rt. Hn. Sir John Price, David (Eastleigh)
Cooke, Robert Hornsby-Smith, Rt. Hn. Dame P. Prior, J. M. L.
Corfield, F. V. Hutchison, Michael Clark Rawlinson, Rt. Hn. Sir Peter
Costain, A. P. Irvine, Bryant Godman (Rye) Redmayne, Rt. Hn. Sir Martin
Craddock, Sir Beresford (Spelthorne) Jennings, J. C. Rees-Davies, W. R.
Crosthwaite-Eyre, Col. Sir Oliver Jones, Arthur (Northants, S.) Renton, Rt. Hn. Sir David
Cunningham, Sir Knox Kerr, Sir Hamilton (Cambridge) Ridley, Hn. Nicholas
Currie, G. B. H. Kershaw, Anthony Ridsdale, Julian
Dalkeith, Earl of King, Evelyn (Dorset, S.) Roberts, Sir Peter (Heeley)
Dance, James Kitson, Timothy Robson Brown, Sir William
Davies, Dr. Wyndham (Perry Barr) Lagden, Godfrey Rodgers, Sir John (Sevenoaks)
d'Avigdor-Goldsmid, Sir Henry Lambton, Viscount Roots, William
Dean, Paul Lancaster, Col. C. G. Royle, Anthony
Digby, Simon Wingfield Legge-Bourke, Sir Harry St. John-Stevas, Norman
Scott-Hopkins, James Thatcher, Mrs. Margaret Whitelaw, William
Sharples, Richard Thompson, Sir Richard (Croydon, S.) Wills, Sir Gerald (Bridgwater)
Shepherd, William Turton, Rt. Hn. R. H. Wilson, Geoffrey (Truro)
Sinclair, Sir George van Straubenzee, W. R. Wise, A. R.
Smith, Dudley (Br'ntf'd & Chiswick) Vaughan-Morgan, Rt. Hn. Sir John Wolrige-Gordon, Patrick
Spearman, Sir Alexander Vickers, Dame Joan Woodnutt, Mark
Stanley, Hn. Richard Walker, Peter (Worcester) Younger, Hn. George
Stodart, Anthony Walker-Smith, Rt. Hn. Sir Derek
Stoddart-Scott, Col. Sir Malcolm Wall, Patrick TELLERS FOR THE AYES:
Studholme, Sir Henry Ward, Dame Irene Mr. Francis Pym and
Taylor, Sir Charles (Eastbourne) Weatherill, Bernard Mr. Geoffrey Johnson Smith.
Taylor, Frank (Moss Side) Wells, John (Maidstone)
Abse, Leo Griffiths, David (Rother Valley) Morris, Alfred (Wythenshawe)
Albu, Austen Griffiths, Rt. Hn. James (Llanelly) Morris, Charles (Openshaw)
Allaun, Frank (Salford, E.) Griffiths, Will (M'chester, Exchange) Morris, John (Aberavon)
Alldritt, Walter Hale, Leslie Neal, Harold
Armstrong, Ernest Hamilton, James (Bothwell) Newens, Stan
Bacon, Miss Alice Hamilton, William (West Fife) Oakes, Gordon
Bagier, Gordon A. T. Hamling, William (Woolwich, W.) Ogden, Eric
Barnett, Joel Hannan, William O'Malley, Brian
Baxter, William Harper, Joseph Oram, Albert E. (E. Ham, S.)
Beaney, Alan Harrison, Walter (Wakefield) Orme, Stanley
Bellenger, Rt. Hn. F. J. Hart, Mrs. Judith Oswald, Thomas
Bence, Cyril Healey, Rt. Hn. Denis Owen, Will
Benn, Rt. Hn. Anthony Wedgwood Heffer, Eric S. Padley, Walter
Bishop, E. S. Henderson, Rt. Hn. Arthur Pannell, Rt. Hn. Charles
Blackburn, F. Herbison, Rt. Hn. Margaret Park, Trevor (Derbyshire, S. E.)
Blenkinsop, Arthur Hill, J. (Midlothian) Parker, John
Boston, T. G. Holman, Percy Parkin, B. T.
Bowden, Rt. Hn. H. W. (Leics, S. W.) Hooson, H. E. Pearson, Arthur (Pontypridd)
Boyden, James Horner, John Peart, Rt. Hn. Fred
Braddock, Mrs. E. M. Houghton, Rt. Hn. Douglas Pentland, Norman
Bradley, Tom Howarth, Robert L. (Bolton, E.) Popplewell, Ernest
Bray, Dr. Jeremy Howie, W. Price, J. T. (Westhoughton)
Brown, Rt. Hn. George (Belper) Hoy, James Pursey, Cmdr. Harry
Buchan, Norman (Renfrewshire, W.) Hughes, Emrys (S. Ayrshire) Randall, Harry
Buchanan, Richard Hunter, Adam (Dunfermline) Rankin, John
Butler, Herbert (Hackney, C.) Hunter, A. E. (Feltham) Redhead, Edward
Butler, Mrs. Joyce (Wood Green) Hynd, H. (Accrington) Rees, Merlyn
Carmichael, Neil Irving, Sydney (Dartford) Rhodes, Geoffrey
Carter-Jones, Lewis Janner, Sir Barnett Roberts, Albert (Normanton)
Castle, Rt. Hn. Barbara Jeger, George (Goole) Roberts, Goronwy (Caernarvon)
Chapman, Donald Jenkins, Rt. Hn. Roy (Stechford) Robertson, John (Paisley)
Coleman, Donald Johnson, Carol (Lewisham, S.) Robinson, Rt. Hn. K. (St. Pancras, N.)
Craddock, George (Bradford, S.) Johnston, Russell (Inverness) Rodgers, William (Stockton)
Crosland, Rt. Hn. Anthony Jones, Dan (Burnley) Rogers, George (Kensington, N.)
Crossman, Rt. Hn. R. H. S. Jones, Rt. Hn. Sir Elwyn (W. Ham, S.) Sheldon, Robert
Cullen, Mrs. Alice Jones, J. Idwal (Wrexham) Shinwell, Rt. Hn. E.
Dalyell, Tam Jones, T. W. (Merioneth) Shore, Peter (Stepney)
Darling, George Kelley, Richard Short, Rt. Hn. E. (N'c'tle-on-Tyne, C.)
Davies, G. Elfed (Rhondda, E.) Kenyon, Clifford Silkin, John (Deptford)
Davies, Harold (Leek) Kerr, Dr. David (W'worth, Central) Silkin, S. C. (Camberwell, Dulwich)
Davies, Ifor (Gower) Leadbitter, Ted Silverman, Julius (Aston)
Davies, S. O. (Merthyr) Lee, Miss Jennie (Cannock) Silverman, Sydney (Nelson)
Delargy, Hugh Lever, L. M. (Ardwick) Slater, Mrs. Harriet (Stoke, N.)
Dell, Edmund Lewis, Arthur (West Ham, N.) Slater, Joseph (Sedgefield)
Diamond, Rt. Hn. John Lomas, Kenneth Small, William
Dodds, Norman Loughlin, Charles Steel, David (Roxburgh)
Doig, Peter Lubbock, Eric Steele, Thomas (Dunbartonshire, W.)
Driberg, Tom Mabon, Dr. J. Dickson Stonehouse, John
Duffy, Dr. A. E. P. McBride, Neil Stones, William
Dunnett, Jack McCann, J. Summerskill, Hn. Dr. Shirley
Edelman, Maurice MacColl, James Symonds, J. B.
Edwards, Rt. Hn. Ness (Caerphilly) MacDermot, Niall Taylor, Bernard (Mansfield)
English, Michael Mclnnes, James Thomas, Iorwerth (Rhondda, W.)
Ennals, David McKay, Mrs. Margaret Thornton, Ernest
Ensor, David Mackenzie, Gregor (Rutherglen) Thorpe, Jeremy
Evans, Albert (Islington, S. W.) Mackie, John (Enfield, E.) Tomney, Frank
Fernyhough, E. McLeavy, Frank Urwin, T. W.
Finch, Harold (Bedwellty) Mahon, Peter (Preston, S.) Varley, Eric G.
Fitch, Alan (Wigan) Mahon, Simon (Bootle) Wainwright, Edwin
Fletcher, Ted (Darlington) Mallalieu, J. P. W. (Huddersfield, E.) Walker, Harold (Doncaster)
Fletcher, Raymond (Ilkeston) Manuel, Archie Wallace, George
Foley, Maurice Mapp, Charles Warbey, William
Ford, Ben Mason, Roy Watkins, Tudor
Freeson, Reginald Mellish, Robert Weitzman, David
Galpern, Sir Myer Mendelson, J. J. White, Mrs. Eirene
George, Lady Megan Lloyd Mikardo, Ian Whitlock, William
Greenwood, Rt. Hn. Anthony Millan, Bruce Williams, Alan (Swansea, W.)
Gregory, Arnold Miller, Dr. M. S. Williams, Clifford (Abertillery)
Grey, Charles Milne, Edward (Blyth) Williams, W. T. (Warrington)
Wilson, Rt. Hn. Harold (Huyton) Yates, Victor (Ladywood) TELLERS FOR THE NOES:
Winterbottom, R. E. Zilliacus, K. Mr. George Lawson and
Woodburn, Rt. Hn. A. Mr. Harry Gourlay.