HC Deb 30 June 1965 vol 715 cc641-4
Mr. James Allason (Hemel Hempstead)

I beg to move Amendment No. 9, in page 2, line 41, after "tenancy" to insert: or under an existing controlled tenancy shall not exceed the rent registered under this Act in respect of the dwelling-house to which such registration applies, or where no rent is so registered, the rent agreed by the tenant and the landlord to be payable so far as the same does not exceed (in the case of an existing controlled tenancy) a sum 15 per cent. greater than the controlled rent payable for the last rental period preceding the date upon which this Act takes effect, and".

Mr. Deputy-Speaker (Dr. Horace King)

It is suggested that it would be for the convenience of the House that with this Amendment we should take Amendment No. 10, in page 3, line 3, to leave out Clause 3.

Mr. Allason

The effect of this Amendment, taken with Amendment No. 10, would be to create a fresh system of dealing with rents before registration. In the case of a regulated tenancy, until registration the rent would be the rent agreed between landlord and tenant and, after registration, would be the registered rent. Instead of the 1957 Act controlled tenancies remaining, as they now do in the Bill, at the 1957 level, if there is agreement between landlord and tenant, but only then, the 1957 rent could rise by 15 per cent. just once. After registration, as already provided in the Bill, the registered rent would become the rent to be paid.

We have by new Clause No. 3 changed the system of bringing in the registered rent for the controlled tenant. Theremight, therefore, be some necessity for amending wording to this Amendment, but I do not think that it would be particularly significant.

As regards the regulated tenancy, we suggest here rather simpler wording than there is in Clause 3. In Committee, I commented on the fact that some of the wording of Clause 3 is absolutely inexplicable to the layman. It has to be read many times before one can make head or tail of it. I hoped that I had dropped a hint that rather simpler word- ing might be introduced, but we have not heard anything about that from the Government, and the idea has obviously been abandoned by them. It is interesting to note that The Times, commenting today on another all-night sitting, remarks: The Government hope to complete their reading of the Bill today. I suppose that this is one of the Press leaks from the Ministry, but in any case it is very encouraging to know that the Ministry is reading the Bill. It does not seem to have done a great deal of it so far.

The most significant part of our proposal is to leave out of Clause 3 subsection (3,a), which deals with the inability to increase the rent of a regulated tenancy before registration within three years; that is, if there has been one regulated tenancy and then, within three years, there is another regulated tenancy, that rent must not be increased. I think that we have moved on some way since that concept entered the Bill. We have surely moved a long way from the idea of there being any question of three years being necessary before registration is introduced. It seems to us, in our present knowledge after detailed discussion of the Bill, that subsection (3,a) is not particularly necessary.

The more important element of the Amendment relates to controlled tenancy arrangements, and it would allow an immediate movement towards a fair rent. The Minister told us yesterday how keen he was to move as soon as possible towards a fair rent and fulfil his election pledge, but he is not intending to make any move towards it, as we found out in our discussion on new Clause No. 3, until we get to registration, and that, in turn, cannot take place until there has been a considerable easing in the recruitment of rent officers.

It therefore seems quite reasonable here to introduce a permissive Clause. If a landlord and tenant both agree that an increase in controlled rent is fair why should they not be allowed to have it? At the moment, it is illegal for that increase in rent to be made. Even if the tenant wishes to pay the increase, he cannot do so. In this Clause it is purely permissive. As it moves in the right direction, I hope that the Government will accept it.

We have put down only 15 per cent., which is in line with the 15 per cent. which the Government themselves suggest as the first stage in graduation from controlled to registered rent. In view of the rise in costs since 1957 when these rents were first settled, it seemed perfectly reasonable where there is agreement to allow an increase up to 15 per cent., but not more than that.

4.30 p.m.

The Joint Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Housing and Local Government (Mr. James MacColl)

I shall try to follow the hon. Member for Hemel Hempstead (Mr. Allason) in the speedy and succinct way in which he dealt with these Amendments. I do not think either of them raises issues which have not been fairly fully discussed before. On Amendment No. 9, which deals with controlled tenancies, we have already decided that they should not be immediately put into regulation for reasons which have been explored very fully.

We have also decided, in looking at new Clause No. 3, that controlled rents should remain at their 1957 level until such time as fair rents are fixed for them. It is not desirable to have an interim period in which they have a once-for-all increase of this kind. All that has been already explored and I see nothing in what the hon. Member said on which I could advise the House that we should depart from that view.

On the matter of the fixing of the interim rents until regulation takes place, again we discussed last night the question of the justice of freezing rents until we can get the Part II machinery functioning. The best thing to do is to keep the present arrangements for freezing rents. We hope and expect that Part II will come into operation certainly over a very large part of the country and over the rest of the country quite quickly. I do not want to commit my right hon. Friend to fixing any particular time for doing it, because one does not know, when the Bill is going through Parliament, what the position will be when it goes through, but we have no reason at the moment to think that we shall not be able to start the review of fair rents quite quickly.

That is the best and most satisfactory way in which to get an adjustment between the present position and the fair rents which will come under Part II. Therefore, I cannot advise the House to accept either of these Amendments.

Amendment negatived.