HC Deb 26 June 1969 vol 785 cc1834-42
Mr. Allason

I beg to move Amendment No. 81, in page 30, leave out line 21.

Mr. Speaker

With this Amendment we shall discuss Amendment No. 82, in page 30, line 25, leave out 'in such stages as are permitted under that Schedule' and insert: 'so far as such increase does not involve a payment of more than ten shillings a week in excess of the weekly rent recoverable for the rental period within which the date three months prior to that payment fell'. and Amendment No. 135, in page 53, line 28, leave out Schedule 3.

Mr. Allason

The House will be under no illusion that we welcome Schedule 3 to the Bill, which provides for a four year period of delay. Amendment No. 135 seeks to leave out Schedule 3, and the earlier Amendments deal with our method of avoiding the necessity to have this elaborate Schedule which imposes a long period of delay which we consider to be thoroughly excessive.

To take the case of a house at the lowest rateable value which has already been improved and is now in a good state of repair, it will not start to qualify for any increase in rent until first 1st January, 1972. There will then be under Schedule 3 a period of four years delay. It will only be on 1st January, 1976, that such a dwelling will be open to a fair rent. This is far too long a period and cannot be justified.

This Amendment has the merits of simplicity and brevity. It will permit rent increases of 10s. per week every three months until a fair rent level is reached. It accepts the principle of phasing rather than the situation of suddenly running from the low controlled rent which now exists to a fair rent—and I emphasise the word "fair". This is our proposal, instead of its being done in one gulp.

Before hon. Members opposite get excited and say "Aubrey Jones will get hopping mad about this", this is not based starting from a rent which is in any way economic or matched to modern times. It relates to a rent that is extremely small. This is indicated by the fact that the hon. Member for Salford, East (Mr. Frank Allaun), who we regret is not with us tonight, is worried that rents will rise by up to seven times. This indicates that these rents we are discussing are one-seventh of what is fair.

As we have heard, a large number of landlords of this type of property are people of small means and that many of them have lower incomes than their tenants. There is no means test on the tenant. A wealthy family may occupy the house. Nevertheless, the Government seem determined to protect the in- terests of the tenants, we think in a way which is unfair to the landlords This is a simple Amendment but I cannot say that I confidently expect the right hon. Gentleman to accept it. But I ask him at least to realise that his own proposals are thoroughly wrong.

Mr. Clegg

I feel the spirit stirring within me. I cannot let the moment go by without supporting the Amendment, because my hon. Friend the Member for Hemel Hempstead (Mr. Allason) has raised an important point of principle at issue between the two sides of the House. There seem to be three views on this matter. First, there is the Government's view that there should be rent increases, but that they should be phased. Secondly, there is the Opposition's view, which is somewhat similar but which would have a shorter period of phasing. Lastly, there is the view of the hon. Member for Salford, East (Mr. Frank Allaun), which is radical in the extreme in that he would rather have people living in poor conditions than have any rent increases at all. I do not think that the majority of hon. Members agree with his view.

In the end, this is a matter of judgment. One has to decide what is fair as between the parties. We do not want there to be very sudden increases in the scale for those with small incomes. On the other hand, it is essential that a fair rent should be paid at the earliest possible moment because, in the long term, this is better for both tenant and landlord. It is essential that money should flow into housing both from rents as well as from the Government, and I am anxious to see that this money coming back into housing gives us a springboard for further expansion in keeping these houses in good condition and helping to solve not only the problems of the homeless, but of saving the housing stock from going down in future.

Mr. Maddan

I hope that the Minister will take account of some of the realities which so far in these proceedings he seems to have ignored. As my hon. Friend the Member for North Fylde (Mr. Clegg) said, this is a matter of judgment, so I do not want to imply that we on this side are for sweeping away any phasing altogether and suddenly, in one leap, going from the present controlled rents to fair rents, because, unfortunately, the unsatisfactory situation of the controlled rents has lasted for so long that the leap in many cases would be very big.

When we consider the economic position of many of these tenants, we can form a judgment much more consonant with the proposal in the Amendment than with the proposals in the Bill. There is one point which is forgotten in the consideration of hon. Members opposite—

It being Ten o'clock, the debate stood adjourned.


That the Proceedings on the Housing Bill may be entered upon and proceeded with at this day's Sitting at any hour, though opposed.—[Mr. McCann.]

Question again proposed, That the Amendment be made.

Mr. Maddan

Hon. Members opposite often seem to forget that in many of the households with controlled rents the income of the tenant is supplemented by other income of the household. I have some figures for 1964, and I hope that the hon. Member for Orpington (Mr. Lubbock) will not think them out of date, as they are the latest Government figures which I have. A Government social survey pointed out that many tenants of controlled tenancies had low incomes, but added: However, the low incomes of some of these heads of the household, particularly outside London, was likely to be supplemented by other household members". When considering the possibility of meeting the increases involved in moving from controlled to regulated rents and the time necessary for such a move, we must bear in mind the total picture as revealed in the Government social survey. There is much more in it than I have quoted. I hope, therefore, that in determining his attitude the Minister will take into account the evidence available in his own Department which the Government have produced.

Mr. Greenwood

If I am saying 'No" to hon. Members opposite it is not that I do not appreciate their speeches. Indeed, I particularly appreciated the speech of the hon. Member for Hemel Hempstead (Mr. Allason) and especially his accusation that the Government seemed determined to protect the interests of the tenants. That was a comment which should be given wide publicity—as no doubt will be the case from time to time.

Throughout the discussion of the Bill we have tried to strike a balance between the landlords and the tenants. It has not been easy. The hon. Member for North Fylde (Mr. Clegg) said that there were three points of view in the House. I suggest that there is the wrong point of view of the Opposition, there is the wrong point of view of some of my hon. Friends and there is the right view of the Treasury Bench. We have tried to strike a fair balance.

The Opposition seek to drop the phasing scheme which we introduced in Schedule 3 on consideration of the many points of view put to us after the White Paper was published. Instead of our phasing scheme the Opposition apparently want to provide for increases of no more than 10s. a week at three-monthly intervals until the fair rent is reached. The hon. Member for Hove (Mr. Maddan) said that he was not opposed to phasing, but one of the Amendments seeks to delete Schedule 3, which is the whole basis of the present programme.

Mr. Maddan

But the right hon. Gentleman will recognise that there is also an Amendment to Clause 54 which provides an alternative.

Mr. Greenwood

Indeed, and a most interesting alternative it is, which I am sure a large number of tenants will note with interest if not with appreciation.

The scheme which we put forward was intended to strike a reasonable balance. I do not believe that steeper increases than those which we propose could be justified. Working it out under the Amendments, including that to which the hon. Member for Hove referred, it seems that the rent a year after the registration of a fair rent could be £2 a week higher than before registration. That is much too harsh; it is much too steep. It conflicts with the whole basis of the prices and incomes policy, and I must ask the House to reject the Amendment.

Mr. Peter Walker

The Minister reflected that his constantly saying "No" did not in any way take note of speeches. If he did take note of the speeches, he could not possibly keep saying "No", particularly if he took note of his own speeches, which I do not ask him to do too frequently. That is certainly so of the speech for which he would like to be paid royalties for the number of times I have quoted it. I shall quote it again, because it was the first time that a Socialist Minister, speaking at the Dispatch Box, recognised the problem, and he was very unpopular with some of his hon. Friends below the Gangway for doing so.

It was the first time that a Socialist Minister laid to rest the bogey that all landlords are nasty, wicked capitalists exploiting the poor. He told the public that perhaps 80 per cent. of landlords owned only one house and that perhaps 60 per cent. were old-age pensioners. This was an important fact and an historic occasion, and I shall repeat my quotations and again pay tribute to the Minister at frequent intervals for the manner in which he made that speech.

But having come to that conclusion, having had it dawn on him at least, he was made to stop doing anything about it by all the pressures from behind him. He said earlier that these changes had not taken place during a Conservative Administration, but his own phasing of the rent increases will mean that they will all take place during the next Conservative Administration, and we fully understand why.

Mr. Greenwood

They are much too urgently required for that.

Mr. Walker

Nowhere near as urgently required as the next Conservative Administration.

There will be a long delay before the increases are fully implemented. The Minister said that he was worried about steep increases, but we never hear the same worry when owner-occupiers are faced with steep rises in mortgage interest rates, when the Government put up Bank Rate by 1 per cent. and owner-occupiers have to struggle to pay enormous increases in—

Mr. Speaker

The hon. Gentleman is tempting himself to get out of order.

Mr. Walker

I would not dream of doing that, Mr. Speaker, I was merely pointing to the Government's different approach when they deal with the problems of other home occupiers.

The Government have completely failed to defend their case. The Minister quoted with pride what my hon. Friend the Member for Hemel Hempstead (Mr. Allason) said about the Government protecting the interests of the tenant. The right hon. Gentleman knows full well that there are more tenants living in miserably depressing conditions as a result of all Governments of all complexions controlling rents at absurdly low levels over the years than because of any other factor. I congratulate him on making at least some shift in position, but he knows that absurd levels of rent control do not protect the tenants, but create appalling housing conditions for them. That is why we shall divide the House.

Question put, That the Amendment be made:

The House divided: Ayes 92, Noes 144.

Division No. 299.] AYES [10.9 p.m.
Allason, James (Hemel Hempstead) Doughty, Charles Kaberry, Sir Donald
Astor, John Elliot, Capt. Walter (Carshalton) Kimball, Marcus
Awdry, Daniel Elliott, R. W. (N'c'tle-upon-Tyne, N.) King, Evelyn (Dorset, S.)
Batsford, Brian Errington, Sir Eric Kitson, Timothy
Bell, Ronald Eyre, Reginald Knight, Mrs. Jill
Black, Sir Cyril Fortescue, Tim Lane, David
Boardman, Tom (Leicester, S. W.) Gilmour, Ian (Norfolk, C.) Langford-Holt, Sir John
Body, Richard Goodhew, Victor Legge-Bourke, Sir Harry
Boyd-Carpenter, Rt. Hn. John Grant, Anthony McNair-Wilson, Michael
Boyle, Rt. Hn. Sir Edward Gresham Cooke, R. McNair-Wilson, Patrick (New Forest)
Brewis, John Griffiths, Eldon (Bury St. Edmunds) Maddan, Martin
Brown, Sir Edward (Bath) Gurden, Harold More, Jasper
Bullus, Sir Eric Heseltine, Michael Morgan, Geraint (Denbigh)
Campbell, B. (Oldham, W.) Higgins, Terence L. Murton, Oscar
Carlisle, Mark Hogg, Rt. Hn. Quintin Nabarro, Sir Gerald
Chataway, Christopher Holland, Philip Page, Graham (Crosby)
Clark, Henry Hordern, Peter Page, John (Harrow, W.)
Clegg, Walter Hunt, John Peel, John
Cooke, Robert Irvine, Bryant Godman (Rye) Percival, Ian
Cooper-Key, Sir Neill Johnson Smith, G. (E. Grinstead) Pike, Miss Mervyn
Crowder, F. P. Jones, Arthur (Northants, S.) Prior, J. M. L.
Deedes, Rt. Hn. W. F. (Ashford) Jopling, Michael Pym, Francis
Renton, Rt. Hn. Sir David Sinclair, Sir George Walker, Peter (Worcester)
Rhys Williams, Sir Brandon Smith, Dudley (W'wick & L'mington) Walker-Smith, Rt. Hn. Sir Derek
Ridsdale, Julian Smith, John (London & W'minster) Walters, Dennis
Rossi, Hugh (Hornsey) Speed, Keith Wiggin, A. W.
Royle, Anthony Taylor, Sir Charles (Eastbourne) Wilson, Geoffrey (Truro)
Russell, Sir Ronald Taylor, Frank (Moss Side) Worsley, Marcus
Scott, Nicholas Thatcher, Mrs. Margaret
Sharples, Richard van Straubenzee, W. R. TELLERS FOR THE AYES:
Shaw, Michael (Sc'b'gh & Whitby) Vaughan-Morgan, Rt. Hn. Sir John Mr. Bernard Weatherill and
Silvester, Frederick Waddington, David Mr. Humphrey Atkins.
Anderson, Donald Hattersley, Roy Noel-Baker, Rt. Hn. Philip
Archer, Peter Hazell, Bert Oram, Albert E.
Armstrong, Ernest Hilton, W. S. Orbach, Maurice
Atkinson, Norman (Tottenham) Hooley, Frank Orme, Stanley
Bagier, Gordon A. T. Hughes, Hector (Aberdeen, N.) Oswald, Thomas
Beaney, Alan Hunter, Adam Page, Derek (King's Lynn)
Bidwell, Sydney Irvine, Sir Arthur (Edge Hill) Paget, R. T.
Bishop, E. S. Jackson, Peter M. (High Peak) Palmer, Arthur
Blenkinsop, Arthur Janner, Sir Barrett Pannell, Rt. Hn. Charles
Booth, Albert Jay, Rt. Hn. Douglas Park, Trevor
Brooks, Edwin Johnson, Carol (Lewisham, S.) Parker, John (Dagenham)
Brown, Bob (N'c'tle-upon-Tyne, W.) Johnson, James (K'ston-on-Hull, W.) Parkyn, Brian (Bedford)
Brown, R. W. (Shoreditch & F'bury) Jones, Rt. Hn. Sir Elwyn (W. Ham, S.) Pavitt, Laurence
Cant, R. B. Jones, T. Alec (Rhondda, West) Peart, Rt. Hn. Fred
Carmichael, Neil Judd, Frank Pentland, Norman
Chapman, Donald Kelley, Richard Perry, George H. (Nottingham, S.)
Coleman, Donald Kenyon, Clifford Price, William (Rugby)
Concannon, J. D. Kerr, Mrs. Anne (R'ter & Chatham) Rees, Merlyn
Craddock, George (Bradford S.) Kerr, Russell (Feltham) Roebuck, Roy
Crawshaw, Richard Lawson, George Rogers, George (Kensington, N.)
Dalyell, Tam Leadbitter, Ted Rowlands, E.
Davidson, Arthur (Accrington) Lee, Rt. Hn. Jennie (Cannock) Ryan, John
Davies, Ednyfed Hudson (Conway) Lee, John (Reading) Shaw, Arnold (Ilford, S.)
Davies, G. Elfed (Rhondda, E.) Lestor, Miss Joan Shore, Rt. Hn. Peter (Stepney)
Davies, Dr. Ernest (Stretford) Luard, Evan Short, Mrs. Renée (W'hampton, N. E.)
Davies, Rt. Hn. Harold (Leek) Lubbock, Eric Silkin, Rt. Hn. John (Deptford)
Davies, Ifor (Gower) McBride, Neil Skeffington, Arthur
Dobson, Ray MacColl, James Slater, Joseph
Dunnett, Jack MacDermot, Niall Small, William
Edelman, Maurice Macdonald, A. H. Snow, Julian
Edwards, William (Merioneth) McGuire, Michael Thorpe, Rt. Hn. Jeremy
Ellis, John McKay, Mrs. Margaret Tinn, James
English, Michael Mackintosh, John P. Urwin, T. W.
Evans, Fred (Caerphilly) Maclennan, Robert Walker, Harold (Doncaster)
Evans, Ioan L. (Birm'h'm, Yardley) McNamara, J. Kevin Wallace, George
Faulds, Andrew Mahon, Peter (Preston, S.) Weitzman, David
Fernyhough, E. Mahon, Simon (Bootle) Wellbeloved, James
Fitch, Alan (Wigan) Mallalieu, J. P. W. (Huddersfield, E.) Wells, William (Walsall, N.)
Fletcher, Raymond (Ilkeston) Marks, Kenneth Whitaker, Ben
Fletcher, Ted (Darlington) Marquand, David Whitlock, William
Foley, Maurice Mellish, Rt. Hn. Robert Wilkins, W. A.
Forrester, John Mitchell, R. C. (S'th'pton, Test) Williams, Alan (Swansea, W.)
Gardner, Tony Moonman, Eric Williams, Alan Lee (Hornchurch)
Greenwood, Rt. Hn. Anthony Morgan, Elystan (Cardiganshire) Williams, Clifford (Abertillery)
Gregory, Arnold Morris, Alfred (Wythenshawe) Williams, W. T. (Warrington)
Grey, Charles (Durham) Morris, Charles R. (Openshaw)
Griffiths, David (Rother Valley) Morris, John (Aberavon) TELLERS FOR THE NOES:
Griffiths, Eddie (Brightside) Murray, Albert Mr. John McCann and
Harper, Joseph Newens, Stan Mr. Ernest G. Perry.
Harrison, Walter (Wakefield)
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