HC Deb 07 June 1972 vol 838 cc495-505


Mr. McElhone

I beg to move Amendment 108, in page 91, line 24, leave out paragraph 9.

Mr. Younger

On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. Am I right in thinking that it would be convenient also to discuss Amendment No. 109, in page 93, line 3, leave out paragraphs 10 to 12?

Mr. Deputy Speaker (Mr. E. L. Mallalieu)

Yes. Amendments Nos. 108 and 109 can conveniently be taken together.

Mr. McElhone

On the face of it these are rather complicated matters, and I do not have a lot of time to explain them before the guillotine falls because of the filibustering arguments used earlier by the Government. This Amendment refers to the restriction of rent increases where houses have been brought into regulation. Those who follow housing matters more closely than hon. Members opposite will be aware that under the1969 and 1971 Acts increases in private property rents were phased in five payments over four years. Under this Bill the increases will be phased over two years with three payments, and that will impose a great deal of hardship on the tenants of houses like those mentioned yesterday in connection with the Western Heritable Investment Company.

The extent of the reductions depend upon the year in which the house came under the regulating procedure. If the second period of delay begins on or after January, 1973, if the rent was registered during 1972, then the period of delay is reduced to two years and the amount of increase which can be recovered in the second year is three-fifths and not two-fifths. If the rent was registered during 1970 or 1971, the period of delay is reduced to three years so that the amount of the increase which may be recovered in the third year is four-fifths and not three-fifths. I regret that I am not able to go more fully into the details.

If we look at a house which came under regulation before this Measure and presume that it rises from £50 to £250 a year over four years—the housing experts tell us that this is quite possible—the increase could be made over a five-payment phase. That would be £40 per year in addition to the original £50 rent because the period has been truncated. Therefore, a person would find himself paying £53.65 over an average period of three years; that is, £13.65 above the increase arranged because of the regulation.

Taking similar figures, where a £50 house goes up to £250 under the present legislation the tenant will pay on average only an extra £40 at a time in five payments over four years. The proposal in the Bill to bring down the period from four years to two years means that the tenant will be forced to pay an extra £66.65 a year, resulting in his having to pay more than 50 per cent. on the already heavy increase that he must pay.

This is welshingon agreements and working contracts honourably made. It is a piece of political chicanery. It will result in a great deal of hardship. It will mean large increases in rents which are already a burden to many families, bearing in mind that on top of the increases that the Bill will bring about there have been increases in food prices, increased charges for school meals, dental and prescription charges, and the present unemployment situation. A rent increase of the kind proposed may be the straw which breaks the camel's back.

I hope that even 10 minutes before the guillotine falls, the Government will have second thoughts and that some other formula will percolate through from the officials advising the Under-Secretary. Basically we ask for the status quo. Because of our understanding of the problem under the 1969 Act as amended by the 1971 Act, we realise that if these houses are to be subject to rent increases they should be brought into force over a sensible period. We are against increases in the main. But at least a humane approach has been taken hitherto by imposing five increases over four years. However, the Under-Secretary has not judged the situation at all well. The economic situation in Scotland today does not allow for savage increases of the kind that will result from the Bill.

5.45 p.m.

The Under-Secretary will probably say that the possibility of rent allowances did not arise under the previous legislation. We accept that. He will also tell us that there will be a saving to ratepayers. We hear a great deal about the poor ratepayers of Glasgow. However, the other advice that we get from Glasgow is that, as a result of rebates and allowances, Glasgow ratepayers will be paying about £600,000 within two years of this Bill coming into force. The ratepayers are not saving a great deal.

We are asking for the status quo under Schedule 13 of the 1971 Act. If the Under-Secretary studies that Schedule he will see that it was enacted under the previous Government with some consideration of the strain and hardship that any increase can impose on a family—

Dr. Dickson Mabon

I hope that my hon. Friend will bear in mind the point which we have discussed several times and which has been skated over by right hon. and hon. Gentlemen opposite; namely, the reference in paragraph 9(b) to the substitution of 50p for 37½pand the cavalier way in which this one-third increase appears to be dismissed as not being terribly important and as somehow being almost the same as under our legislation. I hope that my hon. Friend will not forget to develop this point, because we resent it greatly, as I am sure he does.

Mr. McElhone

It is a very good point, and I agree entirely with my hon. Friend the Member for Greenock (Dr. Dickson Mabon). It was referred to yesterday. Right hon. and hon. Gentlemen opposite appear to forget that towards the end of the period in office of the last Government there was a Rent (Control of Increases) Bill. It was introduced because the London boroughs were imposing harsh rent increases on council tenants. It is nonsense to suggest that the present situation could have existed under the last Government. I seem to remember making my maiden speech on that Bill and pointing out the situation in Glasgow, which was then suffering under a Tory administration.

I accept what my hon. Friend says. We do not expect a change of attitude on the part of the Minister. The hon. Gentleman was kind enough to send me a copy of a speech with which he entertained the poor people of Perth. I am sorry that the hon. Member for Perth and East Perthshire (Mr. MacArthur) is not here to hear me refer to it. In the course of his speech the Under-Secretary said: Scottish Conservatives while in opposition were able to listen to the growing body of non-political opinion…". I presume that the Clauses in the Bill were framed because of the expert advice received by right hon. and hon. Gentlemen opposite from those bodies of non-political opinion. I take them to include the Monday Club, the Primrose League, Aims of Industry, and perhaps that rather unique body the Cathcart Tories, who, I understand on good authority, repudiate all Scottish Conservative conferences and never attend them.

We have to bear in mind that, apart from the minute concession about rent officers calling on tenants, that Under-Secretary has made not one financial concession to the Opposition after 35 sittings in Committee. He has opportunity to do so now. We do not ask for a reduction. We are not trying to prevent the Government saving money for the ratepayers. There is no doubt that the Government are saving money with this Bill. From this legislation they expect to save between £100 million and £200 million, and it is estimated that they will save £20 million in Scotland. I am not trying to break into that figure. All that we seek is an opportunity, during a period of economic crisis which affects Scotland more seriously than anywhere else in the United Kingdom, for people who have to pay savage increases from £50 to £250 to be able to phase them in five payments over four years, rather than cutting the period by half and allowing them just two years in which to meet what are extortionate increases.

Mr. Younger

I appreciate the views of right hon. and hon. Gentlemen opposite on this matter. The hon. Member for Greenock (Dr. Dickson Mabon) referred to the change from 37½pto 50p. However, if he considers the change in the cost of living since then, in real terms the two sums are almost the same. About 48p would be the equivalent of 37½pat the time his Government brought in that amount. It must not be forgotten, either, that the increase in the cost of living came about mostly during the term of office of the last Government, entirely due to their policies.

The hon. Member for Glasgow, Gorbals (Mr. McElhone) says that he would prefer a phasing of five stages over four years. However, there is one fundamental difference, between our proposal and the four-year, five-stage phasing which is what the hon. Gentleman's party produced in that their system gave no rent allowances. A three-phase system with rent allowances cannot be said to produce hardship.

Let us consider a rent of 63p per week now being increased to £6, which is an extreme case. Under the Bill, in the first year of phasing the rent would go up to £2.42, an increase of £1.79, and in the second year there would be a further increase of £1.79, and a full fair rent of £6 would only become payable at the end of the second year.

Taking an example of a pensioner couple with an income of £16 a week, which is not exceptional in the kind of situation hon. Gentlemen have been outlining, the total income of this couple would exceed the needs allowance for a couple by £1.25. The rent payable will therefore be the sum of the minimum rent (£1, or 40 per cent., of the full rent) and 17 per cent. of £1.25; that is to say, 21 pence. That is the difference between the old system and the new system.

I cannot accept these Amendments because the longer period of phasing hon. Gentlemen would like to have would delay the benefits which will come from bringing these houses into the regulation system. I do not believe that the longer phasing is necessary now that we have the rent allowance system to protect those tenants—

It being Six o'clock, Mr. DEPUTY SPEAKER proceeded, pursuant to Standing Order No. 43 (Business Committee) and the Orders [11th April and yesterday], to put forthwith the Question already proposed from the Chair.

Question put, That the Amendment be made: —

The House divided: Ayes 238, Noes 260.

Division No. 208.] AYES [6.00 p.m.
Abse, Leo Gilbert, Dr. John Mikardo, Ian
Albu, Austen Ginsburg, David (Dewsbury) Millan, Bruce
Allaun, Frank (Salford, E.) Gourlay, Harry Miller, Dr. M. S.
Archer, Peter (Rowley Regis) Grant, George (Morpeth) Milne, Edward
Armstrong, Ernest Grant, John D. (Islington, E.) Mitchell, R. C. (S'hampton, Itchen)
Ashley, Jack Griffiths, Eddie (Brightside) Morgan, Elystan (Cardiganshire)
Ashton, Joe Griffiths, Will (Exchange) Morris, Alfred (Wythenshawe)
Atkinson, Norman Hamilton, William (Fife, W.) Morris, Charles R. (Openshaw)
Barnes, Michael Hamling, William Morris, Rt. Hn. John (Aberavon)
Barnett, Guy (Greenwich) Hannan, William (G'gow, Maryhill) Murray, Ronald King
Barnett, Joel (Heywood and Royton) Hardy, Peter Oakes, Gordon
Baxter, William Harper, Joseph Ogden, Eric
Benn, Rt. Hn. Anthony Wedgwood Harrison, Walter (Wakefield) O'Halloran, Michael
Bennett, James (Glasgow, Bridgeton) Hart, Rt. Hn. Judith O'Malley, Brian
Bidwell, Sydney Hattersley, Roy Oram, Bert
Bishop, E. S. Heffer, Eric S. Orbach, Maurice
Blenkinsop, Arthur Hooson, Emlyn Oswald, Thomas
Boardman, H. (Leigh) Horam, John Owen, Dr. David (Plymouth, Sutton)
Booth, Albert Houghton, Rt. Hn. Douglas Padley, Walter
Broughton, Sir Alfred Howell, Denis (Small Heath) Paget, R. T.
Brown, Bob (N'c'tle-upon-Tyne, W.) Huckfield, Leslie Palmer, Arthur
Brown, Hugh D. (G'gow, Provan) Hughes, Rt. Hn. Cledwyn (Anglesey) Pannell, Rt. Hn. Charles
Brown, Ronald (Shoreditch & F'bury) Hughes, Mark (Durham) Pardoe, John
Buchan, Norman Hughes, Robert (Aberdeen, N.) Parker, John (Dagenham)
Buchanan, Richard (G'gow, Sp'burn) Hughes, Roy (Newport) Parry, Robert (Liverpool, Exchange)
Butler, Mrs. Joyce (Wood Green) Hunter, Adam Pavitt, Laurie
Callaghan, Rt. Hn. James Irvine, Rt. Hn. Sir Arthur (Edge Hill) Pendry, Tom
Campbell, I. (Dunbartonshire, W.) Janner, Greville Pentland, Norman
Cant, R. B. Jay, Rt. Hn. Douglas Prentice, Rt. Hn. Reg.
Carmichael, Neil Jeger, Mrs. Lena Prescott, John
Carter, Ray (Birmingh'm, Northfield) Jenkins, Hugh (Putney) Price, J. T. (Westhoughton)
Carter-Jones, Lewis (Eccles) Jenkins, Rt. Hn. Roy (Stechford) Price, William (Rugby)
Castle, Rt. Hn. Barbara John, Brynmor Probert, Arthur
Clark, David (Colne Valley) Johnson, Carol (Lewisham, S.) Rankin, John
Cocks, Michael (Bristol, S.) Jones, Dan (Burnley) Reed, D. (Sedgefield)
Concannon, J. D. Jones, Rt. Hn. Sir Elwyn (W. Ham, S.) Rees, Merlyn (Leeds, S.)
Conlan, Bernard Jones, Gwynoro (Carmarthen) Rhodes, Geoffrey
Corbet, Mrs. Freda Jones, T. Alec (Rhondda, W.) Richard, Ivor
Cox, Thomas (Wandsworth, C.) Kaufman, Gerald Roberts, Albert (Normanton)
Crawshaw, Richard Kelley, Richard Roberts, Rt. Hn. Goronwy (Caernarvon)
Cronin, John Kinnock, Neil Roderick, Caerwyn E.(Br'c'n&R'dnor)
Crosland, Rt. Hn. Anthony Lambie, David Rodgers, William (Stockton-on-Tees)
Crossman, Rt. Hn. Richard Lamborn, Harry Roper, John
Cunningham, G. (Islington, S.W.) Lamond, James Rose, Paul B.
Cunningham, Dr. J. A. (Whitehaven) Latham, Arthur Ross, Rt. Hn. William (Kilmarnock)
Dalyell, Tam Lawson, George Rowlands, Ted
Davies, Denzil (Llanelly) Leadbitter, Ted Sandelson, Neville
Davies, Ifor (Gower) Lee, Rt. Hn. Frederick Sheldon, Robert (Ashton-under-Lyne)
Davis, Terry (Bromsgrove) Leonard, Dick Shore, Rt. Hn. Peter (Stepney)
Deakins, Eric Lestor, Miss Joan Short, Mrs. Renée (W'hampton, N.E.)
Dell, Rt. Hn. Edmund Lever, Rt. Hn. Harold Silkin, Rt. Hn. John (Deptford)
Dempsey, James Lipton, Marcus Silkin, Hn. S. C. (Dulwich)
Doig, Peter Loughlin, Charles Sillars, James
Dormand, J. D. Lyon, Alexander W. (York) Silverman, Julius
Douglas-Mann, Bruce Lyons, Edward (Bradford, E.) Skinner, Dennis
Driberg, Tom Mabon, Dr. J. Dickson Smith, John (Lanarkshire, N.)
Eadie, Alex McBride, Neil Spearing, Nigel
Edwards, Robert (Bilston) McCartney, Hugh Spriggs, Leslie
Edwards, William (Merioneth) McElhone, Frank Steel, David
Ellis, Tom McGuire, Michael Stoddart, David (Swindon)
English, Michael Mackenzie, Gregor Stonehouse, Rt. Hn. John
Evans, Fred Mackie, John Strang, Gavin
Ewing, Harry Mackintosh, John P. Strauss, Rt. Hn. G. R.
Faulds, Anthony Maclennan, Robert Summerskill, Hn. Dr. Shirley
Fitch, Alan (Wigan) McMillan, Tom (Glasgow, C.) Swain, Thomas
Fletcher, Raymond Ilkeston) Mahon, Simon (Bootle) Thomas, Rt. Hn. George (Cardiff. W.)
Fletcher, Ted (Darlington) Mallalieu, J. P. W. (Huddersfield, E.) Thomas, Jeffrey (Abertillery)
Foley, Maurice Marks, Kenneth Thomson, Rt. Hn. G. (Dundee, E.)
Foot. Michael Marsden, F. Thorpe, Rt. Hn. Jeremy
Ford, Ben Marshall, Dr. Edmund Tinn, James
Forester, John Mason, Rt. Hn. Roy Torney, Tom
Fraser, John (Norwood) Mayhew, Christopher Urwin, T. W.
Freeson, Reginald Meacher, Michael Varley, Eric G.
Galpern, Sir Myer Mellish, Rt. Hn. Robert Wainwright, Edwin
Mendelson, John
Walden, Brian (B'm'ham. All Saints) Whitehead, Phillip Wilson, William (Coventry, S.)
Walker, Harold (Doncaster) Whitlock, William Woof, Robert
Wallace, George Willey, Rt. Hn. Frederick
Weitzman, David Williams, Alan (Swansea, W.) TELLERS FOR THE AYES:
Wellbeloved, James Williams, W. T. (Warrington) Mr. James Hamilton and
Wells, William (Walsall, N.) Wilson, Alexander (Hamilton) Mr. James A. Dunn.
White, James (Glasgow, Pollok) Wilson, Rt. Hn. Harold (Huyton)
Alison, Michael (Barkston Ash) Fortescue, Tim McNair-Wilson, Michael
Allason, James (Hemel Hempstead) Fowler, Norman McNair-Wilson, Patrick (New Forest)
Amery, Rt. Hn. Julian Fox, Marcus Maddan, Martin
Astor, John Fry, Peter Madel, David
Atkins, Humphrey Galbraith, Hn. T. G. Marten, Neil
Awdry, Daniel Gardner, Edward Mather, Carol
Baker, Kenneth (St. Maylebone) Gibson-Watt, David Maude, Angus
Balniel, Rt. Hn. Lord Gilmour, Ian (Norfolk, C.) Maudling, Rt. Hn. Reginald
Batsford, Brian Gilmour, Sir John (Fife, E.) Mawby, Ray
Beamish, Col. Sir Tufton Goodhart, Philip Maxwell-Hyslop, R. J.
Bell, Ronald Goodhew, Victor Meyer, Sir Anthony
Bennett, Sir Frederic (Torquay) Gorst, John Mills, Peter (Torrington)
Bennett, Dr. Reginald (Gosport) Gower, Raymond Miscampbell, Norman
Benyon, W. Grant, Anthony (Harrow, C.) Mitchell,Lt.-Col.C.(Aberdeenshire, W)
Berry, Hn. Anthony Green, Alan Mitchell, David (Basingstoke)
Biffen, John Grylls, Michael Moate, Roger
Biggs-Davison, John Gummer, J. Selwyn Molyneaux, James
Blaker, Peter Gurden, Harold Money, Ernle
Boardman, Tom (Leicester, S.W.) Hall, Miss Joan (Keighley) Monks, Mrs. Connie
Body, Richard Hall, John (Wycombe) Monro, Hector
Boscawen, Hn. Robert Hall-Davis, A. G. F. Montgomery, Fergus
Bossom, Sir Clive Hamilton, Michael (Salisbury) More, Jasper
Bowden, Andrew Hannam, John (Exeter) Morgan-Giles, Rear Adm.
Braine, Sir Bernard Harrison, Col. Sir Harwood (Eye) Morrison, Charles
Bray, Ronald Haselhurst, Alan Mudd, David
Brinton, Sir Tatton Havers, Michael Murton, Oscar
Brocklebank-Fowler, Christopher Hawkins, Paul Nabarro, Sir Gerald
Brown, Sir Edward (Bath) Hayhoe, Barney Neave, Airey
Bruce-Gardyne, J. Hicks, Robert Nicholls, Sir Harmar
Bryan, Sir Paul Higgins, Terence L. Noble, Rt. Hn. Michael
Buchanan-Smith, Alick(Angus,N&M) Hiley, Joseph Normanton, Tom
Buck, Antony Hill, James (Southampton, Test) Nott, John
Bullus, Sir Eric Holland, Philip Onslow, Cranley
Burden, F. A. Holt, Miss Mary Owen, Idris (Stockport, N.)
Campbell, Rt.Hn.G.(Moray & Nairn) Hordern, Peter Page, Rt. Hn. Graham (Crosby)
Carlisle, Mark Hornby, Richard Page, John (Harrow, W.)
Carr, Rt. Hn. Robert Hornsby-Smitn, Rt. Hn. Dame Patricia Parker, John (Dagenham)
Chapman, Sydney Howe, Hn. Sir Geoffrey (Reigate) Parkinson, Cecil
Chataway, Rt. Hn. Christopher Howell, David (Guildford) Percival, Ian
Chichester-Clark, R. Howell, Ralph (Norfolk, N.) Peyton, Rt. Hn. John
Churchill, W. S. Hunt, John Pike, Miss Mervyn
Clark, William (Surrey, E.) Hutchison, Michael Clark Pink, R. Bonner
Clegg, Walter Iremonger, T. L. Powell, Rt. Hn. J. Enoch
Cockeram, Eric Irvine, Bryant Godman (Rye) Price, David (Eastleigh)
Cooke, Robert James, David Prior, Rt. Hn. J. M. L.
Coombs, Derek Jenkin, Patrick (Woodford) Proudfoot, Wilfred
Cooper, A. E. Jennings, J. C. (Burton) Pym, Rt. Hn. Francis
Cordle, John Jessel, Toby Quennell, Miss J. M.
Corfield, Rt. Hn. Sir Frederick Johnson Smith, G. (E. Grinstead) Raison, Timothy
Cormack, Patrick Jopling, Michael Ramsden, Rt. Hn. James
Costain, A. P. Joseph, Rt. Hn. Sir Keith Rawlinson, Rt. Hn. Sir Peter
Crouch, David Kaberry, Sir Donald Redmond, Robert
Crowder, F. P. Kellett-Bowman, Mrs. Elaine Reed, Laurance (Bolton, E.)
Davies, Rt. Hn. John (Knutsford) Kilfedder. James Rees, Peter (Dover)
d'Avigdor-Goldsmid, Sir Henry Kimball, Marcus Renton, Rt. Hn. Sir David
d'Avigdor-Goldsmid, Maj. -Gen. James King, Evelyn (Dorset, S.) Ridley, Hn. Nicholas
Deedes, Rt. Hn. W. F. Kinsey, J. R. Ridsdale, Julian
de Freitas, Rt. Hn. Sir Geoffrey Knight, Mrs. Jill Roberts, Michael (Cardiff, N.)
Dixon, Piers Knox, David Roberts, Wyn (Conway)
du Cann, Rt. Hn. Edward Lamont, Norman Rost, Peter
Dykes, Hugh Lane, David Russell, Sir Ronald
Edwards, Nicholas (Pembroke) Langford-Holt, Sir John St. John-Stevas, Norman
Elliot, Capt. Walter (Carshalton) Legge-Bourke, Sir Harry Scott, Nicholas
Elliott, R. W. (N'c'tle-upon-Tyne,N.) Le Marchant, Spencer Sharples, Richard
Emery, Peter Lewis, Kenneth (Rutland) Shaw, Michael (Sc'b'gh & Whitby)
Eyre, Reginald Longden, Sir Gilbert Shelton, William (Clapham)
Farr, John Loveridge, John Simeons, Charles
Fell, Anthony Luce, R. N. Sinclair, Sir George
Fenner, Mrs. Peggy McAdden, Sir Stephen Skeet, T. H. H.
Fidler, Michael MacArthur, Ian Smith, Dudley (W'wick & L'mington)
Fisher, Nigel (Surbiton) McCrindle, R. A. Soref, Harold
Fletcher-Cooke, Charles McLaren, Martin Speed, Keith
Fookes, Miss Janet Maclean Sir Fitzroy Spence, John
McMaster, Stanley
Sproat, Iain Thomas, John Stradling (Monmouth) Wells, John (Maidstone)
Stainton, Keith Thomas, Rt. Hn. Peter (Hendon, S.) White, Roger (Gravesend)
Stanbrook, Ivor Tilney, John Wiggin, Jerry
Stewart-Smith, Geoffrey (Belper) Trafford, Dr. Anthony Wilkinson, John
Stodart, Anthony (Edinburgh, W.) Trew, Peter Winterton, Nicholas
Stoddart-Scott, Col. Sir M. Tugendhat, Christopher Wolrige-Gordon, Patrick
Stokes, John Turton, Rt. Hn. Sir Robin Wood, Rt. Hn. Richard
Stuttaford, Dr. Tom van Straubenzee, W. R. Woodnutt, Mark
Sutcliffe, John Vaughan, Dr. Gerard Worsley, Marcus
Tapsell, Peter Waddington, David Wylie, Rt. Hn. N. R.
Taylor, EdwardM.(G'gow,Cathcart) Walker, Rt. Hn. Peter (Worcester) Younger, Hn. George
Taylor, Frank (Moss Side) Walker-Smith, Rt. Hn. Sir Derek
Taylor, Robert (Croydon, N.W.) Ward, Dame Irene TELLERS FOR THE NOES:
Tebbit, Norman Warren, Kenneth Mr. Hamish Gray and
Temple, John M. Weatherill, Bernard Mr. Kenneth Clarke.
Thatcher, Rt. Hn. Mrs. Margaret

Question accordingly negatived.


then proceeded, pursuant to the said Orders, to put forthwith the Questions on Amendments, moved by a member of the Government, of which notice had been given to that part of the Bill to be concluded at Six o'clock.

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