HC Deb 09 June 1988 vol 134 cc1047-66
Mr. Soley

I beg to move amendment No. 180, in page 9, line 24, at end insert— '(1A) This section does not apply to an assured tenancy which is an assured shorthold tenancy within the meaning of section 18 below.'.

Mr. Deputy Speaker

With this it will be convenient to discuss the following amendments: No. 184, in page 10, line 5, leave out subsection (6).

No. 236, in page 10, line 7, at end insert— '(6A) Nothing in this section (or section 13 below) affects the operation of any term of a tenancy which makes provision for an increase in rent (including provision whereby the rent for a particular period will or may be greater than that for an earlier period) by an amount specified in the tenancy contract or by a percentage there specified of an amount of rent payable under the tenancy.'.

No. 185, in clause 13, page 11, line 1, leave out subsection (5).

No. 181, in clause 18, page 12, line 42, at end insert `and (c) in respect of which either—

  1. (i) a rent for the dwelling house is determined under section 20 below at the time the tenancy is granted; or
  2. (ii) an applicant for the determination of a rent for the dwelling house is made by the landlord not later than 14 days after the grant of the tenancy and is not withdrawn.'.

No. 182, in page 14, line 16, leave out clause 20.

No. 235, in clause 20, page 14, line 16, leave out from `below' to 'may' in line 20 and insert `the tenant under an assured shorthold tenancy.'.

No. 321, in page 14, line 25, leave out subsection (2).

No. 322, in page 14, line 32, leave out subsection (3).

No. 323, in page 14, line 46, leave out from 'from' to first 'the' in line 47.

No. 183, in page 15, line 7, leave out clause 21.

New clause 14—Extension of access to Rent Assessment Committee—

  1. `(1) Notwithstanding any provision in the terms of the tenancy, an application for the registration of a rent for a dwelling-house may at any time be made to the Rent Assessment Committee by the landlord or the tenant, or jointly by the landlord and the tenant, under an assured or assured shorthold tenancy of the dwelling-house.
  2. (2) Any such application must be in the prescribed form and contain the prescribed particulars in addition to the rent which, it is sought to register.
  3. (3) Subject to subsection (4) below, where a rent for a dwelling-house has been registered under this Part of this Act no application by the tenant alone or by the landlord alone for the registration of a different rent for that dwelling-house shall be entertained before the expiry of two years from the relevant date (as defined in subsection (5) below) except on the ground that, since that date, there has been such a change in—
    1. (a) the condition of the dwelling-house (including the making of any improvement therein)
    2. (b) the terms of the tenancy
    3. (c) the quantity, quality or condition of any furniture provided for use under the tenancy (deterioration by fair wear and tear excluded), or
    4. (d)any other circumstances taken into consideration when the rent was registered or confirmed, as to make the registered rent no longer the market rent.
  4. (4) Notwithstanding anything in subsection (3) above, an application such as is mentioned in the subsection which is made by the landlord alone and is so made within the last 3 1048 months of the period of 2 years referred to in that subsection may be entertained notwithstanding that period has not expired.
  5. (5) In this section "the relevant date", in relation to rent which has been registered under this Part of this Act, means where on an application for the registration of different rent the registered rent has been confirmed, the date of that application or, if there was more than one such application, the date of the last of them.'.

New clause 24—Reference of excessive rents to rent assessment committee (No.2)—

  1. `—(1) On receipt of an application under this section, the rent assessment committee for the registration area in which the dwelling house is situated shall determine the rent for the dwelling house.
  2. (2) In making a determination under this section the rent assessment committee shall have particular regard to the right of the landlord to obtain possession of the dwelling house under Section 19 above, by setting the determined rent 20 per cent. below the rent which would apply had the letting been subject to an assured tenancy other than a shorthold tenancy.
  3. (3) Where, on an application under this section a rent assessment committee makes a determination of a rent of a dwelling house—
    1. (a) the determination shall have effect from the date of the determination;
    2. (b) no further application may be made under this section with respect to the dwelling house until after the first anniversary of the date on which the determination takes effect.
  4. (4) Where a rent for a dwelling house has been determined under this section, and the dwelling house is for the time being let under an assured shorthold tenancy; the rent so determined shall be the maximum recoverable rent.
  5. (5) In section 20(8) of the Social Security Act 1986 (income related benefits) insert after "but"—
    1. "(a) in determining the rent for housing benefit purposes the authority shall treat the rent assessment committees determination of a rent under section 20 of the Housing Act 1988 as the minimum eligible rent, and
    2. (b).".'

New clause 36—Extending access to rent assessment committee—

  1. `(1) Notwithstanding any provision in the terms of the tenancy, an application for the registration of a rent for a dwelling-house may at any time be made to the Rent Assessment Committee by the landlord or the tenant, or jointly by the landlord and the tenant, under an assured or assured shorthold tenancy of the dwelling-house.
  2. (2) Any such application must be in the prescribed form and contain the prescribed particulars in addition to the rent which it is sought to register.
  3. (3) Subject to subsection (4) below, where a rent for a dwelling-house has been registered under this Part of this Act, no application by the tenant alone or by the landlord alone for the registration of a different rent for that dwelling-house shall be entertained before the expiry of two years from the relevant date (as defined in subsection (5) below) except on the grount that, since that date, there has been such a change in —
    1. (a) the condition of the dwelling-house (including the making of any improvement therein);
    2. (b) the terms of the tenancy;
    3. (c) the quantity, quality or condition of any furniture provided for use under the tenancy (deterioration by fair wear and tear excluded): or
    4. (d) any other circumstances taken into consideration when the rent was registered or confirmed, as to make the registered rent no longer the market rent.
  4. (4) Notwithstanding anything in subsection (3) above, an application such as is mentioned in that subsection which is made by the landlord alone and is so made within the last three months of the period of two years referred to in that subsection may be entertained notwithstanding that period has not expired.
  5. (5) In this section "the relevant date" in relation to rent which has been registered under this Part of this Act, means—
  6. 1049
    1. (a) where on an application for the registration of different rent the registered rent has been confirmed, the date of that application or, if there was more than one such application, the date of the last of them;
    2. (b) in any other case, the date on which the registration of rent took effect.
  7. (6) Where a market rent for a dwelling-house is registered by the Rent Assessment Committee, the rent recoverable shall be limited to the rent so registered, and the amount by which the rent payable under the tenancy exceeds that limit shall, notwithstanding anything in the agreement, be irrecoverable from the tenant.
  8. (7) Where a rent has been determined by the Rent Assessment Committee the rent so determined shall be the rent under the tenancy with effect from the date of determination or, if it appears to the Rent Assessment Committee that that would cause undue hardship to the tenant, with effect from such later date as the Committee direct.'.

Mr. Soley

We come to an important part of the Bill which deals primarily with rents, the way in which rents are set and assured shorthold tenancies. We do so in the context of the Government's central aim of the Bill, which is to provide an increase in the amount of property available for people to rent. We begin in the knowledge that the Government have so far singularly failed in that aim. We know that since 1980, when the Government first started to cut back on the Rent Act, no fewer than I million homes have gone from the rented sector, half of million of which have gone from the Government's much-loved private rented sector.

We know that the rate of decline is steeper than it has ever been, except when it declined so rapidly after the Conservative Government passed the Rent Act 1956. That was the steepest and fastest decline of all time. Most people know—including the Department of the Environment that has carried out research on the matter—that the majority of private landlords do not keep their properties empty because of Rent Acts. Only about 2.5 per cent. of people who own empty properties claim that the Rent Acts are a deterrent. The vast majority keep their properties empty either because they are intending to spend money on repairs or, more commonly, because they intend to sell them. I reiterate what I have said to the Government over a number of months. Until they do something about housing finance, they will not revive the rented sector. The collapse of the rented sector, especially the private rented sector, is caused by the absurd housing finance system in this country.

Mr. Winnick

Will my hon. Friend give way?

Mr. Soley

Yes, but I just say once again and clearly to the Government that we are willing to consider new ways of reforming housing finance in the recognition that any new or reformed system must be fairer both within the purchased and rented sectors, and between those sectors. Any reforms must be capable of being introduced in a way that does not cause economic distress to mortgage payers or to rent payers. We need to remember that in certain parts of the country there are more people in bed-and-breakfast accommodation because of mortgage defaulting than there are for other reasons.

Mr. Winnick

Ministers try to make excuses for what occurred under the Rent Act 1957, but there was a substantial reduction in rented accommodation in the private sector between the passing of the Rent Act and the incoming Labour Government in the autumn of 1964. Has my hon. Friend not read the proceedins on the Report stage and the Second Reading of the Rent Act, when the same kind of promises were made by Ministers, including Mr. Enoch Powell? They said that once the Bill became law, once deregulation occurred and landlords were not restricted, there would be an ample supply of rented accommodation. As we know, the opposite has happened.

Mr. Soley

My hon. Friend the Member for Walsall, North (Mr. Winnick) is right to correct me. I said that the year of the Act was 1956 and it was, of course, 1957. It all has to do with housing finance.

My hon. Friend will know that the 1957 Act led to the introduction of the words "Rachman" and "Rachmanism" into the English language. No doubt, we will see that kind of thing returning with the Bill and all its works precisely because the supply of low-cost rented accommodation is drying up dramatically fast. At the same time, the Government are seeking to pass this Bill, which will make it easier for landlords to evict tenants. There will necessarily be an increase in the percentage of very bad landlords who use harassment to get people out. Such people are not really landlords—they are property speculators who want the property empty so they can sell it.

One need not look just at London because the figures apply, to a greater or lesser extent, across the country. In Dorset, for example, houses with two or three bedrooms sell for about £90,000. The average manual worker has a weekly wage of between £80 and £90. Surely nobody believes that such people can, get mortgages to buy a house for £90,000. If, in the Secretary of State's famous words, "somebody has a spare house to let" in such an area and if that person knows that he can sell it for £90,000, he will also know that he can put the proceeds in a building society and receive about £200 per week in interest. One does not need to be an economic Tarzan to work out what the market rent will be in those circumstances. In areas such as mine, landlords expect to achieve a total of £1,000 per week in rent. That is what they can achieve either by letting the property as luxury flats or by cramming in as many people as possible, who will often pay £70 per week each and share a room. That is what is so fundamentally wrong. That is why the Bill will not work and why we have tabled this group of amendments.

Mrs. Teresa Gorman (Billericay)

Does the hon. Gentleman agree that house prices have been chased up and are, as he says, difficult for ordinary people to afford, because such people cannot find anywhere to rent and are, therefore, forced into buying? The whole point of the Bill is that it will provide more opportunities for people to rent.

Mr. Soley

I saw the hon. Lady taking an interest in what I was saying. She has grasped the first point—that supply has been cut drastically—but she has not grasped the second point, which is that more new properties will not come on to the market. The supply of rented properties at the lower end of the market is decreasing.

Mrs. Gorman


at the lower end of the market is decreasing.

Mrs. Gorman


Mr. Soley

I am explaining why, if the hon. Lady will bear with me. In London alone, over half the lets are already outside the Rent Acts, yet the rate of decline of properties coming on to the market is accelerating; and that is because of housing finance. One can get more money by selling than one can by renting, without any of the hassle of being a landlord. It is no good pretending ——

Mrs. Gorman


Mr. Soley

If the hon. Lady is going to say, "Let's take away all the hassle of being a landlord", I advise her that one would make eviction much easier and allow people to sell with vacant possession at a greater profit. If one then throws in the business expansion scheme which the Chancellor of the Exchequer has introduced, enormous profits can be made easily by people who choose to go into that area of activity, often with no experience of being a landlord.

If the hon. Lady wants to go into this further, she is welcome to read some of the comments that I made in Committee. I warned the Government that they had made a fundamental mistake. In a way, it is a curious mistake for a Government who claim to understand economic forces, and supply and demand. The supply of public housing in this country has been cut by two thirds since 1980—from about 90,000 completions to between 26,000 and 27,000; housing association starts are more or less marking time; and supply in the private sector has increased only slightly. It necessarily follows that there will be a combination of house price inflation plus accelerating rents.

If the Government go ahead with the Bill, there will not only be more harassment and evictions, but rent levels will go out of control. The Government talk about dealing

Ms. Mildred Gordon (Bow and Poplar)

Does my hon. Friend agree that the end result of all the procedures that he has just outlined will be an increase in homelessness, especially in London? In Tower Hamlets, 1,200 people are already living in bed and breakfast accommodation. We have people sleeping in the streets and on the floors of friends' houses. However, under one schedule of the Bill people will lose their property if they have put up friends or relatives. In Tower Hamlets, we also have the notorious case of 10 Bengali families—66 people—sleeping in a church hall until today. They are now in bed and breakfast accommodation on a 24-hour basis because the children are in danger. Such things will be exacerbated by the Bill.

7.15 pm
Mr. Soley

My hon. Friend is right that such things will accelerate. I am glad that the hon. Member for Southwark and Bermondsey (Mr. Hughes) also spoke out against what that council has done. We will all be presented with the problem of local authorities increasingly taking measures that will result in people living in church halls. People such as the Bishop of Stepney have said, "What sort of society does this?" They are right to ask that, because what is happening is appalling.

The Government try to dodge what is happening by saying, "What about empty council properties?" Local authorities have 2.5 per cent. of their housing stock empty. That compares with just over 3 per cent. for housing associations and just over 4 per cent. for the private sector. It pales into insignificance when compared with the figure of 6.9 per cent. for the Government sector. I warn the Government not to go down that road. We should deal with bad management, whether private, public, Government, local authority, housing association or anything else.

The Government cannot dodge their responsibilities. They put the pressure on the local authorities and made it virtually impossible for even the best local authorities to manage, but at the same time they cannot get their own house in order. The percentage of empty stock in the Government sector is twice that in almost every other sector.

Mr. Robert G. Hughes (Harrow, West)

While we all deplore the fact that any property remains empty, whether owned by the Government, councils or in private hands, the fact that is uncomfortable for the hon. Gentleman is that empty council properties are concentrated in the areas of greatest need, in places such as Newham and Tower Hamlets. Opposition Members should seek to do something about that before complaining about the Government.

Mr. Soley

That issue is not a problem or embarrassment to me or I would not have raised it, but I have raised it and will continue to raise it in the media and to the embarrassment of the Government. Conservative Members are getting into difficulties because they cannot dodge the responsibility, not only for the figures for Government properties but for creating this situation. They should remember one basic fact. In 1979, hardly anyone was in bed and breakfast accommodation, whereas now the figures of the homeless in that position have literally doubled. In 1979, hardly anyone slept in cardboard boxes, except those with special problems such as those who were recovering from mental illness, alcoholics and drug addicts; in 1979 such people could always be found places—but not any more. Some people came to see me tonight in the House of Commons saying, "I do not have anywhere to sleep tonight." One could refer them to hostels and to places such as Centrepoint, but they are full. Such things have never happened before—and not only under Labour Governments. They did not happen even under previous Tory Governments. What have Conservative Members got to write home about?

Mr. Spearing


Mr. Tony Banks


Mrs. Gorman


Mr. Soley

I give way to my hon. Friend the Member for Newham, South (Mr. Spearing).

Mr. Spearing

I am grateful to my hon. Friend for giving me the opportunity of putting the record straight about Newham. Is the hon. Member for Harrow, West (Mr. Hughes) not aware that 1,000 flats in defective tower blocks count towards that total? Such buildings were forced on local authorities by Governments of all political persuasions. The Secretary of State persists in including Taylor Woodrow blocks in that total, together with empty blocks which are having to be cleared for improvement purposes and those that are unfit because we do not have the money to repair them because the Government do not allow us to use our own money. Why does the hon. Gentleman not insist that, when Secretaries of State make misleading statements, they bear such facts in mind?

Mr. Soley

My hon. Friend is right. I do not want to stray too far from the point although, in effect, this matter is part of the amendment, but it is true that, more than any other Government, the Macmillan Government—the only Tory Government who at least agreed with the idea of building enough homes to supply the need in this country —told local authorities to cut corners so that they could erect as many units as possible. It is also true that the present Government have the audacity—this applies to what the hon. Member for Harrow, West (Mr. Hughes) said—to have between 40 and 50 flats empty for up to nine years in my constituency. Some are Victorian cottages with gardens and four or five bedrooms, but the whole lot is being bulldozed to make way for landscaping and car parking around Wormwood Scrubs prison. That is what we get from the Government who then say, "What about the 2.5 per cent. of empty local authority properties" compared with the 6.9 per cent. of Government properties when their only answer is not to put people into their properties but to bulldoze them and put cars and trees there instead.

Mrs. Gorman

I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for giving way. I wanted to talk about bed and breakfast, before the hon. Gentleman left that subject. I was on Westminster city council as vice chairman of housing for four years. I should like to point out to the hon. Gentleman that the increase in bed and breakfast accommodation since 1979 has been affected by two pieces of legislation, the Housing (Homeless Persons) Act 1977 and the extension of housing benefit to the private sector.

I witnessed the enormous increase in the demand for bed and breakfast, ostensibly homelessness, which was directly related to the fact that those two pieces of legislation encouraged some people to make themselves homeless, and others to take on accommodation that Was vastly beyond their means because they were under the impression that the council would pay. We were constantly unable to meet their demands, so the bed and breakfast circumstances developed out of those two pieces of legislation.

Mr. Soley

If I were representing the Conservative party on the committee of Westminster city council I would resign. Certainly I would not admit it here, as it is one of the most appalling housing authorities. What it has been doing is quite criminal. Perhaps I should be careful about my words, but its actions are quite unacceptable. When it keeps properties empty in order to try to flog them off, instead of putting in them people who are in bed and breakfast, the hon. Lady has only herself to blame if she finds that she is picking up the bill.

What is so atrocious about that judgment is that until the Government came to power hardly anyone was in bed and breakfast. That is a unique factor of this Government. The hon. Lady is really saying, "Let us get rid of the Housing (Homeless Persons) Act, and then, somehow or other, we will not be able to see the homeless." The fact that Centrepoint has shown in its report that no fewer than half the people who came to it had been in care and therefore have no homes to go back to does not trouble the hon. Lady. She thinks that they can get back into their cardboard boxes and stay there.

The amendments seek to do no more than to limit the damage that the Government are doing through the Bill. Amendment No. 180 ensures that rent setting for shortholds is subject only to clause 20, the assured shorthold tenancy procedure, and not to clause 12 which is the assured tenancy procedure. The assured shorthold procedure is, of course, at the heart of the Government's deregulation programme. It is as near as they can get to saying, "Let us do more of what we did in 1957. Let us go further down that same disastrous road.".

All new landlords have been given a choice. They can let under an assured tenancy at a rent which is negotiated between the landlord and the tenant and which has a slight degree of assurance above a shorthold tenancy—but is still vulnerable on the grounds referred to in the schedules to the Bill—or they can choose a shorthold letting with no security beyond six months but with a right to seek registration of an appropriate rent. The basis of the Government's thinking, as set out in various documents, including the White Paper, is that if they had assured tenancies, they believe that new properties would come flooding on to the market. There is no evidence that that would happen. It is their belief that because those people were letting with less security they should get less rent. But there is nothing to control the rent.

The majority of landlords will not use the assured tenancy. There is no point in doing so. If one is a landlord, it is far more sensible to use the shorthold tenancy and keep renewing it, as one can evict without going to court and without giving any reason after six months and one can charge the same rent. We are trying to limit that ability. The shorthold landlord has an absolute right to repossess; he does not need to give a reason but can evict at the end of six months, or an even shorter period.

Amendment No. 181 makes it necessary to have a rent determined for a shorthold tenancy, and if it is not determined an assured tenancy comes into effect. If the Government are serious about having lower rents for shorthold tenancies, they must accept that if rents are not lower an assured tenancy should result. It is meaningless to expect a tenant in a shorthold tenancy to apply to the rent assessment committee. First. what tenant will do that knowing that, whatever the rent assessment committee decides, the landlord will merely evict him? As soon as he makes that application he will be out. The landlord can d o that without any problem.

We are trying to ensure a real difference between tenures. Amendment No. 182 and new clause 24 allow the rent assessment committee to determine a rent at 20 per cent. below the rent of a similar assured tenancy. The rent must also apply to the dwelling and not just to the tenant, because we must remember that the tenant changes. If the landlord was able to charge a lower rent and, as soon as the tenant moved out, to try the same trick again, clearly that would be unacceptable. There are many good landlords who are quite willing to honour the spirit of the law, but Conservative Members must grasp the fact—all the evidence is within the Department of the Environment —that all the evidence of abuse is in the private sector. It is very serious abuse and the Government's own inquiries have demonstrated that.

It is no surprise to find tenants of private landlords queuing up to get into council accommodation and housing associations because they know that they are better and more secure. That is why there is so much demand for those properties. yet, as I have already said, the supply is being cut. The amendment also ensures the critical point that determined rents should be eligible for full housing benefit, as the other clever thing that the Government have slipped in is that the tenant will not necessarily be eligible for full housing benefit so that the desperate cases that so many hon. Members on both sides of the House have received recently will continue. Elderly people, handicapped people and others will continue having their housing benefit cut dramatically and eventually having the Government doing an about-turn for a limited period in a limited way so that the rent losses are maximised to £2.50—it can be more than that in certain circumstances—for two years at the most and probably only for one year. I have had a case of a 65-year-old diabetic lady having her housing benefit cut by £10.81 per week, from about £40 a week to about £30 a week. What are people supposed to do at that level of benefit?

That is what makes the Conservative party a basically immoral party. Whatever it does it cannot square the circle that there is something profoundly morally wrong when the Government can find £400 a week to give to millionaires yet they cannot find £10 a week to give to an elderly person who is already dependent on state support. That is what makes them profoundly and morally wrong and that is why they will have considerable difficulty in justifying such an act to the British people.

Amendment No. 183 simply ensures that shorthold tenants retain the right to go to the rent assessment committee and that removal of that right would have to be laid before Parliament. If we consider it a right, it should be protected, as we have learnt from bitter experience that under this Government we have to provide such protection.

Amendment No. 236 applies the wording of clause 24(5) of the Housing (Scotland) Bill. I hope that the Minister will be able to say that it is one example of Scottish legislation which he feels able to accept. It empowers a landlord to insert a rent review clause in a tenancy agreement and state a percentage increase or a specific increase instead of using a vague clause about increases.

Amendment No. 235 is exactly the same as Government amendment No. 44 to the Housing (Scotland) Bill, but I acknowledge, and the Minister probably already has spotted, that that is a fallback position for us. New clauses 14 and 36 extend access to the rent assessment committee to protect low-income tenants in the private sector by placing limits on rents charged by landlords. We do that by granting access to the committee at any time and limiting rents for assured tenancies and assured shorthold tenancies at market levels. Without that, low-income tenants would be denied access to the committee in certain circumstances. Amendments Nos. 184 and 185 are consequential.

So long as the Government cut the supply, the crisis in low-cost rented accommodation will increase, the problems in the south-east will escalate and house price inflation will continue to escalate. The next Labour Government will reintroduce a system in which rents are set independently of the landlord because while there is a shortage of supply there can be no alternative.

I predict that the Conservative Government will learn from the bitter experience of other people's sad cases, as they learnt in 1957, that it is nonsense to apply a simple market mechanism to housing as though it was a can of beans—as a Conservative Member described it—and one could simply go from one supermarket to another if one did not like one's landlord. Housing and land are not in elastic supply. If the Government are busy cutting the supply, the crisis will necessarily worsen. We shall reverse that in due course. Meanwhile, in order to limit the damage, I ask the House to accept our amendment.

7.30 pm
Mr. Waldegrave

The hon. Member for Hammersmith (Mr. Soley) has rehearsed the Labour party's hostility, which is well known, to increasing the supply of housing by getting the market to work and to helping people who need help to purchase in that market. That is the difference between us. We endlessly rehearsed the arguments about 1957, in Committee and elsewhere. It is worth drawing the attention of my hon. Friends to the fact that in 1957 the position was different in many key respects. First, there was no proper housing benefit system and, secondly, the Rent Act 1957 proposed to deregulate existing tenancies. I know that some of my hon. Friends would like to follow that route, but it was not shown to be wise when it was undertaken.

The hon. Gentleman speaks as if the present system has been a success, but it has not. He speaks as if the Rent Acts have driven out bad landlords—the successors to Mr. Rachman—but they have not. We all know that bad landlords still exist and it may well be that the widening gap between fair rents under the Rent Acts and the values of property has provided a doubled and redoubled incentive for bad landlords to get people out. But I hope that we can look with more agreement later to additional powers which will help local authorities to deal with bad landlords. The underlying cause of them is surely that, once a property has a Rent Act tenant in it, it becomes extremely uneconomic for the landlord. That is the consequence and the cause of unacceptable practices.

We cannot and should not attack the vested rights of those with Rent Act tenancies, but we can avoid making this mistake in future. I remind the hon. Gentleman, who is learned in the history of all this, that between the wars when the regime was one where new lets were decontrolled, although rent control existed after 1919 and continued for most other lettings, 1 million houses were built for rent. That met a large part of the need at the time, which was not unlike that which we have lived through. It was a time of major social change, major demands for the mobility of labour and major structural changes in the whole economy. It remains a fact that Britain is almost alone among the economies of western Europe in having no viable private rented sector, and the Government's purpose is to put that right.

We firmly oppose amendment No. 184 on the grounds that we seek to return to a system where the landlord and tenant should be free to make agreements and to vary them by agreement. We also oppose new clauses 24 and 36, which would provide that a rent determined by the rent assessment committee would be the statutory maximum recoverable rent. Again, that lies completely outside our intentions. If the landlord and tenant agree to change the rent, they should be free to do so.

Mr. Boateng

Does the Minister not recognise the point that we have made time and again: that there is no way that one can compare the position of somebody desperate for accommodation with that of somebody going into Tesco or Fine Fare and deciding whether to buy a bunch of bananas? There is a fundamental difference between the two. Someone looking for accommodation is not in a position of equality with someone owning it. It is fundamentally unfair in the midst of the current housing crisis to expect such people to behave as they might in a completely free market. This is not the real world; it is a nightmare world of the Government's creation which they are imposing on the current housing crisis and which will make it even worse.

Mr. Waldegrave

The best world to move towards is that which I think the hon. Member for Hammersmith referred to on Second Reading. when he quoted Mr. Aneurin Bevan as saying that the best form of rent control was three families chasing four lets or nine families chasing 10 lets. If we can increase the supply, that restores the equality which the hon. Member for Brent, South (Mr. Boateng) wants. In many parts, the pressures to which he rightly refers from his experience in London are not present and the market will work well. I am not for a moment saying that the solution to housing pressures in the high pressure areas will be solved by bringing up the private rented sector. It will make some contribution, especially where the market is under less pressure, but we must seek other methods, in ownership, shared ownership and the various forms of subsidised ownership in high-pressure areas. I do not disagree with him on that.

Mr. Battle

The Minister will remember that in Committee there was a particular case before the courts relating to Mr. Hoogstraten and that Members on both sides expressed anxiety about it. We were informed that the Government would examine the transcript because that landlord was cleared of all allegations which we might have thought were appropriate, given his practices. Our point was that the provisions of the Bill would make it even easier for that sort of activity to be undertaken and would not help to curtail it. How, as a result of the Minister's inquiries into that case, can he reassure us that we shall not return to the worst excesses of private landlordism?

Mr. Waldegrave

It is a little difficult to comment on a case when a jury has found a particular accused innocent, and I do not want to misuse the privilege of this House to do so. I invite the hon. Gentleman to read the judge's summing up of that case, as my officials and I have done, because he may be surprised by the outcome. Later we shall return to several measures, some of which will be welcomed by the Labour party, which will help to ensure that those unacceptable practices are made much more difficult.

At present there is no meeting of minds between us over this, but I hope that if over the next few years we can show that the marginalised private rented sector, which exists in many areas, can be strengthened by the arrival of new money, properly managed and providing good rented accommodation, we may find some meeting of minds.

Mr. Bradley

Will the Minister give way?

Mr. Waldegrave

I shall give way when I have finished this little section.

I have no doubt that the hon. Member for Hammersmith does not wish to see good accommodation from whatever source which meets housing needs being driven from the market again. He has challenged us to see what will happen, and I accept that challenge. This Bill, with its safeguards, will over the next few years bring forward more rented accommodation, which will benefit not only the most vulnerable people, about whom he is rightly anxious, but mobile workers, managers and others in the modern economy.

We reject these amendments. I will have another look at amendment No. 235, if the hon. Member will not then accuse me of having been disgracefully making policy on the hoof, but the other amendments go to the heart of the Bill and would destroy its whole purpose. We reject them wholeheartedly.

Mr. Bradley

The Minister said that he would give way, so I was assuming that he has sat down to allow me to intervene.

Because of the time element, we have not gone into detail on new clause 14 but, picking up what the Minister said about our thrust in Committee being to try to shift the onus back to give rights and protection to the tenants against the landlord, the purpose of this new clause is to redress that balance and give some rights and security to the tenants. If the Minister believes his position to be. correct, that there will be voluntary agreement between landlord and tenant, why will he not accept through new clause 14 access by the tenant to a rent assessment committee? If he is correct, there will be no great demand for access to a rent assessment committee by the tenant because voluntary agreement will have been reached between landlord and tenant. If he is so convinced that that voluntary agreement will be arrived at, surely he should allow the opportunity for that isolated case, in his world, in which the tenant may want to go to a rent. assessment committee for protection of his position.

Mr. Waldegrave

It might be convenient if, with the leave of the House, I spoke again later to answer that and other points.

Mr. Simon Hughes

The Minister might care to add to the points that he will deal with the amendments in this group in my name, to which he did not allude in his response.

The Minister says that he believes—I am not sure whether he does believe—in deregulation of the private sector, the principal purpose being to bring back into use currently empty property. The solution to that problem is not in any way to be found in deregulating present privately let property. One of the mischiefs that the amendments that I have tabled seek to deal with in part is the suggestion that more property can be brought back into use by deregulating rents not only in relation to property currently empty but in relation to property that is currently let. Those people who are currently letting property presumably find that they are getting at least an adequate income by doing so; otherwise they would have stopped doing it when they had the opportunity.

If the Government told the House that their principal objective was to get empty properties in the private sector back into use and that they believed that less rent control was necessary in relation to that sector, their argument would be more credible. The Secretary of State, in a press release published, I think, on the day the Bill was published—20 November 1987—said: The legislation would allow landlords to charge market rents on all new lettings. This is the key which will help unlock the doors of over 500,000 empty private properties in this country. If that was the intention then, the Government should hold firm to it and use this part of the Bill only in relation to property at present empty; they should not have a market place free-for-all.

I would argue that the Minister has a case for saying that the present fair rent system works in a very unfair and arbitrary way. Academic studies have shown that it works differently in different parts of the country and that one cannot easily get to the bottom of how it works in any one place. But there is all the difference in the world between keeping some form of licensing or control system and doing away with it altogether, and the Government are proposing here to do away with it altogether.

The amendments that I have tabled, Nos. 321, 322, 323 and 324—I apologise for my cold.

Mr. George Howarth

Send for Dr. Owen.

7.45 pm
Mr. Hughes

I am trying to ignore a malicious suggestion from my right. I might send for a glass of water. It would be slightly more useful at the moment.

Mr. Howarth

This water will be more useful than Dr. Owen.

Mr. Hughes

Thank you very much.

The amendments that I have tabled seek to make the simple case that there should be an ability to go to a rent assessment committee at any time. It is imperative, if people are not to be completely priced out of the market, that the ability to regulate rents, as well as to have acceptable property, is preserved.

I ask the Minister to address these amendments and give an adequate, and I hope positive, reply.

Mr. George Howarth

The Minister peversely touched on the real reasons for this Bill when he said a few moments ago, talking about the inter-war period, that the difficulty has been the effect upon the provision of housing and the mobility of labour. It seems to me that everything about this Bill has to do with providing greater mobility. Certainly according to the utterances of the Secretary of State that has been a key factor in the development of this Bill.

The hon. Member for Billericay (Mrs. Gorman)—who I see has grown bored with this debate and left her seat —started to probe some of these issues. The Government will not create a real housing market, for many of the reasons that my hon. Friend the Member for Hammersmith (Mr. Soley) gave earlier. The whole burden of public policy is working to support owner-occupation and to make it so attractive that, no matter how they change the terms, the advantage of being an owner-occupier will be great. This policy will be working for the people who cannot afford to enter that market. The only way to create the kind of market to which the Minister so frequently refers is by going down the road that the hon. Member for Billericay started to advocate, and the difficulty with that—as the Minister knows—is that so many people would be left outside the market living under cardbox sheets on the embankment that it would be unacceptable to the country as a whole.

That is the kernel of the difficulty that the Minister faces: the Secretary of State wants to go down the market road, but the Minister appears to be trying to modify the worst excesses of that. That is why the Bill is neither fish nor fowl—although it is foul in another sense. It will not achieve what it set out to do, nor will it make the position of existing or future tenants any better. The Bill is a mess and should be taken back.

Mr. Winnick

We are speaking against a background in which less than half a mile from here tonight people will once again be spending their sleeping hours in cardboard boxes. There are many thousands of people in squalid bed-and-breakfast accommodation, not only in London by any means, and the amount of housing misery is worse than for a very long time indeed. Ministers tell us, of course, that they are going to help to resolve the problem by deregulation, making the market more flexible, giving an incentive to landlords to rent, and all the rest of it.

Market rents will undoubtedly mean that many properties will be let at sums far in excess of that which a person would pay if he were able to obtain a mortgage. It is precisely because such people are not in a position to obtain a mortgage or to obtain local authority accommodation that they find themselves in those circumstances. Last November, advertisements appearing in the London Evening Standard showed that some properties were available for renting, ranging from £130 to £140 per week. There were a few one and two-bedroom flats available from £30 to £70 per week. Is the Minister telling the House that market rents will be less than that? The likelihood is that they will be more.

My hon. Friend the Member for Hammersmith (Mr. Soley) referred to the Rent Act 1957. As I said in an intervention, Ministers made promises at the time that the Act would allow far greater flexibility in the housing market and provide more rented accommodation. That is very much the argument of the hon. Member for Billericay (Mrs. Gorman). I have some figures for the Minister on which he might like to comment. Between April 1951 and June 1956, before the Rent Act, the private rented sector lost 800,000 dwellings, which was an average loss of 160,000 per year. Between June 1957 and December 1961, the private rented sector lost 1.3 million dwellings, which was an average loss of 236,000 dwellings per year. Those figures are from the report of the 1971 Francis committee on the Rent Act.

Those figures illustrate that the last time a Tory Government deregulated, far from providing more rented accommodation, they ensured that a far larger number of rented dwellings were lost. That is why we take the view that the Bill is unlikely to provide more rented accommodation. Once landlords know that there is no ceiling on rents and that market values are to apply, they will charge the utmost. We are told that regulated tenants will be in no danger. However, once the property owner recognises that, when the regulated tenant leaves, the property can be relet at market rents or sold with vacant possession, the incentive will be there for Rachmanism, alsatian dogs, and all that we associate with the Rent Act 1957. This week, the Minister has been publicising the Bill's provisions against eviction and harassment and for compensation. However, they will not be of much use to a tenant who is on the streets and unable to find accommodation, and who is in no position financially to obtain a mortgage.

That is why I and my hon. Friends believe this Bill to be totally inadequate. It will not in any way help those people whom I described at the beginning of my remarks, living in great misery and under stress in housing which is a disgrace to this country. We should at least provide certain basic safeguards.

When moving the amendment, my hon. Friend the Member for Hammersmith said that one essential safeguard related to shorthold tenants. I take the view, and it will be seen whether I am right or wrong, that most of the new tenancies created under the Bill will be shorthold. They will not be assured tenancies because landlords will take the view that their tenants should have the least amount of security. Why should they give them more protection and security? Tenants should have the opportunity to go before the rent assessment committee. That is an essential safeguard, and one that is far more important than the provisions which the Minister has been publicising this week. For that reason, I hope that my hon. Friend's amendment, and those grouped with it, will have the support of the House.

Mr. Boateng

I can be brief because I have been reflecting on the logic of the Government's proposals in the White Paper and the way in which they have been followed through in the Bill. I did not need to reflect long, because the Bill falls short when it comes to following through the minimal logic contained in the White Paper.

At its heart, the White Paper seemed to be proposing —and we saw in Committee how the Minister departed from this—that a distinction should be made between shorthold tenancies and assured tenancies. The logic of the White Paper, such as it was, envisaged a two-tier scheme, whereby the landlord chose between giving the tenant security of tenure and receiving a market rent or granting only minimal security but accepting a degree of rent control. As Government Members may have realised, the Bill does not achieve that. In practice, it is unlikely that there will be any significant difference between rent levels under the two schemes. What possible reason could a landlord ever have for granting an assured tenancy when he could grant a shorthold tenancy? The magic of the assured shorthold tenancy, from the point of view of the grubby little landlords whom the Government seek to placate with this measure, is that the only thing which is assured and short about it is the shortness of the assurance, so far as concerns the tenant. No sooner is he in than he will be out again, unless he negotiates a higher rent.

We want from the Minister the answers to three questions. They are all simple and it will not take me long to ask them. I hope that the people with notes for the Minister are ready to pass them down, although I see no sign of the hod carrier. First, what in practice will be the difference in rent levels between the two schemes? Will registered rents under the shorthold scheme be an average of 10, 20, or 30 per cent. below market levels? Secondly, why should a landlord choose to let on an assured shorthold tenancy? Thirdly, what incentive or protection will there be for a shorthold tenant to apply for his rent to be registered? In the last four or five minutes of this debate, may we have the Minister's answers to those three simple questions?

Mr. Waldegrave

I will end with the questions put by the hon. Member for Brent, South (Mr. Boaterig), although they are not profound. The differences in rent levels will depend on the state of the market in a particular place. The answer to the question why someone should let for assured tenancies is that in many parts of the country, though not in large parts of the hon. Member's constituency where the market is in relative balance, house prices are falling, as the hon. Member for Makerfield (Mr. McCartney) knows. That creates its own problems. In the areas where there is more housing stock than there is demand, people will be looking for tenants. The hoot will be on the other foot. I recognise that in the places where supply is constrained, the Bill will not solve all problems. In those places there will probably be little difference between the rent levels in shorthold and assured tenancies.

As for the hon. Member's third question, the answer is set out in the Bill. The rent assessment committee can assess a market rent. That is what it can impose in those conditions.

8 pm

Mr. Boateng

What about the second question? The Minister has moved ingeniously from the first to the third question. The question which he has failed to answer is why should a landlord choose to let an assured tenancy as opposed to a shorthold tenancy? Would the Minister do it?

Mr. Waldegrave

The hon. Member has suffered from a short attack of deafness. I answered that point. There will be plenty of places where the demand will not be of the kind that the hon. Member is used to dealing with in his constituency. There, tenants will be able to shop around. In those cases landlords will be competing to get good tenants. One thing a landlord will be able to offer is an assured tenancy. That is the answer to the hon. Gentleman's question. He should not base his judgment on the whole of the market or on the areas where high pressures mean that the landlord is in a seller's market.

New clauses 36 and 14, which are roughly the same, would both provide a facility for a tenant to apply to the rent assessment committee at any time rather than only in the specified circumstances laid down in clause 12. Obviously this goes to the heart of the principle that the parties should agree the initial rent between themselves for the entire term in the case of a fixed-term tenancy and for the first 12 months in the case of a periodic tenancy. That is why those amendments cannot be accepted.

As regards amendment No. 323, to require that the rent assessment committee's determination of a rent should in all cases be back-dated to the date of application would seem odd and unnecessarily rigid. Whether or not back-dating was justified would depend on the circumstances of the case. It would not seem fair that a landlord should be required to pay back substantial excess rent where the tenant had been responsible for delaying the proceedings. The right course is to leave the matter to the committee's discretion.

These are lesser matters than the matters of major disagreement between us. We agree that it is a major failing of the housing system that there are in the private rented sector about 500,000 empty properties; the hon. Member for Hammersmith (Mr. Soley) quoted roughly the right figure. I do not believe that all those are kept off the market through fear of the Rent Acts, although a large proportion may be. All that the Opposition parties have argued is based on the premise that the system which they invented is working. It most patently is not. That is why we seek to reform it. We shall greatly help those who need homes by reforming it.

Question put, That the amendment be made:—

The House divided: Ayes 168, Noes 218.

Division No. 346] [8.02 pm
Abbott, Ms Diane Galloway, George
Adams, Allen (Paisley N) Garrett, John (Norwich South)
Allen, Graham George, Bruce
Alton, David Godman, Dr Norman A.
Anderson, Donald Gordon, Mildred
Archer, Rt Hon Peter Graham, Thomas
Armstrong, Hilary Griffiths, Nigel (Edinburgh S)
Banks, Tony (Newham NW) Griffiths, Win (Bridgend)
Barnes, Harry (Derbyshire NE) Grocott, Bruce
Barron, Kevin Harman, Ms Harriet
Battle, John Healey, Rt Hon Denis
Beckett, Margaret Heffer, Eric S.
Bennett, A. F. (D'nt'n & R'dish) Henderson, Doug
Bermingham, Gerald Hinchliffe, David
Bidwell, Sydney Home Robertson, John
Blair, Tony Hood, Jimmy
Boateng, Paul Howarth, George (Knowsley N)
Boyes, Roland Howell, Rt Hon D. (S'heath)
Bradley, Keith Howells, Geraint
Bray, Dr Jeremy Hoyle, Doug
Brown, Gordon (D'mline E) Hughes, John (Coventry NE)
Brown, Nicholas (Newcastle E) Hughes, Roy (Newport E)
Brown, Ron (Edinburgh Leith) Hughes, Sean (Knowsley S)
Buckley, George J. Hughes, Simon (Southwark)
Callaghan, Jim Illsley, Eric
Campbell, Menzies (Fife NE) Ingram, Adam
Campbell, Ron (Blyth Valley) Janner, Greville
Campbell-Savours, D. N. John, Brynmor
Canavan, Dennis Jones, leuan (Ynys Môn)
Clark, Dr David (S Shields) Jones, Martyn (Clwyd S W)
Clarke, Tom (Monklands W) Leadbitter, Ted
Clay, Bob Leighton, Ron
Clwyd, Mrs Ann Lestor, Joan (Eccles)
Cohen, Harry Lewis, Terry
Corbyn, Jeremy Lloyd, Tony (Stretford)
Cousins, Jim Loyden, Eddie
Crowther, Stan McAllion, John
Cryer, Bob McAvoy, Thomas
Cummings, John McCartney, Ian
Cunliffe, Lawrence McKay, Allen (Barnsley West)
Cunningham, Dr John McKelvey, William
Darling, Alistair McLeish, Henry
Davies, Rt Hon Denzil (Llanelli) McTaggart, Bob
Davies, Ron (Caerphilly) Madden, Max
Davis, Terry (B'ham Hodge H'l) Mahon, Mrs Alice
Dewar, Donald Marek, Dr John
Dixon, Don Marshall, David (Shettleston)
Doran, Frank Marshall, Jim (Leicester S)
Dunnachie, Jimmy Martin, Michael J. (Springburn)
Eastham, Ken Martlew, Eric
Evans, John (St Helens N) Maxton, John
Fatchett, Derek Meale, Alan
Fearn, Ronald Michael, Alun
Field, Frank (Birkenhead) Michie, Bill (Sheffield Heeley)
Fields, Terry (L'pool B G'n) Michie, Mrs Ray (Arg'l & Bute)
Fisher, Mark Millan, Rt Hon Bruce
Flynn, Paul Mitchell, Austin (G't Grimsby)
Foot, Rt Hon Michael Morgan, Rhodri
Foster, Derek Morley, Elliott
Foulkes, George Morris, Rt Hon A. (W'shawe)
Fyfe, Maria Morris, Rt Hon J. (Aberavon)
Galbraith, Sam Mullin, Chris
Nellist, Dave Skinner, Dennis
Oakes, Rt Hon Gordon Smith, Andrew (Oxford E)
O'Brien, William Smith, C. (Isl'ton & F'bury)
O'Neill, Martin Snape, Peter
Orme, Rt Hon Stanley Soley, Clive
Patchett, Terry Spearing, Nigel
Pike, Peter L. Steinberg, Gerry
Prescott, John Stott, Roger
Primarolo, Dawn Strang, Gavin
Quin, Ms Joyce Straw, Jack
Randall, Stuart Turner, Dennis
Rees, Rt Hon Merlyn Wall, Pat
Reid, Dr John Wallace, James
Richardson, Jo Welsh, Michael (Doncaster N)
Roberts, Allan (Bootle) Wigley, Dafydd
Robertson, George Williams, Alan W. (Carm'then)
Robinson, Geoffrey Winnick, David
Rogers, Allan Wise, Mrs Audrey
Ross, Ernie (Dundee W) Worthington, Tony
Rowlands, Ted Wray, Jimmy
Ruddock, Joan
Sedgemore, Brian Tellers for the Ayes:
Sheerman, Barry Mr. Frank Haynes and Mr. Frank Cook.
Short, Clare
Adley, Robert Currie, Mrs Edwina
Alison, Rt Hon Michael Curry, David
Amess, David Davies, Q. (Stamf'd & Spald'g)
Amos, Alan Davis, David (Boothferry)
Arbuthnot, James Day, Stephen
Arnold, Jacques (Gravesham) Devlin, Tim
Arnold, Tom (Hazel Grove) Dickens, Geoffrey
Ashby, David Dicks, Terry
Aspinwall, Jack Douglas-Hamilton, Lord James
Baker, Nicholas (Dorset N) Dover, Den
Baldry, Tony Dunn, Bob
Banks, Robert (Harrogate) Durant, Tony
Batiste, Spencer Dykes, Hugh
Beaumont-Dark, Anthony Emery, Sir Peter
Bendall, Vivian Evennett, David
Bevan, David Gilroy Fallon, Michael
Blaker, Rt Hon Sir Peter Farr, Sir John
Body, Sir Richard Favell, Tony
Bonsor, Sir Nicholas Field, Barry (Isle of Wight)
Boscawen, Hon Robert Fookes, Miss Janet
Boswell, Tim Forman, Nigel
Bottomley, Peter Forsyth, Michael (Stirling)
Bowden, Gerald (Dulwich) Forth, Eric
Bowis, John Fowler, Rt Hon Norman
Boyson, Rt Hon Dr Sir Rhodes Fox, Sir Marcus
Brazier, Julian Franks, Cecil
Bright, Graham Freeman, Roger
Brooke, Rt Hon Peter French, Douglas
Brown, Michael (Brigg & Cl't's) Fry, Peter
Browne, John (Winchester) Gale, Roger
Bruce, Ian (Dorset South) Gardiner, George
Buck, Sir Antony Garel-Jones, Tristan
Budgen, Nicholas Gill, Christopher
Burns, Simon Goodlad, Alastair
Burt, Alistair Goodson-Wickes, Dr Charles
Butcher, John Gorman, Mrs Teresa
Butler, Chris Gow, Ian
Butterfill, John Greenway, Harry (Ealing N)
Carlisle, John, (Luton N) Greenway, John (Ryedale)
Carlisle, Kenneth (Lincoln) Gregory, Conal
Carrington, Matthew Griffiths, Sir Eldon (Bury St E')
Carttiss, Michael Griffiths, Peter (Portsmouth N)
Channon, Rt Hon Paul Grist, Ian
Chapman, Sydney Ground, Patrick
Churchill, Mr Gummer, Rt Hon John Selwyn
Clark, Hon Alan (Plym'th S'n) Hampson, Dr Keith
Clark, Dr Michael (Rochford) Hanley, Jeremy
Clarke, Rt Hon K. (Rushcliffe) Hannam, John
Colvin, Michael Hargreaves, Ken (Hyndburn)
Conway, Derek Harris, David
Coombs, Anthony (Wyre F'rest) Hawkins, Christopher
Coombs, Simon (Swindon) Hayhoe, Rt Hon Sir Barney
Couchman, James Hayward, Robert
Cran, James Heathcoat-Amory, David
Heddle, John Roberts, Wyn (Conwy)
Hind, Kenneth Rost, Peter
Hogg, Hon Douglas (Gr'th'm) Rowe, Andrew
Holt, Richard Ryder, Richard
Hordern, Sir Peter Scott, Nicholas
Howard, Michael Shaw, David (Dover)
Howarth, Alan (Strat'd-on-A) Shaw, Sir Giles (Pudsey)
Howarth, G. (Cannock & B'wd) Shephard, Mrs G. (Norfolk SW)
Howell, Rt Hon David (G'dford) Shepherd, Colin (Hereford)
Hughes, Robert G. (Harrow W) Shepherd, Richard (Aldridge)
Hunt, David (Wirral W) Sims, Roger
Hunter, Andrew Smith, Tim (Beaconsfield)
Irvine, Michael Soames, Hon Nicholas
Irving, Charles Speller, Tony
Jack, Michael Spicer, Michael (S Worcs)
Jackson, Robert Squire, Robin
Janman, Tim Stanbrook, Ivor
Kellett-Bowman, Dame Elaine Steen, Anthony
Key, Robert Stern, Michael
King, Roger (B'ham N'thfield) Stevens, Lewis
Knowles, Michael Stewart, Andy (Sherwood)
Lamont, Rt Hon Norman Stokes, John
Lawrence, Ivan Sumberg, David
Lennox-Boyd, Hon Mark Summerson, Hugo
Lloyd, Peter (Fareham) Taylor, Ian (Esher)
Lord, Michael Taylor, John M (Solihull)
Maclean, David Taylor, Teddy (S'end E)
McNair-Wilson, M. (Newbury) Temple-Morris, Peter
Major, Rt Hon John Thompson, D. (Calder Valley)
Maples, John Thompson, Patrick (Norwich N)
Marshall, Michael (Arundel) Townend, John (Bridlington)
Martin, David (Portsmouth S) Tracey, Richard
Mayhew, Rt Hon Sir Patrick Tredinnick, David
Meyer, Sir Anthony Trippier, David
Miscampbell, Norman Trotter, Neville
Mitchell, Andrew (Gedling) Twinn, Dr Ian
Montgomery, Sir Fergus Waddington, Rt Hon David
Needham, Richard Wakeham, Rt Hon John
Neubert, Michael Waldegrave, Hon William
Nicholls. Patrick Walden, George
Nicholson, David (Taunton) Walker, Bill (T'side North)
Nicholson, Emma (Devon West) Waller, Gary
Oppenheim, Phillip Wardle, Charles (Bexhill)
Page, Richard Watts, John
Paice, James Wells, Bowen
Patten, John (Oxford W) Wheeler, John
Pattie, Rt Hon Sir Geoffrey Widdecombe, Ann
Pawsey, James Winterton, Mrs Ann
Peacock, Mrs Elizabeth Winterton, Nicholas
Porter, David (Waveney) Wood, Timothy
Powell, William (Corby) Woodcock, Mike
Price, Sir David Yeo, Tim
Redwood, John Young, Sir George (Acton)
Renton, Tim
Rhodes James, Robert Tellers for the Noes:
Riddick, Graham Mr. David Lightbown and Mr. Stephen Dorrell.
Ridsdale, Sir Julian

Question accordingly negatived.

Mr. Waldegrave

I beg to move amendment No. 28, in page 9, line 34, at end insert


(c) if the rent under the tenancy has previously been increased by virtue of a notice under this subsection or a determination under section 13 below, the first anniversary of the date on which the increased rent took effect.'

Mr. Deputy Speaker

With this it will be convenient to take Government amendment No. 29.

Mr. Waldegrave

As the Bill stands, subsection (5) of clause 12 provides that when a landlord has served a notice of increased rent under that clause he is precluded from serving a further notice for at least a year beginning on the date of service of the original notice. Bearing in mind that the actual increase in rent may not take place until some time after the notice has been served—for example, when the tenant made an application to the rent assessment committee and the committee exercised its power to defer the date of increase—the provision as drafted could create a situation in which a tenant is faced with two rent increases taking effect under these provisions in less than 12 months. It is wrong that that could happen.

On reflection, it seems to us that the 12-month limitation should more properly relate to the date of the actual rent increase rather than the date of service of the notice. That is what the two amendments taken together are designed to achieve. The effect will be to ensure that, once a rent increase has taken effect under the procedure in clauses 12 or 13, the tenant cannot be faced with a further increase for at least a year. Of course, the parties could agree between themselves an increase.

I hope that this amendment will be welcomed.

Amendment agreed to.

Amendments made: No. 15, in page 9, line 43, after `tenant', insert `by an application in the prescribed form'.

No. 29, in page 10, leave out lines 1 to 4.—[Mr. Waldegrave.]

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