HL Deb 29 June 1954 vol 188 cc153-81

5.45 p.m.

Order of the Day for the House to be put into Committee read.

Moved, That the House do now resolve itself into Committee.—(The Earl of Home.)

On Question, Motion agreed to.

House in Committee accordingly:

[The EARL OF DROGHEDA in the Chair]

Clause 1 [Proposals for exercise of functions of local authorities as to clearance areas, etc.]:

On Question, Whether Clause 1 shall stand part of the Bill?


I shall be grateful if the noble Earl will say what steps should be taken in the case of a local authority who, under Clause 1 of the Bill, do not do as instructed, but fail to submit the proposals to the Secretary of State within the period of one year and do not offer any excuse.


I should like to look into that question. Perhaps I could answer it at a later stage in the Bill. I am not quite certain what the answer is in regard to cases extending beyond one year.

Clause 1 agreed to.

Clause 2 [Power of local authorities to retain for temporary occupation certain houses in clearance areas]:

LORD GREENHILL moved to add to the Clause: (5) In determining for any of the purposes of this Part of this Act whether a house is or can be rendered capable of providing accommodation of a standard which is adequate for the time being, regard shall be had to its actual or prospective condition, as the case may be, in respect of the following matters, that is to say:—

  1. (a) repair;
  2. (b) stability;
  3. (c) freedom from damp;
  4. (d) natural lighting;
  5. (e) ventilation;
  6. (f) water supply;
  7. (g) drainage and sanitary conveniences;
  8. (h) facilities for storage, preparation and cooking of food and for the disposal of waste water;
and the house shall be deemed not capable of providing such accommodation as aforesaid if and only if it is or will be so far defective in one or more of the said matters as not to be reasonably suitable for occupation.

The noble Lord said: If I were inclined to feel any resentment at all at the "jumping of the queue", in current jargon, of an English Bill, to get precedence over a Scottish Bill, that resentment would have been dispelled by the kind explanation which the noble and learned Lord who sits on the Woolsack gave, and which explanation, of course, I accept; and more so on listening to the debate on the Landlord and Tenant Bill, because my impression is that there was a good deal of apology for having to give landlords some advantage, and an anxiety also to show that the tenant was being fairly dealt with. This Bill is one in which noble Lords on this side are very anxious to protect the rights of the tenants, and this particular clause deals with the need to be precise in what exactly is suitable for a tenant who is living in a condemned house—for that is what these houses are. The purpose of this Bill, as the noble Earl is aware, is to amend a much larger Act, the intention of which was to do away with slums. In other words, slums have been condemned to death, and one expected that in the course of time those slums 'would be removed and decent houses would be built for the occupiers. Instead we get in this Bill a reprieve of these condemned houses, and we are condemning the people in them to continue to occupy them, notwithstanding that their dwellings have already been condemned.

We asked why there should not be a specific description of a house that is tenantable—and may I remind your Lordships that the noble and learned Lord on the Woolsack made clear in the course of the debate on the Bill that it is important to have the details precise and not to leave any decision on a matter of this kind imprecise. I can see no reason at all why the noble Earl should not accept this particular Amendment. Noble Lords on this side feel so strongly about the desirability of the inclusion of this provision in the Bill that we may find ourselves forced to divide on it if the Government do not show a little inclination to meet us in this matter. What is the objection to it? In so far as I have been able to read the objections to this particular Amendment (and they have been very well debated in another place) I can find no substantial reason excepting this: that as the life of one of these condemned houses is a very short one, it would be uneconomic to expend on that house any sum of money which would give it a life of any reasonable length—two years or three years—and that therefore it would not do to lay down in such detail what the house should be like in order to make it fit for people to continue to live in.

I would remind noble Lords that it is assumed that some of these condemned houses might, after these repairs have been done, have a life of about fifteen years. The Exchequer is prepared to give a grant—an inadequate grant, I admit, but a particular grant—for about fifteen years, and the presumption is, therefore, that these houses will continue in their patched-up condition for at least that time. If, therefore, we are justified in assuming that a number of these houses are going to continue in this poor condition for so many years, is there any reason at all why the Government should not agree and say that these houses shall be put into at least that minimum condition of repair which will make them fit for these people to live in them, bad as they may be, for a further three, four, or five, or, it may be, fifteen years? For that reason I think that the noble Earl who is handling this Bill on behalf of the Government should agree to accept this Amendment. I beg to move.

Amendment moved— Page 3, line 38, at end insert the said subsection.—(Lord Greenhill.)

5.50 p.m.


I wish to reinforce and emphasise what has been said so well by my noble friend Lord Greenhill. Here are "ten commandments" which say in effect: "Thou shalt not conclude that a house is fit for human habitation unless it has this minimum standard of qualifications." When we put someone in prison we guarantee him conditions equal to what is being asked for in the Amendment. The people affected have been living in these miserable houses for years, it may be, waiting and hoping for better times when they might be able to get a new home. But here we are arranging for them to continue in that position for an indefinite period; we are arranging for them to continue in the old conditions. I think it is incumbent upon us to see that a certain reasonable minimum standard—and this is not by any means a lavish one—is secured for them; otherwise we shall simply be perpetuating slums. Some standard, it seems to me, is absolutely necessary as a guide to the local authorities who have these people under their care. The Amendment that is put forward is in the English Bill; in fact, it is lifted exactly from Clause 9 of the English Bill. The heading over the relevant clause in the English Bill is: Standard of fitness for human habitation, and provisions connected therewith" It is to ensure that there is a certain standard of fitness for human habitation that this Amendment is moved. The Government have been resisting the idea of putting in anything precise at all in connection with these standards, believing it is better to rely upon common sense. Well, people who have been living in these conditions for years have been at the mercy of what might be described as common sense and common humanity, and they have been badly let down by those who have allowed the houses to get into the condition in which they are at the present time. We say that that should not continue, and that these "ten commandments" should be made imperative.

5.53 p.m.


I hope that noble Lords opposite will not press this Amendment because I think that in the speeches they have made they were talking about some other matter. Their speeches, I believe, would be more appropriate to the new clause which they propose should follow Clause 39. We are dealing here essentially with houses which cannot be put into good and tenantable repair. We are dealing with houses which the local authority have deliberately put into a slum clearance area, being convinced that the houses cannot be made fit for human habitation; that they are fit only for demolition. We are all realistic here. We know that there are a great many slums in Scotland which cannot be cleared for a number of years. Therefore, the proposal is to allow the local authority to patch up houses of this type in order to make conditions a little better. The intention, the perfectly proper intention, of the noble Lords opposite is clearly that the houses should be made fit for human habitation; but that is exactly what the local authority have declared to be impossible. So the noble Lords are really asking the local authority to do something which the local authority have already declared to be impossible.


I wonder if I may interrupt the noble Earl to put this question to him. Are we to understand that, while it is true that these houses are condemned by the local authority, while it is true that something will be done to them, and while, presumably, it is also true that the Exchequer will be paying something to the local authority towards the cost of patching up, there is to be no standard whatever applied to these houses, which admittedly are unfit but still have to be lived in? This Amendment has no effect whatever on Clause 39, which is simply a definition of "habitable repair" or whatever it is.


Noble Lords are really trying to get the same thing in these "eight commandments"—I make it eight, not ten as the noble Lord, Lord Mathers, said.


If the noble Earl will look carefully at the Amendment he will find that there are ten commandments—ten categories.


It is true that the local authority have decided to put

these houses into a clearance area because it is impossible to make them fit for human habitation for any great length of time, certainly permanently. We think that—conditions with regard to housing being as they are in Scotland—it is better to leave this to the discretion of the local authorities to decide when a house is to be patched and when, in fact, it should be demolished. That is really the only difference between us. Noble Lords opposite would like to lay down certain conditions and would compel local authorities to observe them. We want to leave it a little less rigid; we want local authorities to be the judge as to when a house should be demolished and when it is worth patching for a few years. I hope that noble Lords will not press the Amendment because I think it would unnecessarily fetter the discretion of local authorities, who are really very good administrators in these housing matters.


I hope that my noble friend Lord Greenhill will press the Amendment. I would point out to the noble Earl who has replied on behalf of the Government that this relates to a standard which is adequate for the time being; it is a purely temporary standard. To ask people to live under conditions that do not contain these essentials seems to me to be asking something that is quite intolerable.

On Question, Whether the Amendment shall be agreed to?

Their Lordships divided: Contents, 20; Not-Contents, 47.

Baldwin of Bewdley, E. Crook, L. Kershaw, L.
Jowitt, E. Douglas of Barloch, L. Lawson, L.
Lucan, E. [Teller.] Faringdon, L. Macdonald of Gwaenysgor, L.
Greenhill, L. Mathers, L.
Alexander of Hillsborough, V. Haden-Guest, L. [Teller.] Ogmore, L.
Hungarton, L. Pethick-Lawrence, L.
Amwell, L. Kenswood, L. Shepherd, L.
Burden, L.
Simonds, L. (L. Chancellor.) Fortescue, E. [Teller.] Hailsham, V.
Home, E. Hudson, V.
Salisbury, M. (L. President.) Mansfield, E. Monsell, V.
Reading, M. Munster, E. Swinton, V.
Onslow, E. [Teller.] Woolton, V.
Airlie, E. Radnor, E.
Albemarle, E. Rothes, E. Aberdare, L.
Alexander of Tunis, E. Selkirk, E. Amherst of Hackney, L.
Birkenhead, E. Balfour of Inchrye, L.
Buckinghamshire, E. Bridgeman, V. Bennett of Edgbaston, L.
De La Warr, E. Goschen, V. Brand, L.
Brassey of Apethorpe, L. Hawke, L. Rennell, L.
Braye, L. Jeffreys, L, Rochdale, L.
Brocket, L. Leconfield, L. St. Just, L.
Derwent, L. Lloyd, L. Saltoun, L.
Dovercourt, L. Mancroft, L. Sandhurst, L.
Freyberg, L. Merthyr, L, Tweedsmuir, L.

On Question, Amendment agreed to.

Clause 2 agreed to.

Clauses 3 and 4 agreed to.

6.7 p.m.

Clause 5 [Local authorities' contributions]:

On Question, Whether Clause 5 shall stand part of the Bill?


There is no Amendment to Clause 5 on the Order Paper, but I should like to make one further appeal to the noble Earl on this clause. He is well aware that the local authority associations have repeatedly asked that the ratio of contributions made under this Bill should be the same as it is under the ordinary Housing Acts—that is to say, instead of being fifty-fifty, it should be three to one. There have been meetings between representatives of the Government and of the local authority associations and throughout the whole of those meetings the Government representatives appeared to be—I will not say stubborn, but they have resisted this very reasonable request of the local authority associations to be given the same ratio of contributions as in the other Acts. It is well known that the financial figures which will arise as the result of this Bill must be included in the ordinary housing revenue account and housing repair figures. There appears to be no reason—or none that I have been able to discover, and I have gone into the debates carefully—why this distinction should be drawn.

It occurs to me that one reason may be that in the case of new houses, where the expenditure is large and is spread over something like sixty years, it is considered reasonable that the Exchequer should bear three parts to the local authority's one, but that in this case, where presumably the expenditure would be smaller and spread over a period of no more than fifteen years, the Exchequer's share should be 50 per cent. instead of 75 per cent. We can see no justification whatever for the peculiar attitude that the Government have taken up on this point. I ask very seriously that the Government should recognise that it means adding a considerable amount to the already heavy burdens of the local authorities. There is no reason why they should be granted a less proportion under this Bill than under any of the other Housing Acts. One suggestion made to me is that there should be power to adjust the Exchequer contribution of 75 per cent. only when, after taking the Exchequer and local authority contributions and deducting from that the expenditure of the local authority under the Act as a whole, a surplus results. Then, I agree, there may be justification for readjustment of the figure. Failing that, I can think of no reason why the Government should not be prepared to give us the well-known 3 to 1 ratio—although, incidentally, I am aware that in the past there have been other ratios—instead of the 50–50 ratio.


I said on the Second Reading, and I must repeat it now, that this is a case in which, clearly, we have to agree to differ. I cannot yield to the plea of the noble Lord to alter the ratio here. As he has said, there is nothing sacrosanct about the 3 to 1 ratio—that is, three from the taxes and one from the rates. I have looked well back over the last twenty years, and I see that all sorts of proportions have been used. But, as the noble Lord said, by and large the operation of building new houses is an expensive and long-term operation. This is a much shorter-term one; it is a cheaper and an experimental operation. We feel that in this case the variation is justified, and that 50 per cent. should be paid by the taxpayer and 50 per cent. by the ratepayer. Perhaps I may express it in another way. For the building of new houses a generous subsidy is given; for the replacement of slums a generous subsidy is given from the taxpayer. Those are the two phases of housing activity to which we particularly want to direct the attention of local authorities. We should like them to do some patching up, because we feel that it is for the benefit of the people; but we do not want to overdo the subsidy in such a way as to tempt local authorities to patch up when they should be clearing. If we were to increase the subsidy purely for patching, it might be a temptation to a local authority to patch more than they should and not go in for sufficient slum clearance. We have had to strike a balance here. I have no doubt that the question of the proportions to be borne by the taxes and rates will be reopened when discussions take place with local authorities on housing subsidies generally, but meantime I feel that we must stick to this 50–50 proportion in this limited field.

Clause 5 agreed to.

Clauses 6 to 9 agreed to.

Clause 10:

Amendments of Part VII of principal Act

(6) In subsection (1) of section one hundred and fourteen of the principal Act (under which section conditions are required to he observed for a period of years with respect to a dwelling in respect of which an improvement grant has been paid) for the words "for a period of twenty years beginning with" there shall be substituted the words "for a period of twenty years or, where the application for the improvement grant in respect of the dwelling was approved in pursuance of paragraph (i) of the proviso to subsection (3) of section one hundred and eleven of this Act, for such shorter period, not being less than ten years, as the local authority may determine, beginning, in each case with."

6.14 p.m.

LORD GREENHILL moved to leave out subsection (6). The noble Lord said: The noble Earl will be aware that there was some misapprehension in the minds of Members in another place as to what this subsection amounted to. If the noble Earl would be good enough to clarify to our satisfaction what the implications are, then perhaps we should not proceed with this Amendment to-day. I beg to move.

Amendment moved— Page 10, line 27, leave out subsection (6).—(Lord Greenhill.)


I think I can allay the noble Lord's anxiety. There was a provision under the 1950 Act—which, incidentally, was the Socialist Government Act—for a local authority, if they thought fit, to give an improvement grant on a house which had an expected life of less than thirty years and more than ten years. In my view that was a sensible provision, because when you are town planning or developing roads you cannot foresee what time-table you will be able to keep to, and it may be that you give a grant for a house the life of which you may think would be twenty, nineteen, or eighteen years, but which, in fact, may be demolished in eleven or twelve years. What would happen then would be that the house would be demolished and cease to exist; but the conditions of the grant would run on. That would be a patent absurdity, and this subsection puts that position right.


This Amendment is one which seems to me necessary because of the fear that something might happen in Scotland which is not quite so definitely provided for in the English Bill. The relevant portion of the clause in the English Bill says: … the authority may by order direct that in relation to the dwelling subsection (1) of section twenty-three of the said Act (which applies to dwellings in respect of which such grants are made certain conditions specified therein for a period of twenty years) shall have effect as if for the period of twenty years therein mentioned there were substituted such shorter period as may be specified in the order. We feel that the reference in subsection (6) to ten years is objectionable, as indicating that money which might justifiably be spent on houses having a considerably longer life may now be spent on houses having a life of only ten years.


May I interrupt the noble Lord? I fear that I have not made myself clear. This figure of ten years is in the noble Lord's own Act of 1950. All this subsection says is this. Supposing a house is demolished in twelve years, whereas it had been anticipated that it might run on for twenty years, the conditions of grant would then run on, although the house would not exist. I am willing to have another look at this point, and to talk it over with the noble Lord, but I can assure him that this provision only prevents the conditions of grant from running on in the case of a house which has already been demolished.


I thank the noble Earl for what he has said. I agree with my noble friend Lord Greenhill that we need not press this Amendment to a Division. I would only point out that since the ten years was included in the Labour Government Act we have gained a good deal of experience.


I will have a look at the point with the noble Lord between now and Report, although I do not think we can improve the drafting.


I beg leave to withdraw the Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 10 agreed to.

Clauses 11 to 13 agreed to.

Clause 14:

Limitation of liability of trustees, etc. for expenses of local authorities in certain cases

14.—(1) Where in pursuance of any enactment (whether contained in a public general Act or in a local Act) a local authority seek to recover from any person as being the person for the time being entitled to receive, or who would if the same were let be entitled to receive, the rents of any premises, being a house or a building which contains a house or a part of such a building, the expenses incurred by the authority in the execution of works in relation to the premises, then, if that person proves— (b) that he has not, and since the date of the service on him of a demand for payment of the expenses aforesaid has not had, in his hands on behalf of that other person or, in the case of a liquidator of a company, on behalf of the creditors of the company sufficient funds, rents and other assets to discharge the whole demand of the authority; his liability shall, notwithstanding anything in the said enactment, be limited to the total amount of the funds, rents and other assets which he has, or has had, in his hands as aforesaid.

THE EARL OF HOME moved, in subsection (1) (b), after "creditors" to insert "or members." The noble Earl said: This clause arises out of a fairly recent court case in which it seemed that the personal fortune of a trustee or a liquidator might be in danger when he was handling a property which was owned by a trust. This is a limited Amendment. It was agreed on the Report stage in the other place that the liquidator, and so forth, should be protected, and that the liquidator should be able to dispose of only such moneys as he held in his capacity as liquidator. But it has been pointed out to us by the Institute of Chartered Accountants of Scotland that there might also be moneys in the hands of the liquidator on behalf of shareholders which should be treated in the same way. We think this is only reasonable and, therefore, this Amendment is proposed. I beg to move.

Amendment moved— Page 12, line 39, after ("creditors") insert ("or members").—(The Earl of Home.)


I should say something about Clause 14, if only for the reason that the Corporation of Glasgow decided to ask that it be excluded. On the other hand, if one is to use one's own judgment, and I suppose it is permissible, one can find grounds for seeing a good deal of common sense and logic in the clause. For the Report, I think I should notify the House that the Corporation of Glasgow would like to have this clause removed.


On behalf of the Institute of Chartered Accountants of Scotland, on whose behalf I drew attention to this matter on the Second Reading, I should like to thank the noble Earl for the Amendment he has proposed.

Clause 14, as amended, agreed to.

Clause 15 agreed to.

Clause 16 [Repairs increase]:

6.22 p.m.

LORD MATHERS moved to add to the clause: (5) The repairs increase shall only be payable by the tenant on each subsequent year after the first, if in accordance with the First Schedule to this Act the landlord has produced satisfactory evidence that work to the value specified in the schedule has been carried out on the dwelling-house during the previous twelve months.

The noble Lord said: We now arrive at an Amendment which should be readily acceptable to the Government, because it carries out what is their avowed intention and makes that intention more clear—that is, to protect the tenants. From the inception of this Bill we have heard protestations on behalf of the Government that this is a Bill to protect tenants. We have not been convinced yet, and we are willing to be convinced by deeds insteads of words. If I may deal with this Amendment and the next together, I would say that they go a long way towards achieving that. They are of the same atmosphere, if not the same words. These are amendments to the kernel of the Bill, because it is this clause which gives the increase of rent, which is the main purpose of the Bill, at least so far as the landlords are concerned. A 40 per cent. increase is to be paid by tenants to enable landlords to carry out the necessary repairs, and if either of these Amendments is accepted it will ensure that the increase given to the landlords for that purpose, and for that purpose alone, is used properly.

In the 1920 Act there was a provision of increase of rent, and 25 per cent of the 47½ per cent. increase which was given by that Act was granted to the landlords. But they appropriated the whole of the increase, and in many cases did not carry out what was their legal and moral obligation. In this way, they earned the opprobrium of those whom they ought to have been considering, and the tenants have been badly treated since that time. To put it bluntly, the owners of these properties are not trusted by the tenants—that is, in the vast majority of cases. It is true that there are some good landlords, and, as a matter of fact, for the best of landlords the conditions laid down for earning this grant will not be easy, because if they have kept their repairs up to date and kept the houses in good order it will be difficult for them to find the opportunity to spend three-fifths of the rent for one year or six-fifths over a period of three years in order to qualify for the 40 per cent. increase in rent.

I have said that there are many good landlords and many who have proved otherwise. Many of the present-day landlords have bought the housing properties since the fall in value took place, and they are certainly not entitled to appropriate the increased rents for their own profit. I consider that the safeguards should be in the Bill and not simply left, as they were in the 1920 Act, to be understood. It was expected that those who were getting the increases by means of the 1920 Act would do their duty by their tenants. In a vast number of cases they have failed to do so, and we consider that it is necessary to put down conditions such as are in these two Amendments in order to make sure that the tenant gets his due and that the landlord plays his part properly. I beg to move.

Amendment moved— Page 15, line 4, at end insert the said subsection—(Lord Mathers.)


I should like to associate myself with what my noble friend Lord Mathers has said, because I agree with him that this particular clause touches what is perhaps the kernel of the whole Bill, dealing with the increases in rents. In Scotland, unlike, I think, what obtains in England, these houses are factored by people called house-factors, and the question of the goodness or badness of a landlord hardly enters into it, because so far as the tenant is concerned he is not aware that there is a landlord. There is a man to whom he pays money and of whom he asks that certain repairs should be done. If it be true that this increase is being given not as an addition to rent because the rent is insufficient, but to be spent in keeping the house in a good state of repair, then it seems to me that that intention would be realised if the proposed new subsection (5) were included in the Bill, because then there would be no excuse at all that the money was increased rent and was not intended for the upkeep and repair of the house.

That, of course, affects also the new subsection (6), because, in order to ensure that the money received by way of increase is not put into the pocket of the factor for ordinary rent purposes, but is applied for the purpose for which it is obtained, it would be better for a separate account to be kept in the books of the factor, into which all these moneys obtained for the purposes of repair would go. It would be a simple method of bookkeeping. It would ensure that the money would be used for its proper purpose, and would not leave factors open to the charge, as was the case previously, that the increase they received was for their own benefit and not for the benefit of the properties in which the tenants lived. I therefore have much pleasure in associating myself with what my noble friend has said.

6.30 p.m.


The Government have every sympathy with the case which the noble Lords have put forward for the protection of the tenant, but on purely practical grounds I must advise your Lordships not to accept these two Amendments. I will say a word in a moment about the protection of the tenant which I think we achieve under the Bill. The first of the two Amendments would, in fact, impose a regular timetable of repairs on the landlord. Each year he would have to expend so much, three-fifths of the rent, irrespective of the need in that particular year. No doubt, there should be a system in any repairs scheme, but I suggest that that is not a sensible one. After all, in some years repairs may be light, and in others they may be heavy. For instance, if you are mending the roof of your house the firm that mends it will probably give you a guarantee of ten years; then you begin to build up your reserves so that at the end of the ten years you can fulfil your obligation to repair it again. It is not sensible to insist that a certain amount should be spent every year. The three-fifths of the rent calculation was, after all, an average figure: it was never contemplated that one would spend three-fifths of the rent every year.

Should the monies be put into a separate repairs fund for each house? I do not think this is a condition which noble Lords opposite would dream, for instance, of asking the local authorities to shoulder. No doubt they would oppose it as an intolerable addition to the expenses of administration—and I should agree. It is one thing to ask a landlord to do it once, but quite another to ask him to do it year after year. But there is a more practical reason than that for opposing this Amendment. It is the common practice of local authorities and of others to work their way round their properties and spend their money on one section one year and on another section another year. That is good estate management, I should say. We should be very ill-advised to do anything which would prevent that. In fact, this Amendment would. So, on those two practical grounds, I could not advise that these Amendments should be accepted.

Now let me come to the protection of the tenant. In the worst class of houses, houses in respect of which a notice has been served for some reason or another, the onus lies on the landlord to get a certificate of repair. If he cannot get that, a certificate of disrepair is automatically given to the tenant, which then excuses the tenant from additional rent. That is one class of house in which the onus lies on the landlord. With the ordinary class of house, it is open to the tenant to apply at any time for a certificate of disrepair. In the case of an old house, a 1920 house, he would be let off nearly 50 per cent. and, in the case of a more newly controlled house, 30 per cent. of the rent. If the landlord persists in neglecting and will not repair his house, then he becomes subject to Section 7 of the Act of 1950. When a local authority serves a notice under that section, it requires the landlord to put his house in fit condition, and at the same time it issues a certificate to the tenant to enable him to withhold the rent increases until the landlord does. There are three real attempts to help the tenant in this matter and to protect the tenant. So I really could not recommend that we should adopt the proposals, though I sympathise with the noble Lords' intentions, put forward in these two Amendments. I suggest that this protection which is given to the tenant should be effective.


I only wish that the words that have just fallen from the noble Earl could be taken right into the homes of the people who are affected, and that they might know, beyond a peradventure, exactly what their position was. It is so difficult to get over information of this kind, and the thing goes by default. That is what has happened with regard to the 1920 Act. The 1920 Act has not secured its purpose because the landlords or, more particularly, their agents, the factors, have simply refused to carry out what was their legal obligation; and tenants have allowed these things to go by default rather than take the necessary legal steps to enable them to secure their rights.

The noble Earl has expressed a measure of sympathy with what we are endeavouring to do in these Amendments. He has declared himself as being anxious to see that the position of the tenant is safeguarded. I am not a lawyer—I am not sorry; I am not complaining about it—but here is an attempt to put something on paper. If the Amendment does not carry out properly what can be agreed to by the Government, will the Government themselves, before the Report stage, have a go at finding an appropriate set of words that would secure the protection of the tenant? I may say, before I sit down, that I do not accept the excuse for the landlord that the noble Lord puts forward. For instance, he knows whether, for each house that he owns, he gets the rent or not. It seems to me that it is a simple thing to debit against each house what he does for it. If, for a particular tenement, he does something outside the house itself, in respect of drains or roof covering, surely he would be in order in debiting a proportion in respect of whatever number of houses were affected by the big repairs that he made in respect of those drains or roof covering. It would surely be appropriate that there should be a division amongst the number of houses affected. That would be quite satisfactory, and it would ensure that the amount allowed for repairs actually went, finally, in the proper direction.


I have great sympathy with the method proposed in the Amendment, but I think it would be highly unbusinesslike. After all, when you are repairing property you have a regular scheme of repairs and improvements. It is true that you have often to engage in emergency operations, when things suddenly go wrong. Those are always expensive if you have to take men away from their normal work and send them elsewhere. You have their travelling time to pay for, in addition. It would be quite impracticable to make a special account for each particular property.


I always rise wondering whether I am in breach of some Standing Order, but I am sorely tempted to answer the noble Lord, Lord Saltoun, because, after all, it is purely a method of accountancy which is involved here. The difficulty which the noble Earl in charge of the Bill raises, as to allocating year by year the outlays in that year, is really a simple matter and is dealt with in many businesses not dealing with rent and repairs. All you have to do is to say that within a certain year you have spent a certain proportion and that can be shown very easily by taking the period of the repairs—it may be a short period, it may be a long period; it may concern a number of houses or only one house. These things are simple when it comes to allocating the figure for a certain period, and I see no reason why there should be this obstacle.


We think that we have taken every possible step in this Bill to protect the tenant. I must advise the Committee to reject this Amendment on practical grounds. Apart from that, when I look again at the clauses and provisions seeking to protect tenants, it seems to me that we have gone as far as we can. I will have another look to see if we can go further, but we have tried our hardest to protect the tenant in this matter and I do not think we can go any further. I should not like the noble Lord to refrain from dividing, if he wishes, because I do not hold out any hope that on Report stage we can do any better.


I gather that the noble Lord wishes to divide on the clause rather than on this particular Amendment.


That is right.

On Question, Amendment negatived.

On Question, Whether Clause 16 shall stand part of the Bill?


I wish to raise a point that is not represented by any Amendment but which was raised in another place, about the possibility of arrangements for private houses—


Could we be clear as to the point that is being made? A Division having been called, can we then, before that Division is resolved, deal with the point whether the clause shall stand part of the Bill?


I think that the second Amendment is not proceeded with. I gather it is the wish of the noble Lord and of the House that Amendment No 5, although it was discussed, shall not be moved.


I understood that to be right—that the first Amendment had been negatived and that the Lord Chairman had then put the next Question, that the clause stand part. He did in fact put that Question, and I thought that the discussion was taking place in regard to whether the clause should stand part. There has been an indication that the noble Lords, unless they are satisfied, will desire to divide on the issue that the clause stand part. I think that is the position.


I just wanted to be clear on the matter.


That is as I understood the position, that the two Amendments were taken together and had been negatived. I was anxious that that should be the case, because I did not feel that we should do much in the way of withdrawing the few Amendments that appear on the Order Paper. The point that I want to raise is with regard to the allocation of houses as between local authority houses and privately owned houses. It seems to me that so much is being done for the landlords by means of this Bill that they should be willing to enter into an arrangement with the local housing authorities in order that an attempt may be made to allocate suitable houses to the best advantage to people who require them. If a local authority had a house which was too big for someone whose turn had come to have a house allocated to them, then it might be possible for an exchange to be effected and for that individual to get a privately owned house.

I have tried to think out an Amendment which would achieve that object, but I have failed completely. I confess my inability to put what I have in mind in appropriate form, and it seems to me that what is necessary in this regard is for good relationship to exist between local housing authorities and those private individuals who have houses to let; for their lists to be compared, and for the best allocation of houses in the area to be done on a voluntary basis. That is what I am thinking of; I am

Resolved in the affirmative, and Clause 16 agreed to accordingly.

thinking of its being done on a voluntary basis. I hope it may be possible for the noble Earl to give some indication that there an endeavour will be made and an agreement reached with local authorities to enter into the best possible arrangement of that kind. Before we proceed to dispose of the clause, I hope I may put that point of view to the noble Earl.


I do not think we can put an Amendment into the Bill, nor, I think, does the noble Lord believe we can. But, short of that, we are entirely in sympathy with his objective. We should like to see local authorities and private owners of property getting together and arranging private exchanges, and anything that we can do officially by administrative methods to assist in such a direction we shall be only too glad to do.


May I thank the noble Earl very much. That creates a better kind of atmosphere. But, even so, I think that Clause 16 is so unsatisfactory as to make it incumbent upon us to divide against it.

On Question, Whether Clause 16 shall stand part of the Bill?

Their Lordships divided: Contents, 39; Not-Contents, 18.

Simonds, L. (L. Chancellor.) Rothes, E. Brocket, L.
Selkirk, E. Derwent, L.
Salisbury, M. (L. President.) Dovercourt, L.
Bridgeman, V. Hawke, L.
Airlie, E. Goschen, V. Jeffreys, L.
Albemarle, E. Monsell, V. Leconfield, L.
Alexander of Tunis, E. Swinton, V. Lloyd, L.
Birkenhead, E. Woolton, V. Mancroft, L.
Buckinghamshire, E. Merthyr, L.
De La Warr, E. Amherst of Hackney, L. Rochdale, L.
Fortescue, E. [Teller.] Balfour of Inchrye, L. St. Just, L.
Home, E. Barnby, L. Saltoun, L.
Mansfield, E. Bennett of Edgbaston, L. Sandhurst, L.
Onslow, E. [Teller.] Brassey of Apethorpe, L. Strang, L.
Radnor, E
Baldwin of Bewdley, E. Greenhill, L. Macdonald of Gwaenysgor, L.
Jowitt, E. Haden-Guest, L. [Teller.] Mathers, L.
Lucan, E. Hungarton, L. Ogmore, L.
Kenswood, L. Pethick-Lawrence, L.
Amwell, L. Kershaw, L. Shepherd, L.
Burden, L. [Teller.] Lawson, L. Silkin, L.
Crook, L.

Clauses 17 to 24 agreed to.

Clause 25 [Exclusion from Rent Acts of lettings by local authorities, development corporations, housing associations, etc.]:


This is almost a drafting point. In other places in the Bill provision is made where certain houses built by housing associations are not subject to rent control. By an error, there is a gap in between the 13th day of November and the date of the coming into force of this Act which would be a very awkward gap. This is a drafting point in older to cover that gap.

Amendment moved— Page 22, line 3, leave out from ("before'') to end of line 4 and insert ("the commencement of this Act.")—(The Earl of Home.)

On Question, Amendment agreed to.

Clause 25, as amended, agreed to.

Clauses 26 and 27 agreed to.

Clause 28 [Amendment of s. 1 of Act of 1949]:


This is a drafting point. I beg to move.

Amendment moved— Page 26, line 18, leave out ("last foregoing section" and insert ("section twenty-six of this Act").—(The Earl of Home.)

On Question, Amendment agreed to.

Clause 28, as amended, agreed to.

Clauses 29 to 38 agreed to.

Clause 39 [Interpretation of Part II]:


The next three Amendments are either drafting Amendments or are designed to make for better definition. I beg to move.

Amendments moved— Page 32, line 44, at end insert ("and 'prescribe' shall be construed according;"). Page 33, line 15, after second ("tenant") insert ("(as defined in paragraph (g) of subsection (1) of section twelve of the Act of 1920)") Page 33, line 16, leave out from ("Acts") to end of line 19 and insert ("and not as being entitled to a tenancy,")—(The Earl of Home.)

On Question, Amendments agreed to.

Clause 39, as amended, agreed to.

7.0 p.m.

LORD MATHERS moved, after Clause 39 to insert the following new clause: . In this Part of this Act the expression 'in good and tenantable repair' in relation to a dwelling-house means that the dwelling-house—

  1. (a) is in all respects dry;
  2. (b) is in good repair both as respects structure and as respects decoration;
  3. (c) has each room properly lighted and ventilated;
  4. (d) has an adequate supply of wholesome water laid on for all purposes within the dwelling;
  5. (e) is provided with efficient and adequate means of supplying hot water for domestic purposes;
  6. (f) has an internal or otherwise readily accessible water-closet;
  7. (g) has a fixed bath preferably in a separate room;
  8. (h) is provided (with a sink or sinks and with suitable arrangements for the disposal of waste water;
  9. (i) is provided with facilities for domestic washing;
  10. (j) has a proper drainage system;
  11. (k) is provided with adequate points for artificial lighting in each room;
  12. (l) is provided with adequate facilities for heating each habitable room;
  13. (m) has satisfactory facilities for preparing and cooking food;
  14. (n) has a well-ventilated larder or food store; and
  15. (o) has proper provision for the storage of fuel."

The noble Lord said: I made reference to the first Amendment, which was moved by my noble friend Lord Greenhill, as containing the "ten commandments." This proposed new clause contains what I might describe as the "beatitudes." The first Amendment laid down a minimum for houses that were little more than slums, and we were seeking to make the position such that they should be fit for human habitation. Now that the landlord is put in a position to meet the cost of the necessary repairs and decorations and all the rest, in respect of a house, we say that before the increase in rent becomes regularly payable, the house should have the amenities that are indicated in this proposed new clause. I am sure that not one of your Lordships is living, or would tolerate living, in a house that did not possess these amenities. We are seeking to put landlords in a position to meet their full obligation to the tenants, and this represents part of that obligation. I beg to move.

Amendment moved— After Clause 39, insert the said new clause.—(Lord Mathers.)


The noble Lords who have put down this Amendment seem to have overlooked one not unimportant point—that is, that this Bill does not deal only with towns or urban areas but applies to the whole of Scotland. And they appear to have forgotten that there is still—and, unfortunately, will remain for a long time to come—a large portion of Scotland in which there are no facilities for any form of artificial lighting. Usually, of course, the artificial lighting by which country districts are illuminated is electric light. Therefore, to insist that houses before being considered in good and tenantable repair must have points suitable for artificial light is to insist upon a condition that is absolutely unworkable.

Other conditions almost as bad are those which pertain to the suggestion that it is essential that there shall be baths and modern sanitary conveniences inside the houses. There are still considerable areas in Scotland where many houses have not and cannot have such facilities, simply because there is no water within a reasonable distance with which they could be provided. Shortly before the war I, myself, was prevented for several years from improving a large number of farm cottages and giving them modern sanitation simply because, in that particular portion of Dumfriesshire, there was practically no water at all, and it could not be provided from a nearer distance than some thirty miles until a large county council scheme was put in hand which eventually provided water. I could not risk still further depleting the local supply which in high summer was reduced to an amount sufficient for only a few days, and that mostly liquid mud. If your Lordships were to insist—which I do not think is likely—on this proposed Amendment in the form in which it stands, for the reasons which I have given and for other similar ones, with which I will not burden your Lordships at this late hour, it would simply mean that over a considerable proportion of rural Scotland no much-desired improvements could be carried out to the type of cottage which this Bill envisages.


It is perhaps true, as the noble Earl has said, that the emphasis in drawing up this list of conditions has been on houses in large towns, and, therefore, we have concentrated on the large towns. But the fact is that it is in the large cities and large burghs that there is this vast number of properties that require repair. So, the question which arises is this: are we to sacrifice a vast number of often good houses in order to meet an admittedly difficult situation to be found in the country? Perhaps a form of wording could be introduced—as I stand on my feet it occurs to me that we might put in some such proviso as: "in burghs with populations of over 10,000," or, it might be "20,000"—that would meet the noble Earl's requirements. If that would meet the noble Earl's requirements, then perhaps we could accommodate him.


I doubt if this clause is likely to meet anyone's requirements. Certainly, if the Amendment could be so framed that it excluded rural areas it would make the clause less unworkable. But, frankly, I do not think it is workable in any circumstances.


There is a hint to the Minister.


This Amendment lays down, or attempts to lay down, fifteen conditions which, in the aggregate, would really amount to a perfect house.


The owners are to get paid for it.


They are to get an increase related solely to repairs. I think we must attempt to be realistic. Here we are dealing with a class of house which necessarily is of old construction. If it can be kept in repair and deterioration prevented, then it can continue for quite a long time to provide a reasonably good home. I think that to apply the standards laid down in the Amendment—and, remember, that the absence of one of these would disqualify a landlord from receiving rent repairs increase—would make this Bill unrealistic. If only one of those conditions were absent, no repairs increase could be obtained by the landlord. He could not raise the rent and there could be no repairs increase.

This provision deals only with one part of the housing problem: it deals with those houses which we think should be kept in repair and prevented from deteriorating. There is another part of the Bill in which we seek to make it easier for the landlord to improve his house. In that part of the Bill, where we make it easier for the landlord to improve the house, we are thinking in terms such as noble Lords are suggesting here. In fact, before an improvement grant is given a local authority insists on more or less these conditions. They require just the kind of things which are listed. This phrase "good and tenantable repair" is not a new phrase. For instance, Lord Mathers himself tolerated it during the whole tenure of the last Government. It is well understood by local authorities, and they have a good idea as to what standards are meant by "good and tenantable repair." I think it is flexible, and if we attempt a more precise definition we are going to embarrass local authorities. No Government during the last thirty years has thought it worth while to try to define "good and tenantable repair" in Scotland. If I may say so, I could not help thinking, when the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor was speaking earlier, how luckier we are in Scotland with our more flexible outlook than they are in England, where they have attempted a definition. I hope the noble Lord will not press this matter and will

Clause 40 [Regulations]:

On Question, Whether clause 40 shall stand part of the Bill?


I thing this is the place where I might appropriately tell

leave it as it has been well understood by the local authorities for many a day, with no serious trouble.


I greatly regret the answer of the noble Earl, because I think that once the increase in rent has been provided to enable repairs to be carried out to put the house in a proper condition, the position should be as indicated in this new clause. In reply to the noble Earl, Lord Mansfield, I would say that the position he indicated was perfectly clear to me. The position is simply this: if these conditions are not forthcoming, then there is no increase in rent. That is all there is to it. I realise that there is a good deal of force in what he says, but it would simply mean that those who were not able to bring their houses up to the standard indicated here would not receive the rent increase. Bluntly, that is the reason for this Amendment: to bring houses up to a proper standard for habitation. I am sorry that I have no better reply. I feel that I must take this Amendment to a Division.

On Question: Whether the Amendment shall be agreed to?

Their Lordships divided: Contents, 14; Not-Contents, 35.

Baldwin of Bewdley, E. Greenhill, L. Macdonald of Gwaenysgor, L.
Jowitt, E. Haden-Guest, L. [Teller.] Mathers, L.
Lucan, E. [Teller.] Kenswood, L. Ogmore, L.
Kershaw, L. Pethick-Lawrence, L.
Burden, L. Lawson, L. Shepherd, L.
Airlie, E. Selkirk, E. Brassey of Apethorpe, L.
Albemarle, E. Brocket, L.
Alexander of Tunis, E. Bridgeman, V. Derwent, L.
Birkenhead, E. Goschen, V. Hawke, L.
Buckinghamshire, E. Monsell, V. Leconfield, L.
De La Warr, E. Swinton, V. Lloyd, L.
Fortescue, E. [Teller.] Woolton, V. Mancroft, L.
Home, E. Merthyr, L.
Mansfield, E. Amherst of Hackney, L. Rochdale, L.
Onslow, E. [Teller.] Balfour of Inchrye, L. St. Just, L.
Radnor, E. Barnby, L. Saltoun, L.
Rothes, E. Bennett of Edgbaston, L. Sandhurst, L.
Strang, L.

Resolved in the negative, and Amendment disagreed to accordingly.

the noble Earl, Lord Mansfield, the answer to the question he asked me. If a local authority do not put forward a clearance scheme through the Secretary of State, we have power under Section 169 of the Housing (Scotland) Act, 1950, by which, if necessary, we can exercise sanctions.


I am obliged to the noble Earl.

Clause 40 agreed to.

Remaining clauses agreed to.

First Schedule [Proof of past repairs by landlord]:


This is purely a drafting Amendment. I beg to move.

Amendment moved— Page 37, line 41, leave out ("paragraph") and insert ("sub-paragraph").—(The Earl of Home.)

On Question, Amendment agreed to.

7.20 p.m.

THE EARL OF HOME moved, after Paragraph 7 to insert: 8. The landlord, or any person authorised by him in writing, shall be entitled at reasonable times of the day, on giving twenty-four hours notice in writing to the occupier of his intention, to enter any dwelling-house for the purpose of ascertaining the floor area thereof for the purposes of sub-paragraph (3) of the last foregoing paragraph. The noble Earl said: This point arises only in cases where there are two or more tenants and it is necessary to apportion expenditure on the building as a whole to the individual houses in it for the purpose of the expenditure test which the landlord has to fulfil. The basis of apportionment chosen is the floor area of each house, and we think it is reasonable that the landlord should be able to go in to measure his own floors; it is a once-and-for-all measurement. I bee to move.

Amendment moved— Page 38, line 6, at end insert the said paragraph.—(The Earl of Home.)

On Question, Amendment agreed to.

First Schedule, as amended, agreed to.

Second Schedule [Modifications of Part II of Act in application to certain classes of dwelling-house]:


If it is convenient to the Committee, I will speak on the next three Amendments together, because they deal with the same point, and it is a point of which I am sure the noble Lord, Lord Mathers, will approve. The Bill has been criticised in another place because it always puts the onus on the tenant to get the certificate of repair, and all the rest of it. In this case, in the classes of bad houses which have been the subject of notices which say they are unfit for human habitation or are in some other way unsatisfactory, the onus is put on the landlord to get a certificate of repair; and by post, concurrently with the landlord's action, if the landlord fails to get the local authority to give him a certificate of repair, then a certificate of disrepair is posted to the tenant, and the tenant is then excused from the rent increase. I beg to move.

Amendment moved— Page 38, line 30, after ("Act") insert ("and any certificate granted under paragraph 2 of this Schedule"). —(The Earl of Home.)


I only wish that we were starting the proceedings of this Committee stage, instead of finishing them. This would have made a good starting point, and we who have been concerned about the position of the tenant might have progressed more favourably. However, a deathbed repentance is not a bad note on which to finish.


I have thought all the way through this Bill that things were upside down.

On Question, Amendment agreed to.


I beg to move the next Amendment.

Amendment moved—

Page 38, line 31, at end insert— ("2. Where the local authority have refused to grant, on the application of the landlord, a certificate under paragraph 1 of this Schedule they shall forthwith certify accordingly in the prescribed form and shall serve a copy of the certificate on the landlord and on the tenant of the dwelling-house; and the certificate shall come into force as from the date of such service on the landlord and shall have effect for the purposes of Part II of this Act as if it were a certificate granted by the local authority under subsection (1) of section eighteen of this Act.")—(The Earl of Home.)

On Question, Amendment agreed to.


I beg to move the next Amendment.

Amendment moved— Page 39, line 4, leave out from first ("to") to end of line 7 and insert ("the granting of a certificate under paragraph 2 of this Schedule as it applies in relation to the granting of a certificate under subsection (1) of that section; and, if the sheriff revokes a certificate granted under the said paragraph 2, the local authority shall forthwith grant a certificate under paragraph 1 of this Schedule.").—(The Earl of Home.)

On Question, Amendment agreed to.

Second Schedule, as amended, agreed to.

Remaining Schedules agreed to.

House resumed.