§ 3.48 p.m.
§ THE JOINT PARLIAMENTARY SECRETARY, MINISTRY OF LAND AND NATURAL RESOURCES (LORD MITCHISON)
My Lords, I should like, with your Lordships' permission, to make a Statement similar to one which my right honourable friend the Minister of Housing and Local Government has just made in another place in answer to a Question about the Report of the Milner Holland Committee.
As the House is already aware, the Report of the Milner Holland Committee has been published to-day. Copies are available in the Printed Paper Office. The Report sets out the results of a thorough-going investigation of the housing situation in Greater London, with particular reference to rented housing and to the relations between private landlords and their tenants. Even on a preliminary reading it is clear that the Report is a document of great social importance. By setting a penetrating 197 and at times deeply moving account against the background of an illuminating analysis of a mass of statistical and other material, the Committee have made a major contribution to the better understanding of the effects of housing shortage in the metropolis.
The forthcoming Rent Bill will contain the Government's proposals for legislation on part of the field covered by the Committee. The suggestions in the Report on other aspects of housing policy will be studied by the Government in consultation with the local authorities concerned. Proposals for further action, by legislation or otherwise, will be brought forward as soon as practicable.
I am glad to take this opportunity of expressing the Government's thanks to the Committee for the care and speed with which they have prepared and presented their Report.
§ LORD HASTINGS
My Lords, I thank the noble Lord for repeating the Statement made in another place. I can say at once that we agree entirely that this is a document of great social importance. Indeed, I can say truthfully that it was always the belief of my right honourable friend Sir Keith Joseph and those of us associated with him that it would be of outstanding importance. I should like, of course, to associate myself, and at the same time my colleagues and other noble friends on this side of the House, with the expression of thanks to Sir Milner Holland and his Committee for the care and speed with which they have prepared this Report.
I would turn to that sentence in the Statement which refers to the Rent Bill, and says that itwill contain the Government's proposals for legislation on part of the field covered by the Committee.I understand that it is the wish of the Government to have a debate on this Report in your Lordships' House. This is, of course, a voluminous document of some 450 pages in length, and we on this side should like to have sufficient time to read and thoroughly digest this Report before our debate, and I believe that will be a matter for discussion through the usual channels.
However, I should like just to ask the noble Lord this one question: Can he tell us whether the Rent Bill is likely to be 198 printed within, say, the next fortnight or soon thereafter?—because it seems that it would be a pity to debate this Report in a vacuum, as it were, without a knowledge of what was contained in the Rent Bill. With that knowledge, I believe we could have a more interesting and useful debate.
§ LORD MITCHISON
My Lords, I am sure that everyone in the House welcomes the agreement of noble Lords opposite in the thanks which I offered on behalf of the Government to the Committee. I am sure, too, that the question of when we should have a debate, which I believe is wanted on both sides of the House, is one for discussion through the usual channels. The only question, therefore, that is asked me is whether I think it is better to have that debate before or after the appearance of the Rent Bill. Clearly, I cannot tell within a day or two when the Rent Bill will appear. I think that this, too, is a matter for discussion through the usual channels. But perhaps I may be allowed to express my personal view—if you like, the Government's view—that it is better to discuss, to form and to exchange our ideas on the very valuable material in this Report before we turn to new legislation about what is in it. If I may put it rather crudely, I think it is a very great deal to take in one debate both an extremely long and extremely useful Report and also the proposals that there will be in the coming legislation.
§ LORD WADE
My Lords, may I add to the observations that have already been made, and ask the noble Lord to convey the appreciation which is felt for the very hard work which has been put into this Report by Sir Milner Holland and his colleagues. It has produced some extremely valuable information on the effects of housing shortage in the metropolis, and I think it will be of great benefit to us in the debates which follow.
§ LORD MITCHISON
My Lords, I am sure the Committee will be most grateful for that expression of thanks from the Liberal Benches.