§ 7.14 p.m.
§ THE PARLIAMENTARY SECRETARY, MINISTRY OF HOUSING AND LOCAL GOVERNMENT (LORD KENNET)
My Lords, I beg to move that the House do now resolve itself into Committee on this Bill.
§ Moved, That the House do now resolve itself into Committee.—(Lord Kennet.)
§ On Question, Motion agreed to.
§ House in Committee accordingly.
§ [The LORD DOUGLAS OF BARLOCH
in the Chair.]
§ Clause 1 [Restrictions on increases in local authority rents]:
§ LORD BROOKE OF CUMNOR moved Amendment No. 1:
Page 1, line 18, at end insert (" or
(d) the tenants of such houses are effectively safeguarded against hardship liable to arise from rent increases by the local authority operating a rent rebate scheme which conforms with the principles recommended for this purpose by the Minister of Housing and Local Government in Circular 46/67 dated June 29. 1967.")
The noble Lord said: I beg to move Amendment No. 1. The object of the Government in this Bill, so far as one can tell, is to prevent hardship arising to individual tenants through rent increases. My Amendment suggests a better and a fairer way of accomplishing this object. That is by bringing in the principles which were not only stated but recommended by Ministers to local authorities in 1967, essentially the principles of a fair and effective rebate scheme. If I may remind the noble Lord, Lord Kennet, of the circular to which my Amendment refers, it was in fact a joint circular issued by the Ministry of Housing and Local Government and the Welsh Office. The final paragraph of that circular read:
The Ministers hope that the advice contained in this circular will enable local authorities to review their rent policies and to construct effective rebate schemes which direct help to those who need it most.
If a local authority acts on the principles that are set out in that circular, surely it will then be complying with the Government's desire to give help to those who need it most.
§ The proposals in the Bill are, as I have said, designed to prevent hardship. The proposals in the Amendment will do exactly the same; they will prevent hardship. What the proposals in the Bill will also do, however, is to keep down artificially the rents payable by council tenants who could well afford to pay fair rents without receiving rent subsidy from the ratepayers. That is the weakness in the Bill. The proposals in my Amendment will enable local authorities to charge fair rents, subject to an effective rent-rebate scheme. I do not imagine that the Minister has withdrawn from the circular of 1967. It has been Government policy of successive Governments to try to get local authorities to adopt effective rent rebate schemes. Indeed, the noble Lord will recollect that the circular of 1967, issued in the time of a Labour Government, replaced a circular on the same subject issued by the Conservative Government in 1956. Why, therefore, should not these principles which are set out in policy approved by the present Government be implemented to solve the problem to which the Government's Bill is addressing itself?
§ If the Bill goes through unamended, ratepayers in certain areas are going to 382 be hit very hard indeed by it, and I hope that the Government are honest enough to admit that. Those who are likely to be hit hardest are those in Greater London, principally because, over many years when the Labour Party held control of the London County Council, council rents were kept low at the expense of rate contributions from the ratepayers, and now, unless an Amendment of this kind is carried, those rate contributions will have to rise to enormous figures. In fact the Greater London Council has stated that if the Bill goes through unamended it will have to subsidise the rents of G.L.C. tenants by £9 million in the year 1970-71; and it is well known that many of those tenants would suffer no hardship if they were called upon to pay a full fair rent. Perhaps when I say "fair rent" I should explain how I am using that term.
§ The Greater London Council's desire is to raise the rents of Council property to the levels at which those rents for those properties would be fixed if they were private property, and the fair rents were fixed under the 1968 Rent Act by a rent officer or, on appeal, by an independent rent assessment committee. That appears to be a perfectly reasonable course of action—
§ LORD BROOKE OF CUMNOR
A perfectly reasonable course of action, because in every place where any hardship is liable to accrue through charging fair rents the Greater London Council applies an extremely generous rent rebate scheme, a scheme much more extensive and generous than the Labour controlled County Council used to do.
The noble Lord, Lord Kennet, on Second Reading of the Bill, asked "Why does the Greater London Council not solve its problem by applying to the Minister for special increases under Clause 3?" Well, I can only give the answer which I should certainly give if I were an elected member of the Greater London Council: that that would be far too risky a thing to do. The noble Lord, Lord Kennet, himself said, in his Second Reading speech, that the Ministers expect that they will be justified in permitting such increases only in quite exceptional circumstances. By "such increases" he meant increases under Clause 3.
383 The arrangement, so far as I understand it, is that if under Clause 3 the local authority submits proposals for increases beyond the limits allowed by the Bill, the Minister can either accept those proposals or reject them; he cannot amend them. Therefore, if the Minister does not accept them in full and in detail, the local authority is back to square one, all that time having been lost. And the authority then has to submit a new and revised set of proposals which again it cannot tell whether the Minister will accept or reject. For every week that the local authority would in this manner be prevented from raising rents, it would be suffering a loss of revenue of £60,000, and I certainly do not see how any responsible local authority could take that risk, in view of that sharp warning given by the Government in the noble Lord's speech that it would be only in exceptional circumstances that the Minister would be prepared to act under Clause 3.
However, we are not discussing only the Greater London Council; there are other local authorities which will undoubtedly, if this Bill goes through unamended, have to place on their ratepayers excessive demands for rate contributions to keep down the rents to tenants who could well afford to pay the full fair rents. That is why I am moving this Amendment. I am of course well aware that the Amendment is worded in terms most suitable to England, and if the Government accept it there will be no difficulty about the Government's moving an Amendment on Report to get the wording precisely right for Wales, and also for Scotland.
Perhaps the most powerful of all the speeches made against this Bill on Second Reading was made by my noble friend Lord Molson, who has explained to me that unfortunately he is prevented from being here this afternoon. My Amendment would meet in full his strong objections to Part I of the Bill. The noble Lord. Lord Kennet, will recollect that the Bill received no support at all from his noble friends behind him; he alone was left to try to defend this almost indefensible Bill. I suggest that by accepting this Amendment he would meet the case of those local authorities who otherwise will have to act unfairly to 384 their ratepayers and would at the same time bring the Government's action into consistency with its own circular which, as I have said, suggests the reasonable method of solving the problem before us. I beg to move.
§ 7.26 p.m.
§ VISCOUNT MASSEREENE AND FERRARD
I should like to support this Amendment very warmly. The noble Lord, Lord Kennet, may remember that this summer I asked him a question regarding the incomes of council tenants, and speaking from memory I think the noble Lord told me that there were 64,000 council house tenants in this country earning incomes of £2,000 a year and over. When I further questioned him as to whether any council house tenants were earning incomes of £4,000 a year and over, he told me that he could not give me the reply, but that he thought there were probably quite a few thousands who did have incomes of £4,000 and over.
This Bill is really just a Bill for subsidising. It is a hidden subsidy for subsidising council house tenants. Of course, it is a vote-catcher. It is quite iniquitous that some ratepayers who are far poorer than some council house tenants should have to subsidise their so much richer neighbours. I will not delay the Committee, but I should just like to make that point. This is an unfair Bill.
My noble friend's Amendment covers the poorer council house tenants. The rich council house tenants—and, as we know, there are probably two or three hundred thousand of them; perhaps four hundred thousand, perhaps more—are well able, on the whole, to pay these small increases. If we take the amount of their income which is now used in rent, compared to that of a similar family before the war, there is no comparison. The percentage of the income of some of these council house tenants now used in rent is infinitesimal. I doubt very much whether it is 5 per cent. of their income, if that: it is probably 3 per cent., or even 2. I therefore warmly support this Amendment of my noble friend on the Front Benches.
§ 7.28 p.m.
§ LORD KENNET
The broad intention of the noble Lord's Amendment is clearly to exclude from control local authorities 385 who operate a rebate scheme not less generous than the illustrative scheme in Circular 46/67, the present Government circular. It would not be easy to assess in practice whether a rebate scheme was in fact as generous as the illustrative scheme. The alternative would be to insist that the authority must adopt the illustrative scheme in toto. But this would be against the policy adopted in the circular itself on which the noble Lord relies and which makes it clear that it is for each authority to decide what adjustments, if any, are needed to meet local needs and conditions. I would point out to the Committee that the circular introduced in 1956, when the Opposition party were in power, did not go even so far in recommending an illustrative rent rebate scheme as the 1967 circular. The policy in the circular which the noble Lord seeks to build into the Bill reflects the statutory position, because under Section 113 of the Housing Act 1957 local authorities are given discretion in the matter of rent rebate schemes. All this Tory legislation the noble Lord seeks to go back on.
My main objection to the Amendment is that it would allow authorities with a sound rebate scheme to make any increase, however large, for unrebated tenants. The noble Lord said that the circular was designed to direct help to those who need it most, and indeed it is; but those who need it next most may also need tiding over and gentling along in relation to these rent increases, and that is the Government's purpose in the Bill as drafted. Any reasonable rent rebate scheme would ensure that tenants of small means or with large family commitments would either not be affected at all by a rent increase or only to a small extent, and that I freely admit. But that is not taken by the National Board of Prices and Incomes to be a sufficient reason for doing what the noble Lord wants. In their Report they recommended that if local authorities wished to increase average standard rents by more than 7s. 6d. a week in a 12-month period they should be required to seek the permission of the Housing Departments. The Government have adopted this advice, and Clause 2 of the Bill incorporates it precisely. The National Board of Prices and Incomes also recommended that the principle of moderation should be observed for individual households—and 386 this is the 10s. individual maximum provision.
An average weekly rent increase of much more than 7s. 6d. in a year would often take away from a man the whole, or nearly the whole, of any increase in take-home pay in that year. Here I am not speaking of rent-rebated tenants but of the average run of tenants. It would therefore have an inflationary effect, and provoke larger pay claims which, if granted, would necessitate more stringent fiscal or monetary measures on the part of the Government. The agreement with the local authority associations recognises the cost of introducing or improving a rent rebate scheme as a legitimate cost towards which rent increases averaging up to 7s. 6d. a week may be made. And it was the present Government, I would remind the Committee, who were the first ever to recommend local authorities to adopt rent rebate schemes at all and to use subsidies for this purpose.
It is not true that in every case the only alternative to a rent increase averaging more than 7s. 6d. a week is an increase in the rate fund contribution. I am not speaking of any individual authority at the moment. But there may be other alternatives; for instance, the reduction of housing account balances. But even where the alternative is a rate fund contribution, it does not follow that it is better to increase the rents of unrebated tenants by a very large amount suddenly in order to avoid that rate fund contribution. The National Board of Prices and Incomes recommended that rate fund contributions should be used to avoid average increases of above 7s. 6d. a week. A rate fund contribution can be repaid in any of the nine subsequent financial years. The poorer domestic ratepayers can obtain rate rebates, and next year all domestic ratepayers will receive rate relief of 1s. 8d. in the pound in England and Wales and 3s. 4d. in the pound in Scotland.
The picture painted by the noble Lord, therefore, of bleeding the ratepayer on behalf of the council tenant is one which appears to the Government to be an exaggerated one. I hope the noble Lord will not press his Amendment, but if he does I would ask the Committee to reject it for the reasons I have given and, above all, for the reason that you simply cannot 387 build an illustrative circular into Statute Law.
§ LORD BROOKE OF CUMNOR
I am grateful to the noble Lord for having taken this Amendment seriously and for having given a considered reply to it, though his reply does not convince me. Nevertheless, he paid me and your Lordships' Committee the compliment of examining the effects of the Amendment carefully. At one point I thought he feared that if the Amendment was carried some local authorities would really sting some of their tenants whom they thought could afford to pay by swingeing or unreasonable increases of rents. But I think he will agree that, at any rate so far as Statute Law is concerned, it is still the duty of a local authority to fix reasonable rents. I grant that by this Bill the Government are proposing to prevent local authorities from doing so, but I believe I am right in saying that it is still their duty. Certainly the noble Lord indicated in his Second Reading speech that that remained the fact, and one of my difficulties about the Bill is that local authorities are told in one Statute to fix reasonable rents and, if this Bill goes through, will be prevented in many cases from doing so.
The noble Lord rested the greater part of his case on a Report from the Prices and Incomes Board. Some Reports from that Board have been impressive documents. This one is the least impressive of all that I have seen, and I think that that view is very generally held among local authorities who are particularly affected and particularly interested in it. I found it a completely unconvincing document, written entirely from the standpoint of the interests of the tenants and not at all from the standpoint of the interests of the general public. I appreciate the point that the noble Lord made, that it is difficult to write a circular into a Bill. I do not think it is impossible, though it may be it passes my drafting skill to do so. I do not consider that my Amendment would compel all local authorities to accept as their actual rent rebate scheme the illustrative scheme which forms the appendix to that 1967 circular. It would compel them to adopt the principles on which that illustrative scheme is based, but they would certainly receive freedom to be more generous, if 388 they wished, than that scheme itself would indicate. I was surprised when the noble Lord said that the Government were the first to recommend local authorities to adopt rent rebate schemes, because I personally remember often doing that in speeches when I was a Minister; but I may not have published a new circular, following so soon after the 1956 one, which was sent out on the authority of my immediate predecessor.
My real concern here is that the local authorities are asked to do something which is unreasonable. They are asked by this Bill to keep down artificially rents to tenants who could well afford to pay higher rents, and they are thereby compelled to place that extra burden on the shoulders of the ratepayers. After taking into account the domestic rate relief, the individual rate relief that can be obtained by individual ratepayers and everything else, it still remains unreasonable for a local authority to be compelled to place on its ratepayers in general the extremely heavy costs which it will incur through being forced by this Bill to subsidise tenants who do not need subsidies.
In normal circumstances I would press this Amendment. If I do not do so tonight, it is in part due, frankly, to the fact that I have had difficulty in writing a circular into an Amendment. I know that we are dealing with this Bill under pressure of time, because if the Bill is to be passed at all it must be passed before both Houses rise for the Christmas Recess; and as the noble Lord has indicated that it is not acceptable in principle to the Government, it does not sound as though I could hope for his assistance in getting the wording right. I withdraw the Amendment with great regret, because I believe this is the proper and sound method by which the Government could have solved this problem; but, for the reasons that I have stated, I am willing to ask leave to withdraw the Amendment.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ 7.40 p.m.
LORD WINDLESHAM moved Amendment No. 2:
Page 2, line 12, after (" him ") insert (" and was, in the opinion of the local authority, entitled to succeed to the tenancy ").
§ The noble Lord said: I beg to move Amendment No. 2. The effect of Clause 389 1(5) is that when the tenant of a local authority house either dies or moves out, a relative who has been living with him is entitled to pay the same rent as the previous tenant even though it is a new tenancy. It is easy to see what the aim is here, and no one would quarrel with it. Clearly, a member of the former tenant's family with a moral right to succeed, such as a widow or widower, should not have to pay more than before their bereavement, simply because there has been a legal change of tenancy. But as the clause is drafted at present it goes a good deal wider. It could benefit any member of the former tenant's family who had come to live in the dwelling only shortly before the death of the tenant and who might not be considered to have any great claim to take over the tenancy.
§ There are also cases where the former tenant moves away, and therefore a vacancy occurs not through death but through the tenant moving elsewhere. He too may leave a member of his family in occupation. An example is a widower who marries again and vacates the dwelling leaving adult offspring in occupation. The granting of a new tenancy in these circumstances will normally be considered by the housing authority on the merits of each case. It is true that the housing authority need not grant the tenancy to the relatives of the outgoing tenant. It is within its discretion whether a relative is granted a new tenancy or not. If the housing authority decides not to allow a relative to succeed, it could put the rent up for the incoming tenant, provided he was not a relative living in the house of the outgoing tenant. On balance it may be sensible housing management to allow the relative to remain in the dwelling. But if the rent cannot be put up, there might be a disincentive in marginal cases to the housing authority leaving a relative in occupancy.
§ The Minister probably knows that the Greater London Council has already expressed its concern on this matter to his Department, and I understand the Council fully supports the terms of this Amendment. If subsection (5) of Clause 1 is amended by the addition of the words on the Marshalled List, the relative's right to protection from rent increases would be retained, but local authorities would be allowed some dis- 390 cretion in deciding on the cases in which the protection would operate. I beg to move.
§ LORD KENNET
Let me first welcome the noble Lord, Lord Windlesham, to the cockpit of Committee stages on Housing Bills. I hope that we shall hear more of him on this subject. The Housing Act 1957 gives a local authority very wide discretion in selecting tenants and no one has a legal entitlement to succeed to the tenancy of any particular council house. An authority could therefore readily decide that the wife or daughter of a former tenant, who was living with him in the house, was not entitled, on the death or departure of the former tenant, to go on living in the house. Under the Amendment the authority could, without reference to the Minister, increase the rent payable by the wife or daughter by any amount whatsoever as a condition of becoming a tenant of the house in which they were formerly living.
It is true that most authorities could be expected to exercise reasonably the discretion which the Amendment seeks to give them. But others might not exercise this discretion reasonably. They might, for example, decide that the wife or daughter of the former tenant ought to move into another dwelling—maybe a smaller one—and might therefore declare that she was not entitled to succeed to the tenancy of the dwelling in which she had been living. She would then no longer be protected by the Bill either if she became a tenant of her old house, because of the Amendment, or if she moved to another house, because under Clause 1(5), as drafted, a new tenancy in a different dwelling is exempt from the control in the Bill. This situation would be unfair, because she would have been as much a sitting tenant of the council as her husband or father, even though he happened to have signed the tenancy agreement. The whole object of the Bill is to protect sitting tenants from sharp rent increases—not, I would remind the Committee, from any rent increases; but from sharp ones.
The Amendment may be designed merely to deal with the case of the member of the tenant's family who moves into a council house a few days before the tenant leaves. The noble Lord did not mention this; but it is something 391 often mentioned in housing legislation of this kind—for Instance, someone who moves in to nurse the dying former tenant and who then claims the right to live in the house as tenant at the same rent. But Clause 1(5) already specifies that the member of the tenant's family must have been residing with the tenant and the local authority would be entitled to distinguish between residence which implies a degree of permanency and of factual community and a visit. Local authorities are familiar with this distinction. I would say that my right honourable friend the Minister of Housing has no reason to suppose that they will not be able to continue exercising common sense about this distinction as they have under existing legislation if the Bill goes through as drafted. I hope that with this explanation the noble Lord, Lord Windlesham, may be prepared to withdraw his Amendment.
§ LORD WINDLESHAM
That is an, extraordinary answer because there were two contradictory replies given. The first was that if local authorities are left with discretion to decide whether or not a relative has a moral claim to succeed they might not, in all cases, use this discretion wisely. Then, in the second part of the answer, concerning the interpretation of residence and length of stay, the Minister says that local authorities can be trusted to use their own judgment. I am sure that his second answer is a good one. These things have to be looked at in the circumstances which apply in each case; how long somebody may have been nursing a dying relative, or whatever other circumstances apply.
As the purpose of the Amendment is to give housing authorities some discretion to decide whether or not a wife or daughter should succeed (the wording of the Amendment is somebody who "was in the opinion of the local authority entitled to succeed to the tenancy") there will be an element of judgment. But that judgment will be used sensibly and responsibly. So it seems to me that the two legs of the noble Lord's answer contain an internal contradiction. I do not want to press this Amendment this evening.
§ VISCOUNT ADDISON
Will the noble Lord pardon this interruption? It seems to me that the noble Lord, Lord Kennet, 392 made the point in the discretionary matter which was referred to by the noble Lord as the second part of the answer; that is, that it was only to deal with the odd local authority and not local authorities in general. I wonder whether the noble Lord followed that argument. That is how it seemed to me. Perhaps the noble Lord might be willing to make that clear.
§ LORD KENNET
There may have been apparent discrepancies in what I said, but if one observes the way these things have been going under existing legislation, I believe that the way I put it will in practice not be found discrepant to those who run these things.
§ LORD WINDLESHAM
I do not want to extend this discussion. As I mentioned, the Greater London Council does not share the noble Lord's view, and of course it has very wide and extensive experience in this field. Clearly, therefore, there is room for some difference of opinion. The matter has been aired and ventilated; and I and others interested in this point will want to look carefully at the terms of the noble Lord's reply. I beg leave to withdraw the Amendment.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ Clause 1 agreed to.
§ Remaining clauses agreed to.
§ Schedule [Phasing of rent increases]:
§ 7.52 p.m.
LORD BROOKE OF CUMNOR moved Amendment No. 3:
Page 7, line 5, leave out ("two years") and insert (" one year").
§ The noble Lord said: I beg to move Amendment No. 3. The Committee will probably perceive that Amendments Nos. 3 to 11 inclusive are all linked, and it may be convenient if we discuss them all in one debate. I apologise for the number of these Amendments and the complication of them, but it is really no more my fault than that of the Government. The Schedule is an exercise in the new mathematics; and whether the professional advisers will succeed in advising their clients as to what the whole of the Schedule means, I do not know. I have such respect for Parliamentary draftsmen that I must suppose that the Government's 393 intentions could not have been set out more simply. But I think that the noble Lord, Lord Kennet, and I will probably be at one on this, at least; that the Schedule is a bit of a brain-teaser.
§ To come to the Amendments which I seek to incorporate in the Bill, these all deal with the subject of fair rents. As the Committee are aware, under the Rent Act 1965, which is now consolidated in the Rent Act 1968, fair rents are fixed for privately owned tenanted property by a rent officer. On appeal they may be finally determined by a rent assessment committee which is independent. Therefore, when a fair rent is fixed it must be presumed to be genuinely fair. At any rate, in terms of the Statute and Parliament's intentions it is a fair rent. The purpose of Part II of the Bill and this Schedule is to prolong the payment of unfair rents—I have no hesitation in saying that—because once a rent has been determined as a fair rent then, clearly, any other rent, either higher or lower, must be an unfair rent. This is my criticism in principle of Part II and the Schedule as a whole. I am seeking these Amendments to mitigate the unfairness.
§ On the general point that I have been making, I am backed by no less a body than the Committee of the Chartered Land Societies, headed by the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors, a highly respectable body. I know that that Committee has told the Minister that it regards the fair rent system as the best machinery yet devised in the country to achieve an equitable basis of rent assessments; that much of the present housing problem is attributable to the artificial restrictions imposed by legislation since the war and that the Rent Act 1965 was a welcome move towards a system of fair rents for all. The Committee said that in this context the proposal in the Bill to defer the payment of the full fair rent could only be regarded as retrograde. That is what was said by myself and by the noble Lord, Lord Molson, and others, on the Second Reading of the Bill.
§ My Amendments do not seek to do more than mitigate the application of Part II and the Schedule and to reduce the period during which a rent remains unfair, Under the Bill, if I understand it right, if a fair rent is registered at some date in the year 1970, two years 394 are to elapse before the tenant can be required to pay the full fair rent. If the fair rent is registered in 1971, one year is to elapse. These periodical provisions in the Schedule are, presumably, based on the assumption by the Government that if a rent goes up a whole year must elapse before the tenant can be asked to adjust himself to a further increase, even though the rent he is paying is, by an independent standard, less than fair.
§ The purpose of the nine Amendments in my name is to halve the periods in the Bill. They are based on the belief that where a tenant is paying less than the independently fixed fair rent of the house or flat in which he is living it is not unreasonable to expect him to adjust himself to upward steps at six-monthly intervals, instead of twelve-monthly intervals, as the Bill proposes, until the fair rent is reached, when of course the increases stop. I repeat that these Amendments are not designed to undermine and destroy Part II and the Schedule. They are based on the conviction that the fair rent stage should be reached as early as is reasonably possible once the rent has been determined to be a fair rent, and that it is not unreasonable for a tenant to be expected to adjust his arrangements to upward steps from the present rent to the full fair rent at intervals of six months. I beg to move.
§ LORD KENNET
As the Committee know, the object of Part II is to protect tenants of regulated tenancies against steep rises in their rent following the registration of the fair rent. Of all the registrations involving increases over the previous rent made in the first half of 1969, 52 per cent. were of more than £1 a week and 17 per cent. of more than £2 a week. The Government therefore consider that increases of this order registered in 1970 should be spread over two years by means of three annual instalments, subject to a minimum annual instalment of 7s. 6d. per week. The size and frequency of such instalments are certainly no less than is required to be consistent with the average increase to be allowed in one year without reference to the Minister for local authority rent increases under the Bill as drafted.
By making the phasing period basically six months per instalment, but leaving the size of each instalment unlimited, this 395 Amendment would allow rent increases to be charged twice as quickly as is envisaged in the Bill. In the context both of the prices and incomes policy and of hardships that would be caused to tenants and their families, the Government consider that such increases would not be sufficiently spread out. We feel that the Bill as drafted holds the balance fairly between landlord and tenant. To introduce changes in the permitted rent level, with service of notices of increases, and so on, at six monthly intervals would be a departure from the pattern established by the Prices and Incomes (Regulated Rents) Regulations 1968 and by the Housing Act 1969, both of which were based on increases at annual intervals. It would be confusing to both landlords and tenants to introduce a different system in this Bill from that now operative under the Housing Act 1969. "Phasing" is complicated enough without having to have a different system, depending on whether one Act or another applies.
In conclusion, I would remind the Committee of the noble Lord's phrase that the purpose of Part II of the Bill is to prolong unfair rents. Since all legislation is designed to rectify something which is perceived by Parliament as an injustice, it seems to me to follow from what he has said that all transitional provisions are provisions which prolong injustice. I hope that with that explanation, especially about the 6-monthly phasing which I have given, the noble Lord will be content not to insist upon his Amendment.
§ LORD BROOKE OF CUMNOR
The inference from the noble Lord's ingenious final argument is that he would have been better pleased with me if I had suggested that there should be no phasing at all and that all increases should come into effect at once. He should thank me for my moderation.
§ LORD KENNET
If that is what the noble Lord had wanted, no doubt that is what the noble Lord would have moved.
§ LORD BROOKE OF CUMNOR
I can certainly say that it would have taken me much less time to draft an Amendment of that kind than to find my way all through that arithmetic. I am relieved that at 396 least I have not been told that I have got my arithmetic wrong.
What the noble Lord's speech amounts to is that there is a difference of judgment. The Government think it is not possible for people to adjust themselves to higher rents except at 12-monthly intervals. I do not believe that this is so. I believe that people should be prepared to adjust themselves at 6-monthly intervals in cases where the ultimate rents have been fixed as fair by an independent authority. The noble Lord's argument, based on existing Regulations, seems to me to be a thin one, because I am sure that I am right in saying that these Regulations are going to lapse on December 31 and we must be prepared to have a change some time. I would agree that there was more substance in the noble Lord's point that there would seem to be some conflict between the Schedule with my Amendments in it and the Housing Act 1969. I do not myself think that that is sufficient reason for rejecting my proposal.
The only consideration which leads me not to seek to divide the House is that I am aware of the pressure of time and I am in an especially reasonable mood this evening (as I have already shown in my comments on the noble Lord's speech) and what he has said gives me no hope that if we send this Bill back to another place on this one point, wiser thoughts would prevail there. Those are the circumstances in which I beg leave to withdraw the Amendment.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ Schedule agreed to.
§ House resumed: Bill reported without amendment.
§ Then, Standing Order No. 41 having been suspended (pursuant to the Resolution of December 4), Bill read 3a and passed.