§ 3.45 p.m.
§ 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 re solve itself into Committee.—(Lord Kennet.)
§ On Question, Motion agreed to.
§ House in Committee accordingly.
§ [The Baroness Emmet of Amberley in the Chair.]
§ Clause 1 [Improvement grants, standard grants and special grants]:
§ On Question, Whether Clause 1 shall stand part of the Bill?
§ Lord BROOKE of CUMNOR
On Clause 1 I have an important question to put to the noble Lord, Lord Kennet, of which I have given him notice. Clause 1 deals with the grants made by local authorities. If I understand the White Paper and also the Explanatory Memorandum aright, the Government wish local authorities to make a considerable drive in developing the improvement of older houses by means of grants, but at the same time wish these to be contained within a ceiling of public expenditure, both local and central.
My question to the noble Lord is, how is this to be managed? Is it proposed that the Government shall ration local authorities individually as to the amounts that it will authorise them to pay out in grants? If not, may we not find it happening that some local authorities, encouraged by the Government's proposals and its legislation, will go ahead on a big scale, and then it will be found that within the ceiling there is not enough money for other local authorities which have not been so active initially? That would be a disastrous situation because it would mean that the improvement was unfairly balanced as between one part of the country and another. But it is a possible situation that might arise, because it is well known that up to now some local authorities have been much more ardent in pushing improvement grants than others. Indeed, I fear there may still be some authorities which, as a matter of principle, do not make discretionary improvement grants. My main question is to ask the noble Lord whether 287 he will explain further the financial implications of this Clause in relation to the overall ceiling which I understand the Government are laying down.
§ Lord KENNET
From now on the efforts and resources that a local authority puts into improvements will be regarded as an integral part of its housing programme; so that "rationing" is not quite the right analogy. The new improvement policies will develop gradually from now with an increasing momentum. There is No intention at present of trying to restrict the number of improvement grants made. Rather, we think that authorities will, in the light of their continuing assessment of housing needs of their own districts, place increasing emphasis on improvements. Some authorities will find that the need to build new houses has diminished; others will want to build large numbers of new houses and carry out ambitious improvement programmes as well.
The need for a high level of new building will, of course, continue for many years. In the Government's best estimates, it will follow from the intrinsic facts of the housing situation that an increasing programme of improvements can be accommodated within the current total levels of public expenditure on housing. Were it not for one fact, I would say that improvement expenditure from now on is simply wrapped up in general housing expenditure and is treated exactly the same, including the priority housing authorities and so on. But the one fact that makes that not quite true—although it is mainly true—is that the standard grants remain payable on demand and are thus uncontrollable either by central or local financial control.
§ Lord BROOKE of CUMNOR
I am grateful to the noble Lord for that helpful reply. I think it would have been very unfortunate if local authorities felt that they were operating within an allocation scheme and might run up against limits and that thereafter they or other local authorities might be discouraged by the Government from making discretionary grants. I believe it is wholly right at this stage in time to press forward with the grants, both standard and discretionary, and I hope that matters will work out financially as the noble Lord has indicated.
§ Clause 1 agreed to.
§ Clause 2 [Improvement grants]:
Lord BROOKE of CUMNOR moved Amendment No. 1:
Page 3, line 22, at end insert ("or has a contract for the acquisition of such an interest, notwithstanding that that contract may be contingent upon the approval of an application for an improvement grant by the local authority").
The noble Lord said: I beg to move Amendment No. 1. This is an Amendment to subsection (6) of Clause 2. Subsection (6) says that
a local authority shall not entertain an application for an improvement grant"—
I rather like that word "entertain", but I know what it means—
unless they are satisfied that the applicant has"—
a firm interest in the property. My Amendment is designed to overcome a difficulty which I can foresee occurring. A would-be purchaser or would-be developer may feel that it would be an excellent plan if a small terrace of older houses was bought and put right with the help of improvement grants; that would be profitable from the developer's point of view, highly profitable from the tenants' point of view, and, I should judge, desirable from the Government's point of view, because that is exactly the kind of thing which the Government wish to encourage by this Bill.
§ Yet it seems to me that such a purchaser or developer would be frustrated unless we amend this subsection, because such a person will not go forward unless he has a firm assurance that his scheme will qualify for improvement grant. I would remind your Lordships that these grants are discretionary, and so the local authority are not bound to grant them. His scheme will break down unless he can ascertain that the local authority will approve his proposals for improvement grant; in other words, that they will favourably entertain his application. That is exactly what the local authority are prevented from doing by subsection (6), because at that stage he has not got the interest in the land which is defined in that subsection.
§ The object of my Amendment—I need hardly say that I should be only too glad if the Government would help me with the actual drafting of it—is to enable the local authority to give a reply 289 and a promise of improvement grant to someone who has a contract for the acquisition of a terrace of houses like that, the contract being contingent upon the approval of an application for an improvement grant. I hope I have convinced the Government that this is a genuine difficulty. I am not trying to upset the main purposes of the clause, with which I agree. I am simply seeking to find words which will enable the provisions to cover the kind of situation which I have described and which may well arise in many places. I beg to move.
§ 3.53 p.m.
§ Lord KENNET
One cannot but agree with the noble Lord's desire to make every thing easier for everybody and to keep it as flexible as possible, but I think the Amendment is not necessary for a reason I shall give, and it would bring in one or two undesirable side effects which are not very grave but in my submission add up to a case for not amending the Bill.
It is not necessary because the noble Lord said that he wants contracts which are at present contingent upon the grant, to be given grants which are contingent upon the contract. What happens now is that the prospective purchaser goes to the local authority and says, "If I purchase that house or that line of houses will you give me an improvement grant on it or them?"; and the local authority say, "Yes, provided you do it in the way we shall propose," and they all have a general discussion about what sort of way that should be. We have never heard of any complaint about that. There have been no complaints about local authorities not agreeing in the end to the proposal. So it seems that the present situation works well, which is a prima facie reason for continuing it.
The side effects that I mentioned if we were to do it the other way round, as the noble Lord desires, is that the prospective purchaser would have to go to the cost of getting plans prepared and specifications drawn up and to obtain probably two estimates from builders in order to support his application. He would also have to ask the local authority to make a formal declaration that it would give a grant if his purchase was completed. If then, for some reason or other, his contract falls through, it is 290 wasted effort and money for the prospective purchaser.
The other side effect is that I think it might create a market in contingent grants. You might get people for a. consideration, selling the certificate in regard to the contract, on the understanding that they are to get a grant on it. Of course, this would be on a small scale, but there is something analogous to the market in planning permission in it and, as I pointed out, it is unnecessary. Secondly, it would have these two minor side effects. I think that, on the whole, it would be wise to leave the Bill as it stands, and I hope that on reflection the noble Lord will agree with me.
§ Lord BROOKE of CUMNOR
I know that the word "contingent" appears in my Amendment, but I do not believe in the second of the contingencies that the noble Lord mentioned: that a market might grow up in these contingent contracts. In the light of what the noble Lord has said I am inclined to think that it all comes back to that peculiar word "entertain". My concern was that the local authority should not be put off by subsection (6) from giving an answer to the would-be purchaser as to whether he would be likely to get an improvement grant. The noble Lord is saying that, despite the terms of subsection (6), it would be quite in order for a local authority to give an informal indication to a would-be purchaser that if he purchases and if he goes forward with plans such as he has informally submitted to the local authority, he will be likely to get a grant. I do not want to press this Amendment. I think there is agreement between the noble Lord and myself that it would be most undesirable if the law were found to be stopping the kind of development that I have mentioned He seems confident that it will not. In those circumstances, I beg leave to withdraw the Amendment.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ Clause 2 agreed to.
§ On Question, Whether Clause 3 shall stand part of the Bill?
§ Lord BROOKE of CUMNOR
For the purpose of reassurance, may I ask whether the noble Lord will tell us how the Minister intends to use his power of 291 specification under subsection (2) of this clause? The wording isfor such period and conform with such requirements with respect to construction and physical conditions and the provision of services and amenities as may for the time being be specified for the purposes of this section by the Minister.Has the Minister in mind any immediate novelties in what he will specify, or shall we be going on with improvement grants on the same broad basis as before but for the changes that are made by this legislation?
§ Lord KENNET
The Minister intends to stick to the present 12-point standard of what is to be done, which has stood the test of time and is well understood, but he intends to give local authorities greater discretion to vary it. They will themselves be able to waive requirements if it is impracticable to satisfy them. At present they need the Minister's approval to do this. Under existing law, authorities cannot make discretionary improvement grants for properties with a life of 15 years or less. There is now under the Bill no restriction as to estimated life, although housing authorities will be expected to consider whether in the case of short-life houses grants under Clause 9 for the provision of standard amenities would not sometimes be more appropriate than discretionary grants. We can return to this point again on Clause 9. All these points will, of course, be put in the circular under the Bill in the usual way.
§ Clause 3 agreed to.
§ Clause 4 agreed to.
§ Clause 5 [Amount of improvement grant]:
§ 4.1 p.m.
§ Lord AIREDALE moved Amendment No. 2:
Page 4, line 38, at end insert—
("( ) Where a local authority approve an application for an improvement grant, and it appears to the local authority that the Minister may be willing to make a special grant towards the cost of the works, the local authority shall refer the case to the Minister, and shall inform the applicant that the case has been so referred.")
The noble Lord said: I should explain at the outset that, although this Amendment makes use of the expression "a special grant", I am not referring
to the special grant which is mentioned in Clause 1 of this Bill, "a special grant" in respect of houses in multiple occupation. The sort of special grant I have in mind for the purpose of this Amendment is the one mentioned in Ministry of Housing Circular No. 41 of 1965, in paragraph 6. The first sentence of that paragraph explains the sort of matter that I am seeking to discuss. It says:
The Minister is also prepared to consider applications for the payment of a grant higher than the normal maximum where there is a need to replace existing floors of rammed earth, bricks, or stone flags by new floors in order to overcome rising dampness.
§ That is the kind of special grant that I have in mind. It seems to me that at present there are too many discretions standing between the Minister and the applicants, and I do not believe that enough applications for special grants of this kind are getting through to the Minister. I have an experience of my own, which I do not propose to enlarge upon, which seems to me to illustrate that this is a fair point to make.
§ The first discretion, of course, is the discretion of the local authority whether to make a discretionary grant at all. At the other end of the scale, if an application to the Minister for a special grant is made, there is obviously the discretion of the Minister whether he will, or will not, make a special grant. Obviously there is no compulsion on the Minister to make a special grant—there cannot be. But in the middle, between the exercise of these two discretions, is there a discretion on the part of the local authority whether or not to apply to the Minister for this special grant, even in cases where the local authority have every reason to suppose that the Minister might be willing to make a special grant?
§ In the particular case I have in mind—it is a case of my own—I was put under a condition in a certain case to make certain floors damp-proof. I did not object to this at all. It was a very expensive operation but it was very necessary and a proper operation, and I did it. When I asked the local authority, "Will you now please apply to the Minister for the special grant referred to in paragraph 6 of the circular?" rather to my surprise the answer was, "No, we are not making an application". I am not trying to air a private grievance, but it seems to me wrong, where a local authority has, to 293 begin with, imposed a particular condition which may attract a special grant from the Minister, that the local authority should be allowed to take upon itself not to forward an application to the Minister for this special grant. I should have thought that it made for great unfairness as between one applicant and another, people living in different parts of the country, if the practice in certain cases was that some local authorities never applied to the Minister for a special grant of this kind, and other local authorities always did.
§ I should like to see uniformity throughout the country in these matters, and the purpose of this Amendment, which I hope is considered by your Lordships to be pretty harmless, is merely to ensure that where the local authority have reason to suppose that the Minister might be interested in entertaining (to use that comic word again) an application for a special grant for a particular purpose, then they shall forward the application to the Minister and they shall inform the applicant that they have referred the case to the Minister.
§ The only thing I wish to add is that I do not understand how it is that members of the public are supposed to know about these special grants which are mentioned in Ministry circulars. Ministry circulars, as we know, are privately circulated to the housing authorities; they are not made available to members of the public. There is a leaflet which is made available to members of the public, of which I have the latest copy in my hand. It is called, Money to Modernise your home. It is prepared by the Ministry of Housing in collaboration with the Central Office of Information. I have searched this pamphlet, which has several pages, to find any reference to this particular special grant—which I should think would apply in a good many cases—for making floors damp proof, and I cannot find any reference to this, so I do not know how members of the public are supposed to learn about these special grants. If it were made obligatory upon local authorities to apply to the Minister for these grants in appropriate cases, and to tell the applicant that the grant had been applied for, then people would learn about it and some of them would get a pleasant surprise. I believe that the 294 housing improvement scheme would get a fillip from this sort of thing because people would think it was being operated rather more generously than they had hitherto supposed. I am sorry to have spoken rather at length about this. I hope this Amendment will be considered at least harmless, and possibly useful. I beg to move.
§ Lord KENNET
The noble Lord states the matter accurately. There was a circular in which the Minister told housing authorities that he would entertain applications from them for permission to go above the existing links, especially with regard to replacing existing floors of rammed earth, bricks, or stone flags by new floors in order to overcome rising dampness. I think the noble Lord's intense interest in this particular sort of case has led him to draft something which is wider than he intends, and which is in any case unnecessary, because under the new grant system there is a maximum of £1, 000, instead of i.400, for discretionary grants; it has gone up two and a half times. We think there will be plenty of head-room for this sort of work without going to any special level for it.
If, on the other hand, one were to concede the right, as I think the coble Lord's Amendment would concede it, to every householder who is improving his house to demand that the local authority forward to the Minister any old request for a special grant—which could be for something quite fanciful of his own—I think this would deprive our local government system of a lot of its point. We have local councils to settle matters of this kind in accordance with their own wisdom, and if they simply do not think it is worth paying a special grant because of the circumstances either of the house or of the owner, then one cannot really require them to seek the Minister's decision on every case when an owner wants it.
I should add that the Amendment as drafted by Lord Airedale would appear to refer particularly to a kind of special grant which is already in the Bill and which is concerned particularly with the alleviation of conditions where there is multiple occupation. This, too, is a case where there might be a need for special grant. But my main point in inviting 295 the noble Lord to withdraw his Amendment is that to put it in, to give anybody direct access to Ministerial decision on such small points, would rather drive a coach and horses through the devolution of authority which we seek to achieve in the modern age.
§ Lord AIREDALE
I am obliged to the Minister for his reply. I am sorry he thought that anything in my Amendment would entitle an applicant to have (I think these were his words)"any old fanciful application" sent to the Ministry as of right. That certainly was not my intention. What I say in the Amendment is:Where … it appears to the local authority that the Minister may be willing to make a special grant …If it were any old fanciful notion in the mind of the applicant, those words would not be fulfilled and the local authority would not therefore be required to forward the application and waste the Minister's time. So I did not think I was going to be let in for that sort of criticism. However, I do not think this is a matter of earth-shaking importance. I have aired it, and it may have done a little good. I beg leave to withdraw the Amendment.
§ Lord KENNET
Before the Question is put, may I say this? I do not want to be harsh to the noble Lord, but, of course, if the local authority does not itself think that a special grant ought to be made it is unlikely that the Minister will think that it ought to be made.
§ Lord AIREDALE
All I can say about that is that if the local authority has said, "You must, as a condition of getting any grant at all, replace flagstone floors with new damp-proof floors", and if the Minister has said in a circular that this very operation is a matter in respect of which he will entertain special grants, then I should have thought the local authority was on a very bad wicket indeed if they did not forward such an application to the Minister—and that is what I am complaining about. I am very tempted now not to withdraw this Amendment, because it looks rather as though the Minister has not cottoned on to what I was talking about from the beginning. I shall ask leave to withdraw it, but in view of the very last observa- 296 tions of the Minister, which I must say I thought were very unfortunate indeed, I shall consider putting down a similar Amendment on Report. I beg leave to withdraw the Amendment.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ Clause 5 agreed to.
§ Clause 6 agreed to.
§ Clause 7 [Standing amenities]:
§ 4.14 p.m.
Lord BROOKE of CUMNOR moved Amendment No. 3:
Page 5, line 32, leave out from ("Minister") to ("and") in line 33, and insert ("shall review annually the amounts specified in Part I of Schedule 1 to this Act and may by order vary the provisions of that Schedule").
§ The noble Lord said: The point of this Amendment is to ensure annual review of the amounts of the standard grants which are set out on page 51 of the Bill. The concept of standard grants was first introduced in a Bill of mine in 1959, and I think that, broadly speaking, it may be said to have been successful. We now have a proposal here which will increase the total amount, if all the standard grants are claimed, from £155 to £200. The point I wish to put to the Government is that it would have been no bad thing if these amounts had been revised earlier, because as building costs rise it must follow that a maximum fixed in 1959 will be well out of date in 1969, and a maximum that is fixed now, in 1969, may be out of date before long.
§ I appreciate that in subsection (2) of this clause the Minister has power by order to vary the provisions of Schedule 1, and this presumably includes varying the amounts allowed for each of the standard amenities. My concern is that this should not be forgotten. I believe it would be valuable, and would assist the drive to get the standard amenities provided if the Minister were under an obligation to review the amounts annually. He could then use his power by order, if necessary, to vary the amounts. I beg to move.
§ Lord AIREDALE
I hope that this Amendment will be acceptable because it certainly could not possibly do the slightest harm.
§ Lord KENNET
I tend to agree that it would not do much harm, but time 297 presses, in a Parliamentary sense, and we are anxious to get this Bill. So I am anxious, for purely tactical reasons—and I think I can say this to noble Lords on all sides of the Committee, because we all support most of this Bill—to get this Bill back to the House of Commons with as few Amendments as possible.
The noble Lord said he has moved this Amendment in order to make sure that the question of reviewing the standard grants is not forgotten. He invented the standard grants in 1959, and he and his friends, when in office, had power to change it at any time they wanted. Indeed, they must have considered whether to change it during the preparation and the passage of the 1964 Housing Act. It is equally true that my right honourable friend's predecessors, and he himself, having had power to change it, have not done so. But I think that the mere fact that it was not changed, although there was full power to change it over the last ten years by Governments of both sides, coupled with the fact that the noble Lord has not alleged that it should have been changed, suggests there is not really very much point in making an Amendment to ensure that it shall be formally examined, in a statutory sense, every year. It seems to me that it would be importing a certain amount of paraphernalia into the Bill by way of statutory procedure, which might be rather complex, for no return. It can be done by any Government whenever they want and will, of course (I speak for the present Government), be done automatically and continuously. We shall keep this under review even without the Amendment.
§ LORD BROOKE of CUMNOR
I sought to indicate that I thought these amounts ought to have been revised earlier than this by the present Government, if not by their predecessor. I agree, of course, that a review can take place without there being statutory provision for it, and I think I am satisfied by the noble Lord's final words, because I understood that he gave me an assurance that, whether or not these words appear in the Bill, the Minister will review the amounts regularly.
§ Lord BROOKE of CUMNOR
If that is a firm assurance, then that suffices me, and I beg leave to withdraw the Amendment.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ On Question, Whether Clause 7 shall stand part of the Bill?
§ Lord AIREDALE
I understood the Minister to say in the debate on the Amendment to this clause that he was anxious to get this Bill back to the House of Commons with as few Amendments as possible. I note that we have 59 Amendments on the Marshalled List. I have done a quick count, and I think that 32 of them are Amendments down in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Kennet. So I take it that the noble Lord is hoping that at least 32 Amendments to this Bill will go back to the House of Commons.
§ Lord KENNET
The Committee is indebted to the noble Lord for his accuracy. I should have said "as few Amendments as possible likely to give rise to prolonged debate in the House of Commons."
§ Lord BROOKE of CUMNOR
I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Airedale, for raising this point. I cannot think that if I had decided not to withdraw Amendment No. 3 and it had been accepted by your Lordships it would have given rise to prolonged debate in the House of Commons.
§ Clause 7 agreed to.
§ Clause 8 agreed to.
§ Clause 9 [Conditions for approval of application for standard grant]:
§ On Question, Whether Clause 9 shall stand part of the Bill?
§ Lord BROOKE of CUMNOR
In connection with Clause 9 (7), I should like to ask whether the Minister has any present intentions of giving general or special directions as that subsection empowers him to do. The kind of point that I have in mind is the provision in subsection (1) that:… the dwelling is likely to remain fit for human habitation and available for use as a dwelling for a period of not less than fifteen years.I am doubtful whether standard grants should always be withheld from houses 299 solely because the local authority cannot be absolutely assured that the house will last for 15 years. Most houses outlive their estimated life and I feel that it is an act of cruelty to the tenants of a house to say that they cannot have these standard amenities, which we have all recognised as being the minimum amenities of civilised life in a house, because it is thought that the house will last for only 13 or 14 years. Thirteen years or 14 years is an uncommonly long time to go on living without a sink or a hot water supply or an indoor W.C. or whatever is the standard amenity. I shall be greatly assisted if the noble Lord will tell me that the Minister is likely to use his powers under subsection (7) so as to give reasonable flexibility, particularly with reference to that period of 15 years.
§ Lord KENNET
Yes; it is a little complicated, but I will try to gather it all together. General directions under Clause 9 (7) are being included in a Circular to the authorities after the Bill is passed. They will have a wide discretion; but they may not, under these general directions, give a standard grant where the House has an estimated life of less than 10 years. The clause says 15 years; the general directions will give them flexibility down to 10 years or, where the amenity will not be for the exclusive use of the occupants of the dwelling, or where all the amenities are being provided in a house which remains unfit because of disrepair or instability. It will be open to the housing authorities to ask for special treatment in particular cases in respect of standard grant. I would remind the noble Lord and the Committee that all this does not apply to discretionary grants. We hope to get a system whereby houses likely to stand up for less than 10 years will be eligible for a sort of "mini-discretionary" grant, especially tailored to the short need.
§ Lord BROOKE of CUMNOR
Am I right in thinking from the noble Lord's explanation that whereas the clause will say that if the house satisfies the other conditions and is likely to remain fit and available for use for 15 years or more, the standard grant can be granted as of right; but that under the Minister's directions, for a house likely to remain fit and available for between 10 and 15 years, then, in effect, it will be at the discretion 300 of the local authority whether it will make a standard grant?
§ Clause 9 agreed to.
§ Clauses 10 to 12 agreed to.
§ 4.26 p.m.
Lord AIREDALE moved Amendment No. 4:
After Clause 12 insert the following new clause:
§ Condition as to occupation of dwellings
§ ".—(1) Where an improvement grant or a standard grant is made with respect to any dwelling, then during the period of three years beginning with the completion of the works towards the cost of which the grant is made, the dwelling shall be let or kept available for letting at all times during which it is not occupied—
- (a) by the applicant for the grant or a member of his family, or
- (b) if the dwelling or an interest in it has since before the application for the grant been vested in the personal representatives of a deceased person, or in trustees, by a person who on the death, or under the trust, has become interested in the dwelling or interest or the proceeds of sale thereof, or by a member of the family of such a person, or
- (c) by a person who on the death of the applicant has (whether or not in consequence of a disposition by will) become beneficially entitled to, or to an interest in, the interest of the applicant in the dwelling or the proceeds of sale thereof, or by a member of the family of such a person, or
- (d) by a member of the agricultural population (within the meaning of section 114 of the Act of 1957) in pursuance of a contract of service.
§ (2) The owner of the dwelling shall, on being required to do so by the local authority, certify that the provisions of subsection (1) of this section are being complied with and any tenant of the dwelling shall, on being required in writing by the owner, furnish to him such information as he may reasonably require for the purpose of enabling him to comply with the provisions of this subsection.
§ (3) In relation to a residence house of a see or ecclesiastical benefice subsection (1) of this section shall have effect as if paragraphs (a) and (c) were omitted and the subsection shall not apply at any time at which, during the tenure of the see or benefice by the bishop or incumbent, it is occupied by him.
§ (4) Subsection (1) of this section shall not apply to a dwelling held upon trust for any charitable purpose, so long as it is occupied or kept available for occupation for that purpose.
§ (5) The requirement with respect to a dwelling to observe the provisions of subsections (1) and (2) of this section shall be 301 registered in the register of local land charges by the proper officer of the local authority in the manner prescribed by rules under section 15 (6) of the Land Charges Act 1925."
§ The noble Lord said: I hope it will be for the convenience of the Committee if with this Amendment we discuss Nos. 5, 6 and 7; because these are a block of clauses which I think will not be unfamiliar to noble Lords who have studied the recent Housing Acts. These are the sections contained in the Housing Acts which imposed conditions designed to secure that where a house improvement or a house conversion scheme is grant-aided out of public funds the house or dwelling which is provided shall be available to be used as a dwelling for somebody to live in during these hard times of house shortages when there are all too few houses in the country to be used as dwellings by people who want somewhere to live. There is a further and important provision and it is contained in the new clause (Amendment 5 on the Marshalled List). This clause contains the enforcement conditions which provide that if the person who accepts a grant does not make the premises available to be used as a dwelling, then the grant shall be recoverable, with interest, by the local housing authority.
§ These provisions, or provisions very like them, first appeared in the Housing (Financial Provisions) Act 1958 and those provisions have been repeated, I think I am right in saying, in the subsequent Housing Acts. Moreover, they were included in this Bill when it was presented to Parliament. The clauses which I am now moving to reinsert in the Bill were Clauses 13, 14, 15 and 16 of this Bill when it was first introduced to Parliament by the Ministry of Housing. There was a very exhaustive Standing Committee stage on this Bill in the House of Commons and those four, I submit, very important clauses survived the exhaustive examination in the Standing Committee. It was not until the Report stage in another place that these four clauses were struck out of the Bill. What I want to know is why, and was it wise?
§ All over the country there are houses, large and small, surrounded by outbuildings of various kinds: stable buildings, barns, store buildings and so on. Many of these outbuildings, particularly the stone-built ones, could, at a price, be 302 converted into separate dwelling:: and would make very satisfactory dwellings for people to live in. I do not suppose that in a great many cases they would be regarded as satisfactory dwellings to be built for letting, because most of them are too close to the main house, or the only access to them probably is from the garden or something of that kind, and the occupier of the main house would say to himself, "This outbuilding would make a first-class guest house for my weekend guests and for my children and grandchildren on holidays and so on, but it would not be a very satisfactory place to have to make available for letting because I should not like to have strangers living on top of me quite so closely."
§ Up to now conversion schemes of this sort have not been eligible for grant in cases in which the premises wore to be used as guest houses, because of these four clauses which have been in the Housing Act up to now, and which I now seek to reinsert into this Bill. But now we have a rather different situation developing. We have a maximum conversion amount, not of £400 but of £1, 000, and I think there must be a good many people who might have said up to now, "Well, £400 will not get us very far towards a very expensive conversion scheme to make a guest house in the garden, but £1, 000 really will make a difference". They may say, "If we can get the first £1, 000, let us go ahead and build a guest house in the garden". It will be all right for them now. Parliament has unquestionably given its blessing to spending public money on this sort of thing because, although when the latest Housing Act was first introduced into Parliament the same old sections were there to prevent guest houses and such-like from being grant-aided, those clauses were specifically struck out of the Bill by Parliament, which appears to indicate that, so far as Parliament is concerned, £1, 000 a time for a guest house in the garden is perfectly all right".
§ My submission to the Committee is that it is not perfectly all right, and that there is not unlimited public money to spend upon housing. We heard an exchange about that between the noble Lord, Lord Brooke of Cumnor, and the Minister at the very beginning of this Committee stage. What public money 303 is available for housing ought, in my submission, to be used to provide houses for people to live in, and not to provide guest houses in people's gardens. It is because I fear that there will be an upsurge of demand for guest houses in gardens, financed as to the first £1, 000 from public funds, that I am suggesting that it was very unwise not to keep these four clauses in the Bill so as to make quite sure that all the public money designed for housing is used to provide houses for people to live in.
§ I believe that great pressure is going to be brought upon local authorities to make grants at their discretion—although that will not apply in every case. There are some local housing authorities, I believe, which have never given anybody a discretionary grant. I do not suppose that I could get the Minister to say so, but I believe that the Ministry of Housing and Local Government have a "black list" of local authorities which have never given anybody a discretionary grant; and certainly those local authorities are not going to give discretionary grants to the wealthy to build guest houses in gardens. But I believe that a great many authorities will in fact make grants; and I believe that pressure may be brought upon them.
§ Let me repeat figures with which I wearied your Lordships on Second Reading. The noble Lord, Lord Kennet, listened very intently to my figures and was not quite happy about them; but I still think that they are right. I am, however, not infallible over figures, and if I am wrong I shall be glad to be put right. The way I put it was this. The maximum grant is £1, 000; it is subsidised by direct subsidy from the Ministry of Housing and Local Government as to 75 per cent., so the first £750 comes from the Minister. Then there is the general rate support grant which works out, I think, at about 10 per cent. That gives an 85 per cent. subsidy from the central Government, leaving 15 per cent. of the grant to be provided by the ratepayers of the local authority.
§ Then you have to consider that, before anybody gets a £1, 000 grant, he has to put at least £1, 000 of his own money into the scheme, so when you are considering the proportion of the cost of the house 304 that is borne by the local authority, you find that, because of the 50 per cent. which the owner has to produce himself, the 15 per cent. immediately comes down to 7½ per cent. It would be a very clever owner who contrived that his share of the cost should be exactly £1, 000 and no more. In almost every case, the chances are that the owner's proportion of the cost is going to be £1, 500, or £2, 000, or perhaps more; so the local authority's theoretical maximum of 7½ per cent. contribution to the cost of the house comes down to a figure at which one can only guess, but which is probably 5 per cent., 4 per cent. or 3 per cent. of the total cost of the house.
§ Having produced 3 per cent., 4 per cent. or 5 per cent. of the cost (the Minister is smiling, so I think I have got my sum right; but we shall see) the local authority will then proceed to collect rates on this new house, and it will be getting a pretty good bargain. I can quite imagine local councillors saying "It seems a bit odd to give a grant to somebody to make a guest house for himself in his garden, but it is a pretty good bargain for us as the local authority; and if we do not make the grant—and Parliament appears to have given their blessing to it—the ratepayers and the electors are not going to be very pleased with us, because we shall be throwing away quite a good bargain for ourselves."
I regard this as a whole lot of nonsense. We are getting right away from the principle which ought to obtain in this country in these days: that if public money is going into housing, it ought to go into housing for people to live in and not be spent on grants to wealthy people who want to put a guest house in the garden. I cannot see that these clauses contain anything which anybody who plays fair with his local authority need fear, because although there is a provision that if he does not comply with the conditions he may be required to repay the grant which he has received, it is not mandatory; it is only permissive. The words in subsection (1) of the clause which appears as Amendment No. 5 on the Marshalled List include:
… the grant shall, on being demanded by the local authority, become payable to them by the owner of the dwelling …
§ I believe that any reasonable local authority, if it thought somebody had been fair and open and reasonable, would not demand the repayment of a grant. Suppose somebody had genuinely intended to re-build an outbuilding near his house, and this was to be made available as a dwelling for a tenant; and then, suddenly and unexpectedly, he had to leave the district to take up a new job, or something like that. If he went to the local authority and said, "I am in a difficulty. I cannot comply with the condition that the dwelling will be available for a tenant because I have to sell it and leave the district", and if the local authority felt that he had played fair and had not concealed anything, I do not believe that the local authority would demand the repayment of the grant. It is only people who do not play fair with local authorities who I believe fall foul of this provision and very properly have then to repay the grant. I am sorry to have spoken for so long, but I feel very strongly that in these days public money for housing must go into housing for people to live in and not guest houses in people's gardens. That is why I have moved this Amendment. I am not against people having guest houses in the garden; it is a very good thing that they should. All I say is that they should pay for them. I beg to move.
I am sorry to disagree with my noble friend who has argued this Amendment so exhaustively, so cogently and indeed with a certain logic, but I hope the Government will resist this. I think in taking out those three clauses they gave a very valuable concession indeed and we should be most grateful for it and not seek to have it removed. The object of this Bill is to arrest the decay of our existing old houses. Earlier Bills failed to do this and the Government have given us these new inducements (and very good inducements they are) in order to try and arrest a state of affairs in which most of our old houses were going downhill very rapidly.
The noble Lord fears that we are making a concession to people who ought not to have it. There may be the odd case in which somebody does get something for nothing, as it were, but I do not think 306 it will be very much. What it will amount to is that a great many more people will take advantage of the new grants from the Government than would otherwise have taken them and, furthermore, that it will in a way promote the ownership of houses rather than the tenacy of houses, and this, again, with regard to people's homes, is I think a good thing rather than a bad one and for this reason I cannot support my noble friend.
§ Lord KENNET
I have very little to add to what the noble Lord, Lord Henley, said. The noble Lord, Lord Airedale, has moved these reinsertions into the Bill in accordance with what I think the Committee will now recognise is a propensity to seek to divert the elephant of social advance to stamp upon a gnat of presumed injustice which has caught his attention. The old conditions which the Bill, as drafted, removed required the housing authority to take back the grant if the use of the building changed, or if the owner who received the grant moved. We are removing that requirement. I would remind the Committee as the noble Lord, Lord Henley, did, that this Bill is to do with hundreds of thousands—over a quarter of a million a year—of improvements in the "twilight" areas of our great cities. It is not to do with guest houses in the garden Its application to guest houses in the garden is something which should be left to the local authorities, particularly the rural ones. The Government are content so to leave it. The noble Lord should not refer to building a guest house in the garden; that would not attract an improvement grant, which would be given only for the conversion or improvement of an existing building.
§ On Question, Amendment negatived.
§ Clauses 13 to 17 agreed to.
§ Clause 18 [Improvement contributions]:
§ On Question, Whether Clause 18 shall stand part of the Bill?
§ Lord KENNET
I should like to take this opportunity of making an announcement about the level of cost acceptable for grant in London. Discussions have been taking place on levels of assistance for conversions and improvements in Greater London under this Bill. These 307 have been carried out by a small subcommittee consisting of officials from the Ministry of Housing and Local Government and local authority officers from the Greater London Council and the London Boroughs Association. This is the sub-committee of the Ministers Standing Working Party on London Housing.
Agreement has been reached by the sub-committee that the maximum allowable costs of conversions and improvements by the local authorities in Greater London and by housing associations working under arrangements with them could go up, in certain cases, to about double the amounts provided for in the Bill. The report of the sub-committee has now been accepted by the main Working Party. It is proposed that in due course the Minister will notify the various local authorities concerned that he has made the appropriate determinations under Clauses 18 (3) and 21 (5) of the Bill in respect of cases in certain classes within Greater London.
§ Lord BROOKE of CUMNOR
I am grateful to the noble Lord, as we all should be, for making that announcement. If I heard him aright he said that there had been agreement reached in the sub-committee of the Working Party covering the various local authorities concerned in Greater London. That seems very satisfactory news. I am glad that it has been possible on these new arrangements for Greater London, which, as we probably all would accept, is a special case in matters of this sort. I take it that there is no need to amend the Bill because the necessary adjustments can be made by the Minister using his powers to specify or prescribe or do something like that.
§ Lord KENNET
The noble Lord is quite right. There is no need to amend the Bill. I am grateful to him for his kind remarks. The difficulties in which the London housing authorities might have found themselves have been exercising everybody concerned for some time, and I am sure that all sides of the House will be glad that so generous and realistic a solution has been reached.
§ Clause 18 agreed to.
§ Clauses 19 and 20 agreed to.308
§ Clause 21 [Contributions for dwellings provided or improved by housing associations under arrangements with local authorities]:
§ On Question, Whether Clause 21 shall stand part of the Bill?
§ Lord BROOKE of CUMNOR
The noble Lord, Lord Kennet, has just made an announcement about what the Minister may specify under Clause 21. I would accordingly ask him whether the Minister has in mind to specify anything special or novel under subsection (3) of Clause 21. I am not asking that question in the expectation that he has a new major announcement to make here, but where we are passing legislation which includes such words asas may for the time being be specified for the purposes of this section by the Ministerit is of value to know whether any departure of policy by way of specification is contemplated.
§ Lord KENNET
The answer to the noble Lord's inquiry is really the same as that which I returned to him about Clause 3, except that where the life of the property is estimated to be less than ten years the Minister's approval ought to be sought, and housing associations ought not as a general rule to be dealing in short-life properties, anyhow.
§ Clause 21 agreed to.
§ Clauses 22 to 26 agreed to.
§ Clause 27 [Interpretation]:
§ 4.50 p.m.
Lord ANNAN moved Amendment No. 8:
Page 15, line 11, at end insert (""dwelling" or "dwellings" shall include residences for students;").
§ The noble Lord said: I beg leave to move the two Amendments standing in my name and also, if the Committee will permit, the Amendment under Schedule 8. I will not repeat the speech which I made on the Second Reading of this Bill which drew attention to the rising number of students who will be requiring dwellings and residence during the next decade, a rising number which includes not merely university students but also students of the colleges of further education.309
The point which I am trying to establish through this Amendment is whether student housing associations are or are not eligible under the provisions of the existing Housing Acts and of this Bill. The fact is that, of 30 student housing associations, none has so far received the authorised arrangements under Section 120 (1) of the Housing Act 1957. I have been trying to discover why this may be so. In pursuit of that object, I consulted the Report of the Committee stage of this Bill in another place and there I found the Minister being pressed on this very point. At 12.30, he was recorded as saying:
I must emphasise that students are not excluded from the definitions in the two Acts to which my honourable friend referred.
A quarter of an hour earlier, however, he was recorded as saying:
The normal authorised arrangements that have been discussed are meant to cover housing for the sort of people whom the authority would otherwise expect to accommodate in its own council housing. I do not think that one could say that this applies to students' hostels, where the usual right of nomination by the local authority would not be appropriate.
§ I think that this shows that there may be some confusion in minds both at the Ministry and in local authorities as to whether student housing associations are or are not eligible. In that respect I should like to draw attention to the fact that later I shall be referring to the distinction made between hostels and dwellings.
§ In his reply to my speech on Second Reading, the noble Lord, Lord Kennet, was good enough to make two points. He first of all said that the Amendment I intended to put before the House was unnecessary, because it was a declaratory Amendment and there was no more need to insert in the Bill a reference to student housing associations than there would be to insert a reference to housing associations for those with red hair. However, I think there is this distinction, that students are a particular body in the community who have certain recognised and favourable rights granted to them by society as a whole. It is for these reasons that they have formed themselves into housing associations.
§ The second thing that the noble Lord said was that he hoped I would agree that when facilities of the kind we are 310 discussing were made available, students should have a lower priority than some other classes in the community, such as mothers with children. On that I entirely agree. I would not for one moment try to urge that lusty young bachelors should have any priority over unmarried mothers or even over discharged prisoners both of which classes are specifically qualified for help. But equally I would urge that, though they do not in any way claim some special privilege, student housing associations should have equal treatment with other housing associations.
§ I would make this point to the noble Lord. It is easy for people to picture all students as lusty young bachelors, but there are a great many married students, and married students with children, and it is for these that the student housing associations are particularly interested in getting property so that they can be properly housed. I would also re terate the point that, by helping student associations, we should be helping the very class of people whom I know the noble Lord has so much in mind, those people who are searching for lower income accommodation of one kind or another. If we permit student housing associations to build their own accommodation, we are relieving the pressure on the lower income accommodation which is so vitally necessary for those classes of the community which are under-privileged.
§ Here I would discuss the distinction between hostels and dwellings. Only too frequently, when local authorities are faced with requests from student housing associations for help under the Housing Acts, they reply that the form of accommodation which the association are putting forward is a hostel. In some cases that may be so, but a great many of the applications have been for property which would qualify as dwellings—that is to say, with their own separate catering arrangements.
§ I do not want to appear here as the spokesman for a pressure group. It may be that one or two of my noble friends from universities may support me on this, but it is not the intention in this Amendment to claim any special privilege for the student housing associations. I think that in this matter there is a principle of Government. If the associations are not eligible under the Acts, then let us say so perfectly frankly and we know where 311 we stand. If they are, let that be said with equal clarity and let it also be said by a local authority, when an application is made, that although the association is eligible under the Acts, there are not enough funds to meet their request because other housing associations have been given priority. There we have clear and, I should say, good Government.
§ What I think is bad Government is to leave a matter like this so vague that the Acts appear to confer a right of eligibility on student housing associations, yet when they make application under the Acts local authorities deny that that right exists by claiming that they do not satisfy the criteria. I think that this is exactly the kind of thing which leads to cynicism, not only among students but also among many classes of the community when they are met with objections of this kind. I think that we should always accept that even if a right exists under an Act of Parliament, the Government are not always able to fulfil that right for lack of public funds.
§ This is a probing Amendment, and I would ask the noble Lord, Lord Kennet, if he would be good enough to give me answers on two points. Could he possibly say whether student housing associations are or are not eligible under this Bill and under the existing Acts of 1957, 1964 and 1967? Second, would he be willing to go into the larger matter of student accommodation in general and advise his right honourable friend to set up a Working Party representing the Ministry of Housing, the Department of Education and Science, the University Grants Committee, the local authorities and the student housing associations, to see whether they cannot devise means of getting lower cost accommodation for students than that which is at present being provided—or perhaps I should say not being provided—by the University Grants Committee in the financial stringency under which that body is at present operating—accommodation which would be the kind of accommodation which the student housing association want and under the provisions of the Act?
§ May I make one last point? Under the Act it is, of course, possible to apply not merely for a preferential rate of interest but also for a loan for the full cost of the dwellings. My own belief is 312 that student housing associations would be content merely with the lower rate of interest and it would be up to them to go into the market—to the institutions, to the insurance companies and the building societies—to obtain the loan capital for their dwellings. This I believe they would be ready to do. I think their universities, too, would put up the necessary guarantee or collateral to enable that to be done. But it could not be done unless there were a preferential rate of interest. I beg to move.
§ 5.2 p.m.
§ Lord BROOKE of CUMNOR
I do not wish to stand between the noble Lord and your Lordships' Committee. It was a great disappointment to me that I was prevented from being present on the day of the Second Reading of the Bill, but I read the speech of the noble Lord, Lord Annan, and that has prompted me to take an interest in his Amendments today. I greatly hope that the Government will be able to give a constructive answer. There are certain features of the situation which it ought to be possible to bring together. First of all, accommodation for students is already a serious problem and is going to become more and more acute. Secondly, there are numbers of students who are anxious to do something about this themselves. That is a feature which Governments should encourage. There is plenty of criticism of students. Criticism of certain students may be deserved, but it should not be applied to the vast number of students who are interested in self-help—and here are students showing themselves keen to provide self-help in the field of accommodation. Thirdly, we know that in the Scandinavian countries and in Canada a great deal has been achieved by student housing associations. I cannot say whether all the claims made for them are true and accurate, but certainly on the face of things it looks as though student housing associations, in collaboration with the public authorities, were making a big contribution towards student accommodation. It seems to me that we should all be trying to bring these three together.
Lord Annan has said, as has been confirmed to me by students who are interested in these matters, that there is a feeling of not knowing where to 313 turn. The Government and the Committee in another place said that whether a student housing association qualified as a housing association or not would depend on its character; and I have no doubt that is true. Naturally those who are concerned with these housing associations want a little more information. It appears that their experience has been that on approaching a local authority they are either told that they are talking about hostels and not housing accommodation, which is not the case, or that the local authority has not the slightest interest in a housing association like theirs and cannot help. It seems to me that your Lordships' House should try to help these people who are seeking to help themselves. I am sure that the noble Lord, Lord Kennet, will give all the assistance he can so far as the interpretation of this Bill is concerned, but I am anxious most of all about the next step.
The noble Lord, Lord Annan, suggested a working party. I confess I am sometimes suspicious of working parties, which spend a lot of time working but may not produce expeditious results. At the least, I should hope that the Government would agree that there might be an informal discussion at the Ministry one day, to which some of your Lordships who are specially interested could come along and meet the Minister or one of his colleagues. Leaders of the student housing associations could come and we could talk the matter out under what I might call Parliamentary auspices, because Members of your Lordships' House would be there. In the light of that, it might be possible to see the best course to follow. There are a number of points which could probably be cleared up more rapidly than by referring the whole matter to a working party which might bring matters to a halt until it produced a final and comprehensive report. Above all, I hope the noble Lord, Lord Kennet, when he comes to reply, after the several noble Lords who wish to contribute to this discussion, will be able to reply in the same constructive spirit.
§ Lord LLOYD of HAMPSTEAD
I should like to say a word in support of my noble friend, Lord Annan, if I may so describe him in a non-technical sense. The noble Lord, Lord Annan, spoke on the Second Reading with great 314 eloquence about the actual need of students in this matter, and it is not necessary to add anything to that, but I wish to say a word about the nature of the problem. It is a curious problem which everybody recognises and unfortunately nobody wishes to do anything about. Despite that fact, it is, I think, universally recognised that student housing does contribute considerable relief to the strains on housing in relevant areas, particularly in regard to low rent accommodation.
I have looked at the definitions of "housing association" and "housing society" in the relevant Acts and it seems to me, with all deference, that it is reasonably clear as a matter of legal construction that a student housing association does come within the terms of those definitions. The difficulty is that the local authorities and the Housing Corporation have powers under their respective Acts. They have not got duties, and we all know the difference between a power and a duty. If they are exercising a power they are entitled to apply their own criteria to decide in what way they will exercise that power. They have decided upon comparatively narrow criteria in this matter. They have regard especially to people who would otherwise qualify for council housing. That is all very well for criteria in broad terms, but it does not deal with special groups, and it is special groups to which students as a body belong.
The object of these Amendment.';, as in the case of the previous Amendments moved in another place, is simply this: to try to serve notice upon local authorities that under the existing legislation they have got these powers, because they appear to have set their faces against exercising their powers under the various Statutes in relation to this matter. I have studied the speech of the noble Lord, Lord Kennet, on Second Reading in answer to the noble Lord, Lord Annan, and also the speech of the Minister in another place, and, as I see it, the arguments that are put against Amendments of this kind are threefold.
First, it is said that these Amendments are not needed because, in any case. under the existing law students can qualify on other grounds. I have tried to understand what this means, and it seems to me, with all respect, to make total nonsense of what is now proposed. It seems to mean 315 that if students during the course of their education choose to marry, have families and settle down in permanent residences, they will have qualified in the ordinary way for housing under these various grants and no problem will arise; or possibly they may fall into the "relief for the aged group" by converting themselves in some way into old-age pensioners. That has no relevance to the problem of students. In the case of students, there is a turnover every three years or so, and one wants to have accommodation available for students as they move into the higher education sector. In my view, there is nothing in that argument.
Then it is said—and even though it is said in a faintly sympathetic tone, nevertheless, with respect, it seems to me to be said somewhat facetiously—that to put in a provision such as in now suggested is equivalent to carrying into law that anyone can qualify—even because, for instance, he has red hair; and it is said that it would make nonsense of legislation to provide for special cases of this kind. The answer to that, surely, is that if experience shows that under statutory powers certain groups of people are being arbitrarily excluded (and there seems to be some evidence that this is so in the case of students), then it may be necessary to modify the legislation, or give some guidance to show that this arbitrary approach should not be taken up: otherwise we have a class excluded ab initio, notwithstanding that they come within the statutory grounds. If we had a more developed system of administrative law than that which, unfortunately, we possess, there is good ground for thinking that if a class of persons were arbitrarily excluded from a statutory power in this way an administrative tribunal would give relief. But we do not possess administrative machinery to deal with it in that way.
Thirdly, it is said that, if we are considering priorities, we must have regard first to the aged, to those who have large families, and people of that sort: that they are to be preferred to the strong-armed, youthful body of students. Surely the answer to that is: Yes, of course, where there is a question of absolute priorities being determined. But that, in my view, totally ignores the fact that giving assistance to student housing 316 associations is going to relieve the problem of housing in other ways, and particularly in regard to that sector of housing for which relief is most needed; that is to say, low-rent accommodation.
I suggest that none of these three arguments is decisive, or indeed even plausible, as an answer to Amendments of the kind that are being suggested. I understand that my noble friend Lord Annan is putting his Amendments forward now only as probing Amendments; he is anxious to have a clear answer from the Minister about this issue, and he has put forward the notion of a Working Party. I feel considerable sympathy towards his suggestion of a Working Party, provided that it does not become a mere expedient for delaying tackling the problem: because, basically, I should have thought that the nature of the problem is fairly well understood.
What is really required is to find a speedy remedy to the problem, because, as my noble friend Lord Annan pointed out, it is becoming increasingly acute, with the great increase in student numbers, and with these student numbers pressing upon that very sector of housing which is most needed by people of small means, who are not in a position to provide housing for themselves. For these reasons, I warmly support my noble friend Lord Annan, and I hope that something practical will emerge from my noble friend Lord Kennet in relation to this pressing problem.
§ Lord LEATHERLAND
Much of the discussion on this subject has ranged around the desirability or otherwise of having a declaratory Clause in the Bill suggesting that this, that and the other special group of people should be mentioned as being eligible for assistance under this measure. My noble friend Lord Kennet, in the Second Reading debate, suggested that there was hardly any more need for specifying students as one of the groups than there would be for specifying people with red hair. Both my noble friends Lord Annan and Lord Lloyd of Hampstead have mentioned red-haired people this afternoon, so, as one of the few of your Lordships who in days long gone by had a wonderful mop of red hair, I crave your indulgence while I say a few words on this subject.
317 In the Second Reading debate I followed my noble friend Lord Annan, and I said it was most likely that if he brought forward Amendments on Committee stage I should give them my support; and this I warmly do. It so happens that the university of which I am treasurer (it is an unpaid office, by the way, and a very arduous one) does not need at this moment to avail itself of any house-building help that might come from the operation of a housing society. But we have an increasing number of graduate students who perhaps in due course will graduate into matrimony, and our need in the years to come may be greater than it is to-day. We have to bear in mind that the University Grants Committee is very much averse to making grants of public money to universities for the purpose of providing student accommodation. We have to bear in mind, also, that in many of the university centres private lodgings are already fairly well occupied, and that lodgings of the requisite character are difficult to obtain.
The Minister may say again, as he said on Second Reading, that it is not necessary to have a declaratory clause specifying that students and various other special groups of people (and I include the redheads among the special people) should be mentioned. But the local authorities do not know this. The local authorities do not know that the existing legislation will permit them to make use of this Bill, when it becomes an Act, in order to provide special accommodation for students.
If my noble friend Lord Kennet is not in favour of setting up this Working Party, as suggested by my noble friend Lord Annan, and is quite certain that the existing law, as amended by the present Bill, is sufficient to cover the case of students wanting houses built through housing societies, would he and his right honourable friend consider issuing a directive to all local authorities, saying to them, in plain, simple terms, that they are entitled to use the machinery of housing societies to provide accommodation for students? In order still further to dispel any doubt, I suggest that the circular might explain to the local authorities which particular kind of housing associations, and which particular kind of accommodation—houses, hostels or what- 318 ever it may be—would be eligible for grants and low-interest concessions under this scheme; and also say to local authorities what assistance from Central Government funds will be available. If this were done, I think that much of the doubt which at present surrounds this question could be dispelled. As has been said by other speakers, some local authorities are definitely against participating in any scheme of this kind; and there are others who say that they do not think this applies to them, and they give a negative reply.
This is a very serious question which is going to become more serious with every year that passes. In five or ten years' time we shall probably have 100, 000 more students in the country than we have to-day. Many of them to-day, in the existing accommodation, are not properly accommodated. I hope first, that my noble friend will be able to say unequivocally that the existing legislation is sufficient to cater for the problem, and, secondly, that he will send a directive to the local authorities clearly setting out the position and acquainting them with the opportunities of which they car take advantage.
§ 5.21 p.m.
§ Lord BOWDEN
I hope the Minister will be able to be sympathetic on this matter. If he could give a firm directive, or prepare a circular, as other noble Lords have suggested, it would transform the whole nature of the problem which confronts many universities to-day. I agree with most of what has been said, and I do not wish to repeat it. I should like to make one observation which I think will explain why it is so necessary that we do something. The fact is that the University Grants Committee, in assessing the grants that should be given to students, assumes that the accommodation they have, the halls of residence in which they live, have already been paid for by capital grants long since written off. In other words, the maintenance grant which a student gets is adequate to pay for a room in a hall which the university owns, and for the meals that he eats, but it is not adequate to pay for accommodation if it has to carry a significant capital charge.
We have tried in Manchester many times, but we always discover that if we buy an old building and adapt it, as 319 the Bill suggests we should, and as the students want us to do, the students cannot afford to pay a rent which permits us to recover the capital we have to invest. We are totally inhibited from making use of a very great deal of property which exists, and could be easily adapted for the purpose, as we have to pay conventional bank rate for the money we borrow; and this is beyond the power of the student's purse, because the Government's policy is based on the assumption that grants are calculated for halls of residence which have already been paid for. This is a most curious administrative anomaly. Nevertheless, it has a very profound effect on the student body; and were we able to use student housing associations, we could transform the nature of student life in Manchester.
We have been struggling with this problem for years, and I spent a very great deal of time this past year in negotiations to try to discover whether or not we can get these concessions which have been referred to. It was the view of the Manchester Corporation that the Act would not make it possible. It may well be that it does, but there is no doubt at all that many local authorities have so construed the Act as to convince themselves that it does not.
§ Lord BOWDEN
The one about borrowing at special rates for student housing associations. I am afraid that I cannot cite, as my noble friend Lord Annan has done, the particular reference. The fact is we have been unable to borrow the money, but had we done so we could have converted a dozen or more houses, and accommodated hundreds of students in a manner which they have now come to prefer to more conventional halls, of which we have a few. It is a simple matter of finance. May I repeat it? The grants the students get from the Government are not adequate to pay for accommodation which carries any significant capital charge based on borrowing money at bank rate. It has become true, I think, to say that research students, particularly married ones, and more particularly married ones with children, are among the most underprivileged section of the entire working population to-day.
320 I hope that the Minister will see his way to give a directive forthwith. It would have immediate effect, and would be most enthusiastically received by the whole university world. At the very least, I hope that we may have a formal inquiry into the nature of a problem which is bad now and likely to get dramatically worse. The forecasts are that by 1980 the student body will be three times as big as it is to-day. Many of the students will be in universities; many more of them will be in further education, and the problem which besets people trying to organise polytechnics, colleges of music, colleges of art, and the rest of the education machine, is just as serious as it is for the universities. The competition for old fashioned "digs" is acute between students of all these components of the system. I hope the Minister will see his way either to make a declaratory statement, as has been suggested, or, alternatively, to look into the matter in great detail, and with a sense of urgency, in order to assuage what I can assure your Lordships is a very grave sense of disquiet, uneasiness and frustration in the universities, and among the student bodies, which are desperately trying to help themselves, and are unable to do so under the present system.
§ Lord ROYLE
I shall say only one or two words, and the reason for that will be apparent in a few minutes. I have never had any opportunity of a university education. I have no association with universities in any way, but because I happen to be a resident of Brighton I know of the problems which exist with regard to the Sussex University. University students are accommodated in all kinds of accommodation—some of it not very desirable—in many parts of the town of Brighton. This has aroused my interest constantly. The great problem there is that much of this accommodation is needed in the holiday season. As a result, in the period before the University rises for the summer vacation great problems exist because the owners of boarding houses, and the like, are desirous of getting a better return from their accommodation. Therefore, I want to support what has already been said.
321 I am impressed by something that was said by the noble Lord, Lord Brooke of Cumnor. I like his idea of a talk, Parliamentary-based, with the Minister and interested people, and I agree that is better than a Working Party. The noble Lord has an Amendment down relative to the Government's giving guarantees to housing associations for building societies. I think this is very important indeed, and I speak as a director of a building society. I should have hoped that if such a meeting took place leading people in the building society movement might be invited to take part. I know that building societies, in the main, have to consider housing in a normal way, but there is a great demand and need here.
I am quite sure I can speak for very many people in that movement when I say that if that kind of guarantee could be given by the Government it would be a greater incentive to building societies to come along: md make grants to university students' housing associations, among others. I would say to my noble friend Lord Kennet that these are the things that might be considered as a whole, along with the Amendments which are now before the Committee, which have been moved by the noble Lord, Lord Annan.
I trust it is in order for somebody on this side of the House to take part in this debate. I should like to support the noble Lord, Lord Annan, not that I think it will do very much good. My qualification to speak arises simply from the fact that I was for many years President of the National Federation of Housing Associations, to which these student housing associations, if they are formed, are affiliated. In the past, we have had successful schemes of this sort still affiliated to the Association. There has been a very great change in the last few years, not unassociated with the matter we know about well in local government; namely, the "squeeze". My information is not exactly as has been retold by Lord Annan or Lord Leatherland. It is perfectly true that some local authorities are objecting; they do not want to give away any part of their ration or their quota. Some, no doubt, do not know about it, and would profit by a 322 circular of some kind, which has been asked for.
I am informed that there have recently been a number of cases where local authorities have been found to be agreeable to sponsoring the building of student housing. My information is that if it is agreed to make a loan of this so[...], and consent is requested for student housing purposes, the consent has to be given by the Ministry, and it is refused on the ground that students are not families in need and it is for this purpose only that public funds can be made available. Therefore the blockage is an administrative one. I am also told that, even if consent were available, the full benefit of housing associations would not be available., so that the chances of profiting at the present moment are slight.
Unfortunately we are not only governed by what appears in an Act of Parliament. From these Acts of Parliament stem a whole series of circulars and edicts of various kinds. Therefore, although I support the spirit in which the noble Lord, Lord Annan, has moved this Amendment, unless we have the help of the Minister I do not think these student associations will get very far. In my view, the whole situation is most confused, and some discussion, as suggested by my noble friend Lord Brooke, in which possibly the Federation of Housing Associations could also take part, would be very useful at the present moment, and I am glad it has already had some support.
§ Baroness SWANBOROUGH
I support the suggestion that has been made by the noble Lord, Lord Annan. I would plead that we might consider what the noble Lord, Lord Brooke, has suggested inasmuch as if a practical talk can take place this would be of the greatest help to the students, who want all the help that we can possibly give them. I am myself a member of three energetic housing associations and I am constantly consulted by students who do not fully understand how they can avail themselves of the help that is there to be used. I would support the noble Lord, Lord Annan, and the noble Lord, Lord Brooke, very forcibly. I feel that if we could have such a practical meeting a great deal of useful work would result.
§ Lord HOLFORD
By supporting, however briefly, the second Amendment standing in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Annan, I realise that I am in danger of doing exactly what he said he was anxious to avoid, that is, giving the impression that this is a sort of pressure group on behalf of the educators; but I want to do so for two special reasons. One is to define the word "students" a little more clearly. For the past 22 years I have been in London teaching postgraduate students, and at present out of 180 of them 70 per cent. or more are married, and I can assure your Lordships that our productivity, humanly speaking, annually is quite considerable.
Secondly, we have students who are taking higher degrees and we have a number of visiting students from abroad, and every year we have this problem of finding houses for them for the period of three, or sometimes four, years while they are here. We do it very largely by exchange. Thirdly, we have junior members of the staff who are also students although they are teaching, in that they are perhaps taking Ph.D.s themselves on the same basis as the others. So the first point I want to make is that in fact the term "students" includes a fairly large range of families.
This brings me to my second point, which is that the criticism may be that if they are ordinary families, as I think the noble Lord, Lord Kennet, said at the end of the Second Reading debate, they take their chance with other families and we do not want to make a special case of them. But they are a special case in an odd way. They are a continuing need in that, although they may only be here for two or three years, they very often hand on their problem to their successors. In other words, the house is often needed although the family changes. Therefore, it seems to me that although their demand on this kind of housing, and particularly on improved housing in towns, is normal, their qualification to meet that demand is not. I wanted to make that special point and I hope the noble Lord, Lord Kennet, will take that into account when he replies.
§ Lord TAYLOR of GRYFE
I wish to intervene briefly in support of the proposition which has been argued so potently by my noble friend Lord Annan. 324 I think the case has been made substantially for recognising the claims of students' associations, but I should like to argue the case on political grounds as well as on economic grounds. I am much attracted to the proposition that a circular might be issued to local authorities giving them some direction on this matter, for it is obvious that there is a misunderstanding of the position so far as local authorities are concerned.
As I see it, the value of the student housing association is not only that it provides reasonable living accommodation for students, and recognition of the fact that there are many thousands of students who are living in squalor in large cities where there are universities; it relieves this problem, but it also provides the students with the opportunity of doing something for themselves. In my view, a good deal of student discontent over the past two years has been due to the fact that students feel some right to participation in their own affairs, and their own affairs are not concerned simply with educational matters but with the whole way in which they live as students in the community. I think, therefore—and this is borne out by experience of student co-operatives and the student housing associations in Europe and also in the United States of America, where students are encouraged to run their own housing associations—that to run their own student organisations concerned with supplies as well as living accommodation gives them an opportunity for exercising self-government and also teaches them the art of mutual aid and dependence on one another. So I would strongly recommend that these Amendments should find a responsive ear in the Government, for these political reasons as well as the very serious economic reasons that have been adduced in support.
§ 5.38 p.m.
§ Lord KENNET
There are two questions before the Committee. The first question is, are students getting a fair deal as regards housing, and if not, what do the Government propose to do about it? The second question, which is formally before the Committee, is should the Housing Bill be amended in various ways? I am perfectly content to take all these Amendments together in a general discussion. Should the Housing Bill be amended in various ways which might or 325 might not get students a squarer deal as regards housing? I propose to speak first about the second question and then to conclude by saying something about the former, and larger, question.
Since our Second Reading debate I have sat down with my advisers in the Ministry and we have combed through the housing law, and we can find nothing in statutory housing law which disadvantages students as compared with any other sector of the community in their attempts to set up housing associations or that special form of housing association known as the "housing society". I have to tell the Committee that, as a fact—and I have to repeat what I said on Second Reading—if our purpose is to identify and remove difficulties under which students may be suffering in achieving their aim to have housing associations, we shall be making a detour, wasting our time and doing that which is unnecessary if we amend this Bill.
Let me go a little into detail. The law of housing associations is one of the most complicated of all pieces of housing law. I myself am still very often confused by it. I admit to remaining in total confussion for the first 18 months in my present job. It may be that some of your Lordships are also confused by the complications. First of all, there are two categories: the housing association and. within that, a sub-species called the housing society. A housing association is able to enter into an authorised arrangement with housing authorities to provide housing, and this attracts housing grant on a standard comparable with what goes to the council house in the ordinary way. A housing society, on the other hand, which is a cost-rent or co-ownership society, does not get the subsidy, but it does normally get funds, two-thirds from a building society, one-third from the housing corporation, and that is public money. It does not have to have authorised arrangements with any local authority because it is not seeking grant.
If students go to local authorities and seek an authorised arrangement to become a housing association in the normal sense, and if they are told by the local authority that there is a statutory bar to such an arrangement, that local authority is misinformed. There is no such statutory bar. I take the point of my noble friend, Lord Leatherland, that 326 they think there is: that is something we can go into. But if somebody is mistaken about fact you do not need to amend the Statute Law. My noble friend, Lord Lloyd, said he thought there was evidence that under statutory powers some groups of people are being arbitrarily excluded. If he has that evidence I should be grateful if he would let me have it, because I think there must be some mistake there.
It is perfectly true that the arrangements to be reached between a housing association and the local authority, since they attract Exchequer grant, are subject to my right honourable friend's approval. At the moment he is giving advice to local authorities which is based on the general idea that these housing associations ought to provide housing for the same sort of people that councils themselves normally house. I think that this excludes some students and it does not exclude others. If a student is in housing need, especially if he is married with a family, then he is the sort of person, just as a steel worker or a university teacher on a low salary might be, normally housed by a council. On the other hand, there would be others who would not be persons of the sort normally housed by a council. I can see that if we ever do get forward on this, as I hope we do, the associations or societies one may wish to set up may have to be a bit selective about the kind of students they admit—I do not know; this is speculation.
To turn now to the housing society. For any group of people to turn themselves into a cost-rent or co-ownership housing society there are only four things they have to do, and this is laid down in the 1964 Housing Act. They have to register themselves under the Industrial and Provident Societies Act 1893. They have not to trade for profit. They have to be established for the purpose of, or have among their purposes, constructing, improving or managing houses—which is of course what we are talking about. And the houses have to be kept available for letting, which again is what we are talking about—that is, about statutory powers.
Noble Lords may say—some have said—"I know the law does not need amending, but let us amend it to make doubly clear that there is no statutory bar 327 to student housing associations and societies". As I did on Second Reading, I must formally oppose this on the simple social ground (my remark about red hair has been quoted; it was not intended to be flippant) that if you are going to let in students as a category under declaratory statutory law to make it clear that they have a right to this, then I think we must let in first old people, disabled people, unmarried mothers. Those I am sure of; other noble Lords will have other categories they would rather let in first. I would go no further than those three. Since there is no Amendment down to do this, I think we must not amend the Bill to make declaratory statements in favour of students.
The noble Lord, Lord Annan, raised the question of hostels. I think we are clear about this. A hostel comes under student law not so much under housing law, and that is a point I shall come to when I wind up in general. But there are three sorts of things: a housing association, of which there is the sub-species housing society, and separately the hostel, which comes under the umbrella of the U.G.C. and comes accordingly under its rules. I was very interested by Lord Bowden's account of the difficulties in Manchester, and I should like time to think about that and read what he said with some care, and also by Lord Royle's account of the difficulties in Brighton. It is interesting—is it not?—how a standard or value has grown up among the students of Sussex University that it is much better and more desirable and smarter to rough it in the town, without the help of any housing association, than to live on that shining new campus which many of them regard as a sort of social benefit for the weaker brethren and with which they will have nothing to do. Now let me come to the major question of whether students are getting a raw deal, and, if so, what can be done about it.
§ Lord ANNAN
Would the noble Lord permit me to put one question to him? He mentioned hostels. The point I was trying to emphasise was that very often when an application is made it is turned down on the ground that this accommodation is hostel accommodation, whereas in fact it satisfies the criteria as dwelling accommodation; namely, that it has self-contained catering facilities. 328 That was the point I was trying to make about hostels and dwellings.
I take the noble Lord's point. It is a question of fact whether or not the plan would satisfy the criteria for being a dwelling. It may be that the criteria should be looked at or that they are being over rigidly applied. I do not know, and I will take this up in a moment.
It so happens that the difficulties of students as regards housing have come up in Parliament in a concentrated and agitated form on a Housing Bill. This is perfectly natural. It may be that they are increasing; I do not know. Several Members of the Committe believe they are, and I think it may be believed rather generally that they are. There is a Housing Bill going through; there is no Education Bill going through; so it is natural that this question should come up on a Housing Bill, but in terms of social reality it is a matter which straddles housing policy and education policy. If more money is to go to it, it is not easy to see whether it should be on the Housing Vote or the Education Vote. Such things have to be sorted out.
The noble Lord, Lord Brooke, suggested that there should be a meeting of one or two Peers and those interested in getting student housing associations going with my right honourable friend or me. For myself—I cannot commit my right honourable friend; I do not know how busy he may be at any particular moment—I would welcome that. I hope the meeting will not be too large. Mass deputations do not get through the difficulties in the matter so quickly as smaller ones; but perhaps after the Recess, or towards the end of the Recess, we could do that. But I should like to say that during the time between now and then my right honourable friend and I will consider what ought to be done.
Lord Annan asked for a Working Party. I cannot promise any precise form of consideration. These are structural matters. One would need to think of the best way of getting it done. The first thing is that my right honourable friend will have to be in touch with the Secretary of State for Education and Science, so that the two Departments can look at it together and consider the problem together. After that, it seems 329 to me probable that they, jointly or one of them on behalf of both, will wish to meet other parties concerned. I would sooner not promise a specific form of Working Party, but I do undertake that there will be consideration within the Government of these matters, and after that consultation with interested persons in whatever seems the most appropriate form at the time; and I do undertake that at least I and possibly my right honourable friend will receive interested Peers and others a little later on.
I have distinguished between the two things, the Amendments to this Bill and the general question. I hope that what I have said about the general question may be enough to assuage your Lordships' desire to carry Amendments into this Bill, because if I am right about this, then I shall not need to enter into dettailed arguments on each of the Amendments—and on each of them there are difficulties of a particular nature which are quite unrelated with the general question that we have been discussing. So I hope that the Committee will agree that the best course is not to amend this Bill, since it does not need it, and to accept my assurance that the Government will have a fresh look at this matter in accordance with the most efficient procedure that they can devise, and will later on be ready to discuss it with those who are interested.
§ Lord ANNAN
I thank the noble Lord for his reply, and also noble Lords who have been kind enough to support me this afternoon. In particular, I should like to express my thanks to the noble Lord, Lord Brooke, because he raised, and it was echoed on this side of the Committee as well, that most important point about what was called the political side of this question. Here are student associations doing extremely good work and displaying a really extraordinary mastery of the complexities of this housing problem which, as Lord Kennet says, is not easy to unravel for amateurs. Nothing has impressed me more than the work which I have seen these associations do, particularly the one of which I am a director, in the past year.
I accept, of course, that the noble Lord, Lord Kennet, was not going to give way on the business of amending the Bill. I am also a little sorry in regard to the terms of his reply, that I felt that some- 330 times I was swimming in dough. But I know that there is good will on his side. The only thing that I was worried about was whether he had fully taken into account the point made by his noble friend Lord Leatherland, namely, an instruction to local authorities which would set out the statutory position. I think that if he could give an assurance on this point I myself would be most satisfied to withdraw the Amendment, bearing in mind that he has given us, at any rate, hope on two fronts: first of all, on the short term front that possibly towards the end of the Recess, or the beginning of the next Session, there would be an opportunity for interested parties under Parliamentary auspices to meet the Minister; and secondly, a longer-term assurance that he and his right honourable friend will consider the possibility of setting up a Working Party, which I fully agree with Lord Brooke is a much longer-term affair in that that really would go into, I take it, the best and most economical way of providing residence for students, not merely in universities but in all sectors of tertiary education. I beg leave to withdraw the Amendment.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ Clause 27 agreed to.
§ Schedule 1 agreed to.
§ Clause 28 agreed to.
§ Clause 29 [Mutual exclusion of general improvement areas and clearance areas]:
Page 16, line 34, leave out ("by the authority").—(Lord Kennet.)
§ On Question, Amendment agreed to.
§ Lord KENNET: I beg to move Amendment No. 11.
Page 16, line 37, leave out ("belonging to the authority and").—(Lord Kennet.)
§ On Question, Amendment agreed to.
§ Clause 29, as amended, agreed to.
§ Clauses 30 and 31 agreed to.331
§ Clause 32 [General powers exercisable by local authority in general improvement area]:
Lord BROOKE of CUMNOR moved Amendment No. 12:
Page 18, line 11, leave out from ("acquire") to end of line 12 and insert ("compulsorily any land within or contiguous to the general improvement area.").
§ The noble Lord said: Amendment No. 12 is concerned with Clause 32 (1) which to me includes the astonishing statement that a local authority may be authorised by the Minister to acquire any land compulsorily. I am quite sure that is not what is meant. I would stress that Parliament hedges round compulsory purchase powers most thoughtfully and carefully. I believe I am right in saying that it might be desirable to put a compulsory purchase order on land which was just outside the edge of the general improvement area, but I cannot think that it would be desirable for a local authority to be encouraged to make a compulsory purchase order on some countryside two miles away just because it would be rather nice for improving the amenities. If my Amendment expresses what the Government really have in mind, I greatly hope that it will be accepted.
§ Lord KENNET
Yes; the Amendment seems to the Government to be a good one: that is to say, we agree with the effect that it seeks to achieve, but are not quite happy about the actual choice of words. We think there may be better words. If the noble Lord will agree not to press this Amendment, perhaps I could get together with him and suggest another word which he could move on Report.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ On Question, whether Clause 32 shall stand part of the Bill?
§ 5.59 p.m.
§ Lord LEATHERLAND
On Second Reading of this Bill I dealt with the question of compulsory purchase. I argued that local authorities as a whole do not like to indulge in compulsory purchase. I suggested that it would be far more desirable to entrust the local authorities with powers of compulsory repair 332 in cases where the landlord would not undertake to carry out repairs that either the tenant or local authority desired.
I admitted in the course of that speech that there were certain categories of housing covered by this Bill in respect of which compulsory repair orders would be permissible; but my noble friend in his reply rather suggested that the number of houses that would be covered by what I liked, that is the compulsory repair order, was rather larger than I myself had in mind. My reading of the provisions leads me to believe that compulsory repair orders would only be issued in a rather small number of cases, whereas the generality of the cases would be dealt with by what I did not like, the compulsory purchase order.
I asked my noble friend a few days ago whether there were any figures in his possession that would enable him to indicate roughly the proportion of houses that would be dealt with, as the Bill now stands, by compulsory repair, on the one hand, and by compulsory purchase order, on the other. If he has the figures convenient perhaps this would be a good moment for him to give them. If he has not, then we can leave this until a later date.
§ Lord KENNET
I have the figures, but before giving them I should like to explain to my noble friend that it was not so much the absolute figures of cases dealt with this way or the other way that concerned me so much as the circumstances. I was thinking of the case that a local authority had power to do this when it was moved to do so by a tenant who wanted it done and his landlord would not do it, and I wondered in what other circumstances the noble Lord wished to retain this power for the housing authority and I still hope to hear from him about that.
Let me now give the figures. We are talking about Section 19 of the Housing Act 1964, which enables a tenant to initiate action to compel the landlord to install any missing standard amenity. He does this by writing to the local authority who can then, at their discretion and subject to their being satisfied of certain statutory requirements—this is the provision the noble Lord likes—serve a notice on the landlord to do the works. 333 Therefore, what we are talking about is the number of notices served during the five year period 1964 to 1969. 3,189 such notices were served, and in 300 of the cases (that is 10 per cent.) the landlords availed themselves of their right to serve a counter notice of purchase on the local authority rather than carry out the improvements.
§ Clause 32 agreed to.
§ Clauses 33 and 34 agreed to.
§ Clause 35 [Disposal and appropriation of land]:
§ Amendment moved—
Page 19, line 30, leave out subsection (1) and insert—
("(1) Where any land for the time being vested in a local authority for the purposes of this Part of this Act—
§ On Question, Amendment agreed to.
Lord KENNET moved Amendment No. 14:
Page 19, line 42, after ("or") insert ("subject to subsection (4) of this section").
§ The noble Lord said: Amendments Nos. 14 and.15 relax slightly the conditions governing a local authority's letting of land, including buildings, held under Part II of the Bill. The Amendments will provide that a local authority will not be required to obtain the Minister's consent, where that consent is not otherwise required under subsection (1) of this clause, to the letting of such land at less than the best rent obtainable in cases where the letting is to be for a period not exceeding seven years. The clause, as drafted, would have required consent being obtained to any letting at less than the best rent obtainable. I beg to move.
§ On Question, Amendment agreed to.334
Page 20, line 14, at end insert ("and the consent of the Minister under subsection (2) of this section shall not be required to any letting for a term not exceeding seven years")—(Lord Kennet.)
§ On Question, Amendment agreed to.
§ Clause 35, as amended, agreed to.
§ Clause 36 [Standard grants in general improvement area]:
§ On Question, Whether Clause 35 shall stand part of the Bill?
§ 6.5 p.m.
§ Lord BROOKE of CUMNOR
I am not happy about Clause 36. A standard grant is usually obtainable as of right, but this clause purports to deprive people in general improvement areas of their right to obtain standard grants. Standard grants are made for the installation of amenities which most of us would regard as necessities of life. I [...]ail to see why somebody, just because he is living in an area which requires general improvement, should be deprived of the opportunity of getting the standard amenities into the house as soon as possible.
From reading the debates in another place, I gather that the Minister wished to use this as a kind of blackmailing lever to persuade the owner of the house to do much more than put in the standard grants. That is not really my conception of what the Minister or the local authority should be doing in a general improvement area. In a general improvement area, I should have said the first thing to do was to get all the houses up to a reasonable standard of amenity as quickly as possible, and to top that up in various ways, if possible. I must say I very much dislike the idea of a local authority being enabled by Clause 36 to withhold standard grants from people who are without the amenities. I think that the Commitee would wish for a clear explanation from the noble Lord. Lord Kennet, as to why this clause needs to be included in the Bill.
§ Lord AIREDALE
I should like to support the noble Lord. Surely the whole point of the distinction between the standard grant and the discretionary grant is that the standard grant is something that you can have as of right, and 335 the discretionary grant obviously is purely discretionary. Clause 36 says, in effect, that if you live in a general improvement area a standard grant becomes just a discretionary grant, and that cuts right across the whole point of this important distinction of having the standard grants which are obtainable as of right. Surely the legislation can be drafted so as to preserve this important distinction that standard grants shall be obtainable as of right in all circumstances, and shall not become discretionary just because somebody happens to live in a general improvement area.
§ Lord KENNET
Supposing there were a compulsory waistcoat and it were one's purpose to introduce in certain places voluntary overcoats on a wide basis. Would one then retain the compulsory waistcoat provision? This is really what it is about. The standard grant in the general improvement areas, as the Bill is drafted, and as Clause 36 says, will be able to be given on application, but it will not be bound to be given by the local authority. In these areas the housing authorities will be hoping to secure the agreement of owners to the improvement of the sound old houses to a level far above the minimum achieved with the standard grants, and in this way they will be hoping to see the full potential of those houses and that area realised.
The noble Lord spoke about blackmail, but I really do not accept that it is. I think the point he was referring to was that if owners of houses were to say, "I demand my standard grant and I will not go with you in your desire to do better than that and pay me a bigger grant" this might provide a stumbling block and raise difficulties in the path of the housing authority, which will be concerned, first and above all, to get the understanding and agreement of everybody who lives in the area before it starts on the general plan. The Government would like to see the hands of the housing authority quite untied as regards the type of grant and the things for which they should pay in the case of all the houses in a general improvement area, although of course there is no proposal to change it outside general improvement areas.
336 This does not mean, I repeat, that standard grants will not be available in general improvement areas: they will. And in the cases where they do the job best the local authority will no doubt wish, in the interests of saving everybody trouble, to do it that way. But there may be other cases where in their judgment the job will be better done with a different sort of grant, maybe not very much bigger than the standard grant, but not necessarily complying with the statutory requirements of the standard grant. The Government are very anxious that the housing authorities should not be in any way shackled in dealing with these areas, but should be able to approach them imaginatively and to deal with each one according to its own characteristics and not to any statutory preconception.
The noble Lord, Lord Brooke, asked, "Why cannot they use a discretionary grant to top up after the standard grant has been given?" It does not really work like that. It is far more sensible to give a discretionary grant in the first place, doing under the discretionary grant the work which would have been done under the standard grant, anyhow, and some other work, all in one go. You do not want to start again under a separate procedure.
Lord Brooke also said that this deprives people of their right to a statutory grant. I would sooner put it that it relieves local authorities of their duty to do this thing in the lesser way while they are doing it in the larger way on a voluntary basis all round.
§ Lord SILKIN
I must confess that, while I appreciate what the Minister has in mind in this clause, it seems to me the wrong way to achieve it. I appreciate that in an improvement area he wants to encourage a rather higher standard of improvement than in a normal area; that is to say, the standard improvements would be of a more ambitious form than normally. But to try to achieve that by withholding a grant, or by encouraging local authorities to withhold it, seems quite wrong. I cannot suggest an alternative way to do it, but I feel that a little more thought ought to be given to this clause. I would respectfully suggest that my noble friend should undertake to look at this again to see whether the same result can be achieved in a better way, 337 possibly by encouraging a larger grant, or something of that sort. I am not in a position to make any definite proposal, but I think the problem needs to be looked at again.
§ Lord AIREDALE
I would accept the analogy of the waistcoat and the overcoat if I felt sure that all the people in these general improvement areas were certain to get their overcoats. What is quite certain from this Clause is that they will not get their waistcoats except at the discretion of the local authority, and I am worried that some of them will not get overcoats either—and I think some of these people are in for a hard winter.
§ Lord BROOKE of CUMNOR
I think the noble Lord, Lord Kennet, can see that the Committee is unhappy about this clause. I am very grateful to the noble Lords, Lord Silkin and Lord Airedale, for what they have said. Let me assure the Government that I do not want to shackle anybody; least of all those who feel that they can afford to put in standard amenities but do not feel that they can afford to do a great deal more in improving the property. I very much hope that the noble Lord, Lord Kennet, will examine this matter in the light of what has been said because, clearly, there are certain dangers in this clause. I do not intend to press to-night my Amendment to leave out the clause, but I reserve the right to return to it at a later stage of the Bill if the Government themeslves do not put down an Amendment, such as the noble Lord, Lord Silkin, has suggested, which would lessen the potential harm that it might do.
§ Lord KENNET
I am most anxious to content the Committee, and especially my noble friend Lord Silkin. Perhaps I might say another word. He spoke of the possibility of encouraging a larger grant rather than maintaining this smaller standard grant as of right. I hope it is quite clear to all noble Lords that that is what this whole Bill is about. It is enshrined in Clause 70, which binds authorities to do all they can to improve the area; and the major part of the financial side of this Bill consists of an increase in the maximum grant they may give from £400 to no less than £1, 000—that is an increase of two-and-half times—a factor of 2½. The whole drive and direction of the Bill, 338 which has the solid support of the country's housing authorities, is towards encouraging the larger grant, and it is only because that is so that the Government have thought it right to remove the compulsory nature of the smaller grant, which I assure the Committee will be completely lost in the great sweep of improvements we hope to see under this Bill.
I should like to conclude by telling the Committee that last week I saw a pilot scheme at Exeter, part of which is now complete, which has been done by extrastatutory arrangement, as if this Bill were in force, in order to enable us to learn the difficulties and the achievements. It looks absolutely marvellous. It looks very pretty indeed. It is delightful to walk about in. The insides of the houses look absolutely marvellous; and they are delightful to live in. The people are overjoyed. It could not be further removed from the sort of minimum improvement one sees with a standard grant, and I assure your Lordships that the thought of its being in any way relevant to what is being done there to have the old standard grant still compulsory in that area is a strange one to me, as it would be to your Lordships if you had seen this advance sample in Exeter.
§ Clause 36 agreed to.
§ Clause 37 [Contributions to local authorities towards expenditure incurred under this Part of this Act]:
§ On Question, Whether Clause 37 shall stand part of the Bill?
§ Lord BROOKE of CUMNOR
I do not want to dwell for long on this clause, but I feel it necessary to express the view that unless the figure of £100 in subsection (4) is increased the success of the general improvement area policy is likely to be limited to very small schemes. I have not put down any Amendment, partly because this is a matter of money, but mainly because subsection (5) enables the Minister by order to substitute another amount for the amount of £100 multiplied by the number of dwellings in the area. So there is a let-out there. I do not think there is any secret that the local authorities are concerned at the smallness of this figure, and feel that it will be very restrictive against them in carrying out vigorously the policy which the Government desire to achieve through this Part of the Bill.
§ Lord KENNET
I do not think the noble Lord will really expect me to add to that: he has answered himself. There is power to vary the grant level by order at any time, and the Government will naturally keep the level under continuous review.
§ Clause 37 agreed to.
§ Clauses 38 to 42 agreed to.
§ Clause 43 [Conversion of controlled tenancies of dwellings provided with standard amenities and in good repair]:
§ On Question, Whether Clause 43 shall stand part of the Bill?
§ 6.20 p.m.
§ Lord BROOKE of CUMNOR
We now come to Part III of the Bill. Very briefly, I should like to say something on the machinery, which seems to me to be quite unnecessarily complicated. You have to go to the local authority to get what is called a qualification certificate and then, armed with the qualification certificate, you have to go off to another office, the office of the rent officer, and get a rent registered. Here again I know that the local authorities which will have to operate this machinery are extremely concerned that it has been made so complicated and so detailed. I have not ventured to put down Amendments because I think they would have to be very far-reaching; but I would put it to the Government, even at this late stage in the Bill's progress, that the Bill will work much more smoothly if a great deal of this complicated machinery can be removed in cases where there is no difference of opinion between the landlord and the tenant about the state of the repair of the house.
I think that the local authorities are going to be tied up in a tremendous amount of unnecessary work. I agree that it is desirable that the tenant should not bring pressure to bear on the landlord, or the landlord on the tenant, to agree to something not wholly right; but it is a mistake to treat all landlords and all tenants as though they were at daggers drawn. I believe that if it were not required by Statute that they should go through the immense complications of these next few clauses a large number of cases would be cleared up with complete good will, with ex- 340 pedition and with the saving of a vast amount of manpower, which of course means money as well.
There is going to be a lot of work to be done under Part III; but to be so meticulous about every detail, even in cases where there is entire agreement between the landlord and the tenant, is to invite the danger of clogging the machinery. I know that this view has been put, outside Parliament, to the Government. I know that up to now the Government have not seen their way to simplify the arrangements. I feel that I must take this opportunity of saying that it seems to me a very great pity that the Government have not been willing to arrange for a much more streamlined procedure in all those cases where there is no difference of opinion between the landlord and the tenant and where, therefore, it is not really necessary to bring in the local authority to make a judgment between them.
§ Lord KENNET
I take the noble Lord's point. The problem is to be sure that there is no difference of opinion, unless you have a statutory procedure which will reveal the certain absence of difference of opinion. I see that the noble Lord has down later Amendments which it seems to the Government might leave it a little uncertain whether there was or was not agreement.
§ Clause 43 agreed to.
§ Clause 44 [Application for qualification certificate]:
Lord BROOKE of CUMNOR moved Amendment No. 16:
Page 24, line 32, leave out from ("amenities") to end of line 36.
The noble Lord said: I say frankly that I do not understand subsection (2) or the necessity for the words which my Amendment proposed to leave out. The subsection says:
An application for a qualification certificate may be made … notwithstanding that at the time of the making of the application the dwelling lacks one or more of the standard amenities, if the application is made … before any works are begun for providing the dwelling with the standard amenities which it lacks.
§ Why is it necessary to insert that proviso? Why would it matter if the works had been begun? We want to get on with 341 these works—that is common ground between us. I fail to understand why the qualification certificate machinery should be brought to a halt if the application for the qualification certificate is not made until after the works have begun for bringing the dwelling up to par with the standard amenities. I beg to move.
§ Lord KENNET
Simply to safeguard the interest of the tenant. The essence of the system is that the tenant should be aware of the rent which will be registered after the improvements are carried out before he consents to the improvements. If the landlord can start the improvements without the tenant knowing what the registered rent is going to be, then, if he has consented to the landlord starting, he has done so in ignorance. The provision is drafted in this way in order to ensure that as full information of what is in store for him is given to the tenant before he agrees to the landlord going ahead with the improvements.
§ Lord BROOKE of CUMNOR
I appreciate that; but what happens if he starts the work without applying for the qualification certificate? Does that render it impossible for him ever to obtain a qualification certificate.
§ Lord KENNET
I am not sure. I should like time to look at that. But clearly he is proceeding in a way not provided for in the Bill. I assume that he might be at risk in his attempt to get into regulations.
§ Lord BROOKE of CUMNOR
Perhaps at a later stage we shall be able to discover what will happen if he fails to make an application before the works are begun. It seems to me that, through inadvertence, everything might be brought to an undesired halt. I certainly do not want to press this matter, I am grateful to the noble Lord for what he has said and I beg leave to withdraw my Amendment.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ Clause 44 agreed to.
§ Clauses 45 to 47 agreed to.
§ Schedule 2 agreed to.
§ Clause 48 agreed to.342
§ Clause 49 [Appeal in certain cases against issue or refusal of qualification certificate]:
§ Amendment moved—
Page 26, line 39, leave out from beginning to end of line 41 and insert—
("(3) The following provisions shall apply on an appeal under this section, that is to say—
§ On Question, Amendment agreed to.
§ Clause 49, as amended, agreed to.
§ Clause 50 [Postponement in certain cases of effect of, qualification certificate]:
§ 6.30 p.m.
Lord BROOKE of CUMNOR moved Amendment No. 18:
Page 27, line 19, leave out ("January 1971") and insert ("April 1970").
§ The noble Lord said: I beg to move Amendment No. 18. The Committes will readily agree that Nos. 19 and 20 are linked with it. This is a matter of much greater substance than the Amendments we have been discussing in the last few minutes. It concerns the state and quality of the houses. The noble Lord will correct me if I go wrong (these matters are very complicated), but I believe that we are discussing the houses which are still subject to controlled rents; that is to say, in general the controlled ren[...] that is being paid is twice the gross value in 1958.
§ The suggestion in this Clause is that even though the landlord has done everything necessary and has obtained his qualification certificate which proves that the house has the standard amenities and is in good repair, and in all other respects fit for human habitation, he is nevertheless not to get the benefit of the new rent which will accrue when the house goes from controlled to regulated status until some date, which may be 1971 or 1972. I understated that. If one reads this in conjunction with Schedule 3, one finds that he is not to get the full rent which is regarded by the rent officer and the rent assessment committee as a 343 fair rent until, possibly, 1976; but we can discuss that when we come to Schedule 3. The point here is that he is not to be entitled to any increase in this avowedly inadequate rent until January 1, 1971, in the case of houses of a somewhat higher rateable value; July 1, 1971, as regards the middle band, and January 1, 1972, as regards the houses of a lower rateable value.
§ Those amendments put off the increase in rent too long. These are houses which have been—or many of them have been—on the brink of contributing to the numbers of slum houses in the country. The Minister himself used strong words on the Second Reading of the Bill, pointing out how inadequate are controlled rents for keeping houses in good repair. Nevertheless, the owners of these houses will have had to put them in good repair and supply them with all the standard amenties if they are to get this qualification certificate. Even then, the rents are not to begin to be increased towards a fairer figure until 1971 or 1972.
§ My Amendments suggest that each of the three dates in the Bill should be brought forward by nine months. I believe that there is no reason whatever why that should not be done. In Committee in another place it was argued that the rent officers might be overwhelmed. I have therefore drafted Amendments which make a smaller difference to the dates than the differences which were discussed in Committee in another place. I accept that the proposal in Committee in another place to bring January 1, 1971, back to January 1, 1970, may have gone too far; but the earliest date suggested in my Amendments is April, 1970. If this Bill receives the Royal Assent next week, as we all hope (I think the noble Lord will agree that I have been doing my best this afternoon to expedite the proceedings) there will be a period of no less than eight months before the date, April 1, 1970, at which a beginning of an upward rise towards a fair rent can be made.
§ It cannot be right that those people who have suffered the inadequacy of controlled rents for many years should see that inadequacy continue for as long as the Bill proposes. I do not think there is any division between the political Parties now—at any rate between their 344 leaders—as regards the inadequacy of controlled rents. As I had always imagined that one of the objects of the White Paper and of this Bill was to encourage house improvement and to make sure that houses did not slip back again into a poor state, it really is undiplomatic—to use the least, the smallest, word—to treat those landlords who are genuinely trying, despite the inadequacy of their rents over many years, to put and keep their houses in the state which the Government desire, in so scurvy a way as this clause will do in the sense of postponing increases of rents. I think the proposals that I have made here are perfectly reasonable. They are that each of these dates should be brought forward by nine months. I cannot see any valid argument against doing this, and I most strongly urge the Government to accept the Amendment. I beg to move.
§ 6.36 p.m.
§ Lord KENNET
Controlled rent is basically twice the 1956 gross rateable value. The noble Lord, Lord Brooke of Cumnor, said that to delay was a scurvy way to treat landlords who only desire to improve and maintain their houses. The noble Lord knows very well that the Government do not propose to treat those who desire to improve their houses in that way. They get their rent increases at once, and it is in order that they should get those increases at once that the Government propose that those who have already improved their houses—this is the group affected by the noble Lord's Amendments—should wait for their rent increases until those who are about to improve have done so, and have the first flush of the increases. It is because the whole purpose of the Bill is to get improvements done—not enough improvements are being done—that we propose not to advance into regulation the rents of houses where the improvement is already done until we are through the first flush of registrations of houses which will be done under the new provisions.
It is important that the rent officers' consideration of the qualified cases should not delay their dealings with new improvement cases, and that is why we propose that the already qualified cases should be allowed into the rent regulation system after the first flush which I mentioned—and not the new one—is already well 345 under way. The number of dwellings in each of the rateable bands (the noble Lord, Lord Brooke of Cumnor, has an Amendment down which we shall come to later, to reduce the number of phases from live to three) is at present estimated at about 60, 000 to 70, 000. If this Amendment and the two Amendments which we are considering with it were accepted, applications in respect of all the dwellings in the first two bands—about 150, 000—could be made to rent officers between April 1, 1970, and the end of that year.
§ Lord BROOKE of CUMNOR
I am sorry to interrupt the noble Lord, but may I ask whether, when he speaks of two bands, he means subsection (2) (a), (b) and (c) of Clause 50; or is he referring to figures in Schedule 3 to which I have an Amendment? Are they rateable value bands?
§ Lord KENNET
Yes, rateable value bands by which the controlled rents go forward into regulation. The Government conclude that the rent officers could not adequately deal with the 150, 000 in the first two bands and the first flush of new improvements both at the same time. We already aim at an initial strengthening of the corps of rent officers by the end of 1969 to take the first increase of work from the improvement cases, and after that we shall have to watch the position very carefully, so that in each year in each area there are enough rent officers to cope with the cases as they come forward. This will be done by getting part-timers to do more and to become full-time wherever possible; by recruiting additional rent officers and by taking on extra ancillary staff. The clerks of the county councils and county boroughs and the London boroughs are already being consulted about plans for their areas. So the Government believe that by the end of 1970 all this will have led not only to a considerable strengthening of the service but also to a more accurate assessment than we have now of the number of already qualified cases, the ones which would be accelerated under the noble Lord's Amendment, because we shall be able to find out the number of qualification certificates which the local authorities are issuing.
We accept that a further expanding of the rent officer service will still be needed 346 to deal with the already qualified cases, but it could proceed on a more realistic and practical basis in the knowledge of the likely number of already qualified cases which would go to rent officers. Under the scheme of this Amendment, the rent officer service would need to be expanded to cope, within about nine months of the start, with up to 100, 000 already qualified cases, over and above the improvement cases and the existing work, which is currently running at over 50, 000 cases a year in England and Wales. The Government fear it is unrealistic to think in terms of a programme to cater for this within a shorter time than is set out in the Bill as drafted.
Nevertheless it is in the Bill, under Clause 50 (3), that the Minister will have power to bring forward by order the dates of conversion (that is, the dates of the passing from control to regulation) in the already qualified cases, either throughout the country or in relation to particular registration areas, if it should prove practical and desirable to do so in the light of experience. I could not advise the Committee to go further than that reserve power which the Minister has to speed things up, if he thinks it safe to do so, by adopting the noble Lord's Amendment which would automatically permit a speeding up by the bringing forward of controlled rents into regulation rents, in those cases where improvement has already been carried out under the old system. I hope that with that explanation of the background on the rent officer service, the noble Lord may be willing not to press his Amendment.
§ Lord BROOKE of CUMNOR
I am sorry to query the figures again, but other noble Lords like myself may have been somewhat puzzled by them. We are referring now to the three bands of rateable value in subsection (2) of Clause 50. I understand that the Government in another place said that they estimated there were about 200, 000 of these controlled houses which had already been brought up to standard; yet I understood the noble Lord to say that more than 100, 000 of these were in the first band. I find this extremely difficult to understand and I will go on talking for a minute or two in the hope that the noble Lord may be able to elucidate the figures, because it will help us all to reach decisions on this matter if we know what 347 are the estimated numbers in the various bands which I will describe as (2) (a), (2)(b) and (2)(c). Whatever the figures are, I still feel that those landlords who have done their duty are being unjustly treated if the increased rents which they have, as it were, earned by putting the houses into proper condition early are withheld in order that that interval of time may benefit those who have been slower to get on with the job. It may be that the noble Lord can give me the figures for which I asked.
§ Lord KENNET
Yes. I think the mystery is now cleared up. There are, as I said, in each rateable value band about 60,000 or 70,000 houses, and the first two bands—that is, two out of three—contain, therefore, about 130,000 to 140,000 houses between them. I think the confusion arose in my mind because I dragged in a red herring about another set of bands which the noble Lord was proposing to reduce later on from five to three. This set of bands, (2)(a), (2)(b) and (2)(c), has 60,000 or 70,000 in each. Therefore the first two together are 130,000 to 140,000; and all three together about 200,000. That is the number of old controlled houses which we expect in all to come forward into regulation as a result of this Bill, and that is about half the number of old controlled houses in all.
§ Lord BROOKE of CUMNOR
I am sorry to disappoint the noble Lord, but I believe these dates are too far forward.
§ I think it is fantasy to suppose that everybody concerned will arrive at the rent officers' door on whatever date we put into this Bill. In fact, we know from experience in many fields, particularly, if I may mention it in passing, the leasehold field, that though large numbers of people may be entitled by Parliament to do a certain thing at a certain date, it does not happen that way. They come along much more slowly. I am convinced that it is unjust that these owners, who have in fact already done what is required of them, should be kept down to their controlled rent as long as the Government proposed. The noble Lord said that controlled rent was twice the 1956 gross value. By a slip of the tongue I said 1958, but as I have now reminded myself that the Minister himself said on the Second Reading of the Bill that it was twice the 1939 gross value, perhaps the noble Lord and I can both agree on that.
§ I am sorry to disappoint the noble Lord. I realise that he feels that there would be pressure on rent officers, but I do not think there would be nearly so much pressure on rent officers as he fears. I do not think that the acceleration of these dates will in fact impede the big effort to get houses improved, and I feel it necessary to press this Amendment.
§ 6.50 p.m.
§ On Question, Whether the said Amendment (No. 18) shall be agreed to?
§ Their Lordships divided: Contents, 49; Not-Contents, 36.349
|Ailwyn, L.||Derwent, L.||Malmesbury, E.|
|Albemarle, E.||Drumalbyn, L.||Massereene and Ferrard, V.|
|Allerton, L.||Elgin and Kincardine, E.||Mowbray and Stourton, L.|
|Audley, Bs.||Falkland, V.||Netherthorpe, L.|
|Balerno, L.||Falmouth, V.||Newton, L.|
|Belstead, L.||Ferrier, L.||St. Aldwyn, E. [Teller.]|
|Boston, L.||Gage, V.||St. Oswald, L.|
|Brooke of Cumnor, L.||G[...]sborough, L.||Sandford, L.|
|Brooke of Ystradfellte, Bs.||Goschen, V. [Teller.]||Sandys, L.|
|Carrington, L.||G[...]enfell, L.||Selkirk, E.|
|Clifford of Chudleigh, L.||Gridley, L||Silsoe, L.|
|Cork and Orrery, E.||Inglewood, L.||Strathcarron L.|
|Craigmyle, L.||Jellicoe, E.||Templemore, L|
|Cranbrook, E.||Killearn, I.||Todd, L.|
|Cromartie, E.||Lauderdale, E.||Vivian, I.|
|Daventry, V.||MacAndrew, L.||Wolverton, L.|
|Annan, L.||Blyton, L.||Burden, L.|
|Archibald, L.||Bowles, L. [Teller.]||Champion, L.|
|Beswick, L.||Brown, L.||Collison, L.|
|Crook, L.||Leatherland, L.||Serota, Bs.|
|Evans of Hungershall, L.||Llewelyn-Davies of Hastoe, Bs. [Teller.]||Shackleton, L. (L. Privy Seal.)|
|Gaitskell, Bs.||Shepherd, L.|
|Gardiner, L. (L. Chancellor.)||Maelor, L.||Sorensen, L.|
|Garnsworthy, L.||Phillips, Bs.||Stonham, L.|
|Granville of Eye, L.||Raglan, L.||Strabolgi, L.|
|Heycock, L.||Ritchie-Calder, L.||Taylor of Mansfield, L.|
|Hill of Wivenhoe, L.||St. Davids, V.||Tayside, L.|
|Hughes, L.||Segal, L.||Wright of Ashton under Lyne, L.|
On Question, Amendment agreed to.
§ Resolved in the affirmative, and Amendment agreed to accordingly.
Page 27, line 22, leave out ("July 1971") and insert ("October 1970").—(Lord Brooke of Cumnor.)
Page 27, line 26, leave out ("January 1972") and insert ("April 1971").—(Lord Brooke of Cumnor.)
Page 27, line 28, after ("elsewhere") insert ("of a value").—(Lord Kennet.)
§ Clause 50, as amended, agreed to.
§ Clauses 51 and 52 agreed to.
§ Schedule 3 [Restriction on Rent Increases]:
§ 6.57 p.m.
Lord BROOKE of CUMNOR moved Amendment No. 22:
Page 56, line 7, leave out from ("of") to end of line 13 and insert ("two years delay").
§ The noble Lord said: I beg to move Amendment No. 22 and Nos. 23 and 24 are linked with it. I am afraid that we may have queered the pitch of the argument for these Amendments by our debate on the last one. If I am partially guilty for that, I plead for forgiveness. I think that the noble Lord and other noble Lords will agree that these are complicated matters. Whereas on the last group of Amendments we were discussing the dates at which rents should begin to rise towards the fair rent after the issue of a fair rent certificate, in this series of Amend- 350 merits we are debating the period of delay until the full fair rent is reached.
§ The Government's proposal is that there should be two separate classes. It is proposed that the period of delay should be two years, with the rent going up by one-third of the increment each year, in those cases where the tenancy has become regulated and the rent registered after the completion of works which have received a grant under Part I. On the other hand, in those cases where the tenancy has become a regulated tenancy by virtue of Part III of this Bill, all the necessary work having already beer done to enable the house to qualify, it is proposed that the period of delay should be four years instead of two, with the rent going up by one-fifth of the increment each year.
§ My Amendment is designed simply to bring the second class into uniformity with the first. I fail to see why it should be necessary to postpone the full rent until the year 1975 or 1976 in those cases where the landlord has been a good landlord, in the sense that he did the necessary work early. In the other case, where the work was done later, and where the landlord therefore may not get such a good mark, the increase is to take place by 1973 or 1974.
§ In those cases where the work has already been done the rent increase is to be stretched over a longer period and is to rise by only one-fifth each year. There may be some good and logical reason of substance underlying this, but if so it did not come out in debates in another place, nor has it managed to convey itself to the professional societies and organisations which are concerned with housing, for I know that they feel as concerned as I do about the length of the escalator, one-fifth of the increase each year, for those houses which have already been improved. In this case I will not ask the noble Lord about numbers. It may cloud our discussions if we get into a new set of numbers, but I feel strongly that we ought to amend the Bill 351 on the lines I am suggesting, and I now challenge the noble Lord to explain why he should not do so—in other words, why these Amendments of mine should not be accepted.
§ Lord KENNET
This is a matter of judgment. Some of these rent increases will be quite large. That will not be very pleasant for the tenants, and it is the judgment of the Government that five-year phasing is a more human and acceptable arrangement than three-year phasing. Amendments having the same effect as the noble Lord's were discussed and negatived both in Committee and on Report in the House of Commons. It was a matter of judgment then; it is a matter of judgment now, and the Government are not prepared, by agreement, to see the five-year period reduced to three years. The Committee will not wish me to say any more. We all understand what our judgments are in landlord and tenant law. The difference between the two Front Benches is not an unexpected one, but I hope the noble Lord will not think it worth upsetting here a judgment which has been twice agreed in another place on this matter.
§ Lord BROOKE of CUMNOR
I have seldom heard a more jejune reply to any Amendment than that. It would shorten our Parliamentary proceedings greatly if the Government's reply on every Amendment was, "Well, this is a matter of judgment and my judgment is
§ better than yours; therefore this Amendment should be rejected". I had sincerely hoped that the noble Lord would indicate on what grounds his judgment was based. From what has been said I can see no reason whatever why I should not press these Amendments.
§ Lord KENNET
I, too, had sincerely hoped that the noble Lord would give the Committee his grounds for dissenting from the period of five years that is before the Committee.
§ Lord BROOKE of CUMNOR
I do that willingly, because I have already done it in my first speech. I said that in this case, if the Bill goes through unamended, various owners of property will not be able to obtain until 1975 or 1976 what the rent officer or the assessment committee has said is the fair rent for the house. That seems to me unreasonable.
§ Lord KENNET
The noble Lord has not given a reason why a three-year delay is acceptable if a five-year delay is not.
§ Lord BROOKE of CUMNOR
The answer is obvious; 1973 and 1974 are respectively two years earlier than 1975 and 1976.
§ 7.5 p.m.
§ On Question: Whether the said Amendment (No. 22) shall be agreed to?
§ Their Lordships divided: Contents 50; Not-Contents, 36.353
|Ailwyn, L.||Daventry, V.||MacAndrew, L.|
|Albemarle, E.||Denham, L. [Teller.]||McCorquodale of Newton, L.|
|Allerton, L.||Derwent, L.||Malmesbury, E.|
|Audley, Bs.||Drumalbyn, L.||Massereene and Ferrard, V.|
|Balerno, L.||Elgin and Kincardine, E.||Mowbray and Stourton, L.|
|Belstead, E.||Falkland, V.||Netherthorpe, L.|
|Berkeley, Bs.||Falmouth, V.||Newton, L.|
|Boston, L.||Ferrier, L.||St. Aldwyn, E.|
|Brooke of Cumnor, L.||Gage, V.||St. Oswald, L.|
|Brooke of Ystradfellte, Bs.||Gisborough, L.||Sandford, L.|
|Carrington, L.||Goschen, V. [Teller.]||Sandys, L.|
|Clifford of Chudleigh, L.||Grenfell, L.||Selkirk, E.|
|Conesford, L.||Gridley, L.||Strathcarron, L.|
|Cork and Orrery, E.||Inglewood, L.||Templemore, L.|
|Craigmyle, L.||Jellicoe, E.||Vivian, L.|
|Cranbrook, E.||Killeam, L.||Wolverton, L.|
|Cromartie, E.||Lauderdale, E.|
|Annan, L.||Bowles, L.||Collison, L.|
|Archibald, L.||Brown, L.||Evans of Hungershall, L.|
|Beswick, L.||Buckinghamshire, E.||Gaitskell, Bs.|
|Blyton, L.||Burden, L.||Gardiner, L. (L. Chancellor.)|
|Bowden, L.||Chandos, V.||Garnsworthy, L.|
|Heycock, L.||Maelor, L.||Shackleton, L. (L. Privy Seal.)|
|Hill of Wivenhoe, L.||Phillips, Bs.||Sorensen, L.|
|Hilton of Upton, L. [Teller.]||Raglan, L.||Stonham, L.|
|Hughes, L.||Ritchie-Calder, L.||Strabolgi, L.|
|Kennet, L.||St. Davids, V.||Taylor of Mansfield, L.|
|Leatherland, L.||Segal, L.||Tayside, L.|
|Llewelyn-Davies of Hastoe, Bs. [Teller.]||Serota, Bs.||Wright of Ashton under Lyne, L.|
On Question, Amendment agreed to.
§ Resolved in the affirmative, and Amendment agreed to accordingly.
Page 56, line 29, leave out from ("second") to end of line 31 and insert ("column").—(Lord Brooke of Cumnor.)
Page 56, leave out lines 33 to 41 and insert—
|("Year of period of delay||Appropriate Proportion|
|—(Lord Brooke of Cumnor.)|
§ House resumed.