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Clause 1—(Variation Of Standard Rents Fixed By Reference To New Lettings)

Volume 462: debated on Monday 7 March 1949

The text on this page has been created from Hansard archive content, it may contain typographical errors.

I beg to move, in page 2, line 31, after "circumstances," to insert:

"(not being circumstances peculiar to the landlord or the tenant for the time being of that dwelling-house."
The purpose of the Amendment is to make it clear that tribunals shall have regard to all the circumstances of the premises and all the terms of the contract but shall not have any regard to the personal circumstances of the landlord or the tenant. During the discussion on the Committee stage, some difference of opinion was expressed with regard to the proper interpretation in this respect of Clause 1 (4). The hon. Member for Edge Hill (Mr. Irvine) said:
"As I understand it, the wording of the subsection would leave it open to the tribunal to have regard to the circumstances of the tenant if they regarded that as a relevant matter on the issue of what was a reasonable rent for the premises. In my judgment the tribunal should be free to determine whether that is a relevant factor."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 15th February, 1949; Vol. 461, c. 1045.]
The Minister of Health took the opposite view and I think the right view, but it is a matter which should be cleared up. When I asked him to express his view of the interpretation of the subsection, the right hon. Gentleman said:
"We are not dealing here with the personal circumstances of the tenant. We are not dealing with the personal circumstances of the landlord. It would not matter twopence whether the tenant was one of Jehovah's witnesses or whether the landlord was a Holy Roller. It has nothing to do with the matter at all. It is a purely property relationship. It does not deal with the subjective content of the landlord and the tenant, but with the objective contractual relations."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 15th February, 1949; Vol. 461, c. 1054–5.]
I think the Minister is right in that interpretation, but the fact remains that differences of view were expressed and this subsection will have to be interpreted by lay tribunals. I am sure that the Minister will agree that no expression of opinion which has been given in this House as to the interpretation of the subsection would have any weight, and certainly should not have any weight, with any tribunal which has to construe it. An assurance which he might give to us, however welcome, would not in any way be binding upon any court. I am not asking the Government to amend the Clause by way of giving any directions—I know that the Minister has expressed his strong objection to giving any directions—but to amend only by way of clarification. In view of some doubt having been expressed as to the interpretation of the Clause, it is desirable that subsection (4) should be amended in order to make it clear that the tribunal should have no regard whatsoever to the personal circumstancs of the landlord or the tenant

I entirely agree with the hon. Member for Sutton Coldfield (Sir J. Mellor) that it would be quite improper to take into account the personal circumstances of the tenant if one did not at the same time take into account the personal circumstances of the landlord, because in many of these instances the person who is called the landlord is often a principal tenant who is letting furnished rooms. Even if it were not so, if we allowed the tribunal to consider the private personal circumstances of one of the parties to the action, we ought to make similar allowance to the other party. However, the subsection does neither. As I understand it, it does not commit the tribunal to consider the personal circumstances of either the landlord or the tenant. All the tribunal have to take into account are the conditions appertaining to the letting, and those conditions are confined to the contractual relationship and not to the private relationship of either party. I thought I made that perfectly clear on the Committee stage. In fact, it would be almost impossible for a tribunal to assess the subjective factors in such a case. They could not weigh in their scales the degree of misery or happiness that might be occasioned to this or that person by whatever decision they reached. Those are not matters for a tribunal. I cannot imagine any tribunal to which they would be relevant.

But as reputable opinion in this House, and from the right hon. Gentleman's own side, expressed the diametrically opposite view to the one he has just expressed, would it not be wise when this has to be interpreted by lay tribunals to make it quite clear in the terms of the subsection?

As I understand it, it is clear. I give the assurance that if it is not clear, we shall certainly make it clearer than it is now. As I understand it, there is no doubt at all about the construction which can be placed on the words, but if the words are capable of bearing any other construction than the one I placed on them during Committee stage, I will certainly alter them.

I am obliged to the right hon. Gentleman for giving the undertaking that if there is any doubt about the proper interpretation to put upon the wording of the statute, he will be willing to effect such an Amendment as will make it perfectly plain to the lay tribunals. My only other point is that the Minister said that he did not think it was the task of these tribunals to try to arrive at any balance of happiness or misery as between the landlord and the tenant. He went on to say that he could not imagine that that was the task of any kind of tribunal.

I should like to have my words correctly represented. When I am speaking about happiness or misery I mean happiness or misery in relationship to private circumstances; happiness or misery, of course, in relation to whether they are being tied together in the same letting, because it is part of the duty of the tribunal to consider whether any further tenancy should be accorded having regard to the impact of one family on the other family sharing similar accommodation. The tribunal would have to take that into account. I was speaking about the private circumstances of the landlord or the tenant and not such circumstances as may arise out of the contractural matter which is the subject of arbitration.

I recommend the right hon. Gentleman to open his HANSARD at this column tomorrow morning and read through what he has just said and then put himself into the position of the numerous tribunals all through the country who are expecting to understand the Bill and put upon the Bill exactly the construction the Minister has been at such pains to explain to the House. It will be extremely difficult for them to do so. The Minister made a very interesting and valuable contribution because it goes a long way towards elucidating what is in his mind about this. I was about to say that as regards the general Rent Restrictions Acts a balance of this kind is exactly what the courts of law have to try to arrive at. Under a number of the provisions of the Rent Restrictions Acts, the county court judges have to exercise their discretion in order to decide whether giving the possession of the house to the landlord would or would not cause a greater hardship than refusing to do so. Therefore, in view of the fact that in administering the Rent Restrictions Acts the courts are actually required to use a discretion and to try to arrive at a balance of that kind, there is nothing unreasonable or improbable in the tribunals set up under the Bill thinking that they are under a similar obligation. All this, therefore, goes to show how entirely inadequate at present is the guidance being given in this Bill to the tribunals who are expected to administer it.

5.0 p.m.

I only intervene because, for once in a way, I find myself largely in agreement with what the right hon. Gentleman has said, and I should like that to be noted because it is unusual. As I understand it, the right hon. Gentleman takes the view that the present subsection is perfectly clear without the Amendment being added. At the same time I think he will agree that there is nothing in that Amendment in any way contrary to the view which he holds in regard to the way in which tribunals should act under this subsection. In view of the fact, as my hon. Friend pointed out, that the hon. Member for Edge Hill (Mr. Irvine) in Committee interpreted the subsection apparently entirely differently from the way in which the right hon. Gentleman has interpreted it, it seems to me that there is an argument for clarification.

The right hon. Gentleman takes the view that the personal circumstances of the individual landlord or tenant are in no way brought in under the Clause as it stands, and if the hon. Member for Edge Hill, who we would all agree is a Member of considerable intelligence, takes the view he did that the circumstances of the tenant could be a relevant factor, there is some difference of interpretation which might be taken up by lay tribunals. After all, if there is any doubt, it would be the most human thing in the world for lay tribunals to begin to consider the personal circumstances of a landlord or tenant, if they thought they could do it under this Clause because those are the sort of things which affect ordinary people. Although I do not press it strongly, I suggest to the right hon. Gentleman—because he has pointed out that later on if there is any doubt he will have that doubt clarified, and as in the Committee stage there was that doubt—that we might have this Amendment accepted, since it would sweep away all doubt and would also give us the hope that sometimes we can get an Amendment accepted by the other side if it is a reasonable one.

Naturally the Minister, having given an assurance, we accept that, but I would draw his attention to the words used both by the hon. Member for Edge Hill (Mr. Irvine) and by my hon. Friend the Member for Northwich (Mr. J. Foster). The former said:

"As I understand it, the wording of the subsection would leave it open to the tribunal to have regard to the circumstances of the tenant if they regarded that as a relevant matter on the issue of what was a reasonable rent for the premises."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 15th February, 1949; Vol. 461, c. 1045.]
My hon. Friend the Member for Northwich said:
"I submit…that it is necessary to introduce particular words in order to bring the tribunal's mind to the factors which they can take into consideration."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 15th February, 1949; Vol. 461, c. 1055.]
This is not a jumped-up suggestion, it is a matter on which we received a Ruling from the Minister during the Committee stage, but which we think it desirable if possible to incorporate in the statute. The Minister has indicated that he will examine it and, if there is any shadow of doubt, he will incorporate words to deal with it. In the circumstances, perhaps my hon. Friends may see their way to withdraw the Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

I beg to move, in page 2, line 33, to leave out "to the tenant making,"and to insert "at the time of."

This is a drafting Amendment in view of the Amendment made in the Committee stage permitting the landlord to appeal to the tribunal.

Amendment agreed to.

I beg to move, in page 2, line 40, at the end, to insert:

(6) The Minister may make rules for the guidance of the tribunal in determining under this section what rent is reasonable for a dwelling-house.
Rules made for the purpose of this subsection shall be of no effect unless they are approved by resolution of each House of Parliament.
This Amendment relates to a matter which we have been pressing all through the Committee stage and all through this stage. I am bound to say that whenever the right hon. Gentleman has intervened, or has answered a question we have put to him, on almost each occasion it has been apparent that he wished the tribunal only to be guided by the same kind of considerations by which we on this side of the House desire the tribunal to be influenced, and he has now given us an assurance that if there is any real doubt that the wording of the Bill does not give sufficient guidance to the tribunal, he will take the necessary steps to ensure that that guidance is given. As the right hon. Gentleman has said, the position of these tribunals, appointed chiefly because of their local knowledge and without any legal or business training, must necessarily make them particularly subject to the impression made upon them by the hard cases which come before them.

The right hon. Gentleman has told us that he does not consider that the conditions of either the tenant or the landlord are relevant for the purposes of this Bill. He said that it relates actually to the character of the tenancy. On an earlier Amendment it was quite obvious that he and I do not take the same view as to the meaning of that, but at any rate we are both agreed that it is not the intention of the Bill that the tribunals should, for example, consider whether a tenant in his individual circumstances can afford to pay more than a certain rent. If the economic rent for that property is higher than that tenant can afford to pay, then the economic conditions of the tenant would not, as I understand the Minister, be a reason for reducing the reasonable rent below the rent which could fairly be charged for accommodation of that size and quality. The fact that some of the supporters of the right hon. Gentleman have taken a different view; the fact that in the case of the Rent Restriction Acts the question of hardship has to be taken into account by the county court judges—surely these things make it plain that unless clear guidance is given to the tribunals a number of them may take these irrelevant considerations into account.

I should be impressed if the Minister said that it is extremely difficult to find a form of words in a statute which will correctly and accurately express what he has in mind. It is not usual for the Conservative Party to propose giving rule-making powers to a government; still less to the present Government, and least of all when it is the Minister of Health to whom the powers are proposed to be given. I hope, however, that he will accept this as a compliment to his integrity in this matter for it will enable him to convey to the tribunals the considerations which during the course of Debate it has become apparent that he has in mind. Let him not be craven or fear that power is being thrust upon him. We offer him this opportunity of giving wise and kindly guidance to the tribunals as to what is reasonable. His own reputation is such that no one could draft regulations more happily in order to produce a reasonable result. I hope, therefore, that the right hon. Gentleman will be willing to accept the Amendment.

I beg to second the Amendment.

My hon. Friend the Member for The High Peak (Mr. Molson) has invited the right hon. Gentleman not to be craven in taking powers upon himself. I cannot help feeling that that is a superfluous invitation for I am sure that the right hon. Gentleman has never been afraid of taking power. My fear has always been that he was anxious to take too much. This is an Amendment to which the right hon. Gentleman should pay some attention. I do not know what will be his reaction but, knowing well his sense of his own infallibility, I feel it is hardly likely that he will be accommodating.

The right hon. Gentleman must remember that here he is setting up a new process of tribunal which, in a sense, will be running parallel with the county courts in administering the law of property affected by the Act. Unless some guidance is given to these lay tribunals I fear that there will be a complete absence of uniformity and that different decisions and rulings are likely to be given, not only by the different tribunals in different parts of the country, but also by the county courts. In administering this very complicated part of the law, county courts, of course, are guided not by rules established in this way but by cases, such as those referred to by my hon. Friend, by requirements in the principal Act and also by the long series of case law which has become binding upon the county courts.

All this is very important, because the right hon. Gentleman has to bear it in mind in relation to the absence of appeal in these cases. In administering the principal Act the decisions of county courts have been subject to appeal. Therefore, the appeal courts have provided a channel through which the law from all over the country has been brought into one stream. By this means uniformity has been ensured. The absence of appeal from these tribunals will have a considerable effect in allowing the administration of the Act to become diversified. It is all the more necessary, therefore, that some guidance should be given so that tribunals may be able to arrive at conclusions which will not be too dissimilar in different parts of the country.

I ask the right hon. Gentleman to remember particularly that these are lay tribunals and are, therefore, all the more likely to take differing views. I suppose, quite apart from my arguments regarding case law and the Court of Appeal, that if all the tribunals were administered by lawyers or by persons of legal training the tendency would be for uniformity, but with lay tribunals there is no common ground upon which they can build. The results will be most unfortunate if we find, for instance, a tribunal in Cornwall coming to one decision while another tribunal in Durham arrives at precisely the opposite conclusion. That sort of consequence will be bad, not only for the tenant who is involved, but for the administration of the Act. The right hon. Gentleman may well find his Act being brought into disrepute and, therefore, becoming all the more difficult to administer. In these circumstances I hope he will think it right at least to make the attempt to secure uniformity by giving guidance from this House.

5.15 p.m.

I hope the Minister will not concede this point because, in my view, the whole purpose of the construction of this particular form of tribunal will be very seriously affected and we may find different people interpreting the rules just as differently from each other as it is possible for them to interpret the actual provisions of the Act. The hon. and learned Member for Brighton (Mr. Marlowe) knows very well that there is no question of appealing on a matter of fact on cases which come within the provisions of the Rent Acts. The county court judge decides and, if the facts are such as he decides they are, there is an end to the matter, except in so far as the law is concerned. On a question of law there is an appeal to the divisional court anyhow from these tribunals.

I do not understand, therefore, why any further rules are required, except, perhaps, if hon. Gentlemen are arguing that the tribunals are not as capable as county court judges to decide these issues. In my opinion, and with the greatest respect to judges in county courts, the tribunals are equally capable, because they visit the actual houses involved, make the fullest inquiries, and have much more time and opportunity of coming to decisions as to the actual circumstances of a particular house which comes within the provisions of these Acts. This other point has to be borne in mind. To wait for rules and to interpret those rules will entail a considerable length of time. The purpose of these provisions is to obtain people with local knowledge, who understand the situation in every case which comes before them and who go out of their way to examine that situation before they arrive at conclusions.

I think the hon. Member for The High Peak (Mr. Molson) was wrong in stating that the existing Acts permitted judges to decide what was hardship in relation to rent.

That is an entirely different matter. This is a question not of hardship, but of a reasonable rental for a dwelling-house.

Surely, the tenant, coming himself before a tribunal of this nature which has a limited power—it is not, of course, an indefinite power—is not placed in precisely the same position as a person who goes to court and claims possession on the ground that his hardship is greater than that of the tenant. That is not the purpose of this Amendment at all.

Would not the hon. Member agree that the result of security of tenure is in fact to give an answer on the question of possession? The tenant is securing possession as against the landlord.

No, it is carrying the argument very much further than the one adduced in regard to a judge deciding which is the greater measure of hardship. An Amendment of this nature would tie the hands of the tribunals very considerably and would result in considerable delays which are not justified.

The hon. Member for The High Peak (Mr. Molson) spoke in such seductive terms that I found my will almost failing me at one point, when it was restored by the belligerency of his colleague the hon. and learned Member for Brighton (Mr. Marlowe). I am now in full possession of my former resolution, and I am therefore much obliged to the hon. and learned Member for Brighton for protecting me from the snares into which his colleague was luring me.

Nothing could be worse for the administration of this Measure than to accept the Amendment, because once we began laying down a whole series of directions for the tribunals we should open up possibilities of all kinds of actions claiming that decisions of tribunals were ultra vires in this or that respect because they had not paid attention to this or that direction. The result would be that before long we should have a whole crop of cases in the courts, and the work of the tribunals would be frustrated. That is the main reason why I cannot accept the Amendment.

I listened with some trepidation to the argument put forward by the Opposition. We discussed this point in Committee over and over again. If they had their way they would render this Bill abortive. It is all very well saying, as was said in the previous Debate, that there should be appeals against the decisions of the courts in order that justice might be done. We know very well that the machinery of justice can become so cluttered up that justice is practically withheld. Therefore we must maintain a balance.

Is the machinery effective for the purpose which we have in mind? It is no use to say, as was stated by the hon. and learned Member for Brighton, that different decisions will be reached in different parts of the country. Of course they will, but it rarely happens that circumstances repeat themselves. It is precisely because that is the fact in this particular class of case that it is the practice of county courts to decide on the facts, and as my hon. Friend the Member for West Leicester (Mr. Janner) pointed out, an appeal does not lie against county court decisions in respect of facts. Facts do not fit themselves into formulae. They are not capable of condification. Statutes, usages and wants are, but facts are not; they do not repeat themselves sufficiently to give rise to a system by which they can be classified. Nothing can be more varied than the circumstances in which people rent furnished lettings; nothing can be more varied than the relationship which may exist between a landlord and those occupying furnished lettings.

We have already pointed out that it is necessary to give tribunals the power to terminate the lettings because the conditions may cause such friction that security of tenure should not be given indefinitely. That is precisely what we have decided. The lives of two sets of personalities sharing the same kind of particular accommodation can become so painful that their relationship ought to be terminated. The tribunals can do that, and it has nothing to do with the financial circumstances of the people concerned. It would not be fair to force the landlord to subsidise a tenant because that tenant would be unable to afford what would be a reasonable rent for the accommodation, and it is not intended that that should be the case. There is no reason why I should put that kind of obiter dicta in a regulation, because that is how reasonable people would behave and would consider was what the law intended.

I must defend this Bill from the continual attempt to widen the terms of reference in such a way as to provide all kinds of grounds for fruitful litigation—fruitful for the legal profession but extremely painful, and in the last analysis completely frustrating to the individuals needing the protection of the Bill. I hope that in the light of the reasons I have given the Opposition will not press this Amendment.

Just conceive the case which the Minister has put before the House. He says that the financial circumstances of the tenant as against the landlord should not be taken into account. He said, "I refuse to draw up rules which would embody this." But he has just undertaken to the House to draw up a formula to put it in the statute. The Minister does not seem to realise that we are seeking to enable landlord and tenant, or a better phrase would be "property purveyor and property consumer," because the word "landlord" seems to bring up in the right hon. Gentleman's mind a picture of some duke with battlements and a portcullis——

The right hon. and gallant Gentleman really must not say that. I have specifically said on many occasions in the course of the passage of this Bill and of the 1946 Act that in a large number of cases the term "landlord" is usually applicable to a person who is the principal tenant and who lets to another tenant. Therefore, I am perfectly conscious of the fact that we are here dealing with a number of people who are more or less in the same social stratum. It is the right hon. and gallant Gentleman who seems to imagine that they are in some kind of social stratum which can afford the expense of interminable litigation.

Of course, the right hon. Gentleman's subconscious governs his whole being and actions. He explains these things with his mouth but his heart thinks differently. The word "landlord" does not raise in his mind these pictures of the humble people he has mentioned. One can see his cheeks flush, one can hear his voice take on a deeper boom and can see his chest take on a greater amplitude. The word "landlord" raises some Freudian bruise and rubs upon it in his subconscious and makes him quite oblivious to those considerations of reason which he quite rightly does his best to recapture from time to time for the purposes of debate in this House.

The right hon. Gentleman continues to adduce to this House a set of arguments which really run quite contrary to the whole of the well-recognised systems of justice not merely of this country but of all countries. He says that it is undesirable to have cases in any way coordinated, that facts are not capable of codification. In these days, when regulations are extremely numerous, any one of us may happen to find ourselves under the sway of the court for some infringement. Indeed, we might find ourselves unjustly accused of even greater crime. I wonder, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, whether you would like to be brought before a committee of people down the street who happen to know you and some of whom might happen to——

The right hon. and gallant Gentleman is placing me in a most awkward position.

5.30 p.m.

I will take the spears in my own bosom, Mr. Deputy-Speaker. I can imagine myself being brought before a number of people down the street who might happen to know me and dislike me. I can imagine the right hon. Gentleman being brought before a committee of people down his street who might happen to know him and who, astonishing as it may seem, might happen to dislike him, and then tried on some grave charge on the grounds that he had been guilty, in their opinion, of an anti-social action. In those circumstances I should like the conditions under which I was to be convicted to be a little more precise than merely such as would appear to a reasonable group of people to be reasonable in the circumstances.

That is all that is being given to the tribunals. The right hon. Gentleman seems to think that only the speech matters. It is really not so. We have to take into account not only that justice should be done, but that justice should seem to be done, and that a similar set of circumstances should seem to lead to a similar decision. Facts are not exact but they are more or less nearly exact. They can be brought into some sort of rough harmony. I suggest that the tribunals, without any appeal, with no direction from Parliament, with no direction from the Minister, may easily fall into exactly the same conflict of view which led the hon. Member for Edge Hill (Mr. Irvine) and my hon. Friend the Member for Northwich (Mr. J. Foster) to construe the same Section in this statute in diametrically opposite terms on the Floor of this House only a few days ago. I do not think it is an exaggeration to suggest or to say that some of what the Minister calls obiter dicta should be brought under some form of review and be subject in some way to Parliament. The Minister is in charge of a great Department. He knows what the Department will do, formally or informally. People discuss these matters. Obiter dicta are given. What we ask—

Oh, no, Sir. The words of the right hon. Gentleman usually breed words, but now he is breeding a lot of naughty ideas. It is not true to say that the Minister of Health gives directions or interpretations of the statute. It would be entirely improper, and I should be unhappy to think that when he was Minister of Health he was guilty of such indiscretions. I do no such things. The tribunals are statutory bodies appointed under the statute. It is their function to interpret it. It seems to me quite nonsensical for one lot of reasonable men to tell another lot of reasonable men what the first lot of reasonable men thought to be reasonable.

Sometimes I am dumbfounded by the Minister's acute knowledge; his realisation of the world; his acquaintance with all the circumstances of our modern life. And sometimes I am equally astonished by the kind of ivory tower in which he seems to live. To suppose that people who have the honour to be placed, who have a duty—an irksome duty—imposed upon them by being placed on these tribunals, will never read what others of them are deciding in other parts of the country; will never begin to discuss the matter with each other; will never try to extract from some high official whether that official thinks they are, or they are not, proceeding on the right lines, suggests a degree of cloistered seclusion which would be remarkable in a set of Trappist monks; but in the case of ordinary people going about this world, is totally devoid of any contact with reality. The fact that some form of convergence of opinion will somehow arise on these matters is absolutely inevitable. All we ask is that, somehow or other, this Parliament, which

Division No. 75.]


[531 p.m.

Agnew, Cmdr. P. G.Headlam, Lieut.-Col. Rt. Hon. Sir C.Odey, G. W.
Amory, D. HeathcoatHinchingbrooke, ViscountOrr-Ewingr, I. L.
Astor, Hon. MHollis, M. C.Peaks, Rt. Hon. O.
Baldwin, A. E.Holmes, Sir J. Stanley (Harwich)Peto, Brig C. H. M
Birch, NigelHoward, Hon. A.Raikes, H. V.
Boles, Lt.-Col. D. C. (Wells)Hudson, Rt. Hon. R. S. (Southport)Robertson, Sir D. (Streatham)
Bower, N.Hutchison, Col. J. R. (Glasgow, C.)Robinson., Roland
Boyd-Carpcnter, J. A.Keeling, E. H.Ropner, Col. L.
.Bratlhwaite, Lt.-Comdr. J. GKendall, W. D.Ross, Sir R. D. (Londonderry)
Butcher, H. W.Lancaster, Col. C. GSanderson, Sir F.
Byers, FrankLangford-Holt, J.Savory, Prof. D. L
Challen, CLaw, Rt. Hon. R. K.Shepherd, W. S. (Bucklow)
Channon, H.Legge-Bourke, Maj. E. A. HSmithers, Sir W
'Conant, Maj. R. J. E.Lannox-Boyd, A. T.Spearman, A. C. M.
Crookshank, Capt. Rt. Hon. H. F. C.Linstead, H. N.Stanley, Rt. Hon. O.
Crosthwaite-Eyre, Col. O. ELow, A. R. W.Strauss, Henry (English Universities)
Crowder, Capt. John E.Lyttelton, Rt. Hon. O.Stuart, Rt. Hon. J. (Moray)
Darling, Sir W Y.MacAndrew, Col. Sir CStudholme, H. G.
Davies, Rt. Hn. Clement (Montgomery)Maodonald, Sir P. (I. of Wight)Taylor, Vice-Adm. E. A. (P'dd't"n, S.)
De Ia Bère, R.McFarlane, C. S.Thorneycroft, G. E. P. (Monmouth)
Digby, S. W.Mackeson, Brig. H. R.Thornton-Kemsley, C. N
Dodds-Parker, A. D.Maclay, Hon. J. S.Touche, G. C.
Dower, Col. A. V. G. (Penrith)Maclean, F. H. R. (Lancaster)Turton, R. H.
Drewe, C.Macpherson, N. (Dumfries)Tweedsmuir, Lady
Duthie, W. S.Maitland, Comdr. J. W.Walker-Smith, D
Elliot, Lieut.-Col. Rt. Hon. WalterMarlowe, A. A. H.Watt, Sir G. S. Harvie
Erroll, F. J.Marshall, D. (Bodmin)White, J. B. (Canterbury)
Fraser, H. C. P. (Stone)Mellor,Sir J.Willoughby de Eresby, Lord
Galbraith, T. G. D. (Hillhead)Molson, A. H. E.York, C.
Gammans, L. DMorris, Hopkin (Carmarthen)Young, Sir A. S. L. (Partick)
Gomme-Duncan, Col. AMorrison, Maj. J. G. (Salisbury)
Grimston, R. V.Neven-Spence, Sir B.


Harvey, Air-Comdre, A. V.Nield, B. (Chester)Colonel Wheatley and
Lieut.-Colonel Bromley-Davenport.


Adams, Richard (Balham)Bacon, Miss A.Benson, G.
Albu, A. H.Balfour, A.Berry, M.
Allen, A. C. (Bosworth)Barstow, P. GBevan, Rt. Hon. A. (Ebbw Vale)
Allon, Scholefield (Crewe)Barton, C.Bing, G. H. C.
Attewell, H. C.Battley, J. R.Blackburn, A. R.
Austin, H. LewisBechervaise, A. E.Blenkinsop, A.
Ayles, W. HBellenger, Rt. Hon. F. JBowden, Flg. Offr. H. W

is placing an enormous blank form before these people and asking them to fill it up, should have some opportunity to consider whether in fact the decisions which are being given and the penalties which are being placed on fellow-citizens, are such as we here would desire.

This seems to us so simple and straightforward and self-evident that we cannot understand why the Minister is resisting it. We feel that at this point, somehow or other, his acute mind is slipping a cog; that his clutch is slipping; that it is not biting upon the question. We can do no more than appeal to the arbitrament of the Lobby. We trust that we shall succeed in obtaining such support from his own side as may succeed in overpowering him and making him feel afterwards that on this occasion, Parliament has been wiser than the Minister.

Question put, "That those words be there inserted in the Bill."

The House divided: Ayes, 96; Noes, 158.

Bramall, E. A.Irvine, A. J. (Liverpool)Ridealgh, Mrs. M.
Brook, D. (Halifax)Janner, B.Roberts, Goronwy (Caernarvonshire)
Brooks, T. J. (Rothwell)Jenkins, R. H.Rogers, G. H. R.
Brown, T. J. (Ince)Jones, D. T. (Hartlepool)Ross, William (Kilmanock)
Bruce, Maj. D. W. T.Jones, Elwyn (Plaistow)Sargood, R.
Burden, T. W.Key, Rt. Hon. C. W.Segal, Dr. S
Castle, Mrs. B. A.Kinley, J.Sharp, Granville
Champion, A. J.Lee, F. (Hulme)Shinwell, Rt. Hon. E
Chater, D.Leslie, J. R.Silverman, S. S. (Nelson)
Chetwynd, G. RLipton, Lt.-Col. MSimmons, C. J.
Cocks, F. S.Lyne, A. W.Skeffington, A. M.
Collick, P.McAdam, W.Skinnard, F. W
Collins, V. JMcEntee, V La TSmit'h, S. H. (Hull, S. W.)
Colman, Miss G. M.McGhee, H. GSolley, L. J
Corbet, Mrs. F. K. (Camb'well, N.W.)Mack, J. DSorensen, R. W
Cove, W. GMcKay, J. (Wallsend)Soskice, Rt. Hon. Sir Frank
Daines, P.McLeavy, F.Stross, Dr. B.
Davies, Edward (Burslem)Macpherson, T. (Romford)Sylvester, G. O
Davies, Harold (Leek)Mainwaring, W. H.Symonds, A. L.
Deer, G.Mallalieu, E. L. (Brigg)Taylor, R. J. (Morpeth)
Driberg, T. E. N.Manning, C. (Camberwell, N.)Taylor, Dr. S. (Barnet)
Dumpleton, C. W.Manning, Mrs. L. (Epping)Thomas, D. E. (Aberdare)
Evans, Albert (Islington, W.)Mathers, Rt. Hon. GeorgeThomas, I. O. (Wrekin)
Evans, E. (Lowestoft)Mellish, R. J.Tiffany, S.
Farthing, W. J.Middleton, Mrs. L.Titterington, M. F
Fraser, T. (Hamilton)Millington, Wing-Comdr. E. RTolley, L.
Freeman, Peter (Newport)Mitchison, G. R.Tomlinson, Rt. Hon. G
Ganley, Mrs. C. S.Monslow, W.Vernon, Maj W F
Gibbins, J.Mort, D. L.Viant, S. P.
Glanville, J. E. (Consett)Moyle, A.Walkden, E
Greenwood, Rt. Hon. A. (Wakefield)Murray, J. D.Warbey, W. N.
Greenwood, A. W. J. (Heywood)Neal, H. (Claycross)Wells, P. L. (Faversham)
Grey, C. F.Palmer, A. M. F.Wheatley, Rt. Hn. John (Edinb'gh, E.)
Griffiths, D. (Rother Valley)Parker, JWhite, H. (Derbyshire, N.E.)
Guy, W. HParkin, B. T.Whiteley, Rt. Hon. W.
Haire, John E. (Wycombe)Paton, J. (Norwich)Willey, F. T. (Sunderland)
Hall, Rt. Hon. GlenvilPearson, A.Williams, J. L. (Kelvingrove)
Hamilton, Lieut.-Col. RPeart, T. F.Williams, W. R. (Heston)
Harrison, J.Piratin, P.Willis, E.
Haworth, J.Popplewell, E.Wills, Mrs. E. A.
Harbison, Miss MPorter, E. (Warrington)Woodburn, Rt Hon. A
Hobson, C. R.Porter, G. (Leeds)Yates, V. F.
Holman, P.Pritt, D. N.Young, Sir R. (Newton)
Hoy, J.Proctor, W. T.
Hudson, J. H. (Ealing, W.)Randall, H. E.


Hughes, Hector (Aberdeen, N.)Reeves, J.Mr. Hannan and
Hynd, J. B. (Attercliffe)Reid, T. (Swindon)Mr. George Wallace.

I beg to move, in page 2, line 42, to leave out from "house," to the end of line 43, and to insert:

  • "(a) while it is under the management of a housing association within the meaning of the Housing Act, 1936 (including a development corporation established under the New Towns Act, 1946), or
  • (b) while any limitation of the rent is in force, being a limitation imposed by or under any enactment not contained in the principal Acts or this Act."
  • On a point of Order, Mr. Deputy-Speaker. Are you not selecting the Amendment in page 2, line 40, at the end, to insert:

    "(6) In determining under this Section what rent is reasonable for a dwelling-house which has been erected or made available by the conversion into self-contained dwelling-houses of another dwelling-house since the first day of September, nineteen hundred and thirty-nine the tribunal shall have regard to the cost of construction during the same period of houses or flats affording comparable accommodation to the dwelling-house in question by the local authority for the area in which the dwelling-house is situated."
    I understood from previous inquiry that it might be possible for the Government to accept this Amendment.

    No, it has been decided not to select it in view of the discussions which have already taken place.

    The Amendment in line 42 covers the point raised in Committee that it was not precisely clear what types of houses would be excluded from the operation of the Bill. Already it is clear that housing under the management of a housing association is excluded, and we are now seeking to exclude houses managed by development corporations under the New Towns Act. We also seek to include a provision covering houses which are let at a rent limited by statute other than the Rent Restrictions Acts or this Bill.

    5.45 p.m.

    As we understand it, this excludes from the ambit of this Act a considerable number of houses Could the Minister give a rough estimate of the gross weight of housing which is likely to be affected by this provision. The numbers taken out of this Bill and the numbers remaining, have a considerable bearing on the possibility of some sort of free market being left in housing.

    The largest number would be the houses that are to be built under the New Towns Act. I could not give the figure involved at the moment. There are also the houses built under licence where the rents have already been fixed. I could give the latter figure later, perhaps, but I could not give it now.

    I should be grateful if the Minister can give some estimate later. A great deal depends on the successive slices of housing which are being considered under this statute. It would be of interest if the Minister could give an estimate of the number which might be brought within this subsection next year or the year following.

    We should be grateful if the Minister would undertake to have an estimate given when the Bill is considered by another place.

    Amendment agreed to.

    I beg to move, in page 2, line 43, at the end, to insert:

    "() In relation to a dwelling-house or property let at a progressive rent, subsection (1) of this Section shall have effect with the substitution, for references to the rent at which the dwelling-house or property was let, of references to the maximum rent under the letting."
    Here again, we are meeting a point raised in Committee where some doubt was expressed concerning the position when there was a progressive rent about precisely what rent would be taken into account. Here we make it clear that where a dwelling-house is let at a progressive rent, it should be the maximum rent which it can reach which should be taken into account for this purpose.

    I think it was the hon. Member for West Leicester (Mr. Janner), who is not here at the moment, who raised this point. Really he raised it with the idea of showing that an active minded landlord in the past could have driven a coach and four through the provisions in this respect. It seems that it rather puts a premium on the smart fellow. Many decent people have let property at small rents for various reasons—the blitz, from mere friendship or from charity to some unfortunate. Now the stamp comes down upon them and those are the standard rents for ever more. If these people had had an echeloned rent which would rise in future by steps to what might seem at the time unreasonable heights, they would have got away with it.

    All this seems to make it desirable to give the tribunal the power to do for the ordinary person—not a "smart Alec," not the person advised by a clever lawyer—what the Minister is now writing into the statute should be secured by somebody who was clever enough when the rent was originally fixed to say, "The rent is small now, but we lay it down that it is to go up by successive stages to what might be a suitable height." I call it to the attention of hon. Members that it is the final peak to which the rent rises which is being taken as the standard rent, whereas the ordinary simple person who let a house at a low rent is caught for ever more at a rent which may be quite out of relation to the economic value of the property of which the tenant has possession.

    Amendment agreed to.