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Second Schedule—(Proof Of Past Repairs By Landlord)

Volume 529: debated on Thursday 8 July 1954

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

Lords Amendment agreed to: In page 42, line 5, leave out "in the prescribed form".

Lords Amendment: In page 42, line 6, leave out "the period of twelve" and insert:

"such period of twelve months as may be specified in the declaration being a period falling within the fourteen".

I beg to move, "That this House doth agree with the Lords in the said Amendment."

The object of the Amendment is to secure that the landlord will not be prejudiced in complying with the expenditure test if there is a delay—unreasonable or not—in reaching agreement with the tenant on any matter which is provided for in the Bill, such as agreeing about the proportion of responsibility for repairs as divided between landlord and tenant, or the proportion of the rent representing the cost of the provision of services.

The House will remember that the period of 12 months during which the necessary work must have been carried out is a period ending with the date of service of the notice of increase, and it is thought that if the service of such notice were to be delayed because of discussions, the work which was carried out during the two months before the period of 12 months began to run would be excluded, although it might represent a very large part of the necessary work. In those circumstances, I hope that the House will agree to give the landlord the greater latitude of 14 months in which to carry out work which will count in his claim for an increase of rent.

This is another example of latitude being given to the landlord, although we do not get a friendly reception when we propose measures to look after the tenant. We regard this proposal as being very similar to the one contained in an Amendment discussed and, unhappily, passed during the Committee stage, whereby a landlord was given permission to choose any three out of four years in computing the amount he had spent in repair. It was decided by the Committee that the landlord should be able to choose any three out of four years. That was naturally to his advantage, because he would choose the three years during which he had incurred the greatest expenditure. Here again, another minor change is made to benefit the landlord, and to ensure that he can make eligible for inclusion the greatest amount of expenditure that can possibly be squeezed into this period of 12 months. He is again able to choose for himself the period.

This is just a further instance of the way in which the party opposite has been doing its best all through our consideration of this Measure to look after the interests of the landlords. I confess that it did not satisfy another place. It was made perfectly clear that it was thought that many landlords would not regard this as sufficient. Nevertheless, the Minister is certainly doing his best, under pressure of the representations that, we understand, he has been having ever since the Bill was presented, to look after the landlords' interests, and from our point of view on this side of the House this is another illustration of the attitude of the party opposite.

10.0 p.m.

The reason given by the Minister in justification of this Lords Amendment was quite unconvincing. He said that it was to prevent a landlord's right from being prejudiced because of argument that might arise, but there is plenty of protection for landlords in the Bill, and plenty of provision to enable necessary arrangements to be made for rent increases if they carry out the terms of the Bill. This Lords Amendment will apply to every landlord, not merely to landlords who have got themselves into arguments with their tenants. This is another of the efforts to nibble away the protection of the rights of tenants of ordinary working-class property. It is typical of the type of thing our people ought to have expected when they put this Government into office. I have been unable to persuade anyone that we ought to divide against this Lords Amendment, but I am glad that we are not letting it go without protest.

When the Bill first came before the House the Minister strongly emphasised that he was putting into the Bill two safeguards for tenants. This concession to the landlords is a definite weakening of one of the very safeguards the right hon. Gentleman trumpeted so much about when he first explained the Bill to the House. His intentions were apparently good: he was trying, he said, to hold the balance between landlord and tenant, and he was giving two safeguards to tenants. Now, through another place, he is taking away a considerable part of one of the safeguards. I am surprised that a Minister of the Crown should adopt this back-door method of using another place to negative his earlier expression of good faith, and his declaration that he was trying to hold the balance between landlords and tenants.

Question put, and agreed to.

Lords Amendment: In page 42, line 7, leave out "containing," and insert "accompanying."

I beg to move, "That this House doth agree with the Lords in the said Amendment."

This Lords Amendment is consequential on the long series of Amendments.

Question put, and agreed to.

Lords Amendment: In page 42, line 13, leave out "notice of increase may in lieu of" and insert:

"declaration required by the said paragraph (b) to accompany a notice of increase may, in lieu of being."

I beg to move, "That this House doth agree with the Lords in the said Amendment."

This is another in the same series of Lords Amendments we have agreed to.

Question put, and agreed to.

Further Lords Amendments agreed to: In page 42, line 14, leave out "contain" and insert "be."

In line 15, leave out "in the prescribed form."

In page 43, line 2, leave out "of a notice of increase containing" and insert "with a notice of increase of."

Lords Amendment: In page 43, line 10, at end, insert:

6. If in such a declaration any person makes a statement which he knows to be false in a material particular or recklessly makes a statement which is false in a material particular he shall be liable on summary conviction to a fine not exceeding thirty pounds.

I beg to move, "That this House doth agree with the Lords in the said Amendment."

This is an Amendment of importance. I gave an assurance, at the end of the Report stage, that we would meet a point raised by hon. and right hon. Gentlemen opposite, and this Amendment has been put in the Bill in another place to meet it. It is designed to provide a further safeguard for the tenant by making it a summary offence if the landlord knowingly or recklessly makes a statement in his declaration that work of the required value has been carried out; and it follows the appropriate form for giving that strengthening safeguard to ensure that declarations are made both truthfully and with a sense of responsibility.

The right hon. Gentleman did give that assurance at the end of the Report stage, and the Lord Chancellor moved this Amendment in another place. There are so few safeguards for the tenant. This is some safeguard—small, but we clutch it.

For what reason did the Minister advise the figure of £30? Why should it not be £50, or £100 or more—or less? How has he arrived at that figure? He has not said.

Question put, and agreed to.