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Orders Of The Day

Volume 887: debated on Monday 24 February 1975

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

Housing Rents And Subsidies Bill

Lords Amendments considered.

Clause 1

Rents For Public Sector Dwellings

Lords Amendment: No. 1, in page 2, line 3, leave out from "circumstances" to end of line 5.

10.28 p.m.

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

This is one of a small number of amendments which raise a point of principle. As the Bill left this House it included at the end of Clause 1(3) the words:
"but save as aforesaid they shall not make provision for a surplus in that account."
Those words related to the rule which was being laid down in the Bill regarding the making of reasonable rents by local authorities: the new proposals provided for the return of freedom for local authorities in the fixing of rents compared with the rules laid down in the Housing Finance Act 1972. The words, which were deleted in another place, carried into effect what may be described as the no-profit rule. Their effect was that local authorities were forbidden to budget for a profit out of their housing. The qualification in the words "as aforesaid" simply allowed local authorities, if they wished, to budget for a reasonable working balance.

10.30 p.m.

Such a working balance is regarded by many authorities, although not all, as a useful management tool. The Government do not wish to impede local authorities in their choice whether to have one or not. If an authority provides for a working balance, it may in inflationary times wish to increase it. Provided the increased balance would still be reason- able, the words deleted, which we wish to restore, allow them to do so. This would not, of course, be making a profit and we do not wish to stop it.

Once the authority begins to budget for a surplus larger than a reasonable working balance, it has begun to make such a profit. The Labour Party manifesto, published twice last year, pledged that local authorities were to be given the right to fix rents which do not make a profit out of their tenants. This is, of course, a right for tenants, and can be made effective only by a provision which effectively stops local authorities from "making provision"—that is, budgeting to make such a profit.

It may be argued that as the law stands in relation to housing accounts a surplus cannot be disposed of out of the account, and that there is no harm done if an authority builds up a surplus out of its present rents and rates to finance future housing activity. This seems a harmless argument, but it is one that cannot be accepted in the context of the Bill.

I should make it clear that the no-profit principle does not prevent an authority from building up a reasonable balance to contribute to future maintenance, repairs, and so on. That is one of the proper uses of a working balance, which is allowed. Nor does the "No-profit" rule place a local authority in an impossible straitjacket for budgeting purposes. We appreciate that in framing a local authority budget, the income and expenditure for the year can rarely be estimated precisely in advance. Houses may be completed sooner or later than expected and the rate of interest may also vary. In present circumstances, what is most likely to happen is an adjustment in the size or timing of the next rent review. An increase may be postponed if the HRA can do without it, just as it would take place if the extra income became necessary.

It could be argued pointedly that the possibility of profit at the present time is so unreal for local authorities that it is superfluous to forbid it. But the Bill sets up a system which will last for several years, during which there could well be authorities whose finances would allow them to move towards profit. An authority which reduces its rate of building for a few years will find its loan charges shrinking in real terms. If its rents continued to rise it could in a few years see a profit on the horizon, if not nearer.

Such an authority would, we hope, reassess its housing position, and in order to more effectively cope with problems previously not fully tackled it might look to the quality of its environment and management to see how they could be improved; it could look to the older areas of its district to undertake more housing improvement; it could look more rigorously to special needs—the disabled, the one-parent families, the single person and the handicapped, the frustrated poorer would-be owner-occupier; or it might consult with less fortunate neighbouring local councils and see if it could help them by building with them. These and other possibilities would be open to it, rather than pile up an unnecessary surplus or profit.

For those reasons, I consider the Lords amendment undesirable.

The Opposition strongly oppose the Government's attempt to defeat the amendment from the House of Lords. The amendment was passed by 116 votes to 59, and it is interesting to note that there was Liberal support and some sympathy from the Labour Party for their lordships' action.

We are arguing for the right of councils to make a surplus on their housing revenue account if they believe that to make sense. The amendment provides the right, not the duty, to make a surplus.

The Labour Party manifesto was quoted frequently during the previous proceedings, and by the Minister this evening, in justification of the Government's view. However, the Labour Party manifesto said that Labour would restore to local authorities the right to fix rents which do not make profits from tenants. The manifesto used the word "right" rather than "duty", and the Lords amendment would allow councils the right not to make a surplus if they did not wish to do so. Nothing in the Lords amendment makes it mandatory for councils to make a surplus. Therefore, the Lords amendment does not contradict the Labour Party manifesto.

I am not speaking of party affiliations. However, if a reactionary council wished to disadvantage its council tenants, perhaps to help the ratepayers, the amendment proposed by the hon. Gentleman would fall into its lap.

I intend to come to that point.

Throughout the long and occasionally wearisome proceedings on the Housing Finance Bill in Committee, the Labour Opposition wished to increase the freedom of local authorities to make their own decisions. If we give people freedom, that must entail a degree of freedom for them to make decisions which we may or may not like.

I shall come to that point.

The Lords amendment gives the council the right to produce a surplus if it judges that to be right. A council does not have to exercise that right if it does not wish to do so. The point made in another place, when the amendment was moved, was that it may well be for the proper judgment of a council to exercise that right. The amendment seeks to enlarge the freedom of action of local authorities. Therefore, the Government's action in seeking to defeat the Lords amendment exposes the cant in the protestations of the Labour Party about freedom for local authorities. I have referred to the wearisome hypocrisy of Labour Members during the proceedings on the Housing Finance Act. This amendment affords the chance to achieve a little of that much-vaunted freedom about which the Labour Party like to talk.

However, that is far from being the whole story. There are sensible reasons why a local authority might wish to exercise this freedom. At a time of high inflation, and of great uncertainty over local government finance, and all finance, a surplus on the housing revenue account could be of real potential value. The reasonable working balance envisaged by the Government does not necessarily cover that point. That is different from the notion of a reserve, which is embodied in the idea of a surplus. A working balance might well prove inadequate to meet the ups and downs of public expenditure. It will be possible to use the surplus, of which the Lords amendment speaks, if there is a sudden crisis or escalation of costs, which, Heaven knows, is perfectly on the cards.

What does Government legislation really mean? What is "a reasonable working balance"? As Lord Foot asked in the other place, when does it become a surplus? The Under-Secretary of State said in Standing Committee:
"In the Bill we seek to restore freedom to local authorities. In doing so, we are not saying to local authorities … that they shall not accumulate a surplus in their housing revenue account".—[Official Report, Startling Committee A; 28th November 1974, c. 65.]
But that is exactly what they seem to be saying. The amendment would allow such a surplus. Can we have a definitive and preferably not lengthy statement of what the Government mean? Is their attempt to defeat the amendment simply a sop to the hon. Member for Salford, East (Mr. Frank Allaun) and his hon. Friends?

It is implied that the amendment is designed to penalise council tenants. It emphatically is not. It means only that in those areas where the housing stock is not new, and is therefore less expensive, although perfectly good, it would not be wrong to bring rents up to a reasonable level as defined by the local authorities and to use any surplus for the good of the community. This is only a variant of the approach favoured by Labour Members, a pooling of costs rather than an assessment of each house on its individual historic costs. Under that system, the lucky people in rent terms pay a little towards the costs of those whose housing would otherwise cost more.

So there is nothing novel in the idea of redistribution of the housing revenue account. The amendment is a recognition of that principle and of the fact that whether one has a low cost council house or flat is decided not by one's income but by fate. Many people in the community may be much worse off than some local council tenants, so it is not wrong that a surplus should exist to help them. But the amendment does not require local authorities to take this course: it merely gives them the freedom to have a surplus if they believe it right.

The amendment would explicitly allow councils to make a surplus in their housing revenue account, which is something in which the Under-Secretary believes. It is also a chance to clarify an obscure piece of drafting. Third, it gives local authorities some freedom, which the Government apparently do not want to give. Fourth and perhaps strongest, it allows for some common sense. That may be anathema to some Socialists, but the House should support its application. As Lord Foot said in another place:
"I think there is a great deal in what is suggested by the amendment, because things would be made much clearer if these words were simpy omitted."—[Official Report, House of Lords; 11th February 1975, c. 1249.]
I hope that we shall have a victory for common sense tonight.

Column 65 of the Committee proceedings shows why the Government are so opposed to the use of the word "surplus". It is plain from the passage further on from that quoted by my hon. Friend the Member for Aylesbury (Mr. Raison) that it is equated with the word "profit". It is the concept of profit in housing which sticks in the craws of Labour Members. If we had been braver in our support of profit in every sphere, particularly in housing, half the problems that beset the housing market would not exist.

I hope that we of the Opposition will proudly proclaim our belief in profit in housing by supporting the amendment of the other place. In doing so, we shall also be proudly supporting the principle of local democracy.

10.45 p.m.

I want to make one or two general remarks. First, on the question of principle, I for one would certainly favour the idea of local authorities providing services other than housing which one could loosely call "commercial type" services—services which if provided by private enterprise, would be so described. However, I shall not go too far down that road, because that is not before us in detail now. I should favour the idea of local authorities being able to make what I believe Marx described many years ago as municipal profits on behalf of the community.

When it comes to housing, however, I do not believe that it is right for public authorities to run such a service for commercial purposes. I hope that we shall take hon. Members of the Opposition with us when in due time, perhaps—during the many years of Labour Government ahead—we proceed to experiment with social enterprise in this matter as well as others, in competition with the private sector generally, with a view to accruing some benefit to ratepayers and taxpayers and the community at large. But that matter must rest for another occasion.

I hope, too, that we shall have the support of Conservative Members in giving greater freedom to local authorities to act generally in these matters, when we look more deeply at such matters as direct labour organisation in the future and similar services, and at questions which will revolve around the individual freedoms and rights of local authorities to provide these services for the community.

So much for the generality of the principle of local authorities being able to have freedom and being able to go in for the creation of what has been described very usefully as municipal profits for the community.

I come to the particular matter of housing. During the long and wearisome passage of the Housing Finance Act 1972, time and again in argument then, we stated as a matter of policy and principle that as a party we were opposed to the idea of profit being made out of a public service, which until the passage of that Act had always been treated as a nonprofit making service. Events overtook that Act so that its objectives in this respect were never in practice achieved. But this does not alter the fact that we disagreed with the original objectives of the Act. Those objectives were, indeed, to require more and more local authorities to make a profit on this hitherto non-profit-making public service. What is more, they required that when such profit was made it was to be taken by the Treasury and some part handed back subsequently to the local authority, to the detriment of the rate support grant that would be negotiated subsequently with the Treasury.

These matters are on record. They were argued in great detail at the time. Therefore, we have not only made clear our position on the question of returning freedom of action on fixing rents—contrary to what the present Opposition had fought for, successfully, in their Act, although now they are pretending or tending to forget it—but we have raised and argued our objections against their policy and in favour of this flexibility and freedom of action for the fixing of reasonable rents. We equally argued against making housing in this field a profit-making, commercial type service. That is the background.

Coming to the specific situation before us, the position is this. If we do not make it abundantly clear in what sometimes are described as manifesto-type texts in the Bill—it is not the first time that such principles have been stated in texts in Bills, under successive Governments—that any action taken by a local authority to establish what it considered to be a reasonable working balance—not surplus—from one year to another, should not mean that it could go into vast surplus, it would be open to local authorities to so go into vast surplus which, correctly described by the hon. Member for Wolverhampton, South-West (Mr. Budgen) in other terms, could be described as going into profit. It is a simple proposition of principle. There may be working balances, but there may not be vast surpluses or profits.

Will the Minister explain to us exactly what the Under-Secretary meant when he said:

"In doing so, we are not saying to local authorities … that they shall not accumulate a surplus in their housing revenue account."—[Official Report, Standing Committee A; 28th November 1974, c. 65.]

If the hon. Gentleman will read on in the text he will find that during subsequent exchanges it was established that there had been a switch of labels at that point and what my hon. Friend had said and made clear subsequently was that he was referring to working balances—that there was nothing to stop a local authority from providing a working balance from one year to the next, but that there was no question of profitability.

Will the Minister acknowledge that in the House of Lords debate a great deal of attention was devoted to the question of what a working balance meant? There is no satisfactory definition of it. It is clear to us that the inclusion of the word "surplus" gives a sense which does not exist at present or at the least serves to clarify it.

I do not want to keep repeating myself, but, having had some experience in local government, as I know the hon. Gentleman has, I am well aware of what it means to try to get a reasonable working balance, not only on the housing revenue account, but also in other aspects of local government finance from one year to another. If a local authority, in looking at its programmes for the coming year, establishes that costs have risen or are likely to rise during the currency of the prospective budget, it will make allowance for that so that it does not find the housing revenue account out of balance at the end of the next financial year. It will provide for a working balance to cover sharp and unexpected rises which can occur during the course of the year. Those rises can occur through

Division No. 103.]

AYES

[10.55 p.m.

Abse, LeoCartwright, JohnEllis, Tom (Wrexham)
Allaun, FrankCastle, Rt Hon BarbaraEnglish, Michael
Anderson, DonaldClemitson, IvorEvans, Ioan (Aberdare)
Archer, PeterCocks, Michael (Bristol S)Evans, John (Newton)
Armstrong, ErnestCohen, StanleyEwing, Harry (Stirling)
Ashley, JackColeman, DonaldFaulds, Andrew
Ashton, JoeColquhoun, Mrs MaureenFernyhough, Rt Hon E.
Atkins, Ronald (Preston N)Conlan, BernardFitt, Gerard (Belfast W)
Atkinson, NormanCook, Robin F. (Edin C)Flannery, Martin
Bagier, Gordon A. T.Corbett, RobinFletcher, Raymond (Ilkeston)
Barnett, Guy (Greenwich)Cox, Thomas (Tooting)Fletcher, Ted (Darlington)
Barnett, Rt Hon JoelCraigen, J. M. (Maryhill)Foot, Rt Hon Michael
Bates, AlfCronin, JohnFord, Ben
Bean, R. E.Crosland, Rt Hon AnthonyForrester, John
Benn, Rt Hon Anthony WedgwoodCryer, BobFowler, Gerald (The Wrekin)
Bennett, Andrew (Stockport N)Cunningham, G. (Islington S)Fraser, John (Lambeth, N'w'd)
Bidwell, SydneyCunningham, Dr J. (Whiteh)Freeson, Reginald
Bishop, E. S.Dalyell, TamGarrett, John (Norwich S)
Blenkinsop, ArthurDavidson, ArthurGarrett, W. E. (Wallsend)
Boardman, H.Davies, Bryan (Enfield N)George, Bruce
Booth, AlbertDavies, Denzil (Llanelli)Gilbert, Dr John
Boothroyd, Miss BettyDavies, Ifor (Gower)Ginsburg, David
Bottomley, Rt Hon ArthurDavis, Clinton (Hackney C)Golding, John
Boyden, James (Bish Auck)Deakins, EricGould, Bryan
Bradley, TomDean, Joseph (Leeds West)Gourlay, Harry
Bray, Dr Jeremyde Freitas, Rt Hon Sir GeoffreyGraham, Ted
Brown, Hugh D. (Provan)Delargy, HughGrant, George (Morpeth)
Brown, Robert C. (Newcastle W)Dell, Rt Hon EdmundGrocott, Bruce
Brown, Ronald (Hackney S)Dempsey, JamesHamilton, James (Bothwell)
Buchan, NormanDoig, PeterHamilton, W. W. (Central Fife)
Buchanan, RichardDormand, J. D.Hamling, William
Butler, Mrs Joyce (Wood Green)Douglas-Mann, BruceHardy, Peter
Callaghan, Jim (Middleton & P)Dunn, James A.Harper, Joseph
Campbell, IanDunnett, JackHarrison, Walter (Wakefield)
Canavan, DennisDunwoody, Mrs GwynethHart, Rt Hon Judith
Cant, R. B.Eadie, AlexHattersley, Rt Hon Roy
Carmichael, NeilEdelman, MauriceHatton, Frank
Carter, RayEdge, GeoffHayman, Mrs Helene
Carter-Jones, LewisEdwards, Robert (Wolv SE)Healey, Rt Hon Denis

changes in interest rates or through a speeding up in the building programme. A change in income level can occur due to a slowing down in the completion rate of houses so that there is a slowing down in the rate at which houses come into rent.

It is factors such as these that a local authority, in close and detailed consultation with its housing manager and borough treasurer or director of finance, will establish at the beginning of a financial year. It will also see how its programme of repairs is being carried out and carry out an assessment of maintenance costs. It will then provide for a return of rental income which will meet such outgoings. There is nothing mysterious about this. We do not have to spell these points out in legislation. They are part of the management of housing estates which local authorities have been concerned with for over half a century.

Question put, That this House doth disagree with the Lords in the said amendment:—

The House divided: Ayes 282, Noes 237.

Heffer, Eric S.Marquand, DavidShaw, Arnold (Ilford South)
Hooley, FrankMarshall, Dr Edmund (Goole)Sheldon, Robert (Ashton-u-Lyne)
Horam, JohnMarshall, Jim (Leicester S)Short, Rt Hon E. (Newcastle C)
Howell, Denis (B'ham, Sm H)Meacher, MichaelShort, Mrs Renée (Wolv NE)
Hoyle, Doug (Nelson)Mellish, Rt Hon RobertSilkin, Rt Hon John (Deptford)
Huckfield, LesMendelson, JohnSilverman, Julius
Hughes, Rt Hon C. (Anglesey)Mikardo, IanSkinner, Dennis
Hughes, Mark (Durham)Millan, BruceSmall, William
Hughes, Robert (Aberdeen, N)Miller, Dr M. S. (E Kilbride)Smith, John (N Lanarkshire)
Hughes, Roy (Newport)Miller, Mrs Millie (Ilford N)Snape, Peter
Hunter, AdamMitchell, R. C. (Soton, Itchen)Spearing, Nigel
Irving, Rt Hon S. (Dartford)Molloy, WilliamSpriggs, Leslie
Jackson, Colin (Brighouse)Moonman, EricStallard, A. W.
Jackson, Miss Margaret (Lincoln)Morris, Charles R. (Openshaw)Stewart, Rt Hon M. (Fulham)
Janner, GrevilleMorris, Rt Hon J. (Aberavon)Stott, Roger
Jay, Rt Hon DouglasMoyle, RolandStrang, Gavin
Jeger, Mrs LenaMulley, Rt Hon FrederickStrauss, Rt Hon G. R.
Jenkins, Hugh (Putney)Murray, Rt Hon Ronald KingSummerskill, Hon Dr Shirley
Jenkins, Rt Hon Roy (Stechford)Newens, StanleySwain, Thomas
John, BrynmorNoble, MikeTaylor, Mrs Ann (Bolton W)
Johnson, James (Hull West)Ogden, EricThomas, Jeffrey (Abertillery)
Johnson, Walter (Derby S)O'Halloran, MichaelThomas, Mike (Newcastle E)
Jones, Alec (Rhondda)O'Malley, Rt Hon BrianThomas, Ron (Bristol NW)
Jones, Barry (East Flint)Orbach, MauriceThorne, Stan (Preston South)
Jones, Dan (Burnley)Ovenden, JohnTierney, Sydney
Judd, FrankOwen, Dr DavidTinn, James
Kaufman, GeraldPadley, WalterTomlinson, John
Kelley, RichardPalmer, ArthurTorney, Tom
Kilroy-Silk, RobertPark, GeorgeVarley, Rt Hon Eric G.
Kinnock, NeilParker, JohnWainwright, Edwin (Dearne V)
Lambie, DavidParry, RobertWalden, Brian (B'ham, L'dyw'd)
Lamborn, HarryPavitt, LaurieWalker, Harold (Doncaster)
Lamortd, JamesPeart, Rt Hon FredWalker, Terry (Kingswood)
Latham, Arthur (Paddington)Pendry, TomWard, Michael
Leadbitter, TedPerry, ErnestWatkinson, John
Lee, JohnPhipps, Dr ColinWeetch, Ken
Lestor, Miss Joan (Eton & Slough)Prentice, Rt Hon RegWeitzman, David
Lewis, Ron (Carlisle)Prescott, JohnWellbeloved, James
Lipton, MarcusPrice C. (Lewisham W)White, Frank R. (Bury)
Lomas, KennethPrice, William (Rugby)White, James (Pollok)
Luard, EvanRadice, GilesWhitehead, Phillip
Lyon, Alexander (York)Richardson, Miss JoWhitlock, William
Lyons, Edward (Bradford W)Roberts, Albert (Normanton)Willey, Rt Hon Frederick
Mabon, Dr J. DicksonRoberts, Gwilym (Cannock)Williams, Alan (Swansea W)
McCartney, HughRobertson, John (Paisley)Williams, Rt Hon Shirley (Hertford)
McElhone, FrankRodgers, George (Chorley)Williams, W. T. (Warrington)
MacFarquhar, RoderickRodgers, William (Stockton)Wilson, Alexander (Hamilton)
McGuire, Michael (Ince)Rooker, J. W.Wilson, William (Coventry SE)
Mackenzie, GregorRoper, JohnWise, Mrs Audrey
Mackintosh, John P.Rose, Paul B.Woodall, Alec
Maclennan, RobertRoss, Rt Hon W. (Kilm'nock)Woof, Robert
McMillan, Tom (Glasgow C)Rowlands, TedWrigglesworth, Ian
Madden, MaxRyman, JohnYoung, David (Bolton E)
Magee, BryanSandelson, NevilleTELLERS FOR THE AYES:
Mahon, SimonSedgemore, BrianMr. David Stoddart and
Marks, KennethSelby, HarryMr. John Ellis.

NOES

Adley, RobertBudgen, NickDrayson, Burnaby
Aitken, JonathanBulmer, Esmonddu Cann, Rt Hon Edward
Alison, MichaelBurden, F. A.Durant, Tony
Amery, Rt Hon JulianButler, Adam (Bosworth)Dykes, Hugh
Atkins, Rt Hon H. (Spelthorne)Carlisle, MarkEden, Rt Hon Sir John
Baker, KennethChalker, Mrs LyndaEdwards, Nicholas (Pembroke)
Banks, RobertChannon, PaulElliott, Sir William
Bell, RonaldChurchill, W. S.Emery, Peter
Bennett, Sir Frederic (Torbay)Clark, Alan (Plymouth, Sutton)Eyre, Reginald
Bennett, Dr Reginald (Fareham)Clark, William (Croydon S)Fairbairn, Nicholas
Berry, Hon AnthonyClarke, Kenneth (Rushcliffe)Fairgrieve, Russell
Biffen, JohnClegg, WalterFarr, John
Biggs-Davison, JohnCockcroft, JohnFell, Anthony
Blaker, PeterCooke, Robert (Bristol W)Finsberg, Geoffrey
Body, RichardCope, JohnFisher, Sir Nigel
Boscawen, Hon RobertCormack, PatrickFletcher Alex (Edinburgh N)
Bowden, A. (Brighton, Kemptown)Corrie, JohnFletcher-Cooke, Charles
Boyson, Dr Rhodes (Brent)Costain, A. P.Fookes, Miss Janet
Brittan, LeonCritchley, JulianFowler, Norman (Sutton C'f'd)
Brotherton, MichaelCrouch, DavidFox, Marcus
Brown, Sir Edward (Bath)Crowder, F. P.Freud, Clement
Bryan, Sir PaulDean, Paul (N Somerset)Fry, Peter
Buchanan-Smith, AlickDodsworth, GeoffreyGardiner, George (Reigate)
Buck, AntonyDouglas-Hamilton, Lord JamesGardner, Edward (S Fylde)

Gilmour, Sir John (East Fife)Luce, RichardRoss, Stephen (Isle of Wight)
Glyn, Dr AlanMcAdden, Sir StephenRossi, Hugh (Hornsey)
Goodhew, VictorMcCrindle, RobertRost, Peter (SE Derbyshire)
Goodlad, AlastairMacfarlane, NeilRoyle, Sir Anthony
Gorst, JohnMacGregor, JohnSainsbury, Tim
Gow, Ian (Eastbourne)McNair-Wilson, M. (Newbury)St. John-Stevas, Norman
Gower, Sir Raymond (Barry)McNair-Wilson, P. (New Forest)Scott, Nicholas
Grant, Anthony (Harrow C)Marshall, Michael (Arundel)Scott-Hopkins, James
Gray, HamishMates, MichaelShaw, Giles (Pudsey)
Grieve, PercyMather, CarolShelton, William (Streatham)
Griffiths, EldonMaudling, Rt Hon ReginaldShepherd, Colin
Grist, IanMawby, RayShersby, Michael
Hall, Sir JohnMaxwell-Hyslop, RobinSilvester, Fred
Hall-Davis, A. G. F.Mayhew, PatrickSims, Roger
Hamilton, Michael (Salisbury)Meyer, Sir AnthonySinclair, Sir George
Hampson, Dr KeithMiller, Hal (Bromsgrove)Skeet, T. H. H.
Hannam, JohnMills, PeterSmith, Cyril (Rochdale)
Harrison, Col Sir Harwood (Eye)Mitchell, David (Basingstoke)Smith, Dudley (Warwick)
Hastings, StephenMoate, RogerSpeed, Keith
Havers, Sir MichaelMonro, HectorSpence, John
Hayhoe, BarneyMontgomery, FergusSpicer, Michael (S Worcester)
Heseltine, MichaelMoore, John (Croydon C)Sproat, Iain
Hicks, RobertMore, Jasper (Ludlow)Stainton, Keith
Higgins, Terence L.Morgan, GeraintStanbrook, Ivor
Holland, PhilipMorgan-Giles, Rear-AdmiralStanley, John
Hordern, PeterMorris, Michael (Northampton S)Steel, David (Roxburgh)
Howe, Rt Hon Sir GeoffreyMorrison, Charles (Devizes)Steen, Anthony (Wavertree)
Howell, David (Guildford)Morrison, Hon Peter (Chester)Stewart, Ian (Hitchin)
Howell, Ralph (North Norfolk)Mudd, DavidStokes, John
Hunt, JohnNeave, AireyTapsell, Peter
Hurd, DouglasNelson, AnthonyTaylor, R. (Croydon NW)
Hutchison, Michael ClarkNeubert, MichaelTaylor, Teddy (Cathcart)
Irvine, Bryant Godman (Rye)Newton, TonyTebbit, Norman
James, DavidNott, JohnTemple-Morris, Peter
Jenkin, Rt Hon P. (Wanst'd &W'df'd)Onslow, CranleyThomas, Rt Hon P. (Hendon S)
Jessel, TobyOppenheim, Mrs SallyThorpe, Rt Hon Jeremy (N Devon)
Johnson Smith, G. (E Grinstead)Osborn, JohnTownsend, Cyril D.
Jones, Arthur (Daventry)Page, Rt Hon R. Graham (Crosby)Trotter, Neville
Jopling, MichaelPardoe, JohnTugendhat, Christopher
Joseph, Rt Hon Sir KeithPattie, Geoffreyvan Straubenzee, W. R.
Kaberry Sir DonaldPenhaligon, DavidVaughan, Dr Gerard
Kellett-Bowman, Mrs ElainePercival, IanViggers, Peter
Kimball, MarcusPeyton, Rt Hon JohnWainwright, Richard (Colne V)
King, Evelyn (South Dorset)Pink, R. BonnerWakeham, John
King, Tom (Bridgwater)Pym, Rt Hon FrancisWalder, David (Clitheroe)
Kitson, Sir TimothyRaison, TimothyWall, Patrick
Lamont, NormanRathbone, TimWarren, Kenneth
Lane, DavidRees, Peter (Dover & Deal)Weatherill, Bernard
Langford-Holt, Sir JohnRenton, Rt Hon Sir D. (Hunts)Wells, John
Latham, Michael (Melton)Renton, Tim (Mid-Sussex)Whitelaw, Rt Hon William
Lawrence, IvanRhys Williams, Sir BrandonWinterton, Nicholas
Lawson, NigelRidsdale, JulianYoung, Sir G. (Ealing, Acton)
Le Marchant, SpencerRifkind, MalcolmYounger, Hon George
Lester, Jim (Beeston)Roberts, Michael (Cardiff NW)TELLERS FOR THE NOES:
Lewis, Kenneth (Rutland)Roberts, Wyn (Conway)Mr. Jeffrey Thomas and
Lloyd, IanRodgers, Sir John (Sevenoaks)Mr. W. Benyon.

Question accordingly agreed to.

Clause 2

Reserve Power To Limit Rents

Lords Amendment: No. 2, in page 2, line 19, leave out "section" and insert "subsection".

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

Although the amendments appear earlier in the clause they are consequential on the insertion of five new subsections into the clause. The inserted subsections have a different date of operation—two weeks after Royal Assent—and consequently the reference in subsection (4) to the coming into force of the section needs to be to the coming into force of that subsection, that is on Royal Assent. I hope that clarifies matters.

Question put and agreed to.

Subsequent Lords Amendments agreed to.

Lords Amendment: No. 5, in page 2, line 26, at end insert:

"(4A) The Counter-Inflation (Private Sector Residential Rents) (England and Wales) Order 1974 and the Counter-Inflation (Private Sector Residential Rents) (England and Wales) No. 2 Order 1974 are revoked, and the standstill period under the first order (which was extended by Article 3 of the second order) shall terminate on the coming into force of this subsection.
(4B) Notwithstanding the revocation of the orders—
  • (a) Article 5 of the first order (recovery of excess rent) shall continue to have effect for the purposes of both orders, so as to enable a tenant to recover rent at any time during which he would have been able to recover it if the orders had not been revoked, and
  • (b) Article 8 of that order (jurisdiction of the county court) shall continue to have effect, for the purposes of both orders, in respect of any proceedings commenced before the expiry of a period of two years from the date of the revocation.
  • (4C) Paragraphs (a) and (b) of subsection (4B) above shall continue to have effect during the periods specified in them, whether or not Part II of the Counter-Inflation Act 1973 (under which the two revoked orders were made) is in effect.
    (4D) Notwithstanding the revocation of the orders, the rent recoverable under a regulated tenancy of a dwelling-house in respect of a contractual period beginning before but ending after the revocation shall not exceed the amount which, by virtue of the orders, was the counter-inflation limit for the dwelling-house immediately before the revocation.
    (4E) Section 38(2) of the Interpretation Act 1889 (effect of repeals) shall apply in relation to the orders as it applies to an enactment which is repealed by another Act."

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

    Amendments Nos. 5 and 6 incorporate in the clause the provisions which bring the rent freeze to an end in the private sector by revoking the orders which imposed it, with some savings to safeguard rights acquired and to preserve things done under those orders.

    The moving of Clause 2 so that it comes after Clause 11 is proposed simply for the sake of the logical arrangement of the Bill. Now that the provision covers both the public and private sectors it should not come in the middle of the public sector clauses.

    Lords Amendments Nos. 19 and 60 are purely technical amendments. They add the counter-inflation orders, revoked by Clause 2, to the Schedule of repeals.

    Question put and agreed to.

    Subsequent Lords Amendments agreed to.

    New Clause A

    Eligibility For Housing Association Grant And Revenue Deficit Grant

    Lords Amendment: No. 8, in page 6, line 5, at end insert new Clause A:

    "A. The fact that a housing association is a society registered under the Industrial and Provident Societies Act 1965 and that its rules restrict membership to persons who are tenants or prospective tenants of the association and preclude the grant or assignment of tenancies to persons other than members shall not render it ineligible for housing association grant under section 29 of the Housing Act 1974 or for revenue deficit grant under section 32 of that Act."

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

    With this amendment we shall take Lord amendments 24 to 32, 34, 38, 40, 56 and 61.

    In moving the amendments as a group I can first briefly explain to the House their effect. Amendment No. 8, which has inserted a new Clause A in the Bill, is designed to enable the co-operative movement to operate in housing association as well as in local authority matters, by removing a restriction on the membership of the associations. The other amendments in this group extend the principle of co-operation in the local authority area to new towns and to the North-Eastern Housing Association. There is also one change in nomenclature: for clarity the name of these co-operatives has been made "housing co-operatives".

    For convenience, I turn first to the new clause, briefly to explain the way in which it will enable grant to be paid to co-operatives which are registered housing associations. The provisions of the Housing Act 1974 prevented housing association grant and revenue deficit grant from being paid to associations where all the tenants have to be members and vice versa. This constraint was introduced to make co-ownership schemes, the members of which benefit from option mortgage subsidy, ineligible also for housing association grant. But the effect was also to debar from grant other housing association co-operatives which adopt rules involving full mutuality between tenants and members. Such rules are necessary if the members of the co-operative are to be able to determine their own rents without the intervention of the rent officer, and thus to be in a position to meet their ongoing costs, once the initial payment of grant has been made.

    It may be that in the present uncertain situation of high and unpredictable cost inflation, housing association co-operatives will find it difficult to go on covering costs by increasing their rents in this way, and for this reason we have made it possible for them to have recourse in the last resort, like other registered housing associations, to revenue deficit grant. But I hope and believe that within the housing association movement there are people anxious to pioneer co-operative schemes, and this new clause will give them the necessary flexibility to do so. I also hope that building societies and other financial institutions will be encouraged to consider making loan finance available to such schemes. I shall shortly be consulting with them and with builders to examine ways by which this can be done.

    There is one further point. As will have become clear, the amendment to Sections 29 and 32 of the Housing Act 1974 will, in addition to encouraging housing association co-operatives, enable us to grant-aid co-ownership schemes. This is a topic to which the Campbell Working Party on housing co-operatives and tenant participation, which I appointed some months ago, will be returning in its second report—I recently received its first report—and I will at that stage make a further statement to the House. But it is clear that we need to consider ways in which grant can be paid to schemes in which people can contribute towards acquiring an individual share in the equity of their homes, so that we do not polarise the housing market between owner-occupiers and tenants.

    I turn to local authorities. The aim of the co-operative provision for local authorities in the Bill, as inserted on Report in this House, was very simple. Where houses are in the ownership of a local authority, which has either built them or bought them, they receive subsidy. Traditionally that subsidy is cut off if the council sells or leases a house. Assistance after that point is usually given to the purchaser by tax relief. But that would be inappropriate where the houses were passing into a new form of social ownership, a lease to a housing co-operative. The provisions in paragraph 9 of Schedule 1 accordingly continue housing subsidy to the local authority after such a disposal. The benefit of the subsidy may be passed on by the authority to the co-operative in fixing the rent under the lease. This preserves the benefit of subsidy in a flexible and easily adjustable way, since the local authority may either fix a rent which passes on to the co-operative the exact amount of subsidy the council itself receives with or without the rate fund contribution it makes in addition; or by fixing a lower rent it may pass on more; or by fixing a higher rent it may pass on less.

    A willing association of tenants and a willing local authority are both required for the arrangements to be effective. There are also ample safeguards for the taxpayers' interest in the requirement that the Secretary of State shall approve the co-operative, to ensure that it is a properly constituted and well-supported body; the terms of the disposal, to ensure that the dwellings remain in social ownership; and the actual transaction, to ensure that the arrangements are being applied to the right sort of dwellings on the right sort of scale. Controls, as the House will appreciate, may be a means of stimulus as well as a power of veto. It would not be the intention to operate them in a negative or deadening way—on the contrary.

    Let me say briefly what housing co-operatives in the local authority are not. They are not intended to provide a means by which the responsibilities can be moved from shoulders able to bear them to shoulders unable to bear them. I say this to allay any fears there may be that local authorities will be permitted or encouraged to shuffle off the responsibility for running difficult or unsatisfactory housing on to an under-financed, inadequately supported ad hoc group of tenants. That is not the intention. A co-operative of tenants must, first of all, be willing to take on the responsibility. It must satisfy the terms of the advisory circular and the model scheme we shall be drawing up that it is itself a properly-constituted body. Next, the functions it will assume, and the terms on which it will assume them, will need to be approved. There will also be control of the individual transaction so that we could say that even where the terms were satisfactory these were not the right sort of dwellings for the responsibility to be devolved. There are, therefore, ample safeguards.

    The provisions allow for co-operatives to have more or fewer housing management functions, for a longer or shorter period. Thus, a tenants' association could initially take over a limited range of repair and management functions for a few years, while to begin with wider powers such as fixing rents and selecting new tenants could remain with the council. When the co-operative had proved its ability to discharge the limited functions well, the agreement could, subject to approval, be expanded to give it wider powers for a longer period, making it to all intents and purposes its own landlord. That is one way in which it could work, but there could be many variations.

    11.15 p.m.

    When I introduced the local authority provisions on Report I referred to the need to involve tenants more deeply in the process of taking the many decisions of a major or a minor kind which affect their homes, their environment and their rents. I touched on the housing advantages, somewhat narrowly defined, which would flow from this—the better maintenance, reduced vandalism, etc.—and mentioned also the wider social advantages. I described two primary examples of the kinds of situation where I could see that co-operatives would have immediate potential. One of these is the old-established local authority estate where the tenants are ready and willing to take over the management.

    The second example is the block of property now rented privately, where the tenants can see immediately that only social ownership will defend and improve what they now have. In this second instance the tenants may also see equally well that only if they arrange to run the property themselves will they get things done as and when they like, and that the local authority, whose machinery is almost certainly hard-pressed at present, would take an altogether different view of the transaction if it knew that a tenants' co-operative stood ready and willing to take over the day-to-day running from the landlord.

    There is, thirdly, an area of new policy in which local authority or building society mortgage facilities will be useful to prospective tenant-owners.

    On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. I do not know how many pages of this letter from his mother the Minister is reading, but this will not do—just reading out a lot of drivel to the House on an important question of this nature.

    Order, The content of the Minister's speech is not for me to comment upon, but there was nothing out of order in what the Minister was doing.

    When a Minister comes to the House, Mr. Deputy Speaker, and reads out pages of stuff which really is very difficult to follow, is that a speech?

    Order. The hon. and learned Gentleman has been a Member almost as long as I have, and he will know that it is a very old custom for what the House considers to be the copious use of notes by Ministers to be accepted.

    I am tempted to intervene in what I was saying to remark that the hon. and learned Member has every right to intervene, comment and have a view about the content of what I am saying but that what he has said shows a lamentable ignorance of what people are interested in in the housing sector.

    We are interested. That is why we should like to hear something from the Minister—not something he is reading out at express speed.

    I hope that if the hon. and learned Member cannot follow what I am saying tonight, he will show sufficient interest to take a leisurely moment or two tomorrow to read the text of what I am saying, and I hope to hear further from him of his great interest in housing co-operatives and in housing matters generally. I have not yet heard from him in the House or elsewhere on such subjects.

    I was saying that there is a third area of new policy of housing co-operatives in which local authority or building society mortgage facilities would be useful to prospective tenant-owners. I hope that I may have the opportunity shortly of having further discussions with local authority representatives and with building societies and the builders to discuss possible developments in this field. I am awaiting a second report from the working party on housing co-operatives and tenant participation, which will give some lines of consideration in this field as well as those I have been discussing.

    Since the Minister is advocating tenant management of co-operatives, may I ask why he is so opposed to the sale of flats to council tenants?

    I prefer to confine myself to discussing what I hope the hon. and learned Gentleman will agree is a new and worth-while form of tenure which this country has seen little of. I trust that he will be as flexible in approaching this matter as I know he is on other matters without introducing something that is not relevant.

    While the Minister is dealing with the different forms of tenure, will he explain what is in essence the practical difference between a housing association and a housing co-operative?

    I am a little surprised to hear that question coming from the hon. Gentleman. I do not think it would help if I spent a lot of time in explaining that a housing association, with a few exceptions—there are exceptions, and indeed there are three in my constituency—is not a tenants' co-operative but is run by other people who rent dwellings to the tenants. In other words, the dwellings are not properties owned collectively by the tenants or managed by themselves. Technically, that is the simple difference.

    I referred also to the options opened up for the longer term by the development of provisions for co-operatives—namely, the scope for developing arrangements for equity-sharing and forms of tenure which release us from the trap of having only owner-occupation, council or housing association renting in our housing market. Therefore, one of the objectives of the policy is to introduce a new and variable form of tenure of which we have seen little up to the present. I am examining further ways by which privately rented properties might be brought into social ownership and control.

    We shall now have a solid piece of initial legislation on which to build an important social reform. I describe it as an initial provision because we cannot claim to have provided in this Bill all the powers and machinery that a progressive housing co-operative movement may need in the years to come, and we shall bring further proposals before Parliament as we gain experience and in the light of the further reports to which I have referred.

    Question put and agreed to.—[ Special entry.]

    Clause 9

    Certain Amenities To Be Disregarded In Determining Fair Rent

    Lords Amendment: No. 9, in page 7, line 7, leave out "paragraph" and insert "paragraphs".

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

    With this amendment it will also be convenient to take the following Lords amendments:

    No. 11, in page 7, line 18, at end insert:
    "(bbb) any deterioration after the material date in the amenities of the locality (including the disappearance of any of them) other than a deterioration attributable to any act or omission of the landlord or a superior landlord or a predecessor in title of the landlord or a superior landlord; and"
    No. 12, in page 7, line 21, after "(3) (bb)" and insert "and (bbb)".

    The effect of these amendments is to make Clause 9 work in both directions. Under the clause as amended rent officers and rent assessment committees will be required, in fixing fair rents, to take certain action—[Interruption.] The hon. Member for Yarmouth (Mr. Fell) has graced us with his presence. I hope he will continue to grace us with his silence. [HON. MEMBEHS: "Oh."] Rent officers and rent assessment committees will be required in fixing fair rents to disregard not only provisions of and improvements in neighbourhood amenities since the material date to which the landlord has contributed nothing, but also deterioration in or disappearance of such amenities for which he is not to blame.

    I wish to oppose these amendments. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh."] On Report amendments were tabled to require the rent officer in assessing a fair rent to disregard improvements in the locality. There is an apparent—and I submit only an apparent—equity in making the provision operate in both directions so that one should equally disregard the deterioration in the locality. I submit that this is a false analogy.

    One finds the situation where a tenant gets into a specific house and after houses opposite are pulled down and the area is turned into a park a number of richer people may wish to live in the house. Should such a person have to pay a higher rent because there is stronger competition to live in the house? I submit that the answer is "No".

    For this reason I supported the amendments in the Bill as it left the House, but it is not a fair analogy to say that if the tenant moved into a house because there was a school round the corner, or a shop at the corner of the road, when the benefits for which he had contracted have disappeared, he should not be entitled to a reduction. The question is whether the tenant should be entitled to say, "I wanted this house because it had these amenities".

    When an amenity has disappeared it is reasonable for the tenant to say that he is entitled to have a rent reduction. When the matter was discussed in another place the withdrawal of transport services from a locality was the example which was given. That is a serious ground for contending that the rental values in an area should be reduced. That should apply if a tenant has to travel great distances without public transport facilities or if there is a decline in the adequacy of the shopping facilities. Those are the facilities for which tenants would look when moving into an area. In effect, they were the covenanted facilities. If they disappear it is reasonable to argue that the rent should be reduced. If a benefit accrues for which the tenant had not looked and which he may not have desired—for example, there is frequent gentrification—I do not think it is reasonable that the rent should be increased because of that. Rental values may go up but the amenities the existing tenant wants may have disappeared.

    I favour the provisions in paragraph (1)(bb) but not in paragraph (1)(bbb). It is unfortunate that we have to refer to them in that way. I accept the taking together of the two paragraphs, but the whole clause is now becoming so complex and unsatisfactory that it would have been preferable if the initial proposal had not been introduced.

    From the very beginning Section 46 of the Rent Act imposed almost impossible problems on rent officers in trying to determine a fair rent in circumstances in which one of the factors which clearly would normally be taken into account in assessing the rent has to be disregarded. As we know from the Francis Report and from other investigations, and particularly from the previous report, they have evolved a mode of operating the provisions of the Act. That has been settled over the years. We now, however, find in recent House of Lords cases—principally the case of Mason v. Skilling—that it has been accepted in determining a fair rent that the rent officers and the rent assessment committees are entitled to have regard to the capital value of the premises and to consider what would provide a reasonable return to the landlord on his investment. It was further decided that regard should be paid to the return that could reasonably be expected on the capital value of the premises with vacant possession.

    Then there arose the situation in Palmer v. Peabody Trust in which it was held that the fact that a tenant of a housing association has no security of tenure should be disregarded. In short, we are having a series of decisions from the courts which are reinforcing the pattern of rent assessment committees in hoisting rents and the basis upon which they are determined higher and higher.

    I submit that what is needed is not so much further qualifications and sub-qualifications to Section 46 of the Rent Act but new patterns of selection for rent assessment committees. We do not want the committees, which by their constitutions are inevitably dominated by those who have a specific interest, to be engaged in raising property values generally.

    If there is someone who makes his living from commission on sales of property, it is inevitable—and I say this without in any way suggesting that he is acting improperly—that he will tend to be advantaged by rental values rising. It is reported to me that not only in London but all over the country rent assessment committees, as distinct from rent officers, are substantially increasing rent levels while the courts, particularly in these recent decisions, have been reinforcing the decisions of the rent assessment committees.

    11.30 p.m.

    I had hoped that the effect of the paragraph as it was on Report would be to put at least some check on the justification to go on raising rent values in areas subjected to gentrification. If one is not to be allowed to argue that the amenities of an area have deteriorated, we shall find that these provisions are at best a nullity and at worst provide nothing more than a licence for an even more rapid acceleration in the levels of rents.

    My hon. Friend will remember that in Committee and on Report Labour Members were critical of the Bill for failing to restrict rent increases in the private landlord sector, but that, as a very slight concession to us, it was provided that a rent officer should not take account of the fact that the rents of surrounding property had gone up and so increase the rent. That concession went a very little way towards satisfying us. Is not even that slight concession now being removed, because although rents are prevented from going up, they are also prevented from going down?

    I entirely agree. I think that in practice not only that little concession will be taken away, but the tenant will lose far more, because he will not be able to complain about loss of the amenities for which he looked in the locality.

    Although the landlord will not be able to charge an old-age pensioner more rent just because an ice-skating rink has been built around the corner, that old-age pensioner will not be able to claim a reduction of rent because the local shop on which she relied for her food supplies has gone; nor will the other tenant who relied on a bus service that has now been withdrawn and who chose to live in that specific house just because of that bus service. There is a logical distinction between the two cases.

    I urge the Government, if it is not too late for them to do so, to reject the amendment.

    I had not intended to intervene in this debate and it is for the Minister to reply to his hon. Friend the Member for Mitcham and Morden (Mr. Douglas-Mann). However, the hon. Member's remarks about rent assessment committees should not go entirely unchallenged.

    I listened very carefully to what he said. He used the word "advantaged" He said that he did not impute any improper motive, but that it was to the advantage of the rent assessment committee, because they included chartered surveyors and so on, that there should be steadily rising levels of property values and rents and so on. It does not matter how he meant that to be interpreted, for the only meaning in which it can be interpreted is that they will judge the level of rents that they will impose according to their professional and commercial advantage. I regard that as a most unfortunate remark to be made by any hon. Member, particularly when there is no evidence to support it, and he made no attempt to do so.

    I am grateful for the opportunity of making it clear that I am not imputing anything improper to the members of rent assessment committees. I am suggesting that the fundamental attitude of mind of somebody whose income depends on a steady increase in property values is to cause them to think that, in the same way as what was good for General Motors was good for the country, what is good for landlords is beneficial for the community at large. I am not suggesting that rent assessment committees are acting improperly, but that it would be preferable if they did not have that opportunity.

    I do not think that the House has been greatly advantaged by that intervention. I respect the hon. Gentleman's expertise in these matters, but I listened to him with some gloom. Rent assessment committees and rent officers have a statutory duty under the Rent Act—that was the Act piloted through the House by the late Richard Crossman—to carry out their extremely obscure duties under Section 46 and to define a fair rent under the terms laid down by Parliament. That is their duty. They have no duty other than to define a fair rent under the terms laid down by Parliament. I am far from heartened, despite the gloss put upon it, to hear the hon. Gentleman use the word "advantage". The House should defend public servants who are doing their best to do the job laid down by Parliament and not impute to them, however indirectly, motives which have nothing to do with their statutory duties.

    I will not follow the point made by the hon. Member for Melton (Mr. Latham). I support my hon. Friend the Member for Mitcham and Morden (Mr. Douglas-Mann) in opposing the Lords Amendment.

    If the amendment is carried, the effect will be that, for example, any great increase in traffic along the road on which a house stands will not be allowed as a factor to diminish the rent when it comes up for review, any decrease in parking facilities would not be admissible as a ground for reducing the rent, and I presume that the giving of planning permission for a fish packing factory nearby would also not be a ground for permitting a reduction in the rent. Yet these matters and all the other illustrations which one could give would be relevant for the purpose of establishing rateable value. Therefore, in my view it would have been logical to allow them to affect the rent. Such matters are relevant to the market price of a property. In the most extreme or even moderate case one could, to some extent, have the rental value of a property higher than the equivalent of its market price because the market price would go down with the disamenity.

    I accept that the point that I have just made is equally applicable to the amendment introduced by the Government on Report in the opposite direction. I did not participate in that debate, but I have been reading it tonight. I find myself in agreement with the former leader of the Islington Borough Council, the hon. Member for Northampton, South (Mr. Morris), who opposed the introduction of that amendment.

    I agree with my hon. Friend the Member for Mitcham and Morden that we must have both or neither. I should prefer that we had neither. It is possible, and my hon. Friend has done it, but difficult to separate the two. The Rent Act 1968 in its principle provision relating to thise matter, Section 46, makes it quite clear that rent officers and rent asssessment committees are to take into account the locality. Indeed, part of the wording refers to the
    "age, character and locality of the dwelling house".
    "Locality" can be relevant only for the physical atmosphere of the locality—the amenities which are generally available in it. What we are now saying is that rent assessment committees are to take into account the locality except those features of it which are not the result of the action of the landlord, whether positive or negative.

    Very few features of a locality are the result of the action of the landlord. Parking spaces, road traffic, fish factories, and so on, which are nice or nasty about an area, are the result either of communal action or of individual action. They are not under the control of the landlord, and certainly they are not decided by the landlord himself. Rent assessment committees which have an impossible task but which have got into certain habits—not to say ruts—in how they decide rents will have to find a new rut to get into, because we have mucked up the old rut good and proper with these two amendments.

    The problem tonight is which is it better to do: to have logic on one side and have both these provisions in the Bill, which will clearly disadvantage many tenants in my area which is subject to gentrification, or throw the logic out of the window and admit the amendment which was introduced by the Government in this House, only because it is not before us tonight, and reject the amendment introduced in the Lords and accepted by the Government in a fit of absence of mind.

    My intention is to vote against the Lords amendment on the ground that I should rather give up a bit of logic than see tenants suffer a disadvantage in an area such as mine.

    I propose to intervene only briefly, because of the lateness of the hour, to invite my right hon. and hon. Friends to support the Government in approving the amendment. I do so with some reluctance, because I believe that the introduction of a concept such as amenity into the calculation of rents is a complete nonsense and an absurdity that will cause nothing but trouble for rent officers and rent assessment committees in the future. It is a concept which it is scarcely possible to quantify, and it will lead to a great deal of heartache on the part of landlord and tenant alike in trying to determine how this will affect them.

    Having accepted the situation, as the Government did in their Bill before they sent it to the Lords, that amenity has to be taken into account, in one direction, when considering rent, it is only logical and right that that factor should be considered also in the other direction. If an improvement of amenity is to affect the rent, it follows automatically that the reverse of an improvement in an amenity must also affect the rent.

    Given this wretched, miserable concept which the Government have put in in a moment of aberration we are forced, in the circumstances, to support them on this amendment.

    I am grateful to the Opposition for supporting us in our aberration, and I should like to take this opportunity to welcome the hon. Member for Hornsey (Mr. Rossi) back to the Opposition Front Bench as the spokesman on housing.

    My hon. Friend the Member for Mitcham and Morden (Mr. Douglas- Mann) in opposing the amendment presented the House not so much with a criticism of the amendment as with a critique of the fair rent system. I have a good deal of sympathy with him in that critique, and these are matters to which we shall have to return later, but, meanwhile, it seems to us, as my hon. Friend the Member for Islington, South and Finsbury (Mr. Cunningham) said with his customary trenchancy, that we are in a situation which is logical both ways or neither way, but not in the middle.

    My hon. Friend the Member for Islington, South and Finsbury pointed out how constituents could be compensated for the deterioration of amenities by applying for a reduction in the rates.

    11.45 p.m.

    The question is academic. In an abstract sense, because of our knowledge of the background to the amendment, we can accept the case. However, it may well be that the Lords were somewhat obtuse in the matter. The Government introduced Clause 9 to meet a set of difficulties that they could find no other way of meeting. Is not there a similar case to be made to show that taking account of the deterioration of amenities in some localities has led to excessive rent reductions, in the same way as taking account of improvements has led to excessive rent increases? Since I know of no evidence of that kind, is there any justification for the amendment, other than accepting this as an academic and abstract exercise, without any knowledge of the housing problems behind it?

    My hon. Friend is right. The original amendment was introduced in response to a case which he made and which the Government accepted. An amendment may be introduced to deal with a specific case but it becomes general legislation. The original amendment will help to resolve the problems of my hon. Friend's constituents in St. Mary's Mansions, but this is not simply a St. Mary's Mansions' amendment. It will be available for people all over the country to take advantage of. We cannot introduce hybrid amendments. However, this amendment fits in with the concept we introduced in an effort to make a concession to my hon. Friend.

    My hon. Friend the Member for Islington, South and Finsbury was right in saying that we should include neither or both of the concepts. We believe that, just as the landlord should receive no benefit from the appearance or enhancement of amenities to which he has contributed nothing, neither should

    Division No. 104.]

    AYES

    [11.49 p.m.

    Abse, LeoCohen, StanleyGeorge, Bruce
    Adley, RobertColeman, DonaldGilbert, Dr John
    Alison, MichaelConlan, BernardGinsburg, David
    Amery, Rt Hon JulianCooke, Robert (Bristol W)Glyn Dr Alan
    Anderson, DonaldCorbett, RobinGolding, John
    Archer, FeterCorrie, JohnGoodhew, Victor
    Armstrong, ErnestCox, Thomas (Tooting)Goodlad, Alastair
    Ashley, JackCraigen, J. M. (Maryhill)Gorst, John
    Ashton, JoeCritchley, JulianGould, Bryan
    Atkins, Rt Hon H. (Spelthorne)Cronin, JohnGourlay, Harry
    Atkins, Ronald (Preston N)Crosland, Rt Hon AnthonyGow, Ian (Eastbourne)
    Atkinson, NormanCrowder, F. P.Gower, Sir Raymond (Barry)
    Awdry, DanielCryer, BobGraham, Ted
    Bagier, Gordon A. T.Cunningham, Dr J. (Whiteh)Grant, Anthony (Harrow C)
    Banks, RobertDalyell, TarnGray, Hamish
    Barnett, Rt Hon JoelDavidson, ArthurGrieve, Percy
    Bates, AlfDavies, Denzil (Llanelli)Grist, Ian
    Bean, R. E.Davies, Ifor (Gower)Grocott, Bruce
    Beith, A. J.Davis, Clinton (Hackney C)Hall-Davis, A. G. P.
    Benn, Rt Hon Anthony WedgwoodDeakins, EricHamilton, James (Bothwell)
    Bennett, Andrew (Stockport N)Dean, Joseph (Leeds West)Hamilton, Michael (Salisbury)
    Bennett, Sir Frederic (Torbay)de Freitas, Rt Hon Sir GeoffreyHamilton, W. W. (Central Fife)
    Benyon, W.Delargy, HughHamling, William
    Berry, Hon AnthonyDell, Rt Hon EdmundHampson Dr Keith
    Bidwell, SydneyDempsey, JamesHannam, John
    Biffen, JohnDodsworth, GeoffreyHardy, Peter
    Biggs-Davison, JohnDoig, PeterHarper, Joseph
    Bishop, E. S.Dormand, J. D.Harrison, Col Sir Harwood (Eye)
    Blaker, PeterDouglas-Hamilton, Lord JamesHarrison, Walter (Wakefield)
    Blenkinsop, ArthurDrayson, BurnabyHart, Rt Hon Judith
    Boardman, H.Dunn, James A.Hattersley, Rt Hon Roy
    Body, RichardDunnett, JackHatton, Frank
    Booth, AlbertDunwoody, Mrs GwynethHavers, Sir Michael
    Boothroyd, Miss BettyDurant, TonyHayman Mrs Helens
    Boscawen, Hon RobertEadie, AlexHealey, Rt Hon Denis
    Bottomley, Rt Hon ArthurEdelman, MauriceHeffer, Eric S.
    Bowden, A. (Brighton, Kemptown)Eden, Rt Hon Sir JohnHeseltine, Michael
    Boyden, James (Bish Auck)Edge, GeoffHolland, Philip
    Bradley, TomEdwards, Nicholas (Pembroke)Hooley, Frank
    Bray, Dr JeremyEdwards, Robert (Wolv SE)Horam, John
    Brittan, LeonElliott, Sir WilliamHordern, Peter
    Brotherton, MichaelEllis, Tom (Wrexham)Howell David (Guildford)
    Brown, Sir Edward (Bath)English, MichaelHo well, Denis (B'ham, Sm H)
    Brown, Hugh D. (Proven)Evans, Ioan (Aberdare)Howell, Ralph (North Norfolk)
    Brown, Robert C. (Newcastle W)Ewing, Harry (Stirling)Huckfield, Les
    Buchanan, RichardEyre, ReginaldHughes, Rt Hon C. (Anglesey)
    Buchanan-Smith, AlickFairbairn, NicholasHughes, Mark (Durham)
    Budgen, NickFairgrieve, RussellHughes, Robert (Aberdeen, N)
    Bulmer, EsmondFarr, JohnHughes, Roy (Newport)
    Burden, F. A.Finsberg, GeoffreyHunt, John
    Butler, Adam (Bosworth)Fisher, Sir NigelHunter, Adam
    Butler, Mrs Joyce (Wood Green)Fletcher Alex (Edinburgh N)Hutchison, Michael Clark
    Callaghan, Jim (Middleton & P)Fletcher, Ted (Darlington)Irvine, Bryant Godman (Rye)
    Campbell, IanFletcher-Cooke, CharlesIrving, Rt Hon S. (Dartford)
    Cant, R. B.Fookes, Miss JanetJackson, Colin (Brighouse)
    Carmichael, NeilFoot, Rt Hon MichaelJackson, Miss Margaret (Lincoln)
    Carter, RayFord, BenJames, David
    Carter-Jones, LewisForrester, JohnJanner, Greville
    Cartwright, JohnFowler, Gerald (The Wrekin)Jay, Rt Hon Douglas
    Castle, Rt Hon BarbaraFox, MarcusJenkin, Rt Hon P. (Wanst'd & W'df'd)
    Chalker, Mrs LyndaFraser, John (Lambeth, N'w'd)Jenkins, Hugh (Putney)
    Channon, PaulFreeson, ReginaldJenkins, Rt Hon Roy (Stechford)
    Churchill, W. S.Freud ClementJessel, Toby
    Clark, Alan (Plymouth, Sutton)Fry, PeterJohn, Brynmor
    Clark, William (Croydon S)Gardiner, George (Reigate)Johnson, James (Hull West)
    Clarke, Kenneth (Rushcliffe)Gardner, Edward (S Fylde)Johnson, Walter (Derby S)
    Cockcroft, JohnGarrett, John (Norwich S)Jones, Alec (Rhondda)
    Cocks, Michael (Bristol S)Garrett, W. E. (Wallsend)Jones, Barry (East Flint)

    he suffer through the diminution or disappearance of amenities where he is not to blame.

    Question put, That this House doth agree with the Lords in the said amendment:—

    The House divided: Ayes 407, Noes 42.

    Jones, Dan (Burnley)Morgan, GeraintSinclair, Sir George
    Jopling, MichaelMorgan-Giles, Rear-AdmiralSkeet, T. H. H.
    Joseph, Rt Hon Sir KeithMorris, Charles R. (Openshaw)Small, William
    Judd, FrankMorris, Rt Hon J. (Aberavon)Smith, Cyril (Rochdale)
    Kaufman, GeraldMorris, Michael (Northampton S)Smith, Dudley (Warwick)
    Kellett-Bowman, Mrs ElaineMorrison, Charles (Devizes)Smith, John (N Lanarkshire)
    Kelley, RichardMorrison, Hon Peter (Chester)Speed, Keith
    Kilroy-Silk, RobertMoyle, RolandSpence, John
    Kimball, MarcusMulley, Rt Hon FrederickSpicer, Michael (S Worcester)
    King, Tom (Bridgwater)Murray, Rt Hon Ronald KingSproat, Iain
    Kltson, Sir TimothyNeave, AireyStainton, Keith
    Lamborn, HarryNelson, AnthonyStallard, A. W.
    Lamond, JamesNeubert, MichaelStanley, John
    Lamont, NormanOgden, EricSteel, David (Roxburgh)
    Lane, DavidO'Halloran, MichaelSteen, Anthony (Wavertree)
    Langford-Holt, Sir JohnO'Malley, Rt Hon BrianStewart, Ian (Hitchin)
    Latham, Michael (Melton)Oppenheim, Mrs SallyStewart, Rt Hon M. (Fulham)
    Lawson, NigelOrbach, MauriceStoddart, David
    Leadbitter, TedOsborn, JohnStott, Roger
    Le Merchant, SpencerOwen, Dr DavidStradling Thomas, J.
    Lester, Jim (Beeston)Padley, WalterStrang, Gavin
    Lestor, Miss Joan (Eton & Slough)Page, John (Harrow West)Strauss, Rt Hon G. R.
    Lewis, Kenneth (Rutland)Palmer, ArthurSummerskill, Hon Dr Shirley
    Lewis, Ron (Carlisle)Park, GeorgeSwain, Thomas
    Lipton, MarcusParker, JohnTapsell, Peter
    Lloyd, IanParry, RobertTaylor, Mrs Ann (Bolton W)
    Lomas, KennethPendry, TomTaylor, R. (Croydon NW)
    Luard, EvanPenhaligon, DavidTaylor, Teddy (Cathcart)
    Luce, RichardPercival, IanTemple-Morris, Peter
    Lyon, Alexander (York)Perry, ErnestThomas, Jeffrey (Abertillery)
    Lyons, Edward (Bradford W)Phipps, Dr ColinThomas, Mike (Newcastle E)
    Mabon, Dr J. DicksonPrentice, Rt Hon RegThomas, Rt Hon P. (Hendon S)
    McCartney, HughPrescott, JohnTierney, Sydney
    McCrindle, RobertPrice, William (Rugby)Tinn, James
    McElhone, FrankPym, Rt Hon FrancisTomlinson, John
    Macfarlane, NeilRadice, GilesTorney, Tom
    MacFarquhar, RoderickRaison, TimothyTrotter, Neville
    McGuire, Michael (Ince)Rees, Peter (Dover & Deal)Tugendhat, Christopher
    Mackenzie, GregorRenton, Rt Hon Sir D. (Hunts)Varley, Rt Hon Eric G.
    Mackintosh, John P.Renton, Tim (Mid-Sussex)Wakeham, John
    Maclennan, RobertRhys Williams, Sir BrandonWalden, Brian (B'ham, L'dyw'd)
    McMillan, Tom (Glasgow C)Richardson, Miss JoWalker, Harold (Doncaster)
    McNair-Wilson, M. (Newbury)Ridsdale, JulianWalker, Terry (Kingswood)
    McNair-Wilson, P. (New Forest)Rifkind, MalcolmWard, Michael
    Magee, BryanRoberts, Albert (Normanton)Weatherill, Bernard
    Mahon, SimonRoberts, Michael (Cardiff NW)Weitzman, David
    Marks, KennethRoberts, Wyn (Conway)Wells, John
    Marquand, DavidRodgers, Sir John (Sevenoaks)White, Frank R. (Bury)
    Marshall, Dr Edmund (Goole)Rodgers, William (Stockton)White, James (Pollok)
    Marshall, Jim (Leicester S)Roper, JohnWhitehead, Phillip
    Marshall, Michael (Arundel)Rose, Paul B.Whitelaw, Rt Hon William
    Mates, MichaelRoss, Stephen (Isle of Wight)Whitlock, William
    Mather, CarolRoss, Rt Hon W. (Kilm' nock)Willey, Rt Hon Frederick
    Mawby, RayRossi, Hugh (Hornsey)Williams, Alan (Swansea W)
    Maxwell-Hyslop, RobinRost, Peter (SE Derbyshire)Williams, Rt Hon Shirley (Hertford)
    Mayhew, PatrickRowlands, TedWilliams, W. T. (Warrington)
    Meacher, MichaelRyman, JohnWilson, Alexander (Hamilton)
    Mellish, Rt Hon RobertSainsbury, TimWilson, William (Coventry SE)
    Meyer, Sir AnthonySandelson, NevilleWinterton, Nicholas
    Millan, BrucsScott-Hopkins, JamesWoodall, Alec
    Miller, Dr M. S. (E Kllbride)Shaw, Arnold (Ilford South)Woof, Robert
    Mills, PeterShaw, Giles (Pudsey)Wrigglesworth, Ian
    Mitchell, R. C. (Soton, Itchen)Sheldon, Robert (Ashton-u-Lyne)Young, David (Bolton E)
    Moate, RogerShelton, William (Streatham)Young, Sir G. (Ealing, Acton)
    Monro, HectorShepherd, ColinYounger, Hon George
    Montgomery, FergusShersby, Michael
    Moonman, EricShort, Rt Hon E. (Newcastle C)TELLERS FOR THE AYES:
    Moore, John (Croydon C)Silkin, Rt Hon John (Deptford)Mr. Laurie Pavitt and
    More, Jasper (Ludlow)Silvester, FredMr. John Ellis.

    NOES

    Allaun, FrankFlannery, MartinMikardo, Ian
    Buchan, NormanFletcher, Raymond (Ilkeston)Miller, Mrs Millie (Ilford N)
    Canavan, DennisHoyle, Doug (Nelson)Molloy, William
    Clemitson, IvorJeger, Mrs LenaNewens, Stanley
    Colquhoun, Mrs MaureenKinnock, NeilNoble, Mike
    Cook, Robin F. (Edin C)Lambie, DavidOvenden, John
    Davies, Bryan (Enfield N)Latham, Arthur (Paddington)Price C. (Lewisham W)
    Evans John (Newton)Lee, JohnRoberts, Gwilym (Cannock)
    Faulds, AndrewMadden, MaxRobertson, John (Paisley)
    Fernyhough, Rt Hon E.Mendelson, JohnRodgers, George (Chorley)

    Rooker, J. W.Snape, PeterWeetch, Ken
    Sedgemore, BrianThomas, Ron (Bristol NW)Wise, Mrs Audrey
    Selby, HarryThorne, Stan (Preston South)
    Silverman, JuliusWainwright, Edwin (Dearne V)TELLERS FOR THE NOES:
    Skinner, DennisWatkinson, JohnMr. Bruce Douglas-Mann and
    Mr. George Cunningham.

    Question accordingly agreed to.

    Lords Amendment: No. 10, in page 7, line 15, after "landlord" insert:

    "or a predecessor in title of the landlord or a superior landlord".

    I beg to move, That this House do agree with the Lords in the said amendment.

    This is a technical amendment. Its purpose is to make clear that improvements in the amenity of a neighbourhood at the expense of a predecessor in title of the landlord or a superior landlord are not to be disregarded in the determination of a fair rent. A predecessor in title is a previous owner of the interest which now belongs to the landlord. If the previous owner spent money on improving the amenities of the neighbourhood then the present owner should not be denied a rent reflecting this.

    Lords amendment agreed to.

    Subsequent Lords amendments agreed to.

    Clause 10

    Termination Of Decontrol Of Tenancies By Reference To Rateable Value

    Lords Amendment: No. 13, in page 8, line 1, leave out Clause 10.

    I beg to move, That this House doth disagree with the Lords in the said amendment.

    It may be to the convenience of the House if, with this amendment, we take Lords Amendment No. 54, in Schedule 6, page 35, leave out lines 1 to 12.

    These amendments remove the provisions in the Bill as introduced for the termination of general decontrol by reference to rateable value. In doing so, they destroy one of the essential components of this Bill and also attempt to undermine a pledge given in our manifesto that houses without basic amenities will not be taken out of control. It is clearly unacceptable that these amendments should go through.

    It is also somewhat curious that we should be faced with Lords Amendment No. 13 since when this clause went through Standing Committee not only was no vote cast against it but no word was said against it. The clause was accepted on the nod without a single word in Standing Committee. It is, therefore, somewhat bizarre that another place should wish to delete this essential provision from the Bill. The Government are not prepared to see the automatic change from rent control to rent regulation regardless of the state of repair of the dwelling and the amenities provided. We regard it as indefensible that tenants, many of whom are not well able to fend for themselves, should face rent increases of several hundred per cent. for a dwelling without the standard amenities, which represents a very basic level, and which may be in bad repair. We therefore cannot accept the amendments.

    May I draw the attention of the Under-Secretary of State to columns 281 onwards in the Official Report of the Standing Committee, from which it is clear that my hon. Friends the Members for Buckingham (Mr. Benyon) and for Melton (Mr. Latham) and myself vigorously opposed this clause. I cannot understand how the Under-Secretary should be unaware that in Standing Committee we opposed Clause 8, which is now Clause 10.

    I too wish to refer to the extraordinary statement by the Under-Secretary.

    Quite bizarre. Those of us on these benches who were involved in the Standing Committee were bitterly opposed to Clause 8, as it then was, which represents a substantial attack on any sensible rent policy. It represents a scheme which will bring about far more slums in this country by holding down rents to an unreasonable level. We opposed it so strongly that when the noble Lord Middleton was moving the amendment in another place which resulted in the deletion of this clause, he was called to order because he quoted a particularly brilliant speech in the Standing Committee by, in his own words, "Mr. Michael Latham".

    I hope my hon. Friends will press this amendment to a Division not only because of the great importance of this matter but because of the completely erroneous remarks of the Under-Secretary.

    By leave of the House, relatively erroneous. I am grateful to the hon. Member for Melton (Mr. Latham) for giving me the opportunity to give him the opportunity to draw attention to the speech which he made on that occasion. I was so swept away by my hon. Friend the Member for Salford, East (Mr. Allaun) during the Committee stage when he congratulated us warmly and sincerely on this clause. The fact is that this clause, which went through relatively on the nod in the Standing Committee, is a clause upon which we must insist as an important item of Government policy.

    It appears from my record of the proceedings that in Committee there was a Division. It can hardly be said to have gone through on the nod.

    I will invite my right hon. and hon. Friends to oppose this motion and to vote in support of their Lordships in this matter. I do so on the basis that this is a shabby, mean and spiteful little piece of Labour Party legislation. Let us see what is the subject matter of this Clause 10 which their Lordships took out of the Bill.

    It concerns those tenancies which remained in control under the 1957 Rent Act, that is properties with rateable values £40 and under in London or £30 and under outside Greater London. Those were properties at the lower end of the market. In 1969 the then Labour Government realised that great injustice was being caused to many landlords who, in that sector, were having their rents fixed to what was twice the 1939 letting value. By 1969 it was felt to be unjust that rents should be pegged to twice the 1939 value.

    Anthony Greenwood, as he then was, came to his House and told heart-rending stories of constituents of his, owners of properties of this kind. He urged us to embark on a programme of de-control, to remove those tenancies from that old control and make them into regulated tenancies so that fair rents could be fixed. The term used was "fair rents" upon the criteria laid down by the Labour Government. At the same time that Government appointed the Francis Committee to investigate the whole matter.

    I refer Labour Members, in case they have not read it, to the report of the Francis Committee. It said:

    "We have received a considerable amount of evidence … as to the injustice of perpetuating the present system of controlled rents, and as to the complexity and inadequacy of the Housing Act 1969 in this context …"
    After giving examples of what the committee had seen in its inquiries round the country, where it carried out physical examinations, it came to this conclusion:
    "It seems indefensible"—

    Order. If the hon. Member for Ealing, North (Mr. Molloy) desires to participate in this debate I would be grateful if he will wait and catch the eye of the Chair in due course and not interrupt from a sedentary position.

    The Committee said:

    "It seems indefensible, as a matter of equity, that landlords of such premises—in England and Wales—should continue to be tied to the rent formula laid down in the Rent Act 1957 i.e. that the permitted rent shall not exceed twice the gross value obtaining in November 1956".
    After further argument it came to this conclusion:
    "the controlled system … has undoubtedly created an acute sense of injustice among landlords of controlled premises, and has on the one hand produced an attitude of indifference to the state of repair of those premises, and on the other hand has engendered a determination to have nothing more to do with letting them but rather to sell them as soon as they become vacant."
    12.15 a.m.

    In other words, this type of legislation contributes to the housing shortage in the rented sector. It has contributed to the creation of slums because it is precisely in that area of lower rated property that landlords will not spend money upon the property because the return is ridiculous since it is tied to 1939 values. The properties deteriorate and become uninhabitable. It is a scandal that the Government should wish to perpetuate this system. They do so not out of concern for the tenants—that is sheer hypocrisy. The truth lies in statements made repeatedly—

    Order. If an hon. Member does not wish to give way he must not be pressed.

    I shall not give way to an hon. Member who addresses me discourteously from a sedentary position. If the hon. Member had chosen to get to his feet earlier I would have given way, but not now.

    May I ask the hon. Member to consider what he is saying? He is suggesting that landlords who will not put a bath or hot water or an inside lavatory into their tenants' property should be allowed to take that accommodation out of control. That is scandalous and it is to the shame of the Conservatives to suggest it.

    The hon. Member is digressing. This is a chicken and egg situation. The landlord will not spend the money on this kind of property unless he has an income which allows him to do so.

    Experience of the 1969 Act has been to show that the original system of requiring a qualification certificate before a rent could be put up would not work. I deliberately did not go into the whole detail of this area because of the time and because I know that hon. Members are anxious to get home. If the Minister turns to page 96 of the Francis Committee Report he will see that it says:
    "We saw controlled houses in tenement blocks in good repair but lacking one or more standard amenities, e.g. a bathroom. It seemed to us that it would be quite impracticable to install bathrooms in the smaller houses without depriving the tenants of essential living accommodation, and also to carry out the work of installing a bathroom, even if there was spare living accommodation, except at enormous cost."
    The disincentive is such that these properties become slums and eventually put an enormous burden upon the public purse which has to put them into good order.

    Will the hon. Member refer to page 98 of that report in his consideration of the value of its recommendations? We have had quite a lot of grounds for doubting the wisdom of the elders who advised us in that report. Page 98 gives a sample:

    "the Tenants' Survey confirms us in the view that many landlords … accept a rent below the fair rent level.… No doubt, there are grasping landlords, but we believe there are far more who are not."
    Does the hon. Member not agree that the facts have not borne out the views of the Francis Committee on many matters, and on the question to which the hon. Member is referring it also expressed some doubts about some contrary points and these have not come out in the hon. Member's argument.

    The hon. Gentleman quarrels with the Francis Report, because he does not agree with the statement that not all landlords are grasping. The conclusions of the Milner Holland Report, the result of an investigation ordered by a Conservative Government into what was known as Rachmanism, were the same—that most tenants were happy with their landlords. There was a small percentage of black sheep among the landlords, as there are in every section of the community, that exploited a situation of control. But it is the control that creates the Rachman, just as it is rationing that creates the black marketeer. But that is something that a Socialist, wedded to the whole concept of State intervention and control cannot begin to understand.

    The Government are not concerned with the welfare of tenants. They are not concerned with the provision of housing accommodation. The whole of their legislation acts contrary to that. They wish to smash the private landlord, as the Minister has said time and time again. They gloat over the fact that the rented sector has diminished over the years. They introduced measures such as the Act on furnished rent to make it uneconomical and impracticable for landlords to let, so that they withdrew the accommodation from the market. Today we see hundreds of constituents, young people in particular, unable to find homes. The Government make it uneconomical for landlords to remain in business, and at the same time make it possible for local authorities to have vast public sums at their disposal, our money, taxpayers' money, to buy up these properties on the cheap.

    The indicative evidence so far coming to the Department is that during the past year there has been a smaller decline in rented accommodation than in the previous year, when the Tory Government were in power.

    I should like the Minister to place that evidence in the Library. It is not the evidence I have received in speaking to my constituents, week in and week out, and it is not the evidence of my hon. Friends.

    The Bill is a cynical measure, like all the measures of this Government, to seek to use the hardship of people in order to carry out their strategy, the social engineering of our society, the changing of our society into a Socialist State. As long as we have the power to resist, we shall resist. I ask my hon. Friends to support me.

    With the leave of the House, I should like to reply.

    It is like old times for the hon. Member for Hornsey (Mr. Rossi) to be swapping quotations from the Francis Report with us. All devils will quote that scripture for their particular purpose.

    I regret that the hon. Gentleman found it necessary to use the kind of language he did in accusing us of not having the welfare of tenants at heart. One of the most satisfying moments for me since the last election was when I met a group of old-age pensioners living in run-down controlled property and was able to tell them that because of the Bill their rent would not go up and that their houses would not go out of control unless the landlord carried out repairs. That is the difference between the two sides of the House. We insist on certain standards from landlords.

    The clause is an integral part of our attitude. The hon. Gentleman omitted to point out that the Bill allows an increase in rent provided the landlord carries out repairs. He is asking for the landlord to be allowed to take his property out of control without so much as doing the tiniest repair to any houses which he owns. He talked about our creating a Socialist State. If a Socialist State means a landlord doing repairs, I am a Socialist any day of the week.

    I did not refer to Clause 11 because I did not think I should be in order to do so. It provides for 12½ per cent. of the cost of repairs and maintenance, but that is spread over eight years. The Minister is living in cloud-cuckoo-land if he thinks that a landlord will spend £500 or £1,000 today, borrowing the money at 14, 15, 16 or even 17 per cent., to have it repaid to him over a period of eight years. Landlords simply will not do it, and these houses will not be repaired. The hon. Gentleman just does not understand human nature. That is why he will not solve the country's housing problem.

    What the House has to decide is whether the dukes and the marquesses in the other place have some knowledge or idea of the problems which ordinary people in, for example, Greater London have to face with regard to their accommodation and whether it is justified in giving help to someone who might be a very good landlord—normally associated with the Conservative Party—who is prepared to put money into an exercise to rid the property he owns of rats and mice.

    We on this side are almost saying that if the landlord does that in some of these vile slums he will, therefore, be entitled to increase his rent. I am bound to say I am not sure whether I agree with this side of the House or with the opposite side, but I have to say this. If there has ever been an example of total hypocrisy, we have had it tonight from the Opposition benches, particularly from Opposition Front Bench spokesmen who supported Conservative legislation which did not allow people in London who happened to be bus drivers, gas workers, electricians or bracklayers to have an increase in their salaries which might then have reflected their possibility to pay their landlords extra money for the rents they were trying to impose.

    We all know full well of the tragedy that afflicted the capital city of our country. I ask some right hon. and hon. Members opposite who have a little more understanding, and some of whom are involved in local government, to realise that some of us were involved with people living in vile, rat-ridden slums five miles from Buckingham Palace and the House of Commons. They would say to us "It is quite unreasonable that on the one hand we should not be allowed to apply for wage increases, but it is quite all right on the other hand for the faceless people who own these disgusting slums to attempt to put up our rents."

    Both sides of the House know full well what sort of people would want to cash in on that situation. I suggest that there are Conservative Members, as well as Members on this side, who would not like the sort of people who might want to cash in on that sort of situation to win the day.

    What is required, therefore, is a realisation on both sides of the House that it is very difficult to tell ordinary people who might live in Hammersmith, Fulham, Bermondsey or Acton that houses which they have lived in, and in which in some cases their forefathers lived—[Interruption.] I know this is a difficult argument for Opposition Members. Where those tenants have paid in rent over and above the entire cost of the house there should now be a rational, reasonable and civilised assessment of their position.

    Conservative Members will never be able to convince ordinary people that the dukes and the earls in the other place have a right to tell tenants that the other place has a right to affect legislation to impose an unjust burden on them. This is not so much a question between the two sides of the House of Commons, but it gives us a chance on behalf of the ordinary people of the nation to unite in asserting the superiority of the House of Commons.

    12.30 a.m.

    The longer I hear some Labour Members the more deplorable I believe their case to be. The hon. Member for Ealing, North (Mr. Molloy) may know the London situation, but I hope he will accept that in many rural constituencies there are good private landlords. Recently an old lady of 98 in my constituency wrote to me saying that she owned two properties in the Isle of Wight which brought her in about £1 a week. She was hoping to have a little money before her days were at an end.

    I suggest that the hon. Member for Ealing, North should read the debates which were held in the other place, and particularly the speech of Lord Middleton. We are talking of properties right down at the bottom end of the scale, not of Rachmans charging rents up in the clouds. We are talking of figures as low as 50p and as high as £2 only. We are hoping that if people can get a proper return on their properties they may be able to put them in order. If not, the local authorities can step in and buy them. But local authorities certainly are not buying up properties in my constituency at the moment. Indeed, the situation goes from bad to worse.

    We have supported the Government generally on this Bill. We felt it right that local authorities should control the fixing of rents. We thought that it was imaginative to have tenant co-operatives. We also think that the idea of rehabilitation areas is correct within these provisions. But do not let us bury our heads in the sand. Let us give a chance to private landlords to earn money with which to put their properties in order. I believe that we should accept the Lords amendment.

    Question put, That this House doth disagree with the Lords in the said amendment:—

    The House divided: Ayes 273, Noes 216.

    Division No. 105.]

    AYES

    [12.32 a.m.

    Abse, LeoEnglish, MichaelMacFarquhar, Roderick
    Allaun, FrankEvans, Ioan (Aberdare)McGuire, Michael (Ince)
    Anderson, DonaldEvans John (Newton)Mackenzie, Gregor
    Archer, PeterEwing, Harry (Stirling)Maclennan, Robert
    Armstrong, ErnestFaulds, AndrewMcMillan, Tom (Glasgow C)
    Ashley, JackFernyhough, Rt Hon E.Madden, Max
    Ashton, JoeFlannery, MartinMagee, Bryan
    Atkins, Ronald (Preston N)Fletcher, Raymond (Ilkeston)Mahon, Simon
    Atkinson, NormanFletcher, Ted (Darlington)Marks, Kenneth
    Bagier, Gordon A. T.Foot, Rt Hon MichaelMarquand, David
    Barnett, Guy (Greenwich)Ford, BenMarshall, Dr Edmund (Goole)
    Barnett, Rt Hon JoelForrester, JohnMarshall, Jim (Leicester S)
    Bates, AlfFowler, Gerald (The Wrekin)Meacher, Michael
    Bean, R. E.Fraser, John (Lambeth, N'w'd)Mellish, Rt Hon Robert
    Benn, Rt Hon Anthony WedgwoodFreeson, ReginaldMendelson, John
    Bennett, Andrew (Stockport N)Garrett, John (Norwich S)Mikardo, Ian
    Bidwell, SydneyGarrett, W. E. (Wallsend)Millan, Bruce
    Bishop, E. S.George, BruceMiller, Dr M. S. (E Kilbride)
    Blenkinsop, ArthurGilbert, Dr JohnMiller, Mrs Millie (Ilford N)
    Boardman, H.Ginsburg, DavidMitchell, R. C. (Soton, Itchen)
    Booth, AlbertGolding, JohnMolloy, William
    Boothroyd, Miss BettyGould, BryanMoonman, Eric
    Bottomley, Rt Hon ArthurGourlay, HarryMorris, Charles R. (Openshaw)
    Boyden, James (Bish Auck)Graham, TedMorris, Rt Hon J. (Aberavon)
    Bradley, TomGrocott, BruceMoyle, Roland
    Bray, Dr JeremyHamilton, James (Bothwell)Mulley, Rt Hon Frederick
    Brown, Hugh D. (Provan)Hamilton, W. W. (Central Fife)Murray, Rt Hon Ronald King
    Brown, Robert C. (Newcastle W)Hamling, WilliamNewens, Stanley
    Brown, Ronald (Hackney S)Hardy, PeterNoble, Mike
    Buchan, NormanHarper, JosephOgden, Eric
    Buchanan, RichardHarrison, Walter (Wakefield)O'Halloran, Michael
    Butler, Mrs Joyce (Wood Green)Hart, Rt Hon JudithO'Malley, Rt Hon Brian
    Callaghan, Jim (Middleton & P)Hatton, FrankOrbach, Maurice
    Campbell, IanHayman Mrs HeleneOvenden, John
    Canavan, DennisHealey, Rt Hon DenisOwen, Dr David
    Cant, R. B.Heffer, Eric S.Padley, Walter
    Carmichael, NeilHoram, JohnPalmer, Arthur
    Carter, RayHowell, Denis (B'ham, Sm H)Park, George
    Carter-Jones, LewisHoyle, Doug (Nelson)Parker, John
    Cartwright, JohnHuckfield, LesParry, Robert
    Castle, Rt Hon BarbaraHughes, Rt Hon C. (Anglesey)Pendry, Tom
    Clemitson, IvorHughes, Mark (Durham)Perry, Ernest
    Cocks, Michael (Bristol S)Hughes, Robert (Aberdeen, N)Phipps, Dr Colin
    Cohen, StanleyHughes, Roy (Newport)Prentice, Rt Hon Reg
    Coleman, DonaldHunter, AdamPrescott, John
    Colquhoun, Mrs MaureenIrving, Rt Hon S. (Dartford)Price C. (Lewisham W)
    Conlan, BernardJackson, Colin (Brighouse)Price, William (Rugby)
    Cook, Robin F. (Edin C)Jackson, Miss Margaret (Lincoln)Radice, Giles
    Corbett, RobinJanner, GrevilleRichardson, Miss Jo
    Cox, Thomas (Tooting)Jay, Rt Hon DouglasRoberts, Albert (Normanton)
    Craigen. J. M. (Maryhill)Jeger, Mrs LenaRoberts, Gwilym (Cannock)
    Cronin, JohnJenkins, Hugh (Putney)Robertson, John (Paisley)
    Crosland, Rt Hon AnthonyJenkins, Rt Hon Roy (Stechford)Rodgers, George (Chorley)
    Cryer, BobJohn, BrynmorRodgers, William (Stockton)
    Cunningham, G. (Islington S)Johnson, James (Hull West)Rooker, J. W.
    Cunningham, Dr J, (Whiteh)Johnson, Walter (Derby S)Roper, John
    Dalyell, TamJones, Alec (Rhondda)Rose, Paul B.
    Davidson, ArthurJones, Barry (East Flint)Ross, Rt Hon W. (Kilm'nock)
    Davies, Bryan (Enfield N)Jones, Dan (Burnley)Rowlands, Ted
    Davies, Denzil (Llanelli)Judd, FrankRyman, John
    Davies, Ifor (Cower)Kaufman, GeraldSandelson, Neville
    Davis, Clinton (Hackney C)Kelley, RichardSedgemore, Brian
    Deakins, EricKilroy-Silk, RobertSelby, Harry
    Dean, Joseph (Leeds West)Kinnock, NeilShaw, Arnold (Ilford South)
    de Freitas, Rt Hon Sir GeoffreyLambie, DavidSheldon, Robert (Ashton-u-Lyne)
    Delargy, HughLamborn, HarryShort, Rt Hon E. (Newcastle C)
    Dell, Rt Hon EdmundLamond, JamesShort, Mrs Renée (Wolv NE)
    Dempsey, JamesLatham, Arthur (Paddington)Silkin, Rt Hon John (Deptford)
    Doig, PeterLeadbitter, TedSilverman, Julius
    Dormand, J. D.Lee, JohnSkinner, Dennis
    Douglas-Mann, BruceLestor, Miss Joan (Eton & Slough)Small, William
    Dunn, James A.Lewis, Ron (Carlisle)Smith, John (N Lanarkshire)
    Dunnett, JackLipton, MarcusSnape, Peter
    Dunwoody, Mrs GwynethLuard, EvanSpearing, Nigel
    Eadie, AlexLyon, Alexander (York)Spriggs, Leslie
    Edelman, MauriceLyons, Edward (Bradford W)Stallard, A. W.
    Edge, GeoffMabon, Dr J. DicksonStewart, Rt Hon M. (Fulham)
    Ellis, John (Brigg & Scun)McCartney, HughStott, Roger
    Ellis, Tom (Wrexham)McElhone, FrankStrang, Gavin

    Strauss, Rt Hon G. R.Walker, Harold (Doncaster)Williams, W. T. (Warrington)
    Summerskill, Hon Dr ShirleyWalker, Terry (Kingswood)Wilson, Alexander (Hamilton)
    Swain, ThomasWard, MichaelWilson, William (Coventry SE)
    Taylor, Mrs Ann (Bolton W)Watkinson, JohnWise, Mrs Audrey
    Thomas, Jeffrey (Abertillery)Weetch, KenWoodall, Alec
    Thomas, Mike (Newcastle E)Weitzman, DavidWoof, Robert
    Thomas, Ron (Bristol NW)Wellbeloved, JamesWrigglesworth, Ian
    Thorne, Stan (Preston South)White, Frank R. (Bury)Young, David (Bolton E)
    Tierney, SydneyWhite, James (Pollok)
    Tinn, JamesWhitehead, PhillipTELLERS FOR THE AYES:
    Tomlinson, JohnWhitlock, WilliamMr. Laurie Pavitt and
    Torney, TomWilley, Rt Hon FrederickMr. David Stoddart.
    Wainwright, Edwin (Dearne V)Williams, Alan (Swansea W)
    Walden, Brian (B'ham, L'dyw'd)Williams, Rt Hon Shirley (Hertford)

    NOES

    Adley, RobertGlyn Dr AlanMoate, Roger
    Aitken, JonathanGoodhart, PhilipMonro, Hector
    Alison, MichaelGoodhew, VictorMontgomery, Fergus
    Amery, Rt Hon JulianGoodlad, AlastairMoore, John (Croydon C)
    Atkins, Rt Hon H. (Spelthorne)Gorst, JohnMore, Jasper (Ludlow)
    Awdry, DanielGow, Ian (Eastbourne)Morgan-Giles, Rear-Admiral
    Baker, KennethGower, Sir Raymond (Barry)Morris, Michael (Northampton S)
    Banks, RobertGrant, Anthony (Harrow C)Morrison, Charles (Devizes)
    Beith, A. J.Gray, HamishMorrison, Hon Paler (Chester)
    Bennett, Sir Frederic (Torbay)Grieve, PercyMudd, David
    Bennett, Dr Reginald (Fareham)Griffiths, EldonNeave, Airey
    Berry, Hon AnthonyGrist, IanNelson, Anthony
    Biffen, JohnHall, Sir JohnNeubert, Michael
    Biggs-Davison, JohnHall-Davis, A. G. F.Newton, Tony
    Blaker, PeterHamilton, Michael (Salisbury)Nott, John
    Body, RichardHampson Dr KeithOnslow, Cranley
    Boscawen, Hon RobertHannam, JohnOppenheim, Mrs Sally
    Bowden, A. (Brighton, Kemptown)Harrison, Col Sir Harwood (Eye)Osborn, John
    Boyson, Dr Rhodes (Brent)Hastings, StephenPage, John (Harrow West)
    Brittan, LeonHavers, Sir MichaelPage, Rt Hon R. Graham (Crosby)
    Brotherton, MichaelHayhoe, BarneyPattie, Geoffrey
    Brown, Sir Edward (Bath)Heseltine, MichaelPenhaligon, David
    Bryan, Sir PaulHicks, RobertPercival, Ian
    Buchanan-Smith, AlickHiggins, Terence L.Peyton, Rt Hon John
    Budgen, NickHolland, PhilipPink, R. Bonner
    Bulmer, EsmondHowe, Rt Hon Sir GeoffreyPym, Rt Hon Francis
    Burden, F. A.Howell David (Guildford)Raison, Timothy
    Carlisle, MarkHowell, Ralph (North Norfolk)Rathbone, Tim
    Chalker, Mrs LyndaHunt, JohnRees, Peter (Dover & Deal)
    Channon, PaulHurd DouglasRenton, Tim (Mid-Sussex)
    Churchill, W. S.Hutchison, Michael ClarkRhys Williams, Sir Brandon
    Clark, Alan (Plymouth, Sutton)Irvine, Bryant Godman (Rye)Rifkind, Malcolm
    Clark, William (Croydon S)James, DavidRoberts, Michael (Cardiff NW)
    Clarke, Kenneth (Rushcliffe)Jenkin, Rt Hon P. (Wanst'd & W'df'd)Roberts, Wyn (Conway)
    Clegg, WalterJohnson Smith, G. (E Grinstead)Ross, Stephen (Isle of Wight)
    Cockcroft, JohnJones, Arthur (Daventry)Rossi Hugh (Hornsey)
    Cooke, Robert (Bristol W)Jopling, MichaelRost, Peter (SE Derbyshire)
    Cope, JohnJoseph, Rt Hon Sir KeithSainsbury, Tim
    Corrie, JohnKellett-Bowman, Mrs ElaineSt. John-Stevas, Norman
    Costain, A. P.Kimball, MarcusShaw, Giles (Pudsey)
    Critchley, JulianKing, Evelyn (South Dorset)Shelton, William (Streatham)
    Crouch, DavidKing, Tom (Bridgwater)Shepherd, Colin
    Crowder, F. P.Kitson, Sir TimothyShersby, Michael
    Dean, Paul (N Somerset)Lamont, NormanSilvester, Fred
    Dodsworth, GeoffreyLane, DavidSims, Roger
    Douglas-Hamilton, Lord JamesLangford-Holt, Sir JohnSinclair, Sir George
    Drayson, BurnabyLatham, Michael (Melton)Skeet, T. H. H.
    Durant, TonyLawrence, IvanSmith, Cyril (Rochdale)
    Dykes, HughLawson, NigelSmith, Dudley (Warwick)
    Eden, Rt Hon Sir JohnLe Marchant, SpencerSpeed, Keith
    Edwards, Nicholas (Pembroke)Lester, Jim (Beeston)Spicer, Michael (S Worcester)
    Elliott, Sir WilliamLewis, Kenneth (Rutland)Sproat, Iain
    Emery, PeterLuce, RichardStainton, Keith
    Eyre, ReginaldMacfarlane, NeilStanbrook, Ivor
    Fairbairn, NicholasMacGregor, JohnStanley, John
    Fairgrieve, RussellMcNair-Wilson, M. (Newbury)Steel, David (Roxburgh)
    Farr, JohnMarshall, Michael (Arundel)Steen, Anthony (Wavertree)
    Finsberg, GeoffreyMates, MichaelStewart, Ian (Hitchin)
    Fisher, Sir NigelMather, CarolStokes, John
    Fletcher Alex (Edinburgh N)Maudling, Rt Hon ReginaldStradling Thomas, J.
    Fookes, Miss JanetMawby, RayTapsell, Peter
    Fowler, Norman (Sutton C'f'd)Maxwell-Hyslop, RobinTaylor, Teddy (Cathcart)
    Fox, MarcusMayhew, PatrickTebbit, Norman
    Freud ClementMeyer, Sir AnthonyTemple-Morris, Peter
    Fry, PeterMiller, Hal (Bromsgrove)Thomas, Rt Hon P. (Hendon S)
    Gardiner, George (Reigate)Mills, PeterTownsend, Cyril D.
    Gilmour, Sir John (East Fife)Mitchell, David (Basingstoke)Trotter, Neville

    Tugendhat, ChristopherWarren, KennethYoung, Sir G. (Ealing, Acton)
    van Straubenzee, W. R.Weatherill, BernardYounger, Hon George
    Vaughan, Dr GerardWells, John
    Viggers, PeterWhitelaw, Rt Hon WilliamTELLERS FOR THE NOES:
    Wakeham, JohnWinterton, NicholasMr, W, Benyon and
    Walder, David (Clitheroe)Wood, Rt Hon RichardMr. Adam Butler.
    Wall, Patrick

    Lords amendement disagreed to.

    On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. May I seek your guidance about the correcting of Hansard when an error has been made, although undoubtedly in good faith? The Under-Secretary said that the clause that we have just discussed went through Committee on the nod. In fact, the debates on it filled many columns of Hansard and there was a Division. It may be possible for the Under-Secretary to say whether it will be possible for him to make that correction.

    Further to that point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. I am sure that the hon. Member would not wish me to make heavy weather of it. Everybody makes an error from time to time. I made an error on this occasion, and I ask the House's indulgence.

    Clause 11

    Increases Of Rent Under Controlled Tenancy Permitted Towards Cost Of Repairs

    Lords Amendment: No. 14, in page 8, line 32, leave out "or" and insert:

    "unless they were completed on or after 6th April 1973.
    ( ) This section does not apply to repairs".

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

    This amendment was put down following Opposition representations and discussions during the Bill's passage through this House. It was pointed out that some landlords would have undertaken repairs to their property in anticipation of decontrol under the general programme of decontrol in the Housing Finance Act.

    I accepted that landlords who had repaired their property in this way should be entitled to some recompense for their expenditure. Subject to the introduction of a provision to enable tenants to seek evidence in respect of which the 12½ per cent. increase is claimed. I expressed my willingness to make the provision retrospective for one year. In response to further representations from, and after correspondence with, the Opposition the Government have decided that they will accept retrospection to the beginning of the tax year 1973–4, this being a date from which it can reasonably be expected that documentary evidence of the cost of repairs will be available if required.

    The effect of this amendment, therefore, is that repairs to property that is let on controlled tenancies that have been completed on or after 6th April 1973 will come within the 12½ per cent. rent increase provision.

    Question put and agreed to.

    Lords Amendment: No. 15, in page 9, line 18, at end insert:

    "(11) If—
  • (a) the landlord serves a notice of increase of rent by virtue of this section, and
  • (b) the tenant requests him in writing, not later than three months after service of the notice, to supply him with information showing how he has calculated the expenditure on the repairs,
  • it shall be the landlord's duty, not later than one month after the date of the request, to supply the tenant with copies of such accounts, receipts and other documents as are reasonably necessary for that purpose.
    (12) A request under subsection (11) above shall be deemed to be duly made to a landlord if it is served on any agent of the landlord named as such in a rent book or other similar document, or on the person who receives the rent on behalf of the landlord; and it shall be the duty of a person on whom a request is so served to forward it as soon as may be to the landlord.
    (13) If any person without reasonable excuse fails to perform any duty imposed on him by subsection (11) or (12) above, he shall be guilty of an offence and liable on summary conviction to a fine not exceeding £200."

    12.45 a.m.

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

    With this amendment it will be convenient to discuss Lords Amendment No. 37, in Schedule 4, page 28, line 6, at end insert:

    "5. Where an offence under section 11(13) above which has been committed by a body corporate is proved to have been committed with the consent or connivance of, or to be attributable to any neglect on the part of, a director, manager, secretary or other similar officer of the body corporate, or any person who was purporting to act in any such capacity, he, as well as the body corporate, shall be guilty of that offence and be liable to be proceeded against and punished accordingly.
    6. Where the affairs of a body corporate are managed by its members, paragraph 5 above shall apply in relation to the acts and defaults of a member in connection with his functions of management as if he were a director of the body corporate."

    The new subsections contained in Amendment No. 15 are designed to give the tenant from whom a 12½ per cent. a year increase on account of repairs has been demanded the right to require documentary evidence of the costs on which the increase was calculated. They make it an offence for a landlord or his agent not to comply with his duty to provide this information.

    This provision was requested by my hon. Friend the Member for Salford, East (Mr. Allaun). We are happy to have been able to insert it in the Bill.

    Question put and agreed to.

    New Clause B

    Extension Of Part Ii Of Housing Finance Act 1972 To Almspeople

    Lords Amendment: No. 16, after Clause 11, in page 9, line 18, at end insert new Clause B:

    "B. After section 19 of the Housing Finance Act 1972 there shall be inserted the following section:—

    'Allowances for almspeople

    19A.—(1) Subject to subsection (2) below, it shall be the duty of every local authority, on and after such date as the Secretary of State may by order made by statutory instrument appoint, to treat as private tenants, except to the extent that regulations under subsection (4) below provide to the contrary, persons who occupy as their homes almshouse accommodation in the authority's area, and accordingly to make provision in their allowance scheme for granting them allowances, calculated in accordance with the scheme by reference to their needs and their resources, towards their almshouse contributions.

    (2) Section 25 below shall not apply in relation to such persons, and in Schedule 3 to this Act "rent which is eligible to be met by a rebate or an allowance" means, in relation to such persons, the amount of their almshouse contributions.

    (3) Regulations made by the Secretary of State with the consent of the Treasury may provide—

  • (a) that any enactment contained in this Part of this Act, other than this section and section 25 below, and any instrument made under any such enactment, and
  • (b) any enactment contained in Schedule 3 or 4 to this Act and any instrument made under either of those Schedules,
  • shall have effect, so far as the Secretary of State considers appropriate for giving effect to this section, subject to such exceptions or modifications as may be specified in the regulations.

    (4) Regulations under subsection (3) above shall be made by statutory instrument and shall be subject to annulment in pursuance of a resolution of either House of Parliament.'"

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

    This new clause is the result of Government amendments tabled in the other place following representations by my hon. Friends the Members for Southampton, Test (Mr. Gould) and Southampton, Itchen (Mr. Mitchell) on Second Reading of the Bill as originally introduced.

    The purpose of this new clause is to enable persons who occupy almshouse accommodation as their homes to become eligible for allowances under Part II of the Housing Finance Act 1972 towards the contributions they pay. These persons are not eligible at present because the 1972 Act requires, broadly speaking, that the grant of a rent allowance can only be made to persons who are tenants of the accommodation they occupy as their homes, and who also pay rent for that accommodation. Occupants of almshouse accommodation—almspeople—are neither tenants nor do they pay rent as such in law.

    In view of rising costs and of contributions—the equivalent of rents—many almspeople may now be at a considerable disadvantage financially compared with tenants with similar incomes, paying similar amounts in rent. Of the estimated 25,000 occupants of almshouse accommodation in England or Wales, we estimate that about 5,000 are paying contributions in respect of which they might be eligible to claim allowances under this new clause. The remaining almspeople have lower incomes or resources and so are eligible to receive help towards their rent from supplementary benefit.

    Because of the need to adapt the existing legislation for rent allowances to the particular situation of almspeople who make contributions rather than pay rent as such, this provision is basically a twofold enabling power. First, it provides for the Secretary of State to make the necessary adapting regulations. Second, it provides for this extension of eligibilty for allowances to almspeople to come into force on a date approved by the Secretary of State. This will allow the necessary time to prepare the regulations and lay them before Parliament.

    This extension of the rent allowance system will be valuable in its small way in helping needy persons with their accommodation costs.

    I thank my hon. Friend for listening to the representations that he received from my hon. Friend the Member for Southampton, Test (Mr. Gould) and myself on this point. The new clause will remove a serious anomaly which recently came to light in certain almshouses in Southampton where rents were being increased by £2·40 per week, but the tenants were unable to claim or receive rent allowances.

    Will my hon. Friend indicate when the necessary regulations will come into operation, as this is an urgent matter? Large numbers of people have already had rent, or contribution, increases. It is, therefore, important that, as early as pos-

    "1957 5 & 6The Housing Act 1957.Section 79.
    Eliz. 2. c. 56.Section 143.
    1970 c. 44.The Chronically Sick and Disabled Persons Act 1970.In section 10, the words from "Central" to "of the" in the third place where those words occur."

    On 15th January, in reply to a Question from the hon. Member for Melton (Mr. Latham), I indicated that I had undertaken a review of the position of the Central Housing Advisory Committee which the Minister is required to appoint, under the provisions now in Section 143 of the Housing Act 1957 and had come to the conclusion that it should cease to exist, its work having been taken over by more effective

    sible, they shall be eligible for rent allowances so that they can be brought into line with other people in similar situations.

    I hope that I may have the leave of the House to reply to my hon. Friend the Member for Southampton, Itchen (Mr. Mitchell).

    I am seized of the point made by my hon. Friend and by our colleague the hon. Member for Southampton, Test (Mr. Gould) on Second Reading. I should have liked to have the legislation drafted for inclusion in the Bill, but that has not been possible because of rather complex aspects of getting such changes. For that reason we decided to have an enabling power. We shall seek to operate these provisions as soon as we can, but I cannot give an exact date for that.

    Question put and agreed to.

    Subsequent Lords amendments agreed to. [ Special entry.]

    New Clause C

    Abolition Of Central Housing Advisory Committee

    Lords Amendment: No. 17, in page 9, line 18, at end insert new Clause C:

    "C. Section 143 of the Housing Act 1957 (provision for appointment and functions of Central Housing Advisory Committee) is repealed, and the Committee shall accordingly cease to exist."

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

    With this we may take Lords Amendment No. 55, in page 35, line 15, at end insert:

    methods of consultation. I said then that we should seek an opportunity to deal with this matter in legislation, and that is what the new clause seeks to do.

    As the Minister was courteous enough to mention me, and also the answer which he gave me announcing this decision a few weeks ago, perhaps I ought to say something on the subject.

    I was a little sorry that the Minister did not tonight, although he did in reply to my Question, pay tribute to the work of the Central Housing Advisory Committee. This committee has been in existence at least since the Housing Act 1936, and possibly before that, and has produced many substantial reports which have done a great deal in the furtherance of housing policy and discussions.

    The Minister said in support of his request to the House to agree with the Lords amendment that there were many other ways of consulting about housing. That is true, and it would be out of order to proceed with that matter further. Suffice it to say that in the present stage of housing policy, when there are so many complexities and difficulties, it is an odd time to abolish a body which has done a great deal of useful work in furthering the housing discussion.

    The Minister must make his own decision on whether to abolish one body rather than another and decide about the method of consultation which he chooses to use, but it is unfortunate that he did not from the Dispatch Box tonight pay a more copious tribute to the work done by the Central Housing Advisory Committee.

    Question put and agreed to.

    Clause 14

    Interpretation

    Lords Amendment: No. 18, in page 10, line 16, leave out "18(1)" and insert "38(1)".

    This is a drafting amendment to correct a printing mistake.

    Question put and agreed to.

    Subsequent Lords amendment agreed to.

    Clause 15

    Citation Etc

    Lords Amendment: No. 19A, in page 12, line 15, leave out from beginning to "together" in line 16 and insert:

    "(6) The following provisions of this Act, namely—
    section 2, except subsections (4A) to (4E);
    subsections (7) and (10) below;
    Part II of Schedule 1, together with subsection (3) above so far as it relates to that Part;
    paragraph 13, 22 and 23 of that Schedule:
    paragraphs 3 and 5 of Schedule 5;".

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

    Amendments 19A and 20 deal with the commencement provisions of the Bill. Their effect is to add a number of minor provisions to the list of those already in the Bill which are to come into force on Royal Assent, instead of two weeks later.

    Amendment 21 is merely a drafting amendment to leave out an unnecessary reference in subsection (8) to subsection (7).

    Questions put and agreed to.

    Subsequent Lords amendments agreed to.

    Lords Amendment: No. 22, in page 12, line 31, leave out from "Act" to end of line 33, and insert:

    "extends to the Isles of Scilly, except—
    section 2;
    sections 8 to 11;
    Schedules 2 to 4."

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

    With this we may take the following:

    Government amendment to Lords Amendment No. 22.

    Lords Amendments: No. 43. in Schedule 5, page 29, line 24, leave out from "to" to end of line 32 and insert:
    "the following provisions of the Housing Rents and Subsidies Act 1975, namely—
    section 2 (reserve power to limit rents);
    section 8 and Schedule 2 (phasing of rent increases for private sector housing);
    section 9 and Schedule 3 (certain amenities to be disregarded in determining fair rent);
    section 11 and Schedule 4 (increases of rent under controlled tenancy permitted towards cost of repairs)."
    Line 8, at end insert Government amendments to Lords Amendment No. 43:
    'Section 10 (termination of decontrol of tenancies by refernce to rateable value)'.
    Line 10, at end insert:
    'together with section 15(5), so far as it relates to the repeals contained in Part III of Schedule 6'.

    These Lords amendments deal with the application of the Bill to the Isles of Scilly. They add to the list of the Bill's provisions which extend to the Isles without the need for an order, to take account of the additional private sector provisions which were added to the Bill on Report.

    The Government amendments are consequential on the re-insertion of Clause 10.

    Read a Second time.

    Amendment to the Lords amendment made: at end add:

    'together with subsection (5) above so far as it relates to the repeals contained in Part III of Schedule 6.'.—[Mr. Kaufman.]

    Lords amendment, as amended, agreed to.

    Schedule 1

    Rents And Subsidies

    Lords Amendment: No. 23, in page 14, line 6, at end insert:

    "(2A) Subject to sub-paragraph (2B) below, the Secretary of State shall have power to determine that the whole or any part of any rent under a lease payable by a local authority or a new town corporation and debited to their Housing Revenue Account or housing account shall be treated for the purposes of this paragraph as reckonable expenditure attributable to admissible capital costs.
    (2B) The Secretary of State may not make a determination under sub-paragraph (2A) above in respect of rent under a lease if a whole year's rent under it was debited to the Housing Revenue Account or housing account for a year previous to the year 1975–76."

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

    The effect of this amendment is to give the Secretary of State power to subsidise rent as part of the new capital costs element of housing subsidy.

    The power does not apply to rent under a lease if a whole year's rent under that lease was debited to the housing revenue account or housing account before the year 1975–76. Such rent attracts the basic element of housing subsidy.

    Most land acquired for housing purposes is freehold, but there are occasionally circumstances in which land may be acquired for long-term use under a long lease. It is also sometimes convenient for a local authority to acquire property on a short lease—for example, short-life property to help deal with homelessness. Premiums paid on a grant assignment of a lease of such property attract the new capital costs element of housing subsidy. It is therefore right that rent should also do so.

    Question nut and agreed to. [ Special Entry.]

    Subsequent Lords amendments agreed to.

    Lords Amendment: No. 33, in page 19, line 25, leave out from "The" to end of line 28 and insert:

    "regulations may authorise a local authority or new town corporation to consult, in connection with the determination of any such question as is mentioned in sub-paragraph (3) above, the president of the panel drawn up under Schedule 5 to the Rent Act 1968 (panels for the constitution of rent assessment committees) for any area in which there is situated a dwelling to which the determination will relate.
    ( ) The regulations may also—
  • (a) authorise the local authority or new town corporation, in the case of the president's absence or incapacity, to consult the vice-president or, as the case may be, one of the vice-presidents of the panel; and
  • (b) authorise the president or any such vice-president to consult, with regard to any matter submitted to him by an authority or corporation in pursuance of the regulations, any of the panel's other members and any of the panel's staff."
  • I beg to move, That this House doth agree with the Lords in the said amendment.

    With this we may take Lords Amendment No. 39, in page 28, line 19, at end insert:

    ". The following paragraph shall be added after paragraph 9 of Schedule 5 to that Act (rent assessment committees):—
    "10. Any reference to remuneration, salaries or allowances in the foregoing provisions of this Schedule includes a reference to remuneration or, as the case may be, salaries or allowances, in respect of functions conferred by regulations under paragraph 15 of Schedule 1 to the Housing Rents and Subsidies Act 1975; and the reference to expenses in paragraph 9(c) above includes a reference to expenses incurred in the discharge of such functions.""

    I beg to move, That the House doth agree with the Lords in the said amendment.

    Question put and agreed to. [Special Entry.]

    Subsequent Lords amendment agreed to.

    Schedule 2

    Phasing Of Rent Increases

    Lords Amendment: No. 35, in page 22, line 10, leave out "a further £0·40"and insert"£0·80 per week".

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

    This is a purely drafting amendment. Some doubt had been expressed as to whether it was absolutely clear that the "specified sum" in the second year of a period of delay during which a rent is being placed was £0·40 plus £0·40—that is, £0·80. The revised wording makes this absolutely clear.

    Question put and agreed to.

    Schedule 4

    Provisions Supplementary To Section 9

    Lords Amendment: No. 36, in page 28, line 6, at end insert:

    "4. The power of the Lord Chancellor under section 106 of the Rent Act 1968 to make rules and give directions for the purpose of giving effect to certain provisions of that Act shall extend to the provisions of section 11 above."

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

    This is a purely technical amendment, I assure the hon. Member for Melton (Mr. Latham).

    Question put and agreed to.

    Subsequent Lords amendments agreed to.

    Schedule 5

    Minor And Consequential Amendments

    Lords Amendment: No. 41, in page 28, line 28, leave out "that Act" and insert "the Rent Act 1968".

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

    The amendment merely clarifies an ambiguous reference in Schedule 5(2).

    Question put and agreed to.

    Subsequent Lords amendments agreed to, one as amended.

    Lords Amendment: No. 44, in page 31, line 14, after "payment" insert:

    "(a) for paragraph (d) of subsection (1) there shall be substituted the following paragraph:—
    "(d) the carrying out of any improvement to the dwelling or of redevelopment on the land by a housing association which has previously acquired the land and at the date of the displacement either is registered or falls within section 18(1)(a) of the Housing Act 1974 (housing associations specified in orders under section 80 of the Housing Finance Act 1972 or paragraph 23 of Schedule 1 to the Housing Rents and Subsidies Act 1975);"
    (b) at the end of subsection (2) there shall be added (but not as part of paragraph (b)) the words "and in a case within subsection (1)(d) above, unless the displacement occurred on or after 31st July 1974 (on which date the Housing Act 1974 was passed)";
    (c)".

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

    With this amendment we are to discuss at the same time Lords Amendments Nos. 45, 58 and 59.

    These amendments widen the scope of the home loss and disturbance payments which are to be made by registered housing associations, when they displace tenants in order to carry out redevelopment or improvement projects.

    The Land Compensation Act 1973 provided for home loss payments in Section 29 and disturbance payments in Section 37, and these were extended to tenants of registered housing associations, for the first time, by amendments contained in the Housing Act 1974. The effect of the 1974 Act amendments was to provide for payments in respect of displacements which took place at a date when the association was registered and also on land which had been acquired at a time when the association was registered. It was not our intention to confine payments to land which was acquired at a time when the association was registered, and we now wish to remove this limitation.

    Question put and agreed to.

    Subsequent Lords amendment agreed to.

    Lords Amendment: No. 46, in page 31, line 21, at end insert:

    ". At the end of section 17 of that Act (loans and grants limited to registered housing associations) there shall be added the following subsection:—
    "(5) Nothing in subsection (1)(b) above shall prevent a local authority, including a county council, from making loans under section 119(3)(a) of the Housing Act 1957 to an unregistered self-build society, as defined in section 12 above, for the purpose of enabling it to meet the whole or any part of arty expenditure incurred or to be incurred by it in carrying out its objects.""

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

    The purpose of this amendment is to enable local authorities to make loans under Section 119(3)(a) of the Housing Act 1957 to self-build societies, which have not been registered by the Housing Corporation, on or after 1st April 1975.

    Question put and agreed to.

    Lords Amendment: No 47, in page 32, line 29, after "payment" insert:

    "in respect of a relevant contribution".

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

    With this amendment, we are to discuss also Lords Amendments Nos. 48 and 49.

    These amendments relate to the new subsection (2A) to be inserted into Section 79 of the Housing Act 1974 by paragraph 13 of Schedule 5 to the Bill. They make it clear that the payments to which the new subsection relates are not only payments in respect of improvement contributions under the 1974 Act but also of contributions towards the cost of improvements, including the provision of standard amenities, which were payable under the Housing Act 1969 or any similar contributions under earlier legislation.

    The effect of the provision is that, if such payments had commenced before 1st April 1975, they will continue to be made until the end of their normal term under the appropriate legislation. But if payments had not commenced before 1st April 1975, no payment in respect of relevant contributions will be made, and reckonable expenditure in respect of the improvements for which payments would have been made will count instead for the new capital costs element of housing subsidy under the Bill.

    Question put and agreed to.

    Subsequent Lords amendments agreed to.

    Lords amendment: No. 50, in page 33, line 40, at end insert:

    ". For section 114 of that Act (rehabilitation orders) there shall be substituted the following section:—

    'Rehabilitation orders

    114.—(1) This section applies to any house comprised in a clearance area under Part III of the Housing Act 1957—

  • (a) which has been purchased by agreement or compulsorily at any time before 2nd December 1974 under section 43 of the Housing Act 1957, or
  • (b) which is subject to a compulsory purchase order—
  • (i) which was made under that section at any time before 2nd December 1974, and
  • (ii) which, at any time before 2nd March 1975 has been confirmed in accordance with Schedule 3 to the Housing Act 1957; or
  • (c) which has been included in the clearance area by virtue of section 49 of the Housing Act 1957.
  • (2) Where any house to which this section applies—

  • (a) was included in the clearance area by reason of its being unfit for human habitation, and
  • (b) in the opinion of the local authority is capable of being and ought to be, improved to the full standard,
  • the local authority may make and submit to the Secretary of State in order (in this section and Schedule 10 below referred to as a 'rehabilitation order') in relation to that house.

    (3) In addition to applying to any house to which this section applies, a rehabilitation order may, if the local authority think fit, be made to apply to any other Part III land.

    (4) Schedule 10 to this Act and, subject to paragraph 9 of that Schedule, Schedule 4 to the Housing Act 1957 shall have effect in relation to rehabilitation orders.

    (5) On the effective date the local authority shall cease to be subject to any duty to demolish or secure the demolition of buildings on the land imposed by Part III of the Housing Act 1957.

    (6) Where by virtue of subsection (5) above a local authority are freed from the duty to demolish or secure the demolition of a house which was included in a clearance area as being unfit for human habitation, the authority shall take such steps as are necessary—

  • (a) to bring the house up to the full standard, or
  • (b) where it is not vested in the authority, to ensure that it is brought up to that standard.
  • (7) A local authority may accept undertakings for the purpose of subsection (6)( b) above from the owner of a house, or any other person who has or will have an interest in a house, concerning works to be carried out to bring it up to the full standard and the time within which they are to be carried out.

    (8) In this section and in Schedule 10 below—`

    'effective date' means the date on which a rehabilitation order becomes operative;
    'full standard' means the standard attained by a dwelling with respect to which the conditions mentioned in section 66(2) of this Act are fulfilled;
    'local authority', in relation to land eans the authority who are the local authority for the purposes of Part III of the Housing Act 1957 in relation to that land; and
    'Part III land' means—
  • (a) land in the clearance area, except land subject to a clearance order which has been made and confirmed by virtue of section 44 of the Housing Act 1957, or
  • (b) land surrounded by or adjoining that area for whose purchase under section 43(2) of the Housing Act 1957 a resolution has been passed (whether or not it has been so purchased), or
  • (c) land to which the provisions of Part III of that Act apply by virtue of section 49;
  • and 'house' has the same meaning for the purposes of this section and the Schedule as for those of the said Part III.'
    In section 115 of that Act (compensation) for subsection (5)(b) there shall be substituted the following paragraph:—
    '(b) the effective date of the rehabilitation order, as defined in section 114 above,'".

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

    With this we are to consider Lords amendment No. 52, in page 33, line 42, at end insert:

    "The following Schedule shall be substituted for Schedule 10 to that Act (rehabilitation orders):—

    "Schedule 10

    Rehabilitation Orders

    Introductory

    1.—(1) In this Schedule,

    "notice land" means land in relation to which a notice is required to be served under paragraph 7 below; and
    "the relevant date", in relation to any land comprised in a rehabilitation order, means the effective date or the date on which confirmation of the order was refused.

    (2) The references to the Housing Act 1957 in section 178 of that Act (power to prescribe forms etc.) shall include references to this Schedule.

    General

    2. A rehabilitation order may be made and confirmed notwithstanding that the effect of the order in excluding any land from a clearance area is to sever that area into two or more separate and distinct areas; and in any such case the provisions of Part III of the Housing Act 1957 relating to the effect of a compulsory purchase order when confirmed, and to the proceedings to be taken after confirmation of such an order, shall apply as if those areas formed one clearance area.

    3.—(1) Where a local authority have made a rehabilitation order they shall not until after the relevant date—

  • (a) serve notice to treat under section 5 of the Compulsory Purchase Act 1965 in respect of any land included in a compulsory purchase order made and confirmed by virtue of section 43 of the Housing Act 1957 which also includes notice land; or
  • (b) demolish, without the consent of the Secretary of State, any building on notice land.
  • (2) Where the owner of a house to which section 114 above applies and which was included in the clearance area by reason of its being unfit for human habitation requests the local authority to make a rehabilitation order in respect of the house, and the authority refuse to make an order, they shall give him in writing their reasons for so refusing.

    4.—(1) Where—

  • (a) land included in a compulsory purchase order made and confirmed by virtue of section 43 of the Housing Act 1957 is comprised in a rehabilitation order, and
  • (b) the rehabilitation order becomes operative in respect of that land, and
  • (c) no interest in the land has vested in the local authority before the relevant date, and
  • (d) they have not before the relevant date served a notice to treat in respect of any interest in the land under section 5 of the Compulsory Purchase Act 1965,
  • the compulsory purchase order shall cease to have effect in relation to that land on the relevant date, and if the land is included in a clearance area, it shall cease to be so included.

    (2) On and after the effective date, in a case where sub-paragraph (1) above does not apply, any compulsory purchase order relating to the land and confirmed by virtue of section 43 of the Housing Act 1957 shall have effect in relation to any interest in the land which at the relevant date has not vested in the authority—

  • (i) in so far as it relates to a house, as if it had been made and confirmed under Part V of the Housing Act 1957, and
  • (ii) in so far as it relates to land other than a house, as if it had been made and confirmed under Part VI of the Town and Country Planning Act 1971.
  • (3) Where a rehabilitation order becomes operative in respect of any land and any interest in that land is vested in the local authority at the relevant date—

  • (a) any such interest in a house comprised in the order shall be treated as appropriated to the purposes of Part V of the Housing Act 1957, and
  • (b) any other such interest in the land so comprised shall be treated as appropriated to the purposes of Part VI of the Town and Country Planning Act 1971.
  • 5. Where—

  • (a) a rehabilitation order becomes operative in respect of any land and
  • (b) its effect is to exclude from the clearance area any land adjoining a general improvement area (within the meaning of Part II of the Housing Act 1969),
  • that land shall be included in the general improvement area unless the Secretary of State otherwise directs.

    Procedure for making and confirming rehabilitation orders

    6. A rehabilitation order shall be made in the prescribed form and shall describe, by reference to a map—

  • (a) the houses to which it applies and which were included in the clearance area by reason of their being unfit for human habitation, and
  • (b) the other land to which it applies.
  • 7.—(1) Before submitting a rehabilitation order to the Secretary of State the local authority, except in so far as the Secretary of State directs otherwise—

  • (a) shall publish in one or more newspapers circulating within their district a notice in the prescribed form stating that such an order has been made and describing the land to which it applies, and naming a place where a copy of the order and its accompanying map may be seen at all reasonable hours, and
  • (b) shall serve on every such person as is specified in sub-paragraph (2) below, a notice in the prescribed form stating—
  • (i) the effect of the rehabilitation order,
  • (ii) that it is about to be submitted to the Secretary of State for confirmation, and
  • (iii) the time within which and the manner in which objections to the order can be made.
  • (2) The persons mentioned in sub-paragraph (1)( b) above are—

  • (a) every person on whom notice was served of the making by virtue of section 43 of the Housing Act 1957 of any compulsory purchase order which, at the date of its confirmation, included any land subsequently comprised in the rehabilitation order;
  • (b) every successor in title of such a person;
  • (c) every owner, lessee and occupier of Part III land other than a tenant for a month or a period less than a month;
  • (d) mortgages of Part III land, so far as it is reasonably practicable to ascertain such persons; and
  • (e) every person on whom notice would have been required to be served under paragraph (c) or (d) above whose interest has been acquired under section 43 of the Housing Act 1957 since the clearance area was declared to be such an area.
  • (3) A notice under this paragraph shall be accompanied by a statement of the grounds on which the local authority are seeking confirmation of the rehabilitation order.

    (4) A notice under this paragraph shall be served in accordance with section 169 of the Housing Act 1957.

    8.—(1) If no objection is duly made by any of the persons on whom notices are required to be served under paragraph 7 above, or if all objections so made are withdrawn, the Secretary of State may confirm the order with or without modifications.

    (2) If any objection duly made is not withdrawn, the Secretary of State, before confirming the order, shall cause a public local inquiry to be held or afford to any person by whom an objection has been duly made and not withdrawn an opportunity of appearing before and being heard by a person appointed by the Secretary of State for the purpose.

    (3) After considering any objection not withdrawn and the report of the person who held the inquiry or of the person appointed under sub-paragraph (2) above, the Secretary of State may confirm the order with or without modifications.

    (4) The Secretary of State may require any person who has made an objection to state the grounds of the objection in writing, and may disregard the objection if he is satisfied that it relates exclusively to matters which can be dealt with by the tribunal by whom any compensation is to be assessed.

    (5) The Secretary of State's power to modify a rehabilitation order includes power, subject to sub-paragraph (6) below, to extend it to any notice land.

    (6) The Secretary of State shall not extend the application of a rehabilitation order to any land unless he has served on the following persons, namely—

  • (a) the local authority who made the rehabilitation order,
  • (b) every owner, lessee and occupier of that land, except a tenant for a month or a period less than a month, and
  • (c) so far as it is reasonably practicable to ascertain such persons, on every mortgagee of any such land,
  • a notice stating the effect of his proposals, and has afforded them an opportunity to make their views known.

    9. In the application of Schedule 4 to the Housing Act 1957 to rehabilitation orders, it shall have effect as if—

  • (a) every reference to a compulsory purchase order included a reference to a rehabilitation order;
  • (b) every reference to the Housing Act 1957 were a reference to this Act; and
  • (c) there were added, at the end of paragraph 1, the words "and every person on whom the Secretary of State served notice under Schedule 10 to the Housing Act 1974.""
  • With this we may also consider Lords Amendment No. 57, in page 35, column 3, leave out lines 35 to 37.

    We introduced in the Housing Act 1974 a power whereby authorities could change their minds and rehabilitate houses scheduled for demolition under slum clearance compulsory purchase orders. The relevant provisions were Section 114 and Schedule 10, which empowered authorities to make a rehabilitation order in respect of any houses in a compulsory purchase order confirmed before three months after the coming into operation of that Act. The rehabilitation order would, if confirmed by the Secretary of State, revoke the CPO in respect of any property not yet acquired, would release them from the duty to demolish any property already acquired, and would require them to achieve the rehabilitation of the unfit houses included in the rehabilitation order.

    In the light of subsequent examination it is clear that there are certain ambiguities in the present provision that should be removed. We are seeking to take the opportunity presented by this Bill to remove these ambiguities and clarify the procedure by amending these rehabilitation order provisions. We have come to the conclusion that this can best be achieved by redrafting them. But I can assure the House that the substance of these provisions remains unchanged.

    Question put and agreed to.

    Lords amendment: No. 51, in page 33, line 40, at end insert:

    ". In section 119(3) of that Act (option mortgages) for the word "section" in the second place where it occurs, there shall be substituted the word "subsection"."

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

    The Government had originally envisaged bringing the whole of Section 119 of the Housing Act 1974 into force on a single day. But in the event this has not happened, and there will need to be at least two commencement orders for the section. This amendment therefore provides, for the sake of clarity, that the appointed day for the purpose of the transitional period for existing option mortgages under subsection (3) is the day on which subsection (3) comes into force.

    Question put and agreed to.

    Lords amendment: No. 53, in page 33, line 42, at end insert:

    ". In Schedule 14 to that Act, in paragraph 2(b) (transitional provision concerning loans by the Housing Corporation) for "(c)" there shall be substituted "(e)"."

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

    This amendment rectifies an omission in the Housing Act 1974, as amended. It was not recognised at the time Section 17(4) was amended that consequential amendments were required to paragraph 2 of Schedule 14 to the 1974 Act. The amendment rectifies that omission.

    Question put and agreed to. [Special Entry.]

    Schedule 6

    Repeals

    Lords Amendment: No. 54, in page 35, leave out lines 1 to 12.

    Government amendment to Lords Amendment No. 54—to disagree, formally.

    Motion made, and Question proposed, That this House doth disagree with the Lords in the said amendment.—[ Mr. Kaufman.]

    On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. You are putting this amendment formally, but I think that it is in order to call a separate Division on this matter.

    Division No. 106.]

    AYES

    [1.09 a.m.

    Archer, PeterFord, BenMulley, Rt Hon Frederick
    Armstrong, ErnestForrester, JohnMurray, Rt Hon Ronald King
    Bagier, Gordon A. T.Fowler, Gerald (The Wrekin)Newens, Stanley
    Bates, AlfFreeson, ReginaldNoble, Mike
    Bean, R. E.Golding, JohnOvenden, John
    Bishop, E. S.Graham, TedPalmer, Arthur
    Blenkinsop, ArthurGrocott, BruceParry, Robert
    Boardman, H.Hamilton, James (Bothwell)Pavitt, Laurie
    Boothroyd, Miss BettyHardy, PeterPrescott, John
    Bray, Dr JeremyHarper, JosephPrice C. (Lewisham W)
    Brown, Ronald (Hackney S)Harrison, Walter (Wakefield)Richardson, Miss Jo
    Callaghan, Jim (Middleton & P)Hoyle, Doug (Nelson)Roberts, Gwilym (Cannock)
    Canavan, DennisHughes, Mark (Durham)Rodgers, George (Chorley)
    Cant, R. B.Jeger, Mrs LenaRyman, John
    Clemitson, IvorJohn, BrynmorSandelson, Neville
    Cocks, Michael (Bristol S)Johnson, James (Hull West)Shaw, Arnold (Ilford South)
    Cohen, StanleyJohnson, Walter (Derby S)Short, Mrs Renée (Wolv NE)
    Colquhoun, Mrs MaureenJudd, FrankSilverman, Julius
    Conlan, BernardKaufman, GeraldSkinner, Dennis
    Cook, Robin F. (Edin C)Lambie, DavidSmall, William
    Corbett, RobinLamond, JamesSpearing, Nigel
    Cox, Thomas (Tooting)Latham, Arthur (Paddington)Stallard, A. W.
    Craigen. J. M. (Maryhill)Lee, JohnStoddart, David
    Crosland, Rt Hon AnthonyLyons, Edward (Bradford W)Stott, Roger
    Cryer, BobMcCartney, HughTaylor, Mrs Ann (Bolton W)
    Cunningham, G. (Islington S)McElhone, FrankThomas, Ron (Bristol NW)
    Davies, Bryan (Enfield N)MacFarquhar, RoderickThorne, Stan (Preston South)
    Dean, Joseph (Leeds West)Mackenzie, GregorTinn, James
    Dempsey, JamesMcMillan, Tom (Glasgow C)Walden, Brian (B'ham, L'dyw'd)
    Dormand, J. D.Madden, MaxWalker, Terry (Kingswood)
    Douglas-Mann, BruceMagee, BryanWard, Michael
    Dunn, James A.Mahon, SimonWhite, Frank R. (Bury)
    Dunwoody, Mrs GwynethMarks, KennethWhitehead, Phillip
    Edge, GeoffMarshall, Dr Edmund (Goole)Willey, Rt Hon Frederick
    Ellis, John (Brigg & Scun)Mendelson, JohnWise, Mrs Audrey
    English, MichaelMikardo, IanWrigglesworth, Ian
    Evans, Ioan (Aberdare)Millan, BruceTELLERS FOR THE AYES:
    Evans John (Newton)Miller, Mrs Millie (Ilford N)Mr. Donald Coleman and
    Faulds, AndrewMitchell, R. C. (Soton, Itchen)Miss Margaret Jackson.

    NOES

    Body, RichardCope, JohnMayhew, Patrick
    Bowden, A. (Brighton, Kemptown)Hurd Douglas
    Budgen, NickMawby, RayTELLERS FOR THE NOES:
    Bulmer, EsmondMr. Michael Latham and
    Mr. Tony Durant.

    Lords amendment disagreed to.

    Subsequent Lords amendments agreed to.

    Committee appointed to draw up Reasons to be assigned to the Lords for disagreeing to certain of their amendments to the Bill: Mr. Thomas Cox, Mr. Reginald Freeson, Mr. Gerald Kaufman,

    It is in order to call a separate Division, but the amendment has been discussed.

    Question put, That this House doth disagree with the Lords in the said amendment:—

    The House divided: Ayes 114, Noes 8.

    Mr. Timothy Raison and Mr. Hugh Rossi; three to be the quorum.—[ Mr. Freeson.]

    To withdraw immediately.

    Reasons for disagreeing to certain of the Lords amendments reported, and agreed to; to be communicated to the Lords.

    Petition

    H P Bulmer And Showerings Limited

    1.19 a.m.

    I beg to present the humble petition of Maximilian John Alexandre Thum, a solicitor of the Supreme Court of Judicature, on behalf of H. P. Bulmer, in which company I declare an interest, and Showerings Ltd., who are plaintiffs in a pending action in the High Court of Justice Chancery Division, against J. Bollinger and Champagne Lanson pere et fils. The petition states

    "that reference is desired to be made at the hearing of the said action to the Official Report of Debates of your Honourable House for the 17th day of October 1950".
    As I propose to move a motion in respect of this petition I ask that the petition be read.

    read the petition, which was as follows:

    To the Honourable the Commons of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland in Parliament assembled.
    The Humble Petition of Maximilian John Alexandre Thum, a Solicitor of the Supreme Court of Judicature of 17 Throgmorton Avenue, London, EC2N 2DD on behalf of H. P. Bulmer and Showerings Limited who are Plaintiffs in a pending action in the High Court of Justice, Chancery Division, Group A, 1970 H. No. 9347 against J. Bollinger and Champagne Lanson pere et fils (sued on behalf of themselves and of all persons who produce wine in the district of France known as the Champagne District and ship such wine to England and Wales), the Defendants to the said action which is listed for hearing in London on the 24th day of February 1975.
    Sheweth
    First, that the said Plaintiffs claim in the said action declarations that they are entitled to use the expressions "champagne cider" and "champagne perry" upon and in relation to cider and perry respectively provided that such is not contrary to any Government regulation that is in force at the relevant time.
    Second, that reference is desired to be made at the hearing of the said action to the Official Report of Debates of your Honourable House for the 17th day of October 1950 in respect of a Motion praying that the Order dated 27th June 1950 entitled the Labelling of Food Order 1950 (S.I. 1950 No. 1061) be annulled, so that the views of Members may be gathered as to the use of the expressions "champagne cider" and "champagne perry".
    Wherefore your Petitioner prays that your Honourable House will be graciously pleased to give leave for reference to be made to the said Official Report of Debate of your Honourable House.
    And your Pentitioner, as in duty bound will every pray &c.

    Ordered,

    That leave be given for reference to be made to the said official Report of Debates of the House.—[Mr. Bulmer.]

    Adjournment

    Motion made, and Question proposed, That this House do now adjourn.—[Mr. Donald Coleman.]

    Post Offices (Closure)

    1.22 a.m.

    It is more than a year since the House last debated the closure of post offices in country areas, on the initiative of the hon. Member for Accrington (Mr. Davidson). This is a matter of such importance to the countryside that I am grateful to Mr. Speaker for the opportunity to raise the subject again.

    My impression is that during the last year, there has been a continued loss of sub-post offices in the countryside. It can only be an impression, and I hope that the Minister will be able to give us figures to show exactly how the situation has developed. Certainly in my county of Oxfordshire five sub-post offices have closed in the past year and only two have reopened. If Press reports, and reports that I have had from my hon. Friends, are correct, they suggest that there has been a considerable loss in other parts of the country, too. It is hardly necessary to describe the hardship which the closure of sub-post offices can cause to people who live in villages.

    There are few people who do not rely on postal services for some part of their lives which is important to them. There is the sale of stamps, of postal orders—particularly important if people do not have a bank account—and the increasing use of Giro for such purposes as rent collection. It is worthy of note that post office is a source of public information. People go into it to read notices on all kinds of matters which may concern them closely but which they do not have the chance to study in detail unless there is a post office handy.

    Above all, the post office is used for collecting pensions. It is in paying out pensions that the post office is most valuable to people in villages. There is plenty of evidence of the hardship caused when a sub-post office closes. It is true, as the Post Office has pointed out, that pensions can be collected from other offices and that a pensioner can ask a friend or relative to collect the pension for him or her. The Post Office and the Department of Health and Social Security, whom I have tackled on this, are a little complacent, as if they were dealing with the problem.

    I refer to a note I have received from the chairman of a parish council in one of my villages—Beckley—where the post office has closed. He writes:
    "In a small community such as this the rôle of the post office is vital, especially to old age pensioners who very often cannot afford or are unable to go to adjoining post offices to collect their pensions. They resent the loss of privacy involved in getting a friend to do this for them, and the meeting"—
    that is, of the parish council—
    "felt that in any case this was an invidious and unsatisfactory expedient."
    In a similar vein but simpler language an old-age pensioner from another village in my constituency which lost its post office this year wrote to me saying:
    "Pensioners like to be independent and not have to rely on relatives and friends, so please give us a post office."
    No one could fairly blame the Post Office for the closure of sub-post offices. Normally the post office is the village shop, which, for economic reasons, closes down—temporarily or permanently—and the post office services go with it. Villagers have been able to buy things more cheaply at the supermarket five or 10 miles away and the village shop has felt the difference. I am not sure this trend will continue for ever, and I suspect that we may be entering a period when, with more expensive bus fares and dearer petrol, the village shop may take on a new lease of life as customers find that it is no longer cheaper for people to do their shopping in the supermarket.

    My complaint against the Post Office is not that it is responsible for the closures but that it reacts in a defensive and unimaginative way towards them. In Beckley, which has 45 old-age pensioners—a large number for a village of its size—the parish council and I worked out a scheme to deal with the situation when the sub-post office closed last spring. We found a sub-postmaster in a neighbouring village who was willing to come and operate a postal service on Wednesday mornings. We found a room where he could work and an escort who would fetch him and be with him. The last time we devised such a scheme the Post Office agreed to the arrangement. This time it was turned down, even though we had done the homework and set it all up.

    The Post Office turned it down not for financial reasons but on grounds of security. It felt that a man coming to provide a service of his own volition would be a risk. It is right to have regard to security. There have been tragic incidents in the past when sub-postmasters and postmistresses have been coshed and robbed. This is one of the facts of life of 1975. But if in this sad world public services are to be withdrawn every time there is a personal risk, there will not be many public services left.

    It is reasonable to ask the Post Office to recognise that there is a balance to be struck here. The security argument is valid but it must be weighed against the needs of the village. It should not prevail automatically. I am worried about the security review which the head of the Post Office tells me he is conducting. If that review leads to increased protection, and, better grills, safes and screens for the smaller post office, that is all well and good. I understand that £200 is being given to each post office so that it may purchase its own equipment. But if the review leads to the withdrawal of existing services, it is a damaging retreat, which the Post Office will eventually regret.

    So far I have been discussing ways in which the hardship of the temporary disappearance of sub-post offices might be relieved by more flexible and imaginative methods. Perhaps the Minister will say something about the use of vans to deal with the more permanent situation. The Post Offices dismisses these on the ground that they are expensive to run. Any information on that point would be useful.

    There is another possibility which I have tried out on the Post Office, namely, that people should be allowed to provide postal services for fewer than the minimum hours at present insisted upon. Whether such people would be called sub-postmasters or something else is not important. I suspect that quite a number of people, perhaps retired people, would be willing, for one or two mornings a week, to provide a full postal service, but they would not be willing to meet the full conditions now imposed upon a sub-postmaster or sub-postmistress.

    I received a letter this morning about a sub-postmistress in Suffolk giving up for this reason. My correspondent says:
    "She told me that if she could have opened on, say, three mornings, she would have happily continued to provide a service, which is of great value to, admittedly, rather few people in a tiny community".
    The Managing Director of the Post Office tells me that he is examining the possibility of rather more flexibility in the hours, so as to increase the number of people willing to provide a postal service in villages. I hope that the Minister can persuade him to press forward speedily with this examination.

    I know—and if I did not, the hon. Gentleman would soon remind me—that the Minister has no power to direct the Post Office or to control its decisions in such matters, but he can nudge and encourage it. I hope that he will do so.

    What we are talking about is the fabric of the English village, and, for all I know, the Scottish village as well. The traditional fabric includes the church, the chapel, the pub, and the village shop with the post office. These institutions have all changed through the years. They once again have the choice whether to change or retreat.

    It would be a great pity if, because of the real difficulties, which we all recognise, the Post Office decided that its future lay only in the towns and cities. More than any other public service, the Post Office still enjoys the liking and esteem of the public. I sometimes have the impression that it looks on this popularity as a liability rather than an asset. I very much hope that, with the Minister's encouragement, the Post Office will look upon that popularity as something not which it should build and not something from which it should retreat. I hope that, with his encouragement, it can respond imaginatively and sympathetically to the appeals now reaching it from all over our countryside.

    1.32 a.m.

    I thank the hon. Member for Mid-Oxon (Mr. Hurd) for giving me the opportunity to say something about the Post Office and about counter services of the kind of which he has spoken. I pay tribute to the hon. Gentleman for the zeal with which he has expressed his concern. What he has said tonight has been only the end of a long and hard year for him in putting forward constructive suggestions to the Post Office about the matters concerning his constituents. The concern that the hon. Gentleman expressed is one that I and many members of the Government and back benchers on both sides of the House share.

    What the hon. Gentleman said about rural life in England is true of rural life in Scotland. As one who comes originally from a small Highland parish, I know what importance we all attached to having a good sub-post office. As the Minister immediately responsible for Post Office affairs, under my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Industry, I know of the difficulties which people in the hon. Gentleman's part of the world face. Therefore, I welcome the opportunity to say something about the postal services.

    The hon. Gentleman stressed what he knew I would say about my statutory rôle as the Under-Secretary with responsibility under the Post Office Act 1969, which established the Post Office as a nationalised industry. In common with other nationalised industries the Post Office is responsible for managing its day-to-day affairs. The Act gave it powers to provide postal services, including counter services, and imposed upon it a duty so to exercise its powers as to meet the social, industrial and commercial needs of the British Isles, while having regard to, among other things, efficiency and economy. Whilst the Secretary of State has certain reserve powers, it is clear that the nature and scale of counter services in a given locality are management matters for the Post Office. Successive Ministers of both parties have refused to intervene on detailed sub-office questions. That may be a matter of regret, but it is a direct and necessary consequence of the changes enacted in 1969. To do otherwise would be to act contrary to the will of the House of Commons, as expressed in the 1969 Act, and to cut across and undermine the authority and competence of the Post Office Board. In other words, my concern and that of my right hon. Friend is not to usurp the functions of the Post Office or to interfere in any way with its day-to-day business but to ensure that it exercises its statutory powers in accordance with the duties laid upon it by the Act.

    It is against that background that I want to say a word about Post Office policy with regard to the provision and closure of its sub-post offices. It is very simply that the Post Office seeks to maintain a balance between the reasonable needs of the community on the one hard and the cost, which I regard as important, of meeting those needs on the other hand. The hon. Member referred briefly to this. Translated into practical terms, this means that a post office is not normally opened within a mile of an existing post office in a town or within two miles of an existing office in a rural area.

    These criteria are generous, and have been in operation, I am given to understand, since 1948. These standards compare more than favourably with those used in other advanced western nations. Indeed, when I looked through the information provided to me, I was surprised that we provided a service which is very much better, I think, than that of almost any other country in western Europe with the possible exception of West Germany.

    Those criteria, however, are not applied rigidly, and many other factors which the hon. Member mentioned in his comments tonight are taken into account. They include the volume of business transacted at the office concerned, the nature and terrain of the area it serves and the availability of local bus services. I emphasise, in view of what the hon. Member said about old people, that full consideration is given to the needs of local residents and retirement pensioners in particular. Well before the event, local authorities and Post Office advisory committees are advised of any impending closures and the reasons for them. Any views which they or other interested parties express are taken fully into account before a final decision is reached.

    The hon. Member asked me about the number of post offices which have been closed in recent years, and perhaps I can do no better than give him the figures based on those which have been published in the Post Office accounts over the past five years. In the five years since the Post Office became a public authority, the total number of sub-post offices has fallen from 22,970 in 1969–70 to 22,276 in 1973–74, a net decline, after taking account of new offices opened as well as old offices closed, of only about 0·5 per cent. per annum. Over the 10-year period going back to 1964 the annual rate of net closures is lower still at about 0·4 per cent. This is not a record of which the Post Office necessarily needs to feel embarrassed. In the light of all this, therefore, I can assert that the Post Office acts with a great degree of responsibility in considering whether to close a sub-office.

    I can go further and say that the Post Office rarely closes a sub-office unless the postmaster resigns or, as happens, in some cases—when, for example, no replacement can be found—the decision is effectively taken out of the hands of the Post Office. That is what happened in the two cases about which the hon. Member has been concerned over the past year. The Post Office can no longer provide a counter service in these two villages because in one case the postmistress resigned and at Blackthorn the tenant did not wish to continue to manage the office. In both cases, I am assured, the Post Office tried very hard indeed to find a replacement, but to no effect. It is very unfortunate, but I do not think we can blame the Post Office for that, because it really tried exceedingly hard, by advertisements and all other means, to fill these vacancies.

    I am aware of the efforts which the hon. Gentleman has made to resolve the difficulties which have arisen in his constituency. He has made a number of suggestions, both to the Post Office over the past year and in the House tonight. I am sure that the Post Office will take note of them. Indeed, I understand that it is already reviewing the question of greater flexibility in the terms and conditions under which it employs sub-postmasters as its agents.

    In addition, the hon. Gentleman will know that certain other possibilities exist. In many rural areas the delivery postman will sell stamps, obtain postal orders, accept letters and parcels and help in many other ways as he goes on his rounds. Postmen have always been helpful in this way and I am sure we are all grateful to them for their friendly help and wish to give them a pat on the back.

    The hon. Gentleman was concerned about the question of pensions. The payment of pensions is, of course, a matter for my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Health and Social Security. For my own part, while I understand why some pensioners may not like asking others to draw their pensions, I believe that many have found this to be a convenient and satisfactory alternative to a long journey, and that many others make use of a further facility whereby they can arrange to receive periodic payments through a bank account. Every method has its drawbacks, but I do not think the House would expect the Department of Health and Social Security or the Post Office to incur disproportionate expense in providing counter services for individual pensioners no matter where they happen to live.

    I turn to a point which also concerns the hon. Gentleman, namely, the matter of security. I appreciate the scheme which he suggested, and obviously he was concerned that the Post Office did not feel able to accept it. This is a difficult matter, but I have no doubt about it in my mind.

    I do not feel that it is for me to comment on all the hon. Gentleman's remarks about security. However, I do not think that we can let some of his comments about security go unchallenged. He seemed to feel that the Post Office placed too much emphasis on this aspect in rejecting the expedients which he had suggested to fill the vacuum left by the departure of the sub-postmaster.

    I was grateful to the hon. Gentleman for reminding the House that in the last year alone three sub-postmasters have been killed during attacks on their offices and there have been a number of other incidents. I am sure that the hon. Gentleman would want to give the most serious consideration to the whole question of security and will want to ensure that in future we have no more of these regrettable incidents. I believe that the Post Office is quite right to be concerned, as I am sure is the hon. Gentleman, about the security of employees and agents. The Post Office has spent a considerable amount of money in helping to improve the security of sub-post offices; and its long experience cannot be lightly dismissed. At the same time I cannot agree with him that the Post Office is adopting a defeatist attitude to the problem of safeguarding the provision of counter services. I understand that one of the aims of the current review of the terms and conditions applicable to sub-postmasters is to see whether part-time services can safely be provided. This is an open question at present, although I am sure the Post Office will examine what has been said in this debate.

    I am following the Minister's words closely and with much sympathy. However, does he not agree that there are many other walks of life—there was an example only a fortnight or so ago—where for people performing public services there is no way of guaranteeing them against risks? There are many villages where postal services are provided at present without absolute security. Would it not be better today if, on the grounds of security alone, those services were withdrawn? It is the matter of balance that is important, and it is that balance which we should seek to ensure.

    I accept what the hon. Gentleman says, but I have considered the amount involved, and it is a considerable sum. Bearing in mind the sort of experience that we all have of day-to-day postmen and sub-postmasters, for example, I do not think that I would wish to go against the judgment of the Post Office. It is giving the matter a great deal of thought.

    I hope that in the time available to me I have been able to reassure the House that the Post Office is doing its best to maintain counter services in rural areas. The difficulties it encounters reflect to some extent the changing pattern of life in the countryside. In many places I understand villagers no longer want to provide enough support to make a local shop viable. This trend must necessarily make it more difficult to find suitable premises for a post office.

    I have referred to my awareness of the difficulties faced by people who lose their post office. It is perhaps only in such circumstances that we appreciate the value of the post office. Too often we take it for granted.

    I conclude by thanking the sub-postmasters and sub-postmistresses throughout the country for the valuable work that they are doing. I know that the hon. Gentleman appreciates their worth, and I have no doubt that despite his own constituency problems he would wish to associate himself with this tribute to the men and women who serve the community so well in more than 22,000 sub-post offices throughout the Kingdom. These remarks apply equally to the Post Office counter clerks who man the larger post offices in the busy centres of population. The Government and, I know, the hon. Gentleman and his colleagues, are grateful to them all for the invaluable contribution they make to the nation's life.

    Question put and agreed to.

    Adjourned accordingly at thirteen minutes to Two o'clock.