Clause 1. — (Rent Limit of Controlled Houses.)

Part of Orders of the Day — Rent Bill – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 26th March 1957.

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Photo of Mr Barnett Janner Mr Barnett Janner , Leicester North West 12:00 am, 26th March 1957

I beg to second the Amendment.

It is a matter about which both sides of the House must surely agree that there can be no reasonable answer. The case is perfectly clear. When we were discussing the 1949 Act, it was plain that there was a flaw in it in respect of rentals charged for the first time after the war. It is not always that the House comes to a right conclusion, but there is not the slightest doubt that on that occasion it came to the only conclusion which can be considered reasonable, namely, that a body of independent people should make up its mind, taking everything into consideration, whether a rent is a reasonable one or not.

The procedure, which is known to sonic—probably all—of us, is that the tribunal sends out a notice, asks for particulars of the property concerned. gets every single detail, makes an appointment in most cases to see the property, knows the locality, knows what the rentals ought to be and judges from every angle, taking all the facts into consideration, not what the rent should be, but what the reasonable rent should be.

I cannot believe that the Minister will say that he wants to ask for an unreasonable rent. That would be absurd. He is trying to convince us that the Bill is reasonable and that the rentals which subsequently will become payable will be reasonable. He says that the law of supply and demand and of everything else will operate and everything will be fine, but the fact is that he is not certain yet.

The Minister is taking a tremendous risk. As some of his hon. Friends have said, it is not a certainty by any means. The Ridley Committee, for example, said that properties should not be decontrolled until we were sure that there was a reasonable possibility of other accommodation being available. That is the kind of circumstance which would be taken into consideration by the tribunal. Consequently, when the tribunals come to the conclusion that a rental is reasonable, there is no question of anyone curbing them within certain limits. All that they have to do is to decide whether the rent in all the circumstances is reasonable.

Can the Minister honestly say that there is not a sinister motive behind the whole of the Bill if he is not prepared to accept a proposal to allow the functioning of these independent tribunals, comprising people who are not curbed in any way and who deal with these matters without any question of party? Hon. Members know that the tribunals, from their own knowledge, judge what is a reasonable rent and what is not, and not what is to be the standard rent or the recoverable rent according to rules which have been laid down by people who may not understand all the circumstances.

If the Minister refuses our request, the country will realise the truth of what we have been saying, that the Bill is nothing but a racket to try to obtain, when accommodation is not available, exorbitant, unreasonable rentals at the expense of tenants who can ill afford to pay them and who will be placed in such desperate plight that they will pay whatever rent is demanded of them, reasonable or unreasonable, and mainly unreasonable.

I ask the Minister to take these points into consideration and not to allow himself, in spite of pressure that might come from behind him, to do something which is unreasonable, as he would be doing if he did not insist upon the payment of a reasonable rent but allowed unreasonable rentals to be demanded.