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 Henry Brooke Mr Henry Brooke , Hampstead 12:00 am, 26th March 1957

If I do not pursue that, I assure the House that it is because I must have regard to the. Guillotine and must assist the Opposition by not spending further time on this interesting speculation.

The hon. and learned Member for Kettering and I have agreed that the Amendment is designed to prevent dwellings let for the first time since 1949 from becoming subject to the rent provisions of the Bill, unless they have been the subject of application to a rent tribunal before the commencement of the 1954 Act.

The case, as I understand it, which has been outlined to the House, is that rent tribunals fix reasonable rents, and, therefore, if we legislate to depart from that, the new rents will, on that evidence, be unreasonable. Let us go back over the history of this matter. In those days, after the end of the war, there was a feeling, and it was widely shared, that there were certain cases in which extortionate rents had been demanded and obtained, and that some machinery was desirable for mitigating that. The Labour Government of the time, which had a special love for the rent tribunal idea, decided that the rent tribunal would be an appropriate machine or device for deciding what a reasonable rent should be. In the first instance, until 1954, rent tribunals only had power to reduce rents.

Of course, under this Bill, a quite new situation arises. [HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear."] A much more logical and sensible situation arises. Up till now, there has not been any general and systematic method of adjusting rents over the whole field in the light of economic circumstances. The rent tribunal applied to certain classes of houses, and there was nothing else. Now, under this Bill, we are using—and I think there is common consent that it is a sensible idea—the new valuations as a basis for a formula for fixing maximum controlled rents. That is to say, the situation for which the rent tribunal was devised has been overtaken by the new system which we are establishing by Clause 1 of this Bill.

That is the reason why I could not advise the House to accept this Amendment, for everybody is agreed that there has been a chaotic system in the rent field. If we can now get the arrangement under Clause I established as the generally prevailing system, we shall iron out much the greater part of the anomalies that have hitherto existed. If we were to accept the Amendment we should be opening the door to other fresh anomalies that would not be in line with what we are doing for all other kinds of rents.