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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 John McKay Mr John McKay , Wallsend 12:00 am, 26th March 1957

We are dealing here with something of vital importance to the ordinary citizen. In my study of political philosophy I have always understood that law is the outcome of civilisation, and that law is made for the definite purpose of giving freedom to the better types of men and also to penalise the evildoer.

There is a critical situation in this country about the housing of our people, and in dealing with that we are dealing with one of the fundamental necessities of the family and of human welfare. Men and women and their families have to tighten their belts on occasion and take less rations than they ought to receive. To some extent, they can meet economic difficulties, hut a house is a fundamental need of the family.

We know that law is expected to give greater freedom for the best activities of mankind, but the political philosophy of the Government is to give greater freedom in the charging of rent. Even if that philosophy of freedom can be extended to this subject, the question arises whether, on a mater which affects every household in the country, it is right to allow landlords absolute freedom to charge what rents they wish.

That is the great weakness of this Bill. There may have been a need to revise rent legislation, but it does not follow that in the process of giving more freedom the Government should throw away their responsibilities to their fellow men, particularly the poorer sections of the community. Surely the responsibility of the Government is to ensure that in giving greater freedom in charging rent there should be some protection given to the masses of the people from the evildoers? Yet, unless a similar Amendment to this one is made in the Bill, it will give practically wholesale freedom on a question of fundamental importance to the people.

Therefore, on the general ground alone that there should be substantial protection for tenants and a definite restriction placed upon those who would take advantage of such a situation, I urge the Government to accept the Amendment. As the Bill stands, it allows any landlord who has no concern for humanity or morality to take advantage of the circumstances under which people are living.

The Minister has said that he believes in freedom and that rents should be governed by supply and demand, but has the tenant who is given notice to quit or notice to pay an increased rent any real freedom? Of course he has not. He may be confined to a given district because of his work, or there may be other important factors which make it necessary for him to retain the house, even if an extortionate rent is demanded. I believe, therefore, that this Amendment, which gives some protection to the ordinary people who may have been exploited, is an important one.