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Rent Act

Oral Answers to Questions — Housing – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 19th November 1957.

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Photo of Mr Norman Dodds Mr Norman Dodds , Erith and Crayford 12:00 am, 19th November 1957

asked the Minister of Housing and Local Government if he will make a statement on the effects of the Rent Act; and which of the objectives for which the Act was designed have been or are being achieved.

Photo of Mr Henry Brooke Mr Henry Brooke , Hampstead

It is too soon to see the full effect of this Measure.

Photo of Mr Norman Dodds Mr Norman Dodds , Erith and Crayford

With the knowledge the right hon. Gentleman has already, is he unmoved by the mounting toll of misery among elderly people, many of whom know that, by next October, they will have to leave houses in which they have lived for many years? Is he not aware also of the misery caused as a result of insecurity of tenure to untold numbers of other elderly people who live in houses which are decontrolled? Is this one of the main objectives of the Act? If it is not, what does he propose to do about it?

Photo of Mr Henry Brooke Mr Henry Brooke , Hampstead

In reply to the hon. Gentleman's Question, I used the exact words spoken by the hon. and learned Member for Kettering (Mr. Mitchison) in the House last week. In reply to the hon. Gentleman's supplementary question, I will say that I am proposing this week to send a circular to local authorities about the housing of old people.

Mr. Gresham Cooke:

Is not the Rent Act already bringing forward a large number of houses—[HON. MEMBERS: "Where?"]—and has it not already performed one act of justice, that is, to give the landlord a more proper return on his property?

Photo of Mr Henry Brooke Mr Henry Brooke , Hampstead

I have no doubt whatever that the Rent Act has stimulated the doing of a great many much-needed repairs.

Photo of Mr Gilbert Mitchison Mr Gilbert Mitchison , Kettering

Is not the right hon. Gentleman aware that, if he waits much longer, he will be too late to prevent the very hard bargains which are being driven at present by the landlords of decontrolled houses? Those leases are being negotiated, and landlords have the whip hand; tenants, with eviction threatened, are having to accept what are really grossly unfair terms. [HON. MEMBERS: "Where?"]

Photo of Mr Henry Brooke Mr Henry Brooke , Hampstead

I spoke about this at length in the debate last week, and I am glad to say that the great majority of new three-year tenancies are being entered into on reasonable terms.

Photo of Mrs Barbara Castle Mrs Barbara Castle , Blackburn

asked the Minister of Housing and Local Government what steps he is proposing to take to amend Schedule VI, paragraph 21, of the Rent Act, 1957, in view of the judgment given by Judge Carr in the Stourbridge County Court on 3rd October, 1957.

Mrs. Butler:

asked the Minister of Housing and Local Government whether his attention has been drawn to a county court judgment at Stourbridge in October with regard to paragraph 21 of the Sixth Schedule of the Rent Act, 1957; and what action he proposes to ensure that the greater hardship proviso shall remain part of the Act.

Photo of Mr Henry Brooke Mr Henry Brooke , Hampstead

I have taken note of this judgment, but a decision in a county court does not constitute a binding precedent in other cases, and it is not to be assumed that a similar view would necessarily be taken by other courts. If a similar decision were reached by a higher court, I should certainly consider whether steps ought to be taken to give effect to the original intention.

Photo of Mrs Barbara Castle Mrs Barbara Castle , Blackburn

Is not the right hon. Gentleman's reply quite unsatisfactory because, first, he fails to deal with the position of the tenant in the case of Perry v. Downing, against whom the judge found on this issue and who, for all we know, may have been evicted because of the dubiety of the right hon. Gentleman's own Act? Is he not also failing to deal with the fact that as long as there is this dubiety there may be other county court decisions? Is not the only way to deal with this matter to have a simple amendment of the Act which would put the issue beyond all doubt?

Photo of Mr Henry Brooke Mr Henry Brooke , Hampstead

It is not for me to interpret the law, but the decision of the county court is not final on a matter of this kind, and there is an appeal to a higher court. I think that it would be better to suspend judgment until a decision is given by the higher court.

Mrs. Butler:

While, in the circumstances, I welcome the Minister's assurance that he will look at this matter again if there is an appeal, may I ask whether he should not follow the suggestion made by my hon. Friend the Member for Blackburn (Mrs. Castle) and do something now, since he made it quite clear in Standing Committee on the Rent Bill that it was his intention that the court should decide which was the greater hardship, and a number of cases on this point are coming before the county court?

Photo of Mr Henry Brooke Mr Henry Brooke , Hampstead

I cannot compel anybody who loses a case to lodge an appeal, but when an appeal is lodged we shall get a decision by the higher court.

Photo of Mr Gilbert Mitchison Mr Gilbert Mitchison , Kettering

Is not the right hon. Gentleman aware that the decision of the county court judge is in direct conflict with the answer in his own guide to the Rent Act? Does he intend to reprint the guide, or does he intend to wait until somebody pays the money to go to the Court of Appeal, because his own Act has not been clearly drafted and has misled one county court judge, at any rate, and there are conflicting decisions? Is not it right, in the circumstances, to bring in a short Bill to make perfectly clear that his own answer in Standing Committee and his own advice in the guide to the Rent Act is what he intended should be and what ought to be the law? Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that if he did that we on this side of the House would facilitate the passage of a Bill for that purpose?

Photo of Mr Anthony Fell Mr Anthony Fell , Yarmouth

On a point of order—

Hon. Members:

Answer.

Photo of Mr William Morrison Mr William Morrison , Cirencester and Tewkesbury

Order. A point of order has been raised.

Photo of Mr Anthony Fell Mr Anthony Fell , Yarmouth

On a point of order. Would I have your permission, Mr. Speaker, to congratulate the hon. and learned Member for Kettering (Mr. Mitchison) upon using his position on the Front Bench opposite to ask a record number of supplementary questions to the exclusion of questions by back-benchers?

Photo of Mr William Morrison Mr William Morrison , Cirencester and Tewkesbury

That is not a point of order for me.

Photo of Mr Gilbert Mitchison Mr Gilbert Mitchison , Kettering

May I have an answer from the Minister?

Photo of Mr Henry Brooke Mr Henry Brooke , Hampstead

There is no doubt about my intention and there has been no change in my intention, but it would be contrary to all precedent to ask Parliament to alter a law which is on the Statute Book on the basis of one judgment given in a county court before any higher court has had any opportunity to pronounce upon it.

Photo of Mr Gilbert Mitchison Mr Gilbert Mitchison , Kettering

Will the right hon. Gentleman pay the costs of an appeal?