I beg to move, That the Clause be read a Second time.
I am sorry that the Government are not in a receptive mood to beautiful simplicity because in this Clause we have another example of beautiful simplicity to offer them. The Clause is a replacement for Clause 7, which provides, in the case of a rent for a statutory period of a regulated tenancy, that if, as a result of the ruling of the rent officer, the rent is to go down, the tenant gets the immediate benefit of the reduction in the rent, but if, on the contrary, it is decided that the rent should go up, there is to be a four-week delay.
I believe that my hon. Friend the Member for Crosby (Mr. Graham Page), in Committee, used the phrase, "What is sauce for the goose should be sauce for the gander". Unfortunately, the Government seem to have decided that if the tenant goose is entitled to apple sauce the landlord gander has to put up with "sauce diable", because the landlord, as might be expected, gets the dirty end of the stick. The object of the new Clause is to provide for equal treatment for tenant and landlord; that is to say, either a reduction in the rent or an increase in the rent has effect immediately.
It is not as if this would impose a sudden hardship on either the landlord or the tenant because, as was pointed out in Committee by the Parliamentary Secretary, there will have been fairly lengthy discussions and proceedings before the new rent is fixed, and the tenant will have plenty of warning that his rent is likely to go up, or down. I suggest that in the interests of equity, if the Minister is to make a determined effort to overcome his natural prejudice against landlords, he accepts the new Clause.
The history of this Clause and its principle is rather an unfortunate one. The hon. Gentleman the Member of Eton and Slough (Sir A. Meyer) put it to the House on the basis of a piece of unreasonableness and of prejudice on the part of the Government in not having accepted his Amendment in Committee. What happened in Committee was that the Amendment was put down at very short notice. I said that I was anxious to consider it and to explore its implications. My right hon. Friend confirmed that. Unfortunately, the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Kingston-upon-Thames (Mr. Boyd-Carpenter) elected not to accept my assurances that I would look into it and decided on taking a decision of the Committee.
The decision of the Committee was taken, and the result was that the Amendment was defeated. Therefore, I did not feel that I was under any particular obligation to go any further in the matter, as the right hon. Gentleman had decided not to take my assurances about it.
However, I do not wish to stand on dignity about it. I think that I would not expect to receive the same treatment from the right hon. Gentleman. I think that he would have stood on his dignity. I think that I can afford not to stand on mine. I am advised that the wording of the Clause is not suitable, and probably goes a little bit too far back in time. I think there ought to be some room for a margin of notice to the tenant of an increase. I would certainly accept the principle of it, and offer to consider it, and to arrange with my noble Friends to put down an Amendment in another place to meet the point.
Naturally, we welcome the attitude that the hon. Gentleman has adopted. I am sorry that he thought it necessary to begin his speech with a rather curt reference to our proceedings in Committee. He may remember that the whole trouble arose because he was unwilling to give a firm undertaking to come forward with proposals at this stage. He was unwilling to take the line which, if I understand him aright, he is now taking.
I would like to make sure that there is no uncertainty about the position. Perhaps the Parliamentary Secretary would confirm that his undertaking is that an Amendment will be put down in another place. In that case, I am certain that my hon. Friend would not wish to take up any further time and would seek to withdraw.