Clause 6. — (Variation, Before Registration, of Rent Recoverable During Statutory Periods.)

Orders of the Day — Rent Bill – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 1 November 1965.

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Lords Amendment No. 2: In page 6, line 15, leave out "an improvement" and insert "a".

Photo of Mr James MacColl Mr James MacColl , Widnes

I beg to move, That this House doth agree with the Lords in the said Amendment.

It would be convenient if we could discuss at the same time Lords Amendments No. 3—page 6, line 18, to leave out first "or"—No. 4—page 6, line 19, after "1959" insert: or section 15 of the Airports Authority Act 1965"— No. 14—page 11, line 15, after "1959" insert: or section 15 of the Airports Authority Act 1965"— No. 47—page 45, line 19, at end insert: 7A.—(1) In section 5(3) of the Rent Act 1957 after the words 'Housing Act 1949' there shall be inserted the words 'or a grant has been made in respect of the improvement under section 15 of the Airports Authority Act 1965'.(2) In section 5(4) of the Rent Act 1957 after the words 'section 20' there shall be inserted the words 'or under the said section 15'.

Photo of Dr Horace King Dr Horace King , Southampton, Itchen

I have no objection, if the House has no objection.

Photo of Mr James MacColl Mr James MacColl , Widnes

I was rather upset and perturbed by the violent attack made on me by the hon. Member for Crosby (Mr. Graham Page) when he said that I was obstinate and pig-headed. I beg to move, "That this House doth agree with the Lords in the said Amendment", which shows that I am prepared to consider the Lords Amendments dispassionately on their merits and not to take an obstinate attitude towards them.

These Amendments deal with the bringing into operation of the Airports Authority Act, 1965, under which grants can be made towards the cost of soundproofing dwellings. Their general effect is to treat improvements made for soundproofing which are in receipt of grant in the same way as improvements made in receipt of standard grant or general improvement grant under the Housing Act or improvements made under the Clean Air Act. The general effect of them is that the tenant will not have the right to object to an improvement made under Clause 6 on the ground that it is unreasonable because—and this applies in the other cases which I have mentioned—if it is in receipt of grant there is a presumption that it is reasonable. The other point is that the 12½ per cent. increase of rent which can be charged for the cost of the improvement is a net charge after deduction of the grant. That covers the first two groups of Amendments.

Amendment No. 47 applies the Airports Authority Act to old controlled houses whereas the other Amendments deal with the problems of regulated houses. But there are some houses in the area of London Airport still subject to the old control. I hope that the House will feel that these are reasonable Amendments which should be accepted.

Photo of Mr James Allason Mr James Allason , Hemel Hempstead

As the Joint Parliamentary Secretary said, the effect of these Amendments is that the tenant will have no right of appeal should an improvement be forcibly made to his house in consequence of which he has to pay in increased rent up to 12½ per cent. of the cost of the repairs to the landlord. We have just heard from the Minister how his heart is always on the side of the tenant.

Photo of Mr James Allason Mr James Allason , Hemel Hempstead

In this case, it seems that he has not the interests of the tenant at heart at all.

The right of appeal is the law in the case of improvements except under the Clean Air Act when the improvement has to be made to comply with the law. Therefore, it is sensible that there should not be in that case any appeal against the imposition of improvements. But in other cases there is the right of appeal. In the case of an improvement grant, the custom is that the agreement of the tenant is required by the local authority before it will entertain an application for an improvement grant. This is sensible because, after all, there is a tenancy agreement which governs the tenancy and it cannot be revoked or changed unilaterally by the landlord by imposing an improvement if the tenant does not want it. There should be a right of appeal in this cases under the Airports Authority Act.

It was said in another place that because the scheme will be made by the Minister it will be economic and reasonable and that the tenant should not object to it. But there might well be cases in which the tenant would wish to object. He might think that the scheme as applied to his house was excessive. The scheme cannot go into detail as a local authority goes into detail in the case of an improvement grant. The Minister's scheme would be very general. It cannot be said that it is bound to be extremely economical.

It would be improper if a tenant who was stone deaf were forced to have his house soundproofed against his will and to pay a higher rent in consequence solely because the landlord decided that he would like to have it soundproofed as he wanted the higher rent and the house improved. The very least that we should have is an assurance that when the Minister makes his scheme he will include in it the right of a tenant to appeal. If not, I think that these Amendments should not be accepted.

Photo of Mr Roger Cooke Mr Roger Cooke , Twickenham

I should like to ask about the position of tenants whose houses are to be soundproofed. Not very many people in my constituency will be affected, because we are just on the fringe of the area, but we are always hopeful that the area will be extended so that a large number of my constituents might be affected. What will be the position?

As I understand it, a grant will be made to the landlord for soundproofing houses against aircraft noise. Suppose that the landlord does much more than is necessary to keep the rooms reasonably quiet and puts in expensive ventilators, double glazing, and so on. Will the tenant have no right of appeal against the landlord's demand for an increased rent? If so, that seems to me unreasonable. We all know from building costs that one can soundproof a room, to some degree, fairly inexpensively, but to do it properly or completely all sorts of expensive gadgets like ventilators are required. Therefore, the landlord could spend a lot of money on doing the work, far more than he would get under the grant.

I should therefore like to be absolutely clear about the position of the tenant and to ask why he should not have the right of appeal against an excessive charge which a landlord might make for soundproofing the rooms of his house.

Photo of Mr James MacColl Mr James MacColl , Widnes

The procedure for dealing with the grant is laid down in the Airport Authority Act and is not something which I want to discuss here. However, on the general principle of the desirability of these grants, my right hon. Friend feels that it is very desirable that protection should be given from this frightful nuisance of noise.

I could not understand the view of the hon. Member for Hemel Hempstead (Mr. Allason) that we must stop fumes but not stop injury from sound. I should have thought that in the modern world the one was as frightful as the other.

The scheme has to be approved to qualify for grant. If there is a grant, it seems to me to be highly unlikely that a landlord would want to spend an excessive amount of money on doing this, because he does not get the benefit. The persons who get the benefit are the unfortunate people living in the house. Even if some of them are stone deaf, they are not all likely to be stone deaf.

6.30 p.m.

Photo of Mr James Allason Mr James Allason , Hemel Hempstead

Will the hon. Gentleman deal with my point about the deaf tenant?

Photo of Mr James MacColl Mr James MacColl , Widnes

I dealt with it. I said that they would not all be deaf.

Photo of Mr John Boyd-Carpenter Mr John Boyd-Carpenter , Kingston upon Thames

There is a small but difficult point here. I grant that the Joint Parliamentary Secretary has on his side what is, I believe, the normal practice in a number of analogous schemes. On the other hand, it would reassure some of my hon. Friends if it were clear that there would at least be consultation with the tenants before this work was done.

There are really two points. First, a tenant might, for some reason of his own, not wish to have the work done; there would be interference with his comfort while it was being done. Secondly, he might not wish to pay the additional rent which would be involved.

I regard the airports grants scheme as a sensible one and one which helps to meet a real problem. It is quite right that the Government should seek to use another place to get some reference to that Act into the Bill; it would be incomplete without it. I would hope, however, that we could let the matter go if it were possible for an indication to be given that some form of consultation with tenants would be provided for, perhaps in the drafting of the scheme by the Minister of Aviation.

My hon. Friends have made a point which should not be wholly overlooked. There is merit in this even though it may, perhaps, be showing a concern for the tenant as against the landlord which, in view of his speech on the last Amendment, apparently surprised the Minister.

Question put and agreed to.