Clause 20. — (Operation of Part Ii.)

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. 16: In page 13, line 43, at end insert and, in England and Wales, for different parts of a registration area.

Photo of Mr Richard Crossman Mr Richard Crossman , Coventry East

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

I think that the Amendment will commend itself to the House. It is simply to ensure that Part II of the Bill can be introduced more speedily than was possible under the form which we had in the original Bill. I will give just one example. If we find, as well we might, that in a large county there is one area where we cannot find the right rent officer, we would not like to hold up the introduction of the machinery of rent officers and rent assessment committees in the rest of the county. The Amendment provides the requisite degree of flexibility and I am sure that it will commend itself to the Opposition.

Photo of Mr Teddy Taylor Mr Teddy Taylor , Glasgow Cathcart

I should like briefly to put a point concerning the Amendment on which I should like clarification from the Minister. Under the Amendment, it is suggested that we should be able to bring this arrangement into operation for different parts of a registration area in England and Wales. It would appear that there is no similar provision for Scotland, and I should like to know why.

This is not a foolish argument. Many of our registration areas in Scotland, where registration areas are the large burghs or the counties including small burghs in each of them, can be substantial in size. Not only that, but communications in these areas can be difficult. To that extent, equally serious problems could be involved as could arise in counties in England and Wales. In certain cases, the problems that arise could be much more serious. I suggest, therefore, that it is wrong to bring forward the Amendment without also covering the position in Scotland, where the problems could be the same or even greater.

I should like the Minister to explain why Scotland was singled out for not getting the consideration which is being given to England and Wales. This is no laughing matter. If the proposed advantage to England and Wales is a serious one, why should not a similar advantage come to Scotland? Will the Minister explain why the Government appear to regard the problems which are dealt with in the Amendment as being less serious in Scotland when, in some cases, they could be more serious? I hope that I will get a short but serious answer from the Minister.

11.0 p.m.

Photo of Dr Dickson Mabon Dr Dickson Mabon , Greenock

I will try to give a very short answer which I hope will be considered serious. If the hon. Member will read Clause 23, and recall the debate we had in Committee, which I am sure he has now read, he will see that the organisation of the rent officer service in Scotland is quite different from that in England. It is more centralised in Scotland. The Secretary of State is taking power which is quite exceptional compared with that of the Minister of Housing, because of this high centralisation, and the fact that the distribution of the houses affected is rather unusual, in the context of the geography of Scotland, where there is not the scattering of houses affected as there is in the larger area of England with its large population, compared with ours in Scotland, where we have a comparatively small population concentrated in a very small part: I think 80 per cent. of us are living in central Scotland.

Considering the geography of the matter, and the situation of the houses affected, it was considered that it would not be wise to have sub-division of this kind. The Secretary of State has, in anticipation, already taken advice about this, with a view to the future. I can assure the hon. Gentleman that in fact this suggestion from another place is a very welcome one, but I can assure him that we do not need it in Scotland. If we did, I can assure him that the present Secretary of State would have pressed very much for a similar provision for Scotland. I hope that the hon. Gentleman will be satisfied with my assurance that we do not need this, on two grounds, first, that of geography, and secondly, that we have the rent officer service centralised in Scotland.

Question put and agreed to.