Clause 37. — (Furnished Houses.)

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

Alert me about debates like this

Lords Amendment No. 27: In page 22, line 33, leave out from "London" to end of line 34, and insert: £350, in the Special Review Areas in England and Wales (as defined by section 17(1)(a) and (2), section 25 and the Third Schedule to the Local Government Act 1958) £200, and elsewhere in Great Britain £150;

Photo of Mr James MacColl Mr James MacColl , Widnes

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

This rather follows the discussion which we had many hours ago about the problem of what should be the appropriate rateable values for unfurnished tenancies. It would not be wise to have different levels of rateable values for furnished and unfurnished tenancies. The Government who passed the 1957 Rent Act, when there were lower rateable value limits, kept them in step. Obviously, if that is not done, there is created a situation whereby people moving from one to the other can affect security of tenure and rents. Therefore, the wise thing to do, having accepted the principle for unfurnished tenancies, is to accept this as being consequential upon that.

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

As the Parliamentary Secretary said, we had some discussion some seven or eight hours ago on the related but distinct question of what should be the rateable values in respect of unfurnished premises. I agree with him that it is probably unfruitful to go over the serious and important arguments which were deployed on that occasion, but I would not like to leave him with the impression that we accept that furnished figures must automatically follow the unfurnished.

The hon. Gentleman cited a precedent, but it was not a precedent which perhaps appeals to right hon. and hon. Gentlemen opposite, considering the things which they say about that piece of benevolent and wise legislation, the Act of 1957. We are here dealing with furnished premises and if furnished and unfurnished are taken at the same rateable value, it is self-evident that there will be higher rents for furnished. Consequently, the Government's decision to take control up to £400 a year rateable value in London provides the most absurd consequences in respect of furnished lettings.

We are here dealing with furnished flats with rateable values of £400 a year which may be let at up to £1,000 a year. We are getting beyond the middle income groups to which so much eloquence was directed earlier. We are getting into the luxury class and this is perhaps literally the reductio ad absurdum of the Minister's proposals.

On that I can only restate our position. We believe that it is unwise and foolish to place on what, for all the Minister's optimism, will be a very heavily burdened administrative system the burden of dealing with disputes affecting people paying these rents and with incomes of this sort. We are quite sure that there is no social justification for doing this and we are quite certain that the effect will be to reduce the quantity of the accommodation, in this case, furnished accommodation, provided to rent. It is very little consolation to a potential tenant to know that he would be able to get premises on reasonable terms if only there were any premises for him to get. But this will be the effect of what the Minister is doing throughout the Bill. It seems to us to be a case of extreme absurdity to carry regulation, in London especially, to include furnished premises with a rateable value of £400 a year carrying the kind of rents which premises of this kind carry in the West End of London.

None of the old disputes and arguments which we have had about rent control bear much on this. This is a case of doctrinaire enthusiasm for restriction and control carried to so extreme a point as perhaps to illuminate very vividly the unfortunate mental attitude which the Government adopt on this issue.

It is useless to expect at this hour that we shall convert the Government to reasonable sanity on this matter. We shall have to leave events to demonstrate to it the truth of what we say. All we are concerned with is to make it clear that

Division No. 276.]AYES[12 m.
Abse, LeoHamilton, James (Bothwell)Noel-Baker, Rt. Hn. Philip (Derby, S.)
Albu, AustenHamling, William (Woolwich, W.)Norwood, Christopher
Allaun, Frank (Salford, E.)Hannan, WilliamOgden, Eric
Alldritt, WalterHarper, JosephO'Malley, Brian
Allen, Scholefield (Crewe)Harrison, Walter (Wakefield)Orbach, Maurice
Armstrong, ErnestHart, Mrs. JudithOrme, Stanley
Atkinson, NormanHattersley, RoyOswald, Thomas
Bacon, Miss AliceHazell, BertPadley, Walter
Bagier, Gordon A. T.Heffer, Eric S.Page, Derek (King's Lynn)
Benn, Rt. Hn. Anthony WedgwoodHerbison, Rt. Hn. MargaretPalmer, Arthur
Bennett, J. (Glasgow, Bridgeton)Hobden, Dennis (Brighton, K'town)Peart, Rt. Hn. Fred
Binns, JohnHolman, PercyPentland, Norman
Bishop, E. S.Horner, JohnPerry, Ernest G.
Boardman, H.Houghton, Rt. Hn. DouglasPopplewell, Ernest
Bowden, Rt. Hn. H. W. (Leics S. W.)Howarth, Robert L. (Bolton, E.)Probert, Arthur
Boyden, JamesHowie, W.Rees, Merlyn
Bradley, TomHughes, Emrys (S. Ayrshire)Rhodes, Geoffrey
Bray, Dr. JeremyHunter, Adam (Dunfermline)Richard, Ivor
Brown, Hugh D. (Glasgow, Provan)Hynd, H. (Accrington)Roberts, Albert (Normanton)
Brown, R. W. (Shoreditch & Fbury)Hynd, John (Attercliffe)Roberts, Goronwy (Caernarvon)
Buchanan, RichardIrving, Sydney (Dartford)Rogers, George (Kensington, N.)
Butler, Mrs. Joyce (Wood Green)Jay, Rt. Hn. DouglasRose, Paul B.
Callaghan, Rt. Hn. JamesJeger, George (Goole)Ross, Rt. Hn. William
Carter-Jones, LewisJeger, Mrs. Lena (H'b'n & St. P'cras, S.)Shore, Peter (Stepney)
Coleman, DonaldJohnson, Carol (Lewisham, S.)Short, Rt. Hn. E. (N'c'tle-on-Tyne, C.)
Conlan, BernardJohnson, James (K'ston-on-Hull, W.)Short, Mrs. Renée (W'hampton, N. E.)
Corbet, Mrs. FredaJohnston, Russell (Inverness)Silkin, John (Deptford)
Crawshaw, RichardJones, Dan (Burnley)Silkin, S. C. (Camberwell, Dulwich)
Crosland, Rt. Hn. AnthonyJones, J. Idwal (Wrexham)Silverman, Julius (Aston)
Crossman, Rt. Hn. R. H. S.Jones, T. W. (Merioneth)Skeffington, Arthur
Cullen, Mrs. AliceKelley, RichardSlater, Mrs. Harriet (Stoke, N.)
Dalyell, TamKerr, Mrs. Anne (R'ter & Chatham)Slater, Joseph (Sedgefield)
Davies, G. Elfed (Rhondda, E.)Kerr, Dr. David (W'worth, Central)Small, William
Davies, Harold (Leek)Leadbitter, TedSteel, David (Roxburgh)
Davies, S. O. (Merthyr)Lee, Miss Jennie (Cannock)Summerskill, Hn. Dr. Shirley
Delargy, HughLever, Harold (Cheetham)Swain, Thomas
Dell, EdmundLewis, Arthur (West Ham, N.)Symonds, J. B.
Dempsey, JamesLomas, KennethThomas, George (Cardiff, W.)
Diamond, Rt. Hn. JohnLoughlin, CharlesThomas, Iorwerth (Rhondda, W.)
Doig, PeterLubbock, EricThomson, George (Dundee, E.)
Driberg, TomMabon, Dr. J. DicksonTinn, James
Duffy, Dr. A. E. P.McBride, NeilTomney, Frank
Dunnett, JackMcCann, J.Tuck, Raphael
Edelman, MauriceMacColl, JamesUrwin, T. W.
Edwards, Robert (Bilston)McGuire, MichaelWainwright, Edwin
English, MichaelMcKay, Mrs. MargaretWalden, Brian (All Saints)
Ennals, DavidMacMillan, MalcolmWalker, Harold (Doncaster)
Ensor, DavidMacPherson, MalcolmWallace, George
Finch, Harold (Bedwellty)Mallalieu, J. P. W. (Huddersfield, E.)Warbey, William
Fletcher, Ted (Darlington)Manuel, ArchieWeitzman, David
Fletcher, Raymond (Ilkeston)Mapp, CharlesWells, William (Walsall, N.)
Floud, BernardMason, RoyWhite, Mrs. Eirene
Foley, MauriceMayhew, ChristopherWhitlock, William
Foot, Sir Dingle (Ipswich)Mellish, RobertWigg, Rt. Hn. George
Foot, Michael (Ebbw Vale)Mendelson, J. J.Wilkins, W. A.
Ford, BenMillan, BruceWilliams, Alan (Swansea, W.)
Galpern, Sir MyerMiller, Dr. M. S.Williams, Mrs. Shirley (Hitchin)
Garrett, W. E.Milne, Edward (Blyth)Williams, W. T. (Warrington)
Garrow, AlexMolloy, WilliamWillis, George (Edinburgh, E.)
Gourlay, HarryMorris, Charles (Openshaw)Wilson, William (Coventry, S.)
Grey, CharlesMorris, John (Aberavon)Winterbottom, R. E.
Griffiths, David (Rother Valley)Mulley, Rt. Hn. Frederick (Sheffield Pk)Woof, Robert
Griffiths, Will (M'chester, Exchange)Murray, AlbertTELLERS FOR THE AYES:
Hale, LeslieNoel-Baker, Francis (Swindon)Mr. Ifor Davies and Mr. Alan Fitch.
NOES
Agnew, Commander Sir PeterAstor, JohnBalniel, Lord
Alison, Michael (Barkston Ash)Atkins, HumphreyBatsford, Brian
Allason, James (Hemel Hempstead)Awdry, DanielBennett, Sir Frederic (Torquay)

we have no part in this by recording our disapproval in the Lobby.

Question put, That this House doth disagree with the Lords in the said Amendment:—

The House divided: Ayes 190, Noes 153.

Bennett, Dr. Reginald (Gos. & Fhm)Grant, AnthonyMurton, Oscar
Berry, Hn. AnthonyGrant-Ferris, R.Neave, Airey
Biggs-Davison, JohnGresham Cooke, R.Onslow, Cranley
Bingham, R. M.Harris, Reader (Heston)Orr-Ewing, Sir Ian
Birch, Rt. Hn. NigelHarrison, Col. Sir Harwood (Eye)Page, John (Harrow, W.)
Black, Sir CyrilHastings, StephenPage, R. Graham (Crosby)
Blaker, PeterHay, JohnPeel, John
Box, DonaldHeald, Rt. Hn. Sir LionelPercival, Ian
Boyd-Carpenter, Rt. Hn. J.Hendry, ForbesPitt, Dame Edith
Boyle, Rt. Hn. Sir EdwardHiley, JosephPowell, Rt. Hn. J. Enoch
Braine, BernardHill, J. E. B. (S. Norfolk)Prior, J. M. L.
Brinton, Sir TattonHirst, GeoffreyQuennell, Miss J. M.
Brooke, Rt. Hn. HenryHobson, Rt. Hn. Sir JohnRawlinson, Rt. Hn. Sir Peter
Brown, Sir Edward (Bath)Hogg, Rt. Hn. QuintinRees-Davies, W. R.
Bruce-Gardyne, J.Hordern, PeterRoots, William
Buck, AntonyHornby, RichardRoyle, Anthony
Buxton, RonaldHowe, Geoffrey (Bebington)Russell, Sir Ronald
Carlisle, MarkHunt, John (Bromley)St. John-Stevas, Norman
Carr, Rt. Hn. RobertIremonger, T. L.Scott-Hopkins, James
Chataway, ChristopherJones, Arthur (Northants, S.)Sharples, Richard
Chichester-Clark, R.Joseph, Rt. Hn. Sir KeithShepherd, William
Clark, William (Nottingham, S.)Kilfedder, James A.Stainton, Keith
Cooke, RobertKing, Evelyn (Dorset, S.)Stanley, Hn. Richard
Cooper, A. E.Kirk, PeterStudholme, Sir Henry
Cooper-Key, Sir NeillKitson, TimothyTalbot, John E.
Costain, A. P.Lambton, ViscountTaylor, Edward M. (G'gow, Cathcart)
Courtney, Cdr. AnthonyLangford-Holt, Sir JohnTaylor, Frank (Moss Side)
Crawley, AidanLewis, Kenneth (Rutland)Teeling, Sir William
Crosthwaite-Eyre, Col. Sir OliverLitchfield, Capt. JohnThatcher, Mrs. Margaret
Curran, CharlesLloyd, Ian (P'tsm'th, Langstone)Thomas, Rt. Hn. Peter (Conway)
d'Avigdor-Goldsmid, Sir HenryLongbottom, CharlesThompson, Sir Richard (Croydon, S.)
Deedes, Rt. Hn. W. F.Longden, Gilbertvan Straubenzee, W. R.
Dodds-Parker, DouglasLoveys, W. H.Vaughan-Morgan, Rt. Hn. Sir John
Eden, Sir JohnMacArthur, IanWalker, Peter (Worcester)
Elliot, Capt. Walter (Carshalton)McLaren, MartinWalker-Smith, Rt. Hn. Sir Derek
Elliott, R. W. (N'c'tle-upon-Tyne, N.)McNair-Wilson, PatrickWall, Patrick
Eyre, ReginaldMarten, NeilWalters, Dennis
Farr, JohnMathew, RobertWard, Dame Irene
Fisher, NigelMaude, AngusWeatherill, Bernard
Fletcher-Cooke, Charles (Darwen)Mawby, RayWebster, David
Fletcher-Cooke, Sir John (S'pton)Maxwell-Hyslop, R. J.Wells, John (Maidstone)
Foster, Sir JohnMaydon, Lt.-Cmdr. S. L. C.Whitelaw, William
Fraser, Rt. Hn. Hugh (St'fford & Stone)Meyer, Sir AnthonyWilson, Geoffrey (Truro)
Fraser, Ian (Plymouth, Sutton)Mills, Peter (Torrington)Wolrige-Gordon, Patrick
Gammans, LadyMitchell, DavidWoodnutt, Mark
Gibson-Watt, DavidMonro, HectorYates, William (The Wrekin)
Gilmour, Ian (Norfolk, Central)More, JasperTELLERS FOR THE NOES:
Godber, Rt. Hn. J. B.Mott-Radclyffe, Sir CharlesMr. Francis Pym and
Goodhew, VictorMunro-Lucas-Tooth, Sir HughMr. Dudley Smith.

Lords Amendment No. 28: In page 23, line 33, leave out subsection (6).

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.

I think we might discuss the next Lords Amendment with this one, in page 24, line 26, at end insert: () No right to occupy a house or part of a house for a holiday shall be treated for the purposes of the Act of 1946 as a right to occupy it as a residence. This Lords Amendment is to clear up a difficulty which arose over my accepting an Amendment on Report here. Probably, I would have been wise not to have accepted it in the form in which it appeared. The proposal was that the 1946 Act, that is, the Furnished Houses (Rent Control) Act, should be amended so that the word "ordinary" should appear before the word "residence" in the definition.

The object of that, which was described by the hon. Member for Crosby (Mr. Graham Page) as "the seaside landladies charter", was to deal with what had been a theme of many of our debates in Committee, the difficulties which were thought to arise in landladies' getting rid of people in winter lettings before the summer lettings—in time for the holiday lettings in the summer. The complaint was that they would have to go, possibly, to a tribunal, and that there would be delay. Therefore, the suggestion was made by the hon. Gentleman the Member for Crosby that we should put in the word "ordinary" so as to make it clear that people who already had another home would not come within the protection of the 1946 Act.

When this was looked at in the cold light of day it was clear that this would go further than was, I think, the intention of anyone at the time the Amendment was passed. It would, for example, cover students' digs, and I think it would be very unwise indeed to exempt young people who, in some cases, can be subject to exploitation and do require some protection. I do not think anybody's idea was that they should not have protection. The whole object was to find a way in which landladies who let holiday lettings should be given free access to their own rooms.

Therefore, in another place, after some discussion, it was agreed to make this alteration. This does quite clearly and specifically refer to holidays, and it does make it precisely what the hon. Gentleman the Member for Crosby said: it does make it a seaside landladies' charter. Therefore I hope the House will agree with the Lords Amendment.

Photo of Mr Robert Cooke Mr Robert Cooke , Bristol West

I am not entirely satisfied with what the Minister has said. I wish to question the Government on this matter of the persons other than the seaside landladies, that is, the landladies who take in students in a university town. A great number of these people are very worried, and they were very worried when the Bill was produced, and what the Minister has said now does not entirely satisfy me. He is suggesting by the latter of these two Lords Amendments that seaside landladies will be looked after, but he is taking subsection (6) out of the Clause, which was going to help my landladies. I see my hon. Friend the Member for Crosby (Mr. Graham Page) nodding his assent. I much value his support in this, and I assume that we are right. If we did not accept Lords Amendment No. 28, and left in subsection (6), my landladies would be protected, but under the Government's proposals they would not be.

Photo of Mr Julius Silverman Mr Julius Silverman , Birmingham Aston

Surely these students are not tenants in a sense?

12.15 a.m.

Photo of Mr Robert Cooke Mr Robert Cooke , Bristol West

That is for the Government to declare beyond any doubt, because I have had many letters about this and I am not satisfied that the Government are aware of this problem, or that they care very much about it. The Minister certainly seemed to think that they should not be included.

A student may be in lodgings. Perhaps he wants to get married and the landlady is very helpful about that and says, "You can come here when you are married". He and his wife might both be students. They might start having children and the landlady might again be most helpful about that. [Laughter.] Landladies are most versatile and helpful people, but they should not be allowed to be exploited by people by virtue of some squalid Act of Parliament. Many of the Acts passed by this Government are somewhat squalid in part, and this Bill may have the unfortunate effect of enabling unscrupulous people to go on presuming on the kindness of their landladies indefinitely and become protected tenants.

The other point, and this is a very valid one, is that there are many people in Bristol—and no one can challenge this—who are unwilling to let students into their houses as lodgers because they fear that they will be stuck with them for good, and I think that the Minister ought to explain to me and to the House how these landladies are to be protected if we agree to Lords Amendment No. 28.

Photo of Mr Peter Blaker Mr Peter Blaker , Blackpool South

I am dissatisfied with the Government's stand on this issue. Just over an hour ago the Under-Secretary of State for Scotland referred to the Government as one which kept their promises. If he had known at that time what the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Housing and Local Government was going to say on this issue, I think that he might have phrased that sentence differently.

There is no doubt that on Report the Parliamentary Secretary declared in explicit terms that he accepted the insertion of subsection (6) which had been proposed by my hon. Friend the Member for Crosby (Mr. Graham Page). When the Bill was considered in another place the Government reversed their position on that and put forward an Amendment to delete the subsection and to add what is now Lords Amendment No. 29. I welcome this Amendment, so far as it goes, as I have spoken a number of times about the importance of safeguarding holiday lettings, but that is only part of the question.

When my hon. Friend the Member for Crosby introduced subsection (6) he referred to it as a landladies' charter, but he made it clear that it did not refer only to holiday lettings. He made it clear that it applied to other types of tenancy as well. Indeed, it was hardly necessary for him to do that, because it should have been, and was, clear to anybody reading the Amendment that it must extend to other types of letting.

As my hon. Friend pointed out, and as the Parliamentary Secretary himself said, one such category is students, but the effect is not to leave all students out of protection. It is to leave out only those students who have an ordinary residence elsewhere.

When the Government accepted the Amendment embodied in subsection (6), they were acting entirely consistently with the broad approach that they have taken to the Bill. They have made it quite clear in discussions that the object of the Bill is to safeguard tenants in their homes, and that is very nearly the same thing as tenants in their ordinary residences. The test of ordinary residence is a perfectly practical and workable test for the courts to apply.

On the Report stage, the hon. Gentleman accepted the Amendment without any ifs or buts. He did not say: "I accept the object of exempting holiday lettings, and I will produce words to meet it." He said: "We will accept the Amendment." I hope that the Minister himself has looked at the words that his hon. Friend used in accepting the Amendment.

The argument in another place turned on what exactly was in the hon. Gentleman's mind in accepting the Amendment, and, after a long and fairly inconclusive discussion, the other place agreed to leave it to this House to decide what was intended and agreed upon here. For the purposes of our debate, what should be relevant is not what was in the hon. Gentleman's mind. What should be relevant is what he said. He was quite explicit. But if we are to consider what was in his mind, there are two possibilities. I was not clear from what he said in his few remarks which of those alternatives was true. One alternative is that he did not realise what he was doing in accepting the Amendment.

I should be grateful if the hon. Gentleman and his right hon. and hon. Friends on the Government Front Bench would pay attention to the point that I am trying to make. It is fair to ask, if he did not realise what he was doing in accepting the Amendment, why not? He says that when he came to look at it in the cold light of day, he realised that it did something else. But had he not looked at it before, and had he not had the advice of his very competent officials on it? The answer is that he should have known what he was doing. If we have reached the point where one of the functions of the Opposition is to make sure in future that the Government realise what they are doing, our debates will take even longer than they do already.

The other alternative is that he did realise what he was doing, but that he has had second thoughts. As I say, to accept the word "ordinary" was perfectly consistent with the attitude that the Government have taken, and I hope that they will reconsider their position.

We have had many cases recently of the Government having second thoughts, but most of the time they have been second thoughts about their own election promises, and many of us think that they are good second thoughts compared with their promises. But if they are to start having second thoughts about Amendments proposed by the Opposition which have been accepted by the Government, our procedure will become even more complicated.

I have made it clear already that the present Amendment is in a special category. It is not one to which the other place is attaching weight. It is one on which the other place has left it to this House to try and sort out what was intended and agreed when it was considered on Report. My view is that there is no doubt at all what was intended and agreed at that time.

Photo of Mr Alexander Hendry Mr Alexander Hendry , Aberdeenshire West

I ask the Government to reconsider their attitude from the point of view of the subject raised by my hon. Friend the Member for Bristol, West (Mr. Robert Cooke), who spoke about students' lodgings. The question was raised whether students' lodgings were lettings. As the Under-Secretary of State for Scotland well knows, in Scottish university towns the practice has grown up of landladies letting premises to students in term time not in the form of lodgings but in exactly the same way as they let premises in the summer period to holiday visitors. I have a great many letters from landladies in at least three Scottish university cities where this practice is common; in Edinburgh, St. Andrew's, and Aberdeen, and these ladies are concerned about this particular subsection. This is most important to these ladies in these cities and I would ask the Government, who I think are trying to avoid hardship and injustice, to remember these estimable ladies doing this business of public concern as part of their livelihood.

Photo of Mr Mark Carlisle Mr Mark Carlisle , Runcorn

I shall be very brief, but I recall that the Joint Parliamentary Secretary said earlier that this would cover other lettings than seaside landladies' lettings, and, during the Committee stage, said that he accepted it as the landladies' charter. Could he now say if it would cover the type of case which I have in mind? During the Committee stage two points were made about holiday lettings. There may be the case in the middle of August of a person staying on and ruining another holiday booking; but there is also the case of a house let for two or three months outside the holiday period to a person who, instead of leaving at, say, the beginning of May, stays on and so affects the bookings of people still to come.

It is rather surprising that these words should be used in view of all the comments which have been made earlier; for if one looks at the proposed new subsection it is stated that occupation of a house or part of a house for a holiday shall not … be treated for the purpose of the Act of 1946 as a right to occupy it as a residence. Is the Parliamentary Secretary satisfied that this covers the case where somebody takes a holiday house, as such, but not for a holiday but for some other purpose? Let us say, an artist who takes a house in Cornwall, or an author who says, "I will take a 'holiday house' but not for the purposes of a holiday". Does this proposed subsection meet the point which has been raised by my hon. Friend the Member for Crosby (Mr. Graham Page)? I ask that because, unless it is shown that the house is taken for the purposes of a holiday, would the tenant have the security under the Furnished Houses (Rent Control) Act?

This Amendment, I suggest, meets only half the problem. It does not meet the point of a letting to somebody who arrives for other than a holiday.

Photo of Mr Hugh Wilson Mr Hugh Wilson , Truro

I want to emphasise what my hon. Friend has just said, because it is a point worrying people in my constituency and in other parts of Cornwall. I do not contemplate difficulties about the person who stays after his holiday booking, but it is normal practice for holiday bungalows to be let during the winter months at a much lower rent than in the summer holiday period; and, what the owners are afraid of is that the person who takes on such a place will stay and spoil the letting of the summer period.

I am not clear from what has been said as to whether the Amendment from the other place will cover this point or not. Not only in my own constituency, but in other parts of Cornwall, people rightly say they should have reasonable opportunities for letting in the summer months. Widows and other people of limited means often own these bungalows as investments and they are willing to let them at low rents during the winter providing they can get a decent, reasonable, rent during the summer. Could the Parliamentary Secretary tell us what is the position under this Amendment?

12.30 a.m.

Photo of Mr Graham Page Mr Graham Page , Crosby

It is quite preposterous that an Amendment that was willingly accepted in this House, without even allowing the Opposition an opportunity to put on the record arguments in favour of it—

Photo of Mr Richard Crossman Mr Richard Crossman , Coventry East

After the hon. Gentleman had finished his speech.

Photo of Mr Graham Page Mr Graham Page , Crosby

My colleagues behind me might have wished to put further arguments on the record to explain the Amendment fully. Instead, it is set aside by the Government in another place. As a result, our intentions with regard to it, and particularly my own intentions, suffered a sort of psychiatric examination in another place in absentia. Had it been carried by a Division in this House against the Government it would have been quite a different matter; one might then have expected that in another place they would have tried to reverse that decision. But it was accepted here, and it is shocking that the Government should in another place remove it, and then come back here and seek to justify that action.

As I understand it, the Government want to remove the subsection in order to give protection to students. That is the only argument put forward in favour of removing a subsection which the Government accepted in this House in the earlier stages. Are students protected now? Do they get the protection of the 1946 Act? Are they resident? Have they been given a contract to occupy premises as residents? That is the basis of the protection under the Furnished Houses (Rent Control) Act, 1946; that there is a contract to occupy premises as the residence.

I know that the phrase to be "in residence" has a special meaning in the universities, and does not mean living in lodgings outside a college. Are we to apply that sort of rule here? Is it really the intention of the Government to permit a student who, perhaps, has finished his university career—perhaps has even been sent down—to go to the furnished houses rent tribunal and demand security of tenure? Is that the intention? The student is to be given the right—this is what the Government want to do, we are told, by removing this subsection—to go to the furnished houses rent tribunal when he has finished his university career or has been sent down by the university, and claim security of tenure. That seems to be the only argument put forward in favour of removing this subsection.

This was a perfectly simple way of correcting the 1946 Act, and making certain that it did only what the Minister said it did. The Minister assured us in Committee that lettings like this were not lettings for the purpose of residence

"D.—(1) Where a person who has occupied a dwelling as a residence (in this section referred to as the owner-occupier) has, by virtue of a contract to which the Act of 1946 applies, granted the right to occupy the dwelling to another person and—
(a) he has given notice in writing to that person, at or before the time when the right was granted (or, if it was granted before the commencement of this Act, not later than six months after the commencement of this Act) that he is the owner-occupier within the meaning of this section; and
(b) if the dwelling is part of a house, he does not occupy any other part of the house as his residence;
section 5 of the Act of 1946 and section 11 of the Act of 1949 shall not apply to a notice to quit the dwelling, if at the time the notice is to take effect the dwelling is required as a residence for the owner-occupier or any member of his family who resided with him when he last occupied the dwelling as a residence.
(2) In this section 'the Act of 1946' means the Furnished Houses (Rent Control) Act 1946; and the Act of 1949' means the Landlord and Tenant (Rent Control) Act 1949.
(3) In the application of this section to Scotland for any reference to the Act of 1946 or section 5 thereof there shall be substituted respectively a reference to the Rent of Furnished Houses Control (Scotland) Act 1943 and to that Act as read with section 17(7) of the Act of 1949."
Read a Second time.

—I do not have his words in front of me, so I may be paraphrasing them. He assured us that those who occupied rooms when they had an ordinary residence which elsewhere would not be protected by the 1946 Act. There are those students, and that is their position. Now, it is suggested that the protection can be given to the student by removing the subsection.

I very much doubt whether the Government will achieve their object by this removal. Were the subsection left in the Bill, it would make perfectly clear that anybody taking premises, and entering into a contract to occupy premises as residents when they had an ordinary residence elsewhere should not be able to claim the benefit of the 1946 Act, go to the rent tribunal and get security of tenure or get the rent lowered.

This is a case where the Government should stand by what they did in an earlier stage of the Bill and not try to correct what they think was their mistake but what in fact was a very wise decision.

Question put and agreed to.

Subsequent Lords Amendment agreed to.