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The Bill is crucial to many of our constituents because it removes protection in the private rented sector. Anyone who becomes a private tenant will be subject to market rents and his security of tenure will be limited. Obviously, we must be concerned about that. It is a crooked system. There is no other way to describe a system under which anyone who abstains is counted as being in favour of his accommodation being taken over by the private sector. Private landlords, even though they will be approved—for what that is worth—can take over any accommodation in our constituencies. There is no way that the local authority can say no. That is why there is so much anxiety.
It is only because of pressure throughout the country and the way that the tenants affected by the housing action trusts made clear their strong opposition that even this Government were forced to listen and, hence, there will be some sort of vote. But why was that not suggested in the first place? Why should those tenants have their properties taken over by quangos and then, in turn, by the private sector, without them being given any vote? So much for a Government who talk about democracy.
All those matters require as much debate as possible because they are crucial to our constituents. Quite a number of Conservative right hon. and hon. Members have vested interests in the Bill and are likely to profit from it. It would be interesting if they were to declare their interests before going into the Lobby.
Someone outside this House—he is not a Tory—has said that he is in favour of the Bill. I refer to Mr. Hoogstraten, one of the most notorious landlords in this country. He is a notorious crook who has been in prison. On a recent television programme he described his tenants as scumbags. There is no lesson that Rachman could have taught that man. When he was asked what he thought of the Bill, he said that it was a step in the right direction. The Bill is a step in the direction for every crook, for every unscrupulous person in the property market, for everyone who wants to make a fast buck and for everyone who wants to create misery and hardship. The Bill represents an advance for such people and they want it on the statute book.
I was a councillor in Brent when the Rent Act 1957 was put on the statute book. Despite all the housing problems there, we, the Labour-controlled council, took upon ourselves the added responsibility of rehousing people who were evicted lawfully under that legislation. All our predecessors' warnings about what would happen, the insecurity and exploitation turned out to be right. They knew what they were talking about. Rachman was not known in 1957, but by 1961 his name was known the length and breadth of the country. We warn today that there will be other Rachmans and Hoogstratens who recognise not only the sums that can be made from new lettings at a market rent, but the danger of private tenants who have protection. There will be every incentive for unscrupulous gangster landlords to get those tenants out because, when the accommodation becomes vacant, it can be relet at market rents.
The Bill is a disgrace. It will not do anything for the homeless, our constituents or young married couples who are desperate for accommodation but cannot afford a mortgage and live either in a rented room or with their in-laws. It will not help people in hardship. As my hon. Friend the Member for Newham, North-West (Mr. Banks) said, there is not a Member of Parliament who does not have adequate housing. I have adequate accommodation and not one of us can claim housing hardship. Surely our constituents have as much right to it. That is why we oppose the Bill. It will not help them and in many ways it will make their position worse. It is a disgrace.
The Prime Minister goes to Poland and lectures the leadership there. If there is any lecturing to be done, it can come from people like us rather than from her. Time and again she uses the guillotine to ensure that Bills such as this are not adequately debated. The guillotine will fall on Friday or Monday and debates will be restricted on clauses which are of the utmost concern to our constituents.
The Bill is a disgrace and its handling has been a disgrace. We shall continue to fight it before and after it goes on the statute book. It is like the Tory 1957 Act. It is ammunition for gangsters and racketeers, and it is wholly opposed to everything that we believe in.
My hon. Friends may not be aware that when the 1957 Act was being repealed by the Labour Government who came to office in 1964—we promised to repeal it during the election—the Tory Opposition did not vote against the Labour legislation. The time will come when we form a Government and repeal this obnoxious legislation which will be so discredited that the Tory Opposition will do precisely the same. They will not vote against the legislation because we shall have been proved right, as our predecessors were 30 years ago.