HC Deb 27 March 1957 vol 567 cc1203-62
Mr. H. Brooke

I beg to move, in page 18, line 31, at the end to insert: (3) An election under this paragraph shall not have effect if the tenant dissents from it in writing within one month of the service on the tenant of the notice under the foregoing subparagraph; but if the tenant duly dissents the First Schedule to the Act of 1933 shall thereafter have effect in relation to the dwelling as if the grounds for possession specified in paragraph (a) thereof included the ground that the tenant has failed to keep the dwelling in a reasonable state of internal decorative repair, having due regard to its age, character and locality. Hon. Members will remember that we had a spot of bother in Committee about the choice of wallpaper, and the purpose of this Amendment, which I hope will be acceptable to hon. Members on both sides, is to try to clear up that problem. The difficulty arises where there is uncertainty whether landlord or tenant is responsible for internal decorative repairs. The Bill as it stands gives the landlord a power to elect to undertake that responsibility, and to receive the higher rent in consequence.

The hon. Member for Widnes (Mr. MacColl)—I am sorry he is not in his place—asked whether it was not unfair that the tenant should have no power to withhold consent to the landlord's election. My hon. Friend the Member for Crosby (Mr. Page) suggested that if a tenant refused consent to a landlord's election, but undertook this responsibility, the tenant should thereupon be made responsible for keeping the house in good internal decorative repair. I looked into that suggestion, but it is not a possible method of proceeding, because no landlord could, by virtue of the Bill, be put under a legal liability to do repairs which are assumed to be his responsibility for the purposes of the rent provisions of the Bill.

The Amendment provides, not that a tenant's consent is necessary to the election—which was the point which the hon. Member for Widnes urged—but rather that an election by the landlord can be rendered void if the tenant dissents in writing within one month of receiving notice of the election from his landlord. If the tenant does this, and then does not keep the house in good decorative repair, there clearly must be some sanction. By the Amendment it will become a ground on which the landlord will be able to apply to the court for an order for possession, which the court will be able to grant under the Rent Acts if it finds it reasonable so to do.

It is quite necessary, I think, to give some such remedy to the landlord. Otherwise, although a house is not kept in good internal decorative repair the landlord will be debarred from receiving a rent that will enable him to take that financial responsibility on his own shoulders. A good tenant, of course, has nothing at all to fear. A bad tenant might dissent from the landlord's election merely in order to escape a rent increase, and with no intention of doing anything about internal decorative repairs.

6.15 p.m.

The notice of the election which I will prescribe will contain information making it perfectly clear to the tenant what his position will be if he dissents, and what it will be if he does not. I have sought to solve what was recognised to be a difficulty by both sides during the Committee stage. I trust that I have done it in a manner that will solve the crucial problem here, which is how to fix on one party or the other the responsibility for internal decorative repairs, and make the rent vary accordingly.

Mr. James H. Hoy (Leith)

Before the right hon. Gentleman concludes, will he tell us if this new provision would be applicable to Scotland as well as to England and Wales?

Mr. Brooke

I apologise for not having informed the House of that. It would not apply to Scotland.

Mr. J. Silverman

We on this side of the House regard the Amendment as completely outrageous. In substance, it means that where an election is made in these circumstances and the tenant does not paper the walls or put paint on a particular part of the house, the landlord can take him to the county court and get him evicted. I want to point out the completely different way in which the landlord and the tenant are treated by this Schedule. If the landlord does not do repairs, what happens? Every method of procrastination is provided for him. There is six months' notice; three weeks for one form and three weeks for another —every device for delay and evasion is provided for the landlord.

On the other hand, a tenant who does not fulfil what is, in any case, a doubtful contractual obligation, and who does not put paper on the walls, can be taken to court and evicted. It is a thoroughly outrageous proposition, which proves that this is a landlords' Bill, introduced by a landlords' Government. The difference between the treatment of the landlord and of the tenant over internal repairs and decoration is so obvious that I hope that my hon. Friends will vote against the Amendment.

We agree with the principle of election, and I should have thought that if there is no compulsion upon the landlord to do the repairs that is a sufficient sanction; but this Draconic sanction of turning the tenant out if he does not paper the walls is thoroughly bad.

Mr. Page

When we were in Committee, hon. Members opposite wanted the tenants to be able to prevent the landlords from electing to do internal decorative repairs. They wanted the tenants to be able to say to the landlords, "You shall not do internal repairs." Their argument in support of that was the tenants might like to do their own internal decorative repairs. I see that, after ten columns of debate, in six lines I suggested a solution to this problem. I said: May I offer a solution? If the tenant refuses to allow the landlord to elect to do the internal decorative repairs, I think that the tenant ought then to be prepared to take on liability for those repairs."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, Standing Committee A, 6th March, 1957; c. 1171.] That seems to be a perfectly reasonable proposition. If the tenant will not allow his landlord to do those internal decorative repairs, then he ought to take on the liability for them himself.

My right hon. Friend in introducing the Amendment has said that he could not accept my suggestion. I am very grateful to him, for he has accepted it in toto. He has accepted exactly what I intended to say in that offer of a solution. He has thrown the liability for internal decorative repairs on to the tenant who prevents his landlord from doing them. In my judgment, that is the right and proper course, and I therefore support the Amendment.

Mr. Mitchison

I have no objection whatever to the first sentence of the Amendment down to the words "the foregoing sub-paragraph." If the right hon. Gentleman chooses to taunt me and say that we ought to have put down an Amendment to leave out "but if the tenant" and so on, I can only reply that to err is human, and in this case we have erred. We ought to have put down such an Amendment, but I do not believe that the right hon. Gentleman or any responsible Minister would desire to take a point of that sort. If he really believes that the provision is wrong, I hope he will take steps to withdraw it.

In the first place, one ought in a Bill of this kind to be very slow to add any further grounds for eviction. In the second place, it seems quite obvious that this provision is open, I will not say to abuse, but to use of which I feel everybody in the House will disapprove. For instance, let me take the ordinary common example in which the landlord is responsible for external repairs and the tenant for internal repairs, which is the one we must particularly have in mind. The landlord realises that he has only to serve a notice of election, when one of two things will happen: either he will get an additional rent or else, for no reason whatever relating to the original contract, he will get an additional ground for turning out the tenant. This is plainly very unfair.

Mr. Page

If the landlord is getting additional rent, he will get the additional liability for doing those internal decorative repairs, and the tenant can prevent him having that additional rent by applying for a certificate of disrepair.

Mr. Mitchison

I am afraid it takes a little time to make the hon. Member for Crosby (Mr. Page) understand, but perhaps I did not express myself clearly. I will say it again. Take the ordinary case in which the landlord is responsible for external repairs and the tenant for internal repairs. If the landlord serves a notice of election, one of two things will happen: either he will get some additional rent for assuming a liability which I thought that the hon. Member for Crosby and I both thought was not the sort of liability he ought to assume without the tenant's agreement, or, if he does not do that, he will get an additional ground for turning out the tenant. Previously, he could not have turned him out for lack of internal decorative repairs, since the tenant had no obligation to him with regard to internal decorative repairs.

What the Amendment does is to provide an additional ground by which, for no good reason and beyond the terms of the agreement between the parties, the landlord is given an additional ground to evict the tenant. Really, that seems to me, quite simply, to be most unfair, and I am sure that if the right hon. Gentleman and his right hon. Friends would think about it they would see that it was unfair.

By far the simplest thing to do, and the right thing to do, is not to allow the landlord to make the election at all except with the tenant's consent. It is much the simplest plan. I say, quite honestly and without bitterness, but with complete conviction, that this really is very unfair to the tenant, and I do not believe that the right hon. Gentleman has looked at it in this way. I hope that he will tell the House that he will look at it again and reconsider this aspect of the matter which I have put to him.

Mr. Hay

Before coming to a decision that the Amendment is unfair, the House ought to look at the other side of the picture. An election can be made only under Part I of the First Schedule in respect of internal decorative repair if the landlord is already, under contract, liable to do internal decorative repair or, secondly, if, neither party being liable for it, he chooses to become so responsible. It is with the second case that we are particularly concerned. Where the landlord chooses to undertake the liability for internal decorative repairs, then, as my hon. Friend the Member for Crosby (Mr. Page) has pointed out, he will get an increased rent, it is true, but he runs the risk of a certificate of disrepair.

Mr. Lindgren

Will the hon. Gentleman tell me on what authority he thinks it likely that a sanitary inspector would give a certificate of disrepair in respect of a property for lack of decoration?

Mr. Hay

I can only tell the hon. Gentleman that quite a lot of them did under the 1954 Act.

Mr. Lindgren


Mr. Hay

Yes, they did; I have seen them. But that is not the point I was on. What the Amendment seeks to do, as I understand it, is to make clear that if the tenant refuses to let the landlord make such an election, then he must bear what I should have thought was the perfectly fair consequence: if the house falls into such a state of disrepair—[HON. MEMBERS: "Decoration."] —internal decorative disrepair as a result of the tenant's own failure to look after it, then that should be an additional ground under the general heading of lack of repair contained in the First Schedule to the Act of 1933.

Mr. Mitchison

Take the case that we both have in mind where, originally, the tenant is under no responsibility to the landlord to do internal decorative repairs. Suppose that the tenant does not want the landlord to take the responsibility for them. Why should the tenant have imposed upon him an additional ground of eviction simply because the landlord chooses to make an election? What ground is there?

Mr. Hay

I was just about to explain why. It is only right to keep a fair balance. The hon. and learned Member for Kettering (Mr. Mitchison) asks why should the tenant be under an obligation to do internal decorative repairs when he was not under that obligation originally, and why should he run the risk of eviction if he fails to comply? In my view, it is right that he should be in this position, because the landlord is, in any event, under a number of obligations under other statutes, under the Housing Acts, the Public Health Acts, and other statutes which impose direct obligations on landlords which local authorities are swift to enforce and tenants swift to demand.

What my right hon. Friend proposes in the Amendment helps to even out the situation a little. None of us wants to see tenants living in very bad conditions. We do not want to see them living in houses in bad decorative repair internally, but it is complete nonsense for the hon. Member for Aston (Mr. J. Silverman) to say that the effect of the Amendment is that if the tenant does not paper the walls he can be turned out. That is going much further than the Amendment seeks and much further than my right hon. Friend wants to go.

6.30 p.m.

Mr. Janner

I cannot understand why the hon. Member for Henley (Mr. Hay) wants the Amendment. Is he suggesting that a landlord now has to bear in mind the aesthetic taste of a tenant and insist upon his having some internal decorative repair so that his way of life and his mood shall be guided by the atmosphere in which he lives, for instance, by the wall-paper? The hon. Member is a solicitor, not a layman, and he knows very well that "internal decorative repair" means nothing other than an addition to internal repairs in respect of which the word "repairs" has no vital meaning.

Does he realise that this Schedule was inserted into the 1933 Act? Does he realise that he is now putting a bit of wallpaper and a splash of paint on the same level as hardship? The Schedule was introduced into the 1933 Act for specific purposes. The main purposes were to compel a tenant to pay his rent, and to balance the question of hardship. He is now asking the House, by a silly device, to allow a landlord to tell a tenant that he has to have certain kinds of wall-paper or be taken to court.

Mr. Hay

Nothing of the sort.

Mr. Janner

That is precisely its purpose. One of the subsections of the First Schedule in the 1933 Act enables landlords to obtain possession on certain grounds. The Minister is now saying that a splash of paint is as important a ground as that of a man asking for possession because his family is desperate for accommodation.

Mr. Hay

Does the hon. Member think that if an action under paragraph (a) of that Schedule as amended were brought in a county court, the court, in those circumstances, would find it reasonable to make an order?

Mr. Janner

I am asking the Government not to be silly. It would obviously be unreasonable under any circumstances to bring a man to court because he had not put a splash of paint on the walls, or because his wallpaper was not to the landlord's liking. That is what the Minister is asking us to do.

The sinister part of all this is that it hangs a threat over the heads of tenants who do not understand their rights. Landlords will compel tenants to do what the landlords want them to do under the threat of driving them out of possession. I beg the Minister not to be foolish about this. At present, there is no law to compel a person to undertake internal decorative repairs. Hon. Members who stand for the rights of contract go too far in suggesting that this great sledge-hammer should be used to make tenants use a splash of paint, or put a little wallpaper here and there. I hope that the Minister will see how foolish it is and withdraw the Amendment.

Mr. H. Brooke

I do not think that the hon. Member for Aston (Mr. J. Silverman) and other hon. Members opposite would have spoken as they did if they had really understood the situation. I am confirmed in that view by the hon. and learned Member for Kettering (Mr. Mitchison) having suggested that all these troubles would disappear if we accepted the Opposition's suggestion that we should make an election conditional on the consent of the tenant.

If we did that, exactly the same problem might arise. What happens when a tenant, either having withheld his consent under the Opposition's suggestion, or having expressed positive dissent under the Government's Amendment, then fails to carry out his obligations? We must have a solution to that. Parliament cannot just leave it in the air, because unquestionably it is wrong that Parliament should make no provision whatever for getting a house into proper internal decorative repair.

Mr. Albert Evans (Islington, South West)

We regard this matter of paint and wallpaper as of some importance, but not a ground for possession by the landlord if the tenant neglects it.

Mr. Brooke

If a tenant has an obligation to keep the house in internal decorative repair and neglects to paint the woodwork so that the woodwork rots, the landlord has his remedy under existing law and it is the same remedy which we are seeking to establish in this case. If the landlord takes the matter to court it can only be through the tenant having deliberately refused his assent to the landlord maintaining the house in proper decorative repair, thereby taking the obligation on his own shoulders, and then neglecting that obligation.

Mr. Mitchison

Will the right hon. Gentleman deal with what is puzzling me? The original position in most of these cases was that the tenant was under no obligation to the landlord. He did his own internal decorative repairs, the landlord usually doing the external ones. Why should the landlord, by making the election, be in a position to impose a new obligation on the tenant and why should the result of that imposition be that the tenant could be turned out for a breach of obligation—that is what paragraph (a) is about—which originally he never undertook and which arises only out of the landlord's election and the tenant's refusal to agree to it?

Mr. Brooke

He has undertaken it by refusing to agree to the landlord's election. The tenant cannot have it both ways, but neither can the landlord. The landlord is saying that he is willing to take on his own shoulders the responsibility for internal decorative repairs. In the case with which we are here dealing —I have been seeking to meet the view of the Opposition on this—we are providing for the case where the tenant does not want that. He wishes to be under the obligation himself, thereby to pay twice the gross value as rent instead of two and one-third times the gross value. He is gaining a reduction of rent and is taking upon himself a financial responsibility.

Then we have to envisage the possibility that the tenant will not discharge that responsibility. He has gained on his rent and yet he has not fulfilled his obligation. Parliament cannot just leave a lacuna there. Something must happen. I invite hon. Members to examine what the Amendment says. It says that the grounds for possession will include the ground that the tenant has failed to keep the dwelling in a reasonable state of internal decorative repair.

Does anybody imagine that if the tenant had used a wallpaper that the landlord did not like, or had let a little bit of the wallpaper become torn, the court would accept the landlord's plea that the dwelling was not being kept in a reasonable state of internal decorative repair?

The hon. and learned Gentleman said that the Government were being silly, but what is happening is that he is assuming that the court will be silly. In fact, so far as I am aware, the courts are very accustomed to interpretating this word "reasonable". I would further remind hon. Members that under the 1933 Act the court will give an order for possession only if it considers it reasonable so to do. The word "reasonable" comes in twice, and attention has to be paid to it both times. If the court thinks that the tenant is failing to keep the dwelling in a reasonable state of internal decorative repair, and thinks, also, that it would be reasonable to give an order for possession, the court will do so.

I cannot believe that there is so much between us on this matter that the House needs to go to a Division. I am doing my very best to solve a genuine problem, and I believe that hon. Members on both sides of the House, if they think about it quietly, will agree that there should be some provision of this kind.

Mr. David Weitzman (Stoke Newington and Hackney, North)

I agree that we ought to think about this quietly. Let us assume that the tenant has taken upon himself an obligation to carry out repairs and that he does not do so. There is a remedy. He can be taken to court and sued for damages for breach of contract. That is an effective remedy. Why put him to the penalty and the danger of being evicted because of that?

Mr. Brooke

What I have been trying to make clear is that the court would not give an order for possession and could not do it under the 1933 Act unless it

considered it reasonable so to do. What the Opposition is now arguing is that the court cannot be trusted.

Question put, That those words be there inserted in the Bill: —

The House divided: Ayes 260, Noes 223.

Division No. 87.] AYES [6.43 p.m.
Agnew, Sir Peter Fisher, Nigel Lancaster, Col. C. G.
Aitken, W. T. Fletcher-Cooke, C. Langford-Holt, J. A.
Allan, R. A. (Paddington, S.) Fort, R. Leavey, J. A.
Alport, C. J. M. Fraser, Sir Ian (M'cmbe & Lonsdale) Leburn, W. G.
Amery, Julian (Preston, N.) Freeth, Denzil Legge-Bourke, Maj. E. A. H.
Amory, Rt. Hn. Heathcoat (Tiverton) Galbraith, Hon. T. G. D. Legh, Hon. Peter (Petersfield)
Anstruther-Gray, Major Sir William Garner-Evans, E. H. Lindsay, Hon. James (Devon, N.)
Arbuthnot, John George, J. C. (Poliok) Linstead, Sir H. N.
Armstrong, C. W. Gibson-Watt, D. Llewellyn, D. T.
Ashton, H. Glover, D. Lloyd, Maj. Sir Guy (Renfrew, E.)
Astor, Hon. J. J. Godber, J. B. Longden, Gilbert
Atkins, H. E. Gomme-Dunoan, Col.Sir Alan Lucas, Sir Jocelyn (Portsmouth, S.)
Baldock, Lt.-Cmdr. J. M. Goodhart, P. C. Lucas, P. B. (Brentford & Chiswick)
Baldwin, A. E. Cough, C. F. H. Lucas-Tooth, Sir Hugh
Balniel, Lord Gower, H. R. McAdden, S. J.
Baxter, Sir Beverley Graham, Sir Fergus Macdonald, Sir Peter
Beamish, Maj. Tufton Green, A. Mackeson, Brig, Sir Harry
Bell, Philip (Bolton, E.) Gresham Cooke, R. McKibbin, A. J.
Bennett, Dr. Reginald Grimston, Hon. John (St. Albans) Mackie, J. H. (Galloway)
Bevins, J. R.(Toxteth) Grimston, Sir Robert (Westbury) McLaughlin, Mrs. P.
Bidgood, J. C. Grosvenor, Lt.-Col. R. G. Maclay, Rt. Hon. John
Biggs-Davison, J. A. Gurden, Harold McLean, Neil (Inverness)
Birch, Rt. Hon. Nigel Hall, John (Wycombe) MacLeod, John (Ross & Cromarty)
Bishop, F. P. Harris, Frederic (Croydon, N.W.) Macmillan, Maurice (Halifax)
Boothby, Sir Robert Harris, Reader (Heston) Macpherson, Niall (Dumfries)
Bossom, Sir Alfred Harrison, A. B. C. (Maldon) Maddan, Martin
Bowen, E. R. (Cardigan) Harrison, Col. J. H. (Eye) Maitland, Cdr. J.F. W. (Hornoastle)
Boyd-Carpenter, Rt. Hon. J. A. Harvey, Air Cdre. A. V. (Macclesfd) Maitland, Hon. Patrick (Lanark)
Braine, B. R. Harvey, Ian (Harrow, E.) Manningham-Buller, Rt. Hn. Sir R.
Braithwaite, Sir Albert (Harrow, W.) Harvey, John (Walthamstow, E.) Marshall, Douglas
Bromley-Davenport, Lt.-Col. W. H. Harvie-Watt, Sir George Mathew, R.
Brooke, Rt. Hon. Henry Hay, John Maude, Angus
Brooman-White, R. C. Head, Rt. Hon. A. H. Maudling, Rt. Hon. R.
Browne, J. Nixon (Craigton) Heald, Rt. Hon. Sir Lionel Mawby, R. L.
Bryan, P. Heath, Rt. Hon. E. R. G. Maydon, Lt.-Comdr, S. L. C.
Bullus, Wing Commander E. E. Henderson, John (Cathcart) Medlicott, Sir Frank
Burden, F. F. A. Henderson-Stewart, Sir James Milligan, Rt. Hon. W. R.
Butcher, Sir Herbert Hesketh, R. F. Moore, Sir Thomas
Campbell, Sir David Hicks-Beach, Maj. W. W. Nabarro, G. D. N.
Carr, Robert Hill, Mrs. E. (Wythenshawe) Nairn, D. L. S.
Cary, Sir Robert Hill, John (S. Norfolk) Neave, Airey
Chichester-Clark, R. Hinchingbrooke, Viscount Nicholls, Harmar
Clarke, Brig. Terence (Portsmth, W.) Hirst, Geoffrey Nicholson, Godfrey (Farnham)
Conant, Maj, Sir Roger Hobson, J. G. S.(Wrwok & Lmngtn) Nicolson, N. (B'n'm'th, E. & Chr'ch)
Cooke, Robert Holland-Martin, C. J. Noble, Comdr. A. H. P.
Cooper-Key, E. M. Hornby, R. P. Nugent, G. R. H.
Cordeaux, Lt.-Col. J. K. Hornsby-Smith, Miss M. P. Oakshott, H. D.
Corfield, Capt. F. V. Horobin, Sir Ian O'Neill, Hn. Phelim (Co. Antrim, N.)
Craddock, Beresford (Spelthorne) Horsbrugh, Rt. Hon. Dame Florence Orr, Capt. L. P. S.
Crouch, R. F. Howard, Hon. Greville (St. Ives) Orr-Ewing, Charles Ian (Hendon, N.)
Crowder, Sir John (Finchley) Howard, John (Test) Osborne, C.
Cunningham, Knox Hughes, Hallett, Vice-Admiral J. Page, R. G.
Currie, G. B. H. Hulbert, Sir Norman Pannell, N. A. (Kirkdale)
Dance, J. C. G. Hurd, A. R. Partridge, E.
Davidson, Viscountess Hutchison, Sir Ian Clark (E'b'gh, W.) Peyton, J. W. W.
D'AvigdOr-Goldsmid. Sir Henry Hutchison, Sir James (Scotstoun) Pickthorn, K. W. M.
Deedes, W. F. Hyde, Montgomery Pike, Miss Mervyn
Digby, Simon Wingfield Iremonger, T. L. Pilkington, Capt. R. A.
Dodds-Parker, A. D. Irvine, Bryant Godman (Rye) Pitman, I. J.
Doughty, C. J. A. Jenkins, Robert (Dulwioh) Pott, H. P.
du Cann, E. D. L. Johnson, Dr. Donald (Carlisle) Powell, J. Enoch
Dugdale, Rt. Hn. Sir T. (Richmond) Johnson, Eric (Blackley) Price, Henry (Lewisham, W.)
Duncan, Capt. J. A. L. Joynson-Hicks, Hon. Sir Lancelot Rawlinson, Peter
Eccles, Rt. Hon. Sir David Kaberry, D. Redmayne, M.
Eden, J. B. (Bournemouth, West) Keegan, D. Rees-Davies, W. R.
Elliot, Rt. Hon. W. E. Kerby, Capt. H, B. Remnant, Hon. P.
Elliott, R. W. Kershaw, J. A Renton, D. L. M.
Farey-Jones, F. W. Kirk, P. M. Ridsdale, J. E.
Fell, A. Lagden, G. W Rippon, A. G. F.
Ftnlay, Graeme Lambert, Hon. G. Robertson, Sir David
Robson-Brown, W. Steward, Sir William (Woolwich, W.) Vosper, Rt. Hon. D. F.
Rodgere, John (Sevenoaks) Stoddart-Scott, Col. M. Wakefield, Edward (Derbyshire, W.)
Roper, Sir Harold Stuart, Rt. Hon. James (Moray) Wakefield, Sir Wavell (St. M'lebone)
Ropner, Col. Sir Leonard Studtiolme, Sir Henry Ward, Rt. Hon. G. R. (Worcester)
Russell, R. S. Sumner, W. D. M. (Orpington) Ward, Dame Irene (Tynemouth)
Sandys, Rt. Hon. D. Taylor, Sir Charles (Eastbourne) Waterhouse, Capt. Rt. Hon. C.
Schofield, Lt.-Col. W. Temple, John M. Watkinson, Rt. Hon. Harold
Scott-Miller, Cmdr. R. Thomas, Leslie (Canterbury) Webbe, Sir H.
Sharples, R. C. Thomas, P. J. M. (Conway) Whitelaw, W.S.I.(Penrith & Border)
Shepherd, William Thompson, Kenneth (Walton) Williams, R. Dudley (Exeter)
Smithers, Peter (Winchester) Thompson, Lt.-Cdr. R. (Croydon, S.) Wills, G. (Bridgwater)
Soames, Christopher Thornton-Kemsley, C. N. Wilson, Geoffrey (Truro)
Spearman, Sir Alexander Tiley, A. (Bradford, W.) Wood, Hon. R.
Speir, R. M. Turner, H. F. L. Yates, William (The Wrekin)
Spence, H. R. (Aberdeen, W.) Turton, Rt. Hon. R. H.
Stanley, Capt. Hon. Richard Vane, W. M. F. TELLERS FOR THE AYES:
Stevens, Geoffrey Vaughan-Morgan, J. K. Mr. Barber and Mr. Hughes-Young.
Steward, Harold (Stockport, S.) Vickers, Miss Joan
Ainsley, J. W. Grey, C. F. Monslow, W.
Albu, A. H. Griffiths, David (Rother Valley) Moody, A. S.
Allaun, Frank (Salford, E.) Hale, Leslie Morris, Percy (Swansea, W.)
Allen, Arthur (Bosworth) Hall, Rt. Hn. Glenvll (Colne Valley) Mort, D. L.
Allen, Scholefield (Crewe) Hamilton, W. W. Moss, R.
Awbery, S. S. Hannan, W. Moyle, A.
Bacon, Miss Alice Harrison, J. (Nottingham, N.) Mulley, F. W.
Baird, J. Hastings, S. Neal, Harold (Bolsover)
Balfour, A. Hayman, F. H. Noel-Baker, Rt. Hon. P. (Derby, S.)
Bence, C. R. (Dunbartonshire, E.) Healey, Denis O'Brien, Sir Thomas
Benn, Hn. Wedgwood (Bristol, S.E.) Henderson, Rt. Hon. A. (Rwly Regis) Oliver, G. H.
Benson, G. Herbison, Miss M. Oram, A. E.
Blackburn, F. Hewitson, Capt. M. Orbach, M.
Blenkinsop, A. Hobson, C. R. (Keighley) Oswald, T.
Blyton, W. R. Holman, P. Owen, W. J.
Boardman, H. Holmes, Horace Padley, W. E.
Bowden, H. W. (Leicester, S.W.) Houghton, Douglas Paget, R. T.
Bowles, F. G. Howell, Charles (Perry Barr) Paling, Rt. Hon. W. (Dearne Valley)
Braddock, Mrs. Elizabeth Hoy, J. H. Palmer, A. M. F.
Brookway, A. F. Hughes, Cledwyn (Anglesey) Panned, Charles (Leeds, W.)
Broughton, Dr. A. D. D. Hughes, Emrys (S. Ayrshire) Parker, J.
Brown, Rt. Hon. George (Belper) Hughes, Hector (Aberdeen, N.) Parkin, B. T.
Brown, Thomas (Inee) Hunter, A. E. Paton, John
Burke, W, A. Hynd, H. (Accrington) Pearson, A.
Burton, Miss F. E, Hynd, J. B. (Attercliffe) Peart, T. F.
Butler, Herbert (Hackney, C.) Irvine, A. J. (Edge Hill) Pentland, N.
Butler, Mrs. Joyce (Wood Green) Irving, Sydney (Dartford) Popplewell, E.
Callaghan, L. J. Isaacs, Rt. Hon. G. A. Price, J. T. (Westhoughton)
Carmichael, J. Janner, B. Probert, A. R.
Castle, Mrs. B. A. Jay, Rt. Hon. D. P. T. Proctor, W. T.
Chapman, W. D. Jeger, Mrs. Lena(Holbn&St.Pnos.S.) Pryde, D. J.
Chetwynd, G. R. Jenkins, Roy (Stechford) Pandall, H. E.
Coldrick, W. Johnston, Douglas (Paisley) Rankin, Johr
Collick, P. H. (Birkenhead) Jones, Rt. Hon. A. Creech(Wakefield) Redhead, E. C.
Collins, V. J. (Shoreditoh & Finsbury) Jones, David (The Hartlepools) Reeves, J.
Corbet, Mrs. Freda Jones, Jack (Rotherham) Reid, William
Cove, W. G. Jones, J. Idwal (Wrexham) Rhodes, H.
Craddock, George (Bradford, S.) Jones, T. W. (Merloneth) Robens, Rt. Hon. A.
Cronin, J. D. King, Dr. H. M. Roberts, Albert (Normanton)
Crossman, R. H. S. Lawson, G. M. Roberts, Goronwy (Caernarvon)
Cullen, Mrs. A. Lee, Frederick (Newton) Robinson, Kenneth (St. Pancras, N.)
Davies, Ernest (Enfield, E.) Lee, Mitt Jennie (Cannock) Rogers, George (Kensington, N.)
Davies, Harold (Leek) Lever, Leslie (Ardwick) Ross, William
Davies, Stephen (Merthyr) Lewis, Arthur Royle, C.
de Freitas, Geoffrey Lindgren, G. S. Shinwell, Rt. Hon. E.
Delargy, H. J. Lipton, Marcus Silverman, Julius (Aston)
Dodds, N. N. MoGhee, H. G. Silverman, Sydney (Nelson)
Dugdale, Rt. Hn. John (W. Brmwch) McGovern, J. Simmons, C. J. (Brierley Hill)
Ede, Rt. Hon. J. C. MoInnes, J. Skeffington, A. M.
Edwards, Rt. Hon. John (Brighouse) McKay, John (Wallsend) Slater, Mrs. H. (Stoke, N.)
Edwards, Rt. Hon. Ness (Caerphilly) MacDermot, Niall Slater, J. (Sedgefield)
Edwards, Robert (Bilston) MacMillan, M. K. (Western Isles) Smith, Ellis (Stoke, S.)
Edwards, W. J. (Stepney) MacPherson, Malcolm (Stirling) Snow, J. W.
Evans, Albert (Islington, S.W.) Mahon, Simon Sorensen, R. W.
Evans, Edward (Lowestoft) Mainwaring, W. H. Soskice, Rt. Hon. Sir Frank
Fienburgh, W. Mallalieu, E. L. (Brigg) Sparks, J. A.
Finch, H. J. Mann, Mrs. Jean Steele, T.
Fletcher, Eric Marquand, Rt. Hon. H. A. Stewart, Michael (Fulham)
Forman, J. C. Mason, Roy Stones, W.(Consett)
Gaitskell, Rt. Hon. H. T. N. Mayhew, C. P. Strachey, Rt. Hon. J.
Gooch, E. G. Mellish, R. J. Strauss, Rt. Hon. George (Vauxhall)
Grenfell, Rt. Hon. D. R. Mitohison, G. R. Stroes,Dr.Barnett(Stoke-on-Trent,C.)
Summerskill, Rt. Hon. E. Viant, S. P. Williams, Rev. Llywelyn (Ab'tillery)
Swingler, S. T, Warbey, W. N. Williams, Ronald (Wigan)
Sylvester, C. O. Watkins, T. E. Williams, Rt. Hon. T. (Don Valley)
Taylor, Bernard (Mansfield) Weitzman, D. Williams, W. R. (Openshaw)
Taylor, John (West Lothian) Wells, Percy (Faversham) Williams, W. T. (Barons Court)
Thomas, George (Cardiff) Wells, William (Walsall, N.) Willis, Eustace (Edinburgh, E.)
Thomas, Iorwerth (Rhondda, W.) West, D. G. Wilson, Rt. Hon. Harold (Huyton)
Thomson, George (Dundee, E.) Wheeldon, W. E. Woof, R. E.
Thornton, E. White, Mrs. Eirene (E. Flint) Yates, V. (Ladywood)
Timmons, J, White, Henry (Derbyshire, N.E.) Younger, Rt. Hon. K.
Tomney, F. Wilkins, W. A. Zilliaous, K.
Ungoed-Thomas, Sir Lynn Willey, Frederick
Usborne, H. C. Williams, David (Neath) TELLERS FOR THE NOES:
Mr. Short and Mr. Deer.
Mr. J. Hynd

I beg to move, in page 19, line 3, to leave out "six" and to insert "two".

Mr. Speaker

I understand that it is desired to take a number of Amendments together, all dealing with the question of time limits, as specified in the Schedule. Is that correct?

Mr. Mitchison

Yes, Mr. Speaker, and including the question whether the landlords' undertakings are really necessary.

Mr. Hynd

Our other Amendments which are related to this are the next, in page 19, line 5, leave out from "then" to end of line 7; in line 36, leave out paragraph 5; in line 38, leave out "three weeks" and insert "one week"; and the Amendments in page 1151 of the Notice Paper——

Sir I. Horobin

On a point of order. It is almost impossible to know what Amendments are being enumerated. Could we ask the hon. Member to go back and say again which of these Amendments we are discussing together?

Mr. Speaker

I have found it a little hard to follow. Would the hon. Member enumerate the Amendments at dictation speed?

Mr. Hynd

The other Amendments are: in page 19, line 5, leave out from "then" to end of line 7; in line 36, leave out paragraph 5; in line 38, leave out "three weeks" and insert "one week"; in page 21, line 8, leave out paragraph 8; in line 8, leave out "six months" and insert "one month"; in line 8, leave out "six" and insert "twelve"; in line 8, leave out "six" and insert "fifteen"; and in line 15, at end insert: Provided that by agreement in writing between the landlord and the tenant, made at any time before the expiration of the period of one month mentioned in this paragraph, that period may be extended to any period stated in the agreement and not exceeding six months The effect of these Amendments is to reduce the delay at present provided before a certificate of disrepair can be got, and to delete the provisions relating to the delay which can take place because of a landlord's undertaking.

Under existing legislation a tenant whose house is in a state of disrepair can ask his local authority to provide him with a certificate of disrepair. The certificate can be issued immediately the local authority's inspector has inspected the premises and has confirmed the complaint that the premises are in a state of disrepair. Immediately that certificate is issued the tenant is in a position to withhold that part of his rent which is charged to him to pay for repairs.

The Bill would bring about an entirely different situation, which, on behalf of my hon. and right hon. Friends, I can denounce as an intolerable one. To use the term applied when we were debating the last Amendment, it would be an outrageous situation. What the Bill provides is this. Having failed by the ordinary methods of application to get his landlord to carry out the repairs the tenant must notify the landlord in a written statement of the repairs required to be done. He must state the details of the repairs required. He must then give the landlord six weeks to reply before he can apply to the local authority for a certificate of disrepair.

The tenant does not get it even then because the local authority, having sent an inspector to inspect the premises, and having confirmed the complaint that they are in a state of disrepair, is not even then in a position to issue the certificate. but must notify the landlord—after six weeks—that a certificate has been applied for, and it must give the landlord three weeks to reply. If, within either of those periods, the six weeks which the tenant has to give the landlord, and the subsequent three weeks which the local authority must give him, the landlord gives an undertaking to carry out the repairs nothing further can be done by anyone for another six months to ensure that the repairs are done or to reduce the rent.

That, in short, is the position the Bill creates. It is to remedy that that these Amendments have been tabled. The first, which I am moving, relates to the six weeks which the tenant must give the landlord to reply to him before the tenant can apply to the local authority for the certificate of disrepair. It reduces the period to two weeks.

The Bill as it stands means that if the repairs are not carried out by the landlord, or begun, the tenant may apply to the local authority for a certificate at the expiry of six weeks. If, in the meantime, the landlord gives his undertaking the tenant cannot even apply for a certificate within that six weeks. The second of the group of Amendments would delete the reference to the landlord's giving an undertaking, so that the tenant may apply sooner.

In paragraph 8 of the Schedule there is already provision that if the landlord gives an undertaking to the tenant the tenant must wait six months before he can deduct any of the increased rent. One of these Amendments proposes to rule out that paragraph because we feel that, even without the provision for a landlord's undertaking, there is far too much delay made possible by the Bill, a delay of over eight months, before anything effective can be done.

I would remind the House that experience of the Rent Acts up to date has shown no necessity for any further delay in getting repairs carried out under certificates of disrepair. On the contrary, it is the experience of every hon. Member that already, although it is provided that a certificate can be issued immediately the tenant applies for it and the local authority confirms the condition of the house and the tenant can then withhold the 25 per cent. increase under the earlier Acts until repairs are done, from that moment on many weeks, often months, elapse before any effective action can be taken. The reason is that the local authority, having issued a certificate of disrepair, and the tenant having withheld the appropriate proportion of his rent, the local authority is in a position to take action against the landlord if the repairs are not done within a reasonable time.

7.0 p.m.

The question is: what is a reasonable time? The local authority has to wait. Weeks go by and the tenant complains that the repairs have not been done. The local authority must write to the landlord. If the landlord does not carry out the repairs, the local authority may take him to court, but it cannot do that until it can satisfy the court that it has given the landlord a reasonable opportunity. Consequently, the local authority has to wait two or three weeks. It does not receive a reply and it has to write again and give the landlord a further two or three weeks before considering the issuing of a summons or taking action itself.

Therefore, in every case where the local authority has felt it necessary to take action against the landlord, even in present conditions, it has been inevitably held up because of the need to give the landlord every opportunity and of satisfying the court that it has given him those opportunities. In the meantime, the unfortunate tenant and his family have to suffer the conditions arising from the disrepair of the house. All hon. Members know of grievous cases where water pours through the roof, doors have come off their hinges, floorboards and stairs have gone and these conditions prevail throughout the winter before anything effective can be done by the local authority through the courts to force the landlord to do the necessary repairs. It is no exaggeration to say that, in constituencies like mine, in the industrial areas, there are large numbers of families in which children and adults have suffered bronchitis and other ailments as the result of this lack of repairs and the delays which already exist without the further delays that are provided for in the Bill.

The Amendment to leave out paragraph 5 would deal with the situation in which the local authority is not allowed to issue the certificate of disrepair—even when it has confirmed the state of disrepair—for a further three weeks or even longer if the landlord gives an undertaking. The authority must then wait six months before action is taken. The Amendment in page 19, line 38, is an alternative to that course. Since we are on the last stages of having any Amendments made at all to this infamous Bill, and there is still the possibility that the Minister will not be prepared to agree to the deletion of the provision about undertakings, we have placed this fourth Amendment on the Notice Paper. It reduces the period for which the local authority has to wait from three weeks to one week. This is in addition to the six weeks during which the tenant has had to pay the new rent. Therefore, even then the landlord will be given seven weeks as against the nine weeks provided in the Bill.

The fifth Amendment would delete the provision for a six months' delay, so that the withholding of the increase will apply from the date of issue of a certificate of disrepair, which I remind the House is six weeks, eight weeks or nine weeks after the tenant has notified the landlord. We are not at all satisfied that paragraph 8 of the Schedule is necessary and we are, therefore, proposing its deletion. The paragraph provides for this six months' delay after the giving of an undertaking.

This is not six months after the tenant has applied for the certificate or six months after the local authority has written to the landlord, but six months after the landlord has undertaken to do the repairs, which may be after the expiration of nine weeks since the tenant notified the landlord. Therefore, this is a further six months on top of nine weeks. This is what the paragraph provides and we see no reason at all for this additional delay.

I expect that from the other side of the House we shall have more arguments about the rights of landlords, but in this case we are concerned particularly with the rights of tenants.

Mr. Mitchison

If I have followed my hon. Friend's description rightly, it comes to this—that there are three groups of Amendments. One group reduces the six weeks and the three weeks to two weeks and one week. Another group entirely eliminates the provisions relating to landlords' undertakings. The third group provides, as an alternative, that instead of the landlord having six months to carry out the undertaking, he should have one month or such further period not exceeding six months as may be agreed between him and the tenant.

Mr. Hynd

Certainly. The six weeks' notice which the tenant must give to the landlord is reduced to two weeks. The provision for the landlord's undertaking, which would delay the operation of the Schedule, would be deleted. The three weeks which the local authority must wait after the six weeks which the tenant has waited would be deleted or, alternatively, if the fourth Amendment were accepted, would be reduced to one week. The six months' delaying period after all that would be deleted altogether.

I was coming to the latter point when my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Kettering (Mr. Mitchison) intervened. Hon. Members opposite have on the Notice Paper Amendments in page 21, line 8 which show that they are not satisfied even with the long delay to which I have referred. They provide, in alternative Amendments, that after the nine weeks' wait before anything can be done, if the landlord says that he will do the repairs and whether he does them or not, the landlord will be given 12 months or 15 months, according to the respective Amendments, before anybody can take action against him. This is a monstrous provision because already, in existing legislation, without any of these additional delays, severe hardship is created for the tenants. It is difficult to understand the delays which are already provided for in the Bill. It is even more difficult to understand why hon. Members opposite should wish to move further Amendments to increase the delays to 12 and 15 months.

As my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Kettering has pointed out, we have a final Amendment, as a kind of last ditch effort. If the Government insist upon these prolonged delays or argue that there may be conditions of disrepair which will take more than six or nine weeks to put right and that it might take several months to carry out a major job of repair, we propose that a limit of six months should be provided by our Amendment in page 21, line 15.

This Amendment provides that in such circumstances the tenant and the landlord may agree to suspend the operation of the Schedule, as it would be amended is our Amendments were adopted, and enable a period of up to six months to elapse before the provisions of the Bill became effective for enforcing the repairs increase. That is the minimum that should be demanded in these conditions.

My own view, which I have expressed before in Committee, is that even under the provisions in existing legislation in relation to these repairs, landlords ought to be treated summarily because of the interminable delays which inevitably take place. In many cases, landlords have no intention of carrying out the repairs and by every kind of subterfuge they seek to avoid their obligations. They ought to be convicted. If they allow houses to get into such a state that they are deleterious to the health of the occupants, to their safety, or even to their comfort, because they have failed to do the repairs within a reasonable time from the date on which notification was given, they should be treated as butchers who sell bad meat are treated.

That, however, we cannot get into the Bill at this stage, so we have put down these moderate Amendments. To get justice for the tenant under this Bill would mean moving the deletion of the Schedule altogether, which we cannot do now. Therefore, we are seeking to mitigate the monstrous additional provisions which the Bill makes about repairs.

Again, it may be said that the landlords require the three weeks, six weeks or, in total, eight months and, as hon. Gentlemen opposite will tell us, even another six months or nine months before they can carry out repairs. Even without the additional increases of time which will be proposed from the other side of the House, I regard this Schedule as one of the most heartless provisions in the Bill, and one for which there is no possible justification.

I am sure that there is no hon. or right hon. Member on either side of the House who can tell us that his experience of the operation of existing legislation on the enforcement of repairs to rent-controlled houses has resulted in hardship to landlords, or in any situation in which landlords have not been given adequate and reasonable time in which to carry out all the necessary repairs.

Finally, I anticipate that the Minister will again use the argument he has used on practically every discussion on almost any part of this Bill, that its real purpose is to ensure that houses are to be put into a good state of repair. We have heard that over and over again. We have had the admission on the Government side that the 1954 Act—" Operation Rescue"—has been a complete failure. It is difficult to understand, if the Minister is so sure that the team of expert advisers who were behind him in the drafting of this Bill cannot go wrong, how he explains the failure of that Act, because I am sure that precisely the same group of advisers were available to him then.

The fact is that the Bill not only does not make any additional provision for ensuring that repairs are done in return for the increased rent which is provided for but, as this Schedule clearly shows, it reduces the incentive to landlords to carry out repairs in a reasonable time. It also removes existing protection for the tenants in the carrying out of repairs, and thereby is encouraging the worst type of landlordism without doing anything for the better landlords.

These Amendments represent the minimum we ask of the Government. We insist that the closest possible consideration should be given to the modification of the Bill in the matters to which I have referred. If the Government are adamant, and refuse to make any concessions, we shall have to vote against them.

7.15 p.m.

Mr. Janner

I beg to second the Amendment.

The Minister has been rather difficult all along, and I suppose it is impossible to believe that he can change his attitude now. I wonder whether he realises what the Bill says about the length of time that is to be taken before a tenant can have a house put into a proper state of repair? Does the right hon. Gentleman realise that it takes him a considerable time before a tenant can take steps to ask for repairs to be attended to? All hon. Members know that tenants have put up with the most shocking conditions until their houses have been in such a state that they have been condemned before approaching the sanitary inspector for a certificate of disrepair under the present Acts.

In our "surgeries" we have advised tenants that they should not put up with this, and I am certain that hon. Gentlemen opposite have done the same thing. When a tenant went to the local authority and obtained a certificate, all he had to do was to make a copy of it and serve it on the landlord. Then not only was the 25 per cent. increase of rent allowed under the 1920 Act for repairs suspended, but, in addition, the 15 per cent. allowed under an entirely different Section of that Act was also not recoverable. In other words, there was a penalty on the landlord forthwith, in that not only did he not receive the rent for the repairs which he was supposed to have done, but, in addition, he did not receive the additional 15 per cent. allowed for an entirely different reason.

It is within the knowledge of everybody here that months transpired and that the landlord did not do the repairs even then. Now we are asking tenants to pay increased rents and—this is where the rub comes—the Government say that the increased rents are for the purpose of enabling the landlord to do the repairs. The Government cannot get away from that; otherwise there is no justification for the Bill.

What the Minister and his right hon. and hon. Friends have said all along is that without this Bill the landlord would not have the necessary money to enable him to do the repairs. If that is so, the landlord has undertaken the obligation to do the repairs, or will have done as soon as this Bill becomes an Act. The major portion of the 4½ million houses concerned are houses for which the landlord was under an obligation to do repairs, and, indeed, received an additional sum of money for that purpose. But the landlord has not done them, and now a new gift is to be given to him. The new gift is to be made in consideration of the wonderful way in which he has allowed the house to get into a bad state of repair, although he has received from the tenant the 25 per cent. increase to enable him to deal with the condition of the House. And he received that increase at a time when he could have done the work. The argument that the landlord cannot do the repairs at the price allowed did not apply during the many years when that money should have been used for putting the place into repair.

We are upset because this imposition is to be placed on the tenant. The Bill is putting the cart before the horse. The Government are not telling the landlord to do the repairs first and then get his money. What the Government are telling him is to get the increase and then do the repairs, and if he does not do them the obligation is still on the tenant.

This is the remarkable part of the whole affair: the obligation is placed upon the tenant, and in most cases the tenant will not know what are his rights. No hon. Member opposite can deny that. We know that tenants do not know their rights under the Rent Acts, and they will not know their rights under the Bill. There are millions of cases in which tenants have allowed the houses to fall into disrepair, although the landlord is under compulsion to put them in repair. The reason is that tenants do not know their rights. Even when they have discovered their rights under the Bill, months and months could pass before the repairs are done.

The tragedy is that in fact months will not pass before the repairs are done, because the tenant will have to do them himself, as he has done in the past. He will not continue to live in a room with a leaky roof for nine months, with buckets to catch the rain. He will do the repairs himself and pay for them. There is no provision in the Bill whereby he can recover that money from the landlord.

As a result, the tenant will do exactly the same as in the past. He will say, "I cannot be bothered with all this red tape. Even if it means that I have to spend £50 or £100, I will beg or borrow the money and do the repairs in order that the health of my family will not be endangered any further."

I put it to the Minister that the position is absurd. If a roof is leaking, if there is a hole in the wall or if damp is coming through, it is absurd that it should take six weeks before anything happens at all; and then, if a landlord gives an undertaking, he is given another period of months in which to do the work. It is too absurd for words, as the Minister well knows. The Minister realises that the ultimate result will be either that the tenant will do the work himself or that the tenant will say, "I cannot stand this any longer; I must get out of here and find somewhere else." That is shocking, because it is taking advantage of scarcity in houses in order to make tenants do work which they ought not to be compelled to do and to pay for work which has not been done by the landlord in the past and will not be done by him in the future.

I hope the Minister realises that our Amendments are very reasonable. The landlord will still have an opportunity to collect money without doing repairs. We should like to see the whole procedure swept away. We cannot do that at this stage, but I do not want the Minister to run away with the impression, because we put down such Amendments as this, that we are not opposed to the Bill altogether. He tried that this afternoon. He knows very well that we put down these Amendments in order to minimise the damage as far as possible and not because we feel that this can be any other than a bad Bill. We are unhappily in the position that we can do nothing different; we are trying to do as much as we can to take the sting from the Bill. I appeal to him to accept our Amendments.

Sir I. Horobin

The hon. Member for Leicester, North-West (Mr. Janner) will forgive me if I do not comment on a good deal of his speech which I can only describe as a gramophone record which we have heard ad nauseam. I will not delay the proceedings by going into it.

The problem which we are discussing is a little complicated because we are talking about three different although admittedly related things. First, we have the question of delay in itself, and I will say a word on that in a moment. Next we have a question which, quite apart from any effect of delay, is also important—namely, whether the conception of undertakings by landlords is desirable in itself. Thirdly—a point with which I shall deal in the Amendment in my name, which we are discussing and which seeks to extend the period—we have the question of the money available to do the works, even if the landlord wishes and intends to do them.

On the question of delay, we are in a difficulty because there is a great deal in common on both sides of the House in the view that with a certain kind of landlord delays in the past have been longer than they should have been. As I pointed out in Committee on more than one occasion, our difficulty in all this is that we have to deal with two kinds of landlord under the same provision. There is, of course, the fact that some hon. Members opposite think that all landlords are always bad and always wrong, and we shall never reach an agreement on that.

I do not dissent at all from the proposition that on many occasions there have been unconscionable delays in doing and even starting works; nor do I think the Minister will dissent from that. On the other hand, we must have some regard for realities and possibilities when we are dealing not with a special class of criminal persons but with all the landlords of the country, because the Amendments apply to them all. Under certain circumstances any landlord, however good, will come under the provisions outlined in the Amendments.

We must bear in mind in all our discussions that these are not the only powers which local authorities possess in urgent cases such as those described. All their powers under the Public Health Acts and the Housing Acts remain and should be employed in urgent cases.

I submit that, purely from the point of view of delay, any reasonable person dealing with house property would regard these Amendments as unworkable. The first has the effect that if on the expiration of two weeks from the service of a notice any of the defects remain unremedied, the application may be made for a certificate.

The hon. Member for Attercliffe (Mr. J. Hynd), who has considerable experience in housing matters, unconsciously gave away his case, because he said something which is obviously reasonable but which is not covered by the Amendment; he said "if these defects remained unremedied or the work had not begun." But there is nothing in the Amendment about the work having been begun; it must have been completed. I put it to anyone concerned with house property that it is unrealistic to suggest that a landlord to whose attention many of these cases are drawn can have them remedied within two weeks, even with the best will in the world. He has to go to an architect and he has to find a builder, and it is completely unrealistic to suggest that, even if he starts at once, he must have finished in two weeks.

Mr. J. Hynd

Although there is no reference in the first paragraph of the Amendment to work having begun, it provides that if the work has not been completed the tenant may apply to the local authority for a certificate. Clearly if the work is about to be done no certificate will be issued in time for it to be effective in reducing the rent before the work has been finished.

Sir I. Horobin

In some cases it cannot even be begun. Suppose there is a suggestion that pointing must be done on a flank wall or a gable wall, or suppose there is dry rot, or not even a certainty that there is dry rot, and that workmen have to begin pulling up the floorboards, or suppose they ultimately find beetle and have to trace it; the work would not even be begun in time. I am not denying that some landlords have permitted unreasonable delays, but here we are asked to deal with an Amendment and to write into the Bill something which is completely unrealistic and unworkable.

7.30 p.m.

Mr. A. Evans

Does the hon. Gentleman suggest that if the repairs have not been done within the time stated, it will be unreasonable for the local authority to say so and to issue a certificate to say that the repairs have not been done?

Sir I. Horobin

Undoubtedly, because the effects of this provision are to say that throughout all that period the landlord, who is supposed to be getting an increase of rent for keeping a place in repair and honestly trying to do it, is to lose money out of which to pay for the repairs. That is unreasonable.

Mr. Mitchison

May I remind the hon. Member that under the 1954 Act there was no time at all?

Sir I. Horobin

I know. As I pointed out, there are many things about the 1954 Act from which we ought to learn. While not a complete failure, that Act was not a complete success. Unlike hon. Gentlemen opposite who, having once made a mistake, say, "ditto, repeat" for fifty years, we learn by our mistakes.

The second point which we are discussing in this group of Amendments is the new idea of landlords giving undertakings. Most hon. Members opposite agree with me that that is a very admirable provision. I will at once say why, and again I repeat that we are here dealing not with a peculiar, small section of criminals, or semi-criminals, but with ordinary landlords and ordinary tenants. Just as the Bill attempts in certain other cases to bring tenants and landlords together to enter into new agreements for three years and so on, we are here trying to recreate a proper and healthy tenant-landlord relationship.

The proper and normal thing to do, once rents are brought nearer to a realistic and up-to-date level, is to expect tenants to be able to go to landlords and, in normal circumstances, landlords should be expected to be able to agree that certain things should be done. Only if there is neither an agreement nor an undertaking and if work is not started should the force of the law, with the local authority acting under its powers, be brought to bear. The normal thing in a tenant-landlord relationship should be for the parties to come together and agree about what should be done.

In the Bill as originally drawn there is only one grave danger about undertakings. I drew attention to it upstairs and perhaps partly as a result of that, certainly in accordance with it, the Minister has introduced an extremely important provision for strengthening the proposals about undertakings, without which I would go a long way with those hon. Members opposite who are doubtful about this. It is the provision which says that in about half a dozen certain specified circumstances a local authority is entitled to say, "We have had enough undertakings from you, and we are not having that one." That provision will shortly be written into the Bill and will commend itself to both sides of the House.

It should be assumed in the absence of cases of that kind that until a landlord is proved to be guilty, he means what he says, and if he enters into an undertaking, the assumption should be that it will be carried out. That is a very sound thing to introduce into our housing customs and legislation.

My third point—and it is the thought behind the Amendment in my name—is the question of the money out of which these various improvements are to be made. Whatever his preconceptions, it is useless for anybody to try to deal with the private landlord problem if he does not appreciate that, while not necessarily in all cases, but certainly in a great many —I believe in the majority—landlords have simply been bled white by inflation against a background of rent control. The money is just not there. That was primarily where the 1954 Act broke down. Incidentally, I hope the Minister will initiate a drive in connection with the 1949 powers which local authorities have and do not use.

I admit at once that my Amendment has the grave disadvantage that lengthening the period will give bad landlords six months more in which to do nothing. That is an objection and I admit at once that it is a grave one.

Mr. A. Evans

Is not it one of the prime functions of Parliament to protect the weaker party in this contract and to see that people who evade their responsibilities are brought to book?

Sir I. Horobin

I entirely agree, but this is doing no good to tenants. The whole history of the country's housing in the last forty years proves that the average tenant is done no good by the production of a situation in which, even if he wants to keep it decent, a landlord has to watch a house fall down. That is an ill service to tenants, and it is the thing which differentiates the two sides of the House.

As I said, I admit that by lengthening the period we run the risk of giving that extra rope to the minority of thoroughly undesirable landlords. If anybody can find a way to deal with that, he will have my support. For the majority of landlords the Amendment will have a very important advantage. I do not think that many people have appreciated how small in fact the additional rent in the first six months will be. Of course, it is the additional rent in the first six months which matters because, if the landlord has not repaired all specified defects in that six months, he has to refund the excess rent he has received.

In the first six months he can receive only twenty-six times 7s. 6d., which is almost exactly £10. That is the maximum. The real danger in many cases, as I have said on more than one occasion, will be that landlords who no longer have ready cash and who, because a local authority will not play, or because they have no other property on which to borrow—the man who owns three or four houses; there are many all over the North of England—who cannot milk one account for the benefit of another, will not operate this Bill any more than they operated the 1954 Act, because the most they will get will be £10 while running the almost certain risk of getting a certificate of disrepair which may land them in an expense of £15 or £20, thus making the game not worth the candle.

That is the very great risk which we run with the Bill as now drawn if our primary concern is not so much to safeguard the tenant against an increase of rent as to stop him getting pneumonia. I am much more interested in the latter than in the former. With the objection which I have admitted, the point behind my Amendment is that, on the advice of their agents or on their own determinations, many landlords will be able to put work in hand, and will get a sum of money reasonably sufficient to do the work if they want to do it.

I sum up the whole thing. On the topic of delay, the Amendments suggested are unworkable and unrealistic. On the topic of undertakings, this is a sound principle and the House should accept it. On the subject of the appropriate length of time before which all the work has to be completed, there is a very strong case—even in spite of the objection, which I have admitted—for increasing the time to a reasonable period, so that a reasonable landlord who wants to do the work will not have the excuse that it is impossible to do it because the amount of cash is insufficient.

Mr. J. A. Sparks (Acton)

We are suffering from the disadvantage of taking a number of Amendments together. The hon. Member for Oldham, East (Sir I. Horobin) put his finger upon that weakness. He coupled the first two Amendments together and spoke of their effects.

If both Amendments were adopted, they would produce the result which the hon. Member described to the House, but if they could be put separately, Mr. Speaker, our intention would be very much more clearly revealed. One Amendment is very largely dependent upon the other. If the first is carried, there is not the same necessity for the second, whilst if the first is not carried there is greater necessity for the second.

The first Amendment proposes to reduce from six weeks to two weeks the period during which the landlord has to complete a list of repairs. The right hon. Gentleman was very anxious to tell the House, when we suggested an extension of this time in order to allow tenants to find out their rights and take steps to secure a certificate of disrepair, that the Bill had been before the country since last November and that by the time it became an Act there would have been a fair period for tenants to become aware of their rights and responsibilities. There was, therefore, no place for extending from three months to nine months the period after the service of a notice of increase.

Exactly the same argument applies to the landlords, who have had the same amount of time as the tenants, and ought to be aware of the responsibilities which will devolve upon them when the Bill becomes an Act. The hon. Member for Oldham, East pleaded the poverty of landlords; I do not think that is true in the great majority of cases. There may be very small landlords with one or two, or three or four, dwellings, and who are not men of wealth, but, by and large, property is owned by property companies or by people well able to afford to carry out the repairs provided for in the Bill.

Exactly what repairs are we talking about? There are insanitary conditions, to deal with which local authorities enforce the Public Health Acts. How long do they give landlords to carry out repairs in the statutory notices they serve? I think it is three months. At the end of the time, if the landlord does not carry out the repairs, the local authority may proceed to do them and, if the landlord has no money, the local authority is entitled to deduct something from the rent or to take the whole rent until the cost of the work has been met. Then the landlord resumes receipt of the rent. It is not at all a bad arrangement. The landlord's property has been preserved, the local authority has done the job at the lowest tender and has been paid for it, while the property is better as a consequence.

I assume that the repairs provided for in the Bill are not the kind enforceable under the Public Health Acts. If the rain is coming through the roof, which needs substantially rebuilding, that is a repair covered by the Public Health Acts. I cannot imagine that the list of repairs which the tenant will serve on the landlord will include types of repair covered by those Acts. If that is not so, I hope that the Minister will put the House right on this point. If the Bill includes those types of repair we shall get into deep water. This matter needs clearing up.

7.45 p.m.

If the landlord does not carry out the Public Health Acts repairs within a certain period of time, the tenant can go to the local authority which can serve a statutory notice on the landlord, who will have to do the repairs within three months. The period which we suggest during which the landlord should be asked to carry out the repairs is two weeks. It does not mean what the hon. Member for Oldham, East said it meant, that the landlord has to deal with the whole list of repairs in two weeks. If the first Amendment is carried we might very well leave the wording proposed to be left out in the second Amendment as it is. If, at the end of two weeks, the landlord has not been able to carry out the list of repairs, he can give an undertaking in the prescribed form to remedy those defects or such of them as the tenant may agree in writing to accept as sufficient. The landlord then has a further period of six months in which he can carry out the repairs.

If he goes back on that undertaking, who will assess whether he has failed in that undertaking or not? The argument used against the Amendments by the hon. Member for Oldham, East, was the impossibility of the landlord being able to do all the repairs in a fortnight, whereas he would have a further six months provided he gave an undertaking. If he did not carry out that undertaking, presumably the tenant would be entitled to a refund of the excess rent which he might have paid.

The first Amendment is necessary because it compels the landlord to face his responsibilities almost immediately, within two weeks of the Bill becoming effective. The landlord has already had prior notice of what is taking place in this House. He ought to be aware of what is required to be done and be ready and willing, by making prior arrangements with his building contractor or decorator. If he cannot complete the repairs in two weeks, he can enter into an undertaking to do so within six months.

Here, again, is the weakness of this Bill. Let us suppose that at the end of six months, he has not, in fact, carried out his undertaking, and that the period extends into seven or eight months or even a longer period of time. It may well be that the tenant has not been able to get a certificate of disrepair, because as long as that undertaking is valid, the tenant cannot get a certificate of disrepair from the local authority. The tenant, therefore, might well be driven up to the very end of the period of six months before he can go to the local authority and ask for a certificate of disrepair.

Tenants will not be watching these dates on the calendar. They will not be pin-pointing the dates when the six months period elapses and making a note that they must go to the local authority on the day before the six months expires to ask for a certificate of disrepair. They will not work it out in that sort of way, and the consequence in a large number of cases will be that the period of six months during which the undertaking has to be made effective, in the cases in which it has not been made effective, will have been exhausted before the tenant goes to the local authority for a certificate of disrepair.

If he has not got one in six months, the landlord walks away with an increase of rent. It is quite true that thereafter that rent may be reduced from twice the gross value and one-third, but, even so, it will represent, in some cases, quite an appreciable increase of rent to the landlord, while leaving the landlord in the position of not having spent very much on the repair of the property and having no need in some cases to do any more, while receiving the lowest minimum increase of rent.

This problem is full of all kinds of difficulties and perplexities, particularly for the tenant, and unless the tenant watches scrupulously the dates and times, the fact remains that in the end, where there is an unscrupulous landlord, the tenant will suffer. I would not like to say that all landlords are unscrupulous, because I believe that they are very much like tenants, some of whom are bad and some good, just as some landlords are good and some bad. I think the good landlords will get on with the job and get it done, but we are concerned constantly and continually with the type of landlord who is commercialising his property, who cares not two hoots about his tenants, their children or the condition of the place, so long as he can get as much money as he can out of it. I refer to the type of landlord who does not care two hoots about the conditions but is concerned in the main with his moneybags.

It is the bad landlord whom we want to catch. We do not want to provide the bad type of landlord with an escape route by playing up delay, by giving an undertaking and then going back on it, and by bamboozling and misleading his tenant in order to gain time to bring him an increase of rent to which he is really not entitled unless he carries out his obligations.

Therefore, I trust that the House will at least agree to the first Amendment, or, if not, that it will agree to the second. If the first Amendment is not agreed to, and the period of six weeks remains in which the landlord is expected to carry out his list of repairs, I think that that period of six weeks is a very reasonable length of time for him to carry out the kind of repairs which a tenant would request him to do.

We cannot emphasise too strongly, because the Minister has emphasised the point in regard to the tenant, the fact that the landlord will have already had foreknowledge of the Act and ought to be prepared, when this Bill becomes an Act, to carry out his obligations. Six weeks is quite a fair period of time in which to get the job done, because, in the main, I would assume that the items of repair which the tenant would be validly able to put on his notice of disrepair are those kinds of repairs which are not included in the types covered by the Public Health Acts.

I think the Minister ought to clear up this point, because the tenant will not know, and at the moment we do not know, what repairs the tenant may validly put upon his notice. As this list of repairs is subject to the endorsement of the local authority later on, and, in the case in which the landlord goes to the county court, also of the county court, it may well be that a tenant might have repairs on his list that are not valid and which are covered by previous Acts.

Perhaps the Minister can explain to us a little more precisely what kind of repairs the tenant may include in his notice of disrepair to the landlord, because it would help us very considerably to understand more clearly the implications of this part of the Schedule

Mr. H. Brooke

My hon. Friends will notice that we have made one striking advance this evening. The hon. Member for Acton (Mr. Sparks) has discovered that there are some good landlords. We have sat for very many days in Committee, and I do not recollect a single admission from the other side that that animal existed at all, except that there was one shining specimen in the shape of the hon. and learned Member for Kettering (Mr. Mitchison).

I have no objection at all to seeking to include these three subjects in a single debate, but I am grateful to the hon. Member for Acton for having suggested that it is quite a considerable intellectual feat to do it. He himself devoted most of his speech to the first one.

I want to explain to the House why the Government think that the plan devised in this Bill is the most practical one we can put forward. It is that it will have the result of getting the work done, which is the major objective, in a manner that will not overload the public authorities, but will leave the full strength of the public authorities, in reserve if anybody tries, as it were, to cheat

Here, at the outset, I want to re-emphasise what my hon. Friend the Member for Oldham, East (Sir I. Horobin) so aptly put to the House—that all these provisions about repairs and certificates of disrepair in the First Schedule are additional to the existing provisions of the Housing Acts and the Public Health Acts. The hon. Member for Acton, who understands these matters, appreciated that, I realise, but the hon. Member for Attercliffe (Mr. J. Hynd) gave the House a picture of gaping holes in the roof continuing for eight months with the rain pouring in and nobody doing anything about it. If he thinks that is what happens, he is not indicting this Bill; he is indicting the local authority.

Mr. J. Hynd

May I point out to the Minister that this Bill deals with increases of rent in relation to repairs? What the Schedule provides is that, irrespective of what may be done under the Public Health Acts or any other provisions, the landlord will escape the consequences of this Bill for nine weeks, or for six months plus nine weeks. We propose to protect the tenant against an increase of rent while these other provisions operate.

Mr. Brooke

The hon. Member surely realises that this Bill in no way detracts from the existing powers of the local authority to step in and do the work itself if some situation arises which is an offence under the Housing Acts or Public Health Acts and the landlord has had a notice served upon him and is doing nothing about it.

8.0 p.m.

The hon. Member for Acton inquired what sort of repairs the tenant could put in his notice of defects to the landlord. The tenant can put in anything he wishes, large repairs or small. He will probably put in everything he can think of to make up the list of things which are wrong with the house, and which, in his judgment, should be put right before he is willing to agree that the landlord is entitled to an increased rent. Some of those items may be affected by the provisions of the Housing Acts and the Public Health Acts and, naturally, there comes the inquiry as to why the local authority has not taken any enforcement action or done the work itself to remedy that state of affairs earlier. The Government believe that it is wise in the first instance to seek to bring the landlord and tenant together. We reject the idea that was pressed upon us during the Committee stage discussions that the tenant should go straight to the local authority, and ask for a certificate of disrepair.

Mr. Sparks

If the tenant's list includes repairs which come under the provisions of the Housing Acts and Public Health Acts, and assuming that the landlord does not do them within six weeks and the tenant goes to the local authority for a certificate of disrepair, can the local authority invoke the Public Health Acts, independently from the rest of the procedure of this Bill, to get those repairs carried out under its enforcement regulations?

Mr. Brooke

I can assure the hon. Member that this Bill takes away not one iota from the existing powers of local authorities as housing and public health authorities.

As I was saying, we believe that if we accepted the suggestion of hon. Members opposite, that the tenant should go first and report defects to the local authority, the result would be that many local authorities would be submerged under enormous masses of paper referring to defects which could and would be put right without any reference to the local authority at all. Yet, because they had been reported, the authority would have to send its public health inspectors although, in many cases, there would have been no need to do so because the matter could have been cleared up directly between the landlord and the tenant. That would delay the public health inspectors in getting round to the really serious cases where work that definitely needed doing was not being done. It would do less than justice to those tenants who were being dunned by landlords for additional rent when in fact the landlords did not qualify for it.

The first of these Amendments suggests that the landlord should have only two weeks instead of six weeks to decide what he is to do when the tenant serves on him a notice of defects. What has the landlord to do? He has to examine the list. He has to visit the house himself, or his agent has to do so. He will probably have to discuss with the tenant a number of items in the list because, whereas some may be clear, some others may be doubtful. No doubt, when the landlord and tenant go over the house together they may find that there are some items included in the notice which do not deserve to be there. They will find others which ought to be there. No one can say for certain that the original list of the tenant will not go further than the work that really requires to be done.

Then the landlord will have to get the builder to do the job, or alternatively, if it is a big undertaking, he will have to consult a surveyor or an architect. He will then have to get an estimate for the work involved. There are very few cases in which one can be assured that all this can conceivably happen within two weeks. After all, the tenant can serve a notice at any time. The landlord may not be at home that day. The whole machinery may not start working instantly, and no one could say, even if trivialities were involved, that two weeks would suffice for this purpose. Yet hon. Members opposite have been urging this Amendment, not to secure that trivial defects are dealt with, but substantial defects, and it is substantial defects which will require rather more time than the period of two weeks which hon. Members opposite wish to put into the Bill. The Government think that six weeks is the shortest period which could possibly be fixed for all this to happen and for the landlord to be able to put himself in a position in every case either to carry out the work or to know whether he can give an undertaking to do so.

There is a related Amendment—I am grateful to the hon. and learned Member for Kettering (Mr. Mitchison) who, in his intervention, distinguished these three groups. The related Amendment is that which would allow the landlord only one week instead of three weeks, if the local authority had notified him that it intended to issue a certificate of disrepair. By the provisions of paragraph (c) the tenant is allowed three weeks in which to make up his mind whether he wishes to object when the local authority proposes to revoke a certificate of disrepair. All the tenant has to do is to say "Yes" or "No". If three weeks is a reasonable time to allow the tenant to say "Yes" or "No", surely it cannot be argued that one week is a reasonable time in which to call on the landlord to decide what he proposes to do when the local authority gives him notice that it is going to issue a certificate of disrepair.

A new situation has arisen here. The House will realise that it is not just a repetition of the provision of six weeks. In those six weeks the landlord and tenant may have been unable to agree on what is really necessary. The landlord may have said, "I think the following items are necessary". The tenant may say that he thinks a great many others are necessary, and the landlord may then say, "I will not do all those, or undertake to do them". Then the tenant goes to the local authority and seeks a certificate of disrepair. The local authority may strike out some of the items and say to the landlord, "Unless you carry out this revised list of repairs, we shall issue a certificate of disrepair".

That is a new situation for the landlord and he must make another appreciation of the position. Having got the local authority's view of what work is needed, he must make up his mind whether or not to put it in hand or to give an undertaking.

The Opposition wish to eliminate the whole conception of undertakings from the Bill. Here there is a fundamental difference between us. The Government believe that it is wise to institute this system by which landlords can give undertakings, because we think that in this way we shall succeed in getting a larger amount of repair work done. It will not be possible for everybody to put repair work in hand instantly. Obviously, were that to happen, there would be a colossal and sudden over-loading of the builders and decorators of this country because people were seeking to get everything done simultaneously.

We believe it better that the landlord should be given the option of doing the work at once or of giving a promise, because that is what it is; it is a promise to carry out the work. If he gives that promise, as was pointed out by my hon. Friend the Member for Oldham, East, he will gain the assistance of the increased rent he can collect to enable him to afford the repairs.

I should have thought that even hon. Members opposite in their criticisms of the 1954 Act would be willing to recognise that one of the serious difficulties in getting the work of repair put in hand is that so many landlords literally have no surplus cash with which to get started. This system of being able to collect the higher rent provided that one has given a promise to do the repairs, and that one carries out the promise, will speed up and not delay the work of repair. The fundamental difference between us is the different views taken as to whether or not it should be practicable for the landlord to give an undertaking.

If a landlord—here I may be answering a point raised by the hon. Member for Acton—gives an undertaking and then does not fulfil it within six months, the tenant does not have to make another application to the local authority for a certificate of disrepair. He can start abating the rent at once. Not only will he not have to pay any more than the old rent, but he will also be able to start deducting, even from that, the amount that he has overpaid, in accordance with the formula in an Amendment which we inserted in Committee. That happens automatically. In a Government Amendment on which I hope I may have a moment to speak a little later, we are providing that it shall be possible to get the local authority to give its decision as to whether an undertaking has or has not been carried out.

The third point which this group of Amendments raises is whether or not six months is a reasonable time in which a landlord should carry out his undertaking. Contrary views have been expressed. My hon. Friend the Member for Oldham, East urged in Committee that six months was too short and that in cases which he could visualise in his constituency the landlord would not be able to collect sufficient cash in the space of six months to put in hand repairs unless they were very small repairs. We have, on the contrary, the view expressed by the Opposition—I hardly think the Opposition presses it seriously—that the period of six months should be drastically reduced and brought down to only one month, which could be extended by agreement in writing between the landlord and tenant.

If one inserted such a provision, a tenant might frustrate the perfectly sincere object of the Opposition by refusing to allow the landlord more than a month even though the landlord could not possibly get the work done in that time. There must be many cases in which the work could not be completed in a month even if everybody was trying his very best. One month would be altogether too short a period at any stage, and more particularly at the initial stage when we must contemplate that there will be an unusual load on the building industry. In many cases it will not be possible to get a builder straight away to take on any job to be done, and the work will have to be spread. The landlord who is more than anxious to go forward with it may nevertheless not be able to get anyone to do it.

That is why the Government have taken the view—I cannot hold out any hope to the Opposition or to my hon. Friend that we could depart in either direction—that six months is a wise and reasonable period for the undertaking to run. In many cases, of course, the work will be carried out long before that time is over. In other cases, through dishonesty, through lack of money or through sheer practical inability to get the work done, the promise may not be fulfilled. The House will have noticed that there is an Amendment in my name which deals with the case of dishonesty. I hope this will be effective and that it will be welcomed by both sides of the House.

8.15 p.m.

As I have said, if the work is not carried out by the end of six months, the tenant has his immediate remedy by way of abating the rent. I would point out to the hon. Member for Acton that in the first instance it will be an abatement not to one and one-third times the gross value but right back to the original rent. The abatement to one and one-third occurs only if the house has been put into proper repair and then falls out of repair again and a certificate of disrepair is claimed.

I have tried in a reasonable time, having regard to the Guillotine arrangement, to reply on what are really three separate points. I hope I have convinced the House, if it is open to conviction, that it really would not improve the Bill to accept either the three main Amendments recommended by the Opposition or the Amendment recommended by my hon. Friend; but that if we leave the Bill as it is, subject to the improvements incorporated in subsequent Government Amendments, we really shall be establishing a practical system by which repairs will be put in hand, and if a landlord seeks to gain increased rent and yet fails to carry out his undertakings to do repairs, the tenant will have a speedy and practical remedy.

Mr. Mitchison

The reason the three groups of Amendments were suggested for discussion together is that they are to a considerable extent alternatives. Obviously, the one to abolish landlords' undertakings altogether and the other to limit their time must be alternatives. Equally, I would say that the reasonableness of the time allowed in the first instance must depend on whether or not there are to be landlords' undertakings.

I do not feel that I have embarrassed the right hon. Gentleman in the least. He was quite capable of coping with the intellectual problem of discussing the three groups of Amendments together. If that was all he had to cope with, he would not have much difficulty.

The right hon. Gentleman always strikes me as completely omitting the story before the moment when the tenant serves a notice on the landlord. He seems to assume that all tenants are malevolent and that most landlords are honest. If for one minute he will get all these nasty ideas out of his head and realise that the majority of his fellow men are probably about halfway, let us see what is likely to happen.

Mr. H. Brooke

I cannot recollect having made in my speech a single reference to the malevolence of any tenant, though I did say that there were some types of landlord who did not fulfil their undertakings.

Mr. Mitchison

I can give the right hon. Gentleman his reference. He suggested that local authorities would be snowed under by applications from tenants. If he thinks all those applications are well founded, what a terrible indictment of the landlords. He can have it whichever way he likes, but it seems to me that one or the other must be the case.

The right hon. Gentleman completely omits that before any of these proceedings obtain the tenant will have tried to get satisfaction from the landlord. At any rate, that has to be presumed in the vast majority of cases. The real question, then, is whether we have got effective machinery for preventing the landlord from continuing to collect rent when he ought to have done repairs. To me, it does not seem that in other respects the local authorities' powers have very much to do with this. What we have really to consider is just that.

In Committee, I gave the right hon. Gentleman an example, and as I do not think that he has thought enough about it I shall have to remind him of it. Let us take the hole in the roof through which the rain is coming, whether many repairs are wanted or not. The hon. Member for Crosby (Mr. Page) is laughing. He can have it as a hole in the wall if he likes, or, if he goes round London, he can see plenty of holes in roofs. I do not think that hon. Members opposite realise the state of disrepair into which many of these houses have been allowed to fall. I suppose that they never see the dwellings of the humble.

Mr. Page

I was not laughing at the question of repair, but at the hon. and learned Gentleman's repetition of the example of the hole in the roof, of which we heard so much in Committee.

Mr. Mitchison

It is a very good example, but I do not mind taking a hole in any part of the structure of the house, if it will satisfy the hon. Gentleman. The point is that if external repairs are not done, a hole, fault or other defect appears in the external structure. Once that happens then, in the British climate, and in most others, the wet comes in. That is half the trouble. The old phrase that one must keep the house windproof and waterproof relates just to that, as hon. Gentlemen opposite know perfectly well.

If there is such a defect, what will happen? For the answer, I come back to this timetable. Suppose that, in fact, the landlord wants to play for time, or suppose that he is in no position to do the repairs, or, suppose, if hon. Members like, that he just does not bother about it—take any of those suppositions. Six weeks have to elapse before the tenant can go to the local authority; three weeks have to elapse before the local authority can do anything about it. Suppose that, at the end of those nine weeks, the landlord wakes up and decides to put in an undertaking—he has not to carry it out for six months.

There really is something wrong with legislation which provides that the landlord can go on collecting an increased rent when there is some defect or other in the structure which ought to be repaired. Here he can do that for over eight months on end. That is the whole trouble with this bit of legislation. As for landlords' undertakings, nobody in the least objects to a landlord promising to carry out repairs and doing what he has promised, but here it is given statutory force, and he is allowed to hold up the issue of a certificate of disrepair by the local authority—and is allowed to do so for no less than six months on end.

On the other hand, if the landlord cannot do the repairs within one month, or six months, what is the worst that will happen to him? All that will happen is that after that time he will not be able to collect his increase of rent. I do not see that there is anything unreasonable in that——

Mr. H. Brooke

And will have to repay the increase he has collected.

Mr. Mitchison

All right—but what is unreasonable about it?

I absolutely fail to understand the suggestion that this is some terrible imposition on landlords. It is far more likely, if left in its present form, to prevent tenants making any effective use whatever of this Schedule. I have been through the Schedule several times, I have heard all the discussions on it, and, though I do not say that it has been put in for the purpose of preventing tenants making effective use of it, I do say that it has been put in for the purpose of limiting very considerably the powers that tenants should have to get repairs done, and to withhold the rent increase until they are done.

In the legislation of the 'twenties, which remained in force for twenty years or thereabouts, there was the simplest possible formula, and it worked for years. All that had to be done was to get a certificate from the local authority, and certain rent increases dependent on questions of good repair and the like were suspended. In the 1954 Bill, another and more complicated provision was put in. Really, the indecent haste with which right hon. and hon. Gentlemen opposite chuck the whole of that provision over, and the Prime Minister with it, continues to shock me.

If they had put anything better in its place, if, above all, they had put something simpler in its place, I would sympathise with them, but this is an incredibly complicated provision, and I remain of the opinion that the purpose of the Schedule is to limit the tenant's right to get repairs done, and to withhold rent increases while they are being done. I think that the landlords, and the Tory Party, have found this habit of tenants insisting on landlords doing repairs, and of withholding rent meanwhile, much too troublesome, and that this complicated, nasty and unjust Schedule is designed to prevent that right being freely and properly exercised.

I must be a very nasty, suspicious-minded person, but I have listened to every possible reason put forward by the right hon. Gentleman and by his hon. Friends, and not one of them carries the least conviction. Why, in particular, they allow the landlord six whole months to put right something like a broken sash-cord—which was held by the House of Lords to put a house out of good repair —and to stop up, I repeat to the hon. Gentleman, a hole in the roof, is utterly incomprehensible.

Question put, That "six" stand part of the Bill: —

The House proceeded to a Division, and Mr. DEPUTY-SPEAKER having directed that the doors be locked——

Major Sir William Anstruther-Gray (Berwick and East Lothian)

(seated and covered): May I raise a point of order, Mr. Deputy-Speaker? May I ask whether sufficient time, according to the Standing Order, was allowed before the doors were locked? May I have your answer, please?

Mr. Deputy-Speaker (Sir Gordon Touche)

I understand that the clock went wrong. We shall have the Division again.

Sir W. Anstruther-Gray

Thank you very much, Mr. Deputy-Speaker.

Question put, That "six" stand part of the Bill: —

The House divided: Ayes 241, Noes 215.

Division No. 88.] AYES [8.35 p.m.
Agnew, Sir Peter Doughty, C. J. A. Horobin, Sir Ian
Aitken, W.T. du Cann, E. D. L. Horsbrugh, Rt. Hon. Dame Florence
Allan, R. A. (Paddington, S.) Dugdale, Rt. Hn. Sir T. (Richmond) Howard, Hon. Greville (St. Ives)
Alport, C. J. M. Duncan, Capt. J. A. L. Howard, John (Test)
Amery, Julian (Preston, N.) Eden, J. B. (Bournemouth, West) Hughes, Hallett, Vice-Admiral J.
Amory, Rt. Hn. Heathcoat (Tiverton) Elliot, Rt. Hon. W. E. Hulbert, Sir Norman
Anstruther-Gray, Major Sir William Elliott, R. W. Hurd, A. R.
Arbuthnot, John Erroll, F. J. Hutchison, Sir Ian Clark (E'b'gh, W.)
Armstrong, C. W. Farey-Jones, F. W. Hutchison, Sir James (Scotstoun)
Ashton, H. Fell, A. Iremonger, T. L.
Astor, Hon. J. J. Finlay, Graeme Irvine, Bryant Godman (Rye)
Baldock, Lt.-Cmdr. J. M. Fisher, Nigel Jenkins, Robert (Dulwich)
Baldwin, A. E. Fletcher-Cooke, C. Johnson, Dr. Donald (Carllsle)
Balniel, Lord Fort, R. Johnson, Eric (Blackley)
Barber, Anthony Fraser, Sir Ian (M'cmbe & Lonsdale) Joynson-Hicks, Hon. Sir Lancelot
Barter, John Freeth, Denzil Kaberry, D.
Baxter, Sir Beverley Garner-Evans, E. H. Keegan, D.
Beamish, Maj. Tufton George, J. C. (Pollok) Kerby, Capt. H. B.
Bell, Philip (Bolton, E.) Gibson-Watt, D. Kershaw, J. A.
Bevins, J. R. (Toxteth) Glover, D. Kirk, P. M.
Bidgood, J. C. Godber, J. B. Lagden, G. W.
Biggs-Davison, J. A. Gomme-Duncan, Col. Sir Alan Lambert, Hon. G.
Birch, Rt. Hon. Nigel Goodhart, P. C. Langford-Holt, J. A.
Bishop, F. P. Gough, C. F. H. Leavey, J. A.
Bossom, Sir Alfred Gower, H. R. Leburn, W. G.
Boyd-Carpenrter, Rt. Hon. J. A. Graham, Sir Fergus Legge-Bourke, Maj. E. A. H.
Braine, B. R. Green, A. Legh, Hon. Peter (Petersfield)
Braithwaite, Sir Albert (Harrow, W.) Gresham Cooke, R. Linstead, Sir H. N.
Bromley-Davenport, Lt.-Col. W. H. Grimston, Hon. John (St. Albans) Llewellyn, D. T.
Brooke, Rt. Hon. Henry Grimston, Sir Robert (Westbury) Lloyd, Maj. Sir Guy (Renfrew, E.)
Brooman-White, R. C. Grosvenor, Lt.-Col. R. G. Lucas, P. B. (Brentford & Chiswick)
Browne, J. Nixon (Craigton) Gurden, Harold Lucas-Tooth, Sir Hugh
Bullus, Wing Commander E. E. Hall, John (Wycombe) McAdden, S. J.
Burden, F. F. A. Harris, Frederlc (Croydon, N,W.) Macdonald, Sir Peter
Butcher, Sir Herbert Harrison, A. B. C. (Maldon) Mackeson, Brig. Sir Harry
Carr, Robert Harrison, Col. J. H. (Eye) McKibbin, A. J.
Cary, Sir Robert Harvey, Air Cdre. A. V. (Macolesfd) Mackie, J. H. (Galloway)
Chichester-Clark, R. Harvey, Ian (Harrow, E.) McLaughlin, Mrs. P.
Clarke, Brig. Terence (Portsmth, W.) Harvey, John (Walthamstow, E.) Maclay, Rt. Hon. John
Conant, Maj. Sir Roger Harvie-Watt, Sir George Maoleod, Rt. Hon. Iain (Enfield, W.)
Cooke, Robert Hay, John MacLeod, John (Ross & Cromarty)
Cordeaux, Lt.-Col. J. K. Heald, Rt, Hon. Sir Lionel Macmillan, Maurice (Halifax)
Corfield, Capt. F. V. Heath, Rt. Hon. E. R. G. Macpherson, Niall (Dumfries)
Craddock,Beresford (Spelthorne) Henderson, John (Cathcart) Maddan, Martin
Crouch, R. F. Henderson-Stewart, Sir James Maitland, Cdr. J. F. W. (Horncastle)
Crowder, Sir John (Finchley) Hicks-Beach, Maj. W. W. Maitland, Hon. Patrick (Lanark)
Cunningham, Knox Hill, Mrs. E. (Wythenshawe) Mannlngham-Buller, Rt. Hon. Sir R.
Currie, G. B. H. Hirst, Geoffrey Marshall, Douglas
Dance, J. C. G. Hobson, J.G.S.(War'ck&Leam'gtn) Mathew, R.
Davidson, Viscountess Holland-Martin, C. J. Maude, Angus
D'Avigdor-Goldsmid, Sir Henry Hope, Lord John Maudling, Rt. Hon. R.
Deedes, W. F. Hornby, R. P. Mawby, R. L.
Dighy, Simon Wingfield Hornsby-Smith, Miss M. P. Maydon, Lt.-Comdr. S. L. C.
Medlicott, Sir Frank Redmayne, M. Thomas, Leslie (Canterbury)
Milligan, Rt. Hon. W. R. Rees-Davies, W. R. Thomas, P. J. M. (Conway)
Moore, Sir Thomas Remnant, Hon. P. Thompson, Kenneth (Walton)
Mott-Radeliffe, Sir Charles Renton, D. L. M. Thompson, Lt.-Cdr.R.(Croydon, S.)
Nabarro, G. D. N. Ridsdale, J. E. Thornton-Kemeley, C. N.
Nairn, D. L. S. Robertson, Sir David Tiley, A. (Bradford, W.)
Neave, Airey Robson-Brown, W. Turner, H. F. L.
Nicholls, Harmar Rodgers, John (Sevenoaks) Turton, Rt. Hon. R. H.
Nicholson, Godfrey (Farnham) Roper, Sir Harold Vane, W. M. F.
Nugent, G. R. H Ropner, Col. Sir Leonard Vaughan-Morgan, J. K.
Oakshott, H. D. Russell, R. S. Vickers, Miss Joan
O'Neill, Hn. Phelim(Co. Antrim, N.) Schofield, Lt.-Col. W. Vosper, Rt. Hon. D. F.
Orr, Capt. L. P. S. Scott-Miller, Cmdr. R. Wakefield, Edward (Derbyshire, W.)
Orr-Ewing, Charles Ian(Hendon, N.) Shepherd, William Wakefield, Sir Wavell (St. M'lebone)
Osborne, C. Smithers, Peter (Winchester) Ward, Rt. Hon. G. R. (Woroester)
Page, R. G. Spearman, Sir Alexander Ward, Dame Irene (Tynemouth)
Pannell, N. A. (Kirkdale) Speir, R. M. Watkinson, Rt. Hon. Harold
Partridge, E. Spence, H. R. (Aberdeen, W.) Webbe, Sir H.
Peyton, J. W. W. Spens, Rt. Hn. Sir P.(Kens'gt'n, S.) Whitelaw, W.S.I.(Penrith&Border)
Pickthorn, K. W. M. Stanley, Capt. Hon. Richard Williams, R. Dudley (Exeter)
Pike, Miss Mervyn Stevens, Geoffrey Wills, G. (Bridgwater)
Pilkington, Capt. R. A. Steward, Harold (Stockport, S.) Wilson, Geoffrey (Truro)
Pitman, I. J. Steward, Sir William(Woolwich, W.) Wood, Hon. R.
Pott, H. P. Stoddart-Scott, Col. M. Yates, William (The Wrekin)
Powell, J. Enoch Stuart, Rt. Hon. James (Moray)
Price, Henry (Lewisham, W.) Studholme, Sir Henry TELLERS FOR THE AYES:
Prior-Palmer, Brig. O. L. Sumner, W. D. M. (Orpington) Mr. Bryan and
Raikes, Sir Victor Taylor, Sir Charles (Eastbourne) Mr. Hughes-Young.
Rawlinson, Peter Temple, John M.
Ainsley, J. W. Fienburgh, W. Lewis, Arthur
Albu, A. H. Finch, H. J. Lindgren, G. S.
Allaun, Frank (Salford, E.) Fletcher, Eric Lipton, Marcus
Allen, Arthur (Bosworth) Forman, J. C. MacDermot, Niall
Awbery, S. S. Gaitskell, Rt. Hon. H. T. N. McGhee, H. G.
Bacon, Miss Alice Gooch, E. G. McGovern, J.
Balfour, A. Grenfell, Rt. Hon. D. R. McInnes, J.
Bence, C. R. (Dunbartonshire, E.) Grey, C. F. McKay, John (Wallsend)
Benn, Hn. Wedgwood (Bristol, S.E.) Griffiths, David (Rother Valley) MacMillan, M. K. (Western Isles)
Benson, G. Griffiths, Rt. Hon. James (Llanelly) MacPherson, Malcolm (Stirling)
Blackburn, F. Hale, Leslie Mahon, Simon
Blenklnsop, A. Hall, Rt. Hon. Glenvil (Coine Valley) Mainwaring, W. H.
Blyton, W. R. Hamilton, W. W. Mallalieu, J. P. W. (Huddersfd, E.)
Boardman, H. Hannan, W. Mann, Mrs. Jean
Bowden, H. W. (Leicester, S.W.) Harrison, J. (Nottingham, N.) Marquand, Rt. Hon. H. A.
Bowen, E. R. (Cardigan) Hastings, S. Mason, Roy
Bowles, F. G. Hayman, F. H. Mayhew, C. P.
Braddock, Mrs. Elizabeth Healey, Denis Mitchison, G. R.
Brockway, A. F. Henderson, Rt. Hn. A. (Rwly Regis) Monslow, W.
Broughton, Dr. A. D. D, Herbison, Miss M. Moody, A. S.
Burke, W. A. Hewitson, Capt. M. Morris, Percy (Swansea, W.)
Burton, Miss F. E. Hobson, C. R. (Keighley) Mort, D. L.
Butler, Herbert (Hackney, C.) Holman, P. Moss, R.
Butler, Mrs. Joyce (Wood Green) Holt, A. F. Moyle, A.
Callaghan, L. J. Houghton, Douglas Mulley, F. W.
Carmichael, J. Howell, Charles (Perry Barr) Neal, Harold (Bolsover)
Castle, Mrs. B. A. Hoy, J. H. Noel-Baker, Rt. Hon. P. (Derby, S.)
Chapman, W. D. Hughes, Cledwyn (Anglesey) Oliver, G. H.
Chetwynd, G. R. Hughes, Emrys (S. Ayrshire) Oram, A. E.
Coldrick, W. Hunter, A. E. Orbach, M.
Collick, P. H. (Birkenhead) Hynd, H. (Acorington) Oswald, T.
Corbet, Mrs. Freda Hynd, J. B. (Attercliffe) Owen, W. J.
Cove, W. G. Irvine, A. J. (Edge Hill) Padley, W. E.
Craddock, George (Bradford, S.) Irving, Sydney (Dartford) Paget, R. T.
Cronin, J. D. Isaacs, Rt. Hon. G. A. Paling, Rt. Hon. W. (Dearne Valley)
Grossman, R. H. S. Janner, B. Palmer, A. M. F.
Cullen, Mrs. A. Jay, Rt. Hon. D. P. T. Pannell, Charles (Leeds, W.)
Dalton, Rt. Hon. H. Jeger, Mrs. Lena(Holbn & St.Pncs.S.) Pargiter, G. A.
Davles, Harold (Leek) Jenkins, Roy (Stechford) Parkin, B. T.
Davies, Stephen (Merthyr) Johnston, Douglas (Paisley) Paton, John
Deer, G. Jones, Rt. Hon. A. Creech (Wakefield) Pearson, A.
de Freitas, Geoffrey Jones, David (The Hartlepools) Peart, T. F.
Delargy, H. J. Jones, Jack (Rotherham) Pentland, N.
Dodds, N. N. Jones, J. Idwal (Wrexham) Popplewell, E.
Dugdale, Rt. Hn. John (W. Brmwch) Jones, T. W. (Merioneth) Price, Philips (Gloucestershire, W.)
Ede, Rt. Hon. J. C. King, Dr. H. M. Probert, A. R.
Edwards, Rt. Hon. John (Brighouse) Lawson, G. M. Proctor, W. T.
Edwards, Rt. Hon. Ness (Caerphilly) Ledger, R. J. Pryde, D. J.
Edwards, Robert (Bliston) Lee, Frederick (Newton) Randall, H. E.
Edwards, W. J. (Stepney) Lee, Miss Jennie (Cannock) Rankin, John
Evans, Albert (Islington, S.W.) Lever, Harold (Cheatham) Redhead, E. C.
Evans, Edward (Lowestoft) Lever, Leslie (Ardwick) Reeves, J.
Reid, William Stewart, Michael (Fulham) West, D. G.
Rhodes, H. Stones, W. (Consett) Wheeldon, W. E.
Robens, Rt. Hon. A. Summerskill, Rt. Hon. E. White, Henry (Derbyshire, N.E.)
Roberts, Albert (Normanton) Swingler, S. T. Wilcock, Group Capt. C. A. B.
Roberts, Goronwy (Caernarvon) Sylvester, G. O. Wilkins, W. A.
Rogers, George (Kensington, N.) Taylor, Bernard (Mansfield) Willey, Frederick
Ross, William Taylor, John (West Lothian) Williams, David (Neath)
Royle, C. Thomas, George (Cardiff) Williams, Rev. Llywelyn (Ab'tillery)
Shinwell, Rt. Hon. E. Thomas, Iorworth (Rhondda, W.) Williams, Ronald (Wigan)
Short, E. W. Thomson, George (Dundee, E.) Williams, Rt. Hon. T. (Don Valley)
Silverman, Julius (Aston) Thornton, E. Williams, W. R. (Openshaw)
Simmons, C. J. (Brierley Hill) Timmons, J. Williams, W. T. (Barons Court)
Skeffington, A. M. Tomney, F. Willis, Eustace (Edinburgh, E.)
Slater, Mrs. H. (Stoke, N.) Ungoed-Thomas, Sir Lynn Wilson, Rt. Hon. Harold (Huyton)
Slater, J. (Sedgefield) Usborne, H. C. Woof, R. E.
Smith, Ellis (Stoke, S.) Viant, S. P. Younger, Rt. Hon. K.
Snow, J. W. Warbey, W. N. Zilliacus, K.
Sorensen, R. W. Watkins, T. E.
Soskice, Rt. Hon. Sir Frank Weitzman, D. TELLERS FOR THE NOES:
Sparks, J. A. Wells, Percy (Faversham) Mr. J. T. Price and Mr. Holmes.
Steele, T. Wells, William (Walsall, N.)
Mr. Mitchison

On a point of order, Mr. Deputy-Speaker. Something appears to have gone wrong. If, in fact, the Tory Party guillotined the clock, do we get any extra time to make up for the time lost by that?

Mr. Deputy-Speaker

I am sorry that the House has been put to inconvenience because the clock on the Table went wrong, but there is no question of extra time, as the House is governed by the Timetable Resolution.

Mr. E. Shinwell (Easington)

But, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, if the clock has gone wrong once it may go wrong again. Ought not we to suspend the sitting?

Mr. Deputy-Speaker

We can rely on other clocks.

Mr. J. Silverman

I beg to move, in page 19, line 15, after "notice", to insert: of defects consequent on those defects or of other substantial defects ".

Mr. Deputy-Speaker

I think it will be convenient to discuss with this Amendment the next Amendment, in the name of the hon. and learned Member for Kettering (Mr. Mitchison), in page 19, at end insert: Provided that, if on inspection of the dwelling the local authority are satisfied that any defect not specified in the said notice could properly have been specified therein or, being a defect not apparent or not fully apparent at the time of the service of the said notice, could properly have been specified in a notice served at the time of the said inspection, the local authority shall proceed as if that defect had been specified in the said first-mentioned notice. and the one after that in the name of the Minister, in page 19, line 20, at end insert: (3) If on an application by the tenant the county court is satisfied, as respects any defects, that the local authority have failed to issue a certificate of disrepair which ought to have been issued, the court shall direct the authority to proceed on the footing that, in relation to those defects, they are satisfied as to the matters specified in the foregoing sub-paragraph; and if on an application by the tenant the county court is satisfied that any defect not specified in a certificate of disrepair ought to have been specified therein, the court shall order that the defect shall be deemed to have been specified in the certificate.

8.45 p.m.

Mr. J. Silverman

As the Bill stands, a tenant has to give notice in writing to the landlord of the defects of which he complains. Consequently, he is completely bound by the list of defects which he provides for the landlord in the first place. The local authority cannot give any certificate relating to any other defects even if those defects are consequent upon the defects enumerated in the first place by the tenant. If, in the course of his investigations, the sanitary inspector finds other serious defects in the house, he cannot deal with them or make them part of his certificate, because they are not part of the specifications which were rendered to the landlord by the tenant.

This is an entirely new departure in relation to the Rent Acts. Up to now, under the 1920 Act, the tenant goes to a local authority and the local authority, if it thinks fit, issues him with a certificate of disrepair. Why on earth should not that procedure be continued? Is it because too many certificates have been issued and it would be too easy and too uncomplicated for the tenant to obtain a certificate of disrepair?

My hon. and learned Friend the Member for Kettering (Mr. Mitchison) said, with reference to the previous Amendments, that the whole of the Schedule is designed to limit the right and the power of the tenant to obtain his certificate of disrepair. As far as I can see, every device which ingenuity could provide for procrastination, delay or evasion, to prevent and discourage the tenant from obtaining a certificate of disrepair and to enable the landlord to get away with it, is incorporated in this extraordinarily complicated and difficult Schedule. I cannot but think that this has been a deliberate intention on the part of the Government.

The tenant, who is not a qualified person and knows very little about the nature of the defects, finds water coming through the roof. It may be that some slates are missing or it may be that there is a hole in the roof. The hon. Member for Crosby (Mr. Page) derides this, but for tens of thousands of tenants it is not a joke.

Mr. Page

I was not laughing at the hole in the roof but at the hon. Member raising that subject again when we had such amusement over it in Committee.

Mr. Silverman

The tenants are suffering, and "suffering" is not by any means an unduly harsh expression. They will not regard the hon. Member's amusement with any amusement. This is a most serious problem for tenants, and there are tens of thousands of tenants who complain about defective roofs and about water coming in. They cannot sleep. Water comes in on the beds, it rots the boards and spoils their clothes.

There are many hon. Members of this House who have had scores of examples of this from their own constituencies. This is not a source of amusement. Of all the types of disrepair it is the one which causes the most serious discomfort. When the tenant prepares his specifications how can he say what is the cause? There may be damp on the walls and water coming in. He does not know whether the ceiling is out of repair, whether the slates have gone, whether there is a hole in the roof.

Whatever the specification he prepares, as the Bill stands he is tied to it. The local authority is not entitled to go beyond the specifications, and if eventually, as he is entitled to do, the landlord appeals to a county court, the county court is bound to interpret those specifications rigidly and to tie the tenant to the original and specific complaints he has made. That is most unjust, and it imposes a considerable hardship on the tenant. It means that he has to get qualified assistance for which he must pay a considerable fee, because if he has to call in his own surveyor that will cost him quite a few pounds. This will discourage, and I cannot help feeling that it is intended to discourage, tenants from claiming their rights and from taking this procedure.

These Amendments propose two things. They propose first that if there are any defects consequent on the defects which have been outlined—for instance, water has been coming in and, as a consequence, floor boards have rotted—those are matters which the local authority can take into consideration. The Amendments propose also that if on inspection the sanitary inspector finds other defects, he can incorporate them in his certificate.

That is reasonable, and it means that it is left to the local authority's sanitary inspector to decide whether the house is certifiable or not. In that respect he can take into consideration, as he has done up to the present, every defect which he finds on investigation. We think that is reasonable and that it gives some balance between landlord and tenant. Therefore, even at this late stage, we are still hoping that it will be possible for the Minister to accept these Amendments.

Mr. Mitchison

I beg to second the Amendment.

I also want to refer briefly to the Amendment standing in my name, in page 19, line 20, in the form of a proviso, and also to the Minister's corresponding Amendment at the same place.

The trouble about the Minister's Amendment is that if the local authority finds more than the tenant knew of, or something that the tenant omitted—and often there will be defects of which the tenant could not have known at the time, as, for instance, dry rot—there has to be an application to the county court. I ask simply, why not leave the question to the local authority which knows all about these things and, from other points of view, often has to deal with them?

From one point of view I would commend the wish of the right hon. Gentleman to provide more work for the Bar, but from any other point of view I regard it as unnecessary and unfair on the tenant to have to make an application to the county court whenever there is a question of any defect which was not apparent to him, or which he may accidentally have omitted. The entire matter should be left to the local authority without the need for an application to the county court to enable the local authority to specify further defects, which is the intention of the right hon. Gentleman's Amendment. I, therefore, prefer our own.

Mr. Page

Following what was said by the hon. and learned Member for Kettering (Mr. Mitchison), I am not even sure that the words in the Minister's Amendment would cover the case of defects not specified in the notice, because that Amendment refers merely to defects which "ought to have been specified" in the certificate of disrepair. In fact, they ought not to have been specified in the certificate of disrepair if they were not specified in the notice. I do not think the Amendment covers the point made by the hon. Member for Aston (Mr. J. Silverman).

I stand by what I said in Committee; I support the Amendment in principle and think it would be good if it were introduced into the Bill. Whenever we on this side of the House and on our side of the Committee upstairs found any good in a point put forward from the other side, we unstintingly supported it without any party frills. When hon. Members opposite found a point which we raised with which they agreed, they agreed grudgingly and with all the party abuse which they could find.

I sincerely agree with what has been said in support of the Amendment. I do not think its wording is quite right as it stands, because we do not want to give the local authority a roving commission. The words at the end of the Amendment to page 19, line 15, "or of other substantial defects" go, I think, too wide. There are other powers for a local authority, under the Housing Acts and the Public Health Acts, to deal with these matters.

Nevertheless, if there are defects consequential on those which the tenant mentions in his notice, I see no reason that they should not be included in the certificate of disrepair. If a landlord has allowed the matter to go as far as to the local authority, it seems to me reasonable that he should run the risk of the local authority finding that a hole in the roof has caused dry rot. That is the best example; there are many others, but that example explains the sort of defect which a tenant may not recognise and which a local authority might find on inspection. It would be reasonable for the authority to put it into the certificate of disrepair. I ask my hon. Friend the Parliamentary Secretary to ask his right hon. Friend to consider this again.

Mr. Bevins

I am very glad to have an opportunity of saying a word on this Amendment, although the principle of it was exhaustively discussed in our proceedings in Standing Committee.

The series of Amendments to which the hon. Member for Aston (Mr. J. Silverman) addressed himself would allow local authorities to add items as they thought fit to the tenant's list of defects, or consequential defects or other substantial defects; that is the sum total of the series of Amendments. The argument for the Amendment is that the tenant, not being a qualified man, cannot be expected to know all the defects in the house which he occupies. We have had over and over again the well-worn case of the hole in the roof and the dry rot which may follow from it. The argument is that it would be sensible for the public health inspectors of the local authorities to be allowed to add to the list because they are better qualified than the tenants to decide what is wrong.

I am bound to point out that from the beginning, rightly or wrongly, the Bill has proceeded from the assumption that it is the tenant and his family that occupy the house and that it is the defects which interfere with the enjoyment of the tenant and his family which are the important defects which should be repaired. If the tenant is not satisfied, he has an un limited right to draw the attention of the landlord to any additional defects ——

It being Nine o'clock, Mr. DEPUTY-SPEAKER proceeded, pursuant to Orders, to put forthwith the Question already proposed from the Chair.

Question put, That those words be there inserted in the Bill: —

The House divided: Ayes 225, Noes 254.

Division No. 89.] AYES [9.0 p.m.
Ainsley, J. W. Herbison, Miss M. Peart, T. F.
Albu, A. H. Hewitson, Capt. M. Pentland, N.
Allaun, Frank (Salford, E.) Hobson, C. R. (Keighley) Plummer, Sir Leslie
Allen, Arthur (Bosworth) Holman, P. Popplewell, E.
Allen, Scholefield (Crewe) Holmes, Horace Price, J. T. (Westhoughton)
Awbery, S. S. Holt, A. F. Probert, A. R.
Bacon, Miss Alice Houghton, Douglas Proctor, W. T.
Baird, J. Howell, Charles (Perry Barr) Pryde, D, J.
Balfour, A. Hoy, J. H. Randall, H. E.
Bellenger, Rt. Hon. F. J. Hughes, Cledwyn (Anglesey) Rankin, John
Bence, C. R. (Dunbartonshire, E.) Hughes, Emrys, (S. Ayrshire) Redhead, E. C.
Benn, Hn. Wedgwood (Bristol, S.E.) Hunter, A. E. Reeves, J.
Benson, G. Hynd, H. (Accrington) Reid, William
Blackburn, F. Hynd, J. B. (Atteroliffe) Rhodes, H.
Blenkinsop, A. Irvine, A. J. (Edge Hill) Robens, Rt. Hon. A.
Blyton, W. R. Irving, Sydney (Dartford) Roberts, Albert (Normanton)
Board man, H, Isaacs, Rt. Hon. G. A. Roberts, Goronwy (Caernarvon)
Bowden, H. W. (Leicester, S.W.) Janner, B. Robinson, Kenneth (St. Panoras, N.)
Bowen, E. R. (Cardigan) Jay, Bt. Hon. D. P. T, Rogers, George (Kensington, N.)
Bowles, F. C. Jeger, George (Goole) Ross, William
Boyd, T. C. Jeger, Mrs. Lena(Holbn & St.Pncs.S.) Royle, C.
Braddock, Mrs. Elizabeth Jenkins, Roy (Stechford) Shinwell, Rt. Hon. E.
Brookway, A. F. Johnston, Douglas (Paisley) Short, E. W.
Broughton, Dr. A. D. D. Jones, Rt. Hn. A. Creech (Wakefield) Silverman, Julius (Aston)
Brown, Thomas (Ince) Jones, David (The Hartlepools) Skeffington, A. M.
Burke, W. A. Jones, Jack (Rotherham) Slater, Mrs. H. (Stoke, N.)
Burton, Miss F. E. Jones, J. Idwal (Wrexham) Slater, J. (Sedgefield)
Butler, Herbert (Hackney, c.) Jones, T. W. (Merioneth) Smith, Ellis (Stoke, S.)
Butler, Mrs. Joyce (Wood Green) King, Dr. H. M. Sorensen, R. W.
Callaghan, L. J. Lawson, G. M. Soskice, Rt. Hon. Sir Frank
Castle, Mrs. B. A. Ledger, R. J. Sparks, J. A.
Chapman, W. D. Lee, Frederick (Newton) Steele, T.
Chetwynd, G. R. Lee, Miss Jennie (Cannook) Stewart, Michael (Fulham)
Coldrick, W. Lever, Harold (Cheetham) Stonehouse, J. T.
Collick, P. H. (Birkenhead) Lever, Leslie (Ardwick) Stones, W. (Consett)
Corbet, Mrs. Freda Lewis, Arthur Strauss, Rt. Hon. George (Vauxhall)
Cove, W. G. Lindgren, G. S. Summerskill, Rt. Hon. E.
Craddock, George (Bradford, S.) Lipton, Marcus Swingler, S. T.
Cronin, J. D. MacDermot, Niall Sylvester, G. O.
Crossman, R. H. S. McGhee, H. G. Taylor, Bernard (Mansfield)
Cullen, Mrs, A. McGovern, J. Taylor, John (West Lothian)
Dalton, Rt. Hon. H. McKay, John (Wallsend) Thomas, George (Cardiff)
Davies, Ernest (Enfield, E.) MacMillan, M. K. (Western Isles) Thomas, lorwerth (Rhondda, W.>)
Davies, Harold (Leek) MacPherson, Malcolm (Stirling) Thomson, George (Dundee,E.)
Davies, Stephen (Merthyr) Mahon, Simon Thornton E
Deer, G. Mainwaring, W. H. Timmons. J.
de Freitas, Geoffrey Mallalieu, J. P. w. (Huddersfd, E.) Tomney, F.
Delargy, H. J. Mann, Mrs. Jean Ungoed-Thomas, Sir Lynn
Dodds, N. N. Marquand, Rt. Hon. H. A. Usborne, H. C.
Dugdale, Rt. Hn. John (W. Brmwch) Mason, Roy Viant, S. P.
Ede, Rt. Hon. J. C. Mayhew, C. P, Warbey, W. N.
Edwards, Rt. Hon. John (Brighouse) Mitchison, G. R. Watkins, T. E.
Edwards, Rt. Hon. Ness (Caerphilly) Monslow Weitzman, D.
Edwards, Robert (Bilston) Moody, A. S. Wells, Percy (Faversham)
Edwards, W. J. (Stepney) Morris, Percy (Swansea, W.) Wells, William (Walsall, N.)
Evans, Albert (Islington, S.W.) Mort, D. L. West, D. G.
Evans, Edward (Lowestoft) Moss, R. Wheeldon, W. E.
Flenburgh, W. Moyle, A. White, Henry (Derbyshire, N.E.)
Finch, H. J. Mulley, F. W. Wilcock, Group Capt. C. A. B.
Fletcher, Eric Neal, Harold (Bolsover) Wilkins. W. A.
Forman, J. C. Noel-Baker, Rt. Hon. P. (Derby, S.) Willey, Frederick
Gaitskell, Rt. Hon. H. T. N. O'Brien, Sir Thomas Williams, David (Neath)
Gooch, E. C. Oliver, G. H. Williams, Rev. Liywelyn (Ab'tillery)
Grenfell, Rt. Hon. D. R. Oram, A. E. Williams, Ronald (Wigan)
Grey, C. F. Orbach, M. Williams, Rt. Hon. T. (Don Valley)
Griffiths, David (Rother Valley) Oswald, T. Williams, W. R. (Openshaw)
Griffiths, Rt. Hon. James (Lianelly) Owen, W. J. Williams, W. T. (Barons Court)
Hale, Leslie Padley, W. E. Willis, Eustace (Edinburgh, E.)
Hall, Rt. Hn. Glenvil (Colne Valley) Paget, R. T. Wilson, Rt. Hon. Harold (Huyton)
Hamilton, W. W. Paling, Rt. Hon. W. (Dearne Valley) Woof, R. E.
Hannan, W. Palmer, A, M. F. Yates, V. (Ladywood)
Harrison, J. (Nottingham, N.) Pannell, Charles (Leeds, W.) Younger, Rt. Hon. K.
Hastings, S. Pargiter, G. A. Zilliacus, K.
Hayman, F. H. Parker, J.
Healey, Denis Parkin, B. T. TELLERS FOR THE AYES:
Henderson, Rt. Hn. A. (Rwly Regis) Paton, John Mr. Pearson and Mr. Simmons.
Agnew, Sir Peter Gower, H. R. Maitland, Cdr. J. F. W. (Horncastle)
Aitken, W. T. Graham, Sir Fergus Maitland, Hon. Patrick (Lanark)
Allan, R. A. (Paddington, S.) Green, A. Manningham-Buller, Rt. Hn. Sir R.
Alport, C. J. M. Gresham Cooke, R, Marshall, Douglas
Amery, Julian (Preston, N.> Grimston, Hon. John (St. Albans) Mathew, R.
Amory, Rt. Hn. Heathcoat (Tiverton) Grimston, Sir Robert (Westbury) Maude, Angus
Anstruther-Gray, Major Sir William Grosvenor, Lt.-Col. R. G. Maudilng, Rt. Hon. R.
Arbuthnot, John Gurden, Harold Mawby, R. L.
Armstrong, C. W, Hall, John (Wycombe) Maydon, Lt.-Comdr. S. L. C.
Ashton, H. Harris, Frederlo (Croydon, N.W.) Medlicott, Sir Frank
Actor, Hon. J. J. Harris, Reader (Heston) Milligan, Rt. Hon. W. R.
Atkins, H. E. Harrison, A. B. C. (Maldon) Moore, Sir Thomas
Baldook, Lt.-Cmdr. J. M. Harrison, Col. J, H. (Eye) Mott-Radclyffe, Sir Charles
Baldwin, A. E. Harvey, Air Cdre. A. V. (Macelesfd) Nabarro, G, D. N.
Balniel, Lord Harvey, lan (Harrow, E.) Nairn, D. L. S.
Barber, Anthony Harvey, John (Walthamstow, E.) Neave, Alrey
Barter, John Harvie-Watt, Sir George Nicholls, Harmar
Baxter, Sir Beverley Hay, John Nicholson, Godfrey (Farnham)
Beamish, Maj. Tufton Heald, Rt. Hon. Sir Lionel Nugent, G- R. H.
Bell, Philip (Bolton, E.) Heath, Rt. Hon. E. R. G. Oakshott, H. D.
Bevins, J. R. (Toxteth) Henderson, John (Cathoart) O'Neill, Hn. Phelim (Co. Antrim, N.)
Bidgood, J. C. Henderson-Stewart, Sir James Orr, Capt. L. P. S.
Biggs-Davison; J. A. Hesketh, R. F. Orr-Ewing, Charles lan (Hendon, N.)
Birch, Rt. Hon. Nigel Hicks-Beach, Mal. W. W. Osborne, C.
Bishop, F. P. Hill, Mrs. E. (Wythenshawe) Page, R. G.
Bossom, Sir Alfred Hill, John (S. Norfolk) Pannell, N. A. (Kirkdale)
Boyd-Carpenter, Rt. Hon. J. A. Hirst, Geoffrey Partridge, E.
Boyle, Sir Edward Hobson, J. G. S.(War'ok & Leam'gtn) Peyton, J. W. W.
Braine, B. R. Holland-Martin, C. J. Pickthorn, K. W. M.
Braithwaite, Sir Albert (Harrow, w.) Hope, Lord John Pike, Miss Mervyn
Bromley-Davenport, Lt.-Col. W. H. Hornby, R. P. Pilkington, Capt. R. A.
Brooke, Rt. Hon. Henry Hornsby-Smith, Miss M. P. Pitman, I, J.
Browne, J. Nixon (Craigton) Horobin, Sir lan Pott, H. P.
Bryan, P. Horsbrugh, Rt. Hon. Dame Flo-ence Powell, J. Enoch
Bullus, Wing Commander, E. E. Howard, Hon. Greville (St. Ives) Price, Henry (Lewisham, W.)
Burden, F. F. A. Howard, John (Test) Prior-Palmer, Brig. 0. L.
Butcher, Sir Herbert Hughes Hallett, Vice-Admiral J. Profume, J. D.
Carr, Robert Hughes-Young, M. H. C. Raikes, Sir Victor
Cary, Sir Robert Hulbert, Sir Norman Rawlinson, Peter
Chichester-Clark, R. Hurd, A. R. Redmayne, M.
Clarke, Brig. Terence (Portsmth, W.) Hutchison, Sir lan Clark (E'b'gh, W.) Rees-Davies, W. R.
Conant, Maj. Sir Roger Hyde, Montgomery Remnant, Hon. P.
Cooke, Robert Iremonger, T. L. Renton, D. L. M.
Cooper, A. E. Irvine, Bryant Godman (Rye) Ridsdale, J. E.
Cooper-Key, E. M. Jenkins, Robert (Dulwich) Robertson, Sir David
Cordeaux, Lt.-Col. J. K. Johnson, Dr. Donald (Carlisle) Robson-Brown, W.
Corfield, Capt. F. V. Johnson, Eric (Blackley) Rodgers, John (Sevenoaks)
Craddock, Beresford (Spelthorne) Joseph, Sir Keith Roper, Sir Harold
Crouch, R. F. Joynson-Hicks, Hon. Sir Lancelot Ropner, Col. Sir Leonard
Crowder, Sir John (Finchley) Kaberry, D. Russell, R. S.
Cunningham, Knox Keegan, D. Schofield, Lt.-Col. W.
Currie, G. B. H. Kerby, Capt. H. B. Scott-Miller, Cmdr. R.
Dance, J. C. G. Kershaw, J. A. Shepherd, William
Davidson, Viscountess Kirk, P. M. Smithers, Peter (Winchester)
D'Avigdor-Goldsmid, Sir Henry Lagden, G. W. Spearman, Sir Alexander
Deedes, W. F. Lambert, Hon. G. Speir, R. M.
Digby, Simon Wingfield Langford-Holt, J. A. Spence, H. R. (Aberdeen, W.)
Doughty, C. J. A. Leavey, J. A. Spens, Rt. Hn. Sir P. (Kens'gt'n, S.)
du Cann, E. D. L. Leburn, W. G. Stanley, Capt. Hon. Richard
Dugdale, Rt. Hn. Sir T. (Richmond) Legge-Bourke, Maj. E. A. H. Stevens, Geoffrey
Duncan, Capt. J. A. L, Legh, Hon. Peter (Petersfield) Steward, Harold (Stockport, S.)
Eden, J. B. (Bournemouth, West) Lindsay, Hon. James (Devon, N.) Steward, Sir William (Woolwich, W.)
Elliot, Rt. Hon. W. E. Linstead, Sir H. N, Stoddart-Scott, Col. M.
Elliott, R. W. Liewellyn, D. T. Storey, S.
Erroll, F. J. Lioyd, Maj. Sir Guy (Renfrew, E.) Stuart, Rt. Hon. James (Moray)
Farey-Jones, F. W. Longden, Gilbert Studholme, Sir Henry
Fell, A. Lucas, P. B. (Brentford & Chiswick) Sumner, W. D. M. (Orpington)
Finlay, Graeme Lucas-Tooth, Sir Hugh Taylor, Sir Charles (Eastbourne)
Fisher, Nigel McAdden, S. J. Temple, John M.
Fletcher-Cooke, C. Macdonald, Sir Peter Thomas, Leslie (Canterbury)
Fort, R. Mackeson, Brig. Sir Harry Thomas, P. J. M. (Conway)
Fraser, Sir lan (M'cmbe & Lonsdale) McKibbin, A. J. Thompson, Kenneth (Walton)
Freeth, Denzil Mackie, J. H. (Galloway) Thornton-Kemsley, C. N.
Garner-Evans, E. H. McLaughlin, Mrs. P. Tiley, A. (Bradford, W.)
George, J. C. (Pollak) Maclay, Rt. Hon. John Turner, H. F. L.
Gibson-Watt, D. McLean, Neil (Inverness) Turton, Rt. Hon. R. H.
Glover, D. Macleod, Rt. Hn. lain (Enfield, W.) Vane, W. M. F.
Godber, J. B. MacLeod, John (Ross & Cromarty) Vaughan-Morgan, J. K.
Gomme-Duncan, Col. Sir Alan Macmillan, Maurice (Halifax) Vickers, Miss Joan
Goodhart, P. C. Macpherson, Niall (Dumfries) Vosper, Rt. Hon. D. F.
Gough, C. F. H. Maddan, Martin Wakefield, Edward (Derbyshire, W.)
Wakefield, Sir Wavall (St. M'lebone) Whitelaw, W.S.I.(Penrith & Border) Yates, William (The Wrekin)
Ward, Rt. Hon. G. R. (Worcester) Williams, R. Dudley (Exeter)
Ward, Dame Irene (Tynemouth) Wills, G. (Bridgwater) TELLERS FOR THE NOES:
Watkinson, Rt. Hon. Harold Wilson, Geoffrey (Truro) Mr. Richard Thompson and
Webbe, Sir H. Wood, Hon. R. Mr. Brooman-White.

Mr. DEPUTY-SPEAKER then proceeded to put forthwith the Questions on Amendments, moved by a member of the Government, of which notice had been given, to that part of the Bill to be concluded at Nine o'clock.

Amendments made: In page 19, line 20, at end insert: (3) If on an application by the tenant the county court is satisfied, as respects any defects, that the local authority have failed to issue a certificate of disrepair which ought to have been issued, the court shall direct the authority to proceed on the footing that, in relation to those defects, they are satisfied as to the matters specified in the foregoing sub-paragraph; and if on an application by the tenant the county court is satisfied that any defect not specified in a certificate of disrepair ought to have been specified therein, the court shall order that the defect shall be deemed to have been specified in the certificate.

In line 31, after "cancelled", insert "under this paragraph".

In line 33, after "is", insert "so".

In line 44, at end insert: Provided that where—

  1. (a) a previous certificate of disrepair under this Schedule has been issued against the landlord in respect of the dwelling or any part thereof, or
  2. (b) the landlord has previously become liable under subsection (3) of section ten of the Housing Act, 1936, as the person having control of the dwelling or of any premises comprising the dwelling, to repay to the local authority (within the meaning of that section) any expenses incurred by them under that section, or
  3. (c) the landlord has previously given an undertaking under this Schedule in respect of the dwelling, or any other dwelling in the area of the local authority, and any of the defects to which that undertaking related remained unremedied on the expiration of six months from the giving thereof, or
  4. (d) the landlord has previously been convicted of an offence under section ninety-five of the Public Health Act, 1936, of failing to comply with, or contravening, a nuisance order or an offence under paragraph 12 of the Fifth Schedule to the Public Health (London) Act, 1936, of failing to comply with an abatement order or contravening a prohibition order or a closing order,
the local authority may refuse to accept the undertaking and may issue a certificate of disrepair, and if they do so the undertaking shall be deemed never to have been given.

In page 20, line 15, at end insert: (4) Where the local authority have cancelled a certificate of disrepair, the tenant may apply to the county court, and if on the application the court is satisfied that the certificate ought not to have been cancelled the court may order that it shall be deemed not to have been cancelled.

In line 29, at end insert: or subsection (1) of section fifteen of this Act or sub-paragraph (3) of paragraph 8 of the Sixth Schedule thereto ".

In page 21, line 15, at end insert: (2) Where such an undertaking has been given the landlord or the tenant may apply to the local authority for a certificate under this sub-paragraph, and the local authority shall certify whether any, and if so which, of the defects to which the undertaking relates remain unremedied. (3) A certificate under the foregoing subparagraph shall in any proceedings be evidence until the contrary is proved of the matters certified.

In line 48, after "disrepair," insert: or a certificate under sub-paragraph (2) of paragraph 8 of this Schedule".

In line 49, leave out "the certificate is granted the applicant" and insert: a certificate of disrepair, or a certificate under the said sub-paragraph (2) certifying that any defects remain unremedied, is granted to the tenant he".

In page 22, line 1, leave out "the certificate" and insert: a certificate of disrepair".

In line 27, at end add:

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