HC Deb 19 February 1986 vol 92 cc376-414 7.43 pm
Mr. Jeff Rooker (Birmingham, Perry Barr)

I beg to move, That this House asserts the right of private tenants to a secure home in good repair at a reasonable rent free from harassment or neglect, the right to buy from a non-residential absentee landlord, the right to manage for both tenants and leaseholders of flats and the right collectively to buy the freehold for leaseholders of flats; calls for a review of rent regulation so as to close loopholes in the Rent Act; recognises the need to further improve privately rented property; and notes that the Government has savaged public housing programmes and now contemplates the end of socialist rent control.

Mr. Deputy Speaker (Mr. Ernest Armstrong)

I should inform the House that Mr. Speaker has selected the amendment in the name of the Prime Minister.

Mr. Rooker

This debate will obviously be short and I shall not abuse the privilege of kicking off by making an excessively long speech.

This debate is as much about decent housing, choice and fairness as the recent Second Reading debate on the Housing and Planning Bill. About 2 million families remain in private tenancies. Their rights are few and need to be strengthened. They should have the right to a secure home, but many have not.

As an extension of choice, private tenants should have the right to buy from absentee landlords. By its nature, the scheme cannot be as uniform as that in the private sector, in which there are exceptions even today, but as in the public sector the majority of tenants will be included in the scheme.

Minimum standards should be set in the private sector which, if not met, would give tenants the right to require a nominated housing association or in some cases a local authority to buy out the existing landlord — for the purpose of action, not inaction, as we are not interested in property passing from one landlord to another and remaining in a dilapidated state. The new rights, of course, would not apply to people letting all or part of their own home, but only to genuine absentee landlords.

Private tenants who choose—I emphasise that word — to remain tenants should have the same rights as those that the Labour party proposes for council tenants to control the management of their homes, especially blocks of flats.

Private tenants also require a new legal right to temporary accommodation while repairs or improvements are carried out. This should not be an aid to landlords to winkle out secured tenants but a positive legal right so that tenants have the security and certainty of knowing that they will be returning to their homes.

If anyone doubts that that new right is required, I should make it clear that Rachmanism is alive and well in 1986 and being operated by Riverside Property Services, 16A Cazenove road, London N16. Late last year, that company purchased No. 38 Mirabel road, SW6, in the Fulham area of London. Two flats in the house were occupied by secured tenants. The property is now being improved with the aid of a council grant. The landlord persuaded the tenants of the first floor flat to leave, but Mrs. Edith Ashby, a 76-year-old widow whom I visited on Monday, and a secured tenant, is now having her home rebuilt around her. There is no heating, no electricity, no bathroom and no security. Her furniture has been piled up in a room and covered with plastic sheeting.

No offer of temporary accommodation was made to Mrs. Ashby and she was told that the work would take four days. That was three weeks ago. She was offered £5,000 to leave, but refused because she wanted to stay in her home, so the landlord simply left her there and sent the building contractor in—a classic case of harassment of an elderly lady to get her out of her secure tenancy.

Mr. John Butterfill (Bournemouth, West)


Mr. Rooker

I know that I may antagonise and annoy Conservative Members, but this is a short debate and in the interests of others who wish to speak I do not intend to give way to anyone.

After the intervention of Nick Raynsford, director of the SHAC London Housing Aid Centre, the landlord offered to let Mrs. Ashby put her bed in a room in the first floor flat. She now also has her cooker and television, but the conditions in which she is expected to live are obscene and a scandal in 1986. Potential buyers of the first floor flat are given the key to walk off the street willy-nilly into the home in which Mrs. Ashby is now trying to live. If ever there was an example showing that reform is needed, that is it.

It is well known that there is widespread evasion of the Rent Acts. Evasion takes place daily, and there is evidence that more than half the re-lets fall outside the protection of the Rent Acts. When the Select Committee investigated four years ago, the evidence showed that private sector rents would at least double if controls were removed. I gave the Minister notice of this question a week ago. Is that assessment still valid?

Ministers blame the Rent Acts for empty property, but they give no figures..In 1977, when there were 550,000 empty homes in the private sector — the figure is virtually the same today—research suggested that only 8,000 to 31,000 out of more than 500,000 empty homes were empty as a result of the Rent Act. After the infamous Rent Act 1957, which was supported by the Liberals at that time, homes for renting disappeared faster than before—250,000 in 1961 compared with 180,000 in 1956. We want the Rent Acts to be strengthened, not weakened.

Mr. Butterfill

Mr. Rooker

Very interesting. I look forward to the hon. Member's speech.

We want the Rent Act to be strengthened, not weakened. All tenants and licensees of non-resident landlords should have security of tenure, except when a genuine short-term let has been registered with a local housing authority, such as holiday lets and student lets.

Before I come to Conservative plans to abolish rent control—they clearly exist—I shall deal very briefly with two aspects of our policy so that there can be no misunderstanding among those who wish to invest in rented housing.

First, we support shared ownership where there is and can be an element of private renting. It was, after all, invented by a Labour local authority in Birmingham as a half-and-half scheme, but, like many good ideas from local government, it has been taken on board by central Government and ruined. They also ruined enveloping. We want this form of tenure to flourish, and we would arrange the necessary guarantees to encourage investment. That is missing at the moment. The full opportunities of shared ownership, whether on a 50:50 or on a 25:75 basis have never been explored or exploited as a form of tenure by individuals or indeed by institutions.

The second aspect is assured tenancies. They operate outside the Rent Acts, with a landlord approved by the Secretary of State. They apply now only to newly constructed dwellings. We have no plans to abolish this form of tenancy. Our policy document, "Homes for the future", makes no reference to assured tenancies and that can be taken to mean that we will maintain the system. Although it was brought in by the Conservatives, they, not the Opposition, have effectively killed it off with high interest rates, high land prices and, above all, the removal of capital allowances in the 1984 Budget.

We would prefer for example, that the moneys from British workers' pension funds were invested in assured tenancy homes rather than exported to create jobs abroad. We would want homes to be built and rented under the assured tenancy scheme. I make that quite clear.

Mr. Tony Marlow (Northampton, North)

Will the hon. Gentleman give way?

Mr. Rooker


I make our stance quite clear so there can be no confusion outside. That is a point which was made last autumn and which I understand needs making from the Dispatch Box.

Even with the evidence of the Rent Act 1957, the Government want to decontrol rents. When will they do it? Two million families have the right to know. We want to make it quite clear tonight that the Labour party will oppose the abolition of rent control. We will reimpose controls at the first opportunity.

I shall quote some examples of attempts by the Conservative party to rewrite history and change opinion on this subject. I start with a quotation from the other place, which has been quite active on this in the past few years. On 23 June 1982, Tory peers were falling over themselves to call for the abolition of rent control. The Government spokesman at the time was sympathetic. A year later, on 10 October 1983, a Bill to abolish rent control was introduced and debated in the other place. Influential Tories such as Lord Harris of High Cross—it is no good anyone arguing that he is not an influential Tory—

Mr. Ian Gow (Eastbourne)

He is a Cross Bencher.

Mr. Rooker

Ah, but listen to what I have to say. In my book, being a Cross Bencher does not mean that one cannot be a Tory. Lord Harris and Social Democratic peers queued up to call for abolition, and the Government spokesman said: The Government have some sympathy with the points of view expressed by … Lord Harris of High Cross and by other noble Lords"—[Official Report House of Lords, 10 November 1983; Vol. 444, c. 1028.] They were calling for the abolition of rent controls. Just one month later, at the Conservative party conference, the hon. Member for Eastbourne (Mr. Gow), as he will remember because he was then the Minister for Housing, spoke of the need to re-examine the private rented sector". A few months later, on 2 March, in a debate in this place on a motion proposed by my hon. Friend the Member for Norwood (Mr. Fraser), the Minister who is to reply tonight, the hon. Member for Ealing, Acton (Sir G. Young), was asked by my hon. Friend the Member for Walsall, North (Mr. Winnick) whether the Government would return to rent decontrol as it was under the 1957 Act. My hon. Friend could not get a straight answer from the Minister. All that we got was: We are examining all legislation that affects private renting … We must try to establish conditions in which investors and landlords have the confidence … to commit resources".—[Official Report, 2 March 1984; Vol. 55, c. 553–4.] We are entitled to ask what has been happening since.

On 9 October 1984, the nation got the personal manifesto of the chairman of the Conservative party at a fringe meeting of the Selsdon group. He said: I think there is at least a good chance that the great inflation, like all its predecessors, is coming to an end. If that is indeed so —and we are brave enough at some time in the future to reform the Rent Acts—some interesting consequences might follow. Rented housing—homes for hire—might well compete with houses to buy. The latter would have lost their attraction as hedges against inflation. And positive real interest rates could narrow the rent/mortgage differential. What was that other than an invitation—

Mr. Martin M. Brandon-Bravo (Nottingham, South)

A good speech.

Mr. Rooker

A good speech, yes, effectively calling for the abolition of rent control.

In November that year, the then Secretary of State, at the annual conference of the National Housing and Town Planning Council, said that he wanted a bipartisan reform of the Rent Act". Presumably the bipartisan approach to the state earnings- related pension scheme was still fresh in his mind. Later that month, the Minister for Housing, the hon. Member for Eastbourne, wrote to me saying: we have been looking at ways we might stimulate the contribution of this sector". He continued: Parliament would be informed in the usual way". That is the end of the bipartisan approach.

In May 1985, there was an extremely interesting piece from the hon. Member for Horsham (Sir P. Horden) in the Daily Telegraph. It was long, well thought out and carefully argued. His final sentence read: To repeal the Rent Acts would be the most important single measure the Government could take. He is a highly respected influential thinker on the Tory Back Benches. He knows what he is talking about when money is involved.

Last summer, we got a string of leaks about the Queen's Speech. It was said in the Financial Times, the paper which reported most of the leaks best of all, that the hon. Member for Eastbourne had indeed convinced the Prime Minister that this was the course to follow. Other senior Ministers obviously prevailed. I have to put on record the telling paragraph in a piece by Mr. Peter Riddell, who wrote: The discussion on the issue highlights the personal style of decision making in the current government which by-passes normal channels and the Cabinet structure.

The Minister for Housing, Urban Affairs and Construction (Mr. John Patten)


Mr. Rooker

The Minister says that Mr. Riddell's assertion is ridiculous. We now come to the present Minister, and his very important speech of 9 February.

Mr. Gow

Will the hon. Gentleman give way?

Mr. Rooker

I have mentioned the hon. Gentleman twice and, as an act of courtesy, and only to him, I shall give way.

Mr. Gow

I just want to correct the hon. Gentleman. I had the advantage of being present at these discussions, which was an advantage not conferred on the hon. Gentleman.

Mr. Jack Straw (Blackburn)

Or on Peter Riddell.

Mr. Gow

The decision about this matter was taken perfectly properly and perfectly normally and there was a full discussion of it by the Cabinet.

Mr. Rooker

So there was a discussion and we are told that the Cabinet threw it out. The Cabinet obviously looked over the abyss of rent control and said, "This is not a runner."

I come back to the speech of the present Minister for Housing, Urban Affairs and Construction, who on 9 February said: Reviving the private rented sector isn't going to be easy. We will need to gain the confidence of tenants and landlords. And it cannot be done now. There is little point in pushing forward major legislation halfway through a Parliamentary term, because of the destructive attitudes which the Labour party is sure to take. But I hope that we will remove the Socialist controls that keep rents at artificially low levels—for new tenants, not existing tenants". The word "But" indicates that this will happen before rather than after the next general election. That is the clear implication of what the Minister said. Initially he was saying that major legislation could not be introduced before the next election because my hon. Friends and myself could put the kybosh on it, and he knows it. However, he hopes to remove the Socialist controls that keep rents at artificially low levels for new tenants. The chances are that before the next general election we will have rent decontrol for new tenants.

Two days after that speech there was an interesting supplementary question from the hon. Member for Northampton, North (Mr. Marlow), who asked: In view of the fact that there is quite a lot of pressure now to improve the prospects in the private rented sector of housing"— hon. Members will be aware of the kind of pressure that I have cited— to make new housing stock available to the general public, and as the Housing Bill is in Committee, would it not be a good idea if some amendments were put forward and that the Government agreed to them? All I need say is that on the last amendment that was moved yesterday morning the Government were defeated by 12 votes to five.

In reply to that question the Prime Minister said: I recognise the importance of my hon. Friend's supplementary question and his desire to increase the stock of houses in the private rented sector. That is something to which we must give our attention. Whether this comes within the long title of the Housing Bill"— this is from a Member of Parliament of 30 years' standing— is not for me to say."—[Official Report, 7 February 1986; Vol. 91, c. 781.] But Ministers can amend the long title of the Bill any time they want. In short, there is abundant evidence that the Conservatives are up to something in relation to rent control.

Being another person's landlord for a crude commercial profit is an unacceptable way of earning a living, and that is why rent controls are required. The Conservative Member who said that the abolition of rent controls would be fine in the long run but that in the short run no Tory MPs would be left in London was speaking the truth.

The national average of private rented tenure is about 10 per cent.—it is now probably below that—

Mr. Nicholas Lyell (Mid-Bedfordshire

Will the hon. Gentleman give way.

Mr. Rooker

I shall not, because I am about to conclude.

The top six constituencies in the private rented sector are all in inner London. Fulham happens to be in sixth place. Unfortunately—I say that because we all regret the death of Martin Stevens—Fulham has no one here to represent it tonight. But at 33 per cent., Fulham has three times the national average of constituents in the private rented sector. What are the Government planning for them after the next election that they are not prepared to say beforehand? The people of Fulham are in a unique position to test the popularity of the Conservative call for freedom to raise rents—perhaps to double or triple them —in the private sector. They demand an answer, and so does this House.

8.3 pm

The Minister for Housing, Urban Affairs and Construction (Mr. John Patten)

I beg to move, to leave out from "House" to the end of the Question and to add instead thereof: asserts the need for a healthy and reviving private rented sector with an adequate supply of sound homes to rent as being in the best interests of tenants and landlords and those looking for accommodation; further asserts the need for improved statutory safeguards to ensure proper management of privately owned blocks of flats; and notes that provision for capital expenditure on housing was increased in the Public Expenditure White Paper.".

The hon. Member for Birmingham, Perry Barr (Mr. Rooker) made a characteristically forceful speech to which I enjoyed listening. In particular, I welcome what he said about shared ownership. Perhaps in Committee we shall be able to explore further exactly what he meant. He also gave a clear assurance on assured tenancies.

My first principle is that any Housing Minister, from whatever party he or she comes, must surely want to see that all existing housing stock is as fully used as possible.

Dr. John Cunningham (Copeland)

It depends on the condition.

Mr. Patten

Of course it does. Empty homes, whether in the public or private sectors, are a waste. Local authorities estimate —these are the only estimates we have —that in England, 545,000 private sector homes were empty in April 1985. Nearly 100,000 of them were in London, where the problem of homelessness is greatest. Many of those homes, but not all—even some needing refurbishment—could be let to people who need them if landlords were not inhibited by the effects of the Rent Acts.

The private rented sector once provided homes for the vast majority of the British people, but that sector has been in decline for about 70 years since 1914. As recently as 1951, there were 6 million privately rented dwellings in England. Now there are perhaps only 1.7 million, and the number is falling fast. While we and the country at large welcome the huge rise in home ownership that has followed, it is a sad fact that in Britain alone of the major western countries there is no vigorous private rented sector for those who need it.

For example, in West Germany 36 per cent. of households rent from private landlords. In France the figure is 32 per cent., and in the United States it is 33 per cent. In Britain it is just 9 per cent. In those other countries, private renting is not the major political issue that it is in the United Kingdom. We must ask why that is so. To me it seems wrong to concentrate in the United Kingdom on two forms of tenures—owner-occupation and council renting—with precious little in between. We may not be able to agree on how to fill that gap, but it is wrong. The reasons for the decline are complex, but statutory controls are one of the reasons why we face this problem.

Mr. David Winnick (Walsall, North)


Mr. Marlow


Mr. Patten

I shall by and large follow the line of the hon. Member for Perry Barr and give way as little as possible. I shall give way to my hon. Friend the Member for Northampton, North (Mr. Marlow) on many occasions in Standing Committee tomorrow, just as I gave way to him yesterday in Standing Committee and shall no doubt do so on many occasions in the future—[Interruption.] My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for the Environment tells me to steady on, and I shall do so.

I recognise, of course, that in the past, the private rented sector has been a political football. The history of attempts to achieve a political concensus on the issue is not exactly encouraging. We are probably all at fault, and I would be the first to admit it. People will say—the hon. Member for Perry Barr did so tonight—that decontrol was tried in 1957 and that it did not work. They will say that the sector declined very fast and that Rachmanism grew. But in 1986 we must accept that history need not repeat itself. We can learn the lessons of post-1957—I am prepared to do so—one of which, incidentally, was that the accelerated decline of the private rented sector in the late 1950s was more the result of slum clearance than of rent decontrol. The hon. Member for Perry Barr is to some extent under a misapprehension. In 1986, the sector is very different from what it was in 1957. Most private sector tenants are now single people rather than families.

Indeed, tenants are now much better protected by law against harassment then they were in the 1950s. No serious observer of the housing scene now believes that the public sector can provide all the resources necessary to tackle our housing problems. We must mobilise institutional and private resources as well to help meet housing need, particularly in our great cities. We should all try together to build at least that measure of consensus about the future of the private rented sector in which there is at least a role for building societies, major institutions, the Housing Corporation and the housing associations. If we can get that consensus that is a good start. There may also be a role for the private, responsible landlord, but if we could agree on the first measures, I should be happy to get that tonight.

In response to the hon. Member for Perry Barr, I make it clear beyond any doubt that we have no intention of removing the protection enjoyed by existing tenants. That mistake was made in 1957. The removal of the statutory controls of existing tenancies at the top end of the market led to widespread evictions by the involuntary landlords—those who were not landlords by choice and took the opportunity to obtain vacant possession and sell out. However, if in future we want to encourage the private sector to make unused accommodation available for renting and to invest in accommodation for rent, it is essential that, for new lettings, rents should provide reasonable economic returns.

I hope that the hon. Member for Perry Barr will note what I am about to say because I am responding to his question. The Government have taken no decisions on what form any legislation to reduce controls over new tenancies should take. We are not proposing in this Parliament to introduce major legislation to recast the Rent Act. We are ready to listen and promote argument about what could and should be done. With that in mind, I was flattered to find my speech to the Young Conservatives gathered in Blackpool a couple of Sundays ago subjected to such interesting and close textual criticism and exegesis about what a comma here and a "but" there meant.

It was a curious experience for me, for the first time in my life, to walk on to a political platform and find balloons going up, paper darts, chanting. I could not understand why my appearance was the cue for such excitment in the hall. I was then told that they were waiting for my right hon. Friend the Member for Henley (Mr. Heseltine), who is not with us this evening.

I said in my speech about the Rent Acts: The need for reform is clear from the degrading scramble for accommodation which young people suffer in London and other big cities. It is clear when the law makes it senseless for landlords to let property except under the most restrictive conditions. And it is emphasised by the need to avoid the bizarre and socially damaging polarisation in our society between owner occupiers, and tenants in council occupation. For some time, the Government have been concerned about the particular problems faced by the 500,000 or so households living in privately owned, long leasehold flats —two thirds of them are long leaseholders. Evidence has emerged of serious management problems in this sector, and that is why my hon. Friend the Member for Eastbourne (Mr. Gow), the former Minister for Housing and Construction, set up in February 1984 the Nugee committee — under Mr. Nugee QC — to examine the issues. The committee presented its cogent, coherent and important report in November 1985. It has confirmed that there are serious problems in a significant proportion of blocks and has made numerous recommendations on how the Government should get ahead and tackle the problems. It is a complex report that deals with complex issues with major ramifications for many parts of the law that cannot be dealt with by a little amendment here and there.

The report throws up some interesting questions. First, what should the relationship between freeholder, tenants and managing agents be and what procedures should there be for appointing such agents? What remedies should the tenants have where the freeholder is not carrying out his obligations to maintain the block? Are there circumstances in which it would be right to allow long leaseholders collectively to buy the freehold, with for instance the important suggestion of a right of first refusal when the landlord wishes to sell? These are among the important issues raised by the report. I am considering them in consultation with my colleagues. One of our considerations is whether the reform of certain aspects goes far enough.

Mr. John Wheeler (Westminster, North)

My hon. Friend is referring to the important 53 recommendations of the Nugee committee on which, as he knows, I had the honour and pleasure to serve. Does he agree that such recommendations must be brought into legislation as soon as possible, and will he refute the dishonesty of the Westminster, North Labour party, which says in a printed leaflet: Worst of all, the Government has refused to implement even the modest recommendations of the Nugee report.

Mr. Patten

I am happy to refute that — it is nonsense and has no foundation. The Government are looking at the recommendations of the Nugee committee, on which my hon. Friend served with such distinction, and we are intent on moving forward as quickly as we can in putting the most significant parts of the recommendations into effect and on some occasions perhaps even going further than the committee might have recommended.

I emphasise the role that the private rented sector can play in meeting housing needs if it is given the chance to do so. A vigorous private rented sector would widen housing choice, increase mobility and help to reduce homelessness. Empty flats and houses, whether in the public or private sector, are an affront to the homeless. With the help of all the Opposition parties, we can achieve some of these goals.

The hon. Member for Perry Barr and his colleagues have a particularly heavy social responsibility in looking at the future of privately rented flats and houses. I hope that we shall not have automatic immediate reactions with pledges to repeal this or that at the drop of a hat. The situation is far too serious for such a reaction. I hope that all Opposition Parties will open-mindedly join the debate, which I welcome because it is so important. However, even if they do, the Government cannot accept the motion.

8.19 pm
Mr. John Cartwright (Woolwich)

I welcome the Minister's suggestion that we should try to reach as much agreement as we can about the future of private rented property. Both sides of the House are aware that there is a need for more private rented homes. Owner-occupation may be a wonderful system for a great many people, but we all understand that it is not possible for some people, on sheer financial grounds, and in any case it is not appropriate for everybody.

In the Minister's famous speech on 9 February, I notice that he correctly pointed out that far too many young people are being pushed into owner-occupation far too early in life, simply because there is not enough rented property available. Equally, at the other end of the age scale, many elderly owner-occupiers would much rather be rid of the responsibility of owning their own homes if there were a rented sector into which they could move. We must provide more choice in housing.

There is probably a broad agreement on another matter. Local authorities cannot be left to be the only providers of rented accommodation. The policy of municipalisation is dead. At one time I supported it, but I do not any longer because of sheer practical experience. It is that which has probably killed off the policy of municipalisation.

There are the obvious management problems which many local authorities have in dealing with large numbers of properties. In any case, there is the problem of an unhealthy lack of choice if there is total monopoly in the hands of the local authority as the only providers of rented accommodation. That involves the bureaucratic rationing system, which we all know about and which we want to get away from. So there is undoubtedly a case for providing an alternative source of rented homes.

I part company from the Minister when he appears to believe that the solution is to try to breathe new life into the traditional private landlord system. First, the economics are against it as a means of providing any major improvement in the situation. To give developers a reasonable return on their capital investment would inevitably produce rents which would price the accommodation way beyond the means of a great many tenants, particularly those who are forced into private renting simply because they cannot afford to buy a home of their own.

I and my colleagues in the alliance reject the call for the deregulation of rents. We cannot believe that it can produce a tremendous explosion in the availability of private rented property. In the short term it is much more likely to drive up rents and produce more problems of homelessness.

Mr. Marlow

The hon. Gentleman is perhaps overestimating the price of new property coming on the market at unregulated rents, but will he take into account the fact that people would not be priced out of the market, because housing benefit would be available to the low-paid?

Mr. Cartwright

I shall come to that in a moment. There is a cut-off level for housing benefit. One cannot simply decide to rent as expensive a property as one would like and let the housing benefit providers take up the slack. It does not work like that.

The second problem of trying to revitalise traditional private landlordism is the general atmosphere that surrounds it. Again I pay tribute to the Minister for recognising that problem. In his much quoted, now required reading, "changing gear" speech on 9 February he said that the Conservative party in facing the problem would have to win the battle to make renting and landlordism respectable again. I am glad that he recognises the difficulty. He will have an uphill struggle in trying to tackle that problem. It is not like the other campaigns on which his party has been successful. It is not like encouraging more belief in owner-occupation. It is not like getting the right to buy off the ground. Both those campaigns were flowing with the tide of public opinion, spurred along by the financial advantage of mortgage tax relief. The atmosphere surrounding private landlordism is a much more difficult one to break through.

That does not mean that we should let the present decline continue. The numbers of houses available for private renting continue to go down. I suspect that that is not so much because of the Rent Acts as other factors. The attraction of the capital gains to be made by a landlord who sells for owner-occupation, for example, is a major factor in steadily reducing the stock of private rented homes. The sheer fact of slum clearance also reduces the numbers available. So the steady reduction in the number of private rented homes increases pressure on council properties and waiting lists at a time when they are in no position to take up the extra demand.

We know that there is a steady decline in the condition of private rented property, and there is an excessive use of loopholes — the holiday lets, the non-exclusive licences and all those other devices which are now more common than ordinary lettings and which make life so difficult for the young seeking private accommodation.

There are alternative solutions, and one is the extension of the right to buy, which is mentioned in the Opposition's motion. When it comes to things like blocks of tenanted flats, which are often in a poor condition, I am not attracted by the individual's right to buy. That is not a credible way of tackling the problem. But I do not see why a housing association should not be given the right to buy from a private landlord if a majority of the tenants in the block of flats decide that that is what they would like to do. That might be a registered housing association, or the tenants in a block might get together to form their own housing association or co-operative.

Mr. John Patten

Would the hon. Gentleman also welcome the involvement of building societies if they became progressively involved in private renting?

Mr. Cartwright

I shall come to that in a moment.

The idea of the right to buy for housing associations would involve little, probably no, public sector investment in terms of providing the capital. Perhaps these would have to be loans or loan guarantees, and certainly there would be a need for straightforward assistance on repair, rehabilitation and improvement, but it would provide a much better solution than trying to give individual tenants a right to buy or enabling tenants, in the Minister's words "to negotiate with their landlords about the level of their rents."

I come now to the rather different approach which has been mentioned by both Front Bench spokesmen —building on the assured tenancy scheme. I thought that the assured tenancy scheme had the germ of a good idea. I welcomed what the hon. Member for Birmingham, Perry Barr (Mr. Rooker) said about the Labour party's attitude towards it, but there are three things wrong with that scheme. First, there is no effective Government investment in it. There was only the tax concession on the capital allowances and that, as we know, was removed in the Finance Act 1984, which effectively crippled the whole thing.

Secondly, the assured tenancy approach was limited to new building, and there is a crying need to encourage new private investment in the repair and rehabilitation of the existing private rented stock. Thirdly, there was no real basis of protection for tenants under the assured tenancy scheme. There was no protection against unreasonable eviction or rent rises.

However, there is a way forward involving the use of long-term index-linked mortgage arrangements. Building societies have found it possible to offer long-term index-linked mortgages and to on-lend the money at about a 4 per cent. real terms rate of interest. Index-linked mortgages offer an ideal way of funding that sort of activity, because rents tend to go up with the rate of inflation. Our calculations suggest that a £30,000 home financed in that way could be let at a rental of £44.50 a week. That is much higher than the fair rent level, but it is much less than the £70 a week or so which would be needed to service a £30,000 loan at a 12.5 per cent. interest rate. It is, however, clearly higher than the market can stand, so there is a gap to be bridged between what is a reasonable return on capital for even long-term pension funds insurance money and things of that sort, and what fair rents can produce.

I cannot see why the Government should not seek to bridge that gap. If the Government provided a subsidy of 25 per cent. of the interest costs in the example that I have given, the rent of £44.50 would come down to £36 a week. Again that is high, but it is not unreasonable in many parts of the country. Alternatively, the Government could subsidise initial capital construction, although that is a less flexible approach. Clearly, even under my proposals, there would be a need to extend the high rent provisions of the housing benefit regulations to bring that sort of expensive housing within the reach of low-income families in the housing stress areas.

There is undoubtedly a cost to the Treasury in all this. I can see the Minister already nervously eyeing Treasury responses, but we already have public investment, through mortgage tax relief, in the owner-occupied sector. We already have substantial public investment in the traditional council sector. Therefore, I cannot see why there should not be some sensible public investment, used as leverage to obtain far larger private investment, in order to provide us with a new system of private rented accommodation. The tenants would have the benefit of approved landlords—housing associations, trusts and cooperatives and, yes, possibly approved private landlords if they could meet stringent standards of performance and ensure that they were treating their tenants decently and fairly. That does offer a way forward.

There is a measure of agreement here across a wide political spectrum. The Minister would be far better advised to tackle the problem in that way than to put back the clock and recreate 19th century private landlordism, which is going, and which ought not to be rescued.

8.28 pm
Sir Geoffrey Finsberg (Hampstead and Highgate)

I had a problem tonight because I had a clash of interests. A major meeting is taking place on my constituency on the future management of Hampstead Heath. I chose to be here because private tenancies are a subject on which I have been campaigning for 16 years. I strongly believe in the rights of those who live in mansion flats. My parents lived all their married lives in mansion flats. I lived the first 40 years of my life in typical inner London blocks, with highly reputable landlords, such as the Prudential and London County Freehold and Leasehold Properties—the old key flats. The flats had equally reputable managing agents.

Alas, that no longer happens. From about the beginning of the 1960s the position changed because of a combination of the effects of the Rent Acts since the first world war and other factors. On the scene came what I can only describe as disgraceful landlords, such as Freshwater, Mr. Stern and the Bergers, who had no concern for their tenants, and agents with just a concern for their fees. That feature is still very much with us. Tenants are concerned mainly about neglected maintenance and inflated and sometimes phoney service charges.

I have followed this cause since I became a Member in 1970. My first opportunity to do anything practical was in 1972, in the Housing Finance Bill, when I succeeded in carrying a new clause against the wishes of my party, with the Opposition's aid. The Government decided that they would insert a clause, in better terms than my measure, to help tenants especially, with respect to the auditing and inspection of service charge accounts. That was a start, but it was not enough.

In 1974 we had an interesting and friendly Committee on the Housing Bill. Perhaps it was friendly because the Government did not have a majority on the Committee. We had long sittings. On 11 June 1974 the right hon. Member for Brent, East (Mr. Freeson) rebuffed my amendments. I told the right hon. Gentleman that I would refer to him in this debate, not in an unpleasant spirit, but in a spirit of chiding and regret. He said: the kind of headings that I have indicated already would rank high in the review that I should wish to achieve with a view to future legislative and policy action." — [Official Report, Standing Committee B, 11 June 1974; c. 385.] The right hon. Gentleman, supported by Mr. Douglas-Mann, the then Labour Member who became an SDP Member, agreed in a further debate that it was necessary to improve the position. Unfortunately, after that short Parliament, Labour having won the election, nothing happened. Between 1974 and 1979 there was a substantial Labour majority, but nothing happened.

It therefore fell to those of us who had a hand in drafting the 1979 housing legislation to do something. The right hon. Member for Brent, East pooh-poohed in a gentle way some proposals as being too difficult or needing further examination. My right hon. Friend the Member for Tonbridge and Mailing (Mr. Stanley) and I were able to convince those who were advising us about drafting the Bill that these measures could be undertaken. Our provisions were therefore included in the Bill and we made a reasonable amount of progress on a variety of improvements.

Mr. Reg Freeson (Brent, East)

Does the hon. Gentleman recall that that part, like many other parts, of what became the Housing and Building Control Act 1984 was drafted by the previous Government, under whom I was Minister for Housing and Construction?

Sir Geoffrey Finsberg

The right hon. Gentleman will recall that, in spite of having had the opportunity, he did little about service charges. Because I was not privy to the private papers of the Labour Government, I have no idea of exactly what happened. I can say only that the provision was not in a form that would have satisfied my right hon. Friend the Member for Tonbridge and Mailing or me that it would help tenants. I am not attacking the right hon. Member for Brent, East. I do so sometimes, but I would not dream of doing so when he is under threat.

A variety of measures need improvement. We have heard of the need to set up a sinking fund, but the problem is who will look after it. Certainly many of the managing agents who manage some of these properties could not be trusted with the administration of sinking funds. They or the owners would do a quick moonlight flit and the tenants who had paid their money would be left with nothing.

I begin to think that there is some co-operation throughout the House on the sale of blocks of flats. I have always believed that, if a landlord intends to sell his block of flats, the tenants should be given the right of first refusal. That provision is not yet law. Nugee talks about that, but pressure can make it actually happen.

A large block of property in Belsize Park in my constituency, which included houses and flats, was owned by the Church Commissioners. They were about to sell the property for about £3 million to, I think, a Luxembourg or Channel Isles registered company. The tenants came to me. I made representations to the Church Commissioners, saying that their action was wrong and that they should give tenants the opportunity to purchase at the same price. Following a certain amount of pressure and public aggravation, the Church Commissioners agreed. The properties are now owned by the Belsize United Tenants Association. The tenants are their own landlords, and life is much better and happier. There may be difficulties, and one must consider how to overcome them, but we should not wait too long before saying that this policy is accepted across the whole political spectrum.

Tenants need to know the proper name and address of landlords and agents in the United Kingdom. I was unable to get that provision accepted. All too frequently, the landlord is abroad or there is a change of landlord or agent and the tenants cannot find the person on whom documents should be served. Nugee refers to that.

We need better managing agents. Between 1942 and 1952 I worked for a London firm of estate agents managing commercial and residential property. In those days managing agents were reputable and experienced and they knew what should be done to look after and to reconcile the joint interests of tenants and landlords. Most of them did that. I welcome the code of practice which the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors has produced showing what responsibilities managing agents should have. Perhaps, like the Highway Code, one might need to make that code an adjunct to any legislation that results from Nugee's recommendations. We need tighter tendering for works so that tenants can match, if they wish, an estimate produced by the landlord.

Mr. Nugee, who is one of my distinguished constituents, was asked to chair the committee of inquiry on which my hon. Friend the Member for Westminster, North (Mr. Wheeler) served. The Committee made some interesting and useful comments. I am glad that my hon. Friend the Minister for Housing, Urban Affairs and Construction made two points clear. He knocked on the head the lie that the Government have rejected Nugee's recommendations. My hon. Friend said that action will be taken after he has carried out the necessary consultations.

I say to my hon. Friend the Minister: do not take too long. Too much thought paralyses action. He will find, if he has not already done so, that great barriers will be erected in the Department by officials and legal advisers. That is what happened in 1971, and since, and I suggest that the position has not changed. The officials will not act in this way for obstructive reasons. They will say, "Minister, this will be difficult." We have all seen such action. My hon. Friend should be his normal resolute self and state that this is the policy that he wants. It is amazing how quickly difficulties disappear and draft clauses appear once that is done.

Mr. Wheeler

As my hon. Friend has referred to civil servants in the Department of the Environment, will he concede that the work of the Nugee committee, which took place over many months, involved the wholehearted service of members of the Department of the Environment, who provided the secretariat? He may agree that their learning experience was such that perhaps the advice to our hon. Friend the Minister is now of such quality that early results may flow.

Sir Geoffrey Finsberg

I am an eternal optimist. I was fascinated when I saw that we were to debate this subject. I realised that it would give my hon. Friend the Minister a chance to say something about the Nugee committee, and I hoped that there would be a useful exchange of views. I wondered why we were debating this subject in Opposition time. I thought perhaps the Opposition were at last concerned about private tenants. Alas, having been disillusioned on some occasions, I have been even more disillusioned today.

I have a news release from Walworth road from the Labour party campaign and communications directorate. It is dated February 18 and says: Fulham housing cases to be raised in Parliament. We are told: Two cases of elderly women tenants living in appalling conditions, in privately rented homes in Fulham, will be raised during tomorrow's (Wednesday's) debate". We have heard about one of the those elderly women, and we are to hear about Mrs. Griffiths from the hon. Gentleman who is to reply for the Opposition. The hon. Member for Birmingham, Perry Barr. (Mr. Rooker) spoke about this matter being taken up by a Mr. Raynsford, who was director of the Shelter Housing Aid Centre. Unfortunately, the news release is not quite as coy as that. It calls him the prospective Labour candidate in the forthcoming by-election. The cat is let out of the bag. If he is to be the candidate at the by-election, that document may have started his election expenses running. I think that that needs to be watched.

Those who live in Fulham or elsewhere know that the Labour party has done precious little for private tenants when it has had the chance. It had the opportunity on two occasions and did absolutely nothing. I hope that private tenants will not be conned—I do not think that they will be—into again thinking that the Labour party cares for them.

It is a pity that the three distinguished Labour Members, the hon. Members for Perry Barr, for Norwood, (Mr. Fraser) and for Copeland (Dr. Cunningham), did not go to look at tenants living in deplorable conditions in Labour council flats and in flats where Labour councils have failed to spend the money allocated, such as Camden, which has squealed year upon year but which last year underspent its capital by £8 million and this year will underspend by £10 million or more.

Mr. John Patten

Or indeed failed to collect the rents, which is a characteristic of boroughs such as Camden, or Walsall, which has such a wretched record outside London.

Sir Geoffrey Finsberg

I agree with my hon. Friend and I hope that those matters will be put right on 8 May. I may have an entry in the "Guiness Book of Records" which I would like removed. It says that I am the only Conservative leader of the London borough of Camden. I should like to see that entry disappear on 8 May.

I believe that if the public realised the hypocrisy of the Labour party's policy document and the crocodile tears they have shed, they would realise that the only party that has ever done anything practical, not just made speeches, for tenants is the Conservative party.

8.44 pm
Mr. Reg Freeson (Brent, East)

I shall not follow the last part of the remarks of the hon. Member for Hampstead and Highgate (Sir G. Finsberg), but I would like to make one or two observations on the main part of his speech which related to the problems of tenants of what are mostly called mansion blocks. They are primarily located in certain parts of inner London, some in my constituency, many in the hon. Gentleman's constituency and in Paddington and Westminster.

I think that the hon. Gentleman overstated his criticism of past failure to act on this matter. It is perfectly true that only limited legislative reforms were introduced in the Housing Act 1972 with the backing of the then Labour Opposition, as he readily acknowledged. Further changes were introduced in the Housing Act 1974 and some were published in a Bill before the 1979 election, which fell with that election but which were picked up again in the Housing Act 1980. Therefore, there were certain legislative changes.

It is also true that when I was a Minister I found some of the difficulties of dealing with this area in law and in practice that have subsequently been experienced by Conservative Ministers. It is interesting to read and to hear references to the Nugee report. I welcome that report and its recommendations. I certainly hope that those recommendations will be built upon.

I can reveal that a similar study was attempted in-house in the Department of the Environment while I was a Minister. We were not inactive, but I came up against the genuine complexities and the kind of cautionary advice and noises to which the hon. Gentleman has referred. That in-house report was nearing completion when the 1979 election was called.

I had hoped at that time, and announced not long before the 1979 election was called, that we would formulate a policy and legislate as soon as possible for what I described as collective-tenant purchase, which has been referred to by the hon. Member for Woolwich (Mr. Cartwright). I should like to see the recommendations built upon. I have to say quite bluntly that, after all the thinking, all the work and all the advocacy — no matter how difficult this area is — it is about time that a policy decision was taken at a time during the Session when legislation could be introduced. That was not the position in 1979.

The legislation should empower tenants to set up their own housing associations and at least have the first right of refusal when the property is up for sale, or empower them to commission a housing association with good management agents, experience and know-how to act on their behalf. I would take it further and say that if it is at all possible in law we should not leave it at the first right of purchase. It should be possible to build into the law the right of tenants, not just in mansion blocks but elsewhere, to purchase collectively the blocks of flats or groups of properties where there is bad management.

If I may reflect on the history, that idea was set out as a policy objective — it was never achieved — in the Labour party's 1973 programme document which preceded the 1974 election. It was based upon a paper that I prepared at that time.

I readily confess with hindsight —I have confessed long since—that what was then seen as a basic and sensible proposition posed many legal complexities. I hope that those problems have now been dealt with and I urge that whatever else is done, the most radical measures would be to give those rights to tenants collectively, not just in mansion blocks, but elsewere too.

I am tempted to say that a similar right should be given to tenants in publicly owned flats where there is consistently bad or inadequate management. Tenants of local authority estates should have the right to purchase or bring in managing agents or a housing association to act on their behalf. This is not the first time that 1 have put that point.

If the Minister will concentrate on the general proposition put forward by my hon. Friend the hon. Member for Birmingham, Perry Barr (Mr. Rooker), which was supported by the hon. Member for Woolwich, and will build on the assured tenancy policy to deal with the supply side of housing and leave well alone rent regulation and security of tenure, the threatened confrontation that we have detected from Bills in the other place and from speeches of various members of the Conservative party can be avoided.

I am not saying that there should be no reform of rent regulation and security of tenure; there is always scope for that. Confrontation emerges when there is an argument in favour of complete deregulation and, because of the reaction to that from the Opposition, there is a hauling into the trenches and the Government say, "Do not touch the Rent Acts because we fear a repeat of the 1957 experience." We must avoid that confrontation. There can still be argument, but it must be sensible and constructive.

From some quarters of the Conservative party in the past two or three years and, more significantly, recently we have seen the threat of complete deregulation emerging. It lies with the Government to act and put forward proposals in response to the spirit in which my hon. Friend spoke. The Government should concentrate on the supply side and improve assured tenancies.

If we were to rely upon anything remotely like deregulation of rents, we would have an increase in rents of three or four times in London — that is already happening in lettings which are outside the Rent Acts, which have been the most significant lettings in recent years. A great deal of evidence was presented to the Select Committee on the Environment in 1981 and 1982 to confirm what many of us suspected, that even if there were deregulation there would still be inadequate incentive for new investment in private sector rented housing. Witnesses came before us and some of them were strong advocates of decontrol. My hon. Friend the Member for Walsall, North (Mr. Winnick) will recall that, because he was a member of the Committee. Even the strongest advocates of decontrol, after our exchanges and the study of the papers they put to the Committee, accepted that even with such rent increases in the private sector, there would still not be the return required to solve the problem of bad conditions and inadequate supply.

That view was so widespread that it was included in the report's conclusions. I shall not quote them because of lack of time.

Mr. Butterfill

Does the hon. Gentleman agree that one of the reasons for lack of interest in investment is the fear that the Labour party might reintroduce controls? We must contrast our experience with that of other countries.

Mr. Freeson

The hon. Gentleman is making the usual generalised point. That was not the reason that was given. I am not saying that there were no criticisms. There were criticisms of the controls. I am examining the view expressed by those who strongly advocated complete decontrol and who projected the financial implications and the kind of rent levels. They were not considering what might happen five or 10 years later with changes in legislation. Those people accepted that the return would be insufficient to encourage investment, even if there were a completely free market.

I make that point strongly because advocates of the free market often argue that deregulation would produce the desired results. There is little or no evidence to support that in London. I do not speak for other parts of the country because, in any case, the proportion of rented accommodation elsewhere is different from that in London, and I do not think that it is significant.

The answer lies not in trying to go backwards but in trying to evolve new forms of ownership and management — housing associations — and developing the assured tenancy approach. Until the matter can be resolved with the Treasury, there will be no going forward. I said privately to my hon. Friend the Member for Perry Barr a moment ago that, apart from the rights and wrongs of decontrol, there is one main reason why the Government do not introduce changes along the lines he proposed. It is that the Treasury knows that if the Government were to try to do so they would be virtually compelled to change the housing benefit scheme to provide for a sharp increase in rents. A huge Budget provision would be required.

The main obstacle to the proposals is not political; it lies with the Treasury. Let us consider the present position. Housing associations have been pleading with the Treasury for the past four years to be allowed to make up for the cuts in public expenditure by drawing private finance into investment in rented accommodation. I am not talking about the marginal new initiatives on part ownership, leasehold for the elderly and such schemes. I am talking about fair rent housing. There is a rule-convention which the Treasury applies. It says that if private money is brought in beside public money, then, because public money is involved, the remainder must be classified as public expenditure. Do not ask me to understand what is beyond understanding. That is wholly unintelligible. The Treasury is blocking the opportunity to put millions of pounds into the provision of rented accommodation via housing associations. It is preventing the spreading of investment.

The only way to get confidence for the policy development outlined by my hon. Friend the Member for Perry Barr is to break the present blockage. If the Government would allow private resources to go towards the provision of rented housing now, to provide thousands of new homes now, we could be confident of the assured tenancy provisions and alternative forms of housing management and ownership which lie between local authority housing and owner-occupation, and we could develop such a policy. Despite detailed differences, we might find common ground. The responsibility lies with the Government immediately to remove the obstacle to private money coming to housing associations to provide more rented accommodation which is urgently needed in our inner city areas.

Several Hon. Members


Mr. Deputy Speaker (Sir Paul Dean)

Order. Six hon. Members are still hoping to speak in the debate and time is getting short, so I appeal for brief speeches.

9 pm

Mr. Michael Lord (Suffolk, Central)

As someone who has played many sports at one time or another, I have learnt the hard way that it is essential to keep one's eye on the ball. Once a player takes his eye off the ball he is lost. In the context of this debate, the ball is the need to house the homeless.

Let me say at once that I believe that the Labour party means well. Labour Members start with the right intentions and with their eyes on the ball, anxious to house those in need. Unfortunately, their views become clouded and twisted by other factors, such as their dislike of landlords, capitalism, the profit motive, or whatever, and they lose sight of the central issue—they take their eyes off the ball. They become more interested in hounding the rich than in housing the poor. Tenants and would-be tenants become pawns in a political game.

A famous politician said: You cannot strengthen the weak by weakening the strong. You cannot help small men by tearing big men down. You cannot help the poor by destroying the rich. You cannot further the brotherhood of man by citing class hatred. Those are the words of Abraham Lincoln, spoken well over 100 years ago, yet they are timeless. They are as true today as, they were then.

Perhaps I could add to that quotation some words of my own: "You cannot provide more accommodation for those who need it by attacking those who provide it. You cannot force people, through legislation, to do things against their interest, because they will not do it. Nor should we expect them to, nor if they are honest with this House would any Member of the Opposition."

More housing will be provided in the private sector only if tenants and landlords are allowed to benefit. Indeed, they can both benefit, providing the matter is approached reasonably. The word "reasonable" occupies a central position in the law of this land. Many cases are decided on what is judged to be "reasonable" in a given set of circumstances. At first sight, the word seems to be a vague one on which to depend for so much of our law-making, yet its meaning is well understood, and, by and large, that system works. It works so well that in my more idealistic moments I sometimes wish that that could be the only law that we needed to deal with each other in all the various aspects of life. If that is a flight of fancy—sadly, I am afraid that it is—I am sure that we should all agree that at present we have far too much detailed legislation.

We are increasingly trying to legislate, not merely to provide a broad framework within which people can live and work, but to attempt in a detailed way to tell people how they should treat each other, behave towards one another and, almost, what they should think of each other. We are attempting the impossible, the unnecessary, the restricting and in many ways the deeply damaging. People just will not do it. They react against it and they are frequently repelled by the idea of being told by the state in such detail what they can or cannot do in circumstances where they rightly believe that they should be trusted to be reasonable. In those circumstances, people who would normally be reasonable, are not. Although that is sad, I find it difficult to blame them.

Clearly, there will always be a minority of bad landlords just as there will be some bad tenants. But to put the whole of the private sector into a straitjacket in an attempt to eliminate problems is a ridiculous state of affairs. We cannot legislate in that way, because it simply will not work.

We must trust people to deal fairly with each other. Why cannot we do so? If we are saying that that is impossible, what a tragic state our country and our people must be in. I do not believe that to be true. I have more faith in my fellow countrymen than that, whether they are landlords or tenants.

Perhaps what is needed is for this House of Commons to set an example, to say that we can trust people to deal reasonably with each other and to encourage them to do so within the broadest possible framework. Unless we can do this I am sure that too many landlords will leave their houses empty and that too many of the homeless will remain homeless. This House owes it to the homeless to keep its eye on the ball.

9.5 pm

Mr. David Winnick (Walsall, North)

It is not difficult to imagine the hon. Member for Suffolk, Central (Mr. Lord) making a similar speech during the passage of the Rent Act 1957. He would have used the same words about confidence in people and having fewer regulations.

The Minister's remarks tonight have been interesting. He told us that no major legislation is intended in this Parliament. I am not sure what he means by "major", but we shall pursue the point on other occasions to see what is intended for the rented sector. If deregulation comes about in this Parliament or in the next, it may be limited to some types of rented accommodation, but that would be only a first step towards further action to free the rented sector from regulations, which the hon. Members for Northampton, North (Mr. Marlow) and for Suffolk, Central would wish to see.

Last week's issue of The Economist referred to the escalation of deregulation and made the point that in time almost everything in the privately rented sector would be decontrolled. I am sure that that is the position. It is also interesting to note that the Minister spoke about the possibility of new tenancies being subject to such decontrol. That was part of the Rent Act 1957 and the reason why unscrupulous people, whose names are well known to us, did everything that they could through harassment and worse to get rid of existing tenants. Once the controlled tenant was out, the place could be sold or let on a decontrolled basis. It is hardly likely that the statement that only new tenancies will be subject to control will possibly satisfy us.

It is a fallacy that rent control and security of tenure have been main factors in the decline of rented accomodation. I have never denied that they were factors, but they are not the most important. Slum clearance, arising not directly from the Rent Act 1957 but over a long period, has been an important factor. Other factors have been the public sector replacement of slums and the very large increase in owner-occupation with tax relief on mortgage interest. Those are the historical reasons for the sharp decline of the privately rented sector.

My right hon. Friend the Member for Brent, East (Mr. Freeson) mentioned the evidence given in 1981–82 to the Environment Select Committee. The British Property Federation and other witnesses made it clear to the Committee that landlords would require a proper return on such rented accommodation if the dwellings were to be provided. I would urge hon. Members to read the report and the detailed oral and written evidence given to the Select Committee. It showed clearly that the return expected by property companies and landlords would make it almost impossible for many people to afford accommodation in the rented sector.

Paragraph 55 of the report mentions a 9 per cent. return on such dwellings, which was the figure given to us by the British Property Federation, and states: On this basis, even if the proportion that tenants were expected to pay was increased considerably, rents giving a 9 per cent. rate of return would require a very large increase in public expenditure on rent allowances and supplementary benefit. It would indeed need an extremely large amount of public expenditure. It is interesting to note that Conservative Members, who usually criticise such spending, believe it right and proper to spend public money on subsidising property companies in that way.

What worries many of us is the way in which private tenants continue to suffer harassment. In London and other large cities, companies and landlords try constantly to evade the Rent Act regulations.

I wish to draw attention to the scandalous way in which the Berger property empire continues to operate. It is estimated that it has about 100,000 flats and houses in the United Kingdom, and the empire consists of a tangled web of almost 300 companies. I wrote to the Minister's predecessor, the hon. Member for Eastbourne (Mr. Gow), following some exchanges at Question Time. I supplied him with plenty of documentary evidence about the Berger property empire, and his reply was along predictable lines: that no ministerial action could be taken. The tenants of that company have long complained of the serious neglect of their properties. Maximum profits are being made by the Berger group while the minimum is spent on repairs, renovation and services. The company uses many methods to pressurise tenants into leaving through neglect of the property.

It is disgraceful that the Berger property company should be allowed to operate in that way without action being taken by the Government. I am pleased that the tenants have formed an organisation to try to force the company to make repairs. I hope—I am not optimistic —that the Government will assist those tenants.

The majority of people will undoubtedly resolve their housing problems through owner-occupation. The Labour party's position on that has been made clear repeatedly. From what some Conservative Members say, one would imagine that the Labour party was against owner-occupation. Far from it. I have illustrated in previous speeches the actions taken by Labour Governments to encourage people to become owner-occupiers and the assistance that has been given to many people who would otherwise be unable to own their homes.

However, it is important to remember that a substantial minority of people—I believe that there will always be such a substantial minority—are not in a position to buy. In the greater London area, many people—even those earning average incomes — have no chance of starting on the ladder of owner-occupation. That is why we must have a rented sector. The private rented sector cannot supply the accommodation that is needed. I share the view of my hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham, Perry Barr (Mr. Rooker) that people should not profit from other people's housing needs. That is an important Socialist concept, for which there is no reason to apologise. Therefore, for those who cannot become owner-occupiers, rented accommodation should be supplied through the public sector, genuine housing associations and housing co-operatives. That is the way in which adequate accommodation could be provided. The opposite is now the case because only a small number of council dwellings are being built, and authorities like mine have not been able to start any house building since 1979. It is wrong that so many people should be denied decent accommodation simply because Government dogma is curtailing building in the public sector.

The Government's housing policy has caused much misery and hardship. As we have seen tonight, they are being subjected to a tremendous amount of pressure to deregulate privately rented housing and the Opposition have a duty to warn the electorate that, in the unlikely event of the Conservatives winning the next election, the type of operation carried out under the Rent Act 1957 will be repeated. A Tory victory at the next election could well mean that a large number of private tenants who at present enjoy security of tenure will have that protection taken away. That is a warning for the electorate of what will happen if the Tories win the next election.

9.16 pm
Mr. John Wheeler (Westminster, North)

The hon. Member for Walsall, North (Mr. Winnick) is clear in his warning to the public, but this House has another duty and it is to tell the truth about the policies and issues that concern the electorate. The hon. Gentleman suggests that there will be wholesale decontrol of privately rented houses. In his excellent speech, my hon. Friend the Minister for Housing, Urban Affairs and Construction, made it clear that he does not have that in mind, nor is it in the mind of any other member of the Government. It is certainly not what Members on the Government Benches would be prepared to support.

Many of us have constituents who reside in the declining privately rented sector, and we know that those constituents, especially the elderly, must enjoy the full protection of the law. In many respects we want to see that law strengthened. This debate is not about taking away rights that tenants presently enjoy; it is about how vast numbers of empty houses in the inner cities might be brought into use.

The debate began with the hon. Member for Birmingham, Perry Barr (Mr. Rooker) trailing, as it were, the coming by-election in Fulham and he appeared to concentrate on that. But at least there was some consensus in his speech and I welcome that. His commitment to shared tenancy schemes, of which there are 163 in operation, was welcome. That is one way forward. I believe I understood him to support the concept of shorthold, and that too is welcome.

Mr. Rooker

I never mentioned shorthold. I have a firm commitment to homes for the future. We are not in favour of shorthold and would abolish it. I do not want the hon. Member to be under any misunderstanding. I spoke about shared ownership and assured tenancies.

Mr. Wheeler

I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman. I misunderstood him because I thought he said shorthold.

I welcome the hon. Gentleman's commitment to shared ownership, because that is certainly one of the most important ways of helping young married couples and others with home ownership. It is popular in my constituency and I am glad that there is common ground on this issue. It is an important area of common ground that I am sure we would wish to strengthen and encourage.

Shorthold creates a problem. Many of my elderly constituents live in large flats which they can ill afford to maintain. Sometimes those tenants are widowed and are trying to pay rent and all the other rates and service charges that arise these days. Such constituents would welcome the opportunity to share their homes, perhaps with young mobile workers who want to come into central London, but they dare not open the door to such people. I shared the enthusiasm of the hon. Member for Woolwich (Mr. Cartwright) when he referred to that problem. Surely, in the interests of common sense, this House should discover the acceptable boundaries whereby people may rent part of their homes or the properties in which they live.

The Nugee committee produced an important report. It sat for many months and considered the complicated problems affecting the occupants, leaseholders or renting tenants in blocks of flats. It is true that the hundreds of thousands of people who still live in such blocks reside mainly in London, the south-east and the inner cities. They are often elderly and unable to change to home ownership or to find accommodation elsewhere. They are captives of the system. This House has a duty to protect them and to improve the quality of their lives.

The hon. Member for Walsall, North referred to the Berger empire. It is indeed a bad property-owning company, with a total disinterest in the management of its properties and the quality of life of their unfortunate occupants.

One recommendation of the Nugee report dealt with that point. It suggested that, in appropriate circumstances, there should be an interim procedure whereby the aggrieved could require the landlord to remedy any defect or any breaches in convenants; should this fail, the tenants would be able to apply to the courts. Indeed, the report recommended that this provision should be widened to include the county courts for the appointment of a receiver-manager.

There are suggested remedies in the report to deal with some of those very real ills, which must be dealt with. I urge my hon. Friend the Minister to give some commitment on when we will implement them. I know that it is a complicated area, but we must have legislation to deal with such dreadful circumstances that inflict such misery on so many people.

The report was concerned with the management of blocks of flats; it did not look beyond that. We have heard tonight about the right to buy. The Committee went so far as to say that, if a property company proposed to dispose of its assets, the existing occupants should have the first right of refusal under a fair purchase arrangement. I very much welcomed my hon. Friend's statement that he would consider going further than that. I hope that he does—

Mr. John Patten

Does my hon. Friend appreciate that I was not in any sense criticising the committee or its distinguished chairman? They strove always to stay within the terms of reference.

Mr. Wheeler

I very much appreciate my hon. Friend's point. The committee was made up of persons with a variety of backgrounds, both professional and political. Indeed, it included a distinguished Labour councillor from Camden. All of its 53 recommendations were approved by all its members, so there was wide consensus.

The committee was concerned only with management issues and did not consider the wider political aspects. I would welcome a collective right to buy for the majority of tenants or leaseholders in a block of flats. That would make a great deal of sense. However, it would not solve the complicated human relationship problems of management. There is immense concern in London about foreign ownership of residential tenanted property. That issue should be examined. The Government should also consider urgently what should be done about the enforcement of the existing law by environmental health officers in local authorities. In the city of Westminster a unit has been set up to provide advice to the private rented sector. It is working extremely well, but in many authorities that has not been done, with the consequence that people who require professional help and guidance to deal with bad landlord or management problems find that it is lacking.

I welcome the words of my hon. Friend the Minister of State I urge upon him early acceptance of the Nugee committee recommendations. Once enacted, they will go a long way to resolving some of the problems. I welcome, too, the prospect of extending the principle to the collective right to buy in the private sector.

9.25 pm
Mr. Harry Cohen (Leyton)

There is a scene in the excellent film "My Beautiful Laundrette" where a tenant is summarily thrown out on the street. When asked about it, the Pakistani landlord says that he is not a professional Pakistani but a professional business man. Later in the film, he and his colleagues drink to the Prime Minister for making it all possible. Evictions are not about race, but about bad landlords of all races. Many landlords are highly impersonal private companies. They are not professional or even amateur home suppliers, but professional business men who want as large a profit as they can get. Her Majesty's Government have facilitated them. In the process, the rights of private tenants, which were inadequate in the first place, have been whittled down still further.

Private tenants are a deprived social group. They lack security. Many have to pay exorbitant rents. They face harassment and illegal eviction. They live in substandard accommodation. About 42 per cent. of private rented dwellings are in substantial disrepair. Private tenants are four times more likely than other households to live in accommodation that is unfit for human habitation. One in four private tenants do not have exclusive use of a bath or toilet. How many Conservative Members would like to queue up for the use of a bath or toilet?

Private tenants are also potential victims of speculators who make huge profits by buying tenanted property, removing the tenant by any means and selling with vacant possession. Private tenants do not get their fair share of public subsidy. In 1983–84, owner-occupiers received £7 billion. There was no such subsidy to private tenants, despite the fact that 70 per cent. of them had below-average earnings. Homelessness has worsened under the Tory Government. As I mentioned in a speech just before Christmas, in my borough 150 people are homeless. That puts an immense burden on the local authority and affects the other people on the council's waiting list.

The answer was set out as a charter of rights for private tenants drawn up by various organisations, including the Law Centres Federation, the Organisation of Private Tenants, the Campaign for Single Homeless People, Shelter—the National Campaign for the Homeless—and SHAC, the London Housing Aid Centre, which has as its chairman Nick Raynsford, the excellent candidate for Labour in the Fulham by-election. I shall be one of the first to welcome him to the House after that by-election. Those organisations have drawn up an excellent charter for private tenants which the Government should implement. Its emphasis is on local authorities helping private tenants. I shall refer to some of its principles.

Councils should provide new services and change existing ones to promote the interests of private tenants. Tenants should be able to force local authorities to use their powers. Councils should consult private tenants individually and on overall policy. Different council departments should work together in the interests of tenants. Councils must seek out the worst private rented property and deal with it systematically.

In addition to those general principles, the charter goes into detail about houses in multiple occupation, the council's role in regular consultation with tenants, tackling unfit premises on a worst first basis, and identifying landlords who consistently evade the Rent Acts. Exorbitant rents should be referred to the rent officer so that he can set fair rents. Local authorities should also provide a comprehensive housing aid service, including investigators where there is harassment, and provide legal support for tenants. The rights of private tenants should be publicised, including housing benefit rights, in a number of languages so as to reach the many ethnic minority tenants.

The charter also deals with rents and subsidies, security, the need to strengthen the laws against harassment and illegal eviction and the need for a proper right to repairs to a minimum standard. It is an excellent charter, but there is also a role for central Government. The Government should be working in partnership with the local authorities and making available the means for local authorities to implement the charter, rather than rate capping them and cutting their housing investment programme. All this needs a far more sympathetic Government policy, but the Government are not sympathetic to private tenants because there is no profit in it.

9.31 pm
Mr. John Butterfill (Bournemouth, West)

I have been rather depressed by what I have heard today. [HON. MEMBERS: "Quite right."] It shows that the Opposition have not learnt what is the key to the provision of private sector housing. In other countries thriving private sectors fulfil the need. I accept what has been said about the evils of wicked landlords and Rachmanism in this country, but it is all due to one thing—the stupid controls which have created artificial markets, without which Rachmanism could never have existed in the first place.

I am a partner in a firm of chartered surveyors which has managed private rented property for nearly 50 years. By and large, private landlords are not the greedy people that the Opposition describe. Most of those for whom my firm manages property are elderly. Most have only one property, some have two. The best landlords for whom we act are family trusts, which have more properties. The family trusts do not sell off their properties. They re-let them. Family trusts are still good private landlords.

The problem is that no one is encouraged to reinvest while the present system of control remains. We could overcome that problem if we had the political will to get rid of rent control. I accept that that would mean much greater subsidies from the Treasury. That political constraint has held all parties back, but it cannot be moral to expect private landlords to subsidise occupation which should be subsidised either by local authorities or by the state. If people cannot afford to pay the market rent, we should not expect private people to subsidise them.

I cannot see why private landlords should be described as evil people. It is said that they make profits from other people's housing needs. I would sooner say that they invest to help others gain housing. There are many other forms of investment. Many landlords for which my firm acts could easily have sold their property and invested the money in building societies and got better returns. They have chosen not to do that, for purely philanthropic motives. Such people still exist.

The hon. Member for Birmingham, Perry Barr (Mr. Rooker) talked about repairs and said that tenants should have the opportunity to be rehoused if repairs were being carried out. Where does the money for that come from when a landlord does not get sufficient rent even to repair the property? Who will subsidise that activity?

Mr. Rooker

The local authority.

Mr. Butterfill

I am pleased to hear the hon. Gentleman say that.

Mr. Rooker

The local authority should be given a grant.

Mr. Butterfill

It is a problem. Who should be subsidised? In deference to my hon. Friend the Minister, I shall sit down. I have said only part of what I had hoped to say. I hope that the Government will reconsider the circumstances of private landlords.

9.36 pm
Mr. John Fraser (Norwood)

A theme of the debate has been the status of leaseholders of residential flats. Let me make it absolutely clear, as I think that I have done on almost every piece of housing legislation and in every debate that I have been afforded the opportunity to do so, the time is grossly overdue when we should legislate for leaseholders of residential accommodation along the lines of the Leasehold Reform Act 1967 — which the Government of the day described as Rachmanism in reverse —to give leaseholders the right collectively to buy their freeholds and collectively to manage their property, and to introduce the other recommendations of the Nugee committee report. I shall say no more about that except to underline again our overwhelming support for such a measure.

Today's debate has been about the least supported and most neglected families and householders in the country —the tenants in privately rented accommodation. One in six privately rented homes is unfit for human habitation and half are in a substantial state of disrepair. At the worst, private tenants are subject to cruel, inhumane and degrading treatment which my hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham, Perry Barr (Mr. Rooker) and other Front Bench colleagues saw only this Monday in Fulham.

The treatment can be degrading, but it is at its worst in bed and breakfast accommodation. Being an occupant of such property means disease, malnutrition and sometimes even death because of the dangerous conditions that people are expected to endure.

Tory party policy to the rented sector has several trends, which have been seen recently. One is not to increase but to reduce income support for people with no access to owner-occupation. That is demonstrated by cuts in the board and lodging allowance, which caused so much concern among politicians and in the courts. It is also demonstrated by the prospective cuts in housing benefit, which have been forced on the DHSS by the Treasury.

Another trend is a reduction in capital expenditure on repair and improvement grants for the private sector. Local authorities, especially those in the most depressed areas with the greatest amount of privately rented accommodation, now have so little housing investment programme allocation that they are barely able to keep up with their contractual commitments, so the money that is essential to improve and repair privately rented accommodation is no longer available.

The cuts in capital expenditure have a second effect. They deny private tenants that which they would regard as paradise — the opportunity to be transferred from privately rented accommodation to a secure, safe and well-heated home owned by the local authority or a housing association. That particularly applies to the elderly, the poor and the vulnerable—of whom a large number are occupants of privately rented accommodation.

The situation is so bad in London, Manchester and some other places that the only route from privately rented accommodation into public accommodation is that of homelessness. This debate has been far too polite. We should remind ourselves that last year, 100,000 families were accepted — many more applied — as being homeless. That is the equivalent of every family in the London borough of Hammersmith and Fulham having their roof taken away and being evicted. That is the scale of homelessness in the United Kingdom today.

The fourth theme that the Tories adopt towards privately rented accommodation is that if a choice has to be made—and it is electorally safe—between landlord and tenant, property and people or community and corporation, they would choose the corporation, the property and the landlord. That is seen in the speech made by the Minister for Housing, Urban Affairs and Construction to the Young Conservatives conference.

The last words of our motion underline the fact that in the next Parliament the Government are contemplating an end to what the Minister calls Socialist rent control, with rents being artificially low. Many private tenants in my constituency do not regard their controlled rents as being artificially low.

Certain consequences will flow from decontrol and any repeal of the Rent Act 1977. The first will be that rents will rocket. Apart from the evidence of one's own experience, one need only look at the report of the Select Committee on the Environment in 1981, which talked of the very high rents faced by households that were trying to gain access to the private rented sector in areas of considerable housing stress. It stated: Rents quoted for lettings outside the Rent Act ranged from two to four times the registered rent. It also gave an example of the sort of accommodation that might be occupied by the single person to whom the Minister referred. We all know that a studio flat is practically a cubbyhole. For such a flat in Paddington, the registered rent was £30 a week, whereas the rent on the open market would have been about £90 a week. If translated to 1985–86 prices, such a rent would rise to between £100 and £120 a week.

If the Minister thinks that decontrol will help the homeless, I cite the example of Mrs. Ashby of Fulham, who is temporarily occupying a flat that will go on to the market for about £55,000. A9 per cent. return on £55,000 is £4,950 a year—almost £100 a week. That is the kind of accommodation that the Minister says will become available to the homeless if there is decontrol in the next parliamentary term. It is absolute rubbish to think that decontrol will solve the problem of homelessness and housing shortage in London and other areas.

Mr. Marlow


Mr. Fraser

I am very short of time and cannot give way to the hon. Gentleman.

Secondly, the Minister also talked of landlords and tenants agreeing rents freely, as if there would be some kind of freedom to negotiate if there were decontrol. The only freedom that decontrol will create will be the freedom to exploit—the kind of freedom that exists between a warder and his prisoner, and the freedom of the oxen to wear a yoke.

Mr. Marlow


Mr. Fraser

Thirdly, the Minister says that more accommodation will become available. That is absolute rubbish, as is shown by the experience following the Rent Act 1957. I took the trouble to read through the Milner Holland report to find out how much of the extra accommodation that was forecast by the right hon. Member for South Down (Mr. Powell) would be available. The report examined a period of 40 months from 1960–63 — a period of decontrol and absence of security of tenure. In that time, it was estimated that the loss of lettings was 14 per cent. in London. There is no evidence that decontrol brings properties on the market to rent—quite the reverse, it makes them available only for sale.

Mr. Marlow


Mr. Fraser

I am sorry. but I have only a short time.

The fourth proposition is that even if property becomes available for letting as a result of decontrol, one simple thing happens — as prices go up, the amount of accommodation available for a person to occupy goes down. The price rises and the square footage decreases. It leads to what it led to between 1957–64—to grossly overcrowded as well as overpriced accommodation, multiple occupation, insecurity and difficulty.

When I gave evidence to Lord Scarman's inquiry, I wondered why some of my constituents behave in their 20s as they do, and I am sure that one of the reasons was the rotten, overcrowded nomadic existence through which they had to go during decontrol, particularly if they were using unfurnished tenancies. At the end of the day, the local authority has to pick up the tab for such behaviour.

Mr. Marlow


Mr. Fraser

This is a short debate.

I shall end my speech with three pictures of the housing situation today and of what the Prime Minister cares to call "popular capitalism". The first is a retrospective picture from the Milner Holland report, written after seven years of decontrol. It says: the prime cause of most of the hardship, misery and anxiety which we have described is the absence of any adequate security of tenure in the situation which prevails in London of a grave shortage of accommodation for rent at the lower end of the rental scale. Exactly the same thing will happen as a result of the decontrol provisions that are to be put forward for the next session. What was true in the Rachman years is as true today.

The second picture of housing under popular capitalism is the picture of Mrs. Ellen Griffin, a private tenant whom I saw in Fulham on Monday. I do not think this is funny, although I see the hon. Member for Northampton (Mr. Marlow) laughing. Mrs. Griffin is 80 and frail and cannot even climb up to the gas meter to put in her money. For half a century, she has lived in conditions that we would all regard as intolerable. Her home is decaying around her. She has not enjoyed hot water for decades and her shared home is hopelessly outdated. She is in a top floor flat without light in the corridor. The roof leaks and in this weather her home is like a Siberian prison. I know from my colleagues that there are thousands of Ellen Griffins in Britain, who look for sheltered, warm and secure housing, which only the community or the state can provide, and which is denied to them because of the savage cuts in public housing investment which, for all the rhetoric that we have heard from Conservative Members, will take place again next year.

My third picture of Tory values is one that I saw last night as I drove back from a meeting in Finchley. Outside Holborn underground station, two people lay on the pavement, one in a blanket, the other in a cardboard box. They were trying to benefit from some of the warm air coming through the grills from the underground station after it had been closed. They represented the ultimate state of caring Conservatism and popular capitalism. Under such a regime we are reduced to housing meaning a box in a blizzard on a pavement.

I did not ask those two people last night whether they thought that decontrol of privately rented accommodation would help them. I did not ask. Mrs. Griffin if it would help her. I did not need to, because I knew the answer already. What we ask for tonight is the support of all parties in the House for the motion when the House divides in opposition to a housing policy which already divides the nation.

9.45 pm
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Environment (Sir George Young)

This has been a relatively short debate, but with one or two exceptions it has been a fairly reflective debate, with, on occasions, some glimpses of neutral territory or common ground appearing between the two sides. The hon. Member for Norwood (Mr. Fraser) criticised the debate for being too polite. That must have been a criticism of his hon. Friends rather than of mine, because my hon. Friends are always polite.

Let me deal with an implication in the hon. Gentleman's speech that there has been a cut in improvement grants to landlords. I listened to what he said about Mrs. Ashby and Mrs. Griffin. There was an implication that councils were giving less help to private landlords and tenants, but I must give him the figures. In 1979, 10,000 grants were given by local authorities to private landlords. In 1984, the latest year for which we have figures, there were 33,000 grants. The number of grants paid to private tenants has also trebled. Since 1981 local authorities have paid over 100,000 home improvement grants to landlords. Almost half of those were for conversion and improvement, and a quarter for essential repairs. Whichever way one looks at it, that is a sizeable commitment of public expenditure and it is a substantial increase over what was paid by the previous Labour Government. We intend to maintain that commitment and ensure that help is available to those who need it.

If I do not have time to deal with all the points that have been made it is because the time available is inevitably restricted.

The hon. Member for Woolwich (Mr. Cartwright) made a balanced speech and rejected the municipal solution. I think that he rejected the logical conclusion that comes from his premise, that there would have to be some movements in rents if one removes some of the controls, but I noted and welcomed what he said about the assured tenancy scheme.

My hon. Friend the Member for Hampstead and Highgate (Sir G. Finsberg) spoke about the Nugee report, and I pay tribute to the work that he did in the Department to improve the rights to leaseholders. He raised the intriguing point that the election expenses for the Labour candidate in Fulham may well have been started. I noticed that the hon. Member for Leyton (Mr. Cohen) referred to him not as the prospective parliamentary candidate, but as the parliamentary candidate. I wonder whether the costs of the debate, including the modest salaries paid to myself and my hon. Friend the Minister for Housing, Urban Affairs and Construction should be debited—

Mr. Cohen

It was a slip of the tongue.

Sir George Young

It may have been an expensive slip of the tongue.

The right hon. Member for Brent, East (Mr. Freeson) spoke about extending the right of first refusal to long leaseholders, a point which was also raised by my hon. Friend the Member for Westminster, North (Mr. Wheeler). The Nugee committee recommended that where a landlord wished to dispose of his interest, the residents should have a right of first refusal to enable them to buy the block if they so wished. We are considering that proposal. We are also considering the wider question which my hon. Friend raised of whether residents should have a collective right to purchase in other circumstances. We are doing this as part of our reflection on the Nugee committee's findings. We are well aware of the urgent need to make progress. Large numbers of leaseholders are waiting for the Government to come to some conclusion, and we shall do so as soon as we can.

I also welcome what the right hon. Member for Brent, East said about the assured tenancy scheme and the notion of extending more rights to tenants.

My hon. Friend the Member for Suffolk, Central (Mr. Lord) raised the vital question of the homeless. That factor was left out of many contributions. He put the housing debate in a slightly broader context and reminded us of the needs of those on waiting lists and others.

The hon. Member for Walsall, North (Mr. Winnick) made a somewhat doctrinaire speech. It was clear to him that the private sector had no role to play in solving housing problems.

Mr. Marlow

The hon. Member for Walsall, North (Mr. Winnick) implied that all Conservative Members favour doing away with rent control altogether. I think that the vast majority of Conservative Members believe that people in regulated tenancies have security of tenure and regulated rents, and that it would be totally improper to interfere with that system in any way. Will my hon. Friend point out to Labour Members that, on the continent, people are building accommodation for private rent? On the continent, people take that accommodation. They can afford it and it works. Why the blazes can it not work here?

Sir George Young

I am grateful to my hon. Friend. Let me make it clear that we have no intention of removing the protection enjoyed by existing tenants.

My hon. Friend the Member for Bournemouth, West (Mr. Butterfill) gave us the benefit of his experience in dealing with property. He deplored the continuing restrictions on investment.

The hon. Member for Birmingham, Perry Barr (Mr. Rooker) said that being a private landlord was an unacceptable way of living.

Mr. Rooker

I did not say that.

Sir George Young

I wrote the words down the moment the hon. Gentleman said them.

Mr. Rooker

I was reading from my notes. I did not say that. I said that being another person's landlord for a crude commercial profit was an unacceptable way of earning a living. That is what I said. It is not what the Under-Secretary of State said.

Sir George Young

The hon. Gentleman's comments will cause great offence to many landlords and landladies and to their tenants, who have a perfectly respectable and acceptable relationship with them. The hon. Member for Perry Barr said that that was an unacceptable way of living. That is one of the less thoughtful remarks that we have heard from him.

Not so long ago, any debate on this subject would have led to a call from the Opposition to municipalise private landlords. I am not sure whether any of them still maintain that that is the right solution. If they did take that action, it would cost about £10 billion.

The solutions put forward this evening by the Opposition will not work either. Some of my colleagues explained why the present regime is not working. In case their arguments fell on deaf ears, I shall quote three passages from last year's inquiry into British housing, chaired by Prince Philip, which had representatives from all political parties on it. The inquiry stated: At present there is an almost total dependency on public funding for rented housing. This is restrictive and inevitably vulnerable to changes in housing policy". On rates of return, the inquiry stated: These fair rent rates of return are inadequate to keep existing landlords in the market if they have the option of a sale with vacant possession for owner-occupation. Nor are these returns necessarily sufficient to provide an incentive to improvement or repair, and they certainly are insufficient to encourage new investment in property to rent". On the Rent Acts, the inquiry said: Looked at objectively, the protective legislation of the Rent Acts is either responsible all too often for diminution of supply, or is irrelevant as landlords exploit the various loopholes open to them. In either case, it is hard to see that current legislation is effective in protecting anyone's interests. The Tory party did not say that. The inquiry set up by the National Federation of Housing Associations, which included many housing experts, unanimously came to that conclusion.

The first report of the Select Committee on the Environment stated: The Committee concludes that a healthy private rented sector would require that commercial landlords were able to obtain a return on investment commensurate to that available on similar risk investments elsewhere and that tenants were able without hardship to pay rents on suitable secure accommodation The present system appears to meet neither of these requirements. That is the system which many Labour Members sought to defend. Why are they so wedded to a system which freezes out respectable institutional funding, which could help us tackle bad housing conditions? Many Labour councils are now collaborating with the private sector to turn around difficult estates. There can be no problem, therefore, about harnessing the resources of the private sector to meet housing needs.

Mr. Allen McKay (Barnsley, West and Penistone)

rose in his place and claimed to move, That the Question be now put.

Question, That the Question be now put, put and agreed to.

Question put accordingly, That the original words stand part of the Question:—

The House divided: Ayes 177, Noes 258.

Division No. 80] [10.00 pm
Adams, Allen (Paisley N) Corbyn, Jeremy
Archer, Rt Hon Peter Cox, Thomas (Tooting)
Ashley, Rt Hon Jack Craigen, J. M.
Ashton, Joe Crowther, Stan
Atkinson, N. (Tottenham) Cunliffe, Lawrence
Bagier, Gordon A. T. Cunningham, Dr John
Barron, Kevin Dalyell, Tam
Benn, Rt Hon Tony Davies, Rt Hon Denzil (L'lli)
Bennett, A. (Dent'n & Red'sh) Davies, Ronald (Caerphilly)
Bermingham, Gerald Davis, Terry (B'ham, H'ge H'l)
Bidwell, Sydney Dixon, Donald
Blair, Anthony Dobson, Frank
Boothroyd, Miss Betty Dormand, Jack
Boyes, Roland Douglas, Dick
Brown, Gordon (D'f'mline E) Dubs, Alfred
Brown, N. (N'c'tle-u-Tyne E) Duffy, A. E. P.
Brown, Ron (E'burgh, Leith) Dunwoody, Hon Mrs G.
Buchan, Norman Eadie, Alex
Caborn, Richard Eastham, Ken
Callaghan, Jim (Heyw'd & M) Evans, John (St. Helens N)
Campbell, Ian Ewing, Harry
Campbell-Savours, Dale Fatchett, Derek
Canavan, Dennis Faulds, Andrew
Carter-Jones, Lewis Field, Frank (Birkenhead)
Clark, Dr David (S Shields) Fields, T. (L'pool Broad Gn)
Clarke, Thomas Fisher, Mark
Clay, Robert Flannery, Martin
Clelland, David Gordon Foot, Rt Hon Michael
Clwyd, Mrs Ann Forrester, John
Cocks, Rt Hon M. (Bristol S) Foster, Derek
Cohen, Harry Foulkes, George
Coleman, Donald Fraser, J. (Norwood)
Conlan, Bernard Freeson, Rt Hon Reginald
Cook, Frank (Stockton North) Garrett, W. E.
Cook, Robin F. (Livingston) George, Bruce
Corbett, Robin Gilbert, Rt Hon Dr John
Godman, Dr Norman O'Brien, William
Golding, John O'Neill, Martin
Gould, Bryan Orme, Rt Hon Stanley
Gourlay, Harry Park, George
Hamilton, James (M'well N) Parry, Robert
Hamilton, W. W. (Fife Central) Patchett, Terry
Hardy, Peter Pavitt, Laurie
Harrison, Rt Hon Walter Pendry, Tom
Hattersley, Rt Hon Roy Pike, Peter
Haynes, Frank Powell, Raymond (Ogmore)
Healey, Rt Hon Denis Prescott, John
Heffer, Eric S. Radice, Giles
Hogg, N. (C'nauld & Kilsyth) Randall, Stuart
Holland, Stuart (Vauxhall) Redmond, Martin
Hoyle, Douglas Rees, Rt Hon M. (Leeds S)
Hughes, Dr Mark (Durham) Richardson, Ms Jo
Hughes, Robert (Aberdeen N) Roberts, Ernest (Hackney N)
Hughes, Roy (Newport East) Robertson, George
Hughes, Sean (Knowsley S) Robinson, G. (Coventry NW)
Janner, Hon Greville Rogers, Allan
John, Brynmor Rooker, J. W.
Jones, Barry (Alyn & Deeside) Ross, Ernest (Dundee W)
Kaufman, Rt Hon Gerald Sedgemore, Brian
Lambie, David Sheerman, Barry
Lamond, James Sheldon, Rt Hon R.
Leadbitter, Ted Shore, Rt Hon Peter
Leighton, Ronald Short, Ms Clare (Ladywood)
Lewis, Ron (Carlisle) Short, Mrs R.(W'hampt'n NE)
Lewis, Terence (Worsley) Skinner, Dennis
Litherland, Robert Smith, C.(Isl'ton S & F'bury)
Lloyd, Tony (Stretford) Smith, Rt Hon J. (M'ds E)
Lofthouse, Geoffrey Snape, Peter
Loyden, Edward Soley, Clive
McCartney, Hugh Spearing, Nigel
McDonald, Dr Oonagh Stott, Roger
McGuire, Michael Strang, Gavin
McKelvey, William Straw, Jack
MacKenzie, Rt Hon Gregor Thomas, Dafydd (Merioneth)
McNamara, Kevin Thomas, Dr R. (Carmarthen)
McTaggart, Robert Thompson, J. (Wansbeck)
Madden, Max Thorne, Stan (Preston)
Mallon, Seamus Tinn, James
Marek, Dr John Torney, Tom
Marshall, David (Shettleston) Wardell, Gareth (Gower)
Martin, Michael Wareing, Robert
Mason, Rt Hon Roy Welsh, Michael
Maynard, Miss Joan White, James
Meacher, Michael Williams, Rt Hon A.
Michie, William Winnick, David
Mikardo, Ian Woodall, Alec
Millan, Rt Hon Bruce
Morris, Rt Hon A. (W'shawe) Tellers for the Ayes:
Morris, Rt Hon J. (Aberavon) Mr. John McWilliam and
Nellist, David Mr. Allen McKay.
Oakes, Rt Hon Gordon
Adley, Robert Blaker, Rt Hon Sir Peter
Alexander, Richard Body, Sir Richard
Alison, Rt Hon Michael Bonsor, Sir Nicholas
Amess, David Boscawen, Hon Robert
Ancram, Michael Bottomley, Peter
Arnold, Tom Bottomley, Mrs Virginia
Ashby, David Bowden, A. (Brighton K'to'n)
Aspinwall, Jack Bowden, Gerald (Dulwich)
Atkins, Rt Hon Sir H. Boyson, Dr Rhodes
Atkins, Robert (South Ribble) Braine, Rt Hon Sir Bernard
Atkinson, David (B'm'th E) Brandon-Bravo, Martin
Baker, Rt Hon K. (Mole Vall'y) Bright, Graham
Baker, Nicholas (Dorset N) Brinton, Tim
Banks, Robert (Harrogate) Brown, M. (Brigg & Cl'thpes)
Batiste, Spencer Bruinvels, Peter
Beaumont-Dark, Anthony Bryan, Sir Paul
Bendall, Vivian Buchanan-Smith, Rt Hon A.
Benyon, William Bulmer, Esmond
Best, Keith Burt, Alistair
Bevan, David Gilroy Butcher, John
Biffen, Rt Hon John Butler, Rt Hon Sir Adam
Biggs-Davison, Sir John Butterfill, John
Blackburn, John Carlisle, John (Luton N)
Carlisle, Kenneth (Lincoln) Holt, Richard
Cash, William Howard, Michael
Chalker, Mrs Lynda Howarth, Alan (Stratf'd-on-A)
Channon, Rt Hon Paul Howarth, Gerald (Cannock)
Chapman, Sydney Howell, Rt Hon D. (G'ldford)
Chope, Christopher Howell, Ralph (Norfolk, N)
Churchill, W. S. Hubbard-Miles, Peter
Clark, Dr Michael (Rochford) Hunt, John (Ravensbourne)
Clarke, Rt Hon K. (Rushcliffe) Hunter, Andrew
Cockeram, Eric Hurd, Rt Hon Douglas
Colvin, Michael Irving, Charles
Conway, Derek Jackson, Robert
Coombs, Simon Jessel, Toby
Cope, John Johnson Smith, Sir Geoffrey
Cormack, Patrick Jones, Gwilym (Cardiff N)
Corrie, John Jones, Robert (Herts W)
Couchman, James Kellett-Bowman, Mrs Elaine
Crouch, David Kershaw, Sir Anthony
Currie, Mrs Edwina Key, Robert
Dickens, Geoffrey King, Roger (B'ham N'field)
Dicks, Terry King, Rt Hon Tom
Dorrell, Stephen Knowles, Michael
Dover, Den Knox, David
Dunn, Robert Lamont, Norman
Durant, Tony Lang, Ian
Emery, Sir Peter Latham, Michael
Evennett, David Lawler, Geoffrey
Eyre, Sir Reginald Lawrence, Ivan
Fairbairn, Nicholas Lawson, Rt Hon Nigel
Fallon, Michael Leigh, Edward (Gainsbor'gh)
Farr, Sir John Lennox-Boyd, Hon Mark
Favell, Anthony Lester, Jim
Finsberg, Sir Geoffrey Lightbown, David
Fletcher, Alexander Lilley, Peter
Fookes, Miss Janet Lloyd, Ian (Havant)
Forman, Nigel Lloyd, Peter (Fareham)
Forsyth, Michael (Stirling) Lord, Michael
Forth, Eric Lyell, Nicholas
Fowler, Rt Hon Norman McCrindle, Robert
Fox, Marcus McCurley, Mrs Anna
Franks, Cecil Macfarlane, Neil
Fraser, Peter (Angus East) MacKay, John (Argyll & Bute)
Freeman, Roger Maclean, David John
Fry, Peter McNair-Wilson, M. (N'bury)
Galley, Roy McNair-Wilson, P. (New F'st)
Gardner, Sir Edward (Fylde) Major, John
Garel-Jones, Tristan Malone, Gerald
Gilmour, Rt Hon Sir Ian Maples, John
Glyn, Dr Alan Marland, Paul
Goodhart, Sir Philip Marlow, Antony
Goodlad, Alastair Mates, Michael
Gow, Ian Mather, Carol
Grant, Sir Anthony Mawhinney, Dr Brian
Greenway, Harry Maxwell-Hyslop, Robin
Gregory, Conal Mayhew, Sir Patrick
Griffiths, Sir Eldon Mellor, David
Griffiths, Peter (Portsm'th N) Merchant, Piers
Grist, Ian Miller, Hal (B'grove)
Ground, Patrick Mills, Iain (Meriden)
Gummer, Rt Hon John S Mitchell, David (Hants NW)
Hamilton, Hon A. (Epsom) Moate, Roger
Hamilton, Neil (Tatton) Monro, Sir Hector
Hampson, Dr Keith Montgomery, Sir Fergus
Hannam, John Moore, Rt Hon John
Hargreaves, Kenneth Morris, M. (N'hampton S)
Harris, David Morrison, Hon P. (Chester)
Haselhurst, Alan Moynihan, Hon C.
Hawkins, Sir Paul (N'folk SW) Mudd, David
Hawksley, Warren Neale, Gerrard
Hayhoe, Rt Hon Barney Needham, Richard
Hayward, Robert Nelson, Anthony
Heath, Rt Hon Edward Newton, Tony
Heddle, John Nicholls, Patrick
Henderson, Barry Norris, Steven
Heseltine, Rt Hon Michael Ottaway, Richard
Hicks, Robert Page, Richard (Herts SW)
Higgins, Rt Hon Terence L. Parkinson, Rt Hon Cecil
Hind, Kenneth Patten, Christopher (Bath)
Hogg, Hon Douglas (Gr'th'm) Patten, J. (Oxf W & Abgdn)
Holland, Sir Philip (Gedling) Pawsey, James
Peacock, Mrs Elizabeth Smith, Sir Dudley (Warwick)
Percival, Rt Hon Sir Ian Speller, Tony
Pollock, Alexander Spence, John
Porter, Barry Spicer, Michael (S Worcs)
Portillo, Michael Stewart, Allan (Eastwood)
Powell, William (Corby) Taylor, John (Solihull)
Powley, John Thorne, Neil (Ilford S)
Prentice, Rt Hon Reg Thurnham, Peter
Price, Sir David Townend, John (Bridlington)
Proctor, K. Harvey Townsend, Cyril D. (B'heath)
Raffan, Keith Trippier, David
Raison, Rt Hon Timothy Twinn, Dr Ian
Rathbone, Tim Waddington, David
Rees, Rt Hon Peter (Dover) Wakeham, Rt Hon John
Renton, Tim Walker, Bill (T'side N)
Rhodes James, Robert Wall, Sir Patrick
Rhys Williams, Sir Brandon Ward, John
Ridley, Rt Hon Nicholas Wells, Sir John (Maidstone)
Ridsdale, Sir Julian Wheeler, John
Rifkind, Rt Hon Malcolm Whitfield, John
Rippon, Rt Hon Geoffrey Wiggin, Jerry
Roe, Mrs Marion Wood, Timothy
Rossi, Sir Hugh Woodcock, Michael
Sainsbury, Hon Timothy Young, Sir George (Acton)
Shaw, Giles (Pudsey)
Shepherd, Colin (Hereford) Tellers for the Noes:
Shersby, Michael Mr. Donald Thompson and
Skeet, Sir Trevor Mr. Michael Neubert.

Question accordingly negatived.

Question, That the proposed words be there added, put forthwith pursuant to Standing Order No. 33 (Questions on amendments):

The House divided: Ayes 228, Noes 150.

Division No. 81] [10.19 pm
Adley, Robert Carlisle, John (Luton N)
Alexander, Richard Carlisle, Kenneth (Lincoln)
Alison, Rt Hon Michael Channon, Rt Hon Paul
Amess, David Chapman, Sydney
Ancram, Michael Chope, Christopher
Ashby, David Clark, Dr Michael (Rochford)
Aspinwall, Jack Clarke, Rt Hon K. (Rushcliffe)
Atkins, Rt Hon Sir H. Cockeram, Eric
Atkins, Robert (South Ribble) Colvin, Michael
Atkinson, David (B'm'th E) Conway, Derek
Baker, Rt Hon K. (Mole Vall'y) Coombs, Simon
Baker, Nicholas (Dorset N) Cope, John
Banks, Robert (Harrogate) Corrie, John
Batiste, Spencer Couchman, James
Beaumont-Dark, Anthony Crouch, David
Benyon, William Currie, Mrs Edwina
Best, Keith Dickens, Geoffrey
Bevan, David Gilroy Dorrell, Stephen
Biffen, Rt Hon John Dunn, Robert
Biggs-Davison, Sir John Durant, Tony
Blackburn, John Emery, Sir Peter
Blaker, Rt Hon Sir Peter Evennett, David
Body, Sir Richard Eyre, Sir Reginald
Bonsor, Sir Nicholas Fairbairn, Nicholas
Boscawen, Hon Robert Fallon, Michael
Bottomley, Peter Farr, Sir John
Bottomley, Mrs Virginia Favell, Anthony
Bowden, A. (Brighton K'to'n) Fenner, Mrs Peggy
Bowden, Gerald (Dulwich) Finsberg, Sir Geoffrey
Boyson, Dr Rhodes Fletcher, Alexander
Brandon-Bravo, Martin Fookes, Miss Janet
Bright, Graham Forman, Nigel
Brinton, Tim Forsyth, Michael (Stirling)
Brown, M. (Brigg & Cl'thpes) Forth, Eric
Bruinvels, Peter Fowler, Rt Hon Norman
Bryan, Sir Paul Fox, Marcus
Buchanan-Smith, Rt Hon A. Franks, Cecil
Bulmer, Esmond Fraser, Peter (Angus East)
Burt, Alistair Freeman, Roger
Butler, Rt Hon Sir Adam Fry, Peter
Butterfill, John Galley, Roy
Gardner, Sir Edward (Fylde) Mather, Carol
Garel-Jones, Tristan Mawhinney, Dr Brian
Gilmour, Rt Hon Sir Ian Mayhew, Sir Patrick
Goodhart, Sir Philip Mellor, David
Goodlad, Alastair Miller, Hal (B'grove)
Gow, Ian Mills, Iain (Meriden)
Grant, Sir Anthony Mitchell, David (Hants NW)
Greenway, Harry Moate, Roger
Gregory, Conal Monro, Sir Hector
Griffiths, Sir Eldon Montgomery, Sir Fergus
Griffiths, Peter (Portsm'th N) Moore, Rt Hon John
Grist, Ian Morris, M. (N'hampton S)
Ground, Patrick Morrison, Hon P. (Chester)
Gummer, Rt Hon John S Moynihan, Hon C.
Hamilton, Hon A. (Epsom) Mudd, David
Hamilton, Neil (Tatton) Neale, Gerrard
Hampson, Dr Keith Needham, Richard
Hannam, John Nelson, Anthony
Hargreaves, Kenneth Neubert, Michael
Harris, David Newton, Tony
Haselhurst, Alan Nicholls, Patrick
Hawkins, Sir Paul (N'folk SW) Norris, Steven
Hawksley, Warren Ottaway, Richard
Hayhoe, Rt Hon Barney Page, Richard (Herts SW)
Hayward, Robert Parkinson, Rt Hon Cecil
Heddle, John Patten, Christopher (Bath)
Henderson, Barry Patten, J. (Oxf W & Abgdn)
Heseltine, Rt Hon Michael Pawsey, James
Hicks, Robert Peacock, Mrs Elizabeth
Higgins, Rt Hon Terence L. Pollock, Alexander
Hind, Kenneth Porter, Barry
Hogg, Hon Douglas (Gr'th'm) Portillo, Michael
Holland, Sir Philip (Gedling) Powell, William (Corby)
Holt, Richard Powley, John
Howard, Michael Prentice, Rt Hon Reg
Howarth, Alan (Stratf'd-on-A) Proctor, K. Harvey
Howarth, Gerald (Cannock) Raffan, Keith
Hubbard-Miles, Peter Raison, Rt Hon Timothy
Hunt, John (Ravensbourne) Rathbone, Tim
Hurd, Rt Hon Douglas Renton, Tim
Irving, Charles Rhodes James, Robert
Jackson, Robert Rhys Williams, Sir Brandon
Jessel, Toby Ridsdale, Sir Julian
Johnson Smith, Sir Geoffrey Rifkind, Rt Hon Malcolm
Jones, Robert (Herts W) Roe, Mrs Marion
Kellett-Bowman, Mrs Elaine Rossi, Sir Hugh
Kershaw, Sir Anthony Sainsbury, Hon Timothy
Key, Robert Shaw, Giles (Pudsey)
King, Roger (B'ham N'field) Shepherd, Colin (Hereford)
King, Rt Hon Tom Shersby, Michael
Knowles, Michael Skeet, Sir Trevor
Knox, David Smith, Sir Dudley (Warwick)
Lamont, Norman Speller, Tony
Lang, Ian Spicer, Michael (S Worcs)
Latham, Michael Stewart, Allan (Eastwood)
Lawler, Geoffrey Taylor, John (Solihull)
Lennox-Boyd, Hon Mark Thurnham, Peter
Lester, Jim Townsend, Cyril D. (B'heath)
Lightbown, David Trippier, David
Lilley, Peter Twinn, Dr Ian
Lloyd, Ian (Havant) Viggers, Peter
Lord, Michael Waddington, David
Lyell, Nicholas Wakeham, Rt Hon John
McCrindle, Robert Walker, Bill (T'side N)
McCurley, Mrs Anna Wall, Sir Patrick
Macfarlane, Neil Wells, Sir John (Maidstone)
MacKay, John (Argyll & Bute) Wheeler, John
Maclean, David John Whitfield, John
McNair-Wilson, M. (N'bury) Wiggin, Jerry
Major, John Wood, Timothy
Malone, Gerald Young, Sir George (Acton)
Maples, John
Marland, Paul Tellers for the Ayes:
Marlow, Antony Mr. Donald Thompson and
Mates, Michael Mr. Peter Lloyd.
Adams, Allen (Paisley N) Ashton, Joe
Archer, Rt Hon Peter Atkinson, N. (Tottenham)
Ashdown, Paddy Bagier, Gordon A. T.
Beith, A. J. Janner, Hon Greville
Benn, Rt Hon Tony John, Brynmor
Bennett, A. (Dent'n & Red'sh) Johnston, Sir Russell
Bermingham, Gerald Jones, Barry (Alyn & Deeside)
Bidwell, Sydney Kaufman, Rt Hon Gerald
Blair, Anthony Kennedy, Charles
Boyes, Roland Kirkwood, Archy
Brown, Gordon (D'f'mline E) Lambie, David
Brown, N. (N'c'tle-u-Tyne E) Lamond, James
Brown, Ron (E'burgh, Leith) Leighton, Ronald
Buchan, Norman Lewis, Terence (Worsley)
Caborn, Richard Litherland, Robert
Callaghan, Jim (Heyw'd & M) Livsey, Richard
Campbell-Savours, Dale Lloyd, Tony (Stretford)
Canavan, Dennis Loyden, Edward
Carlile, Alexander (Montg'y) McCartney, Hugh
Clark, Dr David (S Shields) McDonald, Dr Oonagh
Clarke, Thomas McGuire, Michael
Clay, Robert McKay, Allen (Penistone)
Clelland, David Gordon Maclennan, Robert
Clwyd, Mrs Ann McWilliam, John
Cocks, Rt Hon M. (Bristol S) Madden, Max
Cohen, Harry Mallon, Seamus
Coleman, Donald Marek, Dr John
Conlan, Bernard Marshall, David (Shettleston)
Cook, Frank (Stockton North) Martin, Michael
Cook, Robin F. (Livingston) Mason, Rt Hon Roy
Corbett, Robin Maynard, Miss Joan
Corbyn, Jeremy Meacher, Michael
Cox, Thomas (Tooting) Meadowcroft, Michael
Craigen, J. M. Michie, William
Crowther, Stan Mikardo, Ian
Cunliffe, Lawrence Nellist, David
Cunningham, Dr John O'Brien, William
Dalyell, Tam O'Neill, Martin
Davies, Rt Hon Denzil (L'lli) Owen, Rt Hon Dr David
Davies, Ronald (Caerphilly) Parry, Robert
Davis, Terry (B'ham, H'ge H'l) Patchett, Terry
Dixon, Donald Pavitt, Laurie
Dobson, Frank Penhaligon, David
Dormand, Jack Pike, Peter
Dubs, Alfred Powell, Raymond (Ogmore)
Duffy, A. E. P. Prescott, John
Dunwoody, Hon Mrs G. Radice, Giles
Eadie, Alex Randall, Stuart
Eastham, Ken Redmond, Martin
Evans, John (St. Helens N) Richardson, Ms Jo
Ewing, Harry Roberts, Ernest (Hackney N)
Fatchett, Derek Robertson, George
Faulds, Andrew Rooker, J. W.
Fields, T. (L'pool Broad Gn) Short, Ms Clare (Ladywood)
Fisher, Mark Skinner, Dennis
Flannery, Martin Smith, C.(Isl'ton S & F'bury)
Foot, Rt Hon Michael Smith, Rt Hon J. (M'ds E)
Foster, Derek Soley, Clive
Foulkes, George Spearing, Nigel
Fraser, J. (Norwood) Steel, Rt Hon David
Gilbert, Rt Hon Dr John Stott, Roger
Godman, Dr Norman Strang, Gavin
Golding, John Straw, Jack
Gourlay, Harry Thomas, Dr R. (Carmarthen)
Hamilton, James (M'well N) Thorne, Stan (Preston)
Hancock, Michael Torney, Tom
Hardy, Peter Wallace, James
Harrison, Rt Hon Walter Wareing, Robert
Haynes, Frank Welsh, Michael
Heffer, Eric S. Williams, Rt Hon A.
Hogg, N. (C'nauld & Kilsyth) Winnick, David
Holland, Stuart (Vauxhall) Woodall, Alec
Hughes, Dr Mark (Durham) Wrigglesworth, Ian
Hughes, Robert (Aberdeen N)
Hughes, Roy (Newport East) Tellers for the Noes:
Hughes, Sean (Knowsley S) Mr. David Alton and
Hughes, Simon (Southwark) Mr. John Cartwright.

Question accordingly agreed to.

MR. SPEAKER forthwith declared the main Question, as amended, to be agreed to.

Resolved, That this House asserts the need for a healthy and reviving private rented sector with an adequate supply of sound homes to rent as being in the best interests of tenants and landlords and those looking for accommodation; further asserts the need for improved statutory safeguards to ensure proper management of privately owned blocks of flats; and notes that provision for capital expenditure on housing was increased in the Public Expenditure White Paper.