1960s >> 1969 >> no-783-november-1969

More Labour Lies

Labour, says the full-page ad., has got Life and Soul and there follows the usual list of misleading figures which are supposed to impress us. The Labour Party used to have the reputation of being a party with ideals which was out to help ordinary people. Now some bright-boy is trying to revive this but after years of wage restraint, anti-union laws, immigration colour bar and the like he will have his work cut out.

The ad. makes two claims about Labour on housing both of which, as we shall show, are very misleading.

Under the heading “Peace of mind in your home” they say:

The 1968 Rent Act . . . brings ‘fair rent’ machinery. Nearly 80% of tenants’ applications have resulted in rent reduction.

The unwary reader might draw the conclusion that this new machinery must be good if rent went down in four cases out of five. He has missed the phrase “tenants’ applications”. For landlords, as well as tenants, can apply for a so-called fair rent to be fixed and when all applications are taken into account it is a different story: the rents have been put up in three cases out of five. Even a Housing Policy Study Group set up by Labour’s National Executive has expressed its concern:

  Applications for registration of a fair rent in England and Wales between the start of regulations and 20th June, 1969, numbered 140,000,  123,000 of which had been determined by May 1969. The Ministry of Housing has analysed 80,000 of these rent registrations representing those cases where the new rent could properly be compared with the old (i.e., excluding cases where the terms of the tenancy were changed or where there were improvements or alterations which could affect the rent). Of these, 32% had resulted in rent reduction, and 59% in a rent increase. Clearly some rents would be increased under the ‘fair rent’ machinery but the proportion of rents being increased does seem unduly high. (Report, p.12, our emphasis).

No doubt Labour’s publicity tricksters are banking on more people reading their full-page ad than their shilling pamphlet.

Under another heading — “A decent home is the cornerstone of a happy life” — the ad. declares:

      “The 1969 Housing Act increased financial aid to landlords in bringing old houses up to standard”.

It makes no mention that if landlords do this they can also apply to bring their old rents up to standard. The 1969 Housing Act in fact resumes the work of the 1957 Housing Act (the one Labour vociferously denounced at the time as the “wicked Tory Rent Act”), in that it allows tenancies now subject to Rent Control to be decontrolled. Instead, their rents will be set under the new “fair” rent machinery, a changeover which is bound to result, as Labour admits elsewhere, in the rent going up in the great majority of cases.

We draw attention to this not because we support or oppose rent control but to expose Labour’s false claim to stand for low rents. Labour’s policy of making investment in housing-letting a little more profitable is designed to overcome one of the problems caused by the rent control they once clamoured for, a striking demonstration of the futility of reformism. They are now doing what the Tories tried to do in 1957, but this time a little more cautiously. Which is not surprising since both parties are only out to administer capitalism. The Socialist Party of Great Britain has always held that within capitalism there is no solution to the housing problem and, that therefore attempts by governments to deal with it while retaining class property and the profit motive are futile.

The ad. is at least more cautious than George Thomas, the Secretary of State for Wales, who when the Bill was first published made this claim which we record for future reference:

  Within 10 years of this Act no one in Wales should be living in an unfit house
(The Times, 31 January 1969).

Thomas obviously forgot the lesson Aneurin Bevan learned when he rashly promised in 1946 that “when the next election occurs there will be no housing problem in Great Britain for the British working class” (quoted in Hansard, Vol. 453, Col. 1202).

Adam Buick