I move that the Bill be now read a Second Time. This is a short and, I think, non-controversial Bill, the object of which is to extend the Rent Restriction Acts for a further period of one year after the 31st December when they would otherwise expire. In present circumstances these Acts could not be allowed to lapse without creating severe hardships to many tenants and for this reason I am sure that all sides of the House will be agreed as to the necessity for the Bill.
Since the Government took office last March a fresh examination of the rent control problem has been initiated departmentally and when that examination has been completed I shall bring the matter before the Government. It has been necessary to approach the problem afresh in view of the economic and other relevant changes which have taken place since 1951-52, when the Conroy Report on Rent Control was prepared. That report dealt comprehensively with all aspects of rent control and recommended not only that the existing controls should be retained but that they should be extended to all dwellings whenever built and whether let furnished or unfurnished. It also recommended increases of rent for landlords who are liable for repairs.
In the meantime the supply of new and reconditioned houses has improved but, of course, there is still a shortage of rented accommodation in the main urban areas, especially in Dublin and Cork where it will be some few years before full housing needs can be met. In the meantime, too, more and more interests have been created under the rent restrictions code—a code which has now been over 40 years in existence—and these interests and the multitude of complicated legal relationships which are features of the system increase the difficulties in the way of arriving at a generally acceptable solution.
In view of these considerations the Government will require to give careful study to the proposals which will be submitted to them and the drafting of any necessary legislation will take some time having regard to the complex character of this branch of the law. Accordingly, the period of one year for which it is proposed to extend the Acts cannot be regarded as excessive. Extension for one year will not, in any event, preclude the introduction before then of the Government's legislative proposals on rent control, if available. Meanwhile, I shall adhere to the settled policy of not legislating "piecemeal" for particular recommendations of the commission.
The Bill which is before the House provides for preserving the status quo for landlords and tenants during the period for which the Acts are being prolonged and, apart from the necessary changes in dates, it is identical with the Continuation Bills passed in recent years.
Before concluding, I think I should say that the Bill to give effect to the second report of the Conroy Commission—the Report on Reversionary Leases—has been passed by this House and is at present before the Seanad. I expect that it will become law early in the New Year.
I commend the Bill to the House and ask that it be given a Second Reading.