HC Deb 14 March 1946 vol 420 cc1273-6
44. Mr. A. Lewis

asked the Minister of Health whether he will consider making a statement in connection with the Circular which he has recently issued to various local authorities concerning a revision of rents for people who have been bombed out and have been placed into requisitioned premises by their local authority; and whether, in view of the considerable hardship that the revision of rents will cause to a number of working-class families who have already suffered considerable inconvenience and hardship through bomb damage, he will favourably consider reviewing this particular matter.

87. Sir Hugh Lucas-Tooth

asked the Minister of Health whether he is aware that the recent increases in rent, pursuant to his Department's Circular No. 224/45, required from persons housed in requisitioned premises after their own houses had been rendered uninhabitable by bombing, is causing widespread alarm; whether he will modify the instruction regarding the imposition of a means test; and whether he will instruct local authorities to reduce the amount of any rent required to be paid by the amount of and mortgage interest being currently paid by the occupier in respect of his bombed-out premises, and an appropriate amount of interest in respect of any war damage compensation remaining unpaid to the occupier.

Mr. Bevan

Circular 224 of 1945, which was issued on 11th December, instructed local authorities that occupiers of requisitioned premises should not be charged a higher rent than they could reasonably be expected to pay, having regard to their status and the sort of accommodation they would ordinarily occupy; and authorities were told that where this would involve an increase in the rent being paid, fair notice should be given before the increase was demanded. While I am prepared to consider any particular cases which the hon. Members may wish to bring to my notice, I do not think that there is any ground for a general review of the provisions of the Circular, or that it would be right to give to the occupiers of requisitioned premises relief which is not available to persons who have re-housed themselves.

Mr. Lewis

Does the Minister consider it is fair to the person who has been bombed out four or five times, that he should now have to pay the difference between the rent he could normally afford and the rent now being asked, be cause of necessity he has had to go to requisitioned premises?

Mr. Bevan

If the hon. Member will read the reply, he will see that that is precisely what I have covered. A person is not expected to pay a rent higher than he would normally have paid or which does not belong to the class of person affected.

Sir H. Lucas-Tooth

Has the Minister given consideration to the two points raised in my Question regarding the reduction of mortgage interest, and of some reduction which was due in respect of war damage compensation?

Mr. Bevan

I cannot accept the position that any special expenditure of that sort should be taken into account, except in so far as it contributes to the general conditions of hardship, which the local authority is asked to take into account.

Mrs. Middleton

On what basis are the local authorities to adjudicate as to the rent which a person can reasonably afford to pay? Will not this lead to grave disparities as between one local authority and another?

Mr. Bevan

My hon. Friend should pay attention to the fact that we are trying here to deal with tenants who have been bombed out and put in requisitioned premises. If the rent charged for re-housing the tenant is no higher than he would himself normally have paid where he lived when he was bombed out, no hardship has been inflicted on him.

Mr. Sparks

Is the Minister aware that in my constituency, under this Circular, bombed-out families are being asked to pay increased rent up to 22s. 6d. a week, and that great resentment is felt against the form of means test which is being imposed? These people do not desire to remain in requisitioned premises, but want to get back to their original homes as quickly as possible, and they do not see why they should be penalised to this extent.

Mr. Bevan

If the hon. Member will bring cases to my attention where there is individual hardship I will certainly deal with them, but local authorities have been plainly told in the Circular to which 1 have referred that they must take into account the hardships of tenants—surely that is a perfectly equitable provision?

Mr. Piratin

Is the Minister aware that his Department has seen a deputation from my council, only a few weeks ago, when 700 cases were submitted, showing in- stances of increases up to 30 per cent.? Is he further aware that the means test is creating a great deal of opposition? I realise that there is a shortage of houses, but I am not complaining about that just now.

Mr. Bevan

My answer is that certainly there will be increases of rent. The question which has to be considered is whether the increase is unreasonable. The local authorities are specifically told that they must take into account the hardship of tenants and the rents which were previously paid.

Mr. Lewis

In view of the unsatisfactory nature of the reply, I beg to give notice that I shall raise the matter again on the Adjournment.

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