§ 30. Mr. Longden
asked the Minister of Housing and Local Government and Minister for Welsh Affairs if he will introduce legislation to ensure that local housing authorities shall normally charge the full economic rent for council houses, and that rent relief should be given only to those who genuinely need it and only for so long as they need it.
§ Mr. Brooke
I agree entirely with my hon. Friend that council rents should be subsidised only to the extent that the tenants need subsidy. The policies of the Government have been directed, with considerable success, to persuading local authorities to adopt an increasingly realistic attitude to rents. I do not think, however, that it would be right to legislate so as to take away from them their ultimate responsibility for their rent policy.
§ Mr. Longden
While thanking my right hon. Friend for part of his Answer, may I ask him whether he can advance one reason to justify a citizen who is not genuinely in need of it having his rent subsidised by the ratepayers and taxpayers at large? If local authorities will not respond to his encouragement to remedy this flagrant injustice, is it not high time that legislation was contemplated?
§ Mr. Brooke
I certainly have a very open mind about this, but I can assure my hon. Friend that an increasing number of local authorities are doing the sensible thing and establishing some kind of differential rent scheme. However, it would be extremely difficult to determine by legislation rents which local authorities should charge all over the country.
§ Mr. M. Stewart
The hon. Member for Hertfordshire, South-West (Mr. Longden) thanked the Minister for one part of his Answer. May I take the unusual course of thanking the right hon. Gentleman for the other half of it? Is he aware that in most cases the citizens in the areas concerned are better judges of what is a fair rent policy, in view of the difficulties imposed on them by the Minister, than is the hon. Gentleman?