HC Deb 24 February 1960 vol 618 cc357-9
26. Mr. Swingler

asked the Civil Lord of the Admiralty on how many occasions and to what extent the rents of houses owned by his Department have been raised since 1957; and how far the income of the tenant is taken into account in assessing the amount of the increased rent to be charged.

Mr. C. Ian Orr-Ewing

There has been only one general increase in the rents of Admiralty-owned houses since 1957; this took place in 1959, in accordance with a new scheme of rents applied to tenants of all Government-owned houses. Rents, which had remained fixed for twenty years, or more, were increased in 70 per cent. of the cases by 7s. 6d. a week or less. The new rent is based on the rateable value and not on the income, but there was provision for temporary relief in cases of hardship.

Mr. Swingler

Is the Civil Lord aware that his right hon. Friend the Minister of Housing and Local Government constantly advocates to public bodies that in making rent increases they should take into account the tenant's ability to pay? Apart from the last part of his reply, is it correct to say that the Admiralty is not, in fact, carrying out this policy?

Mr. Orr-Ewing

I do not think that it would be right for a Government Department to start operating a differential rent scheme on its own. As I said in my original Answer, I think that it is right that we should take into consideration cases of hardship where tenants felt, after twenty years of frozen rents, that this increase was more than they could bear.

Vice-Admiral Hughes Hallett

Notwithstanding the innuendo contained in the supplementary question asked by the hon. Member for Newcastle-under-Lyme (Mr. Swingler), is it not a fact there is a much greater element of subsidy in Service married quarters than is to be found in any council estate in the Kingdom?

Mr. Orr-Ewing

I could not comment on that without notice.

Mr. Manuel

Is the hon. Gentleman aware that, quite apart from the ability to pay these 1959 rent increases, increases were placed on many houses—in my constituency, at any rate—of a substandard nature; that there were great protests by the tenants, and that I have been waiting for a long time now for his Department to deal with an individual case? Can he try to get a decision so that I can explain the position to my constituents?

Mr. Orr-Ewing

I am aware that we have some sub-standard houses, but we are trying to bring them up to the more modern standards as fast as we can. I shall certainly look at the second point mentioned by the hon. Gentleman.