HC Deb 06 December 1966 vol 737 cc1141-3
28. Mr. Robert Davies

asked the Minister of Housing and Local Government what directives or advice he intends to give local housing authorities regarding rent increases during the period of severe price and wage restraint.

53. Mr. Frederic Harris

asked the Minister of Housing and Local Government what action he is taking to see that rents are not increased during the period of severe restraint.

Mr. Greenwood

I would refer my hon. Friend and the hon. Member to paragraphs 19 and 20 of the White Paper, "Prices and Incomes Standstill: Period of Severe Restraint" published on 22nd November.

Mr. Davies

Is it not the case that while housing authorities are under an obligation to balance their housing revenue accounts annually, they have no option but to increase either rents or rates, or both, when facing a deficit? Will my right hon. Friend, therefore, consider taking steps to relieve them of this obligation during the period of severe price and wage restraint?

Mr. Greenwood

That course would involve a substantial departure from the practice which has been pursued. It is a fact that local authorities are under this statutory obligation, but I think that when he studies the new Housing Bill my hon. Friend will agree with me that the help which we are to give will be of great assistance to local authorities in avoiding rent increases.

Mr. Harris

Would not the right hon. Gentleman agree that at a time when it is impossible for employees to get increases in salaries and wages, it is quite wicked in this period of severe restraint that they should have the hardship of meeting increased rents and rates? This is an intolerable burden.

Mr. Greenwood

I am sure that the hon. Gentleman has carefully read the White Paper on Prices and Incomes in which we express the hope that local authorities will exercise the utmost economy and keep down both rents and rates, but I hope that when local authorities are faced with rent increases they will consider the desirability of rent rebate schemes, which will go a long way towards helping the citizens to whom the hon. Gentleman has referred.

Mr. R. C. Mitchell

Is my right hon. Friend aware that his answers to these questions are totally unsatisfactory and give no hope whatsoever to those authorities who are forced to put up rents very largely because they are trying to follow the Government's policy and build more houses more quickly?

Mr. Greenwood

I am sorry that my hon. Friend regards the answers as unsatisfactory. He should remember that local authorities themselves have benefited from the wage freeze, and I do not think that he will find that local authorities share his disappointment with the provisions of the Bill published yesterday.

Mr. Harris

In view of the unsatisfactory nature of the reply, I shall endeavour to raise this matter on the Adjournment.

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