HC Deb 14 December 1967 vol 756 cc621-2
Q2. Mr. G. Campbell

asked the Prime Minister whether he will place in the Library the text of his broadcast on 19:h November.

Q4. Mr. Chichester-Clark

asked the Prime Minister whether he will place in the Library a copy of the text of his television broadcast on 19th November, 1967, on the economic situation.

The Prime Minister

I did so on 28th November, Sir.

Mr. Campbell

I am aware of that, but when the Prime Minister referred in his broadcast to provocative rent increases, did this include the large increases in Scotland by new towns and the Scottish Special Housing Association, for which the Secretary of State for Scotland is substantially responsible?

The Prime Minister

It is clear that the hon. Gentleman has been wasting the time of the House putting down Questions to which he knows the answer. In relation to his Question, as opposed to his statement, when I referred to provocative increases I was referring to a number of increases by local authorities, not themselves directly responsible for their rents to any Minister or Secretary of State, some of which have been done in a provocative way and appear excessive and have been done very suddenly without any proper phasing. These are all now to be examined, including a number of perhaps perfectly reasonable rent increases, because we know that some are reasonable but others are not.

Mr. Chichester-Clark

In view of the higher price of imports, can the right hon. Gentleman make a firm declaration of Government policy on the position of builders who entered into firm price con- tracts with the encouragement of the Government, and thus clear up the apparent discrepancy between the remarks of the Minister of Public Building and Works that some costs would be reimbursed and those of the Parliamentary Secretary to the Board of Trade that they would not?

The Prime Minister

I will go into this question with my right hon. Friend. I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for raising it.

Mr. Grimond

When the right hon. Gentleman spoke of "provocative increases", at whom did he think the provocation was aimed? Was it the local authorities themselves? What is to be the test for raising rents at a time when all prices are bound to rise owing to devaluation?

The Prime Minister

The right hon. Gentleman is completely wrong when he says that all prices are bound to rise. Some will inevitably, as I made clear in the broadcast in question. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh."] If any hon. Member will put a further supplementary question, I will quote what I said on that occasion and perhaps rob the Opposition of the legend which they are building up. The right hon. Gentleman is wrong in saying that all prices must go up. A number are going up, and are being watched, which have nothing to do with devaluation at all. This is a problem. When the right hon. Gentleman asks to whom increases are "provocative", they are provocative particularly to those in industry whom we are asking to show the utmost restraint in wage demands.

Mr. Alfred Morris

Is my right hon. Friend aware that his speech was very widely supported in the country? Would he now go further and consider whether there should perhaps be a moratorium on council house rent increases for the next six months?

The Prime Minister

That of itself is not a solution to the problem. As I said, some rents must inevitably increase, and have been increasing for some time. Many of those which have been referred were pre-devaluation. But some are reasonable, others may not be. That is why we have asked the Prices and Incomes Board to go into this question.