HC Deb 25 July 1967 vol 751 cc306-8
27. Mr. Hugh Jenkins

asked the Minister of Housing and Local Government if he is aware that regulated rents have increased, in spite of the purpose of the 1965 regulations to reduce them; and what action is he taking with a view to securing rent reductions.

48. Mr. Frank Allaun

asked the Minister of Housing and Local Government if he is aware of the large number of increases in regulated rents, averaging two and a half times controlled rents for these or similar dwellings; and if he will take action with a view to securing rent reductions.

Mr. MacColl

Registered rents of the smaller type of accommodation with lower gross values are on average less than the previous rents, and I hope that the tenants of such accommodation—who are my particular concern—will not be deterred from going to the Rent Officer if they think that their rents are too high. The object of the Act is to reduce rents which are inflated because of scarcity, and I think it is too soon to make a full assessment of its operation.

Mr. Jenkins

Is my hon. Friend aware that it is not too soon for me to say that the forecast made by his right hon. Friend the Lord President of the Council when Minister of Housing has not been fulfilled in my constituency? Is he aware that in my constituency only a minority of rents have been reduced while the majority have remained static or have risen? What does he propose to do about it?

Mr. MacColl

Encourage tenants of properties where rents ought to be reduced to apply to the rent officer in large numbers.

Mr. Frank Allaun

Will my hon. Friend take note of the growing demand that the Minister should ask Sir Sydney Littlewood and his rent assessment colleagues to stop fixing rents which clearly reflect the acute shortage of accommodation, or for rents to be reduced to the controlled rents for similar types of property?

Mr. MacColl

I was very glad that just now my hon. Friend gave the weight of his authority to encouraging tenants whose rents were too high to apply to the assessment committees. I am sure that that is the way in which to achieve the balance.

Mr. Hogg

Is the hon. Gentleman aware that certainly in some London constituencies, including my own, what deters applications on either side is the delay in the hearing of cases by the rent assessment committees?

Mr. MacColl

My right hon. Friend is taking steps to improve the staffing and reduce the delay.

Mr. Atkinson

The Minister has now been reviewing the Act for about 12 months. Will he now say whether he is either happy or disappointed with the level of rents being fixed by the panels? If he is disappointed, what on earth is he to do about it?

Mr. MacColl

I would never feel happy if any of my hon. Friends had doubts about the efficacy of the Act, but by and large it has made a tremendous improvement by taking rents out of politics and giving confidence to tenants that they have security of tenure.

Mr. Doughty

Do not the questions put by the Parliamentary Secretary's hon. Friends show that the majority of rents being charged before the Act came into force were fair, as is proved by the decisions of the tribunals? Will the hon. Gentleman explain to his hon. Friends that the purpose of the Act was not to reduce rents below a fair and proper level?

Mr. MacColl

My right hon. Friend and my right hon. Friend the Lord President of the Council have always said and the Milner Holland Committee said that it was only a small number of unscrupulous landlords who were causing any problem. The Act has given protection to the victims of those landlords.