HC Deb 26 March 1968 vol 761 cc1146-8
11. Mrs. Renée Short

asked the Minister of Housing and Local Government what proposals he has to improve the working of the Rent Act, 1965.

Mr. Greenwood

There will be additional publicity with a view to bringing the Rent Act to the notice of those who can most benefit from it; statutory rules of procedure are being prepared for rent assessment committees; and I am having meetings with representatives of the rent officers and the rent panels for an informal discussion of their work.

As already announced, the Government intend, in the interests of price restraint, to include provision in the prices and incomes legislation to enable sharp increases in private rents to be phased.

Mrs. Short

Would not my right hon. Friend accept that it is a pity that his concern for publicity about the work of the rent officers and the Rent Act did not come earlier, since then we would not have had to lose some of our rent officers in the Midlands? In this regard, will he reconsider his decision not to allow rent officers to advertise locally in their own areas?

Mr. Greenwood

I do not accept the suggestion that there was not adequate publicity earlier, although the case for referring rents to rent officers or panels did not seem to have the impact it should have had. But I think that one of the factors in that situation also was that some of my hon. Friends tended to exaggerate the effects of the working of the machinery and thus discouraged a lot of tenants in lower-rated properties from making full use of the Act.

Mr. Graham Page

Does the right hon. Gentleman recollect the undertaking given by his predecessor to apply the fair rent by regulation procedure to the totally inadequate rents of controlled properties? When will the right hon. Gentleman carry out that undertaking?

Mr. Greenwood

The Question on the Order Paper referred to proposals for improving the working of the Rent Act. At the moment, the hon. Gentleman's suggestion would not improve it.

Mr. Blenkinsop

Will my right hon. Friend pay special attention to giving publicity to the very high proportion of low-rated properties where rent reductions are being obtained?

Mr. Greenwood

We are giving further publicity. It is important to note that decreases were commoner among lower rateable values. On the whole, the Act is working well.

Mr. Rippon

Does the right hon. Gentleman now repudiate the undertaking given by his predecessor?

Mr. Greenwood

Certainly not. I never repudiate an undertaking. The Question related to what proposals I have to improve the working of the Act. I said that the suggestion of the hon. Member for Crosby (Mr. Graham Page) did not come within that category.

14. Mr. Lubbock

asked the Minister of Housing and Local Government how many determinations of fair rent have been made under the Rent Act of 1965 in Greater London, and England and Wales, respectively, up to the latest convenient date; and if, in each case, he will estimate the percentage of all dwellings subject to regulation which these figures represent.

Mr. MacColl

Up to and including 1st March, 1968, the numbers of applications for registration of fair rents determined by rent officers in Greater London and in England and Wales were 29,881 and 64,981 respectively. These numbers represent, in relation to each area, about 10 per cent. of the estimated number of regulated tenancies.

Mr. Lubbock

Is this not an absolutely deplorable rate of progress? Does not the hon. Gentleman agree that, unless we can speed matters up, it will take about 25 years before all regulated properties in England and Wales have had their rents registered? When considering amendment of the machinery, will he think of the possibility of amending the Act so as to provide that registration must be effected within a certain time?

Mr. MacColl

My right hon. Friend's reply to Question No. 11 indicated that we are concerned and anxious to use publicity to bring more cases before the rent officers. On the other hand, I would not agree that, in every case where there is no reference to rent officers, there is necessarily an unsatisfied landlord or tenant.