HC Deb 12 November 1968 vol 773 cc180-3
13. Mr. Blenkinsop

asked the Minister of Housing and Local Government whether he will make a statement on the working of the Rent Act, following his meeting with rent officers during the summer adjournment.

Mr. MacColl

When my right hon. Friend and I met a number of rent officers in April they confirmed that in general the fair rent provisions were working well, but they thought that many more tenants could benefit by applying to the rent officer. It was to these tenants that the publicity campaign last summer was principally directed. The campaign certainly seems to have been successful in producing some increase in applications, but it is too early to assess its long-term effects.

Mr. Blenkinsop

While welcoming the general operation of the Act and the benefits that it has brought, may I ask whether my right hon. Friend could do something more to bring this to the attention of tenants—possibly by appearing on television and explaining some of its working?

Mr. Hamling

On the David Frost Show.

Mr. MacColl

I think that my right hon. Friend will naturally be touched by the general consensus of opinion to appear on television. But on this matter we have had a poster and television campaign which has produced encouraging results, although it is too early to say what the final effect will be.

Mr. Graham Page

As the Minister has said, regulation of rents has worked satisfactorily. But when will the Government carry out their promise to refer controlled rents to regulation?

Mr. MacColl

That is a matter that we are likely to be looking into when we consider the problems arising from property in good repair, which will come up in connection with the White Paper.

14. Mr. Frank Allaun

asked the Minister of Housing and Local Government whether he will take steps to overcome the defects in the working of the Rent Act, 1965, which have recently been brought to light; and if he will seek to find a way to notify individual tenants, who would be likely to secure a rent reduction by taking their cases before the rent officer, of their rights.

Mr. MacColl

In general the rent regulation service is working satisfactorily and I am not clear what defects my hon. Friend has in mind. Last summer's publicity campaign was directed to making better known to all concerned the rent officer's services and where they were available.

Mr. Allaun

Will the Minister consider suggesting to local authorities that they go from house to house telling tenants of their rights, acting for them before the landlords and rent officers, and also checking up that decisions earlier taken are still being carried out?

Mr. MacColl

I think the important thing is that all people who have local roots and influence on an area should continue to remind tenants about the importance of keeping in touch with the rent officers.

27. Mr. Winnick

asked the Minister of Housing and Local Government if he is satisfied that information about the Rent Act, 1965, is known to many private tenants in London and other main cities and towns; and if he will make a statement.

Mr. MacColl

Many more tenants could benefit by applying to their rent officers to fix a fair rent. A recent publicity campaign was aimed at making the service better known and has resulted in an increase in applications from tenants.

Mr. Winnick

I recognise the substantial benefits of Labour's Rent Act, but would my hon. Friend agree that recent reports show that a number of private tenants are still being bullied and intimidated? Will my hon. Friend give a pledge today or in the near future that he will wage an all-out campaign against such racketeers who are making the lives of so many of our private tenants a misery?

Mr. MacColl

We have had an inquiry into what is happening, and we are satisfied that, although there are some cases of grave abuse, by and large the Act is being obeyed and is working. I assure my hon. Friend that we all want to do all we can to express the view that this abuse is monstrous and ought to be stopped.

Mr. Lubbock

Is the hon. Member aware that the number of tenants covered by the Regulations under the Rent Act, 1965, is continually decreasing because of the sale of houses for owner-occupation? Would it not, therefore, be much cheaper for direct house-to-house circulars to be issued, rather than for general advertising to be conducted by the hon. Gentleman's Department?

Mr. MacColl

As all politicians know, not all house-to-house circulars are read with care. What we must try to do is to ensure that the people responsible for law enforcement are aware of these powers, and that they advise people to take advantage of their rights.