HC Deb 06 May 1969 vol 783 cc243-4
16. Mr. Rossi

asked the Minister of Housing and Local Government what representations have been made to him by the Greater London Council on the effect on London ratepayers of his decision to reject the council's proposals for altering the structure of council house rents; and what reply he has sent.

Mr. Greenwood

On 24th April the council sent me a letter, advancing a number of arguments and asking for a meeting to discuss them. I have arranged to meet the council next week.

Mr. Rossi

I am grateful for that reply. Is the right hon. Gentleman prepared to allow the local authority to proceed according to the mandate it has received from the people who elected it?

Mr. Greenwood

I have to operate within the terms of the Prices and Incomes Act which give me power to intervene in cases of this kind. I proposed a method of dealing with the situation facing the G.L.C. which I believed would avoid rent increases.

Mr. Frederic Harris

Is it not grossly unfair to ratepayers in Croydon, who were pushed into London, that they have to pay more rates to the G.L.C. merely because economic rents are not being charged by the G.L.C.?

Mr. Greenwood

Croydon ratepayers were pushed into London by the Conservative Government. There is no question of an increased burden on the rates. I suggested to the G.L.C. that a greater amount of capital expenditure should be charged to loan. At the moment, the proportion of G.L.C. expenditure which is met from revenue is exceptionally high. I am absolutely convinced that the method which I have proposed to the G.L.C. will avoid both an increase in rents and any burden on the ratepayers.

Mr. Whitaker

Did not a report yesterday show that for many years Kensington Council has failed to discharge its housing responsibilities for Notting Hill? Therefore, is not central Government initiative essential, and should not a much more comprehensive attack be made on the problems of urban renewal?

Mr. Greenwood

My hon. Friend will agree that that goes very wide of the Question.

Mr. Peter Walker

Does the right hon. Gentleman suggest to the G.L.C. that rent increases should be deferred and that loans should be taken at what would be, as a result of Government policy, a penal rate of interest?

Mr. Greenwood

That is one of the propositions which have been put to the House in the past and which has been approved by the House. In this case, it is open to the council to decide which course to adopt in order to avoid rent increases. If it decides to put up the rates, unnecesarily in my view, that is its decision and not mine.