HC Deb 04 August 1971 vol 822 cc1549-51
1. Mr. William Hamilton

asked the Secretary of State for Scotland what representations he has received to date about the proposals contained in the White Paper, The Reform of Housing Finance in Scotland, Command Paper No. 4727; and what reply he has sent.

The Secretary of State for Scotland (Mr. Gordon Campbell)

I have received and acknowledged representations from the Scottish Landowners Federation and from Coatbridge Town Council.

Mr. Hamilton

That is very gratifying. I am sure that the landowners are very interested in this matter.

Will the Secretary of State tell us how the speech made by the Under-Secretary, when winding up the debate on this White Paper last Thursday in which he said that no saving in public expenditure was involved, squares with paragraph 35 of the White Paper "New Policies for Public Spending" which specifically states: By the middle of the decade this is expected to lead to a saving in public expenditure of £100–£200 million …"? That is clearly a contradiction. Will the right hon. Gentleman clear it up for the House and for the country?

Mr. Campbell

I have done this before, but I am glad to do it again for the hon. Gentleman. The amount now being spent on subsidies is not to be reduced. In fact, for Scotland it is likely to increase in the coming years. But if the previous system had continued, the amount would have escalated into a very much greater sum by the middle 1970s. That is where the saving comes in.

2. Dr. Dickson Mabon

asked the Secretary of State for Scotland whether he will now withdraw his proposals on the reform of Housing Finance in Scotland, Command Paper No. 4727, in view of the policy of the Chancellor of the Exchequer announced on 19th July, 1971 concerning a voluntary prices and incomes policy.

Mr. Gordon Campbell

No, Sir.

Dr. Mabon

Does the Secretary of State realise that we did not get an answer to our argument that this was inflationary within the so-called prices and incomes policy which the Government are seeking to adopt? Will he comment on that and confirm that, on the day after the White Paper to which my hon. Friend the Member for Fife, West (Mr. William Hamilton) referred in the last Question, he said, according to the Glasgow Herald, that he was cutting that figure, which he talked about as escalating, by £10 million to £20 million in the fiscal year 1973–74?

Mr. Campbell

I should need to see the article in the Glasgow Herald, which I have not seen and which no one has produced to me, to answer the hon. Gentleman's last point and to explain on what it was based. Regarding the present situation and the proposals in the White Paper, the annual average increase in council rents is to be limited to 50p a week. That means that the rents can increase only by reasonable steps each year. That increase must be related also to the equivalent limit which the Labour Government set on the average increase in rents of 37½p at the height of a pay freeze.

Mr. Strang

Will the right hon. Gentleman accept that these proposals, in conjunction with the other means tests, will create a situation which many working men in Scotland, although they get a 25 per cent. increase in wages, will be worse off in consequence of all the means-tested benefits which they will lose?

Mr. Campbell

I do not accept that. The means test, if the hon. Gentleman wishes to refer to it as such, is not new. It is a test under rent rebate schemes which was strongly advocated by the Labour Government in at least two circulars sent to all local authorities in Scotland.

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