HC Deb 17 February 1971 vol 811 cc1817-20
21. Mr. Tebbit

asked the Secretary of State for the Environment what is the median rent of council dwellings; and what is the average fair rent determined by rent assessment committees for Greater London, and also for England and Wales as a whole.

The Under-Secretary of State for the Environment (Mr. Paul Channon)

At 31st March, 1969, the average unrebated weekly rent of council dwellings was £2.75 (£2 15s. 0d.) in Greater London and £2.04 (£2 0s. 9d.) in England and Wales as a whole. The average fair rent determined by rent assessment committees in 1970 was £5.90 (£5 18s. 0d.) a week in Greater London and £4.95 (£4 19s. 0d.) in England and wales.

Mr. Tebbit

Would not my hon. Friend agree that, in order to prevent scaremongering by certain people who have particular political axes to grind, it would be prudent if he brought forward as soon as possible the outline of the proposals for rent subsidies for tenants in need?

Mr. Channon

As my hon. Friend knows, my right hon. Friend is engaged in discussions with the local authority associations. I would point out to him that this comparison gives no useful guidance on how it will apply to the local authority system.

Mr. Crosland

The House must get this straight. Will the hon. Gentleman confirm my understanding of his reply, that the difference between the present unrebated average rent level and the likely unrebated fair rent level will be well over 100 per cent. for most council house tenants?

Mr. Channon

The right hon. Gentleman obviously did not listen to my last answer. I said that the comparison gave no useful guidance to rent increases in the public sector because of the large differences in location, type and condition between the two groups of rents.

Mr. Kenneth Baker

Has my hon. Friend seen the details of the G.L.C. rent rebate scheme, which is one of the most generous in the country and allows 17,000 tenants to have generous rent rebates, with the likelihood of that number being increased to over 23,000 in the next two years?

Mr. Channon

I know the details. We are to have rent rebates in both the private and the public sectors on a scale never proposed before.

Mr. Blenkinsop

Will the hon. Gentleman give an immediate assurance, in view of his statement, that no proposal will be brought to the House to extend the fair rents scheme until a full study has been made of its likely effect on council house rents?

Mr. Channon

It would be ridiculous to bring forward a scheme without such a study, and of course it will require legislation.

Mr. Allason

In view of the concern which will arise from my hon. Friend's reply, will he give the figure for a typical flat corresponding to the typical council house, which would give us a better indication of what the proportional rise might be?

Mr. Channon

The difficulty in this system so far is that fair rents in dwellings so far assessed are of a different kind from those which exist largely for council house dwellings throughout the country. I note what my hon. Friend said, but I cannot give him an answer now.

Mr. Crosland

To say that there is "concern" is the understatement of the year. The hon. Gentleman cannot quote figures and then say that they are meaningless. His Department must have some idea of what the average rise in rents is likely to be as a result of fair rents in the council house sector. The hon. Gentleman's reply appeared to suggest it might easily be up to —3 a week. Is this broadly the case or not?

Mr. Channon

For the second time, the right hon. Gentleman has not listened to my replies. I gave my original reply in response to the form of the Question on the Order Paper. But I am entitled to point out that the comparisons are not valid for the public sector. I answered the Question which I was asked to answer. What the House must also face, as my right hon. Friend pointed out repeatedly on 3rd November and subsequently, is that any increase for the public sector rents will be phased over a period of years.

33. Mr. Spearing

asked the Secretary of State for the Environment if he will now state the expected total increases in rent likely to be paid by council house tenants as a result of the policy outlined in New Policy for Public Spending.

Mr. Amery

Under the reform of housing finance the rents paid by council tenants will depend on the fair rent fixed for their dwellings. But these rents will be reduced by rebates for those tenants who cannot afford the fair rent.

Mr. Spearing

Does not the hon. Gentleman recall that in New Policy for Public Spending it was stated that the reduction in public expenditure would be between £100 and £200 million a year by comparison with projections on the basis of the existing system? If that sum is not to come from council tenants, from where is it to come?

Mr. Amery

There will be a saving to the Exchequer by a reduction of subsidy, though much of this will be offset by additional expenditure on rebates and slum clearance.

Mr. Crosland

Will not two things occur—first, an increase in rents due to saving in subsidies and, secondly, an increase in rents due to going over to the principle of fair rents in the council house sector? Will the Government give some idea of what the average, unrebated fair rent is likely to be?

Mr. Amery

I hope to make a statement to the House when my discussions with the local authority associations are completed.