HC Deb 07 July 1971 vol 820 cc1310-1
3. Mr. Skinner

asked the Secretary of State for the Environment whether he has now completed his consultations with the local authority associations regarding housing subsidy charges; and if he will make a statement.

36. Mr. Meacher

asked the Secretary of State for the Environment whether he can now give a precise indication of when he expects to conclude his consultations with local authorities, concerning his proposals to refashion housing subsidies.

The Minister for Housing and Construction (Mr. Julian Amery)

I will report to the House as soon as possible.

Mr. Skinner

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that when the consultations are finally over the implementation of the Act will be against the background of massive Labour majorities in most towns and cities? Does the right hon. Gentleman appreciate that in such a situation some of these authorities—I hope many of them—will use every means at their disposal to avoid implementing a policy which means doubling and trebling rents by his Tory Government? In that kind of situation, can we expect the right hon. Gentleman to restrict the freedom of local action?

Mr. Amery

I am sure that I can count on the co-operation of all local authorities, of whatever political colour, to implement a reform of housing finance which the Labour Party, had it been reelected, would have undertaken.

Mr. Allason

Does my right hon. Friend find it likely that Labour councils would object to a fair rent scheme?

Mr. Amery

No, Sir. I find it difficult to think that they would object to a fair rent scheme, since the fair rent concept was introduced by a distinguished Member on the benches opposite. Nor do I think they would resent a scheme which would give added resources for slum clearance.

Mr. Crosland

I think we should clear this up. Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that in no circumstances would a Labour Government, if re-elected, have adopted the principle of fair rents in the public sector since, as the Prices and Incomes Board and many other bodies have made clear, there is no logical analogy between the private rented sector and the public rented sector? Will the right hon. Gentleman take my hon. Friend's question about' the date of announcement more seriously because, if as is rumoured, he proposes to force local authorities to raise rents under the new scheme in April next year, it is becoming a matter of the greatest urgency that they should know where they stand?

Mr. Amery

I agree with the right hon. Gentleman about the importance of an early statement. I am interested to hear that had his party been returned to office it would not have proceeded to adopt fair rents. It opens up interesting speculation about what it would have done.