HC Deb 17 March 1971 vol 813 cc1389-91
3. Mr. Hugh D. Brown

asked the Secretary of State for Scotland how many local authorities are currently operating rent rebate schemes approved by him; and if his proposals for the reform of housing finance will permit their continued operation.

The Under-Secretary of State for Development, Scottish Office (Mr. George Younger)

Local authority rent rebate schemes do not require my right hon. Friend's approval. As already announced, the new housing finance arrangements will include a comprehensive system of rent rebates covering all housing authorities and all tenants who need them.

Mr. Brown

Does that mean that there will be no discretion on the part of local authorities to vary or improve the national scheme, and is it clearly understood that the total cost of rent rebate in the council and private sectors will be made by central funds?

Mr. Younger

On the first point, this is one of the matters being discussed by myself and the local authority associations. When we meet again we will see what they feel about it. As to the second point, the rent rebate schemes at present in operation will carry on until the new scheme comes in but the rest of that is under discussion with the local authorities.

Mr. Brewis

Are not rent rebates now to be available to people living in private sector houses? If they are, I assure my' hon. Friend that they are very welcome.

Mr. Younger

My hon. Friend is absolutely correct. On average, people living in private rented accommodation, have lower incomes than those living in council rented accommodation, and it is, therefore, necessary that they should have rent rebates.

Mr. Ross

Will the hon. Gentleman answer the latter part of the supplementary question of my hon. Friend the Member for Glasgow, Provan (Mr. Hugh D. Brown)? Who will bear the cost? Will it be the central Government?

Mr. Younger

I apologise; I should have answered that point earlier. It was made clear in the statement made on policy last October that the central Government will bear the greater part of the cost of the new rent rebates.

24. Mr. Eadie

asked the Secretary of State for Scotland if he will consider making fresh recommendations in rent rebate schemes as a consequence of increased unemployment in Scotland.

Mr. Younger

Our current discussions with local authority associations on the reform of housing finance include consideration of a national scheme for rent rebates for council tenants and rent allowances for private tenants. The aim of the scheme is to bring relief to a family who cannot afford a normal rent for unemployment or other reasons.

Mr. Eadie

The hon. Gentleman must be aware that urgency is required in this matter and that, for example, in the new town of Livingston we have now 18 per cent. of unemployment among the male population and there is concern about the question of future rents. Could the hon. Gentleman not meet that with action and tell us how many jobs are in prospect for that town?

Mr. Younger

On the first part of the question, I would point out to the hon. Gentleman, what I am sure he knows, that the rent rebate scheme automatically takes account of the fact that a person is unemployed, because if a person is unemployed he is eligible for rebate, and the social security people make full recompense for rents when dealing with the social security matters of people who are unemployed.

On the second part of the hon. Member's question, there are a considerable number of jobs in prospect in Livingston. This question was raised recently in an Adjournment debate and I think the figure was mentioned of 2,400 new jobs in prospect. That is for the next four years as against the period for next year which was also mentioned in the debate.