§ 15. Mr. Clinton Davis
asked the Secretary of State for the Environment what recent representations he has received from local authorities, organisations representing local authorities and other organisations concerned with housing urging him to defer the implementation of the Housing Finance Act.
§ Mr. Davis
Is it not a fact that the Association of Municipal Corporations and the London Boroughs Association, among many such bodies, have protested about the early implementation of the Act? Is it not a fact also that the Government have done utterly inadequate research into the financial implications of the Act for council tenants? Are not the bogus figures which have been presented by the Prime Minister, representing an increase of 7½ per cent. for council tenants, totally misleading since if one excludes the 1 million council tenants who have already suffered an increase of 50p, the total increase will be likely to be about 13½ per cent.? Why cannot the Minister come clean about it?
§ Mr. Kinsey
Will my right hon. Friend take it that the poorer paid people in my constituency are anxiously looking forward to the implementation of this scheme, which will be of tremendous help to them?
§ Mr. Amery
I am sure that my hon. Friend is right. Any local authority, association or other body which seeks to defer the introduction of the Act is seeking to defer the granting of rebates and allowances to those who need them most and the introduction of the slum clearance and rising cost subsidies to help authorities which have slums and overcrowding.
§ Mr. Freeson
This is a fantastic situation. Presumably the Act will be in operation as from today. It has received Royal Assent, or will do so sometime today at the very latest. Is not the right hon. Gentleman aware that copies should be available for those who will have to implement it? This is the main point of my query. There are only two or three weeks between enactment and the implementation of all the procedures that local authorities will have to undertake to implement the provisions of the Act—irrespective of rebate schemes which in any event could be operated with or without the Act. It is an impossible situation for hundreds upon hundreds of local authorities. There is complete confusion about what the 1713 Government have in mind as the basis of their rental policy.
§ Mr. Amery
With his long experience of local government, of which he sometimes reminds us, the hon. Gentleman will know perfectly well that the associations and the local authorities have not only studied the Bill but have studied all the Amendments and know exactly how the Act stands. Implementation, as we discussed when we considered Lords Amendments, is to be a fortnight after 27th July. I have not done the sums to see whether we have reached that date, but the Act will be available in a consolidated form as soon as possible.
§ 31. Mr. Geoffrey Finsberg
asked the Secretary of State for the Environment how many, and which, local authorities in England and Wales have notified him since the Royal Assent was given to the Housing Finance Bill of their intention not to implement the legislation.
§ Mr. Finsberg
Will my right hon. Friend consider telling this authority and any other that may decide to break the law that it is against the interests of its own tenants who may well suffer and against the interests of private tenants who may have rent allowances delayed? Will he also tell it that the housing commissioner, if appointed, might under the Act be given powers to sell council houses to tenants?
§ Mr. Amery
I share my hon. Friend's astonishment that Camden of all places should have taken this line. It seems that both tenant and ratepayer stand to benefit very much from the Act. I take my hon. Friend's point that any local authority which follows the line that Camden has so far taken would be extremely unwise. I cannot believe that Camden will persist with this line and there is plenty of time for it to take a more reasonable attitude.
§ Mr. Bidwell
Will the right hon. Gentleman agree that by an earlier reply he must have caused considerable confusion in the ranks of the Conservative Party about the effects of the Housing Finance Act since it felt that the intention of the Act was to save subsidies and the taxation of millionaires and people getting up to that mark? Does his reply 1714 mean that there is no real reason for this anxiety in the Labour-controlled authorities because, as with other policies, the Government are now on an entirely new tack?
§ Mr. Amery
I cannot help feeling that the hon. Gentleman has not perhaps followed our debate and discussions on the Bill as closely as he might have done. If he had, he would have realised that the emphasis from the beginning has been on the need to provide more subsidy finance for people and areas of need, for rebates and allowances for individuals and for a better slum clearance subsidy and rising costs subsidy to deal with overcrowding.