HC Deb 06 December 1972 vol 847 cc1278-80
4. Mr. R. C. Mitchell

asked the Secretary of State for the Environment what percentage of council house tenants are paying more rent as a result of the introduction of the Housing Finance Act.

Mr. Channon

This information is not available, since rents payable depend on the rebates granted to tenants.

Mr. Mitchell

Why is the information not available? Is the Minister aware that in Southampton 70 per cent. of the tenants are paying more? Does he expect that figure to be above or below the national average?

Mr. Channon

I cannot say more than I said in my original reply. As the rents payable depend upon the rebates granted, it is not possible for me to give a meaningful national answer to that question.

13. Mr. Meacher

asked the Secretary of State for the Environment how many tenants in England and Wales are currently on rent strike following the implementation of rent increases under the Housing Finance Act.

Mr. Channon

This information is not available.

Mr. Meacher

Is not that in itself a disgrace? I can certainly tell the Minister that at least 5,000 tenants in my own constituency alone are on strike—

Mr. Speaker

Order. The hon. Gentleman must not tell the Minister things at Question Time.

Mr. Meacher

Is not the hon. Gentleman aware of the simple basic facts which are directly relevant to his own responsibilities? Is not he ashamed that by forcing up the rents of 5 million council tenants during a so-called prices and wages freeze he has produced a national rent strike? What else does he expect when he is pushing up rent by 7 per cent. a year, as he himself admits, while owner-occupiers are getting untaxed capital gains of 35 per cent.? Is not that the epitome of the unfair society? When will he reverse the policy or resign?

Mr. Channon

I have been in my present office for only three weeks, and I had not planned to resign yet. We have already debated all the debating points many times in the House. As regards the hon. Gentleman's substantive point, what information I have from some of the authorities is that the number of tenants on rent strike is small, and reducing.

Mrs. Sally Oppenheim

Is my hon. Friend aware that the hon. Member for Willesden, East (Mr. Freeson) came to my constituency to address a widely-publicised meeting to stir up feeling about the Housing Finance Act, and that out of 7,500 council tenants 31 people turned up, 12 of whom were members of the local Labour Party and five of whom were Conservative observers?

Mr. Channon

I am sure that by the end of the meeting they were all Conservative observers.

Mrs. Castle

Is the Minister aware that an 86-year-old war-disabled widower in my constituency has just had his rent rebate reduced from £1.5 to 69p, thus imposing on him a rent increase, because the disregards in the Government's national rent rebate scheme are less generous than those of a progressive local authority like my own? Will he give the local authorities full freedom of action to be generous to those people who are being hard hit by the Government's policy?

Mr. Channon

Local authorities have a tolerance in these matters—[Interruption]—I believe that that tolerance was designed specifically to meet the sort of case that the right hon. Lady has in mind. I very much hope she will take the matter up with her local authority.

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