§ 28. Mr. Marks
asked the Secretary of State for the Environment for which housing authorities his Department has made estimates of the likely average increase in rent of council house tenants under the Housing Finance Bill; and if he will publish details in the OFFICIAL REPORT.
§ Mr. Marks
Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that he said in his speech 1439 at Walsall that on the basis of his Department's estimates there will be many cases where a doubling cannot take place? What does the right hon. Gentleman mean by "many" Does he mean more than one-half, more than one-quarter, 1 million or 2 million? Has his Department made estimates of the probable rent increases for the country as a whole. If it has, why will not the right hon. Gentleman tell us?
§ Mr. Amery
As I said in my original reply, I gave some figures to Standing Committee E. If the hon. Gentleman studies them, he will see that in no case is there any likelihood of a doubling on the first determination of fair rents. The scaremongering campaign which the Opposition have tried to develop on this theme is the result of a document improperly received—stolen goods—by the hon. Member for Salford, East (Mr. Frank Allaun). On the strength of it, the hon. Gentleman has sought to erect a whole philosophy of doubling when, as far as I know, there is no likelihood of this happening.
§ Dame Irene Ward
Is my right hon. Friend aware that it would be helpful to local authorities if as much time as possible could be given to them to work out their figures? Is my right hon. Friend aware further that a very heavy burden will be imposed on local authorities if they have to do the work with their present staffs? They would like as much time as possible so that the advantages of my right hon. Friend's Bill can be worked out properly.
§ Mr. Crosland
For all the right hon. Gentleman's evasions in Standing Committee—and we are sorry that he is not in rather better voice today—is it not absolutely clear that the increase in rents will be far, far beyond the 5 per cent. a year that the C.B.I. and the Government apparently find acceptable? In view of the fact that the Prime Minister is due tomorow to meet the T.U.C. for discussions on prices and inflation, would not it be wise at best to abandon the Bill and at least postpone its operation?
§ Mr. Raison
Does my right hon. Friend agree that it is most important for the Labour Party to desist from issuing propaganda which tells council tenants that their rents will double, without making any reference to the rebates they will get?
§ Mr. Frank Allaun
Will the right hon. Gentleman agree, as he knows very well, that the document in question was not improperly received but was given to me by a councillor, that I revealed figures which the Minister denied that he had, and that I would do it again? May I now ask the right hon. Gentleman whether he will admit that the figures which he gave for some cities are for next year, 1973, and that he knows full well that his own Department has estimates for 1976 which will more than double the rents for each of the 10 regions of the country?
§ Mr. Amery
I am not enough of a lawyer to know for sure that the document was improperly received. Certainly it was improperly conveyed. I do not know the law governing receivers of stolen goods—[HON. MEMBERS: "Oh!"] The point at issue is that, while it is just possible that my Department has made an accurate estimate of what the increase in rents in 1972–73 might be, any attempt to achieve in a working document an accurate estimate of what it will be in 1975–76 must be highly speculative. Indeed, it is clear that the estimates that we have prepared for 1972–73 in respect of Newcastle are already far in excess of what is likely to happen.