HC Deb 08 March 1972 vol 832 cc1438-41
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. Amery

I gave details of such estimates in Standing Committee E on 8th February.—[Col. 1437–8.]

Mr. Marks

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that he said in his speech 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. Amery

I take my hon. Friend's point. I am sure she will have seen that Newcastle-upon-Tyne has produced figures already showing that in almost every case a 50p increase would take rented dwellings over the fair rent in the first determination.

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. Amery

May I express my deep appreciation to the right hon. Gentleman for his concession that, far from doubling, there is just a possibility of an increase of 5 per cent.?

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. Amery

I agree with my hon. Friend, and we must bear in mind that there could be human tragedies resulting from people being unduly and unnecessarily alarmed by the totally irresponsible scaremongering campaign of the Opposition.

Mr. Speaker

Mr. Frank Allaun.

Mrs. Renée Short

Sock it to him.

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?

Mrs. Short

Come on. Tell us.

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.

Mr. Marks

On a point of order. In view of the unsatisfactory nature of the Minister's replies, I beg to give notice that I shall seek an early opportunity to raise the matter on the Adjournment.