HC Deb 08 March 1972 vol 832 cc1441-3
30. Mr. Frank Allaun

asked the Secretary of State for the Environment what effect he now estimates the Government's housing financial policies will have on the general policy of combating inflation.

Mr. Amery

The reconcentration of housing subsidies on authorities and tenants who require help will substantially reduce the need for increased taxation which would have grown out of the indiscriminate subsidies apparently favoured by the hon. Member. This itself will be anti-inflationary since exacting taxation from the unwilling in order to make payments to people who do not need it is an extravagant practice.

Mr. Allaun

Why are the Government imposing deliberate and compulsory rent increases of up to 25 per cent. a year when the Prime Minister has said that a 5 per cent. increase in prices is the maxi mum tolerable, particularly as the Minister is compelling local authorities to impose rent increases, when there is no need in many cases for an increase, and to make a profit out of their tenants for the first time? Will he seriously consider withdrawing the Bill?

Mr. Amery

The increases in rents which we are proposing are not, in practice, much higher than those which the previous Government—[Interruption.]—at the height of their deflationary policy allowed when they proposed, in 1969, that, without the need for ministerial approval, increases of 37½p might be made.

Mr. Scott

Will my right hon. Friend ensure that in any presentation of the social and financial effects of the Bill due emphasis is given to the fact that, for the first time in the history of housing in this country, a rent allowance will be made available to private tenants who are in need and that whereas right hon. and hon. Gentlemen opposite prate about social injustice, the Tories do something about it?

Mr. Amery

My hon. Friend is entirely right. There will be rent allowances for the first time in our history, apart from Birmingham which has already introduced them under progressive Conservative local government, for private tenants in need. In addition, there will be rebates for all council estates—not for 60 per cent., as today. This suggests that the 50p increase which we are proposing is not out of line with the 37½,p average increase proposed by the Labour Government in 1969.

Mr. Crosland

Is the Minister aware that we know perfectly well, as he said in his original answer, that the object of this exercise is to transfer income away from the council tenant towards the national taxpayer? We do not need that explained to us. Will he take seriously the point that it will be exceedingly difficult for the Prime Minister tomorrow, when he meets the T.U.C., to appeal to it for wage restraint at a time when this central, sensitive and critical price is likely to rise annually by any amount up to 25 per cent.?

Mr. Amery

I find it difficult to believe that the T.U.C. would reject the idea that help should be given to those who need it most, be it in the extension of rebates to council house tenants who are not getting it today, be it in the provision for the first time of a rent allowance for private tenants or be it in the extension of more generous slum clearance subsidies for areas of stress.

Sir T. Beamish

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. In view of the satisfactory nature of the reply, I beg leave to give notice that I shall raise the matter on the Adjournment.

Mr. Speaker

That is not a point of order.