HC Deb 18 October 1972 vol 843 cc249-51
17. Mr. Hardy

asked the Secretary of State for the Environment what is the latest available estimate of the average increase in the rents of council dwellings which will occur during the current financial year.

Mr. Amery

It is difficult to make a precise estimate of the increase in the average rent in the current year, since the rents payable will depend on the rebates granted to tenants. However, our first broad assessment of the average increase in rent likely to be paid by all council tenants in 1972–73 is about 35p.

Mr. Hardy

I asked the hon. Gentleman for the percentage figure. However, does he not agree that the recent estimates do not appear to take account of the hundreds of thousands of tenants who in recent weeks have begun to pay rents which are 50 per cent. higher than they were before the Housing Finance Act became law? Will he also agree that this is likely to mean that the Prime Minister's estimate, given to the House on 25th July, is likely to prove to be grossly and wildly innacurate? May we have a guarantee that when precise information is available a ministerial statement will be made to the House, accompanied by the apology which appears to be due?

Mr. Amery

I shall be very surprised if there were any grounds for apology. I have sought to answer the Question to the best of my ability. I believe that it tallies closely with the Prime Minister's answer, which referred to the period from July this year to July next year; whereas the hon. Gentleman's Question applies to the current financial year. I feel he will find the reply to be accurate, and of course, we shall keep the House informed about developments.

Mr. Crosland

We shall keep this subject alive and pursue the right hon. Gentleman on it. Is it not now becoming hard to reconcile the various figures which have been given? Is it not the case that the figure of 35p relates to the average level of rebated rents—in other words, rebates are taken into account? Is it not based on the highly unlikely assumption that there will be a 100 per cent. take-up of rebates?

Mr. Amery

No, Sir; it is based on the best assumptions we have been able to make. It is concerned with rebated rents, taking account of the experience of the 60 per cent. of local authorities which have given rebates. We shall, of course, keep the House informed on the figures. It is difficult to be precise, but I have tried to give the best information I can.

Mr. Frank Allaun

Does not the Minister admit that, even where increases of less than £1 have been agreed this October, this does not prevent the rent scrutiny boards from imposing far higher increases next year? Secondly, may I correct an untrue statement made by the Minister? I have never on any occasion asked councillors to impose rent increases, and I ask the Minister to withdraw this untrue statement.

Mr. Amery

I am sorry if I misunderstood the hon. Gentleman. I thought I had heard him say in Committee—I have not the HANSARD reference before me at the moment—that he had always advocated keeping the law.

Mr. Allaun


Mr. Amery

I apologise humbly to the hon. Gentleman if I accused him of such an intolerable action as advising people to observe the law. I thought he had said that. Perhaps what he said was that he had never advised people to break the law. I will withdraw that if it is unfair —[Interruption.] In that case, I withdraw Her Majesty's Government's congratulations to the hon. Gentleman on having advised Salford to take the right course.