§ 18. Mr. Hugh Jenkins
asked the Secretary of State for the Environment if he will arrange for rent scrutiny boards to meet in public.
§ Mr. Jenkins
That is a most disappointing answer. Is the Minister aware that it is quite disgraceful that these non-elected boards should have the power to override the decisions of elected councils? If they are to continue until their abolition by the Labour Government which will come to power after the next General Election, will he give instructions that in future they are to do their dirty work in public?
§ Mr. Eyre
The hon. Member should remember that the Housing Finance Act has given council tenants for the first time the statutory right to make representations to their landlord, the local authority, about their rent and the local authority must consider those representations. Moreover, should a rent scrutiny board disagree with an authority's assessment of fair rents, we have advised local authorities to consult their tenants before making their representations to the board.
§ Mr. McNamara
Will the Minister reconsider this matter? In the East Riding of Yorkshire the Beverley council and the Holderness council have both had their rents increased by the rent scrutiny boards against the recommendations of the local councillors, and we fear for what will happen in Kingston upon Hull. Will he also consider whether to reveal how many members of these panels either live in council accommodation or have had experience of living in it? Although the Minister's Department is not prepared to give that information, the Secretary of State for Wales is prepared to give it for the Principality.
§ Mr. Eyre
The hon. Member should remember that if the rent scrutiny board in its report disagrees with the recommendations of the local authority—and that would apply in the cases he mentioned—the local authority has two months in which to make representations to the board. My Department has recommended local authorities to consult tenants before doing so, and I hope that the local authorities will do so in the case mentioned by the hon. Member. As for membership of the boards, of course there must be an appropriate degree of expert knowledge, but I can assure the hon. 1251 Member that members of the boards come from all walks of life.
§ Mr. Jenkins
In view of the unsatisfactory nature of the reply, I give notice that I shall seek to raise the matter on the Adjournment.