HC Deb 12 December 1973 vol 866 cc400-2
13. Mr. Alexander Fletcher

asked the Secretary of State for Scotland what is the average net rent, after rebate, paid by Edinburgh Corporation tenants in the years to 30th September 1972 and 1973 respectively; what is the total rent rebate paid out in the same years; and what is the total rent allowance paid out in the first nine months of the rent allowance scheme.

Mr. Younger

The average weekly rebated rent was £1.34 at November 1972 and £1.12 at November 1973, the nearest dates for which figures are available. Rebates under the corporation's rebate scheme in the year to November 1972 totalled £778,000, paid wholly from the rates. Rebates under the 1972 Housing Act scheme in the year to November 1973 amounted to £2,213,000, of which over 85 per cent. was met by Exchequer subsidy. Rent allowances amounting to nearly £100,000 were paid in the period January to November 1973.

Mr. Fletcher

May I congratulate the Government—and I am sure the whole House will join me—on introducing the fairest piece of legislation Scotland has seen for many years, although the Labour Party is pledged to abolish it? Will the Minister do even more to publicise the benefits of this Act, particularly where the facts are still being distorted by Labour-controlled local authorities?

Mr. Younger

I am grateful for what my hon. Friend said. I am not sure that he is correct in saying that the Labour Party is pledged to abolish the Act, because I am almost certain that in England our system of housing finance has already been adopted as part of Labour Party policy. My hon. Friend has done a great service by drawing to the House's attention the real facts about the Act. I hope that the figures will be looked at carefully by every Labour Member. They will then realise that it is a very fair piece of legislation.

Dr. Miller

Since the Housing Finance Act has failed in its objective of getting in more money, from the Government's point of view, will the Minister take steps to repeal the Act?

Mr. Younger

I do not understand the hon. Gentleman's question. As I understand the situation, the Housing Finance Act is giving to local authorities a greater level of subsidy than ever before—notably to Glasgow, the hon. Gentleman's own local authority. I am happy to rest on that achievement as the Government's contribution.

Mr. MacArthur

Is my hon. Friend aware that these figures show yet again the malicious nonsense talked by the Labour Party in its sustained propaganda campaign against this legislation? Will he say how many tenants in Clydebank will be paying less in rent as a result of the Act than they were before?

Mr. Younger

I cannot answer that question without notice, but it may interest my hon. Friend to know that in Edinburgh 26,000 tenants are now receiving rent rebates, against the 13,190 tenants who received rebates before the Act came into operation. My hon. Friend is correct to point out that the Labour Party's view of this Act has been seen to be erroneous and out of date. The only thing that amazes me is my hon. Friend's surprise that the Labour Party behaves in that way.

Mr. Sillars

Will the hon. Gentleman say how much rent has been levied in Edinburgh in the year 1972–73, compared with 1971–72?

Mr. Younger

If the hon. Gentleman tables a Question on that subject I shall be glad to answer it. The important thing for people who pay rent is to know whether or not they are having to pay more money. In Edinburgh alone at least 2,000 tenants are now paying less in rent.

Mr. Robert Hughes

How can the Government be proud of the fact that they have increased rents to such a level that it has led so many people to apply for rent rebates and allowances? Does this not reflect the appallingly low wage levels in Scotland?

Mr. Younger

The hon. Gentleman cannot have it both ways. He cannot at one moment say that there are not enough rebates and then, in the next breath, say that there are too many. Local authorities are now getting a much better income for keeping houses up to standard and for improving properties, and people are paying less rent. That, surely, is a good bargain.