HC Deb 20 June 1973 vol 858 cc664-6
13. Sir B. Rhys Williams

asked the Secretary of State for the Environment how many claims for rent allowances for unfurnished properties are now being met; and what estimate he has made of the rate of take-up by eligible persons other than those receiving supplementary benefit.

The Under-Secretary of State for the Environment (Mr. Reginald Eyre)

I regret that information on rent allowances granted is not yet available from enough local authorities to enable any reliable estimate to be given. The initial rate of take-up has been slow, but it is steadily improving.

Sir B. Rhys Williams

Will my hon. Friend consider the suggestion that national insurance pensioners should be given special additional help to encourage them to obtain their entitlement under the Housing Finance Act? For the longer term, will he consider the possibility of the introduction of a householders' allowance in the tax credit scheme, so that applications for benefit under the Act are put on a more or less automatic basis?

Mr. Eyre

I note my hon. Friend's suggestion. He will appreciate that I cannot anticipate the provisions of the tax credit scheme. But he will appreciate that to include rent allowance could make the scheme much more complex.

Mr. Adam Butler

There are indications that rebates or allowances in the council house sector are generally good, and that the take-up is probably about 30 per cent. or more, but is my hon. Friend aware that in the private sector the take-up is very low? Will he consider further publicity, so that private tenants can take advantage of the considerable benefits open to them under the Act?

Mr. Eyre

Yes, Sir. My hon. Friend is right in saying that the take-up in the private sector is very good, but in dealing with the private sector one has to remember that this great reform has been in operation for less than six months. The indications are that the numbers are improving, but my hon. Friend the Minister for Housing and Construction and I will not be satisfied until there is great improvement in the take-up in rent allow- ances, and we shall use ever possible means to bring that about.

Mr. Loughlin

If the Minister considers a 30 per cent. take-up very good, is not the failure to take up allowances an indication of the complete and abject failure of the whole policy of selectivity?

Mr. Eyre

With respect to the hon. Gentleman, the needs allowance upon which the rent rebate is calculated is very generous. The percentage of take-up in the public sector is good when related to the number of people who qualify for this help.

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