§ 11. Mr. Skinner
asked the Secretary of State for the Environment how many representations he has now received asking for repeal of the Housing Finance Act.
§ Mr. Skinner
We are getting fed up making requests to a Minister who is so obdurate. Is the hon. Gentleman aware that the result of the Act, as exemplified again yesterday on the Stock Exchange, has been that millions of pounds have been made by property sharks? Why is it that councillors who have carried out their election promises in keeping down rents can be surcharged and fined and at the same time hon. Gentlemen opposite, who voted for the Act and represent property companies, can line their own pockets? What kind of a carry-on is this?
§ Mr. Channon
I think that the hon. Gentleman, even by his usual standards, goes a bit far this afternoon. There are two different views in different parts of the House about the merits of the Housing Finance Act. Whether hon. Members support it or not, I should think that there was overwhelming agreement by at least three-quarters of the House that when a law is passed by this House it is the duty of people to obey it.
§ Mr. Frank Allaun
Is the hon. Gentleman aware that the Government are shortly to be approached by the big guns —the Association of Municipal Corporations backed by the TUC—over the further rent increases to be deliberately inflicted? Does he recognise that the Government are on highly vulnerable ground in proceeding with this proposal at a time when they are talking about curbing prices?
§ Mr. Channon
I hope that in his discussions on this topic the hon. Gentleman will draw attention to the fact that the increase in the needs allowance announced by my right hon. Friend will mean—before hon. Gentlemen opposite laugh too much—that all 1¼ million tenants entitled to a rebate or rent allowance will get an increase in their weekly rebate allowance of between 60p and 88p if their rent remains unchanged. Over 750,000 council tenants entitled to the rebate now whose rent goes up at the end of April will, after that rent increase, pay at least 30p less in rent than today.
§ Mr. Redmond
Will my hon. Friend tell the House how many people will be getting the rebates and whether any representations have been made asking for their cancellation?
§ Mr. Freeson
In the light of the Government's counter-inflation policy, will the hon. Gentleman indicate whether he is in a position to give us his latest assessment of the prospective average rent increases in both the private and public sectors from April 1973 to April 1974?
§ Mr. Channon
I cannot give those detailed figures. If the hon. Gentleman puts down a Question, naturally I will 391 answer it. Even if rents are to go up in April this year, the result of the increase in the needs allowance means that nearly all those who are on low wages and unable to afford the increases in rent will be paying less rent.