HC Deb 16 May 1973 vol 856 cc1505-7
30. Mr. Leonard

asked the Secretary of State for the Environment whether he will seek power to enable lodger charges affected by Section 66(4) of the Housing Finance Act to be cancelled in the event of a tenant ceasing to have a lodger.

Mr. Channon

No, Sir. I consider that those local authorities which did not abolish such charges before the Housing Finance Act came into force have adequate discretionary powers to deal with any problems that may arise.

Mr. Leonard

That answer is just not good enough. Does the Minister not accept that there is an immediate need for action to remedy the indefensible situation that is arising as a direct result of the Housing Finance Act? The Minister is invariably courteous and considerate to hon. Members. Will he not extend the same qualities to tenants, who cannot be expected in every case to ask local authorities to apply the very complicated discretion under the Act?

Mr. Channon

To do what the hon. Member would like would need legislation. This matter was debated at considerable length during the proceedings on the Bill, in which the hon. Member and I both took some part. Discretionary powers are given to local authorities, and I think that they can meet most of the problems by use of them.

Mr. McBride

Surely the situation is indefensible. Once the charge has been imposed and the lodger has departed there is no justification for the continued charging of the fee. In the circumstances the Minister should immediately order the abolition of the provision.

Mr. Channon

I seem to remember the hon. Member for Swansea, East (Mr. McBride) also taking some part in the debates. I understand his point of view. It would require legislation to do what he suggests and it would mean that some tenants who were, by definition, paying less than a fair rent would receive a rent reduction while others would have their rents increased. That is not a particularly just way of proceeding.

Mr. Freeson

Is the Minister aware that I. too, have great reservations about the whole practice of introducing lodger charges. If he refers to Section 115 of his Act he may find that it would be unnecessary to introduce fresh legislation. Me has powers in that section to vary the operation of any part of the Act, and he can adopt a variation of local authority rent policies.

Mr. Channon

I must confess that I have not studied Section 115 for a few days. I shall consider the matter after Question Time.