HC Deb 06 February 1974 vol 868 cc1218-9
23. Mrs. Renée Short

asked the Secretary of State for the Environment what is the average length of time local authorities have had to wait for the decision of the rents scrutiny boards about their fair rents levels after submitting the information required under Housing Finance Act.

Mr. Channon

Rent scrutiny board reports have, on average, been made within six months of the boards receiving the local authority's provisional assessment.

Mrs. Short

Is it not clear to the Minister that the Government have created a monstrous and inefficient machine with entirely arbitrary powers to exercise control over local authority rents—powers that have been taken away from the local authorities? Is he aware that the Wolverhampton Council approached the rent scrutiny board in January 1973 and has still had no information, and that 40,000 tenants in Wolverhampton face an arbitary and perhaps unfair increase of 50p in their rent by 1st April? What will the Minister do to see that the board carries out its duties under the Housing Finance Act speedily?

Mr. Channon

Rent scrutiny boards are independent bodies and I have no power to control them. However, as the hon. Lady put down the Question I had inquiries made and I understand from the board that it hopes to issue the report on Wolverhampton early this month.

Mr. Woodhouse

Will my hon. Friend recognise that it is not an isolated problem? Does he recall that he has had for some time in his Department a letter from me on behalf of the Oxford City Council urgently requiring an answer on exactly the same point?

Mr. Channon

I certainly recall that my hon. Friend has written to me. I hope to be in touch with him shortly about the matter.

Mr. Julius Silverman

As rent scrutiny boards are imposing extremely high increases over existing rents, will the Minister urge tenants to accept the waiting period with patience, if not with resignation?

Mr. Channon

I am delighted that the hon. Gentleman should join me in urging everyone to accept the provisions of the Housing Finance Act.