HC Deb 16 January 1974 vol 867 cc528-9
16. Mr. Gurden

asked the Secretary of State for the Environment whether, on the latest evidence available to him, he is satisfied with the operation of the rent rebates system.

Mr. Channon

Yes, Sir.

Mr. Gurden

Is my hon. Friend aware that in Birmingham the total cash received from rents has fallen by £277,000 as a result of the Housing Finance Act and that the total of rent rebates has increased from £700,000 to £2,250,000? Does he agree that the Housing Finance Act has certainly not added to the cost of living in Birmingham?

Mr. Channon

I am not at all surprised to hear those figures. They show, as the Government have always maintained in this House, with my hon. Friend's support, that the Housing Finance Act has done a great deal to help those on low incomes.

Mr. Julius Silverman

Is the Minister aware that the figures given by the hon. Member for Birmingham, Selly Oak (Mr. Gurden) are "phoney" and include the rebates given to supplementary benefit cases, which do not amount to a genuine reduction in rents? Is he further aware that the total amount of increase in rents is considerable, several times as much as the amount granted in rebates?

Mr. Channon

The figures in my possession show that the number of council house tenants receiving rent rebates last year was six times greater than before the passing of the Act. There were fewer than 300.000 people receiving rebates in March 1972. In May 1973 there were 1¾ million, and they were receiving rebates at an average of £1.85. I think that that proves what I am saying.

Mr. Kinsey

Is my hon. Friend aware that the figures given by my hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham, Selly Oak (Mr. Gurden) are not "phoney" but are taken from the Labour council's own statistics? Will my hon. Friend do all he can to ensure that rent rebates are brought to the attention of people now on a three-day week who will find the Government's services extremely useful at the present time?

Mr. Channon

Yes. I am told that more than 20,000 new applications for rent rebates in Birmingham have been granted since the Act became law, as well as 2,000 new applications for rent allowances. I am sure that this scale of increase is being experienced in many other parts of the country.

Mr. Jay

The Minister will recall that following my letter he has reorganised the system of paying rebates in cases where both rent rebate and supplementary benefit are available. Is he satisfied that everyone will get the highest payment to which he is entitled? That has not been the position hitherto.

Mr. Channon

I cannot pretend that everyone will do so. Certainly it is my hope that everyone will get the rent rebate or allowance to which he is entitled. In terms of rent rebates the figures are satisfactory, but, as the House knows, I am still not satisfied about the take-up of rent allowances.