HC Deb 16 January 1974 vol 867 cc533-6
20. Mr. Golding

asked the Secretary of State for the Environment what is now the average level of council rents compared with June 1970.

22. Mr. Hardy

asked the Secretary of State for the Environment what is his estimate of the average increases in the price of building land and of houses, in the rents of both council houses and of privately rented houses and in the cost of mortgage repayments since June 1970.

Mr. Channon

Rebated rents of council housing in England and Wales rose by £l.04p weekly over the 3½-year period between April 1970 and October 1973. Comparison of the average for 1972 shows that private unfurnished rents were 37p per week higher and gross monthly mortgage payments £2.40p higher. For private housing land transactions reported in the first half of 1973 there was an increase of 185 per cent. and for private houses bought in the third quarter 108 per cent.

Mr. Golding

I thank the Minister for that information, which I am sure will appear in many of our election addresses. Is he aware that many tenants are looking forward to the repeal of the Housing Finance Act so that the continuing increases being imposed upon them might come to a rapid end?

Mr. Channon

If the hon. Gentleman is proposing to write an election address in the near future, I hope he will also include reference to the fact that, unless it is intended to take special measures to prevent it, the repeal of the Housing Finance Act would also mean the ending of the special rent rebate help which has assisted so many people on low incomes.

Mr. Sydney Chapman

How do those figures compare with the 70 per cent. average increase in rents under the previous administration? Is it not a fact, hotly disputed at Question Time last month, that house and land prices are now falling?

Mr. Channon

On the best figures available to me—I have no official figures available at the moment—it is certainly a fact that in recent weeks house and land prices have been falling. I am surprised that Labour Members should laugh at that. They complained bitterly enough when prices went up. I should have thought they would cheer when they came down. I hope that when the hon. Member for Newcastle-under-Lyme (Mr. Golding) is writing his election address, if that is what he has in mind, he will point out that under the Labour administration rents increased by 68 per cent.

Mr. Hardy

The Minister delivers his answers either very quietly or very quickly. I did not catch the percentage increase in the cost of mortgage repayments. That is a serious matter. Does he feel that due note should be taken of all this dreadful and inflationary information when the election takes place? Since large profits have been made, will he tell us whether the Conservative Party has accepted or will accept donations from grateful property developers and speculators in 1974?

Mr. Channon

What will be very welcome to the Government is the fact that the hon. Gentleman has announced his determination to support us in trying to defeat inflation. He asked me to repeat the figures for mortgage repayments. Figures derived from the Family Expenditure Survey show that the average monthly repayment in 1970 was £14.50 compared with £16.90 in 1972.

Mr. Freeson

Is the Minister aware that the correct figure for the increase in mortgage repayments on an average house for sale between 1970 and 1973 is 120 per cent.? Does he agree that one major way of contributing towards counter-inflation policies would be to stop the obscene speculation in land—[Interruption.]—Yes, obscene—and that a lead could be given by the Chairman of the Conservative Party, who at the moment is negotiating a payment of £10 million on the sale of 150 acres in Buckinghamshire?

Mr. Channon

The House will not expect me to comment on the suggestion made by the hon. Gentleman. [HON. MEMBERS: "Why not?"] I find it astonishing that an hon. Member should advance that argument from the Opposition Front Bench. I think that standards in the House deteriorate when personal attacks of that kind are made. I should think that is a view that might be held by hon. Members on both sides of the House about insinuations of that kind.

My right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer recently announced a considerable increase in taxation on land profits, and I think that had the general approval of the House.

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