HC Deb 20 March 1974 vol 870 cc1008-11
7. Mr. Bruce-Gardyne

asked the Secretary of State for Scotland what was the ratio of average council house rents to average family incomes in Scotland at the latest date for which figures are available.

Mr. Millan

The most recent estimate available is for 1972, when the figure was about 5 per cent.

Mr. Bruce-Gardyne

Will the hon. Gentleman confirm that the proportion for south of the border is exactly double that and that for most other countries in Western Europe it is about four times that? What conceivable purpose is served by freezing rents and putting the burden on the ratepayers? Do the Government think that the rating system is more egalitarian than the rent system, given the background of the Fair Rents Act?

Mr. Millan

I have said that we are not putting the burden on ratepayers. In the present economic situation it is highly important to dampen down any inflationary tendencies. The rent increases imposed under the Housing Finance Act by the previous administration were a very serious inflationary tendency. The fact that we have frozen these rents has been warmly welcomed all over Scotland.

Dr. Miller

Will my hon. Friend resist the nonsense talked from the Opposition benches about rents? Will he also resist any temptation to relate rents to family incomes and leave only the principal wage earner in a family to pay the rent? There should be no relationship between the rent paid by a family and the total family income.

Mr. Millan

I note what my hon. Friend says. I may say that I shall have no difficulty in resisting suggestions from the Opposition benches.

Mr. Edward Taylor

How can the hon. Gentleman say that the burden will not fall on the ratepayers when in a letter to me dated 18th March his right hon. Friend the Secretary of State said that he was working out detailed arrangements whereby the major part of the burden would be taken by the Government? Will the hon. Gentleman say clearly whether the Government intend to carry the full cost of the rent freeze or whether ratepayers will have to carry some of it?

Mr. Millan

My right hon. Friend has made the position clear. I ask the hon. Gentleman to await the details when they are published in due course.

11. Mr. MacArthur

asked the Secretary of State for Scotland how many local authority tenants in Scotland are now paying a nil rent.

Mr. Millan

At 28th November 1973—the latest date for which information is available—there were about 42,000 tenants whose total rent was met by rebate.

Mr. MacArthur

Is the hon. Gentleman aware that I am glad to know that he has at last recognised and accepted that the Tory Government concentrated help where it was needed and freed 42,000 people from paying rent in addition to 125,000 people who were relieved through the associated supplementary benefit scheme from paying any rent? Will he now remove his silly proposal to repeal the Housing Finance Act and concentrate help where it is really needed?

Mr. Millan

I do not accept what the hon. Gentleman said. As he pointed out, there have always been large numbers of people whose rents have been met through the supplementary benefits scheme.

Mr. MacArthur

What about the 42,000?

Mr. Millan

What about allowing me to answer the question? There were local authority rent rebate schemes long before the last Government's Housing Finance Act. This Government have no intention of abolishing rent rebate schemes.

Mr. Robin F. Cook

Is my hon. Friend aware that many heads of households living in poverty are denied any rent rebate because of the operation of the added earner charge? Will he, when framing legislation on housing finance, consider abolishing this iniquitous surcharge?

Mr. Millan

Before the Housing Finance Act was introduced rent rebates were matters for local authorities. We have already said that we shall abolish the Act and introduce legislation of our own.

Mr. Younger

Is the hon. Gentleman aware that the introduction of the rent freeze is just about the most grossly unfair way of helping rent payers that could be invented? Does he realise that he will concentrate the greatest help on the richest tenants and the smallest help on the poorest tenants? Can he justify that situation? Why not raise the needs allowance, which will ensure that the money goes to help the poorest tenants most?

Mr. Millan

I do not accept what the hon. Gentleman has said as a factual statement of the position. I repeat that the rent freeze has been warmly welcomed in Scotland.

Mr. William Hamilton

Does my hon. Friend agree that it is far better to leave rent policy in the hands of the local authorities, as they know it best?

Mr. Millan

Yes. That has always been our policy.

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