HC Deb 16 December 1975 vol 902 cc1144-6
5. Mr. Lane

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science what steps he will take to improve the housing prospects for students in the academic year 1976–77.

Mr. Mulley

About 4,400 university residential places and about 1,400 polytechnic residential places were started during 1974–75 and most of these places should be brought into use by the next academic session. A further 2,500 university places and some 2,100 polytechnic places are expected to start in the current financial year and some at least should become available in the course of 1976–77.

Mr. Lane

I am grateful for that reply, as far as it goes, and for the sympathetic attitude of the Minister of State when I saw him recently. However, will the Secretary of State go a little further and make clear that he and his colleagues will keep up all possible pressure on other Government Departments, notably the Department of the Environment in the context of the Rent Acts, so as to get still more accommodation available for students at the earliest possible date?

Mr. Mulley

I share the hon. Gentleman's concern to make more accommodation available for students. However, at the same time, I am not unaware of the problems of housing that affect people other than students, too. It is very difficult to say that in all circumstances students should be given priority. For example, I know that students—there is evidence to support this—are not anxious for amendment of the Rent Acts to give them any preferential treatment. Perhaps provision on the lines already started in Sheffield and under consideration elsewhere, with housing schemes undertaken in conjunction with the local authority and the Department of the Environment, might be a useful way forward.

Mrs. Knight

Will the right hon. Gentleman recognise that there is a major need for his Department to do something about this problem, bearing in mind that Government policy on rented properties has dried up the supply in many areas?

Mr. Mulley

I think that there is no evidence that a particular exemption for students would necessarily produce any additional accommodation.

9. Mr. Hooley

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science if he will investigate factors which may discourage householders offering accommodation to students.

Mr. Mulley

I expect that the accommodation survey undertaken by the University Grants Committee at the beginning of this academic year will throw some light on the attitude of householders offering rooms to students.

Mr. Hooley

Does my right hon. Friend agree that one of the most useful and economical ways of extending student accommodation would be to encourage householders to accept students into their homes for a limited period with a sense of social duty as much as for profit? Is he aware that there are some fears that taxation arrangements may inhibit that sort of arrangement, and that some householders are afraid that they may be liable for taxation if they offer accommodation?

Mr. Mulley

I am aware of that concern, but I think that it has been very much exaggerated. On 6th November the Inland Revenue issued a statement about the effect of capital gains tax on owner-occupiers who let accommodation. When lodgers live with a family, there is no taxation. In other instances the impact could be very small. My right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer is conducting a review of the capital gains tax. I shall certainly draw this matter to his attention so that it can be brought within the purview of the report.

Mr. Evelyn King

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that this matter needs investigation? Does not every expert know that our rent legislation is among the worst of any endured by any country in the Western world? Unless that legislation is amended, the problems of the homeless, including students, are certain to get worse and worse.

Mr. Mulley

I do not think that this matter falls within my departmental responsibility, but my impression, for what it is worth, is that without rent protection many of those who now have homes would be joining the homeless.

Forward to