HC Deb 14 January 1975 vol 884 cc364-6
Mr. Freeson

I beg to move Amendment No. 1, in page 1, line 13, at end insert 'but without prejudice to the duties to operate a rent rebate scheme and a rent allowance scheme imposed by Part II of the Housing Finance Act 1972'.

Mr. Deputy Speaker (Sir Myer Galpern)

It would be convenient, I suggest, to discuss at the same time Government Amendment No. 2.

Mr. Freeson

These amendments follow from an undertaking given in Committee to reconsider the wording of the Bill at this point. The Bill as at present drafted would insert in the Housing Act 1957, in the substantive provisions providing for reasonable rents, a requirement for a local authority to have regard to their rebate scheme in determining rents. This was queried in Standing Committee, and it is agreed that there may be a possible ambiguity in the terms of the provision.

It could be interpreted as meaning that rent levels generally in future should be fixed somewhat higher because of the existence of the rent rebate scheme. This was not the intention. The need is to include in the law on local authority rents a reference to the present position on rent rebates—the existence of a mandatory rent rebate scheme—in place of the now out-dated reference in the 1957 Act.

Given that it is now mandatory to run a rent rebate scheme, Amendment No. 1 ensures that this duty remains once the freedom to charge reasonable rents is returned to local authorities. It follows that the scheme retains its proper place for the assistance of tenants in need of help towards their rent, and that there would be no need in consequence for local authorities to use their hard-pressed local resources to duplicate this particular function of giving differential help to the most hard-pressed tenants by generally influencing their rent levels in this connection.

It is not part of the Bill's approach that local authorities should feel any duty to argue that rents in general should be higher than they otherwise need be in order to free money to reduce some rents on a basis determined by tenant's means. The amendment simply releases them from any such constraint. The reference in the amendment to rent allowances covers the position of a small number of local authority tenants who receive allowances instead of rebates.

Amendment No. 2 is consequential on Amendment No. 1.

Although I have explained the amendments in a little detail, they are of simple intent. They are to clarify a possible ambiguity which could in some circumstances influence rents in a way in which

they were not intended to be influenced by the Bill.

Amendment agreed to.

Amendment made: No. 2, in page 1, line 16, leave out from 'following' to end of line 19 and insert 'subsection'.—[Mr. Freeson.]

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