HC Deb 23 June 1976 vol 913 cc1581-2
6. Mr. George Rodgers

asked the Secretary of State for the Environment how many local authorities with responsibility for public sector housing have announced rent increases that exceed the maximum indicated by the Government's guidance on rent charges.

Mr. Armstrong

Our guideline for this year sets no maximum, but recommends an increase of 60p a week averaged across the country. I understand that, so far, 122 local authorities in England have decided on increases exceeding 60p a week and 190 on increases of 60p or less, and that 55 have not yet decided.

Mr. Rodgers

Is my hon. Friend aware that many recently-elected Conservative authorities have indicated that it is their intention to impose substantial rent increases on council house tenants? Does this not make a mockery of the Government's anti-inflation strategy? Does my hon. Friend accept that there is general appreciation that by Government intervention the rate of interest charged to owner-occupiers has been controlled, and reduced in some cases? Will he extend this same protection to council house tenants?

Mr. Armstrong

We are, indeed, keeping under strict review the amount of rent increases, but I remind my hon. Friend that this Government restored to local authorities the right to fix their own rents and would be very reluctant to interfere with that.

Mr. Peter Bottomley

Does the Minister agree that these increases are indiscriminate when compared with those that would apply under the Housing Finance Act?

Mr. Armstrong

We have great faith in local authorities, who know their own circumstances, and it is for them to make the decisions.

Mr. Ovenden

Is my hon. Friend aware that some local authorities intend to save most of their alleged overspending by cutting the rate contribution to the housing revenue account? Is he further aware that this will place the whole burden of sacrifice on one section of the community? Will he give some guidance to local authorities to prevent their acting in this manner?

Mr. Armstrong

Guidance has been given by my right hon. Friend. However, if my hon. Friend has any instances in mind and reports them to me, we shall consider them carefully.