HC Deb 12 April 1978 vol 947 cc1382-3
11. Mr. Ridley

asked the Secretary of State for the Environment whether he has yet completed his review of the future of rent restriction of lettings.

Mr. Freeson

No, Sir.

Mr. Ridley

Is the Minister aware that one of the 12 conditions for the Liberals' support of the Government was that furnished lettings restrictions should be abolished? Is the reason why the Minister has not done this the fact that the Liberals have not pressed it, or is it that he has simply refused to listen to what they said?

Mr. Freeson

I would have to check the record on that point and, no doubt, consult the hon. Member for the Isle of Wight (Mr. Ross) and others in order to pursue it. But the original Question asked whether we had completed the review of the Rent Acts. The answer is "No".

Mr. Durant

Has the Minister had a recent meeting with the National Union of Students to talk about rent restriction in respect of student accommodation in places like Reading, where, at the beginning of the last year, about 114 students had to sleep on the floors of various halls because of the lack of accommodation?

Mr. Freeson

I have had no such proposals by the NUS generally or by the Reading branch of the NUS specifically. It is the experience over many years that at the start of the academic year there are residual difficulties concerning a relatively small number of students first entering university. On past experience, these problems are overcome in a matter of weeks or months—very shortly after they are experienced. On the question of security of tenure, the NUS takes the same position as that which the Government take. I have had no subsequent views expressed to the contrary by the NUS.

Mr. Rossi

Will the Minister indicate when he will complete his review and when he will publish his findings, in view of the continuing hardship being suffered by landlords and tenants alike as a result of this legislation, as the Government's own consultative document acknowledges?

Mr. Freeson

I do not think that I can give a date now, nor would I accept the implied exaggerated view that we constantly have from the hon. Gentleman about the operation of the Rent Act 1974, which he has been challenging, criticising and attacking for the past four years but which he did not vote against when it was before the House.

Mrs. Wise

Is my right hon. Friend aware that students will very much resent the clumsy attempts from the Conservative Benches to use their housing needs as an excuse for the general pushing up of rents and an attack on other people's circumstances? Is he also aware that students have no wish at all to be used as pawns in this way and that they support the Government in this matter?

Mr. Freeson

My hon. Friend is perfectly correct. At a much earlier date the NUS expressed fully and clearly to me its views in support of our general legislative position on security of tenure. Since then I have made efforts, in conjunction with the housing association movement, the NUS and local authorities to get a wider provision for single person housing in order to assist students, and others in a similar position, with their housing. This is beginning to produce results around the country. There is a much greater variety of provision for single people such as students by both housing associations and local authorities. I hope that this will continue to expand.