HC Deb 12 April 1978 vol 947 cc1381-2
10. Mr. Viggers

asked the Secretary of State for the Environment if he is satisfied with the level of availability of privately rented accommodation in areas where there is a high proportion of residents in the armed services.

Mr. Armstrong

The decline in private renting—and the corresponding increase in renting from social landlords—has been a country-wide phenomenon. I have no evidence that it has been especially significant in garrison towns.

Mr. Viggers

Is the Minister aware that families in the armed services have traditionally relied upon the availability of short-term lettings? Is he aware that the Government's legislation has made it difficult for house owners to let their houses and has caused vicious hardship to those who wish to take private lettings?

Mr. Armstrong

We have no evidence that that is the case. The Government have given very positive direction to local authorities about the difficulties for Service men, which we fully understand. This was also included in the Housing (Homeless Persons) Act, which went through the House last Session. We are well aware of the difficulties, but I do not accept at all the alegations that the hon. Gentleman has made about the Rent Act legislation.

Mr. Tebbit

What does the Minister mean by "social landords"? Is he referring to the landlords of some of those vast, derelict council estates whose tenants cannot wait to get out of them or, alternatively, to move into private sector accommodation and buy wherever they can?

Mr. Armstrong

Yes, indeed—[HON. MEMBERS: "Oh".] I do mean the public sector. There are thousands of families in this country who are dependent on the public sector and who are well satisfied with the contribution made by local authorities throughout the country. The attack on public sector housing does the hon. Gentleman no credit at all.