HC Deb 09 December 1992 vol 215 cc834-5
7. Mr. Hendry:

To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment what is his estimate of the number of additional units of accommodation that will be brought into use by the rent-a-room scheme.

Sir George Young

It is not possible to give a precise figure. The nature of lodging makes it difficult to measure accurately the size of the sector. We hope, however, that the new scheme will encourage an increase in the number of people who take in lodgers.

Mr. Hendry

I am grateful to my hon. Friend for that reply. Is he aware that building societies and the Council of Mortgage Lenders, which have traditionally discouraged people from taking in lodgers, not only welcome the scheme but are actively encouraging people to take advantage of it? Does that not show what a useful and valuable addition it is to the range of policies already in place for tackling homelessness?

Sir George Young

I very much welcome the new approach by the Council of Mortgage Lenders and other lenders. We must make the best possible use of our housing stock. The scheme also provides an additional source of income for those who own those properties, which may be useful at the present time.

Mr. Soley

Having reduced the private rented sector from 14 per cent. of the total housing stock in 1979 to 7 per cent. now, is it not time that the Goverment came up with a proper private rented sector instead of subsidising private landlords, whether in mortgaged properties or otherwise, via housing benefit, and even subsidising some who are in prison because they have harassed their tenants? Would it not be better to have a tax-break system in exchange for the registration of landlords? We could then strike off those who were bad landlords, instead of using public money to subsidise them.

Sir George Young

Few people have more responsibility for the decline of the private rented sector than the Labour party, whose wholly hostile approach to the private landlord was responsible for many leaving that sector. It is interesting to note the hon. Gentleman's U-turn; he is now suggesting a tax break for private landlords, after the Labour party has spent decades harassing them. That is real progress.