HC Deb 28 March 1994 vol 240 cc620-1
5. Mr. Miller

To ask the Secretary of State for Social Security whether he plans to cap housing benefit; and if he will make a statement.

Mr. Scott

As the House knows, the Department is conducting a fundamental review of all social security expenditure. No decisions have been made and the Government will consult widely as and when proposals are ready. We have no plans to cap housing benefit.

Mr. Miller

I hope that that is a stronger promise than we had from the Ministers on VAT, and that they do not renege on commitments in that area. [HON. MEMBERS: "Reading."] I am not reading. The Minister should realise that the Government's own policies have allowed the benefit to increase; the deregulation of private sector rents has been the cause of that. The Minister should ensure, in liaison with his colleagues, that that is taken into account in the review and that there is no capping and no cuts whatever in the benefit.

Mr. Scott

Far from anticipating cuts, we expect that, by the end of the decade, expenditure on housing benefit is likely to increase from £7.3 billion to between £10 billion and £12 billion, so one can see growth in that area. I do, however, think that there is merit in concentrating subsidy for housing on individuals and their circumstances rather than entirely on bricks and mortar.

Mr. Willetts

Will my right hon. Friend confirm that the Government's figures show spending on rent allowance increasing by 7.1 per cent. a year and spending on rent rebates increasing by 5.5 per cent. a year until the year 2000, and that that shows the need for tight control over housing benefit spending?

Mr. Scott

I am sure that that is true, and we have taken steps to enable local authorities to take action to prevent the meeting of very high rents where luxurious accommodation or over-generous provision of space is currently being subsidised by the taxpayer.