HC Deb 24 May 1995 vol 260 c889
5. Sir David Steel

To ask the Secretary of State for Scotland if he will make a statement on the increase in Scottish Homes rents in the borders; and for what reasons this increase is greater than the current notional rate of inflation indicated in the Government's guidelines. [24226]

Lord James Douglas-Hamilton

In December 1994, the Scottish Homes board decided to increase its rents for 1995–96 throughout Scotland by an average of 4.2 per cent., but actual increases will vary in accordance with size, type and situation of house. Increases on this basis were applied to its stock in the borders as well as its stock in other parts of the country. It is for Scottish Homes to review rents, taking into consideration the resources required to manage and maintain its housing stock.

Sir David Steel

How can the Minister possibly justify rent increases in the public sector of almost 5 per cent. in my constituency when the Government are trying to hold down wage claims and offering nurses in my constituency an increase of 2.5 per cent.? Surely there must be some consistency in Government policy, or are we to await the arrival of the right hon. Member for Stirling (Mr. Forsyth) for a change of policy?

Lord James Douglas-Hamilton

As the right hon. Gentleman knows, housing benefit to the extent of £900 million is being made payable this year to those tenants who need assistance. The actual average increase in rents in Scotland is 28.78p per week, which is certainly well below the English figure, which is almost £10 more per week. The real reason is that, if the relevant housing association wishes to spend sufficient funds on management and maintenance, it will put up rents accordingly. It is for the Scottish Homes board to decide what the level of rents should be for Scottish Homes stock. No direction is given by Ministers.