§ 3.10 p.m.
§ The Earl of KINNOULL
My Lords, I beg leave to ask the Question which stands in my name on the Order Paper.
§ The Question was as follows:
§ To ask Her Majesty's Government how many dwellings have been lost in the privately rented sector in the United Kingdom since 1974, how many are at present unoccupied, and whether they will make a statement of Government proposals to revive the privately rented sector.
§ The PARLIAMENTARY UNDER-SECRETARY of STATE, DEPARTMENT of the ENVIRONMENT (Lord Bellwin)
My Lords, the annual average rate of decline in the private rented sector in England between 1971–1977 is estimated at 125,000 dwellings. There is no estimate of the number of unoccupied dwellings which were formerly privately rented. The Government will be introducing a new form of shorthold letting in the Housing Bill this Session, enabling landlords to let on short fixed-term tenancies at fair rents. Landlords will be certain of repossession if they wish at the end of the term, and tenants will be guaranteed security for its duration. Shorthold will not apply to existing tenants. The Government will also bring forward an experimental scheme to encourage new building for rent by approved bodies.
§ The Earl of KINNOULL
My Lords, I thank my noble friend for that valuable reply, and welcome the recognition by the Government of the importance of the private rented sector in the housing programme. Can my noble friend give an 203 assurance that the Government will review the Rent Act with a greater sense of urgency than the previous Administration, which took five years to do nothing other than grudgingly acknowledge the problem?
§ Lord BELLWIN
My Lords, the Government attach great importance to the private rented sector, which must be preserved. There are great numbers of people, particularly the young, the single and the mobile who do not want to be, or whose circumstances do not permit them to be, owner-occupiers or council tenants. Housing provision for them must come from other sources. Housing associations can make a valuable contribution, but cannot possibly fill the gap that would ensue if all private renting were to end. This is quite apart from the socially divisive effect of reducing the choice of tenure only to owner-occupation and council tenancy. That is why we are bringing forward proposals to preserve and to revive private renting, and to the extent that looking at the Rent Acts is a part of that we will certainly be doing so.