HC Deb 10 July 1986 vol 101 cc265-6W
Mrs. Currie

asked the Secretary of State for Social Services if he has any further plans for changes in housing benefit regulations.

Mr. Newton

We have today laid before Parliament the Housing Benefit Amendment (No. 4) Regulations 1986, providing for a number of changes to take effect from 28 July 1986.

The regulations complete the legislative provision for the housing benefit proposals announced in my right hon. Friend's uprating statement to the House on 24 February by removing the requirement for a non-dependant deduction to be made in new cases in respect of non-householders on supplementary benefit aged 21 to 24 living within a household. This is the counterpart of the proposal already agreed by the House that non-householders in this age group who claim supplementary benefit or who reach the age of 21 on or after 28 July will no longer receive a non-householder housing addition. The effect is to protect the overall benefit position of households where the householder is on supplementary benefit or housing benefit.

The regulations also provide for the implementation of a proposal, which has been the subject of consultation to the Social Security Advisory Committee, to exclude from eligibility for housing benefit people who are accommodated by local social services authorities under various Acts. Such provision has always been regarded as part of local authority social services responsibilities, but a number of local authorities had begun to invite housing benefit claims since they were not specifically excluded by existing provisions.

The Social Security Advisory Committee's report on this proposal, which has also been laid before Parliament today together with the Secretary of State's response (Cmnd. 9833), endorses the Government's view that it is in principle reasonable that the cost to social services departments of providing local authority residential accommodation should not be subsidised through the housing benefits scheme. The committee was concerned, however, that the draft regulations would have the effect of removing help through housing benefit from people in group homes or similar accommodation who were seeking to return to an independent life in the community. The Government have accordingly amended the regulations to ensure that people living in group homes and similar accommodation continue to be entitled to support through the housing benefit scheme.

The regulations also modify the housing benefit rules to help elderly owner occupiers using home income plans to turn the capital value of their home into a regular income. At present, the whole of the income generated, including that part which is deducted at source as mortgage interest, is taken into account for housing benefit purposes. Under the new regulations, the mortgage interest deductions will be disregarded so that only the income actually received will be taken into account. This change should improve the position for some 7,500 pensioner owner-occupiers. The Social Security Advisory Committee has agreed that this beneficial change did not need to be referred to it.

Mr. Raynsford

asked the Secretary of State for Social Services, pursuant to the reply to the hon. Member for Coventry, South-East of 25 June, Official Report, columns 209-10, which of the objectives for the revised housing benefit subsidy arrangments were considered by his Department not to be met by the proposal to restrict direct subsidy to 80 per cent. of benefit expenditure.

Mr. Major

As I explained in my reply to the hon. Member for Coventry, South-East (Mr. Nellist), the proposal to include 20 per cent. of benefit costs in the rate support grant arrangements did not meet our objectives of providing an adequate incentive for authorities to control costs and a fair level of support for expenditure they properly incur.

Mr. Alton

asked the Secretary of State for Social Services (1) if he will list in the Official Report a borough breakdown of moneys paid to landlords on behalf of public and private tenants in housing benefit during 1985-86; and if he will make a statement;

(2) what is the highest individual weekly sum currently paid to a landlord in housing benefit;

(3) what percentage of the sum paid in housing benefit during 1985-86 was paid to private landlords;

(4) how many domestic hereditaments owned by private landlords house tenants in receipt of housing benefits.

Mr. Major

We do not collect information on direct payments of housing benefit to landlords, or on the number of dwellings owned by private landlords which are occupied by tenants in receipt of housing benefit. In 1985-86, an estimated £780 million was paid in rent allowances (including those paid direct to the landlord, but excluding in all cases any expenditure classified as rate rebates) for around 1.2 million private tenants. This represented about 17 per cent. of total housing benefit expenditure.

Mr. Alton

asked the Secretary of State for Social Services when he intends to send a reply to the letter of the hon. Member for Liverpool, Mossley Hill, of 15 May on housing benefit and to which he said on 2 July, Official Report, column 1040, he had signed a reply.

Mr. Major

I have written to the hon. Member.