HC Deb 27 October 1987 vol 121 cc231-2W
Mr. Home Robertson

asked the Secretary of State for Scotland if he will make a statement on changes in rent levels in Scotland since 1979 and on the Government's policy for rent levels and measures to protect tenants on low incomes in the future.

Lord James Douglas-Hamilton

Average local authority rents in Scotland have risen from £4.92 per house per week in 1979–80 to £14.65 per week in 1987–88. Over the same period average SSHA rents have risen from £5.43 to £17.28, and average Scottish new town rents have risen from £6.36 to £18.26. Average registered rents in private sector unfurnished accommodation have risen from £3.50 per house per week in 1979–80 to £16.29 in 1986–87 and registered housing association rents have risen from £7.58 per house per week to £19.17 over the same period.

Responsibility for setting rent levels for public sector housing lies with the individual local authority or agency concerned, not with the Secretary of State. The Government, however, have a legitimate interest in determining the amount of overall public expenditure which the nation can afford to spend on housing in Scotland. In recent years, the Government's priority has been to reduce expenditure on indiscriminate housing subsidy and to concentrate the resources available upon capital investment in the public sector housing stock, whilst targeting subsidies directly to those individual tenants who need help with their housing costs.

Public sector rents in Scotland are generally lower than those south of the border. It is the Government's policy to encourage authorities to set rents that enable them to meet more of their housing costs from revenue, hut to restrict excessive year-on-year rent increases by continuing Exchequer subsidies. For those tenants who have difficulty in meeting their full housing costs direct assistance is, and will continue to be, available through the housing benefit system. In addition, most increases in rent following registration of a higher rent for private sector and housing association tenants are subject to limits on the amount by which the existing rent may be increased each year.