§ 15. Mr. Kaufman
asked the Secretary of State for the Environment whether he will introduce legislation to amend the Housing Finance Act so as to relieve council tenants of paying all rent 527 throughout any period when their homes are being improved under the provisions of the Housing Acts.
§ Mr. Kaufman
Is the Minister aware that in my constituency, because of the sheer incompetence of the private enterprise company concerned, constituents are having to live in barn-like, freezing conditions because improvements are taking two and three times as long as they should? Is he further aware that, although Manchester Corporation has relieved these people of the obligation to pay rent for the period during which it seemed likely that the repairs would take place, it is unable to do so for the extra period? Will he now give Manchester Corporation specific authority to permit tenants to live rent-free during any period when improvements are taking place? Will he underwrite that guarantee with a formal undertaking?
§ Mr. Eyre
I appreciate that there can be serious practical difficulties for tenants in certain circumstances. I cannot understand the hon. Gentleman's difficulties about the local authority. Before a fair rent has been made a council can reimburse any costs actually incurred by tenants or grant them a special rebate. After a fair rent determination the council may determine a lower fair rent for such time as the condition is affected by the carrying out of improvement works. It follows that the local authority has power to safeguard the interests of the tenant.
§ Mr. George Cunningham
Is the Minister aware that I have been informed by the Greater London Council that it is impeded by the Housing Finance Act from making a reduction in rent when, for example, the heating in a house breaks down and a heating element is included in the rent? Is he aware that the GLC says that the same thing applies when there is severe damp in the house or when such facilities as the water supply break down? Will he confirm that in such circumstances the legislation passed by a Conservative Government prevents a local authority from reducing the rent to take account of the period when such facilities are denied?
§ Mr. Eyre
I will certainly look into this. This is the first I have heard of the problem. I think there must be some misunderstanding. If a fair rent has not been determined, and that may be the procedural stage in the case of the houses the hon. Member has mentioned, a special rebate can be made by the local authority.
§ Mr. Frank Allaun
Will the Minister look into the serious situation which arises, not just in Manchester but throughout all local authorities, when building firms have taken on big improvement contracts for council houses and the tenants are finding it an absolute disaster? Is he aware that such firms are taking months to do the job and often there are serious defects for which the firms should be prosecuted? Will he look into this because it is causing tremendous misery?
§ Mr. Kaufman
On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. In view of the unsatisfactory nature of the reply, I beg to give notice that I shall seek to raise this matter on the Adjournment at the earliest opportunity.