The National Assistance Board informs me that on the basis of the data available it is estimated that some 500,000 weekly assistance grants have been increased to provide for rent increases since the beginning of 1957. Of these about three-fifths have been in respect of increases under the Rent Act. The average amount of the increases is calculated as 5s. 1d. per week. The total is cumulative and I have no information as to how many of the grants are still in payment.
Whilst the Government, for obscurity reasons, are unwilling to let us know the total cost to the Exchequer of the extra rent allowances, would it be correct to say that they amount to several thousand pounds every week?
The hon. Gentleman has really no right to say that for reasons of obscurity the figure he has in mind cannot be given. He must be aware—because it has been explained to him several times—that steps were taken to ascertain how many increases took place, but that in the case of National Assistance people are as frequently going off assistance as going on to it, and therefore a cumulative total is not possible to obtain. Surely the hon. Gentleman understands that?
Arising out of that reply, will the right hon. Gentleman see his right hon. Friend the Minister of Housing and Local Government with a view to explaining that it has put a considerable burden upon the people of this country and ask if he is prepared to ensure that something is done to alter the Rent Acts in order to help the right hon. Gentleman out with the amount he has to disburse?