Amendment of the Law

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 3rd May 1966.

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Photo of Mr John Fraser Mr John Fraser , Lambeth Norwood 12:00 am, 3rd May 1966

I am grateful for having caught your eye, Mr. Irving. The constituency I represent is Norwood and it is, I understand, customary to say something about the former Members for one's constituency. I hope that the right hon. Member for Streatham (Mr. Sandys) will not take it in offence if I do not on this occasion pay tribute to him, but since 1945 my constituency has been represented by two Members.

The first was its first Labour Member, Mr. Ronald Chamberlain, who served from 1945 to 1950. The second, until his retirement this year, was Sir John Smyth, who was very much loved in the constituency and, I understand, was regarded also with very great affection and esteem in this House. He had the unique distinction of winning in the field the very highest award that this country knows. I know that right hon. and hon. Members will miss him greatly and will wish me to record some tribute to him on his retirement.

Perhaps the greatest problem affecting my constituents, like many other London constituents, is housing. Norwood is, like Lewisham, North, a dormitory constituency yet not without life and containing a microcosm of residential London with housing ranging from lush town houses to some sorry tenements. It forms part of one of the largest London boroughs, Lambeth.

It is a measure of our housing difficulties that we have 13,000 families on the waiting list with little hope of being able to provide rehousing for them within the area. This is not because of lack of effort by the Government or the local authority but because the constituency has run out of land and is looking to a solution outside the borough.

We would welcome a reduction in service industry employment in London which would perhaps reduce the imbalance of employment in different parts of the country. We welcome the establishment of new towns and overspill areas. We welcome proposals for lower interest rates for local authorities, which are thereby enabled to get on with building more houses.

I want to refer to Income Tax matters which affect people who might be trying to find some other form of housing in my constituency than council housing. The first course open is that of buying a house, which appeals to many in my kind of constituency. For some time it has had the advantage of Income Tax relief on mortgage interest but this has always worked rather unfairly in that the man earning the greatest amount of money and paying the highest rate of tax got the greatest housing subsidy through Income Tax relief, whereas those with low incomes and perhaps large families got the lowest Income Tax relief—the lowest Income Tax subsidy, in other words.

Moreover, it is difficult for people, when buying a house, to calculate the cost to them, because jobs, family circumstances and Income Tax may change. It is difficult for them to calculate the true cost of buying a house because of these complexities. It is, therefore, particularly welcome that the Government have made proposals for mortgage option schemes whereby people will have set out firmly the benefits and reliefs to be made available. This is a move that my constituents, especially the younger people about to set up home, will welcome.

Another form of housing which has been encouraged by both this Government and the last is the establishment of housing associations. It is particularly welcome that in my area there are three co-operative housing associations. Before 1963, when people came together to form a co-operative they borrowed money from the local authority or the Government and paid rent—which in effect was the same as the mortgage payments by owner-occupiers. The difference was, however, that a member of such an association got no Income Tax relief on the interest element in his rent whereas the owner-occupier got relief on his mortgage.

This situation was remedied by Section 43 of the Finance Act, 1963, which, in effect, said that, if tenants of a housing co-operative were also the members of the housing co-operative, and if it was entirely democratically controlled by the tenants in the co-operative, then the income Tax reliefs available to house purchasers would, by machinery to be made available, be given to the tenants of such housing co-operatives as well. However, the same drawbacks still obtain when calculating the amount of rent that will be required.

A person might go into a housing co-operative newly married and then, when children come along, there are effects on Income Tax. It is difficult to give such people any idea of the amount they will get and the amount they will have to pay in going into the co-operative. I commend to my right hon. Friend either an extension of the proposed mortgage options scheme to housing co-operatives and housing associations, so that when they get money they know that relief has been given and can state fairly to their prospective tenants the rents required without having to make haphazard calculations of Income Tax reliefs, or a uniform rate of relief to be given, roughly equivalent to the average relief given to all these tenants. When people invest in building societies, they get standard rates of interest without the complication of tax reliefs. All I ask is that tenants of co-operative housing associations should be given a similar type of relief so they know before they rent their houses exactly what they will have to pay.