I beg to move Amendment No. 52, in page 24, line 16, at end insert:
(c) that the general level of the rents of a class of Housing Revenue Account dwellings of a housing authority or of the rents paid by private tenants for a class of dwelling in the area of a local authority is exceptionally high by comparison with the general level of the rents of the Housing Revenue Account dwellings of other housing authorities or, as the case may be, with the general level of the rents paid by private tenants elsewhere,'.
I understand that with this Amendment it will be convenient to the House to discuss Amendments Nos. 53 to 57.
The purpose of Amendment No. 52 is to widen the scope of the powers in Clause 20(5) of the Bill, which enable the Secretary of State to authorise variations in the model scheme set out in Schedule 3 to the Bill so as to provide for a lower minimum rent and/ora higher maximum rent rebate or rent allowance. Under Clause 20(5), as at present drafted, the powers of the Secretary of State are limited to his authorising only general variations for all housing rent allowance dwellings of an authority or for all private tenants in a local authority's area.
; It is necessary to widen the scope of this provision to enable authorisations to be made in respect of different classes of dwellings. Such a course might be desirable—for example, where an authority's overall average rent was not exceptionally high as compared with the rent levels of other authorities but where there were classes of dwellings at very low rents and other classes at very high rents. In such a situation the overall average might not be high because of the distribution of high and low rents, but it might none the less be apropriate to make an authorisation under Clause 20(5) to allow the authority to grant more generous rebates to tenants of the classes of dwellings let at very high rents. These proposals will give the Secretary of State more flexibility.
The purpose of Amendment No. 53 is to enable authorities who are introducing a rebate scheme based on the model scheme before the Bill's enactment to apply to the Secretary of State, in advance of the passing of the Bill, for an authorisation under Clause 20(5) to vary Schedule 3—the model scheme—in relation to their scheme so as to provide for a lower minimum rent and/or higher maximum rebate.
This Amendment will enable the Secretary of State to give consideration to an application for such an authorisation before enactment, and will make it unnecessary for the authority to apply again once the Bill is enacted.
Amendment No. 55 is a drafting Amendment to make it clear that, where a local authority exercise their discretion under Clause 19(7) to provide in their allowance scheme for the granting of rebates to their own non-housing revenue account tenants, their allowance scheme, insofar as it contains provisions, and only such provisions, as the authority is required to include in its scheme under this Clause, remains a model scheme within the meaning of subsection (7) of the Clause. This inclusion of rebates granted under Clause 19(7) within the model scheme will make them eligible for subsidy.
Amendments Nos. 56 and 57 are drafting Amendments to make it clear that any additional rebates or allowances granted under Clause 21(1) or (2) respectively to meet exceptional personal or domestic hardship of a tenant—that is, an additional rebate or allowance over and above that to which the tenant is entitled under the normal rules of the model scheme—do not count as part of the "standard amount" of rebates or allowances granted under the model scheme and so become eligible for subsidy. The cost of these additional rebates and allowances is to be met wholly by the ratepayers within the permitted total under Clause 22(1).
The purpose of Amendment No. 57 is to make it clear that the term "standard amount" as defined in subsection (8) applies also to periods in the financial year 1972–73 before the Bill comes into force. This is necessary because Clause 7(5), in dealing with the rate fund contributions for rent rebates to be made to the housing revenue account in 1972–73, clearly requires that there must be a standard amount of rebates for any part of the financial year preceding the introduction of the authority's scheme under Part II in which an authority is operating a discretionary rebate scheme.
A similar provision appears in Clause 8(5) in respect of rent allowances granted under local Act powers before the introduction of a scheme under Part II—which, incidentally, only affects Birmingham. In each case the "standard amount" of rebates or allowances is the amount of refunds and allowances which can attract subsidy.
In drafting Amendment No. 2 the Government have chosen to use the word "class"—perhaps not surprisingly—instead of the word "area". As I understand it, what is likely to happen in, say, Kensington or Wands worth is that those boroughs are divided into what, for want of a better term, one could call high-class areas and low-class areas. Some areas will have high rents and others, perhaps less profitable, low rents, but it is possible to find in such an area what one might call, for want of a better expression, a low-class dwelling in a high-class area, and, because of this pressure on rents, dwellings that are almost slums may command high rents. Can the paragraph be applied to dwellings in a certain high-class area, even though they do not fall within the class of dwellings which is readily recognisable?
I can give an assurance on those terms, It is necessary to widen the scope of the provision to enable authorisations to be made in respect of what are described as different classes of building but that, I think, is only for the purpose of explanation of different situations which can exist in different localities. For example, such a course might be desirable where an authority's overall average rent was not exceptionally high as compared with the rent levels of other authorities but where there were very high and very low rents, which is the kind of description of the borough, or possibly the area, to which the hon. Gentleman referred.
In such a situation, the overall average might not be high because of the distribution of high and low rent levels, but it might none the less be appropriate to make authorisations under Clause 20(5) to allow the authority to grant more generous rebates to tenants of the classes of dwellings let at very high rents. What it really amounts to is that this proposal gives the Secretary of State considerably more flexibility in the administration of the scheme to allow local authorities to make more generous allowances in appropriate circumstances and still attract subsidy.