Comprehensive information is not available, because in many areas individual entitlements will not have been assessed. The number of council tenants who are being deprived of more generous rebates under the Act must amount to many thousands, and there are about 100,000 private tenants in the areas of those Scottish authorities which have said they are not implementing the Act.
Does my right hon. Friend agree that it really is shocking that so many people in Scotland should be done out of the cash benefits to which they are legally entitled by the illegal actions of certain Labour controlled local authorities? Could he give an example of a typical case of people being so deprived?
I agree with my hon. Friend that some local authorities are unfortunately depriving their electors, both ratepayers and tenants, of the benefits of the Act. I cannot pick out any particular authority. I would say that the large majority of authorities in Scotland are carrying out the Act.
Will the Secretary of State be fair and remind the House that the so-called benefits are reductions of increases in rent which were introduced by the Act? Will he tell the House how many people in Scotland are paying much more in rent now since the Act has come into force?
The Act is taking hardship out of rent-paying in Scotland. For the first time there is a comprehensive rebate scheme extending into the unfurnished private sector. That means that in future no family in Scotland will be asked to pay ordinary rent if it cannot afford to. As I indicated in my original reply, the exact numbers of persons involved cannot yet be assessed, because the rebate schemes themselves depend on individual assessments, but it is clear that gradual increases in ordinary rent are accompanied by the fact that no one will be expected in the unfurnished sector to pay ordinary rent in future if he cannot afford to.
Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that my constituency, where the Act is being and has from the beginning been implemented, is being deprived because of the Act of something like £l¼ million per annum on which the Government have welshed? Does the right hon. Gentleman think that this is a good example of pleading with people to implement the Act when the Govern- ment themselves have gone back on long-established undertakings given to the local authorities?
As the hon. Member knows, the amount of money from the Exchequer towards housing in Scotland is increasing and in most cases local authorities are getting more. Glasgow, for example, is due to get no less than £4 million more this year than in the previous year.
The right hon. Gentleman knows that up to 1st October Scottish ratepayers were contributing 35 per cent. of the cost of council housing and the tenants were contributing 40 per cent., and that in England and Wales the equivalent ratepayers' percentage was only 8 per cent. Therefore it has been the object to increase the Exchequer contribution and end the distortions by enabling the tenants to contribute more and reducing the burden on the Scottish ratepayers while protecting those tenants who cannot afford to pay an ordinary rent. The rent increases are carefully staged to be gradual.
Following public local inquiries held on 20th and 23rd November I found that Glasgow Corporation, Lanark County Council and Falkirk and Kirkcaldy Town Councils have failed effectively to discharge their duties in relation to rents and rent rebates under the Act. On 1st December I made default orders directing these four authorities within 14 days to instruct their officials to prepare rent rebate schemes in accordance with the Act and proposals for increases in standard rents in accordance with the requirements of the orders. Lanark County and Kirkcaldy have now resolved to implement the Act.
I have appointed reporters to hold similar inquiries on 27th and 29th December in relation to Midlothian County Council, and Clydebank, Dunfermline and Kilmarnock Town Councils; and I will arrange further inquiries as necessary.
Will my right hon. Friend give an undertaking that there will be no delay in pursuing this matter? Will he agree that this defiance of Parliament cannot be tolerated any longer? Will he confirm that this continued defiance of the law by Glasgow and 17 other local authorities is costing the ratepayers in those areas a great deal of money and is denying to the many thousands of tenants in need the more generous rent rebates which are provided under the Act?
I can give my hon. Friend an undertaking that the 1947 Act procedures have been and will be carried out as quickly as possible. There is a timetable involving the amount of notice that has to be given for local inquiries, which is 28 days, but the procedures have been followed as quickly as possible. I also confirm that an extra burden is being added to the ratepayers of the authorities concerned who are being punished by this action.
The inquiries are laid down by the 1947 Act. There is no question of their being farcical; they are required by this House. It had been arranged that advance payment of subsidy to authorities would be made by the Government in November under the Act. If certain authorities are refusing to carry out the Act, they cannot expect to get an advance subsidy arising from the Act.
Does the Secretary of State agree that, no matter what legalistic right he may feel he has on his side, the people of Scotland will condemn him for his moral wrong and bullying? Will the right hon. Gentleman promise to look into the details published in today's Glasgow Herald showing that at one such meeting CID members were present making notes, and that the police were present yesterday at a perfectly fair deputation of tenants to protest against his vindictive Act?
Until the hon. Member rose two minutes ago I had thought that hon. Gentlemen on the Opposition Front Bench were also advocating that local authorities should carry out this Act of Parliament, but from what the hon. Gentleman has said it sounds as though he is not. I only know what I have seen in the newspapers today and I cannot comment on the Glasgow Herald article.
asked the Secretary of State for Scotland if he will give the dates on which Dundee, Edinburgh and Lochgelly local authorities, respectively, decided to comply with the Housing (Financial Provisions) (Scotland) Act and the dates when he authorised the payment of the withheld portion of their housing subsidies.
Their latest decisions relating to compliance with the Act were taken by Dundee Corporation on 29th August, Edinburgh Corporation on 5th October and Lochgelly Town Council on 13th November. On 16th November I authorised payment to Lochgelly Town Council of the withheld portion of its housing subsidies. In the light of developments I have now arranged for payments to be made also to several other authorities, including Dundee.
While thanking the right hon. Gentleman for that rather belated action may I ask whether he is aware that the people of Dundee feel that they have been discriminated against by the Secretary of State, as the dates of these sanctions show, and that the withholding of £1 million in subsidy from the city of Dundee is costing the ratepayers £1,400 per week in interest charges alone?
I am aware of the second point, and I say straight away that no Government can completely insulate ratepayers from the follies of their elected representatives. As regards the payment of subsidies, in reply to a previous supplementary question I explained that I could not make payment of a subsidy in advance under an Act which a local authority was refusing to implement.