I beg to move amendment No. 184, in page 75, line 31 at end insert—
'(5) Notwithstanding the previous provisions of this section, in determining a formula for the purposes of this section and insofar as the said formula includes variables relating to the rents payable by tenants of a local housing authority, the Secretary of State shall assume that the average rent payable by tenants of that authority will change by an amount or factor from the average rent payable in the year prior to that to which the calculation relates and that amount or factor shall be the same for each local housing authority.'.
It may be helpful if I keep my remarks short at this stage because I think the Secretary of State may want to intervene. Perhaps I shall be able to speak again later.
The amendment deals with council rents. We want to try to tie the Secretary of State, when fixing housing revenue account subsidy for each year, to assuming the same level of rent increase, in money or percentage terms, for each local authority. The Secretary of State and other Ministers know that we have been worried for some time because the Government have continually ducked the question of what they believe acceptable levels of rent to be. I and everyone in the housing movement know that no absolute definition can satisfy everyone, but we also know beyond reasonable doubt that rents are becoming increasingly unaffordable for many people, which is why so many have been driven to desperation or homelessness, and why the housing crisis is growing so rapidly. The concept of affordability shuld play at least some part in policy making.
In an earlier debate, I repeated some of the statements that the Minister had made in Committee about rents. I said that they showed an incredible confusion within the Government about what rents should be. In the past 12 months, Ministers have been saying that they do not want market rents, but the Minister is on record as saying—and a number of Government documents show—that not all council rents will rise to market levels. That strongly implies—it necessarily entails—that some council rents will rise to market levels. The Government must deal with this.