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Extension Of Part Ii Of Housing Finance Act 1972 To Almspeople

Volume 887: debated on Monday 24 February 1975

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Lords Amendment: No. 16, after Clause 11, in page 9, line 18, at end insert new Clause B:

"B. After section 19 of the Housing Finance Act 1972 there shall be inserted the following section:—

'Allowances for almspeople

19A.—(1) Subject to subsection (2) below, it shall be the duty of every local authority, on and after such date as the Secretary of State may by order made by statutory instrument appoint, to treat as private tenants, except to the extent that regulations under subsection (4) below provide to the contrary, persons who occupy as their homes almshouse accommodation in the authority's area, and accordingly to make provision in their allowance scheme for granting them allowances, calculated in accordance with the scheme by reference to their needs and their resources, towards their almshouse contributions.

(2) Section 25 below shall not apply in relation to such persons, and in Schedule 3 to this Act "rent which is eligible to be met by a rebate or an allowance" means, in relation to such persons, the amount of their almshouse contributions.

(3) Regulations made by the Secretary of State with the consent of the Treasury may provide—

  • (a) that any enactment contained in this Part of this Act, other than this section and section 25 below, and any instrument made under any such enactment, and
  • (b) any enactment contained in Schedule 3 or 4 to this Act and any instrument made under either of those Schedules,
  • shall have effect, so far as the Secretary of State considers appropriate for giving effect to this section, subject to such exceptions or modifications as may be specified in the regulations.

    (4) Regulations under subsection (3) above shall be made by statutory instrument and shall be subject to annulment in pursuance of a resolution of either House of Parliament.'"

    I beg to move, That this House doth agree with the Lords in the said amendment.

    This new clause is the result of Government amendments tabled in the other place following representations by my hon. Friends the Members for Southampton, Test (Mr. Gould) and Southampton, Itchen (Mr. Mitchell) on Second Reading of the Bill as originally introduced.

    The purpose of this new clause is to enable persons who occupy almshouse accommodation as their homes to become eligible for allowances under Part II of the Housing Finance Act 1972 towards the contributions they pay. These persons are not eligible at present because the 1972 Act requires, broadly speaking, that the grant of a rent allowance can only be made to persons who are tenants of the accommodation they occupy as their homes, and who also pay rent for that accommodation. Occupants of almshouse accommodation—almspeople—are neither tenants nor do they pay rent as such in law.

    In view of rising costs and of contributions—the equivalent of rents—many almspeople may now be at a considerable disadvantage financially compared with tenants with similar incomes, paying similar amounts in rent. Of the estimated 25,000 occupants of almshouse accommodation in England or Wales, we estimate that about 5,000 are paying contributions in respect of which they might be eligible to claim allowances under this new clause. The remaining almspeople have lower incomes or resources and so are eligible to receive help towards their rent from supplementary benefit.

    Because of the need to adapt the existing legislation for rent allowances to the particular situation of almspeople who make contributions rather than pay rent as such, this provision is basically a twofold enabling power. First, it provides for the Secretary of State to make the necessary adapting regulations. Second, it provides for this extension of eligibilty for allowances to almspeople to come into force on a date approved by the Secretary of State. This will allow the necessary time to prepare the regulations and lay them before Parliament.

    This extension of the rent allowance system will be valuable in its small way in helping needy persons with their accommodation costs.

    I thank my hon. Friend for listening to the representations that he received from my hon. Friend the Member for Southampton, Test (Mr. Gould) and myself on this point. The new clause will remove a serious anomaly which recently came to light in certain almshouses in Southampton where rents were being increased by £2·40 per week, but the tenants were unable to claim or receive rent allowances.

    Will my hon. Friend indicate when the necessary regulations will come into operation, as this is an urgent matter? Large numbers of people have already had rent, or contribution, increases. It is, therefore, important that, as early as pos-

    "1957 5 & 6The Housing Act 1957.Section 79.
    Eliz. 2. c. 56.Section 143.
    1970 c. 44.The Chronically Sick and Disabled Persons Act 1970.In section 10, the words from "Central" to "of the" in the third place where those words occur."

    On 15th January, in reply to a Question from the hon. Member for Melton (Mr. Latham), I indicated that I had undertaken a review of the position of the Central Housing Advisory Committee which the Minister is required to appoint, under the provisions now in Section 143 of the Housing Act 1957 and had come to the conclusion that it should cease to exist, its work having been taken over by more effective

    sible, they shall be eligible for rent allowances so that they can be brought into line with other people in similar situations.

    I hope that I may have the leave of the House to reply to my hon. Friend the Member for Southampton, Itchen (Mr. Mitchell).

    I am seized of the point made by my hon. Friend and by our colleague the hon. Member for Southampton, Test (Mr. Gould) on Second Reading. I should have liked to have the legislation drafted for inclusion in the Bill, but that has not been possible because of rather complex aspects of getting such changes. For that reason we decided to have an enabling power. We shall seek to operate these provisions as soon as we can, but I cannot give an exact date for that.

    Question put and agreed to.

    Subsequent Lords amendments agreed to. [ Special entry.]