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Furnished Lettings

Volume 888: debated on Wednesday 19 March 1975

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asked the Secretary of State for the Environment how many furnished lettings were available in England and Wales in each year from 1969–70 to 1974–75.

763,000 households, 4.6 per cent. of all those present on census night in April 1971, were occupying furnished accommodation. Comprehensive information for other years is not available.

That seems a remarkable answer, because the Minister is basing quite a lot—[Hon. Members: "Question."] Does he not realise that what is, I believe, a stable situation will collapse dramatically because of the disincentives incorporated in the Rent Act? Will he stop deluding himself that the only thing that is falling off is the number of newspaper advertisements? The disincentives are forcing landlords to close down the lettings they have been offering.

If the hon. Member has specific information rather than generalisations, I shall genuinely be glad to receive it so that we may more effectively monitor what is happening in the wake of the Act. As for the absence of information for other years, there is nothing startling about that. A census will be taken in 1976 upon which basis we shall be able to update information. It is true that some sample surveys have been taken, but they are hardly an adequate basis for comprehensive statistics.

Will the Minister take seriously the point raised by my hon. Friend? Will he apply some common sense to the whole problem of furnished lettings? Will he now set up an inquiry into the effect of the 1974 Rent Act and apply serious thought to the possibility of providing a new form of short-term tenure?

On that last point, as I made clear in an answer a week or two ago, the answer is No ". I do not think that an inquiry is warranted. [Hon. Members: "Oh."] The Opposition, particularly hon. Members with knowledge of property dealings, would do well to stop playing politics with this issue.