asked the Secretary of State for Social Services if she will take steps to ensure that all long-term recipients of supplementary benefit who request that rent and rates payments be paid direct to the owners of the property should have this facility made available to them.
Although direct payment will now be authorised more freely, it is not practicable to provide such a service to all who request it, irrespective of difficulty in paying their rent.
Since the Minister has obviously studied the point, can he say how many council and private tenants were evicted last year on grounds of nonpayment of rent? Is he aware of the views which have been expressed by housing departments and by social work departments that we could avoid an enormous amount of misery and distress, as well as cost to public funds, if every person on long-term supplementary benefit was given the right to have his rent paid direct if he so requested?
The answer to the first part of the hon. Gentleman's question would be for the local authority concerned and not for me. On the second part of the question, I cannot load the staff throughout the country, or even in the hon. Gentleman's locality, by undertaking in all circumstances to pay rent direct. There has been a change in the policy on the conditions recently laid down for the payment of rent by the Supplementary Benefits Commission. I hope that the hon. Gentleman will find this helpful. I hope he will continue to examine the matter closely to see whether these improvements bring about an amelioration of the situation which he has described.