I will be more than happy—in fact, it would be a pleasure—to meet the National Trust.
My constituent, Maria Bentley-Dingwall, has lived in her rented National Trust property for the last 12 years. She pays rent of £850. This is now going to increase to £1,450 per calendar month, which will be considerably in excess of the local housing allowance. As she is a disabled person, when she is eventually evicted for rent arrears, she will become the responsibility of the local authority, quite apart from the personal distress that that will cause her. Does the Minister agree that he should intervene with the National Trust to find out what it is doing and that, as a much loved body, it has a greater responsibility than tearing out the maximum amount of rent from its properties?
The hon. Lady makes a strong case for her constituent, as we would expect, and as I say, I would be more than happy to meet the National Trust. I know that it is reviewing its property policies generally and has decided to overcome the problems created by the modern ground rent regulations that are affecting many of its tenants. It is, however, a charity and it has to balance its legal obligation to maximise its income against its charitable obligation to those it cares for.
Earlier this year I met the Charity Commissioners to discuss the issue of ground rents and the National Trust on the Killerton estate, a National Trust property in my constituency. I am very pleased that the National Trust has agreed not to increase the ground rent of long-standing tenants, but I hear what my hon. Friend says about it. I am a member of the trust, which is, as it has just been described, a much-loved body. Does my hon. Friend—another much-loved body—agree that he should meet its representatives and encourage them to meet Members with National Trust properties in their constituencies to discuss how the trust can be a better neighbour and companion and conform with the Government’s housing agenda in the future?
I have absolutely no doubt that the National Trust’s shifting its position on modern ground rent was due to the pressure exerted and the highlighting of the issue by many Members, not least my right hon. Friend himself, on behalf of his constituents. As I have said, I should be more than happy to meet representatives of that august body and discuss its property policies generally.