HC Deb 21 April 1964 vol 693 cc1069-70
24. Mr. Frank Allaun

asked the Minister of Housing and Local Government and Minister for Welsh Affairs why information about average weekly interest charges on council dwellings in Great Britain and in Salford for 1951 and 1963 is not available to him, in view of the fact that he possesses the corresponding information for Slough.

Sir K. Joseph

My only regular source of information is the epitomes of accounts submitted by local authorities. These show the total interest charges borne on housing, account, but not the cost of new borrowing in any year.

This can be got only by asking the local authority, which—perhaps mistakenly—I did in the case of Slough. The time spent in obtaining similar material from other individual authorities—and as requested by the hon. Member, for all houses in Great Britain—would in my view be quite disproportionate to the result which would merely confirm what is already known, namely that interest rates now are higher than they were in 1951. But then so are the housing subsidies paid to the authorities to assist them to meet this higher interest rate.

Mr. Allaun

If the Minister could go to this trouble in the case of Slough, why can he not do it in the case of Salford? I hate to suggest this, but surely he was not trying to avoid disclosing damaging information showing, as in the case of Slough, that the interest charged for an average three-bedroomed house has gone up from £1 a week to £2 10s. a week in this period? If I have understood the right hon. Gentleman, I think he is above that kind of thing.

Sir K. Joseph

The hon. Gentleman appears to be a bit of a pace setter. A large number of his hon. Friends have been putting down Questions of his sort. I suggest that if they are interested in detailed information which is not available to me, they should ask their own local authorities for it. I will publish all the information I have of the sort that is available in published accounts.

Mr. Brockway

If I table for other boroughs questions similiar to that which I tabled for Slough, and to which I got an answer, will the right hon. Gentleman provide the answer for those other boroughs as well?

Sir K. Joseph

I am anxious to extend to all hon. Gentlemen the courtesy that I show to any, but the point is that what I did in one case would be a waste of administrative resources—[HON. MEMBERS: "No."]—if I did it for all local authorities.

Mr. M. Stewart

Surely there is no great trouble caused to the Minister in asking for this information? If any trouble is caused, it must be to the local authority in answering. Has the Minister received any complaint from Slough about its being put to unnecessary trouble? If there are to be complaints that this is too much bother, surely the local authorities rather than the Minister would be entitled to make them?

Sir K. Joseph

It is my job to defend the officials both of the Ministry and of Local Government. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh."] What I am asked for by a number of hon. Members is detailed figures for each year from 1951 for each authority. 'This would involve a very great deal of administrative work.