HC Deb 07 May 1968 vol 764 cc202-3
21. Mrs. Renée Short

asked the Minister of Housing and Local Government what plans he now has to give additional help to those local authorities with a large immigrant population in order to relieve overcrowding.

Mr. MacColl

Special priority has already been given to authorities with severe housing problems, many of these being areas with large immigrant populations; as my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister has announced, further consideration is being given to the needs of these areas, and this will extend to both the provision of new houses and to the improvement of conditions in older housing areas.

Mrs. Short

Is my hon. Friend aware that all of us in the West Midlands very much welcome the speech made by my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister in Birmingham on Sunday? It gave the lie to those supporters of the right hon. Member for Wolverhampton, South-West (Mr. Powell), who claim that the Government have no concern for the people. [Interruption.] Will my hon. Friend see that some urgency is given to the problem of providing houses for both the local population and immigrant families? To this end—[HON. MEMBERS: "Too long."]—will he modernise the National Building Agency so that we can get prefabricated system-built flats and houses as speedily as possible?

Mr. Speaker

Every long supplementary question means one Question fewer can be put.

Mrs. Short

Interruptions make them longer.

Mr. MacColl

Wolverhampton is a priority area and we are not holding up its housing programme in any way. In the current year, it has a programme of 1,603 new houses as compared with 797 approvals last year. We are most anxious that it should build to full capacity.

Mr. Fortescue

Will the hon. Gentleman make clear whether such additional help to these local authorities will mean a reduction in help to other local authorities without this problem, but whose overcrowding needs are just as acute?

Mr. MacColl

No, Sir.

Mr. Lipton

Will my hon. Friend give any figures which he has to show how much has already been given by the Government to local authorities, particularly in the London area?

Mr. MacColl

My right hon. Friend gave some figures in his speech. If my hon. Friend would like some more figures, perhaps he will write to me and I shall be happy to help him.

Sir G. Nabarro

If the Prime Minister is to be called in aid, will not the hon. Gentleman complete the quotation and point out that the Prime Minister said quite definitely that any additional help given to areas of heavy immigration would have to be at the expense of normal local authority areas and out of existing resources? Will he make it clear that Wolverhampton will not be allowed to build at the expense of Worcestershire?

Mr. MacColl

The Government's policy has always been directed to concentrating on priority areas in housing. The West Midlands area qualifies as such and the Government subsidy, which has already been approved, will enable Wolverhampton to extend its building programme.

Mr. Rippon

Is the hon. Gentleman aware that while we can read what the Prime Minister said, once again nobody knows what he meant? Will he, therefore, issue some guidance to local authorities about what the Government now propose and who is to pay for it?

Mr. MacColl

There is no problem about what my right hon. Friend the Minister of Housing and Local Government means about the housing programme. He is determined to concentrate on those areas where houses are most needed and not try to bolster up his housing completions by building houses in areas of low priority.