§ 2. Mr. Frank Allaun
asked the Minister of Housing and Local Government if he will give approximate figures for the total number of houses started so far this year and the comparative number last year; whether he estimates that there will be an increase next year; and if he will reject any further reduction in the target of 500,000 because of the projected increased number of improvements.
§ The Minister of Housing and Local Government (Mr. Anthony Greenwood)
306,000 houses had been started up to the end of September this year in Great Britain compared with 353,000 over the same period last year. Last year's figures reflect the starts in the private sector made to avoid betterment levy. I expect public authorities to start at least as many houses in 1969 as in 1968 but it is still too soon to make a forecast for the private sector.
We intend that total public investment in housing should remain about its present level but that a greater share should be devoted to the improvement of older houses.
§ Mr. Allaun
Is the Minister aware that that is a rather alarming reply because it indicates no increase in the present total? Does the 500,000 target, less the 33,000 reduction a year, announced in January, remain the target for 1970, in addition to the 200,000 improvements? We need all of them desperately, and his reply last July was not very definite.
§ Mr. Greenwood
I have not named any further targets since the abandonment of the 500,000. As my hon. Friend knows, completions have been raised to a record level. At the end of September, 479,750 houses were under construction.