HC Deb 07 April 1970 vol 799 cc223-5
19 and 24. Mr. Christopher Ward

asked the Minister of Housing and Local Government (1) what is his latest estimate of the number of houses that will be started and the number that will he completed in Great Britain during 1970;

(2) how many houses have been started and how many have been completed in Great Britain during 1970 up to the latest convenient date.

Mr. Greenwood

It is too early in the year to make a reliable forecast. In the first two months of 1970, 37,536 dwellings were started and 49,963 completed in Great Britain. The decisions we have taken in recent weeks—notably the extra£50 million for local authority lending and the reduction in Bank Rate—will stimulate the rate of house building.

Mr. Ward

Does the Minister recall any previous occasion when a Government were falling short, mainly in the private sector, of their housing target. by 130,000 a year and at the same time there were 1,000 million bricks lying idle and 125,000 building operatives unemployed?

Mr. Greenwood

If the hon. Member is interested in research into past history, I should tell him that in 1963, the last full year of Conservative Government, there were 27,000 starts and 28,000 completions, which is much less than there have been in the present period.

Mr. Pavitt

Can my right hon. Friend say whether the savage cut-back in my borough from 1,900 starts to only 24 has been matched in other boroughs? Is it not deplorable if local borough councils try to cut back Labour's housing programme to make General Election capital?

Mr. Greenwood

What my hon. Friend has said is perfectly true. It is of some interest that, in spite of the difficulties, a number of local authorities are managing to maintain a very high level of house building, whereas others, like that to which my hon. Friend has referred, are falling short very seriously.

Mr. Rossi

Can the right hon. Gentleman say why it is too early to make a forecast for 1970, whereas only four years ago to the day, in 1966, he was able to forecast 500,000 houses being built in 1970? Does he not agree that the figures he has given show the biggest decline in completions since the war?

Mr. Greenwood

That may be due to the fact that at the time to which the hon. Member refers I was Minister for Overseas Development. I have no recollection of having made a prophecy of that kind. Indeed, I do not remember any other Minister of Housing giving a reliable forecast so early in the year.