HC Deb 05 May 1970 vol 801 cc172-3
3. Mr. Costain

asked the Minister of Housing and Local Government what consultation he has had with the local authority associations about the alteration of the cost yardstick limits.

The Minister of Housing and Local Government (Mr. Anthony Greenwood)

Following discussions with representatives of the local authorities, the cost yardstick limits have been increased on average by a little over 5 per cent. for tenders accepted on or after 15th April.

Mr. Costain

Does the Minister appreciate that we welcome this increase in the cost yardstick? Does he realise how much this has been due to the Government's taxation policy, particularly S.E.T.? Why has this been so long delayed? Does he not appreciate that this has been holding up the local house building programme?

Mr. Greenwood

We have had arguments across the House about S.E.T. in the past and I have noted the hon. Gentleman's views. We could not have had discussions about revising the cost yardstick earlier. A great deal of firm information has to be collected before a decision is taken. I have agreed with the local authority associations to further talks with them this year to review the progress made between now and then, but that does not necessarily imply an automatic increase later this year or early next year.

Mr. Rossi

Is the right hon. Gentleman still receiving representations from local authorities that the cost yardstick procedures are causing delays in their getting on with their programmes?

Mr. Greenwood

I did some time ago. I am not aware of any complaints being made recently, but if the hon. Gentleman has any cases in mind, I will look at them. This was largely a phenomenon of the early days of the cost yardstick. Most authorities now know the proper procedure and find that, if anything, it speeds up the procedure for their applications.

Mr. Ogden

But is my right hon. Friend not aware that many Conservative- controlled authorities, including Liverpool, are using every possible excuse not to build houses or to look after the municipal houses they already have? Would he consider not persuasion or help or encouragement but at least a kick in the pants to some local authorities?

Mr. Greenwood

That is a very tempting proposition, but I am not sure whether my general relations with local government would be eased if I took my hon. Friend's advice. I am sure he realises that last year I went to Liverpool and had lengthy talks with the housing department about the cost yardstick. I sanctioned a special increase in the cost yardstick in respect of that authority.