HC Deb 28 April 1971 vol 816 cc401-3
9. Mr. Bray

asked the Secretary of State for the Environment how many local authorities are granting loans to the owner's share of a house improvement scheme.

16. Mr. McCrindle

asked the Secretary of State for the Environment how many local authorities operate loan schemes to assist householders to meet their 50 per cent. share of house improvements; and if he will issue a circular further to encourage this practice.

The Minister for Housing and Construction (Mr. Julian Amery)

The number of local authorities offering such loans is not known.

Authorities are, however, already being given, and will continue to be given, every encouragement to help in this way. The total amount of loans to private owners for conversion, alteration, repair or improvement of their dwellings rose from £3,849,000 in 1969 to £4,386,000 in 1970.

Mr. Bray

I thank my right hon. Friend for that reply. I regret that he cannot give the precise increase in numbers over the past year. Would he give every possible encouragement, particularly to local authorities in intermediate areas, to provide loans for housing improvement purposes? Would he also request them to publish in their local newspapers, or in other media, the fact that these loans are readily available?

Mr. Amery

Yes, Sir. My hon. Friend will see that this is already happening. In January and February of this year local authorities increased their improvement grants by 78 per cent., as against January and February of last year, for local authority buildings, and by 22 per cent. for private buildings, making an overall total of an increase of 35 per cent. in improvement grants.

Mr. McCrindle

Will my hon. Friend impress upon local authorities that this is money very well spent in that it helps to maintain and improve our existing stock of houses?

Mr. Amery

Yes, Sir. The great bulk of local authorities, certainly under present management, are very well aware of this.

Mr. Blenkinsop

Would the Minister continue to do his best to encourage local authorities—as he has already done in my constituency—to use their powers where the owners concerned are unwilling to take action?

Mr. Amery

Indeed, Sir, and this is already being done. I would certainly press on with this good cause.

Mr. James Hill

I appreciate what has been said about the improvements. Would my right hon. Friend not agree that this scheme requires greater simplification, especially when dealing with the older owner-tenant?

Mr. Amery

Yes, Sir, we are trying to refine and improve the scheme and to publicise it at every possible stage.

29. Mr. Emery

asked the Secretary of State for the Environment what further publicity he is undertaking in the next few months for improvement grants under the Housing Act, 1969.

Mr. Amery

As my hon. Friend may have seen, we have just begun a new national Press advertising campaign planned to run through the spring and early summer, and there will be further national advertising in the autumn.

We are now drawing towards the close of a successful first round of local house improvement months, and I have written to the lord mayor or mayor as the case may be of a further 50 cities and towns inviting them to co-operate in local campaigns.

I am also proposing, in agreement with the Greater London Council and the London Boroughs Associations, to seek the co-operation of all London authorities in a major improvement campaign for the whole of London in the spring of 1972

Mr. Emery

While I am delighted to see that my Question has stimulated this activity, might I ask my right hon. Friend to consider in this publicity the problem of certain boroughs which attempt to have all the exact plans for an improvement before they will even give an in-principle decision on whether a grant might be allowed? This is obviously a financial drawback to people applying for grants and should be discouraged, because in-principle decisions do not require such exact information.

Mr. Amery

The great majority of boroughs have agreed to go forward on the basis recognised today. If my hon. Friend has knowledge of any authorities which are in particular difficulties, perhaps we can discuss them together.

Mr. Bowden

Has my right hon. Friend considered the possibility of supplying leaflets which could be delivered in appropriate areas by local authorities to give even further publicity to the scheme?

Mr. Amery

A number of local authorities distribute their own leaflets, but I will consider my hon. Friend's suggestion about whether we might help in the process.