HC Deb 28 April 1971 vol 816 cc409-11
18. Mr. Frank Allaun

asked the Secretary of State for the Environment if he will now make a statement on the future of the private and council house building programmes; and what steps he will take to increase them.

Mr. Amery

The Government have announced a number of measures which will assist house building in both the private and the public sectors. I am confident that the policies we are pursuing provide a sound basis for a vigorous and successful housing programme.

Mr. Allaun

Is the Minister aware that last year housing starts fell to 319,000? Does he agree that this year they will be below 300,000, and that this fall will be accelerated if he reduces housing subsidies by £150 million a year and refuses to allow building firms in the private sector to obtain bank loans?

Mr. Amery

The facts had better speak for themselves. Starts in January and February were 2½ per cent. up on last year in the public sector and in the private sector they were 27½ per cent. up, making a total for public and private sector of 15½ per cent. up. We do not yet have the March figures, because of the postal strike, but if the N.H.B.R.C. figures are to be believed, there is an increase in starts in the first quarter of this year of 48 per cent. over last year.

Sir R. Thompson

If my right hon. Friend requires any further help or advice in what he is doing, will he consider consulting the Croydon Borough Council, which over the past 10 years has out-built, in both the public and private sectors, any other London borough?

Mr. Amery

I am always grateful for advice, and shall be very glad to receive any representations the borough may like to make to me, direct or through my hon. Friend.

Mr. Freeson

I am not sure about advice at this stage, but is the right hon. Gentleman aware that since the Conservatives took control of most of the town halls throughout the country three years ago there has been a major reduction, amounting to 40 per cent., from 178,000 housing starts in 1967 to 105,000 in 1970, and that according to tender figures which his Department has in its possession, I am informed, it is estimated in the Department that the figure of local authority housing starts in 1971 will come down below 100,000? Will he stop misleading the public and the House on this matter, as his hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State has been doing?

Mr. Amery

The hon. Gentleman is trying to play with figures. The facts are quite clear, that in January and February this year the public sector is up by 2½ per cent. on the same period last year and the private sector is up by 27½ per cent., and that the overall increase in starts between 1970 and 1971 is up by 15½ per cent. Should anyone think that we have been favouring the private as against the public sector, it is worth saying that in the public sector improvement grants have increased by 78 per cent. in January and February this year compared with last year.