HC Deb 15 December 1971 vol 828 cc458-60
36. Mr. Benyon

asked the Secretary of State for the Environment what steps he has taken to ensure that those local authorities with acute slum clearance problems are tackling the situation adequately.

Mr. Amery

The Housing Finance Bill will provide increased financial assistance to slum clearance on a scale not hitherto known. I accordingly wrote —on 16th November—to over 90 authorities with a substantial number of unfit houses asking them to see if they could clear these even more quickly than already planned.

Mr. Benyon

I thank my right hon. Friend for that reply. Is it not extraordinary that in some of these areas there are large numbers of building workers unemployed? Will he confirm that there is no financial obstacle whatever to the employment of these men by the councils concerned?

Mr. Amery

Yes, Sir. I can confirm that there is no financial obstacle whatever. As my right hon. Friend and I have said on more than one occasion, there is no reason why local authorities should not clear the backlog of slums in the next decade.

Mr. Kaufman

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that the City of Manchester has one of the worst slum problems in the entire country and that my constituency has one of the worst slum problems in Manchester? Is he further aware that the newly-elected Labour council's attempts to clear the backlog left by the incompetence of its Tory predecessor will have an enormous burden of £1 million placed upon it if the Housing Finance Bill becomes law?

Mr. Amery

I am sorry that the previous Administration should have left the hon. Gentleman's constituency with such a deplorable situation after six years in office. However, I assure him that our new housing subsidy slum clearance proposals will help in a way which Manchester has never been helped in the past.

Mr. Tebbit

Has my right hon. Friend had any representations from local authorities suggesting that they are dissatisfied with the provisions of the Housing Finance Bill so far as they affect the proposals for improved slum clearance subsidy?

Mr. Amery

I think that I can say without fear of contradiction that the proposals for slum clearance subsidy have been universally welcomed by all local authorities.

Mr. Freeson

The Minister has indicated, not for the first time, that there is no reason why local authorities should not clear all outstanding slums—about 2 million of them—in the coming decade. Will he confirm that the Statistical and Research Division of his Department has estimated that to achieve this objective there is a need for about 174,000 housing starts by local authorities per year throughout the next 10 years? If this figure is confirmed, will he give us some indication when the Government intend to reach anywhere near that figure of local authority housing starts?

Mr. Amery

The hon. Gentleman has characteristically built up an interesting mathematical case. Neither my right hon. Friend nor I would have said what we have said unless we had considerable confidence in the forecasts which we have made.