HC Deb 03 February 1971 vol 810 cc1653-4
14. Mr. William Hamilton

asked the Secretary of State for Scotland if he is now ready to make a statement on his new housing policy.

Mr. Gordon Campbell

I refer the hon. Gentleman to the reply I gave to the hon. Member for Midlothian (Mr. Eadie) on 13th January, 1971.—[Vol. 809, c. 36.]

Mr. Hamilton

The right hon. Gentleman still has not given us a firm answer as to precisely what is the Government's policy. How can he now say that he has no firm statement to make or no White Paper to produce when the figures in the White Paper on public expenditure clearly show that there will be virtually no increase in expenditure on house building between 1969–70 and 1974–75? This must mean a decrease in housing subsidies. Will not the right hon. Gentleman now admit that this is his object?

Mr. Campbell

As I have made clear on many occasions, it is not the object to reduce the amount of housing subsidies now being paid. The Government's policy on housing has been made very clear and the details of its application are being discussed with local authorities, whose views will be carefuly considered.

Mr. Hugh D. Brown

I am more reasonable than my hon. Friend the Member for Fife, West (Mr. William Hamilton). Is the Secretary of State aware that there is much public disquiet about this matter? Unlike my hon. Friend, however, I do not want precise figures from him; but I think that we are entitled to know the broad figures within which he is working. For example, as to the proposal to introduce rent rebate schemes in the private sector, will the cost fall on public funds or will it be borne entirely by existing ratepayers? Surely the right hon. Gentleman can answer such broad questions as these?

Mr. Campbell

These have already been answered in statements we have made in the House. The policy of the Government is to redirect the amount at present being paid in subsidies. One of our objectives is to lift the burden on Scottish ratepayers, who are at present paying 35 per cent. of the cost of council housing as opposed to 7 per cent. in England. Another is to introduce proper rebate schemes throughout the public sector and, for the first time, in the private sector, where on average the tenants are poorer than those in the public sector. The greater part of that will be paid by the Exchequer.

Mr. Brewis

Is my right hon. Friend aware that any assistance he can give to tenants in the private sector will be generally welcomed in Scotland?

Mr. Campbell

I am already aware of the overwhelming support there has been in Scotland for this policy.

Dr. Dickson Mabon

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that there is considerable and genuine discontent and alarm among those in charge of the house-building programmes, and that this is borne out by the fact that the number of approvals since the Government created this state of uncertainty by not announcing their proposals in detail has fallen by over one-third over the last year? This is calamitous and is taking us back over ten years.

Mr. Campbell

The only alarm and uncertainty I know of has been created by the kind of questions put forward by hon. Members opposite. The fall-off in approvals and starts began in 1968 and 1969.

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