HC Deb 13 January 1971 vol 809 cc36-7
2. Mr. Eadie

asked the Secretary of State for Scotland if he is now in a position to make a statement giving details of his discussions with local authorities on housing subsidies.

The Secretary of State for Scotland (Mr. Gordon Campbell)

Discussions started on 8th January, when my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State for Development met the local authority associations. At this stage I have no further statement to make.

Mr. Eadie

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that there is great concern in Scotland about the lack of information on the Government's financial policy for housing? We learn more from the Press than we learn in the House. When is the Working Party likely to report and what are its precise terms of reference? The right hon. Gentleman owes it to the House to give this information.

Mr. Campbell

I learned from my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State for Development that the meeting on 8th January covered a wide range of subjects. The Working Party will report as soon as it can. On the question of information, I can only say that hon. Members opposite must be either illiterate or deaf because I have given replies on this subject on at least three occasions in the last two months.

Mr. William Hamilton

Does the Secretary of State intend to consult the new town development corporations? Does he not recognise that if there is a decrease in housing subsidies it will hit very hard the tenants of houses in new towns where they have not the rates to fall back on?

Mr. Campbell

That confirms what I have just said. In three replies in the last two months to Questions in the House I have categorically stated that the present subsidies are to be not reduced but redirected. The aim is not to reduce the present amount. I shall be having consultations with the new town corporations.

Dr. Dickson Mabon

Does not the right hon. Gentleman realise that local authorities in Scotland are alarmed that £10 or £20 million is to be cut from the general subsidy? That is the import of the last statement on the matter. Does not the right hon. Gentleman understand that it is very important that a White Paper on this subject should be published at once or as soon as possible? Approvals and submissions to the Department are falling at a catastrophic rate because local authorities are alarmed by the right hon. Gentleman's proposals.

Mr. Campbell

The proceedings and the discussions are, of course, confidential, but the information which the hon. Gentleman has given is wrong, for there is no proposal to cut the present amount of housing subsidies. That is the savings which it is intended will be obtained by the mid-seventies. If the previous system had continued the amount would have escalated, as hon. and right hon. Gentlemen opposite should know, and they would, undoubtedly, have changed it. As regards—

Dr. Dickson Mabon

What about a White Paper?

Mr. Campbell

As for the suggestion about a White Paper, I will consider it when the present negotiations, which are confidential, are completed. They will be carried out as soon as possible. There was no sign, when my hon. Friend had those discussions last week, of any alarm among local authorities.