HC Deb 27 January 1971 vol 810 cc528-9
11. Mr. Leonard

asked the Secretary of State for the Environment what was the average price obtained in England and Wales in 1970 by local authorities selling three-bedroom houses, and the average cost of building a new three-bedroom house to Parker Morris standards.

Mr. Channon

Separate figures for the price of three-bedroom houses sold by local authorities are not available. The estimated average total cost, with land, for new three-bedroom houses for which tenders were accepted in 1969 was about £4,300. Figures for 1970 are not yet available.

Mr. Leonard

Is it not clear from the reply which the Minister himself gave to my hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham, Small Heath (Mr. Denis Howell) on 9th December last that local authorities which are selling council houses to sitting tenants are diminishing, not increasing, their financial ability to provide houses to people in need?

Mr. Channon

No, Sir. The fallacy under which the hon. Gentleman labours is that one has to replace each house which is sold. In fact, in the vast majority of cases, it is unnecessary to replace most of the houses sold.

Mr. Hugh D. Brown

Has the hon. Gentleman made any estimate of the effect on the selling price of a council house if he pursues the policy of reducing subsidies and increasing rents? Is that a matter of which the local authorities have been made aware?

Mr. Channon

As my right hon. Friend has already pointed out, the local authorities are well aware that discussions are going on about the whole reform of housing finance. I am sure that they are fully aware of the factors involved.

Mr. James Hill

Does my hon. Friend agree that the Parker Morris standards entail a considerable increase in the cost of building, with no appreciable benefit to the tenants, and does he realise the danger of giving a further turn to the spiral of building costs if the Parker Morris standards are made a "sacred cow"?

Mr. Channon

I note what my hon. Friend says, but the whole House is united in agreeing that we must not build houses which will become slums in the future.

Mr. Freeson

Returning to the original point, is the hon. Gentleman aware that his answer to my hon. Friend the Member for Romford (Mr. Leonard) must mean that there will be a reduction in the provision of council housing and a cut-back in the programme nationally? Second, is he not aware that his own party's manifesto and his right hon. Friend at Question Time on 25th November expressed the belief that there would be finance made available for new construction as a result of the sale of council houses, but that it is clear from the figures given today and on a previous occasion that nothing of the sort will result and that we are being misled on this subject?

Mr. Channon

I cannot accept that. The House is not being misled. There is a genuine difference of views about the effects of this policy between the two sides of the House. I note that the Labour Party is not in favour of council tenants having the opportunity to own their own houses.