HC Deb 07 July 1971 vol 820 cc1318-20
15. Mr. Robert Cooke

asked the Secretary of State for the Environment what is the number of houses started in 1971 to the latest date for which figures are available; and what increase this represents in percentage terms over the figure for the corresponding period of 1970.

Mr. Amery

In Great Britain 131,400 houses were started up to the end of May, 1971, as against 120,900 over the corresponding period in 1970, an increase of 8.5 per cent.

Mr. Cooke

I congratulate my right hon. Friend on that reply. Can he say what progress it represents in the private sector?

Mr. Amery

Yes—an increase of 23 per cent. over the corresponding period last year.

Mr. Loughlin

Apart from the steps which were taken by the Labour Government, would the right hon. Gentleman tell the House what precise actions, except for advertising, the Government have taken to stimulate house building?

Mr. Amery

Yes; they are not difficult to itemise. There has been the encouragement given to local authorities to provide mortgages; co-operation with the building societies; and the appointment of a good Minister for Housing and Construction.

Mr. Crosland

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that all of us, as we go round the country and visit our constituencies, are aware of the galvanic dynamic which he personally has induced? But would he give the House the starts for May this year compared with May last year, and, since they show a marked drop on May last year, will he be rather more modest in future about making these facile party polemical points?

Mr. Amery

The May starts this year were an improvement on the April starts, and the April starts were an improvement on the March starts. The total showed a marked improvement. The only—[HON. MEMBERS: "Answer."]—reason which leads the right hon. Gentleman to put that question is that the seasonal adjustment shows that the upsurge in building came rather earlier this year than it did last year.

29. Mr. Moyle

asked the Secretary of State for the Environment whether he will set out the aspects of housing which he took into consideration when helping to prepare the White Paper on public expenditure and the estimated amount of expenditure allocated to each aspect.

Mr. Peter Walker

I would refer the hon. Member to paragraph 35 of Cmnd. 4515.

Mr. Moyle

I am aware that it has not been the previous practice, and I am grateful for the compliment which the right hon. Gentleman has paid to his Labour predecessor. Would he not agree that it is about time we had another look at this matter? How are we to assess whether the Government are planning for local authorities to lend more on mortgages this year than last year if we do not have the figures? As for relying on the word of Ministers, does not our experience of 18th June show that that is a risky business?

Mr. Walker

It is impossible accurately to predict the increase in local authority mortgages for this coming year but it is certain that it will be substantial. I have already announced a further £46 million increase in expenditure on improvement grants.

Mr. Frank Allaun

Is it not a fact that we in Britain devote only 3.7 per cent. of our G.N.P. to housing, compared with 5.5 per cent. for the rest of Europe?

Mr. Orme

Common Market?

Mr. Allaun

And other countries—all 22 of them. As this explains why Britain is bottom of the list, with one exception, for the number of houses built per thousand of population, will the Government increase our share of the G.N.P. instead of cutting it by £150 million per annum, as they propose to do?

Mr. Walker

I am very surprised at the hon. Gentleman's suggestion. The reason why other countries spend a greater proportion of their G.N.P. on housing than we do is that their rents are higher.