§ 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. 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. 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.
§ Mr. Moyle
I am aware that it has not been the previous practice, and I am 1320 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. 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.