HC Deb 10 March 1971 vol 813 cc392-4
17. Mr. Booth

asked the Secretary of State for the Environment why he rejected the application of Barrow-in-Furness County Borough Council for extra home loan finance for purchase of private houses.

Mr. Amery

It has not been practicable in the current financial year to vary the financial ceiling imposed on local authorities by the previous Government.

Mr. Booth

Would the right hon. Gentleman agree that by rejecting applications such as these he is limiting owner occupation? Would he say whether or not that is the policy of the Government? Does he appreciate the need to increase the rate of house building and that if he took up some of the unemployed capacity of the building industry by, for example, granting these applications, he could make an appreciable contribution to the solution (if this problem?

Mr. Amery

I am sure that the hon. Gentleman appreciates that, given the clearly stated policy of this Government, I would very much welcome the chance to grant these applications. The trouble is that I am still a prisoner of the finances imposed on us by the Labour Government.

Mr. Freeson

The right hon. Gentleman said that it was impracticable, but that is not so. Is he aware that there have often been occasions when variations have been made in the financial limits within the current financial year then prevailing? Will he have another look at this whole matter, bearing in mind that many local authorities are seriously underspending on the house building financial limits imposed on them by the Government? Is he aware, therefore, that it would be possible for the Government to redirect resources, which will be underspent by local authorities, so as to expand this aspect of housing activity?

Mr. Amery

I will investigate any suggestion which the hon. Gentleman may make, but he will forgive me if I say that I am not prepared to take lessons from him. He and his colleagues were notoriously unsuccessful in all their dealings with the Treasury.

Mr. Costain

Does not my right hon. Friend agree that since this Government came to power building societies now have ample funds to deal with house purchase? Would it not be wise to advise hon. Members to apply to building societies for funds?

Mr. Amery

I think that the building societies can give more help than they have been giving in the past, and hon. Members opposite know this themselves. But I am conscious of the need to increase facilities available to local authorities to act as lenders where building societies cannot help. I take my hon. Friend's point to heart. I am not yet in a position, and will not be in this financial year, to make the improvements I would like to make, however.