HC Deb 31 March 1971 vol 814 cc1484-8
18. Mr. Gordon Walker

asked the Secretary of State for the Environment when he expects to complete his consultations with London boroughs and the Greater London Council regarding their future housebuilding programmes.

19. Mr. Russell Kerr

asked the Secretary of State for the Environment if he will now make a statement on the consultations which he has had with London boroughs concerning their housebuilding programmes.

Mr. Amery

Consultation with London housing authorities on housing matters in Greater London is a continuing process.

I propose, however, to convene a conference of these authorities to consider future policy.

This will be held as soon as practicable after the London borough elections.

Mr. Gordon Walker

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that it would have been much wiser to have started these continuing negotiations rather earlier? Is he further aware that it is extremely important that they should result in a speed-up of council building and bring to an end the scandalous waiting lists in such areas as Waltham Forest and many other London boroughs?

Mr. Amery

As I said, this is a continuing process which has been going on all the time. The conference is a further step. The housing situation is complicated, but the indications are that more tenders will be approved this year than last. The right hon. Gentleman, who served his political apprenticeship under Lord Morrison of Lambeth, will, I am sure, be glad to hear that Lambeth is doing extremely well under a Conservative-controlled council.

Mr. Geoffrey Finsberg

Would my right hon. Friend not agree that if in the three decades prior to 1964 the G.L.C. and the majority of the Labour-controlled inner London boroughs had done their job there would not have been this inheritance today?

Mr. Amery

My hon. Friend's comments are very much on the ball.

Mr. Leonard

Has the London Borough of Havering, which has a waiting list of more than 4,000 families, given any assurance about whether it intends to increase its present derisory programme of housing starts?

Mr. Amery

Perhaps the hon. Gentleman would table a Question on that point.

29. Mr. Spearing

asked the Secretary of State for the Environment what is the number of municipally-owned dwellings, for which he has given loan sanction, likely to be completed in the London Borough of Ealing in 1971.

Mr. Channon

The hon. Member should apply to the Council for this information, since the day-to-day management of the house-building programme, on which the rate of completion of dwellings depends, is in their hands.

Mr. Spearing

I am mystified by that reply because according to returns by the hon. Gentleman's own Department there were 774 starts in the London Borough of Ealing in 1968 and only 22 last year. Is the hon. Gentleman aware that, because of this, priority medical cases in the London Borough of Ealing cannot be rehoused? Would he not agree that it is a typical example of Conservative Government?

Mr. Channon

On the contrary. What the hon. Member fails to take into account is that last year nearly 800 dwellings were completed, and I am glad to tell the House that there is a programme for approximately 1,000 dwellings in each year, 1971 and 1972.

31. Mr. Weitzman

asked the Secretary of State for the Environment what proposals he has received from the London Borough of Hackney as to the number of houses to be built in the years 1971, 1972 and 1973.

39. Mr. Clinton Davis

asked the Secretary of State for the Environment what response he has received to requests made by him to the London Borough of Hackney for an accelerated housing programme.

Mr. Channon

The future level of local building by the borough has already been discussed at two meetings with the council and is still under discussion.

Mr. Weitzman

Is the Minister aware that there has been a deliberate run-down in the housing programme prepared by the Labour council in 1961 for a period of 10 years and that no provision has been made for the years following 1973, although there is a very large housing list? Would he not regard that as scandalous conduct on the part of the borough council?

Mr. Channon

On the contrary, I can tell the hon. Member that in the three years of Conservative control on the council there were 3,000 completions compared with 1,400 when the Labour Party was in power.

Mr. Clinton Davis

Is the hon. Member aware that next year completions will be 800, the following year 600, and that there is no adequate programme for the years to follow, and nothing like a 10-year plan? Is he aware that there has been a deliberate refusal on the part of the local Conservative authority to implement compulsory purchase orders—in fact there is almost a conspiracy by Hackney? Is he also aware of the fact—[HON. MEMBERS: "Too long."]—that the Conservative council is engaged in the disposal of land which has been earmarked for municipal development and that this is adding to the burdens upon a long-suffering public?

Mr. Channon

I can well understand the hon. Member seeking to clutch at straws in this matter. The facts are these. I have already given the number of completions. I will now give the figures for starts. In 1965 during the Labour administration there were promised to be 1,800 a year. Under the Conservatives, in three years, to 1970, they are over 3,000.

33. Mr. Atkinson

asked the Secretary of State for the Environment if he will state those London boroughs with whom he or his officials have had consultations regarding their future house-building programmes, and those with whom consultations have yet to be held.

36. Mr. Barnes

asked the Secretary of State for the Environment with which London boroughs he has had consultations regarding their house-building programmes.

Mr. Channon

Consultations about the house-building programme are a regular and continuing feature of the Department's relationship with the London boroughs. In the current round consultations have been held with all boroughs except Wandsworth, with whom a meeting has been arranged to take place shortly, and Richmond.

Mr. Atkinson

Now that the Minister's right hon. Friend has announced that he is to convene a meeting after 13th May, will he accept that on 13th May the majority of the London boroughs will return a majority of Labour councillors and that then the total commitment of London boroughs will be to build not fewer than 250,000 houses during the next 10 years? Will he now tell the House on behalf of the Conservative Party that it will give a guarantee to Londoners that in the next 10 years it will build not fewer than 250,000 houses for Londoners?

Mr. Channon

What I can tell the House is that for more than 30 years the Labour Party was in control of London and we can see the ghastly results.

Mr. Barnes

Is it not very unsatisfactory to have borough elections taking place, especially in London, which is very important, with the uncertainty about what the house-building programme will be, according to how the right hon, Gentleman defines stress areas or how he does not, and with tenants having no idea of how large the housing list may be as a result of Government policy?

Mr. Channon

I can see that it is very unsatisfactory to the hon. Member's party to note from the tenders that there are likely to be more completions this year than last year.

Mr. Freeson

The hon. Gentleman must know that that answer is no great encouragement. Will he recall that in London the rate of housing reached a level of about 30,000 about three years ago in one year but has now dropped over these last years—[Interruption.] That is right. Since the Conservatives won control of the town halls in May, 1968, the number has dropped. [Interruption.] The hon. Member should act like a Minister. I assure hon. Members opposite that I know the subject a little better than the Minister does.

Mr. Speaker

Order. Will the hon. Gentleman put a supplementary question?

Mr. Freeson

I shall be very glad to do so if the Minister will stop interrupting. Is the Minister aware that since the Conservatives returned to power and took over control at the town halls in May, 1968, in so many London boroughs and at the G.L.C. there has been a drop from 30,000 housing starts in 1967 to 18,000 currently? What does the Minister intend to do to get the housing starts up to at least 30,000 a year as soon as possible?

Mr. Channon

I can well understand the Labour Party's sense of guilt about the situation which London housing is in. [HON. MEMBERS: "Answer"] I will indeed answer the question. The facts are that in 1970 completions—[HON. MEMBERS: "Starts."] I notice that hon. Members opposite are very sensitive about completions. I can well understand that. In 1970 completions were nearly 4,000 more than they were in 1968 and they very much look like being more this year.