HC Deb 13 December 1972 vol 848 cc423-6
7. Mr. William Hamilton

asked the Secretary of State for Scotland why the total number of houses under construction fell from 42,997 in the first quarter of 1971 to 38,788 in the first quarter of 1972.

Mr. Gordon Campbell

Because of the low level of tender approvals for public sector houses in 1970. I am glad to say that the number of approvals has been steadily increasing since then.

Mr. Hamilton

The right hon. Gentleman is not telling the truth—[HON. MEMBERS: "Oh."]—as he will see if he looks at his own figures. Does he not recognise that at a time when there is an acute housing shortage in Scotland it is little short of a scandal that the total number of completions in 1972 is likely to be less than 35,000—the lowest figure since 1963, which was the last full year of 13 years of Tory Government? What does he intend to do about increasing the number of completions instead of steadily refusing approvals as he has done over the last two years?

Mr. Campbell

The hon. Gentleman has clearly got his figures muddled.

Mr. Hamilton

I have not.

Mr. Campbell

He is talking about completions in 1972, but they are dependent on approvals during 1970, for half of which the Labour Government were responsible. He is incorrect about the change in trend, because more houses were approved in the first nine months of this year than in the whole of 1970.

9. Mr. Sillars

asked the Secretary of State for Scotland, in view of the difficulties facing many young people seeking housing in the private sector, what action he proposes to take to assist people to overcome these difficulties.

Mr. Buchanan-Smith

My right hon. Friend is taking continuing action to promote an increase in the supply of private housing, on the lines indicated in his reply to my hon. Friend the Member for Perth and East Perthshire (Mr. MacArthur) on 27th April.—[Vol. 835, c. 361–4.]

Mr. Sillars

Is the Minister aware that the greatest difficulty encountered by young couples is in accumulating enough money for the deposit on a house? In the fruitless pursuit of houses which are constantly priced out of reach they may have to spend £25 on surveyors' fees on three or four houses, with the result that their deposit money is reduced until it sometimes disappears altogether. We cannot wait much longer for Government action on this matter which causes such acute difficulty for young people.

Mr. Buchanan-Smith

I appreciate what the hon. Gentleman says about the difficulty which faces young people. The basic answer is to try to increase the number of houses built for private ownership. It is significant that 1971 was a record year for private house-building in Scotland.

Mr. Ross

It is not just a question of the number of houses. The hon. Gentleman must be aware of the alarming rise in the cost of houses, particularly in the last 18 months. In the area in which I live, which is represented by one of the Ministers, prices are rocketing; young people do not stand a chance.

Mr. Buchanan-Smith

As I said, I appreciate the difficulties. It is more than the simple question of increasing the number of houses although the increase in the number of houses is of enormous help. The fact that an increasing number of houses is being built demonstrates the increasing demand for them.

14. Mr. Ewing

asked the Secretary of State for Scotland how many houses were submitted by Scottish local authorities for approval in each of the first three quarters of 1972; and what were the figures for the corresponding three quarters in 1971 and 1970.

Mr. Gordon Campbell

With permission, I will circulate the figures in the OFFICIAL REPORT.

Mr. Ewing

That is a very unsatisfactory answer, as I am sure the right hon. Gentleman will appreciate. Will he say whether the number of submissions in the third quarter of 1972 is drastically lower than they were in the third quarter of 1970 and what are the future prospects for council house building in Scotland?

Mr. Campbell

There are about a dozen figures as well as the different quarters to be recited, and I believe that the OFFICIAL REPORT is the place for those details. The first quarter of 1972 was affected by the building strike, so there is a difference there. Finally, the figure for the last quarter of 1971 was very large because of the possibility of Government subsidy to local authorities.

Dr. Dickson Mabon

Does the right hon. Gentleman recall that in Committee on the Housing Finance Bill he promised that the so-called "1st December houses" would continue in submission for the next few years? Therefore, it is vital to know whether in these three quarters there has been a substantial increase.

Mr. Campbell

Yes, I confirm the situation in reply to an earlier supplementary question. The number of approvals in the first nine months of this year has been greater than for the whole of 1970 and the whole of 1971. The Question asked for the dates, and submissions for approval is a different matter. Approvals have varied and have been spread in subsequent quarters, as the hon. Gentleman has suggested.

Following is the information:

1970 1971 1972
Submitted for Approval Submitted for Approval Submitted for Approval
1st Quarter 4,860 4,850 64
2nd Quarter 3,709 5,662 431
3rd Quarter 5,701 4,942 612
4th Quarter 6,731 28,611

27. Mr. Gourlay

asked the Secretary of State for Scotland how many municipal houses were completed in each of the financial years 1968–69, 1969–70, 1970–71 and 1971–72 in Buckhaven and Methil and Kirkcaldy, respectively.

Mr. Buchanan-Smith

With permission I will circulate the available figures in the OFFICIAL REPORT.

Mr. Gourlay

Is the hon. Gentleman aware that only 88 houses were built in Kirkcaldy in the last financial year ending May 1972 and that in only two years since 1945 have fewer houses been built in that burgh? Does not this indicate a complete failure of the Government's latest housing Act? Will the hon. Gentleman therefore withdraw that Act and substitute something which will provide more generous subsidies that will enable local authorities to built more houses?

Mr. Buchanan-Smith

The hon. Gentleman should realise that house completions in 1971–72 reflect tender approvals in 1969–70. That is the lesson he should draw from that situation.

Following are the figures:

Numbers of local authority houses completed:

1 April–31 March Buckhaven & Methil Kirkcaldy
1968–69 106 62
1969–70 122 436
1970–71 214 268
1971–72 17 136