HC Deb 25 January 1972 vol 829 cc1191-2
Q1. Mr. Frank Allaun

asked the Prime Minister whether he will publish his reply to the letter from the hon. Member for Salford, East, concerning the expediting of local authority housing programmes, in view of unemployment in the building industry.

The Prime Minister (Mr. Edward Heath)

I have placed a copy of this letter in the Library of the House. It describes the policies we have put in hand to ensure the maximum possible level of activity in new house building, slum clearance and house improvements; and the significant results already achieved.

Mr. Allaun

Am I not right in saying that the Prime Minister's letter fails to deal with my main proposal, which is that he should ask local authorities to bring forward by six months their council housing programmes, which I am told is practicable in most cases? Would not this help both the homeless and the 147,000 building workers now out of work?

The Prime Minister

I think that the hon. Gentleman will agree that the letter I sent to him was lengthy and dealt with a very wide range of points. But it did not omit to deal with what he believes is the key point. What I said was this: The local authorities know the Secretary of State for the Environment is prepared to approve any housing scheme which they put to him subject, of course, to the usual standards and yardstick requirements. I think that that meets the hon. Gentleman's point.

Rear-Admiral Morgan-Giles

Will my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister keep on trying to make the Opposition see the point that one of the best ways of expediting the building of more council houses is to allow existing council house tenants to buy the houses they live in, if they wish to do so?

The Prime Minister

That is an important point. Obviously when local authorities sell such houses, it enables them to replace their stock.

Mr. Crosland

Is the Prime Minister aware that while we have over 140,000 unemployed building workers, the figure for starts of local authority housing in the third quarter of last year was 18½ per cent. lower than in the year before and the lowest since 1961. Would it not be a good thing to put some of these unemployed workers to building council houses?

The Prime Minister

This must be a matter for the local authorities to decide. Some local authorities are in a position in which their housing requirements are already met. Others, I am told, already have a surplus. Therefore, it must be a matter for local authorities to decide. I have indicated that the Secretary of State for the Environment will give his approval if they wish to build. But the right hon. Gentleman should also recall that the fall in the public sector was more than compensated by a 22 per cent. increase in the private sector.