§ 27. Mr. Frank Allaun
asked the Secretary of State for the Environment how many public sector houses were started in 1971; how this compares with each year since 1961; and what steps he will take to stop a further decrease this year.
§ The Minister for Housing and Construction (Mr. Julian Amery)
The figures are published in Housing Statistics, which I am sure is available to the hon. Gentleman. The trend has been downward since 1967. I am not prepared to make a forecast for this year but it is clear that we have produced a substantial upturn in the private sector and there is an improvement overall in starts this year on last.
§ Mr. Allaun
Are not the figures released last week the worst for nine years? Does not the right hon. Gentleman appreciate that most of the people in serious housing need cannot afford to buy their own houses, particularly at the new exorbitant prices? Therefore, would not the best encouragement be for the Government to abandon their declared intention of cutting subsidies by up to £200 million a year compared with what they would be in 1975 and to increase them instead?
§ Mr. Amery
I recognise the importance of the hon. Gentleman's argument. He does not seem to accept the figures published by the Building Societies Association which show that more loans have been given to first-time purchasers than ever before, and more than ever before to people under the age of 25.
§ Mr. Freeson
Will the right hon. Gentleman desist from misleading the House and the country with regard to housing construction figures? Will he tell us the number of houses in both sectors under construction this month as compared with June, 1970? Is the number under construction today less than in June, 1970?
§ Mr. Amery
The hon. Gentleman has put a specific question and I would like notice of it. But in 1971 as compared with 1970 the picture of the national average was brighter and, even without the fair rents distribution subsidies, in stress areas such as greater London starts in the first quarter of this year were 9. per cent. up in the public sector. In Birmingham, as I told the House recently, the starts were 27 per cent. up in 1971 compared with 1970. The picture is therefore not altogether discouraging for the stress areas. Liverpool does not produce a very good report in the first quarter of this year, but Manchester shows an increase.