HC Deb 18 October 1972 vol 843 cc252-3
19. Miss Fookes

asked the Secretary of State for the Environment if he will now take steps to encourage local authorities to build council houses for sale to residents of their areas, particularly to young couples with established local connections.

Mr. Amery

Yes, Sir. I consider in principle it is the task of the private developer to build for owner-occupation, but I am always prepared to look sympathetically at any proposal by a housing authority to building for sale where a particular demand would not otherwise be met.

Miss Fookes

Will my right hon. Friend actively encourage councils to take such a course, bearing in mind his own admission that there is an increasing demand for these houses and the fact that this would be one way of allowing young couples to find a house?

Mr. Amery

I hoped that my answer would be encouraging. There are a number of local authorities in London and outside it which have put up schemes. We are looking at them sympathetically and I hope that a number will be approved in future.

Mr. Freeson

Will the right hon. Gentleman take the matter further and seek to obtain a massive expansion in local authority building of all kinds, where there is need? Is he aware that figures for housing completions currently, both local authority and private, are lower than at the time when the Conservative Government took office? Is he particularly aware that in the local authorities in England and Wales there has been a reduction from the figure of 15,000 completions per month at the time when this Government took office to a figure of 7,400 completions?

Mr. Amery

The hon. Gentleman, with his long experience of local government, will know that all these things take time to get on the move. The most encouraging figure is that showing that the tenders for council-house building in the first six months of the year were 18 per cent. higher than in the last six months in office of the Government which the hon. Gentleman adorned.

Mr. Costain

Does the Minister not appreciate that houses built by councils always take longer to construct? Would it not be better to make a survey of land owned by local authorities and release it to private builders to get on with the job?

Mr. Amery

I believe that it is the function of private developers to undertake building for sale. There are cases—and at present there are many—when the private developer is not prepared to take on this work. In that case I do not see why local authorities in appropriate conditions should not build for sale.

Mr. Simon Mahon

Is the Minister aware that there are important local authorities which last year did not build one single council house? Is he also aware that the county borough of Bootle is to amalgamate with the county borough of Southport and will he have a word with these authorities to remind them of their social responsibilities in respect of this whole new social enclave which is to be created?

Mr. Amery

I will look into that point. The hon. Gentleman will appreciate that a good deal is being done throughout the country by local authorities of very different political persuasions, not only in building council houses but also in slum clearance.