HC Deb 04 April 1973 vol 854 cc429-32
12. Mr. MacArthur

asked the Secretary of State for Scotland what was the highest annual figure in the parliamentary Estimates for housing during the period 1965 to 1969; and how this compares with the parliamentary Estimates for 1973–74.

Mr. Younger

The highest annual estimate between 1965 and 1969 was £30.2 million in 1968–69. The estimate for 1973–74 is £101.6 million.

Mr. MacArthur

Does my hon. Friend realise that I am almost speechless? Is he aware that these remarkable figures make nonsense of the mischievous and alarmist housing stories spread about Scotland by those sour and prattling hon. Members opposite?

Mr. Younger

I have no illusions that even figures like these could make my hon. Friend speechless. Of course he is right: Opposition Members who made a great thing a year ago about the Housing Finance Act cutting subsidies have been proved totally and absolutely mistaken. I should have thought that they would have had the grace to admit it.

Mr. Eadie

Is the hon. Gentleman aware that, if anyone is speechless, it is the thousands, perhaps hundreds of thousands, who are confronted with the escalating prices of houses about which the Government are doing very little?

Mr. Younger

I should have thought that, whatever one may accuse the Government of doing or not doing, doing very little about inflation is the last accusation that could possibly be levelled against us. The hon. Gentleman knows that until inflation is conquered that sort of thing will go on. This Government have taken bigger steps than any other Government this century to do that.

Mr. Sproat

Will my hon. Friend emphasise on every possible occasion that the excellent figures which he has just quoted include the fact that there arc literally thousands of people in Scotland who, under the new Act, will live rent free from now on?

An Hon. Member: Nonsense.

Mr. Younger

That is a very important point. We have always maintained that more money could be made available for housing in Scotland provided that it was concentrated on those who need it most, which is precisely what we have done. The people concerned are very grateful about it.

Mr. Robert Hughes

How much of this total is the result of the record house building figures between 1964 and 1970? How much of the figure is due to inflation? What increase in house building does the Minister expect in the next couple of years?

Mr. Younger

I am not sure about all those questions. But absolutely none of this figure is in any way due to any activities by Opposition Members.

Secondly, the housing programme has received a welcome boost from the generous subsidy arrangements which were brought in by the Act. That is why local authorities had a record number of approvals to put to us, which they are now proceeding to go on and build.

Mr. Ross

Am I to understand that the quarter of a million houses built by the Labour Government, a record number, are attracting no subsidy at all? That would be the implication of the hon. Gentleman's answer. If those houses were not there, there would not need to be any continuing subsidy at all.

Mr. Younger

I must give the right hon. Gentleman a slide rule for Christmas because he will find that if his subsidy system had been carried on and the new Act had not been brought in, his subsidy would have produced nothing remotely approaching the figure of £101.6 million.

Several Hon. Members


Mr. Speaker

Order. On the theme of speechlessness, may I point out that 12 Scottish Questions have taken 37 minutes. I hope that we can make quicker progress.

16. Mr. Wolrige-Gordon

asked the Secretary of State for Scotland what is the expected expenditure under the parliamentary Estimates for housing in the year 1973–74; and how this compares with the equivalent sums in 1971–72 and 1972–73, respectively.

Mr. Younger

The figure is £101.6 million for 1973–74, compared with £50.1 million for 1971–72 and £61.4 million for 1972–73.

Mr. Wolrige-Gordon

Like my hon. Friend the Member for Perth and East Perthshire (Mr. MacArthur) I am speechless, but before I lose my voice altogether may I ask what steps the Minister can take to trumpet these facts all over Scotland?

Mr. Younger

The evidence of these facts is to be seen in the balance sheets of local authorities, which find that the new subsidy system gives most help where it is most needed. It is worth noting from all these figures that of all the years under the present Government, even the lowest year is substantially above the highest year under the previous Government.

Mr. Lawson

Will the Minister estimate how much of this new payment will come out of the rates, either for the present figure which has been given or for the figure covering the immediate future?

Mr. Younger

None of this figure comes out of the rates. It is Government money which is devoted to housing under the parliamentary Estimates for housing. But the rates will be substantially assisted too by the fact that the burden ratepayers now carry for housing will be more than halved over the next five years.

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