HC Deb 18 April 1973 vol 855 cc463-5
1. Mr. Adley

asked the Secretary of State for the Environment what steps he is taking to encourage home ownership, in view of the recent increase in mortgage interest rates.

14. Mr. Wyn Roberts

asked the Secretary of State for the Environment what steps he is taking to increase home ownership, in view of rising mortgage rates.

34. Sir Gilbert Longden

asked the Secretary of State for the Environment what steps he is taking to encourage home ownership, in view of the recent increase in mortgage interest.

The Minister for Housing and Construction (Mr. Paul Channon)

The best way of encouraging home ownership is to increase still further the number of houses for sale. The measures set out in the White Paper "Widening the Choice: The Next Steps in Housing" will help to ensure an adequate supply of mortgage funds and building land which are essential for a high and stable level of house building.

Mr. Adley

I wholeheartedly agree with my hon. Friend that the first priority should be to encourage home ownership. What is the latest position on private sector starts, to the latest convenient date? Is he sure that the proposals in the White Paper will produce enough land? Does he feel that the building societies themselves are assisting the Government's aim of encouraging home ownership, especially for those who have never previously owned their own homes?

Mr. Channon

On the last part of that question, discussions have begun with the building societies and I am sure that they will be carried out helpfully and cooperatively. As for the other parts of the question, I believe that the steps proposed in the White Paper will ensure an adequate supply of building land being available. As for the number of private housing starts, if the rate of the last three months, from December 1972 to February 1973, were projected at an annual rate, we would have over 250,000 private starts this year.

Mr. Crosland

The county elections, of course, are now over. What will the Minister do if, as is still possible, building societies increase their lending rate to 10 per cent. at their next meeting?

Mr. Channon

It is a long-established rule in the House that one does not answer hypothetical questions.

Mr. Wyn Roberts

What steps is the Minister taking to encourage public sector house building? Does he not think that the whole process would be encouraged if he compelled councils to sell their houses to willing buyers?

Mr. Channon

We give every encouragement to local authorities to sell their own houses and I strongly support them in doing so. I hope that the Government will not be driven to taking compulsory steps, because the management of their housing stock is one for local authorities themselves. But I must say that my patience is sorely tried by the activities of some local authorities. As to the question of encouraging the public sector, I had a meeting yesterday with some of the local authority associations to discuss a number of matters. As I have made plain again and again in this House, I am anxious that in areas of housing stress there should be an active public sector house building programme.

Mr. Heffer

Has the Minister considered the establishment of a Government building society in order to pump in money provided by the Government and attract money for the Government, so as to bring down interest rates? What precise plans has he if the rate goes up to 10 per cent. as my right hon. Friend the Member for Grimsby (Mr. Crosland) suggested?

Mr. Channon

I do not think we need assume that it will go up to 10 per cent. The right hon. Gentleman was being uncharacteristically pessimistic. So far, I see no evidence of the need for a Government building society. There seem to be enough building societies already.

Mr. Allason

Has my hon. Friend any ideas on the supply of land for self-build groups? Does he recognise that they, at least, can produce houses without putting a strain on the building industry, which is one of the bottlenecks in the further provision of houses?

Mr. Channon

I am very keen on self-build groups. They provide only a small number of houses at present, but I will consider what my hon. Friend says to see whether there is any way in which they can be further helped. This is really up to the local authorities.

Mr. Frank Allaun

Would not the best way of helping owner-occupiers be to keep down the soaring cost of building land? Would not the most effective way of doing that be by the public acquisition of land at its existing use value, as farmland or waste land, instead of at the enormously inflated market value that it acquires once planning or building permission is given?

Mr. Channon

No, I cannot agree. The hon. Member's proposals would cost the country hundreds, if not thousands, of millions of pounds. They would be wholly impracticable and would fail to achieve their aim. What is essential is that there should be an adequate supply of building land, so that houses can be built on it. If that is done, it will stabilise the price of both houses and land.