HC Deb 22 May 1973 vol 857 cc220-2
Q4. Mr. Wyn Roberts

asked the Prime Minister if he will place in the Library a copy of his public speech on housing delivered at Sidcup on 7th May.

Q7. Mr. Clinton Davis

asked the Prime Minister if he will place in the Library a copy of the public speech which he made at Sidcup on 7th May 1973 relating to housing.

Q18. Mr. Norman Lamont

asked the Prime Minister whether he will place in the Library a copy of his public speech on the economy at Sidcup on 7th May.

Q19. Mr. Peter Archer

asked the Prime Minister if he will place in the Library of the House of Commons a copy of his public speech on Government housing policy at Sidcup on 7th May.

Mr. Barber

I have been asked to reply.

My right hon. Friend did so on 8th May, Sir.

Mr. Roberts

I welcome the Government's decision to spend an extra £35 million on housing, but will my right hon. Friend seek new ways and means of encouraging the sale of council houses to sitting tenants, as there is a widespread demand among sitting tenants for home ownership?

Mr. Barber

It is the policy of Her Majesty's Government to encourage the sale of council houses to sitting tenants. Under this encouragement local authorities and new towns in England and Wales sold 62,000 dwellings last year, 1972. One should compare that with the 1970 figure, which was 7,000, and with the fact that the number of local authorities which sold rose from 244 in 1970 to 621 in 1972. So I think that we are making good progress.

Mr. Davis

Will the right hon. Gentleman indicate why the Prime Minister failed in that speech to castigate those Conservative local authorities in outer London which have deliberately and wilfully refused to make land available to the stress areas of inner London? Such land is available and it is being refused out of political prejudice.

Mr. Barber

I do not accept what the hon. Gentleman said in the latter part of his question. I agree that the fairest and most efficient way of dealing with the situation which we face in many parts of the country is to ensure that the supply of land is increased.

Sir J. Rodgers

Does my right hon. Friend agree that some of the rural district councils near London in the green belt are reluctant to sell their houses unless they get an assurance that more land will be available for council house building? When will the Secretary of State for the Environment make a statement on this matter?

Mr. Barber

It is a fact that planning permissions were granted in the South East in the first nine months of 1972 for nearly 60 per cent. more private dwellings than in the same period of 1970. My right hon. and learned Friend the Secretary of State for the Environment in his statement and in his White Paper put forward other proposals which will go quite a long way towards increasing the availability of land.

Mr. Archer

Does not the right hon. Gentleman appreciate that no number of houses for sale can assist those who find the cost of houses perpetually receding away from their pockets? Does he accept that only a greater stock of council houses can assist the 90,000 people who are driven each year to apply to the local authorities for temporary accommodation?

Mr. Barber

The assessment of the need for council houses for local authority needs is the responsibility of the local housing authority. The Housing Finance Act 1972 created arrangements under which Exchequer help is concentrated on the people and on the areas which need it. That is the right way of tackling the problem.

Mrs. Sally Oppenheim

Will my right hon. Friend confirm that for the most part those who are given the opportunity to buy their council houses are the very people who would not be able to afford to buy their own homes in the ordinary way?

Mr. Barber

My hon. Friend is absolutely right. That is one of the principal reasons for putting forward this policy.

Mr. Edward Short

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that the national stock of houses to let is diminishing rapidly each year? Further, is he aware that many people, and all my right hon. and hon. Friends, believe that to sell council houses when there is an acute shortage of land is the height of irresponsibility?

Mr. Barber

I disagree 100 per cent. with what the right hon. Gentleman has said.