HC Deb 21 November 1973 vol 864 cc1320-2
14. Mr. James Hamilton

asked the Secretary of State for Scotland what were the approvals for house building in the first two quarters of each year since 1965.

Mr. Younger

With permission, I will circulate the figures in the OFFICIAL REPORT.

Mr. Hamilton

Will not the Under-Secretary reveal that the OFFICIAL REPORT will show that since 1965 there has been a reduction in the number of approvals both in the public sector and in the private sector? Will he concede that there has been a reduction in the public sector because of the Housing (Financial Provisions) (Scotland) Act and in the private sector because of the present very high interest rates the Government have? Will the hon. Gentleman also reveal to us that the Government's record in comparison with that of the previous Government is absolutely deplorable and a scandal to the country?

Mr. Younger

I take absolutely the opposite view about the present Government's housing policies. The hon. Gentleman will know from these figures, all of which are available already, that the decline in approvals started after 1967 and continued in 1968 and in 1969. I have no doubt that the hon. Gentleman's right hon. Friend the Member for Kilmarnock (Mr. Ross) will tell him the reason for that. The hon. Gentleman might be equally delighted to hear that the record year for approvals was 1972, under this Government. I claim with confidence that the total housing policy of this Government has made a bigger contribution to better-quality housing for the people of Scotland than any previous efforts.

Mr. Bruce-Gardyne

Does not my hon. Friend agree that the primary preoccupation of electors in Scotland is inflation and that to add further to the pressure on the construction industry in Scotland at this time would only make the problem more acute?

Mr. Younger

There is no doubt something in what my hon. Friend says. That is why the recent measures announced by my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister for easing the burden on the construction industry were so very important. We have put such a top priority on housing that it is exempted from, and therefore not affected by, all these measures.

Mr. Robert Hughes

Will not the Government be very lucky if they build 20,000 houses in Scotland this year, and therefore there is no danger of the kind of eventuality mentioned by the hon. Member for South Angus (Mr. Bruce-Gardyne)? Is the Under-Secretary aware that, despite all his exhortations and the pride he takes in what he does for housing, the figure of 20,000 represents a 40 per cent. drop in the housing available for the people of Scotland? What possible hope is there for the homeless if the Government carry on like this?

Mr. Younger

It does not represent a drop in the housing available for the people of Scotland. The hon. Gentleman must look at our housing policy as a whole. He cannot ignore the fact that we had no fewer than 64,000 houses under improvement this year under our house improvement policy. There are all-time record completions of private houses going on all over Scotland. I should have thought that the hon. Gentleman would be glad to know also that houses under construction total almost 45,000.

Mr. Hamilton

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. Because of the unsatisfactory nature of the reply, I beg to give notice that I shall raise the matter on the Adjournment.

Following are the figures:

Approvals in the first two quarters of each year
1965 16,961
1966 13,315
1967 18,519
1968 14,461
1969 13,030
1970 10,239
1971 8,814
1972 20,196
1973 4,475
The uneven figures for 1972 and 1973, which have a balancing effect on each other, resulted from the favourable residual subsidy arrangements under the Housing (Financial Provisions) (Scotland) Act 1972.
*Local authorities, new towns and Scottish Special Housing Association.