HC Deb 17 October 1973 vol 861 cc182-4
8. Mr. Greville Janner

asked the Secretary of State for the Environment by what percentage starts in council house building have changed since June 1970.

The Under-Secretary of State for the Environment (Mr. Reginald Eyre)

In the 12 months to June 1973 public sector starts in England and Wales were 26 per cent, fewer than in the 12 months to June 1970 but total housing starts were 13 per cent. more.

Mr. Janner

Are not those figures among the most disgraceful to have been put before the House? Does the Minister realise that private housing is no substitute whatsoever for municipal housing, especially at the prices which, it has been admitted, now have to be paid, which are well outside the means of young married couples and ordinary working people?

Mr. Eyre

The hon. and learned Gentleman must be aware that the decline in the numbers of public sector houses began in 1967. The assessment of local needs is the responsibility of the local housing authority. The Government have made it clear that where there is a genuine need it is the job of the local authority to provide more houses to rent. 1 strongly support those who get on with the job.

Mr. Wilkinson

Will my hon. Friend tell the House how many tenants of municipal accommodation have been able to buy their own council houses since this Government came to power? Will he also take heed of the example of Singapore, where the density of population is far higher than in most British cities and yet tenants of public sector property can purchase their homes through their rentals?

Mr. Eyre

The number of council tenants buying their homes from local authorities last year was more than 40,000. That illustrates the strong desire to achieve home ownership which exists on council estates.

Mr. Frank Allaun

Does the Minister realise that millions of families on council house waiting lists or in the slums are losing all hope? Has he no plans to stop this calamitous fall in council house building? Will he remove none of the obstacles put in the way of local authorities through the cost yardstick and rapidly rising interest charges? That is what is stopping the housing programme.

Mr. Eyre

The hon. Gentleman, who knows a great deal about housing matters, knows very well that the initiative in these cases must lie with the local authority, which is able to judge accurately local needs. The resources and incentive to do that job are supplied to local authorities under the Housing Finance Act, and we have provided great flexibility regarding the yardstick.

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