HC Deb 06 February 1974 vol 868 cc1210-1
17. Mr. Pardoe

asked the Secretary of State for the Environment what was the number of public sector houses started in Cornwall in 1973 and the number completed.

Mr. Eyre

Two hundred and eighty-one dwellings were started and 340 completed in the public sector; in addition there were 3,637 starts and 2,974 completions in the private sector, and a total of 2,938 improvement grants were approved during the first nine months of the year.

Mr. Pardoe

Is the Minister aware that to disguise the first part of his answer he has given me a large amount of information for which I did not ask? Is he aware that the housing starts in Cornwall of which he has told us today are less than one-third of the starts in any of the last five years? Is he aware also that in the north Cornwall district alone this backlog has led to a housing shortage that requires 750 houses to be built in the public sector in 1974? Will the Government give the authority sanction to do that?

Mr. Eyre

I emphasise to the hon. Gentleman that it is for local authorities to assess the housing needs and to bring forward plans to cater for them. The Government will give them every assistance in doing this. The tendering situation is expected to ease soon and there has been no difficulty in planning these contracts during the past year.

Mr. John Wells

Is my hon. Friend aware that a higher percentage of people live in council houses in Cornwall and elsewhere in this country than in any other country except in the Eastern bloc?

Mr. Eyre

As I have said, it is for the local authorities, which have a clear responsibility in these matters, to assess housing needs and to cater adequately for them, and the Government will give them every assistance in carrying out necessary programmes.

Mr. Marks

Has the Minister any record of how many of the 3,637 private houses are second homes, and can he say whether tax relief has been allowed on the mortgage interest paid on those homes?

Mr. Eyre

I have no precise figures regarding second homes. Matters of taxation are for my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer. I emphasise that under the Housing and Planning Bill which was given a Second Reading yesterday improvement grants are to be proscribed where they relate to second homes.