HC Deb 23 July 1975 vol 896 cc549-50
26. Mr. Shersby

asked the Secretary of State for the Environment if he will make a statement on current government policy on municipalisation.

Mr. Armstrong

Our policy is to maintain the level of acquisitions achieved in 1974–75 and to concentrate them primarily on the improvement of living conditions and on bringing empty dwellings into use in areas where social and housing conditions are most difficult. The detailed arrangements are set out in Circular 64/75, issued to local authorities on 9th June.

Mr. Shersby

Will the Minister agree that it is ridiculous to cut down on local authority mortgages while at the same time maintaining a municipalisation programme? Is he aware that in my constituency the local authority is busy acquiring houses in the private sector while many of my constituents cannot obtain mortgages for houses that they need?

Mr. Armstrong

I repudiate the hon. Gentleman's allegation. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for the Environment dealt with this matter a little earlier. It involves matters of judgement and priority. It so happens that priorities on the Labour benches are different from those on the Conservative benches. I am disturbed by Opposition suggestions that Whitehall should attempt to lay down these conditions to local authorities. Authorities know the great need in their areas.

Mr. Lee

Is it not equally important to ensure that local authorities do not sell off housing stock? May we be assured that Conservative local authorities will be prevented from doing a mischief if they take over next May, and that the municipal housing stock will be safeguarded?

Mr. Armstrong

My hon. Friend makes a very good point. I wish to draw his attention to our recently-issued circular on sales policy.

Mr. Raison

Is the Minister aware that his answer to my hon. Friend the hon. Member for Uxbridge (Mr. Shersby) was wholly nonsensical? It was a clear Whitehall decision to shift money from mortagages to municipalisation.

Mr. Armstrong

Yes, indeed—in regard to the transfer of£100 million, I do not deny that.