HC Deb 11 June 1975 vol 893 cc402-3
16. Mr. Arthur Jones

asked the Secretary of State for the Environment if he will update to current prices the following totals for housing subsidies in England in 1975–76 which are at constant 1974 prices: total housing subsidies, including rate fund contributions and rent rebate allowances, given as £1,014.5 million, improvement and renovation grants, given as £102.3 million, and local authority improvement investment given as £210.8 million.

Mr. Kaufman

I shall, with permission, circulate the figures in the Official Report.

Mr. Jones

That does not help us today. But in the context of the Secretary of State's reply to an earlier Question, that housing subsidies have doubled in the last two or three years and his reply to another Question, that he was concerned to contain local government expenditure, am I right in thinking that the level of housing subsidies must become of considerable concern to the Government? How do they propose to contain housing subsidies? What and where are their proposals in this respect to contain the use of taxpayers' money by the use of indiscriminate housing subsidies?

Mr. Kaufman

The subsidies are not indiscriminate. Nevertheless, I accept that this is a matter which needs to be examined carefully. My right hon. Friend has instituted the most far-reaching housing finance review which has ever been conducted. The results will be available within the next year.

Mr. Bell

Can the Minister estimate the magnitude of the total deficit on housing revenue account in England and Wales at present? Is this not a matter of the greatest seriousness, about which something will have to be done very quickly?

Mr. Kaufman

I accept that there are problems here. I cannot give the figure without notice. However, as a result of our legislation, any surplus on a housing revenue account will not be filched by the Treasury as it was under the Housing Finance Act.

Following is the information:

Revalued from 1974 to 1975 survey prices the figures are as follows:

£ million
Total housing subsidies, including rate fund contributions and rent rebates and allowances 1,218.4
Improvement and renovation grants 116.6
Local authority improvement investment 240.3

Since the publication of Cmnd. 5879 I have increased the provision for local authority improvements this year to £290 million.