HC Deb 08 December 1976 vol 922 cc431-3
5. Mr. Geoffrey Finsberg

asked the Secretary of State for the Environment when he expects to publish the housing finance review.

Mr. Shore

I expect the policy review to be completed within the next few weeks. I intend that the Green Paper will be published as soon as possible next year.

Mr. Finsberg

Does the right hon. Gentleman appreciate that the House has waited a long time for this document? Will he assure us that when its results ale translated into a Green Paper there will at least be adequate opportunity for consultation before he or his colleagues suddenly rush a Bill through the House?

Mr. Shore

I certainly give that assurance to the hon. Gentleman. I believe that very complex and important questions are involved on which there must be adequate consultations.

Mr. Frank Allaun

Will the Secretary of State postpone, at least beyond next week and until the review is published, any proposals or decisions to cut council house subsidies? Would not such a cut mean a further worsening in the standard of living of millions of families and pre-empt the recommendations of the review, which covers all housing and not only council houses?

Mr. Shore

My hon. Friend will realise that it is a little difficult for me to anticipate any matters that may be before the House during the coming week. All I can say is that these and many other considerations have been very much in my mind.

Mr. Sainsbury

Will the Secretary of State expedite the review of the operation of the Rent Acts so that it may be taken into consideration when the Green Paper is being drawn up, especially as it is widely accepted that the Rent Act 1974 has resulted in a reduction in the supply of accommodation available for letting?

Mr. Shore

Without accepting what the hon. Gentleman said about the effect of the Rent Act 1974, I certainly assure him that we are reviewing the Rent Acts. It is proper for us to do so, and we shall issue a consultation document very shortly. The broader issues of the private sector in housing will also be covered in general terms in the review.

Mr. Douglas-Mann

I well appreciate my right hon. Friend's difficulty in replying to the supplementary question asked by my hon. Friend the Member for Salford, East (Mr. Allaun), but does he not agree that it would be tragic to preempt the effect of the review by decisions taken in advance? Will he impress on his colleagues that for most of us it is investment in new house building and improvements which is the vital matter and that, if there have to be cuts, they should be not on investment but on rents and mortgage subsidies?

Mr. Shore

I note what my hon. Friend says about his preference in terms of making an adjustment to the total housing budget, but I feel I should not comment further on matters which, I assume, will be dealt with during the coming week.

Mr. Heseltine

Will the right hon. Gentleman bear in mind that the most easily obtainable source of additional finance to help the already over-pressed local authorities would be from imaginative schemes to enable council house tenants to buy their own homes?

Mr. Shore

I understand the theoretical attractiveness of that suggestion to Conservative Members, but we should not mislead ourselves about the present possibilities of pursuing that policy. Since the change of control in some councils, efforts have been made to push forward imaginative proposals to sell council houses, but we all know that in the present financial circumstances it is difficult to proceed with those proposals.