HC Deb 04 February 1976 vol 904 cc1172-3
1. Mr. Watkinson

asked the Secretary of State for the Environment if he remains satisfied with the development of the Housing Corporation.

The Under-Secretary of State for the Environment (Mr. Ernest Armstrong)

As the first Minister to answer a Question after your appointment, Mr. Speaker, may I, on behalf of the Department, congratulate you and wish you all the best for the future?

The answer to the Question is: "Yes, Sir". The Housing Corporation has tackled with vigour and imagination the duties imposed by the Housing Act 1974, including the consideration of about 2,000 applications from housing associations seeking registration. The Corporation has also worked out a regional strategy to ensure that housing association projects are financed in areas where the need is greatest.

Mr. Watkinson

As the first Back Bencher to ask a Question in your tenure of office, Mr. Speaker, may I add my warmest congratulations to you, Sir?

Mr. Speaker

May I say that I am obliged and that I shall take it as read for everyone else?

Mr. Watkinson

I thank my hon. Friend for his reply. Will the overall strategy of the Housing Corporation now be directed towards the rehabilitation of housing rather than the building of new properties? Is it the intention of the Corporation to direct its funds basically towards towns at the expense of rural areas? Would my hon. Friend bear in mind that rural areas such as mine have acute housing needs both in new houses and in rehabilitation? Will he ensure that those areas are not neglected?

Mr. Speaker

Order. Let me say at once that I hope that we shall begin as we shall continue and that brief supplementary questions, which will be much fairer to those with Questions further down the Order Paper, will be helpful to us all.

Mr. Armstrong

The Housing Corporation is working within an overall policy of bringing housing supply to areas where there is acute housing stress. But it has a statutory duty and it is not for the Department continually to interfere.

Mr. Stephen Ross

Does the Minister accept that some of us are not at all happy with the progress made by the Corporation since there have been innumerable delays in registering housing associations? Is there any chance of further finance being made available to the Corporation so that housing associations can arrange their finance when they have been properly registered rather than having to go through local authorities, which at the moment seems rather difficult?

Mr. Armstrong

Our understanding is that when there is some delay it is due to the anxiety of the Housing Corporation quite properly to see that the resources available are used where they are most needed. I could not give any definite answer about extra money today.

Mr. Frank Allaun

I shall comply with your request for brevity, Mr. Speaker. In view of the tragic recent deaths of old people from hypothermia, will the Minister discuss immediately—within a matter of days—the mass-scale insulation of houses, possibly along with and as part of the job-creation programme?

Mr. Armstrong

This is a very serious matter. I have no doubt that my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State has heard the question and will give it urgent consideration.

Mr. Arthur Jones

Will the Minister estimate what resources have been made available to the Housing Corporation in the current year and what level of subsidy will result therefrom? I quite understand that he may not be able to give the figures now, but will he put them in the Official Report?

Mr. Armstrong

I shall certainly write to the hon. Gentleman giving him the information.