HC Deb 27 May 1976 vol 912 cc612-3
3. Mr. Fitt

asked the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland if he will make a statement about the inquiry into housing finance in Northern Ireland.

The Minister of State, Northern Ireland Office (Mr. Concannon)

Average public authority rents in Northern Ireland are lower than in Great Britain. The financial relationship between the Northern Ireland Department of Environment and the Housing Executive is under review, and I hope to make a statement shortly about new arrangements to replace the existing complicated system of grants, subsidies and deficit payments.

My officials are also associated with the major review of all aspects of housing finance in both public and private sectors in Great Britain set on foot by my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for the Environment, and already well advanced.

There will be ample opportunity for informed public discussion of the issues involved when the results of these two reviews are available, and I do not consider that any further Northern Ireland inquiry would be justified.

Mr. Fitt

Does my hon. Friend agree that while there is a need for the provision of thousands of public authority houses in Northern Ireland, because of the present state of houses there, those houses that are built must be let at a rent that the tenant can afford? In view of the unemployment and deprivation in Northern Ireland, is he satisfied that the present rent structure of local authority housing is not too high?

Mr. Concannon

The present structure is very much in Northern Ireland's favour. In May 1975, the average rent was £2.45, while in England and Wales it was £4.16. Also, there is a rent rebate system in Northern Ireland comparable to that existing in the rest of the United Kingdom. I am disappointed by the take-up of rebates, but that is the fault not of hon. Members in this House but of the bad advice given by non-elected people who should know better.