HC Deb 16 February 1977 vol 926 cc487-9
12. Mr. George Rodgers

asked the Secretary of State for the Environment if he will make a statement on his policy towards securing a greater availability of houses to let in the non-local authority sector.

Mr. Freeson

Government policy is to encourage a greater variety of social ownership and tenure. In the past three years the provision of dwellings by registered housing associations has trebled, to a rate of 30,000–40,000 extra a year. Shared equity schemes are now being sponsored by a number of local authorities and housing associations and there is an increasing number of co-operative housing schemes being initiated. A number of other initiatives are being considered in the context of our housing policy review and the review of the Rent Acts.

Mr. Rodgers

I thank my right hon. Friend for that reply, which has anticipated my supplementary question. Does he see a greater rôle for the utilisation of direct works departments by municipal authorities?

Mr. Freeson

That matter is rather separate from the question of tenure. I ask my hon. Friend to await the publication of our proposed Bill on direct labour organisations in the not-too-distant future, when he will have ample opportunity of studying the details of what we have in mind.

Mr. Budgen

Will the right hon. Gentleman confirm that the main reason for the non-availability of rented private houses is the continued operation of the Rent Acts since 1915? Will he also confirm that the lengthy review that he has instituted is no more than an elaborate attempt to prepare the ground so that he can persuade his party that the ridiculous prejudices that it has held so dearly over the years are wrong and are the principal cause of homelessness?

Mr. Freeson

I think that I can safely leave the question of persuasion in the hon. Gentleman's hands, although I do not think that that will be very effective.

Mr. Joseph Dean

Will my right hon. Friend bear in mind that the main component of housing is housing finance? I ask my right hon. Friend to make available to Members the findings of the various bodies that were asked to submit evidence to him in the general housing finance review.

Mr. Freeson

I am somewhat at a loss, because it is my recollection that in every instance the bodies concerned published the evidence that they submitted to us, but I shall check on the matter. We shall ensure that the submissions that were made to us are made available to Members.