HC Deb 16 March 1977 vol 928 cc376-8
9. Mr. Albert Roberts

asked the Secretary of State for the Environment what consideration he will give to increasing the allocation of funds for house purchase and improvement loans to Leeds City Council for the year 1977–78.

Mr. Armstrong

I can offer no immediate prospect of an increase in the mortgage lending quota for Leeds City Council.

Mr. Roberts

Will my hon. Friend bear in mind that Leeds is the second largest city in the country outside London with 30,000 low-value back-to-back houses in the inner city and that £59 per head is measly when the average location throughout the country is £200? Surely this is a situation that warrants a reconsideration of the position in Leeds.

Mr. Armstrong

Yes, I am well aware of the figures that my hon. Friend has put before the House. As he knows, we have been in correspondence with the Leeds City Council. Population was not the only basis on which we made the allocation. We are concerned that when money is lent by the local authority it should go to the priority categories—for example, those who are at the lower end of the market and those who want to buy older property. These are the people who are least able to get loans from building societies.

Sir B. Rhys Williams

Instead of adding to the already incomprehensible hotch-potch of housing subsidies, would it not be better to increase personal allowances to wage-earners who are also householders, thereby taking the sensible step of subsidising families and not houses?

Mr. Armstrong

That is a matter for my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer. I have no doubt that he will take into consideration what has been said.

Mr. Joseph Dean

Is my hon. Friend aware that his answer to my hon. Friend the Member for Normanton (Mr. Roberts) will not be very well received in Leeds by younger people who are attempting to buy older houses and set up home for the first time, or by those who are awaiting improvement grants? Is he aware that by any known criteria—for example, size of city, size of population and size of housing problem related to population—Leeds appears to have been discriminated against? Will my hon. Friend give an assurance that the situation will be reviewed as quickly as possible?

Mr. Armstrong

I can assure my hon. Friend that there has been no discrimination against Leeds. I shall present the figures to him to prove that that is not so. When we are allocating resources of this sort, we want them to go where they are most needed. I assure my hon. Friend that Leeds has had a fair allocation.