HC Deb 02 July 1980 vol 987 cc1498-500
2. Mr. Skinner

asked the Secretary of State for the Environment if he will bring forward new measures for increasing the level of house building.

The Minister for Housing and Construction (Mr. John Stanley)

I refer the hon. Member to my reply on 4 June to the hon. Member for Huddersfield, East (Mr. Sheerman).

Mr. Skinner

Is the Minister aware that hon. Members on both sides of the House, and especially on the Opposition side, are receiving complaints from brick manufacturers, who have millions of bricks in stock? Is he also aware that we are receiving complaints from bricklayers and others who work on building sites because as many as 250,000 are out of work and from builders—those who voted Tory—who are going bankrupt, as well as from the homeless who need houses? Why cannot the Government put all those ingredients together and stop their savage policy?

Mr. Stanley

The ingredients come together in the fact that during the five years of the previous Labour Administration the national debt doubled, and the interest paid on it trebled. That Administration did not provide the economic growth to pay for the interest.

Mr. Frank Allaun

Is it not now becoming obvious that the Cabinet will be forced to relax the squeeze? Will the Minister press the Chancellor to reduce interest rates, to de-restrict council house building and improvement, and to remove the threat of a moratorium on council house building?

Mr. Stanley

I can tell the hon. Gentleman that my hon. Friends are united in pursuing the Government's economic strategy.

Several Hon. Members


Mr. Speaker

Order. By mistake, I called two hon. Members from the Labour Benches in succession. I shall now call two Conservative Members.

Mr. Stanbrook

As it seems unlikely that there will be a significant increase in the level of house building in the near future, should not we look to the better utilisation of our existing housing stock? In those circumstances, has the Minister any proposals for a revision of the Rent Acts?

Mr. Stanley

I agree with my hon. Friend that it is essential to many of the provisions of the Housing Bill that we should achieve a better utilisation of the existing stock. That is why we made it easier for owner-occupiers to sublet parts of their homes, why we have given council tenants the right to take in lodgers and to sublet and why we have introduced shorthold. It is a matter of the greatest regret that the Labour Party is not supporting us in bringing about that important means of increasing the housing stock.

Mr. Heddle

Does not my hon. Friend agree that one of the best ways of increasing the level of house building output is to encourage all local authorities to identify those areas of land which are not presently being used which they and other statutory undertakers own so that they can be used for the development of starter homes in partnership with the local authorities and the building industry?

Mr. Stanley

That is exactly the policy which my right hon. Friend the Minister for Local Government and Environmental Services is pursuing. As my hon. Friend will be aware, powers are available in the Local Government, Planning and Land (No. 2) Bill which will enable spare land to be identified. Indeed, my right hon. Friend has identified the initial local authorities which will be asked to compile land registers.

Mr. Alton

Regardless of the massive reduction in public house building which is now taking place, is not the Minister also alarmed about the reduction in private house building which is taking place throughout the United Kingdom? When will he do something about the Government's disastrous record on mortgage rates, which is one of the greatest disincentives for people buying a new home of their own?

Mr. Stanley

As the hon. Gentleman is aware, we have already taken substantial steps to release land and to speed up planning permissions. However, the Government's first and overwhelming priority is to restore the economy to a sound footing, from the chaotic situation which was left by the previous Administration.