HC Deb 30 July 1980 vol 989 cc1487-9
1. Mr. Bowden

asked the Secretary of State for the Environment how many sheltered housing units will be built in the year 1980-81 in England and Wales.

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

Some information about numbers of sheltered housing units being built will be given in local authorities' housing investment programme returns for 1981-82. Authorities have been asked to submit these by 8 August. Copies will be placed in the Library.

Mr. Bowden

What steps will my hon. Friend take to ensure that the elderly are given high housing priority in these difficult days, when the programme has had to be cut back?

Mr. Stanley

In the circular on this year's HIP allocation my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State has asked local authorities to give high priority, within their allocations, to special needs, particularly those of the elderly and the disabled. My hon. Friend will be glad to know that in the first five months of this year starts on new dwellings for the elderly in England represented 46 per cent. of all local authority and new town starts, compared with 26 per cent. last year.

Mr. Frank Allaun

As it is estimated that council house starts will drop from their present low record to 30,000 a year, does that not mean that such starts will be confined to houses for the elderly and the disabled? What will happen to the other half of the population, who cannot afford to buy council houses or houses on the private market? Even with the aid of a mortgage such people cannot afford to buy a house.

Mr. Stanley

As the hon. Gentleman knows, we are looking to the private sector as well as to the public sector to meet the need for rented accommodation. In view of what the hon. Gentleman has said, I hope that he will urge the Opposition Front Bench to withdraw its commitment to repeal shorthold, as that will make more rented accommodation available.

Mrs. Kellett-Bowman

Does my hon. Friend accept that Lancaster city council is eager to sell council houses and has the best record for such sales in the North-West? Does he also accept that the council is extremely anxious that it should not be obliged to sell old people's dwellings? It has a high proportion of such dwellings which are not, strictly speaking, sheltered accommodation. Will the Minister seriously consider the amendment put forward on 21 July in the House of Lords, which would not oblige councils to sell houses that have been specifically built for and habitually occupied by, old people? At the very least, will he introduce a permanent preemption clause for councils?

Mr. Stanley

My hon. Friend will be aware that that amendment was the subject of debate yesterday during consideration of the Tenants' Rights Etc. (Scotland) Bill. During the proceedings in the other place, their Lordships chose to reject that amendment decisively. I shall consider the point that my hon. Friend has made about pre-emption, before the Bill comes back to the House.

Mr. Kaufman

Since, in Committee, the hon. Gentleman constantly rejected any attempt to make comparisons between the Scottish Bill and the Bill relating to England and Wales, will he now give a clear answer to the question asked by his hon. Friend the Member for Lancaster (Mrs. Kellett-Bowman)? As the House of Lords has voted to exclude not only sheltered accommodation, but other old people's dwellings, from compulsory sale, will the Government accept the amendment and retain it in the Housing Bill?

Mr. Stanley

The answer is "No", but we shall consider pre-emption.

Mr. Frank Allaun