HC Deb 04 June 1980 vol 985 cc1417-9
18. Mr. Stallard

asked the Secretary of State for the Environment what assurances he has received from local authorities that the special housing needs of the elderly and disabled will be protected, in view of the reduction in the housing investment programme allocation 1980–81.

Mr. Geoffrey Finsberg

It is for local authorities to decide how to spend their housing investment programme allocations which are now given as a single block. However, in announcing the allocations for 1980–81, my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State said that he believed the emphasis of public sector housing policy should now be on meeting particular needs such as those of the elderly and the handicapped.

Mr. Stallard

Will the Minister accept that the stock reply to the effect that local authorities will work out their own priorities is becoming more meaningless in the face of massive reductions which have effectively robbed local authorities of any element of choice? Is he further aware that over half the occupants of property which lacks at least one basic amenity are either of pensionable age or are disabled? As with other legislation promoted by this Government, those who will be most hurt are the pensioners and the disabled. Will he have another look at the allocation to housing associations and local authorities?

Mr. Finsberg

I must say to the hon. Gentleman that, in the 25 years he and I spent in local government, we would have given our eye teeth for the flexibility that our new system offers.

Mr. Heddle

Will not my hon. Friend agree that the whole philosophy of selling council houses and thus remitting half the proceeds of the sales back to the HIP allocation will provide houses for those genuinely in need, particularly the elderly and the disabled?

Mr. Finsberg

My hon. Friend is right. That would particularly apply to the London borough of Camden.

Mr. Winnick

Is it not clear that the reduction in the housing investment programme in 1980–81 will cause immense and devastating hardship for people in housing need? Why do Ministers say that these matters are for local authorities when that is simply not true? Ministers are not telling the truth because local authorities, as a result of the reduction in the housing investment programme, do not have the money to carry out the sort of house building and modernisation programmes they would like.

Mr. Finsberg

The hon. Gentleman seems totally incapable of assimilating the fact that the Government to which he gave nominal support while he was not a Member of Parliament were pursuing a policy of accepting that local authorities did not necessarily wish to go on building large new estates, but wanted freedom to decide within their allocation what to do.

Mr. Hill

Is my hon. Friend aware that one of the most successful schemes ever produced for housing for the elderly is sheltered housing where the local authority's housing department and the DHSS combine and share the cost? Is he aware that this is the most imperative objective of housing for the elderly? I hope that in future we shall provide all the help that is possible for this scheme.

Mr. Finsberg

My hon. Friend is right. That is a most important point. It is also right to remind the House that two specific steps have been taken which should be of immense help. The first is the revision of the housing cost yardstick allowances for old people's dwellings for single persons. The second is allowing the cost of providing lifts in two storey dwellings to qualify for subsidy. It is interesting that because those are useful points the Opposition choose to ignore them.

Mr. Allen McKay

Is the Minister aware that the words " freedom " and " flexibility " fall strangely from his lips since the. Government have taken from local authorities the money that would give them that freedom and flexibility?

Mr. Finsberg

While the alliteration of the "f's" is interesting, I could add a third which might not be in order.