HC Deb 20 January 1982 vol 16 cc264-5
Mr. Gwilym Roberts

asked the Secretary of State for the Environment what are the latest figures available for the number of local authority housing starts and completions; if he will take steps to increase these numbers; and if he will make a statement.

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

In the first 11 months of 1981 there were 20,000 local authority and new town housing starts in England and 52,000 completions. As announced by my right hon. Friend on 21 December, the gross provision for local authority housing capital expenditure in 1982–83 shows an increase in real terms on the current year.

Mr. Roberts

Will the Minister now come clean and admit that the Government's policies have destroyed local authority housing programmes and all hope for hundreds of thousands of desperate people on council housing waiting lists?

Mr. Stanley

I do not agree with the hon. Gentleman. Far from the Government destroying all hope, the hopes of many of achieving owner-occupation have been fulfilled. The Government have also made a considerable contribution to the rented sector. I have no doubt that the hon. Gentleman has been corresponding with the Department about the area represented by the local authority within his constituency. If he wishes to accuse the Government of not making sufficient capital investment available to his own local authority, I am sure that he will want to ask why the Cannock Chase district council has spent only one-quarter of its allocation, plus receipts, halfway through this financial year.

Mr. Durant

Will my hon. Friend tell the House what capital receipts have been received from the sale of council houses, and will he urge councils to spend those capital receipts on housing before the end of the financial year?

Mr. Stanley

We estimated at the beginning of the financial year that there would be housing capital receipts in excess of £400 million. That estimate looks like being fulfilled, if not exceeded. I agree with my hon. Friend that it is imperative that local authorities make every possible attempt to utilise to the full the substantial housing and non-housing capital receipts which represent an addition to the allocation itself.

Mr. Douglas-Mann

Does the Minister agree that the figures that he has announced are below those forecast by the Select Committee on the Environment and that on present trends nearly 500,000 families will be suffering from homelessness, low standards of accommodation, overcrowding or inability to form households by the end of this Parliament? Does he accept that the actuality will be even worse than the forecasts of the Select Committee on which the Conservative Party had a majority?

Mr. Stanley

The figures that I have quoted refer to the public sector. I am sure that the hon. Gentleman will wish to welcome the increase of about 22 per cent. in private sector housing starts in the first 11 months of 1981, despite the recession.

Mr. Winnick

An increase on what?

Mr. Stanley

Before the hon. Member for Mitcham and Morden (Mr. Douglas-Mann) becomes too critical of the Government's housing policy, no doubt he will reflect on the fact that the Social Democratic Party, which he has recently joined, has no housing policy.

Mr. Heddle

Does my hon. Friend agree that perhaps the best way to restore hope to the hundreds of thousands who are on council housing waiting lists is for the Labour Party to withdraw its blind and dogmatic objections to the Government's shorthold proposals and give people the right to rent homes?

Mr. Stanley

My hon. Friend is right. If the right hon. Member for Manchester, Ardwick (Mr. Kaufman) had not entered the particular commitment to repeal shorthold on behalf of the official Opposition, many thousands of additional properties to rent would be available now.

Mr. Kaufman

Is it not a fact that the number of new council houses started in 1981 was the lowest for 70 years? The allocation for 1982, with a reduction of 4 per cent. on the Government's phoney inflation rate of 8.9 per cent., will mean that 1982 will be worse than the disastrous 1981. Will the Government now increase HIP allocations by £1 billion, put 120,000 building workers to work and halve homelessness?

Mr. Stanley

If the right hon. Gentleman is concerned about housing the homeless, he should immediately withdraw his objection to shorthold.