HC Deb 27 April 1983 vol 41 cc848-9
2. Mr. Parry

asked the Secretary of State for the Environment how many local authority housing starts there were in the first three months of 1983; and what was the equivalent figure for the same period in 1980.

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

Figures for March are not yet available, but provisional house building starts for English local authorities in the first two months of 1983 were 6,400, compared with 5,400 in the corresponding period in 1980.

Mr. Parry

Is the Minister aware that, in the Liberal-controlled Liverpool city council area, there were no housing starts in 1981, 233 in 1982 and only 150 in 1983? Is he further aware that Liverpool city council has a housing waiting list of more than 25,000 and that aged —some in their mid-eighties—and handicapped people are living in the top floor flats of pre-war tenement blocks without hope of being rehoused? Will the Minister urge the council to build houses for rent for those in need`?

Mr. Stanley

The issue in Liverpool is not merely the building of additional houses, but of making use of existing local authority housing stock. In Liverpool, 1,330 dwellings have been vacant for more than a year. I hope that the local authority will make every possible attempt to make better use of its existing stock.

Mr. Alton

Will the Minister confirm that the Government cut housing support in Liverpool by £7 million last year? Is he aware that until that is restored it will be impossible to do anything about many of the vacant dwellings? What does he intend to do about the 500,000 homes in Britain which still do not have inside toilets, running hot water and bathrooms, and need money for restoration and renovation?

Mr. Stanley

I must point out to the hon. Gentleman and the Liberal party in Liverpool that Liverpool city council has been a conspicuous underspender. The crucial need in Liverpool is for full utilisation of the resources that have been made available. The Liverpool city council underspent in 1981–82 and it appears that it has produced an increased underspend in 1982–83. The local authority should make better use of its stock and full use of its resources.

Mr. Heddle

As my hon. Friend has confirmed that housing problems can be solved by better utilisation of the existing housing stock, does he not view with alarm the fact that at least two, possibly three, or more, properties in the constituency of the right hon. Member for Manchester, Ardwick (Mr. Kaufman) have been empty for more than six years? Does he agree that the Department should monitor the number of empty houses which the local authorities have and compel them to let immediately to those who deserve the right to rent?

Mr. Stanley

I am grateful to my hon. Friend. I assure him that the HIP returns for all local authorities, copies of which are in the Library, show the number of empty dwellings, including those that have been empty for more than a year. I share his concern that the last set of returns showed that about 19,000 local authority dwellings in England had been vacant for more than a year.

Mrs. Ann Taylor

In view of the Prime Minister's claim yesterday that the construction of new housing is improving, will the Minister confirm the depth to which such construction had sunk? Was not the Labour Government's worst year for council house building better than the Tory Government's two best years put together?

Mr. Stanley

The hon. Lady should look at the totality of housing. The House will be glad to know that this year the Housing Corporation expects a record number of Housing Corporation-funded housing association dwellings to be completed. Private house building and home improvement grants are at a 10-year high, hostel approvals are now three times higher than under the Labour Government and grants for the disabled are five times higher than under the Labour Government. In total, the Government's housing record has been a conspicuous success.