HC Deb 23 April 1986 vol 96 cc293-5
14. Mr. Latham

asked the Secretary of State for the Environment if he will make a statement on the proposed level of capital receipts which local authorities will be permitted to use on building work in the financial year 1986–87.

Mrs. Rumbold

I announced in answer to my hon. Friend the Member for Lewisham, East (Mr. Moyniham) on 20 November, at column 246, that there will be no changes for 1986–87 in the prescribed proportion of capital receipts which local authorities may use for additional capital expenditure.

Mr. Latham

Following the chink of hope in the speech yesterday of my hon. Friend the Minister for Housing, Urban Affairs and Construction, will my hon. Friend consider whether she can loosen the purse strings to some extent in the forthcoming year to help a new improvement grant programme? Even raising the figure to 25 per cent. would be agreat help.

Mrs. Rumbold

I understand why my hon. Friend has asked that question, but he will be aware that it is not possible for me to pre-empt the decisions for next year to be taken by my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State. However, we are considering new proposals for capital expenditure generally. It may well be that my hon. Friend's representations will be taken into account.

Mr. Loyden

Given the needs of many of our major cities, what justification do the Government have for imposing constraints on local authorities and for not allowing them to use their resources to solve the many problems that exist?

Mrs. Rumbold

Given the way in which Liverpool city council has generally managed its affairs, it is hard to imagine that it would manage greater receipts any better than it has administered any money that has come into its hands. I feel very sorry and sad for the people of Liverpool.

Mr. Dickens

Does my hon. Friend agree that most local authorities have played the game by selling council houses in accordance with this Government's policy and wish? The Labour party has now taken that policy on board—[Interruption.] Well, the Labour party might take it on board. Should not local authorities gain some reward in the form of a relaxation in the amount of money that they can spend on the improvement grant system?

Mrs. Rumbold

My hon. Friend knows that the Labour party is simply saying that it will adopt our very successful policy of council house sales. Whether or not that is to be believed is a matter for speculation. As for capital receipts, half a billion pounds extra in capital receipts came into play during the course of this financial year, and authorities are able to spend a proportion of that towards their allocation.

Mr. John Fraser

Can the Minister deny the rumours that are beginning to circulate to the effect that the Government are about to impose either a moratorium or a restriction on capital expenditure by local authorities later this year? Will the Government give a clear instruction to the London Residuary Body that the £39 million of capital receipts, which are legally—and certainly morally—due to London authorities which have ex-GLC estates, will be disbursed to those boroughs and not given to some Tory boroughs, which make no contribution to London's housing problems?

Mrs. Rumbold

It seems that the Labour party is consumed with the local elections on 8 May. I must say on both counts that the hon. Gentleman is indulging in scaremongering.

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