HC Deb 19 February 1986 vol 92 c309
11. Mr. Hicks

asked the Secretary of State for the Environment if he is satisfied with the current level of investment in improving the quality of the existing housing stock; and if he will make a statement.

Mr. Kenneth Baker

The primary responsibility for deciding how much should be spent on improving the housing stock rests with the owners.

Mr. Hicks

At a time when over 200,000 building trade workers are unemployed, when almost 4 million houses are classified as substandard in some way, and when there are lengthy waiting lists for home improvement grants, including 2,000 in my constituency, does my right hon. Friend agree that it is both economic stupidity and political folly not to embark upon a major home improvement investment programme in this labour-intensive activity, similar to what we had three years ago?

Mr. Baker

I hear what my hon. Friend says. I remind him that provision for local authority housing capital expenditure next year, 1986–87, is £2,532 million, which is some 9 per cent. up on this year, and that local authorities and new town development corporations are spending about £2.5 billion a year on maintaining and modernising their stock.

Mr. Rooker

Is not the outturn this year higher than the planned expenditure? Is it not the case that even the Government's modest increase is less than the outturn, so that there is a cut? Should it not be the aim of any Government committed to decent housing for all the people to make sure that there is enough investment, from whatever sources, to improve and maintain the housing stock at a rate at least equal to the rate of deterioration? Why do the Government not have that as their aim?

Mr. Baker

I assure the hon. Gentleman that we do have that as our aim. Spending on repairs and improvement to private housing stock is running at a massive £9 billion a year. While we have been in office we have paid out some £2.5 billion in grants to the private sector. This year the amount is likely to be £500 million.