§ 8. Mr. Litherland
asked the Secretary of State for the Environment if he will provide financial support to assist Manchester city council in purchasing vacant housing on private estates which building societies and private builders are unable to sell; and if he will make a statement.
§ Mr. John Patten
It is for Manchester city council to decide its spending priorities. If it wishes to buy private sector houses to resell for owner-occupation, either outright or under shared ownership terms, it is welcome to do so.
§ Mr. Litherland
Is the Minister aware that many young people who were forced into buying in the private sector because of the scarcity of rented accommodation are now abandoning their homes because they cannot meet their mortgage commitments? In one estate in Manchester, Central, 17 of 42 houses built two years ago are empty and vandalised. Does that not prove that the Tories have no housing policy? It is a scandal. The Government should provide the finance so that the county council can acquire those properties.
§ Mr. Patten
The hon. Gentleman should recognise that one of the reasons for such houses falling into that state is the high rate levels levied by Manchester city council. I have correspondence in the Department from residents of Manchester who say that high rate rises are driving owner-occupiers out of their homes.
§ Mr. Sumberg
If my hon. Friend is minded to consider this matter, will he make it conditional on its application to areas wholly within the city of Manchester, bearing in mind that the leader of Manchester city council demanded the incorporation in that city of the Prestwich and Whitefield parts of my constituency? That demand is rejected and resented by the people who live there, because they do not wish to pay the high rates and have the extravagant services which Mancunians have to bear under the Labour party.
§ Mr. Patten
I can well understand why the constituents in those parts of my hon. Friend's constituency dread the possibility of coming under Manchester city council. I cannot understand why that council, when it is offered Government money, as I have offered, to conduct a proper study into housing conditions in the Hulme estate does not choose to take it and help its ratepayers.