HC Deb 19 November 1986 vol 105 cc550-1
3. Mr. Rathbone

asked the Secretary of State for the Environment if he will report on the achievements to date of the urban housing renewal unit.

The Minister for Housing, Urban Affairs and Construction (Mr. John Patten)

The unit has visited 129 local authorities in England and so far 73 schemes, involving nearly £40 million in 44 local authority areas, have been approved. Nearly 40,000 homes will benefit. More schemes are in the pipeline and will be announced shortly.

In addition, in August the unit launched a further initiative to help tackle the problems of homelessness. For 1987–88, £75 million will be made available for targeting on schemes approved by the unit. This represents an increase of 50 per cent. on this year.

Mr. Rathbone

Does my hon. Friend accept that as this year is the centenary of the Victorian jubilee, that programme is particularly worthy of pride? Does he further accept that it is a better way of going about urban rejuvenation than tapping ratepayers in other areas to pay for that rejuvenation? Will he continue his effort to ensure that the urban unit continues to operate at maximum efficiency, as, clearly, it has been doing?

Mr. Patten

I agree with my hon. Friend. Through the urban housng renewal unit we shall continue to target resources where they are most needed to help with urban regeneration. Local authorities of all political colours throughout the land are queuing up to receive help from this excellent unit.

Mr. John Fraser

Obviously the Opposition welcome any move that improves the quality and state of repair of urban housing. Will the Minister confirm that the urban housing renewal unit involves no allocation of money from central Government to local authorities? It involves stealing or taking control — [Interruption.] — of the housing investment programme allocations of other local authorities from a reduced housing investment programme net of capital receipts. If the Government believe so strongly in urban housing renewal, why do they not allow some capital receipts which have been generated to be added as new money on top of the housing investment programme, instead of simply robbing Peter to pay Paul under urban renewal schemes?

Mr. Patten

The hon. Gentleman does not understand the figures or the facts. The housing investment programme for next year has been increased by 11 per cent. in real terms. As part of that considerable increase we are targeting all spare available money to help inner city regeneration in the worst run-down estates. I had hoped that there was all-party concensus on that.