HC Deb 22 October 1986 vol 102 cc1147-9
2. Mr. Norman Hogg

asked the Secretary of State for Scotland what representations he has received on general housing provision in the new towns; and if he will make a statement.

4. Mr. Robin Cook

asked the Secretary of State for Scotland if he has reached a decision on the moratorium on house building in new towns in the light of recent submissions of the development corporations.

Mr. Lang

Representations have been received from each of the new town development corporations, from Fife regional council and from the forum of Scottish local authorities with new towns. We shall take full account of all representations before reaching decisions on the policy review.

Mr. Hogg

Does the Minister accept that there is a need for some urgency in reaching a swift conclusion on this matter and that he should respond positively to the representations that were made to him on Friday 3 October when he met the forum of Scottish local authorities with new towns? Surely today is an opportunity to make such a statement. Failing that, can a statement be made in the next few days so that the local authorities with new towns will know where they are going?

Mr. Lang

I indeed had a most useful meeting with the representatives of the Scottish local authorities with new towns and with the hon. Members for Livingston (Mr. Cook) and for Cunninghame, South (Mr. Lambie). As I made clear to them, the considerations affecting these matters must also take account of the wider implications for the public expenditure survey. However, an announcement will be made as soon as possible.

Mr. Cook

Will the Minister recognise that this housing ban is causing particular hardship to a young community, such as Livingston, where every year 400 young couples marry and seek a home from a development corporation which is not allowed to build houses for them? Does he accept that all five local authorities representing new towns and all five Members of Parliament have called for the ban to be lifted, and that they are now supported by all five development corporations which were appointed by him and his colleagues? As nobody representing the new towns, whether elected or non-elected, now supports the ban, what possible mandate can the Minister claim for sticking to it?

Mr. Lang

The hon. Gentleman suggests that there is unity, and to some extent there may be. Nevertheless, there are differences between the levels of need as assessed by the new town corporations and by the local authorities. The demographic factor to which the hon. Gentleman refers was also brought out in the SLANT report and it is certainly to be taken into account. I am sure that the hon. Gentleman will be pleased to know that in Livingston private house ownership doubled within six years.

Mr. Allan Stewart

May I add my personal warm congratulations to my hon. Friend on his new responsibilities? My hon. Friend referred to the increase in house ownership in Livingston. Does he agree that the five Scottish new towns generally have an excellent record on selling their housing to sitting tenants? Can he give the House an indication of the overall position for the other new towns?

Mr. Lang

I am particularly grateful to my hon. Friend for his welcome. He is absolutely right about the importance of increasing private ownership in the new towns. There has been a substantial increase over the years, but ownership is still at 34 per cent., which is rather below the Scottish average. However, he might like to know that the completion rates for private building have doubled during the past four years.

Mr. Lambie

May I add my representations to those of my two colleagues and ask that the decision on lifting the moratorium be given as quickly as possible? Is the Minister aware that in the new town of Irvine not only are second generation families unable to be rehoused, but small businesses cannot attract key workers for the development of those businesses because the priority list is now much longer than the list of most of the other district council tenants?

Mr. Lang

I accept the importance that the hon. Gentleman attaches to the need to be able to continue to attract industry to the new towns. It is also worth mentioning that this year the HRA capital allocation to Cunninghame district council is 60 per cent. higher than it was two years ago.

Mr. Henderson

Has the rate of purchase of new town development corporation houses by sitting tenants been matched by other local authorities?

Mr. Lang

I cannot give my hon. Friend those figures now, but I shall write to him.

Dr. M. S. Miller

Does the Minister appreciate that the sale of housing does not meet the needs of many thousands of people? How long will it be before he once again permits the building of houses for rent?

Mr. Lang

I accept that it is necessary to achieve balanced communities and a proper integration between general and special housing needs. That is one reason why we give close consideration to the reports that we have received.

Mr. Maxton

Will the Minister assure us that the new clause rushed into the Housing and Planning Bill in another place by the Department of the Environment to allow housing in new towns to be privatised will not cover Scotland? If it does not, will he give an assurance that there will be no equivalent legislation in Scotland?

Mr. Lang

The policy on this matter has not changed.