HC Deb 04 February 1987 vol 109 cc996-7
16. Mr. Beith

asked the Secretary of State for the Environment whether he has any plans to encourage housing developments by the voluntary sector outside designated stress areas.

Mr. John Patten

Under the increased programme my right hon. Friend announced on 9 December, some £123 million worth of new development is available for allocation outside the stress areas—an 83 per cent. increase over 1986–87. Whether inside or outside stress areas, housing associations can benefit from the new private finance schemes by which £30 million of grant will generate £100 million of new housing investment.

Mr. Beith

Is the Minister aware that the Housing Corporation, in its policy statement for the north-east, indicated that there would be virtually no money available for voluntary housing schemes outside the stress areas, such as rural Northumberland and the small towns of Northumberland? Will he try to induce some change in attitude so that there may be some limited voluntary housing development, which is so useful in dealing with problems in those areas?

Mr. Patten

I entirely agree with the hon. Gentleman about the problems facing rural areas such as those in his constituency. More money has been made available by my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State to the Housing Corporation for 1987–88. I suggest that the hon. Gentleman has a word with the Housing Corporation. I also hope that he will have a word with his hon. Friend the Member for Southwark and Bermondsey (Mr. Hughes) about that most unparliamentary jersey he is wearing.

Mr. Jessel

Within the voluntary sector, is my hon. Friend aware of the excellent work that has been done over 20 years by the Richmond upon Thames Churches Housing Trust, and is that not an encouragement and an example to the rest of the country?

Mr. Patten

The housing trust's record is exemplary, like almost all activities in my hon. Friend's constituency.