HC Deb 26 July 1989 vol 157 cc1013-5
8. Mr. Beaumont-Dark

To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment what was the level of funding for the Housing Corporation in (a) 1987–88 and (b) 1988–89.

Mr. Howard

The Housing Corporation's gross capital expenditure was £752 million in 1987–88 and £791 million in 1988–89.

Mr. Beaumont-Dark

Does my hon. and learned Friend agree that over the years, the Housing Corporation has done an excellent job, but that there are two matters about the Housing Corporation that concern people at present? First, they are concerned about alms houses because of the change in the law. I have had letters, as I am sure other hon. Members have from alms house residents who are fearful of the bureaucracy and heavy handedness of the Housing Corporation in regard to well-established alms houses. Secondly, has my hon. and learned Friend had time to read the Housing Corporation's recent report about housing associations, in which all money spent is meant to be for those on lower incomes? As a result of changes in the rental system, too many people are stuck in the poverty trap. Housing benefit is too little and those who have little housing benefit have too low an income to pay the increased rents. Will my hon. and learned Friend examine that problem and ensure that the Housing Corporation is helpful?

Mr. Howard

I am grateful to my hon. Friend for his tribute to the Housing Corporation. I have studied the advice given by the Housing Corporation to alms house charities that are registered with the corporation. Its advice is useful and wholly innocuous. I have seen the remarks by the chairman of the Housing Corporation in his introduction to its latest annual report and I hope to meet him soon to discuss his observations.

Mr. George Howarth

Does the Minister accept that although there is a growth in the approved development programme available to the Housing Corporation to fund housing association schemes, the system that his predecessor introduced last year is in such a mess that the budget is likely to be dramatically underspent? Instead of producing more houses, as was predicted, the system now produces fewer.

Mr. Howard

I do not accept that. These are relatively early days in the new system and we should study how it works before rushing to such judgments.

Mr. Raison

Given the drying up of council building, will my hon. and learned Friend ensure that in areas such as mine there is a substantial expansion of the funding made available to housing associations? There will not otherwise be enough housing to rent.

Mr. Howard

I understand my right hon. Friend's concern. That is the objective of Government policy in this area. I shall examine my hon. Friend's comments when. I come to consider these matters.

Mr. Soley

It says something about the Government's housing policy that they give responsibility for housing to a Minister who is already overworked with the water privatisation problem. How is it that the housing associations, which have not yet reached the level of provision they achieved in the mid-1970s, are expected to solve the acute crisis of a lack of low-cost accommodation for rent or sale when we have such an absurdly inadequate programme through the Housing Corporation and through other means under this Government?

Mr. Howard

I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for his concern about my work load. I assure him that the whole range of Government policies in these matters is designed to deal with the problem to which he referred and that we will be seen to be dealing with that problem with increasing effectiveness as time goes on.

Forward to