HC Deb 23 May 1990 vol 173 cc281-2
17. Mr. Crowther

To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment if he will list the percentage of homes that have been empty for more than six months for (a) private housing, (b) housing associations, (c) local authorities and (d) Government and other public sectors.

Mr. Michael Spicer

At April 1989, about 1 per cent. of local authority and 2 per cent. of housing association dwellings had been empty for more than six months. I do not have corresponding information for other ownership groups, but surveys in 1977 and 1980 suggested that at any time up to 3 per cent. of private sector dwellings had been vacant for more than six months.

Mr. Crowther

In the light of that reply, does the Minister agree that it is clear that, in the main, local authorities are exercising their responsibilities for their share of the nation's housing stock in an efficient way? Will he and other Ministers kindly stop attacking local authorities at every turn, as the local authorities are clearly doing better than other sectors?

Mr. Spicer

I do not regard a total of 100,000 empty local authority houses—which the housing authorities are responsible for providing—as acceptable. However, I accept that a large number of private sector dwellings—some 600,000—are also unoccupied. Why are they unoccupied? According to our surveys and research, the main reason for that is years of Socialist policies, such as rent control and controlled tenures and it has become somehow unacceptable to rent houses—that is something that we must put right. There has been legislation to deregulate and liberalise the private rented sector; we should now be putting self-confidence back into landlords so that they start to bring their houses back on to the market.

Mr. Tracey

Is my hon. Friend aware that just five Labour authorities in London have more than 10,000 empty public sector houses? In addition, five Labour authorities in London have £83 million of rents uncollected. As two of those authorities are Lambeth and Southwark councils, does the Minister agree that if they put their house in order it would help the homeless in London?

Mr. Spicer

I agree absolutely with my hon. Friend. That is why in recent months the Government have given £250 million to local authorities to renovate their housing stock—especially Labour authorities, because, as my hon. Friend said, they are far and away the worst culprits. That money will help to put those houses back into use, so that they can be used by the homeless people to whom my hon. Friend referred.

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