HC Deb 08 May 1991 vol 190 cc721-2
13. Mr. Ronnie Campbell

To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment how many new houses for sale he expects will be completed during 1991–92.

The Minister for Housing and Planning (Sir George Young)

The Government do not make forecasts of completions by private housebuilders.

Mr. Campbell

Is the Minister aware that Blyth Valley borough council in my constituency has accrued £23 million over 10 years through the sale of council houses? Is he further aware that with that money it could have built at least 1,000 houses, but it has built only 290 houses during the whole period? When will the Government start building council houses for the needy and homeless?

Sir George Young

I hope that the hon. Gentleman recognises that that is £23 million which his local council would not have had if he had listened to Opposition Members. There would have been no right-to-buy receipts to have a debate about. Thanks to the sale of council houses, we have sustained a far higher level of capital expenditure on public sector housing than would have been the case. For the future we look to housing associations, not local authorities, to build affordable homes for rent.

Mr. John Greenway

Does my hon. Friend agree that the increase in the number of people in Britain who own their homes is one of the greatest achievements of the Government in the past 10 years? Does he further agree that the key to ensuring an adequate supply of new homes in future which people will want to buy and want to rent is to continue the policy of requiring local authorities to put in place statutory local plans which define where the houses shall be built? The release of adequate land is central to the supply of new houses.

Sir George Young

I am grateful to my hon. Friend. Our planning policies are designed to ensure that there is a five-year supply of land to meet housing needs throughout the country. Through regional guidance and monitoring of the structure of the district plans, it is our aim to ensure that land is available to meet the housing needs of local people.

Mr. George Howarth

In view of the obvious gaps in the information that is being fed to the Minister about the number of starts in homes for sale, I shall help him. I do not know whether he is aware that, earlier this week, the Building Employers Confederation conducted a state-of-trade inquiry into that subject. Its conclusion was—[HoN. MEMBERS: "Question."] I am coming to the question. Its conclusion was this: We are pleased to see the very slight improvement in the private house building sector. Any real recovery in the housing market still seems to be a very long way off and will depend crucially on further cuts in interest rates and mortgages"—

Mr. Speaker

Order. Paraphrase, please. Do not quote.

Mr. Howarth

There is no increase. What is the Minister going to do about that?

Sir George Young

With house prices stable, with earnings rising between 5 and 10 per cent., and with interest rates falling, the prospects for house buyers and house builders are excellent.

Mr. Dickens

What is the point in building more and more council houses when, at the moment, half a million council houses stand empty? We were talking earlier about recycling. If local government recycled council houses more quickly when they stand empty for weeks and sometimes months, there would be no problem with the homeless in this country.

Sir George Young

I am sure that my hon. Friend's words will have been heard throughout the country. The 10 worst local authorities for voids are either Labour or Liberal Democrat controlled.