HC Deb 20 November 2002 vol 394 cc625-7
1. Mr.Clive Betts (Sheffield, Attercliffe)

When he will make a statement about the resources necessary to deliver the decent homes standard. [81538]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Office of the Deputy Prime Minister (Mr. Tony McNulty)

As promised in the statement to the House on 18 July on sustainable communities, my right hon. Friend the Deputy Prime Minister will make a further statement at the turn of the year on how we will allocate the resources identified for the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister in the spending review. This statement will cover resources, including decent homes, as my hon. Friend requires,

Mr. Betts

I am sure that the Minister will be happy to know that tenants in Sheffield are extremely pleased by the doubling of capital expenditure on housing since this Government came to power. They are pleased with the setting of the decent homes target, but they are also pleased that the new Labour administration in Sheffield has withdrawn the stock transfer application previously made by the Liberal Democrats, because council tenants are overwhelmingly against the transfer of ownership of their homes.

Mr. Speaker

Order. The hon. Gentleman should put a question.

Mr. Betts

Can the Minister give an assurance that in conducting this review, he will pay particular attention to authorities such as Sheffield? In those areas, tenants do not want to transfer their homes, but they do want the resources to bring them up to a decent standard by 2010.

Mr. McNulty

I congratulate my hon. Friend and the leader of Sheffield council, Councillor Jan Wilson, on taking this issue seriously enough to meet Lord Rooker to discuss further how Sheffield will reach the decent homes standard. I can confirm that we will consider the outcome and policy options of the PSA-plus review into how to achieve the decent homes standard when my right hon. Friend the Deputy Prime Minister makes his statement in January. I can further confirm that if Sheffield comes off the reserved list, it will not be disadvantaged in respect of the consideration of future options and the city's achieving the decent homes target.

Mr. Eric Pickles (Brentwood and Ongar)

For the Government to meet their decent homes target, there needs to be a strategy for England's largest landlord—Birmingham city council. It is now seven months since tenants turned their backs on stock transfer, and the Government have had plenty of time to consider their position. Birmingham's size and importance has led the Chartered Institute of Housing to warn that stock transfers are in jeopardy. Will the Minister confirm that, in view of Birmingham's importance, its only options—indeed, they are also the only options available to the tenants of Sheffield—are stock transfer, arm's-length, a private finance initiative, or direct management using predictive finance?

Mr. McNulty

I think that we would prefer the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister, rather than the hon. Gentleman, to carry out the policy options review of how to achieve the decent homes standard, given his lack of success in Bradford. My right hon. Friend the Deputy Prime Minister will meet Ann Power next week to discuss the review, which has yet to report on Birmingham, further. We will take no lessons from a party that left us a £19 billion backlog of council house and social housing repairs.

John Mann (Bassetlaw)

Consultation on slum housing with tenants in Warsop, in my constituency, began in 1968, when George Brown was Deputy Prime Minister. I thank the current Deputy Prime Minister and his team for allocating £30 million to Mansfield, Warsop and Bolsover in respect of housing. Will a Minister visit the relevant constituencies in the near future, so that we can promote the rollout of the Government's housing policy?

Mr. McNulty

My hon. Friend will know that in 1997 we released £5 billion of capital receipts specifically for council housing, and that the amount that we spent on that sector, and on social housing, has since trebled. I had a lovely time in Bolsover on a recent visit, and if I can get to North East Derbyshire again I certainly shall.

Tony Baldry (Banbury)

Will the Minister confirm that for council tenants in Cherwell who are concerned about their future, the alternatives are arm's-length management organisation, the private finance initiative, or large-scale voluntary transfer? If I have got that wrong, may I bring representatives of tenants' organisations to see the Minister, so that he can explain what the other options are?

Mr. McNulty

The hon. Gentleman will just have to be patient. As I have said, there will be a statement in January that will contain, among other things, the outcome of the PSA—public service agreement—review that we are carrying out into policy options to achieve the decent homes standard. Then, and only then, if the hon. Gentleman is still not satisfied—and if he can recognise a council tenant—I might see him.

Forward to