HL Deb 06 March 1984 vol 449 cc143-4

2.55 p.m.

Lord Hylton

My Lords, I beg leave to ask the Question standing in my name on the Order Paper.

The Question was as follows:

To ask Her Majesty's Government whether they consider that the experience of voluntary bodies is, or will become, relevant to the development of national housing policies and local tactics, and if so, what consultations they have held or will hold.

Lord Skelmersdale

My Lords, the Government consider that the experience of voluntary bodies can play an important part in the development of national housing policies, and welcome their views on such matters. We also accept that they can make a valuable contribution at a local level. In the latter case, however, it is for local authorities to decide how far to consult and involve them.

Lord Hylton

My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Lord for his very helpful reply. Does he agree that innovation is one of the main justifications for voluntary bodies? Does he accept that, today, homelessness and sub-standard housing are two of the most acute problems that we face? Is it not true, therefore, that voluntary innovations in adapting unlettable properties and in making use of short-life housing urgently need to be copied in the public sector?

Lord Skelmersdale

My Lords, the Government have no monopoly of good ideas, and they recognise this. There will inevitably be gaps in the statutory and local provision for housing which, with its experience, the voluntary sector is very successful at plugging. Some schemes have been taken over by the public sector in the past and I have no doubt that others will be in the future. Whether they will be concerned with homelessness or with short-life use is difficult to say.

Baroness Jeger

My Lords, why does the noble Lord say that the Government recognise the importance of voluntary organisations in the housing field at a time when the Government are making it more difficult for local authorities to contribute to those schemes and more difficult for voluntary organisations to carry out the work that he says is important? Does he not agree that public contributions to the special housing for which most voluntary associations are responsible will be discouraged if potential donors feel that the houses they help to provide will be sold off?

Lord Skelmersdale

My Lords, I do not believe that the Government are putting difficulties in the way of local authorities in the manner that the noble Baroness suggests. We are changing the particular body which provides a particular fund to a particular voluntary sector housing association. In answer to the noble Baroness's second point, we have today a long debate on the subject of housing—the second of three allocated days—and I have no doubt that we shall be able to pursue this aspect a good deal further.

Lord Wallace of Coslany

My Lords, will the noble Lord accept my congratulations on his original reply? But, bearing in mind the Government's interest in and devotion to voluntary organisations, will he not accept that the decisions taken here on the Housing and Building Control Bill are decisions taken—with the exception of the Government Front Bench—by a voluntary body? I hope, of course, that those decisions will be respected.

Lord Skelmersdale

My Lords, I thought that we were discussing voluntary bodies which are partly funded by public moneys. I do not think that your Lordships fall into that category.

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