HL Deb 23 April 1986 vol 473 cc1153-5

2.51 p.m.

Lord Crawshaw of Aintree

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 what percentage of the Housing Corporation development programme for 1985–86 is represented by the programme for 1986–87 in areas other than those designated as inner city stress areas.

Lord Skelmersdale

My Lords, I hope that it will be helpful to the House if I answer this Question in terms of new projects. Outside the 80 designated housing stress areas where the Housing Corporation has been asked to concentrate its new approvals in 1986–87, the total scheme costs of new fair rent and home ownerships approvals in 1986–87 will be £88 million. This is just under 50 per cent. of the £180 million lotal scheme costs for new projects in these areas in 1985–86.

Lord Crawshaw of Aintree

My Lords, I thank the noble Lord for that reply. Is he aware that those of us who have been trying to get extra funds for the inner cities feel a sense of shame when we realise that any success that we may have achieved has been gained at the expense of other areas of the country? As the Government have been profuse in their praise of the housing associations' work, is it not strange that many of these associations will now be in a position where it will be necessary to get rid of in-house management which has been built up laboriously over many years? Is this the most efficient way to run a housing programme?

Lord Skelmersdale

My Lords, housing associations are only part of a housing programme, but I point out that the Government have provided for a programme by the Housing Corporation of £685 million in England in 1986–87. Together with the funding of housing associations by local authorities, which was about £250 million in 1985–86, that will enable the housing associations to make a substantial contribution towards meeting housing need. With regard to the noble Lord's general point, I think that this total provision for housing, both with the housing association movement and outside it, is a sensible way of running a housing programme.

Lord Mottistone

My Lords, following on from what the noble Lord, Lord Crawshaw, said, is my noble friend aware that the allocation for the west region of the National Federation of Housing Associations is 30 per cent. less this year compared with last year, and that the Isle of Wight, in which I have particular interest, is 33 per cent. less? I do not mean down by 30 per cent. but 30 per cent. of last year's total. Is that not too dramatic a decrease? I take my noble friend's point about the overall housing programme, but with what are to a large extent voluntary organisations, although some are more organised than others, is it not reasonable for them to have a much greater amount than they have been promised this year and something nearer to last year rather than the sum being down to under one-third?

Lord Skelmersdale

My Lords, I think I am right in saying that my noble friend's figures concentrate entirely on Housing Corporation grant in the areas that he mentioned. On one matter I agree with the Official Opposition: housing is about people, and where there are particular needs in an area, that is where we shall concentrate our resources.

Lord Tordoff

My Lords, in the county of Somerset, where the noble Lord the Minister and I both live, is not the position similar to that of the Isle of Wight although not quite as bad? Is he aware that in Somerset the housing associations are receiving in the current year only just over 50 per cent. of the money that they received last year? Are we not robbing the poor to pay the poor? Should not new money be put up front to deal with the inner-city areas rather than money being taken from other poorer areas of the country in order to relieve inner-city stress?

Lord Skelmersdale

My Lords, it is awfully easy to think that the answer to all our problems lies in more and more and newer and newer money. But where on earth is it to come from?

The Earl of Selkirk

My Lords, is the distribution of money the decision of the Housing Corporation or is it directed by the Government?

Lord Skelmersdale

My Lords, it was a decision by the Housing Corporation on a request for reconsideration of its policy by the Government.

Baroness David

My Lords, is the Minister aware that it is no use trying to bamboozle the House about what money is spent on housing when expenditure on housing between 1979 and 1984–85 has gone down in real terms by 54.6 per cent.?

Lord Skelmersdale

My Lords, the figures that I have are, as usual, in cash terms. I note that in that period expenditure went down by 19 per cent. In the period of the last Labour Government, on exactly the same basis, expenditure went down by 45 per cent.