§ Mr. Concannon
Yes. The present system of financing the executive is based on the arrangements which existed when housing was the responsibility of 65 housing authorities. Several additional measures have had to be taken in recent years to deal with problems arising from the civil disturbances and the level of inflation. Under these arrangements there are each year large losses which have to be written off; such losses are to a large extent the result of the present structure of grants and subsidies to the Executive and of the limits which the Government have imposed—in the interests of national policy on prices—on rent increases.
I propose, therefore, to publish later this year legislative proposals which will provide for the replacement of the present system of grants, subsidies and deficit payments by new arrangements based on a single grant to the executive. This grant would be determined each year after consideration of the executive's likely income and expenditure.
As far as rents are concerned, it will be my policy to close the gap in rent levels between NI and the rest of the United Kingdom. However, the speed at which this gap is closed will take into account a number of relevant factors including national policy on prices and the review of housing finance in England and Wales which has been initiated by the Government and which is likely to have important implications for NI.