§ Mr. Gordon Prentice
To ask the Secretary of State for Transport, Local Government and the Regions what initiatives he has taken to(a) renovate and (b) clear decaying private sector housing stock in (i) England and (ii) east Lancashire since 1997. 
§ Ms Keeble
The responsibility for renovating or clearing decaying private sector housing lies primarily with local housing authorities. But in our Housing Policy Statement "The Way Forward for Housing", published last April, we set out a number of ways in which local housing authorities may make better use of their powers.
"The Way Forward for Housing" announced relaxations to the rules governing the declaration of renewal areas and group repair schemes. These came into force immediately. The Housing Policy Statement also set out major new changes to allow authorities far greater freedom in renovating or clearing private sector stock. Subject to parliamentary approval of an order under the Regulatory Reform Act 2001, local authorities will be given a new general power replacing the present detailed grant regimes. These reforms, planned to come into force in 2002, will broaden authorities' present loan-giving powers, enable payments to be made to third parties to lever in private finance, and enable help to be offered to people to move to a new home as an option to renovating their existing one.
These reforms are in addition to a wide range of regeneration programmes pursued by this Government, including the Single Regeneration Budget, the New Deal for Communities and the Neighbourhood Renewal Fund which can be used for decaying private sector housing.