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Housing Acquisition

Volume 885: debated on Wednesday 5 February 1975

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1.

asked the Secretary of State for the Environment how many houses have been acquired, or are in the course of acquisition, under the scheme outlined in Circular 70 of 1974; what is the total amount of loans for which sanction has been sought under the scheme; and what financial limitations there are on the rate of expansion of the programme of acquisition.

The returns so far submitted by local authorities in England and Wales show that under the general consent given in Circular 70/74 some £60 million was spent on about 7,400 existing houses from April to 30th September last. Some £20 million has been approved for acquisitions falling outside the general consent. The expenditure limits on next year's acquisition will be higher than those in use for 1974–75.

Does my hon. Friend agree that a total of 7,000 is totally inadequate and that a successful municipalisation programme will necessarily involve compensation on the same lines as any other nationalisation programme, such as by the issue of Government stock rather than by cash, as the cash involved would be excessively inflationary?

My hon. Friend and I have discussed that suggestion several times. I see severe drawbacks to that way of handling the purchase of rented dwellings, but there are aspects of it which bear further examination. No doubt we can pursue that matter on another occasion.

Is the Minister satisfied that local authorities which are acquiring properties are carrying out adequate surveys beforehand and are not later finding that they have landed their ratepayers with impossible burdens of repair?

This must vary from one kind of property to another. After all, one of the main objectives that the Government have set in this field and which we are trying to encourage local authorities to pursue is the purchase of properties which are in need of modernisation and improvement. Indeed, I would wish to see local authorities concentrate most of their activities on a programme basis in such areas. It would inevitably follow from this that a considerable level of expenditure would be involved in many instances in such modernisation, conversion and repair, since the properties in question would be in grave need of it in such areas.