asked the Secretary of State for the Environment what reductions he plans in the finance available to local authorities for purchasing privately-rented accommodation.
Will the hon. Gentleman accept that, with the Greater London Council rate precept planned to rise this year by nearly 80 per cent., it is unjustifiable to spend large sums of money purchasing blocks of flats many of which have very few vacant tenancies? How can the hon. Gentleman justify the GLC's expenditure of £350,000 on a block of flats in my constituency in which there are only two vacant tenancies? This does nothing for the home-seeker and adds considerably to the burdens on ratepayers.
In our view, the purchase of occupied blocks of flats is not the first priority for municipalisation expenditure. The vast bulk of expenditure which has been provided has gone in the purchase of empty properties or blocks of flats in which there is a very high proportion of empty properties. That goes for the GLC as well as for any other local authority which has embarked on this policy. If the hon. Gentleman has specific cases in mind such as the one to which he referred, I shall be glad if he will let me have details.
Is my hon. Friend aware that many local authorities have virtually run out of land within their boundaries on which to build new houses, and that the only way they can hope to reduce large waiting lists is to buy up empty properties offered to them? Will he ensure that adequate funds are available to those authorities which want to buy up empty properties in order to rehouse people on their watiing lists?
Unfortunately, in the present financial situation, I cannot say that there will be no ceiling on total national expenditure. However, provision will be made to maintain the level of municipalisation which local authorities have embarked upon, and we hope in the future to increase it by various means which I am now examining.