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Volume 930: debated on Wednesday 20 April 1977

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asked the Secretary of State for the Environment if he will visit Camden for the purpose of discussing local government expenditure.

He has at present no plans to do so.

When the right hon. Gentleman or his ministerial colleagues visit the People's Republic of Camden, will they tell the local authority that to build 42 houses at a cost rent of £160 each per week is financial lunacy and of no help to the ratepayers or taxpayers?

I have no doubt that the hon. Gentleman and his predecessors, with their long association with the authority, have made their views well known. As for high costs generally, and without particular reference to the scheme that the hon. Gentleman probably has in mind, it must be fairly stated that there are special problems in Camden and a number of other inner city areas. There are special problems involving the high cost of land and the high cost of servicing land. However, I assure the hon. Gentleman and the House—I have made this clear to Camden and other authorities—that we shall be closely watching the unit cost of housing construction, housing conversions and modernisations. These matters must be treated with fairness. We need the dwellings that are provided. In some areas costs are much higher than those elsewhere.

It is difficult in Question Time to give a list, chapter and verse, of all the contacts that exist between my officials and myself and local authorities with special problems of high costs. If the hon. Gentleman has a particular problem in mind, I can assure him that he may unburden himself to me either by Question or by letter.