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Housing Policy Review

Volume 932: debated on Wednesday 18 May 1977

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asked the Secretary of State for the Environment whether he will set out in full in the Official Report, giving references and dates in each case, every official forecast made in the House by either the Prime Minister, the Secretary of State or other Ministers at the Department of the Environment on the publication date of the Housing Finance Review, subsequently renamed the Housing Policy Review, since that review was first announced, including his current forecast.

Yes. The Green Paper on the Housing Policy Review is to be published just as soon as it is ready.

Does the Secretary of State accept that there has been an extraordinary delay over this report, for which house builders have been asking for some time because it affects their policies? Can he give a firm indication instead of a waffle answer?

The first part of the hon. Member's question discourages me on this occasion from giving too precise an answer. That is why I carefully couched my answer in the terms I did. I do not accept that there has been an unnecessary delay. On the contrary, it indicates the considerable importance that we attach to getting the housing policy right.

If the hon. Member reflects on two of the major housing White Papers and Acts that were produced by his own party in the post-war period—the 1957 Rent Act and the 1972 Housing Finance Act—he will be bound to conclude that the case against being over-hasty is immense.

When the review is published, will the Secretary of State resist the Conservative clamour to slash council house building and subsidies, thereby increasing rents? When rents are increased, trade unionists regard it as a reduction in their real wages. Will the improved financial situation encourage the Secretary of State to restore the cuts that have been made in housing?

The second question is one on which my right hon. Friend the Minister for Housing and Construction has just commented—the possibility, as the situation improves, of doing more in house building. On rents, it is my hope that in terms of the Housing Policy Review, when the whole matter will be laid before the House, we shall be able to bring forward proposals that are seen to be sensible and fair.

Will the Secretary of State explain why he has totally failed to answer the question of my hon. Friend the Member for Reading, North (Mr. Durant), requiring references and dates of repeated promises of publication of the Housing Policy Review? This is not a question of being over-hasty. The fact is that the conclusions of all the experts are incompatible with and unacceptable to this Government. That is why the review has not been published.

We shall see how unacceptable the conclusions are. We shall see—I hope it will not be long—just how right or wrong the alleged experts are. I counsel the hon. Member to be more patient. In relation to the dates, I was asked to put an answer in the Official Report and I am doing so.

Following is the information:

The following list contains references to statements made in the House on the publication date of the Housing Policy Review.
  • 15 January 1975: Secretary of State (the former right hon. Member for Grimsby (Mr. Crosland)), Vol. 884, col. 100 (Written Answer).
  • 12 November 1975: Minister for Housing and Construction (the right hon. Member for Brent, East (Mr. Freeson)), Vol. 899, col. 703 (Written Answer).
  • 14 January 1976: Secretary of State, Vol. 903, col. 371.
  • 15 March 1976: Minister for Housing and Construction, Vol. 907, col. 382 (Written Answer).
  • 30 June 1976: Minister for Housing and Construction, Vol. 914, col. 168 (Written Answer).
  • 14 July 1976: Secretary of State (the right hon. Member for Stepney and Poplar (Mr. Shore)), Vol. 915, cols. 634–5.
  • 4 August 1976: Secretary of State, Vol. 916, col. 1693.
  • 3 November 1976: Secretary of State, Vol. 918, col. 1391.
  • 9 November 1976: Minister for Housing and Construction, Vol 919, cols. 105–6 (Written Answer).
  • 8 December 1976: Secretary of State, Vol. 922, cols. 431–3.
  • 19 January 1977; Secretary of State, Vol. 924, cols. 314–6.
  • 27 January 1977: Prime Minister, Vol. 924, col. 1697.
  • 16 March 1977: Secretary of State, Vol. 928, cols. 189–90 (Written Answer).