asked the Secretary of State for the Environment what is the current average cost of a newly-built council house, including land, in England and Wales.
The current average cost of a newly-built local authority dwelling, including land, is £13,000.
In view of the size of that figure, does the Minister accept that it would be far cheaper for the Government to help less-well-paid families to buy their own houses—which they would prefer—than to build more council houses for them?
I would not accept that allegation. The truth is that a great number of people do not wish to buy their own homes and there are others who cannot afford to do so. Each local authority has a duty to see that these people are adequately housed.
Will the Minister explain why Conservatives so often bash council houses, ignoring the all-party role which in the past regarded assisted housing as the most important of all social services, basic to all other social expenditure?
I would not dream of trying to explain the philosophy of the Opposition. That is not my job, thank goodness. Housing is a great social need which calls for a community responsibility as well as an individual responsibility.
Can the Minister tell the House what the average cost of £13,000 represents in terms of annual subsidy from ratepayers and taxpayers? Inas much as the figure is an average one, what are the minimum and maximum figures for council house building costs in the country at the moment?
If the hon. Member wants details—and he has every right to them—he should table a Question. I shall then answer it. The average subsidy from the central Government rate fund for council dwellings is running at £212 and the average tax relief and mortgage subsidy per mortgagor is £214.
Will the Under-Secretary answer the question? What is the subsidy on new council house building in the £13,000 average cost?
If the hon Gentleman thinks he knows more than the experts, I suggest that he tables a Question, when I shall given him a detailed answer.