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Housing Policy Review

Volume 934: debated on Wednesday 29 June 1977

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asked the Secretary of State for the Environment when he now expects the Housing Policy Review to be published.


asked the Secretary of State for the Environment whether he can now give a firm date for the publication of his housing finance review.

On the local authority aspects, is the Secretary of State aware that some—perhaps many—local authorities feel that they would be better able to meet the housing needs in their area if they were allowed to devote a little more resources to local authority mortgages and home improvements? This year many authorities, such as my own South Norfolk District Council, have been savagely cut back in these respects.

In the Secretary of State's proposals, with their emphasis on local authorities knowing their areas best, is it his intention to give them greater freedom of choice to make up their own minds on these aspects or, as he rather suggested in answer to an earlier question, still to carry on with central Government diktat?

Not exactly diktat, but we are embarking on this new approach to local housing expenditure and local housing plans. We gave a degree of virement between different previously restricted separate categories of housing expenditure in 1977–78, and I hope to broaden that in the period ahead, 1978–79.

I welcome what was said yesterday, and the Green Paper, but is it the Secretary of State's intention to wait until after November before making any changes in the rateable value and cost limits of improvement grants? Cannot we have that decision speedily?

We are prepared to look at individual cases. I should not wish to mislead the hon. Gentleman and to say that I was intending to change this before we have had time to receive the general comments that we have now invited from the public and from all those concerned with the Green Paper. On the other hand, I am not necessarily saying that we have to have everything in before we can make a decision on this matter.

Will my right hon. Friend be prepared to consider bringing together the new housing people in the Greater London Council and representatives of the Ealing and Hillingdon Councils concerning the Willow Tree Lane project? If that development had gone through, it would have been a massive contribution to easing the very severe housing problem in that part of London, particularly in the Middlesex area, but the new GLC has decided not to proceed. This means that there are literally thousands of people who might have been rehoused in a few years' time and who will not now be rehoused, because of the Tory policy on the GLC.

I am indeed concerned about the apparently wholesale cancellation of GLC projects in outer London. We shall be studying these proposals with great anxiety as they come forward. I shall consider what my hon. Friend said. If he would like to write to me giving me more details of this, I shall certainly give him a reply.

Will the Secretary of State specifically repudiate the persistent suggestion by his hon. Friend the Member for Salford, East (Mr. Allaun) that there should be new statutory controls over the building societies requiring them to lend to any particular class of person or in respect of any particular class of property? Will the Secretary of State confirm that any such proposals would only lead to suggestions from the building societies that the State should reimburse them for bad debts, and from that to proposals for the nationalisation of the building societies?

What my hon. Friend the Member for Salford, East (Mr. Allaun) is concerned about—and this represents the views of everyone on the Government side and a good many Opposition Members—is that there are classes of people—and classes of property—who have not been served as well in the past by building societies as we would wish. It is precisely those people whom we are trying to help. I believe that we can get a considerable way with the building societies through the kinds of arrangements that I have already discussed with the House.