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House Building

Volume 4: debated on Wednesday 6 May 1981

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asked the Secretary of State for the Environment what are the latest house building figures, starts and completions; and if he will make a statement.

The seasonally adjusted figures for England for the three months December 1980 to February 1981 show that there were 32,500 housing starts and 48,900 completions. The number of starts showed a 14 per cent. increase on the figure for the previous three months.

There is bound to be an increase on the worst figures which we have had during the past 50 years. [HON. MEMBERS: "Question".] Is the Minister aware that those scandalous figures are set against a background of 300,000 building workers in the Tory dole queue, about 600 million bricks in stock and brickworks closing down amongst the 7,000 firms which went bankrupt last year, and at least 1ΒΌ million families looking for a roof over their heads? What a way to run a Department and a country. Do not those figures show that the Government are more concerned about inciting people to buy nuclear shelters than about providing families with roofs over their heads?

Does the Secretary of State agree that the private sector house building figures are more important than the public sector figures? Will he confirm that there is a 25 per cent. increase in the number of private houses started this year?

The House will be pleased to note the forecasts of the house building industry, to the effect that house building in the private sector will rise by 20 per cent. this year and is likely to rise by a further 20 per cent. in the following year. The House will understand that the figures for new construction in local authorities may be disappointingly low, but that is because local authorities are now spending more money on renovating their existing stock.

Will the right hon. Gentleman draw aside the veil over the information that the Under-Secretary of State refused to give about vacant council properties in London and reveal to the House that the Tory-controlled GLC has 6,000 vacant properties? As the right hon. Gentleman is ready to accept forecasts about private building, will he tell the House whether council house starts in England in 1981 will be as many as 15,000 or whether the number will be the worst for 60 years?

The right hon. Gentleman will have heard clearly what I said. House builders have only forecast their figures. Individual local authorities make their own judgments and will make their own forecasts. If the right hon. Gentleman is concerned to see a larger council house building programme, I would welcome his support in persuading those Labour authorities that are denying themselves the resources by not selling houses to speed up the process.

I promised to call the Minister to answer question 10, standing the in the name of the hon. Member for Pontefract and Castleford (Mr. Lofthouse), at the end of Question Time.