How many people does the hon. Gentleman estimate are on housing lists awaiting decent homes, and will he say whether he is prepared en a national basis to take some steps to stimulate the building of low-cost housing?
Yes, indeed, I can give the hon. and learned Gentleman that assurance; we are anxious to do that. He will be pleased to know that the housing starts are considerably up; the amount of slum clearance is considerably up; and the amount of improvement grant is also considerably up.
Would my hon. Friend confirm that the unsatisfactory figures he gave in the original Answer reflect the policies of the previous Administration, whereas the satisfactory picture of starts which he has just given in a supplementary answer reflect the policies of the present Government?
It is inevitable that, owing to the time lag between starts and completions, the figure of completions is due to the policies of the previous Government whereas the satisfactory increase in starts is entirely due to our own policies.
Although the statistics are all up, rent and rates are up as well—[HON. MEMBERS: "Question."] I will get to that; do not get so excited. On the matter of starts, will the hon. Gentleman confirm that in the first four months of this year, despite all the figures he has already given us, the public sector building starts in money terms have fallen by 18 per cent?
What I can tell the House, as I said a moment ago—[HON. MEMBERS: "Answer the question."] I notice that Opposition hon. Members are not at all anxious to welcome the improvement in the number of starts. In fact, in answer to the hon. Gentleman's question, the starts this year in England and Wales in the comparable period about which he asks are some 15,000 up.