Owner-occupied Houses (Purchase)

Oral Answers to Questions — Northern Ireland – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 13th December 1973.

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Photo of Mr Stratton Mills Mr Stratton Mills , Belfast North 12:00 am, 13th December 1973

asked the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland if he will make a statement on the working of the scheme to purchase the houses of owner-occupiers in troubled areas; and if he will now review the operation of the scheme to cover a wider range of cases of hardship.

Photo of Mr David Howell Mr David Howell , Guildford

1,176 applications have been received in connection with the scheme. The 903 cases dealt with have included 659 recommendations to purchase. The scheme is kept under constant review, as a result of which a more favourable basis for valuation was recently introduced. The advisory committee, which considers all applications, recently recommended further changes in the scheme and these are being considered.

Photo of Mr Stratton Mills Mr Stratton Mills , Belfast North

Is the Minister aware that we welcome the fact that there has been an increase in activity in the scheme in the last two months, and that we also welcome the promise of a continuing review? Will he say a little more about the new basis of valuation in terms of valuation of property before it was vandalised rather than at current market values? Will he also say a little more about the position of building societies?

Photo of Mr David Howell Mr David Howell , Guildford

I am aware of my hon. Friend's keen interest in this scheme since its inception, which has been greatly welcomed. As to the basis of valuation, the change which has now taken place is that many of the houses considered had been vandalised and consequently had been lowered in valuation. It was thought fairest not to include damage due to vandalism when offering a price. As for building societies, the Building Societies Association has been most helpful in its efforts at co-operation in this scheme. We are currently further considering certain aspects with the building societies, and when there are any developments on that front I shall let my hon. Friend know.

Photo of Mr Jock Stallard Mr Jock Stallard , St Pancras North

What steps is the hon. Gentleman prepared to take to ensure that property speculation does not go mad in Northern Ireland, as it has in this country?

Photo of Mr David Howell Mr David Howell , Guildford

That is a much wider question, affecting all sorts of factors, such as security, the general atmosphere, and land values in Ireland. If the hon. Gentleman will write to me on this matter I shall do my best to give him answers.

Photo of Mr James Kilfedder Mr James Kilfedder , North Down

Will my hon. Friend instruct the Northern Ireland Housing Executive to implement the Conservative policy of selling to tenants houses which they occupy?

Photo of Mr David Howell Mr David Howell , Guildford

That, again, is another question. These issues have to be considered in the special circumstances of Northern Ireland, bearing in mind particular housing needs and the security situation. If the hon. Gentleman tables a Question or writes to me on the matter, I shall do my best to meet his point.

Photo of Mr James Wellbeloved Mr James Wellbeloved , Erith and Crayford

By how much will the scheme add to the several hundred million pounds already contributed by the British taxpayer to Northern Ireland?

Photo of Mr David Howell Mr David Howell , Guildford

It is not possible to say. The answer depends on the number of houses finally purchased by the Housing Executive and the values fixed. It will not be a large sum, but it will bring a great measure of relief to some hard-pressed and desperate people.