Housing

Part of Orders of the Day — Supply – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 21st June 1978.

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Photo of Mr Reginald Freeson Mr Reginald Freeson , Brent East 12:00 am, 21st June 1978

I am all in favour of improving the Acts, but I am glad to have it on record that the Conservative Opposition, despite the years of nagging criticism and generalised opposition, and the undermining of people's confidence in this legislation, are in favour of security of tenure in law and of maintaining the system of rent regulation. At long last we have got that on the record, and we are glad to have it so.

Let me turn to another aspect of policy on which the Opposition have not yet come clean. That is the question of the level of investment. The hon. Member for Hornsey made much play of the bids under the housing investment programme system. He knows perfectly well, being in contact with the local authorities concerned, that some of those which have spoken so much about the bids that they have put in being cut are, in fact, at risk of underspending the sums that have been granted to them. A good deal of the bidding that went on was very questionable, to say the least. I have said frankly to local authority representatives in discussions with them throughout the country, that we want realistic bids and that we shall make sure that the investment is available on the basis of realistic programmes.

Our concern at present is that under the exhortation of leading members of the Opposition, in this place and elsewhere, Tory councils throughout the country are going short on the investment programmes that are being allocated. What we should like to have from leading spokesmen of the Opposition is a public statement that they wish to see an expansion of investment in public sector housing, not a contraction. Will they please give us that undertaking? Or is it their intention to cut?

Or do we have to turn to the other Shadow Housing Minister, the right hon. and learned Member for Surrey, East (Sir G. Howe), who, at a stroke, in 1978 wishes to cut by £150 million the investment programmes of local authorities under the housing investment programme system? He announced that only a week or so ago. Whom are we to believe—the Shadow spokesman here or the Shadow spokesman for the Treasury, who is the other housing Shadow? The right hon. and learned Gentleman says "Cut". Does the hon. Member for Hornsey say "Cut investment programmes" after having complained about "phoney" cuts that we are supposed to have imposed? Will he please tell us—I shall gladly give way—whether he will maintain the present level of housing investment in the public sector and whether, when economic circumstances permit it, he will support an expansion of that provision? I gladly give way. [HoN. MEMBERS: "Answer."] Well, we shall take note of this and come back to it on another occasion. The present Government will maintain the provision. We shall do our best to encourage local authorities to take up the programmes that have been allocated. It will be in new building for special needs and general needs—