Empty Domestic Properties (Inner London)

Oral Answers to Questions — Environment – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 6 May 1981.

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Photo of Mr Michael Morris Mr Michael Morris , Northampton South 12:00, 6 May 1981

asked the Secretary of State for the Environment what is the latest estimate of the number of empty domestic properties owned by local authorities in inner London.

Photo of Mr Geoffrey Finsberg Mr Geoffrey Finsberg , Camden Hampstead

The latest estimates of the number of empty council dwellings owned by local authorities in inner London are contained in the authorities' HIP returns for 1981–82 and they show the position as at 1 April 1980. A copy of each authority's HIP return is in the Library.

Photo of Mr Michael Morris Mr Michael Morris , Northampton South

Is my hon. Friend aware that I have not had the chance to go to the Library to look up the figures? However, I am aware that they run to several thousands. Is he aware that the Labour Party's GLC manifesto calls for a massive programme of new building? Is not that a hollow policy when there are thousands of empty properties controlled by Labour councils in inner London?

Photo of Mr Geoffrey Finsberg Mr Geoffrey Finsberg , Camden Hampstead

I am sure that my hon. Friend will, wish to spend the early hours of the morning reading the HIP returns. It might help him if I remind him that Lambeth had 3,100 empty properties, that Islington had 2,800, that Southwark had 2,700 and that Hackney had 2,300.

Photo of Mr Douglas Jay Mr Douglas Jay , Wandsworth Battersea North

Has the Minister any powers under existing legislation to compel the Wandsworth borough council to rent the many council homes that it has been holding empty for many months in a futile attempt to sell them?

Photo of Mr Geoffrey Finsberg Mr Geoffrey Finsberg , Camden Hampstead

Wandsworth has had a remarkably good housing record and I see no reason to join in criticism of it.

Photo of Mr Robin Squire Mr Robin Squire , Hornchurch

Does my hon. Friend agree that, in the unfortunate event of a change of control of the GLC in the near future, one possible slight benefit might be that the leader of Lambeth council, who has such a great knowledge of managing empty properties, will be in an excellent position to do something similar within the GLC because of his party's rates policy, which will lead only to more empty properties in London?

Photo of Mr Geoffrey Finsberg Mr Geoffrey Finsberg , Camden Hampstead

If the leader of Lambeth council does to the GLC what he has done in Lambeth, Heaven help the ratepayers of London.

Photo of Mr John Cartwright Mr John Cartwright , Greenwich Woolwich East

Will the Minister accept that many of the vacancies result from the lengthy delays on the part of many local authorities of all political persuasions in reletting empty properties? Will he acknowledge that this causes great resentment among those on waiting lists? Will he take steps to try to encourage local authorities to cut through their bureaucratic processes? Finally, will he accept that we might get a better use of the existing housing stock if tenants are given a greater element of choice so that they are able to live in properties in which they wish to reside rather than have local government officers telling them what they should have?

Photo of Mr Geoffrey Finsberg Mr Geoffrey Finsberg , Camden Hampstead

I remind the hon. Gentleman that quite recently the housing services advisory unit produced a report called "Reducing the Number of Empty Dwellings''. It is a constructive document dealing with how the number of vacant properties could be reduced. Of course, local authorities could follow the excellent homesteading scheme that was introduced by the GLC.

Photo of Mr Edward Graham Mr Edward Graham , Enfield Edmonton

The Minister has given us the figures of empty domestic proerties in Labour-controlled Lambeth and Islington. What is the number of such properties that are owned by the Tory GLC?

Photo of Mr Geoffrey Finsberg Mr Geoffrey Finsberg , Camden Hampstead

I cannot answer that question without notice.

Photo of Mr Clinton Davis Mr Clinton Davis , Hackney Central

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. May I advert to the answer to question 16?.

Photo of Mr George Thomas Mr George Thomas , Cardiff West

Order. I hope that the hon. Member has a point of order that I can rule on.

Photo of Mr Clinton Davis Mr Clinton Davis , Hackney Central

I hope so, but it remains to be seen. How can the House be protected from deceptive answers? The Under-Secretary of State must have known that 6,000 houses were empty.

Photo of Mr George Thomas Mr George Thomas , Cardiff West

Order. It is unfair to try to score points on a bogus point of order.