HC Deb 17 December 1996 vol 287 cc746-7
9. Mr. Bellingham

To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment how many local authorities were awarded funding under round 1 of the estates renewal challenge fund. [7859]

Mr. Clappison

Eleven local authorities have been awarded funding in the region of £174 million. This will secure improvements to 19,000 homes on 29 needy estates.

Mr. Bellingham

I thank my hon. Friend for that excellent reply. Is he aware that many people in Norfolk are rejoicing at the news of the list of winning bids in the capital challenge pilot scheme? As well as two excellent schemes in Norwich—one of which is worth £2.5 million and the other nearly £4 million—there are two in my constituency. First, there is the North Lynn gateway scheme—where the go-ahead has been given to environmental improvements to the entrance to a school—and secondly, the Hunstanton regeneration scheme. The latter scheme will be most welcome, as it will regenerate the waterfront and many other parts of the town. Are those not examples of the Government listening to local people and going ahead with environmental improvements to their communities?

Mr. Clappison

It is good news that those environmental improvements are taking place in North Lynn and Hunstanton in my hon. Friend's constituency. I am sure that he, too, will be pleased that there are to be substantial improvements in the 29 needy estates that are in some of the most rundown areas of the country, as well as improvements for tenants in the form of repairs and maintenance.

Mr. Raynsford

Does the Minister agree that it is gross hypocrisy to talk about improving conditions on a small number of selected estates when the Budget savagely cut housing investment and, as a result, condemned hundreds of thousands of tenants throughout the country to live in substandard housing? If the Government are really serious about improving housing conditions, why do they not release the £5 billion of capital receipts?

Mr. Clappison

The hon. Gentleman is wrong. He should applaud transfers of housing that bring about repairs and maintenance for tenants, especially when they take place in the most needy areas. He should make it clear whether he is promising more spending on housing, or saying that cuts should fall elsewhere. If he will not, will he explain how he would go about funding housing? We have made it clear that we want there to be transfers, and all the improvements that they bring, and that we want to bring in private capital alongside public expenditure and so get greater value for money. We have heard nothing from the hon. Gentleman, and that failure is becoming increasingly widely recognised.