§ Mr. Proctor
asked the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry if he will make a statement on the state of, and prospects for, trade with Cuba.
§ Mr. Channon
I refer my hon. Friend to my answer to his question dated 28 November, which gives details of our trade with Cuba. The prospects for our exports to Cuba depend largely on Cuba's ability to pay. Within the limits of our international commitments our market is open to Cuban goods.
§ Mr. Proctor
asked the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what are the main items of trade between the United Kingdom and Cuba; and what has been the quantity and value of each of these items in each of the last five years.
§ Mr. Channon
The available information is as follows:
end of 1983, rising to about 600 by April 1985. These intentions may now have been altered, as the number of approved bodies has since risen significantly. It is therefore likely that the actual number of assured tenancies by the end of 1983 and by April 1985 will be rather higher.
I have today approved a further eight bodies as landlords to let on assured tenancies. An order to give effect to this will shortly be laid before the House. This brings the total number of approved bodies to 121, an increase of well over 300 per cent. since November last year; four further applications are currently under consideration and my Department continues to deal with informal inquiries from prospective applicants. Approved 363W bodies now include almost half the volume housebuilders, two housing associations set up by major national building societies, the Prudential Assurance Company Limited and Norwich Union Life Insurance Society.
Nine partnerships have been approved, including four based in Wales. Other approved bodies include smaller local builders and construction companies, investment and property companies and a friendly society. We have also approved Kingdomwide Limited, an offshoot of a registered housing association, the United Kingdom Housing Trust and Hampton Housing Association Limited, an offshoot of Sutton (Hastoe) Housing Association. These are the first such bodies to be approved, and I particularly welcome the participation of the housing association movement in this way. I hope that other housing associations will give serious consideration to the possibilities of letting under the scheme.
The assured tenancy scheme, which was introduced by sections 56–58 of the Housing Act 1980, permits bodies approved by the Secretary of State for the Environment and the Secretary of State for Wales to let newly-built dwellings at market rents, outside the Rent Acts. Capital allowances for expenditure on the construction of properties let on assured tenancies by companies who are approved bodies are available at the rate of 75 per cent. in the first year, together with a writing, down allowance of 4 per cent. in the first year and in each of the next five years (and a final I per cent. in the seventh year). These allowances were introduced for an experimental five-year period on 9 March 1982.
The Government are greatly encouraged by progress with the scheme so far and are determined to see it continue. Assured tenancies are an important new step in building up a new stock of good quality housing for renting at market rents on businesslike terms outside the restrictions of the Rent Acts. I urge anyone who is interested in making an application to join the scheme as landlord to contact my Department for details of the application procedure and an explanatory booklet.