HC Deb 13 December 1955 vol 547 cc983-4
16. Mrs. Castle

asked the Minister of Housing and Local Government whether he will accept as ranking for grant costs incurred by local authorities in adapting British Iron and Steel Federation houses in order to remove the risk of fire which has been found to arise from their construction.

Mr. Sandys

I would refer the hon. Member to my reply of 3rd November to the hon. Member for Stoke-on-Trent, Central (Dr. Stross).

Mrs. Castle

is it not a fact that that reply was totally unsatisfactory and ought now to be changed? Is it not also a fact that these alterations to the steel houses have been made with the approval of the Ministry, which recognised that they were originally constructed in a faulty way? Is it not quite wrong that the cost of these alterations should have to be borne on either the rates or the rents?

Mr. Sandys

We have been moving into a new field of construction—

Mr. W. R. Williams

A desert.

Mr. Sandys

—where absolute certainty was not possible; but it has always been a well-established principle that local authorities are responsible for maintaining, and making good any defects in the houses which they own. These houses are no different from any other houses. The mere fact that advice was given by the Government, so far as knowledge was available, about which types were satisfactory, does not alter the fact that they are local authority houses.

Mr. Monslow

Is not the Minister aware that three fires have occurred in this type of house in the Borough of Barrow-in-Furness this year? Is he not further aware that 52 local authorities consider that they now qualify for grant and should not be a cost for the local authorities to bear? Will he not reconsider the matter?

Mr. Sandys

I am not aware of the exact number of fires which took place in Barrow-in-Furness.

Mr. Mitchison

Is it not only fair that where these houses have been built or altered in accordance with the Minister's guidance, they should rank for grant?

Mr. Sandys

We give guidance on all sorts of subjects, and if we had to pay for everything which was done in accordance with our guidance it would come to a very big bill.