HC Deb 21 February 1956 vol 549 cc187-9
43. Dr. Stross

asked the Minister of Housing and Local Government what consideration he has given to the effect of frost in causing water carrying pipes and cisterns to freeze up and later burst when thaw sets in; whether he will give an estimate of the total damage sustained by local authority houses in the recent frost; and whether he will advise local authorities as to any method in construction that might avoid similar damage in houses they will build in future.

49. Mr. de Freitas

asked the Minister of Housing and Local Government whether he will have an inquiry made to see if changes would be necessary in building laws and byelaws to enable houses to be constructed so that the freezing of pipes in winter shall be as rare as it is in other northern countries.

Mr. Sandys

I cannot give any estimate of the damage caused to houses through frozen pipes, but it has certainly been widespread—including my own. This should not be attributed to any defects in the byelaws and still less to any lack of good advice. The trouble is that bye-laws are not always observed and that advice is often ignored. When applying for loan sanction and subsidies for houses local authorities have to sign a certificate stating that the design complies with the provisions of the Housing Manuals, which include detailed guidance about the protection of plumbing against frost.

I am making inquiries to ascertain how extensive the damage has been; and how far recently-built houses have been affected. I also propose to consult the water undertakers as to what more effective methods can be adopted to ensure better observance of the byelaws. In the light of this information, I shall consider what further action should be taken.

Dr. Stross

Whilst thanking the Minister for a reply, which I am sure will give some satisfaction to all those who have suffered in the way in which the Minister himself has suffered, may I ask if he is aware that what he has said implies that there has been serious evasion of byelaws and of advice given? Is it not true that there are substitute materials, such as plastic pipes and other devices which can be used which may not have been covered by byelaws or in the advice given by him to local authorities? Will he consider that and every other possible circumstance?

Mr. Sandys

I am not a technical man, like the hon. Member for Stoke-on-Trent, Central (Dr. Stross), and I do not propose to go into that aspect of the matter. Until I have completed these inquiries I should not like to make an observation as to how far the byelaws have been evaded.

Sir H. Webbe

For the purposes of greater accuracy, will my right hon. Friend remind the hon. Member for Stoke-on-Trent, Central that the burst takes place when the pipe is frozen, not when the thaw sets in?

Mr. G. Jeger

Whilst sympathising with the right hon. Gentleman in his domestic predicament, may I ask if he behaves in private life as in political life, and refuses to take good advice?