HC Deb 17 March 1959 vol 602 cc189-91
22. Sir D. Robertson

asked the Secretary of State for Scotland if he will now use his powers under Section 48 of the Housing (Scotland) Act, 1950, to direct Caithness County Council to prepare and submit to him forthwith proposals for the rehousing of Mr. and Mrs. Isaac McPhee and their five children who are living in a 10 foot by seven foot shack on the hill above Latheron, where their health is endangered.

The Joint Under-Secretary of State for Scotland (Mr. J. Nixon Browne)

I apologise, Mr. Speaker, for this slightly lengthy reply.

My right hon. Friend has investigated the progress being made by Caithness County Council in the difficult task of finding accommodation for tinker families normally resident in its area, and he is satisfied that he would not be justified in proceeding as my hon. Friend suggests.

The absorption into the community of tinkers, with their traditionally itinerant mode of life and dwelling, presents grave problems for all concerned and does not always meet with success.

Since last June, permanent housing has been found for nearly half of the fifteen tinker families then remaining on the county council's list as still living in unsuitable accommodation.

On 12th February, the council again reviewed the case of the family referred to by my hon. Friend and instructed that all practicable steps should continue to be taken to provide accommodation. As this becomes available, this case, together with the others, will be considered by the county council.

My right hon. Friend has expressed deep concern that the McPhee family should be rehoused as soon as possible. In the meantime he has received a medical report which indicates that there does not appear to be any evidence of illness in this family attributable to the bad conditions under which they are living.

Sir D. Robertson

Is it not a miracle that two adults and five children have lived for seven years on this exposed hillside? I think that God has been good to them. Is not the hon. Gentleman's statement rather one of defeatism? Is it not the case that the father of the family did his duty as a soldier in the recent war when he was called up? Why should he and his wife and children be denied a home such as others can get, and to which they are entitled under the law?

Mr. Browne

I am not defending bad housing conditions. This application was made in July, 1956, but, as I have explained to the hon. Gentleman, the council is maintaining its progress and has already rehoused a very large number of tinker families living under equally difficult conditions.

Mr. T. Fraser

Can the Joint Under-Secretary say if the large number—I should think seven or eight, from what he has said—of tinker families rehoused since last June were more overcrowded than this family or were living in conditions worse than those in which people were living in this case?

Mr. Browne

Yes, Sir—or as bad.

Mr. J. Stuart

Is not this a matter which has been the concern, and rightly so, of the local authorities for a considerable number of years, and would not any departure from that policy be one of queue-jumping, which would lead to endless difficulties in very many quarters?

Mr. Browne

Yes, Sir.

Mr. H. Morrison

Is not this an exceptional and really terrible case—that this family of seven persons should be living in this shack of essentially limited size? Is it not disgraceful that they have not been found accommodation?

Mr. Browne

No, Sir. The right hon. Gentleman will know, although he does not represent a Scottish constituency, that there are in Scotland very many people with far longer outstanding applications living in very bad housing conditions, and I am satisfied that the local authority is doing its best and is doing all it can to better this position.

Mr. H. Morrison

Is the hon. Gentleman aware that, even though I do not represent a Scottish constituency, I am a Member of Parliament and entitled to be concerned?

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