HC Deb 07 April 1971 vol 815 cc425-7
10. Mr. Robert Hughes

asked the Secretary of State for Scotland how many housing units require to be built in Scotland to provide sufficient housing of tolerable standards for people living in Scotland; and when he anticipates this need will be fulfilled.

Mr. Gordon Campbell

I am still awaiting returns from over half of the local housing authorities giving their assessments of the number of houses in their areas which fail to meet the tolerable standard.

Mr. Hughes

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that the 1966 Census figures of housing in Scotland showed that in unfurnished tenancies rented from private persons 25 per cent. of households had to share an inside W.C.; 13.8 per cent. had to share an outside W.C.; 70 per cent. had no fixed bath; and 47 per cent. had no hot water tap? Does he agree that that is a disastrous situation which should be corrected, and that it is far better just to miss the bull's eye of a target than not to have a target to aim at?

Mr. Campbell

The first part of the hon. Gentleman's question certainly shows the need for a campaign for more improvements to be done as well as building where required. I disagree with the second part of his question. The last Government proved that to set a target, to hold out hopes to the general public of meeting a certain figure and then to miss it by over 5,000, is worse than having no target.

Dr. Dickson Mabon

Does the right hon. Gentleman agree that he is supposed to be in the middle of a campaign to improve such houses and that we should have a progress report on it at some stage? Will he consider publishing a White Paper or statement to tell us, when he gets the figures, what the needs are and what progress has been made? Does he recognise that the fall-off in new building is one of the most alarming things in the Scottish housing position?

Mr. Campbell

When the returns are in I will certainly consider the best way of giving the House information about needs in the different areas and Scotland as a whole, as it comes out of them. As to the fall-off in starts, the hon. Gentleman knows better than any of us about this, because it started between 1968 and 1969, when there was a drop of nearly 5,000, followed by a drop of 3,000 between 1969 and 1970.

Dr. Mabon

This is becoming a rather thin alibi. You must be tired of hearing it, Mr. Speaker. The houses in 1968 and 1969 to which the right hon. Gentleman referred are built. We are talking now about houses which are to be built or which should be built. The right hon. Gentleman should address himself to 1970 and 1971 instead of going back three years.

Mr. Campbell

But the houses to be completed in 1970–71 are the houses that were started a year or two before that. [Interruption.] The question was about the drop in starts, and I accurately reminded Labour hon. Members, though they may not like it, of when that drop started. We are determined by a combination of public authority building and encouragement of the private sector, by recently lifting the restrictions on local authority mortgage lending, by improvements, by a special subsidy for slum clearance, and in other ways, to get the best possible housing in the places in Scotland where it is needed.

Mr. Ross rose

Mr. Speaker

Order. I am very much under criticism for not getting through sufficient Questions at Question Time. The reason is that right hon. and hon. Members, I think, tend to use it as an opportunity for debate. We should not have debate at Question Time.

12. Mr. Adam Hunter

asked the Secretary of State for Scotland how many applications from landlords were submitted to rent officers in Scotland for rent increases and rejected because of the sub-standard condition of the houses involved.

Mr. Younger

This information is not available, as the reasons for rent officers' decisions are not recorded.

Mr. Hunter

Is the hon. Gentleman aware that it has been my experience in my constituency that applications have been submitted by property owners for rent increases on property which has been sub-standard and that, because of intervention by myself and others, the local authorities concerned have been induced to condemn the houses involved? Does not he think it time to instruct rent officers not to accept applications for houses which are not meeting the tolerable standards?

Mr. Younger

It is possible for there to be cases where an application for a rent increase for a house which is substandard is made, and if the present rent for the house is below what the rent officer considers to be reasonable for it, then in spite of its condition this could happen. But I think the hon. Gentleman will agree that the procedures for the rent officers are not ones in which anyone should intervene. They do an independent job and they should be left to get on with it.

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