HC Deb 21 November 1973 vol 864 cc1307-8
3. Mr. Donald Stewart

asked the Secretary of State for Scotland if he will now raise the grant and loan for crofters' housing.

The Under-Secretary of State for Home Affairs and Agriculture, Scottish Office (Mr. Alick Buchanan-Smith)

My right hon. Friend is presently considering the current level of crofter housing assistance but he is not yet able to make a statement.

Mr. Stewart

I thank the Minister for that reply. May I point out to him that, apart from the question of the grant, the insufficiency of the loan has created a gap between the amount that crofters can put down and the cost of a house? To my knowledge, 30 applications have been withdrawn—

Mr. Speaker

Order. It must be put in the form of a question.

Mr. Stewart

Is the Minister aware that, as a result, 30 applications have been withdrawn and that the alternative will be to supply local authority houses, at far greater cost to the central Government? Will he therefore ask his right hon. Friend to speed up a favourable decision in this matter?

Mr. Buchanan-Smith

I realise that there is concern over the rising costs, and this is a factor that we will consider. However, it is not a new phenomenon for applications to be withdrawn after they have been submitted. I also ask the hon. Gentleman to bear in mind that crofters have a considerable benefit from a preferential interest rate of 3⅛ per cent.

Mr. Strang

Does the Minister appreciate that I raised this issue with his hon. Friend when we last had Scottish Questions, when he undertook to look at it urgently? Has an urgent look been taken? Will he recognise that increased building costs are making it difficult for crofters to take advantage of the scheme?

Mr. Buchanan-Smith

We are looking at that, and we recognise that there are higher costs. I ask the hon. Gentleman to recognise in his turn the other considerable benefits, particularly the rate of interest.