HC Deb 31 July 1974 vol 878 cc787-8
15. Mr. Sproat

asked the Secretary of State for Scotland whether he is satisfied with the present level of house construction in the north and north-east of Scotland.

Mr. Millan

I shall not be satisfied until all outstanding housing needs have been met. Local authorities and the Scottish Special Housing Association are building houses as quickly as they can in the north and north-east of Scotland. I shall continue to give them every encouragement in their task.

Mr. Sproat

I am grateful to the Minister and to his predecessors for the help that is being given, but will not the Minister accept that the shortage of housing is the biggest single need in the North-East at present, and that we are disastrously behind target? Does the Minister realise that in the decade ending in 1981 an estimated population increase of about 50,000 persons is expected in the area. Does he accept the report of the North-East of Scotland Joint Advisory Committee that unless something urgent is done about the housing drive, oil-related programmes will have to be cancelled or postponed?

Mr. Millan

I am aware of the problems in the area and I have spoken to the local authorities about them, as, indeed, has my right hon. Friend the Minister of State in the other place. The hon. Gentleman is very free with his generalities about problems, but he does not make much in the way of a practical contribution to how they may be solved.

Mrs. Winifred Ewing

Are there hard facts on the likely population explosion? It is often talked about, but one would like to have figures broken down, if possible, into the various local authority areas, so that local authorities can make sensible forward plans for the number of houses they need. May I make one "plug" for my constituency, which is increasing in population for reasons in addition to oil-related benefits? The first reason is that there are two bases there and the second reason is that it is such a desirable place that many people from all parts of the United Kingdom want to live there. May I ask for some statistics on population in a forward sense?

Mr. Millan

I shall see whether I can provide them, but, again, I have no reason to think that local authorities are not aware of the problems. They are very much aware of the problems, and arrangements are being made to help them as much as possible, both in the North-East—as I have already mentioned—and through the Moray Firth Working Party, on which local authorities, the Scottish Office and other agencies are represented. We are aware of the problems, and everything possible is being done to produce practical solutions to them, but I am always willing to listen to practical suggestions.

Mr. Small

Will the Minister tell us from his experience whether there are willing sellers and willing buyers of land, or would compulsory purchase orders be required in order to make progress?

Mr. Millan

The situation varies in different areas. Some local authorities, for example, have been very good about building up a land bank in advance. This is a development which, within the limitations of the finance involved, I certainly wish to encourage.