HC Deb 31 July 1974 vol 878 cc773-5
7. Mr. Reid

asked the Secretary of State for Scotland what progress has been made towards resolving the Scottish housing problems revealed in the report of the Cullingworth Committee.

Mr. Millan

Since the Scottish Housing Advisory Committee's report on "Scotland's Older Houses" was published in 1967 and up to the end of 1973, 112,000 houses classified as "unfit" or "below the tolerable standard" have been demolished in Scotland and 236,000 houses in both the public and private sectors have been improved with the aid of improvement grants.

Mr. Reid

In spite of that, will the Minister concede that the number of housing starts in Scotland has fallen off year after year? Last year, the number of new starts was the smallest for 18 years, and even when he was last in office the Minister did not achieve his own target of 50,000 houses. Will he further concede that, given the trend to smaller families and urban dereliction, this is one of the most serious of Scottish problems? In view of these facts, will he consider reconvening the Cullingworth Committee to examine the problem?

Mr. Millan

I have no difficulty in agreeing with the hon. Gentleman about the record of the previous Government, because the number of houses started and completed by them showed a continual decline between 1970 and 1974.

On the other matters dealt with by the Cullingworth Report, my comment is that that report was produced in 1967. There was a much more recent opportunity, on the Housing (Scotland) Bill, to discuss these matters, and it is a pity that we did not have the benefit of the advice of the hon. Gentleman and his colleagues on that.

Mr. MacArthur

If the hon. Gentleman truly seeks to give a balanced picture of the housing position in Scotland, does he agree that what matters most is the quality of the housing in Scotland? Does he recall that he has just reminded the House that 236,000 houses in Scotland were improved, largely as a result of the improvement grants introduced by the Conservative Government, which he is so ready to criticise?

Mr. Millan

I certainly do not criticise the improvement grants, but the vast proportion of the number that I have quoted is in local authority housing. It is important to do this in the private sector, and that is one of the purposes of the recent housing Bill. Quality is important but, unfortunately, large numbers of people in Scotland do not have a house at all and we must, therefore, increase the number, too.

Mr. Steel

Will the Minister say by what date he hopes to see all houses in Scotland above the tolerable standard?

Mr. Millan

I think that it would be unrealistic to give a date.

Mr. Barrie Henderson

What plans has the Minister for discussing with local authorities the benefits that will flow to them and to the improvement of housing in Scotland from the Housing (Scotland) Bill that was initiated by the previous Government, and which he so skilfully put through the House this Session?

Mr. Millan

Obviously there will be continuing discussions on this but, as I made clear when the Bill was going through the House, a number of circulars on particular aspects of the Bill will be going out soon, so that we can make a good start in implementing the Bill's provisions.

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