HC Deb 21 July 1977 vol 935 cc1825-7
3. Mr. Watkinson

asked the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland if he will make a statement on the housing situation in Northern Ireland.

The Under-Secretary of State for Northern Ireland (Mr. Ray Carter)

My officials and the Housing Executive have been carrying out an intensive and detailed analysis of the Northern Ireland housing problem, which is, as the House knows, extremely complex and serious. Their work is now bearing fruit, and we are taking action in a number of fields. I give a particularly high priority to the improvement of the situation in Belfast.

Mr. Watkinson

Is my hon. Friend aware that those of us who serve on the Public Accounts Committee are well aware of the enormous problems confronting the Housing Executive in Northern Ireland? Can he say whether he is satisfied that sufficiently speedy progress is being made in this area? Can he also say whether he has any indication yet that any of the schemes that he is introducing will encourage the purchase of private sector housing, given the fact that house prices in Belfast are especially high?

Mr. Carter

I am not satisfied that we are doing enough. We are dealing with an enormous housing problem in Northern Ireland, especially in Belfast. That is why I became the chairman of the steering group to oversee the redevelopment of Belfast. I hope that in the next 12 months or so we shall see some real evidence on the ground. We are seeking, through equity sharing and mortgage option schemes, to increase purchases of private houses in Northern Ireland.

Mr. Wm. Ross

Have any investigations been carried out into the effects of wall insulation, to get rid of the problem of condensation that we have in Northern Ireland, and has any investigation been carried out to improve the design of houses to try to avoid this problem in future building programmes?

Mr. Carter

The problem of condensation in houses is not peculiar to Northern Ireland. I doubt whether there is any constituency in the United Kingdom with public or private housing which does not need something done about the problem of condensation. We are alive to it in Northern Ireland and we are seeking to do whatever we can to eradicate the problem, which in many cases is not the fault of design but, rather, the heating practices of those occupying the houses.

Mr. Kilfedder

In view of the generally lower incomes in Northern Ireland, which I reckon at about £4 a week less than in Great Britain, and in view of the higher costs of food, heating, clothing and transport, will the hon. Gentleman freeze Housing Executive rents for a period as a contribution towards avoiding hardship and as a social measure which will be greatly appreciated in the Province?

Mr. Carter

As is so very often the case, the hon. Gentleman has his facts wrong. It is not true that incomes in Northern Ireland are substantially below those in the rest of the United Kingdom. I must tell the hon. Gentleman bluntly that there is no prospect of a freezing of housing rents in the public sector in Northern Ireland.

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