HC Deb 23 June 1977 vol 933 cc1728-30
16. Mr. Kilfedder

asked the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland if he will introduce legislation to ensure that those house builders who fail to build to a reasonable standard must make good the defects which develop in a building within a certain period from the date of construction.

Mr. Carter

No, Sir. I am satisfied that effective administration of the existing legislation will protect house buyers against builders who fail to build houses to the required standard.

Mr. Kilfedder

It will be no surprise that I am disappointed with that reply. Surely the purchase of a home represents a considerable financial burden, particularly when taken on by young people. They therefore ought to be protected from inferior materials and from bad workmanship by some scandalous house builders, who, when asked to remedy defects, refuse to do so. Will the Minister look at this matter again?

Mr. Carter

The hon. Gentleman asked whether I would introduce legislation. Although I said that I shall not do that, that does not mean that I or my Department are not concerned about building standards. We have been in correspondence about a particular problem and I take the matter extremely seriously. Administrative machinery is available in order to protect house buyers, and I am very concerned that we should use it to the utmost. If the hon. Gentleman or any other hon. Member from Northern Ireland discovers cases where builders are not building to adequate standards, we shall use all the machinery and powers that we have to ensure that the situation is remedied.

Mr. Mellish

In the rest of the United Kingdom this matter is dealt with by the National House Builders Registration Council. That is a voluntary body which has done a magnificent job on this side of the water, where no house without a certificate would be approved by a building society. Why does not Northern Ireland take a lesson from us and, apart from living with each other irrespective of religion, encourage builders to build houses properly and get a certificate for them?

Mr. Carter

The NHBRC has now become the NHBC. We have a parallel organisation in Northern Ireland. I have had recent discussions with it and have made known that I want to see a more rigorous interpretation of the powers devolved to that organisation to protect the consumer. We must remember that we are concerned not only with the building industry but with the consumer, the person who buys the house.

Sir D. Walker-Smith

Does the hon. Gentleman appreciate that excellent work is being done by the Northern Ireland National House Building Council, as the Minister of State well knows and as I can personally testify? Will he recommend to house purchasers to make sure that they buy only from registered house builders who get the protection of the scheme?

Mr. Carter

That is quite true. I am aware of the right hon. and learned Gentleman's association with the NHBRC. I must stress that there is room for improvement in Northern Ireland. I am anxious, as I am sure is the NHBC, to see an improvement in the surveillance of building standards.