HC Deb 15 February 1978 vol 944 cc410-1
2. Sir John Gilmour

asked the Secretary of State for Scotland whether, in the light of the colder winter experienced in Scotland, he is satisfied that enough progress is being made in thermal insulation of dwelling-houses in Scotland.

The Under-Secretary of State for Scotland (Mr. Hugh D. Brown)

All new houses in Scotland must comply with the minimum standards for thermal insulation laid down in the Building Standards (Scotland) Regulations. Public sector houses which are being comprehensively modernised are also expected to comply with these standards. We expect a further 40,000 houses, built before the regulations came into force, to be brought up to these standards each year under the energy conservation measures recently announced by my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Energy.

Sir J. Gilmour

Does the Minister agree that the present snowy conditions in Scotland give an opportunity for occupiers to examine whether their roof spaces are well insulated? I discovered that certain parts of my own house were not well insulated. Will the Minister urge all local authorities and private house owners to survey their properties now in order to discover whether their houses are properly insulated? If they are not it wastes heat, and therefore money and energy.

Mr. Russell Kerr

Has the council bought the hon. Gentleman's house?

Mr. Brown

So far as I know, the hon. Member for Fife, East (Sir J. Gilmour) does not live in a council house. Nevertheless, improvement grants are available to owner-occupiers, in that local authorities may grant-aid thermal insulation up to regulation standard if it is part of the comprehensive improvement of a house. As an exception to that, the elderly and disabled can attract improvement grants even if only for the improvement of thermal insulation.

Mr. Gordon Wilson

Does the Minister realise that if the Government were to expand their policy of conservation and energy it would receive much support in all parts of the House, because there would be energy savings and also the creation of more jobs, and it would also enable the problem of condensation to be tackled? On the basis that 40,000 houses a year are being brought up to standard, how long would it take for the public housing stock in Scotland to be dealt with?

Mr. Brown

I cannot give a precise answer because some houses are already up to standard. There is no standard that cannot be improved upon in the light of scientific knowledge and experience. The number of houses involved is substantial and we must consider the practical point that, unlike other improvements, there is considerable benefit to the consumer in terms of reduced costs. This is wholly desirable, but there is bound to be an element of dispute on the question whether the community should retain some of the benefits of the public money that is being spent.

Mr. Robert Hughes

There is great appreciation of the work done by local authorities in providing thermal insulation, but does my hon. Friend accept that the situation is different in some private tenancies and that it is difficult to get private landlords to provide this insulation? Will he encourage local authorities to give special assistance to voluntary groups—such as the one operating very successfully in my constituency—that provide thermal insulation, particularly for the elderly and the disabled?

Mr. Brown

Special consideration is given to the elderly and the disabled. If a house is in a scheme of improvement, whether it is owned by a private landlord or a housing association, it is Government policy to give the maximum encouragement to the inclusion of up-to-date provision for thermal insulation when a house is being improved or modernised.