§ 1. Mr. Powell
asked the Secretary of Stae for Northern Ireland if he will now approve the proposal of the Housing Executive to offer the alternative of solid fuel heating to tenants with all-electric heating systems.
§ The Under-Secretary of State for Northern Ireland (Mr. Ray Carter)
Consultations have been taking place on a proposal by the Housing Executive to undertake a programme of providing facilities for solid fuel heating in houses at present fitted with all-electric systems. In the light of the results of those consultations I can now confirm that my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State has decided in principle that wherever this is practicable Housing Executive tenants should be offered solid fuel heating as an alternative to all electric heating systems.
§ Mr. Powell
May I assure the Minister that that news will be received with satisfaction by a great many, including some of the poorest people in Northern Ireland, and that the wisdom of this decision is in no way affected by the outcome of any further decisions which may be taken on the supply of electricity and gas in the Province?
§ Mr. Carter
I welcome the right hon. Gentleman's support of the changes that we intend to make. However, whatever decisions we take in this matter must be consistent with other decisions that we are taking on energy questions generally in Northern Ireland.
§ Rev. Ian Paisley
Is the Minister aware that the installation of solid fuel fires in one of my constituency districts, Carrickfergus, has been disastrous, in that the fires have not been up to standard? Will he take immediate steps to have this matter remedied? Will he also inquire whether the fires were substandard and rejected by the housing authorities in England?
§ Mr. Carter
I take note of what the hon. Gentleman said. This is the first I have heard about it. By and large, where the Housing Executive has moved in the general direction supported by the right hon. Member for Down, South (Mr. Powell), most people have been satisfied with what we have done. But I shall look into the question that the hon. Gentleman raises.
§ Mr. Ron Thomas
Does not my hon. Friend feel that this Question and a number of others are rather bizarre, and show a sign of political schizophrenia, when they are put down by people demanding more public expenditure who went into the Lobbies last night supporting massive tax handouts to a very small number of wealthy people in this country?
§ Mr. Carter
My hon. Friend is quite right. As with any other item of public expenditure, we shall have to take decisions within the next 12 months in the light of what the House decides in the course of the next few weeks, or days.