HC Deb 25 July 1979 vol 971 cc578-9
4. Mr. Alton

asked the Secretary of State for the Environment how many homes in the United Kingdom are without inside toilets; how many are in declared housing action areas; and how many are under compulsory purchase orders for demolition.

The Under-Secretary of State for the Environment (Mr. Geoffrey Finsberg)

House condition surveys in England and Wales in 1976 showed that there were then 1,181,000 dwellings without inside toilets. There is no precise information on the number of these dwellings in housing action areas, but monitoring of HAAs has shown that 40 per cent. to 50 per cent. of dwellings lacked inside WCs. This would indicate that around 150,000 dwellings lacking inside toilets are within declared HAAs. The number of such dwellings included in compulsory purchase orders is not known. Questions related to Scotland and Northern Ireland are for my right hon. Friends the Secretary of State for Scotland and the Secretary of State for Wales.

Mr. Alton

I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for that reply. However, is he aware of the figures published today by the national home improvement council, which reveal that in the first quarter of this year the number of those claiming improvement grants fell by 18 per cent? Does he agree that it is time to review the level of improvement grants and to try to stimulate more work within the building industry and the provision of better homes with inside toilets and bathrooms? Does he accept that over 1 million homes without inside toilets and bathrooms is totally unacceptable?

Mr. Finsberg

I am sure that the hon. Gentleman appreciates that there has been a major advance. The comparable figure in 1971 was 2,032,000. Therefore, there has been a great advance. Improvement grants are under consideration in connection with the Housing Bill that we propose to introduce later in the Session.

Mr. Durant

Does my hon. Friend agree that one of the reasons for the present situation is that the Labour Government cut the level of improvement grants on a vicious scale during their period of office?

Mr. Finsberg

It is difficult to know exactly what the previous Government did to try to help anyone wishing to improve their own homes.

Mr. Heddle

Does my hon. Friend agree that all possible assistance should be given to private landlords to enable them to improve their housing stock and to pay for repairs that they cannot possibly fund from net rental income?

Mr. Finsberg

That is why we are considering improvement grants in connection with the proposed Bill to which I have referred.