HC Deb 14 November 1979 vol 973 cc1319-20
14. Mr. Penhaligon

asked the Secretary of State for the Environment what is his estimate of how long, at the current rate of demolition and improvement, it will be before homes without inside toilets and bathrooms in Great Britain are eliminated.

Mr. Geoffrey Finsberg

Between 1971 and 1976, the last date for which information is available, the number of dwellings in England lacking either a bathroom or an inside toilet fell from 2.1 million to 1.2 million. At the same rate of progress we would eliminate such deficiencies in our housing stock within the next 10 years, but this is dependent upon the decisions of many thousands of individual householders.

Mr. Penhaligon

Will the Minister admit that Government policy has some effect on this issue? Will he let the House know whether he believes that recent policy changes have increased or reduced that time scale?

Mr. Finsberg

It is difficult to estimate. All I can say to the hon. Gentleman is that what we are trying to do is to increase the attack on substandard housing. Our consultation paper of 31 October outlined our proposals for changes in the grant system, which will enable us to direct resources to priority needs.

Mr. W. Benyon

Is it not a fact that there is now a substantial surplus of accommodation, although there are local shortages? It is therefore essential to concentrate on this aspect rather than on the figures game of building council houses.

Mr. Finsberg

I am sure that my hon. Friend is correct. The overall picture is what is important. We should not allow ourselves to be diverted by selective statistical quotes.

Mr. Skinner

Is it not time that the Minister and the rest of his colleagues stopped coming to the House of Commons to try to kid people about the attempt that they are making to improve and modernise homes? Is he aware that Bolsover district council has suffered a reduction of about £1 million as a result of the Tory Government's recent efforts to help? The result is that hundreds of my constituents who thought that their homes would be modernised when the Labour Government were in power now have to wait several years more.

Mr. Finsberg

I should be glad to investigate that allegation.