§ 17. Mr. Joseph Dean
asked the Secretary of State for the Environment if he is yet in a position to make an announcement about the use of his powers under schedule 24 to the Housing Act 1980 relating to fire precautions in hostels and lodging houses.
§ Mr. Dean
I thank the Minister for his reply. Has he seen the recently screened BBC programme "Down and Out", which clearly showed that many people are in grave danger of dying in hostel fires because owners keep the fire doors locked? Is there not a sense of urgency about this matter? Should he not take action immediately under schedule 24 to the Housing Act 1980?
§ Mr. Finsberg
I must remind the hon. Gentleman that local housing authorities already have powers under schedule 24 to the Housing Act 1980.
§ Mr. Stallard
Does the hon. Gentleman accept that both his reply of today and that of 4 March will disappoint those of us who are involved with hostels and hostel provision? Is he aware that many of the properties available to hostels and much of hostel accommodation are in need of renovation? Does the hon. Gentleman accept that the Government's policy of forcing councils to cut improvement grants has a serious effect on the provision of hostels and on hostel accommodation? Will he use his influence with his right hon. Friend to ensure that there is an urgent review of the improvement grant allocation to those authorities that face such serious problems?
§ Mr. Finsberg
The hon. Gentleman must realise three things. First, we gave local authorities powers to act. Secondly, by aggregating all their capital, it is for local authorities to decide how best to spend their money. 285 Thirdly, many authorities, such as Camden, would have even more capital to spend if they got on with selling council houses to tenants who want to buy them.