HC Deb 15 December 1982 vol 34 cc271-3
5. Mr. Strang

asked the Secretary of State for Scotland if he will make extra funds available to Edinburgh district council for its programme of modernisation of council houses in Edinburgh.

Mr. Allan Stewart

The district council has not suggested that the funds available to it are insufficient to enable it to carry through its programme.

Mr. Strang

Is the Minister aware that the number of empty houses and the general deterioration in a number of Edinburgh council housing schemes is almost a national scandal? Will he approach his political colleagues who control the council and make it clear that they have a responsibility to carry out repairs on those estates, especially those, such as Bingham in my constituency, which desperately need radical improvement programmes?

Mr. Stewart

I believe that Edinburgh has a very responsible housing authority. The hon. Gentleman will be interested to know that Edinburgh district council increased expenditure for modernisation from £2.5 million in 1980–81 to £4.4 million in 1981–82, which was 36 per cent. of its total allocation.

Lord James Douglas-Hamilton

Is my hon. Friend aware that in several Edinburgh constituencies the problem of vacant council houses is very serious? Will he confirm that the council would be right to try to deal effectively with that problem as it did with Martello Court?

Mr. Stewart

I agree with my hon. Friend. The problem of vacant houses can be dealt with through the kind of innovation that was applied at Martello Court, through homesteading and methods of tenant participation.

Several Hon. Members


Mr. Speaker

Order. Supplementaries on this question must be limited to Edinburgh.

Mr. Tom Clarke

Will the Minister bring to the attention of Edinburgh district council the progressive policies of, for example, Monklands district council, which has very forward-looking schemes for modernisation on which to spend money if the Minister would make it available?

Mr. Stewart

I congratulate the hon. Gentleman. I am sure that Edinburgh district council is aware of innovations in Monklands, as in all other local authorities in Scotland.

Mr. Ancram

Will my hon. Friend discuss with Edinburgh district council the need to revise its definition of dampness to include condensation caused solely or primarily by faults in the construction of council houses which are not the fault of the tenants but which lead to excessive heating bills? Does he agree that until that situation is changed there will be a positive disincentive to councils to undertake the necessary remedial insulation that would solve the problem?

Mr. Stewart

The difference between dampness and condensation is essentially that condensation is internal.—[HON. MEMBERS: "It is still wet."]—We are undertaking a great deal of research into this matter. I assure my hon. Friend that Edinburgh district council, like all authorities, has been requested to pay specific attention to the need to combat dampness when drawing up its future programmes.

Mr. Speaker

Mr. John Maxton to ask question No. 6.

Mr. Ron Brown (Leith)

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. I had hoped to have the chance to ask a question, as other hon. Members from Edinburgh have done so.

Mr. Speaker

I want to be fair. I thought that the hon. Gentleman came from further north than Edinburgh. I will certainly call him.

Mr. Ron Brown

Is the Minister aware that when he quotes statistics he is really saying that there are lies, damned lies and Tory propaganda, given how greatly the council tenants of Edinburgh—and that includes Leith—are suffering because of cuts in maintenance? Will he come to my constituency to see the suffering of working people there and then admit that what he has said today is not true?

Mr. Speaker

Order. That is enough to get on with.

Mr. Stewart

I am sorry but not surprised that the hon. Gentleman cannot accept the statistics, but they are accurate. I am always delighted to go and see housing in different parts of Scotland. In Edinburgh, I visited Pilton with my hon. Friend the Member for Edinburgh, West (Lord James Douglas-Hamilton).