HC Deb 06 July 1983 vol 45 cc268-9
6. Mr. Hicks

asked the Secretary of State for the Environment if he is satisfied with the take-up of home improvement and repair grants at the enhanced rate of 90 per cent.; and if he will make a statement.

Sir George Young

Yes, Sir. The response to the Government's initiative on both repairs and intermediate grants to which the 90 per cent. rate applies has been most encouraging. Provisional figures for England show a sixfold increase in the repairs grants paid in 1982 compared with 1981. The number of intermediate grants paid in 1982 was provisionally more than one third greater than in 1981.

Mr. Hicks

Is my hon. Friend aware that the very success of the scheme is creating problems involving a backlog of applications which are unlikely to be processed, let alone the necessary building work undertaken, before the terminal date of April 1984? Will he assure the House that the terminal date will be extended, or that payment will be made in the next financial year for applications made during the current financial year?

Sir George Young

Applicants' interests will be safeguarded as long as they apply before 31 March 1984. The application does not have to be processed by that date for the applicant to be eligible. I hope that my hon. Friend's local authority, Caradon, will consider its priorities across the board to ascertain whether there is any way of redeploying resources or streamlining the process to make faster progress with this policy, which is a tribute to our success in renovating the housing stock.

Mr. Fisher

Is the Minister aware that more than 600,000 households lack or share baths and that over 700,000 lack or share inside toilets? Does he accept that he has a responsibility for the unacceptable living conditions that these people have to tolerate?

Sir George Young

That is why the Government introduced the initiative with which I was dealing. Expenditure in 1982–83 is expected to be about £400 million, which will be twice the expenditure in 1981–82.

Mr. Rossi

Is my right hon. Friend aware that the London borough of Haringey is refusing to accept applications from wards which returned Conservative councillors, which, prima facie, is discrimination of a rather nasty sort? Will he make an inquiry into the practice?

Sir George Young

If that policy is being pursued in Haringey, it is inexcusable. Our policies are aimed at renovating housing stock wherever the stock happens to be. I hope that no one in the House will defend such discrimination against people for exercising their democratic rights in an election.

Mr. Cartwright

Does the Minister accept that one of the problems about the take-up of grants is the time that it takes some local authorities to process the applications, especially when more than one council department is involved? What steps is he taking to speed up the process?

Sir George Young

It is the responsibility of local authorities to process the grants. I hope that the authorities recognise that the scheme is a bargain for home owners and for themselves as 95 per cent. of the cost of the grants will be returned by central Government.