HC Deb 23 March 1983 vol 39 cc860-1
20. Mr. Frank Allaun

asked the Secretary of State for the Environment what representations he has received on behalf of tenants living in damp and cold multi-storey flats; and if he will assist councils to renovate such properties.

Sir George Young

My right hon. Friend has received various representations from time to time on behalf of tenants in dwellings with cold and dampness problems, although these have not been limited to multi-storey properties.

It is for local authorities to decide what resources to devote to tackling these problems within the total available to them for housing investment. In making allocations account is taken of any special local need. Homes insulation grants are available for local authority tenants who apply for them.

Mr. Allaun

Does the Minister accept that there are now 4.2 million families living in homes that are unfit or lack a bath, hot water and an inside lavatory, or which need major repairs costing over £2,500? As the cost of these repairs and renovations will run into billions of pounds, which is far beyond local authorities' means, will he consider making an additional grant for this purpose, which would also provide jobs for hundreds of thousands of unemployed building workers?

Sir George Young

It was not clear whether the hon. Gentleman was referring to public or private sector dwellings. As my hon. Friend said a few minutes ago, we have increased by 15 per cent. the resources available to local authorities next year for public sector dwellings. Unfortunately, they have not spent all the available resources this year. It is therefore difficult for the hon. Gentleman to sustain the argument that it is a shortage of resources that is holding up such matters.

Mr. Cartwright

Does the Minister accept that one of the major causes of condensation and dampness in council property is that a great many council tenants cannot any longer afford to have adequate heating in their homes? When will the Government tackle that problem?

Sir George Young

The Building Research Establishment is now researching the causes and mehods of relieving dampness. It is carrying out some practical field trials to assess the effectiveness in practice and the cost of improved heating, thermal insulation, ventilation and the role of dehumidifiers. Resources are available in particular cases to help certain families with heating costs.

Mr. Hill

Does my hon. Friend agree that some of the worst problems are found in the prefabricated multi-storey flats of the past? Does he agree that the race by Governments to provide accommodation resulted in incredibly had architectural design and lack of insulation and heating facilities? There must be a long programme of renovation. It cannot be achieved in the short term.

Sir George Young

My hon. Friend is right. The country is paying a heavy penalty for decisions that were made a decade or two ago about the design of some buildings. We have tried to change the subsidy system so that capitalised repairs to tackle such problems are eligible for subsidy.

Mr. Freeson

Returning to the question of encouraging better heating for elderly people in these badly insulated homes, will the Minister look at the Homes Insulation Act 1978 again and use the powers that the Act gives his Department to introduce a further scheme beyond the loft insulation scheme?

Sir George Young

We have this matter under review. Our present view is that resources should be concentrated on loft insulation, where the most effective savings in heat loss can be made. We are looking at possible means of extensions, such as double glazing and other methods.