HC Deb 23 November 1983 vol 49 cc315-6
15. Mr. Ashdown

asked the Secretary of State for the Environment what, according to his best estimate, is the total number of all types of precast reinforced concrete council houses, other than those of Airey construction, in the United Kingdom.

Sir George Young

It is estimated that in the United Kingdom there are about 146,900 precast reinforced concrete houses similar in design to the 24,250 houses of the Airey type. In addition, it is estimated that there are another 230,000 precast reinforced concrete dwellings, mainly flats, which have been built since 1960, almost all to designs different from those which were the subject of my hon. Friend's statement on 10 November.

Mr. Ashdown

I thank the Minister for giving those figures. Does he realise that a substantial number of people are living in PRC houses of a type not yet commented on by the Building Research Establishment? There are about 300 in my constituency alone. Does he realise that many of those people are suffering, in that they cannot either buy or sell their houses. Will he say when the next BRE report will be published, bearing in mind that the last one was promised in three months and took 10? If the BRE report were to identify problems similar to previous ones, will the people not so far commented on receive the same assistance as has been announced today?

Sir George Young

When we have the BRE report we shall be able to make a judgment on the matter. If the statutory criteria of the existing scheme are met, it will be possible for the local authority to exercise its discretion to help owners of houses which were not specified by my hon. Friend in his statement but which, none the less, meet the criteria. It may help to put the matter in context if I say that there is no widespread evidence of serious defects in the non-traditional houses built after 1960.

Mr. John Fraser

Are people who live in seriously defective system-built slums regarded by the hon. Gentleman's Department as being in special housing need or just general housing need?

Sir George Young

It would be a matter for the local authority, as the owner of the buildings, to decide what priority to give in transfers to people living in difficult conditions. It would also be up to the local authority to make sensible use of its housing investment programmes to put the problem right.

Mr. Nicholas Winterton

My hon. Friend clearly understands the great problems of people living in these houses. Will he assure us, in the case of people who live in Airey houses that are still owned by the local authority, as compared with those that have been purchased from the local authority, that proper account will be taken by the Government in allocating housing resources so that the houses can be repaired with the same element of grant as is the case with houses purchased by people who were previously council house tenants.

Sir George Young

As my hon. Friend will know, the method of financing repairs would be different if the repairs were carried out by a local authority, as opposed to a private owner. I assure my hon. Friend that we took into account the obligations of local authorities when we calculated their housing investment programme allocations for next year.

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