HC Deb 04 April 1984 vol 57 cc947-8
4. Mr. Concannon

asked the Secretary of State for the Environment if he is yet able to announce the date for publication of his Bill relating to systems-built dwellings.

The Minister for Housing and Construction (Mr. Ian Gow)

The Bill will be introduced later today and published tomorrow.

Mr. Concannon

Is the Minister aware of the urgent need for its publication, if only to allay the fears of householders who find themselves living in what is now virtually blighted property?

Mr. Gow

I agree entirely with the right hon. Gentleman and hope that it will be possible for the Bill to have a speedy passage through the House, in order to give assistance to precisely those to whom he refers.

Mr. Hugh Brown

Will it be a United Kingdom Bill, and will there be consultation with the Scottish Office to increase the capital allowances that will be required by authorities which must buy back houses and do a great deal of remedial work?

Mr. Gow

The Bill will apply to England, Scotland and Wales. I understand that the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland will introduce similar provisions for Northern Ireland. We have decided that where local authorities have a duty to repurchase under the arrangements there will be an Exchequer contribution equal to 75 per cent. of an authority's expenditure in excess of the defective value of the house or flat repurchased.

Mr. Heffer

We shall examine the Bill carefully, as we on these Benches believe that the private owners concerned are entitled to assistance. Is the hon. Gentleman aware, however, that there will be many thousands of council tenants as well as local authorities—this appears to be the case at present, and I hope that the Bill will deal with the situation—who will not receive financial aid to deal with the problems involved? Has the hon. Gentleman seen the AMA report entitled "Defects in Housing'', in part 2 of which it is estimated that it will cost £5 billion to deal with the problems of post-1950 systems-built housing, and that a further £5 billion will be needed to cure the problems created by similar pre-1950 properties? What provision will be made to help both tenants and authorities? Is the hon. Gentleman not also aware that the local councils were subjected to pressure by Governments, including Labour Governments, to use systems-built housing? The councils now require assistance. What assistance will they receive under the Bill?

Mr. Gow

I am aware of the report to which the hon. Gentleman refers. Indeed, we had a three-hour debate on this topic during the debate on the Consolidated Fund Bill last month. Present subsidy arrangements take into account expenditure on redevelopment and capitalised repairs. In general, 75 per cent. of the loan charges on capitalised repairs and redevelopment count towards an authority's subsidy entitlement.