HC Deb 11 April 1984 vol 58 cc370-2
5. Mr. Wallace

asked the Secretary of State for Scotland what representations have been made to him, since 1981, calling for a housing condition survey in Scotland.

Mr. Ancram

My right hon. Friend has received representations on this subject during the last three years from the Convention of Scottish Local Authorities, the Scottish Local Authorities Special Housing Group, Strathclyde regional council and Shelter.

Mr. Wallace

In the light of those representations, will the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State reconsider the reluctance of the Scottish Office to implement such a housing condition survey? Is it a fact that the Scottish Office is reluctant to take that action for fear that the survey might show up the ever-increasing gap between the need to have substantial sums of money to improve Scotland's housing stock, especially in the public sector, and the ever-diminishing sums which the Government are making available to local authorities for that purpose?

Mr. Ancram

It is for precisely the opposite reason that a sample of a similar percentage of the housing stock as that used in the English housing condition survey would not produce information of a similar quality in Scotland. The resources to provide the same level of information could be better spent in other ways to provide more direct information of the type that we need to make our assessments.

Lord James Douglas-Hamilton

When will the Building Research Establishment's survey on the Blackburn-Orlit houses be published? Can my hon. Friend give an undertaking that if that report shows that there is evidence of deterioration those houses will be included within the framework of the Housing Defects Bill?

Mr. Ancram

I cannot tell my hon. Friend at this stage when we are likely to receive the report from the BRE. Of course, we shall study carefully whatever the BRE comes up with.

Mr. Maxton

Will the Minister initiate some research in his Department into the number of houses that are likely to be demolished over the next three years as a result of the Government's cutting housing improvement grants and imposing 15 per cent. VAT on housing improvements?

Mr. Ancram

I find that a most surprising remark by the hon. Gentleman, because if he studies the Government's record over the past four years in reducing the numbers of sub-tolerable houses he will find that the numbers are estimated to have been reduced from 126,000 to 81,000. It does not lie well in his mouth, given his party's record, to make such remarks.

Mrs. McCurley

Does my hon. Friend agree that part of the problem with the housing stock in Scotland stems from the design that was chosen for them, particularly by Labour-controlled local authorities? Does he agree that after all these years they should be able to understand the nature and condition of the climate and the types of houses that should be built?

Mr. Ancram

I am grateful to my hon. Friend, who has made a good point. It is the Government's intention to consider the quality of the building, as much as numbers. As I said to the Institute of Housing at a recent conference, the days when we need numbers have passed, and the days when we need quality have arrived.

Mr. Ron Brown

Edinburgh's record is a disgrace, bearing in mind that about 12,000 families are on the local waiting list. There is another problem, which is that Provost Councillor Morgan has openly promoted private developments, including Leech Homes, and has even appeared in a special advertising feature in the Edinburgh Evening News. Is that not an abuse of his position as a local representative and a senior citizen of Edinburgh, or is it typical the Tory party generally, with its idea that one goes for the fast buck? While Edinburgh may be Scotland's capital city, it should not be a capitalist city.

Mr. Ancram

I do not see how that question arises from a question on the housing condition survey.

Mr. Henderson

Will my hon. Friend accept that calls for a housing condition survey should not put off action to deal with dampness in houses, and that a number of the proposals for such a survey seem to have been made in ignorance of what surveys have been undertaken? When will he and my right hon. Friend reply to the Select Committee's unanimous report on that subject?

Mr. Ancram

I am grateful to my hon. Friend for his comments. It is worth reminding the House that the Committee, in studying the question of dampness and condensation, did not regard the case for a housing condition survey to be conclusively proved, because there are a number of other ways in which the needs can be better assessed. The Government hope shortly to respond to the Committee's report.

Mr. Willie W. Hamilton

Does the Minister recollect that he has received substantial evidence from the Kirkcaldy district council about the complete inadequacy of the Government's financial provision to tackle the problem of non-traditional houses? Why does he refuse to meet us to discuss those matters? How many other authorities is he, in his arrogant way, refusing to meet?

Mr. Ancram

As the hon. Gentleman is aware, following the previous occasion when he asked that question, I arranged for my officials to meet officials of that district council. They have kept me fully informed of the representations made to them by the council. As I have said previously, if it is possible to see whether further allocations can be made, I shall take into account the representations that have been made.