HC Deb 18 January 1984 vol 52 cc304-5
5. Mr. Craigen

asked the Secretary of State for Scotland if he will give the number of public sector houses he expects to be completed in 1984–85; and how many he expects to be modernised in the same year.

The Under-Secretary of State for Scotland (Mr. Michael Ancram)

I expect there to be a modest increase in the number of public sector houses completed in 1984–85 over the level of 4,500 houses completed in 1982–83. Improvements of public sector houses are also running at a high level, which I hope can continue.

Mr. Craigen

Where will these modest increases take place? Is the hon. Gentleman not concerned about the paucity of new starts, especially for sheltered housing accommodation? What steps does he intend to take — apart from reducing the housing support grant and other measures that he has already set in train—to ensure that there is a continuing improvement in new build and modernisation programmes in Scotland?

Mr. Ancram

The hon. Gentleman will be aware that the overall provisional allocation for 1984–85 is £404 million, compared with £350 million in 1983–84. He will also be aware that those who decide to increase their rate fund contributions are removing money which would otherwise be available for the sort of provision that he wants to see, and I hope that the city of Glasgow will bear that in mind when it takes decisions in the near future.

Mr. Gourlay

Is the Under-Secretary aware that despite having sold about 6.5 per cent. of the corporation houses in Kirkcaldy district, as a result of the cut in housing grant to that area, houses that were planned to be built in 1984–85 have had to be postponed for two or three years? What relevance do his remarks about the overall provisional allocation for this year have in that context?

Mr. Ancram

I am sure that the members of Kirkcaldy council are as aware as the hon. Gentleman that the answer lies largely in their hands. He gave the figure for the number of houses that they have sold. If they pursue a vigorous sales policy on council houses, they will be able to create the receipts to do what the hon. Gentleman wants.

Mr. Bill Walker

Is my hon. Friend aware that 1,586 council houses have been sold by Perth and Kinross district council, that that council assured me this morning that it is having no difficulty in the rural areas in housing people who want council houses and that it welcomes the shift towards the building of sheltered housing?

Mr. Ancram

I am grateful to my hon. Friend for reminding the House how successful his district council has been in this respect. It is an example that other local authorities could usefully follow.

Mr. Kirkwood

The Minister will know that England and Wales enjoyed the benefit of a national house condition survey in 1981. When may we expect a similar facility north of the border?

Mr. Ancram

The hon. Gentleman will be aware that that survey was based on examples of information gathered from local authorities, which should know more than anyone else about their own housing position. Information from local authorities is more valuable than a survey.