§ 7. Rev. Martin Smyth
asked the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland what period of time elapses between application for and authorisation of improvement grants; and if he is satisfied with the performance of the Northern Ireland Housing Executive in this respect.
§ The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Northern Ireland (Mr. Chris Patten)
This is a matter for the chairman of the Housing Executive, who has advised me that the average time taken is 15 months. However, progress has recently been made to cut the backlog and that should contribute to an improvement in the time taken to process new applications.
§ Rev. Martin Smyth
While welcoming the Minister's understanding that improvement will occur, may I ask whether he acknowledges that some people have been on the list for two years and that some of them have died before their applications have been approved? Indeed, the increase in costs has made it impossible for people to proceed.
§ Mr. Patten
I am aware of the problem. I am pleased that we have cut the backlog, which peaked about 15 months ago, by about two thirds. We are presently reviewing with the Housing Executive ways in which we can target grants more effectively, to take account of both personal and housing need.
Mr. John Mark Taylor
In the context of housing policy, will my hon. Friend say a word about his right-to-buy programme and whether home ownership is in fact conducive to greater stability in society, including greater stability in the Province?
§ Mr. Patten
I agree with my hon. Friend. We have managed to sell 26,000 Housing Executive homes in Northern IreIand to theirtenants. There are 150 applications a week and 100 completions. I think that that should have some of the benefits to which my hon. Friend referred.