1. Mr. A. Cecil Walker
asked the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland if his Department has made any assessment of the effects of solid fuel room heaters, installed by the Housing Executive, on the health of the elderly.
§ The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Northern Ireland (Mr. Chris Patten)
No, Sir. However, I understand the Housing Executive continuously reviews the suitability and effectiveness of room heaters in all its properties.
Is the Minister aware that the frail and elderly are having great difficulty coping with the intricacies of this form of central heating? Does he know that injuries have been sustained when people have tried to remove the ashcan and the throat plate? Will he consider making provision for some form of ash carrier to help overcome the problem?
§ Mr. Patten
I shall consider the matter of the ash carrier with the Housing Executive. There is no risk whatever with these heaters when they are properly used. We must see that they are properly used, for example by publicity, by regular visits, through the coal advisory service and the Housing Executive, and by regular servicing.
§ Mr. Peter Robinson
Is the Under-Secretary aware that there is even greater concern among the elderly in that those who want their gas heating changed to solid fuel find that, because the Government have been dragging their feet over what is to happen with gas in Northern Ireland, the Housing Executive is unable to take a decision in the matter? When is that matter likely to be resolved?
§ Mr. Patten
There has been no dragging of feet. We are spending more in Northern Ireland on this aspect than has ever been spent before, and I hope that the Housing Executive will be able to continue with a full programme.
§ Mr. Clifford Forsythe
Will the hon. Gentleman make sure that when the Housing Executive reports to the National Coal Board about a fire which is in need of repair, the Housing Executive follows up the matter to make sure that the repair is done, so treating a little better those who have been without a fire for perhaps several days because of lack of repair?