HC Deb 27 January 1988 vol 126 cc306-7
14. Mr. McKelvey

To ask the Secretary of State for Scotland when he next plans to meet representatives from COSLA to discuss matters related to housing.

Mr. Rifkind

No date has yet been fixed, but my hon. Friend the Parliamentary Under-Secretary responsible for home affairs and the environment, the hon. Member for Edinburgh, West (Lord James Douglas-Hamilton), holds regular meetings with the convention.

Mr. McKelvey

Am I correct in thinking, then, that the right hon. and learned Gentleman will be aware of the views of Scotland on the housing crisis in Scotland today? Nearly 1,250,000 people, including families, are living in overcrowded conditions. About 200,000 people are on the waiting lists. Some 31,000 are regarded as homeless. In Kilmarnock alone there are 2,000 on the single homeless list, with 600 of them now being regarded as deserving top priority. Will the right hon. and learned Gentleman consider COSLA's view that the Housing (Scotland) Bill now going through Committee does nothing to alleviate the problems of all those very unhappy people?

Mr. Rifkind

Given the hon. Gentleman's interest in the housing problems of Kilmarnock, I would have thought that he would welcome the fact that the Government's housing allocation on the housing revenue account block to Kilmarnock and Loudoun district council for the current year represents no less than 97 per cent. of what the council felt it needed.

Mr. Forth

In the context of the housing matters referred to, can my right hon. and learned Friend comment on rent levels in Scotland? Does he believe that these are appropriate to modern and future conditions, and how do they compare with those south of the border?

Mr. Rifkind

It is the case that rent levels in Scotland remain significantly below rent levels elsewhere in the United Kingdom, although average earnings are comparable.

Mr. Home Robertson

Is it not significant that the Secretary of State is answering his hon. Friend the Member for Mid-Worcestershire (Mr. Forth) in such a friendly way? Is it not a fact that the hon. Member has probably had more influence over housing decisions in Scotland than all the homeless, the overcrowded and the people living in sub-standard conditions in Scotland? Why is the Minister bringing forward legislation which will be of substantial benefit to private landlords, but which will do nothing to meet the housing needs of the people of Scotland?

Mr. Rifkind

If the hon. Gentleman believes that the housing legislation before the House will not help the housing requirements of the people of Scotland and that they will not be interested in its provisions, he and his colleagues might like to reflect on the fact that in the last week 1,000 tenants in Castlemilk have voted to have their houses transferred to the forthcoming Scottish homes organisation, in the knowledge that that might involve higher rents, but that it would also involve the refurbishment and improvement of the houses they live in.