HC Deb 25 May 1988 vol 134 cc323-4
16. Mr. McTaggart

To ask the Secretary of State for Scotland if his Department has prepared an analysis of the likely effects on the administration of the Scottish public sector housing stock of the number of people in Scotland who will face reductions in income as a result of the recent housing benefit changes.

Lord James Douglas-Hamilton

No, Sir, but there is no reason to suppose that the housing benefit changes will have any significant effect at all on the administration of public sector housing.

Mr. McTaggart

Is the Minister aware that many constituents have written to me and, I am sure, to many other right hon. and hon. Members, expressing their genuine fear about the housing benefit changes? Has the Minister produced any figures that show how many people are worse off as a result of the changes, and what the average loss is? Instead of preaching to these people, many of whom are pensioners, why do the Government not do something to deal with their plight?

Lord James Douglas-Hamilton

I am responsible for the structure of local government. We believe that housing agencies will be very well able to cope. The new system will be simpler and easier to administer. The administration of public sector housing, involving such matters as management, maintenance arid allocation policy, should not be affected by the payment of housing benefit. On the same night as the hon. Member for Cunninghame, North (Mr. Wilson) had an Adjournment debate, a letter explaining the situation fully was sent out to every right hon. and hon. Member by my hon. Friend the Minister for Social Security and the Disabled.

Mr. Dewar

The Minister says that the changes will have little effect on the administration of housing departments. Does he accept that the changes will have an appalling impact on ordinary people in Scotland'' How does he reconcile the fashionable preaching about morality with the cruel and inhuman changes in housing benefit, which are causing so much dismay and distress in every part of the land?

Lord James Douglas-Hamilton

As the hon. Member knows, housing benefit is the responsibility of the Secretary of State for Social Services. However, I can tell him that nearly 90 per cent. will gain, or will get the same amount of cash as before, when the reforms overall—involving family credit and Income support—are taken into account. It is estimated that £613 million will be spent on housing benefit in Scotland this year.