HC Deb 06 March 1991 vol 187 cc269-70
5. Mrs. Irene Adams

To ask the Secretary of State for Scotland if he has any plans to meet representatives of the Convention of Scottish Local Authorities to discuss housing in Scotland.

Lord James Douglas-Hamilton

I expect to meet representatives of the housing committee of the Convention of Scottish Local Authorities in September.

Mrs. Adams

When the Minister meets COSLA's representatives, will he listen to them this time, and reinstate housing support grant in Scotland? That would give Renfrew district council in my constituency a grant of £16,289,000 at 1979 levels, which would enable it either to reduce rents by £3 a week or to take on board a more extensive housing repair system.

Lord James Douglas-Hamilton

During the past 10 years, we have targeted housing benefit directly at the individual, rather than make huge sums of housing support grant available. We have made sure that the cost of hostel provision and the deficits are covered by housing support grant. A considerable number of councils have come into housing support grant as a result. Scottish Homes is undertaking considerable expenditure in Ferguslie park, in the hon. Lady's constituency, which will total at least £3.6 million next year. That will help.

Mr. McAllion

One housing item for discussion, which should be of interest to the Minister when he meets the Convention of Scottish Local Authorities, is the level of house building. Does he realise that, had the Government maintained the level of house building which they inherited from Labour in 1979, there would be more than 50,000 additional new houses in which to house the homeless and with which to reduce waiting lists? Is not his failure to maintain that level of building absolutely disgraceful? Since he cannot possibly defend such a record, will he now take the only honourable course open to him and tender his resignation, along with the rest of that broken-backed crew on the Front Bench?

Lord James Douglas-Hamilton

Since 1979, 220,000 houses have been built in Scotland. If housing association units are counted in with the public sector, almost 60,000 units were built in the public sector. In 1989–90 more than 1,200 local authority houses were completed. If Dundee district council wants building more council houses to be a priority, it can be, provided that it is a priority within the council's allocation.

Mr. Buchanan-Smith

When my hon. Friend meets COSLA to discuss housing, will he also discuss the needs of ex-service men and their families, who have had great difficulty finding accommodation—especially accommodation to buy—when they leave the services? Will he try to impress upon local authorities the fact that they should give more priority to them? If he cannot make progress in that direction, might he be prepared to involve housing associations more?

Lord James Douglas-Hamilton

I am in touch with the Ministry of Defence on that matter at present and I am interested in the suggestion that my right hon. Friend has made. I shall certainly follow it up in discussions with the Ministry.

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