HC Deb 13 November 1991 vol 198 cc1073-4
13. Mr. Sillars

To ask the Secretary of State for Scotland what proposals he has for assisting councils to increase security in high tower block housing.

Lord James Douglas-Hamilton

My right hon. Friend takes the question of security in high-rise housing very seriously.

Expenditure needs, including measures to improve security in high-rise tower blocks, are taken fully into account in the distribution of housing revenue account capital allocations and housing support grant.

Mr. Sillars

Is the Minister aware that most people who live in that type of accommodation do not believe that the Government take the problem seriously enough, and that we now urgently require either a direct grant or an allowance for capital borrowing to provide concierge-type services in high tower blocks in Glasgow and other parts of Scotland? Is the hon. Gentleman aware that old people in places such as Ibroxholm Oval are now sitting in their houses paralysed with fear, because they are the targets of the criminal element in our communities? They are the most vulnerable people. They are afraid to stay in in case their doors are kicked in, but they are also afraid to go out in case their homes are done in while they are out. Will the Minister pay more urgent attention to the problem? It now requires Government action.

Lord James Douglas-Hamilton

I am well aware that two of the three tower blocks in Ibrox in the hon. Gentleman's constituency—Iona court and Broomloan court—have concierge services that are working extremely well. The further expansion of that excellent scheme has a great deal to recommend it, but the hon. Gentleman must make representations to Glasgow district council, which has been allocated more than £101 million this year in respect of housing revenue account for capital investment. I should also make it clear that, in recent days, we have allocated further sums of more than £9 million for Scotland, in addition to the £4 million allocated for specific projects for homelessness, which we think will also assist. I recommend that the hon. Gentleman take the matter up with his council.

Mr. Maxton

Does the Minister agree, therefore, that the concierge scheme introduced by Glasgow district council, involving controlled entry and video surveillance, is proving successful in the 80 blocks in which it has so far been operated? Is not it a disgrace, however, that the concierge service has been developed entirely out of Glasgow district council resources and that no money for it has come from the Scottish Office? Is not it also true that, next year, its further development will be restricted to three more blocks, whereas there are 170 tower blocks in Glasgow in which it has not yet been developed? Is not it now time that the Minister acted to solve the problems of high-rise blocks?

Lord James Douglas-Hamilton

We shall, of course, take these matters into account before making the provisional allocations in December. The hon. Gentleman is absolutely right to say that the schemes have been highly successful, but I take issue with him on his assertion that the matter should be taken out of the hands of the district council and placed in the hands of the Scottish Office. It is much better that the district council should have the responsibility for choosing its own priorities. I repeat that I shall bear in mind the hon. Gentleman's remarks before we make our allocations.

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