HC Deb 13 May 1992 vol 207 cc605-6
4. Mr. Wareing

To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment what plans he has to increase the housing investment programme of local authorities seeking to perform their statutory duties in respect of the owners and tenants of defective housing.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Environment (Mr. Tony Baldry)

Local authorities' statutory obligations to the owners of dwellings designated as inherently defective are already taken into account in allocating housing investment programme resources.

Mr. Wareing

Is the Minister really satisfied that that is the true position? A considerable number of my constituents, responding to the policies of the Tory Government, have bought their Boswell and Boot houses. That is costing Liverpool corporation £11 million during the present financial year and will cost £6.5 million next year. Many people cannot have their houses repurchased, despite the defects, because a system has not been found. I am concerned about the tenants of such houses. What provision do the Government make for them in the HIP?

Mr. Baldry

Nationally, I estimate that more than 90 per cent. of all eligible owners will have been assisted by next April. The truth is that Liverpool has been tardy in working out a sensible phased programme of repurchase with owners. For many years it did nothing, but it has finally seen sense. I see no reason why all the eligible owners of designated defective homes in Liverpool should not be assisted by the end of the scheme.

Sir Donald Thompson

Does my hon. Friend understand that many local authorities have a legacy of system-built houses that are not grouped together in one part of an authority area? Will he devise a scheme whereby those houses are looked after together, as under a housing action scheme?

Mr. Baldry

Of course. We recently raised the spending limits of grant-aided repairs in line with the recommendations of the efficiency scrutiny on housing defects legislation, which was published in November 1991, because we wanted to ensure that local authorities dealt with designated defective houses in the most cost-effective way.

Mr. Loyden

The Minister will be aware that many of the houses built in the inter-war years are more than 70 years old and he also knows only too well that local authorities are in no position to take on the task of refurbishing them, as many need major structural repairs. I live in the constituency of my hon. Friend the Member for Liverpool, West Derby (Mr. Wareing) and I can underline what he is saying about many of the houses on that huge estate. It is beyond the ability of the local authority to deal with it. Is it not time that the Government recognised their responsibility?

Mr. Baldry

We expect local authorities with designated defective properties in their ownership to consider repair needs in the same way as they tackle the renovation of other stock. To ensure the highest quality output, a larger share of the housing investment programme allocation is now awarded to local authorities that are able to prove that they have efficiently and effectively carried out their housing role. I have absolutely no doubt that if Liverpool can demonstrate that it can manage its housing stock efficiently and effectively, it will receive a larger share of the HIP allocation. The truth is that, with regard to the statutory scheme, for a long time Liverpool did nothing. It started to face its statutory responsibilities only when faced with the prospect of court action by its tenants.