HC Deb 27 January 1993 vol 217 cc1031-2
9. Mr. Page

To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment what proposals he has for improving the right to repair scheme for local authority tenants.

Sir George Young

Provisions for revising the right to repair for council tenants are included in the Housing and Urban Development Bill. My Department is today publishing a second consultation paper, which sets out in detail how the new scheme might work.

Mr. Page

I thank my hon. Friend for his reply. Does he accept that that represents a dramatic improvement in the level of service to council tenants? No doubt he, like me, speculates as to why certain councils believe that only they have the ability and the skills to provide services to their tenants, even though some authorities, such as Camden, can leave a tenant dead in an apartment for over a year before discovering him. What are the time scales involved here? Within what time does a local authority have to repair a council house before the tenant can take action himself? In addition, what is the position of housing associations?

Sir George Young

On the last point, we have asked the Housing Corporation to introduce a parallel scheme for housing association tenants. We envisage that the local authority will have seven days in which to respond before a tenant is able to go to an approved contractor and have the work done. On my hon. Friend's first point, we want to carry out further improvements to the existing scheme and to work with the grain of the ambitions of the citizens charter.

Mr. Betts

Does the Minister remember that the current right to repair scheme was introduced by the Government against the advice of every local authority association, whatever its political complexion? Bearing in mind the bureaucratic nature of this scheme, may I ask him to inform the House how many—or how few—right to repair applications have been accepted this year? Does he accept that the views and representations of local authority associations should be taken into account to ensure that he does not make the same mistake a second time?

Sir George Young

The existing scheme has changed attitudes among tenants and local authorities and raised expectations. Often the threat to use the right to repair scheme has had a dramatic effect on local authorities. If the Government did everything that local authority associations wanted them to do, a number of improvements for tenants and ratepayers would not have occurred over the past few years. We are consulting on the details of the scheme. We believe that it will bring dramatic benefits to tenants and I hope that we have the support of all hon. Members in introducing such an important reform.

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