HC Deb 27 April 1994 vol 242 cc233-4
8. Mr. Davidson

To ask the Secretary of State for Scotland what plans he has to meet representatives of community councils and tenants' associations to discuss the problems of damp housing in Glasgow, with particular reference to the Govan constituency.

Lord James Douglas-Hamilton

My right hon. Friend has no plans to meet community councils and tenants' associations to discuss damp housing in Glasgow. In the first instance, it is for the City of Glasgow district council to assess the housing needs of its area and to set out its plans for tackling damp housing in the housing plan and capital programme, which it submits to the the Scottish Office.

The council's gross capital allocations for investment in public and private housing total £121.25 million in the current year.

Mr. Davidson

Does the Minister accept that there is a problem of dampness in Glasgow and in my constituency? Does he accept that the money that the Government are allowing the council to spend is inadequate? Does he agree that he should be prepared to meet delegations of those who live in damp housing so that they can explain to him the effect that it has on their lives, the lives of their families and the educational opportunities of their youngsters? Will he not walk by on the other side?

Lord James Douglas-Hamilton

I have been acutely aware of the problem since serving on a Select Committee that considered dampness in council houses in Scotland. Since that time, substantial progress has been made. Damp housing is the biggest issue facing housing authorities. They are right to target their efforts to where the problem is most severe. Through the urban regeneration initiatives in Ferguslie Park and Castlemilk, we have proved that that can be done successfully. Housing authorities have to phase and prioritise the work, which will be successfully completed but cannot all be done overnight.

Mr. Ian Bruce

Have not the Government invested a large amount of money in housing improvements in Scotland? Having spent £2.2 billion on housing improvements over the years, would not it be more sensible to ensure that authorities keep their rents at a sensible level so that they can invest in improving the declining number of houses that they still own, while people who have bought their houses make their own improvements at no cost to the public purse?

Lord James Douglas-Hamilton

My hon. Friend makes a valid point. In past years, rents have been so low that less has been spent on management and maintenance. If more had been spent on it, there would be less dampness in houses. I confirm that about £900 million is being spent on capital investment in housing. That includes the work of Scottish Homes, the new towns and the local authorities. A lot can be done with £900 million in a year. The work must be prioritised and the most severe problems tackled effectively.

Mr. Wray

Why have the Government been encouraging local authorities in Scotland to implement Rachmanism by allowing them to collect rents for houses that are below tolerable standards? Why do they encourage local authorities not to tell people of their rights under the Public Health (Scotland) Act 1897?

Lord James Douglas-Hamilton

Local authorities have been told that houses that are below tolerable standards must be one of their top four priorities. The hon. Member uses the word "Rachmanism" in relation to public sector authorities. That used to be a slur on the private sector, but I accept that housing that is below tolerable standards must be rooted out wherever it arises.