HC Deb 19 April 1995 vol 258 c200
8. Mr. Bayley

To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment how many houses in England are unfit for human habitation. [17912]

Mr. Robert B. Jones

According to the statutory definition, in 1991 1.5 million such dwellings existed. Half of those are unfit on only one item, and we estimate that one third of the properties could be made fit for less than £500.

Mr. Bayley

What assessment has the Minister made of the effect of homes that are unfit for human habitation on the health of people who live in them? Are the Government planning to abolish the mandatory framework for grants, which they introduced in 1989, in their forthcoming housing White Paper? If so, what effect will that U-turn in Government policy have on the health of people condemned to live in houses which are unfit for human habitation?

Mr. Jones

We have made no decisions yet about the grant regime and have been consulting about that. Several authorities, primarily Labour controlled, have urged me to ensure that we scrap the mandatory grant system, but we have not reached a conclusion about that yet.

Mr. Sykes

The Minister knows that almost a year has passed since the Richmond hotel, a Department of Social Services hostel in my constituency, was burnt to the ground. Is he aware that there are many such hostels in my constituency, many of which are to the detriment of tourism, which is vital to our prosperity? When will the Minister promise to introduce a scheme to license and regulate those places, so that the unfortunate people who live there can live in safer conditions?

Mr. Jones

We have consulted on houses in multiple occupation, which are usually termed HMOs. The results are now to hand and we hope to announce our decision before long, once we have pulled those results together.