HC Deb 26 January 1999 vol 324 cc123-4
1. Mrs. Rosemary McKenna (Cumbernauld and Kilsyth)

What steps are being taken to deal with the problems faced by owner-occupiers in housing regeneration and improvement schemes. [65825]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Scotland (Mr. Calum Macdonald)

At present, local authorities can give grants to owner-occupiers to assist with the cost of repairs. The forthcoming Green Paper on housing will consider the housing needs of all tenures, including owner-occupiers. It will be the first Green Paper on housing in 20 years, and is proof of the Government's commitment to achieving better housing in Scotland. From 1 July, it will be a matter for the Scottish Parliament.

Mrs. McKenna

Will my hon. Friend the Minister join me in congratulating North Lanarkshire councils housing department, which this morning received a charter mark award in the presence of the Prime Minister? The Minister will be aware of the specific problems in Scotland's new towns, where a large percentage of owner-occupiers are in former public sector housing. Those houses were built in the 1960s and have particular problems.

Housing partnerships are the way forward in dealing with those complex issues. Cumbernauld housing partnership in my constituency is working hard to find solutions. There is one issue that I should like the Minister to look at. Will those owner-occupiers who do not maintain their properties, and therefore jeopardise their neighbours' plans to take part in the modernisation programme, be dealt with in the White Paper?

Mr. Macdonald

I am happy to congratulate North Lanarkshire council. I visited it at the charter mark award ceremony. It has done extremely well.

As my hon. Friend has pointed out, there is a problem. Local authorities have a wide range of statutory powers available to them. The powers may require some amendment. The question will be raised in the Green Paper.

Mr. Donald Gorrie (Edinburgh, West)

Will the Minister follow that up by clarifying what the Government will do to help owner-occupiers in tenement areas in Scottish cities, where the main problems are that there is a lack of funding for collective repairs—the amount of money available in Edinburgh and Glasgow is about a quarter of what it was a few years ago—and compelling owner-occupiers who do not co-operate in general repairs to do so? There is a need for a legal change to provide some more money. Will the Minister clarify what he is doing about that?

Mr. Macdonald

The latter question, as I have said, will be examined in the context of the Green Paper. There is a problem. Since the dropping of ring-fencing by the previous Government, the amount of money going to owner-occupiers has fallen dramatically. That is something that we will also look at in the context of the Green Paper.

Mr. John Swinney (North Tayside)

Does the Minister recognise that one of the problems affecting owner-occupiers is the higher mortgage payments by owner-occupiers in the eurozone? Is he aware that the average owner-occupier in Scotland will pay £1,400 more in mortgage repayments because Britain is outwith the single European currency? What is he going to do about it?

Mr. Macdonald

The Government have already introduced various measures to try to help with mortgages. We have talked to lenders to encourage them to provide flexible mortgages and mortgage insurance. That has been welcomed by those holding mortgages.

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