HL Deb 12 May 2003 vol 648 cc1-4
Lord Ezra

My Lords, I beg leave to ask the Question standing in my name on the Order Paper. In doing so, I declare that I am president of the National Home Improvement Council.

The Question was as follows:

To ask Her Majesty's Government when the English House Condition Survey for 2001 is to be published.

Lord Evans of Temple Guiting

My Lords, the Government are working towards publication in July of the full English housing condition survey results for 2001. The results will be published in hard copy and on the housing website of the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister. Key results of the survey have already been used as the basis for monitoring progress towards the delivery of important government policy objectives, principally those for decent homes and the reduction of fuel poverty.

Lord Ezra

My Lords, I thank the noble Lord for that information. However, given that the report was originally scheduled to appear at the end of last year, is not publication in July a little regrettable? In view of the survey's importance, that delay is really unfortunate. Is there any truth in rumours that the report will indicate that at least 5 million of the 20 million homes in England are below standard and would require major repairs to bring them up to standard and that those homes are inhabited by people on low incomes who mainly suffer from fuel poverty? What special action are the Government taking to deal with that problem?

Lord Evans of Temple Guiting

My Lords, it is regrettable that there has been delay in publishing the survey. However, this delay is no longer than that in publishing the 1991 and the 1996 surveys. However, as I said, quite a bit of the material has already been released as data which underpins important government objectives.

The survey results are actually quite encouraging, showing a substantial improvement since the previous survey in the housing stock across both the social and the private sectors. The percentage of non-decent stock—which I shall define in a moment—decreased from 46 per cent in 1996 to 33 percent in 2001. Such stock has decreased from 52 per cent to 38 per cent in the social housing sector and from 45 per cent to 32 per cent in the private sector. All the details underlying those figures will be published in July. It is an encouraging development. The Government's objective is that all social housing will be brought up to a fit-for-purpose standard by 2010. As noble Lords will know, the Government will be investing £22 billion over the next five or six years to get our housing up to standard.

I should like, if I may, to say one thing about the definition of housing that is not decent. If, for example, a house does not have insulation in the loft or is missing a window catch, it will be included in the 7 million houses regarded as not decent. The Government are therefore setting them selves a very high standard—much higher than that in any other European country.

Lord Hanningfield

My Lords, the Minister has mentioned insulation in lofts. What do the Government intend to do about fuel efficiency measures in general for those homes?

Lord Evans of Temple Guiting

My Lords, I think that we will find that the housing Bill contains provisions to ensure that fuel efficiency is brought up to absolute and certain standards. It also gives local authorities the power to intervene and ensure that houses meet the standards that the Government and everyone else require.

Baroness Maddock

My Lords, I declare an interest as a vice-president of the National Home Improvement Council. Can the Minister tell us what has been done particularly to older properties in poor repair since the previous housing conditions survey was announced? That survey threw up the fact that we have one of the oldest housing stocks in Europe and that those living in our older housing tend to be poor and elderly. What measures have been taken, and have they had a real impact on this sector?

Lord Evans of Temple Guiting

My Lords, the Government are fully aware that one of the absolute priorities is to improve the houses of the elderly and the disadvantaged. That is why the housing Bill, which is currently out for consultation, provides for a new fitness standard that covers nine provisions—all of which, when implemented, will mean that, over a period of years, all housing reaches a certain standard. The nine provisions are aimed very specifically at old housing that needs to be brought up to a certain standard and where the tenants tend to be either disadvantaged or elderly.

Lord Taylor of Blackburn

My Lords, is my noble friend aware that one of the places where they can start doing something is the Houses of Parliament? This is one of the worst buildings in the country for heat efficiency. We need more double glazing, more doors closing and all kinds of other such measures. Will he pass on to his colleagues what many of us feel about the efficiency of this place?

Lord Evans of Temple Guiting

My Lords, that clearly follows on from my previous answer when I talked about the elderly and the disadvantaged. It would be quite inappropriate for me to comment on matters that concern the running of Parliament. All I ask for is a light behind the Whips' Gate so that we can read while we are sitting there.

Baroness Gardner of Parkes

My Lords, will the Minister elaborate on his earlier comment that local authorities will have power to intervene, and also on his comment that all houses should be brought up to standard? Will he explain exactly who will pay for that? Will it be the people in the relevant houses, the owners of the houses, the councils or the Government?

Lord Evans of Temple Guiting

My Lords, the answers to many of those questions can be found in the draft housing Bill published on 31st March. Consultation will run until June 2003. I gather that there will be an onus on those tenants who can afford it to repair their houses; otherwise, local authorities will intervene. The cost of that is included in the £22 billion worth of investment that I mentioned earlier. It is important to note that this is the first time in a generation that any government have made a serious attempt to tackle these problems. We are absolutely convinced that by the year 2010 the commitments we have made will be realised.

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