asked the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland if he has yet received the report of the interdepartmental working party which has been examining the possibility of aiding owner-occupiers who, because of the disturbances in certain areas, are unable to sell their houses; and if he will make a statement.
The report of the working party is being considered by Departments concerned. I appreciate the urgency of the problem, but I regret it is not possible to make a statement yet.
May I press my hon. Friend strongly on this? Considerable hardship is caused to people who are unable to sell their houses because they are on the fringe of riot areas and no building society loans are available. There is a pressing need for some kind of Government guarantee to the building societies to try to cut through this knot. In particular, will my hon. Friend consider as a matter of urgency the idea of allowing the Housing Executive to engage in a large-scale programme of purchasing houses into which it can put tenants, otherwise we shall see vast areas of Belfast decline, with all the consequences that that must bring.
My hon. Friend may press me very hard on this. I realise that there are real problems here, but I must point out that other Departments come into the matter—particularly the Treasury and the Ministry of Finance—and I am not at present in a position to announce any result.
Will the hon. Gentleman look very closely at the problem of Roden Street, in Belfast, about which I have had evidence to support the view put forward by the hon. Member for Belfast, North (Mr. Stratton Mills)? There is a particular problem there, because it is in a cross-fire area. I hope that the hon. Gentleman will undertake to look carefully into the problem.