Will the Minister take careful note of the NHBC contract, which in many cases appears to be virtually worthless? Is he aware that a small number of shabby builders hide behind this contract? Is he aware that in my constituency a five-year-old house has been derated by the local authority to £1 and declared unfit for human habitation, yet the person who lives in it and who has an NHBC contract is unable to obtain redress because the contract does not cover this issue? Will the hon. Gentleman look at this point to see whether, if young couples take out contracts like this when buying new houses, they can have some protection. Otherwise, the contracts should be done away with.
I am not aware of that particular case, although I know of other problems in the hon. Member's constituency which are now sub judice. As for the inspection system under the NHBC guarantee, I shall be glad to discuss the extent of that system and how effective it may be. There are problems of recruitment of personnel. It is as important to look at quality control and project management techniques within the building industry as it is to look at the inspection system of the NHBC. In the end this will be a much more important field, and I am already devoting some attention to it.
There are certainly cases which deserve to be condemned. I hope that where this happens it may be possible for local authorities, provided that it does not interfere with their primary rôle of building for rent, to undertake projects of building for sale direct, establishing standards that it will be very useful to establish in such situations.
I should declare an interest since the National House-Building Registration Council paid for a new roof for my garage a few years ago. Is the Minister thoroughly satisfied that the council is not inhibited by the law of libel from striking unsatisfactory builders off the register?