So far, 22 organisations and two individuals have submitted comments on the Green Paper on Scottish housing (Cmnd. 6852), and several other organisations which were unable to meet the target date of 1st October are expected to comment within the next few weeks. In addition, I have had discussions with representatives of the Convention of Scottish Local Authorities and of the Scottish Trades Union Congress; and I shall shortly be taking part in a number of housing conferences at which the Green Paper will be discussed.
Some time will be needed to take stock of the comments, and I cannot yet make a comprehensive statement. My right hon. Friend will inform Parliament of the outcome of the consultations in due course.
In case the preservation of desirable tenement houses in multi-ownership may not have been included in submissions, will my hon. Friend take positive steps to ensure that such houses as are in the Dennistoun part of my constituency and are adjacent to city centres are not allowed to deteriorate and decay?
Yes. This is one of the fundamental aspects of the Green Paper, and it is certainly one to which we attach importance in Dennistoun. Dennistoun is in two parts, although I had better not describe them in more detail. However, there are four housing action areas in the southern part. The streets that my hon. Friend and I know so well should be a matter for local initiative for rehabilitation and environmental improvement. I am satisfied that the money and resources are there. All we need is the effort.
Do the Government still have a target date for all houses in Scotland reaching a tolerable standard? If I am right in suspecting that the programme of house improvement has slowed down, will the Government give it a stimulus during the current year, both for its own sake and to reduce unemployment in the construction industry?
I entirely agree. It is a matter for concern that there are still too many sub-tolerable houses in Scotland. The main problems are in the two major cities, but the authorities in Edinburgh and Glasgow are making substantial and considerable efforts. Sad to say, it is the country authorities that are lagging behind because of peculiar difficulties. I have had discussions with them, and we may be able to improve matters in any legislation that might be forthcoming from the Green Paper.
Is the Minister aware that, because of the division of responsibilities between regional and district authorities, there have been obstructions and delays involving two essential projects? Is he further aware that Strathclyde Regional Council and Clydebank District Council may be in conflict over the provision of new housing stock? Will he inquire into this?
I am concerned about any delays arising out of difficulties between regional and district authorities, but I am not aware of any specific problem affecting Clydebank. Strathclyde Regional Council has been most helpful with its regional plan, but if there is any particular problems I shall be delighted to look into them.
The Scottish National Party has submitted representations, but they are not very inspiring. However, I am not surprised about that. There have been representations from various bodies, including the Saltcoats Labour Party, various housing associations and local authorities. All the representations will be considered and we have extended the deadline to the end of next month. I repeat that the Scottish National Party did not strike me as having submitted anything imaginative.
I watched the Tory Party Conference on television and noted the commitment given by the Tory Party about the sale of council houses. However, I am surprised that the hon. Member for Ayr (Mr. Younger) has raised this matter. He knows better than anyone else on his side that the sale of council houses is not a priority in solving Scotland's housing problems.