Housing

Part of Orders of the Day — Supply – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 21st June 1978.

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Photo of Mr Russell Fairgrieve Mr Russell Fairgrieve , Aberdeenshire West 12:00 am, 21st June 1978

It is my intention, for which I trust I shall have the forbearance of the House, to try to put the purely Scottish Conservative viewpoint on the vital subject of housing. Before going into the nuts and bolts of what our housing policy should be, it is right to remember our overall objectives.

The first objective must be to ensure that all our people have homes of a certain minimum standard. In this the record is good, although we must not be complacent. In 1971, 14 per cent. of households in Scotland still did not have the use of hot water, a fixed bath and an inside toilet. Perhaps 160,000 houses are of sub-tolerable standard. I would remind the right hon. Member for Western Isles (Mr. Stewart), because of what he has just said about the Scottish housing position being worse than in the rest of the United Kingdom, of one or two facts.

The housing situation in Scotland is not worse than in the rest of the United Kingdom. In Scotland, by April 1971 the number of dwellings was larger than the number of households by 125,000. Scotland's homes are more modern than those elsewhere. Fifty per cent. of them were built after the war—a higher percentage than in any other EEC country except Germany and Holland and 5 per cent. more than in Britain as a whole. In comparison with 14 per cent. of Scottish households lacking the three basic amenities. 18 per cent. lack them in England and Wales. We can therefore be proud of our record.

The implication is that we no longer need to concentrate resources on building houses simply to house people but should concentrate on building homes to rectify those deficiencies. That involves bringing sub-standard houses up to standard, particularly by the use of housing improvement grants and also building houses for specialist requirements such as those of the elderly and the disabled.

Our second objective must be to ensure that houses are available where the jobs are available. In part, this is a matter of ensuring that workers in one part of the country can move to another. This is a particular problem in Scotland because of our high proportion of public sector housing, sometimes at low rents.

In Scotland, 54 per cent. of our people live in public sector housing, compared with 29 per cent. in England. But that is not the only consideration. There is no point in replacing houses in Glasgow in the hope that industry will follow in their wake, only to find that industry cannot expand where it wants to do so because the labour force is too small and there are no houses for incoming workers.

The North-East is the most obvious example of how a lack of houses is holding back development and forcing prices sky high, although I recognise the contribution of the Scottish Special Housing Association, which is providing almost 5,000 of the 10,000 homes that it is estimated will be required over the next few years.

This is particularly apposite in the North-East of Scotland, where my constituency of Aberdeenshire, West lies and where we have had probably the biggest increase in the electorate in the United Kingdom since 1974—about 10,000 people in the new communities in my constituency at Bridge-of-Don, Dyce, the fastest-growing airport in Britain, and Bucksburn, where houses are now required in both the private and the public sectors. Naturally, we are glad of the expansion of employment, but that brings its housing problems.

The third objective is to ensure a balanced mixture of types of houses. This is necessary in part to give people a genuine choice, but it is more important than just that. Different types of housing tend to meet different needs. The private rented sector caters for the young single person, moving away from home to find a job. The private housing sector appeals especially to young married couples who want to make an investment in their future and who might otherwise have to wait several years for a council house, perhaps living with their parents in the meanwhile.

Council housing will continue to be of value to those who cannot afford a home of their own, but even within the public sector we must have a mixture of types of house so that, for example the old widow is not left alone in a large house simply because nothing more suitable is available.

The fourth objective is to give people as much control as possible over their own houses. If they cannot even control the home in which they live, they have little real freedom. That is why we believe in home ownership and in tenants' participation in the management of estates.

While the first of these objectives has been substantially achieved, the others have not—largely as a result of Labour's desire to control the lives and votes of tenants in large, soulless council estates. So we have based our policies on two pivots—increasing home ownership and increasing the control of people over their own lives on their own estates.

We support home ownership because we believe that if people want to own their own homes they should be able to do so. All the evidence over the years shows that people want to own their own homes. In late 1965, an Opinion Research Centre survey found that 54 per cent. of Scots, given a choice, would prefer owner-occupation. In 1976 The Guardian reported that a survey for the NEDC building committee showed that nearly 80 per cent. of the younger age groups would ideally like to own their own homes.