My Department is carrying out research into the possible problems of large panel system buildings, including all the various Reema types. If the findings show that we need to give advice about appraising or repairing the buildings, we shall do so as a matter of urgency.
Will the Minister accept that this is not strictly a political difference between us, but a huge financial problem that is not capable of being dealt with within the confines of the Housing Defects Act 1984? There are 24 blocks in Leeds each requiring at least £1·5 million spent on repairs. Will he accept that treatment of them, similar financially to that of Airey buildings, which has been successful, would be the best way to do it and that it should be taken separately from the Housing Defects Act?
I congratulate the hon. Gentleman on his appointment as the alliance housing spokesman. I look forward to speaking to him often about matters and trying to draw out a few nuances of policy.
The large panel Reema buildings are not designated under the Housing Defects Act. While the hon. Gentleman charmingly and smilingly says that there is no political difference between us, I remind him of the cruel and vicious words he said about me in the Yorkshire Evening Post last week.
I thank my hon. Friend for the survey that he is undertaking into Reema buildings. May I urge him to look at the whole problem of rural housing in areas such as Salisbury district council, which, incidentally, is not under any party political control? It is facing the impossible position where a number of Reema buildings need attention, but it has no money with which to do that, even though it has been given the discretion to repair them and formulate its own policy by the Government.
Work is going on into Reema buildings and their problems by the Building Research Establishment and that work is not yet finished. We have allocated at least an extra £14 million to be bid for by local authorities for extra help if they find themselves unable to meet their statutory undertakings under the Housing Defects Act 1984.
Given that I have not said any unpleasant things about the Minister in the Yorkshire Evening Post—[HON. MEMBERS: "Shame."]—perhaps I should take this opportunity tb do so. May I put to the Minister the real problems that exist in Leeds, given that we have 20 or more Reema blocks that each need £1·5 million to be spent on repairs and renovation? Unless we have action from the Government, the tenants living in those blocks will face serious problems. It is no good the Minister saying that the housing investment programme allocation takes account of the problems of defective buildings, because the reality in Leeds is that, in real terms, under this Government, the housing investment programme allocation has been cut by two thirds. When is the Minister going to do something on behalf of the people of Leeds and those who live in those blocks?
I have visited the hon. Gentleman's constituency, as he knows. There are certainly problems associated with the blocks, but the hon. Gentleman and the hon. Member for Leeds, West (Mr. Meadowcroft), who speaks for the alliance, referred to sums of money that need to be spent per block. We have had no report from Leeds city council, and I have no idea what the figures are based on.
I appreciate that Reema buildings have not yet been designated. However, will my hon. Friend look at the whole operation of the Housing Defects Act 1984, in particular at the Smith houses, because Leicester city council—