The Minister recently said that he was not able to visit Burnley or receive a delegation from the city to consider its acute problems. Like many other local authorities, Burnley faces a rapidly deteriorating housing situation in the private and public housing sectors because of the level of capital and HIP allocations. When will the Government take action to deal with these problems and to stop this downward spiral in housing standards?
I pay as many visits as I can to cities and towns such as Burnley. I hope that one day I shall be able to go to Burnley. Indeed, I was in Manchester last Thursday paying such a visit. Burnley has begun to do one thing which is very important—co-operate with the private sector in getting private investment in its council housing stock, notably on the Bleak house estate. I am surprised that Burnley council has not approached my Department's estate action unit for help with its housing problems.
Will my hon. Friend confirm that, when a significant number of properties in a town are found to have major defects which will be expensive to repair, his Department will give due consideration to helping the local authority or private individuals concerned, especially if the properties were built under the auspices of a new town corporation which no longer exists?
I am aware from my recent visit to Redditch in my hon. Friend's constituency of the problems that affect his constituency, especially some houses with, I believe, timber truss roofs which seem to be causing some problems. My regional office is in communication with the council on this problem.
Does the Minister appreciate that probably some 2 million homes were built using the same design as the houses in Redditch which are seriously under pressure? Is the hon. Gentleman satisfied that the overall housing investment programme, even including all the private money that he can get into it, is sufficient to stop the housing stock from deteriorating, let alone improve it, in view of the rate of deterioration? In other words, is it enough to stand still?
We are doing much more than standing still. We are improving the housing situation. I owe the hon. Gentleman a long and detailed letter in response to his long and detailed letter of about 10 days ago on these points. I shall endeavour to send that letter to him as soon as possible.