I am coming to Scottish Homes; it was a great initiative of the Government and of my hon. Friend the Minister. Like the hon. Member for Edinburgh, Leith (Mr. Brown), I look forward to action by Scottish Homes in my constituency. I have raised the issue of the condition of some of the houses managed by Scottish Homes and so far I have had a negative response to requests for early improvement. I should like Scottish Homes to be much more active. I do not know the position in the hon. Gentleman's constituency, but I hope that when the Minister replies he will say more about Scottish Homes. I should like to know what capital investment Scottish Homes is likely to make in my constituency in the coming financial year.
My hon. Friend the Minister was good enough lo visit housing in Nithsdale in my constituency last autumn. I think that he was impressed by some of the new developments and by the housing manager and his staff. There is certainly disappointment there and in Annandale and Eskdale because those areas have not received a larger share of the cake that the Minister has been able to distribute under this order, under the housing revenue account, under the non-housing revenue account to a lesser extent, and, equally importantly, under capital consent. District councils are anxious to get on with improving their housing and with building new ones. To do that they must have more capital consent and more resources.
Last summer we held a useful debate on housing in the Scottish Grand Committee. I told the Minister then of my grave concern about homelessness. I have yet to see any dramatic improvement in this critical problem. I asked the Minister then and subsequently what steps were being taken to get to the bottom of the problem, which is not solely a matter of insufficient housing. People come to Dumfries from Ireland, the Western Isles, the Highlands and central Scotland and in no time at all reach a high position on the housing list because they are homeless. That is most unfair to those who have lived in the area for many years and are looking forward to having a house when they get married—yet these outsiders jump to the top of the list.
I hope that great organisations such as Shelter, Age Concern and the Church of Scotland will make every effort to find out more about the root causes of this national problem, which is not merely to do with a lack of houses. Perhaps we could persuade people to stay a little longer with their parents or to move to areas with available housing. That might alleviate the problem to some extent.
I urge the Minister to reconsider how district councils should allocate priority between those who claim frequently rightly—to be homeless. The problem is getting worse, certainly for single-parent families. I often meet teenage girls with young children who, unfortunately, have been asked by their parents to leave home, even though they have recently had babies. We must try to find out why so many of these young girls are starting families when the fathers are not interested in sharing a home with them or even in helping to pay towards the maintenance of their children. Many of our problems of housing and homelessness stem not just from insufficient housing but from major issues to do with morality.
The Minister has worked hard at housing, especially with Scottish Homes. I should like to know more about what Scottish Homes proposes to do and about where it proposes to do it in the coming year. The organisation has been given a good lead by many of the housing associations. I offer warm praise to Loreburn in my area which has successfully built a large number of houses, many of them for people with special needs, and which plans many more developments. The Minister should encourage housing associations as much as he can. I should like Scottish Homes to share their enthusiasm; and perhaps it will—after all, it has not existed for long. I should like it to take more initiatives and to embark on more expenditure to modernise present stock and to help provide new homes.
Rather than going through the statistics in the orders, I should like to leave with the Minister the general impression that we have a great deal still to do before the quantity and quality of housing in Scotland can be called adequate. I appreciate that this year is financially difficult, given the Gulf crisis and rising costs, but when resources become available I hope that the Minister will agree that greater priority should be given to housing.