To ask the Secretary of State for Scotland if he will make a statement on current housing waiting lists held by local authorities in Scotland.
Details of supplementary housing capital allocations to local authorities will be announced shortly. Those measures will be helpful in relieving pressure on waiting lists, although I have to say that housing waiting lists themselves are not always a reliable indicator of housing need.
Will the Minister acknowledge that my local authorities are not alone in reporting record waiting lists, since his own Scottish Office "Statistical Bulletin", which has just been published, shows that the number of applicants under the homeless category has increased by 133 per cent. in the past 10 years? Are those figures not an affront to the conscience of Scotland? Will the Minister recognise that last week's statement is equivalent to tinkering with the housing repair problems and that what is needed is to get the unemployed building workers cracking on a house building programme?
I am delighted to be able to announce this afternoon that we are making available, this year, an additional £7·5 million to local authorities for projects to combat homelessness. Bids will be sought by 11 December and I plan to announce the distribution of those new resources before Christmas.
The right hon. Gentleman should remember that waiting lists are not the same as the homelessness application lists returned by local authorities. Households may be on the waiting list of more than one authority. Those lists include households that wish to be rehoused at some time in the future and may include households no longer seeking accommodation. However, the right hon. Gentleman's point about homelessness is well taken. We hope to have the bids for resources in from the local authorities very soon and we shall inform them about the £7·5 million allocation straight away.
Does my hon. Friend agree that the Conservative Government need no lectures about out track record on Scottish housing given that, since 1979, home ownership in Scotland has risen from a paltry 35 per cent. to 52 per cent? Does he agree also that our fellow Scots should be congratulated on that achievement and not patronised, as they are, by the Opposition parties?
Yes; what is more, the home ownership programme will be greatly increased through the rent-to-mortgage scheme, which we are introducing in the Housing and Urban Development Bill, which will give each tenant the right to take up that option.
The answer lies with the £7·5 million allocation, which will help particularly with specialised bids from local authorities. When we asked in the past for such special bids, they resulted in 1,800 accommodation units for the homeless in Scotland, which was welcomed by those who worked in housing.
How much of the £7·5 million will be allocated to Inverclyde district council? In Inverclyde, homelessness, that terrible social evil, is on the increase and many other housing problems bedevil or make miserable the lives of far, far too many of my constituents. I have asked the Minister over and over again to play the game by my constituents when it comes to housing.
In the hon. Gentleman's district council and others, priority will be given to projects that aim to reduce the use of bed-and-breakfast accommodation for homeless people and help single-parent families. It goes without saying that the hon. Gentleman should ensure that all the relevant circumstances are put in the housing plan for his district authority because we shall announce provisional allocations for next year in due course.