Council Housing

Oral Answers to Questions — Scotland – in the House of Commons at 1:44 pm on 3rd July 1996.

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Photo of Menzies Campbell Menzies Campbell Shadow Spokesperson (Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs), Shadow Spokesperson (Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs) 1:44 pm, 3rd July 1996

To ask the Secretary of State for Scotland if he will make a statement about expenditure on local authority housing in Fife. [34172]

Photo of Mr Raymond Robertson Mr Raymond Robertson , Aberdeen South

Fife's capital allocation for 1996–97 for investment in local authority housing totals £15.5 million. It is for the council to determine its expenditure priorities.

Photo of Menzies Campbell Menzies Campbell Shadow Spokesperson (Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs), Shadow Spokesperson (Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs)

Does the Minister accept that that is a deeply disappointing answer to the many needy and anxious people who come to me and to other Fife Members of Parliament seeking council housing? Is he aware that the result of Government policy will be a 70 per cent. reduction in council house expenditure in real terms between 1988 and 1998? How can Fife council provide housing for people who need it and for people in north-east Fife who desperately need it?

Photo of Mr Raymond Robertson Mr Raymond Robertson , Aberdeen South

Fife council can provide housing if it examines imaginatively, realistically and positively the proposals for stock transfers. In that way, it will be able to access significant new sums for investment throughout Fife, particularly in the hon. and learned Gentleman's constituency. If he is so concerned, I ask him to get in touch with Fife council as a matter of priority. I offer him the support of my officials to discuss the issue with the council to enable it to put together a package that will achieve the investment levels that he wants.

Photo of Mr Ernie Ross Mr Ernie Ross , Dundee West

To ask the Secretary of State for Scotland if he will make a statement on the change in council house expenditure and planned expenditure in real terms between 1989–90 and 1998–99. [34173]

Photo of Mr Raymond Robertson Mr Raymond Robertson , Aberdeen South

Planned net provision in 1998–99 for capital expenditure by local authorities on their own stock is £167 million at 1995–96 prices, compared with £208 million in 1989–90 on the same basis.

Photo of Mr Ernie Ross Mr Ernie Ross , Dundee West

Given that council house investment declined by 32 per cent. throughout Scotland and by 43 per cent. in Dundee in 1989–1995, and that homelessness is at near record levels, will the Minister follow the recommendation of the Environment Select Committee and set up a comprehensive review of housing need in Scotland?

Photo of Mr Raymond Robertson Mr Raymond Robertson , Aberdeen South

I remind the hon. Gentleman that provision in Scotland for local authority housing is 25 per cent. higher than in England. All that would be put at risk with a tax-raising Scottish Parliament. Does the hon. Gentleman believe that this House would continue to vote for such substantial sums of money to go to Scottish housing with a tax-raising parliament sitting in Edinburgh?

Photo of Malcolm Bruce Malcolm Bruce Shadow Spokesperson (Treasury)

Will the Minister acknowledge that he is telling councils, including Aberdeenshire council, that they must transfer council tenants to private landlords or suffer a drop in capital allocation? In Aberdeenshire, where there is no evidence of anyone willing to take over and where no tenant wishes to be transferred, is that not an unfair penalty which will simply increase the problems of homelessness which have been growing in the north-east in the past 10 years?

Photo of Mr Raymond Robertson Mr Raymond Robertson , Aberdeen South

The hon. Gentleman is wrong. Capital allocations do not depend on stock transfers. I am saying to the hon. Gentleman, his council and every other council that, if they want to increase substantially investment in social housing in their regions, there is a means to do it and we will do all that we can to help them to do it, but if he is so blinkered by ideology that he will not recognise that, he must answer to his constituents.

Photo of Mr Ian Bruce Mr Ian Bruce , South Dorset

What is the position on vacancies in local authority housing in Scotland? Is it similar to that revealed in the written answer that I received yesterday from the Department of the Environment, which said that a high number of private houses are vacant and that, with low inflation and low interest rates, there has never been a better chance for young people to buy a house? Surely the Government are giving such encouragement and we do not want to trap people in local authority houses for the rest of their lives.

Photo of Mr Raymond Robertson Mr Raymond Robertson , Aberdeen South

My hon. Friend makes a valid point and draws a pertinent comparison with England. I have encouraged local authorities to make use of their vacant properties and will continue to do so, because while properties remain empty they are of no value to anyone—especially families who are desperate for housing.

Photo of Michael Martin Michael Martin Chair, Administration Committee

There were vacancies in the multi-storey block of flats that the Minister visited in Sighthill in my constituency, but when the concierge system was introduced there was great demand for those flats. Will the Minister co-operate with local authorities to introduce concierge systems for multi-storey dwellings as quickly as possible? People are entitled to peace and quiet in their homes and to be free from vandalism.

Photo of Mr Raymond Robertson Mr Raymond Robertson , Aberdeen South

I was most impressed by the housing in the hon. Gentleman's constituency and by the positive response of tenants to the concierge arrangements and to the closed circuit television systems in the hon. Gentleman's constituency and in that of the hon. Member for Dundee, West (Mr. Ross). There is no doubt that that is the way forward, which is why my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State is making substantial sums available for similar systems throughout Scotland. I look forward to visiting many more estates so equipped throughout Scotland during my next two or three years in this job.