asked the Secretary of State for the Environment what action he is taking to encourage local authorities to improve thermal insulation standards in existing public-sector housing.
I would refer the hon. Member to the reply given to my hon. Friend the Member for Carlisle (Mr. Lewis) on 25th November 1974.—[Vol. 882, c. 89.]
That was not very satisfactory. Does the Minister accept that whereas owner-occupiers have an incentive to spend money on improving their property with thermal insulation, because it increases the value of the property, there is no such incentive for tenants of local authority housing, nor is there such an incentive for local authorities to spend money on thermal insulation, because it is not the authorities who pay the heating bills? What will the hon. Gentleman do about this in the interests of energy conservation?
I think that the hon. Gentleman has got his facts a little wrong. The position, as I stated in the previous reply, is that the installation of central heating and insulation in existing council houses is already accepted for subsidy purposes if it forms part of a comprehensive scheme of improvement and conversion.As to the position of tenants, there is nothing to prevent local authorities and tenants or tenants' associations negotiating arrangements—I know that some do—whereby tenants can undertake certain works on a reimbursable basis. I hope that if tenants go to their local authority with a view to undertaking insulation arrangements they will be suitably assisted by the authority.
If my hon. Friend sends out any circulars on this matter or any other within the ambit of his Department that result in local authorities having to spend money which they may not have taken into account in the period between the two financial years, will he also send one of the circulars to the district auditors in order that they may be informed that the Government have suggested to local authorities that there is a need to spend money? That kind of suggestion was made by the previous Government, when the Minister responsible sent out a circular instructing local authorities to spend money on environmental matters to cut down the long list of unemployed people, and because one local authority—Clay Cross—did that the district auditor has tried to haul its members before the court.
It would be improper for me to involve myself on the Floor of the House in matters which are the subject of representations before a district auditor.I have no plans to issue any circular about thermal insulation, although I am sure that I shall be issuing circulars on other matters concerned with housing policy.