asked the Secretary of State for Scotland what information he has of the recent take-up of improvement grants in Scotland.
In 1978 some £7·7 million was paid in grants covering about 6,800 dwellings. For the first half of 1979, the provisional figures are approximately £4·5 million and 3,500 dwellings respectively.
Does the Minister accept that since council house building in Scotland is virtually coming to a halt it is vital that by means of grants the Government continue to encourage people to improve their homes? Why have a number of local authorities, including those in my constituency, run out of money to pay home improvement grants in the current year? Will he guarantee that that will not happen again?
If the hon. Gentleman makes inquiries of his local authorities—
I did this morning.
—he will find that for next year East Lothian is to have £500,000, compared with £380,000 last year, and Berwickshire is to have an allocation of £20,000 more than it asked for.
Will the Minister consider removing some of the restrictions on the operation of improvement grants pertaining to the size of the house? Will he accept that young couples are unable to receive improvement grants because their house is not small enough, yet they need another apartment?
There are general criteria that are applied to applications for improvement grants. If the hon. Gentleman has a specific example, I shall be happy to consider it to see whether the discretion and criteria should be changed.