asked the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland if he will introduce proposals to bring Northern Ireland building regulations in line with those in England and Wales—outside Inner London.
Building regulations in Northern Ireland are kept very closely in line with those in England and Wales.
Will my hon. Friend agree that the Northern Ireland building regulations could be considerably simplified without compromising safety, as could the other three sets relating to other parts of the United Kingdom? Is not the time now propitious to have consultations with the relevant Ministers in Wales, Scotland and England to try and unify and simplify the regulations so that one set is applicable throughout the whole of the United Kingdom?
With regard to language, these are statutory instruments that have to be expressed in a certain way. We are constantly looking at ways to simplify and streamline the contents of the regulations. I am closely in touch with the review that is taking place in England and Wales. It is my intention that those in Northern Ireland should comply with the others, making due allowance for local differences.
While welcoming the support of the hon. Member for Chipping Barnet (Mr. Chapman) for the contention of my hon. Friends and I that there should be common legislation for the United Kingdom, will the Minister ensure, in any case in future, that when there is amendment in any part of the Kingdom, there is not the previous time lag that has occurred of a year to 18 months in adjusting the regulations in Northern Ireland?
We are looking at this problem and trying to ensure that the time gap is reduced as much as possible.
Is there any point in discussing building regulations when the Government, through their cuts announced yesterday, are to reduce the number of houses available in Northern Ireland for the homeless? Will the Minister apologise for his statement made to a news conference last night when he said that Northern Ireland's per capita figure for public expenditure is 35 per cent. higher than in Great Britain? This is a misleading statement—
Order. This question is about building regulations.
I am happy to reaffirm the statement I made last night to which the hon. Gentleman made reference. It is accurate. The current expenditure in Northern Ireland on housing is one-and-a-half times more per capita than in Great Britain.