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Local Authority Housing (Dampness)

Volume 12: debated on Wednesday 11 November 1981

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asked the Secretary of State for Scotland whether he has any plans to allocate additional resources to district authorities in Scotland to alleviate the problem of dampness in local authority housing.

I am glad to say that the success of the Government's policy on the sale of council houses has enabled us to allocate a further £22 million to district and islands councils for capital expenditure on housing in the current year. The Government indicated that they would be willing to consider proposals for alleviating dampness, and 14 councils have said that this is how they plan to use some of the additional resources allocated to them.

Does the Minister accept that Glasgow is unlikely to receive any of this money, although it is in Glasgow where the major dampness problem exists? Dampness causes immense human suffering and the local authority has to divert expenditure from other areas to cope with it. Does the Minister agree that it is time that he gave extra money for this specific purpose?

That is what we are doing. Glasgow could have allocated to it a further £4 million. I understand that a considerable part is intended for use on dampness eradication schemes. All that we need to receive from Glasgow is an assurance that the revenue to pay for the schemes, from the sale of council houses, will be that previously estimated. I am confident that Glasgow will be able to give such an assurance.

Have any authorities earmarked some of this capital for expenditure on dampness eradication schemes? Has my hon. Friend's Department carried out an evaluation of dehumidifiers, which may be one solution to the problem? Those devices could be bought by local authorities if they sold their council houses, as is demanded by their tenants.

We are prepared to look at all proposals for dealing with excessive wetness, some of which are likely to be more successful than others. I am happy to tell my hon. Friend that Argyll and Bute intends to use part of its resources to solve the problems of dampness and condensation.

What criteria does the Minister apply in spending the extra £22 million which he says is available? Is one of those criteria the climatic conditions in certain parts of the north of Scotland where there is a greater need than in other areas to tackle the problem of dampness?

We told local authorities that we were prepared to consider any projects that they wished to carry out during this financial year. If the number of projects submitted were to exceed the resources that are available, we should give priority to those concerned with dampness and condensation.

Leaving aside the touching appeal of the hon. Member for Argyll (Mr. MacKay) for special equipment for Conservative Members' desk rooms, I suggest that it is confounded cheek to say that money is being given to local authorities to deal with this problem, when they are receiving only a small percentage of the money that was deducted from capital allowances because, in the opinion of the Minister, rents had not been raised to a high enough level. Does the Minister accept that dampness makes life intolerable for many tenants, that the present capital allocations are not enough and that the Government must make a special effort to help heavy urban areas where the problem is pressing?

If local authorities prefer a low rent policy, when a reasonable rent policy could lead to greater allocations for them to deal with their housing problems, they must accept at least part of the responsibility for what flows from such a policy. We have told local authorities that, in assessing their housing plans and needs, we shall give considerably greater attention than did the Labour Government to the problems of condensation and dampness.