asked the Secretary of State for Scotland what are the present total figures for those on housing waiting lists in the district and island authorities of Scotland.
asked the Secretary of State for Scotland how many people are on housing waiting lists.
The information available to me about numbers on local authority waiting lists is neither complete nor prepared on a uniform basis. I must therefore refer the hon. Gentleman directly to the local authorities in which they are interested. They will no doubt bear in mind that applicants, including existing tenants, can put their names down with more than one authority.
Is the Minister aware that thousands of young, old and handicapped people who are seeking local authority houses in Scotland will find that answer complacent in the extreme? Is he further aware that local authorities need money from the Government to start building houses again?
There are now about 29,000 vacant houses in the public sector in Scotland. Glasgow forfeited £17 million of its capital allocation this year because of its rate fund contribution decision. That money could have been spent on improving houses in Glasgow.
It will not have gone unnoticed that the Minister refused even to attempt to answer the question: how many homeless people are awaiting council houses in Scotland? Is he aware that there are a number in his constituency? Is he further aware that there are at least 50,000 jobless construction workers in Scotland? As he will not tell us about his failure to have a proper housing policy, will he at least say how he explains to his constituents his abject failure to provide for the housing and job needs of Scottish construction workers?
As far as I know, my constituents are reasonably satisfied with their Member of Parliament. The hon. Gentleman is confused. He equates need with waiting lists. Assessing need is a professional calculation, on which detailed guidance was given by the Labour Government. That was recently emphasised by SDD memorandum 27/1982. I shall be happy to send the hon. Gentleman a copy for his perusal and edification.
My hon. Friend mentioned the number of empty houses in Scotland. Does he agree that the quickest, simplest and most effective way to reduce waiting lists is to encourage the rehabilitation and reuse of those houses?
My hon. Friend is right. Many local authorities are using receipts from the sale of council houses, which have been higher than forecast because of the success of the Government's policy, to improve their housing stock.
Is the hon. Gentleman aware that many of the 25,000 houses that are available for letting are inadequate and inferior and need to be considerably renovated? Is not the absence of national statistics about housing shortages and needs a crying scandal and something that the Government should improve?
The assessment of housing needs is conducted on a professional basis. If the right hon. Gentleman wants any information about his own local authority, I shall be happy to provide it. Local housing authorities in Scotland can use their receipts from sales and their net allocations to improve their housing stocks, and they are doing so. If they are more successful in selling council houses, they will have more money available to improve the existing housing stock.
Does the Minister recall that in answering my earlier question today he urged Labour local authorities not to underspend, saying that that would help the Scottish construction industry? Within minutes, when replying to my hon. Friend the Member for Coatbridge and Airdrie (Mr. Clarke), he said that his Department had never suggested that there was a serious underspend in Scotland. What is the true position? How does he explain that remarkable agility?
I can explain it easily. In answer to the hon. Member for Coatbridge and Airdrie (Mr. Clarke), I was referring to the general capital allocation and the non-HRA allocation, under which repair and improvement grants come. The RFC contribution relates to the general housing account.