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Smith Houses (Defects)

Volume 79: debated on Monday 20 May 1985

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asked the Secretary of State for Wales if he will make a statement on the incidence and nature of defects in former council houses of the Smith type in Wales.

There are about 70 Smith houses in private ownership in Wales. All are in Cardiff. It has been known since 1948 that Smith houses could be subject to minor cracking. The Building Research Establishment recommended periodic inspection, but said that there was generally no need for urgent action so long as good structural condition was maintained.

May I quote one phrase from a letter from my constituent, Mr. Evans of Gabalfa, the owner of an affected home ? He said:

"Smith houses are now not mortgageable and will remain so until appropriate action is taken."
Will my hon. Friend give urgent and positive consideration to the request of Cardiff city council for a local dispensation under section 12 of the Housing Defects Act 1984, so that Smith houses in Cardiff can be dealt with under that Act ?

In a letter dated 14 May I told my hon. Friend how Cardiff city coucil could seek a designation under section 12. It has to give 28 days' notice that it proposes such a designation and my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State has two months in which to object.

If the Government's record on housing is so good, can the Minister explain why half the houses in my constituency are unfit for human habitation ?

Yes. It is because no action was taken before this Government came into office. The hon. Lady will know that, as a result of our initiative, there were about 141,000 applications for improvement grants in Wales. We know only too well that the problem existed long before we came into office in 1979.

Order. I am sure that the hon. Member for Cynon Valley (Mrs. Clwyd) was referring to Smith houses. I call Mr. Best and I hope that he will refer to Smith houses.

I acknowledge that there are difficulties about the sale of Smith houses, but will my hon. Friend welcome the somewhat ungainly, but well-practised, posture of the Labour party in standing on its head over the sale of council houses ? Does he think that there is any possibility that the Labour party may yet become a party that champions the individual instead of always championing local authorities ?

There is always hope for Labour Members, but I understand my hon. Friend's despairing feeling.