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Scottish Homes

Volume 173: debated on Wednesday 6 June 1990

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To ask the Secretary of State for Scotland when he last met the chairman of Scottish Homes; and if he discussed the current levels of capital spending on housing by the agency in Scotland.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Scotland
(Lord James Douglas-Hamilton)

My right hon. and learned Friend and I regularly meet Sir James Mellon, chairman of Scottish Homes. Our discussions cover all aspects of Scottish Homes' functions and responsibilities.

The Minister promised the tenants of Scottish Homes that there would be no element of compulsion in moving them into other types of tenure. Does he now accept that the latest investment priorities declared by Scottish Homes, stating that it is its intention to invest in every other type of tenure before investing in its own stock and tenants, are tantamount to blackmail—trying to force them into other types of tenure? Does not that mean that effectively the Minister has reneged on his promise to tenants of Scottish Homes; is not he ashamed of himself; and should not he reverse those investment priorities or tender his own resignation?

The hon. Gentleman is incorrect on that subject. Funding for Scottish Homes' budget this year is some £356·5 million. I understand that the hon. Gentleman is primarily concerned with the project in, Fintry, which was delayed because of apprehensions expressed by some of his constituents. I believe that the estate-based strategy is being worked out and is likely to go ahead. Specific projects have begun or will begin shortly and other projects are under consideration as part of the continuing process of developing plans for the area. I shall draw the point that the hon. Gentleman has made to the attention of the chairman of Scottish Homes, but I stress to him that our commitment to upgrading Scottish Homes' stock remains as strong as ever.

When my hon. Friend next meets the chairman of Scottish Homes, will he discuss with him the importance of its work in the regeneration of Barrhead in my constituency? Is he aware that following the welcome announcement on industrial improvement areas by my hon. Friend the Minister of State, Renfrew district council, in co-operation with other public sector agencies and the private sector, is preparing imaginative but realistic plans for the future of Barrhead? In encouraging Scottish Homes to clear the path and to implement plans, will my hon. Friend also take the opportunity to point out to Opposition Members that the greatest threat to the improvement of the quality of housing in Scotland would be a roof tax?

I agree with what my hon. Friend says about a roof tax, because it would swallow up a large part of the income of people who have bought their council house. Scottish Homes is now studying a consultancy report that considers the future of Barrhead. Housing is one aspect of the regeneration proposals. Scottish Homes will need to judge how best its involvement in this important project can complement other economic objectives of the Scottish Development Agency, the region and the district.

Is not it a disgrace that the Government have conned people into buying so-called homes when the Minister and Scottish Homes know that in my area those properties were largely slums? A court case is being heard at the moment, and probably the Minister will argue that he cannot comment on that. Nevertheless, we still have tenants who want repairs to their homes, which they are not getting because Scottish Homes is hiding behind the law, the capitalist system and this Government. What has the Minister got to say to people in Leith who deserve support, repairs and justice? Will he give them that, because they need it?

The hon. Gentleman has raised that matter with me before, on behalf of his constituents. Tenants have applied for improvement grants to the district council, but they are some way down the queue of priorities. The pre-1984 backlog of improvement grants is being worked off quickly. The matter is a responsibility of the district council, but it does not have sufficient priority at present.

What is the Minister doing about the plight of tenants, as well as people who foolishly bought their slum houses?

If the hon. Gentleman is referring to tenants of Scottish Homes, I shall of course draw the matter to the attention of the chairman. I should be grateful if the hon. Gentleman made it perfectly clear which streets he is talking about.

Order. Brief questions lead to briefer answers and more hon. Members are then called.