§ 9. Mrs. Ewing
asked the Secretary of State for Scotland if he will seek to provide payment of a lump sum to wipe off in whole or in part the housing debts of local authorities in Scotland facing the task of clearing slums; and if he will take steps to waive interest rates for two years to enable them to tackle the national emergency of Scotland's housing.
§ Mrs. Ewing
Does not the Minister agree that his right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Scotland, wearing his eighth most important hat as a member of the Cabinet, accepted a similar principle in the writing-off of £250 million of London Transport debt before the continuing obligation was handed over? Will not the right hon. Gentleman, therefore, press his right hon. Friend, wearing both his Cabinet hat and his Scottish housing hat for this much more socially pressing case, to deal with Scottish housing as a national emergency?
The hon. Lady must recognise that the writing-down of the debt of British Railways affects Scottish railways to some extent and that this category involves a figure of about £1,000 million. It is not the debt itself that is an impediment to new building. It is the question whether local authorities can borrow for capital expenditure and meet the loan charges and other expenditure from these sources. If the hon. Lady takes into account the review of interest rates every year and the fact that especially burdened authorities like Glasgow, for example, can look to additional subsidies—up to £75 a year—if they prove a case, she will realise that this solves the problem more equitably.
§ Mr. Hugh D. Brown
Is my right hon. Friend aware that we welcome this newfound but belated interest in the housing problem of Scotland by the hon. Member for Hamilton (Mrs. Ewing)? Has he, however, any information from Opposition Front Bench spokesmen whether they subscribe to the view of the Conservative candidate in Craigton, who is suggesting that all local authority debt in Glasgow should be written off? Does that represent official Conservative policy?