HC Deb 07 March 1979 vol 963 cc1249-50
16. Mr. Frank Allaun

asked the Secretary of State for the Environment what information he has as to the extent of damp in post-war houses; what research his Department is doing into its causes and effects; and what proposals he has to combat the problem.

Mr. Freeson

There is no precise information on the extent of dampness. However, my Department and the Building Research Establishment have carried out much research into this, and advice notes for housing authorities and householders will shortly be issued.

Mr. Allaun

Will the Minister accept that thousands of houses are being built today without cavity wall insulation? Will he help to overcome this problem by slightly relaxing the permitted cost limit? For instance, this morning Salford council is asking for £90 extra on each house in the case of 570 new houses. That would overcome this disadvantage.

Mr. Freeson

If Salford council has proposals to make to me, I shall be glad to consider them. They have not yet been received by me. Speaking more generally, it is not true to say that many thousands of dwellings are being built today with substandard insulation. No doubt arguments could be put in favour of better standards of insulation, especially in view of the need for energy conservation, but it is a subject which has to be looked at with very great care indeed, in both technical and economic terms. It should not be assumed that by increasing insulation standards and ignoring other factors we shall get better results. I am committed generally to this approach, but we have to take several factors into account before we come to a conclusion on the matter.

Mr. Tebbit

Do not most of the complaints which most hon. Members of this House receive come from the tenants of post-war council houses? Do not many of the complaints concern condensation which is caused because the tenants cannot afford to run the excessively expensive heating systems which have been installed?

Mr. Freeson

I believe that there is evidence of that. It is one of many pieces of evidence that we have. I have some cases in my own constituency in London. The installation of certain kinds of heating systems has contributed to costs and to inefficient heating standards. In a large number of cases, however, the installation of those heating systems, to reduce costs, occurred at a time when housing cost yardsticks were being held down and not reviewed sensitively in the light of changing costs. That was before my time, and not since. It was under the last Tory Government.