§ 2.45 p.m.
§ Lord Stallard asked Her Majesty's Government:
§ When they propose to bring out a national advisory standard on means of escape and related fire safety measures in houses in multiple occupation.
The Minister of State, Home Office (Earl Ferrers)
My Lords, the Home Office plans to publish the final version of the national advisory standard for England and Wales later this year. A similar standard for Scotland was published in February.
§ Lord Stallard
My Lords, I welcome the reply of the noble Earl. However, will he acknowledge that it is now eight years since the Government first promised to produce this national advisory standard on means of escape and fire-related safety measures in houses in multiple occupation, bearing in mind that two and a half million people live in houses in multiple occupation, whether they be bed-sits, lodgings or bed-and-breakfast accommodation, and that 81 per cent. of those have unsatisfactory means of fire escape? The Government's own report, a recent report, said that that was an indictment of national and local housing policy over many years. Can we accept that the reply of the Minister is a firm booking for this year?
§ Lord Graham of Edmonton
My Lords, when fixing the rate support grant, how high in the list of priorities do the Government see the importance of local authorities ensuring that they have sufficient inspectors in order to comply with such standards? Can the Minister tell the House this? At the present time when local authorities which are under severe housing stress are forced to send their constituents to bed-and-breakfast accommodation, what guidance is given to the authorities to ensure that the properties to which they send their constituents are adequate and safe in respect of fire hazards?
My Lords, those are two questions fairly wide of the mark. The local authorities have discretionary powers to inspect and register houses in multiple occupation. If the noble Lord wishes to know about inspectors, he must table another Question because the present Question concerns guidance. I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Stallard, that this matter has taken longer than we had expected; but I assure him that the guidance will be published this year.
My Lords, it is basically because the legislation is different, consultation has proceeded more rapidly and there are fewer people with whom to argue.