Amendment made: In page 24, line 30, after "years", insert:
(or such other period as may be prescribed)".—[Mr. G. Campbell.]
§ Mr. Millan
I beg to move Amendment No. 47, in page 25, line 5, at the end to insert:and every person on whom the notice or a copy is served shall be entitled to be heard when the local authority's proposals are discussed in accordance with the notice".
§ Mr. Speaker
I suggest that it would be convenient to discuss with this the following three Amendments: Amendment No. 48, in page 25, line 6, after "shall" to insert "(i)".
Amendment No. 50, in page 25, line 9, to leave out "and" and to insert:
(ii) state the date (being a date not less than twenty-one days after service of the notice) and time and place at which the future use of the dwelling, the local authority's proposals for the carrying out of the works, any alternative proposals, and the views and interests of the tenant and other matters may be discussed; and
Amendment No. 52, in page 25, line 13, at the end to insert:
(4) The local authority shall take into consideration all representations made on OT before the occasion when their proposals with respect to the tenement block are discussed in accordance with the immediate improvement notice, and in particular, any representations with respect to the nature of the works proposed by the local authority for improving the tenement block, and may thereafter make such modifications in the immediate improvement notice as they consider necessary. Notice of such modifications shall be given to every person on whom the immediate improvement notice or a copy thereof has been served.
§ Mr. Millan
Yes, Mr. Speaker. As you have suggested, the other three Amendments form with this Amendment a group with the same purpose.
Clause 22 deals with the improvement of tenement areas in Scotland, and the procedure which is laid down in the Clause is distinctive to the improvement of tenement areas in Scotland, differing quite considerably from the procedure laid down for other kinds of property, whether in Scotland or in England and Wales, and differing also from the procedure laid down for tenement blocks in England and Wales.
Under Clause 22 as drafted, there is no long and complicated procedure of preliminary improvement notices, immediate improvement notices, suspended improvement notices, final improvement notices, and so on. What has gone before in the Bill is extremely complicated and difficult to follow. With regard to tenements in Scotland, the Government have taken the view that, if the work is to be done, it is necessary that there shall be a rather speedy procedure. Therefore, all that is provided in Clause 22 is that an immediate improvement notice shall be served which becomes effective immediately.
I would not dispute—and I think that my hon. Friends would agree with this—the necessity for dealing with these matters fairly expeditiously. On the other hand, the occupants of tenement dwellings should have certain rights when improvement notices are served. Under the Clause, the tenants have absolutely no rights in the carrying out of these improvement notices. A copy of the immediate improvement notice under subsection (2) is served on the tenant 1334 or tenement dweller, but that does not avail him very much, because, apart from serving a copy of the notice, the local authority need not in any other way take account of the rights or feelings of tenants about the improvement of their dwellings. At present tenants have no right of appeal under Clause 22 against the improvement notice, No procedure is Lid down to enable tenants to make their views known to the local authorities.
This must be contrasted with the very considerable rights which are given to other tenants in other parts of the Bill. For example, in Clauses 14 and 15, which deal with dwellings, whether in England and Wales or Scotland, which are not in tenements, the tenants have the right to make representations to the local authority once the preliminary improvement notice has been served. Under Clause 16, which deals with immediate improvement notices, the tenant's consent is required. Under Clause 18, which is the final stage in this long, complicated procedure for non-tenement dwellings, the tenant is able to hold up the improvement to an extent which allows him to demand from the local authority the provision of alternative accommodation.
For non-tenement tenants, all this is extremely useful and, I should have thought, afforded very generous protection. In the case of dwellings outside improvement areas, the tenant takes the initiative and therefore his rights are fully protected. In the case of tenement blocks in England and Wales which are covered in Clauses 20 and 21, there are provisions for the tenant to make objections against the preliminary improvement notice. We are, therefore, left with the position that the tenant in tenement properties in Scotland is singled out among all the classes of tenants concerned in any part of the Bill in that he has no right to object to improvement notices.
In reply, the Under-Secretary of State for Scotland will refer us to Clause 27 and to Amendment No. 66, in page 32, line 38, where we will find that in the special cafe of Clause 22 the Government intend to provide for the tenant appealing to the court against an improvement notice. We can discuss 1335 that when we reach it. There is, however, a tremendous difference between the tenant having the right to discuss matters connected with his own dwelling with the local authority before the improvement notice becomes effective and then giving the tenant the subsequent right, when the notice is effective, to appeal to the sheriff court.
Anyone who knows tenants of tenement dwellings in Scotland will know that the vast majority of them will be extremely reluctant to appeal to the sheriff court. Perhaps misguidedly, they are concerned with keeping away from sheriff courts. One does not blame ordinary people for not wanting to be involved in legal proceedings. They are expensive and troublesome and many people are apprehensive about them. I make the point only because the Under-Secretary will use it in reply. However persuasive he may be on Clause 27, I shall not accept that that is a suitable substitution for what these Amendments would do in Clause 22.
To explain in slightly more detail, Amendment No. 47, in page 25, line 5, simply states that every person on whom the immediate notice or a copy of it has been served—which includes the tenant—shall be entitled to be heard when the local authority's proposals are discussed in accordance with the notice. Amendment No. 48, in line 6, is merely a small matter of drafting.
Amendment No. 50, in line 9, states that it will be an obligation upon the local authority to state a date, time and place at which the local authority's proposals for the dwelling and any alternative proposals that the tenant, landlord or anyone else may be put forward, and the views and interests of the tenant, may be discussed. The wording is similar to the protective wording for tenants which appears in earlier parts of the Bill and which does not apply to tenement dwellings in Scotland. Amendment 52, in line 13, simply places it upon the local authority as an obligation to take into account the representations which are made by the tenant or the landlord before making the final arrangements for the improvement of the property. All four Amendments go together and I have, I hope, explained them sufficiently well.
1336 As a final point of emphasis, I report a matter which I raised on Second Reading and more than once in Committee. The Under-Secretary knows how strongly I and my hon. Friends feel about this proposal. We are not concerned with writing into the Bill protections for the tenant which would have the effect of preventing the improvements from going ahead. We are just as anxious as the Government—perhaps more anxious—for these improvements to be carried into effect. It is, however, necessary to get the good will of the tenants.
Nothing would be more disastrous than for a local authority to serve an immediate improvement notice on which the tenant had no rights whatever, not even to make his views heard. If that is the way in which things are done, the job will not proceed successfully.
I am perfectly sure that the best local authorities, and perhaps every local authority anxious to have these improvements made to tenement properties, even with the Bill standing as it is, will take some kind of steps to see that the tenants are consulted in one way or another. But that is not good enough, and we require some kind of legislative protection written into the Bill. What is good enough for the tenement dwellers in England and Wales and for every other kind of tenant in England and Wales and Scotland ought also to be good enough for the tenement dwellers in Scotland. It is completely incomprehensible that the Government should take the view that no kind of protection should be given in Clause 22.
I do not consider that what they are doing subsequently in Clause 27, involving an appeal to the sheriff's court and so on, is anything like as adequate as what we propose in our Amendments. I should like to see Clause 27 and the Amendments to Clause 22 accepted. I do not consider them to be genuine alternatives. This kind of protection for the tenant, his right to have his voice heard at the start of the whole process, is indispensable, and I hope that the House will accept the Amendment.
§ Mr. G. Campbell
The hon. Member for Glasgow, Craigton (Mr. Millan) has explained very clearly the purpose of his group of Amendments. They would establish for Scottish tenements the same 1337 sequence of service of preliminary notice, consultations at a formal meeting and the service of an immediate improvement notice as applies to other dwellings, since the local authority would then serve a second notice amended in the light of the formal representations made to it. Thus, the immediate improvement notice envisaged in Clause 22 would no longer be immediate. This proposal, therefore, strikes at the principle which is proposed for dealing with Scottish tenements.
There are special difficulties about improving Scottish tenements which do not arise in the case of other dwellings. In particular, their physical structure is such that, owing to interference with common services, such as plumbing, the improvement of all the dwellings in a tenement must be carried out at the same time and on a regular pattern. It is not possible to allow an individual owner or tenant the same degree of freedom to vary or delay the work of improvement as he has in other types of property. Moreover, the ownership of Scottish tenements has become fragmented with individual dwellings within the tenements themselves sold off for owner-occupation; so that, unlike English tenement blocks, there is no one owner with whom the local authority can deal.
For those reasons, we must recognise that if we are to get substantial numbers of Scottish tenements improved, as we all on both sides of the House wish, sensibly and economically, it will be necessary to have a somewhat different procedure for Scottish tenements. I was glad to hear the hon. Member for Edinburgh, East (Mr. Willis) telling us a short time ago how important it was to press on with improvements. Here is an example when we are trying to make sure that one individual tenant cannot hold up a scheme for a whole tenement in Scotland.
Although I can give an assurance that the local authorities will be instructed administratively to sound out opinion and secure improvement by voluntary means wherever possible, we consider it essential to give local authorities in Scotland a simple, speedy procedure for securing improvement of Scottish tenements, and it is set out in Clause 22.
§ Mr. Millan
The Under-Secretary said that we should not allow one tenant to hold up the whole process. How does telling the tenant what is intended and inviting him to discuss it hold up the whole process? It does not prevent the local authority from going ahead, but simply enables the tenant to be informed and to have his views taken into account before the work goes ahead.
§ Mr. Campbell
Instead of becoming an immediate notice, to all intents and purposes it would cease to be immediate. The local authority would go through the process visualised and might well then have to take further steps. All this could be done simply as a result of one or two persons holding up the work on the whole block.
Although I could give no undertaking in Committee upstairs to reconsider the point, we recognise that this procedure gives tenants of Scottish tenements less protection than tenants of other types of dwelling. To remedy this we will move an Amendment to Clause 27 to give a limited right of appeal to such tenants on grounds of hardship. We had hoped by this to meet the point made by the hon. Member for Craigton in Committee. We considered it to be the best way of dealing with the matter and I hope to be able to explain our reasons when we reach that Amendment.
I regret that the hon. Member has already indicated that he does not view that Amendment with favour, since a great deal of careful drafting was done to meet his point and the Amendment is also designed to make sure that we do not lose the impetus of improvements in dealing with these buildings, where the job must probably be done for a whole building while the different dwellings in it are under different ownership.
I know that he and his hon. Friends felt strongly about the Bill, as it was drafted, for not having any recourse for tenants in Scottish tenements. We have tabled the Amendment to Clause 27 which we had hoped would meet the point which he argued in Committee upstairs and again today. I am afraid that for the reasons I have given we 1339 cannot accept his Amendment. Instead we propose to move an Amendment to Clause 27.
§ Mr. Willis
I am not greatly impressed when the Under-Secretary of State talks about urgency. This improvement work could have been carried on for a great many years. It is ironical that the Government, when a great number of people thought that their office might come to an end in two months' time, should come along at this late stage of Parliament and ask us to do nothing to hold up this work. But that work has been held up by the Government for 13 years. Now we are told that we cannot give the right of appeal.
§ Mr. G. Campbell
I explained that that is just what we are doing by our Amendment to Clause 27. We shall give the right of appeal. I may add that this provision was put down by the Government as a result of the fluency and cogency of the arguments deployed by the hon. Member for Edinburgh, East (Mr. Willis) upstairs.
§ Mr. Willis
We will discuss that when we come to the Government Amendment which is very limited. The right of appeal will be limited by it to one factor. The phrase covering hardship refers to "unreasonable hardship". We know very well that the word "unreasonable" can cause much disputation in the courts. It is a very limited right of appeal.
The Government are denying the wider right of appeal proposed in the Amendment before us now. This means that the great majority of people in Scotland who will be affected by these orders will have no right of appeal—except in a very limited sense—because most of the areas to which the orders will apply are practically all tenement property. I can visualise streets of houses in Edinburgh, Glasgow, and other large towns which will be scheduled, or which we hope will be scheduled, under the provisions of the Bill, and everyone of the houses will be a tenement house. This affects a large number of people, and the first point which the hon. Gentlemen tends to ignore is that these people are not to be given the same right as other people.
The hon. Gentleman says that it is urgent that we should get on with this 1340 work. The question arises whether the rights of the people affected by these orders are as important as the necessity for getting on with the job and the degree to which the conferring of these rights on the people may delay this work.
To what extent would it be delayed? The hon. Gentleman has spoken as though there was an army of workmen in St. Andrew's House waiting to be dispatched to the remoter areas of Scotland for the purpose of carrying out vast improvement schemes all over the place. There is no such army, and the hon. Gentleman knows that. All that my hon. Friend is suggesting is that every person should receive a notice stating the time and place at which the matter can be discussed, and giving them certain rights to put their points of view, and the local authority can amend the order in the light of discussions with, and representations by, the people affected. It would not take very long to carry out that procedure.
Amendment No. 50 says that the notice shallstate the date (being a date not less than twenty-one days after service of the notice) and time and place at which the future use of the dwelling, the local authority's proposals for the carrying out of the works, any alternative proposals, and the views and interests of the tenant and other matters may be discussed.All that can be done within a month. That is not a long time. In fact, when one realises the speed at which the Government generally operate, I think that one could regard a month as dealing with the matter urgently, using that term as the Government would use it. So much for the hon. Gentleman's first argument. I think that he overstressed the question of delay, because I am confident that the so-called delays which he has conjured up exist only in his mind and will not be of a material character.
The hon. Gentleman's second argument—and this is the point which we heard over and over again in Committee upstairs—is that all this property is fragmented—in other words, tenants have bought their houses in tenement property, in many cases because they have had to, and there are sometimes four or five owners on a single stair, and sometimes all the houses on one stair are owned by different people—and that that may be another cause for delay. But what 1341 is the difference between notifying half a dozen people that there is to be a meeting, and informing 60 people of that meeting? This provision would give the people occupying the tenement block, whether it be two people, or 200 people, the opportunity of attending the meeting and putting forward their views.
The meeting is to be held at the place where these people live, and where they will live in the future. The hon. Gentleman seems to forget that the people concerned are actually living there. Their lives are to be disrupted for perhaps two or three months while this work is going on. They have to live in the property afterwards, but, says the hon. Gentleman, "We know best. It is urgent, and we shall do what we like, never mind what the people want". This is not the way to treat citizens of Scotland. The hon. Member will not win many votes in Scotland at the next election if he acts in that fashion.
The argument of fragmentation is not a good one. If it is reasonable to expect one person to attend an inquiry it is equally reasonable to expect quite a number out of, perhaps, 100 people, to attend the same inquiry. Some may not be able to do so, but at least they will have had the opportunity, and they can submit their ideas. I cannot understand why the hon. Member should refuse to accept the Amendments.
If I thought that this process of improvement was going to be conducted with the urgency that the hon. Member has depicted I should be very glad, but I would still think it right to consult the people and hear what they wanted to say about a process that would affect their daily lives. I cannot imagine this process being carried out with such urgency that it will not be possible to consult anybody. If the hon. Member puts his feet on the earth again he, too, will surely agree that it will not happen like that.
It takes time to go through the council. People have to inspect the premises, and draw up plans, and many other things have to be done. Tenders have to be submitted, and all this work takes time. If, while all that is going on, we do not ask the tenants to let us know what they want, we are acting in an intolerable manner. I hope that 1342 the hon. Gentleman will consider these Amendments more realistically and will come down again into this world of 1964 and into the towns and burghs of Scotland, as they are today, and not live in some airy-fairy ivory castle in the remoter corners of St. Andrew's House, where things are done according to some arithmetical process.
If the hon. Member comes down to reality I am sure that he will realise that the proposal made in the Amendments is an eminently reasonable one, and certainly one that would give the people rights which they should have.
§ Mr. Manuel
I am sorry that the Under-Secretary has not given more sympathetic consideration to these four Amendments. I was very surprised to hear him say, quite deliberately and after much thought, that to give tenants this right would mean that the order would no longer be an immediate improvement order. We have only immediate improvement orders and suspended improvement orders, and if the hon. Member says that it would no longer be an immediate improvement order he must be saying that it will be a suspended order, which provides for a period of five years, and then another twelve months afterwards, before anything take; place—a period of six years altogether.
§ Mr. Manuel
It would mean a difference of something between 21 days and a month. I do not think that such a delay would take the aspect of immediacy from the order. Recourse to the sheriff court—
§ It being Ten o'clock, the debate stood adjourned.
That the Proceedings on Government Business may be entered upon and proceeded with at this day's Sitting at any hour, though opposed.—[Mr. Hughes-Young.]
§ Question again proposed, That those words be there inserted in the Bill.
§ Mr. Manuel
We have always opposed the idea that ordinary people should be driven to the sheriff court to appeal in order to protect their interests. These people are afraid of the sheriff 1343 court. The action of the Under-Secretary of State will have the effect of shutting the door on appeals. His suggestion is of no use. The hon. Gentleman should recognise that the Amendment of my hon. Friend the Member for Glasgow, Craigton (Mr. Millan) would bring in a good dividend. The Under-Secretary of State will find himself in stormy waters if he accepts what the bureaucrats at St. Andrew's House ask him to say at the Government Dispatch Box. He must have a mind and a conscience of his own. The hon. Gentleman has a very good conscience and should allow it free play. He must recognise that among the heads of departments of St. Andrew's House there are not many who come from tenement property. There have been many people with excellent consciences who have done much moral good in the world who did come from such dwellings. The hon. Gentleman should not rely too much on heads of departments to decide matters of this kind.
It would be worth while to secure the co-operation of tenants by inviting them to a meeting. Many might not come, but among those who did might be one or two who could make practical suggestions about the way in which improvement work should be carried out. The Minister of Housing and Local Government does not know much about tenement property in Scotland and we do not want him trying to exert influence on Scottish Ministers. We shall not allow that to happen. It should be recognised that we might get good suggestions from tenants about the nature of the work to be carried out and I ask the Minister to appreciate that a recourse to the sheriff court is no answer.
§ Mr. Dempsey
I find the argument of the Under-Secretary very weak indeed—just about the weakest we have heard in debates today. He showed an abysmal ignorance of the practice which exists whereby local authorities invite owners of property to meet them to discuss the condition of their property. All that the Amendment asks is that the same privileges as are accorded to landlords should be accorded to those who for reasons beyond their control have been compelled to own or tenant single ends and buts and bens in tenement buildings.
1344 The Under-Secretary does not seem very much interested at present. If he were he would appreciate that all we are asking is an extension of the privilege by which landlords are consulted. There are several types of tenement buildings in Coatbridge and Airdrie which have fragmentary ownership. If the local authority decides that some of them are not in a fit state for habitation and specifies what improvements should be undertaken, it does not send a notice to the individual saying that he should get this and that done and that if he opposes he must go to the sheriff. The authority invites the property owner to meet the local authority and discuss business. Property owners have the courtesy extended to them of appearing before the local authority to discuss why they should be asked to expend money on improving their houses. I cannot understand why the Under-Secretary objects to other occupiers of property having exactly the same privileges. There appears to be a contradiction in terms.
What annoys me about the whole business is that we find more protection in this Bill for English occupiers than for Scottish occupiers of single ends and buts and bens. This is indicative of the philosophy that the Englishman's home is his castle, but the Scotsman's home is not his castle for he does not have the courtesy extended to him to discuss proposed improvements to his little abode. No Scottish Minister can justify this treatment of Scotland. What is sauce to the goose is sauce to the gander. "What is good to gi'e is good to tak'." I hope the Under-Secretary will tak' that himself.
One can imagine a circular arriving at one of these little homes instructing the occupier to do this or that and to effect improvements, but the cost will be his business and he has not the right to be consulted. This is nothing less than Whitehall dictatorship. We in Scotland cannot accept this treatment of property occupiers who, for reasons I have explained, happen to own or occupy a little single end or but and ben in which they are attempting to raise a family. I ask the Under-Secretary to afford the same privilege to them as is afforded to Scottish landlords. The time factor is a lot of nonsense. The local authority serving notices meets landlords once a month 1345 When the notice is served before 21 days have elapsed it can be discussed with the local authority. This would not affect the immediacy of the notice. There is no validity or logic in his argument. If he had the experience of some of us of serving on large housing authorities, he would appreciate that notices can be served and that the individuals can conveniently be called to meet the authority, discuss the problem and indicate their willingness or otherwise.
The Amendment to which the Under-Secretary referred has little to do with the problem. It would operate only at a later stage after discussions had taken place between the property owner-occupier and the local authority. If the tenant as tenant of a small home is still aggrieved and dissatisfied, he would probably consider taking action at the sheriff court, but surely it is common sense that first the local authority should discuss with the person concerned its proposed improvement to the property before there is any talk of appealing to any other source.
By arguing that an appeal to the sheriff is an alternative the Under-Secretary reveals his lack of knowledge of the workings of the local authority. If two or three dozen people are invited to meet a local authority, it does not follow that they will all come. Most of them will agree with the proposals. Others who demand the right to express their point of view would take advantage of that opportunity. I hope the Under-Secretary does not think it would delay the business of local authority because of a demonstration outside the building of people waiting to discuss proposed improvements. That situation never arises. The Under-Secretary should disabuse his mind of the idea that an appeal to the sheriff is a suitable alternative. It is not.
There are 68,000 single ends in Scotland. People occupying houses of that nature, or people occupying buts and bens, are not likely to run to the sheriff. They are of limited means. They are afraid of an action in the sheriff court. There is the prospect not only of their own legal fees but of costs being awarded against them. They cannot face that prospect simply because they are aggrieved at the decision taken by the local authority. It is unfair to argue that 1346 an appeal to the sheriff is an alternative. Such a procedure is costly.
A simple and effective action to take would be to accept the Amendment, which would eliminate any need to appeal to the sheriff. It would satisfy those concerned. It would ensure that after consultation they would be cognisant of all the proposals involved. It would lead to much smoother working arrangements and harmony between the local authority and the individuals concerned.
§ 10.15 p.m.
§ Miss Margaret Herbison (Lanarkshire, North)
I had no intention of taking part in the debate, particularly at this late hour, but I have felt obliged to do so, having been amazed by the reply of the Under-Secretary of State to the case made by my hon. Friend the Member for Glasgow, Craigton (Mr. Millan).
I recall the propaganda that was put out by the party opposite in 1959. I remember the posters saying "Tory Freedom Works"—although hon. Members opposite are very chary about using that sort of propaganda today. When one heard the hon. Gentleman's remarks rejecting the Amendment one realised that the Government have not begun to know what real freedom means. Why should not these tenants have the right to be consulted? These people may have great disturbance; caused to their way of life and may have good alternative proposals to put forward. Do the Government believe that these owner-occupiers of tenement property of Scotland are devoid of ideas? Does the Joint Under-Secretary consider that only he and the local authorities haw suggestions to make? I am sure that many of the people who have been obliged to live in tenement property for a long time and who have been crying out for improvements to be made have some good advice to tender if they were consulted. This is almost a matter of civil liberties. Justice must be done and the Government would be well advised to accept this modest Amendment.
The Joint Under-Secretary said that if the Amendment were accepted the immediacy of the whole proposition for tenement property in Scotland would disappear. This is the last Government who should talk about immediacy for tenement property. I can think of tenement properties in Glasgow—and some of my hon. Friends know such property 1347 in Edinburgh and elsewhere equally well—where people have been waiting for many generations to get something as simple as one lavatory for one household. There are still families living on what are called "one landing" arrangements, with several families using one lavatory. There are thousands of families without bathrooms and although the Tories have had ample power for many years—until 1945 and since 1951—they have done virtually nothing for people living in this sort of tenement property. It is nonsense for the Joint Under-Secretary to say that if the Amendment—which might hold up work for only a month—were accepted it would upset the immediacy of the proposition in the Clause.
I have noticed a number of documents being exchanged between the Front Bench and the Ministry's officials. I am not like one of my hon. Friends who spoke about bureaucracy in St. Andrew's House. The officials do an excellent job and they must advise and help the Minister, but ultimately it is the Minister who must make the decisions. In view of the excellent case made by my hon. Friend the Member for Craigton, who has given much thought to this matter, the Joint Under-Secretary should now say that because of the cogency of the arguments adduced by my hon. Friends he is willing to accept the Amendment.
§ Mr. Ross
I hope that the Under-Secretary will change his mind. This is typical of the Tories. They just do not seem to be able to do the right thing. I can understand their impatience. Here they were for more than a decade determined to suggest to the people of Scotland that they meant something about getting improvements in tenement property, but they placed all the onus and responsibility upon that weak vessel, the Scottish landlord. Now they realise that they will not get anything done in that way and they decide on immediate improvement notices and they over-ride altogether the feelings and the rights of the tenants.
§ Mr. Ross
I am coming to the owner-occupier in a moment. Great sections of our cities consist purely and simply of these tenements, and the position has come about as a result of Government legislation that the landlords over the past few years have been able to sell these unsatisfactory houses to people who are starved of housing accommodation. The Under-Secretary now says that we must get something done and must hurry it up. He proposes to serve notice on the owner of the property, with a copy to the tenant, including owner-occupier tenants, and there is a year or some such period during which something must be done.
My hon. Friend the Member for Glasgow, Craigton (Mr. Millan) suggests that the Government should consider the rights and the feelings of the tenants, who are more involved than anyone else. They will have the benefits of improvements if they come, but they will also pay for them. The Parliamentary Secretary told us that this was one of the reasons why the Government were prepared to accept a tenant's being obdurate for five years about improvements being done and then, because of his obduracy, having a corporation house. But what about the Scottish tenants?
It should be remembered that full standard or reduced standard improvements can be required as a result of notice. It might well be that if the local authority consulted the tenants they would suggest that it should be either a reduced standard or full standard improvement. Indeed, many tenants regard this as a penalty if it is visited upon them because it may mean that they will be tenants for 15 years and they may well think that the local authority is wasting its time and money in improving such a property. There is some value in consulting the tenants. My hon. Friend suggests that this should be done within not less than 21 days of serving the notice and therefore there will still be plenty of time. My hon. Friend does not suggest that the tenant or owner-occupier should be given the right of veto on the improvement. It is essential to understand that. It was unfair of the Under-Secretary to impute 1349 to my hon. Friend that he was further delaying this urgent work. Urgent—these death-bed speedsters!
The Under-Secretary will see that there is an Amendment to Clause 27 relating purely to the right to go to the sheriff and appeal on the question of unreasonable hardship. Apparently the Government are prepared to accept reasonable hardship for the tenant, but not unreasonable hardship. Regard must also be had to the age, health and infirmity of the members of the family concerned. That is a very limited right. Where do they go? They go to the sheriff. I wonder whether the hon. Gentleman knows anything about the people of Scotland at all. He might as well suggest to supporters of Celtic that they should spend their Saturday afternoons at Ibrox. I hope he will listen to us on this side of the House because we really know what we are talking about. Many of us were brought up in tenements. At least, I was. We know the kind of properties that we are talking about and the kind of people whom we are discussing. We know their reactions.
It is surely simple humanity, if we intend to do things to people's homes, to consult them, to let them know and give them a chance of expressing their opinions. I do not know what the hon. Gentleman is afraid of. I have read the Amendments. There may be a lot of work involved in them—I am not going to quarrel about that—but they are full of sound sense. I hope the hon. Gentleman will say that he is prepared to accept the Amendments or, if he is not prepared to accept them as they are, that he will accept the principle. I hope he will not merely suggest that what is intended to be effected by these Amendments is in any way effected by his later Amendment dealing with the sheriff, because that does not meet the case at all.
§ Mr. G. Campbell
First I should like to remind hon. Members opposite that we are discussing the question of the improvement of dwellings. It sounded from some of the speeches as though some great imposition were to be placed upon a tenant or occupier. I think I shall put the matter more into perspective by recalling that this is a question of improving somebody's dwelling and 1350 that the majority of persons effected are in favour of the proposal. It is the few who may have objections whom we are considering.
I have mentioned that we have put down the Amendment to Clause 27, by which the minority—very few, we think—who might suffer hardship as a result of the improvement work being carried out can appeal. I have explained that there is a special problem concerning Scottish tenants. The position is different in England. I understand that in England all tenement blocks are in single ownership [Interruption.] There are many fewer tenements in England and I am informed that they are in single ownership, and it is a much smaller problem because of that fact. In Scotland the large majority of tenements are not in single ownership. I use the word "tenement" especially and not "tenement block", because tenements in Scotland are inclined to be shapeless and to have a common stair. The dwellings in them are in multiple ownership.
§ Mr. Campbell
I will not give way. The hon. Gentleman's hon. Friends have already heard this point in Committee. About one-third of the tenements in Scotland are in single ownership and about two-thirds are in multiple ownership. Therefore, it is that majority of tenements with which we are concerned. They are in multiple ownership and also they are of a shape which makes it difficult for improvements to be carried out to individual dwellings. The improvements, to be carried out economically and sensibly, have to be done to the whole building, the whole tenement, at the same time.
Hon. Members have talked of the whole procedure being carried out within one month, because under the system which they suggest a meeting would be held within 21 days; but it is as a result of the views, the comments and the objections which might be made simply by one or two persons at that meeting that the local authorities might then have a considerable number of things to consider before they could perhaps bring in another, altered notice, and this would take time. This is where 1351 time would be consumed. It is very optimistic to think it could be done within a month. We are at issue on that.
§ Miss Herbison
The Minister has referred to objections by perhaps a few people in a tenement and said that the local authority might find it hard to make alterations in its plans. A local authority would not make alterations in its plans unless it had decided as a result of those consultations that it ought to make the alterations in its plans and that they would be worth while. It seems to me that the case the Minister is now putting backs our Amendments rather than goes against them.
§ Mr. Campbell
I differ from the hon. Lady. I think that what she is saying supports my case, because she is taking the line that the local authorities would not take much notice of views expressed by a few objectors.
I would remind the hon. Member for Coatbridge and Airdrie (Mr. Dempsey) and the hon. Lady that I said that the local authorities will be instructed to sound out opinion in the area. I have a high opinion of the good sense of the local authorities in Scotland, and I am sure that they will carry out that consultation, but not within a system of the kind hon. Members opposite have suggested.
I refer to the Government Amendment to Clause 27, and remind hon. Members that in Standing Committee one of our troubles was that if we gave wide grounds for appeal we would meet the very difficulty which the hon. Member for Kilmarnock (Mr. Ross) was speaking about, the housing difficulty and people trying to jump the queue because if they appealed they would leave the local authorities with some obligation to rehouse them. The hon. Member spoke extremely fluently about this. That was one of the problems with which we were faced when we discussed this matter upstairs.
The hon. Member for Central Ayrshire (Mr. Manuel) referred to my conscience. I can assure him that my conscience is applied to this question, but my conscience would certainly not be serene if I felt I had been a party to preventing a speedy procedure for compulsory 1352 improvement of these tenements in Scotland, the conditions of which the hon. Lady described just now most lucidly.
§ Mr. Willis
The hon. Gentleman keeps referring to this speedy procedure. Surely he knows that these schemes can be initiated within two years after the resolution has been passed by the local authority? What is to prevent a local authority from bringing a scheme forward by one month at that time to enable this to take place? There is no delay there.
§ Mr. Campbell
The hon. Member refers to the one month. That is something which has emerged from his own calculation. I think it extremely optimistic.
There is the consultation which I described and which the local authorities will be advised to carry out in order to sound out opinion. In addition to that we could consider requiring the local authorities, when advertising the declaration of an improvement area, to invite the views of all concerned, including the tenants.
§ Mr. Campbell
That would, I think, go some way to meeting what hon. Members have been asking for, and we are certainly prepared to do that, but I hope that hon. Members opposite will not try to press this group of Amendments which, however optimistically they view the carrying out of the operation they suggest, we believe would simply and unnecessarily put obstacles in the way of the speedy improvement of Scottish tenements which I am sure hon. Members on both sides of the House, particularly those representing Scottish constituencies, would like to see hastened.
§ Mr. Millan
At the end, the hon. Gentleman has come a little way towards us, but nowhere near fat enough. I shall not go over the matter again in detail, but most of the hon. Gentlemen's arguments were completely irrelevant. All this business about fragmentation of ownerships and so on has absolutely nothing to do with what we are discussing now. There may be a case for doing all sorts of things, but it has nothing to do with this Amendment.
1353 The hon. Gentleman said that speed is important. My hon. Friends have dealt with that point. It is rubbish. Some of these houses have lacked bathrooms for 50 or 60 years. Is the hon. Gentleman saying that another month to consult the tenants is going to make any difference? It is a ludicrous argument, and I am surprised to hear this kind of thing coming out of the Scottish Office. The English Ministers have not used this kind of ludicrous argument regarding tenements in England. We have had plenty of ludicrous arguments from the English Ministers, but not that. It is quite absurd that we should have this sort of point put to us.
The hon. Gentleman said—I do not know whether he thinks that this is a concession—that there are to be administrative arrangements to allow the local authorities to consult tenants, and he proposes to suggest to them that they invite representations from the tenants. But, since there is no provision in the Bill for changing the improvement notice once it has been sent out to the tenants what on earth is the use of tenants making representations? They can make representations till they are blue in the face, but the improvement notice will stand. There is no point in representations unless modifications can be made in the improvement notice. This is why we have covered the whole subject of modifications in these Amendments.
Next, the hon. Gentleman said that, if there were modifications, this would hold things up. But there would be
§ modifications only if the tenants were right and the local authority was wrong in the first place. This is an argument for giving the tenants permission to give their view s on the matter before the thing is finalised.
§ Mr. G. Campbell
The hon. Gentleman misheard me. What I said was that we could consider requiring local authorities, when advertising the declaration of an improvement area, to invite people's views.
§ Mr. Millan
This is even more ludicrous. I thought that the hon. Gentleman was beginning to show a glimmer of understanding. An improvement area can cover hundreds or even thousands of individual dwellings, and it can take anything up to two years, according to the first line of Clause 22, before anything happens about a particular dwelling. I am not sure that it even has to be advertised. The resolution is passed by the local authority. Does the Under-Secretary seriously suggest that individuals living in the area, who have no idea at all what the local authority is ultimately going to do with the dwellings, will make representations at that stage? It is too silly for words.
If that all that the Government have to offer, I hope that my hon. Friends will vote for the Amendment.
§ Question put, That those words be there inserted in the Bill:—
§ The House divided: Ayes 49, Noes 105.1355
|Division No. 67.]||AYES||[10.39 p.m.|
|Blackburn, F.||Herbison, Miss Margaret||Millan, Bruce|
|Bowies, Frank||Hilton, A. V.||Mitchison, G. R.|
|Boyden, James||Holman, Percy||Morris, Charles (Openshaw)|
|Braddock, Mrs. E. M.||Howie, W.||Peart, Frederick|
|Butler, Herbert (Hackney, C.)||Hughes, Emrys (S. Ayrshire)||Rhodes, H.|
|Butler, Mrs. Joyce (Wood Green)||Hughes, Hector (Aberdeen, N.)||Robertson, John (Paisley)|
|Craddock, George (Bradford, S.)||Hynd, John (Attercliffe)||Ross, William|
|Dempsey, James||Janner, Sir Barnett||Small, William|
|Diamond, John||Johnson, Carol (Lewisham, S.)||Smith, Ellis (Stoke, S.)|
|Evans, Albert||Jones, Dan (Burnley)||Stewart, Michael (Fulham)|
|Fletcher, Eric||Kenyon, Clifford||Thornton, Ernest|
|Foot, Dingle (Ipswich)||Lawson, George||Wainwright, Edwin|
|Galpern, Sir Myer||Lee, Frederick (Newton)||Whitlook, William|
|Hamilton, William (West Fife)||Lever, L. M. (Ardwick)||Wilkins, W. A.|
|Hannan, William||Loughlin, Charles||Willis, E. G. (Edinburgh, E.)|
|Hayman, F. H.||MacColl, James|
|Henderson, Rt. Hn. Arthur (Rwly Regis)||Manuel, Archie||TELLERS FOR THE AYES:|
|Mr. McCann and Mr. Ifor Davies.|
|Agnew, Sir Peter||Batsford, Brian||Bishop, Sir Patrick|
|Allason, James||Bennett, F. M. (Torquay)||Black, Sir Cyril|
|Atkins, Humphrey||Biffen, John||Bowen, Roderic (Cardigan)|
|Box, Donald||Hill, J. E. B. (S. Norfolk)||More, Jasper (Ludlow)|
|Braine, Bernard||Hirst, Geoffrey||Page, Graham (Crosby)|
|Campbell, Gordon||Hobson, Rt. Hon. Sir John||Panneil, Norman (Kirkdale)|
|Carr, Rt. Hon. Robert (Mitcham)||Hooking, Philip N.||Pearson, Frank (Clitheroe)|
|Clark, William (Nottingham, S.)||Holland, Philip||Pitt, Dame Edith|
|Clarke, Brig. Terence (Portsmth, W.)||Hornby, R. P.||Powell, Rt. Hon. J. Enoch|
|Cleaver, Leonard||Hughes-Young, Michael||Pym, Francis|
|Cole, Norman||Hulbert, Sir Norman||Quennell, Miss J. M.|
|Corfield, F. V.||Irvine, Bryant Godman (Rye)||Redmayne, Rt. Hon. Martin|
|Critchley, Julian||Johnson, Eric (Blackley)||Renton, Rt. Hon. David|
|Dance, James||Johnson Smith, Geoffrey||Ridley, Hon. Nicholas|
|Deedes, Rt. Hon. W. F.||Joseph, Rt. Hon. Sir Keith||Robinson, Rt. Hn. Sir R. (B'pool, S.)|
|Drayson, G. B.||Kerans, Cdr. J. S.||Ropner, Col. Sir Leonard|
|du Cann, Edward||Kirk, Peter||Scott-Hopkins, James|
|Elliot, Capt. Walter (Carshalton)||Lambton, Viscount||Sharples, Richard|
|Elliott, R W (Newc'tle-upon-Tyne,N.)||Litchfield, Capt. John||Shaw, M.|
|Farr, John||Lloyd, Rt. Hon. Selwyn (Wirral)||Stainton, Keith|
|Finlay, Graeme||Longbottom, Charles||Studholme, Sir Henry|
|Fisher, Nigel||Lucas-Tooth, Sir Hugh||Summers, Sir Spencer|
|Fraser, Ian (Plymouth, Sutton)||McAdden, Sir Stephen||Taylor, Frank (M'ch'st'r, Moss Side)|
|Freeth, Denzil||MacArthur, Ian||Thomas, Sir Leslie (Canterbury)|
|Gammans, Lady||MoLaren, Martin||Thompson, Sir Richard (Croydon, S.)|
|Gilmour, Ian (Norfolk, Central)||Macmillan, Maurice (Halifax)||Touche, Rt. Hon. Sir Gordon|
|Glover, Sir Douglas||Maddan, Martin||Turton, Rt. Hon. R. H.|
|Goodhew, Victor||Maitland, Sir John||Walker, peter|
|Grant-Ferris, R.||Marten, Neil||Ward, Dame Irene|
|Green, Alan||Matthews, Gordon (Merlden)||Whitelaw, William|
|Grosvenor, Lord Robert||Maude, Angus (Stratford-on-Avon)||Wilson, Geoffrey (Truro)|
|Hamilton, Michael (Wellingborough)||Mawby, Ray||Woodhouse, C. M.|
|Harris, Reader (Heston)||Maxwell-Hyslop, R. J.||Worsley, Marcus|
|Harrison, Col. Sir Harwood (Eye)||Maydon, Lt.-Cmdr. S. L. C.|
|Heald, Rt. Hon. Sir Llonel[...]||Mills, Stratton||TELLERS FOR THE NOES:|
|Hill, Mrs. Eveline (Wythenshawe)||Miscampbell, Norman||Mr. Chichester-Clark and Mr. Peel.|
Amendment made: In page 25, line 9, after "months", insert:
(or such other period as may be prescribed)".—[Mr. G. Campbell.]