HC Deb 07 November 1966 vol 735 cc1106-9

[Queen's Recommendation signified]

Considered in Committee under Standing Order No. 88 (Money Committees).

[Sir ERIC FLETCHER in the Chair]

Motion made, and Question proposed, That, for the purposes of any Act of the present Session to make further provision for the giving of financial assistance towards the provision of houses in Scotland, and for matters connected with the aforesaid purposes, it is expedient to authorise— (1) the payment out of moneys provided by Parliament—

  1. (a) of subsidies in respect of houses, or of the cost of houses or of the cost of sites of houses, approved by the Secretary of State and provided by—
    1. (i) a local authority, or
    2. (ii) a development corporation, in pursuance of authorised arrangements made with a local authority or otherwise, or
    3. (iii) a housing association in pursuance of arrangements made with a local authority or with the Secretary of State, or
    4. (iv) the Scottish Special Housing Association; and
  2. (b) of sums in lieu of subsidies which have ceased to be payable on the transfer or lease of any houses, hostels, or other land;
(2) the payment out of moneys provided by Parliament of any increase attributable to the said Act of this Session in the amounts payable—
  1. (a) under section 89 of the Housing (Scotland) Act 1950; and
  2. (b) by reason of the amendment of Schedules 1 and 2 to the Housing (Scotland) Act 1962;
(3) such increases in the sums which may be issued out of the Consolidated Fund, raised by borrowing, or paid or repaid into the Exchequer, as may result from increasing to £145 million (or such greater sum, not exceeding £170 million, as the Secretary of State may by order specify) the limit imposed on the aggregate amount of advances which may be made to the Scottish Special Housing Association under proviso (i) to section 18(1) of the said Act of 1962, and such increases as may thus result in any sums payable under section 1 or 19 of the said Act out of moneys provided by Parliament.—[Dr. Mabon.]

9.52 p.m.

Mr. Gordon Campbell (Moray and Nairn)

I wish to ask just two questions on this Money Resolution, and I am glad to see both the Secretary of State for Scotland and the Under-Secretary of State in their places.

First, in paragraph (1, a) of the Resolution we read of subsidies in respect of houses, or of the cost of houses… It is to the words or of the cost houses that I would direct attention. Does this cover houses which may be acquired by an authority, but not necessarily built by a local authority? If that is the case, it could be that the houses might not be new. If so, what would the subsidy arrangements be?

Later in the Resolution there are the words "provided by", and it is not clear whether they mean that the houses are necessarily built by the local authority and are new houses so built. If this wording is wide enough to include houses that can be acquired by a local authority, and if they are not new houses that have just been built, what will be the intention for the arrangement for the subsidy? For new houses the subsidy would be paid for loan charges over a period of 60 years, but if the houses were five years old would there be separate arrangements so that the subsidy is paid for 55 years or a shorter time?

My second inquiry relates to paragraph (1, a, ii). There we read: a development corporation, in pursuance of authorised arrangements made with a local authority or otherwise,… We quite understand why the arrangements should include a development corporation, and very often the arrangements for house building would be made with the local authority. The words "or otherwise" could cover a large number of circumstances. Presumably, they cover arrangements which authorities make and which are approved by the Secretary of State, but do they cover other situations, for example, arrangements with housing associations?

Housing associations are mentioned in paragraph (1, a, iii), but here it is in pursuance of arrangements made with a local authority or with the Secretary of State". I shall be grateful if the hon. Gentleman will explain what these cryptic words "or otherwise" mean and what situations the Secretary of State foresees in which a development corporation will be eligible for subsidy for houses otherwise than in pursuance of arrangements made with a local authority.

The Under-Secretary of State for Scotland (Dr. J. Dickson Mabon)

The hon. Gentleman the Member for Moray and Nairn (Mr. G. Campbell) will appreciate that the Resolution is deliberately drafted in broad general terms, partly because of the difficulty in specifying exact amounts for each form of subsidy covered by the Bill. Moreover, the Secretary of State, who often criticised Financial Resolutions in the House, was anxious to ensure that the broad terms of the Resolution would accord with the wishes of the House, and we have deliberately phrased it in this way. However, I can understand why the hon. Gentleman is puzzled by some of the phraseology, and I am delighted to answer his two questions.

First, the phrase or of the cost of the houses". This is a reference not only to the aggregate cost subsidy relating to the cost of houses in Clauses 2 and 3 but also to payments for houses purchased after completion, the reference being to Clause 14. The subsidy arrangements for old houses acquired by a local authority are rather different. No subsidy is intended in these circumstances. Subsidy will be payable on houses which are new, that is to say, never occupied, and which the local authority has acquired by purchase. I do not know whether the hon. Gentleman was thinking specifically of Clause 14. I hope that that clarifies the position.

The hon. Gentleman next asked about sub-paragraph (a, ii), with reference to the position of development corporations and the meaning of the phrase "or otherwise". He is right in anticipating the reference to a housing association in subparagraph (a, iii). This is a reference to any house building which a new town development corporation may engage in as a housing association in terms of Section 80 read with Section 83 of the Housing (Scotland) Act, 1950, where the words are: authorised arrangements made with a local authority". I hope that that explains these two points and that the hon. Gentleman will accept the Resolution as well drawn.

Mr. G. Campbell

Does that mean that "or otherwise" simply covers the situation of a housing association and not other situations? The hon. Gentleman has agreed that housing associations are covered by this. Is that the only case? Are there other bodies which would be brought in under the words "or otherwise"?

Dr. Mabon

Offhand, I confess that I cannot think of anything other than housing associations. The Resolution was deliberately drawn in order to pick up both Sections 80 and 83, and we phrased it in that way. I am quite ready to look into it further to see whether something else is drawn in. So far as I am aware, it would in this case be inadvertent. However, whether that is so or not, I am sure that the hon. Gentleman will realise that it is better to have it drawn in this way rather than be restrictive. This has been the point consistently urged by my right hon. Friend in the House, and I am glad that it has been taken.

Question put and agreed to.

Resolution to be reported.

Report to be received Tomorrow.