§ Order for Second Reading read.
§ 4.29 p.m.
§ The Secretary of State for Scotland (Mr. Gordon Campbell)
I beg to move, That the Bill be now read a Second time.
This is a Bill of great importance to both Scottish housing authorities and Scottish householders. It will reconstruct the financial framework within which Scotland's present and future housing problems can be successfully tackled.
The purpose of the Bill is to give effect to the policies that we outlined in our White Paper last July on "The Reform of Housing Finance in Scotland". Our over-riding objective is good housing in a good environment for everyone in Scotland.
There are many drawbacks in the present system. The subsidies are not distributed so as to help to meet the worst housing problems. The rents paid by tenants do not relate to their capacity to pay. The help available to the poorer tenant is at present incomplete and haphazard. Moreover, the system of rent control in the private sector is unnecessarly leading to decay and to new slums which will, if left unchanged, add to our problems in the future. Furthermore the Scottish ratepayer is at present footing 35 per cent. of the financial cost of local authority housing whereas in England the ratepayers' share is about 10 per cent.
The system must be altered if we are to make progress now. Changes are needed because the main problems have changed. First we no longer need to build houses everywhere as quickly as possible. There are still acute shortages which must be met and slum houses which must be cleared away but these are increasingly concentrated in certain areas. So our new housing measures are directed towards meeting housing needs wherever they are and whatever form they take as well as concentrating Government help on those tenants and local authorities with the greatest need.
Secondly, more attention must now be paid to what families really want, recog- 960 nising that their reasonable desires and expectations are changing. There are areas where council houses are standing empty. This is a fairly new phenomenon in Scotland, reflecting the changed situation. There is no longer the critical need for building new houses anywhere as a first priority. The standards and amenities of existing houses must also be improved to meet the reasonable expectations of tenants. In this essential work of improvement local authorities, as well as private owners, will be greatly encouraged by the increased assistance which this Government have already made available under the 1971 Act.
The present Bill will promote the conditions in which we can get good housing, of various kinds, in the places where it is most needed in Scotland while encouraging home ownership and providing proper assistance to those who cannot afford to pay reasonable rents. The new subsidies which the Bill provides will be concentrated upon families who need such help, upon areas most in need of housing and on slum clearance. The total of these subsidies is expected to be greater than the total of present housing subsidies.
Not only will the Bill introduce a uniform rent rebate scheme but it will also introduce, for the first time, a similar scheme to help tenants who are renting privately-owned accommodation. Then at last authorities will be assisting with housing those in their areas who need the help whether it is public or private accommodation they are renting. Local authority rents which are at present being heavily subsidised by Scottish ratepayers will be increased, subject to the rent rebate scheme. But they will go up by reasonable steps each year—steps not very different from the annual limits set by the last Government. The result will be a much fairer system in which ratepayers in Scotland are not heavily subsidising their neighbours regardless of whether financial help is needed.
Before leaving the question of council house rents, it is worth noting the remarks on this subject by the Leader of the Opposition. Speaking in the Debate on the Address on 2nd November he referred to the Government's proposals for the public sector and said that they would on average double the vast majority of council house rents. I wonder 961 whether he is aware of what happened in Scotland during the five and a halt years of his own Government. During that time the average council house rent in Scotland was doubled. During the five and a half years when his right hon. Friend the Member for Kilmarnock (Mr. Ross) was Secretary of State for Scotland the average council house rent was doubled, from 71p in 1964 to £1.42 in 1970. This was despite the ceiling of 37½p average rent increase which the lag Government brought in as part of their ill-fated prices and incomes policy. This was at a time when there was no overall rebate scheme.
We are left to wonder why the Leader of the Opposition should have made a remark so inappropriate in respect of Scotland. If he considers that doubling the average council house rent is reprehensible, what did he do to discourage the right hon. Member for Kilmarnock during that period? Or is another explanation that he had England in mind and had completely overlooked or had not bothered about what had been happening in Scotland? Whatever the explanation of these inappropriate remarks of the Leader of the Opposition the facts are there: the average council house rent was doubled in Scotland during the period of the Labour Government and there was no comprehensive rent rebate scheme to assist badly-off tenants.
§ Dr. M. S. Miller (Glasgow, Kelvingrove)
Is the right hon. Gentleman giving an undertaking that the present Government will not raise rents any more than roughly 15 per cent. to 16 per cent. per annum over the next five years?
§ Mr. Campbell
The hon. Gentleman is not listening to what I have been saying. I was speaking about what the Leader of the Opposition had said and pointing out that he was apparently referring to doubling the rents as reprehensible, yet this is exactly what happened during the time of his Government. I was not referring to what will happen in future.
On behalf of the Government I am glad to claim the responsibility for the policy and content of the Bill.
§ Mr. William Ross (Kilmarnock)
I just want to get the right hon. Gentleman's figures correct. His accusation is that when I was Secretary of State in five and 962 a half years I increased the rents by 14s. a week. Is that the accusation?
§ Mr. Campbell
I am simply stating the fact that when the right hon. Gentleman was Secretary of State the average council house rent in Scotland was doubled from 71p to £142p. That is a fact, and in the light of it the statement by the Leader of the Opposition was incredible in Scottish terms.
On behalf of the Government I am glad to claim full responsibility for the policies and content of this Bill. But I should like to acknowledge the great practical help which we have received in preparing it from the Scottish local authority associations. Our consultations with them have continued fruitfully and many of their comments and suggestions have contributed constructively to the present proposals.
I was glad to note that one of the Opposition's leading spokesmen on housing, the right hon. Member for Grimsby (Mr. Crosland), said in the debate on 8th November that he "believed in the philosophy of free choice". One of the principal objects of this Bill is to help promote a greater variety of choice in Scotland.
Owner occupation, housing associations and societies and privately-rented accommodation—all must have an important place if we are to make real headway. Our objective is to provide as wide a choice as possible on as fair and equal terms as possible. In addition to new housebuilding in the public and private sectors, there must also he a more intensive assault on the remaining slums and a drive for house improvement. In this broad campaign we must enlist the efforts of every person and agency who can contribute. Local authorities will, of course, continue to lead in this field, but we welcome and will encourage the growing interest which is being shown in home ownership and voluntary effort in housing in Scotland. We need to harness the efforts of the housing authorities, the private building sector and the housing associations if we are to make good progress.
It has wrongly been surmised by some hon. Members opposite—and I am sorry that the hon. Member for Fife, West (Mr. William Hamilton) is not here at the moment—that the total subsidies now being paid will be cut. The true picture 963 can be seen in the Financial Memorandum to the Bill. Far from the Government spending less on Scottish housing, as a result of the Bill there is to be an increased Exchequer commitment in the coming years. As the Memorandum explains, we estimate that the charge on the Consolidated Fund of £55 million for Scottish housing in the present financial year will rise until in four years' time it is likely to be of the order of £70 million to £75 million. These figures show with clarity that, while the Bill radically rearranges the way in which Government help will be given, this help is being intensified, not reduced. The taxpayers will make an increasing contribution, and this will be applied more effectively in future so that it meets real needs.
We shall do this by helping people who need help not by subsidising bricks and mortar. In time, the policy embodied in the Bill will remove inequalities. Through the national rebate and allowance schemes, it will also remove inequalities between council and private tenants who need help. It will also get rid of discrepancies between different parts of the country. At present there are wide variations in rent levels; rent rebate schemes are far from universal and their terms vary from authority to authority; all this will be changed. Tenants—both council and private—will be able to enjoy broadly the same rent rebate and allowance terms, wherever they live, and ratepayers' and taxpayers' contributions to rent rebates and allowances will be put on a uniform basis throughout the country.
The Bill will give substantial relief to Scottish ratepayers. It is now widely recognised that the past system of housing finance—[Interruption.] I am sorry that hon. Members opposite do not seem to be interested in the situation of Scottish ratepayers. In the past it has been recognised that the system of housing finance has placed too heavy a burden on Scottish ratepayers, particularly those—including council tenants —in areas where housing need is greatest. On the latest available figures, the Scottish ratepayers are meeting about 35 per cent. of local authority housing costs, which is nearly as much as the proportion met by rents—which is about 40 per cent. By contrast, the ratepayer 964 in England meets only about 10 per cent., while rents there meet 70 per cent. It is more just and equitable to Scotland, and is likely to be more effective, for taxpayers in the country as a whole to take a bigger share of those burdens. Thus, as the Government's commitment under the Bill increases, the rate fund contribution to housing will be reduced. Indeed, we estimate that it will be more than halved over the next four years or so. This is an essential part of our plan to make the system both fairer and more effective.
§ Mr. Dick Douglas (Clackmannan and East Stirlingshire)
The right hon. Gentleman continually abuses statistics in percentage terms. Will he not agree that, though in percentage terms the burden on ratepayers might be reduced to about 25 per cent., in absolute terms, because of his open-ended commitment to private tenants, the burden might be substantially increased?
§ Mr. Campbell
No. What I have been saying covers the whole field. The increased rental income resulting from the Bill will be used not to reduce Government housing subsidies but to relieve the Scottish ratepayer; it will also ensure that, with the assistance of the new subsidies, sufficient resources are available for a concentrated drive on a broad front to tackle Scotland's housing problems.
Under the Bill tenants of houses rented from public authorities, taken as a whole, will make an increased contribution to the costs of their own housing. But those who need help will be given it through the provision that we are making for a national scheme of rent rebates and allowances. This will ensure that, whatever the actual costs of their houses, those in real need and unable to meet those costs will be given the help which they require—and this help will be given mainly from Government subsidy.
Never before has there been a comprehensive rebate scheme of this sort. Instead of subsidies relating to buildings, the Bill will help families who really need assistance. If assistance is to go to those who need it, there must be some method of assessing that need. We intend to ensure that only information which is absolutely necessary for assessing rebates will be required and, naturally, it will be treated in complete confidence.
965 The right hon. Member for Kilmarnock when Secretary of State for Scotland sent at least two circulars exhorting local authorities to introduce rent rebate schemes for their tenants. By the time he left office 162 local authorities, owning about 90 per cent. of Scotland's local authority houses, were operating rent rebate schemes. Clearly, the right hon. Gentleman accepts the principle of what some of his hon. Friends disparage as "means testing".
§ Mr. William Lawson (Motherwell)
The right hon. Gentleman said that the information would be treated in complete confidence. Can he guarantee that information given to the Cabinet is treated in complete confidence? How can he guarantee that such information which will be available to all housing authorities in Scotland will be treated in complete confidence?
§ Mr. Campbell
This is what the schemes I have just described and which came into existence when the right hon. Member for Kilmarnock was Secretary of State for Scotland were seeking to do. Advanced schemes of this kind are operating in new towns in Scotland at present. The intention is to get the information and make sure that it is confidential.
§ Mr. William Baxter (West Stirlingshire)
I appreciate the necessity for rebate schemes and I follow the right hon. Gentleman's statement that such schemes have been in operation in Scotland for some time. However, does the Secretary of State not agree that the schemes suggested in the Bill are so complicated that the average man in the street will find it impossible to know what his rights are?
§ Mr. Campbell
I am coming to that point later. The number of rebates now granted—despite the fact that about 90 per cent. of local authority houses are covered by schemes—and the number of people in real need being given help are still far too small. In the new towns, however, the proportion of tenants receiving rebates is much greater and a scheme already exists similar to the one in the Bill. The right hon. Member for Kilmarnock, far from discouraging these advanced rebate schemes in the new towns, appears to have encouraged them.
From what I have said it is clear that there should be no political argument 966 between the two Front Benches on the need for a comprehensive rebate scheme. I hope that there will no longer be an argument about this between the two sides of the House. [HON. MEMBERS: "Rubbish."] What matters is that the rebate schemes should be carried out tactfully and fairly.
The rent rebate proposals in the Bill owe much to the Report of the Brownlie Committee, which was set up by the right hon. Member for Kilmarnock in 1968 with the remitto recommend the principles on which local authority rent rebate schemes should be based.That Committee reported in October of last year and in its report stated that some existing schemes do no more than pay lip service to the matter of assisting tenants who cannot afford to pay the full rent.
We are grateful to the Brownlie Committee for the work it has done. Having been established by the previous Government to look into these matters, it has shown conclusively that a comprehensive scheme of the kind prescribed in the Bill is needed.
§ Mr. James Hamilton (Bothwell)
Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that most local authorities are operating rent rebate schemes and that in many instances people in need have their rents paid through the social security system? Is there now to be a transfer of this burden from central Government responsibility to local government?
§ Mr. Campbell
I shall he coming to that matter later. I shall be describing the system in more detail when I come to deal with the provisions of the Bill.
The intention is to make it as simple as possible while keeping it fair. I hope that this answers the point put to me by the hon. Member for East Stirlingshire (Mr. Douglas). We hope to keep the scheme simple so that the individual will have to deal with not two bodies but with only one.
§ Mr. James Hamilton
My question was: will there be a transfer of responsibility from central to local government?
§ Mr. Campbell
If the hon. Gentleman reads the Bill he will see the proportion to be contributed by central Government—and it is a very large proportion.
967 It has been suggested at times by hon. Members opposite that there is a discrepancy between the Government's treatment of owner-occupiers and council tenants. I should like to put this in perspective. It is estimated that in Scotland in 1969–70 the amount of tax reductions for owner-occupiers came in all to £7 million. This was roughly equivalent to £13 per owner-occupier in Scotland. In the same year council tenants in Scotland received Government subsidies and rate contributions amounting to £70 million—10 times the amount for owner-occupiers. Moreover, this subsidy and rates assistance constituted just under £100 per house—more than seven times the amount of individual assistance to the average owner-occupier. After the new system has entered into effect, Government assistance per council tenant will, of course, still be far more than it is for an owner-occupier.
I trust that the Opposition are not changing their minds about the tax incentive to owner-occupation. The Labour Government appeared to give their blessing by introducing an Option Mortgage Bill, in the passage of which I played a part in the Standing Committee.
§ Mr. Lawson
The right hon. Gentleman knows, as we all know, that the disproportion of privately-owned and local authority houses in Scotland is very great. Will he give the accurate figure and tell us what the figure for Great Britain is and not just single out Scotland?
§ Mr. Campbell
I am amazed that in this debate on Scottish housing, when I am giving accurate figures for Scotland, having seen in the Press and elsewhere comments and criticisms and genuine requests for information, I should be criticised for supplying the figures for Scotland. I do not have the figures for Great Britain with me at the moment, but they could be provided if the hon. Gentleman wants them. In this debate I am concerned with Scotland, and so are most other hon. Members. Successive Governments have recognised that the tax concession is part of the national encouragement of savings as a whole and a useful incentive to help the individual to take more responsibility for his home.
968 Part I of the Bill contains provisions for the new subsidies to replace the existing Government contributions for new house-building, which will be phased out gradually over a transitional period. This period will vary, but on average it will last for five or six years. For those authorities with the largest entitlement to existing contributions the transition could be as long as eight or nine years.
The phasing out of the old system will be made through the residual subsidy. This subsidy not only reflects subsidy entitlement under the old system for houses already in the stock, but also gives local authorities additional assistance in respect of houses in their programmes at the moment. As a result, more than 40,000 local authority houses, which otherwise would not have been, seem likely to be included for residual subsidy. This is because entitlement to the residual subsidy in 1972–73 will be calculated, not merely on the amount in subsidies which local authorities will receive in the current year 1971–72, but also on an additional amount, being the subsidies they would have received this year if houses submitted to me for approval before 1st December, 1971, had, in fact, been completed this year.
At the moment, subsidy is not payable on houses before they have been completed, but we felt it right, under these transitional arrangements for the bringing in of the new subsidy system, to ensure that there should be a real incentive to local authorities at present to press ahead with building activity. The incentive is tangible. It means an immediate addition of perhaps £10 million to the residual subsidy per year payable with a reduction of the same amount in the rate burden in Scotland. I welcome the way in which local authorities have recognised this incentive to increase their programmes in areas of need and I am glad to be able to give the House some recent information resulting from this. I am glad to say that it is now clear that, after the continuing downward trend since 1967, approvals of new houses by public authorities in Scotland have begun to turn upwards. From the latest figures available, it is clear that the number of approvals in the public sector during 1971 should be about 3,000 more than for 1970, a significant increase.
§ Mr. Campbell
Clearly, this can be only an estimate at this stage, but it is a pretty clear estimate. It is also clear from the recent submissions of proposals from local authorities that there will be a considerable increase again in 1972 in approvals for new house-building in the public sector. This reversal of the trends since 1967 is a result of the stimulus which we have built into the changeover arrangements for transferring to the new subsidy system. This increase in new building is very welcome because of the additional employment which it will provide over the next two or three years in the construction industry.
Building in the private sector in Scotland is growing, too. The starts for the first nine months of this year were about 7,500 compared with just over 6,000 for the equivalent period of last year. It is clear that new house-building in the private sector is increasing, too.
§ Dr. J. Dickson Mabon (Greenock)
I am puzzled about the estimate of approvals, because we do not get the figures until mid-January. Are not many of these approvals coming in because of the Bill's deadline of 1st December? Would the right hon. Gentleman enlarge on how he estimates approvals will stand in 1972? He asserted that they would be greater than those for 1970 by 3,000-plus.
§ Mr. Campbell
The date of 1st December, 1971, is in the Bill. This is part of the incentive which we have built into the transfer arrangements in order to stimulate house-building. But we are getting new submissions for the latter period which now gives us a chance to see the rough size of the further increase in 1972.
For the future, the concentration on areas in need will be achieved through the housing expenditure, high cost and slum clearance subsidies. The new housing expenditure and high cost subsidies will ensure that tenants will be strongly protected against rapid increases in housing expenditure, or high levels of housing expenditure. This should provide an effective incentive to local authorities to proceed with programmes of new housing that they need and with the increasingly important rehabilitation 970 of their existing stock in the knowledge that the Government, not their own tenants, are meeting the major share of the burden.
The full significance of the housing expenditure subsidy may not yet have been properly appreciated. The housing expenditure subsidy will meet initially 90 per cent—with the proportion reducing by stages to 75 per cent. over subsequent years—of any increase in expenditure incurred by a local authority on its housing revenue account in excess of £6 per house. It has not, I think, been fully recognised that this subsidy will be cumulative throughout the 1970s. An entitlement to the subsidy arising in 1972–73 will be paid not only in that year but in each year thereafter until and including 1981–82, and this will apply to entitlements arising in each succeeding year until 1977–78. I am sure that once local authorities have been able to work out in detail the implications of this subsidy taken together with the other new subsidies provided for in this Bill, they will appreciate that they are being given a degree of certainty in planning their housing activity in every respect—repairs, improvements, as well as new building—which they have hitherto lacked.
The new subsidy system in Part I also gives recognition to the special problems of slum clearance. Up to now, there has been no incentive directed specifically to encouraging local authorities to get ahead with the vital task of clearing slums. The new subsidy fills this gap. It is a straightforward, clear-cut subsidy; the more local authorities spend on the essential tasks of clearing slums, the more subsidy they will immediately obtain. The subsidy will be of special benefit to those authorities engaged in the difficult but vital city centre and town clearance schemes. Assistance will be paid not only towards the actual costs of clearance works but also in payments to owner-occupiers and for good will to owners of commercial properties.
The concentration of Government assistance to tenants in need will be achieved through the new rent rebate and allowance subsidies. Through these, the Government will bear by far the major part of the costs of the new national scheme of rent rebates and allowances—at a rate of 90 per cent. initially, reducing in subsequent years by stages to 75 per 971 cent. Hitherto, authorities have received no Government assistance directly in support of granting rent rebates, and this Government subsidy therefore represents an important new commitment to social welfare in Scotland.
The provisions dealing with the rent rebate and allowance scheme are set out in Part II, together with the relevant Schedules. I will summarise the main principles which have been observed in preparing the scheme.
First, the scheme is comprehensive. It covers all tenants in unfurnished accommodation owned by local authorities, new town development corporations, and the Scottish Special Housing Association, and the tenants of privately-owned unfurnished accommodation as well as those of houses owned by housing associations.
Secondly, the scheme is fair. By that I mean that the computation of the rebates and allowances will be based on the resources and needs of the tenants. If the resources and needs of the tenants are such that, on the basis of the sliding scale in the scheme, no rent should be paid, then no rent will be paid.
Thirdly, the scheme is flexible. No rebate and allowance scheme covering so many tenants, however carefully drawn, could hope to meet every situation and circumstance. Local authorities are therefore being given discretion, within limits, to take account of very exceptional circumstances of individual tenants or categories of tenants.
Finally, the scheme is straightforward. The Government have been acutely aware of the necessity not only to give all tenants proper rights under the scheme, but to ensure—I come again to what was said by the hon. Member for West Stirlingshire (Mr. W. Baxter)—that tenants can know what their rights are. The House will see the provisions which we have included to require local authorities to give the maximum publicity to the rebate and allowance scheme and to require landlords to convey information about the scheme to their tenants.
Comprehensive, fair, flexible and straightforward. These are the hallmarks of this scheme, which constitutes a great advance in housing and social welfare in Scotland.
Part III of the Bill deals with local authority accounts. To a large extent the 972 provisions are technical and consequential on other parts of the Bill, but the overriding principle followed in framing new accounts has been that the council house rent payer should meet only those items of expenditure which should properly be a charge on him.
Part IV deals with rents in the public sector. The average increase per house of any authority will be restricted to a maximum of £26 in any 12 months—50p per week—and no individual house will bear an increase of more than £39—75p per week.
I must make three key points about the proposed system. First, the full increases will be met only by those who can afford them. Any tenant in need will be fully protected by the rebate scheme. Secondly, the increases for those who can afford them will be by reasonable steps, restricted to an average rise per house of 50p per week. This is not significantly above the maximum agreed by the Labour Government—37½p per week—at the time of the prices and incomes freeze when there were no arrangements for a comprehensive rebate scheme to protect the needy, which we are introducing. Thirdly, as I have already indicated, the increased rental income will not be used to reduce Government subsidies. The total of these is expected to increase.
I turn now to rents in the private sector, dealt with in Part V. The main feature here is that the principle of converting controlled tenancies to rent regulation, which was promoted in the Rent Act, 1965, is now to be applied more widely. This speeding up of the process of conversion is made possible by the introduction of rent allowances for tenants of unfurnished accommodation in the private sector. Decontrol will be a gradual process spread over a period of years, and the transition for the individual tenant from a controlled to the registered fair rent will be phased in three equal annual instalments.
Some increase in rent can generally be expected, but I must emphasise—since it is clear that there are some misconceptions on the point—that the level of fair rent fixed for a house depends directly upon the quality of the living conditions and the state of repair of the building. One of the objectives of decontrol is to provide a reasonable income from which 973 property can be kept in repair, the homes of tenants be made better, and Scotland's stock of older houses be used to better advantage. The independent procedures of the Rent Officer and Rent Assessment Committee, created by the 1965 Act, will ensure that rent levels increase only to the extent that the state of the property justifies. The tenant gets the benefit of the better maintained property and, if he cannot afford the new rent, he also gets the benefit of help from the new rent allowance.
The hon. Member for Greenock (Dr. Dickson Mabon) was reported, in a speech on 20th November, as doubting whether repairs would be carried out. But the rent level can only increase under the 1965 Act, which he introduced, if Rent Officers and Rent Assessment Committees consider that the state of the property justifies an increase.
The Glasgow Herald and the Scotsman of 22nd November also reported a curious statement which the hon. Member for Greenock is supposed to have made at the same conference on 20th November. He was reported as saying that if a Labour Government were returned to office the letting of private accommodation in Scotland would be ended. The headline was,Labour would end landlord system.As the hon. Gentleman himself piloted the 1965 Act through the House of Commons, under which the fair rent system was introduced for privately owned accommodation, why has he now changed his mind? No doubt he will tell us in due course. We are also entitled to know what he intends to put in its place. He is reported at the conference to have said that the Labour Party is not opposed to owner-occupation, housing associations or co-operative housing. That confirms what I understand to be his view. But, because one cannot force a tenant to become an owner-occupier against his will or to join a housing association, is he proposing a takeover by local authorities? How would a Labour Government abolish the letting of private accommodation in Scotland? Is the hon. Gentleman again proposing the municipalisation of all such property?
This was put forward by the Labour Party as part of its policy in 1959, but very quickly dropped thereafter. The House is entitled to an explanation from 974 the hon. Gentleman of what he means, especially as he was instrumental in introducing the fair rent system for this sector in Scotland.
§ Dr. Dickson Mahon
In order to reinforce my reply this evening, if I am lucky enough to catch Mr. Speaker's eye, may I ask the Secretary of State in what period, in years, he will transfer all presently controlled tenancies into the regulated sector?
§ Mr. Campbell
It is not possible, without the gilt of second sight, to give an exact answer to that question. I have already stated that it will be a gradual process. When we reach the later stages of the Bill we shall be able to make our own guesses about how long it will be. It is impossible to give an exact figure. However, it is possible for the hon. Gentleman to explain his statement of policy. It may be that several of the Scottish newspapers wrongly reported him. After it appeared in more than one newspaper we thought that it was a reversion to the 1959 policy which had been discarded shortly after it was put forward.
§ Mr. Frank McElhone (Glasgow, Gorbals)
In reply to my hon. Friend the Member for Greenock (Dr. Dickson Mabon) the Secretary of State said that he was not sure how many years it would be. Obviously he does not remember his recent speeches. In the debate on the White Paper in the Scottish Grand Committee the right hon. Gentleman said:We intend over a period of three years to bring the remaining controlled tenancies into the fair rent system".—[OFFICIAL REPORT, Scottish Grand Committee, 27th July, 1971; c. 11.]Does he accept that?
§ Mr. Campbell
Yes; but I am not given to making precise estimates of time, which is what I was asked to give. [Interruption.] I am glad that the hon. Gentleman has a statement of intention. I hope that that is helpful to him.
Part VI deals with housing associations. The keynote of the new subsidy system for the associations is flexibility. The Government's concern is to see that the proper conditions are provided for housing associations to make a greater contribution in Scotland. Fair rents will be fixed for the tenants of associations, 975 who will therefore be in line—we believe that this is right and fair—with other tenants in privately-owned unfurnished accommodation. At the same time their tenants will be eligible for rent allowances, which will ensure that any who cannot afford the fair rent level will be fully protected.
Part VII contains a number of miscellaneous provisions, mostly consequential upon the rest of the Bill. However, I should like in passing to draw attention to the new power which we are giving to local authorities to assist tenants moving from their houses with their legal and other expenses. This is a very practical way of encouraging home ownership, which we intend to encourage in Scotland.
The Bill, then, is designed to set families and housing authorities free from an outdated financial system, so that Scotland's present and future housing problems can be overcome. The proposed switch of assistance from being tied directly to houses, irrespective of the needs and circumstances of their occupants, to helping families, whether in the public or private sector, whose needs are greatest, has been warmly welcomed by all those concerned with the real problems of Scottish housing. It will stimulate the building programme where it is most needed.
I commend the Bill as a whole to the House as a well balanced and forward-looking reform of the financial framework for housing in Scotland. It is generous in its help to local authorities where the need is greatest, particularly in the transitional financial provisions, and it is compassionate in its help to people whose need is greatest. It will give a special impetus to slum clearance and the building programme in Scotland and, by increasing Government expenditure on housing but reducing the burden on the Scottish ratepayers, it provides a basis on which all householders, whether in the public or private sectors, can have a wider choice of home and better homes to choose from.
§ 5.11 p.m.
§ Mr. William Ross (Kilmarnock)
That speech by the Secretary of State was one of the best we have heard from him, which makes us wonder what some of the others were like. It is rather 976 reminiscent of the comment made by an elder on leaving the kirk at the completion of a sermon. He said, "The first trouble with that sermon was that it was read. The second was that it was not very well read. The third was that it was not worth reading".
I was amazed at the right hon. Gentleman's courage when he told my hon. Friend the Member for Glasgow, Gorbals (Mr. McElhone) that if he really wanted enlightenment he should read the Bill. The one thing we will not get by reading the Bill is enlightenment.
It might have done the right hon. Gentleman himself a lot of good if he read the Bill, because then he would have at least have been able to answer one of the questions, and that related to the stages of decontrol. Even I, with my limited experience of housing Bills, can easily see that in the first year rents of £50 and over have to be decontrolled, in the second year rents of between £25 and £50 must be decontrolled, and in the third year rents of less than £25 must be decontrolled. Why could not the right hon. Gentleman have come clean on that? One of the troubles with the right hon. Gentleman is that he gets slogans fixed in his mind and refuses to tell us the implications of his slogans.
Then there was that business to the effect that everybody would spend more and everyone would get more from the Bill. The genesis of the Bill was the statement made by the Chancellor of the Exchequer on 27th October, 1970:I come next to housing. … By the middle years of the decade this reform will be transforming housing and should lead to a saving in public expenditure"—there is no dubiety about that phrase—of £100 to £200 million a year as compared with the level of expenditure which would have flowed from the policies in operation when we took office."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 27th October, 1970; Vol. 805, c. 41.]Responsibility for housing finance does not last for only one year. A local authority which borrows money for housing does so for 60 years. Hitherto the Government have undertaken to meet part of that obligation year after year. As more houses are built each succeeding year, there is a growth in expenditure. I shall think all the less of the right hon. Gentleman if he tells us, "What I said was that there would be growth of expenditure 977 as of now". There will be a saving of expenditure as compared with how expenditure would have risen because of the continuation of building.
I can understand the Government being alarmed. If we had continued to build houses at the rate at which the Labour Government were building them—well over 40,000 a year—there would have been a considerable rise in expenditure; and that alarmed the right hon. Gentleman and his friends. That was why they cut the expenditure.
I promised the House that I would mention at least once a week how the right hon. Gentleman promised a new impetus for Scotland. Since that time unemployment has risen by 45,000.
He is reported to have said to the Press of Scotland:Scotland's share in the refashioning of the system of housing subsidies, rates and rebates will be announced shortly by Mr. Campbell.It was not announced properly. It was dealt with by means of a Written Answer and we had no opportunity to question the right hon. Gentleman.On a per capita basis, savings in Scotland by the middle of the decade could be between £10 million and £20 million.It may well be that the right hon. Gentleman has changed his mind about them, but I am not concerned about what the subsidies will be next year—I think that they may well rise—or the year after that. I am concerned about what will happen after 1975. I am concerned about more than just finance. One of the things that the right hon. Gentleman did not do was to venture even an estimate as to what would happen to building of houses year after year.
When the right hon. Gentleman mentioned an increase of 2,000 in approvals. I interrupted him and asked him for the figures. I was amazed that he could not give them. This elementary figure is the only one by which to judge the Government's performance. The right hon. Gentleman has not indicated what it will cost for each of the items of subsidy. We know that in 1975–76 we shall have a completely altered financial structure for housing and that that will affect local authorities.
Then the right hon. Gentleman suggested that the uncertainties have not all been cleared away. I am surprised that 978 he is appealing to local authorities. He has had one year. This statement was made on 27th October of last year, so he has had more than a year to tell local authorities what their position will be and to ensure that they knew all about it. Now he states that there are still uncertainties. Not one Scottish local authority knows exactly what its position will be, because there are all sorts of assumptions, including assumptions which are written into the Bill about what the Secretary of State might do about changing the formulae for standard rents and about rate rebate.
The Secretary of State has been kidded. One of the great responsibilities of a Secretary of State for Scotland is to try to convince his Cabinet colleagues that the Scottish housing position is very much worse than the English one and that the whole tradition is different. The hon. Member for Ayr (Mr. Younger), one of our other newcomers to Scottish politics—
§ Mr. Ross
The hon. Gentleman should not gloat about the fact that he got rid of the hon. Gentleman from Perthshire and that he landed in Ayrshire.
In fact the position is very different from what the right hon. Gentleman suggested that it was. The whole tradition of Scottish housing finance, which it should have been the right hon. Gentleman's responsibility to safeguard, has gone. We are being carried along English lines to hammer council tenants—
§ Mr. Ross
Not just now. If I did, I would need to keep my finger on the place to ensure that I started again correctly.
This is probably the most revolutionary housing Bill since 1920. But the reason that council house building arose from the Royal Commission, which reported in 1917 but was set up much 979 earlier, was that private interests were not building houses for the working classes in Scotland, and housing conditions were a disgrace to civilisation even in 1914. Thereafter, we had Bill after Bill, from Government after Government, and it has taken 50 years for hon. Gentlemen to face up to what have always been their prejudices and act upon them.
I would draw attention to what I consider to be the most important part of the Bill. It begins on page 90, with schedule 8, headed "Termination of Part of Existing Contribution System". Schedule 9 contains 96 minor and consequential amendments to existing legislation, and Schedule II, headed "Repeals" includes Section I of the Housing Act, 1923, the whole of the Housing (Scotland) Act, 1930 the whole of the Housing (Rural Authorities) Act. Act after Act is completely wiped out. There are four pages of them. Everything related to subsidies goes, and we are left with this new system.
The subsidy is now to be given to the individual. We all look forward, I am sure, to the next Agriculture Act, when subsidies will also go only to individual farmers—including half of the hon. Members opposite—on the basis of a means test, or to those landed estates which are getting very nice forestry grants. We will not give them to the industry but will relate them to a consideration of whether the Duke of Buccleugh really needs a subsidy to do something which he thinks is worth doing anyway—
§ Mr. Ross
I will not come off it. Hon. Gentlemen have found a new subsidy. Let us follow it through—let them follow it through—[interruption.]—I will come to the hon. Member for Glasgow, Hillhead (Mr. Galbraith) in a moment. Hon. Members opposite are turning their backs on all the things they said in past Acts that they would do.
Since the hon. Member for Hillhead interrupted me, let me deal with him right away. I refer to the Act of 1961, when he was clearing up the slums in Scotland and building new houses. They had fashioned "new, flexible weapons"—these are his words. They gave local 980 authorities the go-ahead, saying that the challenge and the opportunity were there. I wonder whether the hon. Gentleman remembers that—
§ Mr. Ross
Out of the mouths of babes and Tory back-benchers. Nothing happened. It was worse than that, because, the year after that, the number of houses built in Scotland sank to the lowest level ever. That was the achievement of the hon. Member for Hillhead and of every Bill on housing introduced by a Tory Secretary of State.
I wonder whether they remember all their pledges and promises. I have them all here. There is a quotation from the Daily Express, headed: "Housing: The Big Leap Forward". This is what they intended to do in 10 years. They were going to rise to a peak of 35,000 houses per year. How many houses will be built under this Bill, which is part of their 10-year programme? It was in 1964 that they became deathbed revolutionaries. Before that, the Scottish average was well under 30,000. In the last three full years of a Tory Government, 1961, 1962 and 1963, the number of houses that they built in Scotland was 82,000. In our last three years, we built 126,000. This is why they are concerned and worried about the cost.
Whether hon. Members like it or not, this is what they have said. The first one to deny it will be the first one I quote. The hon. Member for Hillhead, for example, said:People are being lured by the financial contribution of a subsidy into becoming what is clearly a type of second-class citizen.That is how he described tenants of council houses.
The present Minister of State thought of council tenants as shiftless, and the hon. Member for Edinburgh, North (Earl of Dalkeith) talked about the moral fibre of the nation being eroded because people lived in council houses.
So they decided to end this. There will be a saving—this is the purpose of the Bill—but not only will less money eventually be spent: it will also be spent 981 on more people. I must congratulate the hon. Gentleman. At least he has the decency to introduce a rent allowance in respect of private tenants—[Laughter.] The Under-Secretary of State should not smile, because the simple reason that they need the allowance is that the rents will be raised.
§ The Under-Secretary of State for Development, Scottish Office (Mr. George Younger)
Perhaps the right hon. Gentleman will tell us why he introduced the fair rents system which put up the rents of people in such houses—with no rent allowances whatever.
§ Mr. Ross
That was a very small start and in different circumstances altogether, as the hon. Gentleman knows.
Can the hon. Gentleman tell me the cost of this new proposal? No one will get a rent allowance in the private sector in many of the great tenements of Glasgow unless these rents are going up. Even after they get the rebate, they will still be paying a higher rent than they pay now. This is the basis of the whole scheme, whether for local authorities or for anyone else. The rents of all the houses are going up. Some of the people will get rent rebates, and even those who get them will pay more rent.
It is fascinating that the Secretary of State did not quote one instance. I wrote to the Chamberlain of Kilmarnock for an indication of what is likely to happen there. Remember what the right hon. Gentleman said—terrible man that I am, in five and a half years, I increased the rents by 14s. In answer to my query, I learned that, if a three-apartment house, as shown in Group C of the Chamberlain's table, is taken, the annual rent will have doubled by 1974–75—in three years. Councillors have expressed concern at this steep increase over a short period.The ultimate level in this case in 1978–79 would be £240 per year.At present rents in Kilmarnock range from £31 to £100, giving an average of £77 per year. A rent of £31 is generally in respect of hostel accommodation. It is estimated that by 1974–75 that range will rise to between £62 and £200 and that by 1976–77 it will he between £82 and £268. It will have risen to between £96 and £312 by 1978–79, it is believed, which means that the present rents will have doubled.
982 To give an example of what this will mean to the people of Kilmarnock, a three-apartment or two-bedroomed house now let for £77 will, in three years' time, be £154. I trust that hon. Gentlemen opposite will accept that that is somewhat higher than the 14s. rise that occurred during our five-and-a-half years in office. In five years rents will have risen under the Tories by enormous sums. In this example, of a two-bedroomed house the rent will be £206 in five years' time and £240 by 1978–79. This will happen only if the Secretary of State does not alter the formula of the standard amount. If he alters it, it could be even higher. In other words, for a two-bedroomed house the rent will be nearly £5 a week.
We are then told by the Government, "All will be well because of the rent rebate system." I am accused of having gaily put up rents without a rent rebate system in operation. I suggest that the Secretary of State reads the legislation and the debates that occurred at that time. He will find that I refused to increase rents unless a rent rebate system was operating. The fact that 90 per cent. of local authorities in Scotland now operate rent rebate schemes is because we insisted on such schemes being in operation.
At no time did I compel a local authority to raise its rents. I supervised local authorities which were raising rents and endeavoured to keep them down, but in this instance the right hon. Gentleman is compelling local authorities to raise rents year by year. There has been power for many years to take this action on the basis of reviews, but now the Government are removing, rather than adding to, the powers of local authorities. I was reluctant even to supervise rents because I believe in local democracy. It is for local authorities to fix rents, and if they fix them at levels which are too high or too low it is then up to the people who elected them to demand a change. That is democracy.
At the last election the Tories told the voters:It will be for a Conservative Government to restore to the local elector and the local councillor the freedom of action he needs to make life better for himself and his fellow citizens and to control his own destiny and that of his community.983 It makes one sick to read stuff like that and then to realise that hon. Gentlemen opposite are now laying down the law and telling local authorities not only that they must raise their rents but that they must keep raising them year by year, so that certain dates in the year having been fixed—some have already decided on the end of December, some April and others May—those will be the dates year by year when rents will go up until they reach the level which the Government have prescribed, which in many cases will be intolerable.
Of course there have been rent rebate schemes before. Local authorities have introduced them. But the scheme in the Bill will apply irrespective of whether or not local authorities like it. They are being given only a 10 per cent. power in this matter, which is little or nothing. "A better tomorrow" indeed! Hon. Gentlemen opposite declared at the last election:We think it wrong that the balance of power between central and local government should have been distorted and we will redress the balance and increase the independence of local authorities. Under our new style of government we will devolve Government power so that more decisions are made locally.One Member of the present Government told us: "authorities will now be freer. They must have freedom". Who could have said that but the woman, the right hon. Lady, who took away the milk from the weans.
We are told by the Government that local authorities will have freedom in this matter. In fact, the only freedom they get is the invidious task of deciding, within the aggregate increase that must be achieved, which rents will go up by 20p, 40p, 60p and the highest possible of 75p. In Kilmarnock the houses are grouped into categories A, B, C and D according to their dates of construction. C category houses were the first to be built after the war. Category D houses are newly built and are more expensive because they are perhaps better from the amenity point of view.
When talking about rebates the Minister speaks of fairness, but if he examines the scheme and the White Paper explaining it he will discover a flaw. A man living in a town with his wife and three children will be paying a certain rent 984 because of the house in which he lives. Another man living in the same area, in a house of the same size, with a wife and three children—I am supposing that the wife in each case works and that the income is the same—will get the same rebate on the basis of their reckonable incomes but one will pay a higher rent at the end of the day. [Interruption.] Page II of the White Paper clearly points out:If the standard rent is £2.50, the minimum is £1 … Therefore, the rebated rent payable is £2.10 … If the standard rent is £3.50, the minimum rent is … 40 per cent. of £3.50 … is £1.40. Therefore, the rebated rent payable is £2.50.The difference in this case could be 40p. or 8s., depending on the house the person occupies. It is clear, therefore, that there is no absolute poverty line drawn here. Indeed, if the rent goes up, then even if the person has a rebated rent, his rebated rent goes up. Considerable difficulties are being created for local authorities.
It is suggested that all this will be helpful to everyone. I do not know if the right hon. Gentleman realises how many people will be unwilling to apply for rebate simply because of the information that local authorities will demand from applicants. The right hon. Gentleman was foolish enough earlier to say that he could guarantee that the information would remain confidential. He should not have used the word "guarantee" He is in no position to give such a guarantee, because the information will be in the hands of local authorities. The right hon. Gentleman may recall the circular from the director of education of Caithness in relation to school meals. He thought that it was inevitable that the information would leak out.
There are many people who, even though entitled to rent rebate, will not apply for it, and who will thus be in hardship. That has been proved every time we have had a means test. The difference here is that with the level of rents we are to have, instead of there being a small minority of people who will be entitled to rent rebate, there will be a very large number entitled to it and whose response will be quite different. As the years go on the situation will get worse.
What is the right hon. Gentleman trying to achieve? He is trying to drive people out of local authority housing into 985 private housing. We as a Government encouraged as many people as wanted to to build their own houses and to have the freedom to do so, but the exercise of that freedom depends on the cost of owning one's own house.
The right hon. Gentleman might have spoken of the tremendous increase in house building costs there has been over the last three years. He might have reminded the House that in Scotland today, and certainly where I live, a person is lucky to get an ordinary three-bedroom house at under £5,000—very lucky indeed. That being so, what chance has the person with an ordinary average wage of being able even to get a mortgage at that price? He has no chance at all.
When one looks at what is being done in Glasgow and Edinburgh to rid us of the slums, and all the rest of it, we say that those who talk in terms of private industry building and of people owning their houses do not know what they are talking about. People will therefore continue to live in slums unless the local authorities are given the freedom and the financial support to build, yet local authorities will not know from the Bill what exactly that financial support will be. I thank the right hon. Gentleman for what he has done about slum clearance, but let us remember that it consists only of payments and compensation in respect of demolition. There will be no subsidy for the actual building, except that some will be terminal. High cost subsidy, and the rest, will not start for some time.
Coming to how the Secretary of State decided to operate, I must remind him of some fairly simple facts. We are working on the new subsidy basis and the financially changed basis of pooled historic costs. Let me quote:… a pooled historic cost rents system means that those local authorities which have the biggest need to provide new houses would of necessity have to put the biggest rent burden upon the tenants concerned…. historic cost rents would, in some of the major boroughs concerned … mean a trebling of existing rents … I can only say that the pooled historic cost system would be a very unfair way of fixing rents for local authority housing, and so far it is the only alternative suggestion…. It would result in substantial increases in rents in some of the worst and most difficult areas."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 15th November, 1971; Vol. 826, c. 39.]That is the system embodied in the Bill. Who used the words I have 986 quoted? They were used by the Secretary of State for the Environment on 15th November, 1971, when debating the English Housing Finance Bill. This is the system which the Secretary of State for Scotland has elected shall apply to Scotland, and I have just read the judgment on that system by his own right hon. Friend.
§ Mr. Younger
Will the right hon. Gentleman be fair enough to say that it also appears to be the judgment of his own right hon. and hon. Friends that the Scottish system would be better for them?
§ Mr. Gordon Campbell
One thing incontrovertible is that they were all talking about the situation in England and Wales and not that in Scotland, where it is considerably different.
§ Mr. Ross
The pooled historic cost system is not different in its application, but in relation to some of the tasks that have to be done it is very different.
The right hon. Gentleman must also appreciate that we are not saved from the fair rent system, because he intends to consider it in three or four years' time. I ask him to appreciate the burdens he will place on particular tenants, such as the effect that the changed pattern of expense will have on the family incomes even of people who will be able to pay the rents.
The Secretary of State must realise the great social change that will come over housing in our cities and towns. There is grave danger of this system probably costing very much more than he originally thought. The fact that we have had 45,000 more unemployed, many of them council tenants, since the right hon. Gentleman first embarked on the Bill means that the cost of rebates will be very much greater than was first envisaged.
If anyone says that there is no ceiling, I say that there is a ceiling in respect of the actual amount. I believe that £6.50 is the ceiling of any particular rent. The right hon. Gentleman should read his own Bill if he doubts me. There may be a ceiling on aggregated costs, and that is one of the things that troubles us because 987 I have never known a Tory Government not to act when they saw a ceiling was being approached. We shall see a very considerable change which, socially, within a town will not be healthy, if we are to have local authority houses regarded as places only for second-class citizens. [HON. MEMBERS: "No."] Right hon. Gentlemen opposite must face the consequences of their own actions. If they say that all who can afford it build their own houses it obviously means that all those in local authority housing cannot afford to build. It means that the Government are dividing the nation and the towns and this is one of the more serious matters. It would be far better to leave local authorities to fix reasonable rents.
What holds back owner-occupation in Scotland is our own economy. We are held back by our failure to bring in industry which pays decent wages and salaries, and in which there is stability of employment. Given those things, people can exercise a choice: without them, there is no question of free choice.
The fair rent system means that we are embarking on this speedy decontrol within three years. A considerable part of the rent allowance in the system will be paid not by the taxpayer but, for the first time, by the ratepayer. This is a completely new burden on the ratepayer. And it must be remembered that 25 per cent. of the rent rebate for people in local authority houses will also be borne eventually by the ratepayers. It may well be, because we cannot be given figures and the right hon. Gentleman has said that there is here no ceiling, that we are undertaking a burden the gravity of which we do not know, and a burden over which we exercise no control.
It is all very well for the right hon. Gentleman to say that he is relying on the independent judgments of rent assessment committees, but it must be remembered that there is no appeal from that assessment, and when it is known that the assessment has nothing to do with the ability or otherwise of the tenant to pay, I think that with a predominant number of professional people and assessors in responsible positions we may get very much higher rents for these private tenemented properties than has 988 been calculated. Commenting on the White Paper way back in July, the Glasgow Herald said:It is difficult to escape the conclusion that the new system of subsidies will be initially more expensive than the old. The Scottish Office have no figures of the number of tenants likely to qualify for rebates of rent. The White Paper is, therefore, rather sketchy, and it is to be hoped that the Government will not get a shock when they complete their calculations.The Glasgow Herald went on to say what we all knew:… the White Paper falls short of the standards expected of a document of its importance.The whole Bill falls considerably short of what we require in Scotland. A considerable number of tenants will be submitted to unfairness and hardship by the extension of the means test into housing on a far greater scale than we have ever known. We may see a sudden leap forward in submissions, to meet the date of 1st December. I do not know who wrote that part of the right hon. Gentleman's speech, or briefed him on it, but how can he tell us how many approvals there will be in 1972? I do not know, unless he is assuming that all the submissions he has—and he does not need to approve them by 1st December under the Bill, because they qualify without being approved—will be approved next year and will give him a good float for 1972. In the longer term, I fear that the housing needs of Scotland will not be met, and the full effect upon Scottish housing, Scottish tenants and relationships within communities will be very serious.
A very old friend of ours, who spoke from this side and from the back benches on practically every housing Bill, and who knew far more about Scottish housing than most of us was James McInnes, former Member for Glasgow, Central. I remember him characterising a Bill that heralded the same kind of glowing future for Scottish housing with three words, and he was proved right. I would use the same words about the Bill before us: vile, vicious and vindictive.
§ 5.53 p.m.
§ Mr. Edward Taylor (Glasgow, Cathcart)
We all listened with great interest to a long speech by the right hon. Member for Kilmarnock (Mr. Ross), who was 989 very unfair to my right hon. and hon Friends, particularly when he talked about special treatment for Scotland, ignoring the fact that for municipal rents the basis of the Bill is completely different from that in England and Wales. I believe that the Scottish Office team achieved a major victory in emphasising the special problems of Scotland. I hope that before he continues on that line the right hon. Gentleman will point out some similar matters on which he gained special treatment for Scotland when he was Secretary of State. We should have to look a long way before we found many of them in the housing sector.
I have a particular interest in the Bill because more than half of my constituents are tenants of municipal or private rented accommodation. I was very interested in the exchange about the views of the hon. Member for Greenock (Dr. Dickson Mabon) and how it now seems that he was in favour of municipalising private rented property. During the General Election campaign he very kindly made an intervention in the domestic affairs of my constituency, which I greatly appreciated, when the Labour candidate asked him whether he would consider municipalising our houses. The hon. Gentleman may recall that the answer he gave then was "No".
§ Dr. Dickson Mabon
That is not true. I should like the hon. Gentleman to put that statement in its context. His own Government have let down the tenants in Western Heritable Investment Co. which gets the subsidy from the State. I was asked whether the Francis Committee, to which they would give evidence, would recommend that the subsidy, being a public subsidy, should not count in the fair rent assessment. I told them such evidence was in order, should be given and I hoped acted upon. That was my answer.
§ Mr. Taylor
My recollection is different. I will look up the papers and if I have in any way misrepresented what the hon. Gentleman said I will apologise. But if I did misunderstand it, the other gentleman at the meeting also did so, and communicated that misunderstanding to many people in my constituency.
I certainly welcome the general reorganisation in the Bill of the housing finances of Scotland. All fair-minded 990 people in Scotland will accept that the present situation has been grotesquely unfair. It is absolutely unfair that we should have such wide variations in the rents of council houses in neighbouring areas. It is unjust that just because someone happens to live in an area like Bishopbriggs, where rents are relatively high, he should pay much more than is paid for a comparable property in a neighbouring county.
It has also seemed unfair to me that in my constituency the tenants of Scottish Special Housing Association houses should find that their rents were relatively high, and they were increased with the agreement of the hon. Member for Greenock, while in many cases those rents were much in excess of the rents of neighbouring houses owned by Glasgow Corporation. It is unfair that just because by accident someone is allocated by the corporation to an S.S.H.A. house he should pay so much more in rent over a period of many years than he would pay if he were put into one of the corporation's own houses.
Clearly, something needs to be done. While the right hon. Member for Kilmarnock said that he thought that the Bill was wrong, he conveyed the impression, though I am sure that he would not want to, that he believed that the present situation was almost satisfactory and that some local authorities should be able to pursue rent policies that were unreasonable and unfair to the ratepayers in general while other local authorities imposed quite high rents. If we are talking about justice, how does the right hon. Gentleman justify the majority of owner-occupiers and private tenants in many cities, some of them living in slums, paying most, or certainly a very large slice, of the rents of all council tenants irrespective of their income? I do not believe that the present situation can be justified, whether we think that the Bill is the right answer or not.
I very much welcome the introduction of the general rent rebate. The private tenant in Scotland has been the step-bairn of Scottish housing for far too long. While owner-occupiers in general have the right to a tax concession on their mortgage payments and council tenants in general have the right to a rebate, the private tenants have been in a special 991 situation in that they have had no subsidy. It seems only right that they should have the same facilities as other tenants in similar circumstances.
The third thing I very much welcome as a Glasgow Member is what appears to me to be the prospect of eliminating the special overspill contributions which have been a heavy burden on the Glasgow ratepayers for many years. We cannot house our full population in Glasgow, so we have to enter into overspill agreements. It seems to me that the Bill will lead to the elimination of the overspill contributions, and that will be greatly appreciated in Glasgow.
Having given, I hope, a very sincere welcome to the Bill in general, I should like to put a few points to and ask a few questions of my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State for Development. It has been said that a considerable saving to the ratepayers will result from the new measures. I hope that my hon. Friend will give an assurance that he will advise councils that not all the money should be spent on either reducing the rates or stopping increases but that a fair proportion should be spent on improving the character of housing schemes which are, in some cases, just concrete fortresses and much in need of the basic amenities. We sometimes think of council tenants as being people who, as a result of some kind of lucky dip, get all the benefits of life at a very small rent. Members representing Glasgow constituencies will confirm that many of our great housing areas are not places of that sort and that people have to pay an amount almost equivalent to their rent in order to get into town by bus. In addition the general amenities are not like those that are to be found in the generality of our cities.
The second point I wish to make relates to the private sector. A rebate system is to be introduced for new tenants of private housing, which means that we shall have sensible rents and that people in need will be helped. However, our real concern is with those whose rents are controlled or who have only recently had their rents regulated. It would be wrong to underestimate the concern caused to a large number of people as a result of the Measure which the hon. Member for Greenock so courageously 992 introduced in 1969 which brought a considerable amount of regulation into property previously completely controlled.
Many people, particularly elderly people living alone, in my constituency have been completely confused and in many cases were caused a lot of unnecessary worry. It is wrong to regard, as some hon. Members opposite seem to do, the private landlord as a kind of commercial vampire who is concerned only with drawing the last ounce of blood from his tenants. On the other hand, it would be equally misleading to think, as some people do, that private landlords are altruistic philanthropists who are concerned only with public service and the good of the community and who are straining at the leash to build exciting new dwellings for working-class families. People who know the situation in Glasgow will agree that neither description is true.
In this connection, I should like to ask a few questions about the relevance of the Bill to private tenants. First, under the 1969 Act, as consolidated in 1971, any private dwelling in Scotland can be brought within regulation or towards the fair rent system if a certificate is obtained from the local authority showing that it is a house of tolerable standard. It has been indicated that there will be an extension of decontrolling or bringing properties within regulation. Precisely which houses will be involved and how many? It is indicated in Clause 35 that among those excluded from decontrol will be houses which are scheduled as not meeting the tolerable standard laid down in Schedule 2 of the Land Compensation (Scotland) Act. This would appear, under a different Measure, to restate the present situation. I am confused about this matter. Perhaps my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State will say which additional houses are to be decontrolled and in what circumstances? Will it simply be houses which were left out of the previous Bill because they were not tolerable?
Secondly, how will capital savings, particularly of elderly people, be treated for the purpose of assessing rebates under the Bill? We know what happens about income, but we are all concerned about elderly people who have saved perhaps £1,000 or £1,500 and therefore are excluded from any means-tested benefits.
993 How will capital savings be treated under the new system when assessing people's ability to pay rent?
Thirdly, what is the position of tenants whose rents have been increased under the 1969 Act as consolidated but phased over a period of four years? Will the four-year phasing disappear as a result of the passing of this Bill or will people be entitled to work their way through that phasing, with perhaps an increase in rent from £20 to £100 over four years? Fourthly, will local authority certification disappear entirely? Provision for this was introduced in the 1969 Act for houses which were being decontrolled. Will local authority certification have any purpose in the new system?
I wish to say a few words about the agreements which can be made as opposed to rents being fixed by the rent officer. It is clearly stated on page 8 of the White Paper that the rent officer can step in when an agreement has been made and stop the agreement from operating if he believes that it is unfair or excessive. What basis is the rent officer to use when judging whether a rent is excessive? Will he follow the criteria in the 1965 Act, which include an element of discounting scarcity, in assessing the right rent, or will he simply think in terms of the free market arrangements? I should appreciate it if my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State would tell us what "excessive" means.
I turn to the question of elderly people living in four-apartment or even five-apartment houses which are controlled perhaps with a rent of £20 or £25 and whose houses are far too large for them. Suppose that they receive social security. If their rents increase substantially as a result of decontrol, elderly people might be told to move from their homes simply because the Health and Social Security Department is not prepared to bear the rent increase. The rent of many people has been paid by the social security offices, even though the house may be too large for the people living in it, because the rent has been controlled. Has my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State had consultations on this point with the Department of Health and Social Security?
I should like to say a few words on the procedure for letting people know about their rights. We have all had 994 people coming to us clutching forms which they have received, saying, "What is this about? Does it mean that my rent will go up by this amount?" People who have lived in controlled flats or houses for many years may receive a paper through the post saying that the landlord proposes to increase the rent, from, say, £20 to £90. Some of the individuals concerned are 80 or 90 years of age. A letter may be sent to them telling them that they can appeal in writing within seven days, but many people do not understand the law or do not bother to send a letter of appeal within the seven-day period. They suffer a great deal of alarm, although the Glasgow rent officers endeavour to tell people the position, and I pay tribute to them for that.
§ Dr. Miller
Like many of us on this side of the House, the hon. Gentleman seems to be more concerned about the number of houses built in Scotland rather than the financial provision for housing. Is he expressing disquiet about the Bill? If he is not, will he estimate how many more houses will be built in Scotland as a result of the Bill if it becomes an Act?
§ Mr. Taylor
I should not like to make an estimate of the extra number of houses which will be built as a result of the Bill. I am not in a position to make such an estimate. However, the Bill will bring justice into a situation in which there is a great deal of injustice, and that can only be to the good. It will also create new cash resources with which houses will he built. I do not look upon this Bill as directly a proposal to build more houses. I think that other measures need to be taken to increase the number of houses built. I am sure those measures will be taken. I certainly hope they will be. However, I look upon this Bill as basically a means of enabling more houses to be built. That it will directly build more houses has not been specifically an argument put forward by those sponsoring or supporting the Bill.
Finally I would ask that it may be possible for rent officers to have in their offices someone suitably qualified to deal with welfare problems to explain to anyone receiving, for the first time, perhaps, a notice of increase in rent and who, perhaps, has been living in a controlled house for 20 or 30 years, what the protections and safeguards are. I 995 suggest that someone should call on the tenant to discuss the notice with the tenant before any notice of this sort is issued and to explain what the protections are—for example, that the landlord's figure is not necessarily the final one, that the rent officer has determination here and that rebate is available. The forms which people get at present are no answer to their questions.
That would be a great deal of help to many elderly people and would remove much of the worry which exists for them The person to call from the rent office need not necessarily be a social welfare worker but should be someone suitably qualified, who would call round on any tenant who for the first time is receiving notification that his rent is to be increased. I could show my hon. Friend—I have shown my hon. Friend—some of the notices—
§ Mr. Douglas
I am intrigued by the hon. Member's approach to this matter. Is he suggesting that private landlords should get in touch with the social service side of a local authority to communicate with those people that they are going to raise rents or are going to give notice of raising rents?
§ Mr. Taylor
Yes. I think that if the hon. Member will consider the matter he will find out that that is precisely what they have to do at the present time. They must notify the rent officer. I am suggesting that the rent officer should have someone suitably qualified in welfare to call around to advise tenants who receive such notices of increased rents.
It is not enough just to issue a notice. I am sure the hon. Member has seen many of the notices which have been issued. I have a bundle of them from my own constituency. I have one, for example, from a man aged 90 who was told of an increase from £20 to £90 This was a case in which social security was involved and, I think, phasing was involved. The fact is that this gentleman was caused a great deal of anxiety. I hope that my hon. Friend will appreciate that, and will appreciate how anxiety is caused in these cases, and I hope that something can be done about it.
Apart from these things, on which I hope my hon. Friend can give me assurances, either now or in Committee on the 996 Bill, I give this Bill a general welcome. I think it will remove injustice where injustice exists and give help where help is needed.
§ 6.3 p.m.
§ Mr. Harry Gourlay (Kirkcaldy Burghs)
One thing I cannot do is share the enthusiasm which the hon. Member for Glasgow, Cathcart (Mr. Edward Taylor) has for the Bill. I am not in the least surprised at the reluctance he has shown in trying to estimate the additional number of houses which the Bill will create. His questions on the rent rebates and rent allowances indicate the complicated means test system inherent in the Bill. There are no fewer than 15 pages and two Schedules of small print dealing with rebates and allowances, and they surely belie the claims of the Secretary of State that the rebate system which he is imposing on local authorities is a simple one.
The Secretary of State this afternoon talked about the stimulus of the Bill because there had been a modest increase in housing approvals this year. If he believes this he is kidding only himself. It is obviously a once-for-all stimulus as local authorities in Scotland are trying to secure the benefits of the existing subsidies which will be phased out once this Bill becomes law.
I am grateful for this early opportunity of speaking to the debate, and in deference to my many colleagues who wish to participate in it I hope I shall speak reasonably briefly.
I am opposing the Second Reading of this ill-conceived, doctrinaire, Tory Housing Bill because it is not designed to deal with housing needs in Scotland, but to deal, as my right hon. Friend the Member for Kilmarnock (Mr. Ross) said, with increasing house rents. The effect of this Bill will be to bring misery and hardship to countless thousands of council tenants in Scotland. This is a Measure which is designed to transfer the burden of financing council house building from the rich taxpayer to the broad mass of the lower and middle income groups. It is another example of anomalies being created by the means test mania of this Government.
The Secretary of State today and on previous occasions has protested strongly 997 that the Bill is not designed to save the Government money When he spoke in the debate in the Scottish Grand Committee on 27th July he said thathad the present system of subsidies continued, it would have escalated into enormous figures which I believe no Government, of any colour could have continued to bear."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, Scottish Grand Committee, 27th July, 1971; c. 17.]Although the right hon. Gentleman can possibly speak for his own Government he is certainly not entitled to speak for a past or future Labour Government.
The Secretary of State is also on record as having stated that by 1975 the Government hope to cut their expenditure on housing by £10 million to £20 million. This saving can be achieved only at the expense of the tenants of council houses, and rents will undoubtedly escalate in the next few years. In fact, the whole basis of the Bill is to save money for the Government irrespective of the housing needs of the people of Scoland, for another effect of this Measure will be to reduce the number of new houses being built. The drastic reduction in houses built in Scotland has started already before the Bill becomes effective.
It is abundantly clear from a reading of this Bill that this Government do not trust the local authorities, for, as usual with every housing Bill which the Tories put on the Statute Book, this Bill results in an increase of power at the centre and diminished power for the local authorities. So much for the great Tory slogan. "Let us trust the people and let us set them free." My right hon. Friend the Member for Kilmarnock made great play with that earlier this afternoon.
Council rents are going to be forced up, for Clauses 28 and 29 clearly set down instructions to the local authorities on the basis of their rent structure, namely, when and by how much council rents must be increased. The effect of the instruction is to raise rents by £24 by May, 1973. In many instances they will be increased on top of increases which have taken place in the last I8 months, and from May, 1973, there will be an annual increase of £26 till the authority's housing revenue account is in balance.
In Kirkcaldy, it is calculated that it will take from four to five years to balance the housing revenue account. This exercise will produce a standard 998 rent in the region of £200 a year. With rates in addition, this will require a weekly payment of rents and rates of between £6 and £7 per week.
This is, to my mind, an extortionate payment in an area of low wage earners. I shall come to the question of rent rebates later. This is the answer the Government usually trot out. In Burntisland, where hundreds of jobs have been lost and the local shipyard is just ticking over, the story is no less grim, because it is estimated that a balanced housing account may take four years to achieve with a standard rent of £180 a year. The figures are partly guesswork because of the difficulties local authorities have in accurately assessing them.
Together with rates this will require a correspondingly higher payment of possibly over £6 a week. The Burghs of Buckhaven and Methil and also King-horn have similar tales of woe to tell.
§ Mr. Younger
Do the rate figures which the hon. Gentleman has quoted allow for the reduction of rates as a result of the Bill?
§ Mr. Gourlay
That is a hypothetical question. It is difficult to assess what the rates will be in two or three years' time. One does not know what additional expenditure will be incurred as the result of other policies of the Government, so it is difficult to give an accurate assessment. I have taken the present rate level, which I do not think will be reduced in two or three years' time but is more likely to be increased. There is a similar grim tale of woe in other burghs in my constituency.
How can the Government square their instructions to local authorities to raise their rents "at a stroke" with their election promise to reduce prices "at a stroke"? This is another example of the Government breaking faith with the electors, and also with the local authorities. The Bill abolishes subsidies which were promised to local authorities for 60 years. My right hon. Friend referred to Schedule 11, which could almost be described as a Consolidation Act rather than a Schedule to a Bill. True, the subsidies are to be phased out over several years, but the whole burden will be passed on to the tenants through higher rents. Hence the reason for local autho- 999 rities being instructed on how to operate the rent rebate scheme, with very limited discretion to vary the conditions being allowed to local authorities.
Not only is the Government rent rebate scheme a distasteful extension of means testing, but it introduces an entirely new principle into rebate schemes. Paragraph 9(1) of Schedule 2 reads:In this Schedule 'minimum weekly rent' means, subject to sub-paragraphs (2) and (3) below, £1.00 or 40 per cent. of the weekly rent, whichever is the greater.That sub-paragraph introduces an entirely new principle. In the majority of council rebate schemes once a rebated rent has been established according to the tenant's income, the rebated rent can be increased only if the tenant's income is increased. But under this sub-paragraph, where 40 per cent. is the greater, the minimum weekly rent will automatically be increased each year under Clause 28, even though the tenant's income remains the same.
Paragraph 8 of Schedule 3 reads:If there is such an alteration in the terms of a rebate scheme or allowance scheme or in the rent as to affect the amount of rebate or allowance to which a tenant is entitled, the authority shall make such alterations as may be appropriate in the amount of his rebate or allowance.Anyone reading this paragraph would be correct in assuming that it can only be an alteration in an upward direction, because there is no discretion for the authority to reduce a rebate in such circumstances.
Under the conditions of granting rebates according to the Bill a further burden is to be put on local authorities. At present any tenant on social security receives practically the whole of his rent and rates from the Ministry. According to my reading of the Bill, now, the local authority has to meet the difference between the actual rent and the rebated rent, and the Ministry will merely meet the balance. This is another crafty move by the Government to shift the burden from the taxpayer to the ratepayer.
Another aspect of unfairness to local authorities arises from the administration of rent allowances to tenants of private rented houses. The Government will meet the cost of administering the rent allowance scheme as stated in Clause 6(2)(b), but no payment will be made to 1000 local authorities for administering the even more massive and costly rebate scheme forced upon them by this unnecessary legislation. It is all right to say that 90 per cent. of the Scottish local authorities at present operate rebate schemes, but those schemes are much simpler than that to be imposed upon them, and only a small proportion of the tenants are affected. Under the Bill 80 to 90 per cent. of the tenants will be covered by this scheme.
How is the local authority to determine its administrative costs in respect of the rent allowances? Surely the same members of staff will be doing the calculations for the rebate scheme for council houses as are doing the calculations for the rent allowances? Here is another complication. I hope that this is an omission which will be rectified in Committee.
Although the Government are not prepared to bale out the lame ducks of industry, they will by the introduction of rent allowances be baling out the lame ducks of the property world, with lashings of public dole money to private landlords. Perhaps it is not unnatural that they should look after their friends.
The high rent policy contained in the Bill is no accident. It is a calculated cold-blooded policy to force council tenants to buy their own house from the speculative builders, once more to enhance the profits of private enterprise. I must warn the Government that this policy is a non-starter in Scotland where, with high unemployment and considerable job insecurity even for those in employment, it is almost impossible for the Scottish artisan to secure a mortgage.
The basis of this high rent policy is contained in what I describe as the Tory bible, "The Campaign Guide for 1970", which cost me £1 during the Election. The second paragraph on page 373 reads:The application of a fair rent system…"—which I know is to be a true rent system in Scotland℄… to council houses should remove the disincentive which prevents some council house tenants from buying their own houses in the open market.There, in all its stark nakedness, is the doctrinaire Tory housing policy of this wicked Government which will make the future prospects of those on the housing 1001 waiting lists in Scotland bleak and grim in the extreme.
The Bill will do little to reduce the agony and the misery of those who suffer from the housing problems which have filled a large part of hon. Members' postbags for years. With nearly one million unemployed, many of them skilled building and construction workers, it is absolutely crazy, in fact it is the economics of bedlam, to be paying people unemployment benefit to produce nothing instead of paying them a wage to build the houses which are so badly needed in Scotland. The housing problem will not be solved by the financial juggling of this Bill, but by men pouring concrete and laying bricks which, given the correct subsidy structure which is absent from the Bill, local authorities could do now as they have proved they can do in the past.
While improvements of older houses are to be welcomed, what is required in Scotland is the maximum building of new houses along with the improvement of old ones. There is only one answer to all the different facets of the housing tragedies which come to our attention almost daily, and that is to build homes and still more homes, with Government aid. But the Bill does not provide sufficient aid for the local authorities to do this.
It is often said that the age of miracles is not yet past I only hope that a miracle may be realised tonight by this House refusing to give approval to the Bill, because it is a Measure which will miserably fail the homeless people in Scotland.
§ 6.28 p.m.
§ Mr. T. G. D. Galbraith (Glasgow, Hillhead)
One of the delights of being in Opposition, I suppose, is that it is easier to make a rumbustious speech in criticism of a Bill than in praise of it. I feel that the Opposition today have fallen rather below their usual high standard of expressing the righteous indignation that normally comes from them.
The right hon. Member for Kilmarnock (Mr. Ross) was kind enough to refer to me, although his old jibe about second-class citizens fell rather flat. It is not surprising, since it is the umpteenth time he has used it. He will have to try to think of another one. I hope he will not 1002 take this unkindly from me. The right hon. Gentleman spoke for so long that think he must have forgotten how to read his speeches. I would advise him to try it next time; he may find that his speech is just as effective although taking rather less time.
§ Mr. Harry Ewing (Stirling and Falkirk Burghs)
Is this an indication that the hon. Member for Glasgow, Hillhead (Mr. Galbraith) will not speak for too long tonight?
§ Mr. Galbraith
I think I shall take only my fair time. The 1962 Act, to which the right hon. Member for Kilmarnock referred and for which I was partly responsible, should have been what this Bill now is. It was, if he likes, a second-class Act. But this Bill is going to be a first-class Bill. It is for that reason that I have the greatest pleasure in praising it and in saying to the Government that I think that it is a very good Bill and exactly what the people of Scotland require.
I shall tell the House why I think this and why I congratulate the Government on having had the guts, when there are so many other problems to handle, which they inherited from the Labour Party, to take on this extremely hot potato. I am so delighted—and this will encourage hon. Gentlemen—that I want to say a kind of Nunc Dimittis:Now lettest thy servant depart in peace.Because once this Bill is on the Statute Book a great deal of the heat will go out of politics in Scotland. Indeed, perhaps that is why the Labour Party opposite objects to it. It has almost a built-in interest in the continuance of the present obnoxious housing situation with the privileged classes housed comfortably at public expense while the houses of the poor, with the connivance and almost the encouragement of the State, rapidly degenerate into slums. It is an ideal set-up for the growth of discontent with which, we know, Socialism grows.
No wonder hon. Gentlemen opposite, for the best possible reason—that of their own self-survival—want to retain the present housing set-up. Yet how fantastically difficult it must be for them, in their heart of hearts, to oppose this Bill, because it is, in essence, a very Socialistic Bill. What it does is to carry a little further the work begun by the 1003 Labour Party when they were in power—with this one great difference, that it protects the needy from the harsh effects of implementing the reforms begun by the Labour Party, which was one aspect about which they, unfortunately, neglected to do anything.
Anybody visiting Earth from outer space and looking at this Bill would say, "It cannot be a Conservative Measure; the market forces are not let loose". For that surely is the hall mark of Conservatism, the letting loose of market forces. It does not operate in this Bill. There is no free-for-all in the housing field. In the private sector what operates is not the law of supply and demand but the fair—not economic rent structure invented by the Labour Party.
How can that be good with them and bad with us? One realises, of course, that consistency is not a characteristic of the Socialist Party. When in office, it tried to reform industrial relations and tried to join the Common Market but, for the most part, when in opposition, it denied that there was any virtue in any of these things. I suppose one should not be too surprised that its own brain-child of fair shares should now be pronounced unacceptable—a bit of a bastard perhaps.
It makes its credibility standing remarkably low, especially when there will be available a rent allowance to help anybody who finds the new fair rents above his means. What happens is that we take their device of fair rents and humanise it in a way they never thought of, to ensure that there will be no hardship.
I shall be referring to the hon. Member for Greenock (Dr. Dickson Mabon). It did not occur to me that he would not be in his seat—but he has no doubt good reasons for being absent—Ah! Good. I was just about to refer to the hon. Member for Greenock and I see that he has come in on cue. In these circumstances it is very sad to find the hon. Gentleman saying, and here I quote from the Glasgow Herald—he has had a bit of it already, and now comes a bit more—that:by bitter experience, highlighted by the hurricane of 1968 we found that some properties had been a dripping roast to landlords be- 1004 cause, although rents had been taken, no repairs had been done in this century.That is what the hon. Gentleman said.
§ Mr. Galbraith
I see the hon. Gentleman agrees. This is the sort of remark one expects from a street corner orator in his first year of operation, or perhaps from the hon. Gentleman in his Glasgow University Union days, but not from an ex-Minister of the Crown who piloted the conception of fair rent through the House. If he thought that these properties were dripping roasts, why did he introduce fair rents for them? He should be strung up on the battlements of Newark Castle as a traitor to his class and party.
Metaphorically, that is what would happen if there were one word of truth in his allegation of dripping roasts. It is precisely because they were not dripping roasts, because there was not enough money coming from rents to do adequate repairs, that the Labour Party had no alternative, as a responsible party in office, but to introduce fair rent legislation. It was done, and the hon. Gentleman knows this in his heart, not to create dripping roasts but to prevent dripping ceilings. I have nothing but contempt for a party which, in opposition, for the sake of political advantage can turn round and deny the virtue and value to Scotland of its own legislation. It passes my comprehension that it should have such effrontery.
§ Dr. Dickson Mabon
The hon. Gentleman must remember that his party, the Liberals and, to some extent, my own party maintained controlled rents for 50 years. His party decontrolled them in a massive and vicious way in 1957 and it was to meet that dreadful situation that we introduced the 1965 Act.
§ Mr. Galbraith
That 1965 Act was an excellent one. All I am objecting to is this nonsensical undergraduate talk about dripping roasts. The hon. Gentleman must grow up and learn to face the facts. He has been out of the Scottish Office too long. He has got out of touch. I hope that he does not come back.
§ Mr. Gordon Campbell
Did my hon. Friend observe that in the Glasgow 1005 Herald leader, dealing with a report of the hon. Gentleman's speech, the heading was "Dr. Mabon's folly".
§ Mr. Galbraith
Yes, I noticed that and thought that it was a good description of the speech. In the public housing section the same sort of volte face is visible. In Government, the Labour Party was courageous in its efforts to put up council rents. There was no standstill then, no suggestion that a rise was unreasonable. Yet, in those days one could have said that the way the Socialists did it, they were interested only in financial considerations, in filthy lucre, because they omitted to do anything about rebates comprehensively.
My right hon. Friend has now put this right. He has introduced into the financial conception of rents the humanitarian conception of rebates about which, in spite of all its talk about how much it feels for the needy—it is always talking about its heart—the Labour Party neglected to do anything. Perhaps this explains its anger, perhaps it thinks it has a kind of prescriptive right to compassion and caring and when it finds the Tories showing concern for the community it is not glad to see the party which in its eyes is always sinning, being repentant. It is filled with an insane jealousy, as if it felt that its clothes had been pinched while it went bathing.
Its opposition to this Bill is so violent that it must have some sort of psychological basis, and there are many medical men opposite who I hope will look into this matter. Certainly it is not justified on practical grounds because all that we are doing is to help the needy. We are implementing in the housing field the well-known Socialist adage:From each according to his ability"℄and that is why some rents according to ability to pay will be a little higher—… to each according to his need.And that is why the poor, whether in local authority houses or private houses, will receive the help they need. Surely this is something on which we can agree? No one in the Labour Party is suggesting that houses should be a social service and cost nothing.
§ Mr. Galbraith
Some people are, but I am afraid that I do not count those below the Gangway. I am making my attack on the Opposition Front Bench. If housing has to be paid for, what is the criterion except ability to pay, which is exactly the principle behind this Bill? We can argue about the figures, but that is something for Committee.
On Second Reading, I would have thought that a Bill whose prime purpose was to introduce fair rents along the lines marked out by the Labour Party, coupled with help to all who need it, irrespective of what sort of house they live in, is just the sort of Bill that we could all have welcomed. That we are not doing so is something I greatly regret. My one consolation is that when this Bill is on the Statute Book the vested interests of housing privilege represented by the right hon. Member for Kilmarnock and his colleagues will be swept aside and everyone will be treated equally and fairly. In future, we shall be able to regard housing less as a doctrinaire problem and more as a practical one of finance, planning and aesthetics which at the end of the century is where the real difficulties lie.
It is with a wonderful sense of relief that I welcome the Bill. It may produce a bitter party dispute but at least it will be the last of them and will put an end to the arid and sterile debates that we have had on housing in Scotland for the last 50 years. From now on things will never be the same again—[Hors. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear."]—I am glad that remark has been cheered, because it shows that we are all, in our hearts, profoundly grateful to be in at the kill of this obnoxious way of dealing with housing.
§ 6.45 p.m.
§ Mr. William Small (Glasgow, Scotstoun)
We have heard the hon. Member for Glasgow, Hillhead (Mr. Galbraith) talking about Toryism with a human face, but things are seldom what they seem. Skimmed milk masquerades as cream, and that is the sort of thinking which is behind the Bill. I agree with parts of it. However, the Tory Party must be suffering from spiritual amnesia. It says that there should be freedom for local authorities and for the people, but this Bill imposes greater regimation upon the system than I have ever seen in my 1007 12 years in this House. This is a Nationalisation of Rent Bill—in the public or private sector. It imposes compulsory rent rebates and it has within it the essence of the nationalisation of rents. It cannot be looked at in any other way. We talk about the Mao and the Cultural Revolution—we are witnessing it in this Bill.
On page vii of the Bill there are set out the effects on public service manpower. It says:It is likely that the new subsidy system under Part I will require fewer detailed approvals by the Scottish Development Department of proposals by local authorities and there will consequently be some saving in manpower in that Department. At this stage it is not possible to quantify this saving.Over the page, however, it says:It will be necessary to employ additional Rent Officers…Paragraph 5 says:The other provisions of the Bill should not require significantly different numbers of local authority staffs than the present arrangements for Exchequer contributions to housing under the existing statutes.I want to deal with Part II of the Bill. Here we find the needs and resources test, the means test, all the indignities which will have to be suffered by part of our population. The present system involving a rent rebate scheme is one matter, but a compulsory rebate scheme forces people to reveal their nakedness.
The hon. Member for Glasgow, Hill-head spoke about:From each according to his ability, to each according to his need.I would accept that if it were universally applied but no houses in the private sector were ever built to let, they were built for profit.
§ Mr. Galbraith
I confess that I do not understand the hon. Gentleman when he says that private houses were not built for letting but for profit. Can he tell me anything that is done except for profit? Everything one does, whatever work one does, is done for some sort of profit. There must be a return.
§ Mr. Small
I was dealing with the need for shelter and that was never properly 1008 recognised under the private system. The needs of the community to be housed properly were dealt with municipally. It was the municipal authorities who came along and built to a good standard.
Clause 18 makes great use of the word "may", but Clause 19 provides thatIt shall be the duty of every housing authority to give such publicity to their rebate scheme as the Secretary of State may direct, either generally or in any particular case.Again, there is an element of compulsion. The Bill provides that the local authority "shall" publicise.
Clause 20 provides thatIt shall be the duty of a landlord of a house let to a private tenant(a) to apply to the local authority in whose district the house is situated for information about the allowance scheme made by them"—that is, the local authority—and(b) on receipt of that information to furnish it to the tenant.Failure to do so introduces a new crime into the realm, because, under subsection (3):Any landlord who refuses or wilfully neglects to perform a duty imposed on him by subsection (1) above shall be guilty of an offence and liable on summary conviction to a fine not exceeding £50".That is regimentation. It is a rather frightening aspect of the compulsory nature of the Bill.
We are introducing a tribunal aspect in respect of the landlord. He is to be compelled to furnish information to the tenant. There is nothing wrong with that the trouble arises over the way in which it is done. Up till now there has been more or less peaceful co-existence between landlord and tenant. There has been some degree of friction, but there has been mainly peaceful co-existence. We now have the new element of the landlord's being compelled to furnish to the tenant information derived from the local authority in respect of the allowance to the tenant, to which he is not a party.
I would describe this as social pluralism. The private landlord may sit quietly by and elect his representative, and the allowances and rent rebates in the public sector are automatically transferable to the private sector by the use of this formula.
1009 I hope that in Committee we shall be able to ensure that it is purely information that is afforded to the tenant, and that there will be no question of lawyer's letters or anything of that kind. The document should consist merely of information for the benefit of the tenant.
Clause 20(2) typifies the saying thatAll men may trudge but none may dance The dancing is for later.It provides thatThe duty imposed on a landlord by subsection (1) above shall be performed in accordance with regulations made by Statutory Instrument by the Secretary of State which shall be subject to annulment in pursuance of a resolution of either House of Parliament.That is why I say that this provision is for the landlord. It will help the landlord. Speaking as an engineer, I would say that that Clause is the hidden dovetail.
Subsection (4) deals with the question of persecution. In the old days, people came before the magistrates for selling short weight coal. Now we have in this Clause the pentecostal tongues supporting the city fair. If the person concerned is the director of a company he is equally guilty, or more guilty, because he has had trust placed in him. The director is caught up in terms of any commitment for which he is liable.
In my view the Bill should become the centrepiece of a new free-admission museum in the centre of Edinburgh.
§ 6.56 p.m.
§ Mr. Patrick Wolrige-Gordon (Aberdeenshire, East)
To some extent this is proving to be a predictable debate. It is something of a paradox that hon. Members opposite are most angry with us when we do something that they might legitimately expect to do themselves, and that the members of my party are similarly affected.
The opening passage in the speech of the hon. Member for Glasgow, Scotstoun (Mr. Small) seemed to illustrate a general philosophy that could be described as saying that we can nationalise everything but local authorities. That was true of all the hon. Member's speech except his alarming conversion to Clause 20 at the end of the Clause.
To some extent we can accept the ferocious condemnation of the right hon. Member for Kilmarnock (Mr. Ross), if 1010 for no other reason than that the very existence of this Measure is a reflection of his own performance in office. But I hope that he and all of us may ascend sufficiently from the personal level, of "Who does better than whom", to remember that for generations we have managed to supply our people with most of the paraphernalia of modern life, but we have not managed to supply everybody with adequate living conditions. The homeless and the slum dwellers will not be impressed if we simply chuck figures at each other. They want houses in which to create sound homes. No more important or more personal social function exists. The only valid yardstick against which to measure the Bill is whether it will help to produce more homes for those who need them in the places they need them and at prices they can afford.
I believe that the Bill will succeed in its objectives for three main reasons. First, the subsidies are generous. There are the residual subsidy, the housing expenditure subsidy, the high cost subsidy, the rent debate subsidy, the rent allowance subsidy and, finally, the slum clearance subsidy. They all appear to me to be very generous. The slum clearance subsidy must be very generous, since it was the only thing for which the right hon. Member for Kilmarnock could find a note of appreciation. Secondly, one valuable aspect of the subsidy is that it seeks to concentrate help in those authorities which need it most; and, thirdly, it seeks to help those individuals who need it most.
Inevitably, we hear a great deal about means tests. I fail to see how one can hope to be fair in social administration without such a policy. Has not part of the reason for our housing problems in Scotland been the unfairness of the system? The system is unfair to the ratepayer, and does not seem to make a council tenant any happier. It is also unfair to the stewardship of our housing stock since return on investment bears no relation to the value of the investment and the standard declines in consequence.
It ill becomes right hon. and hon. Gentlemen opposite to criticise since, when they were in power, they raised taxation to an unparalleled extent. They operated all the means tests they could find and justified their policy by talking 1011 about redistribution of wealth. That alone as a concept is impossible to achieve without the full implementation of the means test philosophy.
We are absolutely right to try to redistribute resources by supplying rent rebates to those who need them. If one implements fair rents, then more money may be available for other matters. I wholeheartedly endorse what was said by my hon. Friend the Member for Glasgow, Cathcart (Mr. Edward Taylor) in that there might even be money available to create communities as well as housing estates; to spend on amenities as well as on restrictly functional modern housing and apartment blocks. I am sure we should try to make such a system work; and I am sure that the absolute guarantee on rents will mean much to those concerned by yet another change in housing policy.
What concerns me personally about the Bill is the total sum involved. Today rate-borne expenditure on housing is £40 million with the Exchequer contributing £55 million. The rate-borne expenditure for 1975–76, as a result of the Bill, is expected to be £15 million to £20 million, with the Exchequer contributing £70 million to £75 million. The financial effect of this highly complicated, and in its way extremely controversial Bill is simply to remove some £20 million to £25 million from rates and to put it on the Exchequer.
It is not for this reason the Bill is so important. It is drafted as an answer to the diagnosis expressed in paragraph 5 of the White Paper:… at the heart of the problem lie obsolete financial policies, which are no longer either fair or effective.I hope that diagnosis is right and that the Bill will inspire all those in housing today to get on with the job of building houses and restoring the old ones which we need. I echo the concern which has been expressed by hon. Members on both sides of the House that no attempt has yet been made to quantify the effect of the Bill in terms of houses built. It may be a difficult matter at this stage in which to compute targets and opportunities—
§ Mr. Wolrige-Gordon
I am sure the hon. Gentleman will be able to make his points a little later. What we need in Scotland is more houses ever more attractively and conveniently sited. I hope that this will prove to be the general impact of the Bill. Therefore, we should be stringent in our attention to see that this happens.
§ 7.5 p.m.
§ Mr. Peter Doig (Dundee, West)
When the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for Scotland first said that he intended to introduce an overall rent rebate scheme for the whole of Scotland. I asked him whether it would be based on the best of the existing rent rebate schemes. He replied that he could make no promises. Therefore, I should like to examine the rent rebate scheme in the Bill and to compare it with some of the existing schemes.
First, it lays down in Schedule 2 a minimum weekly rent of£1 or 40 per cent. of the weekly rent, whichever is the greater".Therefore, the lowest it can possibly be is £1. The minimum laid down in the S.S.H.A. scheme, which is probably the most comprehensive scheme operating at the moment, is 35p per week. But the £1 in the Bill will not be the minimum for long because it is obvious that, if rates are pushed up, the figure of 40 per cent. will very quickly overtake the figure of £1. The average rent in my constituency at the end of the five-year period averaged over all the corporation houses has been estimated by the city chamberlain to be well over £4 a week.
The worst feature of this rent rebate scheme is that rents may increase even for people who enjoy rebates. Such an increase can take place without any increase at all in income. Let us take, for example, a couple with an income of £10 per week and a rent of £1.50 who at present pay 12p under the S.S.H.A. If the rent increases to £4, such a couple, having the same income, will have to pay 72p. As proof of this statement, one has only to turn to page 11 of the White Paper where the tables of rent are set out. The table shows the effect of the scheme on tenants with various financial and family circumstances at different levels of standard rent. I understand it is possible to have a nil rent, although I 1013 should like to know what circumstances are envisaged in which anybody would pay a nil rent. Certainly a married couple with an income as low as £10 a week would not have a nil rent.
§ Mr. John Brewis (Galloway)
If the hon. Gentleman looks at the opposite page, he will find the matter fully explained.
§ Mr. Doig
I will study that later. The income would need to be tiny indeed to qualify for a nil rent. The couple on £10 per week gross income at the end of the five-year period, if the rent goes up to £4, will be paying some 72p.
If we compare the situation with the S.S.H.A. system, we find a number of anomalies. Let us again take the married couple with no children whose income is £10 a week. Under that scheme, if their rent is £1.50, they start off at 12p. When the rent goes up, so does the amount they pay—even though their income is only £10 per week. Under the S.S.H.A. scheme, with the same income, they would pay 57p regardless of how much the rent rises over the next five years.
Let us take another example involving a married couple on £20 a week. If their rent was £1.50, then they would pay a sum of £1.50. If the rent goes up to £4 a week, they will have to pay £2.70. Under the existing S.S.H.A. scheme, such a souple would pay only £2.17 third example is of the couple earning £25 a week and paying a rent of £1.50. If the rent goes up to £4, as it will, although their income will not increase, their rent will go up to 0.55, a substantial increase.
From those examples it will be seen that there is something wrong with the principle on which the scheme is based. It is certainly different from any scheme that I know and different from the expert advice given to the Government. The Chairman of the S.S.H.A. recently wrote a letter to his tenants and one part, heavily underlined in the Brownlie Report, says:I would stress that those of you who are in receipt of a rebate will find that your rent remains unchanged when the rent goes up.The Dundee Corporation scheme operates similarly, so that rebated rents do not change provided that income does not change, regardless of how much the gross rent increases.
1014 The Brownlie Report says:Tenants receiving rebate will not therefore be affected at all by any increases in standard rents, though what they will pay will, of course, be affected by any change in their own circumstances.The Brownlie Report was authorised and presumably paid for by the Government and it says that once a rebated rent has been fixed, it will not be increased if there is no increase in income. The chairman of the S.S.H.A. takes the same view, and so does every other scheme that I know. Strangely enough, even the Secretary of State has taken that view. During the debate on the reform of housing finance in Scotland, he said:It is clearly desirable to have a standard scheme combining the best features of such schemes.The scheme proposed in the Bill is contrary to all known existing schemes. Plainly, in all fairness the Government should reconsider it in principle.
In the S.S.H.A. scheme, if a son or daughter is earning and living with the family and is over 20, there is an increase of 25p a week in the rent. Under the Bill, that will be increased to £1.50. Under the S.S.H.A. scheme, if a wife is earning, the rent is increased by 25p a week. Under the Bill, the wife's full earnings will be added, less the first £2.50. In almost every respect the proposed scheme is far worse than existing schemes. How can the right hon. Gentleman say that he wants a scheme that is fair and as good as existing schemes when this is bad in principle, worse than existing schemes, contrary to the advice of all the experts and contrary to what the right hon. Gentleman himself said when in that debate he said:… rents will increase only for those who can afford the increase."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, Scottish Grand Committee, 27th July, 1971; c. 6–8.]If it is now calculated that someone can afford a rebated rent of only £1.50, how can it be fair to ask him to pay £4 a week on the same income? That must clearly be wrong and I hope that the right hon. Gentleman will have the good sense to reconsider it.
What will be the effect of rebates for the tenants of private houses? As an excuse for taking rebates from council tenants it is said that to do so will relieve the burden on other ratepayers. What 1015 burden will be relieved if private tenancy rents are allowed to go up and rebates are paid to private tenants? I do not believe that anyone would be so wildly imaginative as to suggest that the effect would be to bring rents down. Because of the bad condition of many private houses, many landlords already find it difficult to get any rent at all. But if rebates are offered, people will be prepared to pay more.
That will not relieve the ratepayers, but it will subsidise owners of private property who, nine times out of ten, have done nothing to improve it for many years. Those landlords will be subsidised at the expense of the ratepayers, unless there is strict control over the rents of old houses and other safeguards on rebates for the tenants of private houses.
The White Paper says that home ownership is being encouraged and helped. That is certainly true. The Secretary of State spoke about £7 million for owner-occupiers and £70 million for council tenants, but the former figure includes the amount allowed to owner-occupiers in what is known as the millionaires' square mile of Dundee. Nobody would suggest that they require rebates.
The people to be considered are the young couples looking for a house when they get married. They have two alternatives. They may apply to get a council house, for which they will have to pay a high rent, or they may buy a house. To do so they will have to struggle and to stint themselves for many years, because normally a house bought by such a young couple will be paid for over at least 25 years. They will have to put down a considerable sum as an advance and to meet legal fees and so on. On a house costing £5,000, say, they will have to scrape together about £1,000 and borrow £4,000. The value of that house will increase by more than 60 per cent. in ten years, which for them is a form of saving even if they have to struggle. They will get a tax relief of £80 a year.
Many people doubted my figures when I quoted my own case. I used to be a council house tenant and I got a subsidy of £38 a year. When I became an owner-occupier I got a subsidy of £100.
1016 Apparently hon. Gentlemen opposite approve of the £100 a year subsidy because it is called a tax rebate, but they do not approve of the £38 a year subsidy because it is a council house tenant subsidy.
§ Mr. Galbraith
Has the hon. Gentleman considered that, as the owner of a private house, he is responsible for its upkeep, whereas, as a council tenant, he has no such responsibility?
§ Mr. Doig
I have certainly considered that angle. I have also considered many other angles. I am pointing out that in the past that figure was doubted. In case anybody still doubts it, I have brought some further evidence.
The Cumbernauld Development Corporation, when I visited it back in 1964, issued this document to everybody who came along. It sets out what people can get. On a house costing £4,000 one can get tax relief of £89 a year. On a house costing £4,475 one can get tax relief of £99 a year. It gives all the figures. It is here if anyone wants to examine it. That was in 1964. It will be much bigger now.
If there are any further doubts about it, I suggest that we look at the Government's Option Mortgage Scheme. That also sets out how much it is worth. It is worth considerably more than I suggested. This will stand up to any examination if anybody doubts it. The subsidy, in the form of tax relief, which goes to an owner-occupier is greater than the subsidy which goes to a council house tenant. There is no means test for the tax relief or interest reduction. It is given regardless of means. That is not so with the council house tenant.
If a wealthy man wants an improvement grant he can get it. In some cases wealthy firms, as I found out when I was on the Dundee Corporation, were given improvement grants. Some of these firms had far more money than the Dundee Corporation. One was the Imperial Tobacco Company. When we examine this situation we realise how farcical the Government's whole philosophy becomes. They have got into their head that the council house tenant is pampered.
A further point to consider is that, as the costs of new houses go up year by year, council tenants find that their rents 1017 are increased to help pay for the new, more expensive houses. That does not happen to an owner-occupier. If a man is fortunate enough to buy a house at a low figure, no flatter how much costs increase afterwards for others buying houses, his cost remains the same. So the council house tenant loses out whichever test we apply. Therefore, the excuse put forward by the hon. Member for Glasgow, Hillhead (Mr. Galbraith), that an owner-occupier has to pay for his own repairs, wears a wee bit thin when one examines all the evidence.
Let us consider again the Tory Rent Act of 1957. That was the worst housing Act to be put on the Statute Book. But this Measure is even worse, so that is really saying something. We were told that the purpose of the 1957 Act was to produce more houses to rent. We were told that speculators would build more houses to rent. Where are they? There is none in Glasgow, there is none in Edinburgh, there is none in Aberdeen and there is one in Dundee. I have not yet found it, but I am told that there is one in Dundee.
The reasons given for passing vicious legislation never work out in practice. They will not work out in practice in this instance. Far from being justice, as the Government say, there is no justice in this Measure. It is simply hitting at the council tenant all the time. Who are the council tenants? In nine cases out of 10, they are the lower paid workers. These are the people who become council tenants. This is another method of hiding Tory failure to build houses. They always drop the number of houses which are being built. They promise big targets in their election addresses, but they never produce them. So, to hide this fact, they deviate on to something quite different. We find, when we examine the results, that they invariably hit hardest at the poorer sections of the population.
Consider what the effects will be in a few years. If one-quarter of rent rebates are to be paid by the local authority, imagine how rent rebates will escalate. When rents escalate, as they undoubtedly are doing and will continue to do, this process will be accelerated. They will have to make up the rebates not only on municipal houses, but on privately owned houses. There will be a direct subsidy 1018 to the owners of antiquated properties who have done very little to look after them. This is what the Bill proposes. I sincerely hope that it will never reach the Statute Book.
§ 7.27 p.m.
§ Mr. Iain Sproat (Aberdeen, South)
Unike the hon. Member for Dundee, West (Mr. Doig), I welcome the Bill almost without reservation. I have one small reservation to which I shall come later.
The Bill is compounded of compassion, on the one hand, and common sense on the other—two qualities which should characterise all Tory policy. The compassion is absolutely undeniable, because, contrary to what was said by the hon. Member for Dundee, West, private tenants in rented accommodation are poorer on average than council house tenants. It is no use the hon. Member for Dundee, West saying that council house tenants are always the poorer section of the community. The figures show that the average yearly income of those private tenants whom we are hoping to help is £1,100, whereas for council house tenants it is £1,400. Therefore, this seems a clear act of compassion in assisting people who are worse off by £300 a year than the average council house tenant. This is a very large percentage difference.
§ Mr. Ronald King Murray (Edinburgh, Leith)
Will the hon. Gentleman disclose the source of the information which he has just given?
§ Mr. Sproat
From an Answer to a Parliamentary Question. If the hon. and learned Gentleman cares to look at the debate in the Scottish Grand Committee in July he will find that these statistics were fairly well bandied about and were not challenged at the time. However, I got these figures in answer to a Parliamentary Question.—[Interruption.] If the right hon. Gentleman was there he certainly did not challenge them. In any case, they came in answer Ito a Question. I will certainly withdraw these figures if they are shown to be wrong, but they were not shown to be wrong at the time.
§ Mr. Douglas
I did not want to interrupt the hon. Gentleman at the beginning of his speech. However, he will recall that my hon. Friend the Member for Bothwell (Mr. James Hamilton) challenged his statistics. I may be wrong.
§ Mr. Sproat
I have the quotation here. The hon. Gentleman is right in saying that the hon. Member for Bothwell challenged me at the time—but on another point. If I remember rightly, he said that 41 per cent. of people in Scotland had a wage of less than £24 a week. I accepted that figure and pointed out that that meant that 59 per cent. had a wage of more than that amount. It was a question of calling the bottle half empty or half full.
In reply to the question which was called out by the hon. and learned Member for Edinburgh, Leith (Mr. Ronald King Murray) yes, they are Scottish statistics. Speaking from memory, the difference is that in England the average earnings of council house tenants are £1,420, not £1,400.
The discrepancy between the earnings of council house tenants is one of the best reasons for introducing the note of justice mentioned by my hon. Friend the Member for Glasgow, Cathcart (Mr. Edward Taylor). I quote now some British figures: 38 per cent. of council households draw in between £30 and £40 a week; 16 per cent. draw in between £40 and £50; 8 per cent. of council households draw in more than £50 a week. Therefore, almost one in four of all council households has a weekly income of more than £40 a week. It is compassionate to differentiate between the top 25 per cent. and the bottom 25 per cent. We all wish that the bottom 25 per cent. had a greater income, but, as they do not, we should recognise it and try to help those who have the smaller income.
Although these are British figures, the present differential between average Scottish wages and average English and Welsh wages is not as great as the right hon. Member for Kilmarnock (Mr. Ross) illustrated. It is now running at about 4 per cent., less than half what it was a decade ago.
1020 I therefore believe, as I have said, that common sense and compassion alike demand that we be selective in the use of the finance which is available for housing. That is exactly what the Bill does. That selectivity is based on the very best of reasons—namely, as my hon. Friend the Member for Glasgow, Hill-head (Mr. Galbraith) said, quoting the old Socialist dictum, "From each according to his ability, to each according to his need".
The situation today is, first, that more houses are falling into slum conditions; second, existing slums are not being demolished sufficiently quickly; third, people in real need are not receiving help; and, fourth, people not in real need are receiving help. In other words, to encapsulate it, for too long too many council house tenants have been paying too little and for too long too many ratepayers have been paying too much.
Some of the indignation which has been expressed by hon. Members opposite today and on occasions outside the House is both spurious and synthetic, as so much of what the Bill seeks to do is based upon an analysis which was set out in their own White Paper, "The Housing Programme 1965–70".
If the analysis that I have mentioned is true of Great Britain in general, it is also true of Scotland in particular. In addition to those British ills, Scotland must bear extra ills because, if there are appalling slums in Great Britain as a whole, Scotland has the worst slums in Great Britain, the worst over-crowding in Great Britain, and the most ludicrous level of rents in Great Britain. On average we in Scotland pay 81p rent less per week than do tenants in England. Thus, a council house tenant pays about 57 per cent. less in rent. It cannot be said that a council house tenant receives 57 per cent. less in wages. In fact, he receives 4 per cent. less in wages. The Bill seeks to put right this great differential.
Scotland has the worst record of private ownership of the whole of Great Britain. Still only 25 per cent. of Scottish houses are in private hands, as against the figure for England and Wales of 51.6 per cent. Today I was glad to receive an Answer from my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State regarding current private building. I congratulate him on the statistics he was able to tell me, showing that 1021 32 per cent. of all houses started in the quarter ending 30th September, 1971 were for private owners, as against only 21 per cent. in the quarter ended 30th June, 1970, when we came to power. This increase of over 50 per cent. is greatly to be welcomed.
None the less, although I congratulate my right hon. Friend on the figure of 32 per cent. for Scotland, the comparable figure for Wales is 61 per cent., so we still have a long way to go. Unfortunately, I cannot give the English figure, because the Department has not yet been able to supply it.
§ Mr. Robert Hughes (Aberdeen, North)
Regarding this large increase in percentage of starts, is the 32 per cent. in absolute numbers bigger than the number represented by the 21 per cent. the hon. Gentleman mentioned? Is the percentage increase due to the smaller number of houses built by this Government?
§ Mr. Sproat
I cannot give the hon. Gentleman the answer, because I received this statistic only a few minutes ago. The hon. Gentleman is at liberty to table a Question about the numbers of houses. I tabled a Question about the percentages. I am glad that the percentage is rising, but I want it to rise even faster.
§ Mr. Robert Hughes
It is not good enough for the hon. Gentleman to quote statistics in the House and then congratulate his right hon. Friend on an achievement when it is obvious that the hon. Gentleman has no idea what achievement he is congratulating the right hon. Gentleman on. The hon. Gentleman must know what he is talking about before quoting statistics in that way.
§ Mr. Sproat
I do not agree with the hon. Gentleman. On the other hand, if the day ever dawned when I did agree with him, no doubt Aberdeen would be very surprised.
I greatly welcome the Bill because it can fairly be said to be the most important housing reform of the century and a massive step forward in social justice. My one small reservation concerns the question of furnished private rented accommodation. I wish that it was possible to take furnished accommodation into the scope of the Bill on much the same lines as unfurnished accommodation has been taken in. I 1022 raised this point in the Scottish Grand Committee and afterwards I received a letter from my right hon. Friend about it.
I have looked through the English debates and closely studied the answers which my right hon. Friend the Minister for Housing and Construction gave to hon. Members. The right hon. Member for Fulham (Mr. Michael Stewart) made some sensible points on this question.
I know that there are difficulties about bringing in furnished accommodation. A number of grounds have been given. My right hon. Friend the Minister for Housing and Construction stated in July that the first ground was that… four out of ten furnished dwellings … involve sharing facilities between landlord and tenant.This is almost certainly true. I have spent my entire working life living in private furnished rented accommodation. That is a pretty fair proportion judging from my own experience of sharing facilities. However, this is no reason for rejecting bringing furnished accommodation within the scope of the Bill. It involves no great difficulty. If one has to share a bathroom, a lavatory or a staircase, this is just one of several factors to be weighed in the balance when deciding whether one is prepared to pay the price asked for the accommodation. It is an inconvenience, but there are many other inconveniences which the Bill covers and which are found in unfurnished accommodation.
Even as we hold this debate secretaries are trudging the streets of London looking at rooms in various houses and weighing in the balance whether the sharing of facilities is worth the price they are asked to pay. If the simplest girl secretary can make such a decision, the Government should be able to find a way to include furnished accommodation in the scope of the Bill.
The second major argument put forward by my right hon. Friend against my proposition was that… it is difficult to define the difference between letting and lodging.I disagree. Speaking entirely as a layman, I think that the difference between lodging and letting is that a lodger is expected to fit into the family arrangements whereas a tenant only does not expect so to fit in. If a landlady knows the difference, it should not be beyond 1023 the wit of the Government to articulate the difference.
In any case, I understand that in Scottish law there is a legal distinction between letting and lodging, which could be brought into play if my right hon. Friend accepted my proposal.
A third argument against including furnished accommodation was:it is difficult to reach a valuation of structure and furniture.It is possible to value the room without the furniture. This could form the basis. But in any case, it is no more difficult to value furniture and its appeal as part of a house than it is to value the paint on the walls or the smallness of the kitchen or the inconvenience of the lavatory. These are all factors to weigh when considering whether to take a flat. Many a weary hour I have spent trudging the streets of London weighing up whether a furnished room with a few sticks of furniture was worth a few shillings a week more than an unfurnished room. It is a simple calculation which hundreds of people make every week. If it is possible for anyone to be in that position, again, surely the Government can legislate about this.
The last reason that my right hon. Friend put forward was:The population dwelling in furnished accommodation is largely a floating population."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 19th July, 1971; Vol. 821, c. 1165.]I would not necessarily disagree with that, although I should be grateful for a quantified definition of "largely" and indeed of "floating"—when it is taken to mean how quickly a person leaves one set of rooms for another. But certainly I accept that there is a very quick turnover in this market.
However, surely the Bill could provide that the Clause relating to furnished accommodation would take effect only after three, six or 12 months. One could get rid of the whole question of a floating population in this way. I know that there are other difficulties, like security of tenure and so on, but although these are considerable difficulties, they are not insoluble. I hope that, by the time the Bill goes into Committee, my right hon. Friend will have found a way of getting around this difficulty.
1024 My right hon. Friend would be surprised if he knew how many people in my constituency had told me how much they agree with the Bill and its main effects, but how sorry they were that we could not do something for the furnished, privately-rented accommodation section.
Having said that, I welcome the Bill very much indeed and I am sure that it will make a tremendous contribution to the future social justice and indeed prosperity of Scotland.
§ 7.43 p.m.
§ Mr. Frank McElhone (Glasgow, Gorbals)
I listened with great interest to the Secretary of State, and, after studying the Bill carefully. I share the very strong views expressed in an excellent speech by my right hon. Friend the Member for Kilmarnock (Mr. Ross) that this is a violent and vicious Bill. It is also dishonest and possibly dangerous, because it will create a great deal of despair and resentment among the council tenants that it is supposed to assist.
I should like to draw attention to a speech by the Chancellor of the Exchequer and to one by the Under-Secretary of State during the White Paper debate in the Scottish Grand Committee. I have already had the pleasure of correcting the Secretary of State's speech today, and I have all the documents to ensure that there is no doubt about my quotations.
We are consistently told that the Bill will not save money for the Government. Winding up the debate in the Scottish Grand Committee on 29th July the Under-Secretary of State said:As for the general aims of the White Paper I want to make one thing absolutely clear, as my right hon. Friend did yesterday. The object of the White Paper is not to save money on housing."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, Scottish Grand Committee, 29th July, 1971, c. 96.]How does that square with the statement of the Chancellor of the Exchequer in the White Paper "New Policies for Public Spending":By the middle of the decade it is expected to lead to a saving in public expenditure on housing by £100-£200 million …"?As my right hon. Friend said, the figure for Scotland will probably be £10 million or £20 million.
§ Mr. Gordon Campbell
Could I deal with that point now, because I have dealt 1025 with it before and it may help the hon. Gentleman? What the Chancellor said last year was that if the present system had continued unchanged—I believe that, if hon. Members opposite had formed the Government after the last election, they too would have been looking at changes—it would have led to a very high figure some four or five years ahead. But, because the rate contribution is being decreased, that too means that the figure for total public expenditure will decrease. But that does not mean that the subsidies from the Government are to be reduced—and that is the conclusion which was being reached by hon. Members opposite. I think that I have made it clear today—the figures are in the Financial Memorandum—that the subsidies at present will be increased in total.
§ Mr. McElhone
I might be able to accept that and the statement that house building will not decrease if it were not for the statement, quoted in a debate on I8th November, 1969, of the Secretary of State for the Environment who, when in opposition, speaking at a forum in Westminster, said that the building of council houses would be curbed. That is the reason for the Bill. Local authorities will not continue to build at the present rate and there will certainly be a decrease. That is one of my accusations of dishonesty in regard to this Bill.
§ Mr. Gordon Campbell
May I interrupt the hon. Gentleman again? I have announced this afternoon that the steady downward trend in approvals since 1967—three years before the last Government left office—is now about to be reversed. For the first time since 1967, the approvals are about to go up in the public sector.
§ Mr. McElhone
The Secretary of State must be naive. He must be aware that, in Glasgow for instance, a retrograde Tory authority was in power from 1968 to 1971 and was responsible for a reduction in council house building. This was duplicated through most of Scotland. It was only with the upturn in Socialist fortunes at the last municipal elections that a policy of house building has been continued. I am surprised that the Secretary of State should make these 1026 interjections, which have no validity at all.
I said that I regarded the Bill as dangerous. This is because the first result must be an avalanche of wage claims because of the continuing increases in council house rents. I am sorry that the hon. Member for Glasgow, Cathcart (Mr. Edward Taylor) is not present, since one part of his constituency, the estate of Castle Milk, will resent this Bill very much.
The Government have not considered the social consequences of this expenditure on the housing account. By increasing rents at the pace they intend, they must create real damage to the social structure of many families and throw a burden on the social work departments which are already overworked because of the 141,000 unemployed. Anyone who listened to the social work director of Greenock on Saturday will know the serious implications for the social work departments in Scotland because of the pressure of the many unemployed.
It will certainly lead to many evictions from council houses. After several years of Tory Administration, when rents were increased year after year, we had a record 2,000 evictions from council house property in the last year of Conservative rule. At the time of the last valuation, council house values in Glasgow rose by 80 per cent. Has the right hon. Gentleman taken this into account when talking of an extra 50p to '75p a week?
§ Mr. Brewis
Is the hon. Gentleman aware that everything he is saying justifies a national rent rebate scheme to prevent the sort of evictions about which he is speaking?
§ Mr. McElhone
That is not so. What this Government will learn about housing, as they are learning about industry, is that once it is put on to the open market, tremendous difficulties are created, especially for poorer families. If the Prime Minister had any Christmas cheer he would resuscitate some of the lame ducks that he has recently allowed to die. After all, about 41 per cent. of the Scottish working population is earning £24 a week or less.
More than 50 per cent. of council tenants in Scotland will be enjoying rebates. This will place a tremendous problem on local authorities, especially if 1027 the unemployment figures continue to rise. Indeed, if they rise at their present rate, 100 per cent. of Scotland's population living in council houses will be receiving rent rebates.
Are hon. Gentlemen opposite aware that families now getting council houses in Glasgow must purchase their own cookers? Prior to 1968 this and similar amenities were provided. A cooker, either a gas or electric model, costs a great deal more in Scotland than in England. The £60 or £70 that must be found for this item must be added to the removal expenses that have to be borne by tenants coming out of a slum property.
I appeal to the Secretary of State to give certain assurances that might help, if only in a small way, to make the Bill more acceptable to my hon. Friends. For example, will he ensure that no local authority is allowed to increase rents unless a 100 per cent. mortgage scheme is available? In other words, because the real purpose of the Bill is to force people out of council property and on to the open market, there must be a guarantee of 100 per cent. mortgages to enable them to become owner-occupiers. At present the vast majority of them are unable to find the 10 per cent. deposit on even a £2,000 house, let alone the money needed to pay the conveyancing charges.
Because of the "branch factory" economy which has existed in Scotland for so long, resulting in people not having continuity of employment for more than five or six years, building societies are loath to give loans or mortgages. The lack of guarantee of employment will make it extremely difficult for the people affected by the Bill to become owner-occupiers.
May we have an assurance that the Bill will be so amended that no local authority will be allowed to make rent increases without implementing Section 3 of the Chronically Sick and Disabled Persons Act, 1970? I learnt in answer to a Question I tabled to the Secretary of State last week that although it is compulsory for local authorities to build accommodation for disabled persons under the 1970 Act, only three local authorities had so far complied with Section 3 since the Act came into operation. They are Coatbridge, Eyemouth and Inverness.
1028 I regret that the hon. Member for Glasgow, Cathcart is not in his place because he said that the cutting away of the allowance from exporting authorities of £14 a year for 10 years would be welcomed by Glasgow. That is nonsense. We in Glasgow have the privilege of watching the rebuilding of this great city. But to bring it up to the necessary standard to enter the 21st century means decanting about 200,000 of our population, bringing it down to between 750,000 and 800,000. This is the only way to plan the city with proper density ratios. On the fringe of the city we still have a density of 450 people to the acre, which is second only to Calcutta. We are now adopting proper ratios, due mainly to five-and-a-half years of Labour Government, during which time most of the new houses in my constituency were built, adopting the ratio of between 150 to 160 people to the acre.
This means exporting people. If there will not be fixed agreements between exporting and receiving authorities, the most desirable receiving authorities will be able to hold a city like Glasgow to ransom, with the result that the overspill scheme will fail. I therefore reject the assertion of the hon. Member for Glasgow, Cathcart that the cutting back of this allowance will be a boon for Glasgow. It will be nothing of the kind.
We have heard a lot about the poor property owner and how he is finding it difficult to maintain his property in the face of rising costs. We might accept that, but for certain facts. I was the victim of a vicious letter from the Factors and Property Owners Association when I was a member of the local authority. It said:Mr. McElhone is motivated by a natural prejudice against property owners.I wrote back saying "I am." Having been born and bred in an area like the Gorbals, I am bound to be of that view, especially when I recall reports of medical officers of health showing time and again that even the close-mouth did not have the statutory lick of whitewash. In many instances a single flat in this sort of tenement property has been sold for the price that the entire block cost originally.
The interiors of much of this accommodation was exposed by storm damage 1029 in 1968. On that occasion the Labour Government donated £6 million to the property owners of Glasgow. Most of that money will not be returned. It clearly exposed the inefficiency of the repair and maintenance work that should have been carried out by the owners of private property.
The 1968 storms also exposed the dangers of many of these properties being grossly under-insured, which not only saved the property owners a lot of money but represented a great hazard for the tenants. This and other abuses perpetrated by property owners have been exposed time and again. It was a sad day for many of them when the then Labour Government managed to do something to remedy the results of the iniquitous 1957 Act. The security of tenure which we gave to people in tenanted accommodation proved a real boon to many of my constituents.
Before people shed crocodile tears for property owners, let them look at the registers and see the thousands of properties that Glasgow Corporation had to demolish at the taxpayers' expense after the owners had been drawing rents on them for half a century or more. When it came to demolishing those properties, the owners absconded. Consider, for example, the part of my constituency that can be described as the greatest property-owning section of the City of Glasgow. Every person in that lodging house had his pockets full of signed deeds, bound in pink ribbon and bought for a penny each. Had it been otherwise, the property owners concerned would have been responsible for the demolition costs. Glasgow ratepayers are owed many thousands of pounds by these absentee landlords. The party opposite has always been the party of loyalties, and those people who complain about the rents must remember that it is only lack of investment that has meant the demise of these proporties.
What does the Bill give us? It gives us the truth about the party opposite. One truth about hon. Members opposite is their loyalty to their friends. They showed loyalty to their friends in selling the State pubs, which compensated the brewers for their support. They were loyal to friends of their, like Rank, in creating commercial radio, which will 1030 prove to be a bonanza. Now they are paying the property owners and speculators who have for so long been their supporters.
This is a thoroughly bad Bill. It does nothing at all for people in council houses and very little for those in private property. It has been brought in against a background of a very depressed economy. We read last week that the National Commercial Bank has this year allocated a sum of £800,000 in connection with further bankruptcies in Scotland. If that is not an indication of hard times ahead, I do not know what is. If the Secretary of State cares to study the report of the National Food Survey he will find that in Scotland we pay 5 per cent. more for food than is paid in the rest of the United Kingdom. These factors should be taken into account.
If the right hon. Gentleman persists in pushing through the Bill against the wishes of those on this side, against the wishes of all the local authority people to whom I have spoken, and certainly against the wishes of most council tenants in my area I predict that the cost of the burden on the social work departments will more than outweigh anything that the Chancellor of the Exchequer of this miserable Government ever attempted to save.
§ 8.3 p.m.
§ Mr. John Brewis (Galloway)
The hon. Member for Glasgow, Gorbals (Mr. McElhone) has a constituency which has been notorious in the past for very bad housing, but, as he himself said, he has been much influenced by these historic traditions. He has really not given the Bill a fair consideration. I do not see any reason for his assertion that it will result in a decrease in local authority house building. He says that it will mean difficulties for the lower income groups, but one of its purposes is to help those groups. I think that the difficulty with rents, if there is any, will come higher up the scale, and will affect more the man earning over £25 a week who has, perhaps, two children. He may feel a slight pinch, but even so I do not think that the proportion of earnings paid in rent will exceed 15 per cent. in any case. In looking at overseas examples of rents it is unusual to find a rent of less than about 20 per cent. of wages.
1031 I welcome the Bill's new approach to housing. The Labour Party provided increased subsidy in its 1966 housing Measure. The then Government certainly wanted a proportion of those subsidies to be devoted to financing rent rebate schemes but even today the schemes operated by local authorities are patchy, to say the least. I am glad that about 90 per cent. of local authorities have these schemes but, quite frankly, some of the schemes are not very satisfactory. The institution of a national rent rebate scheme will make for fairness between tenants of one local area and another and also for fairness between council tenants and private sector tenants.
The hon. Member for Dundee, West (Mr. Doig) spoke at some length about the rent rebate scheme and I agree that it is a little complicated, but if he looks at the Brownlie Report, which he quoted with approval as suggesting a more favourable rent rebate scheme, he may well find that he is wrong because the allowances there suggested in a model rent rebate scheme are often less favourable than those in the Bill.
I am not entirely happy that the allowance in the rent rebate scheme is sufficient for a one-parent family, where costs can be pretty big. I am also concerned that a sum of £1.50 is to be deducted for children over 18 in a family, whether or not they are in employment. If, on the other hand, supplementary benefit is paid they get credited with only 65p, so there is a deduction in respect of a child at home who is not bringing in any income. That situation seems to need looking at. Have the figures in the rent rebate scheme been carefully considered with the Supplementary Benefits Commission?
I welcome many of the new subsidies. They will tend to settle down after the first few years at about 75 per cent. of local authority expenditure. I presume that the remaining 25 per cent. of the amount to be borne by local authorities will be met in part by Government grants. If so, will local authority expenditure, which may well be much heavier in some areas than in others, be taken into account when the equalisation grant is worked out?
In Scotland we are not adopting for council houses the fair rent system provided 1032 for in the English Bill. Instead, we have the rates officer who is, I think, restricted to the private sector in his ascertainment of rents. What happens if the amount of rent of a council house gets out of line with and exceeds the rent of a similar private sector house? In England there is a rent scrutiny committee to deal with that problem.
The right hon. Member for Kilmarnock (Mr. Ross) approved, in a sotto voce growl, what is being done in slum clearance. We all know that the slums in Scotland are worse than they are in the rest of the United Kingdom. For example, Clydeside in 1970 had 7 per cent. of United Kingdom slums for a proportion of about 3.2 per cent. of the United Kingdom population. About 14 per cent. of private sector houses in Clydeside are in the category of slums, as opposed to 7 per cent. overall.
It is clear also that perfectly good houses in Scotland are becoming slums, and the process is not confined to the private sector. In the pamphlet, "House Management in Scotland, 1967", there are several photographs of well-maintained council estates and other council estates which, through bad environment, neglect, bad fencing and downright vandalism, need to have a great deal more spent on them to prevent them going down into the slum category. I welcome the housing expenditure subsidy, which will make a considerable contribution to expenditure by a local authority exceeding £6 more than the previous year. It gives an excellent opportunity for councils to clear up some of their less desirable council estates. Possibly that will have a snowball effect and the area will improve of its own accord.
There is also the slum clearance subsidy. Here we should note that in the last few years of the Labour Government the slum clearance programme was dwindling every year. In 1967 it reached a peak at 19,087 dwellings cleared, but every year down to 1970 the number cleared became smaller and smaller, and in that year it was only just over 17,000.
§ Mr. William Hannan
Even that was a great deal better than the best that the Conservative Government were doing.
§ Mr. Brewis
I said that slum clearance had reached a high point of 19,000 but 1033 was going down, and at that rate it will be a long time before the slums are cleared.
I understand that previously the slum clearance subsidy was attached to the house which was re-erected on the site. I welcome the change in the system which will enable a local authority to get back 75 per cent. of its loan charges incurred not only in clearing the site but also in ancillary expenditure, such as buying small businesses which are often found in such housing areas, and dealing with compensation in other matters like public undertakings, water pipes and so on. The change will be of great help in the slum clearance drive.
The rent allowance scheme will help to improve houses in the private sector. A landlord's first principle must be to see that the capital value of his property does not deteriorate. But that is exactly what has happend in Scotland. It is not surprising, when the average rent of a private sector house subject to a controlled tenancy is no more than 30p a week. It costs about £5 to get a tradesman to come and do repairs such as putting a slate on a high tenement roof. It has been impossible for the private landlord to do the necessary repairs.
One omission from the Bill that I regret is the improvement scheme for modernising houses, which has been valuable in the private sector. There has been an excellent take-up lately in the number of improvement grants. If it is the Government's policy to encourage improvement schemes they should see that all the local authorities in Scotland operate them. There are several local authorities in central Scotland, one or two of them Tory-controlled, I am sorry to say, which do not operate the scheme. If it is the Government's desire, as it should be, that the scheme should be operated, they should see that it is done by the local authorities.
There are other matters that the Government should consider in connection with the scheme. For example, why should they give an improvement grant to someone doing up a holiday home that he will occupy for only a few weeks in the year, when he has a perfectly good home in another part of Scotland'? Government money could be saved by not making grants in such cases.
1034 I welcome the Bill. It turns housing finance in Scotland on its head exactly as the right hon. Member for Bermondsey (Mr. Mellish) said during the General Election campaign it was his intention to do. I am only sorry that the Bill has not had a better welcome and received more understanding from Labour right hon. and hon. Members.
§ 8.16 p.m.
§ Mr. David Lambie (Central Ayrshire)
I thank the hon. Member for Galloway (Mr. Brewis) for drawing attention again to the fact that in Scotland the Bill is taking us towards a true rent situation and that in this respect it differs from the Government's Bill for England and Wales, which goes immediately into the fair rent system.
The hon. Member for Glasgow, Cathcart (Mr. Edward Taylor) congratulated the Secretary of State on achieving this differential between Scotland and England, but the Secretary of State cannot move directly into the fair rent system, as his right hon. Friends have done in England and Wales, because of the political character of the Scottish nation. In England, where the majority of the people live in their own homes, the Government can get away with legislation which is an attack on council tenants and private property tenants. But in Scotland, where the majority of the people live in council houses, that policy would be political dynamite, and the Government are trying to introduce by stealth into Scotland the English system they are afraid to introduce today.
Therefore, it is not because of the Secretary of State's courage that we have this opportunity to move slowly into the English situation; it is because the overwhelming majority of the people of Scotland voted for Labour candidates. I ask the Government to put the matter to the test by allowing only Scottish Members to vote on this purely Scottish Bill tonight, and then it will be defeated by two to one. They will need to bring in their hordes from elsewhere to vote down the will of the Scottish people. We are debating the Bill knowing that we shall be defeated tonight.
The hon. Member for Glasgow, Hill-head (Mr. Galbraith) said that he believed that once the Bill is passed it will take the heat out of Scottish politics, because municipal rents have bedevilled 1035 Scottish politics for a number of years. But this is only the start of a campaign. The Scottish people will not give up lightly conditions and principles we established 65 years ago on Clydeside when, during the First World War, we had the rent restriction Act. If we are defeated here we shall need to do what the industrial workers have done in connection with other matters and go out on the streets.
The Government have claimed that this is a very fair, comprehensive Bill, and that it covers all sections of housing. It does not. There are three main housing sectors—council housing, private tenanted property and owner-occupied property. The Bill deals only with council tenants and private tenants. It does not deal with owner-occupiers. It is therefore a piece of class legislation. It is an attack by the Tory Government on tenants in Scotland who vote for Labour candidates. Council house and tenanted areas are represented by Labour Members.
It makes me sick when I hear an old reactionary like the hon. Member for Glasgow, Hill head—and I am sorry that he is not present—quoting the Communist philosophy,From each according to his ability, to each according to his need".It reminds me of the statement made by the Catholic priest in my constituency, "Beware of the man who carries a big bible, because the bigger the bible the bigger the rogue." I say, "Beware of the arch Tory who quotes Communist philosophy to justify the actions of a Tory Secretary of State."
The Bill is an attack on people who can least afford to be attacked. The Government have said that it will be a godsend to the private tenant. They say, "We shall increase his rent, but in order not to be too hard on him we shall give him a big rent rebate and the landlord and the tenant will be happy". In Scotland 50,000 houses have controlled rents. In three years those houses will be taken out of the controlled sector and put into the fair rent sector. The average rent of these houses is £16 a year—30p a week. It will be increased out of all proportion to the increases paid by council house tenants.
The Francis Committee was set up to investigate the working of the Rent Act. 1036 Although its remit related solely to England and Wales, it considered the position in Scotland. It said that rent officers in Scotland could not apply the fair rents policy because of low council rents. The tenant in private property has been protected in the past because of low council rents.
The 50,000 controlled houses are the oldest houses in Scotland. Usually they have an outside toilet, and no hot water or bathroom. They should have been pulled down years ago. They are to be taken out of rent control and put into the fair rents system. Their rents will be settled by the rent assessment committees. I know that these committees were set up by a Labour Government and that they consist of three people—a person representing the landlord, a person representing the tenant and a neutral person. In my experience, all the neutral people are Tories—even those appointed by my right hon. Friend the Member for Kilmarnock (Mr. Ross). The committees are loaded against the tenant.
In three years, the rents of these houses will increase by 400 per cent. The Under-Secretary of State for Development may question that figure, but I refer him to the reply given to a Question tabled by my hon. Friend the Member for Coat-bridge and Airdrie (Mr. Dempsey) relating to a house in his constituency whose controlled rent was £34 a year. The rent fixed by the rent assessment tribunal was £220 a year—an increase of over 400 per cent. This is the situation which will face people in privately rented houses, mainly in the city of Glasgow. Private tenants will be harder hit than municipal tenants.
The Government say that a rent rebate will be given. But the rebate will not be based on present rents. The Government will say to the tenant, "Your rent is now £5. We shall give you a rebate of £1. Therefore, you will pay £4". But the tenant might have been paying only 30p a week. The average rent of a local authority house in Scotland is £74 a year, or £1.42 a week. According to the Government figures, in 1975–76 the average rent in Scotland will go up to £160, or £3.50 a week. Every council tenant in Scotland will face a doubling of his rent. This will apply throughout the system.
What will happen to Scottish Special Housing Association tenants? The hon. 1037 Member for Glasgow, Cathcart shed crocodile tears about the differences between a person who stays in a Scottish Special Housing Association house and the person who stays in a local authority house. According to the figures, the average rent of a S.S.H.A. house in Scotland is £93.78. In 1975–76 it will have jumped to £20453. S.S.H.A. tenants' rents will double and will be above the average municipal rent.
The Under-Secretary of State must call a halt to rent increases for S.S.H.A. tenants, in order to be fair to them, until the rents of other tenants reach their level.
§ Mr. Younger
The hon. Gentleman should have made these points to the Labour Government, who doubled rents without introducing any rent rebate scheme. What does the hon. Gentleman say about that?
§ Mr. Lambie
I shall leave the people responsible for that policy to answer at the end of the debate. I am answering only for myself.
The rent structure for the new town of Irvine in my constituency has been the pacesetter for the now rent levels in Scotland. There are rents of £16 a month for four-apartment houses on the large Pennyburn Estate, plus a rate contribution of about £4. In the Irvine new town there are rent levels equivalent to those we shall have in Scotland once we have moved to, not the true rent system, but the fair rent system. In order to be fair to tenants in Pennyburn the Under-Secretary of State must tell the Irvine Development Corporation to call a halt to further increases because its rents are 90p a week above the general level of rents for municipal houses which will operate in Scotland in 1976.
People in Pennyburn and Irvine will be faced, if this formula is continued, with paying double rents. They will he faced soon with a monthly rent increased to about double what they are paying at present, that is from £16 up to £32. Therefore I am asking the Under-Secretary of State to give an assurance that people who have no protection from the new town corporation will be given some protection.
I am hurrying along because time is short and I know others would like to speak, but I would like to ask the Gov- 1038 ernment why they are not dealing with the owner-occupier. Why do they want to apply their Communist philosophy only to council tenants? Why should not their Communist philosophy apply to owner-occupiers? I propose to give some United Kingdom figures. The Secretary of State, remember, gave Scottish figures. When we go to the Secretary of State about other issues and ask him to consider Scotland he tells us to remember that Scotland is part of the United Kingdom. I shall quote United Kingdom figures. What is the position? Owner-occupiers in the United Kingdom get an annual subsidy of £300 million; the council tenants get an annual subsidy of £200 million; the average owner-occupier gets a subsidy of £60 a year in income tax remission; the average council tenant gets a subsidy of £39 per year. If the Government are to be fair, and cut down the subsidy to the council tenants, why do they not do the same to their friends who stay in their own houses, the owner-occupiers?
My hon. Friend the Member for Dundee, West (Mr. Doig) quoted figures for 1964. Take the figures today. The present rates of interest are much higher now than they were in 1964. We find that on average for a £4,000 mortgage the owner-occupier now receives £140 back per year in income tax remission. If he covers his mortgage with an endowment on his life he gets another £36, a total subsidy of £176 a year. That is why the total figure is now up to the staggering sum of £300 million. With the open-ended commitment to owner-occupiers, which they now have, that figure will be double what it is at the present moment. I ask the Under-Secretary when he winds up to tell us why the Government are dealing only with council tenants, dealing with tenants only in the rented sector, and not attacking the owner-occupier. Because the owner-occupier is a much more expensive item in housing finance than is either the council tenant or the private tenant.
This is where my right hon. Friends did not realise the problem and the solution to the problem. If we are to solve the problem we cannot do it by the method which the Government are using or trying to use. We cannot do it by the method which my right hon. Friends tried to use from 1964 to 1970. We can do it only by attacking the cost of money, and 1039 the real situation where a local authority building a house costing £5,000 at current rates of interest pays at the end of the loan period £26,788. When we get a situation like that we realise that we cannot solve the problem of house building by paying such rates of interest.
§ Mr. Younger
On a loan under the present system the interest is effectively pegged at 4 per cent. That is the point of it.
§ Mr. Lambie
I am not arguing that the Labour Government did not peg interest. That is one of the good things they did. What the Under-Secretary does not seem to realise is that I am arguing that, no matter what method we use, paying nearly £27,000 for a £5,000 house must lead to financial disaster.
I ask the Government to scrap this Bill and to look again at the problem of housing finance and to bring down the rates of interest to 1 per cent. or 2 per cent. If we do that we shall help the owner-occupier, we shall help the council tenant, we shall help the local authority, we shall help the private owner, and help to build all the houses we need; but if we continue to charge at these rates of interest for the construction of houses we shall never solve the problem. I ask the Government to look again at this and to get down to the fundamentals. Only by doing that shall we solve the problem.
§ 8.35 p.m.
§ Mr. W. H. K. Baker (Banff)
I do not wish to comment on what was said by the hon. Member for Central Ayrshire (Mr. Lambie) except to deprecate most strongly the slur he cast on the impartiality and integrity of members of rent tribunals. He did this House a considerable disservice in making those remarks.
Unlike hon. Members on the Opposition benches, I welcome the Bill if for no other reason than that it will undoubtedly bring about a considerable correction in the imbalance between council house building and private house building. I have long thought that it was nonsense that housing subsidies should be administered as a blanket subsidy for all houses. It will certainly be much fairer to relate the subsidy to the needs of the occupier of the house rather than to the house itself.
1040 I well remember the now retired County Treasurer of Banff saying to me many years ago that he could not understand the justification for paying subsidy on a house, when as many as four occupants of the house might be earning, whereas next door the occupier might be living in almost impecunious circumstances. Anything which tends to right that situation is to be welcomed, and I am sure that the Bill will go some way towards doing that.
The other main reason why I welcome the Bill is that, in spite of what has been said from the Opposition benches, there will be a considerable lessening of the general rate burden in Scotland. A comparison of the rate fund contributions and Government subsidies for new building between the United Kingdom, including Scotland, and Scotland shows that under the present system in the United Kingdom as a whole the rate fund contribution is about 36 per cent. and in Scotland it is about 56 per cent. for the total housing subsidies. This underlines the disparity between council house building and private house building, which the Bill will remedy and so help all ratepayers in the long run.
My hon. Friend the Member for Glasgow, Cathcart (Mr. Edward Taylor) spoke about the rent rebate system as it will be applied to tenants of privately-owned unfurnished accommodation. It is extremely important that these tenants should be dealt with fairly. Many of them are elderly and live on a small fixed income. Their small fixed income should be, if not ignored, downgraded, so that they get a fair crack of the whip. Unlike hon. Members on the Opposition benches, I think that the Bill will result in a great deal of improvement being made to such accommodation.
Hon. Gentlemen opposite have been complaining that rents will go up. So they will in certain cases, that is undeniable. But in my constituency there are 12 housing authorities from which I have had only one letter about the Bill and the White Paper—
§ Mr. Douglas
The local authorities have not had time to study the Bill; it was published only on 9th November.
§ Mr. Baker
The hon. Gentleman has forestalled what I was about to say. Local authorities have had little time 1041 as yet to study the Bill; nevertheless, I have had only one letter since it was published, and that was on a technical matter which I am thankful to say my hon. Friend was able to clear up quickly.
I am sorry to have to accuse my hon. Friend of parsimony. If he will look at Schedule 2 on pages 64 and 65 of the Bill he will find that the exceptions in the income of a tenant under paragraph 2(g) refer to war disablement pensioners and industrial disablement benefit procedure. I must declare an interest here, because I receive a war disablement pension. The Schedule says that £2 will be disallowed in respect of those items. This smacks of parsimony. Why cannot the whole of the war disablement pension or industrial disablement benefit be taken into account? It is a pretty mean way of looking at things and I hope that, before we get into Committee my right hon. Friend will take another look at this.
The hon. Member for Glasgow, Gorbals (Mr. McElhone) referred to conveyancing and legal charges and I understood that if these came about as a result of changes in the Bill my right hon. Friend said they would be taken care of. Perhaps the Under-Secretary will give attention to this.
I reiterate my support for the Bill and hope that when we get down to it in Committee it will not be a protracted business as some hon. Gentlemen opposite have at least threatened.
§ 8.42 p.m.
§ Mr. Dick Douglas (Clackmannan and East Stirlingshire)
I shall try to be brief, because I recognise that a number of my hon. Friends also wish to speak. In my view, the major assumption behind the Bill and the White Paper is that the housing-problem in Scotland has been solved. That is absolute nonsense. The case being argued by the Government on the basis of the White Paper is that if, equating supply and demand over the whole of Scotland, people would move and adjust themselves to the housing supply situation, then everyone would be happy. That, too, is nonsense. The second assumption relates to freedom of choice, and blithely assumes that because some individuals have freedom of choice as to where they live, this can be extended to all.
1042 True, there are certain influences which aid mobility, but Ministers ought to recognise that, for the vast majority of people, where they work determines where they live. Even the owner-occupier has little say in his location or in the design and quality of the property.
In the White Paper it is said that it is the Government's intention to reform the system of housing finance to ensure that Government assistance is directed to those authorities and tenants in greatest need. But the method, used here is the same parcel as before—direct and indirect taxation, nationally redistributed, and local rates. The Government are selling this Bill and the provisions of the White Paper on the basis of a falsehood. They are selling it to the ratepayers on the basis that the rate burden will be removed. This is not so.
I am not saying that the Government statements do not show that there will, in major instances, be a 25 per cent. contribution to housing revenue over the whole field from the rates. But the salesmanship techniques relate to abolishing the rate subvention on housing revenue account. That is the sales technique. This is the falsehood. I have got into trouble with my colleagues because I have opposed the subvention of the housing revenue account by the rates because I believe that the rates are a bad way of redistributing income. This Bill continues that. If the Government introduce this Bill without reforming local government finance, which is a major obligation, they are perpetrating a falsehood.
§ Mr. Younger
I want to be clear about this. We have not said that we will remove the burden on the ratepayer; we will reduce it.
§ Mr. Douglas
That is a short-term consideration. In the long term there is an open-ended commitment, particularly with the subvention to private-tenanted property. I wish I had the time to quote the Government's figures and I hope that my hon. Friend the Member for Greenock (Dr. Dickson Mabon) will make use of Government statistics when he addresses the House. This open-ended commitment means that the total rate burden—not in percentage terms—can be high.
The argument against rate subvention revolves round the concept that rates are 1043 a regressive form of taxation. I quote from the Green Paper on the reform of local government finance, page 31, paragraph 3.7., which says:If an effective scheme reached up to about the average income, rates would cease to be regressive compared with most other taxes.If the Government applied their mind to solving this problem instead of making a vicious attack on local authority tenants, then major opposition to the subvention of the housing revenue account by the rates would be removed.
I turn to the disincentive nature of the rent rebate scheme. For instance, a man with two children whose wages rise from £20 to £25 loses nearly £1. So much for incentive. The same applies to a man with four children. If he moves from £30 to £40 it costs him £1.30. This is a severe disincentive effect for people trying to get wage increases and it is not conducive to redistributing incomes and ensuring that money goes to those in greatest need.
The argument about local housing expenditure is repeatedly put forward. We have heard from the right hon. Gentleman that we will not spend less money on housing in Scotland. If we look at the provisional figures in the public expenditure White Paper for 1970–71, housing expenditure is £230.8 million, the estimate for 1971–72 is £213.2 million and for 1975–76 the estimate is £221 million. That is being spread over a much broader area. It is a sum at constant prices, static over a much broader sphere. If that does not ensure that less houses will be built in Scotland, then the people in local council houses do not have the nous I believe them to have. This Bill is designed firstly to stop the building of local authority houses; secondly to force local authorities to raise rents on the basis of pooled historical cost; thirdly, to force local authorities to sell part of the existing stock of houses; and, fourthly, to create ghettoes, identifying the poor minority in municipal housing. That is what the Bill is designed to do and that is why we will resist it.
§ 8.50 p.m.
§ Sir John Gilmour (Fife, East)
If I had any doubts about supporting the Bill they have been removed by the last two speeches from hon. Members oppo- 1044 site. The hon. Member for Central Ayrshire (Mr. Lambie) and my constituent, the hon. Member for East Stirlingshire (Mr. Douglas), succeeded in convincing me that they have got hold of the wrong end of the stick. In Scotland, 50 per cent. of the houses are owned by local authorities. If, encouraged by my right hon. Friends, some of these houses can be sold to liberate money for local authorities to build more houses for those who really need the help of local authorities, we shall be doing something to help the people of Scotland.
The Bill is a far-reaching Measure. At a time when we were seeking a major reorganisation of local government and drastically reducing the number of Scottish housing authorities, I doubted whether we should bring in such far-reaching legislation, but almost all the hon. Members who have attended housing debates during the last 10 years will have seen both main parties trying to find some means of increasing the rents of local authority houses. Hon. Members on both sides of the House have always felt that unless we could devise a system of housing which was fair, with the burdens equally spread among the people of Scotland, anomalies would arise. That feeling has been voiced in this debate by hon. Members who have drawn attention to the much higher rents now being paid in the new towns, and for Scottish Special Housing Association houses, than for houses of other authorities, although in many cases the people concerned are earning the same amount of money.
An equitable rent rebate scheme, bringing in the private sector, would go a long way towards making housing available to more people in Scotland. That is what my right hon. Friend will be judged upon at the next election. He must stand up to that judgment when he goes to the polls the next time.
I suggest that we are looking forward to a time of somewhat greater prosperity, in which the increase in rents which has been going on all the time will be more easily met than in the past.
I was interested to read, in The Times of 30th November, a letter from the Director-General of the Port Authority of Marseilles, who, among other things, said thatone newly constructed industrial housing estate that may form a model for others contains 250 houses, with rents of about £7£8 1045 a week, each architecturally different from the others and collectively as pleasant and full of character as any traditional village; one might be forgiven for contrasting such an imaginative approach with that of the planners of, say, Cumbernauld or Hemel Hempstead.I do not accept that the design of the houses in Marseilles is better than that of the houses in Cumbernauld, which have received high praise.
§ Sir J. Gilmour
It would appear that people are happy to pay such rents if they have the earnings to enable them to do so. Are we to say that during the next 20 years the only sort of rent that we can see people paying is one of just over £1 a week? I do not think that we are looking forward to that. Local authority tenants often experience difficulty when they wish to move from one local authority house to another in a different area. No doubt this will be eased to a certain extent by the reduction in the number of housing authorities. For example, a man who ends his working life in the Rosyth dockyard may want to retire to a different area, but may find that no housing authority will accept him on its housing list because he has not lived in that area. There is an obvious need for greater mobility in housing and exchange of tenancies between one area and another. I hope that the provisions of the Bill will give an opportunity to do more in this direction than has been done in the past.
I believe the Bill starts off on the right lines. It is an imaginative way of trying to solve difficulties which we have faced for many years, and I thoroughly support it.
§ 8.56 p.m.
§ Mr. Harry Ewing (Stirling and Falkirk Burghs)
I am delighted to have this opportunity of taking part in the debate, even though it is so late in the evening, since I have the pleasure of following the speech of the hon. Member for Fife, East (Sir J. Gilmour), who happens to be my Member of Parliament.
I have listened to all the speeches in this debate, with the exception of two. The speeches of hon. Members on the other side of the House might lead one to think that all the people in Scotland are waiting with open arms to welcome 1046 the Bill. Nothing could be further from the truth. Local authority after local authority has described this Bill as the most vicious, vindictive piece of legislation the Government have tried to put on the Statute Book.
I have only a few minutes at my disposal and wish to speak only in general terms about the Bill. I wish to make two specific points. One concerns the inference that the Bill's provisions will make it easy for local authorities to sell their houses to council tenants. Frankly, this frightens me. I can foresee the day when local authorities include on their application forms a further question which asks the applicant whether he considers that some day he will be in a position to buy the house which is to be rented to him. I shudder to think what will happen if the applicant for a local authority house answers "No" to that question. I believe that one of the impacts of the Bill will be the creation of municipal ghettos all over Scotland and that this will happen if people are honest enough to declare that, in their opinion, they will never be in a position to buy the house which they wish the local authority to allocate to them.
Secondly, I wish briefly to refer to the plight of the owner-occupier and I hope that the hon. Gentleman will say something about this situation in his reply. My hon. Friend the Member for Central Ayrshire (Mr. Lambie) said that the Bill did not deal with the owner-occupier. I believe that it does deal with them, but rather unconsciously. I foresee that when next we have a property revaluation in Scotland—and it must be remembered that the rent of a property is based on what the rent would be in the open market—a municipal house may be valued as highly as £250 per annum, if it is to be based on the value of a semi-detached or detached bungalow elsewhere. In any future revaluation I foresee valuations being increased by a fantastic amount. Possibly this factor has been ignored, and this point has lacked publicity since the Bill was introduced.
I do not want to take more time, for I am conscious of the fact that both Front Bench speakers will need their full time to wind up the debate. However, I should like to congratulate the hon. Member for Fife, East on having rescued the Government from an embarrassing 1047 lack of speakers. I sympathise with them. It is the fault of the Scottish electorate, a fault which, according to the hon. Member for Glasgow, Hillhead (Mr. Galbraith), the Bill will rectify. I do not apologise for congratulating the hon. Member for Fife, East on rescuing the Government, although the Government failed to rescue him on the subject of sugar beet. I had to get that one in, but I know that the Government will accept it in the spirit in which it was given.
§ 9.0 p.m.
§ Dr. J. Dickson Mabon (Greenock)
We have had a most interesting debate on the housing position in Scotland and particularly on the Bill. I should like to congratulate my hon. Friends, including my hon. Friend the Member for Stirling and Falkirk Burghs (Mr. Ewing) on their speeches, which consistently have sought to probe the Bill, to criticise it and to discover what is defective in it, which of course has not been difficult.
Naturally, I expected the hon. Member for Glasgow, Cathcart (Mr. Edward Taylor)—and he did not disappoint me—to make a false allegation at the beginning of his speech and to proceed to ride every horse he could find in the circus in order not to lose any votes anywhere at any time. He is a man for all voters. But even if the horses were running in contrary directions, the little acrobat has done it again. I hope that the electors of Cathcart will look closely at that speech. Perhaps we should circulate it. They will see the nonsense of this kind of contribution.
The hon. Member for Cathcart relies for more than half his votes on electors who are not house owners, and if the Bill runs its full length and this Parliament runs its full length, he will find himself in an extremely embarrassing position. I predict—and that does not need much bravery—that he will be one of the first casualties at the next election. I do not believe that there are many who would disagree with that prediction. He made a false allegation tonight, as he is prone to do from time to time, and I had to refute at once.
I shall save the hon. Member for Glasgow, Hillhead (Mr. Galbraith) until the end, because I enjoy him most of all. He is the landlords' friend without blemish. He has done well for them and 1048 I am sorry that they have not made him an honorary member of the factors' and landlords' association of Glasgow, with a tin medal to boot. The hon. Member for Aberdeen, South (Mr. Sproat) made the best of the urban Tory speeches, not that there are many urban Tories. I acquit the county gentlemen, who have their own problems, although I shall touch on the speech of the hon. Member for Fife, East (Sir J. Gilmour) a little later. However, they have done their duty. But the three urban Tories have had to carry the heat and burden of the day.
I congratulate the hon. Member for Aberdeen, South on pointing out a major defect of the Bill, and he must have caused the Government Front Bench considerable embarrassment. I should like the Under-Secretary to recognise that we want an answer from him tonight to the comments of his hon. Friend. He may be able to ignore our criticisms and our comments—he is prone to do that and we all know it—but I want him to answer fairly and squarely what was said by his hon. Friend, not to promise to send him a letter, but to deal with his excellent argument about furnished tenancies and about the fictitious difference between letting and lodging.
We recently had a good debate about furnished tenancies and hotel building in London when it was said that we had to face the fact, which both parties have so far failed to face, that we have to do something more about furnished tenancies, about the control of their rents and about security of tenure. We may be asked whether we would describe a furnished tenancy as meaning more than two rooms in a house or perhaps even more than one room in a house, but that is not for me to say tonight. What I am asking the Under-Secretary to accept is that furnished tenancies are common in Scotland and are growing in number, particularly in cities which house students, and they are being exploited.
This is a problem which has to be considered. It is not just a matter of bringing these tenancies within the fair rent legislation of which we are proud, but that the system should be improved to embrace furnished tenancies. The hon. Member for Ayr (Mr. Younger) must not smile and beam his way out of this argument. The Rent Act, which we established, would have been revised by 1049 an amending Bill following the report of the Francis Committee. The hon. Gentleman has done no such thing. He has not even announced that the Government intend to amend the Act.
§ Mr. Younger
I did not get the impression that the hon. Member for Central Ayrshire (Mr. Lambie) was very proud of the Rent Act, but I agree with the hon. Gentleman.
§ Dr. Mabon
The hon. Gentleman likes to be proud of the Rent Act, even though his party fought against it. Look at the declarations of the right hon. Member for Kingston-upon-Thames (Mr. Boyd-Carpenter) and see how he treated that Bill in Committee. I hope that we shall treat this Bill a little more gently than the right hon. Member for Kingston-upon-Thames treated our Bill. It is now praised as a great Act. We are not content with that Act of Parliament. We give notice that we wish to amend it either in this Bill or in some other vehicle. The question of furnished tenancies, letting and and lodging, posed by a Tory Member, is one of the central questions to be asked in a debate on housing policy.
Let me turn to another of his points. The hon. Member for Aberdeen, South seemed to suggest that he is not an "as well as" man, but an "instead of" man, like the Government. When I say that, I mean that we want owner-occupied houses as well as council houses, as well as housing association houses, as well as co-ownership houses. In other words, no single house in one sector is exclusive of another house in any other sector.
The hon. Gentleman seemed to give the impression, by the answer which he read out with approval to his Question and the answer which he got on Friday about Wales, that he is more interested in proportions than absolute numbers. If I had been told that the absolute numbers were such that there were more houses for owner-occupation going up and substantially more council houses and that incidentally the proportion has changed, I should accept that he had a point. But when we know that these so-called proportionate answers conceal a falling programme—that cannot be denied I will come to the Secretary of State later—that shows that the Government are not concerned with being "as well as", but only "instead of".
1050 I will not go over all the speeches, but many hon. Gentlemen have made it clear in the country that this kind of rent tariff will drive out of council houses all those so-called dreadful people with high incomes who have the cheek to live in them. This is the theme which goes through many of their speeches. I bitterly resent the idea that there should be any attempt by the Government to substitute one house for another.
The hon. Member for Aberdeen, South—I will try to make the case—talked about the differentials in income. Perhaps he should look at "Housing in Clyde-side 1970", published by the Scottish Development Department. It is a very interesting contribution. I am indebted to my hon. Friend the Member for Glasgow, Maryhill (Mr. William Hannan) for drawing my attention to some important paragraphs in that document. It says:No individual tenure group has a relative preponderance of any one income group and no individual income group has a relative preponderance of any one tenure group. In short, though income varies between different tenure groups, the most striking point is the wide spread of incomes in each tenure…. Looking first at the Head of Household income, and reading cross-ways, there is a steady rise in the proportion of each group who are owner-occupiers, but with a significant 'jump' at the highest level. For public authority tenants there is a much less clear trend, but again a significant 'jump' at the highest level—this time downwards.This is one of the most important comments.
§ Mr. Brewis
In the same report the hon. Gentleman will find the words:What is more significant is that the average household weekly net income for public sector tenancies is £21 compared with only £16 in the private sector.Has he really read that report?
§ Dr. Mabon
First, let us know what we are talking about. These reports, including the reference made by the hon. Gentleman to his Question—he could not remember the date—on 21st April, 1971, have a variation of descriptions. In the Question and in some parts of the report there are references to head of household and to total household income. In some cases there is only one person in the house. In an earlier section the report states:Tenants of privately rented unfurnished dwellings are distinguished by high proportions of one-person households, the elderly and the lowest income groups.I admit that it is very arguable.
1051 We are completely at sea in trying to judge what the total amount of rent allowance will have to be. If it is true that tenants in privately rented properiy are worse off—I have said that it is arguable—they will require a very high level of rent allowance. That means that one-quarter will be paid for by the ratepayers and the so-called relief of the burden on the rates will not be as sanguine as the figures propounded by the hon. Member for Aberdeenshire, East (Mr. Wolrige-Gordon), no doubt faithfully reflecting the figures given to him by his hon. Friends. This is an open-ended, unknown quantity: none of us knows. None of us knows it, because we do not know what the fair rent system will do to controlled houses. We know only that all the rents will rise, because any house that is worth less than £25 is below the tolerable standard and, therefore, cannot qualify to come within the fair rent system.
The questions of furnished tenancies and of rent allowances to persons in private houses are also critical to the outcome of the Bill.
There is one important matter not in the Bill, namely a Clause dealing with the Housing Corporation, which is the source of encouragement for co-operative and housing society houses within the United Kingdom. I am sorry to have to tell the House—it is no reflection on the Corporation—that the total of cost-rent and co-ownership schemes approved as at 30th September, 1971, consisted of the following breakdown: for Great Britain, 855 schemes; for Scotland, 38 schemes: for Great Britain. 32,000 units; for Scotland, 1,500 units; of the £160 million committed, given by the last two Parliaments to the Housing Corporation, Scotland got £8 million.
I am not reflecting on this Government, nor on our Government, nor on the Housing Corporation. I merely say that there is something wrong with Scottish Ministers, Scottish local authorities and Scots generally that we are not promoting housing associations, which in Sweden supply one-third of the dwellings.
This is a much-neglected section. I give notice that I shall seek, on behalf of my right hon. and hon. Friends, to introduce a Clause into the Bill to give 1052 additional and specific money to the Housing Corporation for Scotland. In addition it must be recognised that housing associations will be in an intolerable situation, because there will be a gap between what they will get on fair rents and what they can get from the Corporation under this Bill.
The Housing Corporation should be encouraged not to have to go out and find individual building societies to back housing societies; it should be able to ask building societies to lend it the money in toto so that it can lend that money, in turn, to the housing societies.
This matter has not been sufficiently developed in the Scottish Bill. In the English Bill, much of it has, but some is defective. In the Scottish context it is dreadful that, having done so badly, we then proceed not to do as much as the English.
In case it be thought that I am being a little pejorative about the "instead of", as against the "as well as", school of housing thought, I want to quote from a non-political body—the Royal Incorporation of Architects in Scotland. Page 2 of its memorandum has a section which is headed:The planned increase of private speculative building in Scotland"—this is a very political statement, though I am not saying in the least that architects in Scotland are Conservatives—The Committee welcomes this"—that is, the planned increase of private speculative building in Scotland—though it is afraid that the pendulum may swing too far and one might have an overdevelopment of private housing with a consequent 'drying up' of local authority building programme, except in slum clearance development areas.Surely we can take a verdict from Scottish architects on this Bill, as not being overtly political. Surely that is fair comment—that there is a danger that the Bill may swing the other way and cause this to happen. Then we would be dealing with a Bill about finance, rather than housing. I suspect that we are dealing with such a Bill anyway. However, the Under-Secretary and his right hon. Friend protest that this is not so, and perhaps they will dwell on this a little more later.
My hon. Friend the Member for Dundee, West (Mr. Doig) made an excellent 1053 speech about rent rebates. Of course we do not oppose them. We made it a condition of many rent rises that there had to be proper rebate systems. The hon. Member for Fife, East forgot to mention that his burgh of St. Andrews has substantially higher rents than many places in Scotland and does not have a rent rebate system at all. No doubt he has pleaded with the town council innumerable times to have a rent rebate system. But it was not always the last Government's fault that there were not 100 per cent. rent rebate schemes. Certain authorities not unfriendly to hon. Gentlemen opposite have resisted such schemes for a long time.
When my hon. Friend the Member for Dundee, West argued this, he pointed out that, of the rent rebate schemes which we have encouraged—the schemes propounded by the S.S.H.A., which we encouraged, and the schemes which were applied in the new towns, which we encouraged—none has been as bad as this one, at least in one respect, that it is conceivable under this rent rebate system—it is a system that we are talking about—that a man whose income is unchanging over the years and whose rebate continues at the fullest possible extent can yet be asked to pay a higher rent. There is something wrong with a system which has a major defect of that kind. I do not say this lightly. I have been over it as thoroughly as I can and have taken advice, and this is the advice proffered to me.
Therefore, I give notice that, in Committee, we shall want to go over this. While we may welcome a scheme of rent rebates and do not quarrel with the idea of rent allowances, if this kind of system is to go forward, it must be a first-class rebate system and a first-class allowance system—despite the embarrassments which there will be for the ratepayers of having to protect the system, which means a heavier burden on the rates.
Turning to the effect on different authorities, I am grateful that the Secretary of State has made available in the Vote Office sample specimen accounts which will be invaluable in our Committee debates. We asked for them last Wednesday and he provided them on Friday. I would recommend every hon. Member to study these documents: they 1054 will help us in the work which lies ahead. I accept the Under-Secretary's point that we cannot have any firm figures until we know the position of each authority in May, 1972, but some authorities are making up their minds what they should do at that time.
For example, I have here the Port Glasgow submission from the town chamberlain to his committee pointing out what will in practice—no "ifs", "and" or "buts"—be the situation. We are told that the amount of subsidy per house in this current year in Port Glasgow is £72—not an unrealistic figure for the rest of Scotland. Next year, when the Bill begins, if it gets the Royal Assent unamended, that £72 will fall by £9 on the existing stock of 4,800 houses, so the amount of subsidy payable, which at present stands at £3I6,927, will fall in the first year to £283,500. That is the amount of subsidy payable to the housing revenue account as on 15th November, 1972—
§ Dr. Mabon
I should be glad to learn that the town chamberlain is wrong and that the Under-Secretary, once again riding high, is right. But we shall be bringing plenty of evidence of this kind to him to discover whether his figures are right or wrong.
Over the years, the £9 is taken away and then £10 and £10 and £10, until the subsidy, which was nearly £3I7,000, has fallen to £15,750. I cannot see how these authorities can have much confidence in the future of their house-building programmes. The same applies when one looks at the subsidies, for some of them are extinguishable, some do not start straight away and others are problematical, depending on the number of houses and so on.
Referring to this year, and not any later year, the town chamberlain says:I should like to suggest the following procedure:—The tenants will bear a substantial increase in rates this year, varying from approximately 25p to 60 per week and the arrears for the first six months are therefore considerable. In place of requesting the lump sum from the tenants at November it might be better to collect the full year's increase in rates over the period November, 1971 to May, 1972. At May, 1972 half of the increase would cease and this would be replaced by an increase in rent, making the increase less severe according to the allocation of the increases.1055 That is the sort of practical problem facing a town like Port Glasgow.
Need I remind the Government of the unemployment rate in this area? Need I tell hon. Gentlemen opposite of the number of people who are in receipt of supplementary benefit? I need not point out that this is an area of high unemployment and low wages. Despite that, these people are facing this year, in the coming few months, this great burden, and councils are having to make these sort of decisions.
That is not the end of the matter because of the burdens that must be imposed in subsequent years. This is all laid out in the documents and it is clear that people in areas like Port Glasgow face considerable misery. If it were an area of high employment and high wages, the impact would not be as hefty.
Even if the Bill were right, which it is not, its timing could not be more calamitous. To try to achieve all this in three years is imposing an extraordinarily unfair burden on the people of Scotland, whose wage differential with England is getting wider all the time while the Conservatives are in power. The cost of living is higher in Scotland and there are many reasons why the Scottish economy deserves not to have this burden imposed on it at this time.
I can only conclude that the Government are blindly doctrinaire in this matter and that the Secretary of State insists on pushing on simply because his colleagues want to have this Measure alongside the English one in moving towards fair rents as quickly as possible. As the Secretary of State is not, in my opinion, a hardhearted man, it is clear that he has been overwhelmed in the Cabinet and has been ordered to push on with this Bill so that certain Tory financial policies, as they call them, can be fulfilled in the next Parliament.
Having been overwhelmed in that way, I trust that the right hon. Gentleman will not now talk himself into a position of complete complacency about what is happening in house-building in Scotland. I say this because he made a rather extraordinary attempt earlier to show that the house-building programme in Scotland is advancing greatly. I was surprised at his remarks and I could not understand how he could try to adduce such a case.
1056 The housing throughput figure is the most significant one when considering house-building. By April, 1971, the house-building programme in Scotland had fallen by one-seventh compared with June, 1970, and by September it had fallen by one-sixth. Despite that, the right hon. Gentleman said, "There is no need to worry. Look at the number of approvals this month." But he can know about only two months, plus the details for this month, which is only five or six days old. He must, therefore, be counting approvals rushed through to 1st December.
The right hon. Gentleman said that the number was 3,000 and far better than 1970. I agree that 1970 was a bad year for approvals—[Interruption.]—and particularly the second half of that year. But even if there are 3,000 approvals this year, how can the right hon. Gentleman say that there will be 3,000-plus in 1972? He can have no idea what the next nine months—that is, March to December, 1972—will bring. He cannot prophesy that.
Last time, his complacent remark was based on the statement that 19 authorities in Scotland, covering one-sixth of the population, were reasonably satisfied with their present housing stock. That was not his exact phrase, but I can quote it if I am challenged. I made the riposte by saying that it followed, even if that statement were true, that 214 authorities in Scotland, covering five-sixths of the population, did not answer the questionnaire satisfactorily. In other words, there is still great need for house building there. Yet the right hon. Gentleman today said that the situation was not critical anywhere. I have never heard a more complacent remark.
§ Mr. Gordon Campbell
I never said anything like that. I said that it was no longer necessary for houses to be built as fast as possible everywhere. But I went on to say that there were certain areas where there was still a desperate need to get new housing—but not everywhere. I also pointed out that there were a lot of empty council houses. The Lord Provost pointed out only recently in the newspapers that there were over 1,000 empty houses in his area. And empty houses are no good to anyone.
§ Dr. Mabon
We will look at the previous text and see where the right hon. Gentleman has managed to get out of gear.
Even if the Burgh of Galashiels takes up its housing improvement programme the expenditure on 1,000 houses will be made into 500. That is what the hon. Member for Roxburgh, Selkirk and Peebles (Mr. David Steel) tells me. So the town council even in little Galashiels will have to find 500 new houses in order to secure improvement for tenants living in the presently below-tolerable-standard houses there.
The house building programme which hon. Members opposite inherited was a rising programme, but it is now falling, and will continue to fall. I cannot understand the obsession of hon. Members opposite with finance at a time when they ought to be obsessed with house building. My hon. Friend the Member for Glasgow, Gorbals (Mr. McElhone) spoke of the alarm that many overspill towns are expressing now that they are not part of a formal overspill scheme. What is to happen to Glasgow overspill? This was the key to the whole Scottish house building programme. Yet it is in danger here because people suddenly believe that overspill no longer matters—certainly in finance, when we know that it is in fact highly critical. Yet all the Government have left to promote overspill are the new towns and the S.S.H.A., both of which are suffering from this Government, as witness the figures. Unfortunately, we no longer get monthly figures during a falling programme but only quarterly figures; and even so they are inadequate. We shall chase hon. Members opposite until we get the situation absolutely right, and on the record.
The argument advanced by the Government has been that we shall see an increase in subsidies by 1975–76 from 1058 £55 million to £70 million, but what will happen after that? The Secretary of State said in the Scottish Grand Committee on 27th July:As I said, it is likely to be increased in the next few years; but, had the present system of subsidies continued, it would have escalated into enormous figures …"—[OFFICIAL REPORT, Scottish Grand Committee, 27th July, 1971; c. 17.]The right hon. Gentleman does not intend to tolerate those enormous figures, so I suggest that the sum will be nothing like £70 million in later years and that he will bring it down—
§ Mr. Gordon Campbell
I answered the hon. Member for Glasgow, Gorbals (Mr. McElhone), but I do not think that the hon. Member for Greenock heard the point.
§ Dr. Mabon
I heard the right hon. Gentleman when he interrupted my hon. Friend. The Secretary of State cannot copy his hon. Friend the Member for Glasgow, Cathcart and ride every horse in the circus. His hon. Friend is much more flexible—to put it in an equivocal way—and much more able to perform cartwheels than either the right hon. Gentleman or I, but if the right hon. Gentleman tries to pretend that he means, on the one hand, that subsidies will go on and, on the other, that what he said was not true, I must tell him that he cannot have it both ways.
We know that in the long term with this Government housing subsidies are going down. We know that house building will go down. It is all quite clear. We know that the criticisms of the rent rebate schemes are quite substantial and hon. Gentlemen opposite cannot hide behind the facts and say that the principle, although good, means that any mechanism or method is therefore welcome. Whenever hon. and right hon. Gentlemen opposite come into power they immediately run to adjust rents.
The hon. Member for Glasgow, Hillhead is a good example of that, but what is so refreshing about him is that he tells us the absolute truth. His Act of 1962 was quickly succeeded by the 1964 Act, which promised heaven on earth. At least he had the courage—and we associate him with courage—to admit today that his Act did, "Nothing". He used the word.
1059 Unfortunately, some of the Tory Acts did something: they caused rents to rise and caused a lot of misery to many people. But they did not build a single new house. The Tories' record in government was appalling, with only two peak years, one of which was due entirely to us. The other occurred in their last desperate effort to save themselves in 1964.
Right hon. and hon. Members opposite may try to be good book-keepers, but I think that they are proving themselves to be very inefficient in that rôle, as witness their rent allowances and rent rebate proposals, which are completely uncosted. They should be not book-keepers but builders. I much prefer successful builders to inefficient book-keepers, which is exactly what they are.
I hope that my right hon and hon. Friends will vote down the Bill, with all the strength we have.
§ 9.31 p.m.
§ The Under-Secretary of State for Development, Scottish Office (Mr. George Younger)
The hon. Member for Greenock (Dr. Dickson Mabon), in his engaging way, followed his usual course, based on the belief that with a case that one is not terribly sure of the more noise one makes the more likely one is to carry conviction. The hon. Gentleman does it better than anyone else.
Perhaps the hon. Gentleman ran out of time, but he completely failed to deal with the point about his municipalisation of houses, which he said he would deal with, the point raised in the strange report under the headingDr. Mabon's Follyin the Glasgow Herald. He said that he would tell us his policy on municipalisation of privately-owned houses, but unfortunately he did not have time.
§ Dr. Dickson Mahon
I was advised through the usual channels that the hon. Gentleman desperately wanted to rise to speak by half-past nine. I am sorry that it is now 9.31. I had to reply to the debate, but I promise the hon. Gentleman that I shall dilate on another occasion at whatever length he likes on the proposition I make, which is not in the Bill. 1060 If the government would kindly put it is the Bill, I should be glad to debate it.
§ Mr. Younger
In that case the hon. Gentleman should not have undertaken to answer it. Perhaps I should present him with a luminous watch for Christmas, and then he can watch the time a bit better.
We had such a shoal of red herrings today that I began to wonder whether some Labour hon. Members have read the Bill. I have heard the right hon. Member for Kilmarnock (Mr. Ross) good, and I have heard him not very good. Today he was more unconvincing than I ever remember hearing him. I do not know whether that was because he is not sure about the case he is putting forward or whether he just had an off-day. If this is the great Bill that the Opposition think they thoroughly oppose in every respect, the right hon. Gentleman might have managed to do a little more homework and give a little less of the impression of stumbling through his speech and making it up as he went along.
It is essential to know the background to the Bill to understand the whole question. It simply is not one of the options open to any Government to carry on blindly with the existing system, cross our fingers and just hope that it will work. The existing system was not necessarily wrong when it was introduced, or even four or five years ago, but it has become out of date in the context of modern housing conditions, the desires and wishes of the people who will live in the houses and the needs of the local authorities and those who build the houses. That is why we should be greatly irresponsible if we did not make a major change in the housing subsidy system and the housing system generally.
It cannot have escaped the notice of hon. Members opposite who must study these things that virtually every report produced by housing experts and people who have studied the housing situation for the past five years and more has referred to the need for a major change. For example, the Cullingworth Report, "Scotland's Older Houses", said at page 76:… the impact of policy must be in a channelling of resource to the areas with the biggest problems….1061Specific subsidies should be given for the clearance of areas of bad houses.It is stated on page 190 of the Francis Report:… it appears to us to be essential (a) that controlled tenancies should be brought into the fair rent system as soon as practicable, and (b) that council rents should be brought up to realistic levels, adequate rent rebates being, of course, made available for tenants in need of them. Failing action on these lines, it seems highly probable that in the next two or three decades the dwindling stock of private rented unfurnished houses in Scotland will virtually disappear.Paragraph 15 of the Brownlie Report of the Scottish Housing Advisory Committee Sub-Committee set up by the Labour Government to look into the question of rent rebates states:We are convinced that the only solution to the problem of how this increased rental income can be obtained is that tenants with higher incomes must be prepared to pay rents in line, or more nearly in line, with what they can afford and that tenants with lower incomes must have their rents suitably graded in accordance with their ability to pay. If some tenants are subsidised unnecessarily, the result is an unfair burden on the taxpayers and ratepayers".The Government cannot ignore, and the right hon. Member for Kilmarnock if he were in office could not ignore, all this advice given by people by no means biased politically.
§ Mr. Ross
An Act was passed while we were in power dealing with the question of improvement. The Francis Committee reported after we left office. What the Government cannot and should not do is to lay down the law to every local authority saying exactly what rents will be and denying them the freedom to make their own judgments.
§ Mr. Younger
That is a completely different point. I was not accusing the right hon. Gentleman of not having implemented the Francis Report. I merely quoted the opinions of independent people. It would be a very foolish Government which ignored those opinions completely.
As the right hon. Member for Kilmarnock seems to be a bit off-beam concerning references, I should like to quote from his Government's White Paper. Perhaps the right hon. Gentleman will accept it as an authoritative document. It is entitled "The Scottish Housing Pro- 1062 gramme 1965 to 1970" and was published in November, 1965. It states that the share of housing expenditure met by the local ratepayerhas been steadily rising and was of the order of £20 million in 1964–65. It is greatly to the credit of the local authorities that they have continued to build as fast as they have done despite this very heavy burden on the rates. Nevertheless, if they are to be able to carry out the expanded house-building programmes which are essential, it is necessary to ease the rate burden by improving the Exchequer subsidies and by pursuing sensible rent policies.It was wonderfully put in the White Paper, but the trouble is that that is not what happened. Far from easing the burden on ratepayers during their period in office, and in spite of what they said in their White Paper, the housing burden on the ratepayer doubled under the Labour Government from £20 million a year, which was described in the White Paper as a "very heavy burden", to £40 million. By contrast, the present Government's policies will, at long last, fulfil the broken pledge of the Labour Government and will more than halve the housing burden on Scottish ratepayers by 1975–76.
The Labour Government called upon local authorities to ensure that there were reasonable rent levels and adequate rent rebate schemes to avoid hardship and unfairness to local authority tenants. But, in the event, the unfairness to the ratepayer of the policies they pursued is clear. They were not even fair to local authority tenants because, despite the Labour Government's White Paper advocating support for adequate rent rebate schemes to avoid hardship, the system of housing finance we have inherited involves hardship to the neediest of tenants because, despite what the previous Government aimed at, no comprehensive and uniform rent rebate scheme was devised.
Since the right hon. Member for Kilmarnock put forward examples, perhaps he will allow me to put forward examples which will make the point. Let me take an average family of father and mother and three children and let us see how they will fair under the new system at various income levels. For the purpose of this comparison, I have selected two authorities—one without a rent rebate scheme and the other with a rent rebate scheme.
1063 Let us take Airdrie where there is no rent rebate scheme. This family, whatever their income, would have to pay, in full standard rent for a four-apartment house, which is what they would need, between £1 and about £1.35 at the present time. That rent, incidentally, is exactly double what was charged in 1966 at the beginning of the previous Government's term of office.
Let us turn to the new system. Suppose this family's income to be very low. Suppose it to be £17 per week. No rent at all would be paid in the early years of the new system, and even by 1976 it would be between 35p and 50p a week; that is, less than half their present rent and actually below the rent payable in 1966. Suppose the family has a higher income. Suppose it to be £21 a week. They would pay £1 per week in the first year under the new system, less than that which they are paying now. Even by 1976 they would be paying only between £1.40 and £1.50; that is only about a 25 per cent. rise in five years, compared with the 100 per cent. rise which they had to pay under the previous Government. Suppose their income were to go up to £25 a week. The family would still receive considerable protection. In that case the rent by 1976 would be just over £2 a week, representing in the five years ahead just about the same sort of increase as that which they had in the previous five years under the previous Government.
That was a family in a burgh without a rent rebate scheme. Let us take an authority with a rent rebate scheme—Lanarkshire County Council. Let us suppose that the same family are living there and let us take them at the low level of income of £17 a week. They would pay at the moment a rebated rent of about £1 a week and in the first year of the new system this would drop to nil. Even after five years, in 1976, they would probably be paying about 50p per week, half of their present rate. If their family income were to go up to £21 per week they would be charged rebated rent of about £1.40. This would drop to about £1 a week in the first year of the new system and probably be only marginally higher at £1.50 by 1976. Even if the income went up to £25, the family would be given considerable protection. They 1064 would be paying about £1.50 now and would be paying £2.20 in 1976—and over five years that represents an increase of the order of I5p in weekly rent each year, far less than the maximum increase which is prescribed in the Bill of 50p. No one can say that this is not a highly reasonable, very compassionate and most helpful system to this family.
§ Dr. Dickson Mabon
Naturally one would want to study these figures. The first example was quite extreme. Let me ask the hon. Gentleman this: do these figures mean that if this family do not have a rise in their income in any of these years the Bill will make sure they will pay a higher rent—even if their income remains static? Will the hon. Gentleman confirm that that is what it means?
§ Mr. Younger
That is a slightly different point, but it is quite simply answered. We can go into the complete details in Committee, but basically, if the standard rent is £2.50 or below then it is pretty standard, but above that the 40 per cent. rule becomes available, and then it does go up slightly, but the lower income levels are protected, and the higher income levels—
§ Mr. Younger
I hope that I shall answer it. I shall if I have time.
I suppose I ought to examine what the hon. Member for Glasgow, Scotstoun (Mr. Small) was discusing at such length—spiritual amnesia, social pluralism, hidden dovetails and pentecostal tongues—but I leave these on one side and move on to some of the other points raised by other hon. Gentlemen.
The hon. Member for Greenock asked how submissions before 1st December enable starts in 1972 as well as 1971 to be forecast—
§ Mr. Younger
Basically, it is quite simple. The present arrangements allow submissions made up to 1st December, 1065 1971 to be considered for the residual subsidy. At the moment we have a large number of submissions, some of which have been converted into approvals, some of which will be converted into approvals before the end of this year, and a great number of which will be converted into approvals next year.
§ Mr. Younger
If I knew, I would have approved them already, or my right hon. Friend would have done so.
§ Mr. Younger
If the right hon. Gentleman in his time could say what he would have approved in the following year, I should be very surprised. That is what we are discussing here.
The only thing that is perfectly cleat from all this is that the transitional arrangements in the Bill have been most effective; they have encouraged local authorities to bring forward a large number of submissions now. This will produce a welcome increase in house building and approvals in the years to come. Incidentally, the hon. Member for Greenock managed to get through his whole speech without saying that starts began to decline about two years before he left office. A deliberate and obvious result of that has been a fall in completions. He has failed to give us any reasons for that and has just sat back and criticised the number of completions without admitting that his own actions made it inevitable that this would happen.
The right hon. Member for Kilmarnock asked about the Chancellor of the Exchequer's savings mentioned in the White Paper. No breakdown of the Scottish savings was ever given. The figures quoted were Press speculation. No figure, either of £20 million or any other amount, was quoted as savings. These were savings in public expenditure as a whole and, as the right hon. Gentleman knows, public expenditure includes expenditure on rates. To the extent that the forecasts represent expenditure on rates there are of course reductions, because the whole purpose is to reduce the burden on the ratepayers—and very welcome it will be to them. The Government contribution in the form of 1066 Exchequer subsidies, rent rebate subsidies and all the subsidies in the Bill will not be reduced, and we shall be spending more in the coming years than we have spent in the past. The Financial Memorandum says that there will be a saving in rates but not in Government subsidies.
The right hon. Gentleman also spoke about average rents in Kilmarnock. To reassure him, I will give him an answer to one of his examples. He quoted a family whose rent, he thought, might go up to £154 a year, approximately £3 a week. I have absolutely no idea and no way of telling whether that figure is correct. I am not saying it is, but on the assumption that the figure is correct, it takes no account of protection from the rent rebate scheme. For example, a typical family with three children, if the rent the right hon. Gentlemen mentioned went up to £154 a year, would pay, in Kilmarnock, 20p per week if the family income was £17, less than £1 a week if the family income was £20 and less than £2 a week if the income was £25. It is quite misleading to suggest that a family in need would have to pay £154. It is just not so.
The right hon. Member for Kilmarnock mentioned variable minimum rents, the fact that some people with the same income pay different levels of rebated rents. The rebate scheme keeps the balance between the income levels and the amenity of houses but up to the £2.50 standard of rebated rent it goes virtually entirely pro-rata with income. Beyond that level some element will he included in the rebated rent for the amenity of the house in the case of high amenity housing. That element is restricted to 40 per cent. of the standard rent. This is a great improvement on the position today where in many areas less well-off people cannot possibly be allocated better standard housing because there is no rent rebate scheme or else there is an inadequate one. That is what he right hon. Gentleman should bear in mind.
My hon. Friend the Member for Glasgow, Cathcart (Mr. Edward Taylor) made an interesting speech covering a great deal that was important. If I may, I will answer most of his points in writing because of the lack of time. [Interruption.] I should like to answer one point which he raised, and which I thought 1067 was very important. He asked that savings in the rates should not be used simply to lower rates or to spend on something else but should be spent on council schemes. I am glad to be able to assure my hon. Friend that we will do everything we can to encourage the raising of standards in council schemes. We have already increased the level of improvement grants in the 1971 Act which will be of great benefit to local authorities in their own schemes as well as of benefit to private owners. The grants are also available for improving surroundings of council schemes and I certainly hope that future savings will be used in this way.
The hon. Member for Kirkcaldy Burghs (Mr. Gourlay) said that there was no discretion to local authorities to vary rent rebates upwards. May I answer that by saying, "Yes, there is scope to do that in Schedule 2, paragraph 6." It is clear there that local authorities can do this on receipt of information from the tenants that their circumstances have changed. I hope that answers the hon. Gentleman.
§ Mr. Younger
I am sorry, it is rather late. I would like to give way but I must answer some further questions.
The hon. Member for Central Ayrshire (Mr. Lambie) stated that the new system would be unfair to new town tenants. I absolutely disagree. Such tenants will face the same sort of increases as tenants of other local authority houses and will benefit from the protection of the same rebate schemes. They will not, as now, be faced with markedly greater increases than local authority tenants which the previous Government allowed, indeed encouraged.
The hon. Member for Dundee, West (Mr. Doig) asked how anyone could have a nil rent. I will give an example. A married couple with four children whose weekly income was £19 would pay no rent at all if the standard rent was about the Scottish average, at present £74 a year.
A brief word now about each category of housing we have been discussing, because comments have been made about each of them and they have been completely misleading. First, council houses. To hear hon. Members opposite one 1068 would think that everything in the garden at the moment was lovely, that there was no problem at all whereas we know that the problem is that in many cases the majority of the cost of council houses in Scotland is paid for by the public purse in the form of subsidies and—much more important—through the rates. It would be perfectly acceptable if the rates were paid by those who could best afford them, but as we know, many ratepayers are among the lower-paid members of the community and are in this way subsidising people who are better-off. No one can deny that that is grossly unfair and that it is a system which must be put right.
On the question of privately rented houses—
§ Mr. Younger
The previous Government introduced the fair rents scheme. Most hon. Gentlemen opposite say that that was a good idea, and I agree with them. The hon. Member for Central Ayrshire does not think that it was a good idea. That fair rents scheme put up the rents without any attempt to introduce a rent allowance scheme. People had to face increases irrespective of income without any help. This Government have introduced, for the first time, rent allowances for which people in privately-rented houses will qualify, and those people will remember this and know what it is worth.
Several hon. Members said that there was nothing in the Bill about owner-occupied houses. I do not agree with the suggestion that a person in an owner-occupied house is to be regarded as having a subsidy because he is allowed to keep some of the tax that he would otherwise have to pay. I do not consider that that is a subsidy; nor do most people.
The other thing that must be rembered is that a person who provides his own house and is an owner-occupier is saving the community—the taxpayer, the ratepayer and the public purse—a much larger sum than anything he ever receives by way of a tax rebate.
I understand that the Opposition intend to vote against the Bill. They 1069 have not even put down a reasoned Amendment. I cannot understand why; it means that tonight they will be voting against everything in the Bill from top to bottom. I wonder whether they have worked out what they will be voting against. They will be voting against a unified national rent rebate scheme—a scheme that has been widely called for by people in housing associations, and so on; a scheme that is fair and will not only eliminate hardship from future rent increases but, in many cases, will reduce rent payments for the lower-paid. They will be voting against rent allowances for the tenants of non-council houses who, at the moment, get no help in respect of their rent. I hope that the people will note that the Labour Party is voting against these allowances.
They will be voting against four new Government subsidies amounting to between 75 per cent. and 90 per cent. directed to people and authorities who need them most; they will be voting against the new slum clearance subsidy, wider in scope and more generous than ever before; they will be voting against the new system which will substantially ease the burden on the ratepayers, many of whom find their burdens to be very heavy and many of whom are among the lower paid. They will be voting against a Bill which is realistic in meeting the main needs of housing policy in the 1970s and is deliberately geared to give special extra help to those who are in the greatest need, much of which has been called for by those directly concerned with housing for many years. I do not believe that the Labour Party has ever looked more irrelevant to the needs of Scotland than it looks tonight.
I hope that hon. Members opposite will bear in mind the reasons why this Bill is necessary. The reason is that the present system, however it has operated in the past and whatever good features it may have, is thoroughly unfair at present in its incidence of cost and in the way it works. Anyone who does not believe it can go to see the housing waiting lists, and can interview the people who are waiting. They will confirm that they are unable to get into the queue. These
§ people know that the present system is unfair to them, many of whom have suffered under it for far too long.
§ The housing needs of Scotland are changing. The wants and wishes of the people who live in the houses are changing, too. We must respond to this change and to the greater expectations of people for the better housing they want. More and more people are refusing to go into houses that they do not consider to be up to the required standard. We must change with their changing needs. That is one of the main reasons why I hope the House will give a warm Second Reading to the Bill tonight.
§ The Parliamentary Secretary to the Treasury (Mr. Francis Pym)
rose in his place, and claimed to move, That the Question be now put.
§ Mr. Speaker
Order. If I decide to accept the Motion for the Closure there can be no point of order.
§ Question, That the Question be now put, put and agreed to.
§ Question put accordingly, That the Bill be now read a Second time:
§ The House proceeded to a Division—
§ Mr. Lawson
(seated and covered): On a point or order, Mr. Speaker. If the Question is put before 10 o'clock and an hon. Member rises to his feet before that time, is he not entitled to be called?
§ Mr. Speaker
I can rule on that at once. The Question is put when I decide to accept the Closure before 10 o'clock. If I do so at 9.59, there is not all that much injustice to any hon. Member.
§ Mr. Lawson
(seated and covered): Will you, Mr. Speaker, refer us to the Standing Order which says so.
§ The House having divided: Ayes 299, Noes 263.1075
|Division No. 26.]||AYES||[9.59 p.m.|
|Adley, Robert||Amery, Rt. Hn. Julian||Atkins, Humphrey|
|Alison, Michael (Barkston Ash)||Archer, Jaffrey (Louth)||Awdry, Daniel|
|Allason, James (Hemel Hempstead)||Astor, John||Baker, Kenneth (St. Marylebone)|
|Baker, W. H. K. (Banff)||Glyn, Dr. Alan||Marples, Rt. Hn. Ernest|
|Balniel, Lord||Godber, Rt. Hn. J. B.||Marten, Neil|
|Barber, Rt. Hn. Anthony||Goodhart, Philip||Mather, Carol|
|Beamish, Col. Sir Tufton||Goodhew, Victor||Maude, Angus|
|Bell, Ronald||Gorst, John||Maudling, Rt. Hn. Reginald|
|Bennett, Sir Frederic (Torqauy)||Gower, Raymond||Mawby, Ray|
|Benyon, W.||Grant, Anthony (Harrow, C.)||Maxwell-Hyslop, R. J.|
|Berry, Hn. Anthony||Gray, Hamish||Meyer, Sir Anthony|
|Biffen, John||Green, Alan||Mills, Peter (Torrington)|
|Biggs-Davison, John||Grieve, Percy||Miscampbell, Norman|
|Blaker, Peter||Griffiths, Eldon (Bury St. Edmunds)||Mitchell, Lt.-Col. C. (Aberdeenshire, W.)|
|Boardman, Tom (Leicester, S. W.)||Grylls, Michael||Mitchell, David (Basingstoke)|
|Body, Richard||Gummer, Selwyn||Moate, Roger|
|Boscawen, Robert||Gurden, Harold||Molyneaux, James|
|Bossom, Sir Clive||Hall, Miss Joan (Keighley)||Money, Ernie|
|Bowden, Andrew||Hall, John (Wycombe)||Monro, Hector|
|Boyd Carpenter, Rt. Hn. John||Hall-Davis, A. G. F.||Montgomery, Fergus|
|Braine, Bernard||Hamilton, Michael (Salisbury)||More, Jasper|
|Bray, Ronald||Hannam, John (Exeter)||Morgan, Geraint (Denbigh)|
|Brewis, John||Harrison, Brian (Maldon)||Morgan-Giles, Rear-Adm.|
|Brinton, Sir Tatton||Harrison, Col. Sir Harwood (Eye)||Morrison, Charles|
|Brocklebank-Fowler, Christopher||Haselhurst, Alan||Mudd, David|
|Brown, Sir Edward (Bath)||Hastings, Stephen||Murton, Oscar|
|Bruce-Gardyne, J.||Hawkins, Paul||Nabarro, Sir Gerald|
|Bryan, Paul||Hay, John||Nicholls, Sir Harmar|
|Buchanan-Smith, Alick (Angus, N & M)||Hayhoe, Barney||Noble, Rt. Hn. Michael|
|Buck, Antony||Heseltine, Michael||Normanton, Tom|
|Bullus, Sir Eric||Hicks, Robert||Nott, John|
|Burden, F. A.||Hiley, Joseph||Onslow, Cranley|
|Butler, Adam (Bosworth)||Hill, John E. B. (Norfolk, S.)||Oppenheim, Mrs. Sally|
|Campbell, Rt. Hn. G. (Moray & Nairn)||Hill, James (Southampton, Test)||Orr, Capt. L. P. S.|
|Carlisle, Mark||Holland, Philip||Osborn, John|
|Channon, Paul||Holt, Miss Mary||Page, Graham (Crosby)|
|Chapman, Sydney||Hordern, Peter||Page, John (Harrow, W.)|
|Chataway, Rt. Hn. Christopher||Hornby, Richard||Parkinson, Cecil|
|Chichester-Clark, R.||Hornsby-Smith, Rt. Hn. Dame Patricia||Peel, John|
|Churchill, W. S.||Howe, Hn. Sir Geoffrey (Reigate)||Percival, Ian|
|Clark, William (Surrey, E.)||Howell, David (Guildford)||Peyton, Rt. Hn. John|
|Clarke, Kenneth (Rushcliffe)||Howell, Ralph (Norfolk, N.)||Pike, Miss Mervyn|
|Clegg, Walter||Hunt, John||Pink, R. Bonner|
|Cockeram, Eric||Hutchison, Michael Clark||Pounder, Rafton|
|Cooke, Robert||Iremonger, T. L.||Powell, Rt. Hn. J. Enoch|
|Coombs, Derek||Irvine, Bryant Godman (Rye)||Price, David (Eastleigh)|
|Cooper, A. E.||James, David||Proudfoot, Wilfred|
|Cordle, John||Jenkin, Patrick (Woodford)||Pym, Rt. Hn. Francis|
|Costain, A. P.||Jennings, J. C. (Burton)||Quennell, Miss J. M.|
|Critchley, Julian||Jessel, Toby||Raison, Timothy|
|Crouch, David||Johnson Smith, G. (E. Grinstead)||Ramsden, Rt. Hn. James|
|Crowder, F. P.||Jones, Arthur (Northants, S.)||Rawlinson, Rt. Hn. Sir Peter|
|Davies, Rt. Hn. John (Knutsford)||Jopling, Michael||Redmond, Robert|
|d'Avigdor-Goldsmid, Sir Henry||Joseph, Rt. Hn. Sir Keith||Reed, Laurance (Bolton, E.)|
|d'Avigdor-Goldsmid, Maj.-Gen. James||Kaberry, Sir Donald||Rees, Peter (Dover)|
|Dean, Paul||Kellett-Bowman, Mrs. Elaine||Rees-Davies, W. R.|
|Deedes, Rt. Hn. W. F.||Kershaw, Anthony||Renton, Rt. Hn. Sir David|
|Digby, Simon Wingfield||Kilfedder, James||Ridley, Hn. Nicholas|
|Dixon, Piers||Kimball, Marcus||Ridsdale, Julian|
|Dodds-Parker, Douglas||King, Evelyn (Dorset, S.)||Roberts, Michael (Cardiff, N.)|
|Douglas-Home, Rt. Hn. Sir Alec||King, Tom (Bridgwater)||Roberts, Wyn (Conway)|
|Drayson, G. B.||Kinsey, J. R.||Rodgers, Sir John (Sevenoaks)|
|du Cann, Rt. Hn. Edward||Kitson, Timothy||Rossi, Hugh (Hornsey)|
|Dykes, Hugh||Knight, Mrs. Jill||Rost, Peter|
|Eden, Sir John||Knox, David||Royle, Anthony|
|Edwards, Nicholas (Pembroke)||Lambton, Antony||Russell, Sir Ronald|
|Elliot, Capt. Walter (Carshalton)||Lane, David||St. John-Stevas, Norman|
|Emery, Peter||Langford-Holt, Sir John||Sandys, Rt. Hn. D.|
|Farr, John||Legge-Bourke, Sir Harry||Scott, Nicholas|
|Fell, Anthony||Le Marchant, Spencer||Scott-Hopkins, James|
|Fenner, Mrs. Peggy||Lewis, Kenneth (Rutland)||Sharples, Richard|
|Fidler, Michael||Lloyd, Rt. Hn. Geoffrey (Sut'n C'dfield)||Shaw, Michael (Sc'b'gh & Whitby)|
|Finsberg, Geoffrey (Hampstead)||Longden, Gilbert||Shelton, William (Clapham)|
|Fisher, Nigel (Surbiton)||Loveridge, John||Simeons, Charles|
|Fletcher-Cooke, Charles||Luce, R. N.||Sinclair, Sir George|
|Fookes, Miss Janet||McAdden, Sir Stephen||Skeet, T. H. H.|
|Fortescue, Tim||MacArthur, Ian||Soref, Harold|
|Foster, Sir John||McCrindle, R. A.||Speed, Keith|
|Fowler, Norman||McLaren, Martin||Spence, John|
|Fox, Marcus||Maclean, Sir Fitzroy||Sproat, Iain|
|Fraser, Rt. Hn. Hugh (St'fford & Stone)||McMaster, Stanley||Stainton, Keith|
|Fry, Peter||Macmillan, Maurice (Farnham)||Stanbrook, Ivor|
|Galbraith, Hn. T. G.||McNair-Wilson, Michael||Stewart-Smith, Geoffrey (Belper)|
|Gardner, Edward||McNair-Wilson, Patrick (New Forest)||Stodart, Anthony (Edinburgh, W.)|
|Gibson-Watt, David||Maddan, Martin||Stoddart-Scott, Col. Sir M.|
|Gilmour, Ian (Norfolk, C.)||Madel, David||Stokes, John|
|Gilmour, Sir John (Fife, E.)||Maginnis, John E.||Stuttaford, Dr. Tom|
|Sutcliffe, John||Turton, Rt. Hn. Sir Robin||Wiggin, Jerry|
|Tapsell, Peter||van Straubenzee, W. R.||Wilkinson, John|
|Taylor, Edward M. (G'gow, Cathcart)||Vaughan, Dr. Gerard||Winterton, Nicholas|
|Taylor, Frank (Moss Side)||Waddington, David||Wolrige-Gordon, Patrick|
|Taylor, Robert (Croydon, N. W.)||Welder, David (Clitheroe)||Wood, Rt. Hn. Richard|
|Tebbit, Norman||Walker, Rt. Hn. Peter (Worcester)||Woodhouse, Hn. Christopher|
|Thatcher, Rt. Hn. Mrs. Margaret||Walker-Smith, Rt. Hn. Sir Derek||Woodnutt, Mark|
|Thomas, John Stradling (Monmouth)||Wall, Patrick||Worsley, Marcus|
|Thomas, Rt. Hn. Peter (Hendon, S.)||Walters, Dennis||Wylie, Rt. Hn. N. R.|
|Thompson, Sir Richard (Croydon, S.)||Ward, Dame Irene||Younger, Hn. George|
|Thorpe, Rt. Hn. Jeremy||Warren, Kenneth|
|Trafford, Dr. Anthony||Wells, John (Maidstone)||TELLERS FOR THE AYES:|
|Trew, Peter||White, Roger (Gravesend)||Mr. Reginald Eyre and|
|Tugendhat, Christopher||Whitelaw, Rt. Hn. William||Mr. Bernard Weatherill.|
|Abse, Leo||Duffy, A. E. P.||Kerr, Russell|
|Albu, Austen||Duffy, A. E. P.||Lambie, David|
|Allaun, Frank (Salford, E.)||Dunnett, Jack||Lamond, James|
|Allen, Scholefield||Edelman, Maurice||Lawson, George|
|Archer, Peter (Rowley Regis)||Edwards, Robert (Bilston)||Leadbitter, Ted|
|Armstrong, Ernest||Edwards, William (Merioneth)||Lee, Rt. Hn. Frederick|
|Ashley, Jack||Ellis, Tom||Leonard, Dick|
|Ashton, Joe||English, Michael||Lestor, Miss Joan|
|Atkinson, Norman||Evans, Fred||Lever, Rt. Hn. Harold|
|Bagier, Gordon A. T.||Ewing, Henry||Lewis, Arthur (W. Ham, N.)|
|Barnes, Michael||Faulds, Andrew||Lewis, Ron (Carlisle)|
|Barnett, Guy (Greenwich)||Fernyhough, Rt. Hn. E.||Lipton, Marcus|
|Fisher, Mrs. Doris (B'ham, Ladywood)|
|Barnett, Joel (Heywood and Royton)||Fitch, Alan (Wigan)||Lamas, Kenneth|
|Baxter, William||Fletcher, Raymond (Ilkeston)||Loughlin, Charles|
|Beaney, Alan||Fletcher, Ted (Darlington)||Lyon, Alexander W. (York)|
|Benn, Rt. Hn. Anthony Wedgwood||Foley, Maurice||Lyons, Edward (Bradford, E.)|
|Bennett, James (Glasgow, Bridgeton)||Foot, Michael||Mabon, Dr. J. Dickson|
|Bidwell, Sydney||Ford, Ben||McBride, Neil|
|Bishop, E. S.||Forrester, John||McCann, John|
|Blenkinsop, Arthur||Fraser, John (Norwood)||McCartney, Hugh|
|Boardman, H. (Leigh)||Freeson, Reginald||McElhone, Frank|
|Booth, Albert||Galpern, Sir Myer||McGuire, Michael|
|Bottomley, Rt. Hn. Arthur||Garrett, W. E.||Mackenzie, Gregor|
|Boyden, James (Bishop Auckland)||Gilbert, Dr. John||Mackie, John|
|Bradley, Tom||Ginsburg, David (Dewsbury)||Mackintosh, John P.|
|Broughton, Sir Alfred||Golding, John||Maclennan, Robert|
|Brown, Bob (N'c'tle-upon-Tyne, W.)||Gordon Walker, Rt. Hn. P. C.||McMillan, Tom (Glasgow, C.)|
|Brown, Hugh D. (G'gow, Provan)||Gourlay, Harry||McNamara, J. Kevin|
|Brown, Ronald (Shoreditch & F'bury)||Grant, George (Morpeth)||Mahon, Simon (Bootle)|
|Buchan, Norman||Grant, John D. (Islington, E.)||Mallalieu, J. P. W. (Huddersfield, E.)|
|Buchanan, Richard (G'gow, Sp'burn)||Griffiths, Eddie (Brightside)||Marks, Kenneth|
|Butler, Mrs. Joyce (Wood Green)||Griffiths, Will (Exchange)||Marsden, F.|
|Callaghan, Rt. Hn. James||Hamilton, James (Bothwell)||Marshall, Dr. Edmund|
|Campbell, I. (Dunbartonshire, W.)||Hamilton, William (Fife, W.)||Meacher, Michael|
|Cant, R. B.||Hamling, William||Mellish, Rt. Hn. Robert|
|Carmichael, Neil||Hannan, William (G'gow, Maryhill)||Mendelson, John|
|Carter, Ray (Birmingh'm, Northfield)||Hardy, Peter||Mikardo, Ian|
|Castle, Rt. Hn. Barbara||Harrison, Walter (Wakefield)||Miller, Dr. M. S.|
|Clark, David (Colne Valley)||Hart, Rt. Hn. Judith||Milne, Edward|
|Cocks, Michael (Bristol, S.)||Hattersley, Roy||Mitchell, R. C. (S'hamplon, Itchen)|
|Cohen, Stanley||Heffer, Eric S.||Molloy, William|
|Concannon, J. D.||Hilton, W. S.||Morris, Alfred (Wythenshawe)|
|Conlan, Bernard||Horam, John||Morris, Charles R. (Openshaw)|
|Corbet, Mrs. Freda||Houghton, Rt. Hn. Douglas||Morris, Rt. Hn. John (Aberavon)|
|Cox, Thomas (Wandsworth, C.)||Howell, Denis (Small Heath)||Moyle, Roland|
|Cronin, John||Hughes, Rt. Hn. Cledwyn (Anglesey)||Mulley, Rt. Hn. Frederick|
|Crosland, Rt. Hn. Anthony||Hughes, Mark (Durham)||Murray, Ronald King|
|Crossman, Rt. Hn. Richard||Hughes, Robert (Aberdeen, N.)||Oakes, Gordon|
|Cunningham, G. (Islington, S. W.)||Hughes, Roy (Newport)||Ogden, Eric|
|Cunningham, Dr. J. A. (Whitehaven)||Hunter, Adam||O'Halloran, Michael|
|Dalyell, Tam||Irvine, Rt. Hn. Sir Arthur (Edge Hill)||O Malley, Brian|
|Davidson, Arthur||Janner, Greville||Oram, Bert|
|Davies, Denzil (Lanelly)||Jay, Rt. Hn. Douglas||Orbach, Maurice|
|Davies, G. Elfed (Rhondda, E.)||Jenkins, Hugh (Putney)||Orme, Stanley|
|Davis, Clinton (Hackney, C.)||John, Brynmor||Oswald, Thomas|
|Davis, Terry (Bromsgrove)||Johnson, Carol (Lewisham, S.)||Owen, Dr. David (Plymouth, Sutton)|
|Deakins, Eric||Johnson, James (K'ston-on-Hull, W.)||Padley, Walter|
|de Freitas, Rt. Hn. Sir Geoffrey||Johnson, Walter (Derby, S.)||Paget, R. T.|
|Delargy, H. J.||Jones, Barry (Flint, E.)||Palmer, Arthur|
|Dell, Rt. Hn. Edmund||Jones, Dan (Burnley)||Pannell, Rt. Hn. Charles|
|Dempsey, James||Jones, Rt. Hn. Sir Elwyn (W. Ham, S.)||Parker, John (Dagenham)|
|Doig, Peter||Jones, Gwynoro (Carmarthen)||Parry, Robert (Liverpool, Exchange)|
|Douglas-Mann, Bruce||Jones, T. Alec (Rhondda, W.)||Pavitt, Laurie|
|Driberg, Tom||Judd, Frank||Pendry, Tom|
|Dormand, J. D.||Kaufman, Gerald||Pentland, Norman|
|Douglas, Dick (Stirlingshire, E.)||Kelley, Richard||Perry, Ernest G.|
|Prentice, Rt. Hn. Reg.||Silkin, Rt. Hn. John (Deptford)||Urwin, T. W.|
|Prescott, John||Silkin, Hn. S. C. (Dulwich)||Varley, Eric G.|
|Price, J. T. (Westhoughton)||Silverman, Julius||Wainwright, Edwin|
|Price, William (Rugby)||Skinner, Dennis||Walden, Brian (B'm'ham, All Saints)|
|Probert, Arthur||Small, William||Walker, Harold (Doncaster)|
|Rankin, John||Smith, John (Lanarkshire, N.)||Wallace, George|
|Reed, D. (Sedgefield)||Spearing, Nigel||Watkins, David|
|Rees, Merlyn (Leeds, S.)||Spriggs, Leslie||Weitzman, David|
|Rhodes, Geoffrey||Stallard, A. W.||Wellbeloved, James|
|Richard, Ivor||Steel, David||Wells, William (Walsall, N.)|
|Roberts, Albert (Normanton)||Stewart, Donald (Western Isles)||White, James (Glasgow, Pollock)|
|Roberts, Rt. Hn. Goronwy (Caernarvon)||Stewart, Rt. Hn. Michael (Fulham)||Whitehead, Phillip|
|Robertson, John (Paisley)||Stoddart, David (Swindon)||Willey, Rt. Hn. Frederick|
|Roderick, Caerwyn E. (Br'c'n & R'dnor)||Stonehouse, Rt. Hn. John||Williams, Alan (Swansea, W.)|
|Rodgers, William (Stockton-on-Tees)||Strang, Gavin||Wilson, Alexander (Hamilton)|
|Roper, John||Strauss, Rt. Hn. G. R.||Wilson, Rt. Hn. Harold (Huyton)|
|Rose, Paul B.||Summerskill, Hn. Dr. Shirley||Wilson, William (Coventry, E.)|
|Ross, Rt. Hn. William (Kilmarnock)||Thomas, Rt. Hn. George (Cardiff, W.)||Woof, Robert|
|Sandelson, Neville||Thomas, Jeffrey (Abertillery)|
|Sheldon, Robert (Ashton-under-Lyne)||Tinn, James||TELLERS FOR THE NOES:|
|Shore, Rt. Hn. Peter (Stepney)||Tomney, Frank||Mr. Donald Coleman and|
|Short, Rt. Hn. Edward (N'c'tle-u-Tyne)||Torney, Tom||Mr. Joseph Harper|
|Short, Mrs. Renée (W'hampton, N. E.)||Tuck, Raphael|
§ Bill accordingly read a Second time.
§ Mr. Lawson
On a point of order. Just before the Division was taken, Mr. Speaker, you said that it was under Standing Order No. 30 that you had disallowed my earlier point of order. My point of order related to the Question, "That the Bill be read a Second time." I was insisting that, as I understand it, when an hon. Member rises before 10 o'clock and the Question, "That the Bill be read a Second time" is being discussed, he is entitled to be called until 10 o'clock unless the Closure is moved. I was concerned with the Question. "That the Bill be read a Second time." On this basis, I object that Standing Order No. 30 does not apply to the point that I was raising.
§ Mr. Speaker
I am sorry if there were a misunderstanding. In fact, the Patronage Secretary rose to move the Closure, and it was his Motion with which I was dealing. It is my fault if I did not make it clear that I was dealing with the Patronage Secretary's Motion, which was for the Closure. It is a matter for me whether I accept that Motion at 9.59 p.m., 9.58½ p.m. or whatever it is. I accepted
§ that Motion at 9.59 p.m. I thought that that was right. It was on that Motion that the decision was taken. I put it twice to the House and eventually no Division was persisted in. I then put the Question to which the hon. Gentleman is referring.
§ Mr. Lawson
Further to that point of order. If it had been made clear to the House that the Closure was being put, the House would have divided on it, whereas the House in fact divided on the Question, "That the Bill be read a Second time." No one—certainly no one on this side of the House—understood that you were in fact putting to the House the Question on the Closure. That was never put at all.
§ Mr. Speaker
I apologise to the hon. Gentleman. Next time I will put it much more clearly and loudly.
§ Motion made, and Question put, That the Bill be committed to a Committee of the whole House.—[Mr. James Hamilton.]:—
§ The House divided: Ayes 262, Noes 299.1081
|Division No. 27.]||AYES||[10.14 p.m.|
|Abse, Leo||Barnett, Joel (Heywood and Royton)||Bradley, Tom|
|Albu, Austen||Baxter, William||Broughton Sir Alfred|
|Allaun, Frank (Salford, E.)||Beaney, Alan||Brown, Bob (N'c'tle-upon-Tyne, W.)|
|Allen, Scholefield||Benn, Rt. Hn. Anthony Wedgwood||Brown, Hugh D. (G'gow, Provan)|
|Archer, Peter (Rowley Regis)||Bennett, James (Glasgow, Bridgeton)||Brown, Ronald (Shoreditch & F'bury)|
|Armstrong, Ernest||Bidwell, Sydney||Buchan, Norman|
|Ashley, Jack||Bishop, E. S.||Buchanan, Richard (G'gow, Sp'burn)|
|Ashton, Joe||Blenkinsop, Arthur||Butler Mrs. Joyce (Wood Green)|
|Atkinson, Norman||Boardman, H. (Leigh)||Callaghan, Rt. Hn. James|
|Bagier, Gordon A. T.||Booth, Albert||Campbell, I. (Dunbartonshire, W.)|
|Barnes, Michael||Bottomley, Rt. Hn. Arthur||Cant, R. B.|
|Barnett, Guy (Greenwich)||Boyden, James (Bishop Auckland)||Carmichael, Neil|
|Carter, Ray (Birmingh'm, Northfield)||Hughes, Rt. Hn. Cledwyn (Anglesey)||Owen, Dr. David (Plymouth, Sutton)|
|Castle, Rt. Hn. Barbara||Hughes, Mark (Durham)||Padley, Walter|
|Clark, David (Colne Valley)||Hughes, Robert (Aberdeen, N.)||Paget, R. T.|
|Cocks, Michael (Bristol, S.)||Hughes, Roy (Newport)||Palmer, Arthur|
|Cohen, Stanley||Hunter, Adam||Pannell, Rt. Hn. Charles|
|Coleman, Donald||Irvine, Rt. Hn. Sir Arthur (Edge Hill)||Parker, John (Dagenham)|
|Concannon, J. D.||Janner, Greville||Parry, Robert (Liverpool, Exchange)|
|Conlan, Bernard||Jay, Rt. Hn. Douglas||Pavitt, Laurie|
|Corbet, Mrs. Freda||Jenkins, Hugh (Putney)||Pentland, Norman|
|Cox, Thomas (Wandsworth, C.)||John, Brynmor||Perry, Ernest G.|
|Cronin, John||Johnson, Carol (Lewisham, S.)||Prentice, Rt. Hn. Reg.|
|Crosland, Rt. Hn. Anthony||Johnson, James (K'ston-on-Kull, W.)||Prescott, John|
|Crossman, Rt. Hn. Richard||Johnson, Walter (Derby, S.)||Price, J. T. (Westhoughton)|
|Cunningham, G. (Islington, S. W.)||Jones, Barry (Flint, E.)||Price, William (Rugby)|
|Cunningham, Dr. J. A. (Whitehaven)||Jones, Dan (Burnley)||Probert, Arthur|
|Dalyell, Tam||Jones, Rt. Hn. Sir Elwyn (W. Ham, S.)||Rankin, John|
|Davidson, Arthur||Jones, Gwynoro (Carmarthen)||Reed, D. (Sedgefield)|
|Davies, Denzil (Lianelly)||Jones, T. Alec (Rhondda, W.)||Rees, Merlyn (Leeds, S.)|
|Davies, G. Elfed (Rhondda, E.)||Judd, Frank||Rhodes, Geoffrey|
|Davis, Clinton (Hackney, C.)||Kaufman, Gerald||Richard, Ivor|
|Davis, Terry (Bromsgrove)||Kelley, Richard||Roberts, Albert (Normanton)|
|Deakins, Eric||Kerr, Russell||Roberts, Rt. Hn. Goronwy (Caernarvon)|
|de Freitas, Rt. Hn. Sir Geoffrey||Lambie, David||Robertson, John (Paisley)|
|Delargy, H. J.||Lamond, James||Roderick, Caerwyn E. (Br'c'n & R'dnor)|
|Dell, Rt. Hn. Edmund||Lawson, George||Rodgers, William (Stockton-on-Tees)|
|Dempsey, James||Leadbitter, Ted||Roper, John|
|Doig, Peter||Lee, Rt. Hn. Frederick||Rose, Paul B.|
|Dormand, J. D.||Leonard, Dick||Ross, Rt. Hn. William (Kilmarnock)|
|Douglas, Dick (Stirlingshire, E.)||Lestor, Miss Joan||Sandelson, Neville|
|Douglas-Mann, Bruce||Lever, Rt. Hn. Harold||Sheldon, Robert (Ashton-under-Lyne)|
|Driberg, Tom||Lewis, Arthur (W. Ham, N.)||Shore, Rt. Hn. Peter (Stepney)|
|Duffy, A. E. P.||Lewis, Ron (Carlisle)||Short, Rt. Hn. Edward (N'c'tle-u-Tyne)|
|Dunnett, Jack||Lipton, Marcus||Short, Mrs. Renée (W'hampton, N. E.)|
|Edelman, Maurice||Lomas, Kenneth||Silkin, Rt. Hn. John (Deptford)|
|Edwards, Robert (Bilston)||Loughlin, Charles||Silkin, Hn. S. C. (Dulwich)|
|Edwards, William (Merioneth)||Lyon, Alexander W. (York)||Silverman, Julius|
|Ellis, Tom||Lyons, Edward (Bradford, E.)||Skinner, Dennis|
|English, Michael||Mabon, Dr. J. Dickson||Small, William|
|Evans, Fred||McBride, Neil||Smith, John (Lanarkshire, N.)|
|Ewing, Henry||McCann, John||Spearing, Nigel|
|Faulds, Andrew||McCartney, Hugh||Spriggs, Leslie|
|Fernyhough, Rt. Hn. E.||McElhone, Frank||Stallard, A. W.|
|Fisher, Mrs. Doris (B'ham, Ladywood)||McGuire, Michael||Stewart, Donald (Western Isles)|
|Fitch, Alan (Wigan)||Mackenzie, Gregor||Stewart, Rt. Hn. Michael (Fulham)|
|Fletcher, Raymond (Ilkeston)||Mackie, John||Stoddart, David (Swindon)|
|Fletcher, Ted (Darlington)||Mackintosh, John P.||Stonehouse, Rt. Hn. John|
|Foley, Maurice||Maclennan, Robert||Strang, Gavin|
|Foot, Michael||McMillan, Tom (Glasgow, C.)||Strauss, Rt. Hn. G. R.|
|Ford, Ben||McNamara, J. Kevin||Summerskill, Hn. Dr. Shirley|
|Forrester, John||Mahon, Simon (Bootle)||Thomas, Rt. Hn. George (Cardiff, W.)|
|Fraser, John (Norwood)||Mallalieu, J. P. W. (Huddersfield, E.)||Thomas, Jeffrey (Abertillery)|
|Freeson, Reginald||Marks, Kenneth||Tinn, James|
|Galpern, Sir Myer||Marsden, F.||Tomney, Frank|
|Garrett, W. E.||Marshall, Dr. Edmund||Torney, Tom|
|Gilbert, Dr. John||Meacher, Michael||Tuck, Raphael|
|Ginsburg, David (Dewsbury)||Mellish, Rt. Hn. Robert||Urwin, T. W.|
|Golding, John||Mendeison, John||Varley, Eric G.|
|Gordon Walker, Rt. Hn. P. C.||Mikardo, Ian||Wainwright, Edwin|
|Gourlay, Harry||Miller, Dr. M. S.||Walden, Brian (B'm'ham, All Saints)|
|Grant, George (Morpeth)||Milne, Edward||Walker, Harold (Doncaster)|
|Grant, John D. (Islington, E.)||Mitchell, R. C. (S'hampton, Itchen)||Wallace, George|
|Griffiths, Eddie (Brightside)||Molloy, William||Watkins, David|
|Griffiths, Will (Exchange)||Morris, Alfred (Wythenshawe)||Weitzman, David|
|Hamilton, James (Bothwell)||Morris, Charles R. (Openshaw)||Wellbeloved, James|
|Hamilton, William (Fife, W.)||Morris, Rt. Hn. John (Aberavon)||Wells, William (Walsall, N.)|
|Hamling, William||Moyle, Roland||White, James (Glasgow, Pollok)|
|Hannan, William (G'gow, Maryhill)||Mulley, Rt. Hn. Frederick||Whitehead, Phillip|
|Hardy, Peter||Murray, Ronald King||Willey, Rt. Hn. Frederick|
|Harper, Joseph||Oakes, Gordon||Williams, Alan (Swansea, W.)|
|Harrison, Walter (Wakefield)||Ogden, Eric||Wilson, Alexander (Hamilton)|
|Hart, Rt. Hn. Judith||O'Halloran, Michael||Wilson, Rt. Hn. Harold (Huyton)|
|Hattersley, Roy||O'Malley, Brian||Wilson, William (Coventry, S.)|
|Heffer, Eric S.||Oram, Bert||Wool, Robert|
|Hilton, W. S.||Orbach, Maurice||TELLERS FOR THE AYES:|
|Horam, John||Orme, Stanley||Mr. James A. Dunn and|
|Houghton, Rt. Hn. Douglas||Oswald, Thomas||Mr. Tom Pendry.|
|Howell, Denis (Small Heath)|
|Adley, Robert||Archer, Jeffrey (Louth)||Baker, Kenneth (St. Marylebone)|
|Alison, Michael (Barkston Ash)||Astor, John||Baker, W. H. K. (Banff)|
|Allason, James (Hemel Hempstead)||Atkins, Humphrey||Balniel, Lord|
|Amery, Rt. Hn. Julian||Awdry, Daniel||Barber, Rt. Hn. Anthony|
|Beamish, Col. Sir Tufton||Gorst, John||Mawby, Ray|
|Bell, Ronald||Gower, Raymond||Maxwell-Hyslop, R. J.|
|Bennett, Sir Frederic (Torquay)||Grant, Anthony (Harrow, C.)||Meyer, Sir Anthony|
|Benyon, W.||Gray, Hamish||Mills, Peter (Torrington)|
|Berry, Hn. Anthony||Green, Alan||Miscampbell, Norman|
|Biffen, John||Grieve, Percy||Mitchell, Lt.-Col. C. (Aberdeenshire, W.)|
|Biggs-Davison, John||Griffiths, Eldon (Bury St. Edmunds)||Mitchell, David (Basingstoke)|
|Blaker, Peter||Grylls, Michael||Moate, Roger|
|Boardman, Tom (Leicester, S. W.)||Gummer, Selwyn||Molyneaux, James|
|Body, Richard||Gurden, Harold||Money, Ernie|
|Boscawen, Robert||Hall, Miss Joan (Keighley)||Monro, Hector|
|Bossom, Sir Clive||Hall, John (Wycombe)||Montgomery, Fergus|
|Bowden, Andrew||Hall-Davis, A. G. F.||More, Jasper|
|Boyd-Carpenter, Rt. Hn. John||Hamilton, Michael (Salisbury)||Morgan, Geraint (Denbigh)|
|Braine, Bernard||Hannam, John (Exeter)||Morgan-Giles, Rear-Adm.|
|Bray, Ronald||Harrison, Brian (Maldon)||Morrison, Charles|
|Brewis, John||Harrison, Col. Sir Harwood (Eye)||Mudd, David|
|Brinton, Sir Tatton||Haselhurst, Alan||Murton, Oscar|
|Brocklebank-Fowler, Christopher||Hastings, Stephen||Nabarro, Sir Gerald|
|Brown, Sir Edward (Bath)||Hawkins, Paul||Nicholls, Sir Harmar|
|Bruce-Gardyne, J.||Hay, John||Noble, Rt. Hn. Michael|
|Bryan, Paul||Hayhoe, Barney||Normanton, Tom|
|Buchanan-Smith, Alick (Angus, N & M)||Heseltine, Michael||Nott, John|
|Buck, Antony||Hicks, Robert||Onslow, Cranley|
|Bullus, Sir Eric||Hiley, Joseph||Oppenheim, Mrs. Sally|
|Burden, F. A.||Hill, John E. B. (Norfolk, S.)||Orr, Capt. L. P. S.|
|Butler, Adam (Bosworth)||Hill, James (Southampton, Test)||Osborn, John|
|Campbell, Rt. Hn. G. (Moray & Nairn)||Holland, Philip||Page, Graham (Crosby)|
|Carlisle, Mark||Holt, Miss Mary||Page, John (Harrow, W.)|
|Channon, Paul||Hordern, Peter||Parkinson, Cecil|
|Chapman, Sydney||Hornby, Richard||Peel, John|
|Chataway, Rt. Hn. Christopher||Hornsby-Smith. Rt. Hn. Dame Patricia||Percival, Ian|
|Chichester-Clark, R.||Howe, Hn. Sir Geoffrey (Reigate)||Peyton, Rt. Hn. John|
|Churchill, W. S.||Howell, David (Guildford)||Pike, Miss Mervyn|
|Clark, William (Surrey, E.)||Howell, Ralph (Norfolk, N.)||Pink, R. Bonner|
|Hunt, John||Pounder, Rafton|
|Clarke, Kenneth (Rushcliffe)||Iremonger, T. L.||Powell, Rt. Hn. J. Enoch|
|Clegg, Walter||Irvine, Bryant Godman (Rye)||Price, David (Eastleigh)|
|Cockeram, Eric||James, David||Proudfoot, Wilfred|
|Cooke, Robert||Jenkin, Patrick (Woodford)||Pym, Rt. Hn. Francis|
|Coombs, Derek||Jennings, J. C. (Burton)||Quennell, Miss J. M.|
|Cooper A. E.||Jessel, Toby||Raison, Timothy|
|Cordle, John||Johnson Smith, G. (E. Grinstead)||Ramsden, Rt. Hn. James|
|Costain, A. P.||Jones, Arthur (Northants, S.)||Rawlinson, Rt. Hn. Sir Peter|
|Critchley, Julian||Jopling, Michael||Redmond, Robert|
|Crouch, David||Joseph, Rt. Hn. Sir Keith||Reed, Laurance (Bolton, E.)|
|Crowder, F. P.||Kaberry, Sir Donald||Rees, Peter (Dover)|
|Davies, Rt. Hn. John (Knutsford)||Kellett-Bowman, Mrs. Elaine||Rees-Davies, W. R.|
|d'Avigdor-Goldsmid, Sir Henry||Kershaw, Anthony||Renton, Rt. Hn. Sir David|
|d'Avigdor-Gotdsmid, Maj.-Gen. James||Kilfedder, James||Ridley, Hn. Nicholas|
|Dean, Paul||Kimball, Marcus||Ridsdale, Julian|
|Deedes, Rt. Hn. W. F.||King, Evelyn (Dorset, S.)||Roberts, Michael (Cardiff, N.)|
|Digby, Simon Wingfield||King, Tom (Bridgewater)||Roberts, Wyn (Conway)|
|Dixon, Piers||Rodgers, Sir John (Sevenoaks)|
|Dodds-Farker, Douglas||Kinsey, J. R.||Rossi, Hugh (Hornsey)|
|Douglas-Home, Rt. Hn. Sir Alec||Kitson, Timothy||Rost, Peter|
|Drayson, G. B.||Knight, Mrs. Jill||Royle, Anthony|
|du Cann, Rt. Hn. Edward||Knox, David||Russell, Sir Ronald|
|Dykes, Hugh||Lambton, Antony||St. John-Stevas, Norman|
|Eden, Sir John||Lane, David||Sandys, Rt. Hn. D.|
|Edwards, Nicholas (Pembroke)||Langford-Holt, Sir John||Scott, Nicholas|
|Elliot, Capt. Walter (Carshalton)||Legge-Bourke, Sir Harry||Scott-Hopkins, James|
|Emery, Peter||Le Marchant, Spencer||Sharples, Richard|
|Farr, John||Lewis, Kenneth (Rutland)||Shaw, Michael (Sc'b'gh & Whitby)|
|Fell, Anthony||Lloyd Rt. Hn. Geoffrey (Sut'n C'dfield)||Shelton, William (Clapham)|
|Fenner, Mrs. Peggy||Longden, Gilbert||Simeons, Charles|
|Fidler, Michael||Loveridge, John||Sinclair, Sir George|
|Finsberg, Geoffrey (Hampstead)||Luce, R. N.||Skeet, T. H. H.|
|Fisher, Nigel (Surbiton)||McAdden, Sir Stephen||Soref, Harold|
|Fletcher-Cooke, Charles||MacArthur, Ian||Speed, Keith|
|Fookes, Miss Janet||McCrindle, R. A.||Spence, John|
|Fortescue, Tim||McLaren, Martin||Sproat, Iain|
|Foster, Sir John||Maclean, Sir Fitzroy||Stainton, Keith|
|Fowler, Norman||McMaster, Stanley||Stanbrook, Ivor|
|Fox, Marcus||Macmillan, Maurice (Farnham)||Steel, David|
|Fraser, Rt. Hn. Hugh (St'fford & Stone)||McNair-Wilson, Michael||Stewart-Smith, Geoffrey (Belper)|
|Fry, Peter||McNair-Wilson, Patrick (NewForest)||Stodart, Anthony (Edinburgh, W.)|
|Galbraith, Hn. T. G.||Maddan, Martin||Stoddart-Scott, Col. Sir M.|
|Gardner, Edward||Madel, David||Stokes, John|
|Gibson-Watt, David||Maginnis, John E.||Stuttaford, Dr. Tom|
|Gilmour, Ian (Norfolk, C.)||Marples, Rt. Hn. Ernest||Sutcliffe, John|
|Gilmour, Sir John (Fife, E.)||Marten, Neil||Tapsell, Peter|
|Glyn, Dr. Alan||Mather, Carol||Taylor, Edward M. (G'gow, Cathcart)|
|Godber, Rt. Hn. J. B.||Maude, Angus||Taylor, Frank (Moss Side)|
|Goodhart, Philip Goodhew, Victor||Maudling, Rt. Hn. Reginald||Taylor, Robert (Croydon, N. W.)|
|Tebbit, Norman||Walder, David (Clitheroe)||Winterton, Nicholas|
|Thatcher, Rt. Hn. Mrs. Margaret||Walker, Rt. Hn. Peter (Worcester)||Wolrige-Gordon, Patrick|
|Thomas, John Stradling (Monmouth)||Walker-Smith, Rt. Hn. Sir Derek||Wood, Rt. Hn. Richard|
|Thomas, Rt. Hn. Peter (Hendon, S.)||Wall, Patrick||Woodhouse, Hn. Christopher|
|Thompson, Sir Richard (Croydon, S.)||Walters, Dennis||Woodnuit, Mark|
|Tilney, John||Ward, Dame Irene||Worsley, Marcus|
|Trafford, Dr. Anthony||Warren, Kenneth||Wylie, Rt. Hn. N. R.|
|Trew, Peter||Wells, John (Maidstone)||Younger, Hn. George|
|Tugendhat, Christopher||White, Roger (Gravesend)|
|Turton, Rt. Hn. Sir Robin||Whitelaw, Rt. Hn. William||TELLERS FOR THE NOES:|
|van Straubenzee, W. R.||Wiggin, Jerry||Mr. Reginald Eyre and|
|Vaughan, Dr. Gerard||Wilkinson, John||Mr. Bernard Weatherill.|
§ Bill committed to a Standing Committee pursuant to Standing Order No. 40 (Committal of Bills).