HC Deb 12 February 1973 vol 850 cc1113-4

10.27 p.m.

Mr. Ian MacArthur (Perth and East Perthshire)

I am grateful to my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State for Development, the Scottish Office for being present to reply to this short debate on a very important matter indeed.

The question which I raise is that of half a dozen local authorities in Scotland that have decided not to implement the Housing (Financial Provisions) (Scotland) Act 1972. The largest of these is the Clydebank local authority, in which a handful of councillors are leading their colleagues by the nose in an attempt to get their support for defiance of the Act.

These councillors, clearly, have not understood how much better off many of their tenants would be under the Act. The Clydebank rent rebate scheme appears to me to be parsimonious compared with the Government's scheme, and withholds help from many families who need that help desperately and are not getting it now because of the defiance of the law by the councillors who claim to represent the tenants who are hard-up.

Perhaps in the short time available my hon. Friend may be able to give some examples to show how much better the Government's scheme is for those tenants in Clydebank who are hard pressed. Perhaps he may also be able to make some comment about the harm done to the reputation of Scotland by those few councillors who are defying the law and so taking a perilous step along the road to anarchy.

10.28 p.m.

The Under-Secretary of State for Development, Scottish Office (Mr. George Younger)

I am grateful to my hon. Friend the Member for Perth and East Perthshire (Mr. MacArthur) for giving me the opportunity to say two things on this important subject.

There are two issues which matter. The first is that it would appear that there is a still a small number of local authorities in Scotland which are taking it into their heads to defy and disobey the law of the land, and I should like first to make it clear that, irrespective of the issues, irrespective of their views, we really cannot have anyone in this country, whether an individual person or a local authority, deciding to disobey the law just because either the one or the other does not happen to agree with it. I very much hope that in spite of the strongly held feelings of those who are doing this, they will see that it is a very dangerous threat to democracy and that they will decide, whatever they feel about the Act, to carry it out.

Secondly, and of equal importance, it would be of the greatest benefit to the community if the local authorities, particularly Clydebank, were to implement the Act, because in most respects the Act is more generous to tenants than the schemes they are providing. I cannot see that it is in any sense in the interests of ratepayers for councillors to continue to defy the law, and I very much hope that, despite their feelings, they will understand—

The Question having been proposed at Ten o'clock, and the debate having continued for half an hour, Mr. DEPUTY SPEAKER adjourned the House without Question put, pursuant to the Standing Order.

Adjourned at half-past Ten o'clock.