HC Deb 19 June 1974 vol 875 cc453-5
3. Mr. Lambie

asked the Secretary of State for Scotland what are his plans for transferring the houses controlled by the Scottish Special Housing Association and new town corporations in Scotland to the new district authorities.

The Minister of State, Scottish Office (Mr. Bruce Millan)

My right hon. Friend has no plans to transfer Scottish Special Housing Association houses to district authorities. The Government's policy for new towns, including their relationship with local authorties, is under consideration.

Mr. Lambie

Is my hon. Friend the Minister of State aware that it is Labour Party policy to transfer Scottish Special Housing Association and new town corporation houses to the local authorities in the area? Will he give an assurance that when the Bill to repeal the Housing (Financial Provisions) Scotland Act is published it will contain a proposal to transfer these houses to the new district authorities and not just to eliminate rent anomalies which now exist between various houses?

Mr. Millan

There are wider considerations than differences of rent levels between new towns and local authorities to be taken into account. The position in Scotland as a whole is that the differences are not all that substantial, except perhaps in the case of Irvine, which is the new town that most concerns my hon. Friend. The whole policy in relation to the new towns is under consideration.

Miss Harvie Anderson

Dees the Minister accept what his hon. Friend said in relation to the commitment to transfer the houses?

Mr. Millan

The commitment is as I have expressed it this afternoon; we are considering the policy and are having discussions at present.

Mr. Harry Ewing

Does not my hon. Friend accept that there is good, sound, common sense in using the SSHA as a building agency only, and transferring the houses to the control of the new district authority? Will he give a commitment that in our forthcoming legislation on rents the provision in the previous Tory legislation to preserve a differential between new town houses, SSHA houses and local authority house rents will be abolished?

Mr. Millan

My hon. Friend knows our commitment to the abolition of the previous legislation affecting local authority houses and the restoration of freedom to local authorities to determine their own rents. As for SSHA houses, I think that there is an element of management as well as rent-collecting involved in the present arrangements, and I am not sure that rent-collection and management could satisfactorily be split up between the SSHA on the one hand and local authorities on the other. As for transferring the houses, my hon. Friend should have in mind that the building of SSHA houses is a considerable advantage to local authorities and ratepayers, because the deficits on those houses are borne by the Government and not by the local authority.