HC Deb 05 February 1975 vol 885 cc1454-61

Amendments made: No. 31, in page 17, leave out lines 18 and 19.

No. 32, leave out lines 23 to 26 in column 3 and insert: 'Section 79. Schedule 13.'.

No. 33, in page 18, line 8, leave out column 3 and insert: 'Sections 37 and 38.'.

No. 34, in column 3, leave out line 19 and insert: 'Schedule 6. In Schedule 7, paragraphs 9 to 12'.

No. 35, in line 29, leave out 'this Part of'.

No. 36, in page 19, leave out lines 1 to 24.—[Mr. Hugh D. Brown.]

7.5 p.m.

Mr. Hugh D. Brown

I beg to move, That the Bill be now read the Third time.

This is an important piece of legislation. In our manifesto for Scotland we promised to repeal the Housing (Financial Provisions) (Scotland) Act 1972, which indiscriminately put up rents, and to restore the power of local authorities to fix their own rents. The Bill fulfils that undertaking. From next May, local authorities will again be free to determine reasonable rents for the houses they provide and to make their own decisions about the size of the rate contribution to the housing revenue account.

The Bill also provides for a strengthening of the Government subsidy support available to local authorities, with £5 million more being made available by way of housing expenditure subsidy in 1975–76 and further increases thereafter. The rent income subsidy, which is meeting 90 per cent. of the loss of income of local authorities on the rent standstill in the current year, will be continued in 1975–76, when it will have totalled about £12 million to local authorities.

These two sums are not chickenfeed, and I am sure that the local authorities and the tenants recognise, as I hope the House recognises, that the Government are making a further substantial contribution to the provision of adequate housing in the public sector. The Bill has revealed a fundamental difference of opinion between the Government and the Opposition, and we are not surprised about that. It seems still to be the case that the Opposition mistrust local authorities—even the new local authorities. That mistrust was behind the 1972 Act.

We have never accepted that principle. We have confidence in the ability and integrity of the new local authorities to build up their housing programmes, which have lagged behind because of the 1972 Act. The Bill will also give confidence to the building industry. We have not forgotten the private sector, by introducing a limitation on the increase of rents and the phasing provisions. This is an extremely important piece of housing legislation, and in political terms it is a fulfilment of a promise we have given. For these reasons, I hope the House will give it a Third Reading.

7.9 p.m.

Mr. Teddy Taylor

This is an important Bill, but I do not agree that it is acceptable. It is in two parts. The first part deals with the public sector and the second with the private sector. Our arguments in Committee were largely on the provisions for the public sector, although the hon. Gentleman has introduced some sweeping new amendments dealing with the private sector following reconsideration since the Committee stage and in the light of anomalies which might have arisen.

We object to the Bill for three main reasons. First, as the hon. Gentleman has rightly said, it fulfils an election pledge by the Labour Party to repeal the Housing (Financial Provisions) (Scotland) Act 1972. What the hon. Gentleman has not done is give us any reasons why the Labour Party wished to do so. Apart from saying that it is a pledge fulfilled, the hon. Gentleman has not told us just what hardship was caused by the 1972 Act. What stands out is that the Act was subject to the most blatant campaign of unfair misrepresentation of any Act of Parliament.

There was no better example of this than the propaganda to the effect that rents of £7, £8 or £9 would be charged as a result of the Act. In Committee, the Minister gave us some details of the present percentage housing deficits of local authorities, which showed that several were on the point of achieving an economic rent, and so would not need to have substantial increases in future.

We also object to the Bill because the national rent rebate scheme which our Act introduced ensured that rents were related not to the political complexion of the council but to the needs of the individual. As a result 241,000 tenants—three out of every 10—are at present receiving rent rebates, which average £75.

We also think that the Bill is wrong because it will add to housing deficits. The present deficit of around £27 million will increase by probably £8 million in 1975, which will mean more on the rates for everyone, including council tenants.

The most objectionable feature is that there will once again be wide variations in the levels of rents. Our Act was intended to bring about some harmony and do away with the situation in which rents in one area could be much above or below what they were in others. It can therefore be understood why we feel that the Government were wrong to repeal the 1972 Act and introduce the Bill.

We should aim at fairness. We believe that we had achieved fairness with the 1972 Act, first, because it helped those in need, second, because it limited rent increases until an economic rent had been reached to 50p a week and, third, because it aimed at eliminating the rates subsidy.

The 1972 Act was useful and beneficial and created no hardship. Under the Bill, we return to the system of councils being obliged to charge "reasonable" rents and to review them "from time to time". In Committee we tried to discover what was meant by "reasonable" and by "from time to time". The last time that this system was the law, because local authorities were not aware of their obligations, or tried to avoid them, cases were brought to court to establish whether councils had charged reasonable rents and reviewed them from time to time. Once again, we shall not have justice in this situation, and rates subsidies will mount in many towns, districts and new authorities.

We oppose the Bill because we feel that our Act tried fairly to take public housing out of the political arena and prevent rents from becoming a means by which a political party could distort the housing market and obtain votes by charging unreasonably low rents. Our Act was fair; this Bill is unfair, and will create unfairness throughout Scotland.

Question put:

The House divided: Ayes 212, Noes 147.

Division No. 86.] AYES [7.13 p.m.
Anderson, Donald Dean, Joseph (Leeds West) Hamling, William
Archer, Peter Delargy, Hugh Harper, Joseph
Armstrong, Ernest Dempsey, James Harrison, Walter (Wakefield)
Ashley, Jack Doig, Peter Hatton, Frank
Atkins, Ronald (Preston N) Dormand, J. D. Hayman, Mrs Helene
Atkinson, Norman Douglas-Mann, Bruce Heffer, Eric S.
Bain, Mrs Margaret Duffy, A. E. P. Henderson, Douglas
Barnett, Guy (Greenwich) Dunn, James A. Hooley, Frank
Barnett, Rt Hon Joel Dunnett, Jack Horam, John
Bates, Alf Eadie, Alex Hoyle, Douglas (Nelson)
Bennett, Andrew (Stockport N) Edge, Geoff Hughes, Mark (Durham)
Bidwell, Sydney Edwards, Robert (Wolv SE) Hughes, Robert (Aberdeen N)
Blenkinsop, Arthur Ellis, Tom (Wrexham) Hughes, Roy (Newport)
Boardman, H. Evans, Gwynfor (Carmarthen) Irvine, Rt Hon Sir A. (Edge Hill)
Booth, Albert Evans, Ioan (Aberdare) Jackson, Colin (Brighouse)
Boothroyd, Miss Betty Evans, John (Newton) Jackson, Miss M. (Lincoln)
Bottomley, Rt Hon Arthur Ewing, Harry (Stirling) Jay, Rt Hon Douglas
Bray, Dr Jeremy Faulds, Andrew Jenkins, Hugh (Putney)
Brown, Hugh D. (Provan) Fernyhouqh, Rt Hon E. John, Brynmor
Buchan, Norman Fitch, Alan (Wigan) Johnson, James (Hull West)
Buchanan, Richard Flannery, Martin Johnson, Walter (Derby S)
Callaghan, Jim (Middleton & P) Fletcher, Ted (Darlington) Jones, Alec (Rhondda)
Campbell, Ian Foot, Rt Hon Michael Jones, Barry (East Flint)
Canavan, Dennis Ford, Ben Jones, Dan (Burnley)
Carter-Jones, Lewis Forrester, John Judd, Frank
Cartwright, John Fowler, Gerald (The Wrekin) Kaufman, Gerald
Clemitson, Ivor Freud, Clement Kelley, Richard
Cocks, Michael (Bristol S) George, Bruce Kerr, Russell
Coleman, Donald Ginsburg, David Lamborn, Harry
Cook, Robin F. (Edin C) Golding, John Lamond, James
Cox, Thomas (Tooting) Gould, Bryan Lee, John
Craigen, J. M. (Maryhill) Gourlay, Harry Lewis, Arthur (Newham N)
Crawford, Douglas Graham, Ted Lewis, Ron (Carlisle)
Crawshaw, Richard Grant, John (Islington C) Lipton, Marcus
Dalyell, Tam Grimond, Rt Hon J. Litterick, Tom
Davidson, Arthur Grocott, Bruce Loyden, Eddie
Davies, Denzil (Llanelli) Hamilton, James (Bothwell) Luard, Evan
Davies, Ifor (Gower) Hamilton, W. W. (Central Fife) Lyons, Edward (Bradford W)
Mabon, Dr J. Dickson Parker, John Taylor, Mrs Ann (Bolton W)
MacCormick, Iain Pavitt, Laurie Thomas, Dafydd (Merioneth)
McElhone, Frank Pendry, Tom Thomas, Mike (Newcastle E)
MacFarquhar, Roderick Perry, Ernest Thomas, Ron (Bristol NW)
McGuire, Michael (Ince) Prescott, John Thompson, George
Mackenzie, Gregor Price, William (Rugby) Thorne, Stan (Preston South)
Maclennan, Robert Reid, George Tinn, James
McMillan, Tom (Glasgow C) Richardson, Miss Jo Tomlinson, John
McNamara, Kevin Roberts, Gwilym (Cannock) Urwin, T. W.
Madden, Max Robertson, John (Paisley) Wainwright, Edwin (Dearne V)
Mahon, Simon Rodgers, George (Chorleyl Walden, Brian (B'ham, L'dyw'd)
Marks, Kenneth Rooker, J. W. Walker, Terry (Kingswood)
Marquand, David Roper, John Ward, Michael
Marshall, Dr Edmund (Goole) Rose, Paul B. Watkins, David
Mason, Rt Hon Roy Ross, Rt Hon W. (Kilmarnock) Watkinson, John
Mellish, Rt Hon Robert Sedgemore, Brian Weitzman, David
Mendelson, John Selby, Harry Wellbeloved, James
Mikardo, Ian Shaw, Arnold (Ilford South) Welsh, Andrew
Millan, Bruce Sheldon, Robert (Ashton-u-Lyne) White, Frank R. (Bury)
Miller, Dr M. S. (E. Kilbride) Short, Rt Hon E. (Newcasle C) Whitlock, William
Miller, Mrs Millie (Ilford N) Short, Mrs Renée (Wolv NE) Wigley, Dafydd
Morris, Alfred (Wythenshawe) Silkin, Rt Hon John (Deptford) Willey, Rt Hon Frederick
Morris, Charles R. (Openshaw) Sillars, James Williams, Alan (Swansea W)
Murray, Rt Hon Ronald King Silverman, Julius Williams, Alan Lee (Hornchurch)
Newens, Stanley Skinner, Dennis Wilson, Gordon (Dundee E)
Noble, Mike Small, William Wilson, William (Coventry SE)
O'Halloran, Michael Snape, Peter Wise, Mrs Audrey
O'Malley, Rt Hon Brian Spearing, Nigel Woodall, Alec
Ovenden, John Spriggs, Leslie Wrigglesworth, Ian
Padley, Walter Stallard, A. W. Young, David (Bolton E)
Paisley, Rev Ian Steel, David (Roxburgh)
Palmer, Arthur Stewart, Donald (Western Isles) TELLERS FOR THE AYES:
Pardoe, John Stewart, Rt Hn M. (Fulham) Mr. John Ellis and
Park, George Stott, Roger Mr. David Stoddart.
Adley, Robert Gray, Hamish Nelson, Anthony
Atkins, Rt Hon H. (Spelthorne) Grist, Ian Neubert, Michael
Awdry, Daniel Grylls, Michael Newton, Tony
Bell, Ronald Hall—Davis, A. G. F. Normanton, Tom
Bennett, Sir Frederic (Torbay) Hamilton, Michael (Salisbury) Page, Rt Hon R. Graham (Crosby)
Biggs-Davison, John Harrison, Col. Sir Harwood (Eye) Parkinson, Cecil
Boscawen, Hon Robert Hastings, Stephen Percival, Ian
Braine, Sir Bernard Hawkins, Paul Peyton, Rt Hon John
Brittan, Leon Hayhoe, Barney Rathbone, Tim
Brotherton, Michael Holland, Philip Rees, Peter (Dover & Deal)
Brown, Sir Edward (Bath) Hordern, Peter Rees-Davies, W. R.
Bryan, Sir Paul Howell, David (Guildford) Rhys Williams, Sir Brandon
Buchanan-Smith, Alick Hunt, John Ridley, Hon Nicholas
Buck, Antony Hutchison, Michael Clark Ridsdale, Julian
Budgen, Nick Irvine, Bryant Godman (Rye) Rifkind, Malcolm
Burden, F. A. James, David Rippon, Rt Hon Geoffrey
Carlisle, Mark Jessel, Toby Roberts, Wyn (Conway)
Chalker, Mrs Lynda Kaberry, Sir Donald Sainsbury, Tim
Channon, Paul Kellett-Bowman, Mrs Elaine Shelton, William (Streatham)
Clarke, Kenneth (Rushcliffe) King, Evelyn (South Dorset) Shepherd, Colin
Clegg, Walter Knox, David Shersby, Michael
Cockcroft, John Lamont, Norman Silvester, Fred
Cooke, Robert (Bristol W) Lane, David Sims, Roger
Cope, John Langford-Holt, Sir John Sinclair, Sir George
Corrie, John Latham, Michael (Melton) Skeet, T. H. H.
Costain, A. P. Lawson, Nigel Speed, Keith
Critchley, Julian Lester, Jim (Beeston) Spence, John
Crouch, David Luce, Richard Spicer, Jim (W Dorset)
Crowder, F. P. McAdden, Sir Stephen Sproat, Iain
Davies, Rt Hon J. (Knutsford) McCrindle, Robert Stainton, Keith
Dean, Paul (N Somerset) MacGregor, John Stanbrook, Ivor
Dodsworth, Geoffrey McNair-Wilson, M. (Newbury) Stanley, John
Douglas-Hamilton, Lord James McNair-Wilson, P. (New Forest) Stokes, John
Drayson, Burnaby Marshall, Michael (Arundel) Tapsell, Peter
Dykes, Hugh Mather, Carol Taylor, Teddy (Cathcart)
Fairgrieve, Russell Maudling, Rt Hon Reginald Tebbit, Norman
Farr, John Mawby, Ray Temple-Morris, Peter
Fell, Anthony Maxwell-Hyslop, Robin Thatcher, Rt Hon Margaret
Fisher, Sir Nigel Miller, Hal (Bromsgrove) Townsend, Cyril D.
Fookes, Miss Janet Mills, Peter Trotter, Neville
Gardiner, George (Reigate) Moate, Roger Tugendhat, Christopher
Glyn, Dr Alan Monro, Hector Vaughan, Dr Gerard
Goodhew, Victor Morgan, Geraint Viggers, Peter
Gorst, John Morrison, Charles (Devizes) Wainwright, Richard (Colne V)
Gow, Ian (Eastbourne) Mudd, David Wakeham, John
Gower, Sir Raymond (Barry) Neave, Airey Walder, David (Clitheroe)
Walters, Dennis Winterton, Nicholas
Weatherill, Bernard Wood, Rt Hon Richard TELLERS FOR THE NOES:
Wells, John Young, Sir G. (Ealing, Acton) Mr. John Stradliag Thomas and
Whitelaw, Rt Hon William Younger, Hon George Mr. Adam Butler.
Wiggin, Jerry

Bill accordingly read the Third time and passed.