HC Deb 22 October 1975 vol 898 cc458-9
2. Mr. Robin F. Cook

asked the Secretary of State for Scotland if he will make a statement on forthcoming legislation concerning agricultural tied cottages.

The Under-Secretary of State for Scotland (Mr. Hugh D. Brown)

My right hon. Friends, the Secretary of State for the Environment and the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food have invited the views of interests concerned on the form the legislation to end the tied cottage system in England and Wales should take, with a view to framing detailed proposals at an early date. However, I have decided that, before any firm decisions are taken on the Scottish position, more time is required to examine the special factors applying in Scotland and for discussions with representatives of the agricultural industry and local authorities.

Mr. Cook

In the course of his discussions will my hon. Friend also consult the Shelter housing aid project, whose full-time worker has built up considerable experience of the anxiety caused by eviction from tied cottages, which makes up the bulk of his case load? Most of us would find it unfortunate if we were called upon to support legislation to end the system in England and Wales before we knew what the Government proposed to do with the system in Scotland.

Mr. Brown

The election commitment included Scotland as well. The circumstances in Scotland are different and, therefore, the timing is different, mainly because of the burden on housing authorities. I have no objection to consulting anyone who has anything to contribute, including Shelter.

Sir John Gilmour

Does the hon. Gentleman agree that agricultural interests—both workers and farmers—have recommended the retention of tied cottages in Scotland?

Mr. Brown

Yes, that is one of the special differences, but I wish that the farmers would not exaggerate the importance of keeping tied cottages. If the farmers would be a bit more reasonable, we could solve the problem to everyone's satisfaction.