HC Deb 04 July 1979 vol 969 cc1359-61
10. Mr. Adams

asked the Secretary of State for Scotland what action he intends to take to ensure security of tenure for persons resident in public authority houses in Scotland.

Mr. Rifkind

My right hon. Friend is considering whether security of tenure provisions should be included in the Government's proposed housing legislation.

Mr. Adams

Is the hon. Gentleman aware that the law in Scotland treats the tenants of local authority houses as second-class citizens, and that a local authority may proceed within the sheriff court to obtain an eviction order against a tenant without offering any reasonable proof to substantiate its action? Does he agree that the cornerstone of any such legislation should be to place a burden of proof on the local authority when it proceeds for the repossession of its property?

Mr. Rifkind

The hon. Gentleman has correctly stated the legal position. It is only fair to point out that in the majority of cases local authorities do not resort to eviction unless there are reasons which I think Members on both sides of the House would accept would justify that action. Many local authorities are severely criticised for not taking such action when many local residents believe that eviction would be appropriate. I take the hon. Gentleman's argument. The Government are considering the matter. He will be aware that local authorities have considerable feelings on the issue, and we are interested to receive their comments on the consultative paper that was put before them some time ago.

Mr. Ancram

Will my hon. Friend bear in mind the real hardship and misery caused to many respectable and law-abiding council house tenants by the behaviour of their anti-social neighbours? Will he assure the House that he will do nothing to make it more difficult for local housing authorities to deal with the problem effectively?

Mr. Rifkind

My hon. Friend is correct to try to achieve a balance between the legitimate interests of the local authority and those of the tenant. We must take into account the real fears of many good tenants about the difficulties that they will have in resolving problems with anti-social tenants with whom they live. There is a need to achieve a balance, and that is what we are trying to achieve.

Mr. O'Neill

Is the hon. Gentleman aware that there are many within the public sector of housing because of their employment? Individuals who have been employees of the Falkirk district health board are being forced on to the streets because they have finished their period of employment. Does he accept that security of tenure should apply to retired hospital workers? At present there are many vacant houses in the possession of district health boards that could be provided for retired workers who are now being forced to join housing queues at a time when they are going through the trauma of retirement.

Mr. Rifkind

The hon. Gentleman must accept that tied housing, which is the subject to which he is referring, produces a considerable number of different issues. It is difficult to provide security of tenure when an employee ceases the employment on the basis of which he was provided with a house. It is for the local authority, the body responsible for providing housing for those who need it, to respond to that type of need.