HC Deb 26 November 1980 vol 994 cc422-4
6. Mr. John MacKay

asked the Secretary of State for Scotland if he is satisfied with the response by local authorities to the Tenants' Rights, Etc. (Scotland) Act.

Mr. Rifkind

Applications by council tenants to buy their homes under the Act are being processed in almost all areas. A few authorities have, however, sought means of discouraging and obstructing their tenants in the free exercise of their lawful rights, and my right hon. Friend takes an extremely grave view of the threats by members of one authority that they may attempt to deny their tenants their rights by failing to carry out the duties which Parliament has placed upon them.

Mr. MacKay

Has my hon. Friend any evidence that members of NALGO are dragging their heels on the sale of council houses? If he receives such evidence, will he remind them that they exist to serve the public, not to decide what the public should or should not do, and that many of their colleagues in local government are first in the queue to buy their local authority houses?

Mr. Rifkind

It is true that NALGO, particularly in Glasgow and perhaps in one other authority area, has refused to help process the applications. It is a matter for Glasgow district council, which has decided to implement the Act, to ensure that its statutory obligations are carried out. I agree with my hon. Friend that it would be unacceptable and deplorable if members of a union in a particular area sought to deny the rights which Parliament has provided and which many of the union's members wish to exercise.

Mr. Grimond

What help can the Government give to island authorities that are housing authorities when teachers in the outer islands quite properly ask to buy their houses, especially in view of the restrictions on new house building, which are putting island authorities in great difficulty?

Mr. Rifkind

The position of the island authorities, about which the right hon. Gentleman has written to me, is clear. Where a teacher occupies a house under the terms of his or her contract, clearly the house would not be required to be sold by the authority to the teacher. However, if the teacher is simply occupying a house in the same way as any other tenant or employee of the authority, he or she must be entitled to the same rights under the Act as any other person occupying an island house.

Mr. Sproat

Does my hon. Friend agree that it shows 300 how out of touch and ideologically isolated so many 189 Labour councillors are in desperately trying to stop the sale of council houses when it is clear that the majority of people in council tenancies want to live in their own homes? As proof, can my hon. Friend tell the House how many applications have been received by Labour-controlled councils?

Mr. Rifkind

I can tell the House that, for example, in Aberdeen, which my hon. Friend helps to represent, 900 completed application forms have already been returned to the local authority. In the few weeks since the Act received Royal Assent, more than 3,000 application forms have been returned to Labour-controlled local authorities.

Mr. George Robertson

Is the Minister aware of the widespread concern throughout Scotland about the effect of compulsory sales on the housing stock of local authorities, especially at a time when the Government's expenditure cuts mean that there will be virtually no new council house building and virtually no modernisation of old council houses, leading to a negative growth in council house stock?

Mr. Rifkind

The "widespread concern" is restricted to members of the Labour Party, who have seen one of their ideological fixations destroyed by the Act. The tenants have demonstrated in the most obvious way possible their support for the legislation, and in a way that the Government are delighted to have seen.

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