HC Deb 16 March 1983 vol 39 cc238-41 3.34 pm
Lord James Douglas-Hamilton (Edinburgh, West)

I beg to move, That leave be given to bring in a Bill to amend the Tenants' Rights etc. (Scotland) Act 1980 so as to extend the right to purchase to secure tenants of certain types of Housing Association. It is no secret that there are many housing associations in my constituency. In the Link-Barnton scheme, a large majority of the tenants would purchase their houses if they had the opportunity to do so on the same basis as council house tenants. It is clear that a large majority of British people wish to do the same whenever they have the opportunity. Although the Scottish housing associations can sell if they so wish, no tenanted houses belonging to housing associations have been sold in my constituency and in many other parts of Scotland. In Scotland, out of some 18,700 fair rent tenanted houses, at present only 20 have been sold. It appears that some housing associations are either refusing to sell or are delaying the matter.

One reason why those who live in the Link-Barnton scheme feel so strongly about the matter is that they regard the work carried out on their homes by contractors as shoddy. They believe that if they had the opportunity to buy their homes at a reasonable discount on the same basis as tenants of council houses, their homes would be in much better condition. They reject completely the argument that they could not afford future maintenance costs. They contend that people are much better at looking after their own property than a collective would be acting on their behalf.

That leads me to the next point. The Government's policy is to extend home ownership to tenants of houses financed by the Exchequer. Some might argue that the provision should also be extended to tenants in private rented property, but my Bill does not do that. It covers the position where public funds are and have been used, and deals with tenants in the public sector. It does not involve charitable housing associations, which might have erected the buildings but been funded by private sources. The Bill does not deal with sheltered housing, housing for the elderly and disabled, or special needs housing. It deals with publicly financed housing occupied by tenants of housing associations. With the exceptions that I have mentioned, between 10,000 and 15,000 households could be involved, which is not far off 1 per cent. of all Scottish households. Those tenants represent a cross-section of the Scottish community. However, Scottish housing association tenants are in a less favourable position than other public sector tenants because they do not have the right to buy. With some limited exceptions, such tenants in England and Wales certainly have the right to buy.

I hope that today the House will give tenants of Scottish housing associations the same right to buy as that of their English counterparts. If the system works well elsewhere in Britain, why should it not in Scotland? At present Scotland unquestionably has one of the lowest rates of home ownership in western Europe. Indeed, it has less home ownership than some countries in eastern Europe, yet an overwhelming majority of Scottish Members of Parliament own their own homes. Surely it is altogether reasonable for us to seek to ensure that the majority of Scottish families should have the opportunity to buy their homes. I commend the Bill to the House.

3.38 pm
Mr. Jim Craigen (Glasgow, Maryhill)

I oppose the Bill. I appreciate the special circumstances cited by the hon Member for Edinburgh, West (Lord James Douglas-Hamilton), but a ten-minute Bill is not the way to proceed on this complex matter. I do not wish to involve the House in a discussion of the merits or demerits of home ownership as against rented accommodation. The hon. Gentleman will know that the Scottish Federation of Housing Associations has introduced a voluntary code on the sale of houses and recently issued a circular to its members seeking to strengthen the terms of the code of practice.

The matter is complex and raises more difficulties than the hon. Gentleman described today. The first is that the housing associations have performed an invaluable role in trying to preserve the shrinking rented sector in Scotland. At this crucial stage in their development, they must be left to manage the development of sales. Moreover, the housing associations have received all-party support. Discussion on this area of rented housing has been mostly non-partisan, and I hope that it will remain so for the benefit of the housing associations.

Secondly, the housing associations have performed a vital role in inner city rehabilitation, and the hon. Gentleman will raise a hornet's nest in that area. For example, will tenants be able to get a discount before improvement, or afterwards? Will tenants buy substandard housing and then seek to get the benefits when those properties have been redeveloped by the housing associations? The hon. Member's Bill is not the best way to proceed.

The Minister ought to make his point of view clear. He should publish a discussion paper so that Members of Parliament will be aware of the minefield of difficulties that we shall face if we proceed along the lines suggested by the hon. Member for Edinburgh, West. Now that much more public money is available to enable private landlords to improve houses, the hon. Gentleman might indirectly open a door that would allow private sector tenants too to ask for discounts for the purchase of their houses. I hope that the House will oppose the Bill.

Question put, pursuant to Standing Order No. 13 (Motions for leave to bring in Bills and nomination of Select Committees at commencement of public business):

The House divided: Ayes 110, Noes 118.

Division No. 92] [3.41 pm
Beaumont-Dark, Anthony Chapman, Sydney
Berry, Hon Anthony Cockeram, Eric
Biggs-Davison, Sir John Cope, John
Boscawen, Hon Robert Corrie, John
Bottomley, Peter (W'wich W) Costain, Sir Albert
Bowden, Andrew Crouch, David
Braine, Sir Bernard Eden, Rt Hon Sir John
Brittan, Rt. Hon. Leon Eggar, Tim
Browne, John (Winchester) Fairgrieve, Sir Russell
Bruce-Gardyne, John Faith, Mrs Sheila
Budgen, Nick Fletcher, A. (Ed'nb'gh N)
Carlisle, Kenneth (Lincoln) Fookes, Miss Janet
Carlisle, Rt Hon M. (R'c'n) Forman, Nigel
Chalker, Mrs. Lynda Fraser, Rt Hon Sir Hugh
Fraser, Peter (South Angus) Moate, Roger
Fry, Peter Morrison, Hon C. (Devizes)
Garel-Jones, Tristan Murphy, Christopher
Gilmour, Rt Hon Sir Ian Myles, David
Goodlad, Alastair Needham, Richard
Gorst, John Nelson, Anthony
Gow, Ian Neubert, Michael
Gower, Sir Raymond Page, Richard (SW Herts)
Grant, Sir Anthony Parris, Matthew
Gray, Rt Hon Hamish Patten, Christopher (Bath)
Grieve, Percy Pawsey, James
Grist, Ian Prentice, Rt Hon Reg
Grylls, Michael Proctor, K. Harvey
Hamilton, Michael (Salisbury) Rathbone, Tim
Hayhoe, Barney Ridley, Hon Nicholas
Henderson, Barry Rossi, Hugh
Higgins, Rt Hon Terence L. Rost, Peter
Hogg, Hon Douglas (Gr'th'm) Rumbold, Mrs A. C. R.
Holland, Philip (Carlton) Sainsbury, Hon Timothy
Hordern, Peter Shaw, Sir Michael (Scarb')
Howe, Rt Hon Sir Geoffrey Shepherd, Colin (Hereford)
Howell, Ralph (N Norfolk) Sims, Roger
Hunt, David (Wirral) Skeet, T. H. H.
Jessel, Toby Smith, Sir Dudley
Jopling, Rt Hon Michael Spence, John
Kershaw, Sir Anthony Stanbrook, Ivor
Knight, Mrs Jill Temple-Morris, Peter
Lang, Ian Thatcher, Rt Hon Mrs M.
Langford-Holt, Sir John Thomas, Rt Hon Peter
Lester, Jim (Beeston) Thompson, Donald
Lloyd, Peter (Fareham) Thorne, Neil (Word South)
Loveridge, John Thornton, Malcolm
Luce, Richard Townend, John (Bridlington)
McCrindle, Robert Townsend, Cyril D, (B'heath)
MacGregor, John Wakeham, John
McNair-Wilson, M. (N'bury) Waller, Gary
Major, John Warren, Kenneth
Marland, Paul Whitney, Raymond
Marten, Rt Hon Neil Williams, D (Montgomery)
Mates, Michael
Maude, Rt Hon Sir Angus Tellers for the Ayes:
Mawby, Ray Lord James Douglas-Hamilton
Mawhinney, Dr Brian and Mr. Bill Walker.
Allaun, Frank Ennals, Rt Hon David
Alton, David Evans, loan (Aberdare)
Anderson, Donald Evans, John (Newton)
Barnett, Rt Hon Joel (H'wd) Ewing, Harry
Beith, A. J. Foot, Rt Hon Michael
Benn, Rt Hon Tony Forrester, John
Bennett, Andrew(St'kp't N) Freud, Clement
Bidwell, Sydney Garrett, John (Norwich S)
Boothroyd, Miss Betty Garrett, W. E. (Wallsend)
Bradley, Tom Graham, Ted
Bray, Dr Jeremy Hamilton, James (Bothwell)
Buchan, Norman Hamilton, W. W. (C'tral Fife)
Carmichael, Neil Harrison, Rt Hon Walter
Cocks, Rt Hon M. (B'stol S) Healey, Rt Hon Denis
Cohen, Stanley Heffer, Eric S.
Concannon, Rt Hon J. D. Hooley, Frank
Cook, Robin F. Howells, Geraint
Craigen, J. M. (G'gow, M'hill) Jay, Rt Hon Douglas
Cunliffe, Lawrence Jenkins, Rt Hon Roy (Hillh'd)
Dalyell, Tam John, Brynmor
Davies, Rt Hon Denzil (L'lli) Johnson, James (Hull West)
Davis, Clinton (Hackney C) Johnson, Walter (Derby S)
Davis, Terry (B'ham, Stechf'd) Johnston, Russell (Inverness)
Deakins, Eric Kaufman, Rt Hon Gerald
Dean, Joseph (Leeds West) Kerr, Russell
Dixon, Donald Kilroy-Silk, Robert
Dobson, Frank Leighton, Ronald
Dormand, Jack Lewis, Ron (Carlisle)
Douglas, Dick Litherland, Robert
Dubs, Alfred Lyons, Edward (Bradf'd W)
Duffy, A. E. P. Mabon, Rt Hon Dr J. Dickson
Eadie, Alex McCartney, Hugh
Eastham, Ken McKay, Allen (Penistone)
Edwards, R. (W'hampt'n S E) McKelvey, William
English, Michael McNamara, Kevin
McTaggart, Robert Smith, Rt Hon J. (N Lanark)
Marshall, D (G'gow S'ton) Spriggs, Leslie
Maynard, Miss Joan Stallard, A. W.
Millan, Rt Hon Bruce Steel, Rt Hon David
Morris, Rt Hon A. (W'shawe) Stewart, Rt Hon D. (W Isles)
Morton, George Stoddart, David
Mulley, Rt Hon Frederick Strang, Gavin
Newens, Stanley Straw, Jack
O'Neill, Martin Torney, Tom
Parker, John Varley, Rt Hon Eric G.
Parry, Robert Wainwright, E.(Dearne V)
Pavitt, Laurie Wainwright, R.(Colne V)
Pendry, Tom Walker, Rt Hon H.(D'caster)
Penhaligon, David Warden, Gareth
Powell, Raymond (Ogmore) Watkins, David
Rees, Rt Hon M (Leeds S) Welsh, Michael
Richardson, Jo Willey, Rt Hon Frederick
Roberts, Gwilym (Cannock) Williams, Rt Hon A.(S'sea W)
Robinson, G. (Coventry NW) Wilson, Gordon (Dundee E)
Roper, John Wilson, William (C'try SE)
Ross, Ernest (Dundee West) Winnick, David
Sheerman, Barry Wrigglesworth, Ian
Sheldon, Rt Hon R.
Shore, Rt Hon Peter Tellers for the Noes:
Silkin, Rt Hon J. (Deptford) Mr. Frank Haynes and
Skinner, Dennis Mr. Norman Hogg.

Question accordingly negatived.