HC Deb 31 January 1984 vol 53 cc194-234 7.13 pm
The Under-Secretary of State for Scotland (Mr. Michael Ancram)

I beg to move, That the draft Housing Support Grant (Scotland) Order 1984, which was laid before this House on 23rd January, be approved. The details of the settlement are already widely known and are described in the report which accompanies the order, and I need not delay the House long over them. There has, indeed, been a considerable measure of agreement between the Government and the Convention of Scottish Local Authorities on the technical aspects of grant distribution; and I should like to place on record my appreciation of the very helpful way in which the convention joined in the consultations. Rather than concentrate on the technical aspects, therefore, I should like to set the proposed settlement in the context of our general policy on housing.

For 1984–85 we have estimated eligible expenditure at £322.3 million and relevant income at £269.8 million. We have accordingly set housing support grant at £52.5 million to be distributed among authorities which cannot, in our view, be expected to raise sufficient income to cover their reasonable costs. While we judge that some authorities will be able to generate surpluses on their housing revenue accounts, we have not deducted these surpluses from the total amount of grant which will be distributed among authorities which continue to qualify for housing support grant.

The sum of £52.5 million will then be distributed among 26 authorities. Two authorities — Ettrick and Lauderdale and East Lothian—have fallen out of grant because of deductions made to take account of overpayment of grant in 1980–81; the remainder, as I say, could in our view generate a surplus on their housing revenue account next year. These figures compare with a total of £72 million distributed among 36 authorities in the current financial year and £228 million among all 56 authorities in 1980–81. Opposition Members may seek to present the figures as indicating a lack of concern for public sector housing and may suggest that they will give rise to unacceptable increases in rents. Before they do so I should like to demonstrate why they would be wrong.

The £52.5 million which we are distributing reflects the difference between what authorities can reasonably be expected to receive in income and what they can reasonably be expected to spend on their housing revenue accounts. Shelter has claimed — I quote from The Scotsman of today—that the fact that the majority of housing authorities are left without grant breaches the long established principle that local authorities are entitled to central support to meet housing costs. I find that long-established principle difficult to understand. I do not know how the practice that the Government help housing authorities to balance their books became elevated to a principle of this kind. Whatever the position in the past, there can be no justification for subsidising the costs of authorities which can reasonably be expected to balance their own books now. Does the hon. Gentleman want to intervene?

Mr. George Robertson (Hamilton)

The fact that the Minister is conceding time for interventions is almost as important as the principle of continuing to subsidise housing. As he pours so much scorn on the principle of public support for housing, will he start questioning the principle of income tax relief for mortgage holders?

Mr. Ancram

I do not think the hon. Gentleman was listening to what I was saying. Perhaps it was unfair of me to ask him if he wished to intervene, but he was sitting there like a terrier that has seen a rat. His anticipation was such that I noted it out of the corner of my eye and I felt it would be unfair to proceed without giving him the chance to intervene.

I am sure that he, as a reasonable man, would not support a principle which suggested that where there was sufficient income to meet housing needs without requiring public subsidy, nevertheless a subsidy should be paid as an ex gratia payment on the basis of principle. He will realise that any principle of that sort—which appears to be the principle enunciated by Shelter—is completely out of touch with economic realities.

Nor is it appropriate to compare the total of housing support grant now with that paid in the past without taking account of the drop in interest rates which has occurred over the past four years. Since loan charges account for 62 per cent. of authorities' expenditure on their housing revenue accounts, the costs which they have to meet naturally fall at a time of declining interest rates. We have assumed an average pool interest rate of 10.2 per cent. for the settlement before the House today, compared with 13.27 per cent. assumed for the 1980–81 order. Housing expenditure is extremely sensitive to changes in interest rates: a fall of a mere 0.1 per cent. leads to a drop in expenditure of £3 million and the 3 per cent. drop since 1980 is equivalent to savings of £92 million for housing authorities.

We have assumed, for the purposes of the settlement, that expenditure on management and maintenance will remain constant in real terms and that cash expenditure will increase by 5 per cent. bringing the figure to £262 per house. To those who argue that this provides insufficient resources to keep the housing stock in good repair I say that we are not convinced that there is a need to allow for an increase in real terms in the resources allocated to management and maintenance in the housing support grant settlement.

Mr. Alexander Eadie (Midlothian)

The Minister says that he is not convinced of the need for extra funding. We met representatives of COSLA today. On what basis do the Government reach the assessment that no more funding is needed?

Mr. Ancram

In cash terms there is an increase of 5 per cent. I am talking of a real terms increase. The provision for housing management and maintenance expenditure is being held level in real terms. The hon. Gentleman asked how the assessment was made. This year half the Scottish local authorities have budgeted for management and maintenance expenditure which is lower than that provided for in the current year's settlement. That shows that our judgment is probably absolutely right.

Hon. Members might argue, however, that, whatever happens on the expenditure side, authorities can balance their books only if they make unreasonable increases in rents. As hon. Members might know, we have assumed that, for the purposes of the housing support grant settlement, rental income will increase by £1 per week per house over the level assumed for the current year, bringing our assumed figure up to £11.59 per week. I am aware that COSLA suggested that the combined effect of this increase and of the reductions which we have asked authorities to make on their rate fund contributions will be to compel authorities to raise rents by an average of £2.50 per week. I do not know how it did its sums, but it seems clear that it has ignored the changes on the expenditure side which have to be taken into account to determine the impact of the settlement and of the rate fund contribution limits on rents in the real world. We estimate that the combined effect of these changes can be met with an average increase throughout Scotland of not more than £1 per week, even when one allows for an increase of 5 per cent. in the cash spent on management and maintenance. It does not seem unreasonable to expect authorities to make an increase of that size.

The impact on individual authorities will vary. Authorities which have unreasonably held back rents in the past and incurred housing expenditure limit penalties might have to raise rents by more than the average but it was their decision to take that course of action. For next year we have set the aggregate limit to rate fund contributions at £100 million, which is an 11 per cent. reduction on the limits which we set for this year, so that the requirement to make reductions will fall most heavily on authorities which this year chose to exceed the limits and incur capital penalties. I might say in passing that we were disappointed that authorities budgeted to exceed the limits this year by a full £13 million, a sum which could be met only through reductions in capital expenditure.

Despite the variations, I regard the rental assumptions underlying the settlement as entirely reasonable. I need not remind the house that a relatively high proportion of Scotland's housing stock is in public ownership. I am sure that during the debate Opposition Members will draw attention to the need for substantial sums of capital expenditure to bring the stock up to modern standards. There is, however, only a limited sum of money which can be spent on housing generally. There is an idea prevalent in some quarters that the links between housing support grant and rent levels, and between rate fund contributions and capital allocations, are artefacts invented by accountants. Such an idea ignores the facts of life. The deeply ingrained habit of pre-empting a significant proportion of the sum available for housing to subsidise housing revenue — which of course means rents — through housing support grant and through excessive contributions from the rates has limited the amount available for capital expenditure on the housing stock for many years and has caused many of the difficulties which we face today. The point is brought home forcefully when one considers that council tenants in Scotland pay an average of £9.87 per week compared with £14 in England and Wales, while average manual workers' earnings in Scotland are, at £145.80 per week, slightly higher than in England and Wales.

Mr. Norman Hogg (Cumbernauld and Kilsyth)

Is there not a distortion with regard to earnings in Scotland, as workers in the north-east now receive higher earnings than before? Is it not also the case that the level of earnings is falling in parts of the country where most council houses are found?

Mr. Ancram

To say that there might be variations in wages is to state the obvious. I was careful to say that the figure was an average. That is also true for the level of rents which I gave. Nevertheless, the comparison is valid and should be made. The figures show that a manual worker receiving average earnings in Scotland pays less than 7 per cent. of his weekly income on housing. If I am criticised—I suspect that I shall be—for ignoring the unemployed or the low-paid, I remind the House that some 50 per cent. of tenants receive support for the cost of their rent and half of them have their rents paid in full.

Several hon. Members who represent Glasgow constituencies are present. If the citizens of Glasgow or another Scottish housing authority complain that their houses are in urgent need of modernisation—the right hon. Member for Glasgow, Rutherglen (Mr. MacKenzie) made this point in the earlier debate— I suggest that they need only look at their rent demands to find out why.

As hon. Members know, we have made provisional allocations totalling £244 million on the housing revenue account for the financial year 1984–85. With the £160 million that we have allocated on the non-housing revenue account, that represents a considerable investment in the modernisation and improvement of our housing stock in the public and private sectors. I point out to hon. Members who have suggested that these allocations are too low that the £404 million provisionally allocated in December is £54 million greater than that allocated in December 1982 for the current financial year. Moreover, authorities will be able to increase the resources available to them by maximising the sale of council houses. I have never hidden the fact that I want there to be a vigorous sales policy, in the interests of tenants, councils and the economy as a whole. The 45,000 house sales which have been completed since the right-to-buy policy was first introduced in 1979 are a welcome beginning, but we have a long way to go.

The capital available to housing authorities next year will, as I have said, depend on their own decisions about rate fund contributions. The fact that the ruling group in Glasgow district has already decided to pre-empt capital resources to increase the subsidy on its tenants' rents suggests that it does not regard capital expenditure as being as important as do some of the hon. Members who represent that area in the House.

The housing support grant settlement represents, in the Government's view, a reasonable level of support for authorities which remain in need of assistance, and it assumes rental levels and expenditure which are, in the circumstances, entirely appropriate. It is in the interests neither of the country as a whole nor of individual tenants to continue to underwrite a low rents policy at the expense of capital expenditure on the housing stock. Those who argue for continued high levels of Government support to sustain such a policy cannot have thought through the impact of their proposals. The settlement before the House is fair to tenants, ratepayers, taxpayers and local authorities. On that basis, I commend it to the House.

7.29 pm
Mr. Jim Craigen (Glasgow, Maryhill)

It is unusual for the Minister, who normally is not very forthcoming in answering our questions, to anticipate our questions on these issues. The housing support grant is heading for extinction under this Government. This is a miserable little order for £52 million. Despite what the Minister says, it will result in 58 per cent. of the housing stock no longer receiving financial assistance and backing from central Government. Much of the council housing in Scotland is beyond the pale to the Government, who have lost interest in it and no longer provide the support that they should.

Since the Secretary of State came to office there has been a steady erosion of the housing support grant. That is perhaps understandable when we recollect that housing is no longer seen as a priority, which is reflected in the Secretary of State's general approach to housing. The construction industry and housing stock have taken the brunt of public expenditure cuts. These cuts have had a very unhappy effect on the construction industry and the employment openings that it provides.

The housing support grant has been reduced in real terms since 1979–80, when it covered about 39 per cent. of the annual housing costs. Last year only about 11 per cent. was covered and, there will be a further reduction. Despite what the Minister says, the housing support grant is a misnomer, because it no longer caters adequately for the needs and priorities of Scottish housing.

I must take up the Minister's retort to my hon. Friend the Member for Hamilton (Mr. Robertson), who referred to open-ended tax relief. There is a difference between the positive approach of the Government paying subsidies, and what might be regarded as the negative approach of forfeiting revenue, which the Government might prefer for political reasons.

Because of the very high interest rates which prevailed not so long ago, when they touched 15 per cent., and when mortgages were very high, the Treasury has been forced to forgo a considerable amount of revenue which might otherwise have been brought in. There is no question in that case of means testing, so there cannot be any evenhanded approach to public expenditure on housing.

The Minister tried to make light of maintenance and repair. Some of us in the Opposition had maintenance and repair up to the gills in the Committee on the Tenants' Rights, Etc. (Scotland) Bill. The Minister will recall that he tried to persuade Committee Members to accept his consultation document on the right to repair. It is interesting to note that it was pointed out to me only this afternoon that when the Perth and Kinross district council studied the theory in that document and reflected on the possibility of each of its tenants claiming £500 towards repairs, it estimated that rents would have to be increased by £10 a week.

Mr. Ancram

The hon. Gentleman quoted a source which he has not named. Does he agree that if that were to happen it would be because no repairs had been done for tenants in Perth and that under the scheme they would wish to claim the money for those repairs to be done? Is he suggesting that that is so in Perth and Kinross? If so, my hon. Friend the Member for Tayside, North (Mr. Walker) might like to ask him to make that suggestion outside the Chamber.

Mr. Craigen

I was not complaining that the hon. Member for Tayside, North (Mr. Walker) was not here. I did not say that the practicalities had been considered. I said that the district council had been looking at the theory of the document. I am not a journalist, so I can give the Minister my source—Councillor Jim Proudfoot. He was on the COSLA delegation. What he said made nonsense of the Minister's consultative document. In fact there were many nonsenses in that document.

The Minister commented on the fact that local authorities were reducing maintenance and repairs. That is a double-edged sword. There is evidence that because of the public expenditure cuts which the Government have been imposing on local authorities, and because the repairs and maintenance budget is invariably large, it is the first to be examined when possible reductions are considered. However, in the long term that will not do the housing stock a favour.

Some authorities are becoming increasingly alarmed at the cost of structural repairs to non-traditional housing which they are likely to face. I understand that Lochaber district council has been trying to arrange a meeting with the Secretary of State to discuss a problem affecting 167 Dorran houses which have major structural defects, fire hazards which must be urgently seen to and asbestos cladding. I do not know whether the Minister has been able to accede to that request. However, it is only the tip of the iceberg of the pressures on local authorities and the responsibilities which they must take on if they look after the interests of their tenants properly.

I am glad that the Minister talked about the disparities between the estimate from the Scottish Office of the likely rent increase and the figures produced by COSLA some time ago. It is difficult to reconcile what I call the Ancram £1 rent increase with the figure of £2.60 which COSLA originally suggested would result from the Government's battery of housing policies. I hope that when he replies to the debate the Minister will take up that point. It would surprise me if a Minister who claimed that he so regularly consulted COSLA told us that he still did not know how COSLA arrived at those figures.

The Minister also referred to Shelter in Scotland. Only today right hon. and hon. Members have received a circular drawing their attention to the considerable concern in many households about the threatened £3.10 reduction per week in benefit, which will affect about 90,000 youngsters daring to live at home. It is absurd that when the Prime Minister preaches the virtues of family life, young people are being encouraged to seek alternative accommodation because under the Government's crazy system of social security they will be financially better off. The Minister should explain why, if rents are not too high, the majority of households in Scotland are on incomes which make it necessary for them to have rebates and assistance of one form or another.

I hope that the Minister will deal with some of the problems which continue to plague us on the non-HRA aspect. There is a considerable amount of legally committed work in the pipeline. The home improvement grant repairs scheme was a success, and it is much to be regretted that the Government decided to cut it in its prime. There is so much to digest now that there may be little scope for new work, never mind work which would have been in the pipeline if applications had been in in time and approval had been given before the circular letter of 19 October of last year.

The Minister tried to suggest that we should not worry about this housing support grant order. He said that it would not minimise the importance which the Government attach to housing in Scotland. In fact, it is just one of a series of measures which are economically daft. The cost of repairs that are not carried out, sheltered housing that is not completed, and so on, is incalculable, and the Government's whole approach to housing will be socially disastrous.

7.42 pm
Mr. Barry Henderson (Fife, North-East)

The hon. Member for Glasgow, Maryhill (Mr. Craigen) has great experience of housing, but the most disappointing aspect of his speech was that he allowed his practical knowledge and experience to be submerged in the advocacy of outdated housing concepts to which the Labour party is thirled. The Labour party has fixed ideas on the subject and cannot change them, although housing priorities in Scotland have been changing rapidly for some time.

During the past few years, we have moved to a stage at which there is just about equilibrium between the number of households and the number of houses. That is dramatically different from the position that obtained during most of our lifetimes, when there was an essential need simply to create more houses. That difference is at the root of the need to review and take a different view of housing priorities today and in the future. It is discouraging that the Labour party does not seem able to speak about the new priorities, new ideas, new methods and new attitudes that we need if we are to solve the housing problems of the future.

One of the new needs that is emerging is that of rectifying the faults of previous generations of house building — not least some of the vast concrete filing cabinets in some cities, particularly Labour-controlled cities—often at vast cost, and often sharply criticised by Conservatives at the time.

Mr. Norman Hogg

Does the hon. Gentleman include Edinburgh in what he is saying? It seems to have had its share of that problem, and it was Conservative-controlled for most of my lifetime.

Mr. Henderson

We have the high rise problems in many cities, but the problem is particularly difficult in Glasgow, which spent large sums of money, against all sensible advice. The hon. Gentleman should think about the red road flats and all the controversy that surrounded them when they were being built. Their building costs were very much more than the cost of normal council houses at that time. Could the hon. Gentleman say whether anyone is anxious to live there now, in view of the present condition of the flats?

Mistakes have been made in the past. The Select Committee heard evidence from many groups, local authorities and professional people about the difficulties that face us today as a result of design and building errors in the past. That is a priority now, and I believe that it will become an increasing priority in future housing needs.

Mr. George Robertson

Does the hon. Gentleman concede that whatever the errors—usually made in good faith—of some of the housing ideas after the war, it was the criminal failure not to provide proper and adequate housing for people before the war that necessitated the crash programmes that were undertaken after the war?

Mr. Henderson

That is a ridiculous point. The hon. Gentleman will remember that a Minister of Health, later a Conservative Prime Minister, started the whole concept of providing houses through municipal endeavour at reasonable rents for people who could not afford decent accommodation. Here again, major changes have taken place. The hon. Gentleman must accept the changes that have taken place in society and in public provision of all kinds, not least those in social and housing benefits, since before the war. The fact that the Labour party cannot get up to wartime, never mind 40 years later, makes the point that I made at the beginning of my speech.

Mr. Michael Forsyth (Stirling)

Does my hon. Friend accept that the real crime of the post-war was the vendetta that was pursued by the Labour party and others against the private rented sector through the Rent Acts, which put great pressure on the public sector demand for houses?

Mr. Henderson

My hon. Friend is right to point out the disadvantage of the distortion that has occurred in the housing market, for all sorts of interventionist local authority reasons. On top of that, for many years there was a desperate need to increase the number of houses.

Now we have to improve the stock of older houses. I hoped that the Opposition Front Bench spokesman would have said something to the Government's credit in this regard, because there are now 37,000 fewer houses below the tolerable standards. As we move towards an era of large-scale building each year, we shall need to pay more attention to improving the older stock. Apart from the financial implications, I hope that we shall learn more about the management implications, because the improvement process is sometimes a traumatic experience for tenants.

Last but not least, I wish that the Labour party could take on board the fact that the new priorities are different. There is an increasing need to concentrate resources for new build on the special categories which now emerge as areas of priority, such as housing for the elderly, single people and couples. There is a serious shortage of such housing everywhere—it is particularly marked in my own area—and I hope that increasingly the resources of new build, including sheltered housing, will be addressed to such categories. There will be some local problems associated with local needs for houses of special kinds, but the broad emphasis of policy should change. Rather than just building houses anywhere, we should recognise special needs and attempt to satisfy them, at the same time as improving and rectifying older houses.

The second important change in housing policy has been the development of the sale of council houses. That has not only been of great social and economic benefit to the tenants who wish to buy, to the areas in which they buy and to the community as a whole, but it has helped to reduce the burden on local authorities in managing their housing stock. In the short term, selling council houses involves administrative costs, but in the long term it reduces the burden of management costs which local authorities have to bear.

More dramatic still are the financial benefits to tenants and ratepayers from the sale of council houses—the way in which the product of the sales comes back to the council. That takes me back to my original point about the need to match the resources of today with the priorities of today. The most dramatic benefit of the sale of council houses is that enjoyed by the whole community. Such sales give the local authorities new resources — resources which would not otherwise have been available — to meet today's housing needs and priorities.

The Minister with responsibility for home affairs and the environment — my hon. Friend the Member for Edinburgh, South (Mr. Ancram)—is not present at the moment. No doubt he is taking a brief and well-earned rest during a very long day in which he has helped us considerably. However, I should like to ask him whether a more sophisticated method might be evolved for the determination of housing support grant. The procedure has largely grown out of the historical expenditure practices. Very few efforts have been made to determine what the needs are, what resources are available to meet those needs, and why one local authority may have higher management or building costs than another.

In my own area, a small district council owns council houses which are spread around in many different communities. That housing stock is more difficult and expensive to manage than the stock of a council whose houses are in a tightly knit complex. Similarly, the large numbers of listed buildings in my area, in both the public and the private sectors, must have cost implications.

Mr. Craigen

The hon. Gentleman has made two interesting points. Does he share my regret that the Scottish housing advisory committee was abolished by this Government? That committee could usefully have examined such matters and made recommendations.

Mr. Henderson

The hon. Gentleman's point may be fair, but perhaps if the committee had done such things it would not have been abolished.

A variety of factors affect the costs of providing and managing local authority houses. The housing support grant could be determined on a more clear-cut, fair and rational basis. For example, the councils which do not get any housing support grant at present must feel bitter about the fact that tens of millions of pounds go to Glasgow in housing support grant. According to the 1983 rating review, average expenditure on management and maintenance costs per home per year for Scotland is £276, but the figure for Glasgow is estimated to be £368. That difference between the Scottish average for the cost of management and maintenance and the Glasgow figure takes a lot of explaining. It may be argued that Glasgow has greater problems, because it is a large city with inner city difficulties. The hon. Member for Monklands, West (Mr. Clarke) appears to agree.

However, let us compare Glasgow with two other great cities —Liverpool and Manchester. According to local authority comparative statistics, produced by the Chartered Institute of Public Finance and Accountancy in 1983, the figures for Liverpool and Manchester are only £220 and £253 per home. Both those figures are lower than the Scottish average, which itself is significantly lower than the Glasgow figure. My right hon. Friend should draw the attention of Glasgow district council to the fact that its management and maintenance costs are enormously different from those of other local authorities. He might suggest that some effort to rectify the situation would be of great benefit to every other local authority. Perhaps an improvement in the formulae for working out the housing support grant would help to explain why such differences arise.

My penultimate point is about rate fund contributions. I understand that in 1983–84, 27 district authorities deliberately chose to forgo £13.5 million that they could have spent on capital projects if they wished. It is generally accepted throughout the House that there is an unfortunate tendency for local authorities to reduce expenditure on capital and to increase expenditure on revenue account. There is a feeling that more effort should be devoted to expenditure on capital. At present, the Government can encourage local authorities to take a responsible view of the rate fund contributions to housing revenue accounts only through their ability to reduce the amount of capital allocated to councils if they overspend on the rate fund contribution. That has resulted in a reduction in capital spending when, in many places, an increase is probably needed. I am glad that there is a clause in the Rating and Valuation (Amendment) (Scotland) Bill—I hope that the Committee will debate it before long—that will give my right hon. Friend powers to impose a limit, by order, on the contributions that the local authority rate fund can make to the housing revenue account. That would help to create a better balance between revenue and capital expenditure.

The hon. Member for Maryhill talked as though the order would create terrible problems in Scotland—that rents would rise and houses would not be built. It might be helpful if I drew the attention of the hon. Gentleman to an announcement on 26 January 1984 made by the North-East Fife district council. That council, which receives no housing support grant and does not make a rate fund contribution to the housing revenue account, has announced that it will not be increasing rents of Council house tenants for the forthcoming financial year. The chairman of the council said: This will be achieved without any Rate Fund contribution to the Housing Revenue Account and despite the fact that the Council will receive no Housing Support Grant in 1984–85. That has everything to do with the reality of housing today. One of the two reasons given for that by the chairman was the receipts from council house sales. The chairman said: North East Fife District Council have achieved a very high rate of sales, having sold some 13 per cent. of housing stock since 1980. The receipts have been applied directly in reducing the outstanding Loan Debt on the Housing Account. Another reason was that interest rates were lower than had been anticipated. Interest rates would not have been lower than anticipated if the Government had not been worried about public expenditure, including local authority expenditure.

I believe that it is true, as COSLA is saying, that attitudes to expenditure have changed. The efforts of my right hon. Friend and his Ministers to persuade local authorities to take a more responsible attitude have been successful in most cases. It is probably true that local authority expenditure is coming under control. We are not far away from the target that my right hon. Friend has always sought to achieve—total expenditure not greatly different from that of 1978–79. It is still a little above, but not much. It has been difficult to make local authorities understand the necessity to control expenditure.

I hope that central and local government have reached broad agreement on expenditure levels and that we can move towards dealing with the present generation's problems, and achieve the stability that will enable local authorities to plan for long-term development.

8.2 pm

Mr. George Robertson (Hamilton)

If I had started by calling the Minister a rat I should rapidly have been called to order, if only to defend the rodent population. To have the Minister confess to a similarity to that animal is a remarkable achievement. After this evening we might refer to the Minister as the "Roland Rat" of the Tory party. The only problem is that he has the opposite effect on the ratings to those of the famous rat on TV-am. That is a lighthearted introduction to the proceedings and a warning to the Minister that quickness of tongue can land him in trouble.

Mr. Craigen

Is my hon. Friend suggesting that there may be a spark of truth in what comes from the Scottish Office?

Mr. Robertson

It is clear that the Minister was trying hard to be frank, but perhaps his reference to terriers and rats was the closest that he came to frankness. The theme of his speech was fairness. His peroration, which bore the hallmark of his work as distinct from that of his civil servants, which characterised the remainder of his speech, was based on fairness. However, the speech contained no evidence that the order was fair to authorities, tenants or ratepayers. The order and the Government's housing policy have nothing to do with fairness.

If I may remind the Minister of my intervention which brought his remarkable confession, there has been a longstanding traditional belief by Governments of all political hues that there is a genuine necessity for the public purse to look after the population's housing needs. Conservative and Labour Governments have accepted that. This Government have said that the responsibility to one section of the population will remain and increase, but that another section, which generally does not vote for the Conservative party, will be considerably and increasingly penalised. The figures bear that out, because there has been support from the housing support grant for public sector rents in Scotland and from mortgage income tax relief for owner-occupiers.

The Minister and I are in the happy position of being owner-occupiers. A large section of the Scottish population are not. Some people choose not to be. It is interesting to compare the position of public subsidy for mortgage holders and that for public sector tenants, because last year the figure of support for the public sector was £83 per tenant. The figure for the average owner-occupier mortgage holder was a staggering £437. That compares with the figures for 1979–80, when the Government took over, of £184 for the tenant and £290 for the owner-occupier mortgage holder. There had been a substantial shift in the amount of public support for two different types of home occupier. I suggest that the people who need most help are those who are not receiving it.

Mr. Michael Forsyth

I am sure that the hon. Gentleman does not intend to mislead the House. The figures which he has quoted are based on the historic capital cost of the council house as the element of subsidy, whereas with a mortgage owner-occupiers are paying the current capital cost. When making a comparison, would he not be wise to take a revalued basis—the capital value of the council houses — in reaching his assessment? If he does that he will find that the council tenant receives a good £100 more subsidy than the owner-occupier.

Mr. Robertson

The hon. Gentleman can fiddle around with the statistics to his heart's content. Any accountant could show that remortgaging to the limit permitted by the Inland Revenue based on the capital cost of private housing has to be taken into account. One cannot take the historic cost as being the relevant value. The point that I make is not influenced by statistics put forward by the hon. Member. Whether he is right or wrong, it does not alter the fundamental point that there has been consistent support by the Government for people who buy their houses on mortgage. At the end of the period of mortgage they gain the capital value of the house.

There has been consistent public support for the house purchase policy irrespective of interest rates. Therefore, the level of support varies depending upon the interest rates being charged by the building societies and banks. I am not arguing the niceties of the precise figures. I suggest that there was a traditional record of Government support for people who were buying their houses and for those who were renting their houses. One has changed and the other has not.

Mr. Henderson

I appreciate the important principle which the hon. Gentleman is trying to establish. However, he damages his argument by using the spurious figures produced by an outside source — figures which I have also seen. The figures about council houses relate to all council houses and all council house tenants on the average, yet he does not relate the figures for the private sector to all private houses and all owner-occupiers on the average.

If the hon. Gentleman did that he would realise that the balance has not really changed. He is comparing past figures which were arrived at on a fair basis of comparison, with current figures, which were arrived at on a different basis of comparison. He should be careful about that.

Finally, but not least, many owner-occupiers now receiving mortgage relief were local authority tenants not so long ago.

Mr. Robertson

Very few of them were council tenants, because the figures which I quoted relate to a period before the substantial rise in council house sales.

The hon. Gentleman passed some disparaging comments on the statistics and their source. I must tell him that the source was an answer to a parliamentary question in April 1983. He should be wary of denigrating the source of material, even if he wishes to quibble about my point.

There has been long-standing traditional support for the provision of housing in Scotland, but the Government are breaking that. The housing support grant order is yet another illustration that the grant to many local authorities is being savagely cut. That is clearly a break in the consensus.

If that were my only condemnation of the Government, I should be happy to bandy statistics all night. In addition to cutting the level of housing support, they are increasing the level of rents considerably in excess of the rate of inflation. Through their housing policy they have cut the resources for new build. Because of their ham-fisted way of cutting home improvement grants they have almost halted the renovation of older property — a problem which will have to be dealt with in future. Finally, their policy on unified housing benefit has caused considerable and justifiable criticism across a wide range of opinion.

Those are the ways in which the Government are pursuing their housing policy. It clearly shows that they have no coherent view about the future of housing stock. Nor have they any genuine appreciation of the real crisis that affects Scottish housing today.

When the Government took office they introduced the gimmick of selling council houses to sitting tenants. When that proved a minor success, they increased the bribes needed to sell more houses. I accept that more houses have been sold. I do not underestimate the Government's success in some areas. A large number of people, including some of my constituents, have bought their council houses. For many of them it was their first opportunity of home ownership. Therefore, I agree that the Government have had some success in that area, and perhaps some of the election results last year proved that.

What worries me is what lies underneath that sucess. It is only a superficial success, usually benefiting those wishing to buy the better houses in the better areas. Underneath that superficial success lies a miserable picture of those left in decaying public housing which no one wants to buy. What about those left on the housing waiting lists or those living in overcrowded homes? They are not helped by a programme which sells the best houses at knock-down prices to people who have been living in their homes for a long time.

The real record of the Government's housing policy comes before every right hon. and hon. Member at every surgery and advice centre. There cannot be any hon. Member who, week in and week out, is not faced with the catalogue of misery of those living in overcrowded and bad housing. Indeed, there is a total lack of housing in many parts of the country. One may think that a record of success in selling council houses is something of which the Government can be proud, but if that policy results in a declining housing stock and people living in miserable circumstances, it is surely only a superficial success.

I must tell the hon. Member for Fife, North-East (Mr. Henderson) that there was a time when even the Conservative party could boast of its success in dealing with Scotland's post-war housing crisis. Before I was born, there was a serious problem in Scotland with slums. At that time the Conservative party was doing reasonably well in Scottish elections. It was proud to boast about the dramatic alteration in the housing standards in Scotland. I wish that the Conservative party of today — that miserable monetarist party — would look back to that time and note how the housing standards of the 1930s and 1940s were dramatically changed.

We must look carefully at the housing waiting lists. There is a desperate need for sheltered housing. It was a bit of a cheek for the hon. Member for Fife, North-East to say how wonderful the Government are and how brilliantly they are performing—despite the decline of new build housing to 1920 levels—and then to tell us about the need for sheltered housing in his constituency. Every constituency needs more sheltered housing. We know that, and the Government know that, but they will not provide the necessary resources. That is one charge which the Minister must answer tonight.

There is also a need for special housing for the handicapped, large numbers of whom could live in the community rather than in institutions if we provided the necessary custom-built accommodation. The Government should be ashamed of their record in those areas. They should not try to pretend that they have something of which to be proud.

On Friday night I addressed the annual dinner of the Slate Trade Benevolent Association — an august organisation. About 500 members of the building trade and construction industry in the west of Scotland attended.

I dare say that a large number of them voted Conservative at the last election. There were no red flags flying at the Albany hotel last Friday. They may have voted Conservative at the last election, but I have yet to hear an audience more bitterly critical of the Government on the issue of improvement grants, the damage that the Government's policy has caused to the construction industry, the chaos and confusion caused to local authorities and the disastrous effect that their policy will probably have on the future stock of housing which was being so consistently and effectively improved. There is a deep and growing bitterness over the gross injustice of the Government's decision, not only in the construction industry and among others directly affected, but among a wider section of the community.

Hamilton, the area which I represent, is a cross-section of the west of Scotland, not dominated by public housing, but with a large section of private housing, new and old, and the experience there is probably characteristic of Scotland as a whole. In the last four years Hamilton district council's housing authority has suffered a cut of over 54 per cent. in its housing support grant — the fourth highest cut of all the local authorities in Scotland. That has happened despite the fact that in the last two years rents have increased by over 27 per cent., one of the largest increases in rents of all local authorities in Scotland. Where is the justice in that situation?

The Government have no right to be proud of their housing record and I hope that tonight, by highlighting the problems of the Scottish housing industry, we will persuade the Government slowly to come to their senses. Their housing record is characterised by bungling, incompetence, shortsighted housekeeping and, worse, a singular indifference to the misery which their policy will cause. They blunder on, forcing up rents, slashing the resources available for building, demolishing the improvement grants scheme, yet they seem utterly oblivious to the long-term consequences of their actions. Conservative Members personally will probably not share in those consequences, but millions of Scots who will do so will not forgive the malicious shortsightedness of this Government.

8.22 pm
Mr. Malcolm Bruce (Gordon)

This debate — it seems to have been going on, on and off, since this session began six months ago—has reached the point when it should move on from a rather sterile altercation about the level of rents and whether council house sales are good or bad to our acknowledging certain changes that are taking place. On both sides of the House we should look at some areas which are not being addressed by the Government's present housing policy.

The hon. Member for Glasgow, Maryhill (Mr. Craigen) said that, from the present trend of housing support grant, in two years or so it would disappear completely. I do not hear any denial of that from the Government Front Bench, and I think that that is the direction in which we are moving. What is the thinking of the Government beyond that? May we be told the direction in which they are going on this issue?

In the short term, we understand the motives behind the Government's policy. They are seeking to achieve increased rents for council tenants overall; to force up rents has been part of the deliberate aim of their policy, and the calculation this year is that this cut will lead to an average increase in rents of 9.4 per cent. The trouble with this policy — followed in a narrow sense, as it is at present— is that it tends to hit the middle and lower income groups hardest. We have had a fiasco of housing benefit assistance— it has yet to be unravelled —and arguably the Government can say that those on the lowest incomes qualify for housing benefit and that they are to some extent protected from rent increases, although not fully.

Those who have the good fortune to be buying their homes on mortgage get extremely generous tax relief, and that is obviously a contribution to the incomes of that section of the community. If the Conservatives pursue a policy of abolishing direct assistance to people who wish to make a start on buying their first homes or who wish to be housed in the public sector, and give support only to those who are owner occupiers, they will leave an extremely vulnerable and lopsided form of assistance, one which is likely ultimately to be phased out. I suggest that supporting private owner occupiers when they are withdrawing support from public sector tenants and those with low incomes wishing to make a start would make the position indefensible.

Mr. Michael Forsyth

I am having some difficulty in following the logic of the hon. Gentleman's argument. Council tenants who cannot afford to pay are given support through the housing benefit scheme. More to the point, I do not understand his suggestion that because we are reducing the housing support grant, rents will necessarily go up. To give two examples, last year north-east Fife and Perth and Kinross no longer received housing support grant, but rents did not go up. Therefore, the hon. Members's logic is defective.

Mr. Bruce

The deliberate motivation of Government action in this sphere is to iron out the policy of keeping rents low in certain areas, and I agree that there are variations among local authorities. It is true, nevertheless, that if one withdraws support that was provided earlier, that has an effect on the overall budget, and rents will obviously be affected. I am puzzled by the hon. Gentleman's intervention because the Government have made no secret of the fact that they wish to see council house rents on average go up; that has been a considered aim of Government policy in recent years.

Accepting that, let us look at the consequences, given the overall thrust of Government policy on housing. As I said, those who do not qualify for benefit—in other words, those who are on sufficiently high incomes to be out of the benefit levels but who are not on high enough levels to be in the market to buy their own homes—are the most vulnerable, and they represent a large slice of the ordinary working population. In housing terms, they are becoming the most disadvantaged in our society. That is an area to which the Government should be addressing themselves.

Hon. Members receive in our surgeries every week—and have telephoning and writing to us every day—people who are trying to get a house of their own, either by renting or buying, and who are finding that they are faced with extreme difficulties. A lady who falls into exactly that category attended my surgery last Saturday, and I have sent a letter to the Minister. Her case is an example of the gap that exists. She and her husband have a tied cottage, in which they have lived for 13 years. Because they are in tied accommodation, the council accepts no serious responsibility for housing them. They are unable to buy because their income is too low even to get on the bottom rung of the private market, and all the housing associations on whose lists they wish to be placed are fully committed and cannot accept them. What will the Government do to meet that sort of gap, a gap which is becoming increasingly apparent?

The Government will not inspire confidence in me and many others if they concentrate the entire thrust of their policy on the sale of council houses. That does not help those who do not have a council house in the first place and it does not help those who cannot buy in the private market and who cannot get on a housing association list. The Government must show that they have an interest in that type of problem. They must demonstrate that they have a commitment to meeting the housing need in Scotland generally, and not just in following a political gimmick—one from which, as I said at the outset, we should move on.

The selling of council houses is well established, there is no doubt that it has been politically successful and that it has met a need. But to suggest that it represents a comprehensive housing policy is inadequate, and it is time that the Government came forward with a more constructive policy to meet the problems that hon. Members are encountering in our surgeries.

An important element in the housing support grant is repairs. Not only do we have a number of types of houses, such as those built in the 1950s and 1960s, with problems, but by definition we are selling the better council houses and those that have been better maintained, with the result that the stock remaining needs more repairs. The Government have perhaps not taken full account of the fact that the average cost of repairs is likely to increase in the light of the changing nature of the housing stock.

In my area there is a clear anomaly. In one case, I cannot complain—I do not think that my district council of Gordon would complain — about the allocation of funds under the order. There has been a reduction and there still are problems—and I should like to see more going to meet the needs that I have identified—but a cut from £1,750,000 to £1,621,000, by comparison with what is happening in the city of Aberdeen, is minor. Aberdeen's grant has been cut from £3.75 million to £1.75 million. It is receiving a grant which is only slightly more than that which will be given to Gordon district council, despite the fact that Gordon district council has 5,900 houses and Aberdeen has 38,900. I think that I know the reason behind the cut.

I have spoken to the leader of the Liberal group of councillors, who the Minister might acknowledge is not one who generally seeks confrontation with Government. He tries to promote a responsible attitude within the council. He has done so when the Liberals have had influence on the Labour group, which, unfortunately, is not the present position.

The leader of the Liberal group considers that Aberdeen is being clobbered by the Scottish Office and that the house-building programme in Aberdeen is rapidly becoming non-existent. None the less, Aberdeen is a growth area. In the view of the leader of the Liberal group, the Government are pursuing a course of confrontation with local authorities. The fact that Aberdeen is Labour controlled may provide some relish for him in taking that view. However, we must consider the needs of those living in the area, including the provision of housing.

House building has come to a virtual standstill in the public sector. The repair programme has reached a critical level. As I have said, these are comments from someone who is not prone to making irrational statements. He has been working with his council over a long period and he feels the real problems of an area that is experiencing growth and considerable pressure. A wide variety of housing demands are not met by global allocations which the Minister knows are inadequate to meet the demands on the council.

When the Minister replies, I hope that he will not merely repeat what he said at the beginning of the debate in attempting to justify the fairness of the allocation, which has not been accepted by Opposition Members. I hope that he will address himself to what the Government will do to meet the needs of those who are not being covered by the Government's present housing policy and by the order. I hope that he will do so in the interests of moving on from the present stage into a more positive approach.

8.33 pm
Mr. Tom Clarke (Monklands, West)

The hon. Member for Gordon (Mr. Bruce) made a number of interesting remarks. I think that he reflected a view which is held sincerely in the local authorities with which he has been associated. The speeches of the Minister and his hon. Friends have lacked a reflection of that healthy kind of relationship between the Government and local authorities that I believe is in the interests of ratepayers as well as council tenants.

There have been a number of references to the delegation from COSLA that we received today, which I understand made itself available to all of the political parties. It is appropriate that we put on record the claims that COSLA is making and which the Minister has been unable to persuade me are not justified. It has said that total housing support grant has been reduced from £213.4 million in 1979–80 to the £52.5 million that is proposed for 1984–85, a fall of 75 per cent. in six years. It claims that if the order is accepted, 30 out of the 56 eligible authorities——

Mr. Gordon Wilson (Dundee, East)

The hon. Gentleman says that COSLA sought out all the political parties. That is not so because it did not seek out the SNP members, and I gather that it did not consult Liberal Members either. How can we take COSLA seriously if it chooses not to consult on what it wants Parliament to do? I think that COSLA has made a serious mistake and I hope that the hon. Gentleman will acknowledge that that is so.

Mr. Clarke

If the hon. Gentleman is right, that is an error that I would not condone. I am sure that COSLA will pay close attention to what he has said. Nevertheless, I am sure that the hon. Gentleman will be gracious enough to consider the important figures which COSLA is advancing, which reflect the views of local authorities of all political persuasions, including those that are shared by Liberal and SNP members.

COSLA draws attention in the paper that is presented today to its claim that 30 of the 56 eligible authorities, or those which would have been elegible, will not be receiving housing support grant as a result of the order. That represents 58 per cent. of the Scottish housing stock, which would previously have been eligible. Even if the figures are remotely correct—my judgment is that they cannot be all that far out—there will be a considerable decline in the Government's contribution to the public sector over the period covered by COSLA's paper. If the figures are incorrect, I challenge the Minister to tell the local authorities that are represented by COSLA that they are wrong, and to tell the district and island authorities that are responsible for housing that the housing support grant order represents a larger figure. I think that the Minister will have great difficulty in convincing the House that that is the position.

It is not the first time in this Parliament that the House is facing blind prejudice in place of the realism that the people of Scotland, and the people of Britain generally, are entitled to expect. Rents have increased considerably since the Government took office. I shall go through the COSLA figures as quickly as I can, which are well above the rate of inflation. In 1980–81 the increase was 19.5 per cent. In 1981–82 it was 30.54 per cent. It was 17.2 per cent. in 1982–83 and 9.8 per cent. in 1983–84. The projected increase for 1984–85 is 17.4 per cent.

In the situation that my hon. Friend the Member for Hamilton (Mr. Robertson) described, in which the Government have recognised the position of owner occupiers over the years, we are seeing nothing less than a vendetta against council tenants. Why is that? It is not unrelated to the fact that two authorities have been able to freeze their rents and at the same time have the highest level of sales of council houses. The Government's housing support grant theme is to force all local authorities into persuading their tenants that it is far more sensible to buy their council houses than to pay inflated rents, which are being imposed upon them by fear. The hon. Member for Stirling (Mr. Forsyth) is representative of that policy.

Mr. John Maxton (Glasgow, Cathcart)

The hon. Member for Stirling (Mr. Forsyth) makes Adam Smith seem Left-wing.

Mr. Clarke

Considerable problems are being faced by council tenants in district after district. In addition, there are the problems of the unemployed, who have to face the consequences of the Government's policies, not least unified housing benefit.

We have been lectured this afternoon on manpower levels. It seems that local authorities in Scotland are being asked to be ashamed of their figures. Who did the Minister expect to deal with unified housing benefit when the responsibility was passed to the local authorities? The hon. Member for Fife, North-East (Mr. Henderson) criticised Glasgow for losing £12 million in grant as a result of its rent policy.

Mr. Maxton

The Government changed the rules.

Mr. Clarke

Exactly. As my hon. Friend says, the Government changed the rules. The decision to relate rents to the availability of housing capital was made by the Government not by Glasgow district council, North-East Fife district council or any other council.

Mr. Maxton

I confirm what my hon. Friend is saying. Even if Glasgow had increased rents by the amount that the Minister was seeking and had achieved the full amount of the allocation, it still would not have been able next year to build one new council house—sheltered or any other type. It would be able only to carry out repairs.

Mr. Clarke

I accept my hon. Friend's contribution. When the Government are criticising local authorities for allegedly high manpower levels, the local authorities are taking their responsibilities more seriously. How dare the Government come to the two district councils that I represent — Strathkelvin and Monklands — where unemployment is running at 25 per cent. and tell them that they ought to be putting more people on the dole? How dare the Government go to those authorities and introduce this measure when, as my hon. Friend the Member for Hamilton has pointed out, they have been cutting housing support grant? I regret that the hon. Member for Strathkelvin and Bearsden (Mr. Hirst) is not in the Chamber, but I put it on record that Strathkelvin district council, which he and I represent, was livid about the Government's decision on grants for housing improvement.

My constituents in the owner-occupier sector in south Lenzie, Miltonof, Campsie, Millerston, and Coatbridge were just as livid when their hopes were dashed with the enormous publicity by the Government before the election. Nothing in the housing support grant is helpful to council tenants or ratepayers. Council house tenants are ratepayers also. Above all, nothing in the housing support grant helps Scotland to improve the unemployment level. We have heard lectures from the hon. Member for Fife, North-East, who is paying less attention to me than I did to him, and from other Conservative Members about the conditions of council houses. They ought to be more humble and return to their Conservative friends, especially those in Edinburgh, because some members of the Scottish Select Committee including the hon. Member for Fife, North-East had the opportunity to see schemes such as those at Pilton and Bingham which were a disgrace. Those schemes occurred in a district where rents are considerably higher than in Strathkelvin, Glasgow and most other places in Scotland. There is no evidence that high rents mean necessarily better quality housing—if Edinburgh is any place to go by.

We have had yet another assault on the living standard of the Scottish people and Scottish local government. The fact that today we had an all-party delegation at the House was a sign that that is the people's view.

The hon. Member for Southend, East (Mr. Taylor), who is leaving the Chamber, and I found agreement on the Common Market the other evening. I suspect that if he stayed longer in the Chamber we would find ourselves in agreement on the problems of Castlemilk.

Yet again, we are being asked to approve a housing support grant order which will mean that local authorities will face even greater problems in providing housing than has been the case. I believe that the Minister insulted local authorities when he implied that some of them do not spend much time on their budgets. I am bound to say that, from my experience of districts from Dumfries and Galloway to the highlands and islands, whatever their political complexion, local authorities take their budgets, policies and decisions to set rates seriously. It would help the Minister, the Government and the people of Scotland considerably if the Minister took on board the views expressed by the local authorities. I have no confidence that that will be the case. For that reason, I shall have great pleasure in voting in the Lobbies against the Government's measure.

8.45 pm
Mr. Michael Forsyth (Stirling)

The hon. Member for Monklands, West (Mr. Clarke) showed all the indignation of someone caught with his hands in the till. For years, the Labour party in Scotland has bribed the electorate with the electorate's money and argued, "We are the party that will give you lower council rents, despite what it will cost other people." The Labour party has consistently gone to the ballot box on that theme. The hon. Member and other Labour party members are indignant that the Government are starting to deal with that problem. I understand their indignation, but it is an indignation that the Scottish people see for what it is. I say to the hon. Member for Monklands, West, who has described council house sales as a type of political gimmick, that the Labour party is even further out of touch with council tenants in Scotland than I had imagined.

Mr. Norman Buchan (Paisley, South)

I have two points of concern: the statement about my hon. Friend the Member for Monklands, West (Mr. Clarke), and the statement about bribing people with their own money. Will the hon. Gentleman explain? His statement seemed to be nonsense.

Mr. Forsyth

I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for giving me an opportunity to explain that point to him. Contrary to the myths that are believed in the Labour party, the people who are paying for this expenditure are no longer the mythical rich, but those who, as they keep reminding us, must struggle to make ends meet. Subsidies in rents, for which they argued, must be paid for in taxation. Perhaps 100,000 or 200,000 of the Labour party's supporters in Scotland have come to the view that it might be more efficient to leave the money in their pockets than to employ a large bureaucracy to take that money from them before it is returned to them.

Mr. Buchan

Is that the answer?

Mr. Forsyth

I congratulate the Minister on his courage on housing policy and on his statement. While in a charitable frame of mind, I pay tribute to my local authority — if only to provide a few surprises in the series of speeches in which, with monotonous regularity, the Labour party trots out the same old platitudes. Stirling district council is worthy of praise because it has been transformed, I am told, under the guidance of the Minister into an authority that is now committed to council house sales and is having meetings with private builders to discuss equity sharing schemes, building for sale and sheltered housing provided with the support of the private sector. A Marxist council is now pursuing——

Mr. Maxton

What do you mean, Marxist council?

Mr. Forsyth

—policies to increase home ownership within its domain.

Mr. Maxton

It is Labour party policy, by the way.

Mr. Forsyth

It may be Labour party policy, but it seems that every time one questions the Labour party on this matter it is reluctant to make any commitment about where its policy lies.

The Minister should realise in his discussions with the local authorities that there shall be joy in heaven over one sinner that repenteth and that Stirling district council believes that it is about to tackle the housing needs of its people by using the resources within the private sector. It is doing that not because it is Labour party policy but because it has run out of money. The Government have turned off the tap and prevented the authority from trotting out the usual platitudes about building more, doing more and meeting unlimited demands

I believe that it was the hon. Member for Hamilton (Mr. Robertson) who said that I made Adam Smith look Left-wing.

Mr. Maxton

No, it was me. I claim credit for that.

Mr. Forsyth

In that case, I remind the hon. Gentleman that it was Adam Smith who first pointed out that as the price of a commodity approaches zero, the demand approaches infinity. The reason why all of us face constituents at our surgeries who rightly claim that they cannot find housing is because the price of the good has been allowed to approach zero too quickly. We are subsidising people who may have council houses due to an accident of birth at the expense of those who, as the hon. Member for Gordon (Mr. Bruce) pointed out have extreme difficulty in finding housing.

It is almost offensive to hear the hon. Member for Hamilton complain that it is our fault that those people cannot find housing and that housing conditions in Scotland are so poor when the housing crisis about which we hear so much is the creation of Socialism. It was the Socialists who destroyed the private rented sector which could provide respite for those in tied accommodation. Socialist engineering did that. The hon. Gentleman said that it was our duty to provide housing for those people before the war. It is that notion of dedication to providing housing for the people that has produced the appalling estates in Scotland. The slums that the Socialists set out to destroy were created by Socialist councils with money provided by the taxpayers of Scotland.

Mr. Wilson

The hon. Gentleman is younger than some of us, but does he appreciate from his study of history the appalling housing conditions that prevailed in Scotland from the 19th century onwards, often due to the rushed building which took place in that century when the population increased fairly quickly? Does he agree that in the face of those conditions it was necessary for Government and local authorities to step in and provide a decent standard? That does not mean that we cannot criticise both central and local government for failures in housing policy which have led to conditions such as those at Castlemilk, Whitfield or Easterhouse, which unfortunately now afflict so many cities.

Mr. Forsyth

I agree entirely that anyone in his right mind would condemn the conditions then prevailing by comparison with modern standards. Taking the matter a stage further, however, I might argue that 300 years ago people in my constituency lived in little more than mud huts and that the progress made up to the middle of the 19th century was not the result of public enterprise, but that is not the argument. The hon. Gentleman should look at his own constituency or across to that of the hon. Member for Dundee, West (Mr. Ross) to see the appalling example, albeit created with the highest motives, of Socialism in practice. Ghettoes have been created in which people live in fear.

We have just been reading the Select Committee report on dampness——

Mr. Michael J. Martin (Glasgow, Springburn)

Will the hon. Gentleman give way?

Mr. Forsyth

No, I shall not give way. I have been very generous so far.

Hon. Members can look at the Select Committee report on dampness, if and when it is published, to see the conditions in which people are living in their true scale. Socialism is to blame for the appalling housing conditions in Scotland. If we are anything at all we should learn from the mistakes of the past.

Mr. Buchan

Will the hon. Gentleman give way?

Mr. Forsyth

No, I shall not give way.

Mr. Buchan

The hon. Gentleman's history is very bad.

Mr. Forsyth

I shall not give way to the hon. Gentleman again.

Mr. Buchan

Moreover, the hon. Gentleman is wrong.

Mr. Maxton

He is wrong on everything.

Mr. Deputy Speaker (Mr. Harold Walker)

Order. The hon. Member for Stirling (Mr. Forsyth) is clearly not giving way.

Mr. Buchan

You think that he is not giving way, Mr. Deputy Speaker?

Mr. Deputy Speaker

He is clearly not giving way.

Mr. Buchan

His history is very bad indeed.

Mr. Deputy Speaker

Order. Mr. Forsyth.

Mr. Forsyth

Thank you for your support, Mr. Deputy Speaker——

Mr. Maxton

On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. The hon. Member for Stirling (Mr. Forsyth) referred to a Select Committee report on dampness which has not yet been published and put before the House. I am sure that it is not in order to comment on the contents of such a report.

Mr. Henderson

On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker——

Mr. Deputy Speaker

Order. Perhaps I may deal with one point of order at a time.

Mr. Henderson

Further to that point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. My hon. Friend the Member for Stirling (Mr. Forsyth) was quoting from evidence given to the Select Committee, which has been published. He was not quoting from the Select Committee report, which has not been published.

Mr. Deputy Speaker

If the hon. Gentleman was quoting evidence that has been published, he was in order. If he was commenting on the contents of a report that has not yet been published and presented to the House, he was out of order. Perhaps he will clarify that.

Mr. Maxton

Thank you, Mr. Deputy Speaker.

Mr. Forsyth

I was, of course, quoting from the evidence. Anyone who has studied that evidence will well understand why Labour Members are not keen for me to quote from it.

The notion central to the order is that we should shift the emphasis away from subsidising houses and towards subsidising people. That must be right. The parallels between tax relief on mortgage interest and rent subsidies are completely misguided because mortgage interest tax relief means that people do not pay so much tax because they are making provision for themselves. That is quite different from subsidising decaying blocks of bricks and mortar for which we have paid far too much and which we have been far too dilatory in maintaining.

The Opposition keep talking about people living in miserable housing in Scotland who do not benefit from council house sales. In fact, not only is there a bonus in the receipts from those sales but there is ample evidence, even in the concrete filing cabinets in Edinburgh and elsewhere to which my hon. Friend the Member for Fife, North-East (Mr. Henderson) referred, that even in Martello Towers, Easterhouse and elsewhere people are prepared to buy property that the local authority cannot rent to them in any circumstances. Not even people housed under the Housing (Homeless Persons) Act were prepared to live in them, but people are prepared to buy and improve them. Conservative Members who are concerned to see an overall improvement in the housing stock are not so wedded to any dogma as to say that this must be achieved in any one particular way. I appreciate that the Opposition's ideology precludes their coming easily to that conclusion. I pay tribute to authorities such as Stirling district, for whom the penny has actually dropped.

The extraordinary thing that emerged from the speeches of Opposition Members is that they seem not to have caught up with those who represent their party in local authorities throughout Scotland. In discussing the level of rents, their arguments are singularly bogus. The very authorities who bleat most about lack of support in order to keep rents down are those who contribute most to keeping rents high by running inefficient and irresponsible direct labour organisations which in turn pass on the fat to the struggling council tenant whom the proponents of the DLOs are apparently so quick to defend. Opposition Members, in their support for the in-house provision of maintenance in local authorities, are trying to walk a tightrope from which, in fact, they have long since fallen. If they were serious about looking after the interests of their tenants, they would be looking to invite tenders and to find the most efficient means of providing maintenance of their estates and managements of their estates, as so many authorities south of the border have done.

It is nothing less than a scandal that Glasgow should be charging an extra £2 per week out of the rent to cover the maintenance costs of its notorious direct labour organisations.

Mr. Maxton

I take the point the hon. Gentleman makes about repairs in Glasgow, but has he looked at the figures on administration? He will find that the local authority district council with the highest per capita cost for administration is not Glasgow, but Bearsden.

Mr. Forsyth

I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman. Indeed, on examining the figures for the increases in staffing levels among the non-manual local government officers, I should not be at all surprised to find that is so.

I have no brief to argue that any local authority in Scotland is as efficient as it should be. Indeed, if I were to criticise any aspect of the order, I would say that it is too generous. I know that my hon. Friend the Minister likes me to do that, because it shows him to be the very moderate gentleman that he is.

I conclude by referring to the splendid occasion mentioned by the hon. Member for Hamilton (Mr. Robertson), who I think has left the Chamber — the roofers' and slaters' annual dinner held in the Albany hotel, obviously reflecting the hard times that have befallen them because of the Government's improvement grants policy. I should be very surprised if the gentlemen who make up that august company could look one in the eye and argue that they were being hard done by because the Government introduced, as a temporary measure, a 90 per cent. scheme that has been an absolute beanfeast for them, a beanfeast that they are still enjoying and will enjoy no doubt for a year or two to come. If Opposition Members believe that, because notice has been given that that bonanza is over, somehow or other these gentlemen are going to change their minds and vote for the Labour party — [Interruption.]—if that were true, I would fear for the roofs of the people who have benefited from their services. I am sure that they are very much more aware of the reality of that position.

The fact is that the Government, through their generosity on the improvements grants scheme, have done more at a stroke, to coin a phrase, for housing in Scotland than years and years of Labour Government.

9.2 pm

Mr. John Maxton (Glasgow, Cathcart)

I seem always to have the misfortune of following the hon. Member for Stirling (Mr. Forsyth). He always takes my breath away by the sheer reactionary tone of his speech, so much so that I am surprised he was not mentioned in last night's "Panorama", although I suppose he would consider it to be rather Left wing to be counted among the company that was mentioned on that programme.

The hon. Gentleman always gets his facts wrong. He says, for instance, that we have got rid of the private sector, yet, thank God, we got rid of a large amount of the private rented sector, because it was exactly the sort of slum property which we wanted to get rid of to ensure that ordinary working people had proper houses in which to live.

The hon. Gentleman said that we were bribing people with their own money. The implication is that we were using rates and taxation to keep down council housing rents. At present, he will admit, the level of support which the Government give to housing is a quarter of what it was in 1979. As the hon. Gentleman said, if he had his way it would be considerably lower than that. Despite that great reduction by 75 per cent. of the money given by the Government to local authorities for housing, despite all the other cuts that they have made, despite all the cuts in education and the cuts in leisure and recreation, as the House has heard in earlier debates, the average individual in this country, with the exception of a few wealthy people, pays more taxation today under this Government than he paid in 1979. It is difficult for Conservative Members, and particularly the hon. Member for Stirling, to explain that anomaly. The Government have cut public expenditure while at the same time increasing taxation.

Mr. Wilson

The Government have cut the economy.

Mr. Maxton

I do not always agree with the hon. Gentleman or the SNP, but on this occasion he is right. The Government have cut investment and increased unemployment and part-time working. Large sums of public money are now, in a sense, being spent on useless items, instead of on useful things such as ensuring that there is employment and that more public housing is built, thus providing more employment in the construction industry. That must be borne in mind.

I am disappointed that the hon. Member for Strathkelvin and Bearsden (Mr. Hirst) is not in the Chamber. Some months ago he expressed great interest in housing and in the grants being given to private owner occupiers for repairs if their properties were below a certain rateable value. I recall that the hon. Gentleman was going to start a great campaign to ensure that the rateable values for the scheme were raised. A personal friend of mine in the Labour party attacked me because I did not take up the hon. Gentleman's point. But now the hon. Gentleman does not even bother to attend housing debates. He is no longer interested in housing or in the fact that Tory councillors are attacking the Government because of their housing policy in that area. We do not hear a cheep out of him. As my hon. Friend the Member for Glasgow, Maryhill (Mr. Craigen) said, we have not heard a word from the hon. Gentleman on the subject of housing.

The people of Bearsden, Milngavie and Eastwood continually use the facilities paid for by Glasgow district council's ratepayers. In particular, they use the leisure facilities and are parasites upon those ratepayers. Lord Wheatley's original report on local government was right. The suburbs of Glasgow should have been part and parcel of Glasgow district council and should not have been kept out, as they were under a Tory Government. If they had been part and parcel, there would still have been a Labour majority now, and we would have had more money to spend on the facilities. [Interruption.] We would still have Strathclyde, but Glasgow district council would have been there too.

At the end of the day the important factor is not the fear of the hon. Member for Stirling or the figures involved in the order, but the effect of such orders on our constituents and on those council tenants who live in the constituencies of Conservative Members. A person's home is the most important thing that he has, whether it is rented or owned. People want to be able to live in their homes in comfort and warmth, and in the knowledge that they can carry out any necessary repairs themselves or, if it is a council property, that the council will carry them out for them. However, that is no longer the case in cities such as Glasgow. Housing support has been cut drastically. As I pointed out to my hon. Friend the Member for Monklands, West (Mr. Clarke), even if Glasgow kept its rents at the level that the Government wanted, and even if it received the full capital allocation, my information from Glasgow district housing department is that it would not be able to build one new house next year.

Much housing needs to be replaced in the public sector and there is also a great need for specialist housing, particularly for the elderly, because the elderly population in Glasgow is increasing. Not one sheltered house is being built by the local authority. In my constituency — I cannot speak for the rest of the city—not one sheltered house will be built by housing associations such as the British Legion or the Hanover housing association because they have said that they do not have funds to build. Again, that is because of local authority cutbacks. Therefore, many elderly pepole are living in houses which are too large and for which they are paying too high a rent. If they were in sheltered homes they would be paying lower rents.

Many people in my constituency are living in houses which are very damp. The hon. Member for Stirling mentioned the evidence of the Select Committee on Scottish Affairs. My ears misheard him, or perhaps he will be put right by the Official Report tomorrow. I thought he said "report", but perhaps he meant "evidence". I shall give him the benefit of the doubt.

I went with the Committee when it visited Castlemilk. We saw housing in an appalling state because of dampness. The problems could be solved by spending large sums of money. The Secretary of State will tell us that he does not have the money, but he has plenty to spend on nuclear weapons. He has bags of money to spend on building houses costing £100,000 or £110,000 each in the Falkland Islands; the contract obviously should never have gone to the person who got it at a price above the other bids.

It is a matter of priorities. The Government could solve the problems of damp houses in Scotland if they had the will. They do not have that will. They are not interested in council house tenants in Scotland, because they believe that those tenants do not vote for them. In that they are right, despite what the hon. Member for Stirling said about council house tenants no longer voting for the Labour party. That is garbage. We won the last election in cities like Glasgow. Council house tenants voted overwhelmingly for the Labour party and they will do so again in the district elections in May.

Mr. Ancram

As the hon. Member knows, the Labour party in Scotland lost a quarter of a million votes in the election. Where does he think it lost them?

Mr. Dennis Canavan (Falkirk, West)

The Tory party lost more.

Mr. Maxton

As my hon. Friend rightly points out, the Tory party lost a great many more.

Mr. Ancram


Mr. Maxton

I shall tell the hon. Member where we lost our votes. It was not in the area——

The Secretary of State for Scotland (Mr. George Younger)


Mr. Maxton

The Secretary of State is always unwilling to give way to me in these debates, so I shall not give way to him.

We did not lose votes in Scotland among council house tenants in places such as Glasgow and Edinburgh. We lost them in the highlands, where the Tory party lost its support. We retained our seats; the Tory party did not.

The Government's housing policy is deliberately and vindictively against council house tenants. The Government believe that people should not rent property but that, if at all possible, it should be owned. The Government's attitude is rather like that of the hon. Member for Derbyshire, West (Mr. Pan-is) who spent a week masquerading as a social security benefit claimant and said that it was difficult to live on social security but that that was right because it would force social security claimants to look for a job. That is much the same as the Tory philosophy on housing—make it as rotten, nasty and expensive as possible so that people will get out of it.

The Labour party aims to provide people with decent, properly wind-proofed, heated and affordable houses in a decent environment. In the past five years the Government have tried to destroy those conditions. The Labour party will be returned at the next election and restore them.

9.15 pm
Mr. Bill Walker (Tayside, North)

The hon. Member for Glasgow, Cathcart (Mr. Maxton) has just shown clearly how the Labour party has singularly failed to live up to what he believes is its aim—to provide for the people of Scotland housing which is all that he says it should be. He also knows that there are too many council houses in Scotland which do not meet those standards. The people who live in them live in misery. The reason for that is that, after the second world war, successive Governments were judged by the number of houses that were built during their tenure of office. Nobody considered bad design, bad building or houses being built in the wrong place.

The result has been misery for many families. No one who is involved with housing in Scotland can be proud of that. Families live in conditions which can only be described as horrific and ghastly. Millions of pounds of taxpayers' money has been wasted. That is the result of investing in buildings rather than in people. That is the fundamental difference between the two major parties. The Conservatives believe in investing in people. We do not have a doctrinaire view about the type of property in which people should live or about where they should live.

As members of the Scottish Affairs Select Committee know from evidence that it was given in public and from visits, no humane society should ask people to live in such conditions. I accept that it will cost a massive amount of money to rectify the errors. It would be madness for any Government to continue the policies that have produced the problem. That is why I welcome the shift in the Government's policies. I welcome the fact that, in these difficult times, it has been recognised that we must move resources from buildings to people.

Mr. Wilson

Will the hon. Gentleman give way?

Mr. Walker


Mr. Speaker

Order. We have very little time. I hope that the hon. Gentleman will be brief.

Mr. Wilson

I shall be brief. The hon. Gentleman says that the Government are investing in people and not in buildings. Under the housing support grant, investment in buildings has been reduced but at the same time the Government intend to cut housing benefit, which is an investment in people.

Mr. Walker

I hope that the hon. Gentleman will allow me to develop my argument. The Government are adopting a fundamentally different approach to housing.

Labour-controlled authorities in Scotland have deliberately made ratepayers make massive contributions towards rents paid by people who are well able to pay an economic rent. Perth and Kinross district council recognises that and has set its rents at an economic level. That is why it sees no need to raise rents now. The interesting fact is that there is no shortage of people who want a council property in Perth and Kinross. The reason is clear. People who cannot afford to pay an economic rent are subsidised by the Exchequer. I do not argue with that, because a caring society must look after people who are unable to meet the demands of an economic rent.

Aid is provided by substantial funding from the Department of Health and Social Security and other sources. More than 50 per cent. of council tenants have their rents and rates paid partly or in full by such funding. I do not argue with that. However, such provision makes nonsense of claims by Opposition Members that increasing rents means that people in that section of the community will suffer. The problem is solved by the Exchequer making substantial sums of money available to the housing funds of local authorities.

More important, if that is linked to a policy of selling council houses to those who can afford to pay the economic rent, but who judge that they are better off under Conservative policies, authorities will be better able to channel funds towards those in greatest need. If benefits are spread widely to cover everyone, those in greatest need get the thinnest proportion. That does not make sense.

Mr. Martin (Glasgow, Springburn)

indicated dissent.

Mr. Walker

The hon. Gentleman shakes his head, but the hon. Member for Gordon (Mr. Bruce), speaking from the Liberal Benches, was right to say that a small section of the community will miss out. Those people are above the level where assistance is available from the Department of Health and Social Security, but below the level at which they can receive benefits from mortgage option schemes and other provisions. I hope that Ministers will take that into account. Any Government who care to help those in greatest need must consider the needs of the individual in that sector.

We are debating housing support grant to see what can be done to help all the people. I hope that the Government will look carefully at the Select Committee report when it is published. There is no doubt that what the report covers is the most important area of housing need in Scotland. We must tackle the problems of those who have been afflicted by bad local authority housing. We have a duty and responsibility, first, to examine that carefully — [Interruption.] I do not want to pre-empt the Committee's findings, and I am sure that Opposition Members would not wish me to do so, but I hope that the Government will take note of the report, when it is presented, and will return to the House with positive proposals for housing in Scotland.

I can continue only for a short time, so I shall be unable to respond to the mutterings of Opposition Members. Home improvement grants were a good thing while they lasted, but no one expected such high spending to go on for ever.

I have never been one to suggest that the public purse is open-ended and should be a great big chest ready for dipping into. We must look carefully at the entire housing stock, as in areas outside Scotland, and use what funds are available in these difficult times to help those in need. That is why I welcome expenditure on grants, where there is a statutory requirement on local authorities. I hope that it will continue.

Despite all the rhetoric from Opposition Members, only the Liberals have put forward constructive proposals to help those in Scotland who need the most help.

9.24 pm
Mr. John Home Robertson (East Lothian)

Like the hon. Member for Tayside, North (Mr. Walker), I was a member of the Select Committee on Scottish Affairs in the previous Parliament. Like him, I saw the evidence, to which the hon. Member for Stirling (Mr. Forsyth) referred, on some of the truly gruesome housing conditions in Edinburgh, parts of Glasgow and, no doubt, throughout Scotland. It is being suggested through what the Government are doing that the people who live in those appalling conditions should pay the whole cost, and a little more besides, for getting themselves out of those appalling conditions. That is not reasonable.

I give the hon. Member for Tayside, North a warning. He is in great danger of being outmanoeuvred on the Right by the hon. Member for Stirling (Mr. Forsyth). I was watching the expression of the hon. Member for Stirling when his hon. Friend was speaking. I never thought that I would see the day when I would describe the hon. Member for Tayside, North as a closet liberal, but now that we have been joined by the hon. Member for Stirling, that day might have arrived.

I shall make one preliminary point that hon. Members might expect me to make. There is a specifically Scottish aspect to what we are debating. There is a more specifically Scottish aspect to it in that, if there were an elected Scottish assembly, for which the people of Scotland have repeatedly voted, it is most unlikely that anything like this order would be foisted on tenants, housing authorities or anybody else in Scotland. That assembly would not be juggling scarce housing funds in this cynical manner. I hope that people in Scotland are aware of what this minority administration headed by the Secretary of State is foisting on them. He has a pretty tenuous mandate to do such a thing. He is exercising that power, but he should not be surprised if people begin to challenge it more as the months and years go by.

In the Minister's introductory remarks, in a characteristically elegant turn of phrase, he said that my constituency of East Lothian would drop out of grant. That might be his way of balancing books or of explaining what is going on in the housing support grant, but I believe that that dropping out of grant is extremely bad news for thousands of tenants in my constituency and will cause significant hardship.

We understand that rents in East Lothian district council houses will go up by about 16 per cent., by between £1.60 and £1.70 per week. Since 1979–80, the average annual rents paid by council tenants in East Lothian have gone up from £255.15 to £616.36. That is a direct consequence of the fact that the housing support grant for East Lothian district council has fallen from about £5 million to nothing this year. That is out of the control of the local authority. It is a direct consequence of decisions taken by Ministers in the Scottish Office. I have no doubt that tenants in my constituency will be aware of the difficulty that is being created for them. It is a false economy in the Government's own terms. It means that more tenants will be eligible to claim housing benefit. I hope that they do so. They are entitled to claim if they are under hardship.

There is also the rather convuluted and complicated question of the linkage between the rate fund contribution to housing revenue accounts and the housing capital allocations. I am greatly indebted to Mr. Kennedy, the director of finance of East Lothian district council, for giving me some briefing material on the way in which the problem affects my constituents. I must challenge the double standards involved in the decisions taken by the Secretary of State in regard to the amount of rate fund contributions to housing revenue accounts, whereby capital expenditure is reduced by the Secretary of State if the rate fund contribution figure is exceeded.

In a sense, that is an academic argument for East Lothian district council, because it has no capital allocation for 1984–85. However, it has been put to me that if the new Valuation and Rating Bill became law—I earnestly hope that it will not, and I am doing all that I can in Standing Committee every Tuesday and Thursday to ensure that that date is delayed as long as possible—the Secretary of State would have power to determine the rate fund contribution to housing, and no doubt the figure that he is using now would be continued.

The argument is that it is clearly unfair to have a double standard. The Secretary of State's powers should be limited so that the figure used in the housing support grant calculation is used to determine the rate fund contribution. The Secretary of State should not have power to decide personally, because that will give him—and, I suppose has given him—total control of the rents set in each local authority area. It takes the local decisions on rents for local authority housing once and for all out of the hands of elected local authority councillors and puts them into the hands of the Secretary of State for Scotland.

In the case of East Lothian, the rate fund contribution is limited to £605,000 for 1984–85—I want to try to find out where that figure of £605,000 for the year came from; perhaps the Minister can get some advice on the matter during the remaining minutes of the debate—while the degree of rate support taken into account in the Housing Support Grant (Scotland) Order is approximately £14.64 per head of population, which in East Lothian comes to £1.185 million. That leaves a shortfall of some £585,000.

On the basis of East Lothian's estimated expenditure for 1984–85, although the expenditure on repairs and maintenance is between £45 and £50 per house less than the deemed amount in the housing support grant calculation, to achieve the Secretary of State's rate fund contribution—his target—the average rent would be approximately £618 per annum, as against the national figure of £606.73 used by the Secretary of State in this order. If, however, the rate fund contribution was in the region of £1.184 million—as in this order—the average rent would be about £580 per annum. So the tenants, not the Government, would reap the advantage of the repairs policy of East Lothian district council.

I cannot understand where the figure of £605,000 comes from, unless it is simply because of East Lothian's former record. Certainly it is not based on facts, because the housing problem varies annually. As the Minister will realise, I have been quoting extensively from a brief produced by the director of finance of East Lothian district council, who also cannot understand where the figure comes from. It is surely reasonable, in a debate of this nature, to try to find out where such an arbitrary figure has come from. We are entitled to a public explanation, because it affects many households and families, not only in my constituency but in many other comparable areas of Scotland.

Many of my hon. Friends have referred to the stark contrast between what is happening to tenants in my constituency and throughout Scotland, and what the Government are doing elsewhere. We hear of the squandering of untold millions of pounds on housing and other items in the south Atlantic, the extension of mortgage tax relief over £30,000, and so on, in contrast with the cuts that people who can least afford them are having to face. I deplore what the Government are doing. My hon. Friends and I are entitled to answers to our detailed questions. In due course I shall, of course, join my hon. Friends in voting against this pitifully inadequate order.

9.35 pm
Mr. Nicholas Fairbairn (Perth and Kinross)

Were the fantasy assembly imagined by the hon. Member for East Lothian (Mr. Home Robertson) ever to be set up, my first motion would be the hon. Member for East Lothian should be the Speaker of that Assembly. That appointment would not add any dignity to the Assembly, but it would prevent the hon. Member from reading out gibberish which even he himself does not understand. The resulting silence would be welcome to those who surround the hon. Gentleman, as well as those who do not.

The hon. Member for Glasgow, Cathcart (Mr. Maxton) made a most important observation. He said that the most important thing for every family is its home. I agree with the hon. Gentleman. However, he added, "whether it is rented or owned". I do not think that that is so. I do not believe that there is a family in Scotland who would not rather own than rent their home.

For a short period following the first world war, there were not enough rented houses available for those who required to move and could not afford to buy. That was why the concept of local authority housing was developed. It has been grossly distorted and unnecessarily expanded until, for instance, there are housing estates in Glasgow which are 10 times the size of many Scottish towns.

Mr. Maxton

Ten times?

Mr. Fairbairn

Yes. How many people live in Easterhouse? Fifty thousand. How many people live in Crieff? Five thousand.

Those who live in those vast housing schemes would infinately rather live in their own houses. If the Secretary of State has done one thing that is right, it is to say that we shall make an end of that serfdom. Those who live in local authority houses do so only because they have no alternative. They would rather live in their own houses, and that is why in Perth and Kinross we do not build council houses. We build sheltered houses for those in need——

Mr. David Lambie (Cunninghame, South)

They build castles—and how many tied cottages are there?

Mr. Fairbairn

Those are cheap jibes. However, if everybody bought a house which was available for housing—bought it for £100, as I did, and made it into a home — the problem of Scottish housing would be solved.

I congratulate the Secretary of State. We have been wise to move the people of Scotland against what they do not want. They do not want to live as the serfs of the local authority — [Interruption.] They do not want to be subject to the local authority's rate increases, extravagance, planning, repairs and everything else. They want security, and tenancy is not security. Let us move from the concept of tenancy to the concept of ownership. The Secretary of State's proposals on this matter are without doubt a move in the right direction.

9.39 pm
Mr. Michael J. Martin (Glasgow, Springburn)

It is all very well for the hon. and learned Member for Perth and Kinross (Mr. Fairbairn) to talk about serfdom. No doubt he represents an area where there are many tied cottages, whose tenants know a great deal about serfdom. I wonder whether the private owners of estates, whose farmworkers have tied cottages, will be selling off those houses to those who live in them.

Many Conservative Members referred to Scottish local authorities, particularly in cities such as Glasgow and Edinburgh, not wanting to know about the private sector. That is nonsense. Every time they talk about the cost of council house maintenance, they are talking not only about direct labour receiving finance from local government; they must surely know that many private companies—I accept that many of them do a good job in the city—do very well out of local government. If local government is to be condemned for spending money on local authority housing, Conservative Members must accept that many private companies benefit.

When Conservative Members talk about Glasgow's vast housing estates they must be aware that not all council housing estates, including the big ones, are undesirable. In my constituency there are large housing estates, not as big as Easterhouse and Drumchapel, but nevertheless bigger than those that the hon. and learned Member for Perth and Kinross mentioned, or Barmullod and Balornock, which are areas of reasonably high demand. He spoke about sprawling housing estates.

I lived in the Glasgow slums as a young boy. My mother was a private-sector tenant. The only time the landlord visited the property was when anyone was in arrears with the rent. It embarrassed the tenant who was in arrears. The pressure upon local authorities then was tremendous. Many senior officials in Glasgow district council can testify to the fact that when they built Easterhouse, Drumchapel and Castlemilk the then Tory Government would not allow them to build shopping centres, nurseries or the type of facilities that with hindsight we say should have been built.

The late Charles Murdoch, who was a highly respected chief executive of Glasgow district council, put it on record that when he was a junior planning officer he had to lie to the Secretary of State for Scotland to obtain nursery facilities in estates such as Drumchapel. He would say that a 10-classroom school was needed, but two of those classrooms were in fact for a nursery. That is the type of pressure that was then on local government. It is about time that the Tories faced up to the fact that they had a hand in Drumchapel, Easterhouse and the other estates that exist.

I can take hon. Members to many parts of the Drumchapel and Easterhouse estates where there is a great demand for the houses. They are happy communities in which people have brought up their families since moving there in the 1950s, and young couples who have grown up there wish to remain.

Many council houses in Glasgow that are of excellent quality are for sale. People who live in damp conditions in houses which have sometimes been designed by crooked private contractors cannot obtain transfers to decent houses because the homes to which they wish to move have been sold. If the argument is that every council estate is a bad estate, why do people seeking a transfer ask for one not into the private sector but into other local authority housing? That must be a credit to local authority housing.

Glasgow has a great many problems which need the help and assistance of Government. If Government denies that help, they are denying the people whom they pretend to represent.

9.45 pm
Mr. Norman Buchan (Paisley, South)

I intend to be brief because I know that the House wishes to conclude its proceedings. I am glad of the opportunity to speak about housing. I have been in the House for a long time, but have generally left the subject of housing to the housing experts.

It is obvious that Conservative Members do not know the nature of the nation in which they live. How can they suggest that the proper solution for tenants is to buy a castle more cheaply and rebuild it to help prove the virtues of private ownership? How can they extol the virtues of privatisation? It might have been better had the hon. Member for Stirling (Mr. Forsyth) declared an interest, because privatisation covers a wide area. The ideology of privatisation has been useful to many people, and Conservative Members should have said so when advocating it.

I accept that there are massive elements of bad housing in the public sector. Of course certain schemes should never have been planned and should never have been built, but I remember David Gibson, who killed himself in the process of carrying out some of the schemes in Glasgow, believing that that was the solution to most of the problems.

I was a member of the first team which analysed Glasgow's housing in the late 1940s and early 1950s. In 1951, 400,000 people in Glasgow lived either in single end or room and kitchen houses. I do not know whether Conservative Members have ever seen a single end——

Mr. Fairbairn


Mr. Buchan

Sit down. I shall deal with the hon. and learned Gentleman in a moment.

Four hundred thousand families lived under those conditions, and some of the so-called bad schemes came about because rapid action was needed. The Government should remember that the available acreage was restricted because of the Scottish landowners. Most of the dampness was in buildings built by private contractors — and I could name a few of them. Unless Conservative Members understand the reasons for the bad schemes, they should keep quiet.

Mr. Fairbairn

In the centre of Glasgow the tenements were knocked down by the local authorities in favour of carrying out the housing schemes. The tenements that remain—what the hon. Gentleman referred to as single ends—have been modernised by local authorities and private contractors and they make wonderful houses. How does the hon. Gentleman explain that appalling cataclysm?

Mr. Buchan

I can explain that by the injection of public money to restore lousy housing. But the Government are now cutting that money in the housing support grant by 300 per cent.

It has been suggested that the sale of council houses will provide additional funds. The councils are being "cribb'd, cabin'd and confin'd" by the Government's programme.

Because of the cut in capital for housing, the waiting list queues extend in our surgeries each week. Having reduced the waiting time for families—especially young couples—to a few months, we now see the waiting time becoming two, three or four years.

Those who have been living in good houses are able to buy their homes, largely at the expense of the rest of the tenants, while those who have been living in bad houses will never get out of them. I know dozens of good tenants who would love to move house—they would like to own their own homes, and I have nothing against private ownership and flexibility in housing—but they have no hope of doing so. I have everything against a system of housing under which those who have lived in better housing will stay in good housing, while those in poor conditions are stuck there for ever. The Tories do not know the conditions of the people whom they claim to represent and, until they understand the position, they should speak with a little more humility.

9.51 pm
Mr. Dennis Canavan (Falkirk, West)

The original intention when housing support grant was introduced by the then Labour Government was to unify the system of housing subsidy. It is now being abused by the Tories to reduce the overall housing subsidy. Between 1979–80, the first financial year when housing support grant was introduced and the coming financial year, it has been reduced from £213.4 million to £52.461 million.

Today, the majority of housing authorities in Scotland get no housing support grant at all. One of them, Falkirk district council, is the housing authority covering my constituency. In Falkirk district as a whole there are over 32,000 council houses and over 3,000 Scottish Special Housing Association houses, making up over 66 per cent. of the total housing stock of the district. In other words, two out of three people living in Falkirk district live in public sector housing.

What has happened to their level of support since the Tories took office? In 1979–80, the housing support grant for Falkirk district was £7.96 million. By the current year it had dropped to zero and for the coming financial year it will be zero again. That is reflected in increased rents, because if the local authority is not getting income into its housing revenue account by way of housing support grant, it may have no alternative but to increase rents.

In 1979.80, the average rent of Falkirk district council houses was £205 per annum. By the coming year, 1984–85, that will have increased to £556, an increase of over 171 per cent. That has all happened since the Tories came to power. Despite what the Government say about winning the price battle, they have witnessed, and been partly responsible for, an increase in the retail price index of 60 per cent. since May 1979. The increase in council house rents throughout Scotland in general, and in Falkirk district in particular, has been far in excess of the percentage increase in the retail price index. In other words, the Tories have singled out council house tenants as the target for a vicious attack on living standards, an attack out of all proportion to any increase in inflation as measured by any objective statistics.

Fortunately, the Labour-controlled district council in Falkirk is trying its best to avoid massive rent increases. Indeed, although the Secretary of State would like to see another huge increase in rents, I understand that the council has told the Secretary of State where to get off and has said that it intends to increase the rents of its tenants by only 50p per week. I ask the hon. and learned Member for Perth and Kinross (Mr. Fairbairn): who is cheating, or trying to cheat, the people of Falkirk district? Who is trying to treat them like serfs? Are the councillors of Falkirk trying to do that? The answer is no. It is the Tory Secretary of State for Scotland who is trying to treat them like serfs by pushing up their rents to an extent that is out of all proportion to their living standards or to the increase in the rate of inflation. Yet this is the same Government who can spend over £7 million on 54 prefabs on the Falkland Islands—in other words, about £130,000 per house for people in the South Atlantic and no housing support grant at all for council house tenants in Falkirk district.

The debate is one of a long series over recent years. Colleagues from south of the border are now beginning to see what we in Scotland have been witnessing ever since the Tories took office in 1979 — an increased centralisation of power and decreasing power for elected representatives at local authority level. The increased centralisation of power by way of intervention, whether by the decrease of rate support grant, rate capping or instructing housing authorities to limit their rate fund contributions into the housing revenue account, is combined with a decrease in central support for local government.

Right hon. and hon. Members on both sides of the House are pointing to the constitutional significance of that trend. Even the Prime Minister's press secretary has been forced to write confidential memos urging the neutralisation of Tory Members and Tory councillors who in their heart of hearts are gravely concerned about the consequences of this type of order. It is a pity that Scottish Tory Members do not have the guts of some of their colleagues south of the border such as the former Prime Minister, the right hon. Member for Old Bexley and Sidcup (Mr. Heath), and the right hon. Member for Cambridgeshire, South-East (Mr. Pym). It seems that Bernard Ingham does not need to bother to neutralise the average Scottish Tory Member. It appears that he has been tranquilised or anaesthetised already.

The Secretary of State and his lackeys and minions on the Government Front Bench have no mandate from the people of Scotland to impose an order of this sort. The people of Scotland did not vote for them. The majority of the people of Scotland, who live in council houses, rejected this Tory Government. Despite what the hon. and learned Member for Perth and Kinross says—he lives in a castle — they are quite happy to continue living in council houses provided they are paying reasonable rents and are getting reasonable maintenance, repairs and modernisation programmes. The majority of these people rejected the Tory party at the 1983 general election and they will continue to reject the Tory Government. We shall see justice for the people of Scotland on housing and other matters only when we get a Scottish Parliament or Scottish Assembly.

9.59 pm
Mr. Ancram

It is not surprising that the hon. Member for Falkirk, West (Mr. Canavan) strayed so far from the subject of housing support grant. As he attended the debate for such a short time, he probably did not understand what the debate was about. Before he starts accusing Conservative Members of not understanding problems relating to council houses and not having a mandate in Scotland, he might care to reflect, as I suggested to the hon. Member for Glasgow, Cathcart (Mr. Maxton), that at the last election the Labour party in Scotland lost 250,000 votes—more than the Scottish Conservatives. If the hon. Gentleman cared to check the statistics to see from where those votes came, he would find that they came from council estates in Scotland because the people living on those estates believed that the Labour party no longer represented their interests.

This has been a wide-ranging debate. The problems of Glasgow were raised by the hon. Members for Glasgow, Garscadden (Mr. Dewar) and for Glasgow, Springburn (Mr. Martin). I am sorry that the hon. Member for Cathcart has left the Chamber. He made a strange assertion. He criticised the amount of housing revenue account allocation made available to Glasgow. I am sure that he is as aware as I am that the main problem in Glasgow is not building new houses but improving the quality of the houses that exist, because there is a surplus of housing in the city. The hon. Members for Cathcart and Springburn showed a surprising ignorance in concentrating so much on the need for new housing, when that is not Glasgow's main need.

Mr. Martin

Will the hon. Gentleman give way?

Mr. Ancram

I shall not give way. I should like to set on the record——

Mr. Martin

Will the hon. Gentleman give way?

Mr. Speaker

Order. Only one hon. Member should be on his feet at a time.

Mr. Martin

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker.

Mr. Speaker

Is the hon. Member raising a point of order, or is he seeking to make a statement?

Mr. Martin

The Under-Secretary made an allegation that I made certain remarks, and he is not giving me an opportunity to reply. He is misleading the House.

Mr. Speaker

Hon. Members do not mislead the House.

Mr. Ancram

The hon. Gentleman made his speech, and I am entitled to respond to it.

This year Glasgow is receiving £132.72 million in terms of consent. Under the last Labour Government in 1978–79 it was receiving £66.9 million. I find it difficult to understand how any hon. Member representing Glasgow can say that the Government have not recognised Glasgow's needs.

The hon. Member for Glasgow, Maryhill (Mr. Craigen) referred to a number of problems, and I may not be able to deal with them all. He asked how I could argue that rents are too low when half the Scottish tenants are receiving housing benefit. The hon. Gentleman could ask himself why the taxpayers continue to subsidise the rents of people who can well afford to meet a greater proportion of their housing costs. That is the reverse of the position that the hon. Gentleman posed. My hon. Friends the Members for Stirling (Mr. Forsyth) and for Tayside, North (Mr. Walker) were right to say that it makes greater sense to subsidise a person than to continue subsidising the bricks and mortar of the building that that person inhabits. That is the correct policy of the Government.

A number of accusations were made by the hon. Member for Maryhill and the hon. Member for Hamilton (Mr. Robertson) about the effects of the announcement last November on the repairs and improvement grant scheme. I wonder whether those hon. Gentlemen live in the real world. The amounts that have been made available to cover those grants show that during the past two years about £200 million has been spent on improvement and repairs under the scheme. Next year, about £160 million will be spent on non-housing revenue account, and a record figure of about £140 million is likely to be used for forward commitments on that scheme. It is impossible for those hon. Gentlemen to say that there will be no work and that builders and contractors have been ruined by the announcement.

My hon. Friend the Member for Fife, North-East (Mr. Henderson) made an important and thoughtful speech about housing finance and housing subsidy. I hope that he will forgive me if I deal with just one or two of the questions that he raised. He very appropriately asked how the additional management and maintenance costs of districts with special difficulties would be recognised in the formula for providing housing support grant. The formula takes account of special factors by attributing additional allowances to urban authorities in respect of high-rise and super-high-rise houses and to rural authorities in respect of additional problems in managing small housing stocks. The allowances in the formula were all arrived at with the full agreement of the COSLA and I hope that my hon. Friend will appreciate that, so far as possible, the problems to which he referred are taken into account.

The hon. Member for Maryhill and the hon. Member for Gordon (Mr. Bruce), who spoke for the Liberal party but then disappeared and has not returned to the Chamber, both raised the question——

Mr. Dick Douglas (Dunfermline, West)

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. The Minister's comments may not be all that illuminating, but some of us would like to follow them. There is a great deal of noise coming from beyond the Bar of the House.

Mr. Speaker

I can hear quite well at this end, but if what the hon. Gentleman says is correct, will hon. Members beyond the Bar please remain silent?

Mr. Ancram

The hon. Members for Maryhill and for Gordon referred to the effect of the announcements in the order on rents in Scotland. The hon. Member for Maryhill must have had difficulty in deciding which brief to follow. He said that COSLA had assumed average rent increases of £2.60 as a result of the order. The Shelter brief, however, assumes an increase of £1.26 on the same basis. That is a considerable difference between two august authorities which claim great knowledge of housing. As I have said, I believe that the differences have appeared because to varying extents neither organisation has taken full account of changes in expenditure and especially reductions in interest rates.

The changes that we have made will involve an average rent increase of no more than £1 per week, although there will, of course, be variations. Aberdeen is a good example. On our assumptions, rents there would have to be raised by some £2 per week, but I should tell the hon. Member for Gordon that this reflects a consistent policy on the part of that authority to keep rents unreasonably low. An increase of £2 per week would bring rents in Aberdeen to £9.98 per week, which is only 11p above the present Scottish average. The people of Aberdeen cannot claim that that would be a tremendous hardship.

The hon. Member for Hamilton referred to slums being created by the Government. Again, I wonder where the hon. Gentleman has been. Our housing record shows that between 1980 and 1983 we reduced the number of sub-tolerable standard houses from 113,000 to 82,000. I do not wish to sound complacent about that, but it certainly gives the lie to the hon. Gentleman's suggestion that the situation is getting worse. If that momentum continues—and we intend to support it—the problem that remains is not unmanageable.

I listened carefully to the hon. Member for Monklands, West (Mr. Clarke) who rightly said that the Government had introduced the relationship between rate fund contributions, rents and capital. I do not deny that we introduced the system of penalising capital expenditure by authorities which budget for excessive rate fund contributions. The alternative to penalising individual authorities would have been to reduce the capital expenditure of all authorities, whether or not they budgeted for excessive rate fund contributions. I agree with the hon. Gentleman, however, that it is undesirable to have to cut capital expenditure to pay for excessive subsidies from the rates. I expect that, on clause 6 of the Rating and Valuation Bill, for that reason we shall have his support.

A number of other matters were raised. We have had a long debate, and I have covered as many of the matters as I can. Once again, Opposition Members have tried to disguise the weakness of their arguments in a welter of emotionalism and exaggeration and they must, if they wish to be considered a serious Opposition, begin to recognise the facts of economic life.

Mr. Canavan

The Government are the Opposition in Scotland.

Mr. Ancram

Housing expenditure is a large and important part of public expenditure as a whole, and within it the balance must be struck between the genuine needs of public sector housing and the people who live in it on the one hand, and on the other the public from whom in one way or another the resources must come. Housing support grant must be applied on this same basis, not as a general subsidy, but where it is justifiably required. To do otherwise would be a negation of the responsibility of Government to ensure that public money is properly applied. The Opposition by their statements tonight would have us believe that it should be a general and unjustified subsidy. They may cynically believe that this is good politics. I can say to them that it is irresponsible, and it is an irresponsibility that we on this side will not share.

The order provides a fair balance between need and the proper application of public funds, and I ask my hon. Friends to support it.

Questions put:—

The House divided: Ayes 266, Noes 196.

Division No. 149] [10.10 pm
Aitken, Jonathan Aspinwall, Jack
Alexander, Richard Atkins, Rt Hon Sir H.
Amery, Rt Hon Julian Atkins, Robert (South Ribble)
Ancram, Michael Banks, Robert (Harrogate)
Arnold, Tom Batiste, Spencer
Beaumont-Dark, Anthony Hogg, Hon Douglas (Gr'th'm)
Biffen, Rt Hon John Holland, Sir Philip (Gedling)
Bonsor, Sir Nicholas Holt, Richard
Boscawen, Hon Robert Hooson, Tom
Bottomley, Peter Howarth, Alan (Stratf'd-on-A)
Brandon-Bravo, Martin Howarth, Gerald (Cannock)
Browne, John Howe, Rt Hon Sir Geoffrey
Buchanan-Smith, Rt Hon A. Hubbard-Miles, Peter
Buck, Sir Antony Hunt, David (Wirral)
Bulmer, Esmond Hunt, John (Ravensbourne)
Butcher, John Hunter, Andrew
Carttiss, Michael Hurd, Rt Hon Douglas
Chapman, Sydney Irving, Charles
Clark, Hon A. (Plym'th S'n) Jackson, Robert
Clark, Dr Michael (Rochford) Jenkin, Rt Hon Patrick
Clark, Sir W. (Croydon S) Jones, Gwilym (Cardiff N)
Clegg, Sir Walter Jones, Robert (W Herts)
Colvin, Michael Key, Robert
Cope, John King, Roger (B'ham N'field)
Cranborne, Viscount King, Rt Hon Tom
Currie, Mrs Edwina Knight, Gregory (Derby N)
Dicks, T. Knight, Mrs Jill (Edgbaston)
Dorrell, Stephen Knowles, Michael
Douglas-Hamilton, Lord J. Knox, David
Durant, Tony Lamont, Norman
Edwards, Rt Hon N. (P'broke) Lang, Ian
Eggar, Tim Latham, Michael
Emery, Sir Peter Lawler, Geoffrey
Fairbairn, Nicholas Lee, John (Pendle)
Fallon, Michael Lester, Jim
Farr, John Lewis, Sir Kenneth (Stamf'd)
Favell, Anthony Lightbown, David
Fenner, Mrs Peggy Lloyd, Ian (Havant)
Fletcher, Alexander Lloyd, Peter, (Fareham)
Fookes, Miss Janet Lord, Michael
Forman, Nigel Luce, Richard
Forsyth, Michael (Stirling) Lyell, Nicholas
Forth, Eric McCrindle, Robert
Fox, Marcus McCurley, Mrs Anna
Fraser, Peter (Angus East) Macfarlane, Neil
Freeman, Roger MacGregor, John
Fry, Peter MacKay, Andrew (Berkshire)
Gale, Roger MacKay, John (Argyll & Bute)
Galley, Roy Maclean, David John.
Gardiner, George (Reigate) McNair-Wilson, P. (New F'st)
Gardner, Sir Edward (Fylde) McQuarrie, Albert
Glyn, Dr Alan Major, John
Goodhart, Sir Philip Malone, Gerald
Goodlad, Alastair Maples, John
Gow, Ian Marland, Paul
Gower, Sir Raymond Marshall, Michael (Arundel)
Greenway, Harry Mates, Michael
Gregory, Conal Mather, Carol
Griffiths, E. (B'y St Edm'ds) Maude, Francis
Griffiths, Peter (Portsm'th N) Mawhinney, Dr Brian
Grist, Ian Maxwell-Hyslop, Robin
Ground, Patrick Merchant, Piers
Grylls, Michael Meyer, Sir Anthony
Gummer, John Selwyn Miller, Hal (B'grove)
Hamilton, Hon A. (Epsom) Mills, Iain (Meriden)
Hamilton, Neil (Tatton) Mills, Sir Peter (West Devon)
Hampson, Dr Keith Miscampbell, Norman
Hanley, Jeremy Mitchell, David (NW Hants)
Hannam, John Moate, Roger
Hargreaves, Kenneth Monro, Sir Hector
Harris, David Montgomery, Fergus
Harvey, Robert Moore, John
Haselhurst, Alan Morrison, Hon C. (Devizes)
Havers, Rt Hon Sir Michael Morrison, Hon P. (Chester)
Hawksley, Warren Moynihan, Hon C.
Hayes, J. Mudd, David
Hayhoe, Barney Neale, Gerrard
Hayward, Robert Needham, Richard
Heathcoat-Amory, David Nelson, Anthony
Henderson, Barry Newton, Tony
Hickmet, Richard Nicholls, Patrick
Hicks, Robert Normanton, Tom
Higgins, Rt Hon Terence L. Norris, Steven
Hind, Kenneth Onslow, Cranley
Hirst, Michael Oppenheim, Philip
Oppenheim, Rt Hon Mrs S. Stevens, Martin (Fulham)
Ottaway, Richard Stewart, Allan (Eastwood)
Parris, Matthew Stewart, Andrew (Sherwood)
Patten, Christopher (Bath) Stradling Thomas, J.
Pattie, Geoffrey Sumberg, David
Pawsey, James Tapsell, Peter
Peacock, Mrs Elizabeth Taylor, Rt Hon John David
Pink, R. Bonner Taylor, Teddy (S'end E)
Pollock, Alexander Tebbit, Rt Hon Norman
Powell, William (Corby) Temple-Morris, Peter
Powley, John Terlezki, Stefan
Prentice, Rt Hon Reg Thomas, Rt Hon Peter
Prior, Rt Hon James Thompson, Donald (Calder V)
Proctor, K. Harvey Thompson, Patrick (N'ich N)
Pym, Rt Hon Francis Thorne, Neil (Ilford S)
Raffan, Keith Thornton, Malcolm
Rathbone, Tim Thurnham, Peter
Renton, Tim Townsend, Cyril D. (B'heath)
Rhodes James, Robert Tracey, Richard
Ridley, Rt Hon Nicholas Trippier, David
Rippon, Rt Hon Geoffrey Trotter, Neville
Roberts, Wyn (Conwy) Twinn, Dr Ian
Robinson, Mark (N'port W) van Straubenzee, Sir W.
Roe, Mrs Marion Vaughan, Sir Gerard
Rossi, Sir Hugh Viggers, Peter
Rost, Peter Waddington, David
Rowe, Andrew Wakeham, Rt Hon John
Rumbold, Mrs Angela Walden, George
Ryder, Richard Walker, Bill (T'side N)
Sackville, Hon Thomas Waller, Gary
Sayeed, Jonathan Walters, Dennis
Shaw, Giles (Pudsey) Wardle, C. (Bexhill)
Shaw, Sir Michael (Scarb') Watson, John
Shelton, William (Streatham) Watts, John
Shepherd, Colin (Hereford) Wells, Bowen (Hertford)
Shepherd, Richard (Aldridge) Wells, John (Maidstone)
Silvester, Fred Wheeler, John
Skeet, T. H. H. Wiggin, Jerry
Smith, Tim (Beaconsfield) Winterton, Mrs Ann
Soames, Hon Nicholas Winterton, Nicholas
Speller, Tony Wolfson, Mark
Spence, John Wood, Timothy
Spencer, D. Woodcock, Michael
Spicer, Jim (W Dorset) Yeo, Tim
Spicer, Michael (S Worcs) Young, Sir George (Acton)
Squire, Robin Younger, Rt Hon George
Stanbrook, Ivor
Steen, Anthony Tellers for the Ayes:
Stern, Michael Mr. Tim Sainsbury and
Stevens, Lewis (Nuneaton) Mr. Michael Neubert.
Adams, Allen (Paisley N) Campbell, Ian
Alton, David Campbell-Savours, Dale
Anderson, Donald Canavan, Dennis
Archer, Rt Hon Peter Carter-Jones, Lewis
Ashdown, Paddy Cartwright, John
Ashley, Rt Hon Jack Clark, Dr David (S Shields)
Ashton, Joe Clarke, Thomas
Atkinson, N. (Tottenham) Clay, Robert
Bagier, Gordon A. T. Cocks, Rt Hon M. (Bristol S.)
Banks, Tony (Newham NW) Cohen, Harry
Barnett, Guy Concannon, Rt Hon J. D.
Barron, Kevin Conlan, Bernard
Beckett, Mrs Margaret Cook, Frank (Stockton North)
Bell, Stuart Cook, Robin F. (Livingston)
Bennett, A. (Dent'n & Red'sh) Corbett, Robin
Bermingham, Gerald Corbyn, Jeremy
Bidwell, Sydney Cowans, Harry
Blair, Anthony Craigen, J. M.
Boothroyd, Miss Betty Crowther, Stan
Boyes, Roland Cunliffe, Lawrence
Bray, Dr Jeremy Cunningham, Dr John
Brown, Gordon (D'f'mline E) Davies. Rt Hon Denzil (L'lli)
Brown, Hugh D. (Provan) Davies, Ronald (Caerphilly)
Brown, N. (N'c'tle-u-Tyne E) Davis, Terry (B'ham, H'ge H'l)
Brown, Ron (E'burgh, Leith) Deakins, Eric
Bruce, Malcolm Dewar, Donald
Buchan, Norman Dixon, Donald
Callaghan, Jim (Heyw'd & M) Dobson, Frank
Dormand, Jack Marek, Dr John
Douglas, Dick Marshall, David (Shettleston)
Dubs, Alfred Martin, Michael
Duffy, A. E. P. Mason, Rt Hon Roy
Dunwoody, Hon Mrs G. Maxton, John
Eadie, Alex Maynard, Miss Joan
Eastham, Ken Meacher, Michael
Ellis, Raymond Meadowcroft, Michael
Evans, loan (Cynon Valley) Michie, William
Evans, John (St. Helens N) Mikardo, Ian
Fatchett, Derek Mitchell, Austin (G't Grimsby)
Field, Frank (Birkenhead) Morris, Rt Hon A. (W'shawe)
Fields, T. (L'pool Broad Gn) Morris, Rt Hon J. (Aberavon)
Fisher, Mark Nellist, David
Flannery, Martin Oakes, Rt Hon Gordon
Foot, Rt Hon Michael O'Brien, William
Forrester, John O'Neill, Martin
Foster, Derek Orme, Rt Hon Stanley
Foulkes, George Park, George
Fraser, J. (Norwood) Parry, Robert
Freud, Clement Pavitt, Laurie
George, Bruce Pendry, Tom
Gilbert, Rt Hon Dr John Penhaligon, David
Godman, Dr Norman Pike, Peter
Golding, John Powell, Raymond (Ogmore)
Gould, Bryan Prescott, John
Gourlay, Harry Redmond, M.
Hamilton, W. W. (Central Fife) Rees, Rt Hon M. (Leeds S)
Harman, Ms Harriet Richardson, Ms Jo
Harrison, Rt Hon Walter Roberts, Allan (Bootle)
Hart, Rt Hon Dame Judith Roberts, Ernest (Hackney N)
Haynes, Frank Robertson, George
Healey, Rt Hon Denis Robinson, G. (Coventry NW)
Heffer, Eric S. Rogers, Allan
Hogg, N. (C'nauld & Kilsyth) Ross, Ernest (Dundee W)
Holland, Stuart (Vauxhall) Ryman, John
Howell, Rt Hon D. (S'heath) Sedgemore, Brian
Howells, Geraint Sheerman, Barry
Hoyle, Douglas Sheldon, Rt Hon R.
Hughes, Dr. Mark (Durham) Shore, Rt Hon Peter
Hughes, Robert (Aberdeen N) Short, Ms Clare (Ladywood)
Hughes, Roy (Newport East) Short, Mrs R.(W'hampt'n NE)
Hughes, Sean (Knowsley S) Skinner, Dennis
Janner, Hon Greville Smith, C.(Isl'ton S & F'bury)
Jenkins, Rt Hon Roy (Hillh'd) Smith, Rt Hon J. (M'kl'ds E)
John, Brynmor Snape, Peter
Johnston, Russell Soley, Clive
Jones, Barry (Alyn & Deeside) Spearing, Nigel
Kaufman, Rt Hon Gerald Steel, Rt Hon David
Kennedy, Charles Stewart, Rt Hon D. (W Isles)
Kilroy-Silk, Robert Stott, Roger
Kirkwood, Archibald Strang, Gavin
Lambie, David Straw, Jack
Lamond, James Thomas, Dafydd (Merioneth)
Leadbitter, Ted Thomas, Dr R. (Carmarthen)
Leighton. Ronald Thompson, J. (Wansbeck)
Lewis, Ron (Carlisle) Tinn, James
Lewis, Terence (Worsley) Torney, Tom
Litherland, Robert Wardell, Gareth (Gower)
Lloyd, Tony (Stretford) Wareing, Robert
Lofthouse, Geoffrey Weetch, Ken
Loyden, Edward Welsh, Michael
McCartney, Hugh White, James
McDonald, Dr Oonagh Williams, Rt Hon A.
McKay, Allen (Penistone) Wilson, Gordon
McKelvey, William Winnick, David
Mackenzie, Rt Hon Gregor Wrigglesworth, Ian
Maclennan, Robert Young, David (Bolton SE)
McNamara, Kevin
McTaggart, Robert Tellers for the Noes:
McWilliam, John Mr. James Hamilton and
Madden, Max Mr. John Home Robertson.

Question accordingly agreed to.

Resolved, That the draft Housing Support Grant (Scotland) Order 1984, which was laid before this House on 23rd January, be approved.