HC Deb 11 July 1984 vol 63 cc1029-31
10. Mr. Pavitt

asked the Secretary of State for the Environment if he will carry out a review of the national mobility scheme for local authority tenants and housing applicants.

Sir George Young

The national mobility scheme is a voluntary scheme agreed between most public housing authorities in the United Kingdom and I warmly commend its work in enabling nearly 13,000 households to move to new homes since it began in 1981.

Mr. Pavitt

Will the Under-Secretary condemn the inhumane operation of the scheme by some councils, including his own, in using it to decant their homeless families into other London boroughs? Will the hon. Gentleman confirm that, with his own borough of Ealing, according to its criteria, a person's household has to contain a person aged 60, or someone who is taking examinations, if that person is to retain the right to live in the borough, even if he has lived there for 30 years? Will the hon. Gentleman consult Shelter, which has a mass of information about the way in which boroughs are pushing their problems on to other areas?

Sir George Young

The hon. Gentleman seems to be referring to the Greater London mobility scheme rather than the national mobility scheme. In the light of recent publicity, I have made some inquiries about the borough of Ealing. In my view, the borough has done nothing that justifies the hon. Gentleman's language. The Greater London mobility scheme is very useful to boroughs such as Brent and Ealing, helping them to meet pressures from those on the waiting list.

Mr. Andrew McKay

As the excellent national mobility scheme can have only a limited effect because of varying regional demands for transfers, is it not true that the best way of maintaining and increasing mobility of labour is to sell far more council houses so that people can move more freely?

Sir George Young

There are indeed other ways of securing national mobility, and former council tenants who have bought their homes are now more mobile than they would otherwise have been. There are provisions in the Housing and Building Control Act for a right of exchange for local authority tenants. That would be another useful step.

Mr. Freeson

For those who need to improve their housing conditions and escape from the appalling conditions in which they currently live, would it not be better to increase mobility by increasing significantly—by many millions of pounds — the investment programmes of the local authorities and housing associations in the most hard-hit areas in the country? When will the Government face the fact that the only way to lift hundreds and thousands of people out of homelessness is to increase investment in providing decent alternative housing?

Sir George Young

I would agree with the right hon. Gentleman if he would include, in his incitement to invest, reference to investment by the private sector as well as the public sector. Brent has had one of the most generous housing investment programme allocations in London over the past two years, and when we allocate the resources for next year I shall take into account the pressures in Brent which the right hon. Gentleman has mentioned.

Mr. Heddle

Does my hon. Friend agree that mobility would be increased for many hundreds of thousands of single people on house waiting lists, and they could be housed, if more tenants were aware of the right to sublet, which is enshrined in the Housing Act 1980? Will he ensure that all local authorities make their tenants aware of their rights, thereby increasing the supply of rented accommodation?

Sir George Young

My hon. Friend is right to remind the House that we have given public sector tenants the right to take in lodgers and, with their landlords' consent, to sublet part of their homes. We have also enabled councils to make homes available for up to one year for people who move into their areas to take up jobs. I shall bear in mind what my hon. Friend has said about a fresh publicity initiative to remind people of the generous provisions of the 1980 Act.

Mr. John Fraser

Is the Minister aware that there are strong social and economic grounds for having a national statutory mobility scheme? The purpose of mobility is to enable a tenant to move, for job or family reasons, from one part of the country to another. As long as Tory-controlled authorities such as Ealing use the mobility scheme as a means of kicking out their homeless people to much more hard-pressed Labour-controlled inner city boroughs, the scheme is being sabotaged. The Minister's borough is behaving like that.

Sir George Young

I utterly reject what the hon. Gentleman has said. In my advice bureau, I see people who are on the Ealing waiting list. Many of them are advantaged by the very scheme which the hon. Gentleman denounced. I cannot join him in his condemnation of Ealing council.

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