HC Deb 28 March 1985 vol 76 cc728-39 8.15 pm
Mr. John Fraser (Norwood)

I beg to move amendment No. 100, in page 59, line 8, after 'order' insert 'and after the publication of a report by the Secretary of State setting out arrangements after the abolition date in relation to housing functions exercised before that date by the Greater London Council, and in particular for the continuation of housing mobility in London, the renovation of former GLC estates, the future of Thamesmead, and the effect of abolition on holders of former GLC mortgages, and the distribution of capital receipts.'

Mr. Deputy Speaker

With this it will be convenient to discuss the following amendments: No. 37, in page 59, line 13, after 'date' insert 'provided that no such order shall prejudice the programme to renovate housing accommodation transferred under the said section 23 or shall result in any net additional revenue cost to the council of any London borough.'.

No. 101, in page 59, leave out line 20 and insert— '(c) substitute for a liability to carry out works by the Greater London Council an equal liability on the Secretary of State or the London Residuary Body.'.

No. 102, in page 59, line 8, leave out clause 87.

Mr. Fraser

We now discuss in a matter of minutes the destruction of the greatest house-building authority in Britain today. We cannot debate the general, house construction, responsibilities of the GLC. Anybody who considers the overall problem of housing in London will agree that the capital has an overwhelming need for a strategic housing authority. I shall concentrate on the restricted number of issues contained in the amendments.

I wish to consider, first, the GLC homes which were transferred to the London boroughs. All told, 155,000 houses were transferred, most of them voluntarily. By 1981, eight London boroughs refused to transfer houses from the GLC—they refused to take 54,000 homes—and they made that decision for good reason.

Those boroughs knew that they could not take on the responsibility for the estates, some of them in my constituency. The houses concerned were in a poor state at the time and they knew that they could not take on the responsibility, financially or physically, unless they received help from the GLC. They knew that many of the estates which they had refused to take over were not assets but liabilities.

They were right because they were aware of the problems that taking over the GLC estates would create —many of the estates were in housing—stress areas and they were prudent to hold out against a voluntary transfer because they believed that such a transfer could easily bankrupt their housing revenue accounts. They held out, they negotiated and, at the end of the day, they did a deal. The deal was agreed between the boroughs and the GLC, and was eventually blessed by the Government.

The contents of the deal were fourfold. First, every home that was to be transferred to a London borough—one of the eight boroughs — would be improved to improvement grant standard under the Housing Act 1974, Thus, they were assured that the homes would be put into a modern and improved state.

Secondly, they sought a completion date for that obligation of 1992. Thirdly, they obtained the promise that the capital that was needed to fund those improvements would be provided by the GLC. That amounted, including the houses that were voluntarily transferred, to an obligation of about £1 billion. Fourthly, they obtained a guarantee that the deficit — the revenue deficit on running the transferred housing, which amounted to about £65 million a year—would also be funded by the GLC.

They were were right to hold out for all those conditions because the GLC, with its resources taken from the whole of London, could muster the revenue necessary to enable the transferee boroughs to carry out their responsibilities. It was appreciated that each borough could not individually guarantee renovation if left alone to do the work. It was accepted that, without that agreement, the authorities would be under an intolerable strain, not just in respect of the tenants of the estates that they were taking over but for their existing housing stock.

Over 2,000 dwellings were taken over in my constituency of Lambeth. It was known that intolerable strains would be placed on housing departments if the guarantees were not secured. At the end of the day, the authorities had the stock and a 10-year guarantee. It is wise for a purchaser, as it were, to obtain a 10-year guarantee on what he is taking over. Accompanying the stock and the guarantee was a fund of £1 billion to pay for improvements, which was extended to include voluntary arrangements. The deal was agreed between the boroughs and the GLC. Indeed, it was signed, sealed, delivered and legislated upon.

The Government are proposing a breach of the sanctity of the contract which was entered into between the boroughs and the GLC. Secondly, the Bill will breach the sanctity of the legislative blessing which was given to the arrangements which I have described. Thirdly, the Bill involves a breach of the sanctity of arrangements reached between local authorities and an interference in the way in which the sanctity of someone's home can be guaranteed from the funds provided by local authorities. The deal was attractive but now it is inconvenient to its sponsor and it is to be snuffed out. In a sense, the Minister is performing the legislative equivalent of someone who drowns kittens. What was originally attractive has become inconvenient and must be snuffed out. This means an abandonment of obligations.

There has been an outcry from tenants associations throughout London. Many of them lobbied the House of Commons last month and London Members of all political parties asked to see the Minister. The Minister refused to meet them on the issue, but he allowed them about 20 minutes to discuss the matter towards the end of the Bill's consideration in Committee. He wrote to me and part of his letter read: I appreciate that there has some concern on the point. That is an underestimate. He wrote that in his opinion the concern was "misguided". The letter continued: After abolition,"— the letter was written by the Minister for Housing and Construction— the Boroughs will become responsible for whatever renovation and repair works … they consider necessary, in the same way that they are already responsible for dwellings which they originally provided for themselves. The boroughs know that. They know that they will be responsible in the same way that they are responsible for their existing housing stock. That is why they resisted the transfer.

The letter states that the boroughs will get the 'top slice' of London's HIP now allocated to the GLC along with all the rest of the capital's HIP allocation. The letter adds: Future allocations will take particular account of liabilities inherited from the GLC.

We are not allowed to comment on the truthfulness of Ministers but if the Secretary of State and the Minister for Housing and Construction were called Pinocchio, their noses would have grown a good deal over the past couple of years. Whenever they have made forecasts about the money to be provided from capital receipts and housing investment programmes, and every time they have given any kind of assurance or denial that there will be a moratorium — the same can be said of the occasions when they have denied that there will be a cut in housing capital allocations—they have been proved wrong. The Opposition, who have accused them of wanting to cut in future, have turned out to be right.

We do not believe that the Government will provide the housing investment which is necessary or reallocate capital receipts from the assets of the GLC to make good the promise which was given. To transfer housing to the boroughs without transferring the obligations which were solemnly accepted in statutory instruments means that the obligations are likely to be abandoned, which will cause the virtual bankruptcy of some local authority housing departments. A commitment was entered into and now the Government intend to abandon it. There will be little chance for anyone to complain about these consequences once the Bill has been enacted. This will be a serious breach of an obligation and we believe it to be financial irresponsibility as well.

The eight boroughs which held out for the guarantees and conditions which they eventually secured knew what they were taking on. They held out for a statutory guarantee and that is to be removed from them. The least that the Government could do would be to accept the amendment to restore the guarantees and the sanctity of the agreements which were reached in 1981 and 1982.

The Greater London mobility scheme arranges about 6,000 moves a year in London. For many tenants there is no possibility of mobility from one part of the capital to another — this includes the elderly and disabled who want to move outside London or to the seaside—unless it is provided by local authorities under mobility schemes. The campaign for homes in central London has underlined the hopelessness of many who have rented accommodation in London. That is the position unless they have a chance to move into rented accommodation in some other part of the capital or outside the capital.

I accept that the Minister has conceded a statutory scheme and provided for more generous nomination rights. We know that because the information was contained in a letter. This is not legislation by debate in Parliament. Instead, it is the enactment of legislation by telex, letter or press release. A letter was delivered—part of it was inaccurate and it was corrected later—to my hon. Friend the Member for Hammersmith (Mr. Soley). That is no way to legislate for the serious housing problems of Londoners. However, the Minister has made some concessions, which are revealed in the letter.

The hon. Member has introduced some amendments, but we want to know why the Government are arrogating to themselves the function of running the Greater London mobility scheme and the meaning behind the amendments which the Government are introducing, which will introduce restrictions. The scheme should be expanded and not restricted. There should be a more generous allocation available to those who want to move from one part of London to another.

What is the future of Thamesmead, which was a brave and bold experiment on the part of the GLC? It was constructed, often on reclaimed land, in Greenwich and Bexley and it has provided thousands of homes. Viability is still at issue in some parts of Thamesmead. We want to know from the Government the nature of their long-term plans for the future of Thamesmead. We do not want to be put off by being told that Thamesmead will be transferred in the meantime to the residuary body.

An enormous sum is locked up in the GLC in mortgages which have been given to individuals to purchase their houses with GLC mortgages. A great deal is tied up in capital receipts. It is not good enough for the Government to say that the money will be allocated pro rata to the boroughs according to their housing investment programme or rateable values. The capital receipts and the other assets which are available could be used for housing purposes. They should be allocated and concentrated where there is a need for housing. They should be allocated and concentrated in areas where the GLC had a responsibility, a responsibility which is being abrogated in the Bill. It is not good enough to allow some of the money to be given to boroughs such as Ealing, which will take the money and do nothing with it. They will take the money but will redirect the homeless to other parts of the capital.

London's housing problems are far too serious to enable us to accept the Bill. The problems amount to a scandal. We have the most expensive bed-and-breakfast farce in Europe. There are about 250,000 on waiting lists in London and 2,000 are living in bed-and-breakfast accommodation. Some of these people are in inner London and the cost of providing them with bed-and-breakfast accommodation is about £20,000 a year. That sum is being spent to keep them in sordid and dangerous accommodation. Some of the homeless are suffering from malnutrition and disease. Some of them even suffer the penalty of death because of their homelessness. The proposals in the Bill are damaging and irrelevant to London's housing. The least that the Government could do would be to accept the amendment.

Mr. Simon Hughes

The Under-Secretary of State will know that if he continues to defend his Government's proposals he continues a most disreputable approach to thousands of residents of this capital city. He will remember that one of his departmental predecessors—the present Secretary of State for Defence—said that the order entitled people, when their properties were transferred from GLC ownership to borough ownership, to look to the GLC to make sure that within ten years of the transfer their properties were brought up to an acceptable standard. That statement is contained in the Official Report. The order was part of a package deal agreed by the Government, the GLC and the boroughs, and the Government propose to do away with it—for no better reason than that they are unwilling to do what any of these amendments would permit — to transfer the obligation to successor authorities, even if the Government go ahead and abolish the GLC.

8.30 pm

The hon. Member for Norwood (Mr. Fraser) represents Lambeth, the borough next to mine. My borough of Southwark contains the highest number of properties owned by the GLC. Nearly 24,000 properties were transferred only four years ago—about a quarter of all the properties in the borough. In my constituency, more than 25 per cent. of all families live in such properties. The Government promised them that if, within 10 years, their property was in a foul state, they could take someone to court to put it in a decent state.

The Government say, "We never promised that the GLC would have the money." Of course the Government did not give that further undertaking, but that was not necessarily the problem. People had the right in law to sue the GLC, through their borough council, if that necessary renovation work was not done. The Government propose to take away that right of the councils to sue on behalf of the thousands of ordinary, hard-working and respectable families in London.

Of course people came angrily to Parliament, because there was no need for the Government to break their word. They came here angry because the Government told them that, if the Government sustained this obligation, they would be made a privileged class and their housing would be made privileged housing. Those people live in old, often pre-world war 1 or pre-world war 2 estates in lousy conditions where, by no stretch of the imagination could their housing be described, anywhere in the western world, as privileged. They look to the Government, who have little favour with them to start with, to do something at least to live up to their promises. It is not as though the promises were made by another party not in government — they were made by the Conservative party whose members are now members of this Government.

If the Government, through the Under-Secretary of State, are going to come up with the same bland comment, "The boroughs will be given the money and, because we are about devolving authority to the boroughs, we are about devolving responsibility too," let them first accept that they are, without any doubt, breaking their word to the boroughs and the GLC that they would provide a remedy for those people. Let them say, secondly, how they propose to compensate in cash terms to enable people to deal with the dampness, lack of space and lack of renovation from which they will suffer tonight, tomorrow night and every night, until the promised work is done. Let the Government explain how they can justify the continuance of what, for any capital city in Europe, is the most appalling housing condition that anyone could imagine and one that is worsening by the month.

I hope that the Government will realise that they have no justification for their actions. I hope that they will realise also that, whatever the success they achieve in the Bill, they can at least retrieve for themselves a scintilla of decency and give some hope to people for whom this abolition Bill means that their hopes of decent housing will be gone. I hope that the Government will hold out some prospect that they will do away with banging their heads together and will come up with a proposal to replace the totally negative, unhelpful and abusive response that their proposals have so far implied.

The amendment is one of several that the Government could accept. We look for nothing less than an assurance that no one's housing will be prejudiced as a result of this clause and that the Government will keep the promise that they gave to the people only three or four years ago. That is all we look for, and nothing less will be acceptable to those thousands of people who are residents of this city and who are the Government's responsibility.

Mr. Tony Banks

Yesterday during discussions on other amendments, one Government Member said that the GLC had lost its housing functions, its ambulance services, water and sewerage responsibilities and its transport, as though somehow county hall had misplaced those functions while going about its day-to-day business. All those functions were taken from the GLC. In that sense, the GLC should not be described as having lost those functions.

Housing was one aspect that was thought to have been taken away from the GLC, but, although the Government might try to pretend otherwise, housing is still a major function of the GLC. The GLC has the largest housing programme in the country — not because it is an extravagant authority but because it is pursuing housing responsibilities which the Government imposed on it as recently as 1981.

In Committee, the Government failed lamentably to point to any GLC housing activity that was wasteful or unnecessary. They produced no evidence of savings that might be secured through abolition.

There is no logical basis whatsoever to these proposals. Although some of the housing functions are to go to the boroughs and the district councils, others are to go to a quango, which is the London residuary body, to a semi-quango, which is the national mobility office, and probably to a private trust at Thamesmead. Once again, the Secretary of State will take great powers. Could the Government come up with a more absurd idea than to allow the Secretary of State to allocate individual bungalows at the seaside to London pensioners? That is a power that the Secretary of State is taking for himself.

A most crucial part of the Bill is the fact that it contains nothing to help the tens of thousands of homeless Londoners, the half a million people on the waiting lists and the hundreds of thousands of Londoners living in the capital's decaying housing stock. One London home in four is in an unsatisfactory condition, according to the Government's statistics.

In Committee, I directed a series of questions to the Under-Secretary of State. I do not believe that I received a reply to them, so I shall try again at this late hour. Can the Minister name any GLC activity which he believes is wasteful or unnecessary? Can he name any major report on London's housing during the past 30 years that did not see the need for a London-wide strategic housing authority? How many professional bodies, institutes, academic centres, voluntary housing groups and housing associations support the Government's housing proposals? Why is the Minister proposing to transfer some GLC functions to the boroughs, when most of those people who have commented on the issue, and certainly those with the greatest housing problems, have not supported the Government's proposals at all? How will abolishing the GLC help London's homeless and upgrade the 650,000 unsatisfactory homes in the capital?

As all sensible and aware people know, London needs a strategic housing authority to deal with these massive problems, to supplement the efforts of the boroughs, which clearly cannot cope with their housing problems, and to run services which can best be carried out on a Londonwide basis. The Government's plans simply pave the way for more housing cuts. The easiest way to make them is to abolish the body with the largest housing programme in the country. As my hon. Friend the Member for Norwood (Mr. Fraser) and the hon. Member for Southwark and Bermondsey (Mr. Hughes) said, in this Bill the Government are reneging on the assurances that they gave to the boroughs and Parliament about the modernisation of transferred GLC property. The tenants are being robbed of the commitment to renovate their homes. They will have no guarantee whatsoever that their homes will ever be renovated. In Committee and elsewhere the Government have shamefully tried to slide away from their responsibilities and have denied ever giving such assurances. It is a deplorable state of affairs which reflects nothing but discredit and dishonour upon the Government.

The Greater London mobility scheme means a great deal to those who live in the London borough of Newham. The Under-Secretary of State for the Environment knows about the housing problems in Newham; he has been there a couple of times. There are a number of problems over the decanting of people from Ronan Point and the TWA blocks. The result is that we cannot offer as many transfers as we should like to those on our housing waiting list and to those who are in council houses which now are not suited to their needs. We desperately need the GLMS. To put it at risk is highly irresponsible.

My last point was dealt with in Committee but we received no satisfaction from the Government. I refer to GLC mortgages. The GLC still holds 50,000 mortgages that were given some years ago to first-time buyers. Their loans, we understand, are to be transferred to the residuary body without their consent. Before it is wound up, the residuary body will attempt to finance those loans from the private sector. The Government appear to have made no plans to deal with the loans that will still be held by the residuary body when it is wound up. Many of those loans were given on fixed interest rates which are well below building society rates, yet the Government say that the loans could be transferred at less than face value. Who will cover the cost of that debt? Will it be the boroughs? If so, how much will it cost the boroughs? These questions are still unanswered, although the Bill is moving-inexorably towards the statute book. May I again ask the Under-Secretary to answer some of the questions that he has failed to answer?

Sir George Young

Of course I shall try to answer some of the questions—indeed, all of them. If the hon. Gentleman looks at the debates that we had in Committee, he will find that he posed a large number of the same questions and he will also find that I gave quite a few answers. Towards the end of his speech the hon. Gentleman implied that in some way the Greater London mobility scheme was in danger. We have made it quite clear that it will be a statutory Greater London mobility scheme. The tenants of Ronan Point have nothing to fear from the Government's proposals on the GLMS. That was made perfectly clear in Committee and I repeat that assurance now.

The hon. Gentleman implied that responsibilities had been taken from the GLC. But the GLC voluntarily transferred its stock. It was not taken from it by the Government or by the boroughs. His concept of the GLC's housing role does not stand up to examination. If he will look at the report of the Herbert commission, he will find that the commission made it perfectly clear that housing was primarily a borough function: Our conclusion is that housing is so closely connected with personal health and welfare services that it must be essentially a borough service.

Furthermore, the 1963 Act clearly foresaw the transfers, because section 23 confers wide powers for the transfer of GLC housing to the boroughs. Subsection (4) required the council to prepare by 1970 a programme for the transfer of its housing to borough ownership. Therefore, I immediately take issue with the hon. Gentleman about the role of the GLC.

The hon. Member for Norwood (Mr. Fraser) said that it was the largest house-building agency in the country, but once its stock is transferred to Tower Hamlets in July, the GLC will be left with about 15,000 houses—less than the average holding of a London borough.

Mr. John Fraser

What about the role of the GLC in construction?

8.45 pm
Sir George Young

I shall turn in a moment to construction.

Therefore, it simply is not the case that the GLC is a powerful house-building agency in London. It was always envisaged that housing would be a borough function. I wrote to the hon. Member for Newham, North-West (Mr. Banks) in November 1984 and made it absolutely clear that the role of the GLC was essentially related to its statutory and other obligations, such as those which have been dealt with this evening, a number of specified new build projects and the operation of the Greater London mobility scheme. I said: In our view, the boroughs are best fitted to assess and deal with all other housing requirements in their areas. They are the primary housing authorities to whom we would expect to distribute in the first instance all the HIP resources available to London other than those essential to your Council's limited role.

Therefore we are debating, to some extent, whether the GLC should have a role, which I believe it was never meant to have and which I do not think it has operated for the past few years, or whether the responsibilities should be devolved to the boroughs.

The hon. Member for Norwood made some offensive remarks about the London borough of Ealing. He implied that it would not spend its housing investment programme allocation. The London borough of Ealing spends all of its HIP allocation very responsibly and far more effectively than the London borough of Lambeth. It is not the case that all the London boroughs want the GLC to do this work. At least one London borough has already asked the Government to transfer to it the resources which currently go to the GLC for the transferred stock. It has made it quite clear that it thinks that it could use the money more effectively, and I have a great deal of sympathy for that view.

I cannot advise the House to accept these amendments. They seek to maintain after abolition a mandatory programme for the renovation of ex-GLC housing to be carried out either by the London residuary body or by my Department. Inevitably, however one phrases it, this will be at the expense of other local authority housing and tenants in London. That is the direct implication of the amendments.

I have already written to all right hon. and hon. Members who represent London constituencies to explain why, in my view, it is misguided to insist on such a requirement. We have repeatedly made it clear, and I make it clear again this evening, that abolition will leave London's housing capital resources essentially unchanged. The housing investment programme resources which would have been made available to the GLC will instead be distributed among the boroughs. That will take full account of the distribution of expenditure needs which they inherited from the GLC. The prescribed proportion of virtually all the housing capital receipts generated by the London residuary body will be distributed in proportion to the HIP allocations which, as the hon. Member for Norwood knows, reflect housing need.

At the same time, the arrangements which we shall make under rate support grant will ensure that the broad financial effect of the GLC's obligatory revenue deficit payments is preserved, subject to the outcome of the review that the GLC is currently undertaking and allowing for the ending of the GLC's precept. These new arrangements, together with those which already exist, mean that abolition will have little, if any, effect on the net revenue cost to individual boroughs of the renovation works which they undertake and which otherwise would have been carried out by the GLC. Therefore, on the capital and revenue responsibilities of the boroughs in relation to the transferred stock, the position should be neutral.

We are consulting the local authority associations about the detailed technical arrangements. I very much hope that they will all choose to respond constructively. In any case, the effects which I have outlined will apply, irrespective of the authorities' current spending position in relation to their grant-related expenditure assessments or their targets, should targets continue to be set. Therefore, the arrangements will be ring-fenced and will not be adversely affected. The financial position of the dwellings that they have provided will be irrelevant.

We are therefore ensuring that the individual boroughs will be able to continue the GLC's renovation programme, if they wish. They will suffer little, if at all, from the ending of the GLC's obligations to make deficit payments and to carry out works. As I have already said, at least one borough positively welcomes the changes.

Mr. Banks

The Minister said that the renovations will go ahead, if the boroughs wish. Does he not feel that this is in conflict with the assurances that were given at the Dispatch Box by the previous Secretary of State for the Environment, who made it clear that there would be a requirement to carry out these renovations? It has now become not a mandatory but a permissive requirement.

Sir George Young

If the hon. Gentleman will look at the debate in Standing Committee G, he will see that at column 1113 I said that my right hon. Friend the Member for Henley (Mr. Heseltine) the previous Secretary of State for the Environment had been asked specifically for that assurance, and that he had made it quite clear that he could not give it. I quoted him as saying that the hon. Member who had asked the question knows full well that I am not able to commit this or any future Government over a period of 10 years with the degree of precision implied by the hon. Gentleman's question." —[Official Report, 31 March 1981; Vol. 2, c. 156.] It is definitely not the case tht a cast-iron guarantee was given by the Government that the resources would be made available to carry out the work to the transferred stock.

I am happy to leave those decisions to the boroughs. They know the position in their local authorities far better than I do. Rate capping is not a relevant factor. We are talking here about capital allocations, not revenue. In any case, as I have made clear, the revenue impact is neutral.

There is no case for requiring the boroughs or anyone else, least of all my right hon. Friend, to undertake those works, irrespective of the relative needs for expenditure between the ex-GLC stock and the dwellings which the local authorities have provided. That must be a decision for the local authorities. Their members have knowledge of local circumstances and local priorities.

If I am unable to deal with all the points that have been made, I shall write to hon. Members, but I understand that the House would like to come to a conclusion on this debate. There has been a lot of misleading talk about guarantees and tenants' rights under the transfer orders. The hon. Member for Southwark and Bermondsey (Mr. Hughes) implied that the tenants in some way had rights. They do not. The rights under the orders are held by the boroughs or, in some cases, by the GLC as, in effect, a condition of transfer. The tenants in residence at the time were not a party to the orders and they did not receive any rights under them.

The GLC was to undertake certain works for the boroughs, but clearly it could do so only within the resources at its disposal. As I have explained, my right hon. Friend the Member for Henley explicitly refused at the time to guarantee that resources would be available. If one looks at what the GLC has spent its money on, it can be seen that it has chosen to use part of what it had for other purposes—for example, housing association loans and improvement grants. Therefore, I cannot accept the accusation that our proposals involve any breach of assurances. Indeed, by devolving power to the boroughs, they ensure that full responsibility for all local authority stock is held at as local a level as possible.

Let me deal briefly with Thamesmead, GLC mortgages and the mobility scheme. We may come to some Government amendments later which are entirely unsinister and give no cause for anxiety. I have explained that we are committed to ensuring that the statutory mobility scheme is maintained. That is the basis of subsections (2), (3) and (4). We have announced that our first preference for Thamesmead is the establishment of a nonprofit making trust for the area, but I have made it clear, and I do so again this evening, that we shall not impose one against the clear wishes of the majority of the residents should they prefer transfer to borough ownership.

As I have already said, GLC mortgages will be transferred to the London residuary body on their existing terms and conditions. The residuary body will seek to refinance them, but only with the borrowers' consent. I have made it clear, and I will make it clear again, that our intention is that the prescribed proportion of virtually all the housing capital receipts generated by the LRB should be distributed in proportion to HIP allocations.

I have tried to deal with the points that have been raised in the debate. We have already had this debate in Committee, and no new arguments have been adduced by Labour Members to make me change my mind. I am convinced that the arrangements are right and that the London boroughs will discharge their new responsibilities efficiently and responsibly. I ask the House to reject the amendments.

Mr. John Fraser

Because we are so short of time and because I do not want to prevent hon. Members from making their last contributions on Report, I shall not press the amendment to a Division. However, I repeat our dissatisfaction that the Government do not recognise that a promise is a promise is a promise.

Amendment negatived.

Sir George Young

I beg to move amendment No. 38, in page 59, line 33, after 'delegate', insert', with or without restrictions,'.

Mr. Speaker

With this it will be convenient to take Government amendment No. 39.

Sir George Young

Amendment No. 38 is a technical amendment. As the clause stands, it could be said that the Secretary of State may delegate the entire exercise of his nomination rights or not at all. Thus, where the nomination rights were not already part of a statutory scheme—for example, in relation to lettings of housing association properties — it might not be possible to ensure that the delegate exercised them in conformity with whatever new scheme had been agreed. The amendment simply rectifies that deficiency.

Conversely, amendment No. 39 is aimed at ensuring that the delegate may have powers wide enough to carry out the functions that might be needed in the conduct of the London mobility scheme. There has been some concern that, on occasion, it might not be possible for the scheme to operate invariably by consensus and that it might be necessary for the nomination rights to be enforced. I hope that that will not be the case, and, given good will, I see no reason why it should be.

The clause, as drafted, enables the Secretary of State to create nomination rights corresponding to those held by the GLC which are conferred by the statutory housing transfer orders. It is our firm intention that the operation of the scheme should be delegated to local level, and we hope that it will be possible for its operation to be in the hands of, for example, a committee of the boroughs and districts concerned. But it is right that it should be possible for the delegate to enforce the nomination rights to the same extent, for example, as the GLC is able to do.

The amendment simply puts the delegate's powers beyond doubt. Therefore, it could form a valuable element in the statutory Greater London mobility scheme which has all-party support among the boroughs. Therefore, I commend the amendments to the House.

Amendment agreed to.

Amendment made: No. 39, in page 59, line 35, at end insert `(and accordingly such an authority, body or person may take any action necessary for the enforcement of those rights)'.—[Sir G. Young.]

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