HC Deb 04 March 1986 vol 93 cc187-203

'In subsection 11 of section 1 of the Tenants' Rights, Etc. (Scotland) Act 1980 after paragraph (c) there shall be inserted the following paragraph— (d) where a dwelling house is one of a group all or a significant proportion of which have been provided for letting to mentally-handicapped persons.".'.—[Mr. Milian.]

Brought up, and read the First time.

Mr. Milan

I beg to move, That the clause be read a Second time.

Mr. Deputy Speaker

With this it will be convenient to take the following: amendment No. 3, in clause 1, page 1, tine 9 at end insert 'except that section 1(1) of the 1980 Act shall not apply to property owned by the housing associations in paragraph (e) which have been provided to meet special needs.'. Government amendments No. 13, 15 and 16.

Mr. Milan

The effect of the new clause would be to exclude from the right-to-buy provisions of the Tenants' Rights, Etc. (Scotland) Act 1980 housing specifically provided for the mentally handicapped. I tabled the new clause before the Government had tabled their amendments Nos. 13, 15 and 16. On the matter of the mentally handicapped my new clause goes wider than the Government amendments.

The problem of housing for the mentally handicapped has been drawn to my attention and, I am sure, to the attention of other hon. Members, by the Key housing association which happens to have an extremely fine development, partly hostel and partly ordinary dwelling-house accommodation, in my constituency. Therefore, I know its work and I admire the work that it has done and continues to do. It has been concerned, as are other housing associations, at the effects of the Bill which, as originally drafted, would have imposed the right-to-buy provisions on housing associations as a whole, without qualification. I need not go into the argument for that, except to say that the Opposition are opposed to the extension to the housing associations of the right-to-buy provisions. There was a perfectly adequate voluntary code operating before the Bill was introduced.

I do not want to go into the more general arguments, I want to deal specifically with housing for the mentally handicapped, which, without special provision in the Bill, would not be excluded under the normal provisions of the Tenants' Rights, Etc. (Scotland) Act 1980. As I understand it, the provision in section 1(11)(c) deals with housing which has special facilities designed or adapted for the needs of elderly or disabled persons.

The Key housing association, in relation to its provision for the mentally handicapped, says that its objective is to provide such people with care and support appropriate to their needs to enable them to live in the community in a home which is as normal as possible without any specially designed features such as warden call systems or other adaptations. In a sense, it is quite different from providing normal sheltered accommodation for, for example, very elderly where there are usually adaptations, or at least the provision of warden accommodation. Such adaptations are not necessary in some cases when one is providing housing for the mentally handicapped. It is part of the policy of the Key housing association not to provide special facilities but to try to make the accommodation as normal as possible, although it might be part of a complex which also includes hostel accommodation. As the Bill was originally drafted such accommodation would not have been excluded from the right to buy.

I am aware that since I tabled my new clause the Government have tabled their own amendments, Nos. 13, 15 and 16. Although we naturally welcome any concessions by the Government in respect of housing associations, the amendments do not fully reach the point which is dealt with in my new clause. The substantive Government amendment is No. 16 and, as far as I can see —I hope that the Minister will explain it clearly—the amendment deals with two separate issues. I am not fortunate enough to have been a member of the Committee and I must confess that I have not read the appropriate pieces on the matter, but I know that Government amendment No. 16 is in response to criticism made by the housing associations and by my hon. Friends and others in Committee.

As far as I can see, the first part of amendment No. 16, which adds a paragraph (f) to section 1(11) of the Tenants' Rights, Etc. (Scotland) Act 1980, deals with the definition of charities and charitable housing associations. Although I would welcome an additional provision covering housing associations, I think that this measure is expressed in unnecessarily restrictive terms. Paragraph (f)(i) of Government amendment No. 16 refers to claims for exemption from tax in respect of all periods from 3 October 1980". I believe that this means that no new charitable association will be able to operate under these terms. That is ludicrous, grossly unfair and unjust. The Government have conceded a point with respect to charity-based housing associations. I see no earthly reason why the provision should be restricted in that way. I hope that that restriction will be removed before the Bill reaches the statute book.

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Paragraph (g) of Government amendment No. 16 deals specifically with those suffering mental handicap. Will the Under-Secretary of State confirm that the reference to "mental disorder" includes mental handicap as well as mental illness? I assume that it does. Paragraph (g) completely unnecessarily links the concession, which deals not only with mental disorder but ex-prisoners and certain other categories, to housing association landlords. I understand that the words a common landlord, being a landlord so mentioned"— in the previous paragraphs — link paragraph (g) to charity-based housing associations. That is ludicrous.

If there is a case, as the Government have acknowledged there is, for saying that certain categories —in which at least half the houses are let to persons suffering mental disorder, mental handicap or mental illness, to persons released from prison or to young persons who have left the care of a local authority—should be excluded from the right-to-buy provisions of the Tenants' Rights, Etc. (Scotland) Act 1980, it matters not one bit whether the houses concerned are provided by a charity-based housing association, another housing association or a local authority. It is the nature of the housing provision that is important. It is therefore unnecessary and wrong for paragraph (g) as I read it—I should be delighted to be told that I am misreading it—to be linked with paragraph (f), which deals with a small category of charity-based housing associations.

We have agreed on the principle that housing for the mentally handicapped should be excluded from the right-to-buy provisions. That exclusion should apply across the board to local authorities that decide to build houses of this type. To be fair, I am not aware that local authorities have provided such housing, but that is a deficiency. It is not an argument for not providing proper provisions in the Bill.

The same principle must apply to the other categories covered in paragraph (g), which includes persons who have been released from prison and young persons who have left the care of a local authority". Why should not a local authority provide for those categories? If it does, the argument for excluding those dwelling houses from the right-to-buy provisions is as valid as it is with respect to housing associations.

Paragraph (g) imposes another restriction. It states that the group of dwelling houses is not to exceed 14. I am not sure where the figure of 14 originated, unless it was to provide for existing developments known to the Government. I see no reason why that restriction should be included in the amendment.

The Government have acknowledged that the Bill is defective as originally drafted. They have acknowledged that there is a strong case for making further exemptions in the right-to-buy provisions. New clause 5 provides that in the case of mental handicap the exemption should be wider than that provided by the Government in Government amendment No. 16. Although new clause 5 does not mention the other categories, I believe that the argument is as valid for the other categories of discharged prisoners and young persons leaving the care of a local authority. I believe that, if the Under-Secretary of State will accept the principle of new clause 5, the Bill will have to be further amended to take account of these other categories.

Mr. Ancram

It might be helpful if I speak at this stage because most of the amendments linked with new clause 5 are Government amendments. I think it is clear from the speech of the right hon. Member for Glasgow, Govan (Mr. Millan) that it would be helpful if I were to explain the meaning of the rather legal terminology in the amendments.

New clause 5 seeks to exempt from the right-to-buy provisions certain houses provided to meet special needs. As the hon. Member for Glasgow, Cathcart (Mr. Maxton) will recall, we discussed this matter at some length in Committee. We have brought forward our own proposals in Government amendment No. 16. New clause 5 is more limited—I think that the right hon. Member for Govan appreciated this point—in scope than the amendments we have tabled because it relates only to people suffering from mental handicap. Other categories are included in the Government amendments.

I can confirm that the term "mental disorder" covers mental handicap. Section 1(2) of the Mental Health (Scotland) Act 1984 defines mental disorder as meaning mental illness or mental handicap however caused or manifested. It is clear from our consultation with housing associations that there are other types of special needs which are provided for in integrated schemes. They include persons suffering from addiction to alcohol or other drugs, persons who have been recently released from prison and young persons who are leaving care.

In another sense—this touches on something that the right hon. Member for Govan said—new clause 5 goes wider than the Government believe necessary or appropriate. It would, as the right hon. Gentleman said, apply to all landlords, not just housing associations.

Mr. Maxton


Mr. Ancram

I shall explain that. The right hon. Member for Govan implied that the landlord referred to in the amendment was just a charitable housing association under the new definition. I am informed that the provision covers housing associations in general.

Mr. Millan

It is not clear in paragraph (g) what "a landlord so mentioned" is. There are references to a landlord in paragraph (f), but I am not clear whether it is always the same landlord. Perhaps the hon. Gentleman would clarify that point.

Mr. Ancram

It was my understanding on my reading of the amendments when they were drafted and according to my instructions that the amendments covered housing associations generally.

Dame Judith Hart

And local authorities?

Mr. Ancram

Not local authorities. That is the point I have just made. The amendments cover housing associations. I shall check that, because it is important that the drafting should be technically correct. That is certainly my understanding. I realise that other landlords are involved in the original legislation but I am not aware that other landlords have integrated schemes of the type which we are trying to preserve. It is true that social work authorities let houses to the mentally handicapped. I understand that in general such houses tend to be leased from the relevant district council. Because the regional council is not the proprietor, the tenants do not have a right to buy. A further objection is that new clause 5 seeks to exempt all houses let to the mentally handicapped, irrespective of whether any social work service is provided in connection with them.

Amendment No. 3 seeks to provide that the right to buy shall not apply to property owned by housing associations which has been provided to meet special needs. Again I have to say that this amendment is much wider than is necessary or acceptable. A practical drawback is that the phrase "special need" is not defined. We have to ask who is to decide that a house has been provided to meet special needs. Is it to be the landlord? If that were the case, would not this give housing associations a very wide scope to deny to tenants the right to buy their homes?

As I explained in Committee, I believe that the existing provisions of the Tenants' Rights, Etc. (Scotland) Act 1980 do all that is necessary and justified to safeguard special needs houses for the elderly and the disabled. In my view, these provisions have worked well for local authorities where they have been applied since 1980, and they will be extended to housing associations when, by this legislation, their tenants are given the right to buy.

I did accept, however, that there was one type of scheme which was not covered by the present provisions and which merited further consideration. These are integrated schemes, where mainstream housing is linked with appropriate support services, with the aim of providing care and support in the community for groups such as ex-offenders and the mentally handicapped. The idea is that selected tenants, who act as what are called "caring neighbours", should be allocated ordinary general needs houses, but in close proximity to tenants who require special support.

In these circumstances, the houses clearly are not physically different from ordinary houses and the tenants would ordinarily have the right to buy. We are therefore bringing forward an amendment — it is the first subparagraph (g) of amendment No. 16—for such schemes to be exempted from the right to buy. The amendment has been drafted following consultation with a number of housing associations which have schemes of this type. In order to prevent abuse by going too wide, we are placing a ceiling of 14 houses as the maximum number which may be included in any one scheme, and we are providing that at least half must be let to people who fall into the special categories that we have listed.

These criteria are common to the vast majority of schemes which we have discussed. We are limiting the exemption to the categories of special need that we know are presently catered for in such schemes. However, we are taking a power—the new subsection (11A) that is provided for later in the same amendment — to add further categories to the list by order. This recognises that such schemes may develop into new areas of provision which we cannot foresee at present, and it will permit us to take account of such developments, as seems necessary and appropriate.

I hope that the House will accept that this is a significant concession designed to meet the concerns felt in Committee and the views expressed to us by housing associations and other interested bodies. The amendment recognises a type of development which is unique to housing associations and which is also, I understand, peculiarly Scottish.

Charitable housing associations are also dealt with in the amendments. The Bill as currently drafted provides exemption from the right to buy for those housing associations which are registered with the Charity Commissioners under the Charities Act 1960. There are perhaps three or four English associations that are registered under that Act which also operate in Scotland. These associations already enjoy exemption from the right to buy in England and it was clearly necessary to afford them the same exemption in Scotland.

6.15 pm

The question of charitable status for housing associations registered in Scotland is a rather different issue, since the Charities Act does not extend to Scotland. In appropriate circumstances, Scottish associations are able to adopt charitable rules and to apply to the Inland Revenue for charitable status for tax purposes under section 360 of the Income and Corporation Taxes Act 1970.

The question of exemption from the right to buy for Scottish associations with charitable status for tax purposes was raised at Second Reading and was debated at length in Committee. Representations were made to me that if these associations sold houses at a discount they would lose their charitable status, with potentially serious consequences for their viability. I agreed in Committee to take the question away and look at it again. In particular, I recognised that there were a number of associations which had enjoyed such status from an early date and which had developed their everyday functions in ways that properly utilised the tax benefits to support particular types of activity. On the other hand, an overall exemption for Scottish associations with charitable tax status would effectively have denied to a substantial number of tenants of general needs housing the right to buy the houses in which they live.

I was not persuaded that the preservation of an association's tax status should automatically take precedence over the rights of its tenants to buy their homes. This gave rise to the problem of identifying a definition which struck the correct balance between the rights of the individual tenant and those of the association as a whole. I believe that the proposals that I am now placing before the House strike an appropriate balance between these two competing objectives.

Under amendment No. 16, the new sub-paragraph (f), to be inserted in section 1(11) of the Tenants' Rights, Etc. (Scotland) Act 1980, would provide exemption from the right to buy for those Scottish housing associations which were registered with the housing corporation, under charitable rules, from the outset and which have had charitable status for tax purposes continuously since October 1980. It therefore affords exemption from the right to buy and thus protection for their charitable tax status to those associations which were set up initially on a charitable basis prior to the introduction of the right to buy for public sector tenants in Scotland and for housing association tenants in England and Wales and, indeed, the introduction of the voluntary code.

The tax status of an individual housing association based in Scotland is not at present a matter of public record, unlike charitable status in England. I cannot therefore be precise about the position of individual associations in relation to the new definition. It seems likely, however, that the extended definition will lead to about 30 to 35 individual associations with a total stock in the region of 12,000 houses being excluded entirely from the right to buy. In terms of housing stock, this represents a not insignificant proportion of the Scottish total of about 39,000 units.

Because of the uncertainty concerning tax status I do not wish to quote individual associations, but we believe that the definition now proposed will cover the major special needs associations and many of those with a mixture of special needs and general needs stock. These, we believe, include the major recipients—this point was raised in Committee — of the pre-1974 Shelter funds which was a matter of importance not only to Opposition Members but also to me, given my interest in Shelter at that time.

Mr. Maxton

I should be grateful if the Minister would say why pre-October 1980 is so important.

Mr. Ancram

I thought that I had made it clear that the Tenants' Rights, Etc. (Scotland) Act 1980 became operative on 3 October 1980. That was the date when the statutory right to buy was created. I understand, although I would not be categoric about it, that it was about that time also that the voluntary code was agreed with the housing associations. I am dating it back to the time when the right to buy became available not only for public sector tenants in Scotland but also for housing association tenants south of the border.

There are a number of other parts of the amendment which will insert three new provisions into section 1 of the Tenants' Rights, Etc. (Scotland) Act, two of which are directly concerned with the operation of a new exemption for Scottish associations with charitable tax status. The new subsection (11B) will permit the Inland Revenue to disclose necessary taxation information to my right hon. and learned Friend the Secretary of State for Scotland and to the housing corporation in order to determine the status of an individual association in relation to the exemption from the right to buy. The new subsection (11C) requires the housing corporation to record on the register of housing associations the identity of those associations which are exempt from the right to buy under these provisions and to amend the entries subsequently if the position of an association changes. These two powers are required to ensure that the position of any individual association is properly determined and that, where appropriate, a record of its exemption from the right to buy is publicly available.

The other amendments relating to charitable status are more straightforward and I do not need to deal with them, unless hon. Members wish me to do so. With this group of amendments I have gone a significant way towards meeting the concern of the traditionally charitable Scottish housing associations while maintaining a proper balance between the rights of individual tenants and those of the associations. We have also honoured our commitment to look again at the position of certain special needs schemes.

In the light of this explanation I hope that the right hon. Member for Govan will withdraw his new clause and amendment No. 3.

I commend amendments Nos. 12, 15 and 16 to the House when they are called.

Sir Russell Johnston (Inverness, Nairn and Lochaber)

I support the amendment moved by the right hon. Member for Glasgow, Govan (Mr. Millan). He spoke clearly and concisely, so it is not necessary for me to say much about it. No doubt he accepts that the wording is not as legally precise as the parliamentary draftsmen would demand, and would be happy if the intent of his amendment were accepted by the Government. I go along with that.

The Government have been extraordinarily slapdash and cavalier from the outset about the general problem of charities and about the difficulty of the difference between England and Scotland. The Minister looks dumbfounded, but I should have thought it reasonable to expect the Government to be better prepared before introducing legislation.

I have here a letter from the Minister dated 20 December 1985, in response to a letter from me complaining that on Second Reading he could not answer questions about charitable status put to him by the hon. Member for Glasgow, Garscadden (Mr. Dewar), myself and others. I shall leave out the "injured innocence" start to the letter and quote simply one paragraph: Although the powers of the Charity Commissioners do not extend to Scotland, I am aware that a few English registered Charities Act housing associations are operating here on a limited scale". The Minister this evening was not sure whether there are three or four; I point out for his benefit that there are four. They are not all that limited. I do not think the British Legion could be regarded as operating on a limited scale. The letter continued:

Because compulsory sales at a discount would be in conflict with Charities Act registration, tenants of these associations have been excluded from the Right to Buy. Tenants of such associations are already excluded in England and Wales, although otherwise eligible tenants have been given a right to equivalent assistance with the purchase of a different house on the open market. The Bill provides for the power to introduce a similar scheme in Scotland should it be required. In framing the legislation, I considered carefully the question of whether tenants of Scottish housing associations which are accepted by the Inland Revenue as being 'charitable for tax purposes' should also be exluded from the 'Right to buy'. On balance I decided they should not. The original intention of the Government was to exclude Scottish-based charities. The Government amendment changes that drastically. I accept what the Minister said. It represents a significant retreat because of the justifiable pressure that was put on him. However, the amendment includes only Scottish-based charities registered by the income tax authorities before 1980. What does that mean? It means that no new Scottish-based charity will be possible in housing, even in the very narrow area of the mentally handicapped that was quoted by the right hon. Member for Govan. Such charities cannot get charitable status, as I read the amendment. That is inconsistent and unfair. I do not think that that is a good basis on which the Government should proceed.

What happened to the proposal for equivalent assistance? The letter said: The Bill provides for the power to introduce a similar scheme in Scotland". Perhaps we will get that in another place.

Mr. Ancram

That power is already in the Bill. I did not go into detail on all the elements of the amendments but the hon. Gentleman will find that some of the amendments in the group being discussed relate to it.

Sir Russell Johnston

Is the Minister saying that that power will be exercised?

Mr. Ancram

I remind the hon. Gentleman of what I said in Committee. Obviously we shall wish to set up a scheme. At this stage it is our intention to consider the English scheme as a basis but we will want to consider what scheme would be best. The power to do so is in the Bill and the intention to provide something along those lines has been stated.

Sir Russell Johnston

I am grateful for that. The Minister has made a significant retreat. I think he said that approximately 12,000 houses will be covered. That is welcome, lest the Minister says that I am being ungenerous.

I do not understand how the Minister could have the gall to declare at the Dispatch Box that a fair balance—I think that was the expression he used—is equivalent to an inconsistent proposal. The proposal is inconsistent. Legislation should be consistent as far as possible and should not create new instances of unfairness at the same time as it removes others.

Dame Judith Hart

I echo what has just been said. I was not on the Committee but because of representations from Age Concern and Shelter and because of my interest in one housing association I have read the considerable proceedings in Committee. If I were in the Minister's position, as I once was, I would be ashamed if I had introduced a Bill simply on the proposition of the right to buy without understanding the problems that would arise when the principle was examined in relation to housing associations. I would be ashamed if I had to make such a retreat, although it is very welcome.

The Minister should have foreseen what would happen. Any Minister responsible for such a Bill should have asked the officials who helped to draft it, "What is the snag about this clause?", and, "What is the problem about that clause?" He should not have had to concede now, although I welcome the concession.

I welcome subsection (11A) in amendment No. 16, which will give the Minister power to amend by order and to add to the list of classes of special need. That is wise and sensible. The Bill is limited to people who are mentally handicapped, people released from prison or other institutions and young persons who have been in the care of a local authority. Those three limited groups have been brought to the Minister's attention during the consideration of the Bill. In the course of time he may want to extend the provision to other groups which may come to his attention.

On the first part of amendment No. 16 about charities, as the Minister knows, I had tabled an amendment about the New Lanark association, I understand that that amendment could not be called. The Minister has visited New Lanark and is aware of the background to the problem, but for the benefit of those who have not visited it recently, may I explain that New Lanark is a special case in a category of its own? It was founded in the early sixties to conserve and restore the old Robert Owen village which is the best example of industrial architecture of its period anywhere in Britain. A remarkable job has been done so far. Therefore, one is worried. The New Lanark association has been in correspondence with the Minister, as have I. I hope that amendment No. 16 covers the case but I cannot be sure. Perhaps the Minister can help me.

6.30 pm

Tax relief is not the only consideration. New Lanark has houses that are owner-occupied and others that are rented and if it is to be able to undertake a conservation and modernisation exercise it must be able to retain planning control that takes into account a balance between owner-occupation and renting. That is essential for planning purposes as well as for finance.

The Minister will appreciate that it would be absurd if any problems were put in the way of New Lanark's redevelopment. He will be aware that money has been provided to New Lanark through the Historic Buildings Council for Scotland, the Ancient Monuments Society, the Scottish Tourist Board, the Countryside Commission, the Scottish Development Agency and the Manpower Services Commission. Many forms of help have come from central Government as well as from local government. It would be extremely unwise to place any barriers in the way of the remaining development of New Lanark and I am sure that the Minister would not wish to do so.

Paragraph (f)(ii) reads: registered under the Industrial and Provident Societies Act 1985". The new New Lanark association was set up on 6 December 1963–I understand that the documents bear my own signature—under the Industrial and Provident Societies Act 1893. Model H7 1962 provides charitable status. I must confess that since the Government's amendments were tabled — we have had a weekend between their appearance and this debate—I have not had time to read the 1965 Act to ascertain the extent to which it consolidates the 1893 Act and whether there is any relevant difference between the two measures. I need to know — this is crucial, and if the Minister finds himself in any difficulty I hope that he will table a small amendment in another place—that the reference to the Industrial and Provident Societies Act 1965 will include provision under the 1893 Act. That is something which the New Lanark association needs to know as well.

Everything may be all right and the 1965 Act may have wrapped up everything in the 1893 Act, but we need to know whether that is the position. The Minister will appreciate that it is a considerable exercise to read through consolidation Acts, and even if one does it is not always possible to be sure that one's understanding of their effect is correct. I feel that the Minister has better facilities at his disposal to undertake that exercise than I do, or even the Library.

If all is well, I shall be happy, and so will the New Lanark association. The association was set up as a charitable institution and it is a registered friendly society. We need to know whether the amendment would cover the way in which it was registered under the industrial and provident societies legislation and the moment when that took place. That having been said, I would welcome the Minister's reassurance. If he is in any doubt, I should welcome also an assurance that an amendment will be introduced in another place — for example, if it is necessary to amend the wording to cover the issue which I have raised.

Mr. Maxton

I agree very much with what my right hon. Friend the Member for Clydesdale (Dame J. Hart) has said. I have visited New Lanark recently with my right hon. Friend and I have great admiration for the work that has been done there. I used to take students to New Lanark in a previous incarnation for them to see the industrial village as part of a historical exercise. I am sure that the Minister, as a historian, would welcome the work that has been done in New Lanark. The Minister should at least respond to my right hon. Friend in writing after he has investigated the matter which she has brought to his attention. I think that the New Lanark association will be exempt from the right to buy.

Dame Judith Hart

We must be sure.

Mr. Maxton

I cannot give a guarantee to my right hon. Friend. I am not the Minister and it is for him to give guarantees.

I hope that my right hon. Friend the Member for Glasgow, Govan (Mr. Millan) will excuse me if I deal first with Government amendment No. 16. I am a generous-hearted man, and I, like Christ, will welcome one sinner who is converted, even though in this instance he had to be pushed extremely hard before conversion. However, I welcome the concessions that the Minister has made for charities and special-need housing in relation to housing associations. Perhaps the amendment goes further than the Minister conceded when he replied to a debate on these issues in Committee.

Government concessions are always to be welcomed, but, as the hon. Member for Inverness, Nairn and Lochaber (Sir R. Johnston) and others have said, it should not have been necessary for the Government to introduce a major amendment at this stage to the most contentious part of the Bill that deals with the right to buy and housing associations. It has been proved beyond doubt that the Minister's argument that he consulted the housing associations was wrong and that the associations' contention that they were never consulted about the Government's proposals was entirely right. If the Government had consulted the associations before introducing the Bill, they would not have found themselves in a mess and they would not have found it necessary to table such a major amendment.

The Scottish Federation of Housing Associations wrote to several hon. Members, including myself, to the effect, "At long last the Government have been prepared to consult us." It claimed that that was the first occasion that they had done so since the provisions in the Bill were proposed. We welcome that consultation and we welcome the Government's amendments.

The Opposition's view is that the Minister could have gone the whole way on charity status. Unfortunately, he has not removed all the anomalies. There are anomalies between charitable status and registration of housing associations in England and Wales and the equivalent status and registration in Scotland. Total exemption would not have solved the problems.

In England and Wales there are 480,000 houses owned by housing associations, of which 380,000 are exempt. The associations which own them are exempt from the right to buy because they are registered charities. Even if there were total exemption of housing associations in Scotland that have charitable status and work under the charity rules, the same proportion of houses in Scotland would not be exempt.

If a new housing association were established in England or Wales tomorrow and it registered as a charity and was accepted as such by the commission under its rules, all the tenants of the houses which it purchased, repaired, renovated or built would be excluded from the right to buy. That would not be the position in Scotland. If a new housing association were established tomorrow in Scotland and it applied to the Inland Revenue for charitable status and undertook exactly the same work as housing associations set up prior to 1980, it would not be exempt from the right-to-buy provisions. Exemption will not extend to several housing associations which have been set up since 1980 and now operate under the charity rules.

The Tenants' Rights, Etc. Act (Scotland) 1980, which came into force on 3 October of that year, specifically excluded housing associations from the right to buy, but that has no relevance to the argument for exemption. The generous and logical thing to do is to say that housing associations in Scotland that can prove to the Inland Revenue that they act as charities should enjoy the same privileges as charitable associations in England and Wales. Perhaps I am being ungenerous, but I believe that the reason for the Government amendments, as for the Bill, is the desire to preserve the hon. Member for Edinburgh, West Society. The Link housing association has only recently been given charitable recognition. If the Minister did the logical thing, tenants of the association would no longer have the right to buy. I see no other reason for the cut-off date.

Why has the Minister not incorporated the ability to amend in paragraph (f) of amendment No. 16, as he has in the rest of the Bill? He might like to say that the enactment of the Bill would be a more suitable date from which to recognise housing associations as charities. The 1980 date cannot be changed except by primary legislation. I hope that the Minister in another place will reconsider.

As for new clause 5, my right hon. Friend the Member for Govan is quite right. He always is. I had my arguments with him when he was Secretary of State and I had a different job. I see no reason why the Government's generosity to housing associations cannot be extended to local authorities, as they provide special needs housing which goes much further than homes for the physically handicapped and the elderly.

I am sure that my right hon. Friend would be prepared to withdraw his new clause if paragraph (g) could be operated by local authorities, the Housing Corporation and the Scottish Special Housing Association. That would demonstrate the Government's willingness to admit that there is a problem with special needs housing. If the Minister is not prepared to do that, I shall happily support my right hon. Friend's new clause.

Mr. Ancram

I am quite surprised by the attitude of some hon. Members, especially of the hon. Member for Inverness, Nairn and Lochaber (Sir R. Johnston). He seems to consider it better for the Government to go through Committee stage without making any concessions than to listen to the arguments, assess their value and, if necessary, make concessions. I appreciate that Labour Members consider the former to be the correct behaviour, but I always thought that the Liberal party described itself as a thinking party, which likes to chew things over. I should have thought that the hon. Member for Inverness, Nairn and Lochaber would at least have welcomed the process as a result of which the amendments have been presented. I suspect that his problem is that he is getting close to having to vote for a practical example of the right to buy, and possibly even in its favour. He has scrupulously avoided doing that so far.

Sir Russell Johnston

I was merely saying that I admire the fact that the Minister has redeemed himself but that he had not shown adequate repentance.

6.45 pm
Mr. Ancram

I have listened to the arguments and I believe that my response is sustainable and justifiable.

I explained earlier why we cannot extend the integrated scheme in principle to local authorities. I do not believe that it is required.

Mr. Maxton

If local authorities say that the right should be applied to them arid can illustrate a need, will the Minister consider the matter?

Mr. Ancram

I have made my stance clear. I identified something that is peculiar to housing associations and peculiar to Scotland. The concession that has been made is useful and valuable.

The right hon. Member for Clydesdale,(Dame J. Hart) referred to New Lanark. She will recall that I said that I did not want to deal with any individual association. To the best of our knowledge, New Lanark will benefit from the exemption, but uncertainty remains, for the reason that I gave earlier. Information on the tax status of housing associations is simply not available to the Government. Exemption depends on that to a large extent. I shall look into the right hon. Lady's other question.

Dame Judith Hart

I appreciate that the Minister did not want to refer to any specific housing association. I am not asking for an undertaking about New Lanark's tax status, but if the 1965 Act does not consolidate the 1893 Act, will the Minister undertake to remedy that in another place?

Mr. Ancram

Contrary to what the hon. Member for Glasgow, Cathcart (Mr. Maxton) said, I did not consider the issue in respect of individual associations. I have come to what I believe is a balanced view and I stand by the criteria that I have presented to the House.

Dame Judith Hart

I am sorry to press the Minister, but it would be no use if when he examines individual housing associations and wants to take account of the arguments concerning New Lanark, he found that he had precluded himself from covering New Lanark because the Bill was ill drafted. I am merely asking him to ensure that that does not happen.

Mr. Ancram

I appreciate the right hon. Lady's concern, but I have said what I have to say about the amendment. I shall look into the matter that she raised, and if I find anything that contradicts what I have led her to believe, I shall write to her.

The amendments are a sound basis because they meet the major problems which were raised in Committee and by the housing associations. I hope that the right hon. Member for Govan will feel on consideration, and in the light of the amendments which the Government have tabled, that his new clause is in one respect too narrow and in another too broad and that he can withdraw it. If he cannot, I shall have to ask my hon. Friends to reject it.

Mr. Milian

I do not feel disposed to withdraw my new clause. I shall vote for the Government's amendments even though they are defective.

We seem to have got into a tangle on charities, first because the Government decided for purely dogmatic reasons to set aside the voluntary code for sales which they have negotiated with housing associations in an attempt to steamroller them into sales in which they do not which to engage. Secondly, we would not have got into this tangle, as the hon. Member for Inverness (Sir R. Johnson) said, if the Government had decided to make the same provisions in Scotland as apply in England and Wales. We have got ourselves into unnecessary tangles largely because of the way the Government have behaved and against the background of not having charities legislation in Scotland similar to that which applies in England and Wales.

That having been said, we have had no convincing argument from the Minister as to why there should be any restriction from 3 October 1980 or any other date. I very much hope that the other place will take this completely unnecessary and unfair restriction out of the Bill.

With regard to the drafting point, from my understanding of paragraph (g) and after what the Minister says it is intended to mean, I hope that he will look again at the drafting. Indeed, the drafting of the whole of section 1(11) of the Tenants' Rights, etc. (Scotland) Act 1980, after the amendments made to it and further amendments which will be made, is not clear. The landlords so mentioned are not just the landlords mentioned in paragraph (d), which is housing associations. If the Minister will examine section 1(11) of the 1980 Act, he will note that it mentions all sorts of other landlords— the local authorities, the new towns, the housing cooperatives and the Scottish Special Housing Association —so the drafting is not adequate. Paragraph (g) could be very restrictive in applying only to charity-based housing associations or, taking the widest interpretation, it could include local authorities in any case because they are already mentioned in section 1(11) of the 1980 Act. If the Government want to include all housing associations, I hope that the Minister will make sure that that is what is done.

On the substantive point, the Minister gave no argument for excluding local authorities and, for that matter, new towns and the SSHA from the concession contained in paragraph (g). I acknowledged in moving the new clause that I had tabled it before the Government amendments were tabled. It was specifically directed to the needs of the mentally handicapped, but the principle would apply to ex-prisoners, youngsters who have come out of care of local authorities and any other category which may subsequently be included in the Bill by the order-making powers provided for in amendment No. 16. There is no reason in principle why the concessions made for housing associations should not also apply to all these other bodies.

Therefore, I wish to press the new clause to a Division.

Question put, That the clause be read a Second time:—

The House divided: Ayes 172, Noes 235.

Division No. 90] [6.54 pm
Adams, Allen (Paisley N) Dalyell, Tam
Alton, David Davies, Ronald (Caerphilly)
Anderson, Donald Davis, Terry (B'ham, H'ge H'l)
Archer, Rt Hon Peter Deakins, Eric
Ashley, Rt Hon Jack Dewar, Donald
Ashton, Joe Dixon, Donald
Atkinson, N, (Tottenham) Dobson, Frank
Barnett, Guy Dormand, Jack
Barron, Kevin Douglas, Dick
Beckett, Mrs Margaret Duffy, A. E. P.
Bell, Stuart Dunwoody, Hon Mrs G.
Bennett, A. (Dent'n & Red'sh) Eadie, Alex
Bermingham, Gerald Eastham, Ken
Bidwell, Sydney Edwards, Bob (W'h'mpt'n SE)
Blair, Anthony Evans, John (St. Helens N)
Boyes, Roland Fatchett, Derek
Bray, Dr Jeremy Faulds, Andrew
Brown, Gordon (D'f'mline E) Field, Frank (Birkenhead)
Brown, Hugh D. (Provan) Fields, T. (L'pool Broad Gn)
Brown, N. (N'c'tle-u-Tyne E) Fisher, Mark
Brown, Ron (E'burgh, Leith) Flannery, Martin
Bruce, Malcolm Foot, Rt Hon Michael
Buchan, Norman Foster, Derek
Caborn, Richard Foulkes, George
Callaghan, Rt Hon J. Freeson, Rt Hon Reginald
Callaghan, Jim (Heyw'd & M) Freud, Clement
Campbell-Savours, Dale George, Bruce
Canavan, Dennis Godman, Dr Norman
Carlile, Alexander (Montg'y) Golding, John
Carter-Jones, Lewis Gourlay, Harry
Clark, Dr David (S Shields) Hamilton, W. W. (Fife Central)
Clarke, Thomas Hardy, Peter
Clay, Robert Harrison, Rt Hon Walter
Clelland, David Gordon Hart, Rt Hon Dame Judith
Clwyd, Mrs Ann Hattersley, Rt Hon Roy
Cocks, Rt Hon M. (Bristol S) Haynes, Frank
Cohen, Harry Hogg, N. (C'nauld & Kilsyth)
Cook, Frank (Stockton North) Home Robertson, John
Cook, Robin F. (Livingston) Howells, Geraint
Corbett, Robin Hoyle, Douglas
Corbyn, Jeremy Hughes, Robert (Aberdeen N)
Craigen, J. M. Hughes, Sean (Knowsley S)
Crowther, Stan Hughes, Simon (Southwark)
Cunliffe, Lawrence Jenkins, Rt Hon Roy (Hillh'd)
John, Brynmor Pendry, Tom
Johnston, Sir Russell Pike, Peter
Jones, Barry (Alyn & Deeside) Radice, Giles
Kennedy, Charles Redmond, Martin
Kilroy-Silk, Robert Rees, Rt Hon M. (Leeds S)
Kirkwood, Archy Richardson, Ms Jo
Lambie, David Roberts, Allan (Bootle)
Lamond, James Roberts, Ernest (Hackney N)
Leadbitter, Ted Robertson, George
Leighton, Ronald Robinson, G. (Coventry NW)
Lewis, Terence (Worsley) Rogers, Allan
Livsey, Richard Ross, Ernest (Dundee W)
Lloyd, Tony (Stretford) Ross, Stephen (Isle of Wight)
Lofthouse, Geoffrey Rowlands, Ted
Loyden, Edward Sheerman, Barry
McDonald, Dr Oonagh Sheldon, Rt Hon R.
McGuire, Michael Short, Ms Clare (Ladywood)
McKelvey, William Silkin, Rt Hon J.
MacKenzie, Rt Hon Gregor Skinner, Dennis
Maclennan, Robert Smith, C.(Isl'ton S & F'bury)
McTaggart, Robert Snape, Peter
McWilliam, John Soley, Clive
Madden, Max Spearing, Nigel
Marek, Dr John Stewart, Rt Hon D. (W Isles)
Marshall, David (Shettleston) Stott, Roger
Martin, Michael Strang, Gavin
Mason, Rt Hon Roy Taylor, Rt Hon John David
Maxton, John Thomas, Dafydd (Merioneth)
Maynard, Miss Joan Thompson, J. (Wansbeck)
Meacher, Michael Thorne, Stan (Preston)
Meadowcroft, Michael Tinn, James
Michie, William Wainwright, R.
Millan, Rt Hon Bruce Wardell, Gareth (Gower)
Morris, Rt Hon A. (W'shawe) Welsh, Michael
Morris, Rt Hon J. (Aberavon) White, James
Nellist, David Wigley, Dafydd
Oakes, Rt Hon Gordon Williams, Rt Hon A.
O'Brien, William Wilson, Gordon
O'Neill, Martin Winnick, David
Orme, Rt Hon Stanley Woodall, Alec
Park, George
Parry, Robert Tellers for the Ayes:
Patchett, Terry Mr. James Hamilton and
Pavitt, Laurie Mr. Allen McKay.
Alexander, Richard Dorrell, Stephen
Alison, Rt Hon Michael Douglas-Hamilton, Lord J.
Ancram, Michael Dunn, Robert
Batiste, Spencer Dykes, Hugh
Beaumont-Dark, Anthony Emery, Sir Peter
Bennett, Rt Hon Sir Frederic Evennett, David
Bevan, David Gilroy Eyre, Sir Reginald
Biggs-Davison, Sir John Fallon, Michael
Blackburn, John Favell, Anthony
Body, Sir Richard Fookes, Miss Janet
Boscawen, Hon Robert Forman, Nigel
Bottomley, Mrs Virginia Forsyth, Michael (Stirling)
Braine, Rt Hon Sir Bernard Forth, Eric
Bright, Graham Fowler, Rt Hon Norman
Brittan, Rt Hon Leon Franks, Cecil
Brown, M. (Brigg & Cl'thpes) Fraser, Peter (Angus East)
Bruinvels, Peter Gale, Roger
Buchanan-Smith, Rt Hon A. Galley, Roy
Buck, Sir Antony Gardiner, George (Reigate)
Butcher, John Garel-Jones, Tristan
Carlisle, John (Luton N) Gilmour, Rt Hon Sir Ian
Carlisle, Kenneth (Lincoln) Glyn, Dr Alan
Carlisle, Rt Hon M. (W'ton S) Goodhart, Sir Philip
Carttiss, Michael Goodlad, Alastair
Cash, William Gow, Ian
Clark, Dr Michael (Rochford) Gower, Sir Raymond
Clark, Sir W. (Croydon S) Gregory, Conal
Colvin, Michael Griffiths, Sir Eldon
Cope, John Griffiths, Peter (Portsm'th N)
Cormack, Patrick Grist, Ian
Corrie, John Grylls, Michael
Couchman, James Gummer, Rt Hon John S
Currie, Mrs Edwina Hamilton, Neil (Tatton)
Dicks, Terry Hampson, Dr Keith
Hanley, Jeremy Nelson, Anthony
Hargreaves, Kenneth Neubert, Michael
Harris, David Newton, Tony
Harvey, Robert Normanton, Tom
Haselhurst, Alan Onslow, Cranley
Hawkins, C. (High Peak) Oppenheim, Phillip
Hawksley, Warren Ottaway, Richard
Hayes, J. Page, Richard (Herts SW)
Heathcoat-Amory, David Parkinson, Rt Hon Cecil
Heddle, John Patten, Christopher (Bath)
Hickmet, Richard Pattie, Geoffrey
Hicks, Robert Pawsey, James
Higgins, Rt Hon Terence L. Percival, Rt Hon Sir Ian
Hirst, Michael Porter, Barry
Holt, Richard Portillo, Michael
Hordern, Sir Peter Powley, John
Howard, Michael Prentice, Rt Hon Reg
Howarth, Alan (Stratf'd-on-A) Price, Sir David
Howarth, Gerald (Cannock) Proctor, K. Harvey
Howell, Rt Hon D. (G'ldford) Raffan, Keith
Howell, Ralph (Norfolk, N) Renton, Tim
Hubbard-Miles, Peter Rhodes James, Robert
Hunt, David (Wirral W) Rhys Williams, Sir Brandon
Hunt, John (Ravensbourne) Ridley, Rt Hon Nicholas
Hunter, Andrew Ridsdale, Sir Julian
Hurd, Rt Hon Douglas Rifkind, Rt Hon Malcolm
Jackson, Robert Roberts, Wyn (Conwy)
Jenkin, Rt Hon Patrick Robinson, Mark (N'port W)
Johnson Smith, Sir Geoffrey Roe, Mrs Marion
Jones, Robert (Herts W) Rossi, Sir Hugh
Kellett-Bowman, Mrs Elaine Rost, Peter
Key, Robert Rowe, Andrew
King, Roger (B'ham N'field) Ryder, Richard
Knight, Greg (Derby N) Sackville, Hon Thomas
Knowles, Michael Sainsbury, Hon Timothy
Knox, David Sayeed, Jonathan
Lament, Norman shaw, Giles (Pudsey)
Lang, Ian Shaw, Sir Michael (Scarb')
Latham, Michael Shepherd, Colin (Hereford)
Lawler, Geoffrey Shepherd, Richard (Aldridge)
Lee, John (Pendle) Shersby, Michael
Leigh, Edward (Gainsbor'gh) Sims, Roger
Lennox-Boyd, Hon Mark Skeet, Sir Trevor
Lester, Jim Smith, Tim (Beaconsfield)
Lewis, Sir Kenneth (Stamf'd) Soames, Hon Nicholas
Lightbown, David Speed, Keith
Lloyd, Peter (Fareham) Spencer, Derek
Lord, Michael Spicer, Michael (S Worcs)
Lyell, Nicholas Squire, Robin
McCrindle, Robert Stanbrook, Ivor
McCurley, Mrs Anna Steen, Anthony
MacGregor, Rt Hon John Stevens, Lewis (Nuneaton)
MacKay, Andrew (Berkshire) Stewart, Allan (Eastwood)
MacKay, John (Argyll & Bute) Stewart, Andrew (Sherwood)
Maclean, David John Stradling Thomas, Sir John
McNair-Wilson, M. (N'bury) Sumberg, David
Madel, David Taylor, John (Solihull)
Major, John Taylor, Teddy (S'end E)
Malins, Humfrey Terlezki, Stefan
Malone, Gerald Thomas, Rt Hon Peter
Maples, John Thompson, Donald (Calder V)
Marland, Paul Thompson, Patrick (N'ich N)
Marlow, Antony Thornton, Malcolm
Marshall, Michael (Arundel) Thurnham, Peter
Mather, Carol Twinn, Dr Ian
Maude, Hon Francis van Straubenzee, Sir W.
Maxwell-Hyslop, Robin Waddington, David
Mellor, David Wakeham, Rt Hon John
Merchant, Piers Walker, Bill (T'side N)
Miller, Hal (B'grove) Wall, Sir Patrick
Mills, Iain (Meriden) Waller, Gary
Monro, Sir Hector Ward, John
Montgomery, Sir Fergus Wardle, C. (Bexhill)
Moore, Rt Hon John Warren, Kenneth
Morris, M. (N'hampton S) Watson, John
Morrison, Hon C. (Devizes) Watts, John
Moynihan, Hon C. Wells, Sir John (Maidstone)
Mudd, David Wheeler, John
Neale, Gerrard Whitfield, John
Needham, Richard Wiggin, Jerry
Winterton, Mrs Ann Younger, Rt Hon George
Wolfson, Mark
Wood, Timothy Tellers for the Noes:
Woodcock, Michael Mr. Tony Durant and
Yeo, Tim Mr. Archie Hamilton.
Young, Sir George (Acton)

Question accordingly negatived.

Mr. D. N. Campbell-Savours (Workington)

On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. I am sorry to have to raise this point of order, but a delegation of trade union members and workers from Leyland car plants throughout Britain has been to the House today and for the second time this week a green card which was filled in in the Lobby has taken an hour and 10 minutes to reach me while I have been in Committee. As a result, my constituents have not been able to see me and have returned to my constituency.

This is the second time this week that this has happened. I am also informed by hon. Friends that the same has happened to them on previous occasions. I wish to make it clear that I am in no way criticising any attendant but I have been informed by an attendant that a shortage of manpower is now leading to a delay in green cards being communicated to hon. Members.

Will you look into this, Mr. Deputy Speaker, as a matter of urgency because it is an embarrassment to Members and it makes it difficult for us to fulfil our public functions? Thank you.

Mr. Deputy Speaker (Mr. Ernest Armstrong)

I shall see to it that the matter is looked into right away.

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