HC Deb 21 December 1988 vol 144 cc436-7
7. Mr. McAvoy

To ask the Secretary of State for Scotland when he last met the chairman of the Scottish Special Housing Association, to discuss its housing disposal policy.

Lord James Douglas-Hamilton

I am in regular contact with the chairman about the association's activities and saw him on 18 November.

Mr. McAvoy

Will the Minister acknowledge that the Government's housing policies have created great insecurity among SSHA tenants in my constituency? Will he give a commitment that disposals will be subject to majority voting of those who actually vote in a ballot?

Lord James Douglas-Hamilton

If the hon. Member was referring indirectly to Torbay, I can say that that matter is with my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for the Environment, who is considering it but has not made a decision. I can give a guarantee that, before there is any voluntary disposal of SSHA property, tenants will be consulted. The statutory rights that we have given local authority tenants will also apply to SSHA tenants. No proposals will be put before them before 1 April. The top priority now is setting up Scottish Homes and the re-employment of staff.

Mr. Harry Ewing

In regard to the disposal of public assets such as SSHA housing, will the Minister and the Secretary of State take advice from my good friend, Wallace Mercer, who has just been added to the brains department of the Tory party in Scotland? He sold one of his best assets for £600,000 and had to get a banana seller to help him buy it back for £150,000 more than he sold it for. Is that a sign of the future for the Tory party and housing in Scotland?

Lord James Douglas-Hamilton

The hon. Member can be assured that, if a majority of tenants oppose the proposal, it will certainly not go ahead. I note what he said about Wallace Mercer.

Mr. Maxton

In view of the considerable alarm and disquiet that have been caused to SSHA tenants by recent bids made by various groups for large quantities of housing, will the Minister concede to the tenants' demand that there should be a three-year moratorium from 1 April on all such sales? Will he give an absolute guarantee that consultation means a ballot of tenants and that, even then, no tenants will be forced to leave Scottish Homes unless they wish to do so? Will he give SSHA tenants the real option of joining the local authority if they so wish?

Lord James Douglas-Hamilton

The answer to the hon. Gentleman's question about a moratorium is no, as we believe that one would be damaging to tenants' interests as they would lose out on considering properly formulated proposals which are in the interests of tenants, consistent with proposals to improve choice and quality in tenanted housing. Tenants will be consulted as soon as possible.

The hon. Gentleman asked whether there will be a ballot. With ownership co-operatives there have, to the best of my knowledge, been no ballots, so there are certain forms of disposal where it is not necessarily ideal to have a ballot. At Castlemilk in the hon. Gentleman's constituency, I understand that there was a show of hands. There may well be a ballot, but that is a matter for Scottish Homes to work out. It must work out the details thoroughly. That is still some way ahead—and after 1 April.