HC Deb 11 January 1988 vol 125 cc41-118

Order for Second Reading read.

Mr. Speaker

I have selected the amendment in the name of the Leader of the Opposition.

4.59 pm
The Secretary of State for Scotland (Mr. Malcolm Rifkind)

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

The Bill is presented to the House towards the end of a decade of substantial and significant achievement in Scottish housing. Over the past decade, the Government have been entitled to point to a reputation and record of solid progress in almost every important matter affecting housing in Scotland.

Ten years ago, 120,000 houses in Scotland were deemed to be below the tolerable standard — that is, without some of the basic amenities that we ought to be able to take for granted. Today that figure is down to 55,000, and in a few years, on the present course, we shall be able to eliminate such houses.

We have also been concentrating on seeking to meet those categories of housing applicants who have particular requirements and whose housing must be of a particular nature to meet their special circumstances. There, too, we can point to some remarkable progress. For example, there has been a huge explosion in the quantity of sheltered housing, which is often deemed to be the most suitable for elderly people as it enables them to preserve maximum independence with the presence of care, when that is required.

Only 10,000 sheltered houses existed in 1979. Today that figure is 33,000, and is growing rapidly. The same is true of housing for the disabled. Such housing has to be specially adapted to meet the needs of disabled people in Scotland. Ten years ago only 3,000 such houses existed in Scotland. Today the figure is over 14,000, and it is growing by leaps and bounds.

We have also been anxious to ensure the development of one of the most exciting aspects of Scottish housing — the growth of the housing association movement. That movement had its roots in the developments of the late 1960s and 1970s, but under the present Government, it has enjoyed an explosion of resources and activity that has made a substantial impact. In 1979 there were only about 9,000 housing association tenants. Today, over 40,000 housing association tenants are being administered by literally hundreds of housing associations, thereby demonstrating the health and vitality of the housing association movement throughout Scotland. I make no secret of the fact that we have deliberately increased the resources of the Housing Corporation because the voluntary housing movement is highly creditable and deserves maximum support.

When commenting on housing, Labour Members often concentrate, understandably, on local authority housing and seek to encourage the House to consider the capital needs of the local authority housing stock in Scotland, which represents such a significant proportion of the housing stock north of the border. There, too, we can point with considerable satisfaction to what has been achieved—for example, in respect of local authority resources for modernising and improving the housing stock. In 1979 it amounted to £242 million. Last year it was £570 million which, even taking inflation into account, clearly represents a substantial real increase in the resources available to Scottish local authorities for the improvement, modernisation and rehabilitation of their housing stock. Capital expenditure on housing in Scotland was cut during the latter years of the last Labour Government, but, under this Administration, there has been continuing growth in such expenditure.

We have also given considerable importance to the need for growth of home ownership in Scotland, because we are aware that Scotland had—and still has—a lower level of home ownership than the rest of the United Kingdom and of almost any other country in western Europe. That has not been because of any lack of interest in home ownership by the people of Scotland, but because of the lack of opportunity until recent years. Since the enactment of the Tenants' Rights Etc. (Scotland) Act 1980, more than 106,000 Scottish public sector tenants have exercised that right, and the number of applications to purchase throughout the Scottish public sector is running at an all-time high, for local authorities, the Scottish Special Housing Association and the new towns. Hon. Members on both sides of the House should be delighted by that.

The Tenants' Rights Etc. (Scotland) Act provided the right to buy and, for the first time, gave Scottish local authority and public sector tenants statutory rights with regard to security of tenure and other such matters. Those rights are now taken for granted and are jealously protected by local authority tenants. They were introduced by the present Government and the measure that provided those rights was opposed by every Opposition Member. We must consider the Bill against that background of solid achievement over the past decade.

Before I turn to the detailed provisions of the Bill, it might be useful to refer to the Government's overall objectives and strategy with regard to housing policy in Scotland. I do not deny that an enormous amount of work still needs to be done. I shall identify three basic objectives which sum up the Government's housing strategy.

First, there is a need for a major regeneration of the peripheral housing estates in Scotland, particularly in central Scotland. There has been much reference south of the border to the need for inner urban regeneration. As we know from the Glasgow eastern area renewal project, perhaps the largest single need in that area has to a large extent been considered and dealt with during the past 10 years.

Other problems exist in most of our urban concentrations, but if one has to point to a comparable overall requirement in Scotland, it is in the peripheral housing estates that we see the need for urban regeneration. That is of particular significance when one considers any housing Bill. I am not suggesting that the regeneration of peripheral housing estates is merely a matter of housing policy. It goes much wider than that. As we have seen in the east end of Glasgow, we can achieve an environmental improvement and a transformation of the housing stock and we can even widen the forms of tenure that exist in such areas, but we also need to consider other means to ensure the economic as well as the visual and environmental regeneration of such areas.

I am not suggesting that the Bill or any housing measures could by themselves achieve all that needs to be done in respect of peripheral housing estates, but housing is clearly an important factor. It is a fundamental factor in the eyes of those who live in such peripheral estates, but not because they are slum properties. For the most part, slum properties have almost entirely disappeared in Scotland, but there is some monotony and dull and tedious housing which has created major problems in terms of the economic and environmental regeneration of those areas. Housing can make an important contribution to resolving such difficulties. The contribution of housing to the regeneration of peripheral estates is one of the Government's fundamental objectives.

The second major objective must be the further substantial increase in the level of home ownership in Scotland. Although home ownership has increased from about 35 per cent. of total population in 1979 to about 42 per cent. at the present time, that figure is woefully below the level that is to be found elsewhere in the United Kingdom and in most of the other developed countries. We must enable those on low incomes who aspire to home ownership to achieve it.

One of the most interesting and important developments in recent months has been a substantial increase in the number of those who live in flatted accommodation who are applying for the right to purchase their homes under the current legislation. The hon. Member for Glasgow, Cathcart (Mr. Maxton) may not be interested in assisting those on low incomes to achieve home ownership, which he takes for granted for himself and his family. We consider that it is insufficient for one simply to pay lip service to the desirability of home ownership for those on low incomes, unless one is prepared to provide the means whereby they can exercise that right — that means substantial discounts for those who live in such property — because that is no more than a cruel charade. Therefore, the continuing improvement in home ownership is of major significance.

That is not to say that home ownership will be the desired form of housing for every person in Scotland or in any other area. Frankly, at the end of the day, I do not mind whether individuals seek to buy or to rent their homes, as long as they have a real and meaningful choice and have chosen that form of housing which is most satisfactory to their requirements. It must be a meaningful, real choice, and it must not be forced upon them by the absence of any alternative to the housing rights that they have traditionally exercised. That is a significant factor.

The third major objective of our housing policy is, in substantial way, to widen the forms of tenure that are available to people north of the border. There has been a tendency to assume that the available choice, even for those who have any choice at all, is a crude, simplistic one between becoming an owner-occupier or continuing with traditional municipal housing tenure.

Opposition Members are aware that, in recent years, there has been increasing interest in broadening the spectrum of the kinds of tenure that are available. If one wishes to remain a tenant of rented property, there are several alternatives to the simple traditional relationship with one's local authority.

Most people will acknowledge—I hope that it is not a matter of political controversy—the interest in and the growth of tenant co-operatives of management and ownership kinds, of housing association activity, and the whole spectrum of new kinds of tenure. Tenants who are to remain tenants can take on much greater responsibility for the administration and improvement of the housing and community in which they live. Therefore, that means alternative landlords. Often, the alternative landlord is a housing association, a tenants co-operative, or the private sector landlord, which often raises the ire of opposition Members.

Let us be quite clear. The alternative to municipal council housing of the traditional kind is not just the private sector landlord. That must be part of the overall provision, but there are also many other exciting forms of tenure. I hope that, in giving new rights to tenants to encourage them to choose other forms of tenure, we shall not simply invite a knee-jerk reaction from those who assume that they must oppose the legislation as somehow harmful to their interests.

Mr. Bruce Millan (Glasgow, Govan)

If choice of landlord is such a valuable right, why can it not be extended to private sector tenants?

Mr. Rifkind

I shall clearly answer the right hon. Gentleman's question. The public sector, through Parliament, has a right to determine a diminution in the property rights of property owned in the public sector. That principle is fundamentally different from interfering in the private property of individual citizens. Labour Members, in government if not in opposition, have often applied a similar distinction.

I tried to state what I believe to be the three main objectives that the Government are seeking in pursuit of their housing policy. What are the major problems that we face at present? We face one particular problem. Although we have a crude surplus of housing stock in Scotland—in other words, we have more houses in Scotland than there are households seeking accommodation—we are conscious of the fact that in many areas there are waiting lists and many people who are dissatisfied with the housing in which they are living.

That is not because it is slum property —as I said, there are few slums in Scotland at present—but because the property is in a locality that has a poor reputation and which, for varying reasons, they are anxious to leave, even if the house in which they live is quite adequate, or because the house is too large or too small for their circumstances. Of course, there are also dampness problems. That is why the unprecedentedly high gross capital expenditure on local authority housing should be welcomed. We must ensure that the mismatch of housing to people's needs is rectified as quickly and effectively as possible.

Secondly, we have a major problem that, in certain parts of Scotland, there remains no meaningful choice other than the municipal housing sector. In Monklands or Motherwell, virtually 80 per cent. of all houses are administered and run as traditional local housing authority stock.

Mr. Dennis Canavan (Falkirk, West)

What is wrong with that?

Mr. Rifkind

Unless the people of Monklands and Motherwell are quite different from the rest of the population of Scotland and the United Kingdom, there is a lot wrong with that. The hon. Gentleman must appreciate that the vast majority of people in Monklands and Motherwell and comparable areas would like some choice. However benevolent, well-meaning or well-resourced their local authorities might be, the fact is that Opposition Members would like to have some meaningful choice in respect of the kind of housing tenure that they operate.

Glasgow district council remains the largest single landlord in western Europe. It is no surprise that the committee that was appointed by Glasgow district council to reflect on such matters recommended that at least 25 per cent. of Glasgow district council's housing stock should be disposed of in alternative forms of tenure to new landlords of various kinds.

Mr. John Home Robertson (East Lothian)

Why not?

Mr. Rifkind

I agree with the hon. Gentleman. I am glad that the matter will not divide the House. Indeed, the more we see the response of Opposition Members, the more difficult it is to understand why they are likely, as I understand it, to vote against the Bill.

The Bill seeks to deal with major requirements and problems in three ways; first, by the creation of Scottish Homes; secondly, by a major attempt to attract substantial sums of private sector investment, not as an alternative but as a complement to public sector investment; and, thirdly, by providing new rights for public sector tenants with regard to the landlord of their choice.

In respect of Scottish Homes, I shall make two points as clear as I can. First, few people would question me when I say that, for the first time, the concept of a unified housing agency in Scotland has been extremely warmly welcomed. I cannot think of any significant source of comment that has done other than welcome the concept of a unified housing agency. That is indeed what Scottish Homes is and will be. Secondly, I am aware that there has been substantial controversy. Concern has been expressed by individual tenants of the SSHA who have launched a campaign and sought to suggest that the creation of Scottish Homes will somehow be a threat to them, their rights or their positions as tenants of the SSHA.

I say to Opposition Members what I have said to SSHA tenants. Any such concern is totally unjustified. There is not and never has been any proposal whatsoever to impose any degree of compulsion on any individual SSHA tenant. Indeed, I go beyond that statement. I remind Opposition Members that, as we were the Government—indeed, I was the Housing Minister at the time—who, for the first time provided these very rights for SSHA tenants, I should hardly be likely now to present a Bill to the House to remove them.

I challenge Opposition Members to state one single way in which SSHA tenants will he compelled to obtain new landlords or to lose any of the basic rights that the Government have provided for them in the tenants' rights legislation. If they are unable to provide any such evidence, I hope that they will not continue unnecessarily alarming tenants. That does no service to tenants, and, in due course, it will be shown to be unnecessary.

Mr. Archy Kirkwood (Roxburgh and Berwickshire)

Does the right hon. and learned Gentleman agree that many of the fears that have been stirred up, for whatever reason, could have been allayed if proper consultation had taken place with the existing tenants of the SSHA? If such consultation had taken place and SSHA tenants had desired to remain with their existing landlords, would that have affected his plans for the Bill?

Mr. Rifkind

Not only were major consultative documents published, but I had a meeting with tenants claiming to represent the tenant community, although none of us has any way of knowing how many tenants they represent. The SSHA sent every tenant a letter indicating that none of their rights was affected by the measure.

Mr. Donald Dewar (Glasgow, Garscadden)

Surely the right hon. and learned Gentleman is not surprised at the fears of SSHA tenants, because they have taken the elementary precaution of reading "Scottish Homes", which says that the Secretary of State has it in mind—an interesting phrase—that on the creation of Scottish Homes the entire stock of SSHA houses shall be transferred as a holding operation to a new landlord division. It says that arrangements for a landlord division would be essentially transitional, and it suggests that all 83,000 tenants of the SSHA would be magically put into some other form of tenure over a short period. That was the clear implication of those words. The right hon. and learned Gentleman has had to retreat in some disorder from what he had in mind when he wrote "Scottish Homes", which we welcome, but he is being a little hard in suggesting that the SSHA was scaremongering, when it has clearly won a considerable victory, if he is right in what he is now saying.

Mr. Rifkind

I know the hon. Gentleman wants to believe in the sinister conspiracy theory of politics, but if he has read the document he will be aware that the document makes it abundantly clear that while the Government continue to hope that tenants will exercise their rights to opt for new forms of tenure, there is no question, nor has there ever been a question, of any tenant being obliged against his will to form a housing association, to acquire a new landlord or to be part of a tenants' co-operative. If the hon. Gentleman would like to read from the document a single sentence or phrase that says that those objectives will come about by being imposed on tenants against their will, or irrespective of their will, he will have a point to make. He cannot say that, nor has he said it.

The hon. Gentleman has referred to the Government's continuing policy: that we hope that SSHA tenants eventually will become either owner-occupiers or tenants of a private sector body. As a long-term objective, the Government have no desire or policy to be a landlord in Scotland or any part of the United Kingdom. I have made it clear on numerous occasions that the pace at which that will happen will depend on individual tenants exercising their rights.

Mr. Dewar


Mr. Rifkind

If the hon. Gentleman has some new extract to read out, I will give way, but not if he is simply going to read out what he has already read out. There is no suggestion of any compulsion on any individual tenant, and the hon. Gentleman knows that— —[Interruption.] It is a matter of constant pleasure that Opposition Members, knowing that there is nothing in the Bill to which they can legitimately object, are desperately anxious to find a cause to unify them in their pathetic attempt to suggest causes for concern.

Mr. Dewar

I go back to the question. If the right hon. and learned Gentleman were a tenant enjoying security of tenure and his landlord announced that he was going to be shunted into a transit camp—a landlord division of a new organisation — and that would essentially be a transitional arrangement, would it not be reasonable for that tenant to think that he was under some form of threat, and that persuasion might turn into duress? Would that feeling not still be in his mind if he had listened to the right hon. and learned Gentleman in the past few minutes, because only 30 seconds ago he said that it was the longterm intention of the Government that they should not be landlords in the public sector on a permanent basis. The right hon. and learned Gentleman seems to be saying that at some time he hopes to be able to get rid of SSHA tenants. Where is the choice for those who wish to remain in the SSHA under public sector tenure if the right hon. and learned Gentleman is still proclaiming his intention as a landlord of getting rid of them at the first opportunity?

Mr. Rifkind

The hon. Gentleman finds himself incapable of pointing to compulsion. That is the crunch. The Government have made it no secret that they are anxious to try to persuade tenants to opt for new forms of tenure. There has never been any proposal of compulsion. The hon. Gentleman would agree that we can hardly compel tenants to form a housing association against their will; it is physically impossible. If that were one of the major areas of growth that the Government were seeking to encourage, it goes without saying that that could be achieved only voluntarily.

The position is that Scottish Homes, far from posing any threat to tenants, is an unprecedented opportunity for them, if they so wish, to exercise as wide a choice as they believe appropriate. Secondly, Scottish Homes will be a means of attracting the major private sector investment that is crucial to the contribution required for the regeneration of housing in Scotland. [AN HON. MEMBER: "Where is the evidence?"] I will refer to the evidence later in my speech. Thirdly, Scottish Homes will provide the means of advising not only its own tenants but tenants throughout Scotland of the opportunities available to them and the means by which they can be exercised.

Before turning to the detailed provisions of the Bill, I offer my recognition of the remarkable achievements of the Housing Corporation in Scotland and the SSHA over their years of operation. Their activities will live on and will continue to make a necessary contribution under the umbrella of Scottish Homes.

Part I of the Bill provides for the establishment of Scottish Homes. It will have wide powers, many of which are held today by the Housing Corporation or the SSHA. It will operate under my direction and will be funded by grant from the Scottish block. The Bill provides for the dissolution of the SSHA and the transfer of its assets and liabilities to Scottish Homes. The Housing Corporation's responsibilities to housing associations in Scotland will also transfer to the new body. It is clear that the provisions bear a distinct resemblance to those which established the Scottish Development Agency in 1975. I have already emphasised my desire to see the same dynamic approach brought to housing as the SDA has brought to the Scottish economy.

Mr. Dewar

The right hon. and learned Gentleman voted against it.

Mr. Rifkind

Yes, and the hon. Gentleman appears to be ready to vote against Scottish Homes. He may like to bear that in mind, and draw the necessary conclusion.

Part II of the Bill will mean that in Scotland, as in England and Wales, there will be two new types of tenancy—assured tenancies and short assured tenancies. Rents for both types of tenancies will be freely negotiable between landlord and tenant, although either party will be able to ask the rent assessment committee to determine a rent in certain situations. The provisions are necessarily detailed, and I mention only the main ones.

The Bill does not seek to introduce the new regime in one fell swoop; it applies only to new lettings created after the legislation comes into force. It will not apply to existing tenants, who will remain within the current system of rent regulation. There will be an amendment to the succession rules and an end to the phasing of registered rent increases, as I will explain later. Part II of the Bill does not repeat the decontrolling measures of 1957. The Bill differs from the Rent Act 1957 in several important respects.

First, that Act removed rent control from some existing lettings, whereas the decontrol now proposed will apply only to new lettings. Secondly, the Act gave the tenant no statutory security of tenure or protection from eviction, whereas the present Bill confirms security of tenure and strengthens the law against harassment by landlords. Thirdly, the Act operated at a time when the state provided no support for tenants in need of assistance, whereas we now have a system of housing benefit to help those tenants who find that they cannot afford reasonable rents.

Mr. Alistair Darling (Edinburgh, Central)

Does the right hon. and learned Gentleman accept that, if the rents are to be fixed by a bargain struck between tenant and landlord, in situations where there is an acute shortage of accommodation, such as in Edinburgh and other cities, rents will rise and this will, in turn, increase the burden on public expenditure through increased housing benefit?

Mr. Rifkind

One of the reasons why, in some areas, there is an acute shortage of accommodation has been the virtual disappearance of the private rented sector in just this sort of area. The hon. Member for Edinburgh, Central (Mr. Darling) will know that one of the problems in finding rented accommodation in Edinburgh at present is the absence of a private rented sector. There are many people who, for various reasons, find local authority housing either unattractive or unobtainable and who cannot contemplate owner-occupation. I should have thought that the hon. Gentleman would be the first to acknowledge that, unless we can revive the private rented sector, unless that form of housing is available for those who want it, some of his constituents will not find housing to meet their requirements. So we have to find a means of doing that.

The only sensible, civilised way of doing that is to allow proper rents to be charged, but where tenants have an income — [HON. MEMBERS: "They will be high."] They may, in some cases, be high, but if they are it suggests that proper market rents are not being charged at the moment. If hon. Gentlemen want to revive alternative housing for their constituents who experience difficulty at present, it is surely more sensible to subsidise the tenant who requires help through housing benefit than to maintain an artificial level of rents and thereby destroy that whole sector of housing.

Very few who are involved in housing and who are not simply approaching these matters from a polemical point of view would do other than acknowledge that the disappearance of a private rented sector has created major problems in meeting the needs, particularly in urban areas, of many young married couples and others in Scotland. Hon. Gentlemen know that, although they may be unable, for political reasons, to admit it. A serious attempt must be made to revive this sector, and as long as the housing benefit scheme can ensure help for those on lower incomes it is well worth pursuing.

Mr. Darling

Is the right hon. and learned Gentleman seriously suggesting that in central Edinburgh there is a large number of empty flats waiting to come on the market if the rent is right? Is not the problem an acute shortage of space to let rather than of rents being unattractive to landlords?

Mr. Rifkind

The hon. Gentleman is incorrect. There are two problems. There are those who have accommodation but who, for various reasons and because of the present system, find it unattractive to rent; and there is the almost total absence of new buildings for private renting over the years, for similar reasons. The hon. Gentleman knows that there have been many gap sites in Edinburgh which in the end have been used for owner-occupier purposes but which, under a different system, might have been used for the development of private rented houses, thereby meeting the housing requirements of some of his constituents. So his own policy has been against the interests of the very people that he claims to represent.

Clauses 12 to 32 define the scope of the new rent regime and deal with security of tenure and the question of any rent increases. Most important, they provide that a landlord may recover possession of property only on certain specified grounds listed in schedule 5, and that he must follow a set procedure in seeking possession. The grounds for possession are fewer and slightly simpler than those currently available to landlords.

Clauses 33 to 37 concern harassment of tenants. Under the present law, it is an offence for any person to harass a tenant with the Mention of causing him to leave his home. Providing proof of such an intention in the courts has, in practice, been difficult, so the Bill proposes an additional offence of harassing a tenant if the landlord knows or ought to know that his actions are likely to cause the tenant to leave. There is also a new civil right to improved compensation for tenants evicted illegally. Thus the Bill strengthens the tenant's position against a landlord who is tempted to act unscrupulously.

Clause 38 provides for the abolition of phasing of rent increases. Phasing prevents a landlord from obtaining the proper rent for his premises, so we are convinced that it should go, but on a timetable which is fair to both landlord and tenant.

Clauses 39 to 42 cover the transitional arrangements required as the Rents (Scotland) Act 1984 is phased out for new lettings and as the new regime comes into effect.

Clause 43 and schedule 6 change the circumstances in which someone can succeed to a regulated tenancy. Succession as a statutory tenant will be limited to the deceased tenant's spouse. Another member of the tenant's family will be able to succeed to the tenancy but will be subject to the assured tenancy regime and must have been living with the tenant for five years before the tenant's death.

Clause 64 relates to the new function of rent officers. Under the new arrangement, a local authority will be required to refer to the rent officer every rent for which it has received an application for housing benefit. The rent officer will then determine whether the rent payable is appropriate for the property. The objective is to ensure that abuse of the housing benefit system is prevented by ruling out cases where rent is excessive, where the tenant is clearly over-accommodated or where the accommodation is of a quality that few people could ordinarily afford. The rent officer will have discretion in such cases, but if the tenant's rent or accommodation is excessive, the rent allowance subsidy paid to the local authority concerned will be restricted if the authority chooses to continue to pay the tenant housing benefit which covers the whole rent. In the case of over-luxurious accommodation, the amount of housing benefit that can be paid will itself be restricted.

Mr. Dewar

The Secretary of State has made a comment and a defence of sorts on the application of the test of an unreasonable rent. Will he say a word or two about the other, even more startling, proposition— that in every case the rent officer decides whether the property is unnecessarily large and, if it is, he then calculates the hypothetical rent of a hypothetical dwelling house of the right size, according to standards laid down by the Secretary of State? This suggests that the widow — a figure much talked about in connection with the poll tax—who is struggling to live on in the matrimonial home in reduced circumstances will probably be told that she will not be given full housing benefit for the rent because she is living in a house that is too big for her needs.

Mr. Rifkind

I should have thought that it would be common ground on both Opposition and Government Benches that, where a person's rent is being paid, in part or in whole, by housing benefit, and therefore by the public, it is not unreasonable to wish to be satisfied that the housing benefit paid goes towards the rent of accommodation which meets the requirements of the tenant concerned. If a tenant wishes to live in accommodation which is far larger than he or she requires, that is entirely his or her right—[Interruption]

Madam Deputy Speaker (Miss Betty Boothroyd)


Mr. Rifkind

I am happy to try to respond, Madam Deputy Speaker, but at the moment I am not being given an opportunity to do so. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh!"] I am grateful for the sympathy of hon. Members on the Opposition Benches.

I will begin again. If a tenant wishes to live in accommodation larger than he or she requires—

Mr. David Lambie (Cunninghame, South)

What about owner-occupiers?

Mr. Rifkind

—he or she is perfectly entitled to do so, and nothing in this Bill will prevent that. If they wish the rent to be paid, in whole or in part, through housing benefit, there is no particular reason that I am aware of why the community as a whole should be expected to pay housing benefit for—

Mr. Brian Wilson (Cunninghame, North)

Will the right hon. and learned Gentleman give way?

Mr. Rifkind

I have not even finished my sentence yet.

There is no reason why the community should be expected to pay housing benefit for a house which is grossly in excess of what a particular tenant requires. We are talking not about existing tenants, but about a new tenancy. If the tenant or the landlord knows that, whatever rent is charged, it will be paid by the public through housing benefit, I should have thought that Opposition Members would be the first to appreciate the potential for abuse. They have been the first to emphasise their anxiety about the possibility of excessive rents being charged. They do not want landlords to be able to abuse the system. Therefore, some check must be made to ensure that a landlord and a tenant are not acting in collusion. It will not happen in many cases, but it has happened in the past and could happen in the future. It is in the public interest to ensure that there has been no such collusion.

Mr. Wilson

The Secretary of State says that a tenant "wishes" to live in a larger property or one that is "more luxurious" than some anonymous person will deem appropriate for his or her circumstances. Will he acknowledge that some people who live in houses larger than mystical rules might determine to be appropriate are there not because they wish it but because of force of circumstance — sometimes specifically against their wishes? How will they be protected from the person who will go round with the measuring tape saying whether they are living in too big or too luxurious a house? Will he measure the pile of the carpets to define the luxury which is appropriate to someone in those circumstances? Will it mean the persecution of people living alone, sometimes in difficult circumstances? As my hon. Friend the Member for Glasgow, Garscadden (Mr. Dewar) said, they are precisely the people about whom bogus crocodile tears have been shed in the context of the poll tax.

Mr. Rifkind

I appreciate the hon. Gentleman's desire to create a bogy which he can then try to knock down, but there is no intention on anyone's part to deal with the matter other than sensitively and flexibly.

Mr. Bill Walker (Tayside, North)

Does my right hon. and learned Friend agree that every time an individual or family applies for a council property, the measurements tht he has mentioned should be used to determine the type of property that should be allocated?

Mr. Rifkind

My hon. Friend makes a perfectly valid point. He should not be too worried about this. The Opposition cannot find anything of substance in the Bill which they can legitimately oppose, so they must find a reason to justify their vote tonight. No doubt this is part of that exercise.

Mr. Alexander Eadie (Midlothian)

The right hon. and learned Gentleman should not be allowed to skate over the point. This could be a form of compulsory decanting. For example, as a consequence of losing her husband, a lady could be deemed to be living in property that is too luxurious—that is the Secretary of State's definition—for her. He said that the Government would approach the matter with sensitivity and understanding. The loss of a husband can be a traumatic experience. Where in the Bill do we find the sensitivity and understanding about which he is talking?

Mr. Rifkind

I have clearly said that we are talking about gross over-accommodation. It goes without saying that the housing needs of a widow are not dramatically less than those of a pensioner couple. It is not a serious issue, except in the minds of Opposition Members.

Mr. Sam Galbraith (Strathkelvin and Bearsden)

I give the Minister an example. My parents live in the council house in which they brought up their children. If one of them should die, the other would be left occupying a house with three bedrooms, a dining room, a kitchen and a sitting room. Will that be gross over-accommodation for the partner who is left.?

Mr. Rifkind

I will not try to give a definition —[HON. MEMBERS: "Why not?"] For the simple reason that Opposition Members would attack any definition that I might give as showing an indefensible rigidity and inflexibility of approach.

Mr. Dewar

The Secretary of State will be familiar with his consultative document, entitled "Private Rented Sector … Implications for Housing Benefit", which was issued on 17 November and on which comments were invited by 31 December. Paragraph 17, which deals with rents for unnecessarily large accommodation, states that the rent officer will do this on the basis of a test of occupancy in relation to the number of habitable rooms, which will be supplied to him by the Secretary of State for Scotland. As the Secretary of State has designed this and as he will have to lay orders or give other guidance, perhaps he will give us some idea of what he has in mind.

Mr. Rifkind

No, I cannot. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh!"] I am sorry to upset Opposition Members, but the right time to give hon. Members an idea will be when we have come to a conclusion on these matters. At that time, we shall put proposals to the House. I appreciate Opposition Members' synthetic fury, but they would be the first to attack the Government if public funds were used to allow abuses to continue. The hon. Member for Glasgow, Garscadden (Mr. Dewar) knows as well as anyone else that the rent officer would be expected to consider the reasonable requirements of the tenant. If the tenant wished to pay the difference, that would be a matter for him. But there is no reason in equity why the general public should be asked to subsidise tenants who wish to live in accommodation that is grossly excessive to their requirements.

Part III of the Bill gives tenants in the public sector a right, while continuing to rent the same houses, to seek an alternative landlord. The effect of the proposals will be to open local authority and other public sector housing estates to competition and to the influence of the best housing management practices of other landlords. In outline, the provisions in part III will confer on landlords which have been approved by Scottish Homes, or Scottish Homes itself, the right to acquire a house or flat from a public sector landlord where the tenant agrees to such a transfer. That right will apply to most secure tenancies.

We envisage that approved landlords could be existing housing associations, commercial landlords or tenant cooperatives where the tenants themselves will buy out the council. The Bill sets out the detailed procedures which will apply where the right to acquire property is exercised. Tenants' choice will be exactly that. No transfer will be possible without the consent of the tenant. No tenant need contemplate transfer under the provisions of part III unless he wishes to do so.

Part III provides for limited exceptions to the right for a public sector landlord to refuse an application in certain circumstances and for references to the land tribunal where disputes arise or delays occur. Provision is also made for Scottish Homes' agreement to be required for the first subsequent disposal of any property transferred under the tenants' choice provisions.

I should mention three matters that are not in the Bill. The White Paper proposed the abolition of the outstanding debt test which limits the discount that can be given under the right to buy on houses provided or improved since 1978. Although its abolition would benefit many tenants and encourage them to change to owner-occupation, I have noted the arguments made by local authorities and housing associations against wholesale abolition. I am reviewing what should be done, with a view, if possible, to introducing an amendment later.

The White Paper also promised a simplification—

Mr. George Robertson (Hamilton)

The Secretary of State is outlining many proposals on Second Reading. What advice would he give local authorities which are about to allocate properties on estates, as Hamilton district council is at Barncluith? The council is in no position to know whether, at the end of the period specified in the Bill, it can recover outstanding debt or whether, due to a subsequent amendment, future rent payers will have to bear the burden of the benefits that the Government are giving sitting tenants.

Mr. Rifkind

That is a perfectly fair question. I appreciate the need to clear this matter up as soon as possible and I hope to be able to reach a conclusion at a fairly early date. I am not in a position to announce a decision today, but I accept the thrust of the hon. Gentleman's argument that local authorities are entitled to know fairly soon what is likely to be in the Bill when its progress through Parliament is complete. I hope to be able to communicate that in the reasonably near future to the district councils and to others interested.

The White Paper also promised a simplification of the arrangements for providing Government support for expenditure by local authorities on improvement and repair and other grants. An amendment to give effect to that will be introduced soon.

The White Paper made it clear that, consistent with the general intention to give people a wider choice of housing, we would seek powers to enable new town development corporations to dispose of their housing assets to a wide range of alternative landlords. We believe that it is important that the new towns should be able to offer a greater choice of house type, tenure and ownership to meet the needs and aspirations of their residents, and an amendment to enable that to happen will be introduced if it is thought to be necessary.

Mr. Lambie

Will the right of new town tenants to choose their landlords include the right to choose the local district council?

Mr. Rifkind

Scotland already has a higher proportion of local authority housing than almost any other country, and we believe that the one thing that it does not require is an increase in local authority housing—[Interruption.] There is a multiplicity of forms of tenure and, as I said, the one form of tenure that I do not consider appropriate is that which already dominates the Scottish housing scene. Most Opposition Members would agree that the vast majority of housing in Scotland is local authority housing and that one of our objectives should be to encourage multiplicity and diversity wherever appropriate.

Taken as a whole, the White Paper offers everyone in Scotland — owners and tenants, the homeless and the well housed — a major step forward towards better housing. For some, particularly those whose problems are most acute, our policies offer action designed to achieve quick results. For others, the benefits will be longer-term, arising from the development of a clear strategy for the improvement of Scotland's housing that embraces all sectors and seeks to dismantle the rigid barriers that have unnecessarily inhibited people from enjoying the housing that best suits their changing needs.

I was asked whether our attempts to develop the private rented sector were likely to produce any interest in it on the part of those who might bring forward resources. The House will have noted that before the Bill and its sister Bill south of the border were presented to the House, major developments giving great cause for optimism were already taking place. We note that the Nationwide Anglia building society, one of the largest in the United Kingdom, has announced that it proposes to invest £600 million in private rented accommodation over the next five years. Initially, it will concentrate on areas that include Glasgow, Dundee and Edinburgh.

We also note with great interest that Quality Street, the company that is to administer the resources, is to he staffed by the former director of housing of Glasgow district council, together with some of his senior colleagues from that housing department. They clearly believe that they can contribute more to the development of housing in Scotland and to meeting the needs of low-income families who require rented accommodation through the private rented sector. That is to be commended.

I remind the House that, almost eight years ago to the day, I wound up the debate on Second Reading of the Tenants' Rights, Etc. (Scotland) Bill. Opposition Members, including those on the Front Bench, told us three things at that time: first, that there would be no interest in the right to buy among Scottish council tenants; secondly, that the Bill would lead to the destruction of public housing in Scotland; thirdly, that the Labour party would fight it tooth and nail and repeal it at the first available opportunity.

Since then, more than 106,000 tenants have exercised the right to buy. Public sector housing in Scotland has not weakened as Opposition Members suggested that it would. Above all, we have seen the conversion of the Labour party to the principle of the right to buy. The hon. Member for Garscadden and his colleagues have sought to emphasise to local authority tenants that the rights provided under that measure are safe in their hands.

Before Opposition Members go into the Lobby to vote against the Bill, they may wish to ponder whether the position that they adopted eight long years ago has been justified by developments since. They have already had to swallow their words about the Tenants' Rights, Etc. (Scotland) Act. Through Scottish Homes and the other changes proposed in the Bill, we shall be able to complement the major transformation that Scottish housing has enjoyed over the past decade. On that basis, I commend the Bill to the House.

5.55 pm
Mr. Donald Dewar (Glasgow, Garscadden)

I beg to move, to leave out from "That" to the end of the Question, and to add instead thereof, this House declines to give a Second Reading to a Bill which fails to tackle the crisis of homelessness in Scotland or to provide for resources to improve Scotland's housing stock, threatens to increase rents and reduce the security of tenants, further undermines the ability of elected local councils to provide for the housing needs of their people, and proposes to extend the power of central Government through an unaccountable quango. For the past hour, the Secretary of State has looked distinctly uncomfortable. He started predictably with a flourish of triumph and a mass of rather misleading statistics. However, when he finished declaiming and started to deal with the argument and tried to explain the contents of the Bill, the triumphant flourish fell away, leaving a discordant and defensive collection of false notes. I do not think that he carried the House; even his hon. Friends looked distinctly uncomfortable.

This is a complex, lengthy and, I concede, important Bill. I agree with the Secretary of State that it has considerable potential. The House must weigh up that potential and decide whether it is potential for good or for bad. Having read the Bill and spent time examining the detailed results that would flow from it, I am convinced that it is confused in thought and that it will damage the interests of many groups of tenants in both the private and the public sectors. Much of it is irrevelant and the principle is badly flawed.

Directly or indirectly, the Bill will affect about half the households of Scotland — the households that rent in one way or another. Therefore, it deserves special attention. Consideration and consultation are important not just to the Bill but to the parliamentary process. We are entitled to protest about the way in which the Government have handled this matter. The "Scottish Homes" document was hurried from the press to give some sort of substance to a threadbare and flagging electoral campaign. It was followed by a White Paper last November and a plethora of consultative documents which were needed because "Scottish Homes" was no more than a political broadside and because the White Paper posed more questions than it answered. Indeed, the fact that it had given rise to much dismay and anxiety was reflected clearly in the Scottish Special Housing Association tenants' campaign, which many of my hon. Friends supported.

Against that background, the timetable should be the subject of severe criticism. We have fundamental discussion documents, raising questions that strike at the very heart of the Bill. The Government asked for comments on those documents by 31 December—in one case by 14 January — yet the Bill on which the consultation is centred was only published on 3 December and this debate is taking place before the end of the consultation period on some of the documents. That is not a proper way to proceed. It is insulting to public opinion, which should be heard and which should be effective; indeed, it was effective to some extent during the SSHA and wider public sector tenants' campaigns.

My hon. Friend the Member for Hamilton (Mr. Robertson) rightly drew attention to just one of the many important and completely unfinished matters on the Government's agenda when he referred to the possible abolition of the cost floor in the sale of council houses. We do not know what is happening, although the Secretary of State said that we would know soon enough. As matters stand, in some areas of Scotland, the whole operation of renting is being placed in limbo. The Secretary of State gave us some rather halting hints that he would not go for complete abolition of the cost floor rule, and that he is still considering partial abolition. That is not encouraging.

If the present rule about recovery of outstanding debt is abolished, local authorities will be encouraged not to build, so that they do not have the problem of allocation, or at best to avoid allocation to people with long public sector tenancies because the corresponding large discounts would mean that remaining tenants in the area would have to bear a considerable burden as a result. That is just one example of the way in which the whole matter has been botched and mishandled. At the beginning of a new Parliament there was no need for such haste, with the resulting turmoil and dismay. The brutal fact is that the whole consultation programme has been a sham. The Government have gone through the motions, but the proper procedures have been observed in form only. That reflects no credit on the Minister or the Department.

With regard to the substance of the Bill, I have some sympathy with what the Secretary of State has said. I do not essentially object to the concept of a unified housing agency. Indeed, I go further than that. I believe that there is a positive case for putting the Housing Corporation on a distinct and defined Scottish basis. I have talked with those who now operate the Housing Corporation in Scotland, who find themselves operating as a somewhat uncomfortable addendum to a United Kingdom board. I accept that there is a case for doing something about that, and I do not deny that the present arrangements are clumsy and to some extent unsatisfactory.

I would understand it if Scottish Homes were to be a ginger group — a combination of the SSHA and the Housing Corporation's housing responsibilities, organised and operating as a parallel in housing to the Scottish Development Agency. There might be some discussion about emphasis, but I would understand the case.

The Scottish Development Agency works in parallel with other agencies and does not try to take them over. When it goes into an area such as GEAR—the Glasgow eastern area renewal project — it seeks to work in tandem with the district council, the regional council and other elected bodies.

The Secretary of State may regret some of the rhetoric, but the White Paper, "Scottish Homes" and many other consultation documents have given the overwhelming impression that Scottish Homes is not a parallel to the SDA, but an attempt to write a script that is unwelcome in Scotland, whereby Scottish Homes will seek to encroach on and take over the proper preserve of democratically elected government. It cannot be a great advance for democracy—or for accountability, to use a term more favoured by the Secretary of State — to put such a sweeping range of essential housing powers in the hands of a board consisting of nine appointees. I accept that appointees need not always be creatures of the Secretary of State, but that danger exists and it is a retrograde step to move, as is undoubtedly threatened in the longer-term objectives of Scottish Homes, from democratic control to rule by quango.

I shall not labour the point, but there has been much press speculation about the appointment of a chairperson. That is a matter of key importance. I hope that it will not be seen as a matter of patronage but that there will be a search for the right person based on qualification and merit. It would be the worst of starts and entirely unacceptable if the chairmanship of this very important body were seen merely as a consolation prize for someone who had given loyal service to the Conservative party in this place or in some other way. I am sure that the Secretary of State gets my message.

Hon. Members

Michael Hirst?

Mr. Harry Ewing (Falkirk, East)

Michael Ancram?

Mr. Dewar

My hon. Friends remind me that there could be more than one unfortunate way of solving the problem of that appointment.

Mr. Harry Ewing

Only a couple of weeks ago, there was the disgraceful appointment to the SDA board of Sir Alex Fletcher, who voted against the establishment of the agency in the first place. That appointment was an insult and shows that my hon. Friend's fears are well founded.

Mr. Dewar

I shall leave that matter there.

Mr. Bill Walker


Hon. Members

There is your man!

Mr. Dewar

Jobs have passed the hon. Gentleman by in this place and the same may well apply when he leaves the House. He should not be so eager.

Mr. Walker

That was a nasty jibe. In all seriousness, despite the flippancy on the Opposition Back Benches, I hope that the hon. Member for Glasgow, Garscadden (Mr. Dewar) does not take the view that anyone who has been a Member of the House should automatically be debarred from any other activity associated with Government policy.

Mr. Dewar

I did not suggest that as a general rule. I merely made a reference, the point of which I believe was appreciated by the House.

I hope that the Under-Secretary will be able to give some reassurance about the composition of the board of Scottish Homes. The White Paper specifically states: The position of tenants is somewhat different and particular attention will be paid to the desirability of appointing someone able to contribute experience of the interests of tenants. Schedule 1, which governs these matters, contains no reference whatever to that pledge. I hope that it has not been dropped and that it will be reinstated in Committee or that a cast-iron assurance will be given by the Government. Otherwise, the silence of the Bill on this point could be interpreted as sinister.

My objection is fundamental. As I have already outlined, I believe that the Bill is an attempt to undermine and encroach on the proper responsibilities of local government. Ministers may protest their innocence, but the education discussion document, which will doubtless lead to legislation, the local government legislation and the Bill, with all its explanatory documents, constitute a trilogy which local government rightly regards as threatening. If some of the more extreme proposals are implemented, councillors will be reduced to middlemen negotiating contracts with the private sector for a greatly diminished level of service.

It will be a long time before I forget the reaction of the Minister of State, the hon. Member for Galloway and Upper Nithsdale (Mr. Lang) when it was brought to his attention that the freeze on industrial and commercial rate levels meant that an enormous escalator had been built into the poll tax and that there would be substantial increases in the poll tax if present budgets were repeated. He replied, "They wouldn't dare," and went on to make it clear that the whole point of the poll tax was to reduce the level of service and the ability of local government to meet the demands of the people of the area. Scottish Homes is an invitation to go down the same road. There are plenty of quotations suggesting that the Government no longer regard local authorities as direct providers of housing services but as being elbowed to the edge of the stage by the new quango that we are being asked to endorse.

The Bill may be an improvement on the original sketch, largely because the SSHA and other tenants' organisations have campaigned hard and effectively in recent weeks, but the Secretary of State's attempt to pretend that there was some kind of unworthy scaremongering in that campaign seems remarkably hollow. I give him various quotations from the Scottish Homes document suggesting that the landlord division was essentially a transit camp. The only conclusion that one can reach on a fair reading of the document is that people who insist on remaining in public sector tenancies will be seen as the equivalent of refusniks going against the wisdom of a Conservative Government.

Another, less dramatic but typical quotation suggests that in the Secretary of State's view although SSHA tenants have been served well by a caring management body in the past the formation of Scottish Homes will provide a valuable opportunity for diversification of tenure of SSHA stock. That is the situation in a nutshell.

The SSHA has given good and caring management, but we are now moving in a different direction. It may take the Government a little while to get the message across and to create a situation in which people have no option but to go. No doubt they will manage it. No doubt some of the claims were somewhat optimistic. However, the long-term intention has justified the tenants' campaign in every way and I am glad that on this occasion we are getting some retractions from Ministers.

It is interesting that the Secretary of State spent a great deal of time talking about public sector tenants, but only a little time analysing the impact of the legislation on private sector tenants. However, I am not entirely surprised by that. As a total package, the Bill is a bad buy for private sector interests—arguably, even more than for public sector tenants. As you, Mr. Speaker, will have heard on many occasions, Ministers are fond of accusing Opposition Members of being concerned with only one vested interest—the public sector tenant. That is not so, and I should like to express my concern about some of the changes that are being introduced in this legislation that will affect those who wish to remain in the private sector.

Mr. Rifkind

Before the hon. Gentleman deals with the private rented sector and if, for a moment, we can put aside our different views on the meaning of the original consultative document, will he inform the House, because the House is entitled to know, whether he takes the view that Scottish Homes as proposed in the Bill is acceptable or unacceptable?

Mr. Dewar

I do not object to the concept of putting together the SSHA and the Housing Corporation. However, I object to the form and the way in which that has been done and to some of the powers that are implied and the script that has been written for Scottish Homes. The form itself is comparatively neutral. There is, indeed, a case for some reform, especially of the Housing Corporation, but the Secretary of State must not take from that any endorsement of the broad aims that he described or of the likely practical result of the policy set out in the Bill.

The idea that we should try to revive the private rented sector is no doubt laudable in itself. Of course,44es as the Secretary of State implied, the trouble is that the only way in which he can do so is by making letting more and more attractive to the landlord. In effect, the landlord must have a higher return out of higher rents. That will be at the expense of many tenants and that is the rub for Conservative Members and, indeed, for anyone who is interested in this question.

However, it is not just a matter of that philosophical point. If one considers some of the practical results of private sector tenancies, one sees that the balance of advantage is swinging heavily against private sector tenants. If they enter the private sector after the passing of the Bill, they will have to become assured tenants with assured tenancies, and several consequences will flow from that. Alternatively, they could obtain a short assured tenancy which, ironically, may well be longer than an assured tenancy. However, I shall pass by that little idiosyncrasy. Those hon. Members who serve in Committee will no doubt look forward to debating the "ish" of a short assured tenancy which may cause some problems if dealt with in an afternoon sitting. However, I leave that issue for the future.

The point is that with an assured tenancy there will be a weakening of the tenant's position. There is the issue of security for the tenant himself. The Secretary of State fairly referred to the fact that if someone were to be evicted, the landlord must go to court. However, the grounds for eviction have changed and are now much more in favour of the landlord. I shall give one example.

If the Secretary of State considers ground 10—I am sure that he does not need to look at it — he will discover that if it is proved that someone is behind with the rent and has been so for three months—the tenant need not be behind with three months' rent, it may be a sum of rent that has been unpaid for three months—he can be evicted and the court has no discretion in the matter, however deserving, difficult or human the circumstances may be.

That was not the situation before. The landlord could, of course, go to court, but the court had the discretion to look at the circumstances and to do what was just. There is now no discretion, which is symptomatic of the fundamental weakening of the tenant's position, which could be instanced in other ways.

The Secretary of State made a passing reference to succession to a tenancy. He mentioned the rule that if a relative, living in the family, wishes to succeed to the tenancy, that person must have been in the family, in the house, for five years. Under the present law, that period is six months for a protected tenant. It is arguable that six months is too short, but I am sure that five years is far too long.

All of us know of cases, perhaps from personal friends, but certainly from constituents, in which someone has moved legitimately and genuinely into the home to nurse an aged parent and, three or four years after that burden was willingly shouldered, the parent dies. Is the carer now to be unsure whether he or she can rely on the private sector landlord for the right to remain in that house? That cannot be progress or justice.

In fairness to the hon. Member for Edinburgh, West (Lord James Douglas-Hamilton) I should say that he wrote to me on 11 January. I received his letter today. In it he was extremely defensive and wrote: Although the Bill provides that the landlord will be able to seek repossession within 12 months of learning of the tenant's death, it is important to note that, as with all assured tenancies, he will be obliged to go through a proper process of applying to the sheriff before the tenant can be obliged to give up the lease. However, if the sheriff has no discretion, that seems a poor defence.

The letter continued: Furthermore, since the landlord will be receiving a market rent and will get the same rent whoever the tenant is, he will in fact have no incentive to terminate the lease. I am sorry, but that is just naive. I hope that the Under-Secretary does not mind my suggesting that he is being naive. That accusation may have been made before—I do not know.

However, I advise the hon. Member that there is another reason why a landlord may want to terminate a lease. He may want to get the tenant out so that he can sell the property to realise the capital sum. That will happen frequently. Therefore, it is wrong merely to say that it is sufficient to rely on the fact that it is always open to a tenant who transfers to negotiate a right of succession in the terms of the lease itself. Indeed, if both parties agree, it would be possible to write the present statutory rights into the new lease. I have no doubt that it would be possible, but I know of many private sector landlords who would be anxious to avoid that agreement and who will avoid it. I repeat that the position of private sector tenants will be significantly weakened.

I give two other examples. First, the Bill contains the power to end the phasing of rent increases in the private sector. All Opposition Members know that that system has been in operation for some time on the basis of £104 per annum or a quarter of the existing rent, whichever is the greater. That was a real and substantial protection of which most of us have had experience, perhaps not as tenants but by being in contact with tenants. That protection will go. Second, key money will be legitimised by the Bill. That was banished by a Tory Government after the bitter experience of the 1950s, 1960s and the early 1970s. I cannot see that provision as being in any way a return to better days.

Finally, the point of the whole manoeuvre is unashamedly that the private sector tenants of the future will have not a fair rent system, but a market rent system, which means that they will have to pay considerably more. I could go on to mention other points, but time does not allow that now, although I hope that in Committee it will. My point is that private sector tenants, in whose aid this whole scheme has been brought forward, will be considerably damaged in the process.

Mr. Rifkind

At some stage, will the hon. Gentleman inform the House whether he and his colleagues wish to see some growth in the private rented sector and if they do, how they would wish that to be brought about?

Mr. Dewar

I should certainly be interested in seeing that. However, I do not believe that it should be bought at the kind of price that is implied in the Bill. I am honest in saying that that would be extremely difficult to bring about and no doubt we shall deal with that in greater detail later. I hope that, without overstating my case, I am suggesting that, however desirable the Government's objective, broadly stated, may be, it will be purchased at a considerable price.

Not only private sector tenants will be affected; let us consider housing association tenants. What solid comfort can they take from the Bill? They will face a great deal of uncertainty and confusion. After all, at present, sitting tenants in housing association property have the right to buy, but those who move within the housing stock after the Bill is implemented will lose that right and any new housing association tenant will not have it. It seems odd to have two households side by side, one with and one without the right.

Any new housing association tenant will have an assured tenancy, and my earlier points about security and succession apply. Rents are a mystery. The Government say that there will not be the old fair rent system. There was talk in some consultative documents about reasonable rents. Then there was talk about market rents and rather less than market rents, but how much less no one knows. We are facing substantial changes in the housing association grant system. I assume—perhaps the Under-Secretary will confirm this when he replies—that that will require legislation. I hope that he can also assure us that those changes will not be lost in some overall United Kingdom legislation. That would be particularly ironic at the time when the Housing Corporation in Scotland was being disentangled from the rest of the country and was being put on a separate basis.

Many hon. Members will know that it has been calculated—this has not been challenged by the Scottish Office—that on a housing association grant of 50 per cent., a unit cost of £33,000, which is about the average for inner-city rehabilitation of old tenement properties, an index-linked loan of 6 per cent. to make up the balance, and the usual management and maintenance costs, a three-apartment tenement flat, with a rent of about £800 under the fair rent system, will almost certainly end up with a rent of £2,500 plus per year.

The Government may not allow that to happen, because they recognise that the system has got them into such trouble, but that is the logic of the Bill and the consultation documents associated with it. That gives real credence to the genuine fears which I come across as a constituency Member and someone who perhaps moves more than others around the country that those who have given their lives to the housing association's community base will no longer be providing houses for the whole range of the community, but only for those on substantial housing benefit or those with substantial means.

The picture for the public sector is much the same. We know that massive rent increases—two or three times the rate of inflation—will come because of the further cut in the rate fund contribution this year. The Secretary of State came forward with all the exciting pros of the great job that he has done, but I looked at the last commentary available—admittedly it is about 10 months out of date — on the public sector in Scotland. Government contribution per public sector house in 1979–80 was £238, whereas in 1986–87 it was £52. That is why rents have risen, why the delivery of service is not what we should all like it to be and why the fabric of our housing stock is crumbling.

The past two years have been a bad time for those in the public sector and there is little comfort in the figures that are emerging. Naturally, the Secretary of State will say, "But we have provided a great new power with the great landlord lottery. Select-a-landlord is a great leap forward." It is to be found n clauses 51 to 60, but I do not believe that it will do a great deal for tenants in Scotland.

The other day there were pictures in every Scottish newspaper of the Minister of State riding on an elephant. It was an odd happening by any standard. If you ever visit Glasgow, Mr. Speaker, I cannot promise that you will chance upon an elephant wandering in the streets.

Mr. John Home Robertson

You will not find a Tory either, Mr. Speaker.

Mr. Dewar

It occurred to me that, being in Glasgow, the Minister may have felt that he was in tiger country and would be somewhat safer on the back of an elephant. Whether or not it was a matter of being safer in a howdah, it was taking the governor-general motif a little far. In any event, I suspect that it was not a spontaneous happening, but a bright idea. Perhaps the man with that bright idea also invented the pick-a-landlord scheme.

The scheme is a lottery which has been rigged. It involved one-way traffic: the public sector can leave for the private sector, but no one can go the other way. The only organisation exempted is Scottish Homes. If people opt for the scheme, they will immediately run into considerable difficulties. Surely the Secretary of State must accept that. They will lose the right to buy. The Secretary of State has made great play of its importance, but as soon as people move into the private sector, so long as it is not into Scottish Homes, they will lose the right to buy.

The Minister will know that his junior colleague has also written to me about that. The hon. Gentleman stated: it will be open to tenants contemplating exercising Tenants' Choice to negotiate terms under which, at some point and after the transfer, they might purchase their homes, with or without discount. It would be open to tenants, but if a tenant said to the average private landlord, "I have a great wheeze. Let us write into the contract at some point that I can purchase the property at a 60 per cent. discount as that is what I would have received if I had stayed in the public sector," not even the hon. Member for Edinburgh, West would believe a word of it.

The Minister continued: the willingness of a new landlord to enter into such an agreement might well influence a tenant's decision on whether or not to proceed with a possible transfer. I agree with that, which is why few people will bother to enter into these agreements. The Minister continued—this is even more unlikely—that perhaps it could all be agreed and the rent could be adjusted to take account of that right. Is he suggesting that a tenant would have a lower than market rent if he gave up his right to buy, and that a tenant could say to his landlord, "I'll give up my right to buy, if you'll halve the rent"?

Mr. Rifkind


Mr. Dewar

The Secretary of State says, "Yes." I hope that he will produce the private sector landlords.

Mr. Rifkind

I find it impossible to understand why the hon. Gentleman is finding this so confusing. When a landlord is contemplating what rent to charge, the rent for a house which is subject to the right to buy will naturally be more—to make it worth his while—than the rent for a property where the tenant does not have the right to buy. If the hon. Gentleman does not understand that, he understands little.

Mr. Dewar

The Secretary of State is misleading the House. A landlord faced with the prospect of a tenant retaining the right to buy may decide that in order to buy in that right he will make a substantial concession on the other terms, including the rent, but why should a landlord make that concession if there is no right to buy? Where is the leverage or the bargaining power for a tenant in such a position? This is nonsense.

Mr. Rifkind

The hon. Gentleman does not appreciate that the landlord comes into the picture only if he is interested in acquiring the tenancy, and the tenant is interested in transferring it. If they are both interested in a transfer of the tenancy, these are exactly the sort of matters that they would wish to discuss. The real question involved would be whether the landlord and the tenant wished to agree a lower rent without the right to buy or a higher rent with it.

Mr. Dewar

That is in the land of make-believe. Perhaps we can have a private debate on another occasion and in another place.

Considering the factors to which I have referred, the succession and security points that I made in connection with other assured tenancies, and the fact that a market rent would be involved, all I can say to the Secretary of State is that clauses 51 to 60 will be a curiosity for housing academics in a few years' time because they will have made little impact on housing. I will not say that a tenant who has availed himself of it will be as uncommon as an elephant in Glasgow, but that may well be a fair comparison.

The common factor in all the groupings to which I have referred is the fact that rents will rise for all these tenants. There is no doubt about that. I have discussed with those connected with Quality Street some of their plans and aspirations. I very much doubt whether they will welcome the Secretary of State's remarks that they are doing better than the public sector. They regard it as something different, as a change of direction for their individual careers. They are entitled to those feelings. They do not consider it to be a pejorative reflection on the work that the public sector is carrying out, and it is unfair for the Secretary of State to make that point.

Certainly such organisations may have a slot in the market. For example, there are those who leave their homes because of divorce or matrimonial breakdown and it would be useful for them to have private sector accommodation for six or 12 months while they sort things out and make proper dispositions. Retired people may sell their homes to realise capital and may be interested in spending their last years in rented accommodation. Mobile executives also might be interested in rented accommodation.

However, I genuinely do not believe that the scheme can be run on a financial level to be attractive to the pocket and the needs of ordinary families in Scotland. That will happen only if the Government meddle with the odds by squeezing the resources of local authorities and forcing rents up again, as they have done in recent years. If they do that, they will confirm our fears about what is happening.

As we have had a debate about this, I realise that the Minister will say, "Of course we are worried about higher rents, but it will all be taken care of by the housing benefit system." That is far too confident an assumption, because section 64 coyly shelters at the back of the Bill. I was unconvinced by the Minister's explanation and defences.

Perhaps this is rather a mechanical point, but it is worth making. I understand that there are only 32 rent officers in Scotland, with about 16 in Glasgow. About 20,000 people in the private sector receive rent allowances. If every application from now on has to be taken by a rent officer and assessed according to the complicated tests hinted at in section 64, the whole system will collapse. There is a reference in the explanatory memorandum to the need for more staff, but we are building an unnecessary bureaucracy, based on some peculiar social philosophy of humanitarian understanding.

I understand the point. I would not say that there is no danger of an unscrupulous landlord saying to a tenant, "We can put the rent up very high here. Do not bother going to the rent assessment committee under the Act, because you will get it all back from housing benefit, and I will get a high rent." The tenant will be no worse off, but the public purse will suffer. I understand that argument, but I am unhappy that the Government can say to someone, "You are in a house for which, according to our judgment, we have decided you are paying too high a rent. You have to join the queue of the homeless or you will have to meet a substantial proportion of the rent without the benefit of any support which you could normally expect on the basis of income and needs from the housing benefit system. The only way you can avoid paying that extra money is by leaving home or asking the local authorities to bear the cost." That is asking the ratepayer ultimately to foot the bill. That is too a high a price to pay. I have reservations, but I understand the situation.

I have no sympathy with the second test, which deals with unnecessarily large accommodation. It seems extraordinary that when rent officers consider a claim for subsidy, they should also consider whether the claimant is over-accommodated. If he concludes the accommodation to be unnecessarily large, he will assess an equivalent market rent for a hypothetical dwelling of the same type in the same location which is not unnecessarily large.

A woman with a husband and a couple of kids could find that five or six years later the children have left home and the husband has died. Will that woman be told, "We have decided that your house is now unnecessarily large for you, and you can either find the additional money out of your own meagre purse, even though by every other criterion you should have help, or else you can go out on the street and find other accommodation"? That seems to be a hypocrisy, and a dangerous introduction into the law of Scotland.

Mr. John McFall (Dumbarton)

Does my hon. Friend agree that that is a Hobson's choice for individuals in this situation? The Secretary of State says that elderly citizens in houses considered to be too large for their needs will have the choice of moving into smaller property. But such a property will be governed by a secure tenancy, and if they move into a house with a secure tenancy, the market value will have to be charged. They will have to find the money from their own pockets if they move to another house or they will have to pay increased rent in their original house as a result of the withdrawal of housing benefit by the Government.

Mr. Dewar

We shall have to examine carefully in Committee whether that is the case. It might be possible to build in safeguards in such cases. The Bill is riddled with inconsistency and injustice.

Mr. Eadie

I shall be brief, as we have already had exchanges on this point. We have local authorities in the hypothetical circumstances that my hon. Friend has outlined to the House. Local authorities in difficult situations generally give lifetime undertakings to elderly people. They know that if they did not do that, they would be passing the equivalent of a death sentence in removing an elderly person to another house. If the legislation is enacted, that death sentence will be imposed upon elderly people.

Mr. Dewar

Let us hope not. It has been an unpleasant episode. The phrase "over-luxurious" is one to savour, but not one to be proud of using.

I remember the Minister's concern about the widow struggling with the rates and the unfairness of forcing her to meet a larger bill because she was living alone in the matrimonial home. I did not think that the Minister's compassion would extend only to the owner-occupier and not to the tenant.

The new housing benefit system imposes a heavy burden on those with modest incomes, as my hon. Friend the Member for Livingston (Mr. Cook) well knows. For every pound over the income support level, those in receipt of rent allowance will lose 65p. Taking into account rent rebate, it goes up to 85p. That marginal rate of 85p in the pound is 25p in the pound higher than the highest marginal rate for the richest taxpayer in the land. That reinforces the poverty trap with a vengeance.

When we consider the 20 per cent. rule for local taxation which will fall on those receiving benefit, and when we look at what will happen to rent levels for every class of tenant, we see that it puts them in a cruel squeeze. It makes all the fine pleading about reviving this or that worth very little when we are squeezing the financial life out of people who deserve better and who have very little to give.

Of course, there is a lot that can be done, and a lot that ought to be done. I cannot endorse the Government's record in any way or even any approach that has been tried by the Secretary of State. I object to the hypocrisy of Ministers who praise my local authority, the city of Glasgow, yet constantly bring out new provisions, legal and otherwise, administrative and legislative, which make its life more difficult.

I understand that the Minister for Housing and Planning was in Glasgow. The hon. Member for Broxbourne (Mrs. Roe), another Minister in the Department of the Environment, is coming next week, I gather. I almost stubbed my toe in Barrowfield on representatives from the Prime Minister's think tank, who were all coming to look at how Glasgow was changing, to learn and to take ideas to other parts of the country. I welcome the fact that people come and look at what is happening in Glasgow, but it is happening without the so-called benefit of this legislation.

Mr. Rifkind

Absolute rubbish.

Mr. Dewar

The Minister says it is rubbish, but it is self-evidently true. It is happening because we believe in variety and in mixing tenants. The trouble is that local authorities are often restricted by the Government's penny-pinching.

Let us consider how the new par-value co-operatives—[Interruption.] The Secretary of State may laugh, but I have had experience of them in my constituency. The Southdeen par-value co-operative has got off the ground with no thanks to the Secretary of State who refused to give his permission and refused to give any help. He blocked the development at every turn, but the Glasgow district council found ways to get it off the ground because it believed in it and wanted it. The Secretary of State's remarks show a certain tendency towards double standards and are touched with hypocrisy.

Let us consider the financial situation judged by the Government's figures. In 1981–82 the Government spent £889 million on housing in Scotland. In 1988–89 it has dropped to £630 million. The housing revenue account for local authorities in Scotland has been considerably reduced from £333 million to £284 million. Such reductions have happened in almost every other sector.

The other day I received a letter from the director of the Bield housing association, saying: the level of finance made available for specialist housing for the elderly in Scotland has been reduced very significantly during recent years — from 29 per cent. of housing association funding in 1983–84, to only 19 per cent. in the current financial year. Meanwhile," —

Mr. Allan Stewart (Eastwood)

Tell us the total figures.

Mr. Dewar

I will come to that in a moment. The letter continues: the numbers of very elderly people, likely to be most at risk from the consequences of ill-health, isolation and unsatisfactory housing, continue to grow substantially. We hope you share our concern at this neglect of some of the most vulnerable in society. The question is not whether I share its concern, but whether the Secretary of State shares that concern.

In reply to the sotto voce comment from the hon. Member for Eastwood (Mr. Stewart) the reply given to me by the Scottish Office on 3 December makes it clear that, in real terms, in 1984–85 the budget for housing associations was £139.4 million, but in 1986–87 it was £106.5 million. The Secretary of State made the asinine point about what the budget was back in the 1970s, but the housing association movement was not off the ground then and no association had reached the point when it was making demands for finance.

Mr. Allan Stewart


Mr. Dewar

No, I will not give way. I have already outstayed my welcome.

The Labour party is not alone in having doubts. The housing association movement and tenants' organisations also have doubts. The Secretary of State will be aware that the Scottish Association of Citizens Advice Bureaux has issued some guidance notes on the Bill, which state: The reduction in security of tenure, removal of restriction on rent levels and the proposed changes to Housing Benefits provisions will, we believe, lead to hardship for tenants and an opportunity for landlords to exploit their tenants. I believe that that is correct and it is a fair and measured way of making the point.

If we have a housing policy the aim of which is A more pluralist and more market-orientated system", inevitably tenants will be hurt. The Bill does nothing for housing in Scotland. It is complicated, and confuses and essentially weakens the rights of individuals. It may be summed up by the quote in the White Paper on the homeless that rejected any "stopgap" measures. That meant no help for a particularly vulnerable group. That is typical of the Government's approach. We know that we will be carrying the vast majority of Scots and the unanimity of almost all those who work in housing when we go in the Lobby against the Bill. We will not be ashamed to do so.

6.43 pm
Mr. Alick Buchanan-Smith (Kincardine and Deeside)

I have sat here for nearly two hours and I was beginning to wonder whether any of us from the Back Benches would have an opportunity to speak. I welcome the opportunity to do so.

I listened with care to the hon. Member for Glasgow, Garscadden (Mr. Dewar) and I do not believe that he was wholly comfortable with his arguments all the time. I am left in some doubt about why the Labour party and, in particular, the Opposition Front Bench seek to divide the House. I always understood that Second Reading dealt with the principles of a Bill. With one or two exceptions I saw little concern about the principles in the Bill. There was a modified welcome for Scottish Homes, which was seen as a possible step forward, but we then ran into a whole series of what I would describe as nothing but pure Committee points. I am expecting an interesting and long Committee stage. However, simply to give us a catalogue of Committee points is not necessarily grounds to vote against the principles of the Bill. Therefore, I am left wondering why we should have a vote tonight. Perhaps, between now and 10 o'clock, it will be decided that there should be no such vote.

The one issue on which the hon. Member for Garscadden displayed concern was the principle that tenants in public housing should have the choice of landlord. However, even then the hon. Gentleman said that that choice was irrelevant because it would not work. That is hardly a point on which to divide the House. Thank goodness we have not had Labour stewardship of housing in the years since 1979. As my right hon. and learned Friend the Secretary of State has said, many tenants in Scotland today must be thankful for the opportunities that they have had as a result of the Government's policies and especially the right to buy—belatedly endorsed by the Labour party. Indeed, since 1979, there has been a 20 per cent. increase in the number of houses in private ownership.

I welcome the proposals in the Bill. Like my right hon. and learned Friend, I pay tribute to the work of the SSHA. That association has performed two roles in my constituency. For example, it encouraged the support of industrial development in the Aberdeen area following the exploitation of North sea oil. It undoubtedly made a major contribution in providing the necessary housing facilities.

Much more recently, the SSHA has been operating in the area of Garthdee of Aberdeen in my constituency where it was faced with a terrible problem of having to replace Orlit-type homes. That operation is now under way. At one time or another that operation has met with differences and difficulties, but it has been carried through with considerable sensitivity and understanding. I trust that that operation will reach a proper conclusion. I pay tribute to what the SSHA has achieved not only in its support of economic and industrial policies, but in its sensitivity in looking after housing estates.

The Bill represents a perfectly sensible, natural evolution in the housing policy of recent years. I believe that the emphasis in the Bill is right, but I hope that my right hon. and learned Friend remains committed to a mixed system of housing in Scotland. There is a role for the public sector in Scotland and it is one which has been carried out well. Many tenants in my constituency would bear that out. Equally, with the scope and development of home ownership and the development of private tenancies, it is important, if we are to have a mixed system, that those sectors are healthy as well. At present I believe that it is right to encourage the private sector, but in our policies we should always seek to remain sensitive to the kind of balance that we should have in the Scottish housing system.

I especially welcome the new, simplified structure that the Bill introduces and the combination of the work of the SSHA with the work of the Housing Corporation. However, there are three matters that I should like to raise. My right hon. Friend has already given an assurance that the right of a tenant to rent is as important as the right of the tenant to buy. I am grateful for that assurance. We must retain the security of those who wish to remain as tenants. Every bit as much as my right hon. and learned Friend, I deprecate the scaremongering that has taken place in recent months. I hope that my right hon. and learned Friend will take every opportunity to make it as clear as he has in recent weeks that the security of tenure of those tenants, particularly SSHA tenants, will be maintained and respected. It means that, when we come to the relevant parts of the Bill—for example, the right to change the landlord and so on—it is important that we scrutinise carefully the procedures that my right hon. and learned Friend envisages.

I am glad that my right hon. and learned Friend referred to my second point at the beginning of his speech. In our housing policy and in what we do after the Bill, we should be sure to take into account those whose needs are of a special nature. I am thinking particularly of the elderly and the disabled. My right hon. and learned Friend is right to claim that enormous progress has been made in recent years, particularly in the provision of sheltered housing. I commend the work of the housing associations, in cooperation with local authorities, in carrying that work forward.

Much progress has been made, but much remains to be made, particularly in rural areas. The programme of housing associations in rural areas was under threat because available funds were allocated more to areas in central Scotland than to rural areas and areas outside central Scotland. I am glad to say that the Minister who was then responsible for housing intervened and made certain that proper allocation was made to rural areas.

The provision of sheltered housing in rural areas is every bit as important as what we try to do in urban renewal and in tackling the problems of some of the inner cities. Unless there is good provision of sheltered housing in rural areas, often the only choice to an individual is to move out with that community to institutional accommodation, often many miles from where the individual's family and friends have lived. Therefore, the provision of sheltered housing, even sometimes on a small scale, can make such a difference to the quality and continuity of life, which, in social terms, all of us in the House support. Therefore, I urge my right hon. and learned Friend to ensure that in the future and through the Bill we continue to be committed to an expansion of sheltered housing and housing for those with special needs, particularly in rural areas.

My third point is about the continuing role of housing associations. I have already paid tribute to their work in sheltered housing. I hope that my right hon. and learned Friend will be sensitive to two concerns of those associations. First, will he bear it in mind that they will work under a structure that is headed by Scottish Homes? There could be a conflict of interests. For example, how will the funds be allocated among the purposes of Scottish Homes, the housing associations and private landlords? My right hon. and learned Friend must look closely at that, to ensure that there is fairness in the allocation of funds to those who are working under the umbrella of Scottish Homes.

A further point was touched on by the hon. Member for Garscadden. There is concern among present tenants of housing associations that rents in publicly funded projects are likely to be lower than those in mixed funded projects, which one will see increasingly as a result of the Bill. Therefore, I ask my right hon. and learned Friend to look closely at the effects on the level rents of present tenants of housing associations.

I welcome the proposals. As the hon. Member for Garscadden said, there is scope for improvement and there will be several points to consider in Committee, but for the life of me I cannot understand why the House is being divided on the Bill.

6.54 pm
Mr. Bruce Milian (Glasgow, Govan)

The right hon. Member for Kincardine and Deeside (Mr. Buchanan-Smith) said that he gave a general welcome to the Bill, but some of the points that he made raised significant issues. There is plenty in the Bill with which Opposition Members fundamentally disagree, as I hope to show while supporting the remarks of my hon. Friend the Member for Glasgow, Garscadden (Mr. Dewar).

Anyone representing a Scottish constituency, especially in Glasgow, must know that housing, along with unemployment, is the most serious social problem that we now have in Scotland. It takes up much of our constituency postbag and surgery work. There are immense problems for ordinary people in finding suitable and adequate accommodation at rents that they can afford. There are problems of the backlog of repairs in my constituency, of a modernisation programme that cannot progress fast enough because of lack of money, of dampness, homelessness, an acute shortage of sheltered accommodation, and the rest. The peripheral estates have particular problems. At the beginning of his speech, the Secretary of State mentioned them and said that one of the Government's objectives was to overcome them, and then conveniently did not mention them again during what was nearly an hour's speech.

All those problems are either directly caused or significantly aggravated by the fact that simply not enough finance is allowed to local authorities to deal with the housing problems with which they are faced. Because of the shortness of time I shall not mention too many statistics, but the Secretary of State's latest announcement on public expenditure on housing in Scotland for 1988–89 was £639 million. In the current year the estimated expenditure, on the right hon. and learned Gentleman's own figures, will be £699 million. Therefore, even on those figures there will be a reduction of £60 million in the next year, in cash terms. In real terms or in constant terms, and at 1987–88 prices, housing support grant to local authorities has gone down from £371 million in 1979–80 to £46 million in 1987–88. Those figures were given by the Secretary of State in a parliamentary answer to my hon. Friend the Member for Garscadden on 3 July 1987. The Under-Secretary of State is looking even more confused than usual. He will find the information in the Official Report for that date.

It is not difficult to understand why, apart from the general problems of local authorities, there is an increasing rent burden on local authority tenants. There is the absurd result now that, in cities such as Glasgow, the considerable majority of tenants are already on housing benefit and will be affected by the more stringent rules that will be introduced in a month or two. Nothing in the Bill does anything to remedy those problems, which are of crisis proportions in a city such as Glasgow.

The only proposal in the Bill that directly affects local authorities is that the local authority tenant should have the right to opt out of local authority tenure to some other type of tenure. As has been said, the unfortunate private tenant who is dissatisfied with his private landlord is not given the same opportunity to move out of private tenancy into local authority tenancy. I do not know of any private tenant in my constituency who would not jump at the chance of being a tenant of the local authority.

If we are to give not only groups of tenants but, as the White Paper said, individual tenants the right to opt out of local authority management, we shall cause chaos in housing management in a city such as Glasgow. People can move out of normal local authority housing management into, for example, tenants' co-operatives. That is done with the co-operation and approval of the local authority and I strongly support it.

I am glad to say that developments in that area are now taking place in my constituency. There is a vast difference between that and giving unrestricted rights, without any rights to the local authorities, to people to move out of local authority management. It cannot be good for either local authorities or tenants who are left in local authority management. In many cases it will not be good for tenants who move out of local authority management either. None of that will solve the real problems in housing, which some of us face from day to day in cities such as Glasgow and other areas.

I am not in the least persuaded or convinced that Scottish Homes is a good idea, even if it were suggested by a much more benevolent Government than the present one, or by a Government who wanted co-operation with local authorities, and not a Government such as this, who are antagonistic to local authorities and are introducing Scottish Homes in order to take more and more powers out of the hands of local authorities and put them into the hands of a body that will be directly nominated by the Secretary of State. It will operate under clause 2 directly under his authority, and will have no power to do anything except what is in agreement with directions or arrangements laid down by the Secretary of State.

I have seen no case for putting together the Scottish bit of the Housing Corporation and the SSHA, and no case for giving these vast powers to Scottish Homes, which will be subject at every point to the control and authority of the Secretary of State. That is centralisation of a type that I strongly oppose. There is certainly a case for hiving off the Scottish bit of the Housing Corporation and creating an independent Scottish Housing Corporation. I see no reason why it should be part of a United Kingdom set-up, ultimately controlled from London. As far as I can see, there is no reason to set up an organisation such as Scottish Homes on the basis outlined in the Bill.

Why has there been a decline in the private rented sector? There a number of reasons: apart from anything else, most of the houses were slums. We welcome the Secretary of State's announcement of a reduction in the number of houses in Scotland that are below the tolerable standard—but they were all in the private sector. That is one reason why the number of houses in the private sector has decreased significantly in recent years—and a good thing, too. Even if I thought it desirable, I do not believe that the private rented sector in Scotland could be stimulated or encouraged in a way that would benefit significant numbers of people. The one thing that we know will inevitably follow from private finance being involved is that there must be a profit at the end of the day. The White Paper acknowledges that. That means that rents will have to increase significantly. There is no dispute about that.

We are not talking about minor increases in rents, which, incidentally, in the private sector under the fair rents system have increased in recent years faster than the increases in inflation. Of course, it would be possible to provide houses in the private sector and to keep rates at a reasonable level if public money went into Quality Street and the rest of the operators by way of subsidy. The possibility of that is provided for in the Bill. It was mentioned in paragraph 2.14 of the White Paper and is now provided for in clause 2. Is it the Government's intention to cut funds to local authorities, on the one hand, and to pump money into the hands of private developers in the private rented sector, on the other? That requires an answer. Clause 2, which is operated only by the direct authority of the Secretary of State, not by Scottish Homes, allows for it, so let us have some explanation.

What we know from the Bill is that new tenancies, whether wholly new or merely new because a house has changed hands, and assured or short assured tenancies will be at much higher rents than the present fair rents. In certain cases, security of tenure will be lost, and, with the phasing out of rent increases, the elimination of many of the rights of succession and the cuts in housing benefit, the prospects for the tenant who is still in the private sector, and for the prospective private tenant, are grim.

Of course, the process will be gradual; it will not happen overnight. The agony will not occur for everyone immediately, but it certainly will come to those who are tenants in the private sector. Only a small number of people are genuinely interested in private rented accommodation at any particular time, at the sort of rents that are likely to be levied under the Bill. Any ordinary person who can afford the sort of rents paid under the Bill will buy accommodation and get mortgage interest relief, which is a subsidy that is now overwhelmingly greater in Scotland than that given to council housing. When applying for mortgage interest relief, no one is asked whether he is living in housing that is excessive to his own accommodation needs. One obtains the relief in any case. It is offensive that that type of system should be introduced.

As regards excessive rents in the private sector, I introduced a private Member's Bill, with the support of my hon. Friend the Member for Glasgow, Shettleston (Mr. Marshall), to deal with the problem of scandalously exorbitant rents being levied in my constituency—and the Government blocked it. I am glad to say that the landlord in question is facing a charge of fraud. I cannot go into details, which is a pity, as I would like to say a great deal more about that landlord. My Bill, which the Government blocked, would have provided protection for the public purse, at the expense not of the tenant, which is what the proposals will do, but of the greedy, unscrupulous, racketeering landlord. That is how the problem should have been tackled.

There are three excellent community-based housing associations in my constituency, and they are all extremely worried about the Bill's contents. The board members of the associations, who are ordinary people giving up valuable time unpaid to do a service for the community, are demoralised by the constant stream of documents that have come out. They are extremely complicated and have damaging implications for community-based housing associations. They are worried about the new rent levels under assured tenancies and about the fact that tenants will be living next door to one another, the one paying a fair rent and the other paying a vastly increased assured tenancy rent.

The associations are worried about a problem about which I shall be happy to be given an assurance by the Under-Secretary of State. If an existing tenant wants to move into smaller accommodation because he is excessively accommodated, he will lose the protection of a fair rent and become an assured tenant, so he will have to move to smaller accommodation at a higher rent and lose security of tenure. That will be the effect of the Bill. Does it make sense? It will stultify housing association management policies.

Overshadowing all, from the point of view of the housing associations, is the fact that the Government specifically intend to move away from the present method of calculating housing association grant. The present percentages are determined by an individual project. Some cases of new build in my constituency have had to involve grant at a rate of more than 90 per cent., even though the fair rents are set at such a level that no one can go into the houses unless he is on supplementary benefit. One of my housing associations has calculated that if the subsidy were reduced to 70 per cent. — the sort of figure that the Government have in mind—the rents of these houses would double from £800 to £1,600. That is only one of a number of things that are causing concern to housing associations.

Not one tenant will fail to be adversely affected by the Bill. No local authority will be helped by the Bill; neither will any housing association. The Bill does nothing to deal with the real problems of Scottish housing. That is why we shall vote against it tonight.

7.9 pm

Sir Hector Monro (Dumfries)

I am afraid that we have had another negative speech from the Opposition. They just do not seem to realise that things change over the years. Never have they been more caught out than they were over the right to buy, which they resolutely opposed. They have had to reverse their policy and now realise that we were right all along. I find it disappointing that so few ideas come from the Opposition. It is always "No, no" and there is never a bright idea from any Opposition Member.

A happy family, a job and a home are the most important issues for anyone's quality of life. The only thing on which I agree with the right hon. Member for Glasgow, Govan (Mr. Millan) is that there is much to do on housing. We know that from our surgeries and from our post bags. It is good to see a Bill that goes some way towards helping many people in Scotland to have better housing. If the Bill plays a part in achieving some of the objectives that I have mentioned, it will be welcome. Of course in Committee there must be clarification and development of policies, and we all accept that that stage of the Bill will be long and interesting.

My right hon. Friend spoke about why the Opposition oppose the Second Reading of the principle of having better homes in Scotland. As usual, the Opposition seem to be hanging on to the coat tails of the Convention of Scottish Local Authorities, which is also negative in its thinking. The Opposition have trumped up many nonexistent objections and have frightened owner-occupiers, local authority tenants and tenants of Scottish Special Housing Association homes. They are creating the fear that the existing rights of tenants may be adversely affected, but nothing is further from the truth. [Interruption.] The hon. Member for East Lothian (Mr. Home Robertson), who spends his parliamentary year making sedentary interruptions, will have plenty of time to speak, and no doubt during the winding-up speech he will hold forth. No doubt some hon. Members will listen to him.

Any changes that Scottish tenants may wish to make will be made voluntarily. The establishment of Scottish Homes is a big step forward, and the amalgamation will be beneficial. I see the new concept of alternative ownership and landlordship as of little significance, and I expect a cautious beginning. I welcome the other measures, and especially the interest that the Government have shown in house improvements during the years that they have been in office. That is important, and I hope that the Government will continue to make efforts to see that much money goes into the non-HRA sector for housing improvement.

The changes in tenancies of private accommodation and the extension of the right to purchase local authority houses are welcome. Good houses must begin with good planning. I hope that we will set our sights a good deal higher than we set them in the post-war period in housing construction and architecture, and that we will get away from the high-rise flats, which have been a disaster in most areas, and from other unattractive housing schemes that we see dotted around the United Kingdom. We should be cautious about developing more flats in Scotland, because they frequently require a high management input in order to retain a reasonable environment. I hope that we will think carefully and give good advice to local authorities that ask about the improvement of whole housing areas. It is sad to see good council house schemes that have fallen to a lower environmental standard than we want to see.

Management and, of coarse, the advice of councillors also covers waiting lists. I hope that the Bill will enable lists to grow shorter, because they are still far too long. I should like to see a much more sympathetic approach to those who, for one reason or another, leave tied houses. Local authorities frequently feel that they can take no action until there is a sheriff's order for eviction. That is a longwinded and unsympathetic approach towards a person who has to leave a tied house, often for good reasons, before he can be considered for a local authority house.

Flats are a stepping stone towards getting on to the list for a self-contained house. We should not encourage the construction of flats, although, of course, an increasing number of single people want such accommodation and, unfortunately, nowadays an increasing number of divorced people want accommodation. Sometimes flats are the only solution. We should think carefully before building single-bedroom accommodation for elderly people and pensioners. We should never build houses with fewer than two bedrooms, because a tenant with a single bedroom is unable to ask anyone to stay and to make it a family home. We should aim to have nothing smaller than two-bedroom accommodation for our elderly people.

I welcome the change in the policy of the Dumfries and Galloway planning authority, in that it is now taking a much more flexible approach to planning in the countryside. As my hon. Friend the Minister knows, I have always thought that we must try to develop houses in the country in the right place and of the right design and materials. We must do that if we are to keep people living in the countryside, and that will encourage the local schools, village halls and churches. Some planning authorities took a restrictive attitude to the 1960 planning circular which allowed buildings in the countryside only if they were attached to agriculture or forestry. That concept is now years out of date, because neither of those two worthy industries wants additional housing. In any case, the majority of foresters in the Forestry Commission and in the forestry companies prefer to live in the towns and to go out daily to work.

Now that the Government have given a lead by their 1985 circular, and more recently by their support for alternative uses for agricultural land, we must be allowed to develop in the hamlets, in the villages and in the countryside itself — provided that the buildings are suitable and comply with the criteria on standards that I have mentioned. There has been a long battle to bring about this change of heart, but I am glad that it has happened and look forward to the development of houses in the countryside.

It is right that we should concentrate as much as possible on owner-occupation of the new developments, and our encouragement of mortgage relief for owner-occupiers is of the greatest importance. It must not be overlooked when debating a Bill such as this.

My last point on planning is that we must encourage planning authorities to make land available for building — whether the building is local authority or private. Unless we do that we will not make much progress towards resolving the housing problem. Of course we must encourage gap sites and other good sites in the urban context, but if we have to go to the fringes, so be it. The land must be available and we must ensure that services can be made readily available too.

We must continue to provide maximum help with improvement grants. This is particularly true when reconstructing houses in the countryside that have been derelict for some time. The support that my right hon. and learned Friend will give this matter and to housebuilding generally will be most beneficial to the construction industry, which always has spare capacity and represents a good way of providing jobs for people in Scotland.

My right hon. and learned Friend's concept of Scottish homes is a major step forward. I have a high regard for the SSHA, the Housing Corporation and other housing associations. It is right to bring them together under one hat. There must have been many grey edges, so putting them together under incisive management will be a tremendous help to the present housing stock and in coordinating with local authorities to build in the right place in the future.

I welcome the housing association developments in Dumfries and Galloway, whether by the Hanover housing association, Kirk Care or the British Legion, but particularly by Loreburn housing association, which has made remarkable strides during the past five years, after its inception through the Holywood Trust and the work of the Keswick family. There have been great benefits to Dumfries and Galloway. There have been many inaginative developments, both separately and in conjunction with local authorities, mainly for special needs.

My right hon. and learned Friend highlighted the importance of housing for the handicapped and those with special needs. Here again, there has been some fine quality of design and attractive architecture, on which we must congratulate the housing associations. They have made great strides in the last 10 years. I am sure that my right hon. and learned Friend will encourage Scottish Homes to continue the work of the housing associations in Scotland.

Over the past three financial years the Government have increased substantially resources for local authority housing—by more than £150 million. The allocation for 1988–89 should be a record both on the H RA and the non-HRA.

I hope that this trend will continue, because much improvement is needed, particularly in local authority housing, to deal with condensation and dampness. The Select Committee on Scottish Affairs considered these problems, and the sooner they can be eradicated, the better.

I hope that my hon. Friend the Minister will clarify a point that was mentioned by my right hon. and learned Friend about the right to buy post-1979 houses and the outstanding debt. Local authorities do not know where they stand on this matter. If we consider the simple equation of a £30,000 house discounted by 60 per cent. to £12,000, there is a debt of £18,000. Many occupiers of post-1979 houses want to know where they stand, so my right hon. and learned Friend should tell us how the debt will be funded and what incentives there will be for post-1979 tenants.

The hon. Member for Glasgow, Garscadden (Mr. Dewar) asked whether a local authority could be an approved person under the terms of the Bill. I noted my right hon. and learned Friend's answer. He felt this to be very unlikely. The local authorities in my constituency will be interested in his answer.

The most important issue tonight is to bring home to everyone what a great opportunity the Bill gives to Scotland for local authority housing and for new homes. It will be a good Bill by the time we have considered it in detail in Committee, on which Opposition Members will look forward to serving. I suspect that the hon. Member for Dunfermline, West (Mr. Douglas) will be absent from Committee. I hope that the Opposition and COSLA will see that their attack on the Bill is quite unfounded. I hope that we can put forward a constructive Bill that will provide more and better homes in Scotland.

7.25 pm
Mr. Archy Kirkwood (Roxburgh and Berwickshire)

I always enjoy following the hon. Member for Dumfries (Sir H. Monro) in these debates. He concluded that the Bill provided a great opportunity for housing in Scotland, but I think quite the reverse. This is a sadly missed opportunity. The balance of the argument during the consultation process has shown that to be true. In the fullness of time, history, too, will show it to be true.

The areas of Scottish housing requiring most urgent attention are self-evident to most hon. Members. First, there are acute housing shortages in localised areas. Secondly, there are real problems regarding the affordability of rents, and that position will become even more difficult when the planned housing benefit changes are introduced in April. Thirdly, disrepair, including such conditions as condensation and dampness on the one hand, and the general lack of local authority funds available for improvement grants on the other, make the condition of the housing stock in Scotland a cause for concern.

Since I was elected to the House, I have been trying to get the Government to undertake a house condition survey north of the border. [Interruption.] I do not make that claim exclusively for myself, as I am reminded by the hon. Member for East Lothian (Mr. Home Robertson). Such a survey would enable us to measure the extent of the need, which we cannot do at the moment. The Government say that local authority returns are sufficient for the purpose and that a house condition survey would cost money, but, spread over a period and with a rolling programme, it would inform our debates in a way that is not possible at the moment.

There is also real concern about special needs housing. We have mentioned only briefly the fundamentally important issue of homelessness, which increasingly concerns people north of the border, particularly in such cities as Edinburgh and Glasgow. The situation requires an urgent and strategic overall campaign. The Bill provided us with an opportunity to do that, but the Government appear to have missed it.

I have no quarrel with the Secretary of State's objective to improve the peripheral estates. I was born in Cranhill near Easterhouse and, when I go back there, I see that it has become a much more rundown clapped-out place than it was when I went to school there. We must begin to tackle that problem. I also agree with the Secretary of State that an increase in home ownership is much needed.

The Secretary of State's third objective of wider forms of tenure is also laudable. However, I wonder whether, in his heart of hearts, the Secretary of State thinks that the Bill will effect real improvements in relation to any of the three objectives. Those objectives cannot be attained unless all public, private and voluntary sector agencies are brought into play and a policy of diverse initiatives is set up and adequately financed with public and private money. There is no evidence that, in the tenure of this Administration, enough finance has been directed through local authorities to try to achieve some of those objectives.

It was argued that the Bill deals with important ideas. I do not dissent from any of them in principle. There is some sense in a unified housing agency. I subscribe to the view stated by the hon. Member for Glasgow, Garscadden (Mr. Dewar). He said that the Housing Corporation north of the border was in an anomalous position and could have benefited from a proper measure of unification with the SSHA along the lines of the Scottish Development Agency and given a co-ordinating and enabling role in Scottish housing. There is no objection to that. My party believes that diversification of tenure and a greater contribution from the private sector are not objectionable.

The only sensible way in which we can get a greater role for private finance in Scottish housing is to move to a mixed financial basis in a housing association context, bringing in Quality Street for example, and some other bodies.

In the special circumstances that apply in Scotland, we shall never be able to get an actual economic return for private landlords. It is not possible. The prevailing conditions in Scotland are quite different from those south of the border. One aspect that runs subliminally through the Bill is that we are moving in an ever more English direction, with some of the ideas and nostrums that ooze out of the clauses of the Bill. We must be aware of that. We must cater for our own special circumstances in Scotland in our own way.

The ideas and concepts in the Bill are welcome enough, but they are not of primary importance; rather, they are of secondary importance. Neither are they being deployed in an ordered and well-thought-out way. Even the potentially useful ideas in the Bill are being deployed in such a way as would render them inefficient, irrelevant, or, as the hon. Member for Garscadden argued, positively damaging in practice not only to private sector tenants but to public sector tenants.

I subscribe to the point that was made about the way in which the consultation timetable was organised. It was objectionable. I do not make a party political point—in the past, Governments of all parties have done it—but it appears now to happen more frequently. We should lay down a marker and strongly protest about the way in which the consultation process was gone through with such apparent disregard for public opinion. That is how it looks.

This is yet another enabling Bill. It is big enough; there are enough clauses and schedules to keep us busy until Easter. Enabling measures should be objectionable to the House of Commons. They leave an inordinate amount of power in the hands of the Government. I understand that schedule 1 is long, but the detail of the structure of Scottish Homes, which is of fundamental importance, is not set out in the Bill. Will there be decentralisation? Will there be regional committees? Will such regional committees consist of representatives of consumers and providers? Will there be a two-tier structure? None of those matters has been properly answered in the schedule dealing with the setting up of Scottish Homes. That does not seem to be a helpful way to approach a Bill of this nature.

The financial role of the new Scottish Homes body is left in limbo. How will it fulfil its funding role? Will there be an earmarked grant from central Government that will be broken down for housing associations, the SSHA, private landlords and developers, or will there be a simple capital allocation to be split up under the direction of the board of management? All such questions are left unanswered. I agree with the hon. Member for Gascadden. This is an important Bill and it is quite wrong that Parliament should be presented with such a vague piece of primary legislation.

The Bill is also objectionable in principle because it is yet another move at the hands of this Government towards centralisation without any real accountability. That is to be regretted.

I shall briefly sketch some of my concerns although some have already been well aired by other hon. Members. No doubt, since I have been lucky enough to catch your eye, Madam Deputy Speaker, I shall be on the hit list for nomination to the Standing Committee. I look forward to whiling away many hours. Hon. Members must be careful that the debate is not guillotined, leaving large chunks of the legislation undiscussed. There must be restraint on the Opposition side and some sensible business management on the Government's side. If I am nominated for the Committee—

Mr. Dick Douglas (Dunfermline, West)

The hon. Gentleman may be nominated as the Whip.

Mr. Kirkwood

I may indeed at this rate be nominated as the Whip.

It is important to pace the work of the Committee so that all schedules and clauses of the Bill receive proper consideration.

I listened carefully to the Government's case. It boils down to the fact that, in their view, the Bill will provide choice. But will there be equal choice for all? I do not think that there will be. Will there be effective, real choice when, for example, under clause 40, a tenant will lose the rig ht to buy in certain circumstances? What choices does the Bill contain for the homeless, the young, the low-paid; and those who have special housing needs? What choices are there for existing SSHA tenants? I raised the point with the Secretary of State. A process of consultation with existing SSHA tenants could have been undertaken in a far more thorough and comprehensive way. It would have avoided the difficulty in which the Government now find themselves.

Another question relates to cost. Over the past few months, the Under-Secretary of State has attended dozens of conferences. I give him due credit for that. He has been quoted as saying: Scottish Homes is not intended as a device for cutting public expenditure. Will that be true? I fear that the Bill is a device to cut the proportion or public expenditure of gross domestic product devoted to housing. We can all be clever with statistics. It is easy to make selective points when using statistics. If the Bill means that, in totality, the proportion of public money and the country's wealth that is devoted to using housing north of the border is reduced, it will be deeply regrettable. I suspect that it will happen, but I am willing to listen to any reassurance that the Minister might give.

I wish to ask the Minister a specific question about housing associations. Housing associations in my part of the world are concerned that if rent levels in the publicly funded sector are to be determined in line with mixed funded sector rents — that is, where there is a combination, whether it be with Nationwide, Quality Street, or whatever—there is a guarantee that present rents will increase. Surely that cannot be a good thing. If I have that point wrong, I should be happy if the Under-Secretary of State would disabuse me.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Scotland (Lord James Douglas-Hamilton)

Will the hon. Gentleman accept that the rents of housing association tenants who remain in the same house will continue to be registered by the rent officer?

Mr. Kirkwood

I know that. That is like saying tomorrow is Tuesday. I accept that; I am talking about the future. Perhaps we can discuss that point in Committee.

If the Bill is a means of cutting public expenditure on housing, that is regrettable. If capital investment had been maintained at the level of 1978–79 in real terms, local authorities would, according to my statistics, have an additional £817 million to invest this year, which is a substantial sum of money. Local authorities in the Borders are having difficulty in trying to work out what money will be available for housing improvement, because they have been told that they can spend on improvement grants only what they take in next years receipts from the houses they sell. A crystal ball would be needed to determine that, so it makes sensible public authority planning impossible.

The Scottish Council for Single Homeless, which I am sure has made representations to the Minister—it has to me — has argued that although single homeless youngsters aged 16 to 17 will have rights, because of the statutory duty of local authorities to pay attention to their housing needs, they will be priced out of the market by the combination of housing benefit cuts and other supplementary benefit changes. Although they will have a statutory right to a tenancy, they will be left with only £6.20 to pay for food, clothing and other needs. That is a ridiculous position for them.

I am worried—because in 1986 I served on the Social Security Bill Committee — about those under 25 years who are north of the border. They will face financial prejudice.

I do not want to rehearse yet again the arguments about the invidious position of rent officers having to decide on the appropriate level of housing benefit and whether houses are too large or too luxurious. Rent officers will be put in a ridiculously impossible position. There will be a direct conflict of interest, which is a new and worrying departure. I will want to look very carefully at the detail of clause 64 in Committee, and homelessness and special needs must also be properly attended to in Committee to make the Bill acceptable.

The hon. Member for Dumfries made the important point about the special housing needs of those in rural areas. I hope that the Under-Secretary will say a word or two to reassure the relatively small but hard-working and conscientious housing associations in areas such as the borders area and Dumfries and Galloway, whose special needs should be met.

The Bill, if it is anything, is a missed opportunity. In the fulness of time I fear that the Bill, and any other legislation which comes from the Government — whatever the Government may say to the contrary—will reduce the proportion of the nation's wealth devoted to housing and will accelerate the drift towards an English style of housing, which is totally inappropriate to conditions north of the border and will be seen to run down the part played by district councils in providing housing. I regret that, and I hope that in Committee the Government will look at some of the points made in this debate.

7.43 pm
Mr. Allan Stewart (Eastwood)

The hon. Member for Roxburgh and Berwickshire (Mr. Kirkwood) put down a number of markers for the Committee, rather than taking a position of determined principle on the Bill. It will be interesting to see where his corner will vote. It may be that he and his collegues will abstain. He made a point of considerable substance on mixed financing, which has much potential. That was not mentioned by any Labour Members, but it may be that my hon. Friend the Minister will mention that in his winding-up speech.

Like those of my hon. Friends who have spoken, I am puzzled by the Labour party's position on the Bill. We have heard speeches from two Labour Members which have contained statements to the effect that the Bill will lead to the end of civilised local housing authorities in Scotland as we know and love them. The hon. Members for Glasgow, Garscadden (Mr. Dewar) said that no local authority tenant will move anyway, and the right hon. Member for Glasgow, Govan (Mr. Milian) said that nobody will supply private finance anyway, so nothing will happen. The Labour party cannot take both positions; it must take one or the other.

I welcome the Bill, because it will lead to the better use of resources, new choices and the potential involvement of the private sector in a range of different ways. I say to my hon. Friend the Minister that I hope the passage of the Bill will be followed by a major and sustained programme to ensure that tenants are made fully aware of their rights, of the positive intentions of the legislation and of what the legislation does not seek to do.

The hon. Member for Garscadden and my right hon. and learned Friend the Secretary of State had a spirited exchange on the rights of SSHA tenants. The position is absolutely clear. As my hon. Friend the Minister knows, I have had correspondence with him following representations from the Barrhead and Neilston federation of tenants only a few days ago, and from individual constituents. There has been considerable misunderstanding among ordinary tenants. I read the original document on this point. I did not think that the original wording was wholly felicitous, but it is an object lesson, because, if there is any possible misinterpretation of the legislation, or an opportunity to see a dark Tory conspiracy behind basically innocuous wording, the Labour party will find it—[Interruption.] I am referring to the wording on the rights of existing tenants; the wording of the rest of the document was splendid.

The hon. Member for Garscadden said that the fabric of local authority housing in Scotland was crumbling. We must recognise that gross capital expenditure on housing in Scotland in recent years has increased sharply. The hon. Member for Garscadden did not give way to me in his speech — I make no complaint about that—but I was going to point out that under the Labour Government, from 1974 to 1979, gross capital expenditure on housing in Scotland fell by 37 per cent. in real terms. It has gone up by 14 per cent. in real terms since 1979. More local authority houses were modernised and improved in Scotland in 1986 than in any of the previous 10 years. Since 1979 in Scotland 30 per cent. of local authority housing stock has been modernised, and in the private sector the improvement and repair grants have been substantially increased, and rightly so, under this Government.

Some hon. Members have referred to the role of the Scottish Special Housing Association, and I underline its achievements. As a good example of the expertise of the SSHA in special needs housing, there is the local shelter housing project in Barrhead which was opened recently. That is a good example of what the SSHA can do and of the kind of expertise and experience that it will bring to a unified agency.

The housing associations have, of course, had an important role in the west of Scotland and also in rural areas, but there is something in the argument that the housing associations in some areas may be reaching the limits of their technology. I would see them as having a role in encouraging shared ownership. I would also like to see the extension of other forms of tenure, such as cooperatives, although no one should be under any misapprehension that it is necessarily easy and straightforward always to set up a tenants' co-operative.

In the local authority sector, we are moving from the era of quantity objectives to that of quality objectives. It is a tragedy that the houses in many estates in Scotland, substantial parts of which are difficult to let or are unlettable, are not old. They have been built within the past generation. So what is needed is a move to encourage greater mobility of council tenants—the average owner-occupier moves once every seven years, but, because of the present system, local authority tenants inevitably find it much more difficult to move — and also private investment and new forms of tenure.

I hope that my hon. Friend the Minister will agree with me that when we talk about bringing private investment into these areas we are talking not about the popular council schemes but about the unpopular ones, where there is a clear role for dynamic private sector initiatives. I emphasise, too, that improving the physical stock in many of these problem estates is not in itself enough; it must be part of a general programme of environmental improvement. That is where the unified housing agency will help, because, as I understand the present legislation, the Scottish Special Housing Association has that kind of power but the Housing Corporation does not. The new agency will have that power. I hope also that Scottish Homes in these areas will work closely with the Scottish Development Agency which now has an important role in focusing on the economic development of some of our peripheral estates.

As regards the private sector, I emphasise a crucial point —that private finance is not necessarily the same as private control. There are opportunities to bring in private finance in a number of ways. There is considerable potential for expansion of the private rented sector. We have 130,000 empty houses in Scotland. Some of them are empty because their owners are reluctant to rent them under the present legislation. There is undoubtedly scope in some areas for the expansion of the private sector, and the only way to achieve that is to ensure reasonable returns for those who make the investment. That is undeniable. The hon. Member for Garscadden said that he was, in principle, in favour of the expansion of the private sector, but it will not happen unless those who are making the investment get a reasonable return on it.

I have never believed that there is one single answer to our housing problems. In the past, we have perhaps suffered from over-planning, when we all thought that the answer was to build multi-storey flats or big single estates.

Mr. Douglas


Mr. Stewart

The hon. Member for Dunfermline, West (Mr. Douglas) criticises my use of the word "we". It certainly does not include me. Those who were in charge and who were trying to do their best thought that there were single answers to our housing problems. I do not believe that that is the right approach. We need as much variety and as many opportunities as possible. Surely it is right to give the private sector more opportunities and to give tenants additional opportunities to choose. When the Bill becomes law, I hope that we shall soon see hard, practical evidence of such opportunities being translated into development and a real improvement, particularly in some of our worst local authority estates where there is multiple deprivation and a high proportion of housing which is difficult to let. Such a process will, I believe, have the full support of the House, and I am sure that the Bill is a major step towards that end.

7.55 pm
Mr. Dick Douglas (Dunfermline, West)

I do not want to follow the hon. Member for Eastwood (Mr. Stewart) in what he said, but I part company with him—perhaps he noticed it—when it comes to the experience of the late 1950s and 1960s with multi-storey flats and developments, particularly in my native city of Glasgow. I remember having long, tedious arguments with the then members of the city council when I opposed such developments. I am not being wise after the event, but I think that many of the problems in the so-called peripheral areas relate to the understandable needs of that time. The thrust of development was to build as many houses as possible, but because, again with good reason, cost limits were imposed, the houses have not borne the test of time.

The Secretary of State suggested that there has been a lot of misinformation about the Government's consultative document and in relation to developments. I cannot speak for any of my right hon. and hon. Friends but I can speak of my own experience. There is a vast number of SSHA tenants in my constituency and in neighbouring constituencies. Their representatives came to see me and others of my colleagues after they had met the Secretary of State. The Secretary of State is an advocate and I assume—we have had some evidence of it today—that he can prepare his own case.

The representatives read the consultative document, they heard the Secretary of State, and they said, "My goodness, what will happen to us?" There is a considerable difference, particularly as regards the role and function of the residual part of the SSHA in Scottish Homes, as the Bill envisages it, and what was envisaged in the consultative document. My hon. Friend the Member for Glasgow, Garscadden (Mr. Dewar) drew attention to these differences. Therefore, any responsibility for engendering fear in the minds of SSHA tenants rests with the Secretary of State and his Department.

I see no reason to bring these two bodies together, the Housing Corporation and the SSHA. The SSHA's submission to the Secretary of State is a bit vague in its reasoning for supporting the unification of the two bodies. As I understand it, the Housing Corporation of Scotland goes along with it because it wants to divorce itself or have some devolution from its English and Welsh counterparts. That is understandable, but it is not a reason for bringing together two bodies which are so disparate and which have opposing, if not conflicting, functions. One body has a financial, promotional function, while the other has a building, planning and execution function in relation to housing. The Government have decided to bring together those two bodies, perhaps because they wished it, but I can see nothing in that merger which will regenerate Scottish housing.

My hon. Friend the Member for Garscadden said that all the present activity in Glasgow, some of which is imaginative and dynamic, is happening in advance of the Bill, not because of it.

Mr. Home Robertson

In spite of it.

Mr. Douglas

I would not necessarily agree with that. The merger of the two bodies is not necessary to achieve what is happening now in Glasgow.

The Secretary of State spent eight minutes dealing with three points in relation to the future of Scottish housing. He mentioned peripheral housing estates, especially in urban areas. I wish to mention some areas in my constituency — some of my hon. Friends will have similar experiences—which are neither urban nor rural. They are the mining communities, whose heart and dynamism reside in the pits. I understand that a decision has been taken to close Seafield. That means that there will be no working pit in Fife. I could bore the House by mentioning all the mining communities whose heart and sould have been torn out. They include Valleyfield, Bogside, Oakley and Comrie. The reason for their existence has gone, but the social fabric has not been entirely eliminated. I have great pride in representing mining communities, and I know that the social cohesion still exists, although the reason for their existence has disappeared.

In any future review of Scottish housing, the Government must pay attention to mining communities. It is not enough to say, as the Secretary of State did, that housing is an important consideration and planning is different. The Government must make resources available to local district councils to help with housing and planning. Last Friday, I met officials of Dunfermline district council to discuss Steelend, where the houses belong not to the local authority but to British Coal. The estate was sold en bloc, and the local authority can do almost nothing because it does not have the resources.

I was born in Govan. Although housing conditions there were difficult and, in some cases, deplorable, we had points of reference to which we could look up. Govan town hall is a magnificent building. But the people of Oakley and Valleyfield have no buildings in which to have some pride. The Government must make available more resources for housing. It is not enough to say that some houses are vacant. Some of the houses in the Abbeyview area of Dunfermline, which were built 30 years ago, should be knocked down. There should be more open spaces on that estate, but the local authority does not have the resources to provide them.

I see nothing in the Bill — the Under-Secretary of State will correct me if I am wrong—that will overcome our serious housing difficulties. It would be criminal if, 40 years after the destruction caused by the second world war, we still had not improved the standard of our housing. Of course, there have been some improvements, but people's expectations and desire for comfort have also increased.

My hon. Friend the Member for Dunfermline, East (Mr. Brown) and I represent an area which has a great deal of Ministry of Defence housing. The Brucefield estate was sold en bloc to the private sector, against the wishes of the tenants. That regrettable incident is very much in our minds now. In one small village, Crombie, all the houses are in the public domain. Some are owned by the SSHA and some by the Ministry of Defence. But Ministry of Defence houses are specifically excluded from the rights conferred by clause 51. If the Government wish to give local authority tenants the right to become tenants of Scottish Homes, or of some other landlord, why do they not give similar rights to Ministry of Defence tenants?

I realise that there will be difficulties where service men are involved, but there is no reason why that could not be done in Crombie. Indeed, there are especially good reasons why those tenants should be allowed to become tenants of Scottish Homes. I hope that the Minister will take that point on board. I have corresponded with the Ministry of Defence and other Departments on the issue, and I know that it is of great importance to people who have served the country well in the services and at the Royal Navy establishment at Crombie.

If the Government wish to encourage tenants' associations and co-operatives, they must provide resources. There is little expertise in such matters in my constituency. The resources could be made available through the local authority or through organisations such as the Housing Corporation. I admire what has happened in relation to tenants' management organisations and housing co-operatives in Glasgow. They require a background of experience that can be built up only over a long period, and we shall see the fruits of any initiatives only in 15 or 20 years.

My hon. Friends and I will oppose the Bill because it does nothing to cure the malaise in Scottish housing. It will complicate an already complex issue and rely on the injection of provate sector finance. The hon. Member for Eastwood conceded that private sector finance would be attracted only if it could be guaranteed a good return. To get that good return, rents would have to be increased. Private sector finance will be attracted only if the returns are commensurate with those which it can receive elsewhere, and the "elsewhere" may not be in Scotland. It could be in London. The greatest imbalance in regional policy in Britain is shown by the housing market in London, where prices have more than doubled in three years. That has caused difficulties which would undermine any Government's approach to solving Scotland's housing problems.

I hope that the Government will take on board some of the points that I have made, but I trust that my right hon. Friend and hon. Friends will oppose the Bill.

8.9 pm

Mr. Bill Walker (Tayside, North)


Hon. Members

Oh, no.

Mr. Walker

It would seem that Opposition Members do not greet my speech with the greatest of enthusiasm.

First, let me say to the hon. Member for Dunfermline, West (Mr. Douglas) that we all understand the dreadful problems that occur when the source of employment that has created the fabric of a community disappears from it. Such change cannot take place easily or without pain, and no one can say that it is riot likely to have a long-term impact on the community, whose recovery can be a tortuous and difficult process. When the Government came to office in 1979, we did not inherit a situation of which we as a nation could be proud. The housing problems in Scotland were legion and enormous. Those problems were often referred to by Opposition Members, not least in some of the many fine speeches of a man who is sadly missed in the House — Mr. Hugh Brown, the late hon. Member for Glasgow, Provan, who brought to the House much experience of local authority work, particularly in housing. He also brought to the House a realistic view — something that is missing from some Opposition Members' contributions.

Hugh Brown recognised the enormous problems, some of which were of local authorities' own making. Some of them resulted from the misuse of scarce resources, and some arose because although local authorities were genuinely concerned to do something, they could not achieve what was being attempted. In such cases, the end result was an improvement on the previous state of affairs, but it was not good enough. Time moved on and successive administrations, both local and national, inherited the problems.

If we are to use the nation's resources wisely and well, we must recognise that we need to channel them to where the need is greatest. The Government have recognised that, if we are to assist those who are in need—as we should and must— we must ensure that resources are channelled correctly. We must ensure that resources are not splattered over a wide area so that those who really need them do not feel the effects. We set about channelling resources — for example, through housing benefit — to those who really needed them.

The policies of successive councils—the majority of them Labour councils — of charging low rents often starved those councils of funds that could have been available. First, many people could have afforded to pay realistic rents and, secondly, an increase in rents could have come directly from the housing benefit system. Local authorities' failure to charge realistic rents brought about enormous cash flow problems.

Throughout Scotland the results of such cash flow problems are staring us in the face. Those of us who have examined properties for damp and condensation are horrified to think that in a civilised society people can be asked to live in houses in such bad condition. People's dreams of moving into houses with bathrooms and with adequate provision for their children were turned into nightmares. They found condensation and water on the walls, and their children suffered bronchial complaints as a result of the damp conditions in which they lived.

That was a result of the absence of adequate cash flow into the housing coffers. —[Interruption.] We get nowhere in this life if we do not recognise that many of our citizens live in conditions in which they should not be living. People ought not to be living in such conditions when their houses are public property. Some of the problems—I do not say all of them—resulted from the mistaken policy of imagining that one could somehow run a council housing system without charging rents adequate to cover repair and maintenance.

Mrs. Maria Fyfe (Glasgow, Maryhill)

The hon. Gentleman says that he sympathises with people living in damp houses, houses with dangerous wiring, and so on. Did he oppose the Government's move to cut the housing support grant to Glasgow district council by about half and remove that grant completely from the majority of Scottish councils, as well as cutting capital allocations?

Mr. Walker

As is so often the problem with Opposition Members, the hon. Lady confuses the use of funds when allocated with the way in which the funds are budgeted for.

I return to my point. If, over a period of 30 years—or even 10 years—realistic rents had been charged and the balance had been made up from the public purse, through the various support systems now called housing benefit, that money would have been channelled straight into the housing coffers. That is the first way in which adequate funds could have been found. Secondly, the people who could afford to pay full rents should have paid them. I make no apology for saying that, because that would have been the most sensible and logical use of public resources.

I am sure that Opposition Members' aims are no different from mine. I want all the citizens of this country to live in accommodation of which we can be proud. I am certainly not proud of the conditions in which the local authorities have asked many of my constituents to live. My local authorities are good local authorities — I do not deny that—but also in my constituency, Dundee district council had enormous problems. It would be nonsense to pretend that it did not. However, the probems were not new. I remember looking at Fintry when I first stood as a council candidate in Dundee. Fintry was built a long time before some of the other ghastly housing schemes. Not long after it was built, it was fairly obvious that Fintry would become a maintenance problem. Furthermore, it was built in the wrong place. [HoN. MEMBERS: "SSHA."] I know that part of it was SSHA, but not all of it was.

I can list every house in Fintry. I used to live in the next housing estate, which was called Linlathen. [Interruption.] If Opposition Members know Glasgow that well, they will know where Linlathen is. I lived in Alloway terrace. I was not looking at matters through rose-tinted glasses. I knew about the problems at first hand, because I lived there. It was fairly obvious to anyone with any brains that there would be enormous maintenance problems. That was the first thing that was obvious. The second was that the houses were in the wrong place. They were too far away from the places where the majority of people worked and it was obvious that the cost of travel would be prohibitive and would deter many people. Fintry was built long before many of the other housing schemes in Dundee which have even greater problems. The lessons of Fintry were lost.

I do not say that everything that the Government have done since coming to office has been right, because that would be nonsense. However, the majority of the action that we have taken on housing was long overdue. Even today we have the massive problem of houses standing empty. However, whereas 120,000 houses were below tolerable standards 10 years ago, we have brought that figure down to 55,000. That is a move in the right direction, but the target must be to eliminate the problem altogether.

I also welcome the substantial increase in sheltered housing. This again involves targeting scarce resources where they are most needed. Clearly, we must cater for the disabled and the elderly, but the old blanket provisions paid insufficient attention to this. Resources have been channelled into sheltered accommodation, often through housing associations, and I compliment the associations in my constituency on the splendid schemes that they have developed. Those schemes are working well and the tenants are happy, as I know from regular visits to them, because the only way to find out what is happening is to go and see for oneself. The increase in sheltered housing and accommodation for the disabled shows that the Government have been channelling scarce resources in the right direction.

Another welcome development is that 106,000 families have been able to buy their own homes. One dream that has turned into reality and not into a nightmare is the opportunity for people to have a stake in their own homes. The Opposition may ask what that really means. To people who grew up in council homes it means that for the first time they will have a nest egg to leave to their families, an opportunity which they never enjoyed before, because it simply did not exist for them. Today, 106,000 households in Scotland have that opportunity as a direct result of legislation that was opposed by the Labour party.

Home ownership does more than give people a stake in their homes. It changes attitudes. One has only to look at the estates to see the evidence—new doors, porches and windows, improved gardens and decreased vandalism. That alone would be a good enough reason to sell the houses. I sometimes wonder whether the discounts are big enough, because the benefits to the community are enormous. The people with whom I grew up in Alloway terrace in Linlathen dreamed of owning their homes and being part of the community, of owning a car and a television set. All those things are coming to pass because the Government are channelling resources in the right direction.

One of the benefits of the Bill will be to bring together the two major housing agencies. That is important, because in my view we have reached a crossroads where we must change direction and go not for quantity but for quality. The first and major challenge is to improve the quality of the existing housing stock. Secondly, we must ensure that the houses being built meet the special needs of the community. As my hon. Friend the Member for Dumfries (Sir H. Monro) said, we welcome the efforts to improve and regenerate peripheral housing schemes in the cities, because they are desperately needed in many areas, but we must also recognise the need for regeneration in rural areas.

We hear a great deal from the Opposition about unemployment, but in one part of my constituency there is a problem brought about by full employment. In Aberfeldy, firms cannot find workers because of inadequate housing resources. More houses need to be built in that area. In the initial stages, the need is often for housing at economic rents. That is another welcome benefit that could come out of the Bill.

We also hear a great deal about the availability of building workers. This, too, will be effected by the Bill. My hon. Friend the Minister will be interested to hear that for the past three months, on Monday mornings, I have been calling on the various places of employment in my constituency to discover the true employment situation. A consistent factor for companies in the building industry has been the dearth of building workers in north Tayside, so in my area at least, the stories about building workers on the dole are pure fairy tales. I am told that there is also a shortage of skilled building workers in the Dundee area.

The Bill will provide opportunities to widen the forms of tenure and letting. This, too, has attracted some hostility from the Opposition. Many of them must have faced the problem of finding rented accommodation at some time in their lives. Council house waiting lists always involved special qualifications or long waits, so for the young, ambitious person who was willing to move, the real problem was not finding a job, but finding accommodation near the available work at a rent that he or she could afford. I have certainly experienced that problem.

I should have thought that in the 40 years since I first tried to find rented accommodation the problem would have been solved, but it has not been solved, because, as a matter of policy, successive Labour Governments deliberately squeezed out the private sector landlords. I have no brief for Rachman-type landlords, but when I was a young man there were a substantial number of private lettings in Dundee.

The right hon. Member for Glasgow, Govan (Mr. Millan) suggested that they were slums, but he should know better because, like me, he knows Dundee well. He knows that immediately before and after the war, although there were slums in Dundee which needed to be, and were, removed, there were many private sector rented properties which were beautiful flats in first-class tenement buildings. That accommodation was forced out of the private rented sector by successive Labour Governments, so more and more people were deprived of the opportunity to rent such properties.

I also welcome the idea of management schemes and cooperatives. I do not object to something just because it is called a co-operative. Unlike the Opposition, I do not have such hang-ups. I believe that things should be judged on their merits — whether they are viable and an improvement on the present situation, and whether they provide increased choice and wider options. I therefore believe that there is scope for co-operatives, and I welcome their development. I also welcome the fact that the private sector will be encouraged to become involved in areas which so far have been the exclusive province of the public sector.

I am aware that a substantial number of Opposition Members wish to speak, so I shall conclude. I believe that my contribution has clearly shown that I welcome the Bill, because there is much in it that will give hope, much that will bring about change, and much that will be welcomed in Scotland, just as the right to buy was when we introduced it some years ago, but it was equally resisted by Opposition Members. I believe that in about five or six years those voices on the Opposition Benches—the same voices and the same faces will still be there on Opposition Benches — will be saying, "We are modifying our stance," just as they did about the right to buy. Experience will show that the Bill contains much that will be beneficial to the people who really matter, the people of Scotland.

8.30 pm
Mr. Jimmy Dunnachie (Glasgow, Pollok)

Thank you, Madam Deputy Speaker, for granting me the opportunity to speak on the Bill, which is one of the most serious issues facing the Scottish people. The Bill has created great anxiety in my constituency. It is a direct attack on meagre resources and basic rights. It is not a real solution to the major housing problems in Scotland. It is instead an attack on the power of local authorities in Scotland.

Encouraging private bodies or companies to invest in rented housing will not solve Scotland's major housing problem. It will not do anything for the 200,000 people who are on the local housing lists. It will do little to cure the dampness which is a health hazard that affects the homes of 120,000 Scottish children. The Bill will not ease the plight 'of the 31,000 people who are homeless in Scotland. That figure is rising every week. Instead, the Bill will punish the local authorities for the good work which, despite the lack of funds, they have already begun. I refer to Glasgow district council and the great assistance that it has given to housing associations, tenants, co-operatives and par-value co-operatives.

The Bill will turn the clock back to the dark old days of the private landlord and will take away the benefits of post-war housing policy in cities such as Glasgow. In 1947 about 65 per cent. of all rented accommodation in Scotland was in the private sector and the vast majority were slums, without hot water, baths or toilets. Few repairs were done because all that the landlord was interested in was profit. Amidst all that housing squalor, a Labour Government empowered local authorities to embark on a massive building programme of council houses. That gave hope to many people in Scotland—a hope which had previously been denied them because they had been forced to live in private rented housing. However, this Government want to return to a system that produced yesterday's slums.

Indeed, the Government want to go further and to create a two-tier tenants structure, which will further widen the gap that already exists between the haves and the have-nots in today's society. The first type of tenant will be able to afford to pay a fair and economic rent. At least in theory, that tenant should be able to get repairs done. However, the second class of tenant created by the Tories is not so fortunate. He will be deemed unable to pay a fair and economic rent and will get little or no help with housing repairs. That will create ghettoes instead of inner-city regeneration that the Government promised last June. The unemployed, low-wage earners, single parent families, senior citizens and the homeless will all be sacrificed for the Tory principles which dictate that private investment must be rewarded with fat profits.

Both types of tenant lack a further security. There is nothing in the Bill to prevent unscrupulous landlords from increasing rents and refusing to carry out repairs. The Bill also brings back the fear of eviction. A landlord can apply for an order to evict a tenant for non-payment of rent or, indeed, for a record of late payment.

There is a further lack of security in the area of tenancy rights, which has been left rather vague in the Bill because it is open to landlord manipulation. What of the concept of Scottish Homes? Again, that is a further attack on local authorities, which, in the past, have stopped Governments imposing financial penalties on people who can ill afford to pay them. The Bill means that a democratically elected housing authority will be replaced by a Government-sponsored quango. The people who will form that body will follow Tory housing policies, irrespective of the hardship and the suffering that they will cause their fellow men and women. The entire goal is a giant step towards an erosion of democracy and social justice in what was once a caring society. Therefore, I ask the House to oppose the Bill.

8.35 pm
Mr. Andrew Welsh (Angus, East)

We seem to have run out of Conservative Members, but other Opposition Members wish to speak so I shall be as succinct as possible to allow in as many other hon. Members as possible.

The Government's stated White Paper objectives on which the Bill is based were reasonable and deserved support. It is a worthwhile objective to give people a wider choice in housing, to improve the supply and quality of that housing, to encourage greater individual responsibility for, and control over, the conditions in which people live and to provide the means of dealing with the problems of homelessness. I am sure that all those objectives will gain support and be encouraged by all hon. Members. [Interruption.] As has been rightly pointed out, I am afraid that I must advise the Minister that he is alone. There is certainly not a Scot on his side of the House but he appears to have the support of an English colleague and reserves from Penrith are arriving.

Although the Bill's aims are desirable, the reality is that it does not deliver those worthy objectives. Worse than that, in comparison with the enormity of the actual housing problems in Scotland, the Bill is an enormous missed opportunity. Indeed, it is more important for what it misses out and what it does not do than for the quango that it creates.

We do not get much chance to legislate on Scottish matters and I regret that the Government have wasted this valuable opportunity to do something worth while about Scottish housing. There is nothing in the Bill which seriously tackles the major problems in Scottish housing. There is nothing in the Bill to tackle the growing problem of homelessness in Scotland, which has risen by almost 100 per cent. during the past four years. Indeed, as the hon. Member for Glasgow, Pollok (Mr. Dunnachie) said, the Shelter survey states that 31,000 Scottish families and individuals are now homeless.

However, in the White Paper the Government used the word "residual" to describe the homelessness situation. One man's residue is clearly another man's desperation. How does the Minister justify that statement when all our local authorities are facing the reality of demographic, social and other changes which are creating growing numbers of young, single and other homeless persons?

Nothing in the Bill addresses the 35 per cent. growth in housing waiting lists during the past few years. An estimated 200,000 people are now waiting for housing in Scotland. So far, the Government's response has been simply to restrict the market by selling council houses and simultaneously starving councils of the funds required to build alternative replacements.

There is nothing in the Bill about the national problem of overcrowding. About one in four Scottish people—1.25 million of our fellow citizens — still live in conditions of overcrowding. In Shelter's words: Overcrowding in Scotland is at levels which existed elsewhere in Britain twenty or thirty years ago. However, the Government tell us that all is well and that those problems have been solved.

There is nothing in the Bill about a national house condition survey. If there is any ideal activity for a unified housing agency, perhaps that is it —it should produce such a survey. Evidence from the Convention of Scottish Local Authorities suggests that about 250,000 council houses need full modernisation and a further 250,000 require remedial treatment for dampness and condensation. In other words, 500,000 council houses in Scotland require positive action now. One would never have believed that that situation existed from anything that was said by the Secretary of State for Scotland. However, that situation exists and if any unified housing agency is worth its salt, that is the sort of thing that it should look at and deal with. Again, the Bill does nothing to solve those problems. Indeed, the opposite is true.

The Government's policy is merely to sell or remove the best council houses cheaply and to give no housing support grant funding to improve the remainder. In reality, the Government do not have a policy for council houses. We are entitled to ask the Minister to explain how these provisions will assist in meeting Scotland's major housing problems. Will his proposals for Scottish Homes, for the transfer of tenants out of the public sector and for altering the law of tenancy build more houses, reduce the housing waiting lists, house the growing numbers of homeless people or cure the problems caused by overcrowding and dampness which afflict such a large number of Scottish houses? Will the Bill achieve that?

I was a co-sponsor of the Housing (Homeless Persons) Act 1977 and I believe that it should now be updated, strengthened and improved after a decade in operation. Local authorities have a statutory obligation to house the homeless, yet they are being starved of the resources to carry out that task. What exactly will Scottish Homes contribute to housing the homeless, and how will it do it? I should like the Minister to state clearly how these measures will assist in increasing the supply of special needs housing. If there is no statutory obligation to do so, how will the measures ease the problem of homelessness?

If the Government's objective is to produce high-quality, rented houses at a low cost, that is possible, but only with suitable central Government financial assistance. If the objective is to produce high quality, rented houses at high rents, how exactly is that possible in Scotland, given the long history of high unemployment and low wages among the very sections of the population who most need that same, better-quality rented housing?

Under the Bill, rents will inevitably increase. They cannot do anything else if profits are to be made by private investors. Yet the Government's economic policies, by destroying large sectors of the Scottish economy, prevent people from affording those rents in the first place. It appears that the Government have forgotten exactly why public sector housing was introduced.

If Scotland was generally a high salaried, high economic growth and prosperous economy, I could see some hope for the Government scheme working, but is not London or the south-east of England, and the Government are making sure that that position continues. In reality, the rented sector is contracting in Scotland and council houses are being sold without replacement. No wonder waiting lists are growing, when the Government's housing support grant policy and give-away discounts are ensuring that local authorities cannot cope with these problems. Only when there is a policy of adequate new building and replacement for sold council houses will local authorities be able to fulfil their obligations properly.

We are seeing the inevitable consequence of the Government's vendetta against local authorities and we are seeing an all-time low in public sector house building. Indeed, now it is more or less completely wiped out. The Government's housing policy in Scotland uses ideas suitable to yuppies in south-east England, but they are being applied to Scotland without thought of the consequences for our country and its people.

While I welcome as a small mercy the clauses which give tenants further protection against harassment and illegal eviction, I cannot go along with the other parts of this rents package. I should like the Minister to state whether it is true that under the Bill tenants with short assured tenancies will have no right to a rent book, to know the name and address of the landlord, to be informed of a change of landlord, and not to have rent charged in advance of the rental period, and that they will have no protection from false entries in their rent book, following the determination of a rent by a rent assessment committee. Is that true? If so, it simply will not do. I am left wondering whether the Government have hired Mr. Rachman as their adviser on the Bill. The Government have deliberately chosen to favour landlord confidence at the expense of tenant confidence.

The Bill, following as it does the promising objectives stated in the White Paper, is a real disappointment. It fails to match up to the reality of Scottish housing needs, and it must be judged on that failure.

8.44 pm
Mr. John McFall (Dumbarton)

I thank you, Madam Deputy Speaker, for giving me the opportunity to contribute to this debate. When the consultation paper on Scottish Homes was produced in the summer, I welcomed it because it gave us an opportunity for a re-examination of the housing needs in Scotland, both public and private, as the latter has as many problems as the former.

There is undoubtedly a crisis in housing in Scotland and I shall give the House some statistics to consider. Some 150,000 people are on the housing waiting list, 20,000 people are homeless—their number has quadrupled in the past four or five years — 250,000 people are in overcrowded accommodation and 63,000 are in housing of less than a tolerable standard. There are 850,000 houses in the public sector, of which 120,000 need rewiring and more than 300,000 are affected by dampness. Clearly, the problem is great.

Compare those facts with the figures for new build houses. In 1979, about 8,500 new houses were built. That figure decreased to 4,500 in 1985, representing a cut in new build over eight years of approximately 50 per cent. In 1979, 36,000 houses were modernised, whereas in 1985, seven years later, 20,000 were modernised, representing a cut of more than 40 per cent.

We look expectantly at the Government's proposals in this Bill, but we look in vain. There is no mention of homelessness. It is a blot on the Scottish housing scene, yet there is not one mention of it in the Bill. We look for provisions on special housing needs, and my hon. friend the Member for Glasgow, Garscadden (Mr. Dewar) mentioned the Bield housing association, which deals with the needs of the elderly, but again there is no mention in the Bill of special housing needs.

As was mentioned earlier, a house condition survey was carried out in England and Northern Ireland to assess the housing position accurately. If the Government were sincere about putting out a consultation paper and introducing a housing Bill, first of all they should know what they are talking about, and they cannot possibly know what they are talking about when they have consistently refused to implement a housing condition survey in Scotland. That is the only way in which they can accurately assess the entire Scottish housing scene. The Government are proceeding on false premises, because they do not know the position. Indeed, do they care?

Experts estimate that about £4 billion is needed for modernisation and repairs. There is a lack of information in the Bill. There is no technical annex and there are no costings. It appears that the Government are not interested in the financial aspect. One is led to the conclusion that the Bill has more to do with the Tory preference for home ownership at the expense of the public sector than with the nub of the issue, which is the crisis in housing.

The Bill seeks to eliminate the general subsidies to public-sector housing, by the decrease of rate fund contribution and housing support grant. The only consequence of such a policy is a consequent massive increase in rents. Let us examine the Government's record of the past eight years on housing support grant as a proportion of the total local authority housing revenue account budget. Since 1980 it has fallen from 37 per cent. to a mere 7 per cent. in 1985, so money has not been forthcoming.

The Bill contains a number of platitudes about tenants' rights. The Under-Secretary of State was with me at a meeting in Glasgow during the summer, where a number of tenant representatives put their points of view about the consultation paper. At that meeting the Minister mentioned that tenants would not be pushed into any other scheme against their will. However, tenants have not been consulted. I would suggest that if one member, one vote is good for trade unions, one member, one vote is good for the tenants of SSHA. If we have democracy in one sphere, let us be consistent and exercise it into another sphere. There has been massive criticism from the tenants' movement, because the Government have been less than honest in their approach to housing, and less than fair in their approach to tenants.

A number of doubts have arisen because of the Bill. We talk about the SSHA and the Housing Corporation in Scotland coming together. The SSHA has 85,000 tenants and it is in debt. That is important. The Housing Association has 40,000 tenants. The combined total is 120,000 tenants, out of 850,000 public tenants in Scotland. We expect that body, with no experience of attracting private capital, to be capable of regenerating Scottish housing. It is a farce. That is the only way that one could describe it. It cannot regenerate Scottish housing without the resources, the experience and the grass roots knowledge that local authority housing departments have built up over many years.

When we consider the implications of the Bill for local authorities, we see that their role is being changed to what is called an enabling role. If they have an enabling role, will the Minister say that local authorities can be given the power to require private landlords to house the ever-increasing number of homeless people, because the situation of homeless people in Scotland is becoming desperately serious?

My hon. Friend the Member for Dunfermline, West (Mr. Douglas) spoke about MOD properties. In my constituency there are a number of MOD houses, and I have been in contact with the Minister about them. The families in those properties reflect the society in which they live. Families break up, couples divorce and people have to move out of the house. In my constituency, as soon as a family breaks up, the Ministry of Defence requires the wife to leave the house. She comes to my surgery or goes to the housing department in Dumbarton for rehousing. In this case, the local authority is acting, not as an enabler, but as a receptacle for those types of problems. That is an instance of how the MOD deals with such problems. It is not a benign way. How would private landlords deal with such a situation, and what would be expected of local authorities? Can we expect private landlords to behave any differently from the MOD? Such practice will lead to "sink" schemes for the homeless and for the low-paid.

In 1983 the Government allowed low-paid people up to £86 per week in wages. If their wages were below that, they would get assistance and housing benefit. That figure has been cut from £86 in 1983 to £68 in 1988. The Government are doing nothing for the low-paid. Homeless and low-paid people will become an increasing burden on local authorities, which will not have the resources to deal with it.

The issue of private finance appears in the Bill. It is quite simple. Local authorities are non-profit-making organisations. Private landlords are profit-making. For every £1 that will go to a private landlord, there will be £1 less for repairs, modernisation and investment.

The Secretary of State mentioned Quality Street. I would put it to him that, instead of referring to Quality Street, we should be talking about quality homes. The Quality Street type of experiment has been attempted in Scotland by no fewer than 18 local authorities during past years. They ran into opposition from the Scottish Office because the Treasury was not very pleased. The local authorities and the public sector have been keen during the past few years to get involved in joint ventures with the private sector, but they need the resources.

During the recess I had the opportunity to read a number of stories to my youngest child. One of them was "The Three Little Pigs" and that story comes to mind tonight.

Mr. Home Robertson

There are not three of them.

Mr. McFall

The wolf blew the first two houses down, but it could not blow the brick house down. However, the political wolves on the Government Benches are blowing the brick houses down in my constituency, and they are blowing them down in a more leisurely way than the wolf in the fairy tale did, because they are doing it by systematically and cynically denying funds for housing.

If the Minister can answer one crucial question satisfactorily, I shall join him in the Lobby tonight. What level of public investment will be maintained as a result of the Housing (Scotland) Bill? If he can answer that satisfactorily, he will have my vote. I doubt whether he will, because at no time has the consultation paper or the Bill demonstrated any consideration for the real housing needs of the people of Scotland.

8.57 pm
Mr. Nigel Griffiths (Edinburgh, South)

The right hon. Member for Kincardine and Deeside (Mr. Buchanan-Smith) asked why the Bill is being opposed tonight. It is a pity that he did not stay to hear the answer. It offers home owners seeking repairs grants hindrance, not help. It removes essential and basic rights from private tenants, such as the right to succession, the right to a fair rent and the right to their tenancies. It brings despair to the homeless whose numbers have doubled in four years, and it heralds a new era of Rachmanism. Those are some of the reasons why the Bill must be rejected.

The Secretary of State referred to the House's concentration on public sector housing, but I wish to comment on the potentially drastic effect of this Bill on home owners. Part I of the Bill can remove all outstanding repairs and improvement grants from local authorities and hand them over lock, stock and barrel to an unelected body.

Under the Bill, private developers can become agents for administering grants. Speculators can take over and decide on priorities in the interests of profit, not people. There need be no votes on priority programmes, no competitive tendering and no rights for home owners in the queue for grants to seek intervention or support from elected councillors. Clearly part I is designed to prevent Labour councils such as Edinburgh from halting the flow of grant money to speculators and instead giving that money, as a priority, to individual home owners as it has done in the past. The misuse of scarce resources by a Conservative-controlled council has been alluded to by the hon. Member for Tayside, North (Mr. Walker).

Part I of the Bill does not come as a surprise to the home owners of Edinburgh and Glasgow. The Secretary of State has just announced a cut of £11.5 million in the repairs budget for home owners in Edinburgh and a cut of £17.5 million for those in Glasgow. He has cut grants and now he wants to cut corners. He wishes to remove the safeguards that have developed over decades and leave many people at the mercy of the sharp landlord who hides behind glossy advertising campaigns.

The Bill will have drastic consequences for the elderly, the young, families and carers. The elderly tenant who transfers to a new landlord and remains in her family-sized flat will be penalised if she vacates her large flat to allow a family access to it and takes a new tenancy. First, she will lose the protection of a fair rent, and her rent will automatically be set at a higher rate, despite the fact that she is giving up a family-sized flat for a smaller one. The Secretary of State implies that she would have a choice, but his Department's circular of 17 November 1987 removes any such choice. That Government circular on the new housing benefit regulations will force her to pay an even higher rent for her larger flat.

She does not, as the Secretary of State alleged, have to enjoy greater luxury than he thinks reasonable to be affected. There is no mention of that in the Bill or the circular. She does not, as the Secretary of State alleged, have to enjoy greater luxury than he thinks reasonable to be affected. There is no mention of that in the Bill or the circular. She does not, again as the Secretary of State has claimed, have to be grossly over-accommodated to be affected. Neither the Bill nor the latest Department circular use the words "luxury" or "grossly".

The Secretary of State should read his Department's circular of 17 November before misleading the House. That circular says: the Government propose that the rent officer … should also consider whether the claimant is over-accommodated. He will do this on the basis of a test of occupancy in relation to the number of habitable rooms, which will be supplied to him by the Secretary of State for Scotland. If a claimant appears to be over-accommodated under this initial test, the rent officer will carry out a valuation, and will establish whether the claimant is in fact over-accommodated by reference to a more detailed test. If he concludes that the accommodation is unnecessarily large he will then assess an equivalent market rent for a hypothetical dwelling"— not even a real dwelling— of the same type and in the same location which is not unnecessarily large … The test of unnecessarily large accommodation will be set as a maximum number of rooms of floorspace for particular family sizes. The only gross thing about all this is the Secretary of State's exaggeration about the future protection available to the elderly. The only luxury is the luxury that the right hon. and learned Gentleman affords himself in inventing safeguards that he and the Government have no intention of enacting in the legislation.

There are no safeguards for the new tenant of a dubious landlord who becomes frail and whose son comes to look after him. The Bill means that that son will have to give up his home to look after his parent, but he will have no security of tenure, especially if the parent dies within five years. In that instance the right of succession will have been removed. The Government will have enabled the tenant's landlord to throw the son out and to sell the property to the highest bidder. The Bill is another Government measure that will crucify the carer.

In case the new rents fixed do not bring high enough returns to the private landlord, the Secretary of State has taken the powers of arbitration from professional rent officers and given them to amateur appointees who owe their patronage to him. From bitter experience, private tenants know that such rent assessment committees invariably set higher rents than those set by rent officers under existing legislation. The Government are replacing a system of gentlemen and players with a system of gentlemen and payers. If the rent assessment committees cannot find sufficient similar tenancies in the same location, it appears that the Bill will sanction any level of excessive rent, no matter how extortionate.

Therefore, it is hardly surprising that the body that will preside over all this will not be elected. Schedule I leaves the matter entirely to the Secretary of State. There will be no representatives from tenants' groups or from residents' associations, no place for local authority experts, no room for community councils and no one elected from voluntary organisations that deal with housing. No doubt the Secretary of State will follow his recent disgraceful precedent, illustrated by the health boards and the Scottish Development Agency, by appointing placemen. There will be too few exceptions to the rule—the appointees will be cost cutters, not consumers.

The new unelected body will be invested with horrendous powers. Part I of the Bill allows the Scottish Homes quango to purchase, compulsorily, land for developers, irrespective of the views of local people. Schedule 5 gives private landlords similar new powers over the lives of tenants — unprecedented since Rent Acts were first introduced in 1915.

Now the Government can let any landlord, no matter how disreputable, obtain possession and evict the tenant if he wants merely to refurbish the flats to sell them off. It is hardly surprising that the Bill has not merited support from any reputable quarter. Widespread opposition has come not just from tenants and tenants' organisations, but from the Scottish Association of Citizens Advice Bureaux, Shelter, the Scottish Council for Single Homeless, the Scottish Federation of Housing Associations and Age Concern.

If the Government are so sure of their case, why did they publish their proposals for tenants' choice on 18 December, the week before Christmas, allowing only 17 working days, including Christmas eve, for tenants and others to respond? It is a shameful sham of a consultation and the latest in a disreputable list.

Why can the Government not heed the response of people to those housing proposals? Why are they deaf to the pleas of the public but ever willing to pander to the private sector? Why do they not admit that the Bill is the result of an election gimmick gone gaga, and withdraw it tonight?

9.6 pm

Mr. John McAllion (Dundee, East)

I suspect that there is agreement on both sides of the House on at least one point, which is that this is potentially one of the most radical Scottish housing measures ever to see the light of day, certainly ever to be debated in this Chamber. But that is as far as such agreement will go. The Opposition never could and never will agree to the many themes in the Bill which, far from extending tenants' choice as the Secretary of State for Scotland claimed, threaten the present rights of Scottish tenants. Far from beginning to tackle the acute housing crisis affecting Scotland today, they can serve only to make that crisis much worse.

As always, when we are dealing with specifically Scottish legislation, we know that whatever else the Government might have drawn inspiration from in introducing the Bill, they certainly did not draw it from the people of Scotland. The people have already made known what they think about the Government and their policies — they made it clear on 11 June, when three out of every four Scottish voters gave an emphatic no to the vision of Scotland that Conservative Members are attempting to fashion with legislation such as this.

We do not have to rely only on the evidence of last June to know that Scotland does not want this Bill. We have much more recent and specific evidence, which relates directly to the Bill. I am referring to the consultation process over the Scottish Homes proposals, during which the SSHA tenants overwhelmingly rejected the Government's ideas and formed themselves into a national federation of tenants specifically to fight the Scottish Homes plan. Many of my hon. Friends spoke at public meetings during that consultation process, as I did in Dundee. They will know the strength of feeling among tenants who oppose the Scottish Homes plan. The Government must answer the question: where is the moral justification for imposing the Scottish Homes proposals on tenants who do not want them? Where is the democratic justification for that?

The Government should know that the Scottish Federation of Housing Associations has argued that the future of the SSHA should be determined separately from the Scottish Homes proposals, and in full consultation with the 80,000 tenants of the SSHA. So why are the Government not prepared to give those tenants a ballot so that they can show whether they oppose or approve of the measures in the Bill?

We heard an awful lot about ballots from Conservative Members during the miners' strike. They were all in favour of ballots then. They always are in favour of ballots when they think that it suits their purpose. But in this instance, when they believe that a ballot will not suit their purpose, we do not hear about ballots at all. The SSHA tenants are to be denied the ballot that they deserve.

The tenants have already asked for such a ballot. It was refused by the SSHA itself. The chairman of the SSHA is Mr. Derek Mason, who is in the short leet for the position of chairman of Scottish Homes. I hope that he is more successful than some of the other candidates on that short leet. In this month's edition of "Labour Research", he is quoted as saying about the SSHA's tenants' demand for a ballot: I do not see the point of a ballot when we know the result We know virtually every tenant is against the proposals. That is what the chairman of the SSHA says. He asks why there should be a ballot when we know that the answer is no to Scottish Homes.

But the Government, by bringing forward the Bill, are saying that they do not care what the tenants think or might say. Neither do they care what Scotland thinks or might say. They will give Scotland the Bill anyway and ram Scottish Homes down its people's throats. That is a dangerous road for any Government, especially one with so few Scottish Members, to embark upon. I urge them to think again.

I turn to the detail of the Bill and the issue of tenants' rights. For a long time, the Government have masqueraded as promoters of tenants' rights. What will the Bill do for the rights of tenants, particularly under the new arrangements for assured tenancies and short-term assured tenancies? It is important to take into consideration the Government's whole housing policy in this respect, and not only the legislation before us. We know, for example, that since 1979 the Government have been squeezing the money available to district councils to finance their housing revenue accounts. We know that housing support grant has been slashed. Dundee district council, for instance, used to receive more than £8 million a year in housing support grant from central Government; today, it receives nothing.

At the same time, the rate fund contributions to the housing revenue account have been dramatically pegged back. Dundee district council, which at one time could contribute more than £4 million from the rates to the housing revenue account, is now restricted to contributing less than £500,000 to it. The measures to be imposed by the Government must have an effect on housing revenue accounts of district councils and on their ability to manage and maintain their stock.

Inevitably, rents have been forced up to much higher levels than they would have been had the Government maintained their financial support for council housing. Equally inevitably, the councils have found it increasingly difficult — indeed, well nigh impossible—to meet their responsibilities as landlords in the way in which they would have wanted, and would have done, if the Government had continued to support council housing financially.

The process of Government cuts was important in softening up the public sector housing and making it vulnerable to the sort of privatisation threat that the Bill now makes possible. Any hon. Member who has public sector rented housing in his constituency will know what damage has been done by Government cuts, and will know the frustration experienced by council tenants who can have emergency repairs done only towards the tail end of the year because their local office's maintenance budget runs out at the end of December, instead of the end of March as it should do. Hon. Members will know of the anger among council tenants whose aged metal-framed windows cannot be replaced in the current year, or in any of the years of the council's five-year plan, because there is such a backlog of houses requiring window replacement that it will take the council decades to work through it with the level of finance that is now available.

That is the context in which the measures contained in the Bill must be assessed. Pick-your-landlord might sound a fine idea, but what will happen? First, it will mean choice in one direction only, as several hon. Members have said —from the public into the private or independent rented sector. I know of thousands of tenants in Dundee who might want to pick their local district council as a landlord in preference to the present owners of the houses, but that choice has been denied them by the Government.

Even tenants who can pick their landlords and have the right to choose are in a much less straightforward position than would at first appear from the Bill. We know that private landlords across Scotland are, at this very moment, eyeing council housing stock; they have designs on it and it is not hard to see that they find only certain types of housing stock desirable—the sort that is basically sound and desirable and located in a good neighbourhood but which requires improvements of one kind or another which the council cannot afford to finance.

Those are the houses that interest the private sector landlords and they will make the tenants of such houses the kind of offer which many of them will find it difficult to refuse. A new kitchen or a bathroom or a complete new set of double glazed windows or whatever else the council cannot afford to put in will be offered by the private sector landlord. The tenants will be tempted and will opt to change ownership to a private landlord on the basis of the offer made to them by that landlord.

The improvements are what the tenant will get from the deal struck with the private landlord. However, every deal has two sides to it and the tenant will lose in other directions. First, there will be higher rents because under the new tenancies rents are to be at market level or are to be freely negotiated between the landlord and the tenant. We all know that market level or freely negotiated rents are shorthand for putting up the rents to a level far in excess of current council house rents in Scotland.

There will also be a loss of the rights that tenants in the public sector now enjoy. For example, as soon as a tenant picks his landlord that is it. He does not get to pick another landlord and even if the landlord turns out to be a Peter Rachman the tenant is stuck with him for the rest of his life. It is like a bee sting because under this legislation it is a right that can be used only once and then the tenant has had it. The tenant will also lose the right to buy his own house because that right extends only to public sector tenants.

These tenants' rights about which the Tories boast are either of fundamental importance or they are not. There is no basis for saying that tenants in the public sector must have these rights while tenants in the private sector will be denied them. The rights should be available to all citizens and to all tenants, but that fundamental principle has been breached by the Bill.

There is also the loss of security of tenure that flows from choosing a private sector landlord. The grounds for landlords repossessing assured tenancies are set out in the schedules to the Bill. They include the tenant persistently delaying the payment of rent which has become lawfully due. Hon. Members should notice that it is not a case of refusing to pay or of failure to pay, but merely a persistent delay in paying rent. Whoever drafted this Bill obviously never knew what it was to be poor and has never experienced the regular scramble to try to scrape together the money to pay, the rent man. If a tenant does not have the money to pay, he will persistently find himself late in making payments.

Under this Bill it is the poor who will be thrown out of their houses by the private sector landlord. That provision about delay in paying rent is nothing less than a charter for dispossessing the poor, and it should have no place in a civilised society. However, Scotland has become a much less civilised society in the last eight years since it has been placed under a Government whom the Scottish people did not elect. It is not just the poor who will have to worry because if a landlord needs the house to pay off his debts it will not matter if the tenant has been a model tenant. Out he will go and it is just tough luck.

The Bill will mean higher rents, fewer rights and less security of tenure; that appears to be the basis of the Government's approach in trying to tackle the Scottish housing crisis. It is a terrible indictment of the Government that after eight years this is the only kind of legislation that they can bring forward to try to solve Scotland's housing problems. The Bill will not solve the problems. It will make them worse for the people who are guilty of doing that.

9.18 pm
Mr. John Home Robertson (East Lothian)

I am grateful to my hon. Friend the Member for Dundee, East (Mr. McAllion) and to all my hon. Friends who have spoken in the debate for bringing to it an air of reality, because there is a housing crisis in Scotland, as my hon. Friend the Member for Dundee, East has said. We appreciate that the Scottish Office does not want to be aware of that state of affairs, but that is the case and the crisis has been severely aggravated in recent years by the financial and legislative interference of the Government. They do not want to know about that.

Less than a month before they published the Bill, the Government issued a parody of a White Paper which is more a catalogue of ministerial prejudice than an analysis of the Scottish housing scene. The essence of Tory thinking in Scotland seems to be that there is something fundamentally reprehensible about being a tenant. The Tories believe that public sector tenancies are an evil which must be stamped out of the Scottish body politic. That shows that the Government are out of touch with the people of Scotland, not least because more than 58 per cent. of Scottish households are tenants, mostly in the public sector. Perhaps that accounts for the fact that the Government have precious little support in Scotland.

The Government have gone to great lengths to force district and islands councils to dispose of houses and encourage tenants to buy, whether or not they can afford the costs of owner-occupation. Labour Members are happy for people who have acquired their houses, but I wish that the Government would understand that for a significant number of people it is best to remain tenants. Surely they have rights, too. When will the Government grasp that fact? These policies have contributed to a brand new crisis of owner-occupation in Scotland, with record numbers of mortgage defaults adding to an already disastrous crisis of homelessness.

The Labour party supports home ownership, and always has done, through means such as tax incentives, for example. However, it is wrong to promote owner-occupation at the expense of homeless people in Scotland. There has been a net loss of 46,000 council houses available to let since the Government came to power in 1979. The position will be further aggravated when the Minister removes the cost floor on council house sales, as he has threatened today.

Homelessness is a national scandal in Scotland. It is a personal tragedy for far too many of our fellow citizens. Twice as many cases of homelessness occur now as did four years ago. Last year, about 31,000 families and individuals found themselves seeking accommodation under the homeless persons legislation. What did the Government say about that? As my hon. Friend the Member for Dumbarton (Mr. McFall) said, there is not a word about homelessness in the Bill, although there was a brief paragraph in the White Paper, which I shall quote: The problem of homelessness also needs to be set in the context of the Government's plans. Homelessness is a symptom of failures in the housing system. How about that for an understatement?

The Government's proposals will make the housing system work better. It is important to address the problem in this way rather than through stopgap measures, specific to the homeless, which do not solve the underlying problem. The homeless will benefit from wider choice and a share in the general improvement of the supply and quality of housing as much as other sectors of the population. The Government are not interested in taking any specific action to deal with this immediate and urgent crisis which afflicts so many of our citizens. It is an indication of the Government's appalling complacency.

In addition to homelessness, there are also the serious problems of overcrowding, bad housing conditions and dampness. A quarter of people in Scotland live in overcrowded homes. COSLA has estimated that no fewer than 250,000 houses need remedial treatment for dampness or condensation. It is difficult to get a clear picture of the need for repairs, because the Government steadfastly refuse to conduct a house condition survey in Scotland, as there is in England and Wales.

The Under-Secretary of State was a member of the Select Committee on Scottish Affairs which investigated the problem of dampness in housing some time ago. It will be interesting to see whether we shall have another Select Committee on Scottish Affairs. Perhaps we shall learn more about that on Wednesday. If the Under-Secretary of State were honest, he would have to acknowledge that the Bill and the rest of the Government's policies are aggravating Scotland's housing crisis.

One of the problems in Scotland today is that we are governed by a tiny clique who know and care little about their subjects. In political terms, the Government have precious little to lose in Scotland. The fact that the Scottish Conservative party has so few elected Members at local or national level—only 10 Members of Parliament—means that it is probably not aware of what the people of Scotland are talking about. Scottish Conservative Members are not speaking to them. They are speaking not to tenants, but to merchant bankers and estate agents. Legislation such as this shows that those are the people to whom they are talking.

If Scottish Conservative Members met and corresponded with some of the 202,000 people who are stuck on waiting lists for rented houses, they might understand the bitter anger and frustration of those who are being denied the basic human right to live in a home of their own in the area in which they want to live. How on earth a party that forces thousands of young families to live in overcrowded and insecure accommodation can still try to pose as the party of the family really beggars belief. The Bill will make things worse.

We know that the Secretary of State for Scotland is beyond redemption. He is not about to start compromising with public opinion in Scotland at this stage of his career. Indeed, he frequently brings to mind Burns' famous words about politicians being bought and sold for English gold.

The Under-Secretary of State for Scotland, the hon. Member for Edinburgh, West (Lord James Douglas-Hamilton) has a reputation as a basically fair-minded and compassionate man. I hope that we shall see some manifestations of such qualities in the Committee Corridor.

When the idea of a Scottish Development Agency that would include the Scottish part of the Housing Corporation was first suggested, we stated support for such an initiative to help elected local councils to deal with the growing housing crisis in Scotland. But what has since emerged is quite different. It has emerged that the Government intend to set up a monstrous new national housing quango that will effectively supersede local councils and will have a duty 10 revive the ugliest aspects of private landlordism in Scotland.

The worst fears that we have heard expressed have been confirmed in today's issue of The Scotsman, no less. There is speculation about the appointment of no less a person than the Earl of Ancram as chairman of the Scottish Homes organisation. We know that the Secretary of State himself is personally to nominate nine members. There is no undertaking that there will be a representative of tenants. We see some interesting jockeying for the chairman's position.

Of course, there are precedents for such people being appointed. When Hamish Gray was dismissed by the people of Ross, Cromarty and Skye, he found himself promoted to Minister of State. Alex Fletcher, who was dismissed by the people of Edinburgh, Central, found himself appointed to the Scottish Development Agency. There must be some concern that the Earl of Ancram, who was dismissed by the people of Edinburgh, South, could end up as chairman of this outfit. I hope that the Minister can assure us that that will not happen. The people of Scotland presently face the severest provocation from an alien minority Administration. Frankly, some of us have already had enough of it.

Part II of the Bill will establish a whole new framework of landlord and tenant legislation. Frankly, that has more to do with encouraging private landlords than with protecting tenants. Indeed, that is the whole thrust of the Bill. My hon. Friend the Member for Glasgow, Garscadden (Mr. Dewar) rightly cited many examples of the erosion of tenants' rights. No doubt he will have opportunities to go into greater detail in Committee.

The term "assured tenancy" has a nice cosy ring about it. It is clear enough that we are talking about a variation on the theme of "Catch-22". Tenants will have two choices. They will have limited security but precious little rent control, or they will have limited rent control and precious little security. As we know, even the phasing limits on rent increases will be withdrawn by the Government. It appears that the Government are seeking to build on the spectacular failure of the private rented sector in recent years.

It is worth mentioning that most of the 130,000 empty houses in Scotland today are privately owned. That is a standing indictment of those owners who are prepared neither to let nor to sell such properties, but prefer to let them stand empty and rot. There is nothing to stop people letting houses at fair rents at present. Perhaps I should have declared an interest as a private landlord. There is nothing to stop people letting houses. It seems to be unnecessary for the Government to give such generous incentives to private landlords. They seem to be building on failure. There seems to be no ground for the hope that they will be able to provide the additional rented homes that we all know are required in Scotland.

Private landlords' share of housing in Scotland has collapsed to only 6.3 per cent. of the total amount. That includes some of the worst housing in Scotland.

Mr. Rifkind

indicated assent.

Mr. Home Robertson

The Secretary of State is smiling. Even under his stewardship, that decline has continued. What grounds are there for expecting this to succeed, even with those incentives? Is it worth making the sacrifices that the Secretary of State is asking tenants to make? The Government are running an awful risk of reviving the evils of Rachmanism in their endeavours to revive the private rented sector. There is nothing wrong with private renting, provided it is subject to reasonable protection and controls. Perhaps I should give notice that, if any speculator decides to take unreasonable advantage of the provisions in the legislation, it is likely that a Labour-controlled Scottish assembly will take retrospective action in the very near future to restore such controls.

We cannot understand why the Government are so obsessed with their doctrinaire campaign against local authority housing. Local authorities could and should be allowed to continue to meet the need for rented housing in Scotland. As the Secretary of State rather grudgingly acknowledged, they have given the lead in diversifying housing tenure, encouraging private developments and promoting co-operatives.

The Glasgow district council has been setting the pace in promoting housing associations. We need no lessons from the Tory Administration in that respect. Local authorities have been backing housing associations. The Government are proposing radical changes in the base of housing association tenancies which could tear the heart out of housing associations in Scotland. It is thoroughly offensive to the principles of voluntary housing associations that they should be forced to jack up their rents and undermine the security of future tenants, as is proposed in the Bill.

I join other hon. Members in paying tribute to SSHA tenants for the powerful opposition that they have demonstrated to the Scottish Homes proposal. They are already suffering from Government rent policies, but they have made it clear that they are not prepared to be hived off to private sector landlords, according to the Government's original proposals. The Secretary of State wriggled a lot on this subject in the course of his speech, but he knows as well as everybody else that there was a clear indication in the original proposals that the Government intended to hive off SSHA houses. We are thankful for small mercies. That has now been abandoned by the Government.

I making a passing reference to the pick-a-landlord clause, which applies only to public sector tenants who may, for some reason best known to themselves, seek the uncertain future of becoming private sector tenants. I wonder why dissatisfied private tenants will not be allowed to transfer their tenancies to local authorities, which seems a more likely choice for tenants to make. Why are the Government breaking the clear understanding that new town tenants would be transferred to local authorities? The Secretary of State has said that he is actively opposed to new town properties being transferred to local authorities, as was previously understood, which will cause some alarm among tenants of new town corporations.

I am still waiting for a reply from the Secretary of State to a letter I wrote on 15 December about the mysterious reference to England and Wales in clause 67 and the possibility that the Bill could find its way to a Committee packed with English and Welsh Members. I should be grateful if the Minister could give us an assurance on that. It would be intolerable if the Bill were not considered by a Scottish Committee. The reference in the Bill to England is bogus. I fear that this could be another manifestation of the dirty tricks which we have become accustomed to enduring from the Scottish Office in recent years. It is sad and disgraceful that today the Scottish Office is the representative of the Government in Scotland, rather than being the representative of Scotland in the Government, as it rightly ought to be. The Bill is an ugly example of that.

The Government are prepared to accept the increased value of tax relief on privately owned houses up to an average of £680 per house per year. It is worth mentioning that 41 per cent. of all mortgage interest tax relief is concentrated in London and south-east England. At the same time, the average public subsidy for a council house in Scotland has fallen to £55.74, compared with £680 for private houses in England. The hon. Member for Stirling (Mr. Forsyth) asked whether we are against public subsidies for the private sector. When the Labour Government were in power, there was, broadly speaking, parity of subsidy for houses in both the public and private sectors. What a change there has been since this lot came to power. The interests of Scottish tenants have been sacrificed shamefully by the Government, and the Bill is intended to make matters worse. It is deliberately designed to force rents up to encourage private investment in rented houses.

One wonders how many rented houses will be achieved as a result of the Bill. On Friday 27 November I asked the hon. Member for Edinburgh, West how many additional private sector rented dwellings he expected to achieve as a result of the recent proposals in the White Paper on housing. On that day he said that he would reply to my question as soon as possible. We waited with bated breath while computers whirred in the Scottish Office to find how many extra houses would be achieved by the legislation. A definitive reply came on the Monday: "A considerable number." The Government have not got a clue as to how many houses the legislation is likely to achieve.

We know that many tenants cannot afford an increase in rent and have much to fear from the abolition of fair rents. But the Government seek to shrug that off by saying that there is no need to worry because the tenants will be protected by housing benefit. Of course, we know that they will not be, because of provisions debated earlier.

The Bill will centralise bureaucratic control over housing in Scotland. It will undermine the position of tenants. It will do absolutely nothing to provide for the needs of thousands of Scots who are homeless or who live in overcrowded, damp, sub-standard accommodation. This is the sort of insensitive, bad legislation which brings the Government of the United Kingdom into disrepute and could undermine the unity of the kingdom. Ministers who disobey the electorate should be aware of the sort of reaction that they are likely to provoke. I urge the House to reject the motion for a Second Reading of the Bill and to support our reasoned amendment.

9.36 pm
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Scotland (Lord James Douglas-Hamilton)

I should say at the beginning that I have an interest in a company which could be affected by the terms of the Bill, but would say to the hon. Member for East Lothian (Mr. Home Robertson), as regards his question about clause 67(5), that I wrote to him on Friday: there is nothing sinister about that clause and it will he considered in Committee.

This has been a useful and wide-ranging debate. It has provided an opportunity to demonstrate—

Mr. Harry Ewing

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. I am astonished to hear the Minister say that he has an interest in a company. Is it not the usual procedure that when Members of Parliament become Ministers of the Crown they dispose of any interests that they may have in any company? It is unprecedented to hear a Minister begin his ministerial speech by saying that he has an interest in a company which might benefit from the legislation that he is introducing.

Lord James Douglas-Hamilton

I am certainly not a director or anything like that. It may be only a contingent interest. If the hon. Member wants to look it up in the Register of Members' Interests, he will see it. I went to see the people in charge of the Register today; they were not certain that it was a declarable interest, but, just in case it is, I am following the example of the hon. Member for East Lothian who, I suspect, has a greater interest than I have.

The Bill is intended to do three things: first, to provide choice for tenants in housing, as and when they wish it; secondly, to provide diversity of provision, principally by the revival of the private rented sector; thirdly, to set up a new housing development agency in Scotland to make the best use of resources. I draw the attention of the House to a significant statement made in the debate on the Queen's Speech on Scotland on 29 June last year by the right hon. and learned Member for Monklands, East (Mr. Smith): I think I speak for the vast majority of people and certainly for the Opposition when I say that we want expenditure in our constituencies. We do not care too much whether it is public or private, and it will be all the better if we can get an intelligent combination of both, with public expenditure leading in private sector expenditure.— [Official Report, 29 June 1987; Vol. 118, c. 340.] The provisions of the Bill are, in large part, intended to enable the sort of partnership which the right hon. and learned Gentleman was seeking. Assured tenancies will remove one of the main barriers to private sector investment in rented housing, which will be widely welcomed. Scottish Homes, as a wide-ranging enabling and funding body, will work towards financing arrangements for housing with co-operation between private and public sector sources. Instead of doing everything itself, it will create the right climate in which those seeking a home and those intending to provide one can work together.

The hon. Members for Roxburgh and Berwick shire (Mr. Kirkwood), for Angus, East (Mr. Welsh) and for Dumbarton (Mr. McFall) asked about a national house condition survey. COSLA believes that such a survey is required, and we are keeping the possibility under review. The hon. Member for Edinburgh, South (Mr. Griffiths) asked about the cuts in non-HRA allocation for Edinburgh and Glasgow. In 1987–88, the figures included £58 million earmarked for the backlog of repair and improvement grants—£32 million for Glasgow and £26 million for Edinburgh. The provisional figures for 1988–89 include a reduced figure for each authority for this purpose of £14.5 million, recognising that the bulk of the backlog has been cleared.

Hon. Members have talked about public expenditure, Scottish Homes, housing choice, homelessness, assured tenancies, housing associations and tenants' choice. I shall try to answer as many points as possible during my speech.

When the hon. Member for Falkirk, East (Mr. Ewing) was a Minister in the Labour Government between 1974 and 1978, gross public sector investment decreased by 37 per cent. Since 1979, it has increased by about 14 per cent. I accept what the hon. Member for Glasgow, Garscadden (Mr. Dewar) said about housing support grant being reduced, but housing benefit expenditure has increased beyond all measure. Since 1978, it has increased more than 15 times, or by more than 1,500 per cent. In a parliamentary reply to the hon. Member for Clydesdale (Mr. Hood) on 18 December, I said that in 1982–83 housing benefit in Scotland was £42 million. For 1987–88, the figure was £664 million, which on any view is an immense sum.

Mr. Dewar

Does the Minister agree that the Government have forced up rents by a remarkably large amount?

Lord James Douglas-Hamilton

The hon. Gentleman's point is correct. We want more money to be spent on management and maintenance, and the Grieve report on Glasgow, which was commissioned by Glasgow district council, stressed the necessary relationship between appropriate rent levels and housing management and maintenance. That report contained many relevant points.

The hon. Members for Dunfermline, West (Mr. Douglas) and for Dumbarton questioned whether Scottish Homes is an appropriate body to deal with Scotland's pressing housing problems. The hon. Member for Garscadden queried the powers that it will be given. Appointments to the board will be made entirely on merit. We are examining ways in which the views of tenants may be communicated to the board. That may involve a tenants' representative, but there is no need to prescribe it in statute. If we did that, and it was too narrowly defined, it might exclude some of the best candidates.

The Housing Corporation has no powers to carry out environmental improvements. It wants such powers, and the Bill provides them. Unifying the expertise of the Housing Corporation and the SSHA will extend the benefits of that expertise to more people than SSHA tenants. The idea that SSHA tenants' choice will be restricted is also a fiction. That was touched on by my hon. Friend the Member for Eastwood (Mr. Stewart). Scottish Special Housing Association tenants will have the same houses managed by the same staff, and the same rights.

Mr. Lambie

My district council is to conduct a referendum among SSHA tenants to establish their desire for a new landlord. If tenants in Irvine in my constituency decide that they want to opt for the district council as their landlord, will the Government accept that, or will they renege on their promises to SSHA tenants?

Lord James Douglas-Hamilton

Tenants' wishes will, of course, be respected. The hon. Gentleman should remember that the Tenants' Rights, Etc. (Scotland) Act 1980, which the Labour party opposed, established the very rights which the tenants wish to be preserved and which will most certainly be preserved.

Mr. Lambie

Will the hon. Gentleman give way?

Lord James Douglas-Hamilton

Let me finish my point. In the Tenants' Rights Etc. (Scotland) Act, introduced by my right hon. Friend the then Secretary of State, we brought in security of tenure — a right that I do not believe any political party will take away, even though the Labour party opposed the Bill at the time.

The White Paper confirmed earlier assurances that rents—

Mr. Lambie

The hon. Gentleman made an important statement. He said that tenants' wishes will be respected. If SSHA tenants in my constituency decide that they wish Cunninghame district council to be their landlord, will their wishes be respected?

Lord James Douglas-Hamilton

I must make it clear to the hon. Gentleman that the right that we are giving tenants is an individual right that cannot be taken away. For example, if a referendum had been conducted in a certain town at the time of the Tenants' Rights, Etc. (Scotland) Bill, to ascertain whether people thought that tenants should have the right to purchase their homes, the majority might have said no, but 106,000 tenants have purchased their homes. The rights given in this Bill should be honoured and tenants' wishes respected. Once the Bill is passed, if a tenant wishes to transfer, his right to do so should be respected.

Mr. Lambie

To the district council?

Lord James Douglas-Hamilton

The hon. Gentleman asks whether tenants should be able to transfer from one public sector body to another. There is no problem with access to the public sector; the problem is the other way round. We are principally discussing housing associations. The new element, in the form of Scottish Homes, will mean that more choice is offered to tenants.

The third reason for supporting the creation of Scottish Homes is that a one-door approach for the benefit of those actively involved, including local authorities, other public sector agencies, tenants and the private sector is necessary to avoid potential confusion about where to turn, which can cause difficulties for those trying to create partnerships. For that reason, the plans for the Scottish Housing Development Agency will largely be based on the successes of the Scottish Development Agency. The amendment describes Scottish Homes as "an unaccountable quango" but the body is being established on exactly the same basis as the SDA, which the Labour party supported. The Scottish Development Agency is admired throughout Britain because nowhere else in Britain are the powers enjoyed by the SDA brought together in a single body.

My hon. Friend the Member for Tayside, North (Mr. Walker) and my right hon. Friend the Member for Kincardine and Deeside (Mr. Buchanan-Smith) made it clear that they support the Bill and said that we needed an integrated approach. That was one of the lessons of the GEAR project: we need co-ordination among the different agencies. Scottish Homes will be a strongly resourced body with the capacity to ensure precisely such co-ordination by being a funder and provider of houses, an enabler and promoter and, above all, a partner. Scottish Homes will continue with the process, but on a greater scale and with considerably more speed than before. Local authorities will be assisted in their role of assessing housing needs and strategy planning.

The extremely important subject of homelessness was raised by the hon. Members for Roxburgh and Berwickshire, for Glasgow, Pollok (Mr. Dunnachie) and for Angus, East. The problem has many causes. To put it into perspective, I should point out that there are no fewer than 130,000 more houses than households in Scotland, more than half of them in the private sector. Clearly, one must avoid mismatches, while bringing as many as possible of those homes back into circulation. The real answer for Scotland as a whole must be to remove the reasons which make people afraid to let houses which are empty for a while but which they will need again. Policies to reform the private sector will achieve that, without diminishing the rights of existing tenants.

The Government are committed to maintaining an effective legislative framework to help the homeless. We are doing a number of things to achieve that. First, we have increased resources for capital investment by local authorities, particularly for special needs. Secondly, advice and guidance has been issued to local authorities on design standards and priority allocation policies. Thirdly, we have funded a number of initiatives such as the Shelter rural housing project to find homes for the homeless. Fourthly, steps have been taken to increase the availability of accommodation for rent through the housing association movement. Fifthly, our proposals to reform the private rented sector will increase the willingness of landlords to make property available for rent.

The hon. Member for Pollok suggested that the Government's proposals were a charter for rogue landlords and Rachmanism, but that is untrue, for a number of reasons. First, the proposals strengthen protection for all tenants against harassment and illegal eviction. Secondly, tenants will have security of tenure very similar to that under existing legislation, and safeguards are built in to prevent the charging of excessive rents and avoid Rachmanism. Rents will be freely negotiable between landlord and tenant, but tenants need not accept excessive rents.

There will be safeguards. First, a tenant with an assured tenancy will be able to obtain a determination of rent from the rent assessment committee if at the end of his initial tenancy agreement the landlord proposes a new rent which the tenant does not accept. If the landlord wishes to increase the rent, he must follow the set procedures which give the tenant the right of appeal to the rent assessment committee for arbitration. Secondly, a tenant with a short assured tenancy will be able to apply to the rent assessment committee during the tenancy for determination of a reasonable market rent if he thinks that the rent is excessive.

Thirdly, all rents for assured or short assured tenancies for which housing benefit is payable will have to be referred to the rent officer, who will assess the proper market rent for the premises and the appropriateness of the accommodation. If he finds the rent to be excessive or the tenants to be over-accommodated, housing benefit subsidy will be limited. That will help to ensure that excessive rents are not charged. Fourthly, the strengthened position of tenants against harassment and illegal eviction and the new right to compensation for illegal eviction will prevent landlords from charging excessive rents.

Under the new system, all tenants will have security of tenure, except that those on short assured tenancies will have security of tenancy only for the specified period of the lease. Arbitrary repossession will certainly not be allowed. The landlord will need to show that he is acting within the law.

Mr. Wilson

The Minister has twice referred to safeguards against harassment. Will he comment on the conclusion by the citizens advice bureaux that the incentives to harass will be so much greater than at present that they will outweigh any possible defences written into the Bill?

Lord James Douglas-Hamilton

That is precisely why we are bringing in stronger measures against harassment. We can discuss this in Committee, but we believe that the measures are strong enough to achieve the purposes that the hon. Gentleman wishes.

A tenant with an assured tenancy has security of tenure unless the landlord can gain possession of the house on one of the limited grounds specified. That gives the tenant confidence that he or she can plan to reside in the house for as long as he or she wishes.

The hon. Member for Garscadden mentioned that a landlord can apply for repossession if the tenant is more than three months in arrears and that there is no discretion for the courts. That is factually correct, but the tenant must be more than three months in arrears both at the time of the service of the notice and at the date of the court hearing. That almost certainly means that there will be large and long-standing arrears.

The hon. Member for Angus, East asked whether a tenant would have the right to know the landlord's name. Automatically, if the tenant signs a lease agreement he must know with whom he has made the agreement and who has signed it. That applies whether the landlord is a person or a company.

There is no doubt that the proposal relating to assured and short tenancies will bring back into use a large number of houses for rent. We believe that that can only be to the good.

With regard to housing associations, this year the record amount of £132.74 million is being given to support them. The Government have more than trebled the resources for the movement since 1978–79. In the past six years, over £700 million has been made available to the movement, and that will certainly be continued. I believe that Scottish Homes will accelerate that progress. New housing association tenants will be subject to assured tenancies.

In that connection, the consultation document on the proposed new financial regime for housing associations makes it clear that public subsidy towards the capital cost of new development will be based on rent levels that are reasonable in proportion to the household income of the average prospective tenant. I emphasise that housing associations will be expected to charge reasonable and affordable rents. It will be for new tenants to assess their ability to pay the appropriate rent and to take into account any assistance available to them from housing benefit, bearing in mind that their rents will be determined by the housing association themselves.

I take issue with the hon. Member for Pollok, who talked about par-value co-ops and said that the district council got round the Secretary of State's obstruction. In fact, the Southdeen co-operative and the other five cooperatives in Glasgow were approved by the Secretary of State. His approval is necessary and is given to the disposal by the authority to the tenants of the houses concerned after careful consideration has been given to the funding arrangements. It is important that a success is made of each co-operative as it comes into existence. The new HAG regime will certainly be a flexible system in which considerable emphasis will be placed on discussion of individual projects between Scottish Homes and the housing associations concerned.

Opposition Members have failed to provide an alternative prescription to our proposals. I suggest that at heart they know the Bill that we offer is a sensible, moderate and beneficial way forward. Indeed, my hon. Friend the Member for Dumfries (Sir H. Monro) was quite right to say that Opposition Members were struggling to find reasons to oppose the Bill. A few years ago, the Labour party opposed the Tenants' Rights, Etc. (Scotland) Act 1980. Indeed, I recall a whole night in Committee when we fought for the rights of council house tenants to be established on the statute book. This Bill is a logical development of the proposals in that Act. Those policies have been highly successful and more than 106,000 tenants have purchased their homes. Choice, diversity and responsibility will be equally successful now.

I am proud that a Conservative Minister for Housing, Walter Elliot, created the Scottish Special Housing Association, which has greatly improved Scotland's housing stock. I believe that we are continuing the work that he started many years ago as a Glasgow Member. With the combined expertise of the SSHA and the Housing Corporation we can continue that improvement but at a much greater speed than ever before. The Bill will improve the quality of housing in Scotland and we have an inescapable duty.

Question put, That the amendment be made:—

The House divided: Ayes 210, Noes 313.

Division No. 126] [10 pm
Adams, Allen (Paisley N) Douglas, Dick
Allen, Graham Dunnachie, James
Anderson, Donald Dunwoody, Hon Mrs Gwyneth
Archer, Rt Hon Peter Eadie, Alexander
Armstrong, Ms Hilary Eastham, Ken
Ashley, Rt Hon Jack Evans, John (St Helens N)
Ashton, Joe Ewing, Harry (Falkirk E)
Banks, Tony (Newham NW) Fatchett, Derek
Barnes, Harry (Derbyshire NE) Fearn, Ronald
Barron, Kevin Field, Frank (Birkenhead)
Battle, John Fields, Terry (L'pool B G'n)
Beith, A. J. Fisher, Mark
Bell, Stuart Flannery, Martin
Benn, Rt Hon Tony Flynn, Paul
Bennett, A. F. (D'nt'n & R'dish) Foot, Rt Hon Michael
Bermingham, Gerald Foster, Derek
Bidwell, Sydney Fraser, John
Blair, Tony Fyfe, Mrs Maria
Blunkett, David Galbraith, Samuel
Boateng, Paul Galloway, George
Boyes, Roland Garrett, John (Norwich South)
Bradley, Keith Garrett, Ted (Wallsend)
Bray, Dr Jeremy Gilbert, Rt Hon Dr John
Brown, Gordon (D'mline E) Godman, Dr Norman A.
Bruce, Malcolm (Gordon) Golding, Mrs Llin
Buchan, Norman Gordon, Ms Mildred
Buckley, George Grant, Bernie (Tottenham)
Caborn, Richard Griffiths, Nigel (Edinburgh S)
Callaghan, Jim Griffiths, Win (Bridgend)
Campbell, Menzies (Fife NE) Grocott, Bruce
Campbell-Savours, D. N. Harman, Ms Harriet
Canavan, Dennis Hattersley, Rt Hon Roy
Carlile, Alex (Mont'g) Healey, Rt Hon Denis
Clarke, Tom (Monklands W) Heffer, Eric S.
Clay, Bob Henderson, Douglas
Clelland, David Hinchliffe, David
Clwyd, Mrs Ann Hogg, N. (C'nauld & Kilsyth)
Cohen, Harry Holland, Stuart
Coleman, Donald Home Robertson, John
Cook, Robin (Livingston) Hood, James
Corbett, Robin Howarth, George (Knowsley N)
Corbyn, Jeremy Howell, Rt Hon D. (S'heath)
Cousins, Jim Howells, Geraint
Cox, Tom Hoyle, Doug
Crowther, Stan Hughes, Robert (Aberdeen N)
Cryer, Bob Hughes, Roy (Newport E)
Cummings, J. Hughes, Sean (Knowsley S)
Cunliffe, Lawrence Hughes, Simon (Southwark)
Cunningham, Dr John Illsley, Eric
Dalyell, Tam Ingram, Adam
Darling, Alastair Janner, Greville
Davies, Ron (Caerphilly) John, Brynmor
Dewar, Donald Jones, Barry (Alyn & Deeside)
Dixon, Don Jones, Martyn (Clwyd S W)
Dobson, Frank Kaufman, Rt Hon Gerald
Doran, Frank Kennedy, Charles
Kinnock, Rt Hon Neil Quin, Ms Joyce
Kirkwood, Archy Radice, Giles
Lambie, David Randall, Stuart
Lamond, James Redmond, Martin
Leadbitter, Ted Rees, Rt Hon Merlyn
Leighton, Ron Reid, John
Litherland, Robert Richardson, Ms Jo
Livingstone, Ken Robertson, George
Livsey, Richard Robinson, Geoffrey
McAllion, John Rogers, Allan
McAvoy, Tom Rooker, Jeff
McCartney, Ian Ross, Ernie (Dundee W)
Macdonald, Calum Rowlands, Ted
McFall, John Ruddock, Ms Joan
McKay, Allen (Penistone) Salmond, Alex
McKelvey, William Sedgemore, Brian
McLeish, Henry Sheerman, Barry
McNamara, Kevin Shore, Rt Hon Peter
McTaggart, Bob Short, Clare
McWilliam, John Skinner, Dennis
Madden, Max Smith, Andrew (Oxford E)
Mahon, Mrs Alice Smith, C. (Isl'ton & F'bury)
Marek, Dr John Smith, Rt Hon J. (Monk'ds E)
Marshall, David (Shettleston) Snape, Peter
Martin, Michael (Springburn) Soley, Clive
Martlew, Eric Spearing, Nigel
Maxton, John Steel, Rt Hon David
Meacher, Michael Steinberg, Gerald
Meale, Alan Stott, Roger
Michael, Alun Strang, Gavin
Michie, Bill (Sheffield Heeley) Straw, Jack
Michie, Mrs Ray (Arg'l & Bute) Taylor, Mrs Ann (Dewsbury)
Millan, Rt Hon Bruce Taylor, Matthew (Truro)
Mitchell, Austin (G'f Grimsby) Thompson, Jack (Wansbeck)
Moonie, Dr Lewis Turner, Dennis
Morgan, Rhodri Vaz, Keith
Morley, Elliott Wall, Pat
Morris, Rt Hon J (Aberavon) Walley, Ms Joan
Mowlam, Marjorie Wardell, Gareth (Gower)
Mullin, Chris Wareing, Robert N.
Murphy, Paul Welsh, Andrew (Angus E)
Nellist, Dave Welsh, Michael (Doncaster N)
O'Brien, William Williams, Rt Hon A. J.
O'Neill, Martin Wilson, Brian
Orme, Rt Hon Stanley Winnick, David
Patchett, Terry Worthington, Anthony
Pendry, Tom Wray, James
Pike, Peter
Powell, Ray (Ogmore) Tellers for the Ayes:
Prescott, John Mr. Frank Haynes and
Primarolo, Ms Dawn Mr. Frank Cook.
Adley, Robert Boswell, Tim
Alexander, Richard Bottomley, Peter
Alison, Rt Hon Michael Bottomley, Mrs Virginia
Allason, Rupert Bowden, A (Brighton K'pto'n)
Amery, Rt Hon Julian Bowden, Gerald (Dulwich)
Amess, David Bowis, John
Amos, Alan Boyson, Rt Hon Dr Sir Rhodes
Arbuthnot, James Braine, Rt Hon Sir Bernard
Arnold, Jacques (Gravesham) Brandon-Bravo, Martin
Arnold, Tom (Hazel Grove) Brazier, Julian
Ashby, David Brittan, Rt Hon Leon
Atkins, Robert Brooke, Rt Hon Peter
Atkinson, David Brown, Michael (Brigg & Cl't's)
Baker, Rt Hon K. (Mole Valley) Browne, John (Winchester)
Baker, Nicholas (Dorset N) Bruce, Ian (Dorset South)
Baldry, Tony Buchanan-Smith, Rt Hon Alick
Banks, Robert (Harrogate) Buck, Sir Antony
Beaumont-Dark, Anthony Budgen, Nicholas
Bellingham, Henry Burns, Simon
Bendall, Vivian Burt, Alistair
Bennett, Nicholas (Pembroke) Butcher, John
Benyon, W. Butler, Chris
Bevan, David Gilroy Butterfill, John
Biffen, Rt Hon John Carlisle, John, (Luton N)
Biggs-Davison, Sir John Carlisle, Kenneth (Lincoln)
Blaker, Rt Hon Sir Peter Carrington, Matthew
Body, Sir Richard Carttiss, Michael
Cash, William Heseltine, Rt Hon Michael
Chalker, Rt Hon Mrs Lynda Hicks, Mrs Maureen (Wolv' NE)
Channon, Rt Hon Paul Higgins, Rt Hon Terence L.
Chapman, Sydney Hogg, Hon Douglas (Gr'th'm)
Chope, Christopher Holt, Richard
Churchill, Mr Hordern, Sir Peter
Clark, Hon Alan (Plym'th S'n) Howard, Michael
Clark, Dr Michael (Rochford) Howarth, Alan (Strat'd-on-A)
Clark, Sir W. (Croydon S) Howell, Rt Hon David (G'dford)
Clarke, Rt Hon K. (Rushcliffe) Hughes, Robert G. (Harrow W)
Conway, Derek Hunt, David (Wirral W)
Coombs, Anthony (Wyre F'rest) Hunt, John (Ravensbourne)
Coombs, Simon (Swindon) Hurd, Rt Hon Douglas
Cope, John Irvine, Michael
Cormack, Patrick Irving, Charles
Couchman, James Jack, Michael
Cran, James Jackson, Robert
Critchley, Julian Janman, Timothy
Currie, Mrs Edwina Jones, Gwilym (Cardiff N)
Curry, David Jones, Robert B (Herts W)
Davies, Q. (Stamf'd & Spald'g) Jopling, Rt Hon Michael
Davis, David (Boothferry) Kellett-Bowman, Mrs Elaine
Day, Stephen Key, Robert
Devlin, Tim King, Roger (B'ham N'thfield)
Dickens, Geoffrey Kirkhope, Timothy
Dicks, Terry Knapman, Roger
Dorrell, Stephen Knight, Greg (Derby North)
Douglas-Hamilton, Lord James Knowles, Michael
Dover, Den Knox, David
Dunn, Bob Lamont, Rt Hon Norman
Durant, Tony Lang, Ian
Dykes, Hugh Latham, Michael
Eggar, Tim Lawrence, Ivan
Evans, David (Welwyn Hatf'd) Lawson, Rt Hon Nigel
Evennett, David Lee, John (Pendle)
Fallon, Michael Leigh, Edward (Gainsbor'gh)
Favell, Tony Lennox-Boyd, Hon Mark
Fenner, Dame Peggy Lester, Jim (Broxtowe)
Field, Barry (Isle of Wight) Lightbown, David
Fookes, Miss Janet Lilley, Peter
Forman, Nigel Lloyd, Sir Ian (Havant)
Forsyth, Michael (Stirling) Lloyd, Peter (Fareham)
Forth, Eric Luce, Rt Hon Richard
Fowler, Rt Hon Norman McCrindle, Robert
Fox, Sir Marcus Macfarlane, Sir Neil
Franks, Cecil MacGregor, John
Freeman, Roger MacKay, Andrew (E Berkshire)
French, Douglas Maclean, David
Fry, Peter McLoughlin, Patrick
Gale, Roger McNair-Wilson, M. (Newbury)
Gardiner, George McNair-Wilson, P. (New Forest)
Gill, Christopher Madel, David
Gilmour, Rt Hon Sir Ian Major, Rt Hon John
Glyn, Dr Alan Malins, Humfrey
Goodhart, Sir Philip Maples, John
Goodlad, Alastair Marland, Paul
Goodson-Wickes, Dr Charles Marlow, Tony
Gorman, Mrs Teresa Marshall, John (Hendon S)
Gow, Ian Marshall, Michael (Arundel)
Gower, Sir Raymond Martin, David (Portsmouth S)
Grant, Sir Anthony (CambsSW) Mates, Michael
Greenway, Harry (Ealing N) Maxwell-Hyslop, Robin
Greenway, John (Rydale) Mayhew, Rt Hon Sir Patrick
Gregory, Conal Mellor, David
Griffiths, Peter (Portsmouth N) Meyer, Sir Anthony
Grist, Ian Miller, Hal
Ground, Patrick Mills, Iain
Grylls, Michael Mitchell, Andrew (Gedling)
Hamilton, Hon A. (Epsom) Mitchell, David (Hants NW)
Hampson, Dr Keith Moate, Roger
Hanley, Jeremy Monro, Sir Hector
Hannam, John Montgomery, Sir Fergus
Hargreaves, A. (B'ham H'll Gr') Moore, Rt Hon John
Hargreaves, Ken (Hyndburn) Morrison, Sir Charles (Devizes)
Harris, David Morrison, Hon P (Chester)
Hawkins, Christopher Moss, Malcolm
Hayes, Jerry Moynihan, Hon C.
Hayhoe, Rt Hon Sir Barney Mudd, David
Heathcoat-Amory, David Neale, Gerrard
Heddle, John Needham, Richard
Nelson, Anthony Stanley, Rt Hon John
Neubert, Michael Steen, Anthony
Newton, Rt Hon Tony Stern, Michael
Nicholls, Patrick Stewart, Allan (Eastwood)
Nicholson, David (Taunton) Stewart, Andrew (Sherwood)
Nicholson, Miss E. (Devon W) Stradling Thomas, Sir John
Onslow, Rt Hon Cranley Sumberg, David
Oppenheim, Phillip Summerson, Hugo
Page, Richard Tapsell, Sir Peter
Paice, James Taylor, Ian (Esher)
Patnick, Irvine Taylor, John M (Solihull)
Patten, Chris (Bath) Taylor, Teddy (S'end E)
Patten, John (Oxford W) Tebbit, Rt Hon Norman
Pattie, Rt Hon Sir Geoffrey Thompson, D. (Calder Valley)
Pawsey, James Thompson, Patrick (Norwich N)
Peacock, Mrs Elizabeth Thorne, Neil
Porter, David (Waveney) Thornton, Malcolm
Portillo, Michael Thurnham, Peter
Powell, William (Corby) Townend, John (Bridlington)
Raffan, Keith Townsend, Cyril D. (B'heath)
Raison, Rt Hon Timothy Tracey, Richard
Redwood, John Tredinnick, David
Renton, Tim Trippier, David
Rhodes James, Robert Twinn, Dr Ian
Rhys Williams, Sir Brandon Vaughan, Sir Gerard
Riddick, Graham Waddington, Rt Hon David
Ridley, Rt Hon Nicholas Wakeham, Rt Hon John
Rifkind, Rt Hon Malcolm Waldegrave, Hon William
Roberts, Wyn (Conwy) Walker, Bill (T'side North)
Roe, Mrs Marion Walker, Rt Hon P. (W'cester)
Rost, Peter Waller, Gary
Rowe, Andrew Walters, Dennis
Rumbold, Mrs Angela Ward, John
Ryder, Richard Wardle, C. (Bexhill)
Sackville, Hon Tom Warren, Kenneth
Sainsbury, Hon Tim Watts, John
Sayeed, Jonathan Wheeler, John
Scott, Nicholas Whitney, Ray
Shaw, David (Dover) Widdecombe, Miss Ann
Shaw, Sir Michael (Scarb') Wiggin, Jerry
Shepherd, Colin (Hereford) Wilshire, David
Shepherd, Richard (Aldridge) Winterton, Mrs Ann
Shersby, Michael Winterton, Nicholas
Sims, Roger Wolfson, Mark
Skeet, Sir Trevor Wood, Timothy
Smith, Tim (Beaconsfield) Woodcock, Mike
Soames, Hon Nicholas Yeo, Tim
Speed, Keith Young, Sir George (Acton)
Spicer, Sir Jim (Dorset W)
Spicer, Michael (S Worcs) Tellers for the Noes:
Squire, Robin Mr. Robert Boscawen and
Stanbrook, Ivor Mr. Tristan Garel-Jones.

Question accordingly negatived.

Main Question put forthwith, pursuant to Standing Order No. 60 (Amendment on Second or Third reading):

The House divided: Ayes 315, Noes 210.

Division No. 127] [10.15 pm
Adley, Robert Bendall, Vivian
Alexander, Richard Bennett, Nicholas (Pembroke)
Alison, Rt Hon Michael Benyon, W.
Allason, Rupert Bevan, David Gilroy
Amery, Rt Hon Julian Biffen, Rt Hon John
Amess, David Biggs-Davison, Sir John
Amos, Alan Blaker, Rt Hon Sir Peter
Arbuthnot, James Body, Sir Richard
Arnold, Jacques (Gravesham) Boswell, Tim
Arnold, Tom (Hazel Grove) Bottomley, Peter
Ashby, David Bottomley, Mrs Virginia
Atkins, Robert Bowden, A (Brighton K'pto'n)
Atkinson, David Bowden, Gerald (Dulwich)
Baker, Rt Hon K. (Mole Valley) Bowis, John
Baker, Nicholas (Dorset N) Boyson, Rt Hon Dr Sir Rhodes
Baldry, Tony Braine, Rt Hon Sir Bernard
Banks, Robert (Harrogate) Brandon-Bravo, Martin
Beaumont-Dark, Anthony Brazier, Julian
Bellingham, Henry Brittan, Rt Hon Leon
Brooke, Rt Hon Peter Griffiths, Peter (Portsmouth N)
Brown, Michael (Brigg & Cl't's) Grist, Ian
Browne, John (Winchester) Ground, Patrick
Bruce, Ian (Dorset South) Grylls, Michael
Buchanan-Smith, Rt Hon Alick Hamilton, Hon A. (Epsom)
Buck, Sir Antony Hampson, Dr Keith
Budgen, Nicholas Hanley, Jeremy
Burns, Simon Hannam, John
Burt, Alistair Hargreaves, A. (B'ham H'll Gr')
Butcher, John Hargreaves, Ken (Hyndburn)
Butler, Chris Harris, David
Butterfill, John Hawkins, Christopher
Carlisle, John, (Luton N) Hayes, Jerry
Carlisle, Kenneth (Lincoln) Hayhoe, Rt Hon Sir Barney
Carrington, Matthew Heathcoat-Amory, David
Carttiss, Michael Heddle, John
Cash, William Heseltine, Rt Hon Michael
Chalker, Rt Hon Mrs Lynda Hicks, Mrs Maureen (Wolv' NE)
Channon, Rt Hon Paul Higgins, Rt Hon Terence L.
Chapman, Sydney Hogg, Hon Douglas (Gr'th'm)
Chope, Christopher Holt, Richard
Churchill, Mr Hordern, Sir Peter
Clark, Hon Alan (Plym'th S'n) Howard, Michael
Clark, Dr Michael (Rochford) Howarth, Alan (Strat'd-on-A)
Clark, Sir W. (Croydon S) Howell, Rt Hon David (G'dford)
Clarke, Rt Hon K. (Rushcliffe) Hughes, Robert G. (Harrow W)
Conway, Derek Hunt, David (Wirral W)
Coombs, Anthony (Wyre F'rest) Hunt, John (Ravensbourne)
Coombs, Simon (Swindon) Hurd, Rt Hon Douglas
Cope, John Irvine, Michael
Cormack, Patrick Irving, Charles
Couchman, James Jack, Michael
Cran, James Jackson, Robert
Critchley, Julian Janman, Timothy
Currie, Mrs Edwina Jones, Gwilym (Cardiff N)
Curry, David Jones, Robert B (Herts W)
Davies, Q. (Stamf'd & Spald'g) Jopling. Rt Hon Michael
Davis, David (Boothferry) Kellett-Bowman, Mrs Elaine
Day, Stephen Key, Robert
Devlin, Tim King, Roger (B'ham N'thfield)
Dickens, Geoffrey Kirkhope, Timothy
Dicks, Terry Knapman, Roger
Dorrell, Stephen Knight, Greg (Derby North)
Douglas-Hamilton, Lord James Knowles, Michael
Dover, Den Knox, David
Dunn, Bob Lamont, Rt Hon Norman
Durant, Tony Lang, Ian
Dykes, Hugh Latham, Michael
Eggar, Tim Lawrence, Ivan
Evans, David (Welwyn Hatf'd) Lawson, Rt Hon Nigel
Evennett, David Lee, John (Pendle)
Fallon, Michael Leigh, Edward (Gainsbor'gh)
Favell, Tony Lennox-Boyd, Hon Mark
Fenner, Dame Peggy Lester, Jim (Broxtowe)
Field, Barry (Isle of Wight) Lightbown, David
Fookes, Miss Janet Lilley, Peter
Forman, Nigel Lloyd, Sir Ian (Havant)
Forsyth, Michael (Stirling) Lloyd, Peter (Fareham)
Forth, Eric Luce, Rt Hon Richard
Fowler, Rt Hon Norman McCrindle, Robert
Fox, Sir Marcus Macfarlane, Sir Neil
Franks, Cecil MacGregor, John
Freeman, Roger MacKay, Andrew (E Berkshire)
French, Douglas Maclean, David
Fry, Peter McLoughlin, Patrick
Gale, Roger McNair-Wilson, M. (Newbury)
Gardiner, George McNair-Wilson, P. (New Forest)
Gill, Christopher Madel, David
Gilmour, Rt Hon Sir Ian Major, Rt Hon John
Glyn, Dr Alan Malins, Humfrey
Goodhart, Sir Philip Maples, John
Goodlad, Alastair Marland, Paul
Goodson-Wickes, Dr Charles Marlow, Tony
Gorman, Mrs Teresa Marshall, John (Hendon S)
Gow, Ian Marshall, Michael (Arundel)
Gower, Sir Raymond Martin, David (Portsmouth S)
Grant, Sir Anthony (CambsSW) Mates, Michael
Greenway, Harry (Ealing N) Maxwell-Hyslop, Robin
Greenway, John (Rydale) Mayhew, Rt Hon Sir Patrick
Gregory, Conal Mellor, David
Meyer, Sir Anthony Smith, Tim (Beaconsfield)
Miller, Hal Soames, Hon Nicholas
Mills, Iain Speed, Keith
Mitchell, Andrew (Gedling) Speller, Tony
Mitchell, David (Hants NW) Spicer, Sir Jim (Dorset W)
Moate, Roger Spicer, Michael (S Worcs)
Monro, Sir Hector Squire, Robin
Montgomery, Sir Fergus Stanbrook, Ivor
Moore, Rt Hon John Stanley, Rt Hon John
Morrison, Sir Charles (Devizes) Steen, Anthony
Morrison, Hon P (Chester) Stern, Michael
Moss, Malcolm Stewart, Allan (Eastwood)
Moynihan, Hon C. Stewart, Andrew (Sherwood)
Mudd, David Stradling Thomas, Sir John
Neale, Gerrard Sumberg, David
Needham, Richard Summerson, Hugo
Nelson, Anthony Tapsell, Sir Peter
Neubert, Michael Taylor, Ian (Esher)
Newton, Rt Hon Tony Taylor, John M (Solihull)
Nicholls, Patrick Taylor, Teddy (S'end E)
Nicholson, David (Taunton) Tebbit, Rt Hon Norman
Nicholson, Miss E. (Devon W) Thompson, D. (Calder Valley)
Onslow, Rt Hon Cranley Thompson, Patrick (Norwich N)
Oppenheim, Phillip Thorne, Neil
Page, Richard Thornton, Malcolm
Paice, James Thurnham, Peter
Patnick, Irvine Townend, John (Bridlington)
Patten, Chris (Bath) Townsend, Cyril D. (B'heath)
Patten, John (Oxford W) Tracey, Richard
Pattie, Rt Hon Sir Geoffrey Tredinnick, David
Pawsey, James Trippier, David
Peacock, Mrs Elizabeth Twinn, Dr Ian
Porter, David (Waveney) Vaughan, Sir Gerard
Portillo, Michael Waddington, Rt Hon David
Powell, William (Corby) Wakeham, Rt Hon John
Raffan, Keith Waldegrave, Hon William
Raison, Rt Hon Timothy Walker, Bill (T'side North)
Redwood, John Walker, Rt Hon P. (W'cester)
Renton, Tim Waller, Gary
Rhodes James, Robert Walters, Dennis
Rhys Williams, Sir Brandon Ward, John
Riddick, Graham Wardle, C. (Bexhill)
Ridley, Rt Hon Nicholas Warren, Kenneth
Rifkind, Rt Hon Malcolm Watts, John
Roberts, Wyn (Conwy) Wheeler, John
Roe, Mrs Marion Whitney, Ray
Rost, Peter Widdecombe, Miss Ann
Rowe, Andrew Wiggin, Jerry
Rumbold, Mrs Angela Wilshire, David
Ryder, Richard Winterton, Mrs Ann
Sackville, Hon Tom Winterton, Nicholas
Sainsbury, Hon Tim Wolfson, Mark
Sayeed, Jonathan Wood, Timothy
Scott, Nicholas Woodcock, Mike
Shaw, David (Dover) Yeo, Tim
Shaw, Sir Michael (Scarb') Young, Sir George (Acton)
Shepherd, Colin (Hereford)
Shepherd, Richard (Aldridge) Tellers for the Ayes:
Shersby, Michael Mr. Robert Boscawen and
Sims, Roger Mr. Tristan Garel-Jones.
Skeet, Sir Trevor
Adams, Allen (Paisley N) Blair, Tony
Allen, Graham Blunkett, David
Anderson, Donald Boateng, Paul
Archer, Rt Hon Peter Boyes, Roland
Armstrong, Ms Hilary Bradley, Keith
Ashley, Rt Hon Jack Bray, Dr Jeremy
Ashton, Joe Brown, Gordon (D'mline E)
Banks, Tony (Newham NW) Bruce, Malcolm (Gordon)
Barnes, Harry (Derbyshire NE) Buchan, Norman
Barron, Kevin Buckley, George
Battle, John Caborn, Richard
Beith, A. J. Callaghan, Jim
Bell, Stuart Campbell, Menzies (Fife NE)
Benn, Rt Hon Tony Campbell-Savours, D. N.
Bennett, A. F. (D'nt'n & R'dish) Canavan, Dennis
Bermingham, Gerald Carlile, Alex (Mont'g)
Bidwell, Sydney Clarke, Tom (Monklands W)
Clay, Bob Hughes, Sean (Knowsley S)
Clelland, David Hughes, Simon (Southwark)
Clwyd, Mrs Ann Illsley, Eric
Cohen, Harry Ingram, Adam
Coleman, Donald Janner, Greville
Cook, Robin (Livingston) John, Brynmor
Corbett, Robin Jones, Barry (Alyn & Deeside)
Corbyn, Jeremy Jones, Martyn (Clwyd S W)
Cousins, Jim Kaufman, Rt Hon Gerald
Cox, Tom Kennedy, Charles
Crowther, Stan Kinnock, Rt Hon Neil
Cryer, Bob Kirkwood, Archy
Cummings, J. Lambie, David
Cunliffe, Lawrence Lamond, James
Cunningham, Dr John Leadbitter, Ted
Dalyell, Tam Leighton, Ron
Darling, Alastair Litherland, Robert
Davies, Ron (Caerphilly) Livingstone, Ken
Dewar, Donald Livsey, Richard
Dixon, Don McAllion, John
Dobson, Frank McAvoy, Tom
Doran, Frank McCartney, Ian
Douglas, Dick Macdonald, Calum
Dunnachie, James McFall, John
Dunwoody, Hon Mrs Gwyneth McKay, Allen (Penistone)
Eadie, Alexander McKelvey, William
Eastham, Ken McLeish, Henry
Evans, John (St Helens N) McNamara, Kevin
Ewing, Harry (Falkirk E) McTaggart, Bob
Fatchett, Derek McWilliam, John
Fearn, Ronald Madden, Max
Field, Frank (Birkenhead) Mahon, Mrs Alice
Fields, Terry (L'pool B G'n) Marek, Dr John
Fisher, Mark Marshall, David (Shettleston)
Flannery, Martin Martin, Michael (Springburn)
Flynn, Paul Martlew, Eric
Foot, Rt Hon Michael Maxton, John
Foster, Derek Meacher, Michael
Fraser, John Meale, Alan
Fyfe, Mrs Maria Michael, Alun
Galbraith, Samuel Michie, Bill (Sheffield Heeley)
Galloway, George Michie, Mrs Ray (Arg'l & Bute)
Garrett, John (Norwich South) Millan, Rt Hon Bruce
Garrett, Ted (Wallsend) Mitchell, Austin (G't Grimsby)
Gilbert, Rt Hon Dr John Moonie, Dr Lewis
Godman, Dr Norman A. Morgan, Rhodri
Golding, Mrs Llin Morley, Elliott
Gordon, Ms Mildred Morris, Rt Hon J (Aberavon)
Grant, Bernie (Tottenham) Mowlam, Marjorie
Griffiths, Nigel (Edinburgh S) Mullin, Chris
Griffiths, Win (Bridgend) Murphy, Paul
Grocott, Bruce Nellist, Dave
Harman, Ms Harriet O'Brien, William
Hattersley, Rt Hon Roy O'Neill, Martin
Healey, Rt Hon Denis Orme, Rt Hon Stanley
Heffer, Eric S. Patchett, Terry
Henderson, Douglas Pendry, Tom
Hinchliffe, David Pike, Peter
Hogg, N. (C'nauld & Kilsyth) Powell, Ray (Ogmore)
Holland, Stuart Prescott, John
Home Robertson, John Primarolo, Ms Dawn
Hood, James Quin, Ms Joyce
Howarth, George (Knowsley N) Radice, Giles
Howell, Rt Hon D. (S'heath) Randall, Stuart
Howells, Geraint Redmond, Martin
Hoyle, Doug Rees, Rt Hon Merlyn
Hughes, Robert (Aberdeen N) Reid, John
Hughes, Roy (Newport E) Richardson, Ms Jo
Robertson, George Strang, Gavin
Robinson, Geoffrey Straw, Jack
Rogers, Allan Taylor, Mrs Ann (Dewsbury)
Rooker, Jeff Taylor, Matthew (Truro)
Ross, Ernie (Dundee W) Thompson, Jack (Wansbeck)
Rowlands, Ted Turner, Dennis
Ruddock, Ms Joan Vaz, Keith
Salmond, Alex Wall, Pat
Sedgemore, Brian Walley, Ms Joan
Sheerman, Barry Wardell, Gareth (Gower)
Shore, Rt Hon Peter Wareing, Robert N.
Short, Clare Welsh, Andrew (Angus E)
Skinner, Dennis Welsh, Michael (Doncaster N)
Smith, Andrew (Oxford E) Williams, Rt Hon A. J.
Smith, C. (Isl'ton & F'bury) Wilson, Brian
Smith, Rt Hon J. (Monk'ds E) Winnick, David
Snape, Peter Worthington, Anthony
Soley, Clive Wray, James
Spearing, Nigel
Steel, Rt Hon David Tellers for the Noes:
Steinberg, Gerald Mr. Frank Haynes and
Stott, Roger Mr. Frank Cook.

Question accordingly agreed to.

Bill read a Second time and committed to a Standing Committee, pursuant to Standing Order No. 61 (Committal of Bills).