HC Deb 09 November 1988 vol 140 cc295-6
8. Mr. Ingram

To ask the Secretary of State for Scotland if he will make a statement about progress with the establishment of Scottish Homes.

Lord James Douglas-Hamilton

Under the Housing (Scotland) Act Scottish Homes will be established formally on 1 December 1988. The chairman, chief executive and eight additional members of the Scottish Homes board have now been appointed.

Mr. Ingram

The Minister is pressing on with his intention to wind up public sector housing in Scotland, but does he think that it is democratic to transfer the control of housing stock from one housing body to another without consulting the tenants, as occurred recently in the Borders? Is it democratic to refuse direct representation for the 83,000 Scottish Special Housing Association tenants of Scottish Homes?

Lord James Douglas-Hamilton

Tenancies in the Borders have not been transferred. What is at stake is a management agreement. The SSHA has a number of management agreements with district councils. The SSHA is perfectly entitled to have them, but it is under an obligation to ensure that a very good service is provided. All that most tenants of Scottish Homes will notice is a change of name. They will have the same rights and their rents will be fixed in the same way. Furthermore, the tenants will deal with the same people as they dealt with in the past.

Mr. Ron Brown

As many SSHA tenants have been conned into buying their substandard homes, will the Minister agree to meet a delegation of their representatives before Scottish Homes comes into existence?

Lord James Douglas-Hamilton

I am not quite sure what the hon. Gentleman wants me to see a delegation about, but the rights that SSHA tenants now enjoy will be maintained and will continue. Scottish Homes is designed to encourage and bring about urban regeneration by means of a much faster and more efficient process than has been used in the past.

Mr. Gerald Howarth

Will my hon. Friend confirm that public sector investment in public housing in Scotland has increased by 16 per cent. under this Government, whereas it fell by 37 per cent. in real terms when the Labour party was in power? Therefore, the Opposition have no right to complain about my hon. Friend's performance.

Lord James Douglas-Hamilton

Public sector investment has increased substantially since 1979. The recent supplementary allocation for public sector spending on public sector housing in Scotland has amounted to an increase of more than £30 million in the past year.

Mr. Home Robertson

I do not know who is handing out these daft supplementary questions to English Back Benchers on the Government side of the House, but will the Minister confirm that he is encouraging the SSHA to transfer the management, and in due course the ownership, of SSHA houses in various areas to private interests? Does he recall an assurance given in the House on 11 January by the Secretary of State for Scotland that no indvidual SSHA tenant would be compulsorily transferred to a high-rent, low-security tenancy in the private sector? Since it would have been unparliamentary for the Secretary of State to have lied to the House at that time, will the Minister tell us what those assurances really meant?

Lord James Douglas-Hamilton

With regard to tenants' choice, my right hon. and learned Friend said that every commitment he has made will be adhered to and stood by. There have been voluntary disposals of tenancies by local authorities for many years, including the setting up of co-operatives. If subsequently there should be a proposal to change the ownership of Waverley housing trust, tenants will be given the statutory right to be consulted. That statutory right is to be debated later today.