HC Deb 11 November 1992 vol 213 cc868-9
7. Mr. Evennett

To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment how he proposes to extend compulsory competitive tendering to the management of council housing.

The Minister for Housing and Planning (Sir George Young)

The Government's proposals for extending compulsory competitive tendering to housing management were set out in the consultation paper "Competing for Quality in Housing".

Mr. Evennett

I am grateful to my hon. Friend for his reply. Does he agree that many tenants in London cannot wait to be free of local authority control, particularly in areas where there are Labour local authorities whose management of council housing has been so poor? Will my hon. Friend confirm that he will act to prevent local authorities avoiding putting housing management out to tender? Many Conservative Members are very concerned about that issue.

Sir George Young

Our view is that local authority tenants are entitled to the best possible service within the available resources. We do not believe that that is happening at the moment. We believe that our proposals for CCT for housing management will enhance and improve the standard of service that many tenants receive and that they have the most to gain from our proposals.

Mr. Raynsford

Will the Minister confirm that, in preparation for the consultation paper to which he referred, the consultants hired by his Department talked to approximately 30 local authorities and 30 private contractors but did not talk to a single tenant or tenants' organisation? Having failed entirely to consult tenants before producing his proposals, will he confirm that the tenants have reacted by rejecting them decisively? Will he guarantee the House that, before taking any further action, he will listen to and heed the views of council tenants?

Sir George Young

The House should know that more than 100 tenants' organisations responded to the consultation document. It is not the case that their views have been overlooked. Many of them look forward to higher standards of management on their estates. For the first time, tenants will have a statutory right to take over the management of their estates. Many of them cannot wait to take over management of their estates from their local authorities.

Mr. Patrick Thompson

Will my hon. Friend reassure the very large number of council tenants in my constituency of Norwich, North, many of whom face serious housing difficulties, that the proposals really are to their advantage? If that is the case, will he condemn those members of the Labour party in Norwich who are issuing leaflets and trying to scare people—as is their usual practice?

Sir George Young

I am disturbed to hear that my hon. Friend's local authority is raising needless anxiety among tenants. We have already invited seven local authorities to pilot the arrangements for us in advance of the legislation. One of the local authorities is Labour controlled. There is considerable enthusiasm among many local authorities to use the new facilities to drive up the standards that they are receiving at present from their work forces. We have tried that in other local authority areas and have secured welcome improvements in quality and welcome reductions in costs. We see no reason why local authority tenants should not benefit from this extension of a principle which is already well established.

Rev. Martin Smyth

Will the boon that has been suggested for council tenants be extended to tenants of housing associations or quangos, such as the Northern Ireland Housing Executive?

Sir George Young

My right hon. and learned Friend the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland will have heard or will quite soon hear that question. I am sure that the hon. Gentleman will have an answer very soon.