HC Deb 09 February 1993 vol 218 cc935-49

'( )—For section 27 of the 1985 Act (management agreements) there shall be substituted the following section—

"27.—(1) Subject to the provisions of section 27A, a local housing authority may agree that another person shall exercise as agent of the authority in relation to—

  1. (a) such of the authority's houses as are specified in the agreement, and
  2. (b) any other land so specified which is held for a related purpose
such of the authority's management functions as are so specified.

(2) In this Act 'management agreement' and 'manager', in relation to such an agreement, means an agreement under this section and the person with whom the agreement is made.

(3) A management agreement shall set out the terms on which the authority's functions are exercisable by the manager.

(4) A management agreement may, where the manager is a body or association, provide that the manager's functions under the agreement may be performed by a committee or sub-committee, or by an officer, of the body or association.

(5) References in this section to the management functions of a local housing authority in relation to houses or land include—

  1. (a) functions conferred by a statutory provision, and
  2. (b) the powers and duties of the authority as holder of an estate or interest in the houses or land in question.".'.—[Mr. Battle.]

Brought up, and read the First time

Mr. Battle

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

Mr. Deputy Speaker

I understand that it will be convenient to discuss at the same time the following: New clause 9—Consultation required before management can be entered into

'( )—For section 27A of the 1985 Act (Consultation required before management agreement can be approved) there shall be substituted the following sections—

"27A. (1) A local housing authority who propose to enter into a management agreement shall serve notice in writing on the tenant of each house to which the proposal relates informing him of—

  1. (a) such details of their proposal as the authority consider appropriate, but including the identity of the person who is to be the manager under the agreement and the standards of service proposed to be required by the agreement
  2. (b) the likely consequences of the agreement for the tenant, and
  3. (c) the effect of the provisions of this section,
and informing him that he may, within such reasonable period as may be specified in the notice, make representations to the authority.

(2) The authority shall consider any representations made to them within that period and shall serve a further written notice on the tenant informing him—

  1. (a) of any significant changes in their proposal, and
  2. (b) that he may within such period as is specified (which must be at least 28 days after the service of the notice) communicate to the authority his objection to the proposal,
and informing him of the effect of subsection (3) (approval to be withheld if majority of tenants are opposed).

(3) The authority shall not enter into the management agreement if it appears to them that a majority of the tenants of the houses to which the agreement relates do not wish the proposal to proceed. (4) In the case of secure tenants the provisions of this section apply in place of the provisions of section 105 (consultation on matters of housing management) in relation to the making of a management agreement.".'.

Amendment No. 115, in clause 115, leave out lines 15 to 43.

Amendment No. 115, in clause 116, line 44, leave out from beginning to end of line 5 on page 117.

Amendment No. 116, line 13, at end insert 'and shall not enter into any agreement that has not received majority support of those tenants who have been consulted.'.

Mr. Battle

We now move to part II of the Bill, which deals with public tenancies and local authority housing. It is ironic that under part I the Government argued for giving tenants rights, but tonight they have drawn back from that, despite an assurance that was given in Committee, and have suggested that rather more was on offer at first sight than has proved to be the case.

Clauses 115 and 116, which originally were clauses 113 to 115, pave the way for the compulsory competitive tendering of housing management and remove tenants' rights to be consulted and their veto over the contracting out of the management of their homes. Under section 105 of the Housing Act 1985, tenants have the right to be consulted on all matters reflecting housing management, but the Bill removes that right in order to extend CCT. It seems that the only purpose of CCT is to remove tenants' rights.

Under section 27 and 27A of the Housing Act, a local authority may contract out any of its housing management functions only after consulting tenants and obtaining the Secretary of State's consent. Consent shall not be given if it appears that the majority of tenants are opposed. The Bill gives the Secretary of State powers to make regulations delegating arrangements for approving management agreements to local authorities and proposes to remove the requirement that a management agreement cannot be approved if a majority of tenants oppose it. We oppose that diminution in hard-won tenants' rights, because we believe that tenants should be given that primary right. We hope that the Government will not remove those passages from the Bill.

Interestingly, the rubric of clause 115 says "Management agreements" and the rubric to clause 116 says Consultation with respect to management agreements". I argue that the rubric should read, "rights with respect to management agreements", to enshrine tenants' rights in law. I gather that more than 100 tenants' organisations responded to the Government's consultation paper, "Competing for Quality", and all opposed the removal of their primary right to have a say in what happens to their housing management. Tenants and their organisations are clear that their rights are being taken away by the abolition of the provision for consultation that was enshrined in the 1985 Act. Surely, as users of local authority housing management services, tenants should be the final arbiters of whether CCT should benefit them. It should be up to them to take the decision about who manages their homes, because such decisions are no less important than decisions on ownership.

New clause 8 is intended completely to replace clause 115. It will allow a local authority to enter into a management agreement with some other body to manage its housing stock after consultation with tenants, individually and collectively, provided that the majority of tenants affected are not opposed. That is intended to replace current provisions, under which the Secretary of State must give his consent to each agreement. Under the Bill, the Secretary of State may give a general consent, but the stipulation that a majority of tenants should not be opposed is effectively removed. We want to put the power back where it belongs—at local level—rather than hand more to the Secretary of State.

New clause 9 would require consultation to take place before a management agreement could be entered into. It would replace completely the existing clause 116 in order to reinstate the requirement that tenants are consulted individually on any proposed management agreement and the requirement that the agreement may not be entered into if a majority of tenants are opposed to it. It would also require the local authority to notify tenants of the identity of the proposed manager and of the terms of the agreement, a requirement which is in the existing legislation but which is to be deleted by clause 116.

We hope that the Government will respect tenants' rights. We believe that the tenants' right under the Housing Act 1985 to be consulted and to be able to veto the extension of compulsory competitive tendering for their housing management should be fundamental. We are opposed to its removal because nothing is more important to tenants than the management of their homes.

The process should be tenant-led and tenant-driven. The tenants should be involved from the outset instead of the process being Secretary of State-led. The provisions run counter to its being tenant-led and tenant-driven and they undercut tenants' rights. Under the present clauses, tenants will not necessarily have the final say in who manages their homes.

It is worth pointing out that the National Housing Forum, which brings together all the key organisations involved in promoting access to decent homes for all, said: The Forum is deeply concerned that the Housing and Urban Development Bill contains clauses which will remove existing tenants' rights to veto the introduction of CCT to the management of their homes. It feels that tenants should be able to decide if CCT is the best option for their housing. The National Tenants and Residents Federation, severally and individually through its member organisations, has submitted numerous petitions to the House to beg the Government to leave their primary right to a veto in statute.

One petition states: The Humble Petition of local authority tenants of councils in England and Wales Sheweth That Section 105 of the Housing Act 1985, part of the original Tenants Charter of the Housing Act 1980, gives a most important right to council tenants in England and Wales in that it obliges their landlord authority to consult them on matters of housing management. The right of tenants to be consulted and to have their views taken into account when any subsequent decision is made is the foundation for tenant participation in housing management. Wherefore your Petitioners pray that your honourable House: Will instruct the Government to make no amendment to reduce tenant's rights under section 105, Housing Act 1985 … and to therefore strike out what then was Clause 114". The new clause would satisfy that petition. I hope that the Government will take note of it and of the fact that more than 5,000 tenants, representing tenants' organisations, petitioned the House on 3 December to let hon. Members know exactly what they thought of proposals to reduce tenants' rights to consultation. National tenants' organisations and the National Tenants and Residents Federation have organised petitioning of the House to say that they wanted to retain that primary right.

The new clause would reinstate the right and would interpret the Government's intentions more positively. The Government offer hollow talk of the right to manage, but, in legislation, they remove rather than enhance tenants' rights. The Bill flies in the face of sentiments expressed in the tenants charter because, in practice, the Government are undermining tenants' rights.

Tenants' rights should be extended, not withdrawn. Tenants should have the final say in who manages their homes. If they are dissatisfied with the service, they should be collectively free to choose other social landlords—not only private companies—to provide an alternative.

If they are satisfied with the current service, they should be spared the costly process of tendering. In other words, any trigger for tendering should be in the hands of tenants and not in those of the Government or the Secretary of State. I hope that the Minister will accept the new clause.

10.45 pm
Sir Teddy Taylor (Southend, East)

I appreciate that Ministers have fought hard for an excellent Bill and have achieved a great deal against mighty odds. I congratulate them on what has been achieved, although the Bill does not go so far as some of us would wish.

I hope that the implications of the new clause will be considered carefully; we do not want it to distort what is already not a particularly level playing field. In my constituency there are a number of retirement leaseholders of properties built by McCarthy and Stone, a company of which hon. Members may have heard. These leaseholders do not have the right of consultation. Indeed, they have no rights when it comes to deciding who will manage their properties. The management company that is determined by the property developer is a subsidiary of that company.

Council tenants have the right to decide and the right also of full consultation, while retired people—innocent people who, in my view, have been taken in to some degree by private developers—do not have the right to decide. Instead, they have to accept a management company that is owned by the developer.

Tenants of council properties ar being given more and more rights, but someone who buys a retirement leasehold flat has to sign a document that states that, if he sells the property, 1 per cent. of the proceeds will be returned to the developer. The development companies have fought hard to stop the rights of retirement leaseholders being extended. They have opposed the proposal that the leaseholders should have the right to enfranchise their leaseholds, which is something for which Ministers have fought hard.

If the new clause is to be accepted, I hope that my hon. Friend the Minister will bear much in mind the persecution of retired, elderly people who are buying properties from companies such as McCarthy and Stone and who are deprived of the right to decide which company will manage their property. They are instead instructed to take on a company that is a subsidiary of the development company. The terms that are set out in their leases can be described only as oppressive.

I hope that the hon. Member for Leeds, West (Mr. Battle), who introduced the new clause so fairly and so well, will accept that there must be a level playing field. It cannot be right if one group has many justifiable rights while others have hardly any rights.

If my hon. Friend the Minister is prepared to accept the new clause, or even if he is about to say that he will consider it carefully, I hope that he will give me the simple assurance that he will examine the deprivation of rights and entitlements that is suffered by a substantial group of retired and elderly people who seem to have no one to fight for them. They seem to have been prevented from securing a fair deal. I hope that my hon. Friend the Minister will say that he will try to ensure that there will be a level playing field and that private leaseholders will be able to obtain some rights that compare with the justifiable rights of council tenants to which the hon. Member for Leeds, West referred.

Perhaps my hon. Friend will go so far as to say that he will be pleased to meet two or three representatives from developments such as Homecove house and Homeground house at Southend, where residents have fought hard to establish the rights—not great rights or privileges—that are available to every householder or tenant in other properties. If my hon. Friend is prepared to give such an assurance, there is no reason why he should not look upon the new clause with some favour.

I hope that my hon. Friend the Minister will work hard to ensure that there is a level playing field and that one group does not have all the rights while others are persecuted, deprived and exploited.

Mr. Clive Soley (Hammersmith)

It is encouraging to see the hon. Member for Southend, East (Sir T. Taylor) point so effectively to the huge hole in the middle of the Government's legislation. Of course, the Bill is not really about tenants' rights, and that is the sad aspect. My hon. Friend the Member for Leeds, West (Mr. Battle)—I gladly support his new clause—made the case for improving tenants' rights, inasmuch as the Government have gone down that road, but the real hollowness of the legislation is shown by the hon. Member for Southend, East.

Many of my hon. Friends and I have argued for years that the crucial issue is the management of rented property, regardless of to whom it belongs. If one has a bad landlord, it does not matter whether it is public, private or charity, one deserves the right to get out of its clutches. I have said on many occasions that there is nothing worse than having the power to put a private landlord in prison but still remain his tenant when he comes out of prison. That is ludicrous and wrong; it puts the tenant in an impossible position.

If the Government were seriously addressing tenants' rights, the Bill would include a provision to extend to tenants in all sectors the right to change their landlord. Council tenants, housing association tenants and private sector tenants should have the right to change their landlord. It is true that there have to be different rules for each sector and that there have to be different circumstances for each, but each case should be driven by the tenants. The tragedy and the hollowness of the 13ill is that it is driven by the Secretary of State.

The other aspect of the Bill that is so offensive and which the new clause addresses is that, to rub salt into the wound, tenants have to pay for a process that they themselves might not wish to go through. They might be perfectly happy with their present council landlord. They might feel that it is doing a very good job. The landlord might be a Conservative council, a Labour council, or any variation in between. The tenants might be perfectly happy with what they have and might not wish to change it. As a result of the legislation, unless the new clauses are accepted, tenants will be obliged to go through a system for which they will have to pay out of their rent. That is grossly unfair. It has nothing to do with tenants' rights; it is all to do with punishing council tenants.

The hon. Member for Ealing, Acton (Sir G. Young), in a rather more surreptitious way than his predecessors adopted, is saying, "This is the way we get rid of council housing." I have always understood the Conservative party's argument, which is, "We want councils no longer to be housing managers." It is a silly argument and it is wrong in a variety of ways, but I understand it. The point is that choice should be with tenants, not with the Government, not even with the council or with anybody else.

Before the previous election, the previous Secretary of State for the Environment, Lord Ridley as he now is, was open enough to say, "I want to put an end to council housing." He was very specific about that. His aim was very explicitly stated, and it was put into practice by many Conservative councils who thought that they would try to sell off council housing. The hon. Member for Acton has moved back on that. He is recorded as saying, "Council housing will continue for many years."

The hon. Gentleman was a Minister in the early stages of the first Margaret Thatcher Government in the early 1980s. I remember when the body of the baronet and his bike were found washed up on a beach with various Tory knives sticking out of his back, with the fingerprints of Lady Macbeth of Finchley all over them. They were there because the hon. Gentleman was pursuing policies at that time in the Department of the Environment which were not regarded as in keeping with the Thatcherite policies of the time.

The wheel has moved a semicircle, and the Minister is now trying to back off from what Lord Ridley was doing, because, more than most, he recognises that it would be a disaster to get rid of council housing without replacing it. A policy of giving tenants the right to buy would have been brilliant if it had been matched by a duty to replace. One simply cannot get rid of a million houses without creating a crisis. That was one right which the Government gave.

The Government still want to get rid of council housing, but by the rather more circuitous route of putting it out to tender, in the hope that tenants will find that private management is better. In some cases, tenants will find that private management is better, although in some cases it will be worse. That is the problem.

To make tenants choose and make them pay for having the choice presented to them when they may be perfectly satisfied is not the way to recognise tenants' rights. It is also profoundly dangerous. I like new clause 9 because it will ensure that tenants are properly informed.

The Minister is wise after the event. Perhaps he knew at the time the danger that the Government were getting into when they allowed tenants the right to buy in blocks of flats that needed major repairs. We now have the horrendous scene about which the Labour party warned the Government for many years. If we had pepper potting, as it is called, in council blocks that needed a lot of money spent on them, tenants who bought flats would face horrendous bills. That is precisely what happened in Labour and Tory boroughs and elsewhere.

The only way out of the trap is to allow local authorities to buy back. The hon. Members for Battersea (Mr. Bowis) and for Croydon, Central (Sir P. Beresford), who are looking quizzically at each other, should feel more guilty about the matter than anyone else because the policies in Wandsworth aggravated the housing problem in that area.

If we are talking seriously about tenants' rights—as we should be—we should at the very least support the new clauses. We need to go much further. We need to say that the quality of the management of one's home matters more than almost anything else. Rent levels, tenants' right and quality of management are what should drive any rented policy. Nothing else should matter. I am not fussed about ownership.

If tenants have a bad landlord, they must get shot of him, no matter who it is. If tenants have a good landlord, they do not want the hassle and expense of management of their housing going to tender and then to some other organisation which they do not especially want. Tenants may not want any change but they must go through the system because they have no choice. Tenants must put their hands in their pockets and pay their money for something which they do not want and which might end up being a lot worse. The local authority must then accept the change if the new landlord puts in the lowest tender and meets certain other criteria. That is totally unacceptable because the tenant might not want it that way.

We are not talking about tenants' rights: we are talking about another attempt to push council tenants out of council control without having any clear policy or strategy other than a slight reversal of the recommendations and policy which were put forward so clearly and powerfully —although I strongly disagree with them—by Lord Ridley. Lord Ridley was clear in what he wanted to achieve. The Minister is still not clear. He is saying that he wants council housing to continue, but he is putting enough blocks on the possibility of making it work effectively to push it out of that sector. If he were pushing tenants into better management and lower rents, I would say that it was terrific, but he is not.

The tenants in the hon. Gentleman's constituency of Ealing, Acton should have had a choice of a housing manager who did not put up their rents by £30 per week. The Conservative council in Ealing put up rents by £30 per week. [Interruption.] It is no good the Minister muttering from a sedentary position that it was because of a Labour party policy. It was not a Labour party policy. It was a clear and determined effort by the Conservative council. No other council in the country found it necessary to increase rents by that amount.

Sir George Young


Mr. Soley

I shall give way shortly. The reason why Ealing council did it that way was because it wanted to put the burden on tenants when it could have done what most local authorities did, which was spread the burden.

Sir George Young


Mr. Soley

I shall give way. I simply want to ensure that the Minister makes the right intervention. I am looking forward to this and I want to get it wound up suitably.

The issue for Ealing council was to spread the burden in such a way that the tenants had to take most of the burden, instead of other people. Hon. Members should remember that the reason why rents increased around the country generally was because of the Government's directive in terms of the other subsidy given to councils.

Sir George Young

I am afraid that this has very little to do with the new clause, but the hon. Gentleman has pushed his luck. If he reads the district auditor's report on Ealing, he will find that rents went up in Ealing because of the creative accountancy of a Labour administration that borrowed, knowing perfectly well that the debts would not have to be repaid until after the borough elections. It is there in black and white in the district auditor's report.

Mr. Deputy Speaker

Order. We have heard enough about Ealing.

Mr. Soley

I respect what you are saying, Mr. Deputy Speaker, but Ealing is relevant to tenants' rights. To some extent, tenants have the right to determine rents. Problems arise if a council deliberately puts up rents. The audit was irrelevant as the decision was taken to put all the burden on to the tenants and not on to the ratepayers. The increase came from the Government.

11 pm

All good councils and housing associations discuss rent increases with their tenants. Under the new clause, tenants would lose that influence over a new competitive tenderer. A competitive tenderer may take over in Ealing and put up rents again with minimal consultation. Whether we are talking about a Conservative council such as Ealing or a company that takes over the properties after putting in a low bid, the tenants' rights are lost. That is why all the tenants' organisations have written to hon. Members on both sides of the House pointing out that tenants were losing their rights. That should not be happening.

What the Minister knows in his heart is necessary, but what, because of his party's ideological position, he cannot deliver, is a proper reform that gives tenants in the private sector, the public sector, housing associations and charitable groups the right to get rid of a bad landlord. We need nothing more.

Mr. Denham

I thought that the speech of the hon. Member for Southend, East (Sir T. Taylor) was important. It was rather surprising to hear about problems in the private sector due to changes of landlord in the context of the new clause, but the hon. Gentleman was absolutely right to say that the principle should be extended. I hope that the Minister was not sitting on the Front Bench wondering why we were talking about McCarthy and Stone properties when we should be talking about council tenants. There may be some lessons to be learned from what has happened in that part of the private sector, in the plans that the Minister appears to have, according to recent newspaper articles.

If in future private building companies will be able to bid for Housing Corporation funds to undertake the development of social housing, it is likely that the situation in respect of retirement properties for private sector tenants will affect ordinary families who rent properties built by private sector companies.

The Financial Times tells us that the Minister is being pushed by groups of London Tory Members. I hope that any move in that direction is backed from the start with an absolute cast-iron guarantee that any tenants of properties created in that manner have the right to choose their landlords from the outset. If they do not, the imbalance between what is now proposed for council tenants and those in the private sector or the housing association movement will become even more stark.

We have heard some comments about the strategic issues, but we should rehearse the reasons why tenants believe that they should have the right to veto any change in management. I am sure that we will hear from the Minister, as we did in Committee, about all the different stages of consultation in which tenants will have an opportunity to contribute to the CCT process, but the Government must accept that whatever the involvement in consultation, it is no substitute for a say in the final decision as to who gets the contract to manage their homes. That is not an ideological position. It comes from the experience of tenants and the way in which they see their properties being managed. Fundamentally, it comes down to one of the great problems in competitive tendering.

It is possible to write into a specification physical and specific items that can be measured. But aspects of management or of public service such as the attitude, outlook, manner and caring nature of staff are impossible to include in a written specification with any degree of certainty about what will be produced.

When tenants look at the management of their estates, they can reasonably specify the time that it should take to have a repair done and the efficiency with which it is done and that it should be done to the tenant's satisfaction. They can check whether that has been achieved. They can state that there must be a local housing office and specify its opening hours and that it must run an appointments system. Standards can be set and monitored for ground maintenance. The physical and specific elements of a competitive tendering contract can be written down.

However, it is not possible satisfactorily to write into a specification for a tender for housing management, for example, how housing officers resolve disputes between neighbours and the extent to which they show care and sensitivity in bringing together neighbours with a variety of conflicts to resolve disputes with the least pain to each party. It is not possible to specify matters such as whether staff take the time to listen to elderly or inarticulate people who take some time to describe their problem.

Tenants need to know not just the efficiency with which rent arrears are chased but the sensitivity with which debt problems and financial difficulties will be understood and worked through. Tenants should be supported so that the local authority receives its rent but the tenants' financial difficulties are not exacerbated by being forced to go to private moneylenders or find other ways of raising the money.

Those aspects of the quality of local authority management or any housing management are likely to be as important to tenants as the physical and specific matters which can easily be written down. It will be on non-specific matters that tenants will want to have the final say.

As the Bill is drafted at present, not only will tenants not have a right of veto but they will not know who is likely to take over the running of their homes. They may know who is competing for the contract, but they will certainly not have a veto on who takes over. At best, the only information that the tenants will have towards the closing stage of the tendering process will be the physical and specific parts of the contract specification and the price. They will not be able to check out the management style and human approach of those who will be responsible day to day for the quality of the management of their homes. That is why tenants throughout Britain are so angry about what the Government are doing.

There are great strengths in public sector management in specifying performance levels and creating a division between those who are responsible for specifying the quality of service that should be provided and those who provide it. That is why many of the better-run authorities were introducing such specifications for the in-house management of their local housing offices and housing management services, well before CCT appeared on the agenda. It is an excellent way of telling tenants what the council proposes to achieve.

It is insupportable that the management should be changed to a different organisation or new company without allowing the tenants to veto the choice of organisation, if they are not happy about it. The House knows that there is only one reason why the Government have chopped the tenants' veto out of the Bill. It is because they believe that such a veto would be a disincentive to competition from the private sector. There is no democratic basis for removing the veto. There is no argument of good housing management.

The Government have simply been told by private sector management companies that they would not be interested in putting in bids if they felt that the tenants would have the opportunity to reject them if they did not like the service that was on offer. That may be a disadvantage to the ideologically motivated Conservative Members who are determined to drive private sector management into public sector housing, but I do not believe that it is any basis for overruling straightforward democratic rights for council tenants in the way the Government propose, and I hope that tonight the rights can be restored by acceptance of the new clause.

Sir George Young

This has been a fascinating debate with a substantial number of misunderstandings littering it. One misunderstanding which the hon. Member for Hammersmith (Mr. Soley) mentioned was that somehow Baroness Thatcher and I did not get on. We got on very well indeed. We got on so well that she put me in her Administration not once, but twice—an honour not extended to many other people.

The other misunderstanding was that Labour Members do not seem to understand what the shadow Secretary of State is up to. A few moments ago we heard that he was prepared to trade in their objections to the tenants' veto if we would simply abolish the low rent test. That is exactly what he said. While we had all these objections to compulsory competitive tendering, the hon. Member for Blackburn wrote an article in Tribune in which he said:

The wide acceptance between contractor and provider that CCT has produced has been sensible All those debates in Standing Committee about not liking compulsory competitive tendering have been swept aside by the aggressive, forward-looking shadow Secretary of State who failed to take his team into his confidence.

Mr. Denham

I do not have the advantage of having seen the Tribune article, but I will read it. My contribution recognised that a division between the part of an authority responsible for specifying the standard of service and that responsible for delivering the quality and meeting the specifications is a perfectly good management tool and if that is what my hon. Friend the Member for Blackburn was recognising, I welcome it.

Sir George Young

I am quite happy to make available the Tribune article, headed, "Jack Straw, New Radical". I hope that the hon. Member will accept that one cannot get CCT for housing management and the tenant veto. The two are incompatible. It is either compulsory competitive tendering or we have a tenants' veto. We cannot have both.

Mr. Battle

Does not the Minister accept that the real dilemma and incompatibility is the Government arguing that tenants can have their rights and at the same time foisting CCT on them?

Sir George Young

I shall come in a moment to tenants' rights. The hon. Member, I am sure unwittingly, misled the House when he said that tenants would no longer be consulted and that we were going to take away their right to have a say. I wrote it down. Those were his very words. If he looks at page 116 of the Bill he will see exactly what rights tenants are being given which make it clear that they will be consulted and will have a say.

Mr. Battle

Will the Minister accept that his Bill removes the tenants' right to veto? Is that true or not?

Sir George Young

Right. Let me address directly the whole question of tenants' rights. The Bill gives tenants a right to manage, a right undreamed of by Labour when it was in power. Tenants will have a right to take over management of their estate. They will not be dependent on a local authority, which has been the position. They will not be dependent on a local authority giving away or subcontracting that right. They will have a right to manage their estates. It was not a right that the hon. Member mentioned in his speech at all.

We had this debate at length in Standing Committee. At present, tenants have a right of veto. We are proposing much more meaningful rights which involve tenants in the whole process of drawing up the specifications of the contract, interviewing the contractors, and monitoring it. If the hon. Member is interested in tenant involvement and tenant power, there is far more in the Bill than a simple crude veto at the end of the process. We are now discussing with tenants the new rights that are enshrined in the Bill and there is an appetite among tenants for the rights extended to them in the Bill.

Mr. Raynsford

What is the tenants' view? The Minister talks of the more sophisticated rights, but he does not mention their simple democratic right to have a final say over who will manage their homes. What have tenants told the Minister's Department? Do they want to keep that democratic right or not?

Sir George Young

Tenants throughout the country are anxious to have the right to manage their estates and the Bill gives them that right. They are also interested in the real rights conferred on them by the Bill to draw up the specifications of the contracts for their estates. They do not have that right now. They have no right to interview the contractors, or to monitor how well the contractors do. Those rights, which the Bill extends to tenants, are far more meaningful than the right to a crude yes or no when the local authority has drawn up the specifications without talking to tenants, and has chosen the contractors without consulting them. Hon. Members who tour the local authority estates will find that, under the present Government, there are more estate management boards and tenant management co-operatives than ever existed when Labour was in power. Tenants have a real appetite for reform and change.

11.15 pm

The Opposition's amendments try to perpetuate the ideas of a bygone age—an age of centralist bureaucracies, when local authorities told tenants what they intended to do. That is not the way in which to manage public housing in the 1990s, or in the 21st century. The way forward lies in close, meaningful consultation with tenants from the outset, building partnership and trust, and that is what the Government propose. I urge the House not to accept the new clause. [Interruption.]

Mr. Deputy Speaker (Mr. Michael Morris)

Order. The hon. Member for Cardiff, West (Mr. Morgan) must contain himself. If he wants to intervene and the Minister gives way, that is fair enough.

I assume that the Minister has finished his speech. I call Mr. Battle.

Mr. Battle

With the leave of the House, Mr. Deputy Speaker.

The Minister mentioned extending tenants' rights and to their having a say in the drawing up of contracts; but he did not give tenants the primary right to say yes or no to the contract itself. What is more, the tenants now have to pay for the whole process, even if, at the end of the day, they are against it.

I am tempted to press the Minister. I may be wrong, but was he not the Parliamentary Under-Secretary for the Environment when the Housing Act 1985 was passed? Was section 27A of that Act an aberration? Did not the Government argue then that they were giving tenants rights? If so, why do they now feel that they should remove those rights? They cannot have it both ways. They are promoting measures that deal specifically with the removal of a right enshrined in the 1985 Act—the primary right to veto, allowing power to remain with the tenants. The Government want to foist CCT on local authorities.

In Committee, the Minister made it clear that the initiative would be Secretary of State-led or local authority-led, but it certainly would not be tenant-led. We should be considering the issue from that angle, not from the angle that the Government are presenting.

Mr. Soley

My hon. Friend has made a powerful point. The Minister is going back on what the Government did before. Has my hon. Friend also noticed, however, that the Minister did not answer the hon. Member for Southend, East (Sir T. Taylor)? As he and I have both pointed out, an incredible situation now obtains: tenants can have a bad landlord in prison who cannot be changed, and can be made to change a very good landlord whom they do not want to change.

Mr. Battle

My hon. Friend has made a telling point —as, indeed, he did in his speech. The Government purport to offer people rights when it suits them, but they step back when we ask for those rights to apply across the board. We have already observed their attitude to the rights of leaseholders who want enfranchisement.

Let me conclude by quoting the words of Cora Carter, secretary of the National Federation of Tenants, who is a tenant from Huddersfield: The Government talks of extending tenants' rights, but when you look at the Bill, it is taking them away. Tenants should he consulted on all aspects of housing management. We would add that tenants should have real rights, not references to rights in charters which are fundamentally undermined in proposed legislation. I urge hon. Members to support the new clause.

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

The House divided: Ayes 75, Noes 220.

Division No. 147] [11.19 pm
Adams, Mrs Irene Jackson, Helen (Shef'ld, H)
Alton, David Jones, Lynne (B'ham S O)
Barnes, Harry Jones, Nigel (Cheltenham)
Battle, John Kirkwood, Archy
Betts, Clive Lewis, Terry
Boyce, Jimmy Lloyd, Tony (Stretford)
Boyes, Roland Llwyd, Elfyn
Byers, Stephen Loyden, Eddie
Campbell, Mrs Anne (C'bridge) McAllion, John
Campbell, Menzies (Fife NE) McAvoy, Thomas
Cann, Jamie McCartney, Ian
Chisholm, Malcolm Mahon, Alice
Coffey, Ann Martin, Michael J. (Springburn)
Cohen, Harry Meale, Alan
Connarty, Michael Michael, Alun
Cousins, Jim Morgan, Rhodri
Cryer, Bob Murphy, Paul
Cunliffe, Lawrence Pickthall, Colin
Cunningham, Jim (Covy SE) Pike, Peter L.
Dalyell, Tam Powell, Ray (Ogmore)
Denham, John Prentice, Ms Bridget (Lew'm E)
Dixon, Don Prentice, Gordon (Pendle)
Donohoe, Brian H. Raynsford, Nick
Dunnachie, Jimmy Reid, Dr John
Etherington, Bill Salmond, Alex
Ewing, Mrs Margaret Simpson, Alan
Foster, Derek (B'p Auckland) Skinner, Dennis
Foster, Don (Bath) Smith, Andrew (Oxford E)
Gerrard, Neil Soley, Clive
Godman, Dr Norman A. Spearing, Nigel
Griffiths, Nigel (Edinburgh S) Taylor, Mrs Ann (Dewsbury)
Griffiths, Win (Bridgend) Vaz, Keith
Hall, Mike Wigley, Dafydd
Hanson, David Wise, Audrey
Henderson, Doug Wray, Jimmy
Hinchliffe, David
Howarth, George (Knowsley N) Tellers for the Ayes:
Hughes, Kevin (Doncaster N) Mr. Gordon McMaster and
Hughes, Simon (Southwark) Mr. Peter Kilfoyle.
Jackson, Glenda (H'stead)
Ainsworth, Peter (East Surrey) Biffen, Rt Hon John
Aitken, Jonathan Body, Sir Richard
Alexander, Richard Bonsor, Sir Nicholas
Allason, Rupert (Torbay) Booth, Hartley
Amess, David Boswell, Tim
Ancram, Michael Bowden, Andrew
Arbuthnot, James Bowis, John
Arnold, Jacques (Gravesham) Brandreth, Gyles
Atkinson, David (Bour'mouth E) Brazier, Julian
Baker, Rt Hon K. (Mole Valley) Bright, Graham
Baker, Nicholas (Dorset North) Brooke, Rt Hon Peter
Baldry, Tony Brown, M. (Brigg & Cl'thorpes)
Banks, Matthew (Southport) Browning, Mrs. Angela
Bates, Michael Burns, Simon
Batiste, Spencer Butcher, John
Bendall, Vivian Butler, Peter
Beresford, Sir Paul Butterfill, John
Carlisle, John (Luton North) Knight, Mrs Angela (Erewash)
Carlisle, Kenneth (Lincoln) Knight, Greg (Derby N)
Carrington, Matthew Knox, David
Carttiss, Michael Lait, Mrs Jacqui
Chaplin, Mrs Judith Lamont, Rt Hon Norman
Clappison, James Lang, Rt Hon Ian
Clarke, Rt Hon Kenneth (Ruclif) Lawrence, Sir Ivan
Clifton-Brown, Geoffrey Legg, Barry
Colvin, Michael Leigh, Edward
Congdon, David Lidington, David
Conway, Derek Lightbown, David
Coombs, Anthony (Wyre For'st) Lilley, Rt Hon Peter
Coombs, Simon (Swindon) Lloyd, Peter (Fareham)
Cope, Rt Hon Sir John Lord, Michael
Couchman, James Luff, Peter
Cran, James Lyell, Rt Hon Sir Nicholas
Currie, Mrs Edwina (S D'by'ire) MacGregor, Rt Hon John
Davies, Quentin (Stamford) Maclean, David
Davis, David (Boothferry) McLoughlin, Patrick
Day, Stephen Maitland, Lady Olga
Devlin, Tim Major, Rt Hon John
Dorrell, Stephen Malone, Gerald
Douglas-Hamilton, Lord James Mans, Keith
Dover, Den Martin, David (Portsmouth S)
Duncan, Alan Mawhinney, Dr Brian
Duncan-Smith, Iain Merchant, Piers
Dunn, Bob Milligan, Stephen
Durant, Sir Anthony Mills, Iain
Dykes, Hugh Mitchell, Andrew (Gedling)
Eggar, Tim Moate, Sir Roger
Elletson, Harold Molyneaux, Rt Hon James
Emery, Rt Hon Sir Peter Montgomery, Sir Fergus
Evans, David (Welwyn Hatfield) Needham, Richard
Evans, Jonathan (Brecon) Neubert, Sir Michael
Evans, Nigel (Ribble Valley) Nicholls, Patrick
Evans, Roger (Monmouth) Nicholson, David (Taunton)
Faber, David Nicholson, Emma (Devon West)
Fabricant, Michael Norris, Steve
Fairbairn, Sir Nicholas Onslow, Rt Hon Sir Cranley
Fenner, Dame Peggy Oppenheim, Phillip
Fishburn, Dudley Page, Richard
Forman, Nigel Paice, James
Forsyth, Michael (Stirling) Patnick, Irvine
Forth, Eric Pattie, Rt Hon Sir Geoffrey
Fowler, Rt Hon Sir Norman Pickles, Eric
Fox, Dr Liam (Woodspring) Porter, David (Waveney)
Freeman, Roger Rathbone, Tim
French, Douglas Redwood, John
Gale, Roger Richards, Rod
Garel-Jones, Rt Hon Tristan Robathan, Andrew
Gillan, Cheryl Roberts, Rt Hon Sir Wyn
Goodson-Wickes, Dr Charles Robertson, Raymond (Ab'd'n S)
Grant, Sir Anthony (Cambs SW) Robinson, Mark (Somerton)
Greenway, John (Ryedale) Rowe, Andrew (Mid Kent)
Griffiths, Peter (Portsmouth, N) Ryder, Rt Hon Richard
Hague, William Sackville, Tom
Hamilton, Rt Hon Archie (Epsom) Sainsbury, Rt Hon Tim
Hanley, Jeremy Scott, Rt Hon Nicholas
Hargreaves, Andrew Shaw, David (Dover)
Hawkins, Nick Shaw, Sir Giles (Pudsey)
Hawksley, Warren Shephard, Rt Hon Gillian
Heald, Oliver Shepherd, Colin (Hereford)
Heathcoat-Amory, David Skeet, Sir Trevor
Hendry, Charles Smith, Sir Dudley (Warwick)
Horam, John Smith, Tim (Beaconsfield)
Howard, Rt Hon Michael Soames, Nicholas
Hughes Robert G. (Harrow W) Speed, Sir Keith
Hunt, Rt Hon David (Wirral W) Spencer, Sir Derek
Hunt, Sir John (Ravensbourne) Spicer, Sir James (W Dorset)
Hunter, Andrew Spicer, Michael (S Worcs)
Hurd, Rt Hon Douglas Spring, Richard
Jenkin, Bernard Sproat, Iain
Johnson Smith, Sir Geoffrey Squire, Robin (Hornchurch)
Jones, Gwilym (Cardiff N) Steen, Anthony
Jones, Robert B. (W Hertfdshr) Stephen, Michael
Jopling, Rt Hon Michael Stern, Michael
Kellett-Bowman, Dame Elaine Streeter, Gary
Key, Robert Sweeney, Walter
Kirkhope, Timothy Sykes, John
Knapman, Roger Tapsell, Sir Peter
Taylor, Ian (Esher) Wardle, Charles (Bexhill)
Taylor, John M. (Solihull) Waterson, Nigel
Taylor, Sir Teddy (Southend, E) Wells, Bowen
Temple-Morris, Peter Wheeler, Rt Hon Sir John
Thompson, Patrick (Norwich N) Whittingdale, John
Thurnham, Peter Widdecombe, Ann
Townend, John (Bridlington) Willetts, David
Townsend, Cyril D. (Bexl'yh'th) Winterton, Mrs Ann (Congleton)
Trend, Michael Wood, Timothy
Twinn, Dr Ian Yeo, Tim
Viggers, Peter Young, Sir George (Acton)
Waldegrave, Rt Hon William
Walden, George Tellers for the Noes:
Waller, Gary Mr. Andrew MacKay and
Ward, John Mr. Sydney Chapman.

Question accordingly negatived.

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