HC Deb 25 May 1994 vol 244 cc318-9
2. Mr. Michael J. Martin

To ask the Secretary of State for Scotland when he will next meet Scottish Homes to discuss its programme.

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

I have regular meetings with the board of Scottish Homes, and last met the board on 11 March. I approved Scottish Homes' development programme for the current year on 28 February.

Mr. Martin

One of my constituents, Mrs. Howie of Dennistoun, had the good fortune to be told by a rent officer that her rent would not be raised above £115. The Milnbank housing association took the matter to court, and a sheriff found in favour of the rent officer and Mrs. Howie. I have been informed that the housing association is now asking Scottish Homes to pay 100 per cent. of the legal fees and the cost of any subsequent appeals, that it is trying to take the case to the Court of Session, and that other housing associations have had a whip round to raise money to fight Mrs. Howie.

Why should a tenant have to fight against such terrible odds? Will the Minister call on Scottish Homes not to finance the project, given that the sheriff found in Mrs. Howie's favour?

Lord James Douglas-Hamilton

The intention of the original legislation was to preserve the rights of secure association tenants: that was absolutely clear when the Bill that became the Housing (Scotland) Act 1988 was going through Parliament. I am therefore surprised and disappointed that the housing association has seen fit to appeal against the sheriff's judgment, which confirms the position. I should certainly be unhappy if further public funds were spent on the case, and I hope that it will be resolved quickly.

I have followed up the matter that the hon. Gentleman raised at our last Scottish Question Time. Progress is being made on the various developments that he mentioned in Royston road, Dennistoun and Blackhall: the matter is in hand.

Mr. Home Robertson

Does the Minister acknowledge that he is responsible for levels of homelessness, overcrowding and bad housing that can only be described as a full-blown housing crisis? Will he further acknowledge that the only way in which to address the problem is to make more houses available to let at fair rents and with secure leases? Will he now instruct Scottish Homes to help Scottish local authorities to get on with that job?

Lord James Douglas-Hamilton

The hon. Gentleman is incorrect: statutory responsibility for homelessness resides, quite properly, with local authorities. Scottish Homes is giving priority to dealing with homelessness, and local authorities have nomination rights with housing associations. As I have said, the intention of the legislation was to preserve the rights of secure tenants under the law. That has been made absolutely clear.

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