HC Deb 26 October 1999 vol 336 cc795-7
4. Mr. Colin Burgon (Elmet)

What plans he has for increasing the involvement of tenants in the management of local authority housing. [94213]

The Minister for Housing and Planning (Mr. Nick Raynsford)

We are increasing the opportunities for local authority tenants to be involved in the management of their homes by introducing tenant participation compacts in all councils from April next year. We are also broadening our programme of grants to promote and develop greater participation.

Mr. Burgon

I thank the Minister for that reply. He will be aware that the Government are considering Leeds city council's bid for a public-private partnership housing pathfinder scheme, which covers Swarcliffe in my constituency. The involvement of tenants and residents in the drawing up of the community plan has been central, and Whinmoor councillors and I remain committed to further extending local people's involvement as that is crucial to the regeneration of the area. Will the Minister take my remarks as discreet lobbying on this matter on behalf of my Swarcliffe constituents?

Mr. Raynsford

I am well aware of my hon. Friend's involvement in the preparation of the proposed Leeds private finance initiative pathfinder scheme. He has been diligent in talking to his constituents and ensuring that there is effective communication between them and the city council, so that there will be full participation in the development of the proposals. He must accept, however, that we have to give further consideration to these and other proposals.

Mr. Tony Baldry (Banbury)

A legitimate concern for tenants in housing management is the length of the housing waiting list and how long it takes tenants and others to be rehoused. Given the Government's complete failure to control economic migrants, it now seems that such migrants will be dispersed around the country. According to an answer given to me yesterday by the Home Office, such dispersal may be compulsory. Will those economic migrants be described as statutorily homeless under the homelessness legislation? What will their status be in relation to those on the housing waiting list and local authority tenants?

Mr. Raynsford

I think that the hon. Gentleman is referring to asylum seekers. He will know that the Government have taken steps to try to define proper procedures for dealing humanely and properly with asylum applications, rather than continuing with the chaos that we inherited. He will also know that we inherited a situation in which housing provision had been slashed during the last years of the Conservative Government, leading to a substantial shortfall in the number of homes available for letting. He will know that such a position takes time to put right. We are increasing investment and implementing a range of measures to improve housing prospects, but the damage caused by 18 years of Tory Government is very serious.

Mr. David Lepper (Brighton, Pavilion)

Will my hon. Friend acknowledge the importance of the potential role of housing co-operatives in the management of current local authority housing stock, and in the provision of good, well-managed social housing generally? What discussions is he having with the Housing Corporation on the possible easing of both the administrative and the financial regulations to allow better development of housing co-operatives?

Mr. Raynsford

I entirely endorse my hon. Friend's views on the importance of tenant participation measures, including housing co-operatives. During the past fortnight, I have engaged in discussions with representatives of both the National Housing Federation and the Housing Corporation about how we can extend opportunities for such participation. I visited a particularly impressive tenant co-operative scheme in Birmingham, which was delivering very high standards of housing management and great tenant satisfaction. There is no doubt that allowing tenants more opportunities to exercise effective control over their homes is one of the keys to better housing management, and we are keen to promote it.