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Volume 885: debated on Wednesday 5 February 1975

The text on this page has been created from Hansard archive content, it may contain typographical errors.

Amendments made: No. 31, in page 17, leave out lines 18 and 19.

No. 32, leave out lines 23 to 26 in column 3 and insert:

'Section 79.
Schedule 13.'.

No. 33, in page 18, line 8, leave out column 3 and insert: 'Sections 37 and 38.'.

No. 34, in column 3, leave out line 19 and insert:

'Schedule 6.
In Schedule 7, paragraphs 9 to 12'.

No. 35, in line 29, leave out 'this Part of'.

No. 36, in page 19, leave out lines 1 to 24.—[ Mr. Hugh D. Brown.]

7.5 p.m.

I beg to move, That the Bill be now read the Third time.

This is an important piece of legislation. In our manifesto for Scotland we promised to repeal the Housing (Financial Provisions) (Scotland) Act 1972, which indiscriminately put up rents, and to restore the power of local authorities to fix their own rents. The Bill fulfils that undertaking. From next May, local authorities will again be free to determine reasonable rents for the houses they provide and to make their own decisions about the size of the rate contribution to the housing revenue account.

The Bill also provides for a strengthening of the Government subsidy support available to local authorities, with £5 million more being made available by way of housing expenditure subsidy in 1975–76 and further increases thereafter. The rent income subsidy, which is meeting 90 per cent. of the loss of income of local authorities on the rent standstill in the current year, will be continued in 1975–76, when it will have totalled about £12 million to local authorities.

These two sums are not chickenfeed, and I am sure that the local authorities and the tenants recognise, as I hope the House recognises, that the Government are making a further substantial contribution to the provision of adequate housing in the public sector. The Bill has revealed a fundamental difference of opinion between the Government and the Opposition, and we are not surprised about that. It seems still to be the case that the Opposition mistrust local authorities—even the new local authorities. That mistrust was behind the 1972 Act.

We have never accepted that principle. We have confidence in the ability and integrity of the new local authorities to build up their housing programmes, which have lagged behind because of the 1972 Act. The Bill will also give confidence to the building industry. We have not forgotten the private sector, by introducing a limitation on the increase of rents and the phasing provisions. This is an extremely important piece of housing legislation, and in political terms it is a fulfilment of a promise we have given. For these reasons, I hope the House will give it a Third Reading.

7.9 p.m.

This is an important Bill, but I do not agree that it is acceptable. It is in two parts. The first part deals with the public sector and the second with the private sector. Our arguments in Committee were largely on the provisions for the public sector, although the hon. Gentleman has introduced some sweeping new amendments dealing with the private sector following reconsideration since the Committee stage and in the light of anomalies which might have arisen.

We object to the Bill for three main reasons. First, as the hon. Gentleman has rightly said, it fulfils an election pledge by the Labour Party to repeal the Housing (Financial Provisions) (Scotland) Act 1972. What the hon. Gentleman has not done is give us any reasons why the Labour Party wished to do so. Apart from saying that it is a pledge fulfilled, the hon. Gentleman has not told us just what hardship was caused by the 1972 Act. What stands out is that the Act was subject to the most blatant campaign of unfair misrepresentation of any Act of Parliament.

There was no better example of this than the propaganda to the effect that rents of £7, £8 or £9 would be charged as a result of the Act. In Committee, the Minister gave us some details of the present percentage housing deficits of local authorities, which showed that several were on the point of achieving an economic rent, and so would not need to have substantial increases in future.

We also object to the Bill because the national rent rebate scheme which our Act introduced ensured that rents were related not to the political complexion of the council but to the needs of the individual. As a result 241,000 tenants—three out of every 10—are at present receiving rent rebates, which average £75.

We also think that the Bill is wrong because it will add to housing deficits. The present deficit of around £27 million will increase by probably £8 million in 1975, which will mean more on the rates for everyone, including council tenants.

The most objectionable feature is that there will once again be wide variations in the levels of rents. Our Act was intended to bring about some harmony and do away with the situation in which rents in one area could be much above or below what they were in others. It can therefore be understood why we feel that the Government were wrong to repeal the 1972 Act and introduce the Bill.

We should aim at fairness. We believe that we had achieved fairness with the 1972 Act, first, because it helped those in need, second, because it limited rent increases until an economic rent had been reached to 50p a week and, third, because it aimed at eliminating the rates subsidy.

Division No. 86.]


[7.13 p.m.

Anderson, DonaldDean, Joseph (Leeds West)Hamling, William
Archer, PeterDelargy, HughHarper, Joseph
Armstrong, ErnestDempsey, JamesHarrison, Walter (Wakefield)
Ashley, JackDoig, PeterHatton, Frank
Atkins, Ronald (Preston N)Dormand, J. D.Hayman, Mrs Helene
Atkinson, NormanDouglas-Mann, BruceHeffer, Eric S.
Bain, Mrs MargaretDuffy, A. E. P.Henderson, Douglas
Barnett, Guy (Greenwich)Dunn, James A.Hooley, Frank
Barnett, Rt Hon JoelDunnett, JackHoram, John
Bates, AlfEadie, AlexHoyle, Douglas (Nelson)
Bennett, Andrew (Stockport N)Edge, GeoffHughes, Mark (Durham)
Bidwell, SydneyEdwards, Robert (Wolv SE)Hughes, Robert (Aberdeen N)
Blenkinsop, ArthurEllis, Tom (Wrexham)Hughes, Roy (Newport)
Boardman, H.Evans, Gwynfor (Carmarthen)Irvine, Rt Hon Sir A. (Edge Hill)
Booth, AlbertEvans, Ioan (Aberdare)Jackson, Colin (Brighouse)
Boothroyd, Miss BettyEvans, John (Newton)Jackson, Miss M. (Lincoln)
Bottomley, Rt Hon ArthurEwing, Harry (Stirling)Jay, Rt Hon Douglas
Bray, Dr JeremyFaulds, AndrewJenkins, Hugh (Putney)
Brown, Hugh D. (Provan)Fernyhouqh, Rt Hon E.John, Brynmor
Buchan, NormanFitch, Alan (Wigan)Johnson, James (Hull West)
Buchanan, RichardFlannery, MartinJohnson, Walter (Derby S)
Callaghan, Jim (Middleton & P)Fletcher, Ted (Darlington)Jones, Alec (Rhondda)
Campbell, IanFoot, Rt Hon MichaelJones, Barry (East Flint)
Canavan, DennisFord, BenJones, Dan (Burnley)
Carter-Jones, LewisForrester, JohnJudd, Frank
Cartwright, JohnFowler, Gerald (The Wrekin)Kaufman, Gerald
Clemitson, IvorFreud, ClementKelley, Richard
Cocks, Michael (Bristol S)George, BruceKerr, Russell
Coleman, DonaldGinsburg, DavidLamborn, Harry
Cook, Robin F. (Edin C)Golding, JohnLamond, James
Cox, Thomas (Tooting)Gould, BryanLee, John
Craigen, J. M. (Maryhill)Gourlay, HarryLewis, Arthur (Newham N)
Crawford, DouglasGraham, TedLewis, Ron (Carlisle)
Crawshaw, RichardGrant, John (Islington C)Lipton, Marcus
Dalyell, TamGrimond, Rt Hon J.Litterick, Tom
Davidson, ArthurGrocott, BruceLoyden, Eddie
Davies, Denzil (Llanelli)Hamilton, James (Bothwell)Luard, Evan
Davies, Ifor (Gower)Hamilton, W. W. (Central Fife)Lyons, Edward (Bradford W)

The 1972 Act was useful and beneficial and created no hardship. Under the Bill, we return to the system of councils being obliged to charge "reasonable" rents and to review them "from time to time". In Committee we tried to discover what was meant by "reasonable" and by "from time to time". The last time that this system was the law, because local authorities were not aware of their obligations, or tried to avoid them, cases were brought to court to establish whether councils had charged reasonable rents and reviewed them from time to time. Once again, we shall not have justice in this situation, and rates subsidies will mount in many towns, districts and new authorities.

We oppose the Bill because we feel that our Act tried fairly to take public housing out of the political arena and prevent rents from becoming a means by which a political party could distort the housing market and obtain votes by charging unreasonably low rents. Our Act was fair; this Bill is unfair, and will create unfairness throughout Scotland.

Question put:

The House divided: Ayes 212, Noes 147.

Mabon, Dr J. DicksonParker, JohnTaylor, Mrs Ann (Bolton W)
MacCormick, IainPavitt, LaurieThomas, Dafydd (Merioneth)
McElhone, FrankPendry, TomThomas, Mike (Newcastle E)
MacFarquhar, RoderickPerry, ErnestThomas, Ron (Bristol NW)
McGuire, Michael (Ince)Prescott, JohnThompson, George
Mackenzie, GregorPrice, William (Rugby)Thorne, Stan (Preston South)
Maclennan, RobertReid, GeorgeTinn, James
McMillan, Tom (Glasgow C)Richardson, Miss JoTomlinson, John
McNamara, KevinRoberts, Gwilym (Cannock)Urwin, T. W.
Madden, MaxRobertson, John (Paisley)Wainwright, Edwin (Dearne V)
Mahon, SimonRodgers, George (ChorleylWalden, Brian (B'ham, L'dyw'd)
Marks, KennethRooker, J. W.Walker, Terry (Kingswood)
Marquand, DavidRoper, JohnWard, Michael
Marshall, Dr Edmund (Goole)Rose, Paul B.Watkins, David
Mason, Rt Hon RoyRoss, Rt Hon W. (Kilmarnock)Watkinson, John
Mellish, Rt Hon RobertSedgemore, BrianWeitzman, David
Mendelson, JohnSelby, HarryWellbeloved, James
Mikardo, IanShaw, Arnold (Ilford South)Welsh, Andrew
Millan, BruceSheldon, Robert (Ashton-u-Lyne)White, Frank R. (Bury)
Miller, Dr M. S. (E. Kilbride)Short, Rt Hon E. (Newcasle C)Whitlock, William
Miller, Mrs Millie (Ilford N)Short, Mrs Renée (Wolv NE)Wigley, Dafydd
Morris, Alfred (Wythenshawe)Silkin, Rt Hon John (Deptford)Willey, Rt Hon Frederick
Morris, Charles R. (Openshaw)Sillars, JamesWilliams, Alan (Swansea W)
Murray, Rt Hon Ronald KingSilverman, JuliusWilliams, Alan Lee (Hornchurch)
Newens, StanleySkinner, DennisWilson, Gordon (Dundee E)
Noble, MikeSmall, WilliamWilson, William (Coventry SE)
O'Halloran, MichaelSnape, PeterWise, Mrs Audrey
O'Malley, Rt Hon BrianSpearing, NigelWoodall, Alec
Ovenden, JohnSpriggs, LeslieWrigglesworth, Ian
Padley, WalterStallard, A. W.Young, David (Bolton E)
Paisley, Rev IanSteel, David (Roxburgh)
Palmer, ArthurStewart, Donald (Western Isles)TELLERS FOR THE AYES:
Pardoe, JohnStewart, Rt Hn M. (Fulham)Mr. John Ellis and
Park, GeorgeStott, RogerMr. David Stoddart.


Adley, RobertGray, HamishNelson, Anthony
Atkins, Rt Hon H. (Spelthorne)Grist, IanNeubert, Michael
Awdry, DanielGrylls, MichaelNewton, Tony
Bell, RonaldHall—Davis, A. G. F.Normanton, Tom
Bennett, Sir Frederic (Torbay)Hamilton, Michael (Salisbury)Page, Rt Hon R. Graham (Crosby)
Biggs-Davison, JohnHarrison, Col. Sir Harwood (Eye)Parkinson, Cecil
Boscawen, Hon RobertHastings, StephenPercival, Ian
Braine, Sir BernardHawkins, PaulPeyton, Rt Hon John
Brittan, LeonHayhoe, BarneyRathbone, Tim
Brotherton, MichaelHolland, PhilipRees, Peter (Dover & Deal)
Brown, Sir Edward (Bath)Hordern, PeterRees-Davies, W. R.
Bryan, Sir PaulHowell, David (Guildford)Rhys Williams, Sir Brandon
Buchanan-Smith, AlickHunt, JohnRidley, Hon Nicholas
Buck, AntonyHutchison, Michael ClarkRidsdale, Julian
Budgen, NickIrvine, Bryant Godman (Rye)Rifkind, Malcolm
Burden, F. A.James, DavidRippon, Rt Hon Geoffrey
Carlisle, MarkJessel, TobyRoberts, Wyn (Conway)
Chalker, Mrs LyndaKaberry, Sir DonaldSainsbury, Tim
Channon, PaulKellett-Bowman, Mrs ElaineShelton, William (Streatham)
Clarke, Kenneth (Rushcliffe)King, Evelyn (South Dorset)Shepherd, Colin
Clegg, WalterKnox, DavidShersby, Michael
Cockcroft, JohnLamont, NormanSilvester, Fred
Cooke, Robert (Bristol W)Lane, DavidSims, Roger
Cope, JohnLangford-Holt, Sir JohnSinclair, Sir George
Corrie, JohnLatham, Michael (Melton)Skeet, T. H. H.
Costain, A. P.Lawson, NigelSpeed, Keith
Critchley, JulianLester, Jim (Beeston)Spence, John
Crouch, DavidLuce, RichardSpicer, Jim (W Dorset)
Crowder, F. P.McAdden, Sir StephenSproat, Iain
Davies, Rt Hon J. (Knutsford)McCrindle, RobertStainton, Keith
Dean, Paul (N Somerset)MacGregor, JohnStanbrook, Ivor
Dodsworth, GeoffreyMcNair-Wilson, M. (Newbury)Stanley, John
Douglas-Hamilton, Lord JamesMcNair-Wilson, P. (New Forest)Stokes, John
Drayson, BurnabyMarshall, Michael (Arundel)Tapsell, Peter
Dykes, HughMather, CarolTaylor, Teddy (Cathcart)
Fairgrieve, RussellMaudling, Rt Hon ReginaldTebbit, Norman
Farr, JohnMawby, RayTemple-Morris, Peter
Fell, AnthonyMaxwell-Hyslop, RobinThatcher, Rt Hon Margaret
Fisher, Sir NigelMiller, Hal (Bromsgrove)Townsend, Cyril D.
Fookes, Miss JanetMills, PeterTrotter, Neville
Gardiner, George (Reigate)Moate, RogerTugendhat, Christopher
Glyn, Dr AlanMonro, HectorVaughan, Dr Gerard
Goodhew, VictorMorgan, GeraintViggers, Peter
Gorst, JohnMorrison, Charles (Devizes)Wainwright, Richard (Colne V)
Gow, Ian (Eastbourne)Mudd, DavidWakeham, John
Gower, Sir Raymond (Barry)Neave, AireyWalder, David (Clitheroe)

Walters, DennisWinterton, Nicholas
Weatherill, BernardWood, Rt Hon RichardTELLERS FOR THE NOES:
Wells, JohnYoung, Sir G. (Ealing, Acton)Mr. John Stradliag Thomas and
Whitelaw, Rt Hon WilliamYounger, Hon GeorgeMr. Adam Butler.
Wiggin, Jerry

Bill accordingly read the Third time and passed.