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Local Authority Tenants (Charter)

Volume 958: debated on Wednesday 15 November 1978

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17.

asked the Secretary of State for Scotland when he expects to announce his proposals for a local authority tenants' charter in Scotland.

24.

asked the Secretary of State for Scotland if the proposed legislation providing for a charter for public sector tenants will cover Scotland.

My right hon. Friend is currently preparing proposals for legislation on a number of matters including a tenants' charter. He will announce details as soon as possible.

Does my hon. Friend accept that there will be a great deal of satisfaction in Scotland with that answer? Does it not confirm beyond all doubt that claims that Scotland is being neglected in relation to a tenants' charter are totally mistaken?

I can confirm that misleading statements in specific terms were issued by Shelter on this matter. I do not want to give the impression that we always have to follow England and Wales. Scottish housing problems are different and we shall come up with our own solutions. But I can give the general assurance that if there are any benefits to be gained to the public sector we shall share in them.

Does the Minister appreciate that Scottish housing problems are often different because they are usually worse? Does he appreciate that what he said earlier about home ownership affects this matter, because what we are trying to do is to end the kind of serfdom which exists in relation to council house tenants?

I always find it difficult to follow the hon. Gentleman, and I say that with great respect. I do not regard council tenants as serfs. I could not afford to admit that, because too many of them vote for me. But there is a serious point here. We are trying to give rights and responsibilties to council tenants. A whole range of subjects will require further discussion and the details will require a lot of examination. But, on the general point, we shall certainly consider what legislation is suitable to deal with the problems in Scotland.

In view of his constituency and ministerial experience, does the Minister agree that one of the major complaints by council tenants is about lengthy delays in the carrying out of repairs, sometimes, although not exclusively, by direct labour departments? Is he considering the possibility of giving a council tenant the right to have a repair carried out privately and charge it to the council if there is a proved, unreasonable delay on the part of the local authority?

I know that that was one of the recommendations in the recent Consumer Council report. I must say that it was one of the woolliest ideas that I have seen for a long while. It would be wrong to give any undertaking in that regard until we have had full and adequate discussions with all the housing authorities. However, the need to improve housing repairs is certainly one of our housing priorities.