asked the Secretary of State for Scotland whether he will make investigations to find out for each housing authority in Scotland the number of people on the housing waiting list and the number of transfer requests.
No, Sir. Waiting lists can never be a satisfactory method of estimating housing need. The practice of local authorities in preparing and revising their lists varies widely, and I do not feel that an investigation would be of significant value.
Is the Minister aware that the district councils covering parts of my constituency have over 3,000 on their waiting lists and at least as many again on the transfer lists? Will the Minister at least do his homework and find out the facts instead of forcing local authorities to sell off houses with legislation that is based not on fact but on irresponsible doctrinaire blind prejudice?
If the hon. Gentleman did his homework he would be aware that Stirling district council, which is within his own constituency, is voluntarily selling council houses. Clearly, it has not come to the same conclusion as the hon. Gentleman.
Will my hon. Friend tell the House whether the present system of housing allocation and transfer has helped or hindered the mobility of labour that we need so badly if we are to revive the Scottish economy? Will he also confirm that the proposed legislation before the House will not help that?
I agree with my hon. Friend that certain aspects of the present rules have inhibited mobility. The Tenants' Rights, Etc. (Scotland) Bill therefore proposes to abolish the residential qualification. That has been widely welcomed by all those concerned with furthering employment and mobility in Scotland.
As the Minister does not propose to find out how many people are waiting on transfer lists, how can he presume to order local authorities to sell off every house that a tenant applies to buy? Does not that illustrate once again the unanswerable case for giving local authorities discretion over the number and type of houses that they put on the market?
As the hon. Gentleman is a former chairman of a housing committee, he should be the first to be aware that a housing waiting list is not necessarily an indication of housing need. Many people who are on the waiting list are simply seeking a transfer to accommodation in an area that they prefer, or to a house more suitable for their requirements. To suggest that all those on a waiting list are homeless, or in urgent need of re-housing is, as I am sure that hon. Members will agree, a totally false assertion.
Will my hon. Friend spare no effort to get it into the heads of the Opposition that the present Housing Bill will not affect waiting lists? The houses to be sold are already, by definition, occupied by council tenants. Will he make it clear to the Opposition that the Bill will free local authorities to concentrate their energies and resources upon those with the greatest housing need?
I agree with my hon. Friend. I can give explanations to the Opposition, but I cannot give them comprehension.
Is it not amazing that, at a time when we are embarking upon a radical alteration to housing policies in Scotland, the Minister has told us that in key areas it is not worth the time of his Department to find out important statistics? Will he tell his hon. Friend the Member for Edinburgh, South (Mr. Ancram) that the statistics that the Minister gave me this week show that there is no argument to suggest that private home ownership increases mobility in council house or private house tenure?
If the hon Gentleman is interested in all-Scottish figures, he should know that there are more houses than households seeking accommodation in Scotland. The problems involve particular areas. The hon. Gentleman must know that the waiting lists provided by local authorities are subject to totally different criteria in different areas. Therefore, any national figures are of limited value.