Skip to main content

Assured Tenancies

Volume 130: debated on Tuesday 29 March 1988

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

I beg to move amendment No. 127, in page 8, line 45, at end insert—

'(3) A tenancy is not an assured tenancy if the interest of the landlord belongs to a registered housing association, so long as the tenancy is not one which, by virtue of subsection (4) below can be an assured tenancy.
(4) A housing association tenancy is an assured tenancy when:—
  • (i) the circumstances in which the tenancy shall apply, and
  • (ii) the terms of the tenancy
  • have been determined by the Secretary of State by order.'
    This is an important amendment and I would like to spend a moment or two putting to the Government the fact that they have now had some time since the Committee stage, when we went through a series of amendments of which this was one. I chose amendment No. 127 to provide a vehicle to allow the Government to let us know the outcome of their deliberations. When discussing clause 12 in Committee, this amendment and the cause behind it were supported by hon. Members of all parties. The hon. Member for Eastwood (Mr. Stewart) and the right hon. Member for Kincardine and Deeside (Mr. Buchanan-Smith) expressed support for at least part of the principle of the amendment.

    The clause to which the amendment relates caused concern among the Scottish Federation of Housing Associations. It suggested a series of amendments that sought to give the Secretary of State the power to determine the terms and conditions of housing association assured tenancies. The matter was discussed in Committee.

    I understand that to a certain extent the amendment has been overtaken by them. I understand that the Government have taken some decisions about what element of private funding taken into account in the joint financing structure can be held to be public or private. The definition of what is public or private has changed. Perhaps the Minister could say a word about that.

    I am less concerned about the joint financing structure than I was in Committee. I am much more concerned with, and want to concentrate for a moment on, the change in the security of tenure that will flow from the Bill as it presently stands. This amendment is trying to press the Government to make changes and give us an assurance that the security of tenants in the housing association sector will be secure after the implementation of the Bill.

    At present, under part III of the Housing (Scotland) Act 1987, housing association tenants are secure tenants and enjoy the same rights as local authority, SSHA and new town development corporation tenants. However, future housing association tenants will be assured tenants under part II of the Bill. That represents a substantial reduction in the rights of future housing association tenants.

    The Government's stated aim in making the change is to encourage private investment in the funding of housing association projects. I stress that there is no objection on my part, or on that of the housing association movement in Scotland, to private finance being brought into the picture, as long as that is not done at the expense of the security and succession rights of housing association tenants.

    We have discussed the way in which secured tenants would become assured tenants. That, of course, would involve substantial reductions in security of tenure. I understand that a series of amendments tabled by the Government would effectively relocate two existing mandatory grounds for possession as discretionary grounds. That is welcome as far as it goes, but we still feel that the Government's proposals, if left unamended, will lead to a substantial reduction in tenants' security of tenure and succession rights.

    The Government's stated objective of diversification of tenure is bound to be struck at unless they accept at least the spirit of our amendments. People will not be encouraged to move from the public sector into housing associations and co-operative housing if the reductions in rights are left in the Bill. There are real worries about that.

    There is still considerable confusion about the increases in rents in general, and about the definition of affordable rents in particular. It would be helpful if the Minister could clarify the matter.

    As the Minister knows, this will be an important issue for housing association tenants in the future. It will affect the way that the housing association movement is able to work in Scotland within the framework of the Bill. I look forward to hearing from the Minister about his consultations with the housing associations since the Standing Committee proceedings. I hope that he has had a chance to change his mind, and to respond positively to the points put forward in Committee and this evening.

    Let me briefly associate the official Opposition with what has been said by the hon. Member for Roxburgh and Berwickshire (Mr. Kirkwood) on behalf of housing associations in Scotland. We recognise the serious anxieties of those housing associations and their members at the prospect of their being compelled to become high-rent, low-security landlords. We find it extraordinary that the present Secretary of State for Scotland, who keeps claiming credit for establishing security of tenure for Scottish housing association tenants in 1980, should now be introducing a new regime that could seriously undermine that security. Certainly the legislation could undermine the principles and motivation of the housing association movement in Scotland.

    The Minister should recognise that the members and committees of housing associations are, in effect, their neighbours' landlords. Hitherto, a fundamentally cooperative principle has worked behind the housing association movement, but the Bill could change all that. It could tear the heart out of the movement. I am not surprised that the Scottish Federation of Housing Associations has made strong representations to all parties, and especially to the Government, appealing for amendments to the Bill to protect the status of housing associations and their tenants. I sincerely hope that the Minister will respond to those appeals.

    This is clearly an extremely important matter, and I made it clear in Committee that it would be given very thorough consideration. That consideration is continuing. The first step has taken place in the form of very full discussions with the Scottish Federation of Housing Associations, and these discussions have been extremely useful. We have been able to identify precisely what rights the SFHA wishes all future housing association tenants to have, and which existing rights it believes should not be continued.

    The discussions have confirmed that there is a great deal of common ground between the housing association movement and the Government. One result has been that we have been able to bring forward some amendments, which we are to consider later. The amendments will retain the existing tenancy status for all housing association tenants who move from one house to another owned by the same housing association at any point in the future.

    12.15 am

    There are a range of options about the mechanics of securing the rights of new housing association tenants. We are still considering the options. The amendment proposes one set of mechanics, that central Government should determine a standard set of terms of tenancy for future housing association lettings. This would mean that housing associations would have no discretion at all to add to or take away from those terms. There are other options that involve variations both in the degree of statutory control and in the extent of the contract between housing associations and their future tenants, which either side should have discretion to seek to vary.

    These questions of mechanics require careful thought. We expect to reach a final decision shortly, but for the present they remain under consideration. As I have said, we will reach that decision as quickly as possible.

    On the basis that the talks are real, will continue and will bear fruit, I beg to ask leave to withdraw the amendment.

    Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.