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Schedule 10

Volume 130: debated on Wednesday 30 March 1988

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

Repeals

Amendments made: No. 139, in page 64, line 1, column 3, at end insert —

'In section 68, the words "or the local authority".'

No. 140, in page 64, line 3, at end insert—

'In section 71(1) the words "or the local authority".'
No. 101, in page 64, column 3, leave out lines 33 to 35.
No. 123, in page 64, line 33, column 3, at beginning insert—
'Section 62(11) to (13).'. — [Lord James Douglas-Hamilton.]

Title

Amendments made: No. 102, in line 5, after `tenants;', insert

`to make new provision as to limit on discount on the price of houses purchased by secure tenants;'.

No. 103, in line 5, after `tenants;', insert

`to abolish, and make interim provision for the capitalisation of, certain subsidies and contributions relating to housing;'. —[Lord James Douglas-Hamilton.]

Order for Third Reading read.[Queen's consent, on behalf of the Crown, signified.]

7.19 pm

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

This is a major Bill. Indeed, it is the most important housing legislation for Scotland since the Tenants' Rights, Etc. (Scotland) Act 1980. That legislation was badly misjudged by the Opposition of the time, who said that there was insufficient demand for the right to buy. We know now how wrong they were. I am confident that the current opposition to this Bill will, in time, be seen to be equally misjudged as the provisions bring a better quality of life to those living or wishing to live in rented homes.

The Bill has received a detailed and thorough examination by the House. No fewer than 600 amendments were considered in Standing Committee and more than 190 were dealt with on Report. The Bill has been improved substantially as a result of the debates that those amendments generated. We have listened carefully to views expressed both by hon. Members and by interested parties who have followed our debates. I think it right at this point to mention the considerable effort that has been put into the Bill by many groups who have assisted all parties in the House. I should mention specifically Shelter, Age Concern, the Scottish Federation of Housing Associations, the Lands Tribunal for Scotland, the Law Society, the Scottish Special Housing Association, the Housing Corporation and the Convention of Scottish Local Authorities.

In many cases, we have been able to respond to reasonable suggestions by making amendments to the Bill, and I have been happy so to do. In all, more than 66 amendments of this nature have been made, although some, of course, were of a minor or technical nature. We have also had a number of matters drawn to our attention on which it may be possible to bring forward further amendments in another place.

In relation to Scottish Homes, the general nature of the legislation within which the new body will work has been confirmed. This will give it the flexibility that we regard as necessary in the future housing scene. At the same time, through amendments, it has been given specific functions in relation to training and research, and its role in relation to all forms of housing has been clearly established. That was the result of an amendment tabled by the hon. Member for Edinburgh, South (Mr. Griffiths).

The doctrine of tacit relocation, one of the ornaments of Scottish law for which my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Perth and Kinross (Mr. Fairbairn) made a passionate appeal, has been accepted. [HON. MEMBERS: "Where is he?"] My hon. and learned Friend is temporarily absent, but I suspect that he will be tacit only until he is relocated.

In part II, the new tenancies for the private rented sector have drawn much comment. We have been able to respond to many of the suggestions made, and on Report the House approved a broad package of improvements to the assured and short assured tenancy regimes. In addition—the hon. Member for Dundee, East (Mr. McAllion) raised this in Committee—we have recognised that it was unnecessarily stringent to require a successor to a regulated tenancy to have lived with the tenant for five years. We have therefore reduced the period to two years. That matter was also raised by my hon. Friend the Member for Tayside, North (Mr. Walker) and by the hon. Member for Roxburgh and Berwickshire (Mr. Kirkwood).

The provisions of part III, which deals with tenants' choice, have been simplified. There has been recognition that the arrangements proposed in the Bill will meet the needs of Scotland more closely than those proposed for elsewhere. Amendments have been made to give effect to policy proposals in the White Paper which were not in the Bill on its introduction. We have been able to provide for the abolition of certain Exchequer subsidies under arrangements which are acceptable to the Convention of Scottish Local Authorities.

The Bill now incorporates a reasonable compromise between the aspirations of tenants to purchase their homes at a discount and the needs of local authorities. The new provisions for the cost floor should enable more tenants to exercise their right to buy, without their discount being restricted. The Bill gives effect to the majority of the proposals in the White Paper, but legislation alone does not achieve the improvements in the quality of life that we seek. The legislation enables tenants and others seeking a home to exercise more choice and opportunity, and enables those providing homes to do so with greater diversity. Above all, it enables individuals to take greater responsibility for their own homes.

It cannot go unremarked that the Opposition have no comprehensive policy for housing in Scotland. They are full of criticism for the constructive policies that the Government have put forward and they are always trying to drag down any attempt to move forward in providing better housing, but they have failed to produce one new idea to make progress on the remaining problems of today.

It came as no surprise, therefore, to see the hon. Member for East Lothian (Mr. Home Robertson) claiming recently that, in the unlikely event of his party forming a Government, they will promote housing choice by encouraging local initiatives to develop co-operatives, housing associations and owner-occupation. Having failed to devise policies of its own, the Labour party adopts those of our policies which seem most popular—those which we have pursued successfully since 1980. I am only sorry that the hon. Member for East Lothian does not acknowledge that and join us in achieving what appear to be our common aims.

Instead, there has been a continuing campaign of misinformation bordering on the irresponsible. Despite repeated assertions to the contrary from the Opposition and irresponsible interests outside, the Bill contains not a word of compulsion on tenants—[Interruption.] If the hon. Member for Dunfermline, West (Mr. Douglas) wishes to know, the leaflet put out in the summer by NALGO to SSHA tenants was highly irresponsible. There are many copies of that leaflet available.

My right hon. and learned Friend the Secretary of State has given clear and personal assurances that the rights of SSHA tenants in particular are in no way diminished by the Bill. The Bill expands the opportunities available. The Opposition claim that there is no call for those opportunities. They said the same about the Tenants' Rights, Etc. (Scotland) Act 1980, and they will be proved equally wrong now.

7.26 pm

I feel as though I have just been savaged by a pet lamb. The Minister's harangue would have been more convincing if he had been able to deliver it with a straight face, but I suspect that he found it no more convincing than the rest of the House did. He claimed to have listened to representations made in Committee and on the Floor of the House. He claimed to have listened to Shelter, to the Convention of Scottish Local Authorities, to the housing associations, to the Scottish Council for Single Homeless and all the rest, but there is precious little evidence that he understood or responded in any way to the positive representations made to him about housing in Scotland.

The Bill has been exposed as an irrelevant, dangerous and doctrinaire measure. In particular, it has highlighted the glaring deficiences in parliamentary scrutiny of Scottish legislation. Yesterday and today, the House has been voting through a measure which will have drastic effects on housing in Scotland, but without paying any attention to the arguments. Repeatedly, both yesterday and today, the Minister found himself in solitary splendour on the Conservative side with only a Whip from an English constituency to keep him company. Yet hundreds of English Conservatives poured into the Lobbies to vote on a measure which has no bearing on their constituents but which will have a far-reaching effect in Scotland.

As for the Committee stage, it is worth putting it on record that the people of Scotland elected 50 Labour Members of Parliament, 12 Members representing the so-called minority parties and only 10 Members from the real minority — the Conservative party. The Standing Committee, however, consisted of 11 Conservatives, six Labour Members and just one alliance Member. It is interesting to consider how the Tories managed to get 11 Members on the Committee when they have only 10 Scottish Members, two of whom are members of the Cabinet. To get their work through, they had to add two English Members—[Interruption.] I will not be lectured by the Minister of State, Scottish Office, the hon. Member for Galloway and Upper Nithsdale (Mr. Lang), about insults to the House. The hon. Gentleman represents a minority Administration in Scotland. He constantly treats the people of Scotland with abuse. He was not elected to do that, and I am not taking any nonsense from him. The Government managed to get their business through Committee only by adding two English Tories to its membership. That is just within Standing Orders, but it is an affront to the principles of democracy in Scotland.

The House and the Government should be warned about the strains that result from such provocative conduct by the minority Administration in the Scottish Office. The nation of Scotland does not have to put up with such abuse. Ministers are always quick to criticise the Opposition for any mention of civil disobedience in Scotland. The time is long overdue for Ministers to show some obedience to the electorate of Scotland — something that is lacking in this Bill and in other policies.

The Bill began life with a travesty of a consultation process. Ministers paid no heed to those who know and care about Scottish housing. Parliament has failed to carry out its duty to prevent the passage of bad legislation for Scotland. Part I creates a monstrous housing quango, Scottish Homes, whose board will be personally nominated by a Secretary of State who does not represent any more than a tiny rump of a minority in Scotland. That quango will have the full range of powers over housing in Scotland, but there will be no representation on its board from the tenants of Scotland. The powers of locally elected authorities are being savagely curtailed and SSHA tenants are being cynically manoeuvred into an uncertain future under Scottish Homes.

Part II provides for a new framework of so-called assured tenancies, which will be anything but assured. They are specifically designed to undermine tenants' rights and security and to force up rents to encourage the redevelopment of private landlordism in Scotland. The Government are running a terrible risk of encouraging the worst features of Rachmanism in Scotland. Clause 33 provides for damages for unlawful eviction, but it is clearly little more than a fig leaf. What is the point of protection against unlawful eviction when it will be all too easy to evict lawfully under schedule 5?

The Opposition, who are the majority in Scotland, want to put on record a clear warning to speculators that we will introduce a new framework of security and rent control as soon as possible, either in this Parliament or in a directly elected Scottish assembly. The Government are pinning their hopes on an upsurge in the provision of private rented accommodation by a sector that has been in decline since the beginning of the century and that now holds only 6 per cent. of the rented housing stock in Scotland.

The Government are establishing a mechanism under Part III which will allow private speculators to acquire public sector housing stock at a cut price. That demonstrates the Government's lack of confidence that the private sector will invest in building or in improving rented accommodation. The private sector cannot and will not rise to the challenge, and the Minister knows it. Even if it did, tenants could not afford the increased rents.

If the Minister will not take that from me, perhaps he will take it from the chief executive of the Nationwide Anglia Building Society, Mr. Tim Melville-Ross. The Scotsman states that during a speech at the Institute of Housing conference in Aviemore recently, he called for
"a significantly more generous housing benefit system to help people on modest incomes meet the higher rents likely under the Government's policy."
The article stated :
"The head of one of Britain's biggest building societies gave warning yesterday that the Government's planned housing reform would fail unless more financial help were given to both tenants and the providers of private rented houses."
We keep hearing about Nationwide Anglia, but that is what its chief executive said about the Government's proposals. Of course he wants more concessions, but, to his credit, he is also calling for better support for tenants.

The Minister has rejected an appeal to reconsider the impact of the legislation on housing benefit. The Government are not interested in that. They may not want to recognise it, but there is a mounting housing crisis in Scotland. Those of us elected to serve Scottish constituencies come face to face with it every day of the week. More than 30,000 people in Scotland become homeless every year, and their number has increased relentlessly during recent years. More than 200,000 people are on waiting lists and more then one quarter of the population is living in overcrowded accommodation.

Scotland probably has about 500,000 damp houses, but it is difficult to establish the facts and figures because the Government refuse to conduct a house condition survey similar to those carried out in England and Wales. The position is deteriorating because of the Government's refusal to invest in housing in Scotland. The Bill offers no hope to Scots who face homelessness or who are stuck in bad or overcrowded accommodation. It is simply a threat of unaffordable rents and eviction as the Government sacrifice tenants' right in their reckless endeavour to encourage private landlordism in Scotland.

The Government are sacrificing everything — fair rents, security, local control, and even the precious right to buy that Ministers keep praising. That right would be lost to tenants who transferred to the assured tenancy system. The Government are unleashing born-again Rachmanism in Scotland because there is no provision for effective regulation of the private sector.

We welcome the spectacular new motivation during recent months among tenants' organisations in Scotland which have been provoked by the Government's proposals. The Labour party strongly supports the rebirth of the tenants' association movement, which is a welcome development. I will not take any chiding from the Minister or from anyone else about the Labour party's housing policies. It has had positive achievements in housing in Scotland. We are happy to stand by the record of Labour-controlled authorities which, in all parts of Scotland, have made remarkable achievements, despite the interference and hostility of the Government.

Glasgow city district council, in particular, has made spectacular progress in difficult circumstances by developing and diversifying both public and private sector housing in partnership with housing associations, housing co-operatives and the private sector. It is a similar picture in many other areas. There is a stark contrast between the practical achievements of Labour-controlled authorities which want to provide for the needs of people in their localities and the negative approach of the minority Conservative Administration in the Scottish Office, who are interested only in encouraging their friends, the private property speculators. We stand for investment, for development and for tenants' rights. We reject the Bill.

7.37 pm

I do not intend to follow the typical carping speech of the hon. Member for East Lothian (Mr. Home Robertson) because we all know that homes, houses, waiting lists, condensation and dampness are all run-of-the-mill subjects with which we have to deal as constituency Members of Parliament. Any Bill that will improve the position must be welcome, and I certainly welcome this one. I congratulate my hon. Friend the Minister for piloting his first Bill through the House with such success.

I am glad that this year my hon. Friend has provided additional money for housing in Scotland. My right hon. and learned Friend the Secretary of State made an important announcement yesterday on urban aid. I understand that the additional money for non-housing revenue account money and improvement grants will be welcomed by local authorities as it will enable them to improve their housing stock. It is a rapid move in the right direction.

I am glad that the Bill includes an extension of our most successful policy of council house sales, which has done so much to grant the wish of many Scots to own their homes. I am also glad that my hon. Friend has dealt with choice of tenure, choice of landlord and rented accommodation generally. I do not know why the Opposition are so opposed to rented accommodation, which is important in Scotland, and in which the private sector plays as important a part as the public sector. As an immense number of people want to be mobile and to move from one job to another, rented accommodation available at reasonably short notice is important, but we must have the right structure for that to happen.

It is disappointing that all Opposition parties keep shouting alarm and despondency and creating a great deal of comment in Scotland that the Bill might be disadvantageous to the average Scots household. Of course it is not. It is there to help. Its whole objective is to improve the quality of Scottish housing. That is why the most important part of the Bill is the setting up of Scottish Homes, bringing together the Scottish Special Housing Association and the individual housing associations that are doing so much throughout Scotland to improve the quality of homes, especially for the less fortunate and for handicapped people. That is one of the most important and dramatic developments in Scotland over the past ten years or so—long may it continue. I hope that my hon. Friend will continue to make substantial sums of money available to the housing associations.

All in all, I congratulate my hon. Friend and the Secretary of State for Scotland on promoting the Bill, and I wish it well in another place.

7.40 pm

I shall be brief, but I want to address the Under-Secretary of State for Scotland who has piloted the Bill through Committee and through our proceedings. I might be using the word "piloted" loosely, because a pilot usually achieves his objective by getting the ship into port safely, with the crew happy. The crew that I am speaking about are hon. Members — in this case, those representing Scottish constituencies. I would not describe it as a happy crew. Indeed, the Minister's own crew have deserted—

There are not many Opposition Members present.

If the Whip would stop interrupting from a sedentary position, he would realise that it is not the Opposition's responsibility to carry the Bill through. He has that responsibility. Quite noticeable in our previous debate were some of the more knowledgeable English Members. I am referring, among others and in his absence, to the hon. Member for Aldershot (Mr. Critchley) who must have got material for three or four articles while listening to the Minister's erudite reply to my hon. Friend the Member for Glasgow, Pollok (Mr. Dunnachie). When my hon. Friend asked the Minister a question about clause 64, the reply from the Box was, in effect, "We do not really know the answer. After all this time, we are considering it." That is the level of debate and assistance that we have had from the Government.

The Under-Secretary of State, whom I have known for a considerable time, bears among his names a name that I bear also. Throughout history, the Douglases have fought for Scotland and Scotland's interests—

Yes, ruthlessly, it is true. However, I do not think that the way in which the Under-Secretary of State is fighting at present is in Scotland's interest or that it is doing the Douglas name any good. He knows that I respect him highly, but he should consider his position. In a way, his piloting of this Bill is a triumph of our liking for him over his intellectual grasp of the housing issue.

The Under-Secretary of State mentioned a whole host of organisations that had been consulted about the Bill, not one of which supported the measure. The Scottish Special Housing Association initially thought that it was quite a useful measure, but on examining it in detail, it turned against it.

The hon. Member for Dumfries (Sir H. Monro) has left the Chamber and deserted the ship, but I pick up some of his strictures that we should all be concerned about the future of housing and that we should be flexible and not have a doctrinaire aproach. However, what concerns me about the thrust of the Bill, and about when it becomes an Act, is that it goes against the cohesion that we have kept in Scotland, in terms of a sense of community.

The Bill means that people will be able to move out of the local authority sector into Scottish Homes. It is possible—indeed, I would say, probable—that there is a dual thrust out of the local authority sector because people will move out of the local authority sector into Scottish Homes, either through housing associations or in another way and, because of the discounts, people will buy themselves out of the local authority sector, which will be ghettoised. People who are concerned about a sense of community should be concerned about that. Only the poorer sections of the community and the worst type of housing will remain in the local authority sector. I advise the Minister that if he is concerned about communities, he should take that on board.

Moreover, as we saw in debating clause 64, the local authority will have burdens placed on it in relation to care of the homeless and vexatious aspects of rent control and rent legislation. People might be considered to be living in over-luxurious accommodation and be asked to move out. It is the local authority, not Scottish Homes, that will have the responsibility of looking after them.

What the Tories are doing to Scotland, not only in housing, but in education and in all aspects of Thatcherite policy, is destroying our sense of community. We did not vote for that in 1987. There is no majority in Scotland for that thrust and that approach. I warn my colleagues that we have suffered this for eight long and dreary months, but I doubt whether we can suffer for long an approach such as we have witnessed today — in the article in the Glasgow Herald and in the speeches that the Prime Minister has made in Scotland. I doubt whether the Douglases — people who have fought ruthlessly for Scotland—can stomach that for much longer.

7.47 pm

Although I believe that the Bill is a missed opportunity, I begin by agreeing with the Government at least in so far as their stated objectives were made clear to the Committee, to the House on Second Reading and in subsequent stages. First, it is obviously right, in the context of the condition of Scotland's housing at the moment, that increased home ownership should be given a degree of priority by the Government, and by local authorities and housing agencies.

Secondly, it is also true that increased diversification of forms of tenure is a perfectly proper and laudable objective. Finally, the geographical locations require urgent attention and priority, whether relating to legislation, resources or anything else that should be given to the peripheral housing schemes, especially in our bigger cities. I believe that all hon. Members would find it easy to agree with those things.

However, when we take the stated objectives and consider the content of the Bill as it has been produced by the Second Reading and Committee stages in the House, we are looking at the introduction of the new organisation, Scottish Homes. I believe that it would be possible for another Government with a different social and economic perspective, in office in Scotland, to make Scottish Homes a force for change for the better. However, because of the Government's track record on economic and social issues, I have substantial doubts that they will manage to achieve anything positive.

I believe that the proposals for Scottish Homes will have little impact on my constituency. I hope that I am wrong about that. The housing association movement has made a small but meaningful change for the better in rural areas and small towns in south-east Scotland and the border areas. I hope that that will continue. But even the housing associations are anxious about the application of the new assured tenancy scheme to their future tenants.

The Minister said that he will continue to consider the matter. I implore him to get that consideration right. He must deal with the loss of security and succession rights. I warn him that, if he does not, he will lose the cooperation of housing associations. They will be in the same boat as local authorities which have, to all intents and purposes, lost any meaningful relationship with central Government. If the general powers and specific functions of Scottish Homes cannot be implemented with the agreement of local authorities and housing associations, the prospect of its succeeding are negligible. I hope that I am wrong, but I say that to the Minister with all the conviction that I can muster.

The Minister must also consider the balance between private and public sector investment. Of course, private sector investment should be brought in. I agree with the hon. Member for East Lothian (Mr. Home Robertson) that to make public sector investment meaningful for investors, the Government will have to provide financial inducements over and above anything that they have considered to make substantial inroads into housing investment. That would cause me some anxiety. Although I do not mind allocating public funds to support housing provision in Scotland, it is wrong to give tax breaks and financial handouts to companies and individuals simply because they are prepared to consider moving into the private housing sector.

The balance of landlord to tenant in the new assured tenancy scheme is out of kilter. Time will tell whether I am wrong about that, but I believe that the Minister has gone too far in the wrong direction. I concede that to develop the philosophy that is contained in other parts of the Bill, there may have been arguments for considering how to free the private rented sector. I do not necessarily agree with it, but I concede that some adjustment may have been necessary. I think that the Minister has overdone that adjustment, and time will prove me correct.

What causes local authorities most anxiety is part III. The prohibition of opting into the public sector is unnecessary to achieve the Minister's aims. If his analysis is right and the public sector has been found wanting in the past—there have been legitimate criticisms of some local authorities, especially in the central industrial belt, in relation to repairs and maintenance — it must be unnecessary to proscribe people's ability to return to the public sector. It would have cost the Minister nothing to make the choice a genuine one, and he could more easily have defended himself against attacks on the issue from the Opposition. It was a bad tactical mistake, and I believe that the House will wish to reconsider the matter in the future.

I implore the Scottish Office, and the Minister's Department, to pay more attention to the processes of consultation. There is a widespread feeling, which I support entirely, that the Bill has been rushed through in an indefensible manner. I cannot understand what the hurry was. There are at least two, three or even four years remaining of this Parliament, and it would have served the interests of his Department better if the Minister had taken his time over consultation and introduced the Bill next Session. That would have allowed the organisations to which the Minister paid tribute—I endorse that tribute—more time to discuss the issues. A much better Bill would have followed the Green Paper consultation and White Paper processes. If the Minister has any influence with his Department, I hope he will never again allow such scant consultation on Scottish legislation.

The parliamentary process of the Bill was disgraceful. The Committee stage got into a bit of a fankle for the first two weeks, and we could have made better progress then. But thereafter the Opposition were as constructive and positive as they could have been. The Minister said that about 190 amendments were tabled on Report, 88 of which were from the Government. Of course, there should be half a dozen or even a dozen amendments that derive directly from discussions in Committee, but the tabling of so many amendments on Report and the charade that we had last night sent me home deeply frustrated and despairing of what people outside this place—interest groups and the public—must have made of our proceedings.

The Minister must bear responsibility for that. If his Department comes to him and suggests that future legislation should be handled in that way, he should say, "No. I am not prepared to legislate in that fashion on important issues." If we do not protest vigorously against such procedures, the Government will have recourse to such tactics even more regularly. The Minister will take up my points later, but I believe that it does the House no service to legislate as we have with this Bill.

I hope that the Bill will succeed. I fear that it will not, but time will tell.

7.57 pm

The Bill will do almost nothing to solve Scotland's undoubted housing crisis. It will do almost nothing to help the thousands of homeless people, or the thousands of people threatened with homelessness, or the thousands of people living in what they consider to be inadequate accommodation, or the thousands of people on house waiting lists whose only hope of getting a home lies in the public sector through either the local council or the Scottish Special Housing Association. Not only will the Bill do almost nothing to help them; in many instances it will make matters considerably worse.

I shall confine most of my remarks to SSHA tenants, of which there are more than 1,000 in my constituency. The creation of Scottish Homes will be of no advantage to those tenants. Although the SSHA is far from perfect—I and many other Opposition Members have criticised it for being a quango and for being non-accountable, without any elected representation on the board—with the Bill we are coming out of the frying pan into the fire.

The SSHA will be replaced by a bigger bureaucracy. Scottish Homes will be the biggest landlord in Scotland. Sadly, the Minister refused to accept a succession of amendments in Committee — others were tabled for Report stage, but unfortunately were not selected—that would have introduced at least some elected representation on to the board of Scottish Homes. Instead, the membership of that board will be determined by the patronage power of the Secretary of State for Scotland. That is symptomatic of what is happening in Scotland, which is being governed by patronage rather than democracy.

We see that in the Health Service, where the Secretary of State's planted men have been put on the health boards, and those that disagree with him have been removed. I can imagine the type of pussy-footing people he will put on the board of Scottish Homes. They will be a crowd of yesmen.

Yes, indeed. He was quite rightly booted out of this place by his constituents. Sooner or later he will no doubt inherit a seat along the Corridor. In the meantime, as a result of the Secretary of State's abuse of patronage, Ancram is in danger of obtaining powerful positions such as membership of the board of Scottish Homes or other quangos and wreaking havoc until such time as true democracy is introduced to Scotland.

I agree with the hon. Member for Roxburgh and Berwickshire (Mr. Kirkwood) about the quality of consultation—it was an absolute farce. I have yet to find one SSHA tenant in my constituency who is in favour of the proposals in the Bill. I wonder whether the Minister could give us the name and address of one SSHA tenant anywhere in Scotland who is in favour of the proposals.

How can tenants say that they are in favour of the scheme when the options have not even been put before them?

The proposals are in the Bill. If the Minister is saying that the Bill is simply a series of options, I am afraid he has misunderstood the concrete legislative proposals contained in it. It is not a Green Paper, a White Paper or a consultation document. A consultation document was published a year ago. There were a series of phoney consultations as a result of which a White Paper was produced prior to the publication of the Bill.

As far as I am aware, no SSHA tenant is in favour of the proposals. The Minister has failed to give us the name and address of one such tenant, but perhaps his officials can give him that information. There are more than 83,000 such tenants throughout Scotland. Surely one of them has written to St. Andrew's house to say that they support the proposals.

As my hon. Friend has great mathematical skill, would he care to evaluate the probability of not one person in more than 80,000 being in favour of the proposals?

It is certainly formidable. It is incumbent upon the Minister to tell us why not one SSHA tenant has written to support the proposals.

Despite what the Minister may have said about listening to people, there is still a great deal of concern, particularly among SSHA tenants, about the effects that the Bill will have on their security of tenure, on future rent increases and the threat of privatisation. Tenants are also concerned about the Bill's lack of commitment to additional resources. Such a commitment is essential if we are to get to grips with the current housing crisis that besets the Scottish people.

The Government are not prepared to listen to the views of SSHA tenants. The consultative procedure has been an absolute farce because no significant concessions have been made in the Bill. The Minister has referred to Government amendments, but, by his admission, most of them were due to errors made in the original drafting of the Bill. Those amendments are technical and do not represent concessions.

On occasions I went upstairs to see how the Bill was faring. I have described the consultation process outside this House as farcical, but what took place in Committee was an insult to the Scottish people. Despite my hon. Friends' efforts to put up an excellent case, based on well-researched material and articulated arguments, there did not appear to be any meaningful dialogue. The Minister got up and read from prepared Civil Service scripts. Sometimes it appeared to me that the contents of those scripts did not even address the arguments my hon. Friends had made in Committee.

In Committee there did not appear to be any dialogue or meeting of minds. I have noticed that before, especially during Scottish questions. At Question Time, we all know that the Minister has about 12 options to answer possible supplementaries to a question put down two weeks in advance. Sometimes the answer that the Minister reads out to those supplementaries bears no relation to the question asked because he has got the wrong page. I believe that, all too often, that also happened in Committee. The Minister picked up the wrong brief and as a result there was no debate. He simply read prepared statements, some of which bore no relation to my hon. Friends' arguments.

When one is faced with such a situation it is difficult to wring concessions out of a Minister. I was not surprised on Report to discover that hardly any concessions had been made. The Government appear to treat parliamentary debates and the normal customs and traditions of the House with absolute contempt.

On one occasion when I visited the Committee I noticed an hon. Member whom I had not seen before and have not seen since. Someone told me that he represented Wanstead and Woodford. I thought Patrick Jenkin represented that constituency, but someone told me that he has been translated to another place. No doubt he is brushing his teeth in the dark, or in the sunlight of the House of Lords. The presence of not just one, but two English Tory Members, on that Committee was breaking a longstanding tradition of the House.

My hon. Friend is correct. We can argue about whether that should be so, but this was certainly a breach of custom and tradition. It is more than a quarter of a century since the last precedent for drafting in English hon. Members to a Scottish Standing Committee dealing with Scottish legislation.

The Government have scant regard for long-standing parliamentary traditions. They were reduced to a discredited rump of 10 hon. Members representing Scottish constituencies at the last general election. If they had an ounce of democratic decency left in them, they would have humbly accepted defeat and admitted that they had received no democratic mandate for housing policy, or anything else, from the people of Scotland. They would have abandoned the plans to introduce this sort of Scottish legislation, which the majority of Scots clearly do not want and which is being imposed on them by a Government whom they rejected at the last election. Instead of that, the Government have abandoned longstanding traditions and customs of the House.

We are often criticised by Conservative Members for having too little respect for this place, but the Government have shown less respect for the long-standing traditions of the House than the Opposition in this case. If that were not so, the Bill would not have had the relatively smooth passage that it has had.

We shall never get good housing policy in Scotland until we have a Government who are democratically accountable to our people and who are charged with drafting and implementing Scottish housing policy. That means that continuing efforts must be made in and outside the House for the establishment of a Scottish Assembly, or a devolved Scottish parliament, with powers over housing policy and many other aspects of life that affect the people of Scotland.

8.12 pm

The vast emptiness of the Conservative Benches sums up Conservative Members' attitude to Scottish housing and the way in which they treat our country and its housing needs. The Minister called this a most important Bill, but it is more important because of the potential damage it can cause to Scottish housing strategy and because of its failure to deal with Scottish housing needs.

The Bill disappoints. It fails to deliver anything substantial for the Scottish people or their housing. It does not live up to the worthy principles of the original White Paper and fails to meet Scotland's massive housing problems. It does nothing to combat dampness, overcrowding, growing waiting lists or any of the other all too obvious housing problems that afflict our nation.

Worse, homelessness will be exacerbated by many of the Bill's provisions. I regret that the Government have turned their back on the reasonable amendments that would have prevented further homelessness and helped local authorities to deal with the problem. The Government are making a serious and basic mistake in failing to prevent the financial haemorrhaging that will take place in council house sales at less than outstanding debt. That in turn will do great harm to house building and maintenance programmes.

I am disappointed at the Minister's failure to emulate his Welsh and English counterparts in various matters, including a clear commitment to allowing transfer back to public sector housing if that is chosen by a tenant. The Government also completely failed to accept any commitment to a housing conditions survey — an outstanding omission from the Bill.

The Government have wasted valuable legislative time that could and should have been put to better use. The Bill extends but fails to provide a real choice to tenants, and opposition to it has been well justified.

8.15 pm

I do not want to prolong the debate, but I should respond to it.

To the hon. Member for Falkirk, West (Mr. Canavan) I say that I did not have to say a word in Committee on the day when we both arrived there because he disrupted the proceedings that morning; so it is ironic that he should talk to us about the customs of the House. The doubts that he expressed about whether people would want to exercise increased choice in future were the same sort of doubts that were expressed during the passage of the Tenants' Rights, Etc. (Scotland) Act 1980 about whether there would be a take-up for the right to buy. Since that time, there is evidence that 107,000 people have taken up that right. Similar take-up will follow here in the future, provided that better detailed options are put before the tenants concerned. I take the hon. Gentleman's point that tenants will have abundant common sense and will not choose better options unless they are clearly put before them.

I agree with the hon. Member for Roxburgh and Berwickshire (Mr. Kirkwood) that many amendments were tabled on Report, because he and his hon. Friends contributed to the debate in such a way that some of the points that they raised were worthy of incorporation in an amended form, and it was only fair to respond to the good points that were made in Committee.

This is not the end of the Bill. The points that have been made will be further considered in another place and will return to the Chamber, when we shall have an opportunity to consider the Bill again in due course. The point that the hon. Member for Roxburgh and Berwickshire made about housing associations was important.

Question put, That the Bill be now read the Third time:—

The House divided: Ayes 229, Noes 192.

Division No. 244]

[8.17 pm

AYES

Adley, RobertChannon, Rt Hon Paul
Aitken, JonathanChapman, Sydney
Alexander, RichardChope, Christopher
Alison, Rt Hon MichaelClark, Dr Michael (Rochford)
Allason, RupertClark, Sir W. (Croydon S)
Amess, DavidColvin, Michael
Amos, AlanCoombs, Anthony (Wyre F'rest)
Arbuthnot, JamesCope, John
Arnold, Jacques (Gravesham)Cormack, Patrick
Arnold, Tom (Hazel Grove)Cran, James
Ashby, DavidCritchley, Julian
Atkinson, DavidCurrie, Mrs Edwina
Baker, Rt Hon K. (Mole Valley)Curry, David
Baker, Nicholas (Dorset N)Davies, Q. (Stamf'd & Spald'g)
Baldry, TonyDavis, David (Boothferry)
Banks, Robert (Harrogate)Day, Stephen
Batiste, SpencerDevlin, Tim
Beaumont-Dark, AnthonyDouglas-Hamilton, Lord James
Bendall, VivianDover, Den
Bennett, Nicholas (Pembroke)Dunn, Bob
Benyon, W.Durant, Tony
Bevan, David GilroyEggar, Tim
Biffen, Rt Hon JohnFallon, Michael
Blaker, Rt Hon Sir PeterFarr, Sir John
Bonsor, Sir NicholasFavell, Tony
Boscawen, Hon RobertField, Barry (Isle of Wight)
Bottomley, PeterFookes, Miss Janet
Bottomley, Mrs VirginiaForman, Nigel
Bowden, A (Brighton K'pto'n)Forsyth, Michael (Stirling)
Bowden, Gerald (Dulwich)Forth, Eric
Bowis, JohnFowler, Rt Hon Norman
Boyson, Rt Hon Dr Sir RhodesFox, Sir Marcus
Braine, Rt Hon Sir BernardFranks, Cecil
Brandon-Bravo, MartinFreeman, Roger
Brazier, JulianFrench, Douglas
Bright, GrahamFry, Peter
Brittan, Rt Hon LeonGale, Roger
Brown, Michael (Brigg & Cl't's)Garel-Jones, Tristan
Browne, John (Winchester)Gill, Christopher
Bruce, Ian (Dorset South)Glyn, Dr Alan
Burns, SimonGoodlad, Alastair
Burt, AlistairGoodson-Wickes, Dr Charles
Butcher, JohnGorman, Mrs Teresa
Butler, ChrisGrant, Sir Anthony (CambsSW)
Carlisle, John, (Luton N)Greenway, Harry (Ealing N)
Carlisle, Kenneth (Lincoln)Grylls, Michael
Carrington, MatthewGummer, Rt Hon John Selwyn
Carttiss, MichaelHargreaves, Ken (Hyndburn)
Cash, WilliamHarris, David

Haselhurst, AlanPorter, David (Waveney)
Hayward, RobertPortillo, Michael
Higgins, Rt Hon Terence L.Powell, William (Corby)
Howard, MichaelPrice, Sir David
Howarth, Alan (Strat'd-on-A)Raffan, Keith
Hughes, Robert G. (Harrow W)Raison, Rt Hon Timothy
Hunt, David (Wirral W)Rathbone, Tim
Hunter, AndrewRedwood, John
Irvine, MichaelRiddick, Graham
Johnson Smith, Sir GeoffreyRidsdale, Sir Julian
Kellett-Bowman, Dame ElaineRoberts, Wyn (Conwy)
Kilfedder, JamesRoe, Mrs Marion
King, Roger (B'ham N'thfield)Rossi, Sir Hugh
King, Rt Hon Tom (Bridgwater)Ryder, Richard
Knapman, RogerSackville, Hon Tom
Knight, Greg (Derby North)Sainsbury, Hon Tim
Knight, Dame Jill (Edgbaston)Scott, Nicholas
Knox, DavidShaw, David (Dover)
Lang, IanShaw, Sir Giles (Pudsey)
Latham, MichaelShaw, Sir Michael (Scarb')
Lawrence, IvanShephard, Mrs G. (Norfolk SW)
Lee, John (Pendle)Shepherd, Colin (Hereford)
Leigh, Edward (Gainsbor'gh)Shersby, Michael
Lennox-Boyd, Hon MarkSims, Roger
Lester, Jim (Broxtowe)Smith, Tim (Beaconsfield)
Lightbown, DavidSoames, Hon Nicholas
Lilley, PeterSpicer, Sir Jim (Dorset W)
Lloyd, Peter (Fareham)Squire, Robin
Luce, Rt Hon RichardStanbrook, Ivor
Lyell, Sir NicholasSteen, Anthony
Macfarlane, Sir NeilStern, Michael
MacKay, Andrew (E Berkshire)Stewart, Andy (Sherwood)
McLoughlin, PatrickStewart, Ian (Hertfordshire N)
McNair-Wilson, M. (Newbury)Stradling Thomas, Sir John
Madel, DavidSumberg, David
Malins, HumfreySummerson, Hugo
Mans, KeithTaylor, Ian (Esher)
Maples, JohnTaylor, John M (Solihull)
Marland, PaulTaylor, Teddy (S'end E)
Marshall, John (Hendon S)Tebbit, Rt Hon Norman
Marshall, Michael (Arundel)Temple-Morris, Peter
Martin, David (Portsmouth S)Thompson, D. (Calder Valley)
Mawhinney, Dr BrianThompson, Patrick (Norwich N)
Maxwell-Hyslop, RobinThornton, Malcolm
Mellor, DavidTracey, Richard
Meyer, Sir AnthonyTredinnick, David
Miller, HalTwinn, Dr Ian
Miscampbell, NormanWaddington, Rt Hon David
Mitchell, Andrew (Gedling)Wakeham, Rt Hon John
Mitchell, David (Hants NW)Walker, Bill (T'side North)
Moate, RogerWaller, Gary
Monro, Sir HectorWardle, Charles (Bexhill)
Montgomery, Sir FergusWarren, Kenneth
Morrison, Hon Sir CharlesWatts, John
Moss, MalcolmWells, Bowen
Neale, GerrardWheeler, John
Nelson, AnthonyWhitney, Ray
Neubert, MichaelWiddecombe, Ann
Newton, Rt Hon TonyWilkinson, John
Nicholls, PatrickWilshire, David
Nicholson, David (Taunton)Wolfson, Mark
Nicholson, Emma (Devon West)Wood, Timothy
Onslow, Rt Hon CranleyWoodcock, Mike
Oppenheim, Phillip
Page, RichardTellers for the Ayes:
Patten, Chris (Bath)Mr. David Maclean and
Pawsey, JamesMr. Stephen Dorrell.
Porter, Barry (Wirral S)

NOES

Abbott, Ms DianeBarron, Kevin
Adams, Allen (Paisley N)Battle, John
Allen, GrahamBeckett, Margaret
Alton, DavidBeith, A. J.
Anderson, DonaldBenn, Rt Hon Tony
Archer, Rt Hon PeterBennett, A. F. (D'nf'n & R'dish)
Armstrong, HilaryBermingham, Gerald
Ashley, Rt Hon JackBidwell, Sydney
Banks, Tony (Newham NW)Blair, Tony
Barnes, Harry (Derbyshire NE)Boyes, Roland

Bradley, KeithHughes, Simon (Southwark)
Brown, Gordon (D'mline E)Illsley, Eric
Brown, Nicholas (Newcastle E)Ingram, Adam
Brown, Ron (Edinburgh Leith)Janner, Greville
Buchan, NormanJohn, Brynmor
Buckley, George J.Jones, Barry (Alyn & Deeside)
Callaghan, JimKinnock, Rt Hon Neil
Campbell, Menzies (Fife NE)Kirkwood, Archy
Campbell, Ron (Blyth Valley)Lamond, James
Campbell-Savours, D. N.Leadbitter, Ted
Canavan, DennisLestor, Joan (Eccles)
Clark, Dr David (S Shields)Lewis, Terry
Clarke, Tom (Monklands W)Litherland, Robert
Clay, BobLivingstone, Ken
Clelland, DavidLivsey, Richard
Clwyd, Mrs AnnLloyd, Tony (Stretford)
Cohen, HarryLoyden, Eddie
Cook, Frank (Stockton N)McAllion, John
Cook, Robin (Livingston)McAvoy, Thomas
Corbett, RobinMcCartney, Ian
Cousins, JimMacdonald, Calum A.
Cox, TomMcFall, John
Crowther, StanMcKelvey, William
Cryer, BobMcNamara, Kevin
Cummings, JohnMcTaggart, Bob
Cunliffe, LawrenceMcWilliam, John
Dalyell, TamMadden, Max
Darling, AlistairMarek, Dr John
Davies, Rt Hon Denzil (Llanelli)Marshall, David (Shettleston)
Davies, Ron (Caerphilly)Maxton, John
Davis, Terry (B'ham Hodge H'l)Meale, Alan
Dewar, DonaldMichael, Alun
Dixon, DonMichie, Bill (Sheffield Heeley)
Dobson, FrankMichie, Mrs Ray (Arg'l & Bute)
Doran, FrankMillan, Rt Hon Bruce
Douglas, DickMitchell, Austin (G't Grimsby}
Dunnachie, JimmyMoonie, Dr Lewis
Dunwoody, Hon Mrs GwynethMorgan, Rhodri
Eadie, AlexanderMorris, Rt Hon J. (Aberavon)
Eastham, KenMullin, Chris
Evans, John (St Helens N)Murphy, Paul
Ewing, Harry (Falkirk E)Nellist, Dave
Ewing, Mrs Margaret (Moray)Oakes, Rt Hon Gordon
Field, Frank (Birkenhead)O'Neill, Martin
Fields, Terry (L'pool B G'n)Orme, Rt Hon Stanley
Flannery, MartinParry, Robert
Flynn, PaulPatchett, Terry
Foot, Rt Hon MichaelPendry, Tom
Foster, DerekPike, Peter L.
Foulkes, GeorgePowell, Ray (Ogmore)
Fraser, JohnPrescott, John
Galbraith, SamPrimarolo, Dawn
Galloway, GeorgeQuin, Ms Joyce
Garrett, John (Norwich South)Randall, Stuart
Garrett, Ted (Wallsend)Richardson, Jo
George, BruceRobertson, George
Gilbert, Rt Hon Dr JohnRobinson, Geoffrey
Godman, Dr Norman A.Rogers, Allan
Golding, Mrs LlinRooker, Jeff
Gordon, MildredRuddock, Joan
Gould, BryanSalmond, Alex
Graham, ThomasSedgemore, Brian
Griffiths, Nigel (Edinburgh S)Sheerman, Barry
Griffiths, Win (Bridgend)Sheldon, Rt Hon Robert
Grocott, BruceShore, Rt Hon Peter
Hardy, PeterSkinner, Dennis
Healey, Rt Hon DenisSmith, Andrew (Oxford E)
Heffer, Eric S.Smith, C. (Isl'ton & F'bury)
Henderson, DougSmith, Rt Hon J. (Monk'ds E)
Hinchliffe, DavidSnape, Peter
Hogg, N. (C'nauld & Kilsyth)Soley, Clive
Home Robertson, JohnSpearing, Nigel
Hood, JimmySteinberg, Gerry
Howarth, George (Knowsley N)Stott, Roger
Howells, GeraintStrang, Gavin
Hoyle, DougTaylor, Mrs Ann (Dewsbury)
Hughes, John (Coventry NE)Taylor, Rt Hon J. D. (S'ford)
Hughes, Robert (Aberdeen N)Turner, Dennis
Hughes, Roy (Newport E)Vaz, Keith
Hughes, Sean (Knowsley S)Wall, Pat

Wallace, JamesWise, Mrs Audrey
Walley, JoanWorthington, Tony
Wardell, Gareth (Gower)Wray, Jimmy
Welsh, Andrew (Angus E)Young, David (Bolton SE)
Welsh, Michael (Doncaster N)
Williams, Alan W. (Carm'then)Tellers for the Noes:
Wilson, BrianMr. Frank Haynes and
Winnick, DavidMr. Allen McKay.

Question accordingly agreed to.

Bill read the Third time, and passed.