Housing Finance Legislation (Implementation)

Oral Answers to Questions — Scotland – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 13th December 1972.

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Photo of Mr Iain Sproat Mr Iain Sproat , Aberdeen South 12:00 am, 13th December 1972

asked the Secretary of State for Scotland how many persons in Scotland are now paying more in rent than they are legally required to do because of the failure by certain local authorities to implement the Housing Finance Act.

Photo of Mr Gordon Campbell Mr Gordon Campbell , Moray and Nairnshire

Comprehensive information is not available, because in many areas individual entitlements will not have been assessed. The number of council tenants who are being deprived of more generous rebates under the Act must amount to many thousands, and there are about 100,000 private tenants in the areas of those Scottish authorities which have said they are not implementing the Act.

Photo of Mr Iain Sproat Mr Iain Sproat , Aberdeen South

Does my right hon. Friend agree that it really is shocking that so many people in Scotland should be done out of the cash benefits to which they are legally entitled by the illegal actions of certain Labour controlled local authorities? Could he give an example of a typical case of people being so deprived?

Photo of Mr Gordon Campbell Mr Gordon Campbell , Moray and Nairnshire

I agree with my hon. Friend that some local authorities are unfortunately depriving their electors, both ratepayers and tenants, of the benefits of the Act. I cannot pick out any particular authority. I would say that the large majority of authorities in Scotland are carrying out the Act.

Photo of Mr John Smith Mr John Smith , Lanarkshire North

Will the Secretary of State be fair and remind the House that the so-called benefits are reductions of increases in rent which were introduced by the Act? Will he tell the House how many people in Scotland are paying much more in rent now since the Act has come into force?

Photo of Mr Gordon Campbell Mr Gordon Campbell , Moray and Nairnshire

The Act is taking hardship out of rent-paying in Scotland. For the first time there is a comprehensive rebate scheme extending into the unfurnished private sector. That means that in future no family in Scotland will be asked to pay ordinary rent if it cannot afford to. As I indicated in my original reply, the exact numbers of persons involved cannot yet be assessed, because the rebate schemes themselves depend on individual assessments, but it is clear that gradual increases in ordinary rent are accompanied by the fact that no one will be expected in the unfurnished sector to pay ordinary rent in future if he cannot afford to.

Photo of Mr George Lawson Mr George Lawson , Motherwell

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that my constituency, where the Act is being and has from the beginning been implemented, is being deprived because of the Act of something like £l¼ million per annum on which the Government have welshed? Does the right hon. Gentleman think that this is a good example of pleading with people to implement the Act when the Govern- ment themselves have gone back on long-established undertakings given to the local authorities?

Photo of Mr Gordon Campbell Mr Gordon Campbell , Moray and Nairnshire

As the hon. Member knows, the amount of money from the Exchequer towards housing in Scotland is increasing and in most cases local authorities are getting more. Glasgow, for example, is due to get no less than £4 million more this year than in the previous year.

Photo of Mr William Ross Mr William Ross , Kilmarnock

Is the Secretary of State denying that the specific purpose of the Act is to increase local authority rents by amounts laid down by the Government without the agreement of the local authorities?

Photo of Mr Gordon Campbell Mr Gordon Campbell , Moray and Nairnshire

The right hon. Gentleman knows that up to 1st October Scottish ratepayers were contributing 35 per cent. of the cost of council housing and the tenants were contributing 40 per cent., and that in England and Wales the equivalent ratepayers' percentage was only 8 per cent. Therefore it has been the object to increase the Exchequer contribution and end the distortions by enabling the tenants to contribute more and reducing the burden on the Scottish ratepayers while protecting those tenants who cannot afford to pay an ordinary rent. The rent increases are carefully staged to be gradual.

Photo of Mr William Ross Mr William Ross , Kilmarnock

Will the Secretary of State now answer the question?

Photo of Mr Ian MacArthur Mr Ian MacArthur , Perth and East Perthshire

asked the Secretary of State for Scotland whether he will now make a further statement about the implementation by local authorities of the Housing (Financial Provisions) (Scotland) Act 1972.

Photo of Mr Gordon Campbell Mr Gordon Campbell , Moray and Nairnshire

Following public local inquiries held on 20th and 23rd November I found that Glasgow Corporation, Lanark County Council and Falkirk and Kirkcaldy Town Councils have failed effectively to discharge their duties in relation to rents and rent rebates under the Act. On 1st December I made default orders directing these four authorities within 14 days to instruct their officials to prepare rent rebate schemes in accordance with the Act and proposals for increases in standard rents in accordance with the requirements of the orders. Lanark County and Kirkcaldy have now resolved to implement the Act.

I have appointed reporters to hold similar inquiries on 27th and 29th December in relation to Midlothian County Council, and Clydebank, Dunfermline and Kilmarnock Town Councils; and I will arrange further inquiries as necessary.

Photo of Mr Ian MacArthur Mr Ian MacArthur , Perth and East Perthshire

Will my right hon. Friend give an undertaking that there will be no delay in pursuing this matter? Will he agree that this defiance of Parliament cannot be tolerated any longer? Will he confirm that this continued defiance of the law by Glasgow and 17 other local authorities is costing the ratepayers in those areas a great deal of money and is denying to the many thousands of tenants in need the more generous rent rebates which are provided under the Act?

Photo of Mr Gordon Campbell Mr Gordon Campbell , Moray and Nairnshire

I can give my hon. Friend an undertaking that the 1947 Act procedures have been and will be carried out as quickly as possible. There is a timetable involving the amount of notice that has to be given for local inquiries, which is 28 days, but the procedures have been followed as quickly as possible. I also confirm that an extra burden is being added to the ratepayers of the authorities concerned who are being punished by this action.

Photo of Mr Harry Ewing Mr Harry Ewing , Stirling and Falkirk Burghs

May I bring a very out-of-date Secretary of State up to date by informing him that Falkirk Town Council has also agreed to implement the Act? What action does the Secretary of State propose to take in respect of the housing subsidies which he withheld to blackmail local authorities in Scotland?

Photo of Mr Harry Ewing Mr Harry Ewing , Stirling and Falkirk Burghs

When does the right hon. Gentleman expect to pay those subsidies? Will he also comment on the farcical nature of the inquiries which he orders?

Photo of Mr Gordon Campbell Mr Gordon Campbell , Moray and Nairnshire

The inquiries are laid down by the 1947 Act. There is no question of their being farcical; they are required by this House. It had been arranged that advance payment of subsidy to authorities would be made by the Government in November under the Act. If certain authorities are refusing to carry out the Act, they cannot expect to get an advance subsidy arising from the Act.

Photo of Mr Harry Ewing Mr Harry Ewing , Stirling and Falkirk Burghs

On a point of order. The Secretary of State has not said when those local authorities—

Photo of Mr Selwyn Lloyd Mr Selwyn Lloyd , Wirral

Order. That is a matter of content, not of order.

Photo of Mr Norman Buchan Mr Norman Buchan , Renfrewshire West

Does the Secretary of State agree that, no matter what legalistic right he may feel he has on his side, the people of Scotland will condemn him for his moral wrong and bullying? Will the right hon. Gentleman promise to look into the details published in today's Glasgow Herald showing that at one such meeting CID members were present making notes, and that the police were present yesterday at a perfectly fair deputation of tenants to protest against his vindictive Act?

Photo of Mr Gordon Campbell Mr Gordon Campbell , Moray and Nairnshire

Until the hon. Member rose two minutes ago I had thought that hon. Gentlemen on the Opposition Front Bench were also advocating that local authorities should carry out this Act of Parliament, but from what the hon. Gentleman has said it sounds as though he is not. I only know what I have seen in the newspapers today and I cannot comment on the Glasgow Herald article.

Photo of Mr Norman Buchan Mr Norman Buchan , Renfrewshire West

We asked the right hon. Gentleman to investigate this matter and I hope that he will not, like his hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State, continually distort our questions. Since we have asked the Secretary of State to report on a serious allegation, surely he will promise us that.

Photo of Mr Gordon Campbell Mr Gordon Campbell , Moray and Nairnshire

If there is anything in the newspapers which affects the Government, we shall look into it.

Several Hon. Members:

rose

Photo of Mr Selwyn Lloyd Mr Selwyn Lloyd , Wirral

Order. Ten questions in 25 minutes is not very good progress.

Photo of Mr Peter Doig Mr Peter Doig , Dundee West

asked the Secretary of State for Scotland if he will give the dates on which Dundee, Edinburgh and Lochgelly local authorities, respectively, decided to comply with the Housing (Financial Provisions) (Scotland) Act and the dates when he authorised the payment of the withheld portion of their housing subsidies.

Photo of Mr Gordon Campbell Mr Gordon Campbell , Moray and Nairnshire

Their latest decisions relating to compliance with the Act were taken by Dundee Corporation on 29th August, Edinburgh Corporation on 5th October and Lochgelly Town Council on 13th November. On 16th November I authorised payment to Lochgelly Town Council of the withheld portion of its housing subsidies. In the light of developments I have now arranged for payments to be made also to several other authorities, including Dundee.

Photo of Mr Peter Doig Mr Peter Doig , Dundee West

While thanking the right hon. Gentleman for that rather belated action may I ask whether he is aware that the people of Dundee feel that they have been discriminated against by the Secretary of State, as the dates of these sanctions show, and that the withholding of £1 million in subsidy from the city of Dundee is costing the ratepayers £1,400 per week in interest charges alone?

Photo of Mr Gordon Campbell Mr Gordon Campbell , Moray and Nairnshire

I am aware of the second point, and I say straight away that no Government can completely insulate ratepayers from the follies of their elected representatives. As regards the payment of subsidies, in reply to a previous supplementary question I explained that I could not make payment of a subsidy in advance under an Act which a local authority was refusing to implement.