Housing Bill (Allocation of Time)

– in the House of Commons at 4:16 pm on 16th April 1980.

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Photo of Mr Michael Heseltine Mr Michael Heseltine Secretary of State for Environment 4:16 pm, 16th April 1980

I beg to move, That the following provisions shall apply to the remaining proceedings on the Bill:

Committee

1.—(1) Subject to sub-paragraph (2) below, the Standing Committee to which the Bill is allocated shall report the Bill to the House on or before 1st May.

(2) Proceedings on the Bill at a sitting of the Standing Committee on 1st May may continue until 11 p.m. whether or not the House is adjourned before that time and if the House is adjourned before the proceedings have been brought to a conclusion the Standing Committee shall report the Bill to the House on 2nd May.

Report and Third Reading

2.—(1) The proceedings on Consideration and Third Reading of the Bill shall be completed in three allotted days and shall be brought to a conclusion at Seven o'clock on the last of those days; and for the purposes of Standing Order No. 43 (Business Committee) this Order shall be taken to allot to the proceedings on Consideration such part of those days as the Resolution of the Business Committee may determine.

(2) The Business Committee shall report to the House their resolutions as to the proceedings on Consideration of the Bill, and as to the allocation of time between those proceedings and proceedings on Third Reading, not later than the fourth day on which the House sits after the day on which the Chairman of the Standing Committee reports the Bill to the House.

(3) The resolutions in any Report made under Standing Order No. 43 may be varied by a further Report so made, whether or not within the time specified in sub-paragraph (2) above, and whether or not the Resolutions have been agreed to by the House.

(4) The resolutions of the Business Committee may include alterations in the order in which proceedings on Consideration of the Bill are taken.

Procedure in Standing Committee

3.—(1) At a sitting of the Standing Committee at which any proceedings on the Bill are to be brought to a conclusion under a Resolution of the Business Sub-Committee the Chairman shall not adjourn the Committee under any Order relating to the sittings of the Committee until the proceedings have been brought to a conclusion.

(2) No Motion shall be moved in the Standing Committee relating to the sitting of the Committee except by a Member of the Government, and the Chairman shall permit a brief explanatory statement from the Member who moves, and from a Member who opposes, the Motion, and shall then put the Question thereon.

4. No Motion shall be moved to postpone any Clause, Schedule, new Clause or new Schedule but the Resolutions of the Business Sub-Committee may include alterations in the order in which Clauses, Schedules, new Clauses and new Schedules are to be taken in the Standing Committee.

Conclusion of proceedings in Committee

5. On the conclusion of the proceedings in any Committee on the Bill the Chairman shall report the Bill to the House without putting any Question.

Dilatory motions

6. No dilatory Motion with respect to, or in the course of, proceedings on the Bill shall be moved in the Standing Committee or on an allotted day except by a member of the Government, and the Question on any such Motion shall be put forthwith.

Extra time on allotted days

7.—(1) On an allotted day paragraph (1) of Standing Order No. 3 (Exempted business) shall apply to the proceedings on the Bill for two hours after Ten o'clock.

(2) Any period during which proceedings on the Bill may be proceeded with after Ten o'clock under paragraph (7) of Standing Order No. 9 (Adjournment on specific and important matter that should have urgent consideration) shall be in addition to the said period of two hours.

(3) If an allotted day is one to which a Motion for the adjournment of the House under Standing Order No. 9 stands over from an earlier day, a period of time equal to the duration of the proceedings upon that Motion shall be added to the said period of two hours.

Private Business

8. Any private business which has been set down for consideration at Seven o'clock on an allotted day shall, instead of being considered as provided by Standing Orders, be considered at the conclusion of the proceedings on the Bill on that day, and paragraph (1) of Standing Order No. 3 (Exempted business) shall apply to the private business for a period of three hours from the conclusion of the proceedings on the Bill or, if those proceedings are concluded before Ten o'clock, for a period equal to the time elapsing between Seven o'clock and the conclusion of those proceedings.

Conclusion of proceedings

9.—(1) For the purpose of bringing to a conclusion any proceedings which are to be brought to a conclusion at a time appointed by this Order of a Resolution of the Business Committee or the Business Sub-Committee and which have not previously been brought to a conclusion the Chairman or Mr. Speaker shall forthwith put the following Questions (but no others), that is to say—

  1. (a) any Question already proposed from the Chair;
  2. (b) any Question necessary to bring to a decision a Question so proposed (including in the case of a new Clause or new Schedule which has been read a second time, the Question that the Clause or Schedule be added to the Bill);
  3. (c) the Question on any Amendment or Motion standing on the Order Paper in the name of any Member, if that Amendment or Motion is moved by a member of the Government;
  4. (d) any other Question necessary for the disposal of the business to be concluded; and on a Motion so moved for a new Clause or a new Schedule, the Chairman or Mr. Speaker shall put only the Question that the Clause or Schedule be added to the Bill.

(2) Proceedings under sub-paragraph (1) above shall not be interrupted under any Standing Order relating to the sittings of the House.

(3) If an allotted day is one on which a Motion for the adjournment of the House under Standing Order No. 9 (Adjournment on specific and important matter that should have urgent consideration) would, apart from this Order, stand over to Seven o'clock—

  1. (a) that Motion shall stand over until the conclusion of any proceedings on the Bill which, under this Order or a Resolution of the Business Committee, are to be brought to a conclusion at or before that time;
  2. (b) the bringing to a conclusion of any proceedings on the Bill which, under this Order or a Resolution of the Business Committee, are to be brought to a conclusion after that time shall be postponed for a period equal to the duration of the proceedings on that Motion.

(4) If an allotted day is one to which a Motion for the adjournment of the House under Standing Order No. 9 stands over from an earlier day, the bringing to a conclusion of any proceedings on the Bill which, under this Order or a Resolution of the Business Committee, are to be brought to a conclusion on that day shall be postponed for a period equal to the duration of the proceedings on that Motion.

Supplemental orders

10.—(1) The proceedings on any Motion moved in the House by a member of the Government for varying or supplementing the provisions of this Order (including anything which might have been the subject of a report of the Business Committee or Business Sub-Committee) shall, if not previously concluded, be brought to a conclusion one hour after they have been commenced, and paragraph (1) of Standing Order No. 3 (Exempted business) shall apply to the proceedings.

(2) If on an allotted day on which any proceedings on the Bill are to be brought to a conclusion at a time appointed by this Order or a Resolution of the Business Committee the House is adjourned, or the sitting is suspended, before that time no notice shall be required of a Motion moved at the next sit- ting by a member of the Government for varying or supplementing the provisions of this Order.

Saving

11. Nothing in this Order or a Resolution of the Business Committee or Business Sub-Committee shall—

  1. (a) prevent any proceedings to which the Order or Resolution applies from being taken or completed earlier than is required by the Order or Resolution, or
  2. (b) prevent any business (whether on the Bill or not) from being proceeded with on any day after the completion of all such proceedings on the Bill as are to be taken on that day.

Re-committal

12.—(1) References in this Order to proceedings on Consideration or proceedings on Third Reading include references to proceedings, at those stages respectively, for, on or in consequence of, re-committal.

(2) On an allotted day no debate shall be permitted on any Motion to re-commit the Bill (whether as a whole or otherwise), and Mr. Speaker shall put forthwith any Question necessary to dispose of the Motion, including the Question on any amendment moved to the Question.

Interpretation

13. In this Order— allotted day" means any day (other than a Friday) on which the Bill is put down as the first Government Order of the Day provided that a Motion for allotting time to the proceedings on the Bill to be taken on that day either has been agreed on a previous day, or is set down for consideration on that day;the Bill" means the Housing Bill;Resolution of the Business Sub-Committee" means a resolution of the Business Sub-Committee as agreed to by the Standing Committee;Resolution of the Business Committee" means a Resolution of the Business Committee as agreed to by the House.

When I moved the Second Reading of the Housing Bill on 15 January, I said that it was far more than just another Housing Bill. It is a Bill with profound social implications. It provides an opportunity to transform the personal prospects of millions of our citizens. It will establish the rights of tenants as individuals above the bureaucracies of the State and local authorities.

The Bill flows from the clearest of manifesto commitments upon which this Government were elected. The policies within it were endorsed overwhelmingly by the electorate. They were promised in the Royal Address and were presented to the House in the Housing Bill at the earliest opportunity, which was dictated by these unique provisions and the time taken to draft and present them to the House.

The policies are ones that the people clearly want and have indicated that they want. It may interest the House to know that there is a continual stream of letters to my Department from people who are eager to buy their homes and are longing to know when the Bill will come into force. We have received about 2,800 letters from members of the public about the right to buy, about 90 per cent. of which support our policies.

Photo of Mr Michael Heseltine Mr Michael Heseltine Secretary of State for Environment

For those concerned it is a big deal, and I am pleased that the hon. Member for Salford, East (Mr. Allaun) realises that.

The majority of these letters are from tenants who are trying to buy their own homes. The largest group are those who are having difficulty in buying because landlords will not sell, or sell at the discounts that it is within their discretion to grant. These people want the Bill enacted as quickly as possible.

Photo of Jack Straw Jack Straw , Blackburn

Since 16 May 1979, most local authorities have been offering discounts of 33 per cent. to 50 per cent., which are the discounts available under the Bill. Notwithstanding that, sales in the past six months have been 2,500 fewer than during the last six months of the Labour Government. Where is the evidence that the measure is desperately needed? How does the Minister explain that decline in sales?

Photo of Mr Michael Heseltine Mr Michael Heseltine Secretary of State for Environment

If the hon. Member looked carefully at the figures he would realise the fallacy behind his question. He is not in a position to refer to current completions or to those awaiting completion. We do not yet have the statistics of completions currently taking place, namely, the completions that will have arisen as a result of the new opportunities that were created following the change in government. The hon. Member will be aware that, as we have made clear to the House, the second half of 1979 saw levels of completion—22,000 for the half year—that are comparable with the highest levels of completion ever achieved in council house sales. The hon. Mem- ber will be pleased to see that on the evidence that is available the programme is progressing as successfully as I am sure he would want to see.

Photo of Mr David Alton Mr David Alton , Liverpool Edge Hill

Has the Secretary of State seen the report in The Guardian today, which quotes his own Department's figures and demonstrates that sales are down by about 22,000 on what was achieved during the period of the last Conservative Government? Estimates by the Department show that 40,000 houses were sold last year. In those circumstances, surely the Secretary of State must be worried at the continuing decline in the number of sales, not only in the council sector but in the private sector, as a result of the very high levels of mortgage rates.

Photo of Mr Michael Heseltine Mr Michael Heseltine Secretary of State for Environment

I am worried by the effect on the programme of the high levels of mortgage rates. I am sure that the hon. Member will support the Government in whatever way is possible to secure reductions in public expenditure, which alone will bring down the interest rates and therefore the mortgage rates, I share his concern and I welcome his support for the policies that we are pursuing in that direction. As for the report to which the hon. Gentleman drew the attention of the House, I refer him to the answer that I gave to the hon. Member for Blackburn (Mr. Straw). I hope that Opposition Members will bear with us until we have the completion figures. Then we shall be able to make judgments about the facts as completions take place consequent upon the change in policy towards the sale of council houses.

There is a very considerable delay between a person applying to buy a council house and the completion of the sale. The House will be very familiar with some of the reasons for this. When the houses were built, it was not anticipated in many cases that they would be sold. The legal documents are not often in existence to enable the legal processes to be completed with dispatch. There is a very considerable time delay, as all local authorities involved in selling council houses have discovered. We are going through that process, and there is bound to be a time delay.

The House will be aware that in the legislation itself there is the assumption that the effective right of ownership becomes relevant from the date on which the prospective purchaser serves notice on the local authority, so we have done everything in the legislation to anticipate the delay problems and to remove any anxiety which might exist in the minds of prospective purchasers.

It is quite clear that in the minds of many people—not only those who voted for my party at the general election but those who subsequently sought to take advantage of the policies upon which we were elected—there is a desire that the Bill should come into force as quickly as possible. It is, therefore, our clear intention to have the Bill enacted before the House rises for the Summer Recess. I believe that I carry the support of the House in saying that delay beyond that date would be a denial of our promises and of the aspirations of the people who voted for us. It is against that background that the guillotine motion is moved.

I realise at once—Opposition Members have been perfectly frank about it—that parts of the Bill are contentious and complex. The right hon. Member for Birmingham, Sparkbrook (Mr. Hattersley) has made the position of his party totally clear. He does not like the main provisions of the right to buy and has made it clear that at any subsequent general election the Labour Party will campaign on a clear commitment to withdraw from millions of council tenants the right to buy. He will want to explain to the electorate at large—as he has explained already, so articulately—the implications of those policies at that time, and I do not doubt that my right hon. and hon. Friends will join in the debate as honestly and frankly as they feel able to do. But that is a matter of policy, and it is against the background of a policy commitment of that sort that it is quite understandable that Opposition Members are content to see the Bill proceeding at what one might describe as other than the fastest possible speed.

We have all been in opposition and know the relative responsibilities of being in opposition. I understand the attitudes of Opposition Members, although I cannot, of course, agree with them. But the Bill is important not only in respect of the right to buy council houses. It is important because it gives new rights to those who remain council tenants. It gives rights that Labour Members said that they believed in when their party was in office. They talked about them a great deal, although they did not legislate for them. We may assume, therefore, that broadly they are in support of that section of the Housing Bill.

The Bill also contains proposals for reviving the private rented sector. I think that again we carry the support, in principle, of hon. Members on each side of the House in trying to create a climate in which the private rented sector might have an opportunity at least to halt the decline that has continued for so long.

There is a great deal in the Bill that carries support from hon. Members in many parts of the House, albeit that there are parts of the Bill which, although carrying such support, had to wait for this Government to come to power before there was a chance to put them on the statute book.

Photo of Mr Frank Allaun Mr Frank Allaun , Salford East

In addition to the two parts that the right hon. Gentleman has just mentioned, there is another important one—the withdrawal of subsidy on a very big scale. Can the Secretary of State deny that the Estimates provide for a reduction of £2½ billion a year within three years in housing expenditure, that is to say, by 50 per cent., which means virtually the extinction of new council house building? In view of that, can he deny the right of a full discussion of the Bill in Committee, in the usual way?

Photo of Mr Michael Heseltine Mr Michael Heseltine Secretary of State for Environment

That question is not relative to the debate in terms of the figures, because it would be perfectly possible to see changes in the housing programme without there being a piece of housing legislation. The hon. Member will know that such downward changes are possible without the Bill, because he supported the Government who presided over those changes so significantly in recent years when the housing programme fell by hundreds of millions of pounds. It did not need this legislation for that process to continue. The remaining levels of housing support anticipated in the Government's public expenditure White Paper allow for a continuing new construction programme at the discretion of local authorities.

Photo of Mr Michael Heseltine Mr Michael Heseltine Secretary of State for Environment

It depends on the discretion of local authorities. I appreciate that it is difficult for Labour Members to get used to the fact that if we give freedom to local authorities, they have to be allowed the discretion to exercise that freedom. It is not possible, therefore, for me to say in advance what local authorities will do with that freedom. They may repair houses, they may give mortgages, they may give improvement grants, or they may build new houses—all within the block allocation over which they have discretion. The House will be able to see what happens when local authorities make their own decisions, as opposed to having decisions imposed on them by a central Government Department.

Photo of Mr Allan Roberts Mr Allan Roberts , Bootle

Is it not the case that the housing investment programme allocations that the Secretary of State has given to local authorities have meant that many local authorities cannot make any decisions about where they spend the money, because they have been allocated only enough to meet existing commitments? There is no discretion; they have been given discretion to spend nothing, because there is nothing left.

Photo of Mr Michael Heseltine Mr Michael Heseltine Secretary of State for Environment

The hon. Gentleman misses the point, because they have already exercised the discretion. What they may have done is to anticipate the allocation of funds which they did not then in fact receive. [Interruption.] They had already received or assumed receipt of funds and therefore used discretion in allocating part of the funds that they knew they would get. This is a very well-established precedent. The point that Labour Members should remember, inconvenient though it is, is that the policies of their party brought about the decline of new council housing on a scale broadly equivalent to the rates that are assumed in the current position.

Photo of Gerald Kaufman Gerald Kaufman , Manchester Ardwick

What has the Secretary of State to say about the exercise of freedom by the Greater London Council, which has decided that because of the cuts in housing investment programme allocation it cannot advance any local authority mortgages for the whole of the coming financial year? Mr. George Tremlett, the leader of the housing committee, has said that the Government have allocated the Conservative-controlled council only £156 million of the £270 million requested, and that £130 million is committed.

Photo of Mr Michael Heseltine Mr Michael Heseltine Secretary of State for Environment

That makes my point exactly. The local authority has discretion over the £156 million. The right hon. Member for Manchester, Ardwick (Mr. Kaufman) would have found it easier to answer the question if he had considered the implications of his Government's policies and their consequences on the national economy. Reductions in public expenditure would have occurred even if the Labour Party had somehow or other secured a return to office. The right hon. Gentleman would have learnt to defend those cuts with the eloquence with which he defended them in the last four or five years. We do not need crocodile tears.

Opposition Members became expert at defending all types of cuts in the most harrowing circumstances. The right hon. Gentleman defended the cuts from the Dispatch Box. He defended housing subsidy cuts as though they were the Ark of the Covenant of Socialist purpose when he was explaining why the cuts were necessary to restore the welfare of the economy. Now he sits in his place as though that had never happened, but it is on record in Hansard.

Photo of Mr Peter Hardy Mr Peter Hardy , Rother Valley

Does the right hon. Gentleman recognise that my local authority, which has a splendid housing record, has in the past seven years been able to maintain a substantial housing and house improvement programme? Is he aware that its funds are entirely committed to projects that are in hand? The housing improvement and house building programmes will come to a shuddering halt. We did not experience that at any time in the past five or six years. Is the Secretary of State aware that administration, planning and building preparation in local government have been brought to a shuddering halt?

Photo of Mr Michael Heseltine Mr Michael Heseltine Secretary of State for Environment

If that were so the hon. Member would have a passionate case to make to the House. However, he knows that housing has not come to a shuddering halt. He knows that the housing programme continues. In the White Paper we have set out the way in which billions of pounds are to be spent on the housing programme in the coming years. All we are talking about is the level at which the programme will continue.

It is curious that when I reduce the housing programme by one figure, Opposition Members find that unacceptable, although they reduced the programme by the same figure year after year. We all understand that Opposition Members are grubbing around for an argument with which to rally the troops and they have to present their case in the harrowing language used by the hon. Member for Rother Valley (Mr. Hardy). What he said bears no relation to what is happening in his constituency.

I return to the motion. The Standing Committee on the Bill has been sitting for 10½ weeks. Yesterday evening was the 37th sitting, and the Committee has spent 110 hours considering the Bill. It has reached clause 106. When we tabled the guillotine motion, the Committee had reached clause 96. That focused its mind, and it has moved on. I accept that progress has been made. The progress indicates the reasonableness of the motion. The major parts of the Bill providing for rights to buy, the tenants' charter, private sector tenants, housing subsidies, and repairs, have been dealt with. It should not be too difficult to understand that in order to achieve enactment by the Summer Recess there must be a timetable motion.

Photo of Mr Bruce Douglas-Mann Mr Bruce Douglas-Mann , Merton Mitcham and Morden

Does the Secretary of State agree that clause 106 is only half way through the Bill in terms of its pages? Is he aware that the Select Committee on the environment has received a large body of evidence dealing with many aspects of the Bill? Local authorities are almost unanimous, in that they regard the provisions for the sale of flats to be totally unworkable. Is the Secretary of State aware that the schedules require even more detailed consideration than the clauses of the Bill that have been discussed?

Photo of Mr Michael Heseltine Mr Michael Heseltine Secretary of State for Environment

I am aware of the thorough and comprehensive work undertaken by the Select Committee. Virtually all authorities with an interest in housing have been asked to give evidence. I have no doubt that there will be a lengthy and detailed scrutiny, and that an informed judgment will be reached. In every Bill there tends to be a concentration on the early parts, dealing with the more significant provisions.

The Government's view is that we have made reasonable attempts to reach a voluntary arrangement. But that has not proved possible. If we do not secure enactment of the legislation by the summer it will not come into effect until early 1981. The difference between us is three weeks. We believe that it is necessary to end the Committee stage on 1 May. The Opposition say that 22 May is acceptable. But we do not believe that we can guarantee enactment of the legislation by the Summer Recess if we wait that long. The judgment must be based on the question whether the three weeks in dispute entitle us to risk delaying enactment by three months. The Government's clear view is that we would not be justified in frustrating the requirements, ambitions and entitlements, based on electoral promises, of all the tenants involved for the sake of an additional three weeks.

Photo of Gerald Kaufman Gerald Kaufman , Manchester Ardwick

It is important that the right hon. Gentleman, who paid only one fleeting visit of about five minutes to the Standing Committee, does not misinform the House. He said that it was natural that a Standing Committee should concentrate on the early clauses. We completed the first 26 clauses dealing with the rights to buy before the end of the 13th sitting. That represented a rate of two clauses persitting. That is the rate at which we have proceeded throughout. We neither slowed down nor speeded up. We went at a steady rate throughout. The Secretary of State should withdraw his untrue statement.

Photo of Mr Michael Heseltine Mr Michael Heseltine Secretary of State for Environment

The right hon. Gentleman will want to raise those matters when he speaks in the debate. I accept that I was able to visit the Standing Committee only once—a privilege that I shared with the right hon. Member for Sparkbrook. We have all heard the speech on housing by the right hon. Member for Ardwick. He has made it on many occasions and I am sorry that I was not able to hear it in Committee. I am sure that he will make his speech with his usual conviction today.

Under the terms of the motion we can ensure that there will be 10 more sittings of the Committee. That should allow sufficient time. I do not like the idea of asking the House to approve a guillotine motion. Such motions always arouse controversy, but all Governments have to move them from time to time. I am sure that I shall find such motions unacceptable if I find myself on the Opposition Front Bench.

The motion allots two and a half days for Report and Third Reading. I hope that the House feels that that is a generous allocation. It should provide sufficient opportunity for proper discussion. We propose that the remaining sittings of the Committee should be considered by the Business Sub-Committee in accordance with normal procedure. I do not think that it would be constructive for me to refer in detail, beyond that, to the terms of the motion, which are familiar to all hon. Members.

There is nothing new about the introduction of a guillotine motion. The Bill is of critical importance, and I believe that we are now entitled to ask the House to limit the time taken on it and to ensure that those people who want to benefit from it can plan with certainty that it will be on the statute book, enabling its enactment to take effect some time in the early autumn. With that in mind I commend the motion to the House.

Photo of Mr Roy Hattersley Mr Roy Hattersley , Birmingham Sparkbrook 4:42 pm, 16th April 1980

Timetable motion debates tend to take on a depressingly ritual character, and I begin by saying how grateful I was that at the end of his speech the Secretary of State dealt with the subject in a subdued, if not altogether rational, way. Of course, at the beginning he could not resist the old florid temptation to talk about electoral promises and all that. He was so carried away with his own eloquence that he referred to the occasions on which I had defended—according to him, so well—the previous Government's policy of reducing housing subsidies. I am sure that I would have done it very well if that had ever occurred. However, I have never made such a speech. I am grateful for the right hon. Gentleman's faith in my abilities which he hypothetically poses.

Photo of Mr Michael Heseltine Mr Michael Heseltine Secretary of State for Environment

The whole basis of my faith in the right hon. Gentleman's eloquence in defending potential reductions in housing subsidies was the eloquence with which he defended reductions in food subsidies.

Photo of Mr Roy Hattersley Mr Roy Hattersley , Birmingham Sparkbrook

The fact that we have a Secretary of State who thinks that the same economic arguments apply to housing subsidies as those that apply to food subsidies demonstrates a good deal of the problems that tenants face today.

I do not propose to deal with this motion in the traditional, rather florid way in which such motions are normally discussed. I do not think that that is the best way for the House to occupy itself for three hours, and therefore I make it absolutely clear at the outset that our complaint this afternoon is not that the Government's behaviour is constitutionally scandalous, but that it is manifestly unreasonable. I shall attempt to demonstrate its unreasonableness according to three criteria.

The first concerns the size and content of the Bill. On Second Reading the Secretary of State said—he quoted himself this afternoon with his usual pleasure—that the Bill amounted to a "profound social revolution." I said to him, I think with absolute justification, that he ought to accept that profound social revolutions had long Committee stages. It is a piece of elementary logic, if the Bill changes the face of public and private tenancy in this country in the fundamental way that the right hon. Gentleman suggests, that 129 clauses and 20 schedules, most of them complex and controversial, will undergo very thorough scrutiny. Indeed, the right hon. Gentleman ought to welcome that thorough scrutiny.

The second criterion by which I wish to judge the unreasonableness of the motion is the behaviour of the Opposition in Committee. The right hon. Gentleman was honest enough to describe the behaviour of my hon. Friends by saying that they had not made totally speedy progress. I think that he phrased it in that subdued way because no one who has attended the Committee—and I have enjoyed that privilege more than once—[HON. MEMBERS: "Twice."] I have attended the Committee more than twice, but then I have the advantage of serving on another Standing Committee next door. Anyone who has read the Official Report of the proceedings of the Committee, as I did at the weekend, would find it impossible to argue that the Labour Members on the Committee had done anything that could remotely be described as obstructing its procedures or moving towards intentional delay. The only speech of any great length was made by the Minister for Housing and Construction, who addressed the Committee on one occasion for more than 100 minutes. No other speech compares with that in length.

Photo of John Stanley John Stanley Minister (Department of Environment) (Housing & Construction)

I am sure that the right hon. Gentleman would like to place on the record the fact that I took the trouble to explain the shorthold provisions at some length. That was welcomed by the right hon. Member for Manchester, Ardwick (Mr. Kaufman) on that occasion.

Photo of Mr Roy Hattersley Mr Roy Hattersley , Birmingham Sparkbrook

I read the ironic welcome that my right hon. Friend gave and it did not strike me for a moment that the Minister could take my right hon. Friend's words as a compliment, although I sometimes overestimate the Minister's judgments and abilities. I certainly want to deal with what he said on that day about shortholds.

As the Secretary of State said, in 37 sittings the Committee has dealt with 106 clauses, and for a Committee on a Bill of this sort to deal with what amounts to three clauses per sitting is a remarkable, record. There are some who will believe that the Committee was allowed to proceed too quickly.

Photo of Mr Frank Allaun Mr Frank Allaun , Salford East

Does my right hon. Friend agree that what is significant is the dogs that did not bark? There are a number of Government Members who have very strong views about the concept of shorthold and about compelling local authorities to sell houses, but by the helpful work of the Tory Whips they were not selected to sit on the Committee. Therefore, any opposition from the Government side was silenced from the start.

Photo of Mr Roy Hattersley Mr Roy Hattersley , Birmingham Sparkbrook

I am sure that that is true, and I notice that all the hon. Members who were explicitly critical of the shorthold provisions—some of them, with whom I shall deal in a moment, made representations to me about what they believed should be a bipartisan approach—did not serve on the Committee. However, I hope that even in the truncated Report stage, if the motion is passed tonight, the Members who spoke up about shortholds in the last Parliament and who argued that they were tolerable only if there were adequate safeguards, will speak up again. I of course do not include the Under-Secretary, who reported to the Committee that at about the time he joined the Government he had a great conversion about shortholds and discovered the errors of his opinions in the previous Parliament.

Photo of Mr Geoffrey Finsberg Mr Geoffrey Finsberg , Camden Hampstead

Perhaps the right hon. Gentleman will care to quote me accurately instead of speaking on the basis of his flippant glance at Hansard over the weekend. I said that the facts of life bore in upon one when one became a Minister. As the right hon. Gentleman has clearly shown, the facts of life disappear into irresponsibility in his case when he changes sides.

Photo of Mr Roy Hattersley Mr Roy Hattersley , Birmingham Sparkbrook

I shall accept without qualification the Under-Secretary's explanation of his activities. He said the words that I attributed to him. He reminds me of those non-conformist churches which used to exist in the place where I lived as a boy. The Cabinet and the Government must be the same—one can join only if one announces one's conversion from one's previous errors. I am glad to see that the Under-Secretary has been baptised in a faith which enabled him to join the Government.

The point made by my hon. Friend the Member for Salford, East (Mr. Allaun) brings me naturally to the third reason why we believe that the motion is unreasonable. It concerns the form of the Bill. By that I mean not so much its content, which we debated previously, but its nature; not so much its substance but its style. This Bill, like other Bills presented by the Secretary of State, is full of enabling provisions. Clause after clause amount to giving the Secretary of State the right to do what he likes, how he likes, when he likes. There is a long history, as I propose to demonstrate, of the Secretary of State and his Ministers being deeply reluctant to explain their intentions when they have the power to implement the Bill.

Therefore, the Committee has two tasks. It has to probe the Bill's provisions, but it also has to probe Ministers' intentions, and that is properly and necessarily a long process. I give an immediate example. Clause 116, which has not yet been reached, seeks to repeal what is commonly called the non-profit rule in housing legislation. That rule prevents housing authorities from carrying surpluses on their housing revenue accounts. In other words, it prevents them from making a profit out of corporation tenants. Councils in future will be allowed to make such a profit. On Second Reading, I and other hon. Members asked the Secretary of State what those profits were to be used for. After all, by any standard, making profits on municipal housing is a controversial proposal. It might have seemed reasonable to anyone who debated that proposal that the Secretary of State should tell him how the profits would be used.

The right hon. Gentleman would not tell me on Second Reading. I returned to the subject during the debate on the rate support grant on 16 January. The Minister for Local Government and Environmental Services gave me an answer, with which he was visibly delighted. He said: It is an important and complex issue, and we are considering the alternative possibilities carefully. We shall be making propsals, as promised, shortly."—[Official Report, 16 January 1980; Vol. 976, c. 1776.] "Shortly" turned out to be 2 April, the day before the House rose for the Easter Recess.

The hon. Member for Huntingdonshire (Mr. Major)—he may well be in the House, but I do not have the privilege of being able to recognise him—[HON. MEMBERS: "He is here."]—I now have the privilege of recognising him—was told in a written answer, which has almost entirely escaped public notice, and as far as I and the Library of the House can ascertain it was not reported in any newspaper, that the profits obtained by increasing the rents of council accommodation could be used to subsidise the general rate fund.

That is scandalous in two respects. First, we are now being told that the Government propose to subsidise owner-occupiers and private tenants out of profits made on council accommodation. Secondly, it is doubly scandalous because that intention was made known only on 2 April when the Bill was in Committee.

Frankly, I must tell the Secretary of State that I do not believe that he had not made up his mind until April Fool's Day of this year. I believe that he has known it for some time, and that he has withheld that information from the House and from the Committee. I believe that he did that because he regarded it as a deeply damaging proposal to put forward a few weeks before the municipal elections. He hoped that by sneaking it out in that way, and then having a truncated debate when the Committee reassembled, he would avoid some of the pains and penalties associated with the idea of making profits on municipal housing to subsidise other local authority enterprises.

Although the Secretary of State may believe that this sort of motion and this sort of Committee gag will reduce the amount of publicity attracted to such a proposal, I promise that it is our duty and our intention to ensure that the result will be the exact opposite.

That is an example of why discussion of the Bill must take a long time. Decisions affecting its operation are ground out of the Minister and his colleagues with the greatest of difficulty. I have given an example of a piece of information which was ground out of the Minister, although not in Committee. Indeed, it should have been announced in Committee. The statement that was attached to the answer given to the hon. Member for Huntingdonshire announced that the Secretary of State proposed to embody a provision in the Housing Bill to allow for that. The Committee has not been informed of that proposal. That is an example of why the discussion of the Bill must be prolonged. It is because of the Government's behaviour.

I shall give two other examples which relate to the actual performance of the Minister in Committee. One is the area to which the Secretary of State was rash enough to refer, namely, shorthold. That is a new system of lettings which provides only a limited security of tenure for the tenants.

The Minister, when replying on Second Reading, said that he welcomed a bipartisan approach to the matter. On Second Reading the Minister said: That is an approach that we wish to follow, because the confidence factor is all-important. The Opposition tabled a number of amendments to facilitate that bipartisan approach. I am sorry to intrude once more into ministerial grief. Although some of the amendments were similar in text to certain provisions in a previous Conservative Bill, and would have provided safeguards for shorthold tenants, not one was accepted by the Government. So much for a bipartisan approach.

Matters went from bad to worse. Disregarding, rejecting, brushing aside my concern over the abolition of protection—as I believe shortholds to be—the Minister said on Second Reading a fair rent must be registered at the outset of shorthold."—[Official Report, 15 January 1980; Vol. 976, c. 1563–4] He implied that, because rents must be registered, he could not understand why I was making a fuss. It was not until my right hon. Friend the Member for Manchester, Ardwick (Mr. Kaufman), who leads for the Opposition in committee, pressed the Minister time and time again that we discovered the meaning of the outset of shortholds.

I shall paraphrase the Minister's description, when he spoke on 13 March, of what might happen on shortholds. He said that the owner of a vacant property was a free agent, who was able to make it available at any time as a shorthold. He said that at the expiry of a shorthold agreement the owner could make a voluntary arrangement with his tenant. That voluntary arrangement could be on a periodic basis—annually, quarterly or monthly. That would be for the tenant and the landlord to decide.

That explanation was prised out of the Minister with the greatest of difficulty, and was virtually denied on Second Reading. It means that within a period of a little more than a year a property can be transferred from a condition which endows its tenant with complete security—so far as it is provided by the Rent Acts—to a security that lasts from month to month, with the rent being adjusted from month to month.

I make this point not because of its flagrant unacceptability to those of us who believe that tenants should be protected against landlords—

Photo of Mr Roy Hattersley Mr Roy Hattersley , Birmingham Sparkbrook

I shall explain my point, and then the Minister is welcome to intervene. If the Committee is put to the trouble of prising out that sort of essential information, instead of its being advanced openly and willingly by the Minister, the Minister should not be surprised if the Committee takes some time to press him again and again.

Photo of John Stanley John Stanley Minister (Department of Environment) (Housing & Construction)

The right hon. Gentleman is aware that it is a complicated area. A certain amount of that confusion has been revealed by his remarks. He should be aware that during the Committee proceedings we tabled an amendment which made it a legal impossibility for somebody who was a protected tenant to be deprived of his security by virtue of his becoming a shorthold tenant.

Photo of Mr Roy Hattersley Mr Roy Hattersley , Birmingham Sparkbrook

Of course, but that is not the point that I was making. The point I was making is clear: once a person has entered into a shorthold tenancy, according to the Minister—I shall read the quotation in extenso if that is what the Minister wishes—at the end of the shorthold tenancy it is for the tenant and the landlord to negotiate the best deal that they can.

Our position is that the relationship between the tenant and the landlord is never an equal one, and the idea that they are negotiating equally is nonsense.

Photo of Mr Roy Hattersley Mr Roy Hattersley , Birmingham Sparkbrook

The Secretary of State can dig out his hon. Friend if that is what he wishes.

Photo of Mr Michael Heseltine Mr Michael Heseltine Secretary of State for Environment

It is not a question of digging out anyone else. As the House understands, the supply of rented accommodation has been in decline for as long as any of us can remember. We are all trying to find ways of reversing or at any rate halting that position. The dilemma about which the right hon. Gentleman is talking is that, if there is a fully protected position in a shorthold, unless some reasonable position is provided at the end of the shorthold, the landlord will, in his own defence, find it necessary to terminate the arrangement and obtain possession. Unless he does that, he is conferring upon the tenant rights the existence of which will prevent him from letting the property.

It is vital to the House that right hon. and hon. Members should understand that the existence of those rights, unless there is some way round this difficulty, will prevent the properties coming on to the market at all. That is the problem with which the right hon. Gentleman is dealing. It must be dealt with extremely carefully, or we shall find that the decline in the private rented sector continues.

Photo of Mr Roy Hattersley Mr Roy Hattersley , Birmingham Sparkbrook

The first part of the right hon. Gentleman's long intervention was the best argument against shortholds that I have heard for a long time. I have two complaints about his remarks. First, we are opposed in principle to that system. That is why we are pledged to repeal it when we return to office. Secondly, why did he not tell us the facts in the first place? Why was it that on Second Reading all our fears about occasional tenancies, periodic tenancies and monthly tenancies, with increases in rent month by month, were dismissed? Why was the matter not made clear there and then?

Photo of John Stanley John Stanley Minister (Department of Environment) (Housing & Construction)

I am sorry to intervene again. I am grateful to the right hon. Gentleman for giving way. He is not correct to talk about increases in rent month by month. The shorthold tenant is a protected tenant. The Rent Acts apply in exactly the same way to the shorthold tenant as they do to every other tenant. If a rent has been registered on property, it applies in exactly the same way as any registered fair rent.

Photo of Mr Roy Hattersley Mr Roy Hattersley , Birmingham Sparkbrook

But the Minister will be able to hear all those hon. Members who serve on the Committee saying what appears in his own statement, that the requirement to register can be removed. He must not try to take advantage of the House in that way. Our complaint is two-fold. First, the situation is as the Minister described it to the Committee and, secondly, he should have told the House rather than required the Committee to grind on until that information was wrung out of him.

I take another example from yesterday, when the same Minister revealed, almost absent-mindedly, some of the facts about mortgages about which the Opposition have been pressing the Government for the last year. I have lost count of the number of occasions on which I have asked the Secretary of State what effect he expects the sale of council houses to have on the private mortgage sector, the provision of private mortgages and the cost of private mortgages. He has always given me one of two answers. They conflict, but on a couple of occasions he has given both conflicting answers, namely, that he does not know and that it will be market forces which determine the level and the availability.

Yesterday however, the Minister gave the Committee some new and extraordinary information concerning the effect of the sale of council houses, at least on local authority mortgages. His comments are recorded in column 1944 of the Standing Committee Hansard. He said that it would be the Government's intention that in respect of a family buying their own house, if they were to obtain a mortgage for buying that house from the corporation, and if the house they chose to buy was a speculatively-built house—a house already in private occupation—the local authority would look at the mortgage rate in a certain way. It would either be the local avearge rate, which is the equivalent of the pool rate, or the standard national rate, which is probably the equivalent of the building society rate, whichever is the higher.

On the other hand, a tenant buying a council house would be required by the Government to be provided with a mortgage from the local authority at the level of interest prevailing—a lower rate than the mortgage provided for a prospective private house buyer. One of the net results of the sale of council houses is that from local authorities at least there is to be a two-tier interest rate. If a person buys a council house, there will be a low interest rate. If he buys any other sort of house, there will be a high interest rate.

As well as being absolutely opposed to the principle, we are deeply opposed—and so should Concervative Members who respect this place—to such information being withheld until it is prised out during long sittings of the Committee.

Having dealt with that example, I conclude by dealing with what I believe to be the worst example of all of the way in which the Government have wilfully withheld information which, had it been provided, would have made the Committee's deliberations a great deal easier and clearer than has been possible to date. The worst example of all relates to part I of the Bill, which deals with the compulsory sale of council houses irrespective of the needs of the area in which they are being sold and irrespective of the judgment of the elected representatives who in law may be required to sell them.

The Secretary of State continues to accuse me of the intention of repealing that part of the Bill. I plead absolutely guilty, and, as he rightly prophesied, I shall continue to explain to the people of this country why the judgment about selling should be made according to the needs of the area rather than according to the ideology of the Conservative Party. However, the overall opposition to compulsory sales is not the point with which I want to deal this afternoon, nor is it one with which it would be appropriate for me to deal.

I want to deal with the more narrow point relating to the conduct of the Bill. The practical effect of selling council houses on the lives of ordinary men and women who want to rent such a house, or to move within the local authority pool from an unsuitable house to a suitable one, depends on two factors. It depends on the number of houses which are being sold in the area, thus reducing the rented sector, and on the number of houses which are being built in the area, thus increasing the rented sector. Therefore, very reasonably, from the day on which that proposal was put before the House, we have asked the Secretary of State to give some information about the prospective levels of new house construction in this country.

He has always refused. At least, he refused until 21 February, when he made a statement of sorts. That statement was described by New Society as "wilful obfuscation". The housing magazine "Roof" described it as "calculated to mislead". Both those conditions have been demonstrated by the Secretary of State today, when he told us that that was a matter of local authority discretion and that, therefore, the number of houses built by local authorities was largely a matter for them and one which was up to them.

That is literally untrue. The number of houses built by local authorities is crucially determined by the overall capital allocation which the Secretary of State provides. For very many authorities, the allocation for next year is no larger than that which is needed to fulfil their existing building commitments. No matter what they choose, it will be impossible for many authorities to build even one house next year. In fact, when it was deciphered, the statement of 21 February—I propose to decode parts of it in a moment—meant that new council house building had been brought virtually to an end. For one or two authorities it will literally be brought to an end in 1980–81, and many more will suffer the same fate in 1981–82.

My complaint today is not that the right hon. Gentleman has presided over the ending of council house buliding but that he has not been sufficiently frank with the House in saying that that is what he has done. Let me give him two examples from the statement of 21 February, which was supposed to reveal all those things to us. First, that statement compared actual spending in one year, a Labour year, with authorised spending in another year, a Conservative year. But it is well known that authorised spending is always higher than actual spending. Therefore, the right hon. Gentleman chose to compare two figures which were not only bogus but calculated to give his argument the best possible gloss.

Secondly, and statistically an even more heinous crime, he talked about a capital allocation which he said was £2·2 billion at 1981 survey prices, and then admitted that he was responsible for a cut of £540 million. However, that figure turns out to be at 1979 survey prices. He has fiddled the figures and manipulated them in such a way as to minimise the size of the cuts. He must understand that, as well as that doing nothing for his reputation, it requires my right hon. and hon. Friends, who treat these matters not only with seriousness but with integrity, to pursue those questions at length both in Committee and on Report.

Photo of Mr Michael Heseltine Mr Michael Heseltine Secretary of State for Environment

We shall not be able to resolve this matter today because we are talking about statistics which are relevant to future new building programmes. However, in order to have a means of judging the right hon. Gentleman's assumptions—he said that I had brought new council house building to a halt—may I ask whether he meant that in 1982–83 and 1983–84, when my policies will have effect, no new council houses would be built.

Photo of Mr Roy Hattersley Mr Roy Hattersley , Birmingham Sparkbrook

I think that it will be exactly as the right hon. Gentleman said in an unguarded moment. Council house starts in those years will be for the old and for the very special categories—[HON. MEMBERS: "Ah".] With great respect, that is the figure which counts when we are calculating the loss through sales versus the additions through building. In 1981–82 and 1982–83, there will be virtually no building for general need, and in many areas there will literally be no building for general need. Let me explain, by accepting one of his statistically fraudulent assumptions, how is it possible to compare the outturn of one year with the allocation of another.

On the best evidence, it is assumed that the outturn for 1979–80 will be about £3·2 billion. The allocation for 1980–81—which is too large a figure for sensible comparison—is only £2·2 billion. Even according to the phoney criteria of the right hon. Gentleman, that is a net loss of £1 billion. It is no good the right hon. Gentleman asking me whether I am telling him that that means there will be no building in some areas in 1981–82. It means that there will be no new building in some areas this year. I have a long list—although the Secretary of State does not need my evidence, because he has a longer list—of authorities which have already announced that there will be no new housing starts in their areas this year.

Photo of Mr Allan Roberts Mr Allan Roberts , Bootle

In answer to my previous intervention, the Secretary of State said that local authorities had already exercised their options, and had already spent their money on commitments. Will my right hon. Friend tell the Secretary of State that one-year allocations do not allow local authorities to do anything other than that in the face of the allocations that they had been given? He may or may not know that it takes longer than one year to plan to build, and to build a house.

Photo of Mr Roy Hattersley Mr Roy Hattersley , Birmingham Sparkbrook

I had thought of commenting on the answer given by the Sec- retary of State about local authorities having exercised their options by spending money which the right hon. Gentleman had not provided last year. However, it seemed such a nonsensical notion that I considered, on reflection, that it would be kinder not to return to that absurd idea. If the Minister of State wishes to explain and justify it during the course of the debate, we await with fascination an explanation of the Secretary of State's statement.

In the meantime, I wish to give three examples of what is happening—thanks to the allocation programme. I take my examples from the West Midlands, an area which I am privileged to represent. The Conservative-controlled council in Birmingham has abandoned all new contracts for building. The Labour council in Coventry has abandoned all new contracts for house building. In Walsall, where there is no overall majority—although there will be in a fortnight's time—the council has also abandoned all new contracts for building. They have done so because the money allocated to them by the Secretary of State allows them to fulfil existing commitments, but does not allow them to do anything more.

Photo of Mr Roy Hattersley Mr Roy Hattersley , Birmingham Sparkbrook

If my hon. Friend will forgive me, I wish to conclude on this note. I hope that, by my concluding my speech quickly, my hon. Friend will be able to put his views.

The points that I have made are not essentially concerned with the merits of the Bill. They give a clear indication of our views of the merits of the Bill, but they are concerned with the way in which the Bill has been presented and with the Government's continued attempt to keep the facts about the Bill from hon. Members.

Our complaint is not that the guillotine motion is a sign of the Government's wickedness. It is a sign of their weakness. It is a desire not to be inconvenienced or embarrassed further by the truth of their intentions being revealed in Committee. My experience of motions and stratagems of this sort is not that they allow the deception to continue but that they draw attention to the deceptions. We believe that that is how the debate should proceed.

Photo of Mr Bernard Weatherill Mr Bernard Weatherill , Croydon North East

I remind the House that this debate is limited to three hours. Relatively short contributions will enable the Chair to call all hon. Members who wish to speak.

Photo of Mr John Major Mr John Major , Huntingdonshire 5:12 pm, 16th April 1980

I am grateful for this early opportunity to bring myself to the attention of the right hon. Member for Birmingham, Sparkbrook (Mr. Hattersley). I am sorry that when I have intervened during the Department of Environment Question Time, he has not noticed my interventions. Perhaps that rather faulty memory accounts for some of the matters that he has forgotten during the period of the previous Labour Government. None the less, I shall seek to bring myself to his attention many times during this Parliament.

During the next few moments I propose to adopt the novel concept of speaking to whether there should be a guillotine. There are two specific reasons why I am happy to vote for the Government motion. First, I believe that the Bill needs and deserves to become law at the earliest possible opportunity. Secondly, it is highly desirable that the remaining time available within the Government's programme should be allocated in such a fashion as to ensure that there is reasoned discussion on all the important parts of the Bill that we have not reached. There are many important points to be discussed on leasehold and other matters, and a reasoned and moderate discussion may be achieved, because the timetable motion is likely to concentrate minds wonderfully.

I understand the view presented by the right hon. Member for Sparkbrook, and it will no doubt be echoed by his right hon. Friend for Manchester, Ardwick (Mr. Kaufman). They do not like the Bill. They do not agree with the Bill, and they do not like the concept of the guillotine motion. But we have already debated the Bill for more than 100 hours, and there is more debate to come. It will be subject to scrutiny in the other place, and there is a two and a half day allocation for Report and Third Reading. That seems to be a sufficient allocation, even for a controversial Bill.

The right hon. Member for Sparkbrook blamed the Government for pro- foundly unreasonable behaviour in guillotining the Bill. I should like to draw to his attention the remarks of his right hon. Friend the Member for Durham, North-West (Mr. Armstrong) on the occasion of the guillotine of another serious and controversial Bill—the Education Bill in 1976. On that occasion the right hon. Gentleman said: To talk about curtailing discussion of a Bill on which we have already spent 100 hours is to stand logic on its head."—[Official Report, 8 November 1976; Vol. 919, c. 53.] I hope that the right hon. Gentleman will consult his right hon. Friend later this evening to determine whether he accepts that as an accurate statement.

We had a frank discussion in Committee, and in the temporary—I hope—absence of the right hon. Member for Ardwick, I should like to say that the Committee stage was conducted in a reasonable manner most of the time.

I revert to the guillotine for a moment, since this is the subject under discussion. On the occasion of the guillotine in 1976, we had two guillotines for the price of one. On that occasion both measures were guillotined after a discussion lasting for one hour. There was a guillotine on the guillotine.

If the Opposition believe—as they frequently seem to suggest in Committee—that the Bill, and the intention to guillotine it, is a wicked unilateral act of devilment by my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State, I am pleased to take this opportunity to disabuse them. The Bill was a prime election commitment, and my constituents cannot understand why it is not already on the statute book. In my area a fairly enlightened local authority is selling council houses and implementing a series of reasonable policies. That is not universally so. In many areas—almost exclusively controlled by Labour councils—council houses are not sold. However, that is not so in all cases. Some Labour councillors will sell houses, and several Labour councillors will buy council houses.

Photo of Mr Frank Allaun Mr Frank Allaun , Salford East

The hon. Gentleman said that the policy of selling council houses was an election commitment by the Government. However, other electorates have committed their local authorities not to sell council houses. The hon. Gentleman said that for the most part Labour-controlled authorities were refusing to sell. He must know that a large number of Conservative-controlled councils informed Shelter that they did not want to be compelled to sell council houses.

Photo of Mr John Major Mr John Major , Huntingdonshire

This policy was stated clearly to the electorate, and the Government's prime concern is to honour their election commitment. The circumstances were similar to those surrounding the Education Bill in 1976, when the hon. Member joined his colleagues in overriding the views of many Conservative-controlled education authorities. I suggest that a certain degree of consistency might be merited. During the election campaign we promised beyond a shred of doubt a statutory right to buy without delay, a tenants' charter and shorthold provisions. We have now been in office for one year, and we have delayed long enough. We should now bring those promises to the statute book, and ensure that the rights that we promised people are available.

I know that the Opposition have claimed—and the right hon. Member for Ardwick will no doubt claim this passionately later—that we have made very good progress on the Bill and that we could complete it without a timetable motion. I agree that we have made relatively good progress. But it does not necessarily follow that I agree that we can complete the Bill within reasonable time to ensure that it becomes law before the summer without the timetable motion. Perhaps we can, but it is not certain.

In Committee, from time to time we reached especially contentious points. On such occasions the right hon. Gentleman turned loose his hon. Friends the Members for Bootle (Mr. Roberts) and Lambeth, Central (Mr. Tilley), who have an infinite capacity to speak at moderate length on subjects well within the rules of order. On one occasion the hon. Member for Bootle was on his feet for 28 minutes making one speech—or, to be more precise, making one four-minute speech seven times during a 28-minute intervention. It occurred to me on that occasion—and I recall the thought now—that, as the French General Pierre Bosquet said at the battle of Balaclava: It is magnificent, but it is not war. Certainly the speech made by the hon. Member for Bootle on that occasion was entertaining, but it was not progress. We need to make progress desperately on the Bill to bring it into law at the earliest possible moment.

If there were to be no guillotine, if we were to accept the good will of the Opposition and to decide that no timetable motion was necessary, we would lay open ourselves to the possibility between now and the conclusion of proceedings on the Bill that at any stage the Opposition might suddenly discover something that they disliked to such an extent that they would seek disproportionate delay. The right hon. Member for Ardwick may shake his head, but that may happen. The right hon. Gentleman said in Committee that he had discovered areas in the Bill which were far worse than he imagined they could be. If that is so again, there may be some form of disproportionate delay which I should not wish to try to explain to my constituents.

The right hon. Member for Sparkbrook claimed that no time had been wasted in Committee and that there were very few indications of exceptionally long, single filibusters. That I accept without question. But time has been wasted in Committee that could have been spent discussing the Bill.

We have spent a substantial time in Committee—many hon. Members serving on the Committee are in the Chamber now and they know it—discussing not the provisions of the Bill, but the delights of Ardwick by day and by night and the horrors of Fort Ardwick. We have discussed the virtues of the Manchester city council at length. I should have thought that the virtues of Manchester city council would have been the subject of a very short debate, but apparently not. We discussed the rather curious habit of the hon. Member for Blackburn (Mr. Straw) of arresting his constituents as they go about their business. We also discussed the fact that the hon. Member for Bootle was unable to get a council house and was forced, poor chap, to go out and become an owner-occupier. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh!"] We were all very sorry and sad about that. Entertaining it may have been, but it was not germane to discussion of the Bill, and in aggregate it amounted to a considerable degree of wasted time.

Photo of Jack Straw Jack Straw , Blackburn

Does the hon. Gentleman accept that, despite the occasional entertainment that we have provided to Conservative Members, who otherwise have been required to keep their mouths shut and their heads down in deference to the Whips, the Committee has made more progress than any other Committee on any major Bill since the election? Indeed, its progress has been twice the rate of any other Committee on a major Bill.

Photo of Mr John Major Mr John Major , Huntingdonshire

That is precisely because we have given Opposition Members so much time to speak, about which the hon. Gentleman was sarcastic. As another example of time-wasting, one had only to mention the word "landlord" in Committee to see a glazed look come over the faces of Opposition Members. Indeed, the hon. Member for Salford, East (Mr. Allaun) is sitting there, looking entranced, again. I have mentioned the buzz word and a look of entraced enlightenment has come over him as he considers the wickedness of landlords. If the hon. Gentleman had been the commander of the walls of Jericho when they fell down, he would have blamed the landlord for poor maintenance, not himself. No doubt, as his right hon. Friend the Member for Ardwick would say, had they been under the care of Manchester city council, that could not possibly have occurred.

Photo of Mr John Major Mr John Major , Huntingdonshire

It may be better than Ronan Point. It may even be better than a number of other things as well. However, even the hon. Gentleman was somewhat puzzled when it occurred to him that a tenant might sublet. A tenant is, of course, very worthy, but if he sublets he becomes a landlord and not at all worthy. It was most painful to see Opposition Members struggling with their psyche during the period when they uncovered this.

Presiding over these delaying tactics with a benign and delightful expression on his face has been the right hon. Member for Ardwick. As a newcomer to the House, it has been a delight for me to observe the tactical manoeuvrings of the right hon. Gentleman. He has the most effective air of injured innocence that I have ever seen. He is perfectly able to crank himself into a position where he can be as thoroughly unhelpful as possible while stating that he is seeking to give every ounce of co-operation to the Committee. That has occurred throughout what I concede has been a most enjoyable Committee stage, but one, none the less, that I hope we shall see concluded by 1 May.

We have a clear mandate, a clear commitment, for the Bill. We have had long—perhaps already over-long—discussion on the Bill. There has been some time-wasting, albeit spread widely and not significant and locked together in a single block. I believe that there is considerable justification for this reasonable timetable motion to ensure that there is reasoned and balanced discussion within fixed time limits of the clauses that remain. I believe that the time has come when we can proceed on what will come to be looked at as one of the most remarkable social Bills that we have had for many years, and that it will give many people a freedom of opportunity that has not existed in the past. I trust that the timetable motion will be passed.

Photo of Mr John Tilley Mr John Tilley , Lambeth Central 5:26 pm, 16th April 1980

I think that we are now hearing some of the qualities of knockabout humour that Conservative Members were not allowed to indulge in in Committee.

Photo of Mr John Major Mr John Major , Huntingdonshire

I promise to indulge in them after the timetable motion has been passed.

Photo of Mr John Tilley Mr John Tilley , Lambeth Central

We are grateful for the fact that we are only now having to endure them. I view with trepidation the promise that we shall endure them even more up to 1 May.

Like the hon. Member for Huntingdonshire (Mr. Major), I should like specifically to talk about the guillotine. I do not suggest that all guillotines are evil or that Governments should not at certain times have ultimate control over their legislative timetables. However, we have to examine the reason why the Government have brought in this guillotine motion on this Bill.

One possibility is that they expected to get further with the Bill than they have done and therefore they feel that they must now have a guillotine. I do not think that is a reasonable explanation because, as hon. Members on both sides of the House have admitted, considerable progress has been made on the Bill. Indeed, all the indications were that the Government, in their guessing about what would happen, thought that they might get bogged down on the right to buy or on the tenants' charter. That did not happen.

Having got through 100 clauses, it is a peculiar action for the Government now to introduce a guillotine, unless they had already decided, when they put the Bill before the House three months ago, to guillotine it. If so, that would be reprehensible behaviour, because the Government would be abusing the procedures of the House by trying to get what are three or four major Bills through under the guise of one Bill.

Election promises are, of course, pressing on a new Government, but those promises could have been put into operation in a much shorter Bill which could have gone through much quicker. There is more in the Bill than the three election promises mentioned by Conservative Members. That explanation is not acceptable because it does not make sense.

The only other explanation for the guillotine being brought in at this time—I believe it is the genuine explanation—is that the Government wish to stifle debate on what the Bill is all about. The public are becoming aware of what the Bill will do for them, be they intending owner-occupiers, council tenants or private tenants. Though a certain number of council tenants will benefit from what is effectively a major handout of public money if they exercise their right to buy, the majority of council tenants will experience nothing more than rents at a level higher than ever before envisaged because the subsidy proposals will enable the Government to blackmail councils which do not want to increase rents to increase them to the level required by the Government.

It is possible not only for the council to make a profit on council housing and put that profit into the general rate pool but for the Government to insist that councils do that. That is the prospect that faces the majority of council tenants as a result of the Bill. In addition, because of the subsidy proposals, fewer repairs will be done and fewer transfers will be available. As for the tenants' charter, we spent a long time trying to get the Government to admit the principle of consultation with tenants' associations. Anyone who has any knowledge of council tenants knows that the only way in which they can make their collective voice heard is through the local tenants' associations. The Government would not have those words in the Bill in any circumstances. That has been brought out in Committtee and that is why the Government want to stifle and end the debate.

What I have just said is nothing compared with what we proved will happen to the 3 million private tenants who are desparately affected by the rent implications hidden in the Bill. The Government's simple proposal—as was brought out in Committee—is that the only way to revive the private sector is to allow profits to increase, rents to rise steeply and to reduce security of tenure so that landlords can rid themselves of tenants more easily and establish a free market in rents.

In Committee, we heard—indeed, we have heard more about it from the Secretary of State today—evidence about what shorthold means. It means that any family that has to take a shorthold tenancy will find that at the end of the period—which will almost certainly be 12 months—it will have virtually no hold on the property. Perhaps we should have put forward an amendment, as my right hon. Friend the Member for Manchester, Ardwick (Mr. Kaufman) suggested, to the effect that for "shorthold" we should read "stranglehold", because that will be the position of the majority of private tenants. Private tenants are becoming aware of this and a campaign about their rights is building up. They are putting pressure on Conservative Members who represent areas of inner cities, such as inner London, where many of the private tenants who voted for the Conservatives will be affected severely by the measures contained in the Bill. I suggest that that is why the Government want to impose a guillotine.

In Committee, we have shown that underneath the various layers of provisions on mortgages and subsidies lies the hidden fact that first-time buyers in inner cities have also had it. In my area of the London borough of Lambeth, the Conservative-controlled GLC has said that it cannot provide any more mortgages. In the same week, the Labour-controlled Lambeth council was driven to the same conclusion because of the parsimonious allocations of money for the housing investment programme.

We went into this debate feeling that any attempt to boost private landlordism in the way suggested by the Government was morally wrong; we also thought that it would not work. We must ask the Government, ourselves and society as a whole—how many times we have to go through the horrors and scandals of Rachmanism under which tenants in inner city areas suffer before we find a public alternative to private sector landlordism. That was an issue that we brought to the attention of the Government in Committee, and they had no answer.

Though the guillotine will curb the debate, what it will also do—which is the real intention of the Secretary of State—is implement the proposals contained in the Bill sooner. The Bill will begin to bite, and as it does the private tenants' campaign and the campaign by council tenants against it will grow steadily as the misery, insecurity and high cost imposed by it bear down on the population.

The Government are not doing themselves a favour by imposing a guillotine. Once the Bill is enacted they will have sown the seeds of their own destruction at the next general election when the 9 million tenants—3 million private tenants and 6 million council tenants—vote on the basis of what the Bill has done to them.

Photo of Mr Graham Bright Mr Graham Bright , Luton East 5:36 pm, 16th April 1980

A little less than a year ago the people of Britain chose a new Government who were committed to a decisive change in the way that we ran our affairs. Nowhere was that commitment clearer than on housing. The Conservative Party promised to widen the opportunities for home ownership, to give council house tenants the right to buy their own homes and, if they wished, to enjoy security of tenure under a new charter that would be provided. We also said that we would revise the private rented sector. We put our policies clearly and openly to the electorate and won its approval. We have kept our word to the electorate in the Housing Bill because it embodies those promises.

The Bill has been discussed extensively in Committee, as Opposition Members know. I am sure that all hon. Members regret the necessity for the introduction of a guillotine motion, but there comes a time when not only the needs of the House in regard to time have to be met but the expectations of the country have to be realised. That time has now come, and it would be wrong for this vital Bill to be further delayed.

I appreciate that Opposition Members are opposed to many of the proposals contained in the Bill. Every legitimate means of opposition to the Bill has been heard in Committee. We have listened to objections in principle and in practice and to amendments in general and in detail at each of our Committee meetings—and we have had 37 sittings. I make no complaint about that, but Opposition Members cannot legitimately complain because we are doing what we said we would do.

There is overwhelming evidence that the people of Britain expect to have the opportunity to buy their own homes. Why this opportunity should be denied to the millions of people who live in council houses is something that Opposition Members have yet to explain clearly. This is a right that I and my right hon. and hon. Friends believe must exist in practice.

Photo of David Winnick David Winnick , Walsall North

As the hon. Member is so anxious to give council tenants the right to buy, which is the subject of continual debate, what about the rights of private tenants? Should he not be equally enthusiastic about their right to buy the properties in which they live?

Photo of Mr Graham Bright Mr Graham Bright , Luton East

I am anxious to see everyone have the opportunity and the right to buy his own home, and I know that my right hon. and hon. Friends will continue to work towards that end. The Housing Bill, which is now in Committee, will ensure that tenants gain the right to purchase. We must end the situation in which one-third of the homes in Britain are held by district councils in a form of permanent feudal overlordship. The wider home ownership is spread, the better it will be for the people of Britain. It is tragic that the private rented sector has been hit so severely by short-sighted legislation in the past few years. Rent controls and security of tenure provisions introduced by Labour Governments since 1974 have driven more than 400,000 dwellings off the market. For newly married couples, workers whose jobs involve a high degree of mobility—

Photo of Mr Graham Bright Mr Graham Bright , Luton East

No. I wish to keep going. I know that the hon. Gentleman wants the opportunity to participate in the debate.

The shortage to which I was referring has been a severe handicap for newly married couples, workers whose jobs involve a high degree of mobility, and students seeking lodgings. That has been brought home to me in my constituency.

The need to expand the number of privately rented dwellings from the present 13 per cent. of the total is important. I am convinced that the introduction of shorthold tenure in the private sector for a fixed term and a fair rent will be the key to reviving the entire sector. Tenants will have the security of tenure that they need, and landlords will have the assurance that they will be able to regain possession on a specific date if they wish.

I remind the right hon. Member for Birmingham, Sparkbrook (Mr. Hattersley) that the anachronism in 1980 is not the private landlord but his medieval fantasy about benevolent municipal landlords and controlled rents. As a nation our priority in housing should be to sweep away the distinction between the rights enjoyed by owner-occupiers and those enjoyed by council tenants. That is why the tenants' charter enshrined in the Bill is so important.

We recognise the importance of security of tenure and the right of succession. I am sure that that is recognised by Labour Members. The difference between us is that we have acted to ensure it. We have gone further in sweeping away petty regulations on lodgers and subletting which have restricted the freedom of local authority tenants for so long. As a member of a Labour-controlled district council for 14 years, I could never understand why council tenants were so confined by rules and regulations over improvements and redecorations.

The Bill will establish reasonable arrangements in that area. At long last tenants will have full information on the procedures employed for allocating, transferring and exchanging accommodation. They will have to be consulted when matters affecting their tenancies arise. The balance has shifted in their favour, and I fail to see why they should have to wait any longer for the Bill to become law.

The Bill deals with complex matters. Its operation will have to be carefully monitored. I have said that in Committee. The measures that it contains will promote wider home ownership and a fairer balance between landlords and their tenants. There will be the opportunity to use resources released by the sale of council houses to improve existing properties and to expand our future programme. It is not satisfactory for council house rents to cover only 43p of every £1 spent on municipal housing. Experience in Leeds and Nottingham shows how sales can provide resources for local housing programmes. I have heard nothing from the right hon. Member for Manchester, Ardwick (Mr. Kaufman) on the Floor of the House or in Committee to demonstrate that there will be any loss to the taxpayer or ratepayer arising from sales. Indeed, sales are the key to finding new resources. We are taking action to make provision for improvement grants more flexible.

The Bill is the most important housing measure to come before the House for many years. An immense amount of time has been devoted to it in Committee. We have sought and won the approval of the people of Britain for such measures. We have sought and won the approval of the House. Labour Members have had every opportunity to state their case. Our duty is to ensure that the British people have the chance to take advantage of the opportunity presented to them in the Bill. That is why the House should support the motion.

Photo of Jack Straw Jack Straw , Blackburn 5:44 pm, 16th April 1980

I congratulate the hon. Member for Luton, East (Mr. Bright) on his speech. I was delighted to hear from him. Throughout the 37 sittings of the Committee we have heard from him only once. I regret to say that I was not present on that occasion.

Photo of Mr Graham Bright Mr Graham Bright , Luton East

I have spoken on three occasions in Committee.

Photo of Jack Straw Jack Straw , Blackburn

I think that the hon. Gentleman spoke for longer in aggregate today than throughout the 37 sittings in Committee.

Every Government have the right to get their legislation through the House. Therefore, I do not protest at the principle of the guillotine. It is an inevitable fact of modern parliamentary life. However, during the two previous guillotine debates in this Session, on the Social Security Bill and the Education (No. 2) Bill, the Ministers concerned made it clear, in the words of the Leader of the House on 29 January, that: no Government should resort to a guillotine lightly. The right hon. Gentleman added: That is so. It is certainly true, too, that the case for its employment should be clearly proved". [Official Report, 29 January 1980; Vol. 977, c. 1268.] I noted this afternoon that those words were not quoted by the Secretary of State for the Environment. The Leader of the House was in and out of the Chamber for a short while before leaving altogether. It may be that he left the debate because he, too, was discomforted by the Government's decision to press ahead with the guillotine motion.

No guillotine motion has been less justified in recent parliamentary history than this one. First, it is impossible for the Government to complain about the lack of progress in Committee. The Secretary of State accepts that there has been progress—those were his exact words—in Committee. As I said to the hon. Member for Huntingdonshire (Mr. Major), consideration of the Bill in Committee has proceeded at a far faster rate than that of any other major Bill this Session. We have proceeded at the rate of almost three clauses per sitting compared with an average of one clause per sitting for four other major Bills that have been through Committee recently.

Secondly, there has been no time-wasting or serious filibustering. There have been moments when we have had to introduce a certain amount of humour. Despite that, we have proceeded seriously to debate the issues. We have agreed to uncontentious clauses with the barest of explanation or discussion.

Thirdly—this is the most serious charge, and one to which there is no answer—it is impossible for the Government to claim that the Bill would not have emerged from Committee in time for it to go to another place, return to this place and be enacted properly before the summer, and certainly before the end of the Session in the autumn. The Secretary of State admitted that all that was between the Opposition and the Govern-was a matter of three weeks—namely, whether the Bill emerged from Committee on 1 May or 26 May. I was surprised to hear that there is anxiety about whether the Bill will receive Royal Assent before July if it emerges from Committee on 26 May. I was astonished to hear that. It can only mean that the Government are anticipating major opposition to the denial of democratic rights to local authorities when the Bill goes to another place, as there was over the Education (No. 2) Bill and as there will be over the Local Government, Planning and Land (No. 2) Bill.

It is interesting to try to work out why the Government are so concerned about getting the Bill enacted before July. One can understand why they want it to become law. The only reason that I can think of is that the Secretary of State and the Prime Minister wish to have at least one good thing that they can claim to their credit among the record of disasters at the Conservative Party conference in October. That must be the prime reason for enacting the Bill before July.

We have been told by the hon. Member for Huntingdonshire that he has had many letters from his constituents in which they claim that they want to buy their council houses. Unless the revolution has already occurred and I have not noticed, Huntingdonshire is a Conservative area. Since 16 May 1979 local authorities have been able to offer exactly the same discounts as those that appear in the Bill. Despite the large discounts and the fact that no local authority has changed hands since last year, the number of tenants coming forward to buy their council houses, as the institute of Housing indicated yesterday and as was published in The Guardian today, has decreased compared with the number who came forward during the previous Labour Administration. I hope that we shall hear no more from Conservative Members that there is a desperate clamour for the right to buy throughout the country.

Photo of Mr Ronald Brown Mr Ronald Brown , Hackney South and Shoreditch

The byproduct of the Government's policy is that those who live in inner London areas and who want to move out have not been allowed to do so. Sales may have decreased, but there have been no transfers from Hackney to outer areas.

Photo of Jack Straw Jack Straw , Blackburn

I accept my hon. Friend's point. As the Government have already granted general consent to local authorities to sell council houses at discounts of up to 50 per cent., there is no urgent need for the Bill to be enacted, Those Tory councils that wish to exercise this policy, have the power to do so now.

Apart from the political necessity of enacting the Bill in time for the Conservative Party conference, why are the Government so anxious to stifle discussion in such an undemocratic way? The truth is that this Bill is not only about the sale of council houses. That is the tinsel on the poisoned cake. This Bill is about the destruction of a housing policy that has been pursued on a broadly bipartisan basis since the war. It concerns the demolition of the public housing effort, the dramatic raising of council rents and, worst of all, the ending of security of tenure for all private tenants.

In Committee, we are unable to change any of the clauses because the Government have a majority. However, we have turned a spotlight on the intentions and effect of the Government's proposals. The Government have been continually discomfited and embarrassed by that exposure. As a result, they now wish to turn off the spotlight. Let us look at the effect of that exposure in respect of tenants in the private sector. The shorthold provisions were presented in an innocuous and anodyne way by the Secretary of State. On Second Reading, he said that these shorthold provisions were designed to improve the amount of rented accommodation. He said that changes in the rights of those tenants with resident landlords—an important sector—would merely simplify the present procedures. However, as a result of our probing in Committee, it has emerged that the Government's intentions are very different.

When the Conservative Party was in Opposition, the hon. Member for Kensington (Sir B. Rhys Williams) proposed shorthold tenancies with the active support of Conservative Members who—as my right hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham, Sparkbrook (Mr. Hattersley) said—are now on the Front Bench. He proposed shorthold provisions that contained major safeguards to ensure that they did not undermine the existing system of regulated and protected tenancies. Those safeguards ensured that shortholds could be created only for vacant and self-contained properties, and those with high physical standards. It was proposed that rents would be fixed in advance and, above all, that a shorthold tenant would have the right of first refusal when his tenancy came to an end, should the landlord wish to continue letting the property. Even the shorthold tenant would have been given some security of tenure.

The Government have abandoned every one of those safeguards. To their embarrassment and discomfiture, they have turned down all our amendments, which had been designed to introduce the same safeguards that were in the Bill proposed by the Hon. Member for Kensington and supported by the hon. Member for Hampstead (Mr. Finsberg). At the end of the year a tenant may find himself out on his ear at three months' notice. The Minister cannot suggest that that tenant could have his rent registered and regulated. If a tenant went to the rent officer, he would pay the penalty of eviction. The Bill contains no protection against that.

The Bill destroys the security of tenure of tenants with resident landlords. Since 1977 they have had little security. Under clause 64 they will get none. My hon. Friend the Member for Lambeth, Central (Mr. Tilley) rightly described the Bill as a "rent Bill." It will destroy the security of tenure of all new tenants. The Law Society is no revolutionary body, yet it said that regulated and protected tenancies under the Rent Act 1977 would become obsolete. This is a rent Bill, and it is as vicious, vindictive, and destructive of security of tenure as the 1957 Bill. No one should have any doubt about that.

The Secretary of State said that we had almost come to the end of the Bill. He knows that we have got only halfway through it. There are masses of provisions packed away in the schedules, and they require detailed discussion. They need far more discussion than would be possible in the next five days. The guillotine motion is wholly unjustified. The case for it has not been proved.

However, it is entirely in character that the Secretary of State has attempted to push it through. He does not care a jot about democratic rights, or the rights of minorities to scrutinise his proposals. I am sure that that has been made clear not only by the comments of Opposition Members but by those of leading Conservatives both in the House and outside. Other proposals of the Secretary of State have been described as "undemocratic and unworkable" by none other than the Conservative leader of the GLC, Sir Horace Cutler. The right hon. and learned Member for Hexham (Mr. Rippon), a former Conservative Secretary of State and no revolutionary, described yet another of the Secretary of State's proposals as being symptomatic of an elective dictatorship.

Perhaps the most pertinent and astonishing remark that I have heard during the 11 months that I have been in the House came from the hon. Member for Buckingham (Mr. Benyon). He called upon the imagery of Nazi Germany when describing the Secretary of State's "right to buy" proposals. As a result of the way in which the Secretary of State had put forward those proposals, the hon. Gentleman described him as the "gauleiter of housing". He was right to describe him as such. A gauleiter of housing is what he is. By jack-booting his way through the House with a guillotine motion and by denying its democratic rights, he is jack-booting his way through the security and peace of mind of 3 million private tenants, and he is destroying the housing hopes of hundreds of thousands of those who are in genuine housing need.

Photo of Mr John Heddle Mr John Heddle , Lichfield and Tamworth 5:56 pm, 16th April 1980

The hon. Member for Lambeth, Central (Mr. Tilley) referred to private landlordism and the shorthold provisions as "morally wrong". He said that they would not work. That reminds me of the splendid Guinness advertisement I don't like it because I've never tried it. It is that negative and sterile attitude that should be brought to an end by the guillotine.

Like my hon. Friend the Member for Huntingdonshire (Mr. Major), in many ways I regret the Committee's departure. I shall miss the wit, repartee, and the cross-party banter. I shall miss the Latin puns, the Greek quotations, the step-by-step tour of every hon. Member's constituency, and the handkerchief-full of crocodile tears that have been shed about derelict properties and poor, exploited tenants. Never once did we hear that for every year during the period of the previous Labour Administration 125,000 units of accommodation—houses, flats or bungalows—came off the private rented market because of the stranglehold of rent control.

Photo of Mr John Heddle Mr John Heddle , Lichfield and Tamworth

I shall not give way, because the hon. Member for Blackburn (Mr. Straw), for whom I have the highest regard and greatest respect, occupied our attention for 10 minutes or more.

My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State said that his Department received letters by the sackful from the electorate, asking when they would be able to exercise the right to buy. Every hon. Member receives letters every day from his constituents, asking when the Government will fulfil their election promise to give council tenants the right to buy and to give others, particularly young married couples, students, and those who move round the country or change their jobs, the right to rent. Is it any wonder that for many years in Labour-controlled local authorities the public have been saying, with monotonous regularity, that politicians are all the same? Is it any wonder thtat they say "Ah, typical politicians—they promise you the earth at election time, but once in power they forget about you."

This Government are not in the promise-breaking business. They have no intention of reneging on this commitment or on any other commitment in their manifesto. We promised to extend home ownership; we promised to introduce a tenants' charter; we promised to introduce a law to increase the supply of private rented accommodation. We must and we will fulfil those promises, and do it at an early stage.

The Opposition should drop their mongrel dogmatic attitude and face the simple fact that, whether they like it or not, the majority of council tenants actually want to own their own homes. Also, people who want to rent houses, bungalows, or flats, and they do not mind whether they are privately owned or council owned as long as they can, at a stroke of a pen or at the fall of a guillotine, be taken off the depressing and deplorably long council house waiting queues.

Photo of John Gummer John Gummer , Eye

Will my hon. Friend confirm that particularly in rural areas there is no hope for people to rent homes unless already empty houses come on to the housing market? That will not happen as long as farmers, in particular, are afraid that they cannot reclaim those homes for their own farming purposes. Will he not agree that shorthold is essential for rural constituencies if the people are to be housed? It is the tenants who need this help.

Photo of Mr John Heddle Mr John Heddle , Lichfield and Tamworth

I am grateful for that intervention from my hon. Friend I shall touch briefly on the Rent (Agriculture) Act 1976 in a moment—I am sure that he will have greater knowledge of that than I do.

Now is the hour for us to act. Our constituents care very little for parliamentary procedure. The public cannot comprehend why a Bill that was given such a convincing and overwhelming majority on Second Reading on 15 January must still be the cause of many gallons of parliamentary midnight oil-burning all over again, while we hassle and argue about the dots and commas of the right to buy and the right to rent. Not without reason, the public cannot understand why it has taken not only 37 sittings and 110 hours—many of which would be called unsocial—to perform the simple act of delivering the key of a council house or a shorthold tenancy agreement.

Prior to the Second Reading the Government, to their credit, embarked on a considerable policy of consultation. They produced four or five consultation docu- ments, over a period of four or five months. They consulted the local authorities, local authority associations, housing action groups and professional bodies. All these submissions were taken into account when the Bill was drafted. It was open democracy. Hundreds of thousands of electors who voted for the right to buy their own council houses on 3 May last year will remember the delaying tactics of the Opposition tonight when they record their votes in the local government elections on 1 May.

It is not only Conservative-controlled local authorities and Conservative-controlled constituencies that concern us here. We should be looking after the interests of the silent majority who live in rented council accommodation in Labour controlled boroughs and who wanted the right to buy as far back as 1974. This election commitment was embodied in our manifesto of October 1974. The community simply will not tolerate any longer the attitude of Labour-controlled councils which, for narrow partisan reasons, stand in the way of their tenants becoming home owners. The people ask, with good reason, why a manifesto commitment has already taken 12 months to come to pass.

Electors at large probably will not remember 20 July 1976. Because of the mistaken benevolence of the electors of Bolton, East at the time, I have no firsthand memory of that night, but on that date, at a very late hour, the Government of the day guillotined not one, not two, but five Bills, one of which was a major housing Bill. That was the Bill to which I referred earlier, which is now the Rent (Agriculture) Act. Where was the right hon. Member for Birmingham, Spark-brook (Mr. Hattersley) that night? Where was the right hon. Member for Manchester, Ardwick (Mr. Kaufman)? They were both in the "Aye" Lobby—and that is where they should be tonight on behalf of their electors and constituents.

Now is the day, and now is the hour, The time has come for the Opposition to show that they really believe in home ownership and that they want council tenants to have the right to own their own homes. Now is the time for the Opposition to show that they believe that shorthold tenancies could be given a chance to succeed. Now is the time for them to show that they really want homelessness reduced and housing waiting lists cut.

I have no doubt that all hon. Members receive letters from their constituents on this matter. I received one dated 14 June last year from my constituents, Mr. and Mrs. J. Lodge, of 14 Forge Lane, Little Aston, who wrote: Dear Mr. Heddle, we never voted Conservative before, but we did this time because we want to buy our bungalow. We have been tenants of the Lichfield District Council all our married lives, so please can you help us by explaining the procedure, because although we are now in our late 50s, we do not want to go on paying rent for the rest of our lives, with nothing to show for it in the end". There are thousands upon thousands like Mr. and Mrs. Lodge.

There are many landlords—private landlords, charities and trusts, all respectable bodies—waiting to provide short-term rented accommodation for those wishing to have the right to rent. I believe that it is up to us to provide them with that opportunity. It is up to the Opposition, too, to stand by the words embodied in their Green Paper of June 1977, when they said of private rented accommodation: If the decline continued unabated and no action were taken to compensate for the loss of accommodation from the sector, many people—particularly new or mobile households—might not be able to find the housing they need…this is already beginning to happen in a number of areas. To guard against this, we need to consider what action can be taken to stimulate the supply of lettings within the private sector, and what can be done to provide accommodation in the public sector". The answer lies in the Division Lobbies tonight. By providing shortholds in the private sector and by allowing sales of council houses in the public sector to release cash for homes for those genuinely in need of accommodation in the public sector, that goal can be achieved. If there is a will, there is a way, and I suggest that the way must be to impose the guillotine in order to put the will and ambitions of the people on their doorsteps tonight.

Photo of Mr David Alton Mr David Alton , Liverpool Edge Hill 6:08 pm, 16th April 1980

I begin this evening by registering the strongest possible protest that the Liberal Party was excluded from the Committee dealing with this Bill. Inevitably, that has meant that the opinions of 4 million people who voted for my party at the last general election were not heard in Committee. Therefore, I am even more concerned about the move to guillotine the Bill than many other Opposition Members.

Photo of Mr Allan Roberts Mr Allan Roberts , Bootle

Is the hon. Member aware that liberal opinion on the Conservative Beck Benches was also excluded from the Committee?

Photo of Mr David Alton Mr David Alton , Liverpool Edge Hill

I am well aware of that point and I shall come to it later. I began by making that protest, but I continue by sharing the protest already made by Members of the Labour Opposition about the way in which the Government are attempting to guillotine the Bill at this stage.

There are far more important issues in the Bill than the sale of council properties, and many of these are being camouflaged and hidden from the public in an attempt to pass, by sleight of hand a Bill that will have profound implications for the way in which our housing services are administered throughout the country. There is the whole question of local autonomy, which is particularly significant in this Bill. The rights of tenants are also very important. The Bill ignores and camouflages many of these areas.

For instance, figures issued by the Department of the Environment last month indicated that the number of new council houses started in January was probably lower than at any time since the Second World War, yet there are still more than 1 million people living in houses without inside sanitation, and there are still thousands on council waiting lists. The Government talk as though the sale of council houses will solve all those problems or make them go away overnight.

Many important issues remain undebated. The Government will introduce a stream of amendments which will be read out and put to the vote without discussion. The only amendments by Labour or Liberal Members, or by the few enlightened Conservative Members who may protest at some of the actions that the Government are taking, which will put to the vote are those that will have been fortunate enough to be the subject of a limited debate. That is surely a negation of democracy.

The Secretary of State talked about his manifesto commitments as though they were his exclusive right. At the general election his party polled 33 per cent. of the vote. That was slightly better than the 29 per cent. polled by the previous Government, but it is representative of only one-third of the British people and it is arrogant to assume that the Government's mandate represents a vast number of electors.

Every local councillor elected to every council taking decisions on the sale of council houses also has a mandate, has been elected, and has the right to say whether council houses should be sold. The Secretary of State is riding roughshod over elementary democracy in denying those locally elected representatives the opportunity to put their point of view and to take decisions about areas that they know a great deal more about than does the Secretary of State.

Housing is essentially a local service, and one man's meat can be another man's poison. What is right for some inner cities may be wrong for others; what is right for some rural areas may be wrong for others; what is right in some urban areas is often wrong in rural areas. There has been a deliberate attempt by those debating the Bill to try to ignore the differences between areas.

The Secretary of State said that the Bill would revive the private rented sector. I believe that it ensures that the safeguards that have been built up for many private tenants over the years will be removed and there will again be unfettered Rachmanism in our towns and cities. I am sure that many people, having had their security removed, will be worried about what is to happen to them, their families and their homes.

The Government are adopting double standards. Why does the Secretary of State not give those in the private sector the same rights that he is giving public sector tenants? Local authorities should be able, dependent on local circumstances, to decide whether private tenants should also have a right to buy.

I can think of many examples in my own city of Liverpool where there are thousands of people living in squalid conditions. Many live in the private sector. Indeed, 30 per cent. of tenanted properties in Liverpool are in the private sector, compared with the national figure of 13 per cent.

Many private landlords have refused to provide even basic amenities such as an inside toilet and bathroom. How dearly many of those private tenants would like the chance to buy their homes, to get improvement grants and to exercise some home help. But the Secretary of State's double standards do not give those in the private sector the opportunity to get what he says those in the public sector should have. It is all very well to talk about housing need, but the money supply for housing is being cut back savagely, and by ignoring that the Secretary of State is covering up and camouflaging the basic problem confronting local authorities.

The Labour-controlled local authority in Liverpool decided two weeks ago to end improvement grants for those in the private sector and not to provide any more mortgages. The council took that decision because it believed that there should be no redundancies in its works department. My Liberal colleagues on the council said that that was a doctrinaire and wrong decision. We believe that some compromise should have been arrived at, but because the money supply to local authorities has been reduced they are being left with that sort of unpalatable choice.

The Liverpool authority had to decide whether to put more people on the dole, in a city where there is already 12 per cent. unemployment, or to end improvement grants in the private sector—which will also have implications for employment in the construction industry.

The Secretary of State said that if he were in opposition he would be opposing the guillotine motion. That sums up his cynicism and disregard for the fundamental issues involved. The Secretary of State seems to have an obsession with home ownership. I believe in the extension of home ownership and I should like to see more people having the chance to own their own homes, but with mortgage rates at 15 per cent. and the Government continuing to allow the MLR to stand at 17 per cent., what chance have many people got of becoming home owners?

I see many "For Sale" notices on our homes-for-sale developments in Liverpool. I have people telling me that they can no longer afford their mortgage repayments and asking whether I can get them into council properties Liverpool already has a vast number of people on its council house waiting list. The Government's crude obsession with the money supply does not take into account its effect on the housing market and so on.

More than 50 per cent. of British homes are already owner-occupied. That is a higher proportion than in West Germany, France, Holland or Denmark. By 1977, houses made up nearly 35 per cent. of personal wealth, compared with 19 per cent. in 1960. Massive funds have been diverted from what one might call productive investment.

In 1978, the then Government spent or remitted £.5½ billion of taxpayers' money—one-third of the yield of income tax—to distort the housing market. Yet that massive injection of funds has produced little result. The public house building programme, which is just emerging from the tower block lunacies of the 1960s, is being crippled by interest charges and the Government's cash limits. We see £1 billion being given away in mortgage relief on the top slice of personal income, so that the richest house buyers have borrowed and spent as much as they can—bidding up house prices in the process, and making it increasingly difficult for first-time house buyers.

Council house waiting lists are lengthening, estates are being increasingly vandalised and private housing is deteriorating as spiralling mortgage rates swallow up more and more of home owners' money. What does the Secretary of State do? He says that we should sell council homes—as though that will solve all those basic problems. I sometimes think that if the right hon. Gentleman had been on board the "Titanic" when it started to sink, he would have been busily rearranging the deck chairs.

Against the background of the crisis in housing, the Bill is largely irrelevant. It ignores the crazy system of housing finance. When will the Government at last announce that mortgage relief will be paid only at standard rates of tax? What hope will they give to the 1½ million still living in homes without inside sanitation?

The hon. Member for Leeds, West (Mr. Dean) tried to introduce a Bill to improve conditions in hostels for the homeless. The needs of those people were ignored by the Government and 13 people had to die in a fire in London to force the Government to respond. But for that, they would have done nothing for those who fester in squalid lodging houses and hostels. When the Bill was first introduced, it did nothing to help. Council houses are compulsorily up for grabs, but the same rights of home ownership have not been given to the 13·9 per cent. of the population who are tenants in private property.

Of course we support the extension of home ownership and believe that more people should have the chance of owning their own homes. I believe that that is a good way of ensuring liberty and equality. But the Government's policies of compulsion are hopelessly misguided. They seem to forget that where the gauleiter leads—here I use the words of the hon. Member for Buckingham (Mr. Benyon) in the debate on Second Reading—the commissar may well follow. Council house sales may well be suitable for some authorities, but in other areas it may be the worst thing that could happen to them.

In rural areas where numbers are such that small shifts in the balance between public and private housing stock can fundamentally affect the future of a community it is crass nonsense—quite absurd—to go on with the sale of council houses.

Photo of Peter Bottomley Peter Bottomley , Greenwich Woolwich West

In what proportion of local authority areas does the hon. Gentleman think council houses should be sold?

Photo of Mr David Alton Mr David Alton , Liverpool Edge Hill

It should be a matter for local authorities to decide in their own areas. They know better than anyone else what the needs are. In the city of Liverpool there are 4,000 council properties standing empty. Some of them have been empty since 1964. I am in favour of giving away some of these properties and giving people a chance to become home owners.

When I was chairman of the housing committee in Liverpool, we pushed forward with a policy to sell council dwellings. We also did something else, to which I shall return in a few moments. But what is right in Liverpool is not right in a seaside town, for example. There, houses may well be sold to people who become simply holiday home owners. We can see the results of people buying up second, holiday homes in the rural areas of Wales. What will happen if council houses are sold in the rural parts of Wales? What will happen if people can become home owners there while those living in parts of Wales do not have the chance to go on to the council house waiting list and obtain council properties.

It would have been far better if the Government had done more to pioneer homes-for-sale developments, giving people the chance to buy houses built on sites in partnership with private enterprise. In the city of Liverpool we pioneered such a scheme, and about 3,000 houses have now been built and sold or are in the pipeline. People have been given incentives, such as the meeting of solicitors' and removal fees, and have thus been given a chance to obtain a stake in the community through home ownership.

First priority has been given to existing council tenants. Every time a council tenant moves out of a council dwelling into a house built for sale on a low-cost site in the inner city, not only is a socially desirable objective achieved, in providing more home ownership in the inner city, but council accommodation is freed for people in need.

It is nonsense for the Government to assume that everybody can afford to buy his own home. The unemployed cannot afford to do so, and people living in miserable conditions cannot always afford it. Despite the Conservative mentality that everyone should have to buy his own home, some people do not want to, and they should not he forced to.

The Bill does not go anything like far enough on tenants' control. People should be given genuine control. It is financially absurd that, for instance, the unit cost of fitting a washer on a tap has now reached the extortionate amount of £7 or £8 every time a man from a corporation works department does the job. It happens because people have been encouraged to do too little for themselves. That is why the Bill should have included a statutory requirement for local authorities to allow tenants to establish housing co-operatives if they wish. People who have day-to-day control over their estates are far more likely to keep them in good order, and it is far less expensive for the taxpayer. People should be given incentives. If necessary, they should be given rent reductions to set up their own tenants' co-operatives.

Finally, for private tenants, the Government propose nothing but increased insecurity. I introduced, simultaneously with the Government's Bill, my own Rights of Private Tenants Bill to ensure proper standards of sanitation in the private sector and to give tenants the right, where landlords refused to do basic improvement work, to buy their homes.

I have always believed in home ownership. The Government instead propose benefits that will benefit only the few, with possibly increased distortion of housing finance. Waiting lists will not be cut, nor will bad housing go away. For most people there will be no improvement at all, but rather less hope of decent housing in a climate of public spending cuts and decay.

Photo of Mr William Benyon Mr William Benyon , Buckingham 6:24 pm, 16th April 1980

I rise with some diffidence after being described by the hon. Member for Blackburn (Mr. Straw) as a leading Conservative. If that is not the kiss of death, I do not know what is.

This debate is a charade. Once again we face a timetable motion on a major Bill. Any computer that was reasonably programmed could have produced this debate quite happily. One would have only to press the buttons marked "Guillotine" and "Hattersley" to get exactly the same speech out of the machine. I suppose that the same applies to my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for the Environment.

I find myself in a curious position. I have always taken the view that all major Bills should be timetabled after the Second Reading, on a motion from a Select Committee of the House. I still hold strongly to that view, but, conversely, I do not wish to see this Bill on the statute book. Therefore, I shall not support the Government in the Lobby tonight.

I opposed the Bill on Second Reading principally because it took away an effective and democratic power from local authorities and put it in the hands of the Secretary of State. I regard that as a dangerous and retrograde step for the Conservative Party to take. I still hold firmly to that view, but since Second Reading other factors have entered into the calculation. In particular, the Government spending plans with regard to housing have now become much clearer.

I fully support the economic policy being carried out by the Government. I have no quarrel whatever with the action that has been taken and is being taken to curtail and control Government expenditure. But I should like to examine what will happen in housing over the next two or three years.

First, it is true that local authority building for rent will be substantially curtailed, if not stopped altogether. Likewise—and this is the part that I find most worrying—the purchase and rehabilitation by local authorities of sub-standard housing for renovation and reletting will practically come to an end.

In the private sector, housing for rent will show no increase. In fact, it is more likely to show a decrease because of the Labour Party's opposition to my right hon. Friend's shorthold proposals. I have always said that the Shadow Minister is the only person who could provide another 1 million units of accommodation overnight. Until that happens there is no joy to be found in the form of extra accommodation for rent in the private sector.

Housing for sale is governed principally by the level of salaries. My estimate, in which I am supported by the building societies, is that the best that we can hope for is a continuation of the present situation or a modest rise in numbers of new mortgagees. In those circumstances, pressure on the local authority sector is bound to intensify.

On top of this, the rate of household formation will show a considerable increase over the next few years. The demographic bulge is leaving the schools and going into work. Therefore, there will be far more people looking for houses in the next few years than there were previously. In addition, there are a number of other social matters the implications of which are not generally realised, except by those who really study them. One is divorce. There are more than 140,000 divorces every year. If only 50 per cent. of those who are divorced find other partners, over a year another 70,000 applicants are added to the housing lists.

All this will exacerbate the problem over the next two or three years. If a totally unbiased expert with no preconceived political views—a sort of housing archangel—were asked to examine the problem, he would surely say that he must concentrate on the voids in the local authority estates above everything else. First, he would say that he must concentrate what building was available on housing for the elderly, whose numbers will rise continually over the next decade or so. Secondly, he would surely encourage those in council houses who could afford to do so to seek accommodation in the private sector. Unpalatable though it may be to my hon. Friends, it is exactly those people who will be encouraged to purchase their local authority houses and not move to owner-occupied accommodation elsewhere.

The mantle of Cassandra does not rest happily on my shoulders, but I see widespread distress and difficulty ahead, and certainly in my constituency, which is one of the better housed in the country. Over the past five or 10 years we have built more houses than any other area in the country, but even in my area the position is changing rapidly for the worse.

I have two questions for my right hon. and hon. Friends. First, has that aspect been properly considered?

Photo of Lieut-Colonel Dick Crawshaw Lieut-Colonel Dick Crawshaw , Liverpool Toxteth

I remind the hon. Gentleman that this is a debate on the timetable motion and not the Bill in general.

Photo of Mr William Benyon Mr William Benyon , Buckingham

I take the point, Mr. Deputy Speaker. However, the debate has ranged widely.

I hope that my question can be dealt with before the Bill comes to its conclusion as a result of this motion.

During the remaining stages of the Bill it should be possible. while passing it as an enabling Bill, to delay its introduction until this period of extreme but necessary financial stringency has passed.

Photo of Mr Allan Roberts Mr Allan Roberts , Bootle 6:31 pm, 16th April 1980

I oppose the guillotine motion. Many issues remain to be dealt with.

I thought that at any minute the hon. Member for Lichfield and Tamworth (Mr. Heddle) would be fighting us on the beaches. I tell him that the privately rented sector declined in the four years following the passage of the 1957 Act at twice the rate that it declined after the passage of the 1954 Act. When security of tenure and rent control restrictions were lifted, the privately rented sector declined more quickly than when controls existed. That will happen again with the short-hold provisions.

If the guillotine motion is accepted, we shall not debate the right to buy for tenants in old persons' bungalows. It was the worst example for the hon. Member for Tamworth and Lichfield to mention. The Bill will give the right to three of the tenants' relatives to join with the tenant to get a mortgage and to buy the property. I do not suggest that many old people will want to buy their bungalows, but three relatives may wish to get together with an elderly tenant to do so. When he dies, that bungalow will therefore not be available for other old people to transfer from under-occupied three-bedroomed accommodation.

The Conservative local authority in Wirral has already announced that it will not be able to build the elderly people's bungalows proposed because of Government cuts in the housing investment programme. Under this Bill, that authority will be forced, against its will, to sell the old people's bungalows that it already has. Elderly people will remain imprisoned in 12-storey flats or will under-occupy three-bedroomed council houses. They will not have the opportunity to transfer to the bungalows of which they have long dreamt.

Another issue yet to be resolved is short-life accommodation and licences. The Bill will give Security of tenure to tenants of all public housing. Organisations such as the Peabody Trust have begun to evict tenants who are on licence. They fear that granting security to short-life tenants will mean that those on licence will not vacate properties when they are needed for planned modernisation programmes.

I agree with the Minister for Housing and Construction that the Peabody Trust is behaving like a villain in a Victorian melodrama in dealing with its tenants, and that perhaps it should reconsider its action. The Minister has tabled an amendment to try to alleviate the problem for future short-life housing schemes. However, the amendment does not go far enough, and we shall not have the opportunity to debate the issue if the guillotine motion is passed. Thousands of houses with short but useful lives will remain empty.

I have tabled two new clauses. The first would place on local authorities the duty to consider short-life housing schemes to bring into use empty houses in the public sector. The second would prevent local authorities pre-empting public inquiries. It would outlaw prior demolition of properties that were the subject of a public inquiry. These are important issues, which will help to get houses into use and prevent waste of publicly owned property. I urge the Government to allow time to debate these important matters.

The Secretary of State tells us that he has a mandate for the legislation and that is therefore right to guillotine it. He does not have a mandate for the clause to increase local authority mortgage lending rates. He did not tell the electorate that the Government would make local authorities charge higher mortgage rates.

In the consultative documents issued by the Department of the Environment, the right hon. Gentleman indicated that he was prepared to legislate on distraint. He probably had a mandate to alter distraint procedures so that, without recourse to the courts, local authorities could not use them against people owing rent. However, that proposal has been dropped from the legislation. That should be dealt with in debate.

Conservative Members claim that they believe in mobility and that that is a reason to force councils to sell council houses. However, they have dropped our proposals to lift residential restrictions for those on council house waiting lists. The legislation on the tenants' charter included in the Scottish Housing Bill, lifting residential qualifications and allowing single people access by right to council house waiting lists, is not included.

Why should applicants on local authority waiting lists have access to their files when tenants do not? Why are the Government reluctant to allow tenants that access? The whole issue of freedom of information will not be debated adequately if this motion goes through.

A new subsidy system is being introduced for council houses. Because of the Government's insistence, that matter was debated at 3.30 or 4 am. My right hon. Friend the Member for Manchester, Ardwick (Mr. Kaufman), on the Feast of the Passover, was forced to eat bacon sandwiches. It was not a serious debate, because of the lateness of the hour. That is intolerable. We need a proper debate. The subsidy system will rob local authorities of money that they need to maintain a house building programme and keep down rents. The system will be based on the discretion of the Secretary of State about what rent levels should be.

The right hon. Gentleman described the legislation as a social revolution. The Under-Secretary of State, in opposing amendments moved by Labour Members, said: it is no part of the philosophy of this Bill to take a lead on an issue of social policy. We are dealing with housing policy."—[Official Report, Standing Committee F; 28 February 1980, c. 681.] There is a conflict there between the Secretary of State and his Under-Secretary. That needs debating, and it will not be debated if the guillotine motion is agreed to.

I appeal to the dry hearts on the Government Benches to vote with us to stop what is a social revolution, a revolution that for the first time in history is switching provision of housing from State provision to dependence upon private landlords—and private Rachmanism at that.

Photo of Gerald Kaufman Gerald Kaufman , Manchester Ardwick 6:40 pm, 16th April 1980

This has not been just another guillotine debate—a debate in which the Government move the motion with ritual complaints about Opposition obstruction and the Opposition respond with ritual complaints against the Government for stifling freedom of debate.

From the outset, the Opposition have recognised and accepted the right of the Government to secure this legislation—and not only the Government's right but the Government's power, through their large majority, to enforce that right. We deplore many parts of the Bill and have contested those clauses vigorously. We shall continue to do so. But we accept that the Government have not only a majority but a mandate for some parts of the Bill.

The Government's right to achieve the passage of the Bill, and their power to secure its passage have never been at issue. What we as an Opposition have sought is that this legislation shall be debated properly—not exhaustively, not protractedly, but with a care appropriate to the content of the measure.

As several of my hon. Friends have pointed out, this is a multiple measure. It begins with chapter 1, the compulsory sale of council houses. That alone is 26 clauses—longer by itself than many complete Bills that have been before the House this Session. It continues with what is claimed to be a tenants' charter—a diluted version of the charter in the Labour Government's Bill that fell with the general election last year, but welcome as far as it goes. That is another 23 clauses.

After this come the clauses on shorthold—gravely damaging, in our view, to the rights of private tenants. There are further clauses on private tenancies, on repairs and improvements, on housing subsidies—a major and controversial recasting of the subsidy system—on housing associations, on service charges and on leasehold. In all, there are 129 clauses and 20 huge schedules—a total of 142 pages. If the Government want Bills to get through by a certain date it is their duty to put before the House Bills of dimensions that can properly be got through by a certain date.

That was only how the Bill began its life; along the way it has swollen into a monstrous growth, like some legislative creature from the black lagoon. The Government, understandably dissatisfied with their original handiwork, have been rewriting the Bill as it goes along. So far in Committee the Government have tabled 137 amendments, together with six new clauses and one new schedule.

Faced with this almost unmanageable measure, the Opposition decided that we would contest it vigorously by debate and vote but would not seek to obstruct its passage. Up to the time of the tabling of the guillotine motion we had tabled an average of only two amendments per clause or Schedule.

We neither debated nor opposed the original sittings motion. When, after only two weeks, the Government decided to move to afternoon sittings, we again neither debated the sittings motion nor voted against it, and the Bill made steady progress. Indeed, our very sense of responsibility was used against us. Along the Committee Corridor a parallel though much shorter Scottish housing Bill was being discussed in Committee. The Minister in charge, the Under-Secretary of State for Scotland, moved a sittings motion to extend that Committee's sittings. He said: it might be of interest to the Committee to know that Mille we in this Committee are still at the very beginning of clause 1 after six sittings, the Standing Committee considering the Housing Bill, a very similar measure, is at present on clause 16. It may also be of interest to Opposition Members to know that when a sittings motion in identical terms to the one that I am presently moving, was considered in that Committee, the hon. Gentleman who speaks for the Opposition on that Committee stated: "The Opposition will not appose this motion and we shall take a few minutes only to discuss it because we want to get on with the Bill'. The Under Secretary of State for Scotland added: I hope that the Opposition representative on this Committee will take a similar very constructive attitude".—[Official Report, First Scottish Standing Committee, 19 February 1980; c. 342.] I am not concerned with that hon. Gentleman's immature attempt to make mischief between my right hon. and hon. Friends on the Committee dealing with the Tenants' Rights, Etc. (Scotland) Bill and my colleagues on the Committee considering the Housing Bill. Ignominious failure can be the only outcome of any attempt to create disharmony between members of the Parliamentary Labour Party. On each side of the border we stand shoulder to shoulder. What is significant is that a junior Minister was able to feel justified in drawing attention to the rapid progress that we were making, and to what he rightly called our "very constructive attitude".

If the Minister thought that reaching clause 16 after eight sittings was speedy, he had not seen anything yet. Before long we began to notch up an average of one clause every hour. At the time when the guillotine motion was announced, we had reached clause 93—not bad progress in 34 sittings. After 37 sittings, we are now considering clause 106. This is no thanks to the Government.

At an early stage in Committee we asked the Minister to give us some idea of the timetable that he planned for his Bill. He was unable to do so. So, in the absence of any Government timetable, the Opposition set themselves a timetable. We informed the Government of it regularly and we kept to it meticulously. Our only stipulation was that the Committee should sit at civilised hours so that proper consideration could be given to the Bill's important and complicated provisions, which affect perhaps 20 million people.

All this was brought to a halt by the Government a week before the Easter Recess. On Tuesday 25 March, the Minister, with his hon. and learned Friend the Member for Clitheroe (Mr. Waddington), met my right hon. Friend the Member for Rhondda (Mr. Jones), my hon. Friend the Member for Leeds, West (Mr. Dean) and me, and told us that the Government wanted the Bill out of Committee by Thursday 24 April.

At that point we had reached clause 75. The Government wanted us to complete 54 further clauses and 20 schedules—93 pages—not to mention all the additional Government amendments and new clauses and schedules, in 15 sittings. We told them that the offer was an insult, and we rejected it. That was the only formal discussion on the subject that the Government ever had with us.

There was further brief informal contact between the Opposition Whip and my hon. Friend the Member for Leeds, West followed by a brief conversation in a corridor between the Minister and me, in which he laid down unilaterally a time limit, saying that the Bill must be finished at the latest by 1 May. We had offered alternative dates later in May but the Government refused even to discuss them. We were given the choice of finishing voluntarily on 1 May or being guillotined on 1 May. That, no doubt, is what Professor Milton Friedman means by being free to choose.

That was what the Leader of the House described as negotiations between the usual channels. It was a dishonest claim. There were no negotiations. There was an offensive ultimatum, which we rejected. Yet it would have been perfectly possible to work out a timetable that gave the Government their Bill while at the same time providing satisfactory time for proper debate.

Why was this not achieved? First, it was because of the attitude of the Minister. The Minister is an amiable man, and I am perfectly certain that he is kind to animals and small children, that he helps old ladies to cross the road, whether they want across or not, and that he rarely, if ever, beats his wife. He also has a considerable knowledge of the Bill. Indeed, it can be said confidently that between them the Minister for Housing and the Secretary of State for the Environment share a thorough understanding of the measure.

The Minister understands about 120 of the clauses and the Secretary of State, with suitable guidance, can find his way through the remaining nine. However, the Minister has shown none of the flexibility that can help even the most controversial Bill through Committee. He never began to negotiate at a time when negotiation could have made the guillotine motion unnecessary, even by the Government's criteria. Even when we asked for such a simple thing as notes to help us through the technical clauses, he refused.

Why have the Government decided to guillotine a Bill the Committee on which had reached clause 93 by the time that it was announced? First, they have guillotined the Bill because the Leader of the House is of unprecedented incompetence. He has so botched his legislative programme as to produce an unparalleled snarl-up of Bills, even though the Session is six months longer than normal. The second reason for the guillotine is that each year the Secretary of State needs a new stimulus to goad the ladies of the Tory Party conference to their Bacchic frenzy—a frenzy that generates the adrenalin needed to get him through another humdrum year of parliamentary drudgery—not that he bothers with much of that.

This year we can anticipate the feast of oratory that the right hon. Member is preparing for the Heseltine groupies at Brighton. The Secretary of State will raise aloft his brand new Housing Act and declaim "My housing policy is in ruins. Private and council rents are soaring to astronomic levels. Mortgages are dearer than ever. Building societies are suffering from an unprecedented famine of funds. Even the lickspittle Greater London Council is having to stop its mortgage scheme and cut its homesteading project. Fewer new houses will be built next year than for a generation. I shall be the first Housing Minister this century to preside over an actual reduction in the number of houses to rent. But never mind all that. I have bludgeoned through Parliament this squalid and damaging Housing Act and you now have my permission to cheer."

There will follow the regulation scenes of abandon, with younger women having to be treated for hysteria, older ladies being trampled underfoot and the Prime Minister, as usual, demonstrating her cold disdain for the whole performance. That is one reason for the guillotine. The Bill must be rushed through in time for the biennial Brighton rock.

There is another reason for the guillotine. Those of us who serve on the Standing Committee found that the more the Housing Bill was debated and the more we forced the Government to disclose about it, the more damaging and dangerous it was revealed to be. The guillotine is designed to muffle the debate and hush up the damage. I have no doubt that the Government expected the Opposition to obstruct the Bill on the early clauses on council house sales so that they could introduce a guillotine much earlier than they have. But we wanted to debate as much of the Bill as possible. As a result, we have disposed completely of the Tory myth that compulsory council house sales will bring financial gain to public funds. That absurdity was touted a great deal, but now it is not mentioned.

We have brought into the open the powers that the Government are taking to force up council rents—powers that make the Housing Finance Act 1972 look like a tenants' charter. Let it be clearly understood that, from now on, all council rent increases will be the responsibility not of the local authorities but of the Bill and this Government.

We have forced into the open the way in which the Bill wildly tilts the powers of the courts to evict against the tenant and in favour of the landlord. We have forced into the open the way in which the Bill is designed to bring about more and more frequent and higher and higher rent increases for private landlords while at the same time removing any incentive to carry out repairs and improvements.

Only yesterday we forced from the Minister the admission that the Government were deliberately rigging the interest rates of local authority mortgages in order to deter people on low incomes living in the most difficult localities from achieving home ownership. Above all, we have forced out the truth about shorthold tenancies. In the debate on Second Reading we deliberately made no commitment for the repeal of the shorthold tenancy provisions in the Bill. Instead, we decided to table amendments to secure safeguards for shorthold tenants. Many of the amendments were based word for word on the safeguards contained in the shorthold Bills introduced by the hon. Member for Kensington (Sir B. Rhys Williams). The sponsors of those Bills included the present Minister for Housing and Construction and an Under-Secretary of State. The Government voted down each of those safeguard amendments. It is easy to see why.

During the Committee debates Ministers chortled with glee when I said that we would rather see properties empty than subject to the proposed form of shorthold tenancy, yet Ministers gave the game away when they voted against our amendment to confine shorthold tenancies to currently empty properties. They did that for two reasons. The first was that they know that hardly any shorthold tenancies come from empty properties. That is the considered view of the Small Landlords Association and even of the Prime Minister's Centre for Policy Studies, which kindly sent us its view. The centre says: It is extremely unlikely that many lettings will result from these provisions. It describes shorthold tenancies as "naive in the extreme."

The second reason is more menacing. The Government's real objective is not to provide new properties for letting but to end security of tenure and rent control on all lettings by private landlords. Short-hold tenancies are the device to bring that about. There is to be power for the Secretary of State, without reference to Parliament, to end the requirement to register rents, scope for landlords to winkle genuinely protected tenants into adjacent, inadequately protected short-hold tenancies, and power for landlords, after only a year, to convert shorthold tenancies to unprotected lettings of as little as one month. The measures are the beginning of the end of security for the tenants of private landlords.

That is the legislative framework for the rebirth of Rachmanism under official Government sponsorship. It is the most retrograde step in rent legislation for 60 years. That is why the Opposition have announced their intention to repeal short-hold tenancies and to confer proper security on all tenants of private landlords. That is why the Government do not want the Bill to be debated adequately. In Committee, as we turned over the stones we found very nasty things lurking underneath. The Government know that there might be more revelations to come, so they have moved this grubby guillotine motion.

The Government may be able to stifle parliamentary debate, but they will not stifle the truth about this menacing measure. We shall tell the people the truth about the Bill, which the Government are so anxious to conceal. We shall win our own mandate to reverse the measure, which the Government are rushing through the House in such an unseemly way.

Photo of John Stanley John Stanley Minister (Department of Environment) (Housing & Construction) 6:59 pm, 16th April 1980

When the right hon. Member for Manchester, Ardwick (Mr. Kaufman) was introducing one of his various timetable motions in the last Parliament, he prefaced his remarks by saying: I hope that the House will be spared from the Tory Opposition even the most mechanical, ritualistic noises about the motion. He did not do much to spare the House from a certain amount of mechanical and and ritualistic noises today. The contributions by my hon. Friends the Members for Huntingdonshire (Mr. Major), for Luton, East (Mr. Bright) and for Lichfield and Tamworth (Mr. Heddle), who are members of the Committee, were much closer to the realities of the Housing Bill than anything that we heard from the right hon. Member for Ardwick.

During the debate on the same guillotine motion, the right hon. Gentleman spoke with some enthusiasm on timetable motions. He said: We are gradually learning from the Tories how to conduct Government business in an orderly fashion."—[Official Report, 22 October 1975; Vol. 898, c. 487.] We certainly share his enthusiasm for the orderly conduct of business, and I remind the right hon. Members for Birmingham, Sparkbrook (Mr. Hattersley) and for Ardwick that they gave us plenty to learn about guillotine motions during the last Parliament. Their Government guillotined three major measures in one day. They guillotined two constitutional measures before their Committee stages had even started. We did not hear much from the right hon. Member for Sparkbrook about that when he was discussing the scrutiny of this Bill.

The timetable motion for this Bill has arisen for only one reason. It was not that put forward by the right hon. Member for Sparkbrook or that advanced by the right hon. Member for Ardwick. It has arisen because of our inability to agree with the Opposition an end date for the Committee stage. The date we offered, which the Opposition did not wish to discuss, was 1 May. Let me explain why that date is both eminently reasonable and absolutely necessary. I can assure the hon. Member for Blackburn (Mr. Straw) that there is no question of our having resorted lightly to this timetable motion. There is only one way of judging whether the end date of 1 May is reasonable, and that is against the rate of progress that the Opposition have made with the Bill so far. That rate of progress has been made solely of the Opposition's own volition.

The right hon. Member for Ardwick said in Committee yesterday that he would be paying me a mixture of compliments and insults today, and he has been as good as his word. In return, I register my gratitude and appreciation to him for the assistance which he has given me in getting through this vital piece of Tory legislation. I go so far as to say that I do not believe that any Minister piloting through a controversial Bill could have been faced by an Opposition spokesman more helpful, more responsive and more energetic in securing it than the right hon. Member for Ardwick.

Of course the right hon. Gentleman has passionately denounced virtually every clause, but his passion for denouncing each clause has been exceeded by his enthusiasm to get on to the next one. That is why, on the basis of the rate of progress we have made, we believe that the date of 1 May is entirely reasonable. We have now completed the consideration of no fewer than 105 clauses. The most controversial parts have already been dealt with. The pace has been chosen by the Opposition. Let me remind the House of the extent of progress so far. We have completed the provisions on the right to buy, the tenants' charter, shortholds, assured tenancies, controlled tenancies, resident landlords, improvement and repairs, housing subsidies, local authority mortgages and rent rebates and allowances.

Against that background, given the progress made so far, it is ludicrous for the Opposition to maintain, as they have tried to do, that the Bill should remain in Committee until Whitsun. The right hon. Member for Ardwick has shown that, unlike other Opposition Front Bench Members, he can make great progress with a Bill. We have spent a total of 110 hours on this Bill. All the clauses of substance have been dealt with. That provides perfect scope for the Bill to be completed by 1 May, which will allow for no fewer than a further 40 hours of debate. I do not think that a more reasonable proposition could be advanced. We are simply asking the Opposition to continue with the sort of progress achieved so far. Given that progress, it should be possible to finish by the date that we have proposed.

The Opposition proposal is that the Bill should stay in Committee effectively until the Whitsun Recess, and that would allow for a further 70 to 80 hours of debate. However, we have already taken 110 hours to complete 106 of a total of 129 clauses plus the new clauses and the schedules. Against the ground covered so far by the Opposition, there is no case for suggesting that the Bill must remain in Committee until Whitsun. Not merely is our proposal of 1 May entirely reasonable; it is so necessary, and that is the essence of the case for the motion. Three weeks longer in Committee now certainly does not mean that there will be only three weeks' delay in the Bill receiving Royal Assent. If the Bill remains in Committee until Whitsun, it will almost certainly not receive Royal Assent by the Summer Recess. So far as we can see, it certainly will not receive Royal Assent until the spill-over part of the session in the autumn. The significance of this debate is that three weeks longer in Committee now will mean a delay of at least three months before the Bill can be enacted. The Bill is so important that we cannot contemplate such a delay.

Photo of Mr Tristan Garel-Jones Mr Tristan Garel-Jones , Watford

Does my hon. Friend feel that the Opposition appreciate sufficiently the sort of pressure that is being exerted upon those Conservative Members who have the misfortune to represent boroughs where the Socialists are in local control by constituents who simply do not understand why the Bill is not already on the statute book?

Photo of John Stanley John Stanley Minister (Department of Environment) (Housing & Construction)

That is the essence of the case, and I shall come to it in a moment.

Delay means that, quite apart from the effect upon those who wish to buy their homes, other important provisions will be deferred. There will be delay in bringing in the much needed provisions on improvement and repair. There will certainly be delay in making available to local authorities and housing associations the Exchequer contribution that we announced yesterday for improvement for sale schemes. There will be delay in extending repair grants which will be patricularly valuable to the less well off. There will be delay in making improvement grants available for public and private sector tenants; delay in giving local authorities and the Housing Corporation the ability to help first-time buyers by guaranteeing mortgages; and delay in removing the legal impediments to shared ownership schemes, again to help first-time buyers. There will be delay in giving effect to the tenants' charter which the Opposition have claimed they so badly want introduced. There will be delay in the provision making it easier for owner-occupiers to make more accommodation available by sub-letting. It will certainly also mean delay in introducing a shorthold scheme, no doubt a delay which the Opposition will welcome, given what they have said about it.

Of all the irresponsible undertakings that have been given by the Labour Party, there can be few more irresponsible than that given in respect of shortholds. As my hon. Friend the Member for Buckingham (Mr. Benyon) rightly said, this is one of the few areas where the Shadow spokesman on housing can make a difference to the amount of available rented accommodation. It is irresponsible fo the Labour Party to take up a position on shortholds before the Bill has even completed its Committee and Report stages, let alone been passed on to the statute book. Its policy has been solely to try to show before the Bill becomes law that shortholds do not work.

Photo of Jack Straw Jack Straw , Blackburn

The Minister knows that if he had included the safeguards contained in the Bill promoted by the hon. Member for Kensington (Sir B. RhysWilliams), the position would be different. That was exactly why my right hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham, Sparkbrook (Mr. Hattersley) said that we would keep an open mind until the Bill went through Committee. Why have not the Government included those safeguards, when the Minister was one of the signatories to them?

Photo of John Stanley John Stanley Minister (Department of Environment) (Housing & Construction)

The hon. Member for Blackburn (Mr. Straw) is familiar with the Committee proceedings, but one of the points ignored by him and by his Front Bench colleagues is that we gave extremely detailed reasons and explanations why we felt that the shorthold could work in the way that we proposed. There are important structural differences between the conception of shorthold devised by my hon. Friend the Member for Kensington (Sir B. Rhys-Williams) and the proposals that we have brought forward. In addition, no account has been taken of the fact that we said that we were considering certain aspects of the amendments which were proposed. The attitude of the Labour Party in taking up a position on shortholds before it has had the opportunity to see the final shape of the legislation is reprehensible.

I turn to the other aspects of the Bill. The most important and crucial of these—my hon. Friend the Member for Watford (Mr. Garel-Jones) and others referred to it—is the position of those who want to buy their own homes, but who are being denied the right to do so, and who will not have that right until the Bill becomes law.

Those tenants have been waiting with increasing frustration and impatience for the Bill to be enacted so that they can buy their homes. One of the few moments of reality came from my hon. Friend the Member for Lichfield and Tamworth, when he read out a letter from some constituents who had written to him on the matter. It is a real, live situation, where people are waiting for the Bill to be enacted so that they can have the opportunity to buy their homes.

The frustration of those who wish to buy but who have been prevented from doing so has been added to by the sight of many other tenants—usually in areas under Conservative councils—buying their homes.

I wish to put some perspective on the comments about sales of council houses since we took office. I shall give the House two pieces of information. First, there is no doubt that in the new towns our right to buy policy is making a material contribution to extending home ownership, and not only in the Home Counties. On the number of firm negotiations and sales, in Skelmersdale the figure has reached 450, in Northampton it is 500, in Peterborough it is 600, in Washington it is more than 200, and in Basildon it is a massive 2,250. Inquiries are still coming in. There were more than 600 inquiries last month.

The position is the same where the local authorities are selling. More than 250 authorities now doing so. In our first nine months in office, some 30,000 council tenants were able to buy their homes. They are the fortunate ones. The unfortunates are those in the predominantly Labour-controlled areas where the councils are still refusing to sell, despite the fact that the House has given the Bill a Second Reading and that the Opposition themselves have said on more than one occasion that it is only a matter of time before the Bill becomes law.

There are nearly 2 million tenants in the areas where councils are refusing to sell. It is principally for those 2 million tenants that this motion is so necessary, but not merely for them, because there are others, such as the tenants of housing associations, and the 40,000 co-owners, who will have the opportunity to buy. As the right hon. Member for Ardwick is a co-owner, no doubt he will see fit to exercise his opportunity as a result of this important piece of legislation.

The main issue is that of the 2 million council tenants. They have seen the prices of their houses and flats rising month by month. By not selling under the discounts that we introduced last May. Labour councils have already cost each of their tenants who want to buy hundreds, if not thousands, of pounds. The right hon. Member for Sparkbrook, by telling Labour councils not to sell council houses before the Bill is enacted, has gone out of his way to ensure that tenants will pay even more for their homes.

Labour councils have already cost these tenants far too much. Now the Opposition are proposing to add to the delay still further by seeking to ensure that the Bill is not enacted until well after the Summer Recess. The Opposition's proposal was that the Bill should remain in Committee until 22 May. The significance of that is that the Bill would not have received Royal Assent until early November. As a result of the necessary eight-week delay between enactment and commencement, that means that the right to buy would not commence until January 1981. We are not prepared to wait until January 1981, and neither are hundreds and thousands of tenants prepared to wait until that time.

We do not believe that this is the time for delay. It is time to press on. We have put a reasonable proposition to the Opposition. I hope that the House will agree to the motion.

Photo of Mr John Sever Mr John Sever , Birmingham, Ladywood

On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. I believe that I am in order in speaking at this time. I wish to refer to several of the comments made by the Minister. Will he explain to me why he thinks that we should proceed with the timetable motion this evening on the basis of his arguments? To say the least, his arguments were threadbare. There are still a large number of schedules, 20 or more, with new schedules being proposed almost daily by Conservative Members and others. There are still some 20 new clauses to be discussed.

If the amendments that have not yet seen the light of day, the clauses that have not yet been discussed, and the stones to which my right hon. Friend the Member for Manchester, Ardwick (Mr. Kaufman) referred earlier have not yet been turned over, how is it that the Minister believes that the Government can come forward legitimately and reasonably with a proposition that the

Division No. 255]AYES[7.16 pm
Adley, RobertCope, JohnHawkins, Paul
Aitken, JonathanCormack, PatrickHawksley, Warren
Alexander, RichardCorrie, JohnHayhoe, Barney
Alison, MichaelCostain, A. P.Heddle, John
Ancram, MichaelCranborne, ViscountHenderson, Barry
Arnold, TomCritchley, JulianHeseltine, Rt Hon Michael
Aspinwall, JackCrouch, DavidHicks, Robert
Atkins, Rt Hon H. (Spelthorne)Dickens, GeoffreyHiggins, Rt Hon Terence L.
Atkins, Robert (Preston North)Dorrell, StephenHill, James
Atkinson, David (B'mouth, East)Douglas-Hamilton, Lord JamesHolland, Philip (Carlton)
Baker, Kenneth (St. Marylebone)Dover, DenshoreHooson, Tom
Baker, Nicholas (North Dorset)du Cann, Rt Hon EdwardHordern, Peter
Banks, RobertDunn, Robert (Dartford)Howe, Rt Hon Sir Geoffrey
Beaumont-Dark, AnthonyDurant, TonyHowell, Rt Hon David (Guildford)
Bell, Sir RonaldDykes, HughHowell, Ralph (North Norfolk)
Bendall, VivianEden, Rt Hon Sir JohnHunt, David (Wirral)
Benyon, Thomas (Abingdon)Edwards, Rt Hon N. (Pembroke)Hunt, John (Ravensbourne)
Best, KeithEggar, TimothyHurd, Hon Douglas
Bevan, David GilroyEmery, PeterIrving, Charles (Cheltenham)
Biffen, Rt Hon JohnFairbairn, NicholasJenkin, Rt Hon Patrick
Biggs-Davison, JohnFairgrieve, RussellJesse, Toby
Blackburn, JohnFaith, Mrs SheilaJohnson Smith, Geoffrey
Blaker, PeterFarr, JohnJopling, Rt Hon Michael
Bonsor, Sir NicholasFell, AnthonyJoseph, Rt Hon Sir Keith
Boscawen, Hon RobertFenner, Mrs PeggyKaberry, Sir Donald
Bottomley, Peter (Woolwich West)Finsberg, GeoffreyKellett-Bowman, Mrs Elaine
Bowden, AndrewFisher, Sir NigelKershaw, Anthony
Boyson, Dr RhodesFletcher, Alexander (Edinburgh N)Kimball, Marcus
Bright, GrahamFletcher-Cooke, CharlesKing, Rt Hon Tom
Brinton, TimFookes, Miss JanetKitson, Sir Timothy
Brittan, LeonFowler, Rt Hon NormanKnight, Mrs Jill
Brocklebank-Fowler, ChristopherFox, MarcusKnox, David
Brooke, Hon PeterFraser, Rt Hon H. (Stafford & St)Lamont, Norman
Brotherton, MichaelFraser, Peter (South Angus)Lang, Ian
Brown, Michael (Brigg & Sc'thorpe)Fry, PeterLangford-Holt, Sir John
Browne, John (Winchester)Gardiner, George (Reigate)Latham, Michael
Bruce-Gardyne, JohnGardner, Edward (South Fylde)Lawrence, Ivan
Bryan, Sir PaulGarel-Jones, TristanLawson, Nigel
Buchanan-Smith, Hon AlickGlyn, Dr AlanLee, John
Buck, AntonyGoodhew, VictorLennox-Boyd, Hon Mark
Budgen, NickGorst, JohnLester, Jim (Beeston)
Bulmer, EsmondGow, IanLloyd, Ian (Havant & Waterloo)
Burden, F. A.Gower, Sir RaymondLloyd, Peter (Fareham)
Butcher, JohnGrant, Anthony (Harrow C)Loveridge, John
Butler, Hon AdamGray, HamishLuce, Richard
Cadbury, JocelynGreenway, HarryLyell, Nicholas
Carlisle, John (Luton West)Grieve, PercyMcCrindle, Robert
Carlisle, Kenneth (Lincoln)Griffiths, Eldon (Bury St Edmunds)Macfarlane, Neil
Carlisle, Rt Hon Mark (Runcorn)Griffiths, Peter (Portsmouth N)MacKay, John (Argyll)
Chalker, Mrs LyndaGrist, IanMacmillan, Rt Hon M. (Farnham)
Channon, PaulGrylls, MichaelMcNair-Wilson, Michael (Newbury)
Chapman, SydneyGummer, John SelwynMcNair-Wilson, Patrick (New Forest)
Churchill, W. S.Hamilton, Hon Archie (Eps'm&Ew'll)McQuarrie, Albert
Clark, Hon Alan (Plymouth, Sutton)Hamilton, Michael (Salisbury)Madel, David
Clarke, Kenneth (Rushcliffe)Hampson, Dr KeithMajor, John
Clegg, Sir WalterHannam, JohnMarland, Paul
Cockeram, EricHaselhurst, AlanMarlow, Tony
Colvin, MichaelHavers, Rt Hon Sir MichaelMarshall, Michael (Arundel)

Committee stage should be concluded?

It appears to me that the Committee could justifiably argue, and has tried to argue through the personage of my right hon. Friend the Member for Ardwick, that far more time should be devoted not only to those clauses, schedules, new clauses and amendments that are outstanding, but also to all the clauses that have hitherto been discussed. For example—

It being three hours after the commencement of proceedings on the motion, Mr. Deputy Speaker put the Question necessary to dispose of them, pursuant to Standing Order No. 44 (Allocation of time to Bills).

The House divided: Ayes 296, Noes 238.

Marten, Neil (Banbury)Prentice, Rt Hon RegStewart, John (East Renfrewshire)
Mather, CarolPrice, David (Eastleigh)Stokes, John
Maude, Rt Hon AngusPrior, Rt Hon JamesStradling Thomas, J.
Mawby, RayProctor, K. HarveyTapsell, Peter
Mawhinney, Dr BrianPym, Rt Hon FrancisTaylor, Robert (Croydon NW)
Maxwell-Hyslop, RobinRaison, TimothyTaylor, Teddy (Southend East)
Mayhew, PatrickRathbone, TimTebblt, Norman
Mellor, DavidRees, Peter (Dover and Deal)Temple-Morris, Peter
Meyer, Sir AnthonyRees-Davies, W. R.Thatcher, Rt Hon Mrs Margaret
Miller, Hal (Bromsgrove & Redditch)Rhys Williams, Sir BrandonThomas, Rt Hon Peter (Hendon S)
Mills, lain (Meriden)Ridley, Hon NicholasThompson, Donald
Mills, Peter (West Devon)Rifkind, MalcolmThorne, Neil (Ilford South)
Miscampbell, NormanRippon, Rt Hon GeoffreyThornton, Malcolm
Mitchell, David (Basingstoke)Roberts, Michael (Cardiff NW)Townend, John (Bridlington)
Moate, RogerRoberts, Wyn (Conway)Townsend, Cyril D. (Bexleyheath)
Monro, HectorRossi, HughTrippier, David
Montgomery, FergusRost, PeterTrotter, Neville
Moore, JohnRoyle, Sir Anthonyvan Straubenzee, W. R.
Morris, Michael (Northampton, Sth)Sainsbury, Hon TimothyVaughan, Dr Gerard
Mudd, DavidSt. John-Stevas, Rt Hon NormanWaddington, David
Murphy, ChristopherScott, NicholasWakeham, John
Myles, DavidShaw, Michael (Scarborough)Waldegrave, Hon William
Neale, GerrardShelton, William (Streatham)Walker, Bill (Perth & E Perthshire)
Needham, RichardShepherd, Colin (Hereford)Walker-Smith, Rt Hon Sir Derek
Nelson, AnthonyShepherd, Richard (Aldridge-Br-hills)Waller, Gary
Walters Dennis
Neubert, MichaelShersby, MichaelWard, John
Nott, Rt Hon JohnSilvester, FredWarren Kenneth
Onslow, CranleySims, RogerWatson, John
Oppenheim, Rt Hon Mrs SallySkeet, T. H. H.
Page John(Harrow West)Smith, Dudley (War. and Leam'ton)Wells, John (Maidstone)
Wells, Bowen (Hert'rd & Stev'nage)
Page, Rt Hon Sir R. GrahamSpeed, KeithWheeler, John
Page, Richard (SW Hertfordshire)Speller, TonyWhitney, Raymond
Parris, MatthewSpicer, Jim (West Dorset)Wickenden, Keith
Patten, Christopher (Bath)Spicer, Michael (S Worcestershire)Wiggin, Jerry
Patten, John (Oxford)Sproat, IainWilkinson, John
Pattie, GeoffreySquire, RobinWinterton, Nicholas
Pawsey, JamesStainton, KeithWolfson, Mark
Percival, Sir IanStanbrook, IvorYoung, Sir George (Acton)
Peyton, Rt Hon JohnStanley, John
Pink, R. BonnerSteen, AnthonyTELLERS FOR THE AYES:
Pollock, AlexanderStevens, MartinMr. Spencer Le Marchant and
Porter, GeorgeStewart, Ian (Hitchin)Mr. Anthony Berry.
NOES
Abse, LeoCraigen, J. M. (Glasgow, Maryhill)Foster, Derek
Adams, AllenCrowther, J. S.Foulkes, George
Allaun, FrankCryer, BobFraser, John (Lambeth, Norwood)
Alton, DavidCunliffe, LawrenceGarrett, John (Norwich S)
Archer, Rt Hon PeterCunningham, George (Islington S)Garrett, W. E. (Wallsend)
Armstrong, Rt Hon ErnestCunningham, Dr John (Whitehaven)George, Bruce
Ashley, Rt Hon JackDalyell, TamGilbert, Rt Hon Dr John
Atkinson, Norman (H'gey, Tott'ham)Davidson, ArthurGinsburg, David
Bagier. Gordon A. T.Davies, Rt Hon Denzil (Llanelli)Golding, John
Barnett, Rt Hon Joel (Heywood)Davies, Ifor (Gower)Gourlay, Harry
Berth, A. J.Davis, Clinton (Hackney Central)Graham, Ted
Benn, Rt Hon Anthony WedgwoodDavis, Terry (B'rm'ham, Stechford)Grant, George (Morpeth)
Bennett, Andrew (Stockport N)Deakins, EricGrant, John (Islington C)
Bidwell, SydneyDean, Joseph (Leeds West)Grimond, Rt Hon J.
Booth, Rt Hon AlbertDempsey, JamesHamilton, James (Bothwell)
Bottomley, Rt Hon Arthur (M'brough)Dewar, DonaldHamilton, W. W. (Central Fife)
Bradford, Rev R.Dixon, DonaldHardy, Peter
Bradley, TomDobson, FrankHarrison, Rt Hon Walter
Bray, Dr JeremyDormand, JackHart, Rt Hon Dame Judith
Brown, Hugh D. (Provan)Douglas, DickHattersley, Rt Hon Roy
Brown, Robert C. (Newcastle W)Douglas-Mann, BruceHaynes, Frank
Brown, Ronald W. (Hackney S)Dunn, James A. (Liverpool, Kirkdale)Healey, Rt Hon Denis
Brown, Ron(Edinburgh, Leith)Dunnett, JackHeffer, Eric S.
Buchan, NormanDunwoody, Mrs GwynethHogg, Norman (E Dunbartonshire)
Callaghan, Rt Hon J. (Cardiff SE)Eastham, KenHolland, Stuart (L'beth, Vauxhall)
Callaghan, Jim (Mlddleton & P)Edwards, Robert (Wolv SE)Home Robertson, John
Campbell, IanEllis, Raymond (NE Derbyshire)Homewood, William
Campbell-Savours, DaleEllis, Tom (Wrexham)Hooley, Frank
Cant, R. B.English, MichaelHoram, John
Carmichael, NeilEnnals, Rt Hon DavidHuckfield, Les
Carter-Jones, LewisEvans, loan (Aberdare)Hudson Davies, Gwilym Ednyfed
Cartwright, JohnEwing, HarryHughes, Roy (Newport)
Clark, Dr David (South Shields)Faulds, AndrewJanner, Hon Greville
Cocks, Rt Hon Michael (Bristol S)Field, FrankJay, Rt Hon Douglas
Cohen, StanleyFitt, GerardJohn, Brynmor
Coleman, DonaldFlannery, MartinJohnson, James (Hull West)
Concannon, Rt Hon J. D.Fletcher, L. R. (Ilkeston)Jones, Rt Hon Alec (Rhondda)
Conlan, BernardFletcher, Ted (Darlington)Jones, Barry (East Flint)
Cook, Robin F.Foot, Rt Hon MichaelJones, Dan (Burnley)
Cowans, HarryFord, BenKaufman, Rt Hon Gerald
Cox, Tom (Wandsworth, Tooting)Forrester, JohnKerr, Russell
Kilfedder, James A.Morris, Rt Hon John (Aberavon)Spearing, Nigel
Kilroy-Silk, RobertMoyle, Rt Hon RolandSpriggs, Leslie
Kinnock, NeilNewens, StanleyStallard, A. W.
Lamborn, HarryOakes, Rt Hon GordonStewart Rt Hon Donald (W Isles)
Lamond, JamesOgden, EricStoddart, David
Leadbitter, TedO'Halloran, MichaelStrang, Gavin
Leighton, RonaldO'Neill, MartinStraw, Jack
Lestor, Miss Joan (Eton & Slough)Orme, Rt Hon StanleySummerskill, Hon Dr Shirley
Lewis, Arthur (Newham North West)Palmer, ArthurTaylor, Mrs Ann (Bolton West)
Lewis, Ron (Carlisle)Parker, JohnThomas, Dafydd (Merioneth)
Litherland, RobertParry, RobertThomas, Jeffrey (Abertillery)
Lofthouse, GeoffreyPowell, Rt Hon J. Enoch (S Down)Thomas, Dr Roger (Carmarthen)
Lyons, Edward (Bradford West)Powell, Raymond (Ogmore)Thorne, Stan (Preston South)
McCartney, HughPrescott, JohnTilley, John
McCusker, H.Race, RegTinn, James
McDonald, Dr OonaghRadice, GilesUrwin, Rt Hon Tom
McElhone, FrankRees, Rt Hon Merlyn (Leeds South)Varley, Rt Hon Eric G.
McGuire, Michael (Ince)Roberts, Allan (Bootle)Wainwright, Edwin (Dearne Valley)
McKay, Allen (Penistone)Roberts, Ernest (Hackney North)Walker, Rt Hon Harold (Doncaster)
McKelvey, WilliamRoberts, Gwilym (Cannock)Watkins, David
MacKenzie, Rt Hon GregorRobertson, GeorgeWellbeloved, James
McMillan, Tom (Glasgow, Central)Robinson, Peter (Belfast East)Welsh, Michael
McNally, ThomasRodgers, Rt Hon WilliamWhite, Frank R. (Bury & Radcliffe)
McNamara, KevinRooker, J. W.White, James (Glasgow, Pollok)
McQuade, JohnRoper, JohnWhitehead, Phillip
Magee, BryanRoss, Ernest (Dundee West)Whitlock, William
Marks, KennethRoss, Stephen (Isle of Wight)Williams, Rt Hon Alan (Swansea W)
Marshall, David (Gl'sgow, Shettles'n)Ross, Wm. (Londonderry)Williams, Sir Thomas (Warrington)
Marshall, Dr Edmund (Goole)Rowlands, TedWilson, Rt Hon Sir Harold (Huyton)
Marshall, Jim (Leicester South)Ryman, JohnWilson, William (Coventry SE)
Maxton, JohnSandelson, NevilleWinnick, David
Meacher, MichaelSever, JohnWoodall, Alec
Mellish, Rt Hon RobertSheerman, BarryWoolmer, Kenneth
Mikardo, IanSheldon, Rt Hon Robert (A'ton-u-L)Wrigglesworth, Ian
Millan, Rt Hon BruceShort, Mrs RenéeWright, Sheila
Miller, Dr M. S. (East Kilbride)Silkin, Rt Hon S.C. (Dulwich)
Mitchell, Austin (Grimsby)Silverman, JuliusTELLERS FOR THE NOES:
Mitchell, R. C. (Soton, Itchen)Smith, Cyril (Rochdale)Mr. George Morton and
Molyneaux, JamesSmith, Rt Hon J. (North Lanarkshire)Mr. John Evans.
Morris, Rt Hon Charles (Openshaw)Soley, Clive

Question accordingly agreed to.

Resolved,That the following provisions shall apply to the remaining proceedings on the Bill:

Committee

1.—(1) Subject to sub-paragraph (2) below, the Standing Committee to which the Bill is allocated shall report the Bill to the House on or before 1 May.

(2) Proceedings on the Bill at a sitting of the Standing Committee on 1 May may continue until 11 pm whether or not the House is adjourned before that time and if the House is adjourned before those proceedings have been brought to a conclusion the Standing Committee shall report the Bill to the House on 2 May.

Report and Third Reading

2.—(1) The proceedings on Consideration and Third Reading of the Bill shall be completed in three allotted days and shall be brought to a conclusion at Seven o'clock on the last of those days; and for the purposes of Standing Order No. 43 (Business Committee) this Order shall he taken to allot to the proceedings on Consideration such part of those days as the Resolution of the Business Committee may determine.

(2) The Business Committtee shall report to the House their resolutions as to the proceedings on Consideration of the Bill, and as to the allocation of time between those proceedings rind proceedings on Third Reading, not later than the fourth day on which the House sits after the day on which the Chairman of the

Standing Committee reports the Bill to the House.

(3) The resolutions in any Report made under Standing Order No. 43 may be varied by a further Report so made, whether or not within the time specified in sub-paragraph (2) above, and whether or not the Resolutions have been agreed by the House.

(4) The resolutions of the Business Committee may include alterations in the order in which proceedings on Consideration of the Bill are taken.

Procedure in Standing Committee

3.—(1) At a sitting of the Standing Committee at which any proceedings on the Bill are to be brought to a conclusion under a Resolution of the Business Sub-Committee the Chairman shall not adjourn the Committee under any Order relating to the sittings of the Committee until the proceedings have been brought to a conclusion.

(2) No Motion shall be moved in the Standing Committee relating to the sitting of the Committee except by a member of the Government, and the Chairman shall permit a brief explanatory statement from the Member who moves, and from a Member who opposes, the Motion, and shall then put the Question thereon.

4. No Motion shall be moved to postpone any Clause, Schedule, new Clause or new Schedule but the Resolutions of the Business Sub-Committtee may include alterations in the order in which Clauses, Schedules, new Clauses and new Schedules are to be taken in the Standing Committee.

Conclusion of proceedings in Committee

5. On the conclusion of the proceedings in any Committee on the Bill the Chairman shall report the Bill to the House without putting any Question.

Dilatory motions

6. No dilatory Motion with respect to, or in the course of, proceedings on the Bill shall be moved in the Standing Committee or on an allotted day except by a member of the Government, and the Question on any such Motion shall be put forthwith.

Extra time on allotted days

7.—(1) On an allotted day paragraph (1) of Standing Order No. 3 (Exempted business) shall apply to the proceedings on the Bill for two hours after Ten o'clock.

(2) Any period during which proceedings on the Bill may be proceeded with after Ten o'clock under paragraph (7) of Standing Order No. 9 (Adjournment on specific and important matter that should have urgent consideration) shall be in addition to the said period of two hours.

(3) If an allotted day is one to which a Motion for the adjournment of the House under Standing Order No. 9 stands over from an earlier day, a period of time equal to the duration of the proceedings upon that Motion shall be added to the said period of two hours.

Private Business

8. Any private business which has been set down for consideration at Seven o'clock on an allotted day shall, instead of being considered as provided by Standing Orders, be considered at the conclusion of the proceedings on the Bill on that day, and paragraph (1) of Standing Order No. 3 (Exempted business) shall apply to the private business for a period of three hours from the conclusion of the proceedings on the Bill or, if those proceedings are concluded before Ten o'clock, for a period equal to the time elapsing between Seven o'clock and the conclusion of those proceedings.

Conclusion of proceedings

9.—(1) For the purpose of bringing to a conclusion any proceedings which are to be brought to a conclusion at a time appointed by this Order or a Resolution of the Business Committee or the Business Sub-Committee and which have not previously been brought to a conclusion the Chairman or Mr. Speaker shall forthwith put the following Questions (but no others), that is to say—

  1. (a) any Question already proposed from the Chair;
  2. (b) any Question necessary to bring to a decision a Question so proposed (including in the case of a new Clause or new Schedule which has been read a second time, the Question that the Clause or Schedule be added to the Bill);
  3. (c) the Question on any Amendment or Motion standing on the Order Paper in the name of any Member, if that Amendment or Motion is moved by a member of the Government;
  4. (d) any other Question necessary for the disposal of the business to be concluded;
and on a Motion so moved for a new Clause or a new Schedule, the Chairman or Mr. Speaker shall put only the Question that the Clause or Schedule be added to the Bill.

(2) Proceedings under sub-paragraph (1) above shall not be interrupted under any Standing Order relating to the sittings of the House.

(3) If an allotted day is one on which a Motion for the adjournment of the House under Standing Order No. 9 (Adjournment on specific and important matter that should have urgent consideration) would, apart from this Order, stand over to Seven o'clock—

  1. (a) that Motion shall stand over until the conclusion of any proceedings on the Bill which, under this Order or a Resolution of the Business Committee, are to be brought to a conclusion at or before that time;
  2. (b) the bringing to a conclusion of any proceedings on the Bill which, under this Order or a Resolution of the Business Committee, are to be brought to a conclusion after that time shall be postponed for a period equal to the duration of the proceedings on that Motion.

(4) If an allotted day is one to which a Motion for the adjournment of the House under Standing Order No. 9 stands over from an earlier day, the bringing to a conclusion of any proceedings on the Bill which, under this Order or a Resolution of the Business Committee, are to be brought to a conclusion on that day shall be postponed for a period equal to the duration of the proceedings on that Motion.

Supplemental orders

10.—(1) The proceedings on any Motion moved in the House by a member of the Government for varying or supplementing the provisions of this Order (including anything which might have been the subject of a report of the Business Committee or Business Sub-Committee) shall, if not previously concluded, be brought to a conclusion one hour after they have been commenced, and paragraph (1) of Standing Order No. 3 (Exempted business) shall apply to the proceedings.

(2) If on an allotted day on which any proceedings on the Bill are to he brought to a conclusion at a time appointed by this Order or a Resolution of the Business Committee the House is adjourned, or the sitting is suspended, before that time no notice shall be required of a Motion moved at the next sitting by a member of the Government for varying or supplementing the provisions of this Order.

Saving

11. Nothing in this Order or a Resolution of the Business Committee or Business Sub-Committee shall—

  1. (a) prevent any proceedings to which the Order or Resolution applies from being taken or completed earlier than is required by the Order or Resolution, or
  2. (b) prevent any business (whether on the Bill or not) from being proceeded with on any day after the completion of all such proceedings on the Bill as are to be taken on that day.

Re-committal

12.—(1) References in this Order to proceedings on Consideration or proceedings on Third Reading include references to proceedings, at those stages respectively, for, on or in consequence of, re-committal.

(2) On an allotted day no debate shall be permitted on any Motion to re-commit the Bill (whether as a whole or otherwise), and Mr. Speaker shall put forthwith any Question necessary to dispose of the Motion, including the Question on any amendment moved to the Question.

Interpretation

13. In this Order— allotted day" means any day (other than a Friday) on which the Bill is put down as the first Government Order of the Day provided that a Motion for allotting time to the proceedings on the Bill to be taken on that day either has been agreed on a previous day, or is set down for consideration on that day;the Bill" means the Housing Bill;Resolution of the Business Sub-Committee" means a resolution of the Business Sub-Committee as agreed to by the Standing Committee;Resolution of the Business Committee" means a Resolution of the Business Committee as agreed to by the House.