Restriction on Right to Buy in Districts with Insufficient Housing Starts

Part of Orders of the Day — Tenants' Rights, etc. (Scotland) Bill – in the House of Commons at 8:30 pm on 10th June 1980.

Alert me about debates like this

Photo of Mr William McKelvey Mr William McKelvey , Kilmarnock 8:30 pm, 10th June 1980

I wish to pay tribute to my hon. Friend the Member for Glasgow, Garscadden (Mr. Dewar). He made an illuminating and far-reaching speech. He was prepared to confess that although he had never been blind to the problems of council tenants, he represents a constituency in which 92 per cent. of the population live in council houses. Week after week he has attended constituency surgeries, and council tenants have enlightened him about the problems facing them. When Government's legislate, they legislate across the board, irrespective of conditions in different districts. Such legislation can hurt many people. At least my hon. Friend showed that he was aware of that.

I am opposed to the sale of council houses. Housing deficiencies still exist in Scotland. We still suffer from an acute housing crisis. If the Government are concerned about council houses and about looking after those who dwell in them, or wish to do so, they should inject a massive amount of cash into house building. I noticed that the Secretary of State nodded when the hon. Member for Dundee, East (Mr. Wilson) said that not enough proper houses had been built. We should build hundreds of thousands more houses. In Scotland, 150,000 houses are below standard. I am sure that not one of those houses will be sold. About 160,000 families are living in overcrowded conditions. They desire a better way of life and better housing. There are 100,000 people waiting to live in council houses. Perhaps there are districts in which houses are so plentiful that they can be sold, but I have not heard of any.

My experience is not limited to a constituency or group of constituencies. I have had the privilege—and it is a privilege in Scotland—of having been a council tenant for all my life, with the exception of a brief period when I was first married. I then went into the private sector and lived in a virtual warren. I paid an excessive rent for a small room, with a box room attached.

I have known the advantages and privileges of being a council house tenant, but I understand why people—when given bargains—wish to buy their houses. They are told that it is an opportunity that should be grasped, but the details are not pointed out. When they are, potential buyers are ashamed that the plum houses will be taken from Scotland's housing stock.

The Opposition and the Secretary of State may argue that houses do not disappear. Of course they do not disappear. Houses do not collapse because they are bought. However, I warn potential tenants that some houses might collapse. Scottish council houses are rapidly deteriorating because of a lack of funds with which to do the necessary repairs.

9.30 pm

The Bill removes from the pool of houses the desirable residences that people who are encapsulated in multi-storey blocks would like to have. I have had experience of multi-storey blocks as a councillor representing a ward consisting entirely of six multi-storey blocks, and there is not one problem relating to such blocks with which I am not familiar. The main concern of people with young families living in such blocks is to get out as quickly as possible. Desirable as a multi-storey block may be—and certainly it is high living to some people with a 130 ft. drop below them—it is not the best place for young children. Families with young children living in tower blocks want to transfer to semidetached areas. My constituency clinics are packed with people who plead for the opportunity to move into these areas. Young people are unable to buy houses. They certainly do not have the tenancy qualifications to buy a house of that kind, and if those houses are taken out of the pool the hopes of these people will be destroyed.

While such conditions prevail I am totally and utterly opposed to the sale of council houses, and I shall push against the idea as hard as I can in my area. My local council has already taken the decision to freeze any movement towards the sale of council houses, and I applaud it for doing so.

The trade union and Labour movement throughout the length and breadth of Scotland should be mobilised to resist, at whatever cost, the Government's policy on council houses. I say that in the knowledge that on the occasion that we pursued a similar course at Clay Cross, those who so valiantly stood out against that type of of legislation were betrayed by the trade union and Labour movement.