Housing Associations Tenants' Rights (Scotland)

– in the House of Commons at 3:34 pm on 16th March 1983.

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Photo of Lord James Douglas-Hamilton Lord James Douglas-Hamilton , Edinburgh West 3:34 pm, 16th March 1983

I beg to move, That leave be given to bring in a Bill to amend the Tenants' Rights etc. (Scotland) Act 1980 so as to extend the right to purchase to secure tenants of certain types of Housing Association. It is no secret that there are many housing associations in my constituency. In the Link-Barnton scheme, a large majority of the tenants would purchase their houses if they had the opportunity to do so on the same basis as council house tenants. It is clear that a large majority of British people wish to do the same whenever they have the opportunity. Although the Scottish housing associations can sell if they so wish, no tenanted houses belonging to housing associations have been sold in my constituency and in many other parts of Scotland. In Scotland, out of some 18,700 fair rent tenanted houses, at present only 20 have been sold. It appears that some housing associations are either refusing to sell or are delaying the matter.

One reason why those who live in the Link-Barnton scheme feel so strongly about the matter is that they regard the work carried out on their homes by contractors as shoddy. They believe that if they had the opportunity to buy their homes at a reasonable discount on the same basis as tenants of council houses, their homes would be in much better condition. They reject completely the argument that they could not afford future maintenance costs. They contend that people are much better at looking after their own property than a collective would be acting on their behalf.

That leads me to the next point. The Government's policy is to extend home ownership to tenants of houses financed by the Exchequer. Some might argue that the provision should also be extended to tenants in private rented property, but my Bill does not do that. It covers the position where public funds are and have been used, and deals with tenants in the public sector. It does not involve charitable housing associations, which might have erected the buildings but been funded by private sources. The Bill does not deal with sheltered housing, housing for the elderly and disabled, or special needs housing. It deals with publicly financed housing occupied by tenants of housing associations. With the exceptions that I have mentioned, between 10,000 and 15,000 households could be involved, which is not far off 1 per cent. of all Scottish households. Those tenants represent a cross-section of the Scottish community. However, Scottish housing association tenants are in a less favourable position than other public sector tenants because they do not have the right to buy. With some limited exceptions, such tenants in England and Wales certainly have the right to buy.

I hope that today the House will give tenants of Scottish housing associations the same right to buy as that of their English counterparts. If the system works well elsewhere in Britain, why should it not in Scotland? At present Scotland unquestionably has one of the lowest rates of home ownership in western Europe. Indeed, it has less home ownership than some countries in eastern Europe, yet an overwhelming majority of Scottish Members of Parliament own their own homes. Surely it is altogether reasonable for us to seek to ensure that the majority of Scottish families should have the opportunity to buy their homes. I commend the Bill to the House.

Photo of Mr James Craigen Mr James Craigen , Glasgow Maryhill 3:38 pm, 16th March 1983

I oppose the Bill. I appreciate the special circumstances cited by the hon Member for Edinburgh, West (Lord James Douglas-Hamilton), but a ten-minute Bill is not the way to proceed on this complex matter. I do not wish to involve the House in a discussion of the merits or demerits of home ownership as against rented accommodation. The hon. Gentleman will know that the Scottish Federation of Housing Associations has introduced a voluntary code on the sale of houses and recently issued a circular to its members seeking to strengthen the terms of the code of practice.

The matter is complex and raises more difficulties than the hon. Gentleman described today. The first is that the housing associations have performed an invaluable role in trying to preserve the shrinking rented sector in Scotland. At this crucial stage in their development, they must be left to manage the development of sales. Moreover, the housing associations have received all-party support. Discussion on this area of rented housing has been mostly non-partisan, and I hope that it will remain so for the benefit of the housing associations.

Secondly, the housing associations have performed a vital role in inner city rehabilitation, and the hon. Gentleman will raise a hornet's nest in that area. For example, will tenants be able to get a discount before improvement, or afterwards? Will tenants buy substandard housing and then seek to get the benefits when those properties have been redeveloped by the housing associations? The hon. Member's Bill is not the best way to proceed.

The Minister ought to make his point of view clear. He should publish a discussion paper so that Members of Parliament will be aware of the minefield of difficulties that we shall face if we proceed along the lines suggested by the hon. Member for Edinburgh, West. Now that much more public money is available to enable private landlords to improve houses, the hon. Gentleman might indirectly open a door that would allow private sector tenants too to ask for discounts for the purchase of their houses. I hope that the House will oppose the Bill.

Question put, pursuant to Standing Order No. 13 (Motions for leave to bring in Bills and nomination of Select Committees at commencement of public business):

The House divided: Ayes 110, Noes 118.

Division No. 92][3.41 pm
Beaumont-Dark, AnthonyChapman, Sydney
Berry, Hon AnthonyCockeram, Eric
Biggs-Davison, Sir JohnCope, John
Boscawen, Hon RobertCorrie, John
Bottomley, Peter (W'wich W)Costain, Sir Albert
Bowden, AndrewCrouch, David
Braine, Sir BernardEden, Rt Hon Sir John
Brittan, Rt. Hon. LeonEggar, Tim
Browne, John (Winchester)Fairgrieve, Sir Russell
Bruce-Gardyne, JohnFaith, Mrs Sheila
Budgen, NickFletcher, A. (Ed'nb'gh N)
Carlisle, Kenneth (Lincoln)Fookes, Miss Janet
Carlisle, Rt Hon M. (R'c'n)Forman, Nigel
Chalker, Mrs. LyndaFraser, Rt Hon Sir Hugh
Fraser, Peter (South Angus)Moate, Roger
Fry, PeterMorrison, Hon C. (Devizes)
Garel-Jones, TristanMurphy, Christopher
Gilmour, Rt Hon Sir IanMyles, David
Goodlad, AlastairNeedham, Richard
Gorst, JohnNelson, Anthony
Gow, IanNeubert, Michael
Gower, Sir RaymondPage, Richard (SW Herts)
Grant, Sir AnthonyParris, Matthew
Gray, Rt Hon HamishPatten, Christopher (Bath)
Grieve, PercyPawsey, James
Grist, IanPrentice, Rt Hon Reg
Grylls, MichaelProctor, K. Harvey
Hamilton, Michael (Salisbury)Rathbone, Tim
Hayhoe, BarneyRidley, Hon Nicholas
Henderson, BarryRossi, Hugh
Higgins, Rt Hon Terence L.Rost, Peter
Hogg, Hon Douglas (Gr'th'm)Rumbold, Mrs A. C. R.
Holland, Philip (Carlton)Sainsbury, Hon Timothy
Hordern, PeterShaw, Sir Michael (Scarb')
Howe, Rt Hon Sir GeoffreyShepherd, Colin (Hereford)
Howell, Ralph (N Norfolk)Sims, Roger
Hunt, David (Wirral)Skeet, T. H. H.
Jessel, TobySmith, Sir Dudley
Jopling, Rt Hon MichaelSpence, John
Kershaw, Sir AnthonyStanbrook, Ivor
Knight, Mrs JillTemple-Morris, Peter
Lang, IanThatcher, Rt Hon Mrs M.
Langford-Holt, Sir JohnThomas, Rt Hon Peter
Lester, Jim (Beeston)Thompson, Donald
Lloyd, Peter (Fareham)Thorne, Neil (Word South)
Loveridge, JohnThornton, Malcolm
Luce, RichardTownend, John (Bridlington)
McCrindle, RobertTownsend, Cyril D, (B'heath)
MacGregor, JohnWakeham, John
McNair-Wilson, M. (N'bury)Waller, Gary
Major, JohnWarren, Kenneth
Marland, PaulWhitney, Raymond
Marten, Rt Hon NeilWilliams, D (Montgomery)
Mates, Michael
Maude, Rt Hon Sir AngusTellers for the Ayes:
Mawby, RayLord James Douglas-Hamilton
Mawhinney, Dr Brianand Mr. Bill Walker.
Allaun, FrankEnnals, Rt Hon David
Alton, DavidEvans, loan (Aberdare)
Anderson, DonaldEvans, John (Newton)
Barnett, Rt Hon Joel (H'wd)Ewing, Harry
Beith, A. J.Foot, Rt Hon Michael
Benn, Rt Hon TonyForrester, John
Bennett, Andrew(St'kp't N)Freud, Clement
Bidwell, SydneyGarrett, John (Norwich S)
Boothroyd, Miss BettyGarrett, W. E. (Wallsend)
Bradley, TomGraham, Ted
Bray, Dr JeremyHamilton, James (Bothwell)
Buchan, NormanHamilton, W. W. (C'tral Fife)
Carmichael, NeilHarrison, Rt Hon Walter
Cocks, Rt Hon M. (B'stol S)Healey, Rt Hon Denis
Cohen, StanleyHeffer, Eric S.
Concannon, Rt Hon J. D.Hooley, Frank
Cook, Robin F.Howells, Geraint
Craigen, J. M. (G'gow, M'hill)Jay, Rt Hon Douglas
Cunliffe, LawrenceJenkins, Rt Hon Roy (Hillh'd)
Dalyell, TamJohn, Brynmor
Davies, Rt Hon Denzil (L'lli)Johnson, James (Hull West)
Davis, Clinton (Hackney C)Johnson, Walter (Derby S)
Davis, Terry (B'ham, Stechf'd)Johnston, Russell (Inverness)
Deakins, EricKaufman, Rt Hon Gerald
Dean, Joseph (Leeds West)Kerr, Russell
Dixon, DonaldKilroy-Silk, Robert
Dobson, FrankLeighton, Ronald
Dormand, JackLewis, Ron (Carlisle)
Douglas, DickLitherland, Robert
Dubs, AlfredLyons, Edward (Bradf'd W)
Duffy, A. E. P.Mabon, Rt Hon Dr J. Dickson
Eadie, AlexMcCartney, Hugh
Eastham, KenMcKay, Allen (Penistone)
Edwards, R. (W'hampt'n S E)McKelvey, William
English, MichaelMcNamara, Kevin
McTaggart, RobertSmith, Rt Hon J. (N Lanark)
Marshall, D (G'gow S'ton)Spriggs, Leslie
Maynard, Miss JoanStallard, A. W.
Millan, Rt Hon BruceSteel, Rt Hon David
Morris, Rt Hon A. (W'shawe)Stewart, Rt Hon D. (W Isles)
Morton, GeorgeStoddart, David
Mulley, Rt Hon FrederickStrang, Gavin
Newens, StanleyStraw, Jack
O'Neill, MartinTorney, Tom
Parker, JohnVarley, Rt Hon Eric G.
Parry, RobertWainwright, E.(Dearne V)
Pavitt, LaurieWainwright, R.(Colne V)
Pendry, TomWalker, Rt Hon H.(D'caster)
Penhaligon, DavidWarden, Gareth
Powell, Raymond (Ogmore)Watkins, David
Rees, Rt Hon M (Leeds S)Welsh, Michael
Richardson, JoWilley, Rt Hon Frederick
Roberts, Gwilym (Cannock)Williams, Rt Hon A.(S'sea W)
Robinson, G. (Coventry NW)Wilson, Gordon (Dundee E)
Roper, JohnWilson, William (C'try SE)
Ross, Ernest (Dundee West)Winnick, David
Sheerman, BarryWrigglesworth, Ian
Sheldon, Rt Hon R.
Shore, Rt Hon PeterTellers for the Noes:
Silkin, Rt Hon J. (Deptford)Mr. Frank Haynes and
Skinner, DennisMr. Norman Hogg.

Question accordingly negatived.