Extension to Cases Where Landlord is a Charity

Orders of the Day — Housing and Building Control Bill – in the House of Commons at 4:45 pm on 23rd March 1983.

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Photo of Mr William Benyon Mr William Benyon , Buckingham 4:45 pm, 23rd March 1983

I beg to move amendment No. 4, in page 4, line 11, leave out from `arise' to end of line 13 and insert 'unless the project is one to which the Secretary of State has given his approval after 1st July 1983, and which will qualify for grant under section 29 of the 1974 Act and is a project which includes—'.

Photo of Mr Ernest Armstrong Mr Ernest Armstrong , North West Durham

With this it will be convenient to take amendment No. 62, in page 4, line 11, leave out 'under section 29 of the 1974 Act' and insert 'from public funds'.

Photo of Mr William Benyon Mr William Benyon , Buckingham

I first declare my interest as a governor of the Peabody Trust, which is one of the largest charitable housing trusts situated entirely in London. It was set up some 120 years ago to provide decent housing for Londoners in need. It has been represented to me that the drafting of this amendment is deficient in certain respects. I do not believe that it is, but in any event the purport is clear. The date has been chosen because it is well ahead of the probable Royal Assent to the Bill and thus avoids the criticism made in Committee that any earlier date would produce uncertainty for schemes in the course of completion.

The amendment is concerned with an important matter of principle. The donor to a charity, whether it be Government, institution or individual, accepts the object of that charity. The donor may impose conditions on his gift, but provided those conditions are met and the object of the charity upheld the gift is irredeemable.

If the Government had said to charitable housing trusts in the past, "We are offering this HAG money on condition that you sell the houses that you produce," there would be no quarrel with this clause. Those conditions were not imposed, so the Government's actions under this clause are retrospective and unjust.

Like other similar charities, we select our tenants on the basis of need. Thereafter, the tenant may prosper and be in a position to buy his or her own house. At the moment those tenants either stay in the existing house paying a full, fair rent or they move elsewhere.

The Charity Commissioners were asked about this point and gave a decision on it in 1979 after exhaustive legal consultations. They said: We agree that while it would be lawful for charitable housing associations to take the proper steps to evict occupiers who have ceased to be poor, it is not practicable to evict such people except in extreme circumstances. In our view property occupied by such people must be regarded as being held by the association temporarily as an investment. This matter was placed by the National Federation of Housing Associations before the Attorney-General, who represents the Crown as guardian of charities. On 9 March a reply was sent to the National Federation of Housing Associations by the Solicitor-General. It is rather unfortunate that neither of the Law Officers is here.

Photo of Mr Edward Graham Mr Edward Graham , Enfield Edmonton

They were not in Committee either.

Photo of Mr William Benyon Mr William Benyon , Buckingham 5:45 pm, 23rd March 1983

The letter is rather long, but as it is so important I feel that I must put it on the record. The Solicitor-General said: I share the views expressed by the Minister and as this part of the matter is so important would like to stress some of the salient points. My view is that the best test of 'necessitous circumstances' is whether the individual is 'going short' This was discussed exhaustively in Committee. The Solicitor-General then quotes the case of Re Coulthurst. He continues that it must be judged by reference to all the circumstances. It is a test which should be applied not only on initial letting but also in relation to continued occupation.This means that charities need to keep the circumstances of their tenants under review so as to verify that they remain in need and therefore proper beneficiaries of the charity. It does not mean that they would have to take action every time there is a change of circumstances for the better by an individual tenant, but it does mean that they will have to give some consideration to such changes and would be well advised to consult with their lawyers if and when any extensive changes with long term effects take place. At the best that is an uncertain direction compared with the definite opinion of the Charity Commissioners which I have just quoted and which was arrived at after exhaustive legal discussions. When lawyers disagree, wise men run for cover. In either case now, the property eventually returns to the trust which can then relet to other tenants who fall within the definition contained in the trust deed.

It was implied in Committee that if we were doing our job properly in such trusts, there would be few applications to purchase because our tenants would not have the means to do so, but that misses the point. Although we are in the business of supplying houses to those in need, it is not our business to stop tenants prospering—in fact, quite the reverse: we welcome it. However, once that house is lost it can never be used again for the purpose for which it was intended.

It is easy to say, as was said often in Committee, that only a proportion of the charitable housing stock will be affected. In our case it is about 2,000 dwellings out of 12,000. That in itself creates difficulties. It will not be easy to explain to a tenant that he does not have the right to buy whereas his neighbour in the same development does. That is quite apart from the administrative difficulties in what, in most cases, are composite developments.

The real social problem will arise in the future. The trouble with housing is that it is a slow moving process. The full effect of the clause will be felt not tomorrow but in the years to come.

In London at the moment, the private rented sector is dropping like a stone. The right to buy exists in nearly all local authority dwellings. Now, the remaining providers of low-cost rented housing in the capital city are under threat. Where will anyone live in future who cannot afford to buy?

The Minister should remember the terrible example of Baron Haussman in Paris, who rebuilt that city under dictatorial powers in the 1860s. He created the wonderful boulevards and vistas that we all enjoy. However, in doing so he forced the poor of Paris to live further and further away, with grave economic and social disadvantages. It was the cause of all the troubles in 1871.

Slowly and inexorably, the amount of rented housing for people of modest means in central London will diminish because the risk is not confined to the relatively small number of dwellings to which the right to buy applies. The effect of the measure will be far more widespread. The people who run organisations in a wholly voluntary capacity will ask themselves—indeed, they are asking it now—what is the point of continuing? The Government do not appear to want them, relations with their tenants will be made ever more difficult and there are better uses for the charitable funds. That is the real threat.

That point was put well by my hon. Friend the Member for Morecambe and Lonsdale (Mr. Lennox-Boyd) in the debate on 13 December. He said: It is a salutary warning to any individual or body that craves independence never to take money from the Government."— [Official Report, 13 December 1982; Vol. 34, c. 53.] I leave it to others more qualified than myself to decide whether charities are being deprived of their funds. That point was argued exhaustively in Committee, and the position is no clearer now.

The argument in favour of sales is that the money from the sales of houses will be recycled to the Housing Corporation. That same argument was used for local authority housing. The fact remains that the Treasury collars the lot, apart from the discount for tenants. I simply cannot believe that the provision of housing will be improved—if only because of the enormous cost of buying a substitute dwelling—even if the money is recycled through the Housing Corporation. Frankly, I am concerned not with the financial implications, but with the principle. Government grants to voluntary bodies—for example, to a village hall committee or to a society dealing with drug addiction—are rightly irrevocable. There should be no difference for housing.

This aspect of the Bill is a curious measure for a Tory Government to propose. The more that I read the Committee proceedings, the more confused I become. At one point on 14 December, the Minister appeared to be invoking that great Tory, Mr. Aneurin Bevan. I hope that I am not doing the Minister an injustice, but he appeared to say to the Opposition, "Do not accuse me of dunning the charities when you see what Mr. Bevan did to the hospitals in 1946." He then added a gloss by quoting Mr. Arthur Skeffington on the Leasehold Reform Act 1967. I know that he was teasing—

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

I was simply drawing attention to the inconsistent attitude of the Opposition in trying to masquerade as the defenders of charity in comparison with their history and their present commitment on private schools.

Photo of Mr William Benyon Mr William Benyon , Buckingham

The Minister has anticipated my next sentence. I knew that he was teasing. He was pointing out to the Opposition the inconsistencies in their attitude. But although we expect the Labour party to behave in that way, we do not expect the Conservative party to do so.

The amendment makes the position clear. If any charitable housing association accepts a housing association grant in future, it will be under no illusion about the conditions attached to it. It will accept it or not on that basis. That point was well put in a letter to The Times on Monday from a director from my housing trust. He said: The Bill overrides one of the fundamental principles of charity law, that assets may only be sold where this is in the interests of the charity and then at the best obtainable price. Its implications extend to all charities, not only to housing charities. I hope that the House will accept the amendment because it will prevent a most dangerous precedent from being created.

Photo of Mr Reginald Freeson Mr Reginald Freeson , Brent East

I am glad to follow the hon. Member for Buckingham (Mr. Benyon) because I cannot fault any of his words, other than when he was drawn into a rather lighthearted exchange about the different merits of the Labour and Conservative parties in their treatment of charitable organisations. I accept the spirit in which he made his point.

When I was a Minister I introduced the Housing Act 1974, which, with the support of both sides of the House—[Interruption.] I trust that the Minister will take this argument seriously, and not turn it into a clowning act. [Laughter.] These matters are not for laughing and joking about. They are serious. I am not being pompous.

Photo of Peter Bottomley Peter Bottomley , Greenwich Woolwich West

The right hon. Gentleman, from a sedentary position, accused me of smiling during the speech of my hon. Friend the Member for Buckingham (Mr. Benyon). The only time that the right hon. Gentleman smiles is when he is speaking. He should develop his remarks rather than attack Conservative Members who are listening to his speech.

Photo of Mr Reginald Freeson Mr Reginald Freeson , Brent East

I regret that I gave way to such an offensive intervention. I am making a serious point of dispute and argument not only in the House, but among all the charitable organisations in Britain. Conservative Members should not be brass-necked about the matter. [Interruption.] I shall gladly give way to the hon. Member for Woolwich, West (Mr. Bottomley) if he wishes to make a serious intervention. If he does not, I shall continue with my remarks.

The Housing Act 1974, with the support of both sides of the House, provided the financial base for housing associations to build new homes and improve old houses in our crumbling inner cities on a scale never known before. It helped them to deal with the serious shortage of rented accommodation and the legacy of property in serious disrepair, especially—but not solely—in the inner city areas.

Housing associations were already active in those areas. In London, in addition to the Peabody Trust mentioned by the hon. Member for Buckingham, the Notting Hill Housing Trust was making inroads into some of the serious social problems in the neglected parts of the Royal borough of Kensington and Chelsea. It tackled the physical problems of decay. In Paddington, and in my area of Willesden, the Paddington Churches Housing Association was displacing the rottenness of the former Rachman empire and replacing it with decent homes at fair rents.

The Brent People's Housing Association was active in my area, and has since become one of the most dynamic associations in Britain. In Liverpool, the Merseyside Improved Houses Association was working in the inner city areas. In Yorkshire, the North British Housing Association was active, and is now also a dynamic housing association.

I have mentioned the work of only five charitable housing associations, but hundreds of others were working in some of the worst areas in towns and cities throughout Britain. Their contribution was inevitably limited because they were working under an inadequate financial system.

Charitable associations such as those I have mentioned, particularly the earlier ones, had to balance their books by raising their own money. For example, Notting Hill Housing Trust had a number of charity shops in London. The church-based housing associations received some support from the British Council of Churches. Many others received valuable support from voluntary welfare bodies associated with the housing associations themselves and, in more recent years, from organisations such as Shelter and the Housing Societies Charitable Trust. Others were helped—the help was patchily distributed across the country—by local councils such as my own in Willesden, now Brent. Some subsidy and grant was available for the improvement and conversion of old properties under the 1967 Act. Those forms of assistance were all useful, but they were inadequate.

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By 1974 it was clear to the House and to the country that more action and support were urgently needed. The Labour Government were supported by both sides of the House—indeed, we inherited certain measures which were in draft when the 1974 election took place—in their desire to back the voluntary commitment and, by giving it adequate financial support, to encourage it to become a genuine alternative to—not a replacement of—the existing choice between owner-occupation, council housing and the declining private sector. For years, the housing association movement had been described as the third arm in housing. I regarded that description as rhetorical because in those years the housing associations never provided more, at the most, than 9,000 to 11,000 dwellings a year, either by new build or by purchase and conversion.

As the Minister at that time, with the support of the House and of elected local government, I wanted to make the third arm a reality. Many in the housing association movement feared that by accepting Government grants on the scale proposed they would lose their independence. I speak with personal knowledge of the discussions and meetings because I was involved with representatives from all areas of the housing association movement. People were worried that if the associations took the money proposed in the 1974 legislation they would become an appendage of central Government, ordered to carry out its policy and follow its dictates. They feared that the movement would become a Government corporation. That language was actually used in some quarters.

It cost me, as Minister, some time and a great deal of effort to convince those who were so worried that their fear was unfounded, that the Government and Parliament were seeking partnership and persuasion on policy towards deprived areas and that I was a strong believer in a pluralist approach to housing, not just pragmatically but in principle. I had to persuade them that the Government believed that associations could be important in improving democratic control and innovation in housing, that there were no strings attached to the acceptance of housing association grant and that the Government wished not to take over but to enable housing associations to improve conditions for millions of people living in rotten housing and rotten physical environments. I sought to persuade them that the grants were given in good faith because the Government genuinely wanted a more vigorous attack on some of the worst housing problems, with housing associations complementing the work of local authorities and being joined later, I hoped, by others in the building industry and the financial institutions.

The eventual acceptance of those assurances is now a matter of history and great things came out of it. The new system allowed housing associations to provide not 11,000 but 40,000 homes a year—good homes to rent—by the time I left office. If the financial resources had been made available, the total could have continued to rise to 70,000 dwellings per year. That is not guesswork. I speak advisedly when I say that a sevenfold increase could have been achieved, so effectively had the movement been able to organise itself on the basis of the new financial system under the 1974 Act.

Since then, housing associations have provided nearly a third of a million rented homes, most of them in or near the stress areas of our inner cities but many, too, in rural areas where the lack of rented accommodation has led to the decline of communities, as young people have drifted away in search of homes.

Back in 1974 many of the housing associations feared that the Labour Government would impose more controls and bureaucracy on the housing association movement as a consequence of giving grants and thus stifle the movement's initiative. It is ironic to find that, all these years later, more controls, bureaucracy and interference affecting both local authorities and housing associations have been introduced by the Conservative Government than ever there were under the Labour Government. It is the Conservatives who think of the housing associations as arms of the state. Indeed, that expression has even been used to me by people working in the Government's policy unit.

No one envisaged in 1974 that a future Conservative Government would use the fact that housing associations had accepted grants as a pretext to compel them to sell homes when it was very much against their interest and their housing judgment to do so. Furthermore, they will be increasingly required to repay the very grants that are the Government's justification for requiring them to sell their houses because public money has been placed in them.

Governments change, and so do policies, but Parliament needs to keep faith with people. When that faith is broken, not only are the Government of the day shamed but faith in parliamentary democracy is weakened, and one does not need to stress the dangers of that in these times. Of course, one Government or Parliament cannot fetter the action of another. Commitments entered into by one Administration are not always honoured by the next, but agreements freely struck and honourably carried out by both sides should be respected, especially when Parliament is one of the parties involved.

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

I am sure that the House is listening with great interest to the views that we know are sincerely held by the right hon. Member for Brent, East (Mr. Freeson), but will he address himself to the role of the charitable housing associations? Does he agree that they are principally in business to provide homes to rent for the poorer sections of the community, the disadvantaged and those who genuinely need the right to rent? Does he further agree that the obligation to sell to those able to buy suggests that within the portfolio of the majority of charitable housing associations there are tenants who should not qualify to remain in those properties and who by remaining there may deprive other more deserving people of the right to rent?

Photo of Mr Reginald Freeson Mr Reginald Freeson , Brent East

I do not know whether the hon. Gentleman was present in the Chamber when this point was, to some extent, discussed by his hon. Friend the Member for Buckingham, but it was largely answered by him. I refer the hon. Gentleman to the record. Even if his latter point was right, it is not for Parliament or for Government to interfere with the detailed management affairs of charitable housing associations. If there is to be a challenge about their conduct as charitable organisations, proper procedures exist, which do not lie in this type of legislation. Such matters can be taken to court or to the Charity Commissioners, as happened in a case referred to earlier by the hon. Member for Buckingham.

With regard to the general policy of associations, successive Governments in co-operation, rightly, with local authorities have sought to widen their roles, particularly but not solely in the inner city areas. Therefore, it cannot be their role simply to put people into properties becuase they come to them at the lowest end of the housing market. By agreement across both sides of the House under the 1974 Act and, indeed, earlier, their role is wider—to contribute to the removal of decay and obsolescence in our inner city areas and elsewhere. Even if the two points made by the hon. Member for Lichfield and Tamworth (Mr. Heddle) were accepted, they are in no way an answer to my point and to the points of the hon. Member for Buckingham.

When charitable housing associations accepted the grant system and individual grants from 1974 onwards, there was no question of that giving Government a right to take their assets from them. What has happened since is water under the bridge. I do not agree with the Government if they wish as from now to attach compulsory sales conditions to the acceptance of grants, but they are entitled with a parliamentary majority to seek to do so and it will be for housing associations then to decide whether they will accept grants involving such conditions—a decision that will be freely arrived at or rejected by them. That is acceptable in principle even if I were to disagree with the policy objective, about which I am not prepared to argue today. I did so generally on Second Reading. In such circumstances, Governments would be right in principle, even if I did not agree with the policy, to pursue their intentions in the Bill from now onwards, but not to pursue it in respect of the thousands of properties that have been built under the grant system as originally intended and accepted by both Governments and housing associations.

Photo of Sir Sydney Chapman Sir Sydney Chapman , Barnet Chipping Barnet

I am following closely what the right hon. Gentleman is saying. I made a point in Committee that the right hon. Gentleman presumably supported about the Leasehold Reform Act 1967. The Bill did not say "leaseholds entered into from now on" but referred to leaseholds that were already made. Surely that is the same principle. Therefore, the Minister has not taken an unprincipled point of view in presenting the Bill.

Photo of Mr Reginald Freeson Mr Reginald Freeson , Brent East

When charitable associations—it could be any other charitable organisation—are being offered central or local government support or, indeed, any financial support, it is unprincipled if, subsequently, conditions are attached to the receipt of the grant. We are not discussing the Leasehold Reform Act. That is a false analogy. I read the proceedings from Committee and I do not accept that that is a fair analogy. [Interruption.] I hope that the housing association representatives around the country will observe the Minister's constant reaction on this matter. The Minister thinks that this is a big joke.

Photo of Mr Reginald Freeson Mr Reginald Freeson , Brent East

I can see the Minister. The hon. Member for Ilford, South (Mr. Thorne) does not have that pleasure.

Photo of Mr Neil Thorne Mr Neil Thorne , Ilford South

There is a world of difference between the Minister's reaction to what the right hon. Member for Brent, East is saying and what the Minister actually feels. He does not have to feel amusement about charities just because he happens to find amusing the way the right hon. Member for Brent, East expresses himself. That is a different matter entirely.

Photo of Mr Reginald Freeson Mr Reginald Freeson , Brent East 6:15 pm, 23rd March 1983

I will not bother with that intervention. What the Government are doing with regard to charitable organisations is wrong. I believe that when they consider it quietly away from the Chamber and Committee, they, too, will believe it to be wrong. Conservative Members may have similar thoughts. What is wrong about the Bill is that the Government are not entitled to rewrite history by attaching conditions that were never there in the first place. Governments and Parliaments should always be wary of retrospective legislation. It may be necessary sometimes—for example, when closing a loophole that destroys a legislative intention—but when there has been no attempt to evade the law or to profit improperly by it, retrospective action is wrong.

It is even more reprehensible in the present case because the organisations involved are charities, many of which stand to lose substantial assets if the Bill is enacted in its present form. We should be clear about what is being proposed, because some small charities could go out of business entirely as a result of clause 2. Under the right to buy the tenant is entitled to claim a discount of between one third and one half of the market value of the property that he or she occupies. The discount comes out of the increasing value of the property over the original cost of provision. Owner-occupiers and property companies quite rightly expect to profit from this appreciation in value. They regard it as part of their assets and no one seeks to deny it to them, but the Government seem to be denying the same consideration to charities by saying that the Government have a right to dispose of their assets. It does not rest there. When a housing charity is compelled to sell because of the right to buy, a mechanism is triggered by which the Government will recover the original housing association grant.

This will be done under a provision of the Housing Act 1974, which I introduced to prevent possible abuse by housing associations selling dwellings that were provided for rent. It enabled the Secretary of State to recover grant paid on any building that ceased to be used for the purpose for which it was intended—that is, providing a home for rent. It is a perversion of the intention of the provision to compel the associations to sell the property and then to say that, because they have sold the property, the grant must be recovered. There was never any intention to use the provision in the 1974 Act in that way. That, too, is, in my opinion, a breach of faith.

When the discount has been paid, the grant recovered and the mortgage redeemed, the charity concerned will in most instances have no capital receipt for the sale of the property. It has been argued that the sale of council houses gives local authorities capital receipts, which they can then invest in providing new homes. There are disputes about that but that will not apply to charities because it is the Exchequer that will enjoy the capital receipts and the charity will be left with next to nothing.

It is not good enough to say that there will be an addition made to the Housing Corporation's capital allocation to make this good. That is not an answer. I shall give two examples of how the provisions would work in practice. The Egerton Housing Association is a small charity that was formed by members of the parish council in a village near Ashford, Kent. It owns six houses. These properties were provided for young married couples working in the area. The provision was made because there was no other rented accommodation in the village. The association has served a useful purpose over the years by offering a first home to young couples, most of whom would move on after a few years when their finances enabled them to buy the larger homes that they would need in which to raise their families.

Even before the Bill is on the statute book, four of the six tenants have claimed the right to buy. It is likely that the other two will do so when the Bill is passed. The charity estimates that after giving the discount and repaying the grant and mortgage it will be left with only sufficient funds to pay the legal expenses of winding-up.

The association is run entirely by volunteers, and they are now feeling bitter about having spent so much time and energy over the years only to see their charity go out of existence as a result of an apparent whim, as they see it, of Government. Egerton is a small village that will shortly have no rented housing. I am sure that this will happen in a number of other rural areas where there is deprivation. There will be a similar though less disastrous effect in many city areas.

I shall present the House with another example. I hope that it will be accepted that these are not odd examples that do not repeat themselves elsewhere. I believe that they will repeat themselves throughout the country. The WPHT Housing Association is involved in a scheme with which I was closely concerned as a Minister some years ago. It operates in what is known as the Denbigh triangle area, in Pimlico, London. It became involved because of what was going on in the property market in that area in the early to middle 1970s. That was what is loosely called gentrification. There were other developments that were even worse from the point of view of tenants in the district.

The association was formed following publication of the Milner Holland report on the condition of rented housing in London. Sir Milner Holland and another member of his committee were founder members of the association. It has provided 350 flats for families and single people in the area. Its specific aim was to keep the local community intact by ensuring that rented accommodation continued to be available in an area where, increasingly, rented property was being bought up and sold out of rented use.

The triangle is a conservation area and the association's work has played a large part in restoring it to its former elegance. If clause 2 is allowed to stand as drafted, its rented accommodation is likely to be sold into owner-occupation within a very short time—the House will be aware of the pressures of the market in that part of London—and there will again be a grave shortage of rented accommodation in the area. Sir Milner Holland and his colleagues might well wonder whether their time was well spent after all.

I spoke earlier about the Government breaking faith with the voluntary housing movement. I have in mind especially the 26,000 people—that is the Housing Corporation's estimate—who give freely of their time and effort to manage housing associations. By "freely" I mean generously and without pay. Without them charitable housing associations could not function and the third force in housing would cease to exist. I am not arguing that the Bill will cause the voluntary housing movement to come to an end. I hope and believe that that will not happen. Many of us inside the House and many others outside will ensure that it does not die. That is because we and they are committed to it. However, many of the 26,000 will not continue to give their time to act as the Government's unpaid estate agents. Those who remain on the committees will nurse a sense of betrayal. In many instances they are nursing that sense already. They will be much less willing to take at face value what any Government say in future. It is a poor reward for voluntary service. It is a poor response to the needs of the deprived in our inner city areas and areas of rural poverty.

The crisis that is looming in London and possibly in other areas is that of disrepair and a shortage of rented accommodation in inner city areas. In the borough in my constituency there are about 20,000 substandard dwellings requiring more action by the local authority and housing associations. There is underuse of habitable accommodation. There are old dwellings that could be converted if the resources and the effort were made available.

In the borough in my constituency there will be nearly 500 homeless families in bed and breakfast accommodation tonight because neither housing associations nor the local council have the accommodation to house them. Many of these families are likely to be in rundown bed and breakfast hotels for upwards of a year. That is likely on the basis of cases with which I am now dealing. Do not tell me that I am being pompous when I complain about the removal of rented accommodation from the housing association market. Tell the people in the bed and breakfast places who is being pompous or brass-necked when the Government are insisting on the loss of rented accommodation at reasonable rents in such areas. We must provide more rented accommodation, not less, but the Bill seeks to concentrate on reducing the size of the rented stock in the very areas in which we need to increase it.

I ask the Government to consider the arguments that have been advanced on Second Reading, in Committee and tonight and to think again. If they are not prepared to do so, let there be a majority in the other place to put the Government in their place on this issue. Let us at least remove the retrospective elements in the Bill. At the very least there should be no retrospective action. Let us at least save the existing rented accommodation, even if the Government insist on a compulsory sales policy for future dwellings. In justice and fairness, I ask Conservative Members, whatever their differences with us may be, individually or collectively, not to allow the proposed retrospective action to take place, to the harm of those who need the sort of accommodation to which I have referred.

Photo of Mr Neil Thorne Mr Neil Thorne , Ilford South 6:30 pm, 23rd March 1983

I am grateful to have the opportunity to speak to the amendment, especially as my amendment, No. 62, is coupled with it. My amendment seeks to widen the powers that the Government seek to provide, because I believe that the Government's proposals do not go far enough. I have a non-financial interest to declare in two or three housing associations, including the Greater London secondary housing association, with which I am delighted to be associated.

I listened with care and sympathy to the persuasive arguments of my hon. Friend the Member for Buckingham (Mr. Benyon). I also listened with great attention and respect to the speech of the right hon. Member for Brent, East (Mr. Freeson) who has considerable experience and knowledge in housing. However, I do not agree with him in several respects. I do not agree that charities should be in the business of letting accommodation. That is not a responsibility of charities. If a charity happens to have responsibility for housing as part of its duties, so be it, but I do not think it should be primarily in that business.

Charities should have aims and those aims should be clear. They should try to help various groups of people. In certain circumstances they try to help the aged and infirm. As I understand it, those groups will not be affected by the Government's proposal. It is essential that accommodation should be kept available for them.

Some housing associations which are either charities or have charitable status have moved into the business of general housing. I cannot see why people who have helped housing associations take on this role and who have had the pleasure of seeing people without adequate housing being housed properly with Government aid should object to those people taking the further step of becoming owner-occupiers in their own right. I should have thought that a charitable housing association would have welcomed the opportunity that the proposal gives to those people whom it wishes to help.

I have had the pleasure of assisting certain co-ownership housing societies and associations. Without any profit motive, large groups of people have offered their services to help others who do not have adequate accommodation to get on the first rung of the property-owning ladder. I do not believe that charities will withdraw from that work. I am a member of the Greater London secondary housing association, which has adapted its role specifically to assist and advise people who set out to accommodate themselves adequately and help them in the first years of running such an enterprise.

We all have great affection for charities. This is something of a British tradition. However, all charities are not necessarily in the same group. The Attorney-General is taking issue with the Charity Commissioners about certain charities because Members on both sides of the House do not believe that they should be classified as charities, and that is not an isolated case.

I must take some responsibility for the introduction of the Government's proposals because one of my Adjournment debates drew the Minister's attention to the plight of my constituents, Mr. and Mrs. Reid of 135 Thorold road, Ilford, who wished to buy their house but were unable to do so. This, I believe, helped to spark off the proposals, which I am pleased the Minister has introduced. For Mr. and Mrs. Reid, unfortunately, the proposal does not go far enough.

Mr. and Mrs. Reid were on the Greater London council housing waiting list in 1971. They were offered accommodation by Trinity Housing Association Ltd. as an alternative to council accommodation. They accepted in good faith what they were offered, believing that it was financed from public resources, which it was. Subsequently, however, they were surprised to learn, from an article in the Ilford Recorder of 8 September 1977: Government officials are probing a Redbridge-based housing association following concern over the group's managment.The inquiry is into the non-profit-making Trinity Housing Association who find accommodation for the homeless.It is being carried out by the Government's Housing Corporation who supervise and finance all similar organisations.The association, formed seven years ago by director Mr. Jim Alexander, control 553 homes and have an annual turn-over of two million pounds.In a statement issued this week, the Housing Corporation said: 'Mr. Alexander has been threatened with suspension from the Housing Corporation under the terms of the 1974 Housing Act, section 19, which governs housing associations.'This gives the corporation the power to conduct inquiries into the management of associations.'An inquiry is being conducted at this moment following concern being expressed at the management of the Trinity Housing Association.'Whatever happens as a result of the inquiry will not affect the security of tenure of the residents placed by Trinity.'The Act also gives the corporation the right to suspend any committee member or staff member of a housing association if the corporation conclude there has been misconduct of mismanagement. That describes what happened in that case. This is a society which was established under the charitable housing rules. It would come within the Minister's proposal. My only regret is that the proposal does not apply to all funds that have been made available. In that case the resources were provided by the Greater London council and the local London borough council. In my view, there is no difference between that and funds provided by central Government. So there is no reason why my constituents and people in similar circumstances should not be given the opportunity to own their property on exactly the same basis as a council tenant. I therefore hope that my hon. Friend will take this into account and see what he can do to help.

Photo of Mr Stephen Ross Mr Stephen Ross , Isle of Wight

I start by declaring an interest as a founder member of the Isle of Wight housing association, although I am not active in its management today. Not for the first time I find myself wanting to support the amendment proposed so ably by the hon. Member for Buckingham (Mr. Benyon). I spoke on Second Reading and I do not wish to go over the ground again.

Photo of Mr Edward Graham Mr Edward Graham , Enfield Edmonton

A very good speech it was.

Photo of Mr Stephen Ross Mr Stephen Ross , Isle of Wight

Thank you very much.

As I have said, I was associated with the formation of a charitable housing association which now owns and manages over 300 properties in my constituency.

The hon. Member for Buckingham quoted from a letter which appeared recently in The Times from the manager of the Peabody Trust. I wish to go back to The Times of 9 December last and quote an extract from a letter from Bishop Ellison and others because it encapsulates what I should like to say. According to the letter, the proposal to give the right to buy to tenants of charitable housing associations who have been housed with the aid of housing association grants since 1974 would confer a benefit on a fortunate tenant of today, at the expense of tomorrow's homeless and disadvantaged. It cuts across the obligations and responsibilities which charities have in perpetuity. It undermines the work of those who have contributed many years of personal and voluntary service to providing homes to rent for those with lower incomes. The housing association in my constituency was set up in 1973 because we were concerned that young people in particular, but also all age groups, were being priced out of the market. There was no hope in hell of them getting a home to rent or to buy at a reasonable price. The same applies today.

Incidentally, the Government are completely inconsistent. The Minister should have a word with the Home Office because its attitude to surplus prison officer housing is not nearly so generous as that of the Department of the Environment. When there is surplus prison officer housing on the island, the Home Office will not make it available to local authorities which are in great trouble with long waiting lists. Also, when the Home Office is prepared to sell off houses to tenants, there is no discount. The prices are far above sitting tenant prices. I have just discovered in a roundabout way today that the Home Office might assist by giving an interest-free loan of £3,000; that has not been made public yet.

Housing in London is in crisis and it will get worse. I do not believe that the Government recognise what is happening in Kensington and Westminster where many hon. Members live. Too often, blocks of flats have been sold off to the tenants on long leases. The tenants have been enticed to buy at attractive prices. One does not know who the hell the owner is. Often, it is a faceless landlord with a company registered in the Channel Islands. If one turns down an offer to purchase, one receives every two years a hugely increased rent demand. In the end, many people conclude that this is a hopeless way to proceed, that they cannot go on arguing before the rent officer and that they will purchase.

As soon as one purchases the property, one receives a dramatically increased demand for services. On an ordinary one-bedroomed flat, the charge for services can amount to £1,000 a year. It takes months if not years to extract statistics from inefficient managing agents. I speak as a chartered surveyor. I am ashamed of many of the managing agents of London blocks of flats. It is appalling trying to get details from them. One never succeeds in arranging a proper meeting of long leaseholders who are entitled to hold such meetings in order to have facts and figures given to them. So it goes on. One suddenly finds that there are plans to decorate the outside of the flat and that £80,000 is required from the tenants. This cannot be allowed to continue.

Some people with whom I share a block of flats are driven to tears and great distress. There is no way that they can continue to meet these enormous demands if the Government intend to diminish, or to wipe out completely, the supply of charitable housing to let in the metropolis. The lives of those people will become more complicated and worrisome. That is not the right way to proceed. The matter cannot be left to the House of Lords. I believe that the House of Lords at the moment tends to be the conscience of the nation. So rigid are the party divisions in this place that, however strong the argument from the Opposition Benches—for instance, on school transport—it is the Duke of Norfolk who has to change the Government's mind. It is possible that the bishops will have a go. I hope to God they do. I wish them the best of luck.

Why should this be necessary? Why is the hon. Member for Buckingham apparently one of the few supporters on the Conservative Benches of what is proposed? It was the same situation three or four years ago. Most Government Members know that they do not like the provisions in the Bill. I find it immoral. It should not be left to the other place to put the matter right. I hope that there are Conservative Members who will have the guts to vote with the hon. Member for Buckingham. I applaud the hon. Gentleman for moving the amendment.

Photo of Peter Bottomley Peter Bottomley , Greenwich Woolwich West

I think it appropriate if I do not follow directly the arguments of the hon. Member for Isle of Wight (Mr. Ross). I should, however, like to take up some remarks of the right hon. Member for Brent, East (Mr. Freeson). Before referring to his notes and giving a good and lengthy background to housing association grants, the right hon. Gentleman accused me of clowning around in Standing Committee. I regard that as an unworthy assertion. The right hon. Gentleman would be wise to consider withdrawing it, privately if not in public. If he examines the issues that I have raised in Committee he will find, I suspect, that almost every one is an issue with which he would agree. The right hon. Gentleman has spoken for over half an hour on charitable housing associations. I intend to speak for about seven minutes. If he wishes to intervene, I shall willingly give way.

Photo of Mr Reginald Freeson Mr Reginald Freeson , Brent East

I use my phrases carefully. They are not normally put in such terms. However the hon. Gentleman's behaviour even while his hon. Friend the Member for Buckingham (Mr. Benyon) was speaking and his behaviour in Committee, as I read the record, led me to the conclusion that I made. I stand by it.

Photo of Peter Bottomley Peter Bottomley , Greenwich Woolwich West

I suggest that the right hon. Gentleman refers to the Standing Committee debates. If he can raise any example of what he regards as clowning on my part and feels he can substantiate it, I suggest that he mentions it in public rather than make unsubstantiated allegations in the way that he did both to me and to my hon. Friend on the Front Bench.

6.45 pm

I wish to discuss whether it is appropriate for tenants of charitable housing associations to be given the right to buy. It seems to me that some information is missing and that some points have not been made. No one can accuse me of supporting whatever the Government favour. That is not my history or my style. I approach this issue with a fairly open mind. I have listened to the debate. I have read many of the submissions by charitable housing associations. I conclude that what the Government propose is reasonable and should be supported.

One large housing association stated that it had bought 5,000 homes at roughly 50 per cent. of empty value with tenants in them. If housing associations can buy at 50 per cent. discount, it is reasonable that they should sell at 50 per cent. discount. Some argue that people involved as volunteers in charitable housing associations have shown that they are willing to provide voluntary direction to shared ownership and opportunities for tenants to buy. No question of principle arises when those volunteers provide the same sort of home to tenants but decide beforehand to allocate some to tenants who will be able to buy part or all of the property and some to others who will not be able to buy. It has not been proved that those involved in voluntary housing are opposed to the right to buy. By their own admission, many are willing to become involved in other provisions.

Photo of Mr Reginald Freeson Mr Reginald Freeson , Brent East

There is surely a world of difference between an organisation that provides housing with a view to negotiating voluntarily different tenure arrangements with its tenants and the position of that organisation when it is compelled to do what it judges to be wrong in terms of housing policy, reinforced by a compulsion put upon it to deal with houses provided before the Bill in the same way.

Photo of Peter Bottomley Peter Bottomley , Greenwich Woolwich West

That is a valid question, with which I wish to deal. Compulsion is a subsidiary issue. There is, I believe, common agreement that the same people are involved in providing two different sorts of prospective tenure. All hon. Members know that family circumstances change. All of us know that people helped by charitable housing associations may find that their circumstances continue as they were when they first became tenants. The decision to buy privately or to take up the right-to-buy option will therefore not arise. Most estimates that I have seen show that relatively few tenants of housing associations would be able to take up the right-to-buy option in any event. However, hon. Members also know that some people at the bottom of the housing pile find that their circumstances change. Some decide to buy privately. Others will have the opportunity to buy at a discount. We are therefore extending help to those in the middle of the housing association tenant spectrum.

It is also known that many people who believed that they would have the opportunity to enter into shared ownership and to buy through the new schemes of tenure find that their circumstances change. They find that they need to remain tenants for a long time, if not for ever. I do not believe that hon. Members or those involved in the management of housing associations are in a position to say that family A will at some stage be able to buy and that family B will not be able to buy. However, unless we provide a general right to buy, we are in trouble. We are trying to make a paternalistic and elitist forecast that we are not in a position to make.

There is the question of stocks and flows. The right hon. Member for Brent, East did not talk about the Housing Corporation funds available this year. I have given advice to housing associations and to the federation. They would have been far wiser to pay attention to the evidence of one housing association of which I made inquiries and which said that with new housing association grants it could add about 20 per cent. a year to its stock of homes. When I asked what proportion of homes would be either "sterilised"—people staying on who would not otherwise do so—or bought by tenants and whether it would amount to 20 per cent., I was told that the figure would be much lower.

If, therefore, there is an opportunity to add 20 per cent. a year to the stock of homes managed by a housing association and if it is likely to lose perhaps 5 per cent. of what it has created over the last eight years, it seems to me that from the point of view of the aims of the housing association, providing homes for those who would not otherwise have them, what the Government propose is a good deal.

What the National Federation of Housing Associations should have done was tell the Government that it could see what the Government were trying to achieve, that it would leave anomalies—for example, the pre- and post-1974 houses where some charitable money was involved—but that it should be possible to come to an agreement with the Government for long-term, increased funding for housing associations so that they would be left with more homes to let, so that more people, finding their circumstances changed, would be able to buy and so that a long-term settlement could be achieved.

It has not happened. I hope it will. I hope that the housing associations will be more positive and constructive. They would be very wise to consider selling pre-1974 homes even though tenants will not have the right to buy, because unless they do that they will face the most invidious choices. It is possible to reach common ground so that the Government achieve what they want as well as the housing associations being enabled to go on doing their very valuable work. All-out opposition is wrong because there is only one logical consequence with a Government who believe that tenants should be able to get homes when they need them and to buy when they want. The Government would bring to an end HAG. There would be no more housing corporation grants and loans because they would be provided only to local authorities where the right to buy was established. That would be a retrograde step for housing associations. The increase in their supply of homes since 1974 has been invaluable. I congratulate the right hon. Gentleman on bringing that forward. I wish that he would rest on his laurels there and not oppose the sensible measures in this Bill.

Photo of Mr Robert Parry Mr Robert Parry , Liverpool Scotland Exchange

In view of the time, I will be very brief. I realise that many of my hon. Friends wish to take part in this debate and that the Front Bench will begin winding-up at half-past seven. I am opposed to this Bill if it goes through unamended. Liverpool is the only city in the United Kingdom controlled by the Liberals in coalition with the Tories. The present critical housing situation in Liverpool will be further aggravated if this Bill becomes law. In the past few years not one unit of accommodation has been built by the local authority for rent. This is an absolute disgrace, bearing in mind the major problems of Liverpool, particularly from the point of view of people or the housing list and on the transfer list, especially the elderly, sick and disabled, who badly need transfers arid who, under the present system and administration, are not given them.

It is obvious that this is the result of deliberate, doctrinaire Liberal policy and attitudes towards council tenants and the whole principle of council house building. Several years ago, Liverpool had one of the lowest rent levels in the country. Now, under Liberalism, we are top of the league, like our football team. The increase in rents passed by Liberal and Tory councillors in coalition gives an indication of their attitude. For example, in 1979 the average rent of a one-bedroomed flat, excluding rates and water rate, was £6·70; in April 1982 it was £15·13. The rent of a three-bedroomed house was £8·49 in 1979 and £21·51 in 1982. The rent of a three-bedroomed flat in 1979 was £8·49 and in 1982 was £18·12. These are only average figures. I have spent most of my life in a council flat and when I moved out of my three-bedroomed multi-storey flat a few weeks ago I was paying rent of nearly £30 a week.

Great play was made of the fact that I lived in a council flat by the present leader of the Liverpool city council, Sir Trefor Jones, who lives in a salubrious area of Liverpool in a house worth £80,000 or £90,000. He was also supported by the hon. Member for Liverpool, Edge Hill (Mr. Alton).

The sale of council homes is depleting the best of our stock. All the best houses in Liverpool are being sold. It is interesting to note that over the past three years only one flat in the whole of Liverpool has been sold. These sales are affecting the people who want to get out of the pre-war tenement flats and into decent accommodation. I am concerned about the old, the handicapped and the sick. I received a request from a very old lady whom I have known for most of my life, Mrs. Murphy, 83 years of age, who has recently been discharged from hospital after a serious illness. She is living on the fifth floor of a pre-war tenement block. Her son has been very ill. I approached the housing department to see whether this poor lady could be removed from the tenement and given a decent house or flat but was told that under the present system there is no chance and that she must stay where she is.

I am certain that there are people living in high-rise flats whose lives could be shortened or who are at risk because they are not rehoused, even though they have been given priority by the medical officer of health.

It is a great pity that the people of Darlington who live in rented accommodation or who are on housing waiting lists are not aware of the policies of the Liberal party and the Social Democratic party. I am quite certain that when they vote tomorrow the SDP/Liberal alliance will be bottom of the list.

Photo of Mr Andrew Bowden Mr Andrew Bowden , Brighton, Kemptown

My hon. Friend the Member for Buckingham (Mr. Benyon) has done an important service in moving the amendment. I want to concentrate my comments on the smaller charitable housing associations. I understand that there are 221 housing associations which provide special needs accommodation. Of that 221, 150 are charitable and 71 are non-charitable. Of the 221, 70 have fewer than 100 units and more than half of the 70 are operating exclusively in the area of special needs. Some of them are exempt from the right to buy under this Bill. There is a strong case for exempting this group completely.

Small associations often rely solely on voluntary efforts. I have no doubt that if this Bill were to be implemented exactly as it stands this voluntary effort could be seriously affected. Small associations are vulnerable financially and have very few professional administrative resources. Administrative work plays a part in all these associations and if they are going to be involved in what will often be very complex matters concerning the sale of various properties within the associations it will be time-consuming and expensive and will divert them from their true aim of providing accommodation to meet very special needs and requirements. Meeting some of those needs and requirements would help those recovering from alcoholism, drug problems and mental illnesses.

7 pm

Another aspect that I hope the Minister will consider carefully is that of donations. The British are a generous people. In towns such as Brighton—the Brighton housing trust is a typical example—substantial donations are made by people who know that they are giving help to sections of the community that need special assistance, generosity and compassion in respect of the problems that they face. If the Bill goes through in its present form, it will have a serious effect on those who may be prepared to continue making generous donations to charitable housing associations.

The House may ask why I chose the figure of 100, and what will happen to the association that has slightly more than 100 dwellings. That can easily be sorted out. If the figure fluctuates, such a suggestion would operate automatically from the date that the Bill became an Act—in other words, it could then be established whether the association had fewer than 100 or more than 100 dwellings. There must be a cut-off point, which to some extent must be arbitrary.

Many of the associations about which I am talking will never exceed the limit of 100. Were they to do so, they would not be able to fulfil the role that they are playing so effectively at present. Those that did exceed the limit would inevitably become more financially stable and viable.

I hope that the Minister will look closely at this area of charitable housing trusts. If he will concede the spirit of my comments, I shall be delighted to leave it to him to arrange for the appropriate amendment to be moved in another place. The arguments that have been presented today to help this group of charitable housing trusts are based on common sense and justice, not only in respect of those who benefit from such associations, but in respect of those who give so generously of their time and money.

Photo of Mr John Cartwright Mr John Cartwright , Greenwich Woolwich East

In his skilful moving of the amendment, the hon. Member for Buckingham (Mr. Benyon) rightly drew attention to the extraordinary situation in which the Conservative party—traditionally the party that has championed charitable activities against state provision—should in this part of the Bill be seeking to undermine the position of charitable housing associations. That is indeed strange.

All of us who served on the Committee were left in no doubt at all about the attitude of the associations. We were deluged with letters from housing associations all over the country, clearly stating the disincentive effect of this part of the Bill.

I quote briefly from the Salvation Army housing association. This was typical of the reaction that we received. The chairman of that association wrote: My Association is actively considering branching out to provide, for example, permanent housing for resettled hostel residents and for poorer young couples entering their first married homes. All of us would regard that as a worthy objective. The letter continued: The Housing and Building Control Bill as presently drafted will almost certainly bring to an end these plans for new initiatives in our future work. The chairman points out that hon. Members should be aware of this discouraging effect of the Bill". He summed up: We do not see it as our function to provide homes for sale at discount prices. That was the reaction of many charitable housing associations.

It is fair to say, as the hon. Member for Woolwich, West (Mr. Bottomley) said, that many housing associations have responded to the Government's wish to see them play a role in developing shared ownership, building for sale and so on. Many have set up sister associations to fulfil that part of the Government's housing policy. In meeting that part of the Government's objective, they thought that as a quid pro quo they would be left in peace to pursue their charitable objectives of providing housing for those in most need. They are angry and discouraged to find that that is not the case.

There is tremendous agreement among all parties in the House that there should be more choice in housing, particularly in rented housing. The polarisation between owner-occupation and council renting is not encouraging for housing in this country. The housing associations in general, and the charitable housing associations in particular, can play an important part in providing low-cost rented housing as an alternative to local authority housing schemes.

In central London, the charitable activities about which we are talking often provide islands of reasonable low-cost rental in a sea of expensive housing. That is vital, not just in housing terms but in terms of the running of the city. Together with my hon. Friend the Member for Erith and Crayford (Mr. Wellbeloved), I represent what is virtually the London new town of Thamesmead. I see the harm that is done when people are taken from the centre of our city, carted out to the edges and put in housing that is miles away from their jobs. If we want essential services carried out in the centre of the city, we must provide low-cost housing to enable people to live near the essential jobs that they do.

I pay tribute to a number of charitable housing associations which over the years have provided just that sort of low-cost housing. However, they will now find that tenants, if they can afford to buy at generous discounts, will seek the capital gain that such a purchase will offer them.

The major case for extending the right to buy—it was fairly made by the hon. Member for Woolwich, West—is that it provides fairness among tenants. But that objective is not met in the Bill, because charitable housing association tenants whose homes were not built with housing association grants do not get the right to buy. Consequently, there could well be tenants living virtually side by side, some having the right to buy and the others not. Anomalies will still exist if the Bill is enacted as currently drafted.

The most powerful argument against the clause as it now stands is contained in the amendment. I well understand the right of Government to say, "We have put Government money into a particular project and we have the right to apply strings." However, I do not accept that a Government have the right years later to say, "You accepted our money on a perfectly open, free and fair basis all those years ago, we have now decided retrospectively that we will apply strings to the help that you accepted freely." That point is brought out clearly in the letter that we all received from the Salvation Army housing association, which asked: What conditions will be attached tomorrow to assistance received in good faith from government today?". That is the most important part of this argument. That is why I welcome the amendment so much, and why I shall recommend that my right hon. and hon. Friends support it in the Lobby.

Photo of Sir Sydney Chapman Sir Sydney Chapman , Barnet Chipping Barnet

I note the wish of the House for brief contributions to this important debate on the amendment moved by my hon. Friend the Member for Buckingham (Mr. Benyon).

At the outset, I feel impelled to make two personal observations. First, I pay tribute here and now to the significant contribution to the Committee debates made by all hon. Members who served on that Committee, not least by my hon. Friend the Member for Woolwich, West (Mr. Bottomley). I shall shortly return to a telling point that he made.

Secondly, it is a little unfair of the hon. Member for Isle of Wight (Mr. Ross) to label most Conservative Back Benchers as acting as lobby fodder on this issue in support of the Government. It is precisely because distinguished people such as Bishop Ellison have expressed disquiet about what the Government are doing, and because we have received so much correspondence from chairmen and other people who are involved with the charitable housing associations, that I for one have agonised over the matter before deciding to support the Government.

Photo of Mr Stephen Ross Mr Stephen Ross , Isle of Wight

If, as I hope, the bishops and, say, some Tory peers in the other place throw out the clause, support the hon. Member for Buckingham (Mr. Benyon), and change the clause as drafted, will the hon. Gentleman be prepared to accept that decision, or will he want it to be restored to its original position when it comes back to this House? That has happened time after time. The latest example is the Water Bill and the reference to the ombudsman. That has now been accepted by the Government in the other place, although it was resisted throughout in this House.

Photo of Sir Sydney Chapman Sir Sydney Chapman , Barnet Chipping Barnet

With respect, I can only come to my own conclusion, and my conclusion is to support the Government, on balance, on this clause. If bishops in the other place tend not to support the Government, apart from making the polemic remark that it proves that it is not necessarily the Conservatives who have a majority in the other end of this Palace, may I say that they are acting independently, and I can only take my position after what happens there.

We have had contributions from four political parties in this debate so far. I pay tribute to all those contributors who are acknowledged experts on these matters in this place, and I shall add my pennyworth. I understand and sympathise with my hon. Friend the Member for Buckingham, who is associated with the Peabody Trust, a most distinguished organisation. However, the other side of the argument should be put, and it involves the rights of tenants. One cannot be dogmatic, and one has to generalise. I strongly believe that in many cases it is merely a matter of chance whether the tenant was housed by a local authority or by a charitable housing association. Therefore, the rights of tenants should be given some importance. I know from my mailbag that some tenants of some charitable housing associations felt aggrieved that they were excluded from the provisions of the 1980 Act.

In understanding and reaching a conclusion on this matter, we have to get the matter into balance. The best information that I have is that about 80,000 tenants will come within the provisions of this part of the Bill, out of the 300,000 tenants of charitable housing associations. It is a relatively small proportion. Based on the experience of the right-to-buy provisions in the 1980 Act, it appears that about one in 10 of the 80,000 out of 300,000 tenants will exercise their right to buy. So we are talking about perhaps 3 per cent. of tenants in all charitable housing associations.

Photo of Mr William Benyon Mr William Benyon , Buckingham 7:15 pm, 23rd March 1983

I am interested to hear what my hon. Friend is saying, because I read his speech in Committee. He coined the slogan "equal rights for tenants". However, they are not equal. All the people who are housed, for instance, by my trust realise that they are being housed by the Peabody Trust. They had no idea whether they were in this section or that section. Now one tenant will get the right to buy, and another one will not have that right. So to say that equal rights apply to all tenants is nonsense.

Photo of Sir Sydney Chapman Sir Sydney Chapman , Barnet Chipping Barnet

I accept that in part. I can only generalise in the time that is available. There will still be unfairness, but we have to strike a balance. No one is saying that it is absolutely right to take one course and quite wrong to take another. Like most political decisions, it is a question of balance.

I understand, of course, that the Peabody Trust and other charitable housing associations have housed people who are in the greatest need. My hon. Friend the Member for Brighton, Kemptown (Mr. Bowden) told us about specific groups of people. Surely it is all the more likely that an even smaller percentage of those people will wish to exercise their right to buy under this Bill. So whereas 3 per cent. overall will take up the offer—I generalise, of course—a much smaller proportion may do so in some of the properties that my hon. Friend the Member for Buckingham and others described.

I want to comment briefly on the Denbigh triangle which was quite properly mentioned by the right hon. Member for Brent, East (Mr. Freeson). Again, I have to generalise. It is because it is a prime site in Pimlico, housing people in great need, that a smaller proportion of people will exercise their right to buy. A smaller proportion will exercise their right to buy because, even with the discount that is available, they will have to pay more than they would on a more conventional site. I do not say that that is an answer to the right hon. Gentleman's argument, but it is a factor that should be taken into consideration.

There is some rough justice in what my right hon. Friend proposes in this clause for those involved in the management of charitable housing associations. I do not try to escape that conclusion. However, until this Bill was introduced, and unless it is implemented, there has been even rougher injustice for some tenants. The Bill does not remove all the injustice for all the tenants, but it goes perhaps a small way towards doing so. A balance has to be struck, and I sincerely believe that the Government have made a fair decision.

Photo of Mr Michael Welsh Mr Michael Welsh , Don Valley

I shall be brief. I want to speak in support of the hon. Member for Buckingham (Mr. Benyon). I do not believe that the issue is whether to buy or sell. The amendment is not about that. It is about something else. The amendment is about having good faith with institutions, and especially with charitable institutions, in making a grant or giving them the right to borrow. It is a matter of good faith that they can do that, and they will be allowed to manage their own property. It is a matter of good faith that they can put people into houses, as they think necessary. That is the vital issue of the amendment.

The hon. Member for Buckingham is saying "All right, let's play the game. Let's play cricket, and do it fairly. Let's put a date on." If any charitable society comes to the Government for grants or to borrow money, that can be written into the legislation. There is nothing wrong with that. I would call that typically British. There is nothing wrong in saying "We shall pass a law, and it will come into operation in a few days' time." I do not subscribe to passing laws in retrospect. I do not care if right hon. or hon. Members say that other Governments have done that. That is no excuse. One bad thing does not excuse another bad thing. The vital issue is "Do you have faith in your Government, or do you have to be wary of individuals who come bearing gifts?"

Many individuals will leave the charitable associations and no one has condemned them. Everybody has said what good work they have done. I have not had much contact with them because the houses in my constituency belong to the local authority. My constituency is in the country, where there are better opportunities. The Bill will turn people away and only the Government will be to blame. The Government have loaned the charitable associations money which they accepted and they now want to make them sell their assets. For a British Government that is unpalatable.

If the amendment is not accepted it will be immoral. No conditions were attached when charities were given the money and yet now, eight or 10 years later, they are told that conditions will be imposed. No one can accept that; it is wrong. Charities have built houses for those in need and in doing so they have provided a good service. Many people in the inner cities were proud to have such houses, where they could lay their heads, and live in reasonable conditions. The Government are now telling the charities that, because they built houses for those in need to rent and because some of those who lived in that accommodation got a little richer, they must sell those houses. That is the crux of the matter. Charities that have worked hard for the lower income groups are, as they say in Yorkshire, being given a kick in the teeth for doing so. That is not playing the game.

I hope that the clause will not be rejected in the other place. I hope that there are sufficient hon. Members to go through the right Lobby tonight—the Lobby in which God will be on their side when they vote for the amendment and against this terrible piece of legislation.

Photo of Mr Robert Litherland Mr Robert Litherland , Manchester Central

The Bill is a series of amendments to the Housing Act 1980. Amendment No. 62 is a further attack on the public sector. It promotes the Government's policy of selling off housing that has any public money in it at all. Now, without consultation, the Government are imposing conditions on grant arrangements that were entered into in good faith many years ago by charitable trusts. Those trusts are now being destroyed merely to extend the dogma of the right to buy.

Members of the Committee have received correspondence saying that the Government's intrusion was an attack on long-established principles of charity law. Organisations such as the Guinness Trust find the measures offensive and would never have accepted grants if they had had any idea that one day a dictatorial Government would force them to sell their houses. We have heard from housing trusts and associations that were set up with the sole intention of providing homes in areas of acute housing stress for the needy. Our correspondence has been large and varied, submitting different fears of what would happen were the Bill to become an Act. The Guinness Trust has been in existence for 100 years, providing 1,000 dwellings per year to the smallest charities.

In my area, the Salford Community Housing Association, the Manchester Methodist Housing Association and the Family Housing Association shout as one voice that the Bill is irresponsible and will cause them to abdicate their obligations to families on the waiting lists who are often living in the most appalling conditions.

What kind of tenants would the Salford Community Housing Association be renting to? They are mainly sitting tenants, living in substandard property acquired from private landlords who have not maintained the property. There are social service referrals, families suffering from overcrowding and family breakdown, elderly and single persons, single parent families, and so on. They normally have low incomes and a high housing need. The majority of the tenants taken in by that association have no income other than pensions, unemployment or supplementary benefit from the Department of Health and Social Security.

This is the real world, full of real people in real housing need. It is those people who will be deprived. Associations such as the Salford Community Housing Association and the Manchester Methodist Housing Association provide much-needed rented accommodation, especially in the inner city areas. They will have their housing stock diminished. Their role is not to sell houses; they see their role as providers of accommodation for those in greatest need.

Many of those associations have voluntary workers and it follows that they will be reluctant to give up their spare time if the aims of the associations are changed by Government diktat. The Government are taking away their independence and responsibilities. They have done it by the sale of council housing and this is the next step in the process of privatisation. Those associations are adamant in their rejection of all proposals to make the right to buy mandatory rather than voluntary. They all believe that compulsory sales would be at a substantial cost to the Government and the taxpayer. Disposal, whether at discount or not, represents the loss of an asset.

In a document on the sales of charity land the Charity Commission for England and Wales said: Trustees are bound in any dealing with charity properties to give primary consideration to the interests of the charity … If trustees decide to sell, they are under a legal obligation to secure the most advantageous terms for the charity. As I said in Committee, to sell houses while there is such a great need is not only immoral; it is a social evil.

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

I shall not rehearse the arguments of the hon. Member for Manchester, Central (Mr. Litherland), but I support all that he said. I hope that the Minister can give us an assurance that the charity commissioners will accept the hon. Gentleman's point and that any trustees will be absolved of their responsibilities and their trusteeship by following the instructions in clause 2.

I have never known a Bill that has so few supporters. It has been opposed by nearly all hon. Members. The greatest theme of the hon. Member for Chipping Barnet (Mr. Chapman) was that few people will use it, so why worry? It is argued that it is rough justice. One area in which the Government could exercise rough justice is in the case of Crown estate tenants. Why are they not being encouraged to buy houses? They are a classic example of people using public funds. Any profit goes to the Treasury and any loss is paid for by the Treasury. Yet the Government do not suggest that there should be rough justice for the Crown tenants. Instead, they pick upon the housing associations that in many ways they spawned in 1968. At that time, they grew like Topsy. Now the Government say that they have played the role that was intended for them; they have fulfilled their role between the local authority and the private market.

If the housing associations had known that they would be forced to sell their property subsequently, they would never have divided their houses in the way that they have. The silly situation arises that where they have provided two modern flats in a house one tenant will opt to buy while the other tenant will not. Consequently the management costs of running the houses will be enormous. Yet the housing association has to run them on a shoestring anyway because it has no great funds to do otherwise. The Minister has not answered that point, but he must. How can he claim that he wants efficiency and effective housing management in local government when, if the clause is successful, he will be forcing the housing associations to use the most inefficient of all methods, so that he can have his whim on "rough justice"? There have been no straightforward answers from the Government as to why they want clause 2. I suggest that the Minister, on reflection, withdraws his clause.

Photo of Mrs Ann Taylor Mrs Ann Taylor , Bolton West 7:30 pm, 23rd March 1983

This has been a most important debate. It is important for housing because clause 2 will reduce the supply of rented accommodation. It is also important for charities generally, not just housing charities. The Bill, as several of my hon. Friends have pointed out, changes the charity law, although it is a housing Bill.

The amendment attempts to make the legislation retrospective. As several hon. Members have said, when the housing association grants first became available, there was no suggestion that these consequences would follow and many housing associations and housing charities would not have applied for such grants had they thought that such strings would be attached at a later date.

In Committee, we pointed out the important fact that other public moneys can go towards housing improvements without any such strings being attached. Improvement grants can be paid to private landlords. That is public money going to improve housing in a way that is comparable to the way that many housing associations operate. However, the same strings are not attached in the former case and the right to buy does not exist.

My right hon. Friend the Member for Brent, East (Mr. Freeson) has been closely associated with housing charities for many years. He said that in 1974 the members of the present Government supported the concept of housing association grants being made available to housing associations for the improvement of properties and for new building. That attitude of the Government was reinforced in 1980 when the present Minister was steering the Housing Act 1980 through Committee. He said that the Government had made an essential distinction. His conclusion was that the right to buy should be extended further to the housing association sector who could reasonably fall under the general umbrella of public sector tenants. We take the view that that should not be extended if it conflicts with charitable law."—[Official Report, Standing Committee F, 29 January 1980; c. 15.] The Bill conflicts with charity law and so the Minister will change charity law.

My hon. Friend the Member for Manchester, Central (Mr. Litherland) explained the consequences that might arise for trustees of housing charities who allowed assets to be disposed of at less than the best possible price. We discussed in Committee the problems for charities that have a legal obligation to secure the most advantageous terms should any sale or disposal of the assets take place. As the hon. Member for Buckingham (Mr. Benyon) said, the National Federation of Housing Associations wrote to the Solicitor-General for his advice and interpretation of the rules on charities. I share the concern of the hon. Member that there is no Law Officer present to give advice this evening. We asked for that in Committee but the Government refused to provide us with direct advice.

The hon. Member for Buckingham quoted the part of the reply to the national association from the Solicitor-General that dealt with the "necessitous poor". The implications of that were much wider than just this particular clause and the right-to-buy provisions. The implications behind the reply cover those people in housing charity accommodation who do not want to exercise the right to buy because it implies or threatens, as the hon. Member for Lichfield and Tamworth (Mr. Heddle) did, that if people in charitable accommodation became too prosperous they should be forced to move out and go to live elsewhere. The difficult problem that has not been covered in the Solicitor-General's advice and in the examples given by the Minister in Committee, and which the hon. Member for Buckingham tried to raise, is the dilemma facing housing charities should their tenants become more prosperous than at the time of the allocation.

It is obvious, according to their rules as well as anybody else's, that charities must consider the circumstances of their tenants at the time of letting. They must be old people, the poor or those suffering from some handicap. However, circumstances can change. Those with lower incomes may improve their earnings. A divorced woman with children may marry and the whole family may continue to live in the accommodation. People who have been in psychiatric hospitals and receiving treatment, and who have been given housing on that basis, may recover and be debarred according to the Minister's new rule.

At the moment, if somebody's financial circumstances improve after they have been given accommodation in a charitable housing property, it is natural for them to move into owner occupation because there are substantial financial advantages in becoming an owner-occupier. However, if the Bill becomes law these people will be well advised to stay put and claim the very high discount that will be available under clause 2 and which they will be able to obtain only if they purchase the house that they are renting at the time. The Government are giving a financial incentive to people to buy their charitable home rather than moving into the ordinary owner-occupied sector. That will have serious consequences on the supply of rented accommodation, which, as hon. Members on both sides of the House have pointed out, is scarce and much needed.

I am concerned about the misleading advice given by the Solicitor-General in the letter—it may be that he did not fully understand the circumstances—about the discount and whether there is a problem with the disposal of assets of the charity in regard to the price that will be obtained by the charity once the discount is given and the debts of the charity on that property are repaid. The Solicitor-General says that there is no problem because if anybody loses because of the discount it will be not the charity but the Government. However, he fails to take into account the real value of the property at the time of the sale.

It is true that the housing charity may recover the price that it has had to pay to have the property built, but that may be nothing like the real value of the property that is being disposed of. For example, if a property had been built at a cost of £12,000, but was not worth £18,000, the housing association would be guaranteed only the £12,000 that it cost it to build the property in the first place. Therefore, the housing charity would be losing the £6,000 because of the changed value of the asset of which it was disposing, and the property as a whole. Therefore, the Solicitor-General's advice is misleading, and the Charity Commission will need to have another look at the problem because charities will be losing assets and disposing of them at less than the best possible price.

Photo of Sir Sydney Chapman Sir Sydney Chapman , Barnet Chipping Barnet

Surely the point is that, with a sitting tenant, the value of the property—it is difficult to generalise—could well be only one third of its value with vacant possession. That is a crucial point. Surely that knocks to pieces the point that the hon. Lady is making.

Photo of Mrs Ann Taylor Mrs Ann Taylor , Bolton West

Not at all. Those housing charities are in the business of renting accommodation, and that is the value of the property to them. They regard the property as a valuable unit which could be rented to a family in need or with problems. That is their purpose. The Bill cuts across the most fundamental reason for their existence because it will prevent them from housing people in need.

As many hon. Members have said, we have received many representations. They have come from Church of England, Roman Catholic, Methodist, and Salvation Army housing associations, and from large housing charities such as Peabody and Sutton Guinness and others that have been working for many years. We have also received representations from housing charities that deal with handicapped people, those with behavioural, drinking or financial problems and charities that house refugees. Many people involved in housing associations are deeply worried that the reason for their existence will be undermined by this legislation.

We are dealing with people who probably have no chance of buying accommodation and therefore need rented accommodation. Their chances of obtaining rented accommodation from the other part of the public sector—the council house side—are being reduced considerably because of the sale of council houses and the lack of new building.

The hon. Member for Buckingham said that we were dealing mainly with people who lived in inner city areas. He drew attention to people who lived in London. People in London who live in housing charity accommodation have little chance of getting alternative accommodation. There is no possibility of their being able to afford to buy in London and little possibility of their being able to find rented private sector accommodation because of the many gross abuses of rent legislation in London and the consequently high rents.

The hon. Member for Brighton, Kemptown (Mr. Bowden) mentioned some of the smaller housing associations that deal with people with special problems. We raised the subject in Committee and are deeply worried about it. My right hon. Friend the Member for Brent, East mentioned the Egerton housing association which may be forced out of existence by the Bill. I share his anxiety about the small housing associations that are trying to help special groups of people with special problems. The elderly are just one of the categories that housing associations try to help.

I am sure that the Minister will tell us that the Housing Act 1980 contained some exceptions so that the right to buy does not exist when accommodation is required for elderly people. The problem is that the legislation has not worked out as the Minister said it would. The assurances that he gave in 1980 have proved to be worthless in practice. The Minister has turned down 90 per cent. of the applications for exemption under the 1980 Act for people who live in accommodation that is deemed to be for elderly people. Therefore, in all but 10 per cent. of the cases, the Minister has allowed the sales to go ahead. Therefore, there is no real protection for the people who are trying to help the elderly or to provide housing for people in greatest need.

If the Bill is passed, housing charities will lose their assets. It is no use the Minister saying that the proceeds of the sales will be recycled. We know from our experience of council house sales that local authorities must sell 12 houses to build one new one. Housing charities will be in even worse circumstances because the Exchequer will get its money back and many housing charities will be forced out of existence because they will be deprived of funds to continue or replace the stock that they have sold.

Some housing charities will disappear for financial reasons, others will be forced out of existence because the volunteers who have run them will say, "Why should we bother? Why should our voluntary effort, which has been given willingly for many years, simply result in private gain for a few fortunate people?". That was not their objective or their intention. There can be no point in such voluntary effort if that is the result of the Minister's legislation.

Hon. Members have today reinforced some of the arguments that we advanced in Committee. We warned the Government then that this would not be the end of the matter. We intend to support the amendment. Like my hon. Friend the Member for Don Valley (Mr. Welsh), I hope that it will be successful. If it is not, I am sure that the Minister will have to come to terms with the problem in another place. I look forward to the whole House supporting the changes on that occasion.

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

I shall try to respond to the points that have been made, but I may not be able to deal with all of them because of the shortage of time.

The hon. Member for Woolwich, East (Mr. Cartwright) read a letter from the Salvation Army housing association. It has been somewhat overtaken. That is not unusual because there has been an enormous amount of misunderstanding and some misrepresentation of our proposals. It is only when they have been properly explained that people have been able to take a balanced view. It is worth pointing out that my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State has received another letter from the commissioner who is responsible for the Salvation Army housing association, which reads as follows: Thank you for your kind explanatory letter of 31st January. This, taken together with the Minister's statement in Standing Committee F, does very largely allay our misgivings concerning the Housing and Building Control Bill. In this I speak, not only for our Association but also for The Salvation Army, from whom any charitable input of funds must normally come". My hon. Friend the Member for Brighton, Kemptown (Mr. Bowden) raised two important points. He referred to the problem of small housing associations that deal with specialist matters. There are already exemptions for some of the specialties, such as the elderly and the disabled. The hon. Member for Bolton, West (Mrs. Taylor) unfairly misrepresented the exemptions for the elderly, because she referred solely to paragraph 5 of schedule 1 and did not refer at all to paragraph 4 of that schedule, under which all sheltered accommodation is exempt without reference to the Secretary of State. As to the number of terminations that have been granted by the Secretary of State in giving the right to buy, we received several blanket applications from Labour-controlled authorities which, for example, excluded all ground floor accommodation.

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

That is not remotely within the terms of the legislation as agreed by Parliament.

I should also like to draw the attention of my hon. Friend the Member for Kemptown to the fact that already, in schedule 4 of the 1980 Act, there are several grounds for possession that might be applicable in certain circumstances if a specialist housing association wanted to preserve its accommodation for special uses. Perhaps he would like to consider grounds 9, 11 and 12. If I can give him any more help on the possible use of those grounds in the circumstances to which he has referred, I shall be glad to do so. They are relevant.

My hon. Friend also asked about donations to charities. I assure him that there are no rational grounds for saying that the Bill will act as a deterrent to the giving of donations. If donations are given in kind by way of land, all dwellings that are built on charitably donated land are exempt. If the donation is in the building of a property, that is also exempt, even if housing association grant has been spent on the property. No donor need worry about that. If a cash donation is translated into either land or the purchase of a building, by the same token those exemptions will apply. A small cash donation that may be used to top up an existing housing association grant charitable property will be preserved at its modern value.

I sympathise with the intentions behind the amendment of my hon. Friend the Member for Ilford, South (Mr. Thorne), because I recognise his wish to give more of his constituents the opportunity of home ownership. I understand his frustration with the constituency case that he mentioned where, under an earlier financing system, tenants of charitable housing associations are not brought within the parameters of this legislation. However, we have carefully considered the earlier subsidy systems, and it is clear that that legislation was different from the Housing Act 1974, which created the housing association grant.

There is likely to have been a significant input of charitable funds into those earlier publicly funded properties. We have come to the conclusion that we cannot be certain, as we can with the housing association grant system, of being able to provide full protection for charitable funds, which has been a fundamental principle of the Government. I am sorry to have to tell my hon. Friend that I cannot accept his amendment, simply because the Government cannot be certain that they can provide the proper protection for charitable funds, which was part of our stance when we brought forward these provisions.

My hon. Friend the Member for Buckingham (Mr. Benyon) was clearly worried that there would be a significant overall reduction in rented property available from charitable housing associations. There are no grounds for believing that, because only secure tenants under the Housing Act 1980 can buy. If one is not a secure tenant, one cannot exercise the right to buy. A secure tenant has full rights to his home and to succession in his home. The practice in local authority accomodation and in non-charitable housing association accommodation is that the great majority of secure tenants who do not have the right to buy will remain secure tenants in their properties for a considerable period, and so a very small proportion of property is likely to become available for people on the waiting list. Therefore, it cannot be said that if we confer the right to buy on a relatively small proportion of tenants, it will amount to a material reduction in the available rented property. If we were to create more rented opportunities for charitable housing associations, we would do that largely with new building, rehabilitation and the bringing in of additional properties.

I can give the House statistics that show what has happened to housing association rented properties since the 1980 Act. In 1980, we gave the right to buy to tenants of non-charitable housing associations. Up to the end of last year, the number of completed sales by those associations was 2,550. In comparison, during the lifetime of this Government we have expanded the rented stock of charitable and non-charitable housing associations by 120,000 units. For every one housing association dwelling where the tenant had exercised his right to buy, we have added nearly 50 units to the existing rented stock. Therefore, it is nonsense to say that there will be a dramatic reduction in rented accommodation in the charitable sector.

My hon. Friend the Member for Buckingham also mentioned the effect on voluntary workers, and again we know what has happened. As my hon. Friend the Member for Woolwich, West (Mr. Bottomley) said, non-charitable housing associations cater for almost exactly the same category of people as charitable housing associations. Those tenants have had the right to buy for two and a half years. Any disastrous loss of enthusiasm or a drain of voluntary workers should have taken place during that period, but I am glad to tell the House that there is no sign of a diminution of enthusiasm in the non-charitable housing associations. They are as strong now as they ever were, and I am inundated with demands for additional housing association grant allocations and housing schemes. Indeed, there are so many demands from those associations that, if we wished, we could spend all the Housing Corporation's approved development programme on the non-charitable housing associations. Of course we do not. Those associations have survived perfectly well and are as robust and dynamic now as they were when the right-to-buy scheme started in 1980.

Several hon. Members have mentioned retrospection, but that is a complete canard. The Government are not conferring rights retrospectively against assets that were created by the charity itself. The right-to-buy scheme applies only to dwellings that were provided by taxpayers' money together with housing association grant. It would have been different had we conferred rights against charitable assets. My hon. Friend the Member for Chipping Barnet (Mr. Chapman) was right to say that the Leasehold Reform Act is by no means irrelevant. For 15 years, the House has agreed the leasehold enfranchisement, which included 30 per cent. of charitable dwellings. That meant that about 300,000 charitable properties were affected by that legislation. The retrospective legislation applied to dwellings that were built entirely with private money.

Apart from the fact that this legislation applies only to publicly funded dwellings, the central question is that of discriminatory treatment of tenants of charitable housing associations in housing association grant-funded property. Those tenants are identical in legal and financial terms to the tenants who already have the right to buy non-charitable housing association stock. On those grounds, I believe that it is right and equitable that we make a limited expansion of the right to buy available to the small group of charitable housing association tenants living in wholly publicly funded dwellings.

Question put, That the amendment be made:—

The House divided: Ayes 177, Noes 258.

Division No. 99][8 pm
Abse, LeoDalyell, Tam
Allaun, FrankDavidson, Arthur
Alton, DavidDavies, Rt Hon Denzil (L'lli)
Anderson, DonaldDavis, Clinton (Hackney C)
Archer, Rt Hon PeterDavis, Terry (B'ham, Stechf'd)
Ashley, Rt Hon JackDeakins, Eric
Ashton, JoeDean, Joseph (Leeds West)
Barnett, Guy (Greenwich)Dewar, Donald
Barnett, Rt Hon Joel (H'wd)Dixon, Donald
Beith, A. J.Dormand, Jack
Benn, Rt Hon TonyDouglas, Dick
Bennett, Andrew(St'kp't N)Dunnett, Jack
Benyon, W. (Buckingham)Dunwoody, Hon Mrs G.
Bidwell, SydneyEadie, Alex
Booth, Rt Hon AlbertEllis, R. (NE D'bysh're)
Boothroyd, Miss BettyEnglish, Michael
Bray, Dr JeremyEnnals, Rt Hon David
Brocklebank-Fowler, C.Evans, Ioan (Aberdare)
Brown, Hugh D. (Provan)Evans, John (Newton)
Brown, Ronald W. (H'ckn'y S)Ewing, Harry
Brown, Ron (E'burgh, Leith)Faulds, Andrew
Buchan, NormanFlannery, Martin
Campbell-Savours, DaleFord, Ben
Canavan, DennisFoulkes, George
Cant, R. B.Fraser, J. (Lamb'th, N'w'd)
Carmichael, NeilFreeson, Rt Hon Reginald
Cartwright, JohnFreud, Clement
Clark, Dr David (S Shields)Garrett, John (Norwich S)
Cocks, Rt Hon M. (B'stol S)Gilbert, Rt Hon Dr John
Cohen, StanleyGolding, John
Coleman, DonaldGraham, Ted
Concannon, Rt Hon J. D.Grimond, Rt Hon J.
Crowther, StanHamilton, James (Bothwell)
Cryer, BobHamilton, W. W. (C'tral Fife)
Cunningham, G. (Islington S)Harrison, Rt Hon Walter
Heffer, Eric S.Price, C. (Lewisham W)
Hogg, N. (E Dunb't'nshire)Richardson, Jo
Holland, S. (L'b'th, Vauxh'll)Roberts, Albert (Normanton)
Home Robertson, JohnRoberts, Allan (Bootle)
Hooley, FrankRoberts, Ernest (Hackney N)
Howell, Rt Hon D.Roberts, Gwilym (Cannock)
Hoyle, DouglasRobertson, George
Huckfield, LesRobinson, G. (Coventry NW)
Hughes, Robert (Aberdeen N)Rooker, J. W.
Hughes, Roy (Newport)Roper, John
Hughes, Simon (Bermondsey)Ross, Stephen (Isle of Wight)
Janner, Hon GrevilleRowlands, Ted
Jay, Rt Hon DouglasRyman, John
John, BrynmorSandelson, Neville
Johnson, Walter (Derby S)Sever, John
Jones, Dan (Burnley)Sheldon, Rt Hon R.
Kaufman, Rt Hon GeraldShore, Rt Hon Peter
Kerr, RussellShort, Mrs Renée
Kilroy-Silk, RobertSilkin, Rt Hon J. (Deptford)
Kinnock, NeilSilkin, Rt Hon S. C. (Dulwich)
Lambie, DavidSilverman, Julius
Lamond, JamesSkinner, Dennis
Leadbitter, TedSmith, Rt Hon J. (N Lanark)
Leighton, RonaldSpearing, Nigel
Lestor, Miss JoanSpellar, John Francis (B'ham)
Lewis, Arthur (N'ham NW)Spriggs, Leslie
Lewis, Ron (Carlisle)Stallard, A. W.
Litherland, RobertStoddart, David
Lyon, Alexander (York)Strang, Gavin
McDonald, Dr OonaghStraw, Jack
McKelvey, WilliamTaylor, Mrs Ann (Bolton W)
McTaggart, RobertThomas, Dr R.(Carmarthen)
Marshall, D(G'gow S'ton)Tilley, John
Marshall, Dr Edmund (Goole)Torney, Tom
Marshall, Jim (Leicester S)Varley, Rt Hon Eric G.
Mason, Rt Hon RoyWainwright, E.(Dearne V)
Maynard, Miss JoanWalker, Rt Hon H.(D'caster)
Meacher, MichaelWardell, Gareth
Mikardo, IanWelsh, Michael
Millan, Rt Hon BruceWhite, Frank R.
Mitchell, Austin (Grimsby)White, J. (G'gow Pollok)
Mitchell, R. C. (Soton Itchen)Whitlock, William
Morris, Rt Hon A. (W'shawe)Wigley, Dafydd
Morris, Rt Hon C. (O'shaw)Willey, Rt Hon Frederick
Morton, GeorgeWilliams, Rt Hon A.(S'sea W)
Newens, StanleyWilson, Rt Hon Sir H.(H'ton)
Oakes, Rt Hon GordonWilson, William (C'try SE)
Ogden, EricWinnick, David
O'Halloran, MichaelWoodall, Alec
O'Neill, MartinWright, Sheila
Orme, Rt Hon StanleyYoung, David (Bolton E)
Park, George
Parker, JohnTellers for the Ayes:
Parry, RobertMr. Frank Haynes and
Penhaligon, DavidMr. Lawrence Cunliffe.
Powell, Raymond (Ogmore)
Aitken, JonathanBraine, Sir Bernard
Alexander, RichardBright, Graham
Alison, Rt Hon MichaelBrinton, Tim
Amery, Rt Hon JulianBrittan, Rt. Hon. Leon
Ancram, MichaelBrooke, Hon Peter
Arnold, TomBrotherton, Michael
Aspinwall, JackBrown, Michael(Brigg & Sc'n)
Atkins, Rt Hon H.(S'thorne)Bruce-Gardyne, John
Baker, Nicholas (N Dorset)Bryan, Sir Paul
Banks, RobertBuchanan-Smith, Rt. Hon. A.
Bendall, VivianBuck, Antony
Benyon, Thomas (A'don)Budgen, Nick
Berry, Hon AnthonyBurden, Sir Frederick
Best, KeithButcher, John
Bevan, David GilroyCarlisle, Kenneth (Lincoln)
Biffen, Rt Hon JohnChalker, Mrs. Lynda
Biggs-Davison, Sir JohnChapman, Sydney
Blackburn, JohnChurchill, W. S.
Body, RichardClark, Hon A. (Plym'th, S'n)
Bonsor, Sir NicholasClark, Sir W. (Croydon S)
Bottomley, Peter (W'wich W)Clarke, Kenneth (Rushcliffe)
Boyson, Dr RhodesClegg, Sir Walter
Cockeram, EricLawson, Rt Hon Nigel
Colvin, MichaelLee, John
Cope, JohnLe Marchant, Spencer
Cormack, PatrickLennox-Boyd, Hon Mark
Corrie, JohnLester, Jim (Beeston)
Costain, Sir AlbertLewis, Sir Kenneth (Rutland)
Cranborne, ViscountLloyd, Ian (Havant & W'loo)
Critchley, JulianLoveridge, John
Crouch, DavidLuce, Richard
Dickens, GeoffreyLyell, Nicholas
Dorrell, StephenMcCrindle, Robert
Douglas-Hamilton, Lord J.Macfarlane, Neil
du Cann, Rt Hon EdwardMacGregor, John
Dunn, Robert (Dartford)MacKay, John (Argyll)
Durant, TonyMacmillan, Rt Hon M.
Eden, Rt Hon Sir JohnMcNair-Wilson, M. (N'bury)
Edwards, Rt Hon N. (P'broke)McNair-Wilson, P. (New F'st)
Eggar, TimMcQuarrie, Albert
Eyre, ReginaldMajor, John
Fairbairn, NicholasMarland, Paul
Faith, Mrs SheilaMarshall, Michael (Arundel)
Farr, JohnMates, Michael
Finsberg, GeoffreyMaude, Rt Hon Sir Angus
Fisher, Sir NigelMawby, Ray
Fletcher, A. (Ed'nb'gh N)Maxwell-Hyslop, Robin
Fletcher-Cooke, Sir CharlesMellor, David
Fookes, Miss JanetMeyer, Sir Anthony
Forman, NigelMiller, Hal (B grove)
Fowler, Rt Hon NormanMills, Iain (Meriden)
Fraser, Rt Hon Sir HughMills, Sir Peter (West Devon)
Fraser, Peter (South Angus)Miscampbell, Norman
Fry, PeterMoate, Roger
Gardiner, George (Reigate)Monro, Sir Hector
Gardner, Sir EdwardMontgomery, Fergus
Garel-Jones, TristanMoore, John
Glyn, Dr AlanMorgan, Geraint
Goodhart, Sir PhilipMorris, M. (N'hampton S)
Goodlad, AlastairMorrison, Hon C. (Devizes)
Gow, IanMorrison, Hon P. (Chester)
Gower, Sir RaymondMudd, David
Gray, Rt Hon HamishMurphy, Christopher
Griffiths, E.(B'y St. Edm'ds)Myles, David
Griffiths, Peter (Portsm'th N)Neale, Gerrard
Grist, IanNeedham, Richard
Grylls, MichaelNelson, Anthony
Gummer, John SelwynNeubert, Michael
Hamilton, Michael (Salisbury)Newton, Tony
Hampson, Dr KeithNott, Rt Hon Sir John
Hannam, JohnOppenheim, Rt Hon Mrs S.
Haselhurst, AlanOsborn, John
Hastings, StephenPage, John (Harrow, West)
Havers, Rt Hon Sir MichaelPage, Richard (SW Herts)
Hawkins, Sir PaulParris, Matthew
Hayhoe, BarneyPatten, Christopher (Bath)
Henderson, BarryPatten, John (Oxford)
Hicks, RobertPattie, Geoffrey
Higgins, Rt Hon Terence L.Pawsey, James
Hogg, Hon Douglas (Gr'th'm)Percival, Sir Ian
Holland, Philip (Carlton)Pink, R. Bonner
Hooson, TomPollock, Alexander
Hordern, PeterPorter, Barry
Howell, Rt Hon D. (G'ldf'd)Prentice, Rt Hon Reg
Howell, Ralph (N Norfolk)Price, Sir David (Eastleigh)
Hunt, David (Wirral)Prior, Rt Hon James
Hunt, John (Ravensbourne)Proctor, K. Harvey
Hurd, Rt Hon DouglasRathbone, Tim
Irvine, RtHon Bryant GodmanRees-Davies, W. R.
Irving, Charles (Cheltenham)Renton, Tim
Jopling, Rt Hon MichaelRhodes James, Robert
Kaberry, Sir DonaldRhys Williams, Sir Brandon
Kellett-Bowman, Mrs ElaineRidley, Hon Nicholas
Kershaw, Sir AnthonyRidsdale, Sir Julian
Kimball, Sir MarcusRoberts, Wyn (Conway)
King, Rt Hon TomRossi, Hugh
Kitson, Sir TimothyRost, Peter
Knox, DavidRoyle, Sir Anthony
Lang, IanRumbold, Mrs A. C. R.
Langford-Holt, Sir JohnSainsbury, Hon Timothy
Latham, MichaelShaw, Giles (Pudsey)
Lawrence, IvanShaw, Sir Michael (Scarb')
Shelton, William (Streatham)Townend, John (Bridlington)
Shepherd, Colin (Hereford)Townsend, Cyril D, (B'heath)
Shepherd, Richardvan Straubenzee, Sir W.
Silvester, FredViggers, Peter
Sims, RogerWakeham, John
Skeet, T. H. H.Waldegrave, Mon William
Smith, Tim (Beaconsfield)Walker, B. (Perth)
Speed, KeithWalker-Smith, Rt Hon Sir D.
Speller, TonyWall, Sir Patrick
Spence, JohnWaller, Gary
Spicer, Jim (West Dorset)Walters, Dennis
Sproat, IainWard, John
Squire, RobinWarren, Kenneth
Stainton, KeithWatson, John
Stanbrook, IvorWells, Bowen
Stanley, JohnWheeler, John
Steen, AnthonyWhitelaw, Rt Hon William
Stewart, A.(E Renfrewshire)Whitney, Raymond
Stewart, Ian (Hitchin)Wickenden, Keith
Stokes, JohnWiggin, Jerry
Stradling Thomas, J.Williams, D.(Montgomery)
Tapsell, PeterWinterton, Nicholas
Taylor, Teddy (S'end E)Wolfson, Mark
Tebbit, Rt Hon NormanYoung, Sir George (Acton)
Temple-Morris, PeterYounger, Rt Hon George
Thatcher, Rt Hon Mrs M.
Thompson, DonaldTellers for the Noes:
Thorne, Neil (Ilford South)Mr. Carol Mather and
Thornton, MalcolmMr. Robert Boscawen.

Question accordingly negatived.

It being after Eight o'clock, MR. DEPUTY SPEAKER proceeded, pursuant to the Order [16 February] and the Resolution this day, to put forthwith the Questions necessary for the disposal of the business to be concluded at Eight o' clock.