Orders of the Day — Housing (Scotland) Bill

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 8:30 pm on 11th January 1988.

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Photo of Mr Jimmy Dunnachie Mr Jimmy Dunnachie , Glasgow Pollok 8:30 pm, 11th January 1988

Thank you, Madam Deputy Speaker, for granting me the opportunity to speak on the Bill, which is one of the most serious issues facing the Scottish people. The Bill has created great anxiety in my constituency. It is a direct attack on meagre resources and basic rights. It is not a real solution to the major housing problems in Scotland. It is instead an attack on the power of local authorities in Scotland.

Encouraging private bodies or companies to invest in rented housing will not solve Scotland's major housing problem. It will not do anything for the 200,000 people who are on the local housing lists. It will do little to cure the dampness which is a health hazard that affects the homes of 120,000 Scottish children. The Bill will not ease the plight 'of the 31,000 people who are homeless in Scotland. That figure is rising every week. Instead, the Bill will punish the local authorities for the good work which, despite the lack of funds, they have already begun. I refer to Glasgow district council and the great assistance that it has given to housing associations, tenants, co-operatives and par-value co-operatives.

The Bill will turn the clock back to the dark old days of the private landlord and will take away the benefits of post-war housing policy in cities such as Glasgow. In 1947 about 65 per cent. of all rented accommodation in Scotland was in the private sector and the vast majority were slums, without hot water, baths or toilets. Few repairs were done because all that the landlord was interested in was profit. Amidst all that housing squalor, a Labour Government empowered local authorities to embark on a massive building programme of council houses. That gave hope to many people in Scotland—a hope which had previously been denied them because they had been forced to live in private rented housing. However, this Government want to return to a system that produced yesterday's slums.

Indeed, the Government want to go further and to create a two-tier tenants structure, which will further widen the gap that already exists between the haves and the have-nots in today's society. The first type of tenant will be able to afford to pay a fair and economic rent. At least in theory, that tenant should be able to get repairs done. However, the second class of tenant created by the Tories is not so fortunate. He will be deemed unable to pay a fair and economic rent and will get little or no help with housing repairs. That will create ghettoes instead of inner-city regeneration that the Government promised last June. The unemployed, low-wage earners, single parent families, senior citizens and the homeless will all be sacrificed for the Tory principles which dictate that private investment must be rewarded with fat profits.

Both types of tenant lack a further security. There is nothing in the Bill to prevent unscrupulous landlords from increasing rents and refusing to carry out repairs. The Bill also brings back the fear of eviction. A landlord can apply for an order to evict a tenant for non-payment of rent or, indeed, for a record of late payment.

There is a further lack of security in the area of tenancy rights, which has been left rather vague in the Bill because it is open to landlord manipulation. What of the concept of Scottish Homes? Again, that is a further attack on local authorities, which, in the past, have stopped Governments imposing financial penalties on people who can ill afford to pay them. The Bill means that a democratically elected housing authority will be replaced by a Government-sponsored quango. The people who will form that body will follow Tory housing policies, irrespective of the hardship and the suffering that they will cause their fellow men and women. The entire goal is a giant step towards an erosion of democracy and social justice in what was once a caring society. Therefore, I ask the House to oppose the Bill.