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Applications Served on New Town Development Corporations

Part of Orders of the Day — Housing (Scotland) Bill – in the House of Commons at 11:15 pm on 29th March 1988.

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Photo of Adam Ingram Adam Ingram , East Kilbride 11:15 pm, 29th March 1988

There are two purposes behind the new clauses. They are designed to create the circumstances in which tenants may choose, on the dissolution of a new town development corporation, to have a local authority as a landlord. They also attempt to lay down the principles and basis of such a transfer, and they are consistent with the previously agreed position between local housing authorities and the Scottish Office. The Bill, as explained by the Minister in Committee, is a repudiation of previous Government assurances on new towns and destroys many months of work undertaken by Scottish Office officials in consultation with the five district councils within whose boundaries the new towns lie.

The present law on new town development corporations in Scotland, under section 36 of the New Towns (Scotland) Act 1968, provides for the transfer of new town district council housing stock to the relevant local authority. It is on that basis that assumptions have been made and assurances given by Ministers over recent years.

In July 1982, the Secretary of State made clear his intention to wind up the new town development corporations in Scotland. At that time he said that the rented housing stock owned by those bodies would be transferred to the relevant district councils. In early 1983 a working party was set up to examine the means by which that would be achieved. It comprised Scottish Office officials and representatives of district councils.

In August 1984 the working party reported. It set out the basis of the transfer on a no-profit, no-loss basis. More than a year's work went into arriving at that conclusion. The Minister took on board the working party's conclusions at the time, and in a ministerial statement confirmed yet again the Government's intention to transfer new town housing stock to local authorities. Therefore, the picture was clear to the 45,000 families who lived in new town corporation housing rented stock. Those families were secure in the knowledge that at some stage they would be transferred to responsible public sector landlords. That is no longer the case. New town tenants face a most uncertain future because of the Bill and the way in which it has been changed by Government amendments in Committee.

One thing that we shall be able to tell those 45,000 families with certainty is that they have been deliberately misled by a Minister who neither cares nor listens to their views. In Committee the Minister said that new town tenants would be consulted before they were compulsorily transferred to landlords other than district councils. Those 45,000 families know what that means. Views will be ignored, just as the views of the SSHA tenants have been ignored. We have heard more on that tonight from the Minister.

If the Minister intends to consult those tenants, I should place on record some consultation that has already taken place. That may save the Government time and money. Two councils with new towns within their boundaries have consulted their tenants in recent months in relation to this legislation. Cumbernauld and Kilsyth district council undertook a survey that was published on 29 February 1988. In an 11 per cent. sample of all new town tenants in Cumbernauld, 91·3 per cent. stated that they wished the district council to be one of the landlords from which they could choose on dissolution.

Cunninghame district council, which is responsible for Irvine new town, took an even larger sample of new town tenants, and achieved an 88 per cent. success rate amongst those tenants, who also stated that they wished the district council to be one of their options on dissolution.

I am sure that the Minister has been supplied with those findings. I shall be interested to hear what further consultation the Minister intends to offer in the immediate months for new town tenants which is relevant to those conclusions.

In Committee, the Opposition were accused of being premature in raising the very issues that are before us tonight in these new clauses. I must say that we were neither premature nor wrong in doing so. It is scandalous to treat the 45,000 families who live in new town district council houses in the way that they are being treated in the Bill. They have the right to know now whether they will be allowed the real choice that they clearly want—the district council. They have the right to know whether they will have a secure tenancy, with democratic control over rent levels in the future. Those are the choices on which they want to be consulted. They do not want to be told that the choice is limited and that the district council is no longer an option for them.

That clear message is coming not from Members of Parliament or district councils representing those areas, but from tenants. The Bill has provoked the tenants in new town areas to form tenants' associations. They are aware that they have a fight on their hands. They are going to fight to retain the very rights that were laid down in previous legislation—rights that they thought Ministers from 1982 onwards were declaring in terms of the choice open to them.

The Government have said that the new town tenants will have to wait until 1989–90 to find out what is going to happen to them. We have tabled these new clauses to reflect the wishes of each and every family living in a new town development corporation rented house. This provision also represents the views of many people who live in their own property. They want local authority houses and local development corporation houses to be retained for the families which are being brought up in those new towns.