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I am glad to confirm to the hon. Member for Fife, Central (Mr. McLeish) that the moratorium on general housing has ended and that development corporations are now building general needs houses.
The hon. Member for East Kilbride (Mr. Ingram) raised these matters in Committee, and at that time I used the word "premature". I must do so again. The new clauses and amendments would give a district council the right compulsorily to acquire development corporation housing once an order for the winding up of the corporation had been made. The Opposition have ignored the reality that, under section 36 of the New Towns (Scotland) Act 1968, the district council is already in effect the only possible inheritor of a new town housing undertaking when the development corporation is wound up. It would take fresh legislation amending the wind-up provisions of the 1968 Act to change that. No such amendments are proposed in the Bill. We therefore have the curious prospect of a score of amendments proposing the very policy which is currently enshrined in statute.
That policy must come under question, however, because of the changes in the new towns over recent years. More than 21,000 new towns houses—over one third of the corporations' stock — have already been sold to tenants. The changes we have proposed to the discount restriction provisions in the Housing (Scotland) Act 1987 will mean that many more new town tenants will be entitled to buy their homes at full discount. The level of home ownership in the new towns has risen from 22 per cent. in 1980 to nearly 40 per cent. today.
We accept of course, that not all new town tenants want, or are able, to buy their homes. Under part III, they will be able, if they wish, to transfer the tenancy of their present home to a new landlord. Under clause 65, corporations, acting in full consultation with their tenants, will be able to sell groups of houses to alternative landlords. These measures are intended to introduce greater diversity into the pattern of ownership of housing in the towns. In particular, we see scope to develop community-based housing associations and co-operatives in the towns, providing a range of general as well as special needs housing.
I state quite clearly that no new towns tenant will be compelled, in advance of the winding up of the corporations, to transfer against his or her will to another landlord. If a tenant chooses to remain with the corporation, he or she will retain full security of tenure and statutory rights.
Against that background, it would be wholly inappropriate to adhere unquestioningly to the assumption that all remaining corporation housing should automatically transfer to local authorities at wind-up. That is not to say—in answer to the hon. Member for Fife, Central—that we have ruled out any possible role for local authorities. We have given a strong undertaking to review all the options, and to consult the district councils fully on them. Thereafter, we shall bring forward fresh proposals for amendments to the New Towns (Scotland) Act 1968. Obviously, that would be done not in the context of this Bill but much later.