Part of Orders of the Day — Housing (Scotland) Bill – in the House of Commons at 7:57 pm on 30th March 1988.

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Photo of Dennis Canavan Dennis Canavan , Falkirk West 7:57 pm, 30th March 1988

It is certainly formidable. It is incumbent upon the Minister to tell us why not one SSHA tenant has written to support the proposals.

Despite what the Minister may have said about listening to people, there is still a great deal of concern, particularly among SSHA tenants, about the effects that the Bill will have on their security of tenure, on future rent increases and the threat of privatisation. Tenants are also concerned about the Bill's lack of commitment to additional resources. Such a commitment is essential if we are to get to grips with the current housing crisis that besets the Scottish people.

The Government are not prepared to listen to the views of SSHA tenants. The consultative procedure has been an absolute farce because no significant concessions have been made in the Bill. The Minister has referred to Government amendments, but, by his admission, most of them were due to errors made in the original drafting of the Bill. Those amendments are technical and do not represent concessions.

On occasions I went upstairs to see how the Bill was faring. I have described the consultation process outside this House as farcical, but what took place in Committee was an insult to the Scottish people. Despite my hon. Friends' efforts to put up an excellent case, based on well-researched material and articulated arguments, there did not appear to be any meaningful dialogue. The Minister got up and read from prepared Civil Service scripts. Sometimes it appeared to me that the contents of those scripts did not even address the arguments my hon. Friends had made in Committee.

In Committee there did not appear to be any dialogue or meeting of minds. I have noticed that before, especially during Scottish questions. At Question Time, we all know that the Minister has about 12 options to answer possible supplementaries to a question put down two weeks in advance. Sometimes the answer that the Minister reads out to those supplementaries bears no relation to the question asked because he has got the wrong page. I believe that, all too often, that also happened in Committee. The Minister picked up the wrong brief and as a result there was no debate. He simply read prepared statements, some of which bore no relation to my hon. Friends' arguments.

When one is faced with such a situation it is difficult to wring concessions out of a Minister. I was not surprised on Report to discover that hardly any concessions had been made. The Government appear to treat parliamentary debates and the normal customs and traditions of the House with absolute contempt.

On one occasion when I visited the Committee I noticed an hon. Member whom I had not seen before and have not seen since. Someone told me that he represented Wanstead and Woodford. I thought Patrick Jenkin represented that constituency, but someone told me that he has been translated to another place. No doubt he is brushing his teeth in the dark, or in the sunlight of the House of Lords. The presence of not just one, but two English Tory Members, on that Committee was breaking a longstanding tradition of the House.