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I am outraged by this abridgement of debate. Somewhere on your desk, Madam Deputy Speaker, is a letter that I sent to Mr. Speaker last Thursday saying that I wanted to speak about housing action trusts. I promised the occupants of 3,000 dwellings, who are part of a HAT, that I would try to say something on their behalf, but there will be little opportunity to do so if the motion is passed.
Those tenants have won a victory. At Question Time last Wednesday, I asked the Secretary of State whether he would accept a ballot by the tenants, but he dismissed the proposition arrogantly. We now have government not by Parliament but by Dimbleby, and on Sunday the Earl of Caithness told David Dimbleby that, contrary to what the Secretary of State told me last week, there would be a ballot by tenants. Although it is a victory, it is not sufficient. We should have preferred the Lords amendment to be passed, but at least it is some advance.
Coupled with the concession made on television on Sunday was a threat of blackmail to 3,000 HAT tenants in my constituency. They were told that if they did not vote for a HAT they would not receive a slice of the £192 million that the Government are allocating to HATs. If the Secretary of State had done that during a parliamentary election he would have been convicted of corrupt practices. He is engaging in blackmail and demanding with menaces by saying, "If you do not vote for a HAT you will not receive a share of the money." On the one hand, tenants are being asked to vote for the Secretary of State's proposals, but on the other for a denial of those funds and a continuation of damp and too much asbestos. They are being asked to choose between the Secretary of State and cockroaches. Some would say that that is a difficult choice to make, but there is a more serious side to this matter. Those 3,000 homes will not be any different whether they are in or out of a HAT. There will still be the same damp and the same lack of insulation. They will still need improvement and will not be sufficiently heated; some will need money spent on them.
My constituents want to explore with the Secretary of State the reason why they will be bribed to vote for a HAT or be denied access to the money. I have no doubt that they will vote against a HAT, but if the Secretary of State wants to save time he should remove part III of the Bill. Once there has been a ballot, HATs will be as dead as the dodo.