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When the Bill was introduced by the former Minister for housing and Planning, the hon. Member for Bristol, West (Mr. Waldegrave), it was heralded as the most radical housing Bill this century. The offensive tactics that the Government have used as the Bill progressed through Committee, Report stage and the other place were certainly radical. It is strange that the Government are surprised that we oppose the Bill so vigorously. They are trying to reverse an important principle that was enshrined many years ago in the Housing Acts of Addison and Wheatley—that housing should be provided on the basis of need, at a reasonable cost, and that profit should not be made from that provision. It should be a social provision. The Bill would completely undermine that principle.
The Government have been creative in the provision of information to the public about what has happened in Parliament. They have not always told the truth. On 6 November, on the programme "On the Record", which seems to be more effective in obtaining answers from the Government than anyone else, the Earl of Caithness—under pressure—promised twice in the interview that tenants transferring into housing action trusts would have the right to vote and that a simple majority would suffice. That has not happened. We are told that many of the amendments are technical, but examination of the Official Report of the other place reveals that there was no debate of some amendments. Among the amendments which we have been denied the right to debate tonight are those in the group headed by Lords amendment No. 92. They are classed as technical, but they could be used to asset-strip local authorities as some of their housing stock could be forcibly removed. We have been denied the opportunity to question the Minister on those amendments which hitherto have been moved formally and not explained.
The Government are attempting to face both ways when it comes to what they consider democratic. All but the most partisan—unfortunately, the deliberately partisan have a majority in the House—regard the Government's proposals as undemocratic and unprincipled. The Government have confirmed us in that belief time and again by denying us the right to explore what is going on.
The Government have proposed a curious voting system. As my hon. Friend the Member for Brent, South (Mr. Boateng) said, the dead and those who do not vote are deemed to have voted in favour of a transfer. The Government call it the inertia vote. [Interruption.] They gave reasons for it. In a quite different document, the Government talk of a new model active citizen—