Lords Amendments

School Boards (Scotland) Bill and Housing Bill (Allocation of Time) – in the House of Commons at 9:35 am on 11th November 1988.

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1.—(1) The proceedings on consideration of Lords Amendments to the School Boards (Scotland) Bill shall, if not previously brought to a conclusion, be brought to a conclusion four hours after the commencement of the proceedings on the Motion for this Order.

(2) The proceedings on further consideration of Lords Amendments to the Housing Bill shall, if not previously brought to a conclusion, be brought to a conclusion six hours after the commencement of the proceedings on the Motion for this Order.

(3) Paragraph (1) of Standing Order No. 14 (Exempted business), as applied by paragraph (2) of Standing Order No. 11 (Friday sittings), shall apply to the proceedings on each of the Bills.

(4) No dilatory Motion with respect to, or in the course of, the proceedings on either of the Bills shall be made except by a member of the Government, and the Question on any such Motion shall be put forthwith.

(5) If the proceedings on either of the Bills are interrupted under paragraph (4) of Standing Order No. 11 (Friday sittings) a period equal to the duration of the business taken under that paragraph shall be added to the period at the end of which the proceedings on each of the Bills are to be brought to a conclusion.

(6) If the House is adjourned or the sitting is suspended before the expiry of the period at the end of which the proceedings on either of the Bills are to be brought to a conclusion, no notice shall be required of a Motion made at the next sitting by a member of the Government for varying or supplementing the provisions of this Order.

2.—(1) For the purpose of bringing any proceedings on either of the Bills to a conclusion in accordance with paragraph 1 above—

  1. (a) Mr. Speaker shall first put forthwith any Question which has already been proposed from the Chair and not yet decided and, if that Question is for the amendment of the Lords Amendment, shall then put forthwith the Question on any further Amendment to the said Lords Amendment moved by a Minister of the Crown and on any Motion made by a Minister of the Crown, That this House doth agree or disagree with the Lords in the said Lords Amendment, or, as the case may be, in the said Lords Amendment, as amended;
  2. (b) Mr. Speaker shall then designate such of the remaining Lords Amendments to the Bill in question as appear to him to involve questions of Privilege and shall—
    1. (i)put forthwith the Question on any Amendment moved by a Minister of the Crown to a Lords Amendment to that Bill and then put forthwith the Question on any Motion made by a Minister of the Crown, That this House doth agree or disagree with the Lords in their Amendment, or as the case may be, in their Amendment, as amended;
    2. (ii) put forthwith the Question on any Motion made by a Minister of the Crown, That this House doth disagree with the Lords in a Lords Amendment to that Bill;
    3. (iii) put forthwith with respect to the Amendments to that Bill designated by Mr. Speaker which have not been disposed of the Question, That this House doth agree with the Lords in the said Amendments; and
    4. (iv) put forthwith the Question, That this House doth agree with the Lords in all the remaining Lords Amendments to that Bill;
  3. (c) as soon as the House has agreed or disagreed with the Lords in any of their Amendments to the Bill in question Mr. Speaker shall put forthwith the Question that all other Amendments to that Bill moved by a Minister of the Crown relevant to that Lords Amendment be made.

(2) Proceedings under sub-paragraph (1) above shall not be interrupted under any Standing Order relating to the sittings of the House.

Stages subsequent to first Consideration of Lords Amendments

3. The proceedings on any further Message from the Lords on either of the Bills shall, if not previously brought to a conclusion, be brought to a conclusion one hour after the commencement of those proceedings.

4. For the purpose of bringing those proceedings to a conclusion—

  1. (a) Mr. Speaker shall first put forthwith any Question which has already been proposed from the Chair and not yet decided, and shall then put forthwith the Question on any Motion made by a Minister of the Crown which is related to the Question already proposed from the Chair;
  2. (b) Mr. Speaker shall then designate such of the remaining items in the Lords Message as appear to him to involve questions of Privilege and shall—
    1. (i) put forthwith the Question on any Motion made by a Minister of the Crown on any item;
    2. (ii) in the case of the remaining items designated by Mr. Speaker, put forthwith the Question, That this House doth agree with the Lords in their said Proposals; and
    3. (iii) put forthwith the Question, That this House doth agree with the Lords in all the remaining Lords Proposals.

Supplemental

5.—(1) In this paragraph 'the proceedings' means proceedings on any further Message from the Lords on either of the Bills, on the appointment and quorum of a Committee to draw up Reasons and the Report of such a Committee.

(2) Mr. Speaker shall put forthwith the Question on any Motion made by a Minister of the Crown for the consideration forthwith of the Message or, as the case may be, for the appointment and quorum of the Committee.

(3) A Committee appointed to draw up Reasons shall report before the conclusion of the sitting at which it is appointed.

(4) Paragraph (1) of Standing Order No. 14 (Exempted business) shall apply to the proceedings.

(5) No dilatory Motion with respect to, or in the course of, the proceedings shall be made except by a member of the Government, and the Question on any such Motion shall be put forthwith.

(6) If the proceedings are interrupted by a Motion for the Adjournment of the House under Standing Order No. 20 (Adjournment on specific and important matter that should have urgent consideration) a period equal to the duration of the proceedings on the Motion shall be added to the period at the end of which the proceedings are to be brought to a conclusion.

Interpretation

6. In this Order 'the Bills' means the School Boards (Scotland) Bill and the Housing Bill.

During the debate on the motion to allocate time for the Local Government Finance Bill on 22 February the right hon. Member for Blaenau Gwent (Mr. Foot), who is always the doyen of these occasions, urged me to take no more timetable motions before 20 July—the anniversary of his memorable day of timetable debates. He believed that guillotines could best be defended if they came near the end of a Session, to prevent Bills from being lost. I hope that the fact that this motion is moved almost four months after that date and just two days before the end of the Session will secure the right hon. Gentleman's approval.

The purpose of the motion is fundamental to the operation of this place. One of the principles underlying our work is that finally, however hotly contested any piece of legislation may be, the elected Government are entitled to get their business. But the use of a timetable motion to ensure that needs to be balanced against another basic requirement: that the Opposition have certain rights, among them sufficient opportunity to develop their case against the Government's proposals. In the case of each of these two Bills there can be no doubt that the Opposition have had their opportunity, and that the House has rejected their arguments.

The School Boards (Scotland) Bill received a Second Reading by a substantial majority on 12 April after a full day's debate. It was then considered in Committee for 14 sittings, and was discussed on the Floor of the House for a further full day on Report and Third Reading. The amount of time provided for it was agreed by all parties in the House.

The time available for consideration of the Housing Bill was, as the House will recall, more controversial. On the third day of Report stage, on 14 June, the Opposition undertook that if the House debated the Bill throughout that night the Bill would be completed on the 15th. That undertaking was not fulfilled. With negotiation and good will we were nevertheless able to agree that a further day should be available for remaining stages, making four parliamentary but five calendar days in all. Despite what the hon. Member for Bristol, South (Miss Primarolo) said on Wednesday, we did not seek to timetable the Bill but proceeded by agreement—ultimately—as to the amount of time needed. Indeed, the hon. Member for Holborn and St. Pancras (Mr. Dobson), thanked me for the time we had provided. Before the Bill left this place it had already received more than 175 hours of debate; it received a further 64 hours' consideration in another place.

Furthermore, neither Bill has had a disrupted passage through the other place. Of the 21 amendments made there to the School Boards (Scotland) Bill, four are technical, two are minor drafting amendments, 14 are concessions to points made by Opposition Peers and the remaining one is uncontroversial. While there are significantly more amendments to the Housing Bill—some 270—the vast majority are technical and drafting matters, with perhaps only about 30 dealing with matters of substance.

Photo of Mr Nigel Spearing Mr Nigel Spearing , Newham South

I am grateful to the Minister for giving way at this point because it will help to clear up a matter of fact to which I may wish to allude if I catch Mr. Speaker's eye. Is it not a fact that, if the Leader of the House had so wished, we could have debated on Wednesday those 270 or 30 substantive changes for another nine hours, that he could have reported progress at about lunchtime, that no disruption to any other business would have occurred and that this morning we could have been discussing the problem of homelessness? Is that not a parliamentary and factual account of what could have happened?

Photo of Mr John Wakeham Mr John Wakeham , Colchester South and Maldon

The hon. Gentleman is wrong. If we had continued at the rate of progress that we had made up to the point when we adjourned, we should have lost both Thursday's and Friday's business and still would not have got the Bill. I shall make that clear in a minute.

Photo of Dennis Skinner Dennis Skinner Member, Labour Party National Executive Committee, Party Chair, Labour Party

The Leader of the House argues that the Government have only so much time within which to pass their legislation and that therefore they have to introduce a guillotine, even though they have a majority over the Labour party of about 150. If the Government are short of parliamentary time, why did they allow the introduction of private Bills such as the North Killingholme Cargo Terminal Bill and the Associated British Ports (No. 2) Bill to which they allocated countless hours, with the Prime Minister trotting through the Lobby, and why did they organise two-line Whips? They could have used some of that time to discuss this Bill, but rather than do so they gave way to South African coal imports.

Photo of Mr John Wakeham Mr John Wakeham , Colchester South and Maldon

The hon. Gentleman knows perfectly well that the question of which private Bills are brought before the House is a matter not for me but for the Chairman of Ways and Means. The hon. Gentleman is entirely wrong. I am complaining not about the shortage of parliamentary time but about the way in which the adequate amount of parliamentary time has been used by the hon. Gentleman and his colleagues.

Photo of Simon Hughes Simon Hughes Shadow Spokesperson (Education)

I am grateful to the Leader of the House for referring to what is left to debate—30 groups containing matters of substance across the whole range of questions that are dealt with in the Housing Bill. Does he concede that in no circumstances is it ideal that those matters, some of which were introduced for the first time in the other place, should be debated at the end of the parliamentary year, particularly since the Secretary of State for the Environment has introduced a completely new Bill that has taken up the time of the House, during which we could have dealt with this Bill, many of whose subjects remain undebated in this place?

Photo of Mr John Wakeham Mr John Wakeham , Colchester South and Maldon

Of course it is not ideal to have a timetable motion, but a substantial amount of time has already been devoted to the Bill. Some of that time has not been used effectively, and something must be done about it. All Governments and Parliaments get into this classic situation at some stage and decisions have to be made. I am putting forward proposals to resolve the mater which will be best for all concerned. I hope that the hon. Gentleman will support me.

Photo of Mr Tony Marlow Mr Tony Marlow , Northampton North

My right hon. Friend the Leader of the House is very kind. This side of the House takes the view that the introduction of timetable motions is a great kindness to the Opposition, given the devastating by-election result last night in Govan and their need to look after and foster their constituencies.

Photo of Mr John Wakeham Mr John Wakeham , Colchester South and Maldon

I thank my hon. Friend for his kind words. I wondered how long the debate would continue before Govan was mentioned. A period of silent contemplation is more appropriate in certain quarters than discussion of that matter.

I was dealing with the question of the—[Interruption.] May I welcome my hon. Friend the Member for Tayside, North (Mr. Walker) to the House. I was dealing with the question of the amendments to the Housing Bill, of which 30 deal with matters of substance. Of these, well over half are items which the Opposition have welcomed, are likely to welcome, or have tabled themselves. All the Government amendments to this Bill in the Lords were agreed to without a Division. Thus there is no reason to think that it would not be possible to agree the amount of time for this House to consider the amendments. When I announced last week that they would be taken on 9 November, together with amendments to the School Boards (Scotland) Bill, there was not a word of complaint or concern from the Opposition Front Bench or Back Benches.

Yet it is clear that by Wednesday night the arrangement between the Government and the official Opposition was not generally acceptable to the House. In eight hours of discussion, only nine of the 53 groups of amendments had been considered. If we had maintained the same rate of progress, we should have required about another 40 hours to complete consideration of the Bill. Had we continued to sit, that would have meant losing yesterday's and today's business.

Photo of Mr Nigel Spearing Mr Nigel Spearing , Newham South

The right hon. Gentleman is wrong. Will he give way?

Photo of Mr John Wakeham Mr John Wakeham , Colchester South and Maldon

I gave way to the hon. Member for Newham, South (Mr. Spearing) on a question of fact. If he wishes to make a speech, that is not a matter for me, but if he does I shall listen with interest to what he has to say.

Photo of Mr John Wakeham Mr John Wakeham , Colchester South and Maldon

It seemed to me that the best way to proceed in an orderly fashion was to adjourn our consideration and bring forward this motion today. [Interruption.] I do not believe that facts are a matter for debate, as they seem to be with the Opposition. Facts are stated and then one can debate their consequences.

Photo of Mr John Wakeham Mr John Wakeham , Colchester South and Maldon

The hon. Member for Nottingham, North (Mr. Allen) will, as usual, put forward his authoritative interpretation of events, as he does on most matters.

The terms of the motion itself are intended to enable the House to make the use it thinks best of the six hours available. The motion is capable of being debated for three hours, and if the debate runs its full course a maximum of one hour would be left for consideration of the School Boards (Scotland) Bill, and a further two hours for the Housing Bill. If, however, the House spent less time discussing this motion and took the School Boards (Scotland) Bill formally, then that additional time within the total of six hours would become available for consideration of the Housing Bill where, I recognise, there is a large number of amendments outstanding. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh."] This has been done so that if the Opposition are as keen as they say they are to debate the issues relevant to the Housing Bill, they can choose to take up the extra time to do so.

At this stage of the Session, one's thoughts inevitably turn to Prorogation. This has been arranged for Tuesday 15 November and I believe it would be a major inconvenience to the House if that were altered. This being so, in order to secure our business, we need to be certain that our consideration of these Bills can be concluded today, not least because the Housing Bill is to return to another place.

Photo of Mr Clive Soley Mr Clive Soley , Hammersmith

Is it not a fact that this is the first time for more years than anybody can remember that a Government have got a major Bill into such an appalling mess that they have been unable to bring it back to this House until the day before the Session ends and that it would have fallen otherwise?

Photo of Mr John Wakeham Mr John Wakeham , Colchester South and Maldon

I reject entirely the hon. Gentleman's judgment. Whether this is a precedent seems to me not to matter. Every precedent happens for the first time. [Interruption.] That is absolutely right. If the hon. Gentleman will not take that from me, I suggest that he should look at what his right hon. Friend the Member for Blaenau Gwent said:

That is a powerful argument… All precedents have been set in this manner. Therefore, precedent of itself is not a conclusive argument."—[Official Report, 14 March 1968; Vol. 760, c. 1703.] Already we have completed almost all the ambitious legislative programme we set out to achieve in June last year. We must ensure that these two Bills are not lost. Both contain important reforms: in the case of the School Boards (Scotland) Bill, the involvement of parents in their children's education; and, in the case of the Housing Bill, measures which will go a long way towards improving the housing situation in this country. Both will substantially increase individual choice and will be widely welcomed.

I urge the House to support the motion.

Photo of Frank Dobson Frank Dobson Chair, House of Commons (Services): Computer Sub-Committee, Shadow Leader of the House of Commons 9:49 am, 11th November 1988

The guillotine motion which the Leader of the House has just proposed is quite extraordinary, as it proposes that the House should devote to 62 pages of proposed legislation that affects the housing of more than 5 million tenants less time than most Conservative Members would expect their lawyers to devote to the buying and selling of their homes.

We have this extraordinary motion because we are in a most extraordinary situation. The Government's business managers have the benefit of a majority of 100 in the House. They have a guaranteed majority among the geriatrics in the other place. We are approaching the end of one of the longest Sessions in parliamentary history. It has gone from June 1987 to November 1988, and is laughably called a parliamentary year. Nevertheless, the Government need to guillotine two Bills on the last but one sitting day of the Session. Nothing could demonstrate more effectively the incompetence of their business managers.

This is a record bit of incompetence. This is the first parliamentary Session in history—[Interruption.] If the chairman of the 1922 Committee would like to get his bottom off his seat, I shall be happy to give way to him.

Photo of Mr Cranley Onslow Mr Cranley Onslow , Woking

I am most grateful to the hon. Gentleman for giving way, and I hope that he will answer my question. He talks of incompetence, but where was his Chief Whip when the shambles was going on among Labour Members? They were an undisciplined rabble again.

Photo of Frank Dobson Frank Dobson Chair, House of Commons (Services): Computer Sub-Committee, Shadow Leader of the House of Commons

There was no shambles on this side of the House. Opposition Members—I do not mean only members of my party—were anxious about matters affected by the Bill and wanted to debate them properly. They wanted enough time to do that.

Photo of Dennis Skinner Dennis Skinner Member, Labour Party National Executive Committee, Party Chair, Labour Party

So much attention was being paid to this matter the other night that even the hon. Member for Southwark and Bermondsey (Mr. Hughes), who normally gets home by 12 midnight, became incensed and stayed as well.

Photo of Frank Dobson Frank Dobson Chair, House of Commons (Services): Computer Sub-Committee, Shadow Leader of the House of Commons

I was quite right not to claim a monopoly of concern on this matter.

I spoke to the Clerks last night. They were reluctant to believe me when I asserted that this must be a record Session. When they checked, they confirmed that this is the first time in parliamentary history that a Government have guillotined as many as six Bills in one Session. The Government guillotined the Education Reform Bill, the poll tax Bill, the Firearms (Amendment) Bill, the Social Security Bill and now we are expected to guillotine the School Boards (Scotland) Bill and the Housing Bill. That tally is based on the strictest reckoning. There were in fact two Education Reform Bills. The first Bill was so altered by the inclusion of provisions to abolish the Inner London education authority that the Bill had to be brought back to the House and reguillotined so that the Government could get it through. We could argue, therefore, that the record is even bigger and that the Government have guillotined seven Bills in one Session.

The previous record was five, which has happened three times, but never in the extended first Session of a Parliament. That demonstrates how incompetent the Government are. They have been reduced to imposing a guillotine six times in one of the longest Sessions in history. It has been a complete mess. With all the advantages—the length of time and the size of their majority—the Government have been reduced to this. That demonstrates their incompetence, particularly the incompetence of the Leader of the House and the Government Chief Whip, who is not present.

Perhaps the latter should revert to his old title of Patronage Secretary. If what I have been told by Tory Members is true—I leave it to Conservative Members to decide whether their colleagues tell the truth—the Patronage Secretary went around last week persuading some of his flock to vote for charges for dental and optical check-ups by promising them extra money for hospitals in their constituencies. No doubt the right hon. and learned Gentleman wants to go down in history as "Porkbarrel Waddington" or "Dodgy Dave". What he was not doing, however, was organising the Government's business.

We are today being asked to impose a guillotine on the consideration of Lords amendments to two Bills. Both are obnoxious and do not have the support of the people who will be most affected by them—parents and teachers in Scotland and public and private tenants in England, Scotland and Wales. The School Boards (Scotland) Bill was described well by my hon. Friend the Member for Glasgow, Garscadden (Mr. Dewar) in the debate on 12 April when he urged the House to reject the Bill because it pays only lip service to the genuine need to encourage parental involvement in Scotland's schools, will divide parents and teachers, has been rejected by educational opinion and has now been revealed as a paving measure for alien and irrelevant plans to allow schools to opt out of the public sector, which can only damage the proud and distinctive educational tradition in Scotland."—[Official Report, 12 April 1988; Vol. 131, c. 43.] How right he was.

In view of my hon. Friend's comments, it might be reasonable to expect the Lords amendments to be obnoxious, but they are not. They are quite technical and in many cases simply correct sloppy drafting by the Government. Surely the Government do not need a guillotine to force through debates on such momentous changes as, delete 'one third' and insert 'one half' or, insert 'as often as appears to be necessary'". whatever that might mean. Why do they need a guillotine to get 21 such small and insignificant amendments through?

Photo of Graham Allen Graham Allen , Nottingham North

Does my hon. Friend agree that it will be extremely difficult to explain to people outside that although we had a lengthy summer recess and will not sit Wednesday, Thursday and Friday of next week, or on Monday of the following week, we are short of time in which to discuss matters of great importance to many people?

Photo of Frank Dobson Frank Dobson Chair, House of Commons (Services): Computer Sub-Committee, Shadow Leader of the House of Commons

There is something in what my hon. Friend says, but we should bear in mind what my hon. Friend the Member for Bolsover (Mr. Skinner) said. At the behest of the Prime Minister, at the behest of the chairman of P and O no doubt, the Government decided that they were so committed to getting P and O's shoddy, bought planning permission Bill through the House that they sacrificed a whole day of Government business and then trousered the £100,000 contribution to Tory party funds which was the pay-off for their squalid arrangement. That is how part of the House's time has been used.

The Lords amendments to the Housing Bill are in a quite different category. They are not at all like the minor and limited amendments to the School Boards (Scotland) Bill. There are 273 Lords amendments to change the law on housing in England. Wales and Scotland. Those amendments have attracted 43 further Commons amendments, eight of which have been tabled by the Secretary of State himself. As far as we know, the Government originally intended those 273 amendments to be dealt with by 10 pm on Wednesday of this week. The debate started at 5.12 pm, leaving four hours 48 minutes for the debate which was less than one minute for each amendment. That was the ludicrous proposition that was put before us.

It is not as if the Bill is not important and complicated. It is extremely important and complicated and requires a great deal of time for detailed consideration. If any Conservative Members challenge that, they should be asked why, if they were so keen to get the Bill through quickly, it took them from 15 March until 9 June to formulate further amendments after the Bill came out of Committee and before it came back to the House on Report. If it took the Government and their civil servants three months to cobble together the amendments, why were we expected to deal with those amendments in about three days? The Leader of the House claimed that there was an agreement with him that if we did X, Y and Z the Bill would get through, but that is not true. It was not true at the time, and the fact that he repeats it at the Dispatch Box does not make it any more true today.

Nobody should forget that in the middle of the row about progress on the Housing Bill, the right hon. Gentleman went to see my right hon. Friend the Deputy Leader of the Opposition and threatened, "If you do not lay off on the Housing Bill, we will not be able to get the Short money for Opposition parties through the House." That is the standard of conduct that was being used to drive the Bill through the House earlier this year. We continue to object to such practices.

Photo of Simon Hughes Simon Hughes Shadow Spokesperson (Education)

Does the hon. Gentleman agree that the row was not simply across the Chamber? One of the reasons for the delay of many months was an internal dispute in the Department of the Environment between Ministers charged with the passage of the Bill over what the Bill should contain. We were given many promises about concepts which would become law, but which never materialised.

Photo of Frank Dobson Frank Dobson Chair, House of Commons (Services): Computer Sub-Committee, Shadow Leader of the House of Commons

I entirely agree with the hon. Gentleman. We should have loved to be party to the aristocratic discussions about ordinary people's housing that were taking place between the Secretary of State and the then Minister for Housing and Planning. I am sure that they would have been most revealing.

The Bill, whether or not it has been amended by the Lords, reveals modern Toryism in its crudest form. It ultimately intends to offer two alternative forms of tenure: to be an owner-occupier, or to be a private tenant, no doubt of a Tory landlord. The object of the Bill is to take away security, drive up rents and, ultimately, to get rid of public sector housing, which has offered decent standards of housing, a decent level of security and affordable rents to millions of people, as it has been demonstrated for decades that the private commercial sector is, and will always be, incapable of providing a decent home for people who are not very well off at rents that they can afford, and maintaining those homes in a decent condition. Private landlords have never been able to do that. Nothing will be changed by passing a law in the House. It will remain impossible for private landlords to do a decent job for ordinary people.

Photo of David Winnick David Winnick , Walsall North

Does my hon. Friend agree that, apart from all the harm that the Bill will do in the public sector, it will endanger those who have reasonable accommodation in the private sector who are subject to regulated tenancies and who will be at the mercy of landlords who will know that when those tenants are evicted—legally or otherwise—the accommodation can be relet at market rents? Therefore, once again there is the potential danger of Rachmanism.

Photo of Frank Dobson Frank Dobson Chair, House of Commons (Services): Computer Sub-Committee, Shadow Leader of the House of Commons

My hon. Friend is right, but the Bill goes further than that. Under the assured tenancy concept in the Bill, the Government are trying to create the impression that something is assured for the tenant. The only things assured for the tenant are insecurity and higher rents.

I believe that the Bill is a precursor to removing whatever security private tenants now have and that we will have another Housing Bill in which the Government will try to line the pockets of their landlord friends and remove all security of tenure from private tenants. The Bill is a landlords' charter. It will encourage property speculators to roam council estates trying to identify those which they think they can buy up, tart up and sell off. The Government say that they have provided some protection against that by giving the tenants the opportunity to vote on whether they want a private landlord. That is all very well, until we discover the terms under which those referenda will be conducted. If General Pinochet had conducted the recent plebiscite in Chile on the basis on which the Government have said that tenants will be allowed to choose whether to have a private landlord, he would have won the referendum despite the views of the people of Chile.

Under the Bill, even the dead will be able to vote for a private landlord. In some senses that is quite reasonable, or at least logical, because only the brain dead would vote for a private landlord. That brings me to the House of Lords. Some people have said that they had hoped the House of Lords would introduce a more democratic element into the Bill. They do not realise that the full title of the House of Lords is the house of landlords. Most of them are landlords. They voted to impose the poll tax because they will do so well out of it financially. It will be interesting to know how many noble gentlemen and ladies declared an interest because of the money that they stood to make if the measures were passed, because they strengthen the hands and line the pockets and handbags of private landlords. In view of some of the backwoods people who were dragged out to support the Bill in the House of Lords, I understand how they might sympathise with the idea that the dead should be allowed to vote. That would guarantee an even bigger Tory majority in the other place.

The Bill does nothing to help most people presently living in public sector housing or private rented accommodation. Opposition Members are convinced that the Bill will create homelessness. Where will people go if they cannot afford to pay the new rents? Who will have the obligation to house them, and will those who have that obligation have any houses for them? There are no houses for them now. That is why they are reduced to living in lodgings. At the moment, about 10,000 of our fellow citizens in London live in filthy, stinking, rotting, verminous and vile bed-and-breakfast accommodation.

Conservative Members would not like the idea of living with their children in one room of a bed-and-breakfast hotel. None of them would like to think that their children, having had an interrupted night, and with no opportunity to relax and no space in which to play, had to get up in the morning and go to school. Conservative Members, particularly the right hon. Member for Mole Valley (Mr. Baker), who poses as the Secretary of State for Education and Science, criticise teachers for not doing a good job. How can they do a good job with a small child who has not had a decent sleep, or anything decent to eat in the morning, no relaxation and no place in which to play? That is the position before this preposterous Housing Bill becomes law. Many people will become homeless after its passage.

It is logical that the Bill should harm the homeless, because it was the product of a White Paper on housing that talked about the housing of everyone except those who most need it—the people who are already homeless. The White Paper produced by the Secretary of State did not even mention the word "homeless". The right hon. Gentlemen pays so much attention to the problems of homelessness, which is at record levels, that he cannot even get the word into his White Paper.

I am glad that the Secretary of State is here today, because he was following a precedent that he set. He is good at leaving out important words. He was the man who laid down the rules for the future conduct of London Regional Transport. Faced with an Act of Parliament which said that LRT should consider economy, efficiency and safety, he wrote an 838-word letter telling LRT what its priorities were, but he did not mention the word "safety". It was all about economising and so-called efficiency. This Bill is all of a piece with the Secretary of State's record. He did not mention safety for people travelling on the Underground, and he does not mention homelessness when he is talking about housing.

That is the sort of person who, in a most incompetent manner, is presiding over the Bill. I feel rather sorry for the Leader of the House. It must be terrible having to cope with the right hon. Gentleman, whose incompetence and arrogance are an amazing combination.

This obnoxious Bill was not substantially improved by the House of Lords, and the House should have the opportunity to set right what the other place has done wrong. It should be given the time to put back into the Bill the measures which my hon. Friend the Member for Hammersmith (Mr. Soley) has worked so hard to include. We must try to make a tolerable measure out of this intolerable Bill.

The Leader of the House heaped paeons of praise on himself for all the Bills that the Government had managed to get through this Session. Many of his friends in the Press Gallery—they were his friends until last Friday—said, "How clever he and the Prime Minister are to get all this controversial legislation out of the way in the first Session." There is a curious assumption that the Housing Bill, the Local Government Act which introduced the poll tax and the Education Reform Act are unpopular only in Parliament. The Government know how unpopular the Housing Bill is now. Just wait until it is put into practice, and then they will know how popular it is outside.

Photo of Mr Robert Hughes Mr Robert Hughes , Harrow West 10:13 am, 11th November 1988

An engaging feature of the hon. Member for Holborn and St. Pancras (Mr. Dobson) is that he never allows facts to get in the way of the arguments that he wishes to put. He takes no account of what has happened in the House when he makes his standard speech, with the standard amount of abuse, on guillotine motions.

I welcome the guillotine motion—[HON. MEMBERS: "The hon. Gentleman always does".] Unlike those Opposition Members who are talking from a sedentary position, I served on the Standing Committee that considered the Housing Bill and was present during many of the debates. There was a big difference between the debates in Standing Committee and our debates on the Floor of the House.

Photo of John Battle John Battle , Leeds West

Does the hon. Gentleman agree that the Bill that has been returned to us from the House of Lords is vastly different from the Bill that we discussed in Committee and that we have a right to discuss those changes? Will he explain why the present proposals on the housing action trusts are different from those which we debated in Committee, or has he not noticed the changes?

Photo of Mr Robert Hughes Mr Robert Hughes , Harrow West

I always suspected that the hon. Member for Leeds, West (Mr. Battle) was not listening in Committee, and I have been proved right. My hon. Friend the Member for Bristol, West (Mr. Waldegrave), the former Minister for Housing and Planning, generously agreed to make many changes to the Bill in Standing Committee, with the standard words, "We shall return to this and produce our own amendment when the Bill goes to the other place." The fact that he so generously responded to points made on both sides of the Committee cannot be used by the hon. Gentleman as a criticism. My hon. Friend kept his word and amendments were introduced in the other place. Of course, the Bill is different, but that is because of the points that were made during genuine debate in Committee.

Because of the Opposition's tactics we have not had a genuine debate on Report or on the Lords amendments to the Bill. I welcome the guillotine motion because I and many of my hon. Friends will wish to speak on some of the issues later today. We were not prepared to take part in a filibuster and time-wasting exercise by the Opposition. I remind the House of some of their tactics. To extend the debate on the homeless and to make a point about the housing conditions in some of our cities, on Report the hon. Member for Wentworth (Mr. Hardy) made bird noises in the Chamber. We heard long speeches, including one from the hon. Member for Bolsover (Mr. Skinner), that did not mention housing. The Report stage was a farce, and I was not prepared to take part in it.

During the debate on the Lords amendments, I and my hon. Friends listened with great interest, and with a sense of déjà vu, to a speech by the hon. Member for Makerfield (Mr. McCartney). It became clear that the hon. Gentleman was reading from the Hansard report of a speech that he had made in Committee. It did not make sense then, and he said it with even less conviction on this occasion.

Photo of Mrs Alice Mahon Mrs Alice Mahon , Halifax

To my knowledge, the hon. Gentleman made no speeches during any stages of the Bill—[HON. MEMBERS: "He did."]—or made very few on the issues that I have always raised, and raised the other night on the Floor of the House: homelessness, housing those with special needs, and the Government's disgraceful record on repairs. If the hon. Gentleman had been a little more forthcoming about some of the matters that he mentions now, we would have known his views on the Bill. He was silent for most of the time.

Photo of Mr Robert Hughes Mr Robert Hughes , Harrow West

I understand the hon. Lady's disappointment. In Committee, I moved two amendments to the Bill, one of which was successful. The hon. Lady moved many amendments, none of which was successful.

Photo of Ian McCartney Ian McCartney , Makerfield

The hon. Gentleman, not for the first time, has made a personal attack to hide the fact that he knows nothing about the plight of the homeless. I have made similar speeches in Committee, on Report and now because the Government have not yet answered the points made. I shall continue to say those things until the Government decide to deal with the problem of homelessness. The hon. Gentleman absented himself from the Committee on many occasions when he could have put his views on the homeless in London.

Photo of Mr Robert Hughes Mr Robert Hughes , Harrow West

I do not mind that attack from the hon. Gentleman. One has only to look at the records to note that my attendance rate was at least as good as that of the hon. Gentleman. I do not mind that.

I shall refer to some items that I would like to be discussed when we have a proper debate, rather than the Opposition's filibustering. The first item is homelessness. It is quite right that the Bill does not mention the word "homelessness". We do not need to mention the word "homelessness" to come up with solutions to the problem. The massive changes that are being made in housing supply—

Photo of John Battle John Battle , Leeds West

On a point of order, Madam Deputy Speaker. The Bill now mentions the word "homelessness". Perhaps the hon. Gentleman has not yet read it.

Photo of Miss Betty Boothroyd Miss Betty Boothroyd Deputy Speaker (Second Deputy Chairman of Ways and Means)

Order. That is not a point of order for the Chair; it is a point for debate.

Photo of Mr Robert Hughes Mr Robert Hughes , Harrow West

The variety of supply that this Housing Bill enshrines will be of enormous help to homeless people, and the added funds that will enable housing associations to do a better job will have a great effect on homelessness.

Another problem that will have a great effect on homelessness—I should like it to be discussed when we consider the remaining clauses of the Bill—is that of empty property. Opposition Members claim to be housing experts, but they are empty property experts. We have noticed that the people who speak loudest about the problem of homelessness in London come from boroughs in which Labour councils hang on to empty property and pretend that there is no way that they can fill it. They are the masters of empires of empty housing. The borough of Newham has several thousand empty properties.

The Inner London education authority—thankfully, to be taken from the people of London—has had some properties empty for 25 years. I can understand that it does not want to hurry itself into making a decision, but I am concerned about the people who could live in such houses. It is a disgrace that two properties in one road in Greenwich, which has a homeless persons problem, have been kept empty by the Inner London education authority and by the political friends of the Opposition for a long time.

Photo of Mr Matthew Carrington Mr Matthew Carrington , Fulham

Before my hon. Friend moves from the subject of homelessness and empty properties—a problem that has taxed many of us in London for many years—I should hate him not to mention the fact that Labour councils are not only keeping homes empty but Labour councils such as the London borough of Brent are keeping homes full of people—if reports are to be believed—from foreign parts, who perhaps have no entitlement to be there. The London borough of Brent does not realise that there is a black market in Nigeria—if that is the right expression—for filling homes with students who could well afford to pay for accommodation elsewhere.

Photo of Mr Robert Hughes Mr Robert Hughes , Harrow West

My hon. Friend has made an extremely important point. One thing that has kept so many flats and houses empty is the total chaos in which the Opposition's housing empires are run. If they try to rent out such properties, it would probably help if they had accurate records on whether they owned them. For instance, when the London borough of Tower Hamlets owned some property—I accept that that borough is now Liberal, but Opposition Members try to pretend that it is not—it would help if—

Photo of Patrick McLoughlin Patrick McLoughlin , West Derbyshire

On a point of order, Madam Deputy Speaker. I wonder whether it could be confirmed that the hon. Member for Hammersmith (Mr. Soley) is handing to Opposition Members copies of the Govan by-election result. If so, may Conservative Members have some, too?

Photo of Mr Robert Hughes Mr Robert Hughes , Harrow West

Many properties are being kept empty because of the confusion, bad management and lack of political will and direction of Labour councils in London.

Photo of Mr Rhodri Morgan Mr Rhodri Morgan , Cardiff West

The hon. Gentleman is making an important point about how better to use empty properties. Does he contest the statistics that show that the average level of empty property, as a percentage of total property, is lower among local authorities than among the empires, as he referred to them, of the Conservative Government?

Photo of Mr Robert Hughes Mr Robert Hughes , Harrow West

I accept that in the areas of most need in Greater London—in the centre of our city—thousands of properties are being kept empty by Labour councils. We should find that very unsatisfactory. Of course there are empty properties elsewhere, but, in areas of need, Labour councils are letting down the people of this country.

Photo of Mr John Bowis Mr John Bowis , Battersea

Will my hon. Friend confirm that, in London, there are 25,000 empty council properties, mostly in Labour-run authorities, and 7,500 families in bed-and-breakfast accommodation? Not one of the people to whom the hon. Member for Holborn and St. Pancras referred need have been in bed-and-breakfast accommodation or in the conditions to which he referred had his Labour authorities taken over such properties and put them back into use.

Photo of Mr Robert Hughes Mr Robert Hughes , Harrow West

My hon. Friend is absolutely right.

Photo of Mr Robert Hughes Mr Robert Hughes , Harrow West

It is significant that the hon. Member for Newham, South (Mr. Spearing) seeks to intervene. The borough that he protects and represents is one of the worst offenders when it comes to keeping properties empty.

Photo of Mr Nigel Spearing Mr Nigel Spearing , Newham South

Does the hon. Gentleman understand that no Labour council wishes to keep the homeless out of empty homes? Conservative Members should get some facts right. They know that, through the housing improvement programme, their Government cut money. In my constituency, there are 1,000 dwellings in the sky, because of the defective and rotten construction of tower blocks, for which private enterprise and bad design are responsible.

Photo of Mr Robert Hughes Mr Robert Hughes , Harrow West

Conservative Members should be generous and accept that, of course, Labour councils do not want to keep people out of that accommodation and that it is more a matter of incompetence than of not caring.

Photo of Mr Nicholas Bennett Mr Nicholas Bennett , Pembroke

The hon. Member for Newham, South (Mr. Spearing), who is in danger of losing his seat in the next election because he has the largest swing against him, overlooks one important point about the London borough of Newham. It does not collect its rent. It is owed more than £3 million. If it were to collect that money, it could bring into use some of its 2,400 empty properties.

Photo of Mr Robert Hughes Mr Robert Hughes , Harrow West

The interest of Conservative Members and the reaction of Opposition Members demonstrate that that is an important point: there are two distinct views that we should like to discuss. The Opposition's tactics have led to the necessity for a guillotine motion to enable Conservative Members to make their contributions and put the arguments that floor the Opposition.

Photo of Mrs Alice Mahon Mrs Alice Mahon , Halifax

On the question of repairing empty council housing, will the hon. Gentleman explain how my local authority, Calderdale, which has been Tory or Liberal-controlled for the past 10 or 12 years, has an £80 million bill to repair council housing? His Conservative friends on the council have blamed his Government.

Photo of Mr Robert Hughes Mr Robert Hughes , Harrow West

A council housing empire, whether run by the Conservative party or the Labour party, does not work well. Opposition Members make an art form out of not running council housing empires well.

Photo of James Paice James Paice , South East Cambridgeshire

It will not have escaped my hon. Friend's notice that, because of the shenanigans and filibustering here on Wednesday night, Conservative Members have been prevented from discussing housing and homelessness. We have lost the debate that should have taken place this morning on that very subject, when, no doubt, the House would have been regaled yet again by the same speech from the hon. Member for Makerfield (Mr. McCartney).

Photo of Mr Robert Hughes Mr Robert Hughes , Harrow West

I am grateful to my hon. Friend for his intervention.

I wish to move on now to housing action trusts.

Photo of Simon Hughes Simon Hughes Shadow Spokesperson (Education)

There is some amusement and concern among Opposition parties. The hon. Gentleman who has just intervened is unknown to Opposition Members. I wonder whether we could know who he is.

Photo of Miss Betty Boothroyd Miss Betty Boothroyd Deputy Speaker (Second Deputy Chairman of Ways and Means)

I suggest that hon. Members carry out their own research. There are plenty of reference books around.

Photo of Mr Robert Hughes Mr Robert Hughes , Harrow West

Bearing in mind that the hon. Member for Southwark and Bermondsey (Mr. Hughes) always claims to have a huge research staff, one would think that he would know my hon. Friend the Member for Cambridgeshire, North-East (Mr. Paice).

One reason why Opposition Members do not want the Bill to be debated properly in the House is that they know that some of the worst estates in this country are in areas where there is despair and grossly bad housing and that they have no answer to those problems. I refer, for instance, to the people of the Ocean estate in Limehouse. The Labour party poses as the friend of those people, but Opposition Members have never provided an answer to those people or decent housing in such areas. The Labour party has pontificated and Labour councillors have stood outside polling stations at local elections, saying "Vote for me today, love, and I will make sure that you will get a decent flat." The Labour party indulges in decent honourable politics like that, but has never done anything to help the people in those areas.

The reality of the housing action trusts is that the Government will produce a substantial amount of money to bring real and genuine help to those areas. That is what Opposition Members do not like and what they do not want to be debated. Under the Bill the HATs will be statutorily required to consult tenants about their plans for the future. That is right because, of course, tenants must be consulted about what will happen in their areas.

However, I hope that the people in the areas that the Government have designated as housing action trusts will understand that the Government are serious and genuine about wanting to bring them some relief and about wanting to see those areas thrive and prosper, with their people decently housed. People should look back at the record of the mainly Labour councils—there is one Liberal council—and ask themselves, "Has my council ever done anything to help me? Has the Labour party ever come up with a genuine solution to the problems of places such as the Ocean estate?"

Photo of Frank Dobson Frank Dobson Chair, House of Commons (Services): Computer Sub-Committee, Shadow Leader of the House of Commons

As the hon. Gentleman and his hon. Friends have been pedalling that lie for the past 100 years, will he explain why none of his hon. Friends represents an inner city area?

Several Hon. Members:

rose

Photo of Mr Robert Hughes Mr Robert Hughes , Harrow West

I am surrounded by inner-city colleagues who do not seem to think that the hon. Gentleman is right. What the hon. Gentleman might find slightly chilling is that, with the exception of the time when I was the opponent of the hon. Member for Southwark and Bermondsey (Mr. Hughes) I shall draw a veil over that because I did nearly as badly as the Labour party did yesterday in Govan—we have a record of success. We should consider the size of the swings in the number of votes from the Labour party, mainly to the Conservatives, when, for instance, I was the Conservative candidate for Stepney and Poplar and my hon. Friend the Member for Broxbourne (Mrs. Roe) was the candidate for Barking. The message has not yet got through, but it is getting through. People will understand that their real friends are the Conservative Government and that we are the people who will bring prosperity to those areas.

Some time—but not enough—was spent in Standing Committee discussing houses in multiple occupation. My hon. Friend the Member for Bristol, West, then the Minister for Housing and Planning, stated:

We shall propose a revised definition of an HMO. We shall propose that the management regulations on HMOs that apply minimum standards should apply to all HMOs. We shall also make proposals for simplifying and improving the control order procedure. We shall consult local authorities on means of making the registration scheme more effective."— [Official Report, 9 June 1988; Vol. 134, c. 1062.] The point that I should have made if we had had a decent debate, and the point that I hope to make later today, is that one problem of houses in multiple occupation is fire. I hope that my right hon. and hon. Friends on the Front Bench will take that point on board either in this Bill or in the future. A recent survey sponsored by the Department of the Environment estimated that there are 343,000 HMOs in England and Wales. At the very minimum, that means that 1·25 million people live in HMOs. The survey also revealed that 74 per cent. of HMOs lack the legally required means of escape, so on those figures more than 1 million people are living in danger but do not have a right to be told of it.

Photo of Ian McCartney Ian McCartney , Makerfield

On a point of order, Madam Deputy Speaker. The hon. Member for Harrow, West (Mr. Hughes) is reading the speech on multiple occupancy that I made on Report. I object to him using it without my permission. My research was invaluable.

Photo of Miss Betty Boothroyd Miss Betty Boothroyd Deputy Speaker (Second Deputy Chairman of Ways and Means)

The hon. Gentleman's objection does not constitute a point of order.

Photo of Mr Robert Hughes Mr Robert Hughes , Harrow West

The hon. Gentleman was right when he said that I was reading, but I was reading a press release from the Community Rights Project, which is an expert in this area. The part of the press release that I was reading was a quotation from an hon. Member of this House—the hon. Member for Harrow, West.

Photo of Julian Brazier Julian Brazier , Canterbury

If the hon. Member for Makerfield (Mr. McCartney) had bothered to turn up for more than a handful of the sittings of the Standing Committee of which he was supposed to be a member, he would know that there had been changes in the arrangements for copyright in Hansard.

Photo of Mr Robert Hughes Mr Robert Hughes , Harrow West

As ever, I am grateful to my hon. Friend.

The Labour party is making such a fuss, but not necessarily strong arguments, because it has built up a head of steam behind its own scare tactics. Labour Members have been going around the country scaring people into believing that they will lose their homes and that there will no longer be any affordable homes. The opposite is the truth. Labour Members have used scare tactics in connection with previous legislation and their assertions were not true then. They have said, "If you buy your own home, you will be made homeless because you will not be under the care of the local authority." Those scare tactics need to be nailed, but Opposition Members are scared of their tactics being nailed.

Opposition Members are also scared because they recognise that this Bill is probably the most important Bill this Session. Opposition Members recognise, as I recognise and the Government recognise, that this is the beginning of the end of the housing empires on which the Labour party has thrived and from which people have suffered for so many years. When the Bill is enacted and takes effect, it will have a direct effect on homelessness. It will improve housing choice and housing conditions. The only people who will suffer are Labour Members and their votes in the inner cities.

Photo of Mr Peter Archer Mr Peter Archer , Warley West 10:36 am, 11th November 1988

Some of us would like to have known the view of the hon. Member for Harrow, West (Mr. Hughes) on several issues relating to the Bill. Unhappily, the Official Report of the Committee stage does not assist us greatly. Perhaps one of the arguments against the motion is that, if there had been the time, the hon. Gentleman might have intervened at this stage to give us his views.

After his contribution I will return to the motion. The case against it has been deployed clearly by my hon. Friend the Member for Holborn and St. Pancras (Mr. Dobson) in so far as it relates to the Housing Bill. The other place was sent a Bill of 127 clauses and 15 schedules and of great importance to the homes of many of our constituents. Their Lordships considered it carefully, as we would expect—we would have complained if they had not—and sent us back 62 pages of amendments. Every consideration of constitutional propriety, every consideration of democracy, every consideration of common courtesy and of decency to the other place would suggest that we should give careful consideration to their Lordships' suggestions.

However, the Secretary of State for the Environment —or perhaps more accurately his right hon. Friends the Government's business managers—decided that we should deal with all the amendments in one day. When, in consequence, the hour grew late, they decided that the domestic arrangements of their supporters were more important than the Lords amendments and people's homes. So they would not consider these matters on Wednesday and now they want to bundle them all through in one day. In essence, that is what the motion is about.

Perhaps it has been worth having this debate, because we have heard some novel constitutional doctrines. We have heard from the Leader of the House that facts are not debatable and that if the Government say something three times, it is true. At least that is another footnote for the constitutional books of the future.

My principal concern relates not to the Bill in general, but to a more specific matter relating to Lords amendments Nos. 72 and 73 on housing action trusts which have given rise to great concern and anxiety in my constituency. I can imagine the Secretary of State saying, "What is your problem? I am now proposing to the House the very action that you have been urging on me, so I have seen the light." I could understand that submission, although I am not sure that "light" is the correct analogy with which to describe the Secretary of State's mental processes. I doubt whether much light penetrates the fog. I think that during discussions within the Government, they grasped, albeit belatedly, that—even accustomed as the Secretary of State is to mental bilocation—they could not at one and the same time maintain that the Bill is about offering tenants the right to choose and somehow enhancing their freedom while simultaneously denying them the voice on who their landlord should be.

There is a limit to doublespeak, even when the contradiction is between two propositions, both of which are false. But presumably, the Secretary of State intends to admit that he is wrong and is trying to put matters right. As that does not happen very often, perhaps we should encourage the Government in that well-doing. If there were time, some of us would do so. However, we would want to ask the Secretary of State a number of questions about the ballots, because there is still great anxiety about them.

It is only fair to help the Secretary of State to understand some of the implications of his own proposal—

Photo of Hon. Nicholas Ridley Hon. Nicholas Ridley , Cirencester and Tewkesbury

Why did the right hon. and learned Gentleman not intervene in the debates on Report?

Photo of Mr Peter Archer Mr Peter Archer , Warley West

I did not do so for one simple reason—that those debates had not reached amendments Nos. 72 and 73. My concern is that we may still not reach them.

Photo of Hon. Nicholas Ridley Hon. Nicholas Ridley , Cirencester and Tewkesbury

I cannot let the right hon. and learned Gentleman get away with that. He has said that he is in favour of a ballot on HATs. He did not attend Report to say so, yet at that time the Government had not agreed to such ballots. Why did he not do so?

Photo of Mr Peter Archer Mr Peter Archer , Warley West

On Report we had no idea whose constituencies would be affected. Is the right hon. Gentleman suggesting that all 650 hon. Members should have intervened on Report just in case any of their constituencies would have HATs? If so, that cuts across the argument that the Leader of the House advanced this morning. Any such debate would have lasted for ever.

Photo of Mr Clive Soley Mr Clive Soley , Hammersmith

For the first time the Secretary of State—perhaps unintentionally—is in danger of misleading the House. In Committee, the then Minister for Housing and Planning promised to announce the HAT areas before Report. The Government reneged on that promise, so that on Report no hon. Member knew whether his constituency would be affected. Indeed, the Government admitted that they had failed to deliver. It is yet another sign of the mess in which the Secretary of State finds himself.

Photo of Mr Peter Archer Mr Peter Archer , Warley West

I am grateful to my hon. Friend for an intervention of fact.

If the Secretary of State had permitted, I would have said that we would have been prepared to discuss these matters with him at every stage. In answer to a question by my hon. Friend the Member for Newham, North-West (Mr. Banks) on 14 June, the then Minister for Housing and Planning said that the Government had not decided on the HAT areas but that as soon as a decision was made he would tell us. I received a letter from the Minister dated 11 July. I presume that it was posted on that day, but it was certainly not delivered on that day. Yet, at 3.30 pm that very day, without even the courtesy of a telephone call, the Secretary of State announced to the House that there would be a HAT in my constituency. I assume that my hon. Friend the Member for Warley, East (Mr. Faulds) was treated in the same way.

Photo of Mr Andrew Faulds Mr Andrew Faulds , Warley East

In fact, the obfuscation was much more profound than that. The Secretary of State did not want any right hon. or hon. Member to know what he was planning. I happened to receive, much before 11 July, an interesting and glossy document. I do not usually read the Government's propaganda, but for once I thought that I should peruse that document. On the last page, under local authorities in the west midlands, is mentioned Sandwell—Windmill lane. That was much before 11 July. I wrote immediately to my town clerk asking what it was about. He had never heard of it. There had been no consultation; there had been no discussion. I received the courtesy, if one can use the phrase about the right hon. Gentleman, of a letter dated 11 July, Śome weeks after this had blown.

Photo of Mr Peter Archer Mr Peter Archer , Warley West

It is certainly true that Sandwell council was not aware of that. Again, it was sent a letter dated 11 July. The first sign that councillors had that a HAT was proposed in their area was when they heard it on the television news that evening. The tenants were not told what had happened; they learnt about it in the same way. They then received a letter telling them what they already knew.

At that stage, the Secretary of State said that he was still prepared to consult, although even he did not try very hard to suggest that he was approaching the matter with complete objectivity or in a spirit of scientific inquiry. If he had at any stage consulted any of us, we could have spared both him and his Department a great deal of embarrassment. He would have found that, on some matters, we actually agreed with him. I certainly agree that there are problems in Sandwell. We have been trying to elaborate on them over the years. You, Madam Deputy Speaker—although I accept that I must not involve you in any controversy—have been most assiduous in reminding the Government that there are problems in Sandwell. My hon. Friends and I have been doing the same. Had there been an opportunity today, I could have elaborated on our problems. We thought that the Government were not listening to us.

Photo of Mr Peter Archer Mr Peter Archer , Warley West

I am not sure about that. There was no reaction from the Government, and they never did anything about the problems. But they have now announced that there are problems in Sandwell, so perhaps they listened to us after all. But had the Secretary of State asked us for help at any stage, we could have spared him and his Department so much embarrassment because we could have told him the facts.

The high-rise flats in Whiteheath in my constituency have indeed been the subject of many problems. They have been a nightmare for those living in them. But they were empty by the time the right hon. Gentleman made his proposal. The tenants had been moved out and rehoused in other accommodation. Sandwell council—starved of resources as it is—has already spent £4·9 million on rectifying those problems. It is proposing to spend another £2·5 million in the next financial year. The council did not keep that a closely guarded secret; it consulted. Indeed, it even consulted the Secretary of State's Department and spoke to his officials. Had the right hon. Gentleman taken the trouble to ask his officials, they could have told him that they had given departmental approval for the council's plans.

I expect that the Secretary of State will say now, as he said then, that he does not need to know any more because he is already sufficiently informed. I have no doubt that, by now, he will have an interim report from Price Waterhouse, whose staff have been to the Lion Farm estate asking tenants to make statements about how much they appreciate the Secretary of State's concern for them. He must know what the result of the ballot will be. Whether or not there is joy in heaven over a truly repentent sinner, I can assure the right hon. Gentleman that there is joy on the Lion Farm estate. But had he asked us, we could have spared the taxpayer the fees that I do not doubt Price Waterhouse will charge.

The Secretary of State may say that the Government do not need to learn from hon. Members in these debates because they will know soon enough from the tenants. I wonder whether the Secretary of State is still nursing certain fantasies about this. It is possible that he still regards it as an open question. No doubt more taxpayers' money will be poured out to persuade tenants in Windmill lane and Whiteheath to change their minds. The spider will not merely be inviting the flies to come into his parlour he will be employing public relations consultants to issue the invitation. The Secretary of State is entitled to put his case. We are not afraid of free debate. That is what today's motion is about. Now that the tenants are to have the right to choose, I for one will abide by their decision.

One consequence of the way in which the Secretary of State has gone about this is that tenants are clear about the real issues. They do not believe that the Secretary of State has said to his officials, "There are problems in Sandwell. The local Members of Parliament have been right all these years and we must do something for the tenants on Lion Farm estate." The tenants know that it was not like that. They know that it is all part of the Prime Minister's irrational, obsessive, spiteful feud against local councils, especially those in areas such as Sandwell where the electors have dared to select councillors who are not of the Prime Minister's choosing. The tenants know that they are merely pawns in that game.

It may be that even now the Secretary of State will not believe what he hears. No doubt all the letters that tenants receive from the Government and all the space taken in local newspapers will be seen by the Secretary of State as an honest attempt by the Government to enlighten the tenants and explain the facts to them, while all the letters that tenants receive from the local council will be part of an unworthy conspiracy to brainwash and mislead the tenants. When the Secretary of State hears that the tenants' associations on Windmill lane and Lion Farm will be campaigning for a vote against his housing action trust, he will doubtless dismiss them as a gang of irresponsible extremists assisting the local council in brainwashing those simple tenants. The Lion Farm tenants association will go down on the Prime Minister's list of subversive organisations—along with the Church of England, the Church of Wales, the Law Society, the British Medical Council and the Committee of University Vice-Chancellors.

Had the Secretary of State listened, we could have explained to him that it was not like that. I have always wanted to see a flourishing tenants association on Lion Farm, because I believe that people should be represented in many different ways according to their various interests and capacities. I believe that that is healthy. The tenants will not always agree with the council and they will not always endorse the views of local Members of Parliament, but the tenants association is part of the total voice of the people. The Government do not want a pluralist society. They do not want healthy debate in the House. They do not want to leave powers with local councils. They want power to reside in quangos appointed by Ministers and, in the last analysis, they want all power to lead back to the Prime Minister's chair. They do not want to listen to anyone who interrupts the universal chorus of acquiescence.

The House will know, however, that hubris is always and inevitably accompanied by nemesis. Tenants have flocked to join the tenants associations and have rallied behind those associations. The voice of the tenants associations is the authentic voice of the people of Windmill lane and Lion Farm. I have always been proud of my constituents, but I am especially proud that the Lion Farm tenants association is to be the agent of nemesis. I like to imagine those tenants on winter evenings in future years telling their grandchildren how they showed—or perhaps how they discovered—that people carry their destiny in their own hands when they decide that the time has come to exercise their voice.

The Government may silence the Opposition in the House today, but they will not silence the people, and the Secretary of State's Bill may occupy a bigger place in the constitutional history books than he ever dreamed. I permit myself to wonder whether in the future when people speak of Hampden and Pym and the seven bishops jury they may add a footnote about the Lion Farm tenants association.

Photo of Mr John Stokes Mr John Stokes , Halesowen and Stourbridge 10:55 am, 11th November 1988

I have always had great respect for the right hon. and learned Member for Warley, West (Mr. Archer), who has been my neighbour for a considerable number of years. Despite the occasional muddle and wrong-headedness in his speech, I know that he tries most sincerely to represent the best interests of his constituents. I think that I am also a friend, if I may say so, of the exuberant hon. Member for Warley, East (Mr. Faulds)—

Photo of Mr Andrew Faulds Mr Andrew Faulds , Warley East

The hon. Gentleman may indeed say so.

Photo of Mr John Stokes Mr John Stokes , Halesowen and Stourbridge

—with whose views on the middle east, for instance, I wholeheartedly agree.

As I once had the honour to represent part of Sandwell —Oldbury—and still know the people well as they frequently write to me and I often see them, I listened very closely to what was said. I hope that neither the right hon. and learned Gentleman nor his hon. Friend will take it amiss when I say that the great tragedy for Sandwell is that it no longer has a Conservative Member of Parliament and that in recent years it has been represented first by an extreme Left-wing council and now by a Left-wing council. Knowing those people as I do, I honestly feel that they would have been happier and better off in every way under a Conservative council.

I rarely intervene in debates of this kind, and my intervention will be brief, but in all my time in this place I have seldom heard a speech of such bluff and bluster, of such callous inaccuracy and even cruelty, as we heard from the hon. Member for Holborn and St. Pancras (Mr. Dobson) who, alas, is no longer in his place. His attacks on the honour and integrity of people in the other place were entirely uncalled for and would have been actionable had they been made outside the House. I am surprised that the Opposition, who seemed to be having a brief love affair with the people next door, should make comments of that kind.

Secondly the attacks on my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for the Environment, for whom I have great respect and affection, whom, I have known for many years and whose seat is near mine, were quite uncalled for and utterly disgraceful, as well as bringing in a subject that had nothing to do with the debate. It is amazing that the Opposition, having suffered such a bloody nose in Scotland yesterday, should come here and make such a nuisance of themselves today.

Finally, my constituents next door to Warley—they are very similar people and good Englishmen—cannot understand why I have to waste my time her today, when there are far more important things to do in my constituency. They do not understand why these matters were not dealt with earlier, and they have nothing but contempt for the Opposition.

Photo of Mr Alf Morris Mr Alf Morris , Manchester Wythenshawe 10:58 am, 11th November 1988

This is an outrageous motion that makes it impossible for us to debate a huge number of important amendments to the Housing Bill. It is the bounden duty of the House to scrutinise and, where necessary, to challenge the intentions and actions of executive government; but how can that duty possibly be discharged if the motion is passed?

It will come as no surprise to the House that my particular concern is with amendment No. 133, for which, to be realistic, there will now be scant, if any, time for meaningful debate. Quite deplorably, the motion makes no specific provision for the amendment to be debated. Yet it affects the well-being of some of the most needful people in Britain today. I refer to people with severe disabilities, some of whom, if the amendment is approved —it was in part unsuccessfully resisted by the Government in the House of Lords—will have the right to buy their homes.

The Royal Association for Disability and RehabilitationRADAR—readily concedes that the amendment removes a sense of descrimination felt by a number of disabled people, but asserts that a much larger number of people with severe disabilities will suffer, now and in the future, the no less real discrimination of being unable to obtain housing in which they can live their lives independently and with dignity.

In many areas, the shortage of appropriately designed and equipped housing for disabled people now verges on famine. They want the House fully to debate their claims before the Bill becomes law, but to save embarrassment the Secretary of State is trying to gag his critics on both sides of the House. RADAR wants local authorities to buy back properties sold by virtue of amendment No. 133 if and when they are no longer required by their purchasers, and also a duty to replace any properties sold to existing tenants. Both propositions will require the release by the Government of new resources, and it was hoped that the Secretary of State would accept today his responsibility to make adequate funds available if disabled people now waiting for suitable housing accommodation are not to suffer the discrimination that RADAR fears. But what time is there now to debate these propositions with the Minister?

During the 1980s there has been a massive reduction in housebuilding by local authorities, from almost 75,000 dwellings in 1978 to under 15,000 in 1987. Within those figures, the number of units of wheelchair housing fell from 827 in 1978 to 184 in 1987, and those of mobility housing from 7,383 units to 902 over the same 10 years.

Those statistics, about which the Government must now be challenged, are deeply disturbing. Many disabled people regard them as proof of shocking neglect. Their significance should be fully debated by the House. They reflect the extremely low priority given to housing provision for people with disabilities by a Government who now want to dodge debate by means of this disgraceful motion. John Stanford, RADAR's housing policy officer, writing about the Government's departure from the priorities of the 1970s, said: Policies were developed then which placed consideration of disabled people in the mainstream of housing provision. That is certainly not true today, yet the motion, if passed, will save the Minister from having to defend his neglect.

The Department of the Environment estimated in the late 1970s—when I was Minister for the Disabled—that 460,650 mobility dwellings and 61,420 wheelchair dwellings were needed nationally, yet by 1986 the total number of mobility dwellings provided by local authorities and housing associations numbered only a derisory 44,125 and the number of wheelchair dwellings only 8,591. Are those worrying statistics not worthy of detailed debate?

Photo of Mr James Hill Mr James Hill , Southampton, Test

I should like to refer to a case in my constituency in Southampton, where two mentally disabled persons, a man and his wife—the woman is also physically disabled and in a wheelchair—have been placed on the 13th floor of a high-rise block of flats. I have made every attempt to get them moved to ground floor level, with no success. Some local authorities are completely insensitive to the needs of such people, whether mentally or physically disabled.

Photo of Mr Alf Morris Mr Alf Morris , Manchester Wythenshawe

As I have said, the shortage of suitable housing for disabled people is verging on famine, and the inadequate resources available from the Government have made it impossible for local authorities, of all political persuasions, to help those who most need their assistance.

As the Minister knows, we have now had new figures from the Office of Population, Censuses and Surveys on the prevalence of disability which outdate all previous estimates of need. The new survey, published on 28 September, doubles to 6·2 million the figure on which policies for disabled people have been based. Will the Minister comment on the implications of the new survey for housing policy as it affects disabled people? Again, has the Minister seen the study of housing and support services for people with severe disabilities by the Prince of Wales's advisory group on disability? That report, some findings of which are described as "alarming" by the Wales Council for the Disabled, is aptly entitled "Living Options Lottery" and it strongly underlines the grave shortage—even before the stock is reduced—of appropriately designed and equipped housing for disabled people. The report says that the Government must guarantee fair, secure and consistent funding to create conditions in which severely disabled people can take responsibility for their lives and become integrated into the community. That is the answer to the point raised by the hon. Member for Southampton, Test (Mr. Hill).

The Prince of Wales's advisory group shows that, where housing and personal support are available, even the most severely physically dependent person can take responsibility for his or her life and achieve independence and social integration. But what time is available to us to discuss the relevance of that study to the Housing Bill?

The Secretary of State likes to talk in the language of financial constraints, but he must be reminded today that he is involved here in an issue of human rights for people who have the same right as everyone else to be fully a part of society. There is no honour in dodging the debate which we were entitled to expect on that issue. Nor is there any saving in denying disabled people the right to live in appropriately designed and equipped housing. It is self-defeating as well as inhumane to force people into institutions, often at far greater expense to the taxpayer, when, with suitable housing provision and support services, they could live in the community.

What many organisations of and for disabled people want the Minister to accept is that amendment No. 133 has spending implications for the Government which he must now very urgently address. For the House to approve the amendment without any meaningful debate and a definitive statement from the Government on their policies for dealing with its consequences, in terms of new housing provision, would be a gross betrayal of disabled people. I most strongly oppose the motion.

Photo of Mr Timothy Kirkhope Mr Timothy Kirkhope , Leeds North East 11:08 am, 11th November 1988

I am pleased to be able to contribute to the debate and support the motion. I was a member of the Standing Committee dealing with the Housing Bill and attended most of the debates in its various stages. It was sad that we had to listen to so much repetition from Opposition Members. It is sad that we have been forced to move this motion to debate the vitally important parts of the Bill that have not been considered because of the delaying tactics of Opposition Members.

I am proud of having been brought up in the north-east and of having served my political apprenticeship there. I was well aware of the political structure of the north-east, which, sadly, has mainly been in the hands of Socialists for too long. After the last war, all parties agreed on the need to construct dwellings for people. The atmosphere at that time in the north-east and elsewhere was non-political; there was a general unity of purpose to provide housing.

Unfortunately, as time progressed, the Labour party politicised local government. It took powers unto itself the like of which I hope we shall never see again. It betrayed the trust of the people of the north-east through its housing powers. The saddest aspect was that criminal action had to be instituted against leaders of the local Labour parties in the north-east in relation to property matters involving the housing of people. That was hardly commendable and must be seen in the light of the expressions of emotion from some Opposition Members about housing and the way in which they think the Government regard it. We have a fine record. The Bill is vital to ensure that that record is enhanced and powers are returned to the people and taken away from those who have betrayed their trust over the years.

I am pleased that we shall be debating the housing action trust proposals. I fail to understand why the Labour party is so opposed to proposals that will be good for tenants and the rundown areas of the inner cities.

Photo of Mr Timothy Kirkhope Mr Timothy Kirkhope , Leeds North East

I shall not give way. Opposition Members have spoken for many hours over the past few days and months. It is time that we responded to some of their remarks.

There is nothing in the HAT proposals that a decent man who cares about housing could not support in full.

Photo of John Battle John Battle , Leeds West

Will the hon. Gentleman confirm that when he debated this issue with me in Leeds at a meeting organised by the National Federation of Housing Associations he expressed surprise when he was informed that tenants did not have the right to vote or be consulted before being put into a housing action trust?

Photo of Mr Timothy Kirkhope Mr Timothy Kirkhope , Leeds North East

Tenants will be given those rights by the amendments. The hon. Member for Leeds, West (Mr. Battle) and I debated this matter quite fully at several venues. We discussed the consultation process with tenants and their representatives.

Photo of Mr Robert Hughes Mr Robert Hughes , Harrow West

Is not what we are discussing a tribute to the listening qualities of my hon. Friend, who, having heard what tenants were saying, influenced the Government, which led to these proposals.?

Photo of Mr Timothy Kirkhope Mr Timothy Kirkhope , Leeds North East

I should be rather more modest. A number of people influenced that and were part of the discussion process. It is important fully to debate housing action trusts, because consultation is written into every part of our proposals.

I am worried about the politically active role that has been played by Opposition Members and their local authority friends. They have tried to block consultation and discussion, and to prevent tenants from discovering the full facts. I was astonished that marches supposedly organised by tenants who felt so strongly about the Government's measures had among their numbers many Opposition Members, local Labour councillors, trade unionists and others, many of whom were interested not in housing or improving the lot of tenants, but in causing disturbance and attempting to conceal the Government's view. The people whom we wish to consult are not those people but the true tenants, who have not been allowed any rights by Labour-controlled local government administrations to express those views. Part of the reason why we must step in with HATs is that local authorities have failed abysmally to provide the conditions that people deserve.

I cannot understand why there is so much opposition to HATs, which will give more resources to rundown areas and improve the rights of people who live in them. Why should anybody with the interests of good housing at heart oppose this measure? The truth is that many Socialist-controlled authorities hate the thought of losing any of the power that they hold over people. People are only pawns to Socialists. Opposition Members know that many people on housing estates have been cowed. They have to beg for things and cannot be equal in debate or consultation. Opposition Members regard people who want to be involved in the consultation process as fodder for their directives. They know well that that is what has happened under Labour-controlled local government. They would not dream of giving power to people unless they were forced to do so.

Photo of Mr David Martin Mr David Martin , Portsmouth South

Was not exactly the same mistake made when the Conservative party gave tenants the right to buy their properties? Opposition Members said that the right to buy would not take off and that they would repeal it when they took office. They realised that it was popular and gave people power, and they are making precisely the same mistake with this measure.

Photo of Mr Timothy Kirkhope Mr Timothy Kirkhope , Leeds North East

I am grateful to my hon. Friend for mentioning that subject. It is important to remember the way in which Socialist-controlled local authorities and Opposition Members fought the Government tooth and nail over the right-to-buy provisions. When they failed to persuade through the democratic processes, they did their best to obstruct the implementation of those proposals to prevent people from having the right to buy. It was only when the Government prevailed and insisted on those provisions being instituted that people were able to enjoy them. What has happened as a result? Thousands of people own their own houses, are proud to do so and are looking after them. Those people are now something in their community. They are no longer pawns to be pushed around by local government big-wigs. They are no longer ciphers or appendages to Socialist councillors, to be used at their will. They are individuals with rights and responsibilities and they are proud of it.

That is what the housing action trusts are all about. They will give areas the impetus to improve themselves, give people pride in their communities and make them concerned and interested in their homes and futures. That is why housing action trusts are such an important part of the Housing Bill and why we are determined that people should have those rights given to them as soon as possible.

Photo of Simon Hughes Simon Hughes Shadow Spokesperson (Education) 11:20 am, 11th November 1988

The importance of the debate is emphasised by the fact that the Leader of the House and the shadow Leader of the House have participated, as have two Privy Councillors and, the hon. Member for Halesowen and Stourbridge (Sir J. Stokes), one of our most senior and long-standing hon. Members. There is great concern on both sides of the House about the procedures that the Government are forcing us to accept.

When the Leader of the House introduced the debate, he suggested that we no longer need to debate the Housing Bill because all the Government amendments introduced in the Lords were passed without opposition. He went on to say that the debates in the other place lasted 64 hours. The House of Lords debated at length many new matters, as the right hon. Member for Manchester, Wythenshawe (Mr. Morris) made clear. There was also a Government defeat in the other place on the voting system for housing action trusts, and that has not yet been debated. Also, Opposition amendments tabled in the other place and accepted by the Government have not yet been debated.

Therefore, there are many matters yet to be debated. I shall not try to list them all, but I shall list some of them to show how authoritarian the Government's motion is.

We have yet to debate the registration of land, the application to Scotland of the new rules for housing association finance, the way in which local authorities will be involved in the payment of moneys to housing associations, and their support in the future.

We have major debates yet to come on housing action trusts, the way in which people in those areas will be able to have a say in their future and how the sick and disabled will be treated in housing action trust designated areas. We have yet to debate the way in which the receipt of money will proceed when housing is sold, as well as the approval criteria for passing on property from housing action trusts and the disposal of property.

Part IV—the most controversial part of the Bill and described by the Government as "tenants' choice"—has yet to be debated. We have yet to debate whether shops transfer if the homes attached to them move out of the public sector. We have yet to debate the position of co-operatives, about which there is a series of amendments, the secrecy of information and the Data Protection Act 1984. We have yet to debate the possibility of sales under the right to buy after transfer out of the public sector, and there is still the major debate on the voting system, which we insist is clearly rigged. There is a problem about the date from which people can be allowed to move into areas on council estates while the tenants' choice procedure is taking place. That could have far-reaching effects on local councils. We have to debate whether areas of the green belt are exempt from housing transfer under tenants' choice.

Lords amendment No. 133, under part V of the Bill, gives the right to buy to tenants of homes converted for the disabled. That has been a matter of controversy on the several occasions on which it has been debated. What happens if the right to buy is delayed? What happens, in national parks, about houses bought under the right to buy? How much of the Bill should apply to Scotland? How much of the Bill should be extended to have stronger anti-racist measures? How much of the Bill should be developed in order to alter the law on agricultural tenancies? What is the effect of the Bill on the Access to Personal Files Act 1987, introduced by my hon. Friend the Member for Roxburgh and Berwickshire (Mr. Kirkwood)? All those matters are yet to be debated, but the Government insist that we have only another four hours for this and one more piece of legislation.

The tragedy is that there is plenty of time before the date fixed for the state opening of the new Session. The guillotine is being imposed to suit the Government. Never mind the convenience of tenants or the millions of people throughout the country—the convenience of the Government dictates whether people will have their rights debated. The business on Monday is of little relative importance. There is a consolidation measure and debates on motions on European Community documents. For the rest of the week we are expected to go away from here content, while many of the issues affecting tenants have not been debated.

If the debate on the guillotine is successful, I will hand to the Secretary of State a list of questions. They are questions that the Government have not yet answered and they deal with the most controversial part of the Bill. Before the debate ends, will the Secretary of State put on record that the correct interpretation of the voting system for tenants' choice is that people who fail to vote will be counted as voting to agree with transfer? He has never answered that question directly. Will the Secretary of State, before the end of the debate, acknowledge that it is possible under the Bill for somebody who has died to be counted as voting yes? Will somebody who dies after the "relevant date" and whose death is not known about by the independent teller be counted as having voted in favour? I know the answer, and the Bill makes the answer clear, but the Secretary of State has not yet come clean. Is it not possible for an empty house or flat to be presumed to have voted yes if the independent teller is not informed when somebody moves away after the relevant date?

Will the Secretary of State answer the most fundamental question of all that has been put to Ministers in both Houses over the past 12 months? Why would the Bill not he improved by a requirement that there has to be a majority vote in favour before a transfer of ownership takes place? Why would an ordinary voting system not be fairer than the proposed voting system? Why invest a new constitutional arrrangement which depends—I shall quote a letter sent to me from the Prime Minister in August—on people agreeing … implicitly through informed acquiescence".? Why not test whether people acquiesce by the most straightforward and obvious method used in this country every time we have a political election—yes or no? that is the way opinion should be tested. Why do the Government not allow tenants to vote in that way?

Photo of Hon. Nicholas Ridley Hon. Nicholas Ridley , Cirencester and Tewkesbury

The hon. Gentleman may have noticed that that is what we propose in relation to the ballot on HATs. Why has the Social and Liberal Democratic party tabled an amendment opposing that?

Photo of Mr Robert Hughes Mr Robert Hughes , Harrow West

The Government have made a concession on HATs, but, as the debate will show, it is an ambiguous concession. It is not clear whether what was successful as an amendment to the Bill in the Lords will be the same in the amendment in this place. That is why we will debate my amendment and the issue in the next debate.

Photo of Hon. Nicholas Ridley Hon. Nicholas Ridley , Cirencester and Tewkesbury

The hon. Gentleman cannot get away with that. He said that the matter should be decided by a majority of those voting. That is not what the Lords amendment said. It said that it should be decided by a majority of those entitled to vote. The hon. Gentleman and his party have tabled an amendment supporting the Lords, and he is now saying that he agrees not with the Lords but with the Government.

Photo of Mr Robert Hughes Mr Robert Hughes , Harrow West

That is not correct. The Secretary of State knows that the other place passed an amendment to his legislation to the effect that the change should be approved by the majority of those allowed to vote. We believe that that is the best way of resolving the issue in housing action trust areas. In the Government's own legislation affecting employment law, a simple majority is regarded as being insufficient and probably unrepresentative. As between the option presented by the Government in this House or that which succeeded in another place, the latter is the better of the two.

If the Secretary of State will make an announcement today, as did the noble Lord Caithness on television last Sunday, that the same voting system as he is proposing for housing action trusts will be available to tenants who are at risk of having their properties taken over by private or other landlords, and that he will accept a simple majority of those voting, let alone of those entitled to vote, he will find much less resistance today to the undemocratic proposals that he is making in amendments that we have yet to debate.

Photo of Hon. Nicholas Ridley Hon. Nicholas Ridley , Cirencester and Tewkesbury

It is only two minutes since the House heard the hon. Member for Southwark and Bermondsey (Mr. Hughes) say that in relation to housing action trusts, he is in favour of a system whereby a majority of those voting will decide. He has now twisted that statement and said that he does not agree with something that had his agreement two minutes ago.

Photo of Mr Robert Hughes Mr Robert Hughes , Harrow West

The Secretary of State could not have been listening. All my comments so far about the voting system have been in relation to part IV of the Bill, which, as the Secretary of State knows, is about not housing action trusts but what he calls tenants' choice, and what we call landlords' choice, and the way in which tenants will have their homes taken from them. All my comments about the voting system have been aimed at that aspect. Earlier, I briefly alluded to the fact that we have yet to debate housing action trusts, and over which the Government were defeated in another place. That is good enough reason for ensuring that there is time for proper debate of all these vital and important matters affecting millions of people—and I am not exaggerating—before the matter is finally resolved in this House.

Last week, the Government published a draft code of practice governing strike ballots. Why do the Government not apply the same test as they adopt there in relation to the Housing Bill? The code of practice states: A simple or even substantial majority might not he actually representative if many of those given entitlement to vote in the ballot did not actually do so. Why have one test for trade unionists and another for tenants? Also, for a school to opt out of local authority control, there must be a majority of those voting in favour, whereas for an estate to opt out, no one needs to vote in favour of so doing, let alone a majority. Housing estates can be transferred without a single tenant expressing a positive view in favour of that action. Why the double standards? Why the inconsistency? Why the Government's hypocrisy in not applying the same laws to some people in this country as apply elsewhere?

It is symbolic of the Government that, at the end of this Session, they introduce an authoritarian measure to guillotine debate on this enormously important legislation. In 1649, the monarch was here one day and the guillotine appeared the next. It is somewhat ironic that in 1988, the Government have to bring down the guillotine on a democratically elected House of representatives so that royal ceromonial may be allowed to proceed, while tenants are not allowed to have their say about the future of their own homes.

Photo of Mr Nicholas Bennett Mr Nicholas Bennett , Pembroke 11:36 am, 11th November 1988

The speech by the hon. Member for Holborn and St. Pancras (Mr. Dobson) was probably the most vacuous ever made on a guillotine motion since the procedure's introduction in 1881. Having made his speech, the hon. Gentleman has now disappeared from the Chamber.

Photo of Mr Nicholas Bennett Mr Nicholas Bennett , Pembroke

I was interested to learn of the number of properties standing empty in the constituencies of Opposition Members, under Labour-controlled authorities. That must be the measure by which we judge the Opposition's indignation. The hon. Member for Holborn and St. Pancras waxed lyrical about how disgraceful this Bill is, but perhaps he should look in his own backyard. He is an ex-member and leader of Camden council. In 1987, that authority had 1,069 properties standing empty, accounting for 3·1 per cent. of its housing stock. By 1988, it had managed to increase the number to 1,829. It is not only that Camden council is unable to manage its housing stock, for we know also that it has closed its public libraries, that its streets are not swept, that the roads are left unrepaired, and that the authority is collapsing; its Member of Parliament comes to this House to attack a Bill that will increase tenants' opportunities.

The hon. Member for Newham, North-West (Mr. Banks) has not yet spoken in this debate but was prominent in Standing Committee G.

Photo of Mr Tony Banks Mr Tony Banks , Newham North West

I have been too busy Whipping, trying to get some order into this wretched debate. No wonder I do not have the time to speak in it.

Photo of Mr Nicholas Bennett Mr Nicholas Bennett , Pembroke

I can never keep up in knowing whether the hon. Member for Newham, North-West is or is not a Whip.

Photo of Mr Tony Banks Mr Tony Banks , Newham North West

They only call me in for the difficult ones.

Photo of Mr Nicholas Bennett Mr Nicholas Bennett , Pembroke

I am delighted to learn that the hon. Gentleman is an agency Whip and has taken Tory principles to heart in privatising the Opposition Whips' office.

The figures for Newham show that the number of empty properties there in 1987 numbered 2,777, or 8·6 per cent. of its housing stock—the second worst figure in the United Kingdom. The hon. Member may tell the House, as he did in Committee, that a number of Newham's tower blocks are standing empty. I obtained the figures, and I must be fair to the hon. Gentleman. If one excludes categories A93 and A94 on the HIP, being those properties requiring major repairs or where repairs are in progress, one is still left with 1,444 empty properties. That figure still puts Newham in the top 10, even if one excludes tower blocks. So the hon. Members for Newham, North-West and for Newham, South (Mr. Spearing) had better start talking about their own local authorities before criticising the rest of us on the question of homelessness.

The hon. Member for Brent, South (Mr. Boateng), who was present in the Chamber at the beginning of this debate but is now absent, was prominent in our earlier debates this week. On Wednesday he spoke for 40 minutes—and he was not filibustering. The hon. Member for Brent, South ought to have a word with his own local authority and ask why in 1987 it had 745 empty properties, and why by last year the figure had risen to 1,261. He should ask why his own local authority is collapsing around his ears. Why is not the hon. Gentleman present to tell the House what Brent council intends doing to improve the situation? He has taken to heart the comments of his hon. Friend the Member for Brent, East (Mr. Livingstone), who also put in an appearance before vanishing again, and who believes that Brent council is worse than Pol Pot in its administration. Perhaps we ought to remember that.

The hon. Member for Manchester, Withington (Mr. Bradley), who is an ex-member of Manchester city council, has previously lectured us about the problems of homelessness. Perhaps he will explain why Manchester's local authority has 4,800 empty properties.

Photo of Mr Keith Bradley Mr Keith Bradley , Manchester, Withington

Will the hon. Member, to be accurate, tell the House how many of those properties are empty because they are due for demolition as they are unfit for human habitation?

Photo of Mr Nicholas Bennett Mr Nicholas Bennett , Pembroke

I am flicking through pages of HIP figures so that I may give the House that information. I find that, in categories A93 and A94, Manchester has 1,300 properties under repair out of the 4,800 that are empty. In other categories, Manchester has 1,005 empty properties. In category A96, the number of properties awaiting demolition out of the 4,800 that are standing empty is 30.

Photo of Mr Keith Bradley Mr Keith Bradley , Manchester, Withington

If the hon. Gentleman had the up-to-date figures rather than last year's HIP allocation, or if he had taken the trouble to contact Manchester city council to discover how many properties are currently awaiting demolition and then taken those away from the figures to which he has already referred, he would find that the 4,000 he referred to is nearly 1,800. That is the figure the hon. Gentleman should quote to the House.

Photo of Mr Nicholas Bennett Mr Nicholas Bennett , Pembroke

I have the latest HIP figures and, to be generous, I will double the figure to 60 out of 4,800.

The hon. Member for Liverpool, West Derby (Mr. Wareing) popped in and popped out earlier. What about the Socialist republic, the Militant town of Liverpool. We continually hear about how desperate things are there. Liverpool comes top of the empty properties league. One in 10 of the council properties in Liverpool is empty. In 1987, 6,955 properties were empty. Let us be fair to Liverpool. I wanted to see whether there was an improvement in 1988, so I considered the HIP figures for this year. Liverpool has managed to do very well. It has increased the number of empty properties from 6,955 to 8,000. That is the record of Socialist Liverpool.

The hon. Member for Southwark and Bermondsey (Mr. Hughes) bored for Britain in Standing Committee. He bored us so much that the hon. Member for Makerfield (Mr. McCartney) presented him with a small cup for being the most boring member of the Committee. In Southwark and Bermondsey, just under 2,000 properties were empty in 1987.

Photo of Mr Robert Hughes Mr Robert Hughes , Harrow West

The hon. Member for Makerfield (Mr. McCartney) presented the cup, but the hon. Member for Southwark and Bermondsey (Mr. Hughes) was elected by democratic ballot as the most boring member of the Committee.

Photo of Mr Nicholas Bennett Mr Nicholas Bennett , Pembroke

My hon. Friend is right. It was not a question of a simple majority verdict; the verdict was unanimous.

Photo of Simon Hughes Simon Hughes Shadow Spokesperson (Education)

Unlike the hon. Member for Leeds, North-East (Mr. Kirkhope), who did not speak in Committee, I was present at all the debates and participated in all the major votes. I will continue, with my colleagues, to fight the Bill and the guillotine to the end.

Photo of Mr Nicholas Bennett Mr Nicholas Bennett , Pembroke

The hon. Gentleman has suffered a lapse of memory. I distinctly remember hearing my hon. Friend the Member for Leeds, North-East (Mr. Kirkhope) speak in Committee. I also remember the hon. Member for Southwark and Bermondsey leaving our deliberations on many occasions to speak to his large team of researchers in the Corridor, to appear on television to tell the public why he did not agree with his party's proposals on its constitution, and why he had decided to become a Liberal member of the Social and Liberal Democrats. We all remember the crisis of confidence that the hon. Gentleman suffered in Committee.

There were 1,952 empty properties in Southwark in 1987. In 1988 Southwark and Bermondsey could not even supply the figure for the HIP.

Photo of Mr Gerald Bowden Mr Gerald Bowden , Dulwich

Does my hon. Friend recognise that not only is there a disgracefully high number of void properties in the council stock in Southwark, but that its rent debt is now running at more than £30 million? Is that not disgraceful? The South London Press today discloses that one tenant is in arrears for £8,000. Does not that suggest that there is something rotten in the state of Southwark?

Photo of Mr Nicholas Bennett Mr Nicholas Bennett , Pembroke

My hon. Friend anticipates me because I want to refer to rent arrears in a moment.

Photo of Mr John Bowis Mr John Bowis , Battersea

Not only are those hideous statistics true, but 1,672 properties in Southwark have squatters. Are not the figures indictments of the municipal failures populating the Opposition Benches?

Photo of Mr Nicholas Bennett Mr Nicholas Bennett , Pembroke

I want to be fair to the hon. Member for Southwark and Bermondsey. Southwark and Bermondsey is not a Liberal-controlled council. The hon. Gentleman lives under a Labour-controlled council. However, let us consider Tower Hamlets, which is across the river from Southwark and Bermondsey. Tower Hamlets has a Liberal-controlled council. It had 2,825 empty properties last year; and of course it has not been able to provide figures for this year.

The hon. Member for Hammersmith (Mr. Soley) lectured us from a position of moral superiority in Committee and in this place. He should have a word with his authority about the increases in empty properties owned by Hammersmith and Fulham council. It has 776 empty properties.

Finally, I want to consider that great deprived London borough Hackney. How many times have we heard from Labour politicians that it is the most deprived borough in Britain? Why has it got 3,113 empty properties? Why can it not tell us this year's figures? It does not have the management system to produce the figures.

Photo of Harry Cohen Harry Cohen , Leyton

Will the hon. Gentleman give way?

Photo of Mr Nicholas Bennett Mr Nicholas Bennett , Pembroke

No. The hon. Gentleman has only just entered the Chamber.

The Bill is vital for council tenants so that they may have the right to choose landlords. It is vital because it will give them freedom, which they have not enjoyed over the past century, to decide whether they want to continue to put up with the present management and repair system operated by so many local authorities.

I speak from the experience of eight years as an opposition leader on a local council. I witnessed the complaints about the way in which the authority ran its housing repairs; about the length of time that tenants waited for repairs to be carried out; about the condition of estates and the fact that the lights did not work; about the fact that roads and windows were broken and the walls covered in grafitti. I was concerned for the tenants, but that concern was not shared by members of the majority party.

The sheer size of the municipal empires is a problem. Manchester has nearly 90,000 properties. How on earth can it run them properly? How on earth can it manage a property portfolio of that size? That is why tenants are so dissatisfied. That is why the Bill is so important: it will help tenants to choose.

My hon. Friend the Member for Dulwich (Mr. Bowden) referred to rent arrears. Rent arrears are another example of what is happening in these municipal empires. In Camden, the borough covered by the hon. Member for Holborn and St. Pancras, rent arrears have increased from £4·6 million to £5·7 million, and 56·4 per cent. of tenants are in arrears with their rents. On the HIP submission, rent arrears in Brent have risen from £6 million to £11 million and 70 per cent. of tenants are in arrears with 28 per cent. —more than one in four—owing more than £500. No wonder the borough must send letters to Nigeria to collect rent and that it is not sure how much is owed. That is the problem with the municipalisation practised by the Labour party.

Rent arrears in Manchester have risen from £5·2 million to £8·8 million. In Liverpool the rent arrears figure is £9·5 million, and it could not provide the figures for this year. In 1987 the rent arrears figure for Southwark was £14·7 million and it is £30 million this year. Rent arrears in Hammersmith have risen from £1·9 million to £2·1 million. In Tower Hamlets they have risen from £2·2 million to £2·8 million, and in Hackney from £6·6 million in 1987 to £10·5 million this year.

Photo of Mr Dennis Turner Mr Dennis Turner , Wolverhampton South East

Is it any wonder that the hon. Gentleman can give us those statistics about rent arrears when we know that millions of people are suffering poverty as a result of Government policies? Is it any wonder that he can quote them when 16 per cent. of people who received housing benefit have had that benefit cut? If the hon. Gentleman answers those questions, he will see that rent arrears have risen because of growing poverty brought about by the Conservative party.

Photo of Mr Nicholas Bennett Mr Nicholas Bennett , Pembroke

The hon. Member has not been listening. First, all the figures that I have given for rent arrears increases relate to a period before the increases in housing benefit in April.

Secondly, the hon. Gentleman talks about increasing poverty in this country. Why in that case is a man on three quarters of national earnings now 24 per cent. better off in real terms under the present Government than he was between 1974 and 1979? If the hon. Gentleman wants to talk about poverty, let him look at the figures for real earnings between 1974 and 1979. People in this country have never been better off than they are now.

Thirdly, as for rent arrears, perhaps the hon. Gentleman should have a word with authorities such as one in my area which, 12 weeks after the new housing benefit regulations came in, still had not informed its tenants what their rents were. No wonder most tenants were in arrears. That is an example of the incompetence of municipal housing managers throughout the country.

I have spoken for long enough. That will prompt a cheer from the Opposition. Let me conclude by referring back to what Opposition Members said about the Housing Act 1980 and the Education Reform Act 1988[Interruption.]

Photo of Mr Irvine Patnick Mr Irvine Patnick , Sheffield, Hallam

On a point of order, Madam Deputy Speaker. Is it right for the hon. Member for Sheffield, Hillsborough (Mr. Flannery) to call my colleague a liar from a seated position?

Photo of Miss Betty Boothroyd Miss Betty Boothroyd Deputy Speaker (Second Deputy Chairman of Ways and Means)

It is not in order; but I certainly heard nothing of the kind.

Photo of Mr Martin Flannery Mr Martin Flannery , Sheffield, Hillsborough

On a point of order, Madam Deputy Speaker. The hon. Member for Sheffield, Hallam (Mr. Patnick) loves to attack me. He is the only Tory Member in south Yorkshire, where there are 17 Labour Members. I said that the hon. Gentleman should sit down because he had distorted the truth for long enough. I then added, "I am not, of course, allowed to call him a liar."

Photo of Mr Nicholas Bennett Mr Nicholas Bennett , Pembroke

The hon. Member for Sheffield, Hillsborough (Mr. Flannery) has not given any examples. He degenerates his entire argument with vague abuse, because he has not the facts at his disposal.

Let us look at the position of Sheffield. My hon. Friend the Member for Sheffield, Hallam (Mr. Patnick) has just produced for me a leaflet which I gather is being circulated. Sheffield! That Socialist authority, I gather, has already cut £20 million from its 1988–89 budget, and proposes to cut a further £40 million for the following two years. It has cut 1,000 jobs from its payroll, and has already sold or shut six old people's homes. Bradford is falling behind Sheffield. Sheffield is leading the way, and has already implemented huge rent rises.

Photo of Mr Nicholas Bennett Mr Nicholas Bennett , Pembroke

If the hon. Gentleman would like to tell me which of those facts is wrong, I will give way.

Photo of Mr Martin Flannery Mr Martin Flannery , Sheffield, Hillsborough

Has the hon. Gentleman mentioned in this disquisition which shows such a lack of knowledge that, owing to shortage of staff, the DHSS payments forced on people by the present Government have come through much later than they should have on the council estates? That is one of the Government's main responsibilities. Will the hon. Gentleman stop distorting the truth for once?

Photo of Mr Nicholas Bennett Mr Nicholas Bennett , Pembroke

This must be the first time in the history of the city of Sheffield that anyone has said that the city council is short of staff. Sheffield city council is the largest employer in Sheffield. If the hon. Member for Hillsborough would like to have a word with his city council and tell it to stop employing race monitoring groups, police committees and women's committees and get on with doing the job that a local council ought to do, perhaps the tenants would get their rent details on time, and also get their repairs done on time.

Photo of Mr Martin Flannery Mr Martin Flannery , Sheffield, Hillsborough

Will the hon. Gentleman explain why, despite what he has said, Sheffield council gets a bigger Labour vote every year while the Tory vote goes down every year?

Photo of Mr Nicholas Bennett Mr Nicholas Bennett , Pembroke

The hon. Gentleman ought to look at the percentage of voters in Sheffield who actually pay rates. We are introducing the community charge so that everyone in Sheffield who has a vote in the local elections knows the cost of Sheffield city council. At present only a third of voters contribute.

Photo of Mr Irvine Patnick Mr Irvine Patnick , Sheffield, Hallam

Is my hon. Friend aware that Sheffield city council now has approximately 35,000 full-time employees compared with 30,000 several years ago? Will he compare Bradford's cuts with those that Sheffield has made? Will he also tell us how many old folk's homes Sheffield has closed compared with Bradford?

Photo of Mr Nicholas Bennett Mr Nicholas Bennett , Pembroke

My hon. Friend tempts me greatly to go down a road that I do not wish to follow. However, when one sees that Bradford is proposing cuts amounting to £6 million compared with the £20 million cuts that have already been made in Sheffield one realises that they are in a different league. Labour-dominated Sheffield is leading the way by showing us what good local government ought to be in the future, even though it has not practised it for the past 20 years.

Photo of Mr Nicholas Bennett Mr Nicholas Bennett , Pembroke

No. I do not intend to give way again.

In the 1980 debates on the Housing Bill, Opposition Members told us that tenants would not want to buy their properties and, 1 million tenants later, some of them still believe that. We were told in the debates on the Education Reform Bill in 1987 that parents would not want to opt out. Within weeks of the Bill becoming law, school after school held elections and parents voted by more than 90 per cent. to opt out of local authority control.

The Bill will give council tenants the right to decide whether they wish to opt out of local authority control. It will also end the more than 60 years of rent control that has stultified the housing market and resulted in the lowest percentage of rented accommodation anywhere in western Europe. It has made it difficult for young people to find rented accommodation when they move because they do not qualify for municipal council housing. We shall do away with restrictions that have made it impossible for anybody who owns an empty property to rent it and get a fair return on it. The Bill is vital. The guillotine motion must be passed without further ado.

Photo of John Reid John Reid , Motherwell North 11:57 am, 11th November 1988

I am grateful for the opportunity to speak in the debate. I realise the passions that have been aroused and the interest that has been shown by my hon. Friends in the Housing Bill. I regret, therefore, that I must move away from that measure and speak about the School Boards (Scotland) Bill, because I wish to oppose the motion.

It is a disgrace that a guillotine motion has been moved on both the Housing Bill and the School Boards (Scotland) Bill. The fact that Conservative Members have decided to filibuster on the guillotine motion shows the lack of confidence that they have in their own arguments. I am grateful to you, Madam Deputy Speaker, for this opportunity to oppose the guillotine motion on the School Boards (Scotland) Bill. I do so for three reasons.

My first reason is out of courtesy to the Minister of State, who earlier this morning made the arduous trip down here after the even more arduous task last night of explaining why just over 7 per cent. was a marvellous triumph for the Conservatives in Govan and why just under 40 per cent. was a desperate failure for Labour.

Secondly, despite the mass protests and the massed armies of the SNP last night, I regret that unfortunately not one SNP Member has turned up in the Chamber, even for a minute, to oppose the guillotine motion on the School Boards (Scotland) Bill. I should have assumed that that was the result of the celebrations, were it not for the fact that out of the six hours and 22 minutes that have been spent on the Housing Bill, SNP Members could make only a two-minute contribution—to testify to the opposition to the Bill in Committee by the Labour party.

Thirdly, I oppose the motion because the only silver lining to the Govan by-election—I do not claim that it is a big one—is that it has provided the context for this morning's debate on a guillotine motion on yet another piece of un-Scottish unpopular legislation, which once again will be passed without full debate, although it is opposed by almost every section of Scottish society.

It is patently obvious that I do not agree with the result of the Govan by-election. We all have an interest in understanding the frustration that was registered there. The result of the by-election can be understood in the context of the School Boards (Scotland) Bill being guillotined and pressed on an unwilling Scottish population.

Photo of John Reid John Reid , Motherwell North

I want to be brief and, with respect to the hon. Gentleman, he spoke for almost half an hour.

Almost every opinion poll in Scotland shows that the Scottish people oppose the Bill.

Photo of Mr Michael Forsyth Mr Michael Forsyth , Stirling

I have followed the hon. Gentleman's argument most carefully. He mentioned the Conservative party achieving 7 per cent. of the vote in Govan. That is also the figure which the exit poll showed is the satisfaction rating with Labour Members of Parliament in Scotland. No Labour Front-Bench spokesman on Scottish matters is present. I wonder whether the hon. Gentleman's complaint about the guillotine motion arises out of the fact that all the proposed amendments are positive ones which were put forward by the Opposition in another place and arise out of ideas advanced by the Convention of Scottish Local Authorities, which, of course, is dominated by the Labour party. The remainder of the Bill has passed through the House rather ahead of timetable, and the hon. Member for Cumbernauld and Kilsyth (Mr. Hogg) has taken a positive approach to it and decided to opt out of being on the Opposition Front Bench this morning.

Photo of John Reid John Reid , Motherwell North

I shall come to the Minister's reception of advice in due course. I know that he would not like to mislead the House about last night's opinion poll. Some 45 per cent. of respondents said that Labour Members of Parliament are doing a fairly good or very good job. When it came to asking how well Conservative Members in Scotland are doing, the pollsters did not even bother to ask that question, but merely looked at the by-election result.

Every opinion poll shows that Scottish people oppose the principle of the School Boards (Scotland) Bill. Every eminent educationist and most uneminent educationists oppose it. In spite of the cloak of secrecy in the Scottish Office, it is rumoured that every eminent Civil Service education adviser opposes the principle. Only the Minister can confirm or deny that. He will be aware of the dangers of playing the Scottish card.

The Anglicisation of the Scottish education system has been a major issue and has attracted much attention in Scotland. If the Minister is worried about the lapse into quasi-nationalism last night, he would do well to recognise that a Government who cannot show any magnanimity in victory will breed bitterness and defiance among those whom they think they have defeated.

The strength of many people in Scotland who want the union to end derives from the Government's attitude. That attitude was summed up by the hon. Member for Halesowen and Stourbridge (Sir J. Stokes), when he said that Oppositions are a nuisance. We understand that Oppositions are regarded as a nuisance, but they are also regarded as somehow subversive to the Government's control. The biggest opposition, which has been regarded as the biggest nuisance and treated with the greatest contempt during the past nine years, consists of the vast majority of the people of Scotland, who share neither the culture not the educational priorities of the Minister and the Government.

I have no wish to avoid the conclusions that must be drawn from the result in Govan—for my party or for any other. Two things were shown last night. Now that the hon. Member for Tayside, North (Mr. Walker) has returned, I am reminded that three things were shown last night. The first is that the protest vote was powerful enough to shove the hon. Gentleman back into a kilt, for reasons that are unknown to most of us. Secondly, it showed the frustration of many people in the Scottish electorate at the inability of the Opposition to deliver back a Labour Government in the United Kingdom.

Photo of Miss Betty Boothroyd Miss Betty Boothroyd Deputy Speaker (Second Deputy Chairman of Ways and Means)

Order. A number of hon. Members still wish to speak on the allocation of time motion. I ask the hon. Gentleman to refer to that motion and not to what happened last night elsewhere.

Photo of John Reid John Reid , Motherwell North

It relates directly to the guillotine on this important legislation. The third reason was precisely what happened last night. It would be an irony if the Minister and his colleagues, who seek to impose a uniform United Kingdom, were in the long run to be the biggest architects of the division of that United Kingdom. But he is heading in that direction.

Photo of Mr Michael Forsyth Mr Michael Forsyth , Stirling

The hon. Gentleman is giving way or has he sat down?

Photo of John Reid John Reid , Motherwell North

I have finished my speech.

Photo of Mr James Hill Mr James Hill , Southampton, Test 12:05 pm, 11th November 1988

I shall speak only for a very short time. Since 9.30 am, our debate has revolved around London and two other great cities in this country. The debate has concerned the mismanagement of local authorities. All the facts and figures about the number of properties kept vacant, awaiting repair, or being used as squats, can lead to only one conclusion—that management is inadequate.

I was involved in our discussions on the Housing Bill 1972. The current measure would have been an ideal Bill for 1972. It is almost impossible to repair some of the damage that Socialist authorities have done over many years. They built high rises and kept people thoroughly under their thumb by making all sorts of housing restrictions, telling people to go away and have more children so that they might qualify for a flat. They told people, "We are in charge of the management of the council properties. We will house you but do not expect to be able to come back for a transfer. You must try and arrange that between yourselves and we shall probably turn you down anyway." I get the impression from my parliamentary advice service that housing departments do not treat people as human beings, but as a nuisance. The staff in the reception areas are not interested in the manifold problems and people cannot get through to any of the officers to complain to the higher spectrum of the department.

People are so dissatisfied that I do not share the fears of the Opposition because I believe that a great number of people will vote to leave council properties. They will want housing associations to take over. In my area, the Stonham housing association and the Swaything housing association have reputations to which the local authority could never aspire. Housing associations have been encouraged to set up blocks of flats or groups of houses —particularly the British Legion, Anchor, Collingswood and Silken housing associations. We have tried to do exactly what the Secretary of State is doing today—to encourage more people to take over the individual managerial problems of providing private rented homes. That will be one of the great successes of the Bill.

I was not a member of the Standing Committee, so I do not know whether the Housing Corporation will receive enough funds for what I believe will be an avalanche of applications from housing associations. We keep hearing about Rachman—I do not know whether he is a housing association. We keep hearing about the bad old days when landlords went through the streets with Alsatian dogs. They are some of the silly red herrings that are part of Socialist folklore. Some Labour Members went through the first Socialist indoctrination on housing, and the catch phrase, "Every landlord is Rachman and every local authority is best at managing housing", came into existence. Those myths have lived on for far too long and must be laid to rest.

Good management is essential in running an estate of any size. If there is good management, a good work force to carry out repairs and sympathetic people to listen to complaints, there will be contented tenants. I throw out a challenge to Opposition Members. If they can put their hands on their hearts and say that their local housing authorities have all those attributes, they must be living in a wonderland that I have never experienced. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State will help to resolve the problem. I want to see as many separate landlords as possible, preferably housing associations, in Southampton. If we could have 50 more housing associations and other landlords to take over its 23,000 council houses, housing in Southampton would have a rosy future.

Photo of Mr Andrew Faulds Mr Andrew Faulds , Warley East 12:12 pm, 11th November 1988

I shall not waste too many words on what has been said by Conservative Members this morning. They have treated the whole thing as a bit of a Friday lark. Homelessness—the appalling problems of people without anywhere to live—is a joke to most of these juveniles. It is a disgrace and an absolute shame that these important matters are treated with so little regard by Conservative Members. Their only excuse can be that they do not know anything about council tenants and that they are totally politically inexperienced —[Interruption.] That little lad waving his Order Paper —the hon. Member for Pembroke (Mr. Bennett)—made what I thought was the most juvenile contribution that I have heard in a serious debate. He should be ashamed of himself.

We have not had enough time to discuss this measure for a lot of reasons. At the inception of this legislation, the Secretary of State had no intention that these matters should be properly examined. The other night, when we could have sat through until half the next day, at 3 o'clock in the morning the Secretary of State was so exhausted —indeed, so emaciated—that he could not last the night. He slipped off into the dark passages and the business of the House was abandoned.

Then what did the Government do? They did not provide us with time to debate this matter for three days next week, when we could easily do so. The time is there. What did they do? They introduced the Friday filibuster, and all the local lads who can slip off to their London flats later this afternoon were asked, "Do hang around on Friday morning and try to abort the business", which is exactly what they have done. The people of this country are not so easily fooled. One or two communities around Britain may have realised what this is all about.

Photo of Mr Robert Adley Mr Robert Adley , Christchurch

Will the hon. Gentleman allow me?

Photo of Mr Andrew Faulds Mr Andrew Faulds , Warley East

No, I will not allow the hon. Gentleman to speak. We have had enough of the filibuster this morning and I would like eventually to get to the parts of the Bill that we want to discuss.

The obfuscation by the Secretary of State was intentional. This little document "Estate Action Third Annual Report", was, I suppose, slipped out by accident about 20 June. I read the final page of it on 23 June, and wrote to my town clerk, wondering whether he knew about these intentions about housing action trusts affecting an estate in my constituency. He had never heard of it. There had been no discussion and there had been no consultation. We were not officially informed about the Secretary of State's intentions until a cyclostyled letter of 11 July which, after it had been announced, and to which reference has been made by my right hon. and learned Friend, the Member for Warley, West (Mr. Archer) and which I think is only part of the pattern of trying to keep quiet about these matters so that the public will not tumble what has happened.

I wanted, had there been time—and there still is time if the Government are prepared to provide it next week—to discuss amendments Nos. 72 and 73 because they gravely affect my constituency. I have many hundreds of council tenants on whom one of these housing action trusts, the Government hope, will be imposed. Now what does that mean for them? Windmill lane—[Interruption.] Perhaps if Conservative Members would have the courtesy to listen, they might learn a little about the actualities of life for council house tenants.

The area in my constituency is called Windmill lane. Over the past three or four years, ironically, the local authority has spent a great deal of money on improving the estate. Is this part of a subtle ploy so that the local authority will do its duty and fulfil its responsibilities to those tenants, and the Secretary of State, when the housing action trust is imposed, will claim the credit? I wonder how many other of the housing action trusts intended—

Photo of Mr Andrew Faulds Mr Andrew Faulds , Warley East

All of them. All of them apparently fall into this category. The local authority will largely have done the work, even on its limited funding, and the Secretary of State will say, "This great new Conservative project; look what we have done to these council estates." Well, I do not think that they are going to be fooled.

I have never known an issue in my many years as the Member for Smethwick which has aroused such vehement opposition from council tenants, and it has not been organised with a propaganda campaign. They have not suffered yet—certainly not from the Opposition—the influx of propaganda leaflets that the Secretary of State is now going to shower on them to try to convince them what an excellent project this is. It was a natural reaction when they heard what was going to happen. I will tell the House why.

These tenants—these council tenants—are not fools. My right hon. Friend, Madam Deputy Speaker—the right hon. Member for West Bromwich, West (Miss Boothroyd)—and I know probably more about council tenants than most Conservative Members. We know them as friends. We go there nearly every weekend and meet these people. They are highly intelligent, some of them. They know what the Government intended. They are not as gullible as "the quality" on Government Benches think that they are. My God, to use the word "quality" about this bunch! Their traditional predecessors, the decent responsible one-nation Tories, must be whirling in their graves looking at that lot and what they are doing to the people of this country.

Photo of Mr Andrew Faulds Mr Andrew Faulds , Warley East

I will not give way. The hon. Gentleman came in five and a half minutes ago, and he is not going to interrupt my speech. [Interruption.] He may have been asked to prolong the matter with the filibuster; he is not going to do it to me.

Those people realise the implications of this legislation. They know what it means for them. They are going to lose their security of tenure. Their rents will inevitably go up. The property mafia will be rubbing their hands at the prospects of the profits. They are going to make enormous killings out of this exercise. Rachmanism— a word that was introduced into the English language in the 1960s—is a malevolent, stinking name. I had better warn Conservative Members, there is going to be an addition to that collection of ghastly names. There are going to be—[HON. MEMBERS: "Who?"] We do not know them yet, but they will crop up—names like Rachman, who will make killings out of the suffering and the homelessness of thousands of our constituents, and they will enter the English language by the grace of the Secretary of State, because he will be the one who has given these lads the opportunity to use their revolting greed at the cost of the suffering of the ordinary people of Britain.

If we had not put up an opposition to this so-called ballot, the people of those housing estates would have had to suffer the rigging that the Secretary of State intended in the ballot. He can grin that silly little grin, but that is what the legislation stated and he knows it—and so do all his advisers around him and those on his Benches. Had it not been for the opposition that we put up, that ballot rigging would not have been changed.

However, we have had the reassurance of a letter from the Under-Secretary of State, the hon. Member for Rossendale and Darwen (Mr. Trippier) informing those of us whose constituencies are affected by housing action trusts—it was written on 7 November, which is not a very long time ago—that Lord C'aithness in the other place, with his vast experience of the way in which council house tenants live—he knows so many of them from going around his constituency at elections and he knows the sufferings of council house tenants—at last, because it was a risky political exercise to introduce a rigged ballot in this particular parliamentary democracy, has been prevailed upon to write to those of us whom it is intended should have housing action trusts forced on our constituencies I shall read one sentence of his letter of 7 November. We propose that if a majority of tenants who vote in the ballot are against his proposals, the Secretary of State should not lay a designation order before Parliament. Knowing the reliability and responsibility of this particular Secretary of State, I would have been—no, let me be precise—I should have been much happier if, instead of saying that the Secretary of State "should not lay" the letter had said that the Secretary of State "will not lay". Perhaps that matter will be considered when the Secretary of State replies.

It is quite clear that the genuine opposition of hundreds of thousands of council house tenants to this rotten project is immense. I can assure the Secretary of State that if a proper democratic process is pursued in these matters—and the cheering thing is that the Lord Caithness has come round to accept the democratic principle in Great Britain —if those ballots are held I can assure the Secretary of State that he is wasting his time, the Government's time and the time of the House in trying to impose any housing action trusts on the people of my council estates and on those of Madam Deputy Speaker—no, I must not introduce my hon. Friend into this debate—and on all of us in whose constituencies there was and is an intention to introduce housing action trusts. I can assure the Government that the people concerned will not have it. There will not be a single housing action trust introduced into any of these constituencies.

It is shameful that the Secretary of State, absolutely in keeping with his typical conduct, should try to introduce a measure like this and then do everything that he could before the presentation of the Bill, after the presentation of the Bill and even at this late stage to avoid discussion of these essential issues. Well, he has not managed to do it and the people will not have his silly, limited, anti-democratic ideas imposed upon them.

Photo of Dr Jack Cunningham Dr Jack Cunningham Shadow Secretary of State, Shadow Secretary of State for Environment 12:22 pm, 11th November 1988

The Bill has been before the House for one year. It has been a year of Government incompetence, prevarication and delay since November 1987 when the Government published the Bill, immediately withdrew it, pulped it because of its errors and then had to reintroduce it to the House. Worse Government delays followed. After a searching Committee examination by my hon. Friends, led by my hon. Friend the Member for Hammersmith (Mr. Soley), when at no time did the Government propose a timetable, they then took the Bill away, kept it hidden from view of the House for three months, from March to June of this year, and then made huge amendments on Report.

At no time have Opposition Members artificially delayed the Bill, although we are implacably opposed to its deeply offensive and largely irrelevant proposals. In the House of Lords 270 further amendments covering 62 pages, were added, again largely by Ministers. The responsibility for the delays to this Bill lie directly with the Secretary of State for the Environment, not with this House, and certainly not with the Opposition. At no time in our interrogation of Ministers have they felt justified until now in asking the House to impose a guillotine.

Ministers admitted weaknesses, errors and confusions by the score in their own legislation. That is certainly the track record of the hon. Member for Bristol, West (Mr. Waldegrave). Deeply unhappy about the Bill that he was asked to take through Committee, he promised change after change after change. He was subsequently pushed out of the way by the Secretary of State in a fit of pique. The hon. Member for Broxbourne (Mrs. Roe) was then rolled into view to rescue the Secretary of State and his proposals. She has been contemptuously and abruptly dismissed as well. Still the Secretary of State staggers on with a fanaticism that belies reason and reality in housing policy. The latest hapless victim of the right hon. Gentleman's obsessions, the hon. Member for Rossendale and Darwen (Mr. Trippier), seems as confused about the Bill's intentions as were his predecessors. That was obvious from his attempt to reply to questions from my hon. Friend the Member for Hammersmith on Wednesday.

Faced with this chronology of political confusion and administrative bungling, how dare any Conservative Member say that the Opposition are responsible for the time taken to get the Bill through the House? It is the responsibility of Ministers. Even on Wednesday, it was the Government who ran away from the debate. No Opposition Member wanted to pack up the discussions on proposals that included ballot-rigging and distressing and arbitrary powers over people's homes and neighbourhoods. The Government want to rush the Bill back to the other place without providing an opportunity to debate many amendments on matters of substance. We say no to that, and our opposition to it is undiminished.

We have heard a great deal of ranting and raging from Conservative Members about empty properties. Why did we not hear a word about the 5·9 per cent. of Government properties standing empty—the highest percentage of all? Why did we not hear about the one in five Metropolitan police houses that are standing empty? Why was there no mention of the 70 per cent. cut in real terms in housing investment programmes? We heard a great deal from Conservative Members about some local authorities. Why did we not hear that this Government, with hon. Members' support, have cut Camden's housing investment by more than £600 million, Brent's by £280 million, Manchester's by more than £500 million and Liverpool's by more than £260 million?

We heard, with contempt, Conservative Members suggest that people with rent arrears have no problems. Why did we not hear about the eight cuts in housing benefit in eight years? Why did we not hear about that elderly lady—the 65-year-old diabetic—who lost £10·80 a week in April because of the latest cut in housing benfit? That reduced her income, after rent, to £35 a week. Does none of that make any difference to people's ability to meet their rent requirements? Does no Conservative Member ever think about that when he discusses housing problems?

The Bill does not begin to address the real problems in housing policy in Britain. It offers little comfort to those in overcrowded and unfit houses and those on ever-lengthening waiting lists. It offers no hope to the homeless. My right hon. and hon. Friends were right to say that the Bill heralds the return of Rachmanism, the dread of harassment, rent extortion and, probably, criminal activities in the housing market.

As to the conduct of the Bill's passage through the House, as an example of public administration it stinks. The Secretary of State has throughout displayed an arrogant contempt for the parliamentary process. Even now, with only a few hours of parliamentary time left, he and the Cabinet assume that the other place will accept this disgraceful legislation without any further change or delay. I hope that it will not.

The Housing Bill is offensive in its provisions. It has been brought to within a single working day of defeat in this House, and we certainly make no apology for that.

Photo of Hon. Nicholas Ridley Hon. Nicholas Ridley , Cirencester and Tewkesbury 12:29 pm, 11th November 1988

When it comes to the right to reply to hon. Members' questions, the hon. Member for Copeland (Dr. Cunningham) leaves me too little time. The Bill has had 250 hours spent on it so far—more than 123 hours in Commons Committee, more than 43 hours on Commons Report, more than 33 hours in Lords Committee and more than 21 hours on Lords Report before it has even reached Commons consideration. There have been hours of painstaking debate on all the issues. My hon. Friend the Member for Bristol, West (Mr. Waldegrave), then Minister for Housing and Planning, agreed to make many amendments, but, having been put down, they are a source not of thanks but of complaint from the Opposition, as my hon. Friend the Member for Harrow, West (Mr. Hughes) so rightly pointed out.

Hitherto, no timetable has been applied to the Bill. Twice the Opposition have tried to abuse that freedom of debate—first on Commons Report and then again last Wednesday. We know the signs well. The hon. Member for Hammersmith (Mr. Soley) delivers his sermon at the start of each debate. Then the heavy mob—the hon Members for Bradford, South (Mr. Cryer), for Bolsover (Mr. Skinner) and for Burnley (Mr. Pike)—assemble behind him. The hon. Member for Walsall, North (Mr. Winnick) comes in like a cuckoo-clock every quarter hour, saying "Rachman" on one and "Hoogstraten" on the other—and he did it again this morning. There then comes a further reading of the speech from the hon. Member for Makerfield (Mr. McCartney). Meanwhile the hon. Member for Newham, North-West (Mr. Banks)—the choreographer of this ballet with which we have all become so bored—flits from Front Bench to Back Bench and then again from back to front and we hear rumours of plans to bus in new recruits at 6 o'clock in the morning. The act is repeated at two-hour intervals throughout the night, and I pay tribute to the hon. Member for Hammersmith who, innocent and ignorant of all this—the Opposition Chief Whip is in bed, of course—delivers his sermon at two-hourly intervals without any change or any relevance to the debate.

The hon. Member for Holborn and St. Pancras (Mr. Dobson) has referred to this as a total mess, and indeed it is—a total mess on the part of the hon. Gentleman, the Opposition Chief Whip and all those who have tried to disrupt the proper democratic processes. Throughout the proceedings on the Bill, the Labour party has revealed its passionate defence of the council house system and all that is rotten and wrong in that system. Labour Members ignore all the defects. As my hon. Friend the Member for Pembroke (Mr. Bennett) correctly pointed out, they ignore the mounting rent arrears and the growing number of vacancies leading to increased problems of homelessness, especially in a capital dominated by big Labour boroughs. For Labour Members, the only solution to their own inefficiency is to build more council houses. They ignore the importance of the tenant, the importance of choice and the importance of having some competition among landlords to woo the favours of tenants. As my hon. Friend the Member for Leeds, North-East (Mr. Kirkhope) said in his excellent speech, what we are seeking to do in the Bill is to transfer power in housing from inefficient Labour councils to the people—to give people more choice and the opportunity to live a decent life which has been denied by the Labour party for so many years in the boroughs that it runs.

The need for the Bill is urgent. It has been held up by the Labour party for doctrinaire reasons. I invite my right hon. Friend the Leader of the House to bring these undignified proceedings—this total mess that the Opposition have tried to create— to an end so that the benefits which will flow from the Bill may start from today.

Question put:

The House proceeded to a Division.

Photo of Harry Cohen Harry Cohen , Leyton

(seated and covered): On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. I am breathless, having run across from St. Stephen's House where we cannot hear the Division bell—my secretary's office is in St. Stephen's House—and, therefore, I have been denied the opportunity to vote on the guillotine motion. Many of my constituents are affected by the Bill and I at least want an opportunity to vote. It is scandalous that they have done repair work in St. Stephen's House, but—

Photo of Mr Harold Walker Mr Harold Walker , Doncaster Central

Order. I understand the hon. Gentleman's point. Because of the obvious urgency, I should be grateful if the Serjeant at Arms would arrange an immediate inquiry.

Photo of Harry Cohen Harry Cohen , Leyton

(seated and covered): Further to that point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. Will you open the doors briefly to allow me to cast my vote?

Photo of Mr Harold Walker Mr Harold Walker , Doncaster Central

As soon as I obtain the information, I shall advise the House.

The House having divided: Ayes 303, Noes 176.

Division No. 490][12.34 pm
AYES
Adley, RobertBrazier, Julian
Aitken, JonathanBright, Graham
Alexander, RichardBrittan, Rt Hon Leon
Alison, Rt Hon MichaelBrown, Michael (Brigg & Cl't's)
Allason, RupertBruce, Ian (Dorset South)
Amess, DavidBuck, Sir Antony
Amos, AlanBudgen, Nicholas
Arbuthnot, JamesBurns, Simon
Arnold, Tom (Hazel Grove)Burt, Alistair
Ashby, DavidButcher, John
Atkins, RobertButler, Chris
Atkinson, DavidButterfill, John
Baker, Rt Hon K. (Mole Valley)Carlisle, John, (Luton N)
Baker, Nicholas (Dorset N)Carlisle, Kenneth (Lincoln)
Baldry, TonyCarrington, Matthew
Banks, Robert (Harrogate)Carttiss, Michael
Batiste, SpencerCash, William
Bellingham, HenryChannon, Rt Hon Paul
Bendall, VivianChope, Christopher
Bennett, Nicholas (Pembroke)Clark, Hon Alan (Plym'th S'n)
Benyon, W.Clark, Dr Michael (Rochford)
Bevan, David GilroyClark, Sir W. (Croydon S)
Biffen, Rt Hon JohnClarke, Rt Hon K. (Rushcliffe)
Blackburn, Dr John G.Colvin, Michael
Body, Sir RichardCoombs, Anthony (Wyre F'rest)
Boscawen, Hon RobertCope, Rt Hon John
Boswell, TimCormack, Patrick
Bottomley, PeterCouchman, James
Bottomley, Mrs VirginiaCran, James
Bowden, A (Brighton K'pto'n)Critchley, Julian
Bowden, Gerald (Dulwich)Currie, Mrs Edwina
Bowis, JohnCurry, David
Boyson, Rt Hon Dr Sir RhodesDavies, Q. (Stamf'd & Spald'g)
Brandon-Bravo, MartinDavis, David (Boothferry)
Day, StephenKnapman, Roger
Devlin, TimKnowles, Michael
Dicks, TerryLamont, Rt Hon Norman
Dorrell, StephenLatham, Michael
Douglas-Hamilton, Lord JamesLawrence, Ivan
Dover, DenLawson, Rt Hon Nigel
Dunn, BobLee, John (Pendle)
Durant, TonyLeigh, Edward (Gainsbor'gh)
Dykes, HughLennox-Boyd, Hon Mark
Evans, David (Welwyn Hatf'd)Lester, Jim (Broxtowe)
Evennett, DavidLilley, Peter
Fallon, MichaelLloyd, Sir Ian (Havant)
Favell, TonyLloyd, Peter (Fareham)
Fenner, Dame PeggyLord, Michael
Field, Barry (Isle of Wight)Luce, Rt Hon Richard
Fishburn, John DudleyLyell, Sir Nicholas
Fookes, Miss JanetMcCrindle, Robert
Forman, NigelMacfarlane, Sir Neil
Forsyth, Michael (Stirling)MacGregor, Rt Hon John
Forth, EricMacKay, Andrew (E Berkshire)
Fowler, Rt Hon NormanMaclean, David
Fox, Sir MarcusMcLoughlin, Patrick
Franks, CecilMcNair-Wilson, P. (New Forest)
Freeman, RogerMadel, David
French, DouglasMalins, Humfrey
Fry, PeterMans, Keith
Gale, RogerMaples, John
Gardiner, GeorgeMarland, Paul
Garel-Jones, TristanMarlow, Tony
Gill, ChristopherMarshall, John (Hendon S)
Gilmour, Rt Hon Sir IanMarshall, Michael (Arundel)
Glyn, Dr AlanMartin, David (Portsmouth S)
Goodhart, Sir PhilipMaude, Hon Francis
Goodlad, AlastairMawhinney, Dr Brian
Goodson-Wickes, Dr CharlesMaxwell-Hyslop, Robin
Gorman, Mrs TeresaMayhew, Rt Hon Sir Patrick
Gorst, JohnMellor, David
Gow, IanMeyer, Sir Anthony
Grant, Sir Anthony (CambsSW)Miller, Sir Hal
Greenway, Harry (Ealing N)Mills, Iain
Greenway, John (Ryedale)Miscampbell, Norman
Gregory, ConalMitchell, Andrew (Gedling)
Grylls, MichaelMitchell, David (Hants NW)
Gummer, Rt Hon John SelwynMoate, Roger
Hamilton, Hon Archie (Epsom)Monro, Sir Hector
Hampson, Dr KeithMontgomery, Sir Fergus
Hannam, JohnMoore, Rt Hon John
Hargreaves, A. (B'ham H'll Gr')Morris, M (N'hampton S)
Hargreaves, Ken (Hyndburn)Moss, Malcolm
Harris, DavidMoynihan, Hon Colin
Hayes, JerryMudd, David
Hayhoe, Rt Hon Sir BarneyNelson, Anthony
Hayward, RobertNeubert, Michael
Heathcoat-Amory, DavidNewton, Rt Hon Tony
Heddle, JohnNicholls, Patrick
Heseltine, Rt Hon MichaelNicholson, David (Taunton)
Hicks, Robert (Cornwall SE)Nicholson, Emma (Devon West)
Higgins, Rt Hon Terence L.Onslow, Rt Hon Cranley
Hill, JamesOppenheim, Phillip
Hogg, Hon Douglas (Gr'th'm)Page, Richard
Hordern, Sir PeterPaice, James
Howard, MichaelParkinson, Rt Hon Cecil
Howarth, G. (Cannock & B'wd)Patnick, Irvine
Howell, Ralph (North Norfolk)Patten, John (Oxford W)
Hughes, Robert G. (Harrow W)Pattie, Rt Hon Sir Geoffrey
Hunt, David (Wirral W)Pawsey, James
Hunt, John (Ravensbourne)Peacock, Mrs Elizabeth
Hunter, AndrewPorter, Barry (Wirral S)
Irvine, MichaelPorter, David (Waveney)
Irving, CharlesPortillo, Michael
Jack, MichaelPowell, William (Corby)
Jackson, RobertPrice, Sir David
Janman, TimRaffan, Keith
Jessel, TobyRaison, Rt Hon Timothy
Johnson Smith, Sir GeoffreyRedwood, John
Jones, Gwilym (Cardiff N)Renton, Tim
Jones, Robert B (Herts W)Riddick, Graham
Key, RobertRidley, Rt Hon Nicholas
King, Roger (B'ham N'thfield)Roberts, Wyn (Conwy)
Kirkhope, TimothyRoe, Mrs Marion
Rossi, Sir HughThornton, Malcolm
Rost, PeterThurnham, Peter
Rowe, AndrewTownend, John (Bridlington)
Rumbold, Mrs AngelaTownsend, Cyril D. (B'heath)
Sackville, Hon TomTracey, Richard
Sainsbury, Hon TimTredinnick, David
Scott, NicholasTrippier, David
Shaw, David (Dover)Trotter, Neville
Shaw, Sir Giles (Pudsey)Twinn, Dr Ian
Shaw, Sir Michael (Scarb')Vaughan, Sir Gerard
Shephard, Mrs G. (Norfolk SW)Waddington, Rt Hon David
Shepherd, Colin (Hereford)Wakeham, Rt Hon John
Shepherd, Richard (Aldridge)Waldegrave, Hon William
Shersby, MichaelWalden, George
Sims, RogerWalker, Bill (T'side North)
Skeet, Sir TrevorWalker, Rt Hon P. (W'cester)
Smith, Sir Dudley (Warwick)Waller, Gary
Smith, Tim (Beaconsfield)Walters, Sir Dennis
Speed, KeithWard, John
Speller, TonyWardle, Charles (Bexhill)
Spicer, Sir Jim (Dorset W)Warren, Kenneth
Spicer, Michael (S Worcs)Watts, John
Squire, RobinWells, Bowen
Stanbrook, IvorWheeler, John
Stanley, Rt Hon JohnWhitney, Ray
Stern, MichaelWiddecombe, Ann
Stevens, LewisWiggin, Jerry
Stewart, Andy (Sherwood)Wilshire, David
Stokes, Sir JohnWinterton, Mrs Ann
Stradling Thomas, Sir JohnWolfson, Mark
Sumberg, DavidWood, Timothy
Summerson, HugoWoodcock, Mike
Tapsell, Sir PeterYeo, Tim
Taylor, Ian (Esher)Young, Sir George (Acton)
Taylor, Teddy (S'end E)Younger, Rt Hon George
Tebbit, Rt Hon Norman
Temple-Morris, PeterTellers for the Ayes:
Thatcher, Rt Hon MargaretMr. Alan Howarth and
Thompson, D. (Calder Valley)Mr. John M. Taylor.
Thompson, Patrick (Norwich N)
NOES
Abbott, Ms DianeCorbett, Robin
Adams, Allen (Paisley N)Crowther, Stan
Allen, GrahamCryer, Bob
Anderson, DonaldCummings, John
Archer, Rt Hon PeterCunliffe, Lawrence
Armstrong, HilaryCunningham, Dr John
Ashdown, PaddyDarling, Alistair
Ashley, Rt Hon JackDavies, Rt Hon Denzil (Llanelli)
Banks, Tony (Newham NW)Davies, Ron (Caerphilly)
Barnes, Harry (Derbyshire NE)Davis, Terry (B'ham Hodge H'l)
Barron, KevinDewar, Donald
Battle, JohnDixon, Don
Beckett, MargaretDobson, Frank
Beith, A. J.Dunnachie, Jimmy
Bell, StuartDunwoody, Hon Mrs Gwyneth
Benn, Rt Hon TonyEastham, Ken
Bennett, A. F. (D'nt'n & R'dish)Fatchett, Derek
Bermingham, GeraldFaulds, Andrew
Bidwell, SydneyFearn, Ronald
Blair, TonyField, Frank (Birkenhead)
Blunkett, DavidFields, Terry (L'pool B G'n)
Boateng, PaulFisher, Mark
Boyes, RolandFlannery, Martin
Bradley, KeithFlynn, Paul
Bray, Dr JeremyFoster, Derek
Brown, Nicholas (Newcastle E)Foulkes, George
Buchan, NormanFraser, John
Buckley, George J.Fyfe, Maria
Caborn, RichardGalbraith, Sam
Callaghan, JimGalloway, George
Campbell, Ron (Blyth Valley)Garrett, John (Norwich South)
Campbell-Savours, D. N.Gilbert, Rt Hon Dr John
Clark, Dr David (S Shields)Gordon, Mildred
Clarke, Tom (Monklands W)Grant, Bernie (Tottenham)
Clelland, DavidGriffiths, Nigel (Edinburgh S)
Clwyd, Mrs AnnGriffiths, Win (Bridgend)
Coleman, DonaldGrocott, Bruce
Cook, Robin (Livingston)Hardy, Peter
Harman, Ms HarrietO'Brien, William
Hattersley, Rt Hon RoyOrme, Rt Hon Stanley
Heffer, Eric S.Owen, Rt Hon Dr David
Hinchliffe, DavidPatchett, Terry
Hogg, N. (C'nauld & Kilsyth)Pendry, Tom
Holland, StuartPike, Peter L.
Hood, JimmyPowell, Ray (Ogmore)
Howarth, George (Knowsley N)Prescott, John
Howell, Rt Hon D. (S'heath)Primarolo, Dawn
Howells, GeraintQuin, Ms Joyce
Hoyle, DougRadice, Giles
Hughes, John (Coventry NE)Randall, Stuart
Hughes, Roy (Newport E)Redmond, Martin
Hughes, Sean (Knowsley S)Reid, Dr John
Hughes, Simon (Southwark)Richardson, Jo
Illsley, EricRoberts, Allan (Bootle)
Ingram, AdamRobinson, Geoffrey
Jones, Barry (Alyn & Deeside)Ross, Ernie (Dundee W)
Kaufman, Rt Hon GeraldRowlands, Ted
Kinnock, Rt Hon NeilRuddock, Joan
Lamond, JamesSedgemore, Brian
Leadbitter, TedSheerman, Barry
Leighton, RonShore, Rt Hon Peter
Lestor, Joan (Eccles)Short, Clare
Lewis, TerrySkinner, Dennis
Litherland, RobertSmith, Andrew (Oxford E)
Livingstone, KenSmith, C. (Isl'ton & F'bury)
Livsey, RichardSnape, Peter
Lloyd, Tony (Stretford)Soley, Clive
Lofthouse, GeoffreySpearing, Nigel
Loyden, EddieSteinberg, Gerry
McAllion, JohnStott, Roger
McAvoy, ThomasStrang, Gavin
McCartney, IanStraw, Jack
McKay, Allen (Barnsley West)Taylor, Mrs Ann (Dewsbury)
McKelvey, WilliamTaylor, Matthew (Truro)
McNamara, KevinTurner, Dennis
Madden, MaxWall, Pat
Mahon, Mrs AliceWardell, Gareth (Gower)
Marek, Dr JohnWareing, Robert N.
Maxton, JohnWelsh, Michael (Doncaster N)
Meacher, MichaelWilliams, Rt Hon Alan
Meale, AlanWilliams, Alan W. (Carm'then)
Michael, AlunWilson, Brian
Michie, Bill (Sheffield Heeley)Winnick, David
Morgan, RhodriWise, Mrs Audrey
Morley, ElliottWorthington, Tony
Morris, Rt Hon A. (W'shawe)Young, David (Bolton SE)
Mowlam, Marjorie
Mullin, ChrisTellers for the Noes:
Murphy, PaulMr. Frank Haynes and
Nellist, DaveMr. Frank Cook.

Question accordingly agreed to.

Resolved,

That the following provisions shall apply to the remaining proceedings on the Bills:

Lords Amendments

1.—(1) The proceedings on consideration of Lords Amendments to the School Boards (Scotland) Bill shall, if not previously brought to a conclusion, be brought to a conclusion four hours after the commencement of the proceedings on the Motion for this Order.

(2) The proceedings on further consideration of Lords Amendments to the Housing Bill shall, if not previously brought to a conclusion, be brought to a conclusion six hours after the commencement of proceedings on the Motion for this Order.

(3) Paragraph (1) of Standing Order No. 14 (Exempted business), as applied by paragraph (2) of Standing Order No. 11 (Friday sittings), shall apply to the proceedings on each of the Bills.

(4) No dilatory Motion with respect to, or in the course of, the proceedings on either of the Bills shall be made except by a member of the Government, and the Question on any such Motion shall be put forthwith.

(5) If the proceedings on either of the Bills are interrupted under paragraph (4) of Standing Order No. 11 (Friday sittings) a period equal to the duration of the business taken under that paragraph shall be added to the period at the end of which the proceedings on each of the Bills are to be brought to a conclusion.

(6) If the House is adjourned or the sitting is suspended before the expiry of the period at the end of which the proceedings on either of the Bills are to be brought to a conclusion, no notice shall be required of a Motion made at the next sitting by a member of the Government for varying or supplementing the provisions of this Order.

2.—(1) For the purpose of bringing any proceedings on either of the Bills to a conclusion in accordance with paragraph I above—

  1. (a) Mr. Speaker shall first put forthwith any Question which has already been proposed from the Chair and not yet decided and, if that Question is for the amendment of the Lords Amendment, shall then put forthwith the Question on any further Amendment to the said Lords Amendment moved by a Minister of the Crown and on any Motion made by a Minister of the Crown, That this House doth agree or disagree with the Lords in the said Lords Amendment, or, as the case may be, in the said Lords Amendment, as amended;
  2. (b) Mr. Speaker shall then designate such of the remaining Lords Amendments to the Bill in question as appear to him to involve questions of Privilege and shall—
    1. (i) put forthwith the Question on any Amendment moved by a Minister of I he Crown to a Lords Amendment to that Bill and then put forthwith the Question on any Motion made by a Minister of the Crown, That this House doth agree or disagree with the Lords in their Amendment, or, as the case may be, in their Amendment, as amended;
    2. (ii) put forthwith the Question on any Motion made by a Minister of the Crown, That this House doth disagree with the Lords in a Lords Amendment to that Bill;
    3. (iii) put forthwith with respect to the Amendments to that Bill designated by Mr. Speaker which have not been disposed of the Question, That this House doth agree with the Lords in the said Amendments; and
    4. (iv) put forthwith the Question, That this House doth agree with the Lords in all the remaining Lords Amendments to that Bill;
  3. (c) as soon as the House has agreed or disagreed with the Lords in any of their Amendments to the Bill in question Mr. Speaker shall put forthwith the Question that all other Amendments to that Bill moved by a Minister of the Crown relevant to that Lords Amendment he made.

(2) Proceedings under sub-paragraph (1) above shall not be interrupted under any Standing Order relating to the sittings of the House.

Stages subsequent to first Consideration of Lords Amendments

3. The proceedings on any further Message from the Lords on either of the Bills shall, if not previously brought to a conclusion, be brought to a conclusion one hour after the commencement of those proceedings.

4. For the purpose of bringing those proceedings to a conclusion—

  1. (a) Mr. Speaker shall first put forthwith any Question which has already been proposed from the Chair and not yet decided, and shall then put forthwith the Question on any Motion made by a Minister of the Crown which is related to the Question already proposed from the Chair;
  2. (b) Mr. Speaker shall then designate such of the remaining items in the Lords Message as appear to him to involve questions of Privilege and shall—
    1. (i) put forthwith the Question on any Motion made by a Minister of the Crown on any item;
    2. (ii) in the case of the remaining items designated by Mr. Speaker, put forthwith the Question, That this House doth agree with the Lords in their said Proposals; and
    3. (iii) put forthwith the Question, That this House doth agree with the Lords in all the remaining Lords Proposals.

Supplemental

5.—(1) In this paragraph 'the proceedings' means proceedings on any further Message from the Lords on either of the Bills, on the appointment and quorum of a Committee to draw up Reasons and the Report of such a Committee.

(2) Mr. Speaker shall put forthwith the Question on any Motion made by a Minister of the Crown for the consideration forthwith of the Message or, as the case may be, for the appointment and quorum of the Committee.

(3) A Committee appointed to draw up Reasons shall report before the conclusion of the sitting at which it is appointed.

(4) Paragraph (1) of Standing Order No. 14 (Exempted business) shall apply to the proceedings.

(5) No dilatory Motion with respect to, or in the course of, the proceedings shall be made except by a member of the Government, and the Question on any such Motion shall be put forthwith.

(6) If the proceedings are interrupted by a Motion for the Adjournment of the House under Standing Order No. 20 (Adjournment on specific and important matter that should have urgent consideration) a period equal to the duration of the proceedings on the Motion shall be added to the period at the end of which the proceedings are to be brought to a conclusion.

Interpretation

6. In this Order 'the Bills' means the School Boards (Scotland) Bill and the Housing Bill.