Orders of the Day — Housing (Scotland)

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 1:21 am on 23rd January 1989.

Alert me about debates like this

Photo of Mr John Maxton Mr John Maxton , Glasgow Cathcart 1:21 am, 23rd January 1989

Oh. I remember one of my hon. Friends saying that the Minister was unlike Cassius Clay—he floats like a bee and stings like a butterfly. That is certainly true when it comes to fighting for housing for the Scottish people.

However nice a man the Minister may be, or however nice my hon. Friends may think he is—he may be a good husband, he may be nice to his children, he may even have pets and look after them well—if he is prepared to take office under this Government, he is a Thatcherite and a cutter and he is as responsible for the poverty as his hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State for Scotland, the hon. Member for Stirling (Mr. Forsyth) who is sitting next to him.

The Minister is not a nice man. If he were a nice man he would follow the right hon. Member for Kincardine and Deeside (Mr. Buchanan-Smith) and refuse to take office under this Government. The only good thing that can be said about the Minister is that the only alternative would have been for the Government to appoint the hon. Member for Tayside, North as the Minister responsible for housing in Scotland. If it were not for the Minister, the hon. Member for Tayside, North would be a Minister, although he always said that he would turn down such an offer.

My hon. Friends have described the misery in considerable detail and have set out the facts and figures on housing in Scotland. But what are the Government doing about housing in Scotland? Why are they doing it? At one time I was generous. I used to think that it was down to blind ideological bigotry or to political expediency. Either they hated the fact that there were council house tenants, or they thought that if they kept raising the rents and cutting the services provided for council house tenants, eventually the council house tenants would turn on the Labour party, blame Labour local authorities and vote Conservative. That has been proved wrong and we know that it will not happen. Time after time, despite the pressures put on them, council house tenants have voted Labour and refused to vote for the Government. As a result, few Scottish Conservative Members have survived.

So why do the Government implement such a policy? I was generous in attributing it to blind ideology or political expediency. It comes down to the Government's driving motive at all times—greed and lining the pockets of their friends. They force up rents, cut services and create a housing crisis, and then say, "There is a crisis and we had better do something about it." That is what they are doing. Now they will say to council house tenants whose rents have gone up by 230 per cent., "You do not have to stay with the local authority. You can go to another landlord. You can go to a private landlord."

As my hon. Friend the Member for Dundee, East said, there is an article in The Scotsman today about the Waverley housing trust, chaired by the Conservative constituency party candidate who was deselected over the weekend, Mr. Michael Ancram. It is a charitable trust at present. It has taken over the SSHA houses and is now offering to take over the council house tenants. At first it is only managing them, but ownership will follow. Once the management of Waverley Housing have got their hands on it, they will rook the tenants. The tenants will be put into that position. Who will profit and who will benefit? The Government's friends and financiers, Back-Bench Conservative Members and people such as the Earl of Ancram, who used to be a Housing Minister, will benefit. It is all about greed.

Whenever the Prime Minister and her lackeys in the Cabinet talk hypocritically about moral standards and freedom of choice, it is clear that they are concerned about one freedom—the freedom of Conservative Members and their friends in the City to make profits. That is the only thing that the Government are about. That is why I refuse to call the Minister a nice man. He is a member of the Government. If he had any understanding of housing, any sympathy for council house tenants or any desire to do something about housing in Scotland he would fight from the Back Benches for his tenants and the tenants we represent and for whom we fight.

Where is the hon. Member for Glasgow, Govan (Mr. Sillars)? Does he represent council house tenants? What a farce. The hon. Member for Angus, East (Mr. Welsh) said that we should not moan, because we are not here in large numbers, either. The difference between the hon. Gentleman and Labour Members of Parliament is that we have not boasted about how we would take Parliament by storm. It was the hon. Member for Govan who made that boast. He said that he intended to disrupt Parliament. As usual, when people are in misery and distress, the Secretary of State can only snigger. That is the only thing he can do when he is in trouble. Time and time again the hon. Member for Govan has not been here for Scottish debates; he has been somewhere else, writing his articles for a despicable newspaper called The Sun.

I hope that the Minister will resign tomorrow and fight for council house tenants in Scotland.