If the Government really want to promote diversity of choice for tenants, why was Falkirk council disqualified from submitting a bid in the Falkirk area, and the Link housing association bid excluded on the grounds that it did not meet the benchmark valuation, although there had been no prior stipulation that would lead to exclusion? As a result, for some housing estates the only bid being considered is that by Paragon, which is in an advantageous position, with access to Scottish Homes funding, staff and inside information. When there is only one name on the ballot paper, is not democracy reduced to a farce?
I am surprised at the hon. Gentleman. In view of the nonsense that we have just heard from the Opposition Front Bench, surely he is not asking us to go ahead with stock transfers that do not give value for money. That was the basis on which the other bidders were ruled out, and each of them has had the chance to rebid. Does the hon. Gentleman genuinely think that we should go to the National Audit Office and say that we will accept any bid, regardless of value for money? The Paragon housing association has no greater access to information than any of the other bidders, as the hon. Gentleman knows full well.
Is my hon. Friend aware that a recent survey revealed that 80 per cent. of people in Scotland say that they want to own their own homes? Can he confirm that since 1979, when 35 per cent. of homes were in private ownership, we have achieved 58 per cent. ownership, and that we are well on the way to achieving recognition by the people of Scotland of the fact that we are meeting their aspirations?
My hon. Friend is right. The significant increase in home ownership during the Government's 18 years in office, from eastern European levels to almost 60 per cent., is a tremendous credit to the people of Scotland. That great achievement was fought for in the teeth of opposition by the Labour party both in the House and in town halls and council chambers throughout Scotland. To its eternal shame, Labour fought to refuse our people the right to buy and own their own homes.