My Lords, the housing situation in the villages of rural Northumberland leads me to want to support any amendment and any mechanism that will encourage and not discourage the continued provision of houses to rent in villages. The atmosphere here today, when Members in all parts of the House are showing a genuine concern for the problem of rural housing, reminds me of my early days as a councillor on a rural district council in Northumberland, at a time when members in all parties were absolutely convinced of the need to provide rented housing in villages. It was not a political issue.
Unfortunately, in the intervening years, many of the council houses that were built in those villages have, because of right to buy, gone into either the second home or the retirement market—because they are in beautiful places, by the seaside or among the hills of Northumberland. Therefore, I encourage Ministers to continue the discussions in which they have engaged and offer us some assurance before the Bill goes much further that we will not see the loss of one of the mechanisms by which we can get some rented housing into villages: a mechanism that brings housing associations into the management of these properties, and therefore protects them for future rented use in a way that local authority housing no longer does.
It is my fervent hope that this House will ensure that Parliament makes provision for the future of rural housing by understanding that it requires different mechanisms from what may be appropriate in urban areas where we are dealing with larger estates and more housebuilding. Rural areas are different and their needs are very serious.