Section 42 — Discounts

Housing (Scotland) Bill: Stage 3 – in the Scottish Parliament at 3:45 pm on 13th June 2001.

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Photo of Sandra White Sandra White Scottish National Party

We have just had a heated debate on the extension of the right to buy, which I do not want to revisit. However, I echo the comments of other Opposition members who have said that we must deal with reality. Amendments 89, 90 and 91 deal with reality. The reality is that the extension of the right to buy has been agreed to by the Parliament, and the amendments would set out the level of discounts and time scales for purchase of houses under the extended right to buy. I listened carefully to what John McAllion and other members said. If members are serious about the right to buy being a reality, I hope that they will support amendments 89, 90 and 91.

Much has been said about pressured areas. In the constituency that I represent, most housing belongs to housing associations. Many young people cannot afford private houses and they cannot afford to buy houses under the extension of the right to buy. Amendments 89, 90 and 91 protect and extend discount levels and time scales for the housing associations that will benefit from the extension of the right to buy. The amendments give added protection to people who want to remain in their areas, but who cannot afford to buy houses under the extended right to buy. The amendments would provide fairness, sustainability and protection of the very depleted stock of public sector housing that we now have in Scotland.

I ask members to consider amendments 89, 90 and 91. If members are serious about the extension of the right to buy, which has just been passed, and about the protection of public housing in Scotland, they will support the amendments.

I move amendment 89.

Photo of Bill Aitken Bill Aitken Conservative

Amendments 89, 90 and 91 are an attempt to make the right to buy a little bit more difficult. In moving them, Sandra White is acting consistently with her previous stance. We Conservatives shall be consistent in our stance; we shall vote against them.

Photo of Karen Whitefield Karen Whitefield Labour

I am surprised at Sandra White's lodging of amendments 89, 90 and 91, because at stage 2 she indicated that she supported Tommy Sheridan's amendment that would have abolished the right to buy. The nationalists want to abolish the right to buy, but they do not have the courage to tell people that. This is about being honest.

The issue is about ensuring that the right to buy is a strategic housing tool in housing policy in Scotland. That is why I lodged amendments on discount levels. The amendments were about ensuring that we modernised the right to buy and balanced it with people's rights. I suggest that members should reject the amendments, because they would do little to ensure that we have a well-founded strategic housing policy in Scotland or a modernised right to buy.

Photo of Jackie Baillie Jackie Baillie Labour

One of the key features of the modernised right to buy is the change to the discounts that will be available to tenants who wish to exercise the right to buy. We inherited legislation from the Tories that allowed tenants to get a discount after two years, and that discount could increase to as much as 70 per cent for flats. The bill will ensure that in future in relation to new tenancies, there will be a qualifying period of five years and that the discount will increase by 1 per cent per annum to a maximum of 35 per cent or £15,000, whichever is the lowest.

We believe that the new discount structure is fair to tenants and landlords and to the community as a whole. Moreover, we did not merely pull the figures out of a hat. The 35 per cent maximum is in line with the average difference between social and market rents; that is, the effective subsidy that tenants receive through renting a house from a local authority or an RSL, rather than from a private landlord. The £15,000 cap will also help to ensure that there is no unfair profiteering in expensive areas. All the details of the discount structure were considered carefully at stage 2 and I am grateful to Karen Whitefield for her helpful amendments, which are now incorporated in the bill.

Sandra White's amendments 89, 90 and 91 seek to reduce the discount further. The amendments betray the confusion in the SNP's policy on the right to buy. Some SNP members claim to want to retain it—at least, I think they do—but they clearly want to make it as difficult as possible for any tenant in Scotland to exercise that right. Why does the SNP not come clean and admit that it wants to remove the right to buy from all tenants in Scotland? The specified proposals in the amendments are arbitrary and unhelpful and I ask members to reject them.

Photo of Brian Adam Brian Adam Scottish National Party

The minister's speech was most unhelpful. The level of discounts and length of qualifying periods are legitimate matters for debate in relation to where we will go with the policy in future. It does not add to the debate to suggest that because the SNP wants to adjust the qualifying period and the level of discounts, it has no policy—or whatever version of that argument the minister was putting forward today.

The minister and her team have acknowledged that the right to buy can be destructive for communities. They want to restrain that right in order to preserve a proper balance in communities. The difference between us is in relation to where that balance should lie. The minister ought to acknowledge that in the language that she uses, so that we can have a proper civilised debate.

I support Sandra White's amendments. The balance is not yet right and it favours the discount levels that are being offered. We have not changed the fundamentals. Unless the Government comes along with a pot of money to finance the discounts, they will be paid for by the remaining tenants. As a result, the Executive is saying to the remaining tenants that if they want to remain tenants, they can pay for everybody else's discount.

We are not attempting to change the status quo. Our position is absolutely clear. We recognise that the right to buy exists and we do not wish to remove it, but we think that the level of discount is too generous. Indeed, the Government thinks that the level is too generous, and has even accepted an amendment to that effect from one of its own backbenchers. It is perfectly reasonable for the SNP to argue that the levels are still too generous and that it will fall on other tenants to pay for the discount. That is not right, nor is it fair on those tenants. That position will continue to undermine the viability of housing associations. A reduction in the discount level would help to maintain the viability of small housing associations in particular. I commend amendments 89, 90 and 91.

Photo of Sandra White Sandra White Scottish National Party

I am not surprised by the responses by Karen Whitefield or Jackie Baillie; indeed, they were nothing short of what I expected. However, I remind them that every committee member is an individual and is not party-led, and makes proposals in that spirit. Perhaps they should remember that in future. I congratulate Karen Whitefield on having her amendment accepted at stage 2, even though my stage 2 amendment—which I have lodged again—was not. I am sure that members will make up their own minds on that particular point.

I appeal again to members who might be against the extension of the right to buy—I am being very responsible by admitting that the right to buy exists. I am also responsible enough to lodge amendments 89, 90 and 91, which will help the people who cannot afford houses and who will be left with the dregs of public sector housing. We must protect those people and the public sector houses that we have left, which are few. There will be even fewer if the housing stock transfer goes ahead in Glasgow. I plead with members who have shown sympathy with the position that the right to buy should not be extended to vote for the amendments. They would not be onerous, but would ensure only that we protect the public sector housing that is left.

Photo of Patricia Ferguson Patricia Ferguson Labour

The question is, that amendment 89 be agreed to. Are we agreed?

Members:

No.

Division number 34

For: Adam, Brian, Campbell, Colin, Canavan, Dennis, Crawford, Bruce, Cunningham, Roseanna, Elder, Dorothy-Grace, Ewing, Dr Winnie, Ewing, Fergus, Ewing, Mrs Margaret, Fabiani, Linda, Gibson, Mr Kenneth, Grahame, Christine, Hamilton, Mr Duncan, Hyslop, Fiona, Ingram, Mr Adam, Lochhead, Richard, MacAskill, Mr Kenny, MacDonald, Ms Margo, Marwick, Tricia, Matheson, Michael, McGugan, Irene, McLeod, Fiona, Morgan, Alasdair, Paterson, Mr Gil, Quinan, Mr Lloyd, Robison, Shona, Russell, Michael, Sheridan, Tommy, Stevenson, Stewart, Sturgeon, Nicola, Swinney, Mr John, Ullrich, Kay, Welsh, Mr Andrew, White, Ms Sandra, Wilson, Andrew
Against: Aitken, Bill, Alexander, Ms Wendy, Baillie, Jackie, Barrie, Scott, Boyack, Sarah, Brankin, Rhona, Brown, Robert, Butler, Bill, Chisholm, Malcolm, Craigie, Cathie, Curran, Ms Margaret, Davidson, Mr David, Deacon, Susan, Douglas-Hamilton, Lord James, Eadie, Helen, Fergusson, Alex, Finnie, Ross, Fitzpatrick, Brian, Gallie, Phil, Gillon, Karen, Godman, Trish, Gorrie, Donald, Grant, Rhoda, Gray, Iain, Harding, Mr Keith, Henry, Hugh, Home Robertson, Mr John, Hughes, Janis, Jackson, Dr Sylvia, Jackson, Gordon, Jamieson, Cathy, Jamieson, Margaret, Jenkins, Ian, Johnstone, Alex, Kerr, Mr Andy, Lamont, Johann, Livingstone, Marilyn, Lyon, George, Macdonald, Lewis, Macintosh, Mr Kenneth, MacKay, Angus, MacLean, Kate, Macmillan, Maureen, Martin, Paul, McAllion, Mr John, McAveety, Mr Frank, McCabe, Mr Tom, McConnell, Mr Jack, McGrigor, Mr Jamie, McIntosh, Mrs Lyndsay, McLetchie, David, McMahon, Mr Michael, McNeil, Mr Duncan, McNeill, Pauline, McNulty, Des, Monteith, Mr Brian, Morrison, Mr Alasdair, Muldoon, Bristow, Mulligan, Mrs Mary, Mundell, David, Munro, John Farquhar, Murray, Dr Elaine, Oldfather, Irene, Peacock, Peter, Peattie, Cathy, Radcliffe, Nora, Raffan, Mr Keith, Robson, Euan, Rumbles, Mr Mike, Scanlon, Mary, Scott, John, Scott, Tavish, Simpson, Dr Richard, Smith, Elaine, Smith, Iain, Smith, Mrs Margaret, Stephen, Nicol, Stone, Mr Jamie, Thomson, Elaine, Tosh, Mr Murray, Wallace, Ben, Wallace, Mr Jim, Watson, Mike, Whitefield, Karen, Wilson, Allan

Photo of Patricia Ferguson Patricia Ferguson Labour 4:00 pm, 13th June 2001

The result of the division is: For 35, Against 85, Abstentions 0.

Amendment 89 disagreed to.

[Amendment 90 moved—[Ms Sandra White].]

Photo of Patricia Ferguson Patricia Ferguson Labour

The question is, that amendment 90 be agreed to. Are we agreed?

Members:

No.

Division number 35

For: Adam, Brian, Campbell, Colin, Crawford, Bruce, Cunningham, Roseanna, Elder, Dorothy-Grace, Ewing, Dr Winnie, Ewing, Mrs Margaret, Fabiani, Linda, Gibson, Mr Kenneth, Grahame, Christine, Hamilton, Mr Duncan, Hyslop, Fiona, Ingram, Mr Adam, Lochhead, Richard, MacAskill, Mr Kenny, MacDonald, Ms Margo, Marwick, Tricia, Matheson, Michael, McGugan, Irene, McLeod, Fiona, Morgan, Alasdair, Paterson, Mr Gil, Quinan, Mr Lloyd, Robison, Shona, Russell, Michael, Sheridan, Tommy, Stevenson, Stewart, Sturgeon, Nicola, Swinney, Mr John, Ullrich, Kay, Welsh, Mr Andrew, White, Ms Sandra, Wilson, Andrew
Against: Aitken, Bill, Alexander, Ms Wendy, Baillie, Jackie, Barrie, Scott, Boyack, Sarah, Brankin, Rhona, Brown, Robert, Butler, Bill, Chisholm, Malcolm, Craigie, Cathie, Curran, Ms Margaret, Davidson, Mr David, Deacon, Susan, Douglas-Hamilton, Lord James, Eadie, Helen, Fergusson, Alex, Finnie, Ross, Fitzpatrick, Brian, Gallie, Phil, Gillon, Karen, Godman, Trish, Gorrie, Donald, Grant, Rhoda, Gray, Iain, Harding, Mr Keith, Henry, Hugh, Home Robertson, Mr John, Hughes, Janis, Jackson, Dr Sylvia, Jackson, Gordon, Jamieson, Cathy, Jamieson, Margaret, Jenkins, Ian, Johnstone, Alex, Kerr, Mr Andy, Lamont, Johann, Livingstone, Marilyn, Lyon, George, Macdonald, Lewis, Macintosh, Mr Kenneth, MacKay, Angus, MacLean, Kate, Macmillan, Maureen, Martin, Paul, McAllion, Mr John, McCabe, Mr Tom, McConnell, Mr Jack, McIntosh, Mrs Lyndsay, McLetchie, David, McMahon, Mr Michael, McNeil, Mr Duncan, McNeill, Pauline, McNulty, Des, Monteith, Mr Brian, Morrison, Mr Alasdair, Muldoon, Bristow, Mulligan, Mrs Mary, Mundell, David, Munro, John Farquhar, Murray, Dr Elaine, Oldfather, Irene, Peacock, Peter, Peattie, Cathy, Radcliffe, Nora, Raffan, Mr Keith, Robson, Euan, Rumbles, Mr Mike, Scanlon, Mary, Scott, John, Scott, Tavish, Simpson, Dr Richard, Smith, Elaine, Smith, Iain, Smith, Mrs Margaret, Stephen, Nicol, Stone, Mr Jamie, Thomson, Elaine, Tosh, Mr Murray, Wallace, Ben, Wallace, Mr Jim, Watson, Mike, Whitefield, Karen, Wilson, Allan

Photo of Patricia Ferguson Patricia Ferguson Labour

The result of the division is: For 33, Against 83, Abstentions 0.

Amendment 90 disagreed to.

Amendment 91 moved—[Ms Sandra White].

Photo of Patricia Ferguson Patricia Ferguson Labour

The question is, that amendment 91 be agreed to. Are we agreed?

Members:

No.

Division number 36

For: Adam, Brian, Campbell, Colin, Canavan, Dennis, Crawford, Bruce, Cunningham, Roseanna, Elder, Dorothy-Grace, Ewing, Dr Winnie, Ewing, Mrs Margaret, Fabiani, Linda, Gibson, Mr Kenneth, Grahame, Christine, Hamilton, Mr Duncan, Hyslop, Fiona, Ingram, Mr Adam, Lochhead, Richard, MacAskill, Mr Kenny, MacDonald, Ms Margo, Marwick, Tricia, Matheson, Michael, McGugan, Irene, McLeod, Fiona, Morgan, Alasdair, Paterson, Mr Gil, Quinan, Mr Lloyd, Robison, Shona, Russell, Michael, Sheridan, Tommy, Stevenson, Stewart, Sturgeon, Nicola, Swinney, Mr John, Ullrich, Kay, Welsh, Mr Andrew, White, Ms Sandra, Wilson, Andrew
Against: Aitken, Bill, Alexander, Ms Wendy, Baillie, Jackie, Barrie, Scott, Boyack, Sarah, Brankin, Rhona, Brown, Robert, Butler, Bill, Chisholm, Malcolm, Curran, Ms Margaret, Davidson, Mr David, Deacon, Susan, Douglas-Hamilton, Lord James, Eadie, Helen, Fergusson, Alex, Finnie, Ross, Fitzpatrick, Brian, Gallie, Phil, Gillon, Karen, Godman, Trish, Gorrie, Donald, Grant, Rhoda, Gray, Iain, Harding, Mr Keith, Henry, Hugh, Home Robertson, Mr John, Hughes, Janis, Jackson, Dr Sylvia, Jackson, Gordon, Jamieson, Cathy, Jamieson, Margaret, Jenkins, Ian, Johnstone, Alex, Kerr, Mr Andy, Lamont, Johann, Livingstone, Marilyn, Lyon, George, Macdonald, Lewis, Macintosh, Mr Kenneth, MacKay, Angus, MacLean, Kate, Macmillan, Maureen, Martin, Paul, McAllion, Mr John, McAveety, Mr Frank, McCabe, Mr Tom, McConnell, Mr Jack, McGrigor, Mr Jamie, McIntosh, Mrs Lyndsay, McMahon, Mr Michael, McNeil, Mr Duncan, McNeill, Pauline, McNulty, Des, Monteith, Mr Brian, Morrison, Mr Alasdair, Muldoon, Bristow, Mulligan, Mrs Mary, Mundell, David, Munro, John Farquhar, Murray, Dr Elaine, Oldfather, Irene, Peacock, Peter, Peattie, Cathy, Radcliffe, Nora, Raffan, Mr Keith, Robson, Euan, Rumbles, Mr Mike, Scanlon, Mary, Scott, John, Scott, Tavish, Simpson, Dr Richard, Smith, Elaine, Smith, Iain, Smith, Mrs Margaret, Stephen, Nicol, Stone, Mr Jamie, Thomson, Elaine, Tosh, Mr Murray, Wallace, Ben, Wallace, Mr Jim, Watson, Mike, Whitefield, Karen, Wilson, Allan

Photo of Patricia Ferguson Patricia Ferguson Labour

The result of the division is: For 34, Against 83, Abstentions 0.

Amendment 91 disagreed to.