My hon. Friend the Member for Renfrew, West and Inverclyde described the Minister as a "gentleman" and other hon. Friends have said that he is a nice man. My hon. Friend may not be aware that when the Minister was at Oxford university he obtained a boxing blue.
Mr. Maxton : 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
Column 839expediency. 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.
Lord James Douglas-Hamilton : The hon. Member for Glasgow, Cathcart (Mr. Maxton) is doing his best to make up for the fact that he paid me a strong tribute during a housing debate in the last Parliament, which I used in my general election material. It certainly did me no harm.
The hon. Member for East Lothian (Mr. Home Robertson) asked about variation orders. If interest rates fluctuate by only 0.2 per cent., the practice is to introduce them.
Column 840One of the most important points in the debate was raised by the hon. Members for Glasgow, Garscadden (Mr. Dewar), for Argyll and Bute (Mrs. Michie) and for Angus (Mr. Welsh). They were concerned about the hostel costs of the homeless falling on the housing revenue account. They asked why tenants should have to pay through their rents for the cost of housing the homeless. I recognise that that is a problem. I have asked the Department to write to the Convention of Scottish Local Authorities and seek its considered views on the extent to which the cost of these and similar services should be excluded from housing revenue accounts.
The possibility of any change being made to the present arrangements will require careful consideration, not only in the light of the financial implications for housing revenue accounts and for authorities' general funds but also in the light of the consequences for the delivery of the services. In those circumstances, it is only right to seek COSLA's views before making any decision.
The hon. Member for Glasgow, Garscadden (Mr. Dewar) suggested that, because some authorities in 1989-90 will not be allowed to retain or spend all the income that they receive from council house sales, the receipts will be reallocated to other authorities. That is not wholly correct, for this reason. For 13 authorities, the provisional gross housing revenue account allocation is lower than estimated receipts. Those authorities will receive more income from sales than their capital investment allocation, but in such circumstances the excess income will not be taken away from the authorities concerned ; it will be used by those authorities to repay debts. That will benefit their tenants.
Because those resources will not be used for capital investment by the 13 authorities, we shall be able to allow additional investment by other authorities. Allocations will be made according to relative need across Scotland as a whole.
The provisional capital allocations for next year total £432 million. The hon. Member for Glasgow, Springburn (Mr. Martin) said that adequate resources should be made available. That figure is 11.6 per cent. more than the equivalent allocation for last year. I appreciate that that level of investment may not be as much as some authorities would like, but I believe that they will be able to make significant progress in tackling their investment needs. When we announce the allocations at the end of March, I hope that the figures that were announced in December will be increased.
Mr. McAllion : The Minister has just said that there is to be an 11 per cent. increase in capital allocations. He knows full well that in the case of Dundee district there has been a 50 per cent. reduction. Can he explain that discrepancy?
The hon. Member for Springburn said that local authorities have been obliged to cut the number of repairs.
Column 841Obviously, it is for each authority to decide how much it should spend on management and maintenance, balancing it against the rent levels that it is prepared to set.
On the points raised by the hon. Member for Dundee, East (Mr. McAllion), the actual sums allocated to Dundee are much higher than he suggested. I will find the exact figures in a moment and give them to him. In any case, I will make certain that he receives them. In his spirited address, the hon. Member for Motherwell, North (Dr. Reid) suggested that there is nothing in the orders for Motherwell. Our policy is to see resources for housing concentrated on capital expenditure. The provisional HRA capital allocation for Motherwell, which was issued in December, is 16.9 per cent. higher than the figure for 1988-89, which was issued at the same time a year earlier. It is up from £13 million to £15.2 million. We will certainly not forget the interests of Motherwell.
I was asked about Glasgow. The hon. Member for Edinburgh, South (Mr. Griffiths) asked why Edinburgh was getting no subsidy and Glasgow was getting £28 million. Glasgow received subsidy because it has an outstanding capital debt of £5,577 per house. Edinburgh has an average outstanding capital debt of £4,185. Therefore, Edinburgh has about £2.50 per house per week lower loan charges. The situation is not comparable, because Glasgow is the largest public sector landlord in western Europe.
The hon. Gentleman mentioned the backlog of repair grants. The extra £22.5 million that we have allocated to Edinburgh for 1989-90 on the non-HRA block will allow more than half the remaining backlog--a considerable amount of it in his constituency, to be dealt with in the coming year.
I am glad to have been able to find the information for the hon. Member for Dundee, East that I could not find earlier. The Department calculates that Dundee needs to have an average rent rise of £1.03 per house per week. That excludes the effect of covenant agreements that Dundee district council took on, knowing that the cost would not be eligible for subsidy and would have to be borne by tenants. The hon. Gentleman actually used the phrase "a day of reckoning". Moreover, Dundee's provisional capital allocation of £17.4 million is 14.5 per cent. higher than the corresponding figure for last year. Mr. McAllion rose --
The hon. Gentleman must compare like with like. The figure is up on the allocations for last year, and the final allocations will be made in March.
I stress that a further 8 per cent. has been allocated to local authorities' capital allocations in 1989, making a total of £445 million available for capital expenditure on local authority housing this year. In other words, allocations are up by 95 per cent. over four years. More local authorities' dwellings were improved in 1987. Over 73,000--
Column 842It being three hours after the commencement of proceedings on the motion, Madam Deputy Speaker-- put the Question, pursuant to Order [20th January].
The House divided : Ayes 148, Noes 67.
Division No. 45] [1.38 am
Alison, Rt Hon Michael
Arnold, Jacques (Gravesham)
Arnold, Tom (Hazel Grove)
Baker, Nicholas (Dorset N)
Bevan, David Gilroy
Biffen, Rt Hon John
Bonsor, Sir Nicholas
Bowden, A (Brighton K'pto'n)
Bowden, Gerald (Dulwich)
Buck, Sir Antony
Carlisle, Kenneth (Lincoln)
Channon, Rt Hon Paul
Coombs, Anthony (Wyre F'rest)
Coombs, Simon (Swindon)
Cope, Rt Hon John
Currie, Mrs Edwina
Davies, Q. (Stamf'd & Spald'g)
Davis, David (Boothferry)
Douglas-Hamilton, Lord James
Fairbairn, Sir Nicholas
Fenner, Dame Peggy
Fishburn, John Dudley
Forsyth, Michael (Stirling)
Goodson-Wickes, Dr Charles
Greenway, John (Ryedale)
Griffiths, Peter (Portsmouth N)
Hamilton, Hon Archie (Epsom)
Hamilton, Neil (Tatton)
Hargreaves, A. (B'ham H'll Gr')
Hargreaves, Ken (Hyndburn)
Howarth, Alan (Strat'd-on-A)
Howarth, G. (Cannock & B'wd)
Hunt, David (Wirral W)
Hunt, John (Ravensbourne)
Jones, Gwilym (Cardiff N)
Jones, Robert B (Herts W)
King, Roger (B'ham N'thfield)
Knight, Greg (Derby North)
Lyell, Sir Nicholas
McNair-Wilson, Sir Michael
McNair-Wilson, P. (New Forest)
Martin, David (Portsmouth S)
Mayhew, Rt Hon Sir Patrick
Meyer, Sir Anthony
Miller, Sir Hal
Mitchell, Andrew (Gedling)
Mitchell, Sir David
Morrison, Sir Charles
Peacock, Mrs Elizabeth
Porter, David (Waveney)
Rifkind, Rt Hon Malcolm
Sackville, Hon Tom
Taylor, Ian (Esher)
Taylor, John M (Solihull)
Thompson, Patrick (Norwich N)
Twinn, Dr Ian
Waddington, Rt Hon David
Walker, Bill (T'side North)
Wardle, Charles (Bexhill)