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Mr. Jopling : I must be losing my touch for judging the pace of progress of the business of the House. I was convinced during the debate on the timetable motion that there would not be time to discuss Lords amendment No. 269. Hence I made most of my remarks during the debate on the timetable motion, in hopeful anticipation of what my hon. and learned Friend the Minister would say. Now, having heard what he said, I shall add one or two remarks to supplement what I said earlier.

Mr. David Nicholson : Would my right hon. Friend care to note the pressure on the Labour Benches yesterday during the debate and the pressure now?

Mr. Jopling : There is one Labour Back-Bench Member present and we are delighted to see him.

Mr. George Howarth (Knowsley, North) rose--

Mr. Jopling : I must get on.

I am grateful for the kind remarks made about me and those who have supported me. I still believe that a better solution would have been that in the amendment. However, I do not intend to press that tonight, because the Government have a perfectly fair point. They have suggested, and it was recommended to me, that their solution should be tried for a little time. Therefore, I am happy to see how it works for 18 months and for us then to come back to it. I am grateful that the Government have said that they will review the matter. We shall have to do that.

The Government have given us the assurances that they back the scheme which the previous Secretary of State elaborated in June. They have said that there are guarantees of adequate repurchase funds and that the scheme for repurchase will be available in the majority of rural areas. I welcome also the promise of increases in the rural rented and shared ownership programmes that the Minister has explained to us. We have the basis for a helpful experiment. I welcome the efforts that I know that Government have made to meet the strong points that have been made here and in another place. They have worked extremely hard to help us.

We will have to see how the experiment works over the next 18 months, but the House is aware that I believe that the problems of rural housing amount to a crusade. I shall return to other problem arising on that issue over the months and years ahead. One of the problemss is with local authorities. We may have to return to that but there are other matters that we shall wish to discuss. This is one of the most important issues with which hon. Members should be dealing and, on that basis, I have advised all my right hon. and hon. Friends who have been good enough to support me in the past few months not to press our objections to the Government's intentions tonight. Therefore, I recommend that they should support the Government and the motion before us.

Mr. Christopher Gill (Ludlow) : As the sponsor of the early-day motion on rural housing in the previous Session of Parliament, I should like to take this opportunity to say

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two things to my hon. and learned Friend the Minister. First, I should like to pay tribute to him for listening to the plea from the countryside on this key issue and congratulate him on the concessions that he is making tonight. Secondly, he will not be surprised to hear me say that we shall be wanting to review progress during the next 18 months or so to see that the measure alleviates the problems.

Mr. Howard : With the leave of the House, I shall reply to the debate.

I express my gratitude to my right hon. and hon. Friends for their remarks. I wish to respond briefly to two points raised by my hon. Friend the Member for Honiton (Sir P. Emery). First, on the availability of resources, it is important to remember that, because the shares that are purchased have to be purchased at market value, whatever that is, the difference between the market value--the funds from which go to the housing association--and the cost of repurchase, is not as great as it might at first appear.

Secondly, I am looking at the point raised about the desire of some local authorities to make land available to housing associations at less than market price. I understand the problems to which that has given rise, and I and my Department are studying them. I commend the motion to the House.

Mr. Soley : With the leave of the House, I shall reply to the debate.

I should have learnt my lesson. We have just had a clear demonstration that it is always a mistake to be generous to the Conservative party. I said that I would give time to Conservative Members to speak on rural housing as we know that that issue is hurting them much more than the Labour party because of the distribution of seats. Clearly, there will be fewer Labour Members in a debate of this nature because we have fewer rural Members. We need to and shall put that right. The hon. Member for Taunton (Mr. Nicholson) jumped up to point out that there are few Labour Back Benchers here. What does he expect? Why should I ever again give Conservative Members time to debate the issue? I could have spent much more time on this and future matters, and I will do so if necessary.

I am troubled also by the way in which the right hon. Member for Westmorland and Lonsdale (Mr. Jopling) said that he wanted to start a crusade on the issue. I welcome that, but I am more than a little puzzled that he is recommending that all his right hon. and hon. Friends should vote with the Government on what he sees as a watered down version of the Lords amendment, which is what he wanted initially. Now he is saying, "Let us make the crusade a bit weaker and lay down our swords for a while." He is urging them to make the crusade weaker in case they win.

Mr. Jopling : The hon. Gentleman should remember what I said in the timetable debate. The advice from the majority of the organisations which suggested those changes earlier in the year is that we should not object tonight to the Government's proposal and that we should let the experiment run.

Mr. Soley : If the right hon. Gentleman wants the stronger position recommended by Members of the House of Lords from all

parties--including the Conservative party--he will vote with us. It is as simple as that. If the right hon. Member for Westmorland and Lonsdale is

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going to have a crusade on this issue--I agree that it deserves one--could he widen it to join the crusade on housing in general? If there is a problem with housing in rural areas in terms of shared ownership, by God there is a problem with rented accommodation in all areas.

There is also a desperate problem for those people who are trying to buy. In the Conservative heartlands such as east Sussex--one of the richest areas in the country--67 per cent. of the people who do not own their own homes at present cannot afford to buy property there. There is a similar percentage--just over 60 per cent.--in Hampshire. In other counties in that area, over 50 per cent. of those who do not already own their own home cannot afford to buy. Furthermore, they cannot afford to rent, for all the reasons that I spelled out earlier.

The Minister attempted to sell to his hon. Friends the idea that somehow or other the changes that he is making--although less effective than those suggested by the Lords--will considerably help the shared ownership schemes in rural areas. I accept that they will help at the margins, but I do not accept that the Minister has faced up to the problem in both the rented and purchase sectors that I put to him earlier. Until the Minister does something about the housing finance mess that the Government have got themselves into, housing associations will never be able to provide the necessary number of homes in rural areas that are affordable either for renting or shared ownership because they will not have the necessary resources. 9 pm

The Government are in difficulties on this point for two reasons. First, they want the housing association movement to use more private sector money and are therefore squeezing Government grants. The House will remember that the Government went through some uncertainty a couple of years ago about whether housing associations were or were not in the public sector. My view is that they are clearly in the public sector, but that does not rule out the possibility that they can, or indeed should, look for private money. I have no objection to that. However, we should not kid ourselves that the housing associations are anything other than in the public sector. If we are to enable housing associations to provide for the difference that was lost because of the cuts made in the council sector, we must increase the amount of money available to them and reform housing finance. What one must not do--the Government are busy doing this--is to make housing associations take over existing council housing. When a housing association in a rural area--especially in the south where this practice is now becoming quite common--seeks to take over council housing, usually at the request of a

Conservative-controlled council, not one single house is added to the rented or purchase stock. It simply changes the management. However, the cost and the bureaucratic problems involved mean that housing associations spend less time on shared ownership schemes, on providing affordable housing or on doing the land deals that are necessary if they are to get some low-cost land, and that in turn compounds the Government's problem.

Housing associations are still unable to provide the necessary accommodation. That is why Conservative Members such as the hon. Members for Honiton (Sir P. Emery) and for Taunton--the latter of whom I shall try to tempt back on board although he has had the audacity to try to bite the hand that feeds him--are getting into

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trouble. I advise them that this is the tip of the iceberg. I am aware that that phrase is unfortunate in view of recent history, but this really is the tip of the iceberg.

Unless the Government deliver a housing policy that provides affordable accommodation in the areas represented by Conservative Members, messing around with shared ownership schemes such as this will not help to solve their problems. Conservative Members will still find many of their constituents knocking on their doors, saying, "Where is my son or daughter going to live? Where are the local workers going to live?" I advise those hon. Members that that will continue.

Finally, I am struck by a headline that I have seen this evening, which reads

"Thatcher's plan to save the world".

Apparently the Prime Minister addressed the United Nations with two people standing by wearing white coats. I wish that she had first directed her attention to the housing crisis that she has created here. If she wants to ignore the homeless kids on our streets and the problems in the inner cities, okay, but she should at least address herself to the Conservative areas where people can no longer afford either to rent or to buy.

Many of the homeless kids on the streets of London, Birmingham, Manchester or Glasgow have come from rural areas. They are not necessarily inner-city kids. According to the Centrepoint study, about 40 per cent. come from outside London. Many come from areas represented by Conservative Members who, sadly, do not meet such people. Although Conservative Members had an opportunity to do so today, to the best of my knowledge only one Conservative Member went, but all credit to him for doing so. I wish that Conservative Members would talk to those kids, because many of them come from their areas. They have moved to London and to other cities because their local housing associations cannot deliver.

This vote is important for the rural areas. There is much more about which I would dearly love to have spoken, but I have had to leave those topics out because the Government have chosen not to allow us to do so. That is their choice. On this vote, more than any other, Conservative Members should be in the Lobby with us rather than helping to water down the famous crusade that has been discovered suddenly by the right hon. Member for Westmorland and Lonsdale.

There is nothing convincing about a crusade when its leaders presumably whip up the troops for action, then, when they are ready to go, turn around and say, "Okay, sit down again, fellas. We have decided not to sail for the Holy Land today ; we shall sail in a couple of years when we have seen what the Government have delivered". That is some crusade. It is not convincing and I do not think it will convince the electorate in the rural areas.

Question put, That this House doth disagree with the Lords in the said amendment :--

The House divided : Ayes 232, Noes 195.

Division No. 376] [9.05 pm


Adley, Robert

Alexander, Richard

Alison, Rt Hon Michael

Amess, David

Amos, Alan

Arbuthnot, James

Arnold, Jacques (Gravesham)

Arnold, Tom (Hazel Grove)

Ashby, David

Aspinwall, Jack

Baker, Nicholas (Dorset N)

Banks, Robert (Harrogate)

Batiste, Spencer

Bellingham, Henry

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Benyon, W.

Bevan, David Gilroy

Blackburn, Dr John G.

Blaker, Rt Hon Sir Peter

Bonsor, Sir Nicholas

Boscawen, Hon Robert

Bottomley, Mrs Virginia

Bowden, Gerald (Dulwich)

Bowis, John

Brandon-Bravo, Martin

Brazier, Julian

Bright, Graham

Browne, John (Winchester)

Bruce, Ian (Dorset South)

Buck, Sir Antony

Budgen, Nicholas

Burns, Simon

Butcher, John

Butler, Chris

Butterfill, John

Carlisle, John, (Luton N)

Carlisle, Kenneth (Lincoln)

Carrington, Matthew

Carttiss, Michael

Chalker, Rt Hon Mrs Lynda

Chapman, Sydney

Chope, Christopher

Clark, Dr Michael (Rochford)

Clark, Sir W. (Croydon S)

Clarke, Rt Hon K. (Rushcliffe)

Colvin, Michael

Conway, Derek

Coombs, Anthony (Wyre F'rest)

Coombs, Simon (Swindon)

Couchman, James

Cran, James

Critchley, Julian

Davis, David (Boothferry)

Day, Stephen

Devlin, Tim

Dicks, Terry

Douglas-Hamilton, Lord James

Dover, Den

Dunn, Bob

Durant, Tony

Dykes, Hugh

Eggar, Tim

Emery, Sir Peter

Evennett, David

Fairbairn, Sir Nicholas

Fallon, Michael

Favell, Tony

Fenner, Dame Peggy

Finsberg, Sir Geoffrey

Fookes, Dame Janet

Forman, Nigel

Forsyth, Michael (Stirling)

Fowler, Rt Hon Norman

Fox, Sir Marcus

Franks, Cecil

Freeman, Roger

Gale, Roger

Garel-Jones, Tristan

Gill, Christopher

Gilmour, Rt Hon Sir Ian

Glyn, Dr Alan

Goodlad, Alastair

Goodson-Wickes, Dr Charles

Gorman, Mrs Teresa

Gow, Ian

Greenway, Harry (Ealing N)

Greenway, John (Ryedale)

Gregory, Conal

Griffiths, Peter (Portsmouth N)

Grist, Ian

Ground, Patrick

Grylls, Michael

Gummer, Rt Hon John Selwyn

Hague, William

Hampson, Dr Keith

Hannam, John

Hargreaves, A. (B'ham H'll Gr')

Hargreaves, Ken (Hyndburn)

Harris, David

Haselhurst, Alan

Hawkins, Christopher

Hayhoe, Rt Hon Sir Barney

Hayward, Robert

Heathcoat-Amory, David

Heddle, John

Hicks, Mrs Maureen (Wolv' NE)

Hicks, Robert (Cornwall SE)

Higgins, Rt Hon Terence L.

Hill, James

Hind, Kenneth

Holt, Richard

Hordern, Sir Peter

Howard, Michael

Howell, Rt Hon David (G'dford)

Howell, Ralph (North Norfolk)

Hughes, Robert G. (Harrow W)

Hunter, Andrew

Irvine, Michael

Irving, Charles

Jack, Michael

Jackson, Robert

Janman, Tim

Jessel, Toby

Johnson Smith, Sir Geoffrey

Jones, Gwilym (Cardiff N)

Jones, Robert B (Herts W)

Jopling, Rt Hon Michael

Kellett-Bowman, Dame Elaine

Key, Robert

Kilfedder, James

King, Roger (B'ham N'thfield)

Knapman, Roger

Knight, Greg (Derby North)

Knight, Dame Jill (Edgbaston)

Knox, David

Lamont, Rt Hon Norman

Lang, Ian

Lawrence, Ivan

Lee, John (Pendle)

Leigh, Edward (Gainsbor'gh)

Lennox-Boyd, Hon Mark

Lester, Jim (Broxtowe)

Lightbown, David

Lilley, Peter

Lloyd, Peter (Fareham)

Lord, Michael

MacKay, Andrew (E Berkshire)

Maclean, David

McLoughlin, Patrick

McNair-Wilson, Sir Patrick

Malins, Humfrey

Mans, Keith

Maples, John

Marlow, Tony

Martin, David (Portsmouth S)

Maude, Hon Francis

Maxwell-Hyslop, Robin

Miller, Sir Hal

Mills, Iain

Miscampbell, Norman

Mitchell, Andrew (Gedling)

Mitchell, Sir David

Monro, Sir Hector

Montgomery, Sir Fergus

Moore, Rt Hon John

Morrison, Sir Charles

Morrison, Rt Hon P (Chester)

Moss, Malcolm

Moynihan, Hon Colin

Neale, Gerrard

Nelson, Anthony

Neubert, Michael

Newton, Rt Hon Tony

Nicholls, Patrick

Nicholson, David (Taunton)

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