Housing and Planning Bill – Report stage

Alison Thewliss (Glasgow Central) (SNP): I notice that the hon. Member for Edinburgh South (Ian Murray), who criticised us earlier, has since vanished from the Chamber—what a shame.

Members may remember—I am not sure if the hon. Member for Bromley and Chislehurst (Robert Neill) was here—when I spoke on 2 November about my grandparents’ house in Wishaw. I passed it on Sunday, and new tenants have moved in. A house that was in my family’s care as socially rented council tenants has now moved on to another generation. That is a very nice and positive thing that this Government want to remove from England.

Listening to this debate has been like listening to a story about another country, because in Scotland—[Interruption.] If the hon. Member for Burton (Andrew Griffiths) wants to intervene on me, he can, rather than grumbling on the other side of the Chamber. We have not participated in votes on this Bill, because we felt it was important to allow English and Welsh Members to make those decisions. We did not need English votes for English laws to make us take that principled stance.

We have taken on board concerns raised by Shelter, the Chartered Institute of Housing and the Scottish Federation of Housing Associations, which is worried about the impact on Scotland. We could not necessarily table an amendment on unintended consequences for, or things that might happen to, housing associations ​based in Scotland as a result of the Bill; there are a number of cross-border housing associations and we do not yet know what the impact on them will be. If they are forced to sell off stock south of the border, what will be the impact on their investment and other plans for Scotland and Scottish tenants? We do not know.

We have abolished the right to buy in Scotland, and for good reason. Those houses were being lost from the housing stock in Scotland and people were languishing on waiting lists. We realised that we could go no further, because people were not getting the chance to realise their aspiration of a socially rented home. Their aspiration was for a home, not a house, to live in for generations.

The tenancy limit is a cause for concern and will upset many people. People want to live and settle in an area and to belong to it. For many people, that will be the area they grew up in, while for others it will be elsewhere. If people’s rent is going to be up for review every two to five years, as stated in the Bill, they will not know whether they will be permitted to stay in their home. They might have to move and they will not know whether their children will be able to stay in their school. There may, therefore, be consequences for local schools in the area; if there is a constant turnover of pupils, that will impact on a school’s ability to work well, flourish and build a solid community in which we would all wish to live.

The Bill is pretty dreadful in many respects. The Minister said earlier that he did not want central command and control over housing. Why, then, does he want to set the rent and force housing associations to reduce rent by 1%, which undermines their ability to borrow, plan and provide essential welfare rights services to their tenants? They do not have that choice any more—he has taken it out of their hands through his central command and command system.

Pay to stay will have an impact on the personal relationship that many tenants have with their housing officer and their neighbours, who, if their daughter or son is waiting for a house, may feel inclined to clype, should somebody get a wee pay increase or if they want to improve themselves by getting a new job or a promotion. That undermines the principles of every party, because we all want people to get on and do better. It is just not right, and the Government have clearly recognised that by rolling back the scheme and making it voluntary rather than compulsory. I hope that in time they will get rid of it altogether.

I am also concerned about the selling of high-value homes, because they are not luxury mansions, but family homes that allow families to stay in local communities. We should look at that again, because it is very important that they are replaced properly. I will close on that point, because other Members want to speak and I would not want to abuse the House.