§ "Where a person is to be displaced as a result of the implementation of the provision of this Part of this Act, a local authority shall, if so requested by that person and in so far as practicable, secure that he will be provided with suitable alternative accommodation within a reasonable distance from the locality of the house from which he is to be displaced".—[Mr. Millan.]
§ Brought up, and read the First time.
§ 8.0 p.m.
§ The Minister of State, Scottish Office (Mr. Bruce Millan)
I beg to move, That the clause be read a Second time.
The clause will go into the Bill at the end of Part II. It implements an undertaking I gave in Committee to consider including a provision ensuring that, as far as practical, people displaced from their homes in housing action areas would be given an opportunity of remaining in the same locality. The hon. Member for Glasgow, Cathcart (Mr. Taylor) moved a new clause to this effect in Committee. I said that I would consider it and if convinced would put down a new clause on Report. I have been persuaded of the case and am happy to honour my undertaking.
§ Mr. Ian MacArthur (Perth and East Perthshire)
The House will be cheered by such an auspicious start to the Report stage of this important Bill. I emphasise that it is an important Bill because we have now gone over the same ground twice, for the Conservative Government introduced a similar Bill.
It is a matter of serious concern that we should be meeting now to consider the Report stage of the Bill without the presence of any hon. Member from the Scottish National Party. No doubt Scottish Nationalist Members are not familiar with the procedures of the House, and it may be what is happening on the Floor of the House has escaped their notice. But, of course, none of them was present in the Standing Committee because they 1652 refused the offer of a seat on the Committee. We were therefore unable to hear what advice, if any, the Scottish Nationalists might have chosen to give us in Committee. We are now entering on the Report stage of this very important Bill for Scotland, and not one Scottish Nationalist Member is present.
Is it possible, Mr. Deputy Speaker to suspend our proceedings for perhaps 15 minutes in order to make it possible for the Scottish Nationalists to attend this critical stage of a Bill of such great importance to Scotland?
§ Mr. Deputy Speaker (Mr. Oscar Murton)
I think the hon. Gentleman knows that the Chair has no control over the attendance in this House of any particular Member.
§ Mr. MacArthur
I must confess that I suspected that you might say something of the kind, Mr. Deputy Speaker, but it is right that the House should note that the Scottish National Party, which makes such a song and dance about housing in Scotland, cannot be bothered to attend the House of Commons at an early and reasonable hour in order to take part in this critical stage of a Bill which is of such great importance to Scotland. It is quite disgraceful.
§ Mr. Teddy Taylor (Glasgow, Cathcart)
I appreciate the point that has been made by my hon. Friend the Member for Perth and East Perthshire (Mr. MacArthur) and I understand his frustration, since he is one of those conscientious Members who regularly attend Scottish Committees of this House but find themselves having to take on more than their fair share of the load because others are not shouldering their share. The absence of hon. Members from the Scottish National Party might be excusable if this were 4 o'clock in the morning, but 8 o'clock in the evening is a perfectly reasonable hour at which to expect hon. Members from Scotland to discuss an important Scottish Housing Bill. The absence of Scottish National Party Members is an insult to Scotland and a good commentary on the silly Press comments by Scottish Nationalists about Scottish housing.
§ Mr. Robin F. Cook (Edinburgh, Central)
Would not the hon. Gentleman agree that perhaps one explanation for 1653 the absence of Scottish Nationalists is that they lack any constructive ideas for Scottish housing?
§ Mr. Taylor
That may be so, but nevertheless I would have thought that all right hon. and hon. Members from Scotland have something to contribute to our consideration of Scotland's housing problems. No doubt some have more to contribute on the subject than others, but all ought to be able to say at least something.
I thank the Minister of State for the valuable concession in new Clause 1. The Bill has been greately improved in Committee. We were grateful to the hon. Gentleman for the patient and understanding way he dealt with our amendments.
New Clause 1 is a very important matter because one of the genuine problems encountered in our city areas is the rehousing of elderly people. Very often they are rehoused, when their old homes are demolished, well away from friends, family, church and all the other things which made life more tolerable to them. It is spendid that we should now be including a provision ensuring that, where possible and practical, they will be rehoused in the same area or in other areas close by.
§ Question put and agreed to.
§ Clause read a Second time, and added to the Bill.