Speech in the Scottish Parliament on Housing 7 February 2008

I intend to be brief, not least perhaps because the Minister for Communities and Sport may be as discomfited by my support as I am in giving that support to him.

However, as this is an important issue, I want to underline the Labour Party's support for the Scottish statutory instrument that the Government has made.

Of course, the instrument will simply continue the important work that was done in the previous parliamentary session on housing and sustaining communities.

That work goes beyond any Government and was given recognition by the housing improvement task force.

The Tories' opposition to the proposal is not new and the arguments that they have deployed to support their position are not new either.

One difficulty with the way in which the market currently works is that it disadvantages first-time buyers by involving them in multiple surveys.

Artificially low upset prices can also draw first-time buyers into considering the purchase of properties that they could not possibly afford.

The Tories' arguments about the pilot were well rehearsed at the time, but the evidence of the pilot simply shows that a voluntary approach cannot work.

Perhaps the most critical issue that needs to change in our communities is the way in which people approach the purchasing of a house.

As more people take on ownership of their properties, it must be a concern for all of us that they may do so with less thought than they might give to buying a coat.

The new process will ensure that people are given information about the property that they are buying and the challenges that it will involve.

The process will also give people a better understanding of the worth of what they are buying.

We must be committed—as the housing improvement task force was—to ensuring that people understand the importance of the responsibilities of home ownership and maintaining a property.

If we want to sustain communities and ensure that people do not buy properties that they cannot then maintain, we need to tackle the serious problems that exist.

If there are market issues, surely the supporters of the market on the Conservative benches will tell us that the market will adjust, especially as people will have more information when they make purchases.

The minister has committed himself to monitoring the policy as it is rolled out, which is an important reassurance for people. We will support the Government on this matter at decision time.