Housing

Part of Orders of the Day — Supply – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 21st June 1978.

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Photo of Mr Michael Heseltine Mr Michael Heseltine Shadow Secretary of State, Shadow Secretary of State for Environment 12:00 am, 21st June 1978

I have no doubt that if they care to give my hon. Friend a letter he will read it out for them in order to save them the trouble of going there.

If the hon. Member for Walton will calm down for a moment perhaps we can get on with the debate. As I want to talk about council tenants, who are of importance to his constituency, perhaps we can move to that part of what I want to say. The fact is that the economic growth climate of today will lead to an extension of the property-owning democracy on a scale slower than that which we first saw when it was first developed in the 1950s, simply because the real disposable income of the people will not permit the dramatic increase in private ownership on the scale which history once provided. But the council tenant and new town tenant give us the opportunity of extending the property-owning democracy perhaps faster than we have done even under the development of the privately owned house.

The first point is that a large number of council tenants want to own their own homes. The second point is that they understand that if they own their own homes they are likely to share in the rising prosperity of the country in a tangible way which is identifiable with themselves, their families and the saving which their homes represent. It is therefore obviously a major preoccupation, certainly of our party, that council tenants and new town tenants should have the right to buy the home in which they live. I cannot understand why, when my hon. Friend the Member for Ashfield (Mr. Smith) introduced a Bill to give council tenants that right, the Labour Party and the Liberal Party voted against it.

It is a curious anachronism that the Labour Party always talks about transferring power to working people but that the moment someone actually proposes to let them own their own homes and enjoy the power that that gives in the most real and tangible way, thus enfranchising working people on a scale never attempted before, the Labour Party is determined that the closest that power will come to the British working people is the office of some bureaucrat up the road.

Therefore, let me repeat that we in the Conservative Party will give council and new town tenants a statutory right to buy their own homes if they choose to do so. We shall also encourage a flexible range of part-purchase and co-ownership schemes for those in the twilight position—not able to buy but wanting to start on the process of having a stake.