Council House Sales

Oral Answers to Questions — Environment – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 6 May 1981.

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Photo of Mr Allan Roberts Mr Allan Roberts , Bootle 12:00, 6 May 1981

asked the Secretary of State for the Environment how many council houses have been sold since the passing of the Housing Act 1980; what is the average discount given to those who have purchased them; and what percentage of the total are flats.

Photo of Mr Michael Heseltine Mr Michael Heseltine Secretary of State for Environment

Figures are collected quarterly. In the second half of 1980, 34,100 local authority dwellings in England were sold at an average discount of 40 per cent. It is estimated that nearly 2½ per cent. of the dwellings sold were flats. Figures for the first quarter of 1981 are not yet available.

Photo of Mr Allan Roberts Mr Allan Roberts , Bootle

Do not the figures reveal that few flats are being sold? Does the Secretary of State accept that only the best council houses are being sold at give-away discounts? Is he aware that that is creating ghetto housing, since the worst houses are being left in the public sector?

Photo of Mr Michael Heseltine Mr Michael Heseltine Secretary of State for Environment

The figures show nothing of the sort. They show that up to now completions for the sale of flats under the right-to-buy policy have not taken place. Under the earlier enactment of that policy few councils sold flats. I understand that many right-to-buy applications are for flats. If the hon. Gentleman is so concerned about our policy of selling council houses, he should accept that it is a popular policy with people who want to buy their homes. The real criticism should be made of Labour-controlled authorities which are trying to frustrate the Government's mandate.

Photo of Mr Robert Adley Mr Robert Adley , Christchurch and Lymington

Does my right hon. Friend agree that Parliament has given tenants the right to buy and that it is intolerable and undemocratic for local authorities to seek to frustrate that right? Will my right hon. Friend confirm that any local authority tenant has the right to apply to buy his council home? Will he ensure that tenants' rights within the law are upheld?

Photo of Mr Michael Heseltine Mr Michael Heseltine Secretary of State for Environment

Tenants' rights within the law will certainly be upheld. Any council tenant can apply, and a large proportion of them have the right to buy. That right to buy was enshrined in the mandate under which the Government came to power.

Photo of Mr Frank Allaun Mr Frank Allaun , Salford East

Is not the Secretary of State forcing tenants to buy by raising rents? Secondly—and I ask the Minister to answer—does he intend to impose an additional rent increase beyond the current £3·25 by a further removal of subsidy?

Photo of Mr Michael Heseltine Mr Michael Heseltine Secretary of State for Environment

The hon. Gentleman is aware that each year the Government reach conclusions about the public expenditure balance. The Government will continue to do that, just as the previous Government did. Today is not the right time to discuss the relative balance between one factor and another. The hon. Gentleman is aware that the policy of selling council houses has nothing to do with future levels of rent increases. The Labour Party is always calling for improved standards of maintenance for council houses, without realising that rent payments have to be made to cover the costs.

Photo of Mr Robin Squire Mr Robin Squire , Hornchurch

In support of my right hon. Friend's earlier statement, may I ask whether he is aware that in the London borough of Havering the majority of tenants applying for purchase live in flats? Does he agree that that is evidence that the premise behind the original question is false?

Photo of Mr Michael Heseltine Mr Michael Heseltine Secretary of State for Environment

I agree. The first indications are that there has been a significant increase in the number of applications to buy flats, which were not previously available for sale.