Council House Sales (Sheffield)

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 John Osborn Mr John Osborn , Sheffield, Hallam 12:00, 6 May 1981

asked the Secretary of State for the Environment if he will take steps to ensure that the Sheffield metropolitan district council no longer obstructs and threatens council house tenants who wish to purchase their homes and carries out the steps and requirements of recent legislation designed to promote the sale of council houses.

Photo of John Stanley John Stanley Minister (Department of Environment) (Housing & Construction)

I refer my hon. Friend to the statement I made in the House on 15 April. The Department wrote to Sheffield on the same day to give formal warning that my right hon. Friend is contemplating using his powers of intervention and seeking by 13 May the latest information on progress by the authority. If it then appears to my right hon. Friend that Sheffield's tenants have, or may have, difficulty in exercising the right to buy effectively and expeditiously, a notice of intervention will be served on the council.

Photo of Mr John Osborn Mr John Osborn , Sheffield, Hallam

I welcome the statement made on 15 April. Has my hon. Friend had time to study the dossier given to him by Conservative councillors outlining the appointment of people to dissuade tenants from buying their houses and also dealing with the difficult issue of the intimidation of those who want to buy their council homes? What reaction has he received from Sheffield?

Photo of John Stanley John Stanley Minister (Department of Environment) (Housing & Construction)

My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State has not yet received a definitive reply from the city of Sheffield. We have been assured that it will be sent to us by the due date. The papers referred to by my hon. Friend have been studied. As I have said, if a local authority can recruit staff to dissuade people from exercising their right to buy, it must have sufficient staff to help people obtain their legal rights.

Photo of Mr Martin Flannery Mr Martin Flannery , Sheffield, Hillsborough

Does the Minister remember that I recently sent him a petition with 20,000 signatures about council house rents? Does he remember saying that he had nothing to do with the matter and that local councillors raised rents? Did he think that we would accept that? Does he recall that the council has repeatedly pointed out to him that it has 27,000 people on the housing list, that the list is developing, and that he has cut down its staff while expecting it to have sufficient staff to sell council houses? Cannot the council legitimately complain that it costs money to obtain staff? Does he accept that the hon. Member for Sheffield, Hallam (Mr. Osborn) has no contact whatsoever with council house tenants and just does not understand the issue?

Photo of John Stanley John Stanley Minister (Department of Environment) (Housing & Construction)

My hon. Friend the Member for Sheffield, Hallam (Mr. Osborn) is as closely associated with his electorate as the hon. Gentleman is with his. Because of my hon. Friend's representations, we are aware that almost 4,000 tenants in Sheffield have applied to buy their homes. The latest figures available from the local authority show that at the beginning of April precisely five houses had been referred for valuation, no offer notices had been served and no completions had taken place. That is why a letter has been sent to the Sheffield city council saying that the Sectretary of State will intervene if satisfactory replies are not received by 13 May.