Council House Sales

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

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Photo of Frank Dobson Frank Dobson , Camden Holborn and St Pancras South 12:00 am, 6th May 1981

asked the Secretary of State for the Environment what is his estimate of the total income from council house sales in 1980–81 that councils will be able to devote to new house building.

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

It is for individual local authorities to decide what proportion of their accumulated unspent housing and non-housing capital receipts at 1 April 1981 they devote to new house building in 1981–82.

Photo of Frank Dobson Frank Dobson , Camden Holborn and St Pancras South

Does the Minister realise that his response is misleading? Is he aware that if we allow for a 40 per cent. average discount—as the Secretary of State mentioned earlier—for the 50 per cent. of the takings which are trousered by the Government, and take into account that 60 per cent. of council tenants seek a council mortgage to buy their properties, that means that less than 10 per cent. of the total proper valuation of the houses sold is available to councils to spend on new house building and rehabilitation?

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

That does not match up with my figures for receipts of certain local authorities from the sales of council dwellings last year. Six authorities had more than £2 million each from the sale of council dwellings during the first nine months of last year. They are all Conservative authorities. That shows vividly that the Labour authorities which failed to sell during the last financial year have suffered a self-imposed cut in their housing programmes.

Photo of Dr Brian Mawhinney Dr Brian Mawhinney , Peterborough

Does my hon. Friend agree that if the colleagues of the hon. Member for Holborn and St. Pancras, South (Mr. Dobson) were to encourage their tenants to buy council houses, rather than try to obstruct them in doing so, they would have more money available for new house building?

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

My hon. Friend is right. It is not only the question of the sale of houses to sitting tenants, but the possibility of selling land which scores 100 per cent. if a local authority wishes to increase its capital receipts. There are considerable examples of large areas of valuable land throughout Britain in local authority ownership which could be sold. That fact has been exposed by the land register that my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State is compiling.

Photo of Mr David Alton Mr David Alton , Liverpool Edge Hill

Does the Minister seriously believe that sufficient funds are coming in from the sale of council houses to compensate for the loss of homes caused by public expenditure cuts? Has he had time today to read the report of the Catholic Housing Aid Society about the state of Liverpool's housing stock? Does he believe that the money collected in receipts in Liverpool alone will be sufficient to compensate for the loss of money available to local authorities?

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

I hope that the hon. Member for Liverpool, Edge Hill (Mr. Alton) will make every effort to ensure that in Liverpool and elsewhere the sale of council houses progresses as rapidly—[Interruption.]—as possible.

Photo of Mr George Thomas Mr George Thomas , Cardiff West

The hon. Member for Bolsover (Mr. Skinner) really must try to restrain himself. It is discourteous and unfair to other hon. Members if he continues to talk as I heard him talk.

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

Every possible effort should be made in Liverpool to dispose—

Photo of Mr Eric Heffer Mr Eric Heffer , Liverpool, Walton

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. My hon. Friend the Member for Bolsover (Mr. Skinner) merely said to the hon. Member for Liverpool, Edge Hill (Mr. Alton)—

Photo of Mr George Thomas Mr George Thomas , Cardiff West

When an hon. Member has been called, any sedentary interruptions are out of order. We have allowed a great many to pass, but it is unfair when they are constant.

Photo of Mr Eric Heffer Mr Eric Heffer , Liverpool, Walton

My hon. Friend said it was hypocrisy and it is.

Photo of Mr Bruce Douglas-Mann Mr Bruce Douglas-Mann , Merton Mitcham and Morden

Will the Minister come clean and tell the House to what extent he challenges the assumptions made by my hon. Friend the Member for Holborn and St. Pancras, South (Mr. Dobson)? Does he disagree that only one-third of council house sales will be funded by other than local authority mortgages? Does he disagree that the average discount will be 40 per cent.? If he does not disagree with those assumptions, how can he dispute the figure put forward by my hon. Friend that only 10 per cent. of the proceeds of council house sales will be available for investment?

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

If the hon. Gentleman reads the written answer that I gave to the hon. Member for Holborn and St. Pancras, South (Mr. Dobson), he will note that there is a detailed breakdown of the assumption for housing capital receipts for the financial year 1981–82. It is a breakdown of £413 million. That was based on the assumption that about 120,000 sales would be completed in that financial year. By 31 December 1980 120,000 right-to-buy applications had been received. If local authorities do not complete those sales, the responsibility will be that of the authorities.

Photo of Mr Geoffrey Lofthouse Mr Geoffrey Lofthouse , Pontefract and Castleford

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. I have been in the House since 9 o'clock this morning, but it was not until 10 minutes to 3 o'clock, when I arrived in the Chamber, that I was notified that my question, No. 10, would be coupled with No. 1. I have not had the opportunity of speaking to question No. 10.

Photo of Mr George Thomas Mr George Thomas , Cardiff West

If the Department of the Environment did not notify the hon. Gentleman in time, I shall allow his question to be called at the end of Question Time.