Orders of the Day — Housing and Building Control Bill

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 3:37 pm on 5th July 1983.

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Photo of Mr Ian Gow Mr Ian Gow , Eastbourne 3:37 pm, 5th July 1983

The inclusion of that clause in the Bill owes everything to my hon. Friend's suggestion during the previous Parliament.

Clauses 23 and 24 will strengthen the tenants' charter — [Interruption.] When the Opposition intervene like that, it shows that often they hate and abuse one another more than they hate and abuse us.

Clauses 23 and 24 will strengthen the tenants' charter by enabling my right hon. Friend to introduce a right to information about heating costs and a right to repair. Hon. Members will know, from their own constituencies, that local authority repair services can be a source of dissatisfaction. Tenants sometimes have to wait an inordinate time for even relatively small repairs to be done. We propose to give to tenants the right to carry out certain repairs themselves, with reimbursement from the council. As soon as possible, we shall be carrying out consultations on the precise form of the scheme and on the right to information about heating costs.

The Dissolution of Parliament and the re-introduction of the Bill have given the Government the opportunity to look again, and in more detail, at some of the right-to-buy rules. We have concluded that there is one important respect in which the present rules are unnecessarily restrictive.

The present system requires that a tenant must have been a secure tenant for at least three years before he can exercise the right to buy. My predecessor made it clear, when the 1980 Bill was being considered by the House, that there was no particular magic about that three-year rule. Clearly, tenants who buy should be bona fide tenants. We have decided that the qualification period should be reduced from three years to two years and that the discount scale should start at 32 per cent. This change will mean that another 250,000 tenants will be given the right to buy. A Government amendment will be introduced at a later stage to give effect to that change.

I have already referred to our intention to extend the discount to a maximum of 60 per cent. for those who have been tenants for 30 years or more. The new maximum discount will also apply to voluntary sales. It will mean that where authorities are willing to sell on a voluntary basis, as many are, they will be able to go ahead straightaway with sales at the new 60 per cent. rate of discount to tenants who qualify. I hope that many authorities will do so, and that the tenants involved do not have to wait until the Bill reaches the statute book to take advantage of the improvement in the discount provisions.