Orders of the Day — Housing and Building Control Bill

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 7:40 pm on 5th July 1983.

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Photo of Sir Nicholas Lyell Sir Nicholas Lyell , Mid Bedfordshire 7:40 pm, 5th July 1983

I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman. His intervention is well meant and I go along with him in his objective, but we have already answered that point. A person who went into a house provided by, for example, the Sutton housing trust, which provides homes for people who are rather less well off, may now be sufficiently well off to afford to buy his house. If he does so, the housing trust in question will get back all its money in modern terms. The hon. Gentleman is saying that we should make available through the public purse enough money for that housing association or other housing associations to provide afresh for somebody else who is poorer. That is sensible, and we are doing it already. I remind the House that we are now providing £690 million for housing associations and a high proportion of that housing is designed for people in those circumstances, just as much of it is also designed for the specifically disabled and others. We are not lagging on that, and I doubt whether hon. Members realise that so much money is being provided for housing associations.

Most of the objectives go back to the fundamental theological objection to the sale of council houses. We should not deceive ourselves about that. A number of people simply said that if one were to sell these housing association houses, the rented sector stock would decline. Two points must be made about that. First, the private rented sector, if one can call housing associations part of that, has not declined through anything done by this Government but has, sadly, declined through the doctrinaire approach of the Labour party towards the private rented sector, and the inability of Labour Governments, and to some extent Conservative Governments, to face up to the fact that people should be able to charge an economic rent for houses. If one provides absolute security of tenure and restricts to a so-called fair rent the level of rent so that it is so low that nobody can secure an economic return, there will be a decline in the rented housing stock.

Secondly, the argument on the declining stock in the rented sector is identical with that on the sale of council houses generally. The argument against that could not have been put better than it was by my hon. Friend the Member for Hertfordshire, West, who said that the house in question will not be blown up or taken out of the housing stock, but will continue to be lived in by the person who has been wise enough to purchase it. The money goes back to the charity and £690 million is going to the housing associations to replace and build more such houses.

I think that I have put an overwhelming case to the Government to have the confidence — I am sure that they do — to have the clause reconsidered in both Houses. I know that their Lordships were sincere in their debate, but they were heavily lobbied by many other sincere people who believed that this clause was wrong. These people were mistaken. Another argument is that if we are to sell these houses, we should so disappoint those who work in charitable housing associations that they would refuse to carry on with such work in the future. However, people are not like that. I hope that we shall look at this clause afresh and bring it back into the Bill, and that it will go back to the other place and find its way on to the statute book along with the remainder of this excellent Bill.