The hon. Member for Bootle (Mr. Roberts) covered a wide area of housing policy and I hope that he will forgive me if, in my brief remarks, I stick to issues that are directly relevant to the Bill, which I hope will receive a Second Reading. I am sure that the hon. Gentleman's comments were addressed primarily to his own Front Bench in his desire to see an alternative Labour party policy on housing, and it ill befits me to become involved in that party's civil war.
However, I was impressed when the hon. Gentleman said that his party had failed during the election campaign to convince the electorate of its commitment to owner-occupation. Those of us with many council tenants in our constituencies will recall that during the election campaign, housing and the sale of council houses became major issues. I have fought three parliamentary campaigns, but I cannot think of any other occasion when a single issue was so clear cut and when such a large majority of the electorate was so firmly in favour of our policy and against the Labour alternative.
It was particularly interesting to note that Labour party supporters of many years' standing came up to me in shops, in their places of work and at public meetings and told me that although they had voted Labour all their lives, they would never do so again for the simple reason that they wanted the right to buy their own properties. They might not intend to buy their houses this year, next year or the year after, but they want the certainty that if circumstances allow and the time is right, they will have the opportunity to purchase their own homes. If I was unsure whether I had read the situation correctly in my constituency I realised that I had hit the nail on the head when I saw the recent survey carried out by a prominent building society. It showed that more than 90 per cent. of people have ambitions to own their own homes. The Labour party has painted itself into a difficult and tight corner by misjudging the views of council house tenants. Those tenants are desperate to purchase the homes that they have lived in for many years. They do not accept arguments against that.
On behalf of those tenants, I wish to counter some of the arguments against the sale of council houses put forward by the hon. Members for Manchester, Blackley (Mr. Eastham) and for Bootle. The most spurious argument is that if a council house is sold to a sitting tenant, the local authority loses it, and someone in inferior accommodation, or without accommodation, is thus deprived of the opportunity of quickly obtaining a local authority property.