I congratulate my hon. Friend the Minister for Housing and Construction on his maiden speech as a Minister. He put forward a progressive attitude and a typical piece of shrewd Conservative philosophy. I hope that he will continue in that way in future.
All hon. Members are freshly returned from the hustings. After the issues of the economy and nuclear disarmament, the support for the sale of council houses was immense. When visiting council estates we saw the pride of ownership and the difference between the houses already owned or being bought and those that were not. It proves that a stake in one's home and one's country portrays the true Conservative philosophy of a property-owning democracy.
When a councillor some 15 years ago, I supported a scheme for the sale of council houses. I am therefore delighted that we are now taking another fresh step towards giving more people the opportunity to own their homes. I shall not dwell on the psychological aspect of owning one's home. I am delighted that 500,000 council houses have been sold. The Bill will allow many more people to buy their homes.
While it would be invidious to mention all the maiden speeches today, I wish to congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Hertfordshire, West (Mr. Jones), who is my next door neighbour, on his maiden speech. He made the powerful point that selling a council house does not take it out of service to the community. The house does not evaporate; it is still housing a member of the community.
The Bill covers many areas, but I do not have time to deal with them all tonight. I warmly congratulate my right hon. and hon. Friends on the Front Bench on the proposal to increase the discount to 60 per cent. for those who have lived in their homes for more than 30 years. My hon. Friend the Member for Berkshire, East (Mr. MacKay) said that we must assume that such people are at least 50 or 55 years old. For them, the sheer logistics of repaying a mortgage on their incomes is virtually impossible without the larger discount. I am delighted that we can now put homes within the reach of people on low incomes.
Paragraph 4 of schedule 2 deals with an area of discretion that formerly lay in council hands, and which some councils refused to implement. My hon. Friend the Member for Watford (Mr. Garel-Jones) and I have battled with Watford borough council for some time to get it to implement discretion in its council house sales. It is well known that Watford borough council initially refused to implement the 1980 right-to-buy provisions.
The Bill transfers the years of qualification of a tenant to his or her offspring. I am thinking especially of daughters who have lived at home all their lives. They have probably spent many years looking after their elderly parents. Until now, they have had to rely on the council to transfer to them the benefit of those years of occupation. I am glad to see that that anomaly has been rectified.
I am pleased to see that under clause 2 the right to buy has been extended to the tenants of houses which have been adapted for the physically disabled. As my hon. Friend the Member for Berkshire, East pointed out, that will not lead to the sale of houses that have been specifically designed for disabled people—only to those that have been adapted inside.