Orders of the Day — Housing and Building Control Bill

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 9:02 pm on 5th July 1983.

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Photo of Mr John Fraser Mr John Fraser , Norwood 9:02 pm, 5th July 1983

Yes, for home ownership. We did that by introducing a mortgage option scheme and the Leasehold Reform Act 1967 described by Conservative Members as Rachmanism in reverse. That is how they described leasehold reform. We did it by extending local authority lending. We did it in every conceivable way. I shall continue, as will all my Labour colleagues, to fight for an extension of owner-occupation.

In the past, Ministers have talked about the miracle of the effects of the right to buy. They say that it introduces variety, mobility and choice. The Minister for Housing and Construction said that the heart of liberty was choice. However, the difficulty is that, every time a council house is sold and not replaced, the choice is reduced for the rest.

Recently I asked the Secretary of State for the Environment how many flats and houses had been purchased from local authorities under the right-to-buy provisions of the Housing Act. The answer was that 269,000 houses and 5,000 flats had been sold under the right-to-buy provisions. Therefore, for every 54 houses that are sold, one flat is sold. That means that variety, mobility and choice are being constantly reduced. If the houses were being replaced and the Government had a massive construction programme, it would not matter. If there were not a housing shortage, it would not matter, but they are not adding to variety, mobility and choice but diminishing them all the time, just as they are diminishing them through their proposals for the sale of houses for the disabled.

The Government are intensifying segregation in housing. Already there are 300,000 hard-to-let homes. The Government are making the situation worse. Yet another escape route is being cut off for the flatted council tenant. Invalids will not be able to move into adapted houses. Disablement may attack people in mid-life, not just at the beginning of their occupancy. Tenants who moved into a council flat when they had no children will have less chance of moving elsewhere when they have a family. If the houses sold are not replaced, choice will be diminished for all those people.

The situation is made still worse by the collapse of the housing programme. In 1981 only 31,000 new council houses were started and in 1982 only 44,000. Those are the miserable figures for council house building and there is no sign of any permanent improvement in the future. If the present policy of selling off existing houses and failing to build new ones continues, the Government will achieve the two things of which Disraeli accused the Conservative party. There will be two nations in housing and organised hypocrisy will the norm.