Orders of the Day — Housing and Planning Bill

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 6:29 pm on 4th February 1986.

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Photo of Mr Allan Roberts Mr Allan Roberts , Bootle 6:29 pm, 4th February 1986

Yes. As the hon. Member points out from a sedentary position, it was the same as Liberal and Social Democratic party policy. The Labour party did not intend—as Conservative canvassers and, I might say, alliance canvassers said on the doorsteps at the last election—compulsorily to purchase or to give the power of compulsory purchase to local authorities to take council houses away from people who had brought them. There was never any suggestion of that, although that was the lie told by opposing canvassers on the doorsteps at the last election. It has never been our policy.

Many former council tenants, who have purchased their houses in my constituency, would love Sefton council, or any other council, to have the option to buy their houses back at market value, because they cannot sell them. They have failed to sell them on the open market and see no harm in the council having the first option to purchase them back at market value. I see no harm in that either.

The hon. Member for Eastbourne does not quote from "Homes for the Future", the Labour party's current policy statement on the sale of council houses. My hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham, Perry Barr (Mr. Rooker) is not trying to force the Labour party to alter everything but he has succeeded in getting the Labour party conference overwhelmingly to accept the current policy in every detail. The Bill deals with the situation created by seven years of Conservative housing policy. The policies of the next Labour Government will also have to address that problem.

When the Labour party comes to power—perhaps in the next 18 months or two years—it will face a housing crisis of 1945 proportions, with massively growing waiting lists, increasing homelessness and a deterioration of the housing stock. I believe in choice, but the Tory choice in the sale of council houses has been choice at the cost of other people's choice. We predicted that if the Government forced the sale of council houses in 1979, only the best houses would be sold and councils would be left with the worst of the housing stock. We predicted that public sector housing would become stigmatised and ghetto housing estates similar to American welfare housing would develop. The Government are introducing the Bill because that has happened. The Labour party's prediction that only the best houses would be sold has come true. No one wants to buy flats and the Government are attempting to deal with the fact that only 4 per cent. of sales are flats, which represents only one third of the total housing stock.