Council House Sales

Oral Answers to Questions — Environment – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 6th November 1991.

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Photo of Mr David Knox Mr David Knox , Staffordshire Moorlands 12:00 am, 6th November 1991

To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment how many council houses have been sold to sitting tenants in England since May 1979.

Photo of Mr Michael Heseltine Mr Michael Heseltine Secretary of State for Environment

Between April 1979 and June 1991 almost 1·3 million tenants bought their homes from English local authorities and new towns.

Photo of Mr David Knox Mr David Knox , Staffordshire Moorlands

Does my right hon. Friend agree that that figure is a measure of the popularity of selling council houses? But should not more of the proceeds from such sales be devoted to building additional houses, particularly for the elderly and one-parent families?

Photo of Mr Michael Heseltine Mr Michael Heseltine Secretary of State for Environment

I know of my hon. Friend's concern, which is shared by the Government. My hon. Friend will be pleased to know that the Housing Corporation's spending is set to rise from £1·1 billion in 1990–91 to more than £2 billion in 1993–94. Many of the people to whom he referred will gain from that.

Photo of David Winnick David Winnick , Walsall North

Why not take care to ensure that homes which have been sold off are replaced? Is not the Secretary of State concerned that nearly 7,000 families per month are losing their homes because they cannot keep up their mortgage repayments? Under the proposed scheme many such people will be unable to remain in their homes. Will the Secretary of State recognise at long last that there is an acute housing crisis in Britain? He talks about the number of dwellings that are sold off, but we want to ensure that people who are in such desperate plight can live in affordable rented accommodation.

Photo of Mr Michael Heseltine Mr Michael Heseltine Secretary of State for Environment

The hon. Gentleman wants to keep people living in council houses, which they want to own, under Labour control for Labour party benefit. We were elected to pursue different policies and that is what we are doing.

Photo of Mr Patrick Thompson Mr Patrick Thompson , Norwich North

Will my right hon. Friend confirm that he will be visiting Norwich on 15 November? When he does so, will he take the opportunity to persuade Norwich city council to take a more imaginative approach not only to the sale of council houses but to provision for the homeless and to housing matters generally?

Photo of Mr Michael Heseltine Mr Michael Heseltine Secretary of State for Environment

My hon. Friend is right that I shall be visiting Norwich and I confirm that it is part of a series of visits being paid by me and my ministerial colleagues responsible for housing so that we can talk face to face with local authorities about the housing that they provide. in the presence of representatives of their tenants' associations.

Photo of Rt Hon David Trimble Rt Hon David Trimble , Upper Bann

The Secretary of State will agree that a great achievement of the current Administration has been the sale of many public authority dwellings to their tenants. In the light of that, will he suggest to the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland that it would be a retrograde step for him to repeal the right-to-buy legislation in Northern Ireland, as he proposes?

Photo of Mr Michael Heseltine Mr Michael Heseltine Secretary of State for Environment

I am glad that the hon. Gentleman so admires our foresight in introducing the right-to-buy legislation in the early years of the present Administration. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland is a man of great wisdom and he will make the appropriate judgments with regard to Northern Ireland which I shall support.