Since we reinvigorated the right to buy last year, sales have more than doubled, to the highest level in six years. We believe it is vital to ensure that all eligible tenants know exactly how to exercise their right, which is why this month we are writing directly to more than 500,000 households right across England, including in the metropolitan city of Leeds.
Enabling families on the estate I grew up on to be the first generation to own their own home really did open up social mobility. Does my hon. Friend share my concern that certain councils have refused to promote the new right-to-buy scheme to their tenants? Does he think that has something to do with the fact that those councils are run by parties that are against home ownership as an aspiration?
My hon. Friend puts his finger exactly on the point: some Labour councils and, indeed, some trade unions, which, as we know, bankroll the Labour party, are bitterly opposed to the idea that people should be able to buy their own home. I can tell him that this Government are determined to ensure that eligible tenants who want to exercise their right to buy will be able to do so, and never mind the politics on the other side of the House.
The Government said that the proceeds of these right-to-buy sales will be used to build new affordable homes, but the problem surely is that these are not going to be affordable homes and one direct consequence will be a big increase in the housing benefit bill if any houses actually get built for that kind of rent.
I am sorry to disappoint the hon. Lady, but some 844 dwellings have started or been acquired already, and those are affordable homes to rent. So she is wrong on the facts and the Opposition are wrong on their ideology against the principle that people should have the right to buy their own home.
The right to buy is a very important policy that can hugely enhance social mobility but, unfortunately, in some areas of the country that went through stock transfer early it does not reach our constituents and benefit them. May I encourage the Minister to examine ways of improving the right to purchase and the discounts available under the scheme, and to work more closely with registered social landlords to make sure that my constituents can also benefit?
My hon. Friend is absolutely right, in the sense that the protected right that was there is an important issue. We are keeping it closely under review, but I would welcome, as would my colleagues, any input on a local basis.