§ 15. Mr. Denis Howell
asked the Minister of Housing and Local Government and Minister for Welsh Affairs why the tenants of former Barber Trust houses, now in the possession of the Birmingham Corporation, are not to be allowed to purchase the freeholds of their property; and if he is aware that this was the expectation of those tenants when they were originally told that the Government was making a sale of these houses to any interested tenants a condition of their acquisition by the Corporation.
§ Sir K. Joseph
This is a matter for the Birmingham Corporation, which bought these houses in order to keep the estate together until a housing association can be formed to take it over, but it is being told that if it is willing to sell the freehold in particular cases any consent it needs from me will be forthcoming. I would add in fairness to the Corporation that, as I understand it, it gave no undertaking which would justify the tenants in their expectation.
§ Mr. Howell
Is the Minister aware that that change of position which he has taken up is very welcome? Is he aware that his predecessor insisted that tenants should have the right to buy and that the housing manager of the Corporation also said on 28th September, 1961, when the Corporation took the houses over, that tenants should have the right to buy their houses? Is he aware that many of the tenants in my constituency automatically took that to mean the right to buy the freehold? Because the Corporation is giving leases 713 of 40 years, on the ground that the property might be needed for redevelopment, considerable controversy is being caused. Will the Minister, now that he has changed his mind, be more energetic in his representations to the Birmingham Corporation in an effort to get the Corporation to change its mind?
§ Sir K. Joseph
This is a matter for the Birmingham Corporation to decide. There may have been a certain amount of misunderstanding, perhaps on both sides, as to whether the sale referred to freehold or leasehold.