HC Deb 11 November 1970 vol 806 cc358-60
3. Mr. William Hamilton

asked the Secretary of State for Scotland how many local authorities have now indicated a willingness to sell council houses; and whether he will keep statistics on a quarterly basis of the total number sold.

The Secretary of State for Scotland (Mr. Gordon Campbell)

Since my circular was sent last July, nine have already applied for consent to sales. Ten others are considering offering houses for sale to sitting tenants. I will keep a record of the number of houses sold.

Mr. Hamilton

I am very glad to see the right hon. Gentleman alive and well, and present. Does not he recognise that this agreeably small number shows the complete irrelevance of this policy as a solution to the housing problem in Scotland? Will not he drop the nonsense?

Mr. Campbell

It is at present much too early to judge. I have already given approval in three months to nearly three times the number of houses that were sold in the last three years of the Labour Government.

19. Earl of Dalkeith

asked the Secretary of State for Scotland if he will give encouragement to local authorities to sell council houses to those who wish to buy them.

Mr. Gordon Campbell

I have already told local authorities that they should feel free to sell houses to sitting tenants who wish to buy them, and I hope they will give the most serious consideration to the advantages of selling. For my part I am ready to consent to their doing so unless there are special reasons for refusing.

Earl of Dalkeith

Would my right hon. Friend not agree that if this scheme snowballs successfully it will be a very considerable advantage to local authority housing accounts and will enable local authorities to do a good deal more to help those individuals who need help most?

Mr. Campbell

Yes. As my noble Friend has pointed out, where cash is available to be paid it can help a local authority to provide for those who are waiting on the housing list while the tenant remains in the original house as an owner-occupier.

Mr. Hugh D. Brown

Before we get bogged down in party warfare on this issue, would the right hon. Gentleman appreciate that since demand by the occupiers is likely to be greatest in high-amenity areas, the social consequences for the larger authorities could perhaps be costly at the end of the day, and, as money is the only argument which can influence hon. Members opposite, will he at least give this due consideration?

Mr. Campbell

Certainly, if that were to happen, I would take this into consideration, with any other considerations, too. As I have made clear, every case in Scotland has to be considered on its merits and must have the Secretary of State's approval.

Mr. Robert Hughes

Would the Secretary of State try to explain to us what this encouragement of selling council houses will do to provide houses? This is the problem. Would he not agree that, rather than waste time selling houses, he should be chasing local authorities, particularly those controlled by his hon. Friends outside this House, to get on with the house-building programme?

Mr. Campbell

I am sorry that the hon. Gentleman did not realise from my answer to the first Supplementary that when money is provided by the sale of a house, that money is extra, additional, and available for providing accommodation to someone who is waiting on the housing list. So it is an additional resource. This operation does not conflict with the building of new houses, or the improvement of houses. In fact, it means that a local authority has less to do in management, repairs and the running of the house which has been sold, and can concentrate on the main problems in front of it, such as the one my hon. Friend pointed out.