HC Deb 25 November 1970 vol 807 cc412-3
32. Mr. Farr

asked the Secretary of State for the Environment if he will take further steps to encourage local authorities to sell council houses to their tenants.

Mr. Amery

Local authorities are already well aware of my concern to promote council house sales to the maximum extent consistent with their duty to meet the needs of the homeless and badly houses.

I will be keeping progress in sales continually under review.

Mr. Farr

Will my right hon. Friend consider circulating to local authorities a list of some of the advantages to be derived from the sale of council houses, including the fact that it is a source of ready finance for the commencement of new council building projects which are urgently needed?

Mr. Amery

I entirely agree with my hon. Friend. The circular issued by my right hon. Friend soon after he took office has made our policy quite clear, but I will take every step in my power to re-emphasise what he has already said.

Mr. Marsh

Would not the right hon. Gentleman agree that the price obtained for second-hand council houses when they are sold is considerably less than the cost of building a new council house? Is not the effect of this policy to place a financial burden upon local authorities and reduce the number of houses available?

Mr. Amery

May I ask the right hon. Gentleman to consult—[HON. MEMBERS: "No."]—the Greater London Council and the Birmingham City Council—[Interruption.]

Mr. Speaker

Order. Questions should be put to Ministers, not by Ministers?

Mr. Amery

Then may I put it in the form of a straight reply? Many authorities, including the Greater London Council and Birmingham, have found the opposite to be the case.

Mr. Tom Boardman

Is my right hon. Friend aware that many council tenants are not prepared to leave their neighbourhood and friends but would be prepared and glad to buy their own houses, and thus generate funds for further house building?

Mr. Amery

I entirely agree. As my hon. Friend knows, local authorities are permitted to sell at reduced prices subject to a covenant covering three or five years.

Mr. Kaufman

Will the Minister issue instructions forbidding the Conservative council in Manchester to sell any more council houses until such time as my 154 cinstituents in the slum clearance area of West Gorton, who have been left alone, who are mainly old people and who are having to live in conditions of dampness, lack of water supply and rat infestation, have had their rehousing completed, since on the present showing they will have to stay in their present accommodation until the end of the winter?

Mr. Amery

I share the hon. Gentleman's distress that such conditions should prevail in Manchester after the six years that his party were in power. I accept the seriousness of the situation. In so far as local authorities sell their houses, they will have extra funds, or, if tenants move into the private sector, they will have extra accommodation for those in distress.

Mr. Denis Howell

Since the Minister has mentioned both the Greater London Council and Birmingham in placing importance on the funds that will accrue, will he kindly tell the House what is the average income of those authorities in selling a three-bedroom house and how much it costs to replace it at present-day prices?

Mr. Amery

If the hon. Gentleman would like to put down a Question, I will do my best to answer.

Sir Harmar Nicholls

Will my right hon. Friend keep in mind that it is healthy and right that a man should own the house in which he lives and that any means which brings this about can only be good?

Mr. Amery

My hon. Friend and I have always been dedicated to the proposition of a property-owning democracy.