HC Deb 07 June 1972 vol 838 cc448-9
34. Mr. Rost

asked the Secretary of State for the Environment how large a percentage of tenants he estimates will purchase their council houses at a 20 per cent. discount on market price; and how many more council houses he estimates will be sold this year under this arrangement.

Mr. Amery

Local authorities reported sales of nearly 17,000 council houses in 1971 against just over 6,000 in 1970, an increase of about 170 per cent. In the first quarter of this year nearly 7,000 houses were sold—that is, more than the total sold in 1970—compared with 5,400 in the last quarter of 1971. The number of authorities involved rose from 316 to 358. I am sure that if all tenants who want to buy are allowed by their councils to do so there will be a substantial further increase this year, but I would hesitate to make a specific estimate.

Mr. Rost

What will my right hon. Friend do to ensure that every council tenant is given an opportunity to buy?

Mr. Amery

As my hon. Friend knows, we have felt that in the first instance at least this is a matter for the local authorities. But we are shortly issuing a very strong circular setting out our view that local authorities should sell council houses and urging them to adopt a realistic approach to the matter in the present circumstances.

Mr. Freeson

In what way will this blanket ideological policy add one extra dwelling to meet the number required throughout the country? How does the right hon. Gentleman expect people in many areas living in local authority dwellings to be able to comply even with his new circular when prices are now running at £10,000 for local authority dwellings? Does he really expect ordinary people to be able to afford this kind of money.

Mr. Amery

As the hon. Gentleman knows, when discounts of 20 per cent. and even 30 per cent. are allowed, subject to certain conditions, the sale of council houses represents the very best bargain available to the would-be home owner at the present time. I do not think that the sale of such houses in any way interferes with the discharge of housing responsibilities by local authorities. Thanks to the rising cost subsidy, they now have nothing to stop them from building new houses where there is need.

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