HC Deb 26 May 1976 vol 912 cc419-21
6. Mr. Arnold

asked the Secretary of State for the Environment whether he will now introduce a Bill to give families living in new town coporation houses a statutory right to buy their homes.

Mr. Guy Barnett

No, Sir.

Mr. Arnold

Would not the Minister agree that the Government's position as revealed in the debate last week nevertheless remains somewhat ambiguous? If discussions are to take place with new town chairmen, why should that fact of itself preclude a statutory right to buy when and where local conditions permit?

Mr. Barnett

This matter must be discussed with the new town chairmen, because the Government's policy is to try to look at this matter new town by new town in the light of local considerations and the fact that we must give higher priority to those who rely on rented accommodation for a home.

Mr. Moonman

Would not my hon. Friend agree that much of this argument by the Opposition is a diversion which conceals a great lack of interest—indeed, antipathy—towards the whole concept of new towns?

Hon. Members


Mr. Barnett

I do not know whether to agree with my hon. Friend about this. I always like to have a generous view of the views of the Opposition on this matter. I would only say that the difference between the Opposition and ourselves is that they take rather a doctrinaire approach to this matter.

Mr. Carlisle

Since the Minister has agreed under great pressure to change his dogmatic approach on this matter, will he give me an assurance that the arangements which are made in the meetings with the chairmen of new town corporations will ensure that tenants in the new town of Runcorn who wish to do so will have the opportunity to buy their houses, an idea which is supported by the development corporation?

Mr. Barnett

My right hon. Friend has never been dogmatic on this matter, nor has the Labour Party. The reason why a ban was placed on the sale of new town houses is as well known to the hon. and learned Member as it is to the House—that when we took over there were long waiting lists in many of the new towns as a consequence of indiscriminate sale during the Conservatives' period of office. We shall have to look at the situation in Runcorn in the light of local considerations, and I am sure that that is what will be done.

Mr. Corbett

When my hon. Friend is involved in consultations with the chairmen of the new town authorities, will he bear in mind that many of them are responsible for repairing the neglect of previous Tory councils which are now within the boundaries of new towns because of local government reorganisation? Will he take into account the appallingly long waiting lists, such as that in my area, which were inherited from districts which are now within the new towns?

Mr. Barnett

We will bear that in mind.

Mr. Arthur Jones

How do the Government justify treating tenants in council houses owned by local housing authorities differently from tenants of the new town development corporations?

Mr. Barnett

Tenants of council houses owned by local authorities are in one situation and the tenants of new town houses are in another situation determined by the responsibilities of new town corporations to national as well as local needs.