HC Deb 26 May 1976 vol 912 cc418-9
5. Mr. Adley

asked the Secretary of State for the Environment if he will pay an official visit to Southampton.

Mr. Shore

I have at present no plans to do so.

Mr. Adley

If the right hon. Gentleman does go to Southampton, will he take the opportunity to meet the chairman of the housing committee and let him explain to him that the fact that the Conservative Party won 46 out of 51 seats in Southampton is directly related to the policy of the Conservative group of seeking to sell council houses to sitting tenants? As the Secretary of State is a democrat and said at the time of the referendum that he would always wish to accept the will of the electorate, will he assure the House that the Government will take no steps to frustrate the will of the electorate, expressed so clearly on this matter?

Mr. Shore

The hon. Member's question may be founded on a false premise—that is, that the success of the Conservative Party in the recent local elections in Southampton was uniquely due to its policy on the sale of council houses. If that is so, the Conservative Party has an awful lot of explaining to do about what happened in Manchester, where a similar programme was put forward in the most generous terms yet no change in control resulted. If the hon. Gentleman visits Southampton again, therefore, I hope that he will continue to draw the attention of his friends on the council to the terms of Circular 70/74.

Mr. Heffer

If my right hon. Friend should eventually decide to go to Southampton, will he make a detour and go via Liverpool, where he will discover that the Conservative Party did not win 46 seats in the local elections and that there is a great deal of urban deprivation? Will he, therefore, consider for Liverpool a similar scheme to that which has just been announced by the Secretary of State for Scotland in relation to Glasgow, where houses will be built and industry will be developed by the Scottish Development Agency and the Scottish Housing Agency without any of the finance falling on the local rates?

Mr. Shore

I hope in time to visit many of our more successful port cities during the next year or so. On the specific question about the problems of Liverpool, problems which it shares with other major cities in terms of urban deprivation, we are making intensive studies of these problems and I hope in due course to be able to report further.

Mr. Raison

Will the right hon. Gentleman make no fewer than 89 other detours on his way to Southampton so as to visit the 89 other authorities which went Conservative at the district elections? He will then find overwhelming evidence of a desire for the widespread sale of council houses.

Mr. Shore

I shall not limit my visits simply to Conservative-controlled strongholds. However, I shall of course be very willing, on appropriate occasions, to hear the views of leaders of councils of whatever political hue they happen to be.