HC Deb 12 April 1978 vol 947 cc1385-6
14. Mr. Ioan Evans

asked the Secretary of State for the Environment what further action is proposed to encourage the development of co-operative housing.

Mr. Freeson

I believe that co-operative housing is a vitally important part of social housing in this country. Since our initiative in legislation under the Housing Subsidies Act 1975, and in the setting up of the Co-operative Housing Agency shortly afterwards, about 150 co-operative schemes have come into the pipeline, round the country. I am examining further the proposal in our housing policy area paper for establishing a right to collective purchase by private tenants in certain circumstances. I have also asked the Co-operative Housing Agency to report to me on the possibility of establishing a distinctive co-operative tenure by statute.

Mr. Evans

I thank the Minister for that encouraging reply. Will he continue to encourage the work of the Co-operative Housing Agency and remove any opposition to the development of co-operative housing in this country? If necessary, will he consider bringing forward a co-operative housing Bill in order to meet the housing needs of the people, as well as those of local authority-occupied property? This could play an important part in our housing programme.

Mr. Freeson

Certainly I believe in co-operative housing. I have done so for many years—long before coming to this place. I believe that it should become an important part of social development in this country. Certainly I shall consider the possibility of legislation in due course. That is why I have invited the Co-operative Housing Agency, which has done commendable work in the short time that it has existed, to submit a report on the problems and needs of legislation in this field.

Mr. Sainsbury

Is the Minister aware that he is liable to damage this valuable movement if he insists on referring to it as a form of social ownership? Would he give equal encouragement to equity sharing schemes in which many people participate as the first step on the ladder to home ownership?

Mr. Freeson

There are two different kinds of tenure. I do no damage to the co-operative housing movement by referring to it as a form of social tenure. It started out as such many years ago, and my great regret is that it has not expanded as widely in this field as it could and should have done, and as I hope it will do in the future.

I have always encouraged equity sharing. In fact, it was this Government who introduced legislation enabling local authorities and housing associations to embark on such schemes. The previous Conservative Government held out against such schemes and applications for about two years.