HC Deb 06 December 1978 vol 959 cc1414-5
18. Mr. Nelson

asked the Secretary of State for the Environment what account is taken of the proceeds of sale of council houses to tenants by local authorities when his Department approves and finances the housing investment programmes of such authorities.

Mr. Freeson

No account is taken of the proceeds of council house sales, or other receipts, when annual cash allocations under the housing investment programme system are determined for individual authorities.

Mr. Nelson

Will the Minister rethink that policy? He does not accept the Conservative policy of enabling council tenants to buy their properties, but should it not be common ground that if we are to deal adequately with the homeless problem the degree and extent of council house sales should be taken into account in considering a council's housing investment programme? Would not that lead to a more dynamic investment policy and housing programme by local authorities?

Mr. Freeson

Policies of indiscriminate sales do no good to people who are in need of housing. Secondly, on the technical point, to do what the hon. Gentleman suggests would produce double counting in allocations, because account is taken of housing receipts, from whatever quarter, in enhancing the total national budget for housing. To do it again when we come to the individual allocations of that national budget would result in double counting. It is an unnecessary device.

Mr. Jay

Is my right hon. Friend aware that the wrecking policy of the GLC in housing is destroying any chance of London's housing problem being solved for many years ahead?

Mr. Freeson

I am aware particularly, as I think I have said previously in the House and elsewhere, of the repugnant policy of touting empty properties around the market while people are in need of housing. We are studying the matter closely. If necessary, we shall be prepared to take action in due course.

Mr. Heseltine

If the Minister for Housing and Construction is so concerned about the indiscriminate sale of council houses, does he intend to take powers to prevent it by the housing Bill which he is about to introduce into the House?

Mr. Freeson

Our policy stands as it was stated quite clearly in April 1974, within three or four weeks of our being elected to office. I hope that when the hon. Gentleman advocates the need for more rented housing, he will take care to cease the practice of encouraging Tory local authorities to sell rented housing, for which he himself is claiming there is a need.