HC Deb 08 March 1978 vol 945 cc1415-7
12. Mr. Watkinson

asked the Secretary of State for the Environment when he proposes to introduce a Bill extending security of tenure to council house tenants.

Mr. Freeson

As soon as we can complete the necessary consultations and a place can be found in the Government's legislative programme.

Mr. Watkinson

Does the Minister accept that the provision of security of tenure for council house tenants is an integral part of the last Labour Party manifesto? Is it not time we took action directly on this matter and, indeed, on the council tenants' charter? Will he do his best to bring forward legislation this Session?

Mr. Freeson

I cannot guarantee the last request for reasons of which my hon. Friend will be aware. However, I can give him a general assurance that it is still our committed policy. We intend to bring forward legislation when we can. This will not be simple legislation. It will raise some complex legal and managerial questions, which will have to be resolved.

Mr. Tebbit

Is not ownership the most secure form of tenure?

Mr. Freeson

The most secure form of tenure is not in all cases ownership. I hope that the hon. Member will not join or stay with that unhappy throng of people of his side of the House who wish to see the virtual end of the rented sector, which is primarily local authority and housing association owned.

Mr. Stephen Ross

Is the Minister aware that those with properties at Black-gang, in the Isle of Wight, certainly did not think that ownership was the most secure form of tenure? Will he look favourably at the idea of long-leasing council houses? Does he agree that that would be one way to get tenants to take more responsibility for maintenance?

Mr. Freeson

There are a variety of ways in which we can implement the objectives that we have set out under the general heading of the tenants' charter. Long leases are just one of those ways. Some local authorities have tried three-, four- or five-year renewable leases. Others are embarking on co-operative housing, either by tenant management or tenant ownership. There are various other means that can be adopted. There is no single way forward. There are a variety of ways forward, and we shall pursue them.

Mr. Heseltine

Does the Minister recognise that there is no better way of giving council tenants the greatest possible capital stake than by giving them the opportunity to own?

Mr. Freeson

I wish that the hon. Member would keep off this obsession. There is more than one way of handling housing policy, both nationally and locally. If he and some of his hon. Friends would pay attention to the variety of problems and needs that have to be met instead of riding one hobby horse every time the question of housing is raised, we might make some progress with them in establishing a constructive housing policy.

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